Staple Stories

I’m Brian or Possibly Mike?

Nine-year-old me, and I’m going to see my dad at Richmond railway station where he worked.  Part of the draw was that he’d often buy me a coke and a packet of Smokey Bacon or Roast Chicken Smiths Crisps (#bestcrispsever!) His work colleagues were always really friendly and most were Irish like him, apart from the lovely English inspector called Frank.

And that was where the problem started: my dad’s name was Frank too. He was never known as Francis and that would have sounded so out of place in his work environment. Some of his colleagues were real characters and I knew all their names. I remember them lifting me up onto a big seat, so I could announce an approaching train – “Fast train for Clapham Junction and Waterloo only”! However, I preferred to announce the down line trains to places like Egham and Virginia Water – they sounded so much more intriguing.

Then, one day an incident happened and a number of my dad’s workmates called for “Mike!” – whoever that was?Yet it was my dad who responded, heading off towards the commotion. Later, when things had settled down and I was in the buffet (with my drink and crisps!), I asked him why was he being called Mike?

He explained that because of Frank (the inspector), he had to be called something else. As he was Irish they reasoned he should be called Paddy – but there already was a Paddy. They then considered Pat – but there was Pat O’Reiley. Therefore, Mick was the logical conclusion. But as you can probably guess, there was already a Mick – so Mike was the inevitable result.

Years later when I worked with barristers, I was on a table at our first Chambers Christmas party with three other Tims. So apart from occasionally being referred to as “Swampy” or “The Jesuit”, none of us would dream of being called anything other than Tim. When one of Tims who shared my initials was on the board, in the minutes I would differentiate between us by simply referring to myself as TCtoo.

One thing we do share in common with each other is our name, yet we’re all unique and maybe on one level it is just a label or descriptor: one of the many ways we can differentiate ourselves. I’ve met many Franks over the years and innumerable people who are called dad, yet when I hear those two names fond memories of a simple and very generous man can’t be held back!