Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Small Stories: I'm sorry, I didn't catch your name...

The quotation I'd chosen to share in one of my regular quote posts this week refers to how, over time, we come to feel some sort of kinship with those people who we only know by sight or in passing. But, as as I was about to publish the post with just the quotation alone in it, it got me thinking ....

We all have them don't we? People we only know by sight?

Those people who we only ever see in one situation; behind the counter at a coffee shop; waiting at the bus stop each day; crossing the town square at the same time as you each morning.

The people who, if we ever see them out of their usual context, we can never quite place in our minds who they are and why they look so familiar .....

Like the postman/woman.

For long enough now I've referred to the regular van-driving postie who delivers our parcels as 'The bald one in the van who knows me'. I know, it's not an especially catchy or original name, but it does differentiate him from our other regular postal workers: 'The woman who's usually out of breath' and 'The older one'.

But why do I need names for my posties in the first place, I hear you ask.

Well, let's just say that it just makes things easier for James to picture the scene when I'm regaling tales of how I've had to run into the street wearing nothing but his old T-shirt, jogging bottoms and hair dye to retrieve a parcel before it gets taken back to the depot. Or how I have to check my face in the mirror for traces of dried PVA before opening the door to take-in a parcel from one of them ....

Plus, the fact that I work part-time from home and don't watch TV during the day means that my posties and my neighbours are the main dramatis personae of my day.

Anyway ... one day last week 'The young one in the van who I've never seen before' shouted across to 'The bald one in the van who knows me' .... and I discovered that he has another name.

A real name.

Who knew? It's Darren.

'Darren the postman in the van who knows me'.

It's nowhere near as exotic as 'Italian Tony' who used to deliver to Kirsty and I think I prefer the name I gave him, thank you very much.

As the quote below explains, sometimes 'incomplete knowledge' is really for the best:

"For one human being instinctively feels respect and love for another human being so long as he does not know him well enough to judge him; and desire is a product of incomplete knowledge".

from Death In Venice by Thomas Mann

[Visit this post on Copy+Paste to see how another Thomas Mann quotation inspired me to create a mixed-media project to hang on my wall.]

Finally, while I always smile and nod to many of our neighbours I'm afraid their names have eluded me. Which is how come our street came to be populated by people forever known as:

  • 'Parcel lady', 'God lady', 'Gobby Woman at the End';
  • 'Will Young', 'Byrd',
  • 'The Black Shirt' [who we heard was a BNP member]; and...
  • 'Mr.Potato Head'; 'Shrek' and their respective families [eg: Little Shrek, Tiny Shrek, Mrs Potato Head, The Potato Heads' Dog etc etc].
  • ..... and not forgetting 'Phil Spector', who lives at the bottom of our garden!

I wonder if you came to visit me you'd be able to work out who was who?

[Although after revealing the fun with naming people we have round here, you're probably not planning to visit any time soon are you? ......]

I'd really love to hear your stories about the people you only know by sight and even the names you've given them .... mainly so I can be comforted that it's not just me [and Kirsty] who does it!



  1. Don't worry, you're not alone. We have 'Daniel Beddingfield', Natasha Beddingfield (his wife - creepy) and 'That Ginger Beddingfield' (their daughter)

    There's also the Mr 'Beaten down by life', that fat American, The Man with more dogs than he can handle and a woman I simple refer to as Nemesis, although I forget why.... Fab post.

  2. We have "German Nympho-lady" (says it all really), "that one guy across the street", and "you know- the one who looks like a crazy cat lady". And since we're on the same street as a school, twice/day we're passed by "the smoking women", "aaauuughhh!" and "Daisy Dukes + leggings [still don't cover enough of her]".

  3. How funny, you aren't the only one don't worry. I find on holiday the made up name count seems to increase greatly.

    In our road we have 'Mr loves himself', The Policeman and if I visit my Mum and she mentions 'Mrs silk pjamas' I know exactly who she is talking about.

  4. I say leave Darren as he was,unique and instantly recognizable like those I know as Mr.halfmast and her with the hair....I wonder what I'm called?

  5. We used to live next door to 'Bert and Ernie'. I think they must have introduced themselves when they first moved in, but neither of us could remember their actual names. They were the loveliest London neighbours we've ever had - the kind you trust to feed your cat when you go on holiday - and we'd spend hours chatting over the fence. It eventually took us almost a year to get their proper names - we got to that point where you're way too friendly to say 'what's your name again'. Steve coined them Bert and Ernie, and it sort of stuck, even after we knew their real names. The fear of using the wrong name to their faces was a real and ever-present danger....



Thanks for leaving me a comment, asking me a question, sharing your own story or just randomly saying hello.