When we were kids, there was a children’s television programme on called Storybook. Memories of the show are hazy, but for some reason the theme tune has always stuck in my head.
A traditional folk song interpretation based on the idea of stories, not written down, but sung and told – passed on from generation to generation, as they once were.
I was reminded of that theme tune when I saw a name from the past pop up on Instagram as I was in middle of #nightclubforone last Saturday night. It was my name. Or at least one of many I have gone by.
Neil, a friend who I swap recommendations with of wine across the globe, popped in to my live feed and asked “What are you drinking, Chewey?”
Ah, Chewey. That’s a name I don’t hear very often these days, but for 15 years or so, it was pretty much all I went by in social circles. It started in University where I was, it would seem, the only man with hair on his chest, back, toes and – well, I think we’re stop there, even if the hair doesn’t.
It carried over into the messageboard era where you had to choose a username and, with the adapted spelling because that was the only one available, it just stuck. I became Chewey.
It was better than Junior, which is what I was called for the previous 10 years at bowls clubs around the south of England – because my Mum and Dad had decided that imagination was overrated. For some of that time I had considered using my middle name, which was given to me by a father figure* as I grew up in the sewers of Neasden, based solely on the fact that I am the better bowler and was junior to nobody! Yes, there was some angst there. Why do you ask?
The only other brief departure was Kingy, but that was down to school children having the same levels of quality control as professional footballers.
One name that is rare for anyone to ever call me is Chris. My mum still tries to call me Christopher, as does my uncles and aunts. Amy only ever uses Chris with a tone that suggests I get the apology in first.
With so much of my day to day contact with people being carried out electronically – where “Hi” or “Dear all” is pretty much all you get from folk you work with, the idea of using names seems redundant with email addresses or Twitter/Instagram handles (which is @northernwrites, by the way) already on display as you type.
Though like people clinging on to the Cornish language, I will always be Chewey to a dozen or so of my friends; Christopher until I am the last of my family standing and CHRIS! when I mess something up at home. The only remaining transition I can see is with the kids, where Dad sometimes slips out instead of Daddy – until a general grunting sound comes when they reach their teens.
Call me by your preferred name, just please don’t call after 9pm or my parents will hang up the phone.
(* I had an Italian Godfather, Ralph Amato. He was my Dad’s old boss at a greengrocers in Harlesden, London)