what's your middle name?

Someone once told me that you should try to learn something new every day.
With this in mind, each day of 2012 I will try to discover the middle name of someone I do not know.
This blog charts my progress.
Richard M. Crawley

Monday, 31 December 2012


Buying two bottles of cava in the local supermarket, I am served by a tall man with spiky black hair.  His shirt is thinly striped with a white collar.  I put the bottles into my rucksack and turn to leave.  'Happy new year', he says.  I turn back.  I ask my question.  He gives me an answer and spells it.  'You're my last one', I say.  He nods.  I wish him a happy 2013.

Sunday, 30 December 2012

Hanon Hanbury

Eating a mushroom and leek tart and drinking a caffe latte in nicely presented delicatessen, the man behind the counter offers us cake for half price.  'We're on holiday for five days over new year', he tells us.  'And we don't want it to go to waste'.  He is young, with a round face and curly hair.  He is wearing a black high-necked t-shirt and black jeans.  There is a tempting array on offer.  I ask which he recommends.

'We're known for our courgette and lemon curd', he says, gesturing towards the frosted cake on the glass stand in front of him.  'And you can't really go wrong with Victoria Sponge'.  There is a four layered chocolate cake.  'It tastes like it looks', he says. 

My friend asks about the orange and polenta.  'It's mine', says an older woman who is also working behind the counter.  Her glasses are bright blue and she is wearing and stripey long-sleeved top.  Her wispy grey hair is tied back in a rough ponytail.  She explains that she is saving half of it for her niece who is gluten intolerant.  I ask about the coffee bundt.  'If you're looking for something sophisticated', she says.  She is fond of the lemon drizzle.

We opt for the courgette and lemon curd and, on going to pay, I ask the lady my question.  'Mine's boring', she says (it's Jane).  'You should ask him'.  She points towards the round-faced boy.  I ask.  He gives me an answer.  'His first name is Harroway', she says.  He explains that he was named after the last Saxon man standing in 1066, although Google is unable to confirm this for me later.  He thinks his middle names are family names.

I realise, on leaving, that I should have asked if his surname makes his initial quadruple.

Saturday, 29 December 2012

Clara Louise

At an alpine-themed birthday party, two girls are on either side of the corridor eating vodka jelly.  The floor is lined with fake snow and there is a stag's head made of cardboard hanging in the hall.  Passing through on my way out, I pause to ask my question.

The girl to my right, whose hair is mid-length and permed, doesn't have one but offers me her full name instead.  The girl to my left, whose hair is long and half tied-back in a ponytail, is more help.  'I've got two', she says.  She is wearing heavy blue eye-liner and is a cousin of the hostess.  She tells me that her family had to change their name from 'Rubenstein' because of prejudice.  Her grandfather ended up sticking a pin in the phone book to come up with a suitable alternative.

I want to find out more but there are good byes to be said and overland trains to catch.

Friday, 28 December 2012


In a London pub, I am having difficulties deciding what to drink  I am honing in one a light hoppy ale.  'This is what it looks like', says the man who is sitting on a bar stool next to me.  He is large with short white hair and speckled stubble.  His posture is slouched.

'Can he sniff it?', asks my friend who has been out of the country for several months.  He is taken aback.  I tell him that I probably don't need to and order it anyway.  Whilst waiting for it to be poured, I ask my question.  He gives me an answer.  'Sorry', he says.  'I'm still a bit in shock'.  I ask why.  'It's been a long time since a young lady asked if she could sniff it', he replies.  I don't like to put him right.

Thursday, 27 December 2012


At an extended family Christmas gathering I meet, for the first time, a first cousin once removed.  She is two months old and is wearing a ladybird baby-grow.  She seems to be taking the proceedings in her stride.

I have to ask her mother to provide me with her middle name.

Wednesday, 26 December 2012


An elderly lady is waiting at the bus-stop with a zimmer frame.  She is upright and smartly dressed with short grey hair.  As I approach, she gives me a knowing smile.  She seems happy to give me an answer.  'I was just thinking', she says.  'I've been waiting an awfully long time for the bus'.  I ask what number she is waiting for and she tells me she is on the way to the hospital.  She had fallen over and hit her head on the hard parquet floor.  I notice a small cut to the left of her forehead.  'I was going to go to bed but then I thought I'd better go and get it checked out', she says.  I tell her that I can check when the next one is coming on my phone if she would like.  'Can you do that?' she asks.  I find that there is one due in five minutes.

I check that she is alright and ask if she would like me to wait with her until the bus arrives.  'No thank you very much', she says.  'I only wish I could do you a favour in return'.  I tell her that she already has.  She takes a hand off the frame to shake mine.  I wish her a very safe journey.

Tuesday, 25 December 2012


On a posthumous dog walk with my family in the rain, a couple are walking towards us.  They are middle-aged and well-heeled.  She is wearing a bright red coat and a pill-box hat which is black with beige scribbles.  He is wearing a tailored jacket and carrying a full-length umbrella with a cane handle.  The hair that he has is white and shaved close to his scalp.  They look as though they are following a map on an electronic device.  I halt their progress to ask my question. 

'Well you can't ask me because I don't have one', says the lady.  She looks at me through wire-rimmed spectacles.  I turn my attention to the gentleman. He is well spoken and gentle.  He pronounces his middle name with a long 'a'.  I ask if it is Russian.  'Obviously', he replies.  But he does not know why his parents chose it.

We wish each other a happy Christmas and my family and I continue to walk the dog that died three-and-a-half years ago across the Common.