I always try to be honest and, here, I shall continue that path.
I could go into a history of nicknames and lose the run of this blog by meandering as incessantly as this sentence is threatening. But I have chosen to tell you some of my own nicknames and some their origins. Not because they are particularly funny, clever or, sometimes, downright hurtful but because I collected quite a few.
I do not remember when Ben the Hen (a remarkable rhyme), Bill and Ben (a nice cultural allusion) or even “Ben, the two of us…”, (from Michael Jackson’s song) stopped being hurtful and turned into old friends who would cross my path with regularity.
The Summers I spent in Scout camp gained momentum and eventually I was given a name, which I first thought was due to the battered and ugly denim hat I would proudly wear at inspection, but I was soon corrected. It was pointed out that the scruffiness which accompanied me through those years was the major factor in the choice of “Worzel” (of Gummidge fame).
I battled through two years in a particularly tough school in my early teens. As everyone remembers, it is a period of our lives where enthusiasm peaks and despair looks up from underneath our troughs. When I came home one afternoon and my dear brother asked me what was wrong and I said that they were calling me names, “B. A. Benjamin & the Gay Team”. I do not ever think I saw him as helpless with laughter before or since. He was nearly dancing around the room at the pure poetry of the taunt, wishing he had thought it up himself and promising to call me that for ever more, my heart sank. I believe he recognised the submergence and he never brought it up again.
I was never one to shy away from the centre of attention. During the years in my next school I found chances to exercise my ‘double jointed’ legs. Both of which I could wrap behind my ears and balance precariously with my arms and coccyx. The first nickname I actually enjoyed was “Access” (your Flexible Friend”) from the ad for the early credit card.
I repeated my final year of school again in a different school especially designed for people who had not done as well as they expected and once again found myself in surrounded by strangers and so has to carve my own niche. At lunch during the first couple of weeks I sat beside a group of lads who were discussing an episode of Blackadder. One of them was failing miserably to explain the joke where Blackadder hires a boy called Bob (who turns out to be a woman). I politely introduced myself and gave the joke a little more justice. Later on that day, I walked to the train, I heard chatter behind me and then a “Hey you”. I ignored this as I knew no one in the area until; I heard “eh…Bob”… it stuck for the rest of the year.
But the fondest name, which I have used to refer to myself in family emails, was given to me by my Father. It was not a name owned by me alone but by my dear elder brother as well. When we used to play in the same room where Dad was desperately trying to read a book, write his diary or simply watch television, many times there came a point where he would turn to us and say “Avast, avast ye horrid varmint foul, there is nothing I can do but howl”, this was sometimes followed by an eerie imitation of a wolf howling mixed with a breathy whistle until we left the room to take up our antics elsewhere.
Dad died earlier this year and throughout all my nicknames I remain, proudly, Varmint Foul 2.