I HAVE had my own name for quite some time, as long as I can remember, in fact. Ask me what my name is, and I can answer in a flash. It would definitely not be the point at which I embarrassed myself on Mastermind.
And yet, when I am called upon to write my name down, my knowledge escapes me, and I find myself actually misspelling my 10-letter, two-syllable surname.
Every time I visit my dentist, I have to sign my name in a box on a computer tablet using a stylus, and every time I miss a letter out in my signature, and then have to style it out. I am sure my dentist thinks my name is Gay Bainbidge.
There is probably a name for this condition, and the condition probably could not spell it under pressure.
In most other ways, I present as an ordinary member of the public. I hold open doors for people and can engage in good-natured repartee with the woman in Sainsbury’s about my grocery choices. Not even my friends would know I was a member of the “incapable of writing their own names on a piece of paper” community.
Which was why, as I was walking through the office the other day, one of them stopped me and asked for my assistance. She wanted me to countersign a passport application for her child.
Finally, I thought, recognition of my true worth. As you will know, if you have ever had to apply for a passport, a countersignatory has to be “a person in good standing in their community”.
I am that in spades. I pay my taxes and I have never been arrested, as long as you don’t count that time I drove the wrong way around a bollard right under the nose of a police officer and he told me off. In fairness, I did not know it was the wrong way, nor did I see the police officer, but apparently that is not a defence in law.
I readily agreed, feeling at once like an actual grown-up and not like a teenager forced to live undercover posing as a grown-up.
Can you imagine the sensation of one of your lamp bulbs popping when you switch it on, and then going to the cupboard where you keep light bulbs, more in a spirit of hope than expectation, and then finding that you have a spare bulb which exactly fits the lamp in question? Well, it was like that. I felt like somebody who can drink coffee and actually enjoy it.
I took the form and black ballpoint pen and sat at my desk. The form was one of those ones on which you have to write each character in a separate box. These require a level of concentration far above of which I am generally capable. Worse, they require planning. This is because you have to be aware, at all times, of how many characters there are still available at the end of the line on which you are writing AND how many characters there are in the next word you will be writing.
And this is because the last thing you want to do is to start writing a word and then find out you have run out of boxes and have to continue the word on the next line, because you don’t know if the computer that will be scanning this form will be able to work out if your address is 221b Baker Street, London, or 221b Baker Stree, T, London.
And it is not as if you are filling the form out for yourself, and if you make a mistake, you just have to go back to the Post Office for a new one. Twice, in my recent experience. You only have one opportunity to get it right, otherwise you have to go back to your friend and tell her she has to fill in a new form. Or, worse, make her have her small child have new photographs taken in a booth.
I actually allowed a drop of sweat to fall from my forehead onto the page, as I painstakingly formed every letter. I do not wish to overdramatise matters, but now I know exactly what it is like to be a bomb disposal expert or brain surgeon.
And then, finally, I completed the difficult part. I was relieved. All that remained for me was to sign my name. Which I did. As G. Bainbirdge.