What's in a name?

When I first went to work as a self-employed taxi driver some years ago, I had a long meeting at the bank, where they went through the laborious process of proving identity, which is necessary these days to set up any kind of bank account, especially one for a business. 

It was explained to me that they were now obliged to pay interest on business bank accounts, but that instead of paying interest on a current account, each account now had a deposit account attached to it.  Therefore, it would be necessary to switch funds backwards and forwards between linked accounts, in order to benefit from this change. At the end of the meeting, I ended up with six bank accounts, where three would have sufficed. 

There can't be many small businesses which would have the time or personnel to switch funds on anything like a regular basis and in any case, the levels of turnover of a taxi business would not generate that much interest income - pence, if anything. 

During this meeting, the manager located some account records relating to my late father, who had the same name as me and half a lifetime previously had held an account with a smaller bank which had been taken over by them.  Somehow in the intervening period, they had become attached to mine. 

Later, I went for a medical examination, which is one of the list of prerequisites for being granted a licence to drive a Hackney Carriage.  This too, has increasing standards of compliance and more bureaucratic changes, each time it has to be carried out. During this examination, my general practitioner located some hospital records which had been filed with mine, but related to treatment for my late father – who had been registered at an entirely separate practice, on the other side of the city. 

Even in this age of digitalisation of records and databases which can be cross referenced, astonishingly, on two separate occasions within the same month, it had been shown that there was room for significant error of this nature. 

For most of my teenage years, I resented what I saw as this peculiar practice of naming successive generations of the same family with the same Christian name.   Wanting to assert my own identity, I did not like having the same name as my Dad. 

I wrote in his eulogy on this very subject – and on our shared love of Radio 4, although at the time, I was too upset to deliver it. Fortunately, I had foreseen this situation and had the presence of mind to double space print it in large type, so it was able to be read by my friend, the priest who was taking the service.  

In those carefully chosen words, which took half the night to write, I gave thanks for his life and expressed the desire to live up to the honour of being named after him. I do so still – every day.

As published in the Herald Series on Wednesday, 31 January 2018

  1. Philippians 1:3-11