I need to lift my game. I have been looking through these pages and it is fair to say that I'm not impressed. I'm sick of myself, in fact. If I keep using the same old clunking phraseology then pretty soon someone is going to figure out what percentage of the contents of these pages is brazenly lifted from other people's work. And we can't have that. I just thought I'd tell you that, just to reassure you that I am aware of the deficiencies in this column and I am trying to address them. But it probably won't happen overnight. Ask Jurgen Klopp. By the way, did you hear the one about the German Liverpool football manager who said that two years ago Roberto Firmino was the best player in the Bundesliga? The same Bundesliga that contains Arjen Robben, Robert Lewandowski, Mario Gotze, Marco Reus and Thomas Muller? Keep cracking those gags, Jurgen, you'll go down well in Liverpool.
Thrillingly, I have got two more mistaken identity tales for you today. Two for the price of one. You must feel like Lembit Opik did when he met The Cheeky Girls. The first of these happened a month or so ago, the day before Emma and I were due to fly out to Rhodes for our holidays. Being the last minute sort of person I am we had to go into Liverpool after work to get our Euros for the trip. Emma's birthday was coming up during the holiday so I took the opportunity to go and buy her card before I met up with her to get the Euros. I was just getting served when the woman behind me tapped me on the shoulder. That could start a whole new column in itself about the able bodied invading the personal space of the disabled, except when we want them to. But we don't have time for that right now so I'll crack on if I may. The woman tapped me on the shoulder and said;
"You're a Kirkbyite aren't you?"
Yes, that does say Kirkbyite, and that is the exact word she used. Kirkbyite as in kopite, meteorite, Thatcherite but not pie shite. That would have stretched the boundaries of how far I am prepared to tolerate being insulted.
Naively, I hoped that a quick response in the negative would be enough to convince her so I just said 'no' and smiled that 'you must be mistaken' smile that people with Spina Bifida are born with. We get that and hydrocephalus and I know which is more useful. Yet the woman, let's pander to lazy scouse stereotypes and call her Mad Margi, wasn't having it.
"You are, you're a Kirbyite." she insisted.
"No, no I'm not." I replied, using the best, broadest St Helens accent that I could muster. Which is broad. I made Johnny Vegas sound like The Duke Of Cambridge. Not that it put her off any.
"You are a Kirkbyite. I've seen you."
No, you have seen a man using a wheelchair in Kirkby, which believe it or not is not beyond the realms of possibility without that man being me. If I was perplexed by this claim and her borderline psychotic insistence on its validity, her next snippet of insight into my life was nothing short of sensational.
"Yeah, I know you." she said.
"You lost your mother recently."
What? I only came out for a fucking birthday card and a few Euros and a complete stranger is telling me that my mum died recently?
I told Mad Margi that as far as I knew (and I'd seen her a day or two before if memory serves me correctly) that my mum is alive and well and not living in Kirkby. There was no relief on Mad Margi's face, only confusion. She looked almost offended that I hadn't lost my mother or, more specifically, that I was in some sort of manic denial about it. It was a good job I was leaving the country the next day. Surely nobody in Rhodes would recognise me. Erroneously.
I may write about Rhodes at some point but for now we will jump forward to a week or so after my return. There's a café just over the road from work which I frequent at lunchtimes. It's expensive but for that reason it is also quiet so it offers a good opportunity to get out of the madness for an hour. On the first or second day back at work following my holiday I was in the café ordering my lunch when another Mad Margi came up to me at the counter and asked;
"Excuse me, are you Dennis?"
My granddad is called Dennis. I have this on good authority from my parents but Dennis has never officially verified it because I haven't seen Dennis for over 30 years, except for a couple of funerals. He and my nan divorced some time in the 1970's and he decided that he wasn't going to have a relationship with his grandchildren. He lives fairly nearby I believe, but he might just as well live in Malta. Or he might just as well be a Kirkbyite. Maybe then he could at least have a rapport with my non-doppleganger in that part of the world. He is, I think, the only Dennis I know. There was a Dennis I used to play basketball with at Sheffield but his name wasn't really Dennis, and we only called him Dennis because his surname was Lillee. Get it? I know, pure bloody Oscar Wilde.
So in the same way I wasn't a Kirkbyite, I wasn't going to be Dennis either. This Mad Margi was far more willing to accept the concept of the existence of more than one man in Merseyside using a wheelchair so the exchange was not as laborious and painful as the Kirkbyite one had been. However, she did go on to explain that Dennis was a friend of her nephew.
Who is dead.
The nephew that is. As sad as that is, the fact that he was called Stephen (or Steven, she didn't stipulate the spelling) is I'm sure you will agree a cruel but marvellous irony. I am Stephen, but I can't be every person called Stephen just like I can't be every man who uses a wheelchair. I feel a little guilty about it actually. I could have just admitted to being Dennis and kept a little part of Stephen alive for her. She probably would not have known the difference.
I've been Daniel, Phil, Paul, Lee and Martin. Why couldn't I just be Dennis?