A Name is a Name is a Name (with apologies to Gertrude Stein)

She was born on 30/12/44, a Capricorn in Liverpool at 20.00 on a Saturday night and named Gillian Tessa Levin, no relation to Bernard! Gillian was her formal name at school, at the doctor's, the solicitor's and the bank.  It was her name on her birth certificate and ultimately would be on her death certificate!  But at home with mum and dad she was plain Jill but she knew she was in trouble if she was called Gillian.

She didn't like either name, especially the 'un' sound in Gillian.

Tessa, her middle name, reminded her of a fat woman like her Auntie Tessie from Leeds or two-tun Tessie 0'Shea - a well-known radio and TV personality in the 50s.
Tessa Gillian was the name of a horse that won the Derby at Aintree, Liverpool when she was a child. Her father never backed the horse and it came in second. So she lost out! 


Tessa was also the name of her stillborn sister who would have been five years older  had she lived.

Little Gillian grew up in Liverpool in the protected middle class suburb of Childwall and in 1970 began her epic South American voyage. 

She added an 'a' to her name and the phonemes changed her life for ever and a day. The curt 'un' sound vanished and was replaced by an elongated romantic 'ah'. Her disliked name was magically transformed into the beautiful and memorable sounding name of Jilliana.

'What a beautiful name', they said in Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro as the sound flowed effortlessly into Spanish and Portuguese. She felt proud of her name and new found identity.

She was called many names when she returned to Europe.  A Bulgarian lover called her Jilka, her oldest best friend in Jerusalem affectionately called her Jilly, Cuban friends called her Jilli, another friend 'J' and a French client called her Gigi, which she loved.  When she lived in Paris she was called Jilliana Le Vin or Jilliana Le Vigne, with a delicious French accent. 

The years went by and Jilliana became, after her marriage to the magician Martin Breese, Jilliana Ranicar-Breese. This was such a mouthful that people remembered the name and especially her visiting card - a hand-written playing card, each one, an edition of one, signed with her professional initials JRB. 

The problem was her husband refused to call her Jilliana because he considered it  too pretentious with people in her profession, the world of antiques, dealing in Victoriana, Edwardiana, Golfiana.  Who the hell do you think you are, a Jewish princess? You're Jill. So her stepchildren called her Jill along with any pre 1970 friends. But the problem was that his friends in the magic fraternity would call her Jill too. It became complicated because her professional and artistic name was Jilliana.

During the 80s Jilliana got involved again in Personal Development courses. This included hypnotherapy and NLP workshops where she had to have dialogues with her other self or visualise her other Self. Well, was Tessa, the sister she never knew, that other Self? She attempted a dialogue but of course it was one way and fruitless. Thus Tessa was abandoned forever. 

But she still wondered to this day why there had been Victorian brown ink writing saying 'Gillian Tessa' on the reverse of a sepia photograph of Mathew Bolton Georgian silver candlesticks owned by her grandparents who were antique dealers in Swansea. 

Who was Gillian Tessa?   

Years ago when she searched the name Jilliana on the web, there was one other entry, an artist in California. Today there is a Jilliana fan club and her name has 11,000 entries or references. But she was the first! You have to be Number One in Life.  If you type Jilliana in Google, she comes up before the name is even completed. So what happened to all the others she asks? Lost in  Cyberspace? 

Recently she has suffered an 'adjustment disorder', at least that is what the psychiatrists call her infliction. She has given herself a new identity and what better  name to choose but that of Tessa, the sister she had never known.

Like a phoenix rising from the ashes of Jilliana, she will soar and go from strength to strength. 


Written in Brighton 2006. 


As Jilliana was often called The Queen, she decided to 'brand' herself accordingly. 

Even in Chania, when in 2013 she was invited for Xmas Evening dinner in the home of the American artist John Tierney, she was told during the evening that the children had seen her walking towards the house and had run up to their parents excitedly saying 'the Queen is coming'! 

Her best friend Pauline would often call her Queeny or Rani after we discovered that Rani was queen in Hindi and that she would be going to India. Years earlier she laughed when a formal letter arrived to Mrs Rani Car. The postal sorter must have been an Indian! 

When she went to Turkey and began wearing bones (a type of turban), she called herself Sultana Jilliana befitting a queen. 

Updated in Udaipur, India in January, 2016.