Ian for a summer


One of my friends has me listed on her mobile phone as ‘Gerald’, as this was the role I played in Me and My Girl, opposite her as Jaquie.  The idea was that she knows a great variety of Davids (mark this date in your diary, it may be the first time I’ve mentioned my name on this blog), but Gerald will probably always be me and only me.

A reminder of this fact, combined with being dropped off at Newport Pagnell service station at Christmas by one of the other Davids of the world, caused me to recall my summer of being Ian.  It is not unusual to be temporarily called any one of a number of names, Chris and Simon being particular favourites, but this is the only time I’ve gone by a pseudonym in real life for any length of time.

This was during my student days, when a summer job was an absolute necessity and was unlikely to be overly fulfilling.  This particular summer I managed to secure employment with Welcome Break at the M1 service station at Newport Pagnell, the town where I grew up.  I was employed to clear and clean tables, operate the floor cleaning monster truck and occasionally to do the washing up, a particularly unpleasant task.  In addition to duties which were less than stimulating to the mind, I suffered a series of problems with the whole point of my presence there – being paid.  Although I was supposed to be paid weekly, it wasn’t until several weeks had elapsed that I received a payslip.  Opening it eagerly, I was deeply disappointed to find that it was for a total of zero pounds and zero pence.  A crushing blow.

I was eventually paid for my labours, but my summer had more confusion in store than simple cash-flow troubles.  When I started, I was issued with my beautiful Welcome Break polo shirt, but they did not have any name badges with my name on.  Not a problem, I was told.  Apparently I didn’t really need a name badge, and as I would only be there for a couple of months, it wasn’t really worth getting one done for me.  Unfortunately, there was one circumstance where name badges were needed: when there was a visit from Head Office.

So, on one fine day, I arrived at the service station, only to be told that there was a visit from Head Office expected today and I should be wearing my name badge.  I politely mentioned that I had no name badge because there were no Davidic ones available, and thus caused a minor panic.  The shift supervisor soon hit upon a cunning plan – give me a random name badge for the day and hope that it went unnoticed.  A quick trip over to the uniform repository and I was ready for work with a name badge proudly stating that I was Ian.  The day passed, for me at least, without any further incident of note.

An elegant solution, one might think, to a very temporary problem.  Unfortunately, this was not to be.  For reasons that were unknown to minions such as myself, the visit from Head Office was extended for quite some time.  And so, because I had been Ian on the first day they were there, I was (at least in the realm of name badges) to be Ian until they went away or I went back to university, whichever came sooner.  You can probably guess which one came sooner…  For several weeks, therefore, my uniform proclaimed me as an Ian, whereas my inmost being knew me to be a David.  My fellow minions were confused at first, but most of them soon learned to trust what they knew to be the truth and continue calling me David.  I refused to introduce myself as Ian, but my Davidic nature went undiscovered for the remainder of the summer, or perhaps it was deigned to be unimportant compared to the real cause of the extended managerial visit.  I suppose I shall never know, but I shall always remember being Ian for a summer.  It didn’t really suit me, but at least I know I have the choice.  David I am, but Ian I could be if necessary.  I was, after all, accustomed to looking round when I heard the name, and could soon get back in to the habit.  But would a David by any other name still be the Singing Librarian?

    • Paul
    • January 10th, 2009

    Gerald! Fantastic.

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