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Written on January 22, 2007, and categorized as Secret and Invisible.
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Recently I met a woman called SJ at the hyper-trendy AKA Bar, London. I asked what SJ stood for; she reluctantly told me, Sarah-Jane, but immediately insisted that I called her by the initials.

“It’s from boarding school,” she explained,”I’m very much SJ and NOT Sarah-Jane.”

I smiled and concurred. “The power of naming is our right,” I said, “We can be whoever we choose to be.”

SJ smiled back; Sarah-Jane was long gone. The club echoed our warm collusion in the rights of the individual with funky house basslines and all-night, MDMA-fueled over-gregarious conversation. Not me, you understand, those days are long gone for me. For me it was just the basslines and the conversation, which were more than enough.

In 1999 / 2000 I did some work for Amnesty International about children’s rights, during which I learned much. Do you know you have the right to a name? was one of the leading questions we asked of the 11 year olds in our interactive CD ROM game. It surprised me at the time that people would be prepared to so brutalise children as to deny them a name.

The power of self-naming is an important right, granting both self-definition and also the power to be someone different. Artists, musicians, performers know this as much as do confidence tricksters. People sometimes confuse the actor’s ability to assume a persona [from the Greek: mask] with insincerity; in fact, they are enabled by this affectation to visit the realm of muses and return with insight of great human survival value. If they didn’t, Shakespeare would have died long ago, as would Hercules and Prometheus.

One of my lesser-known pseudonyms was Dwayne Honcho. I invented Dwayne out of frustration with a certain organisation who had very bad corporate communications , as a result of which I was inundated with hundreds of mis-directed emails daily. I wouldn’t have minded but these often included large attachments, legal documents, planning applications, frequently many times larger than my mail server would comfortably deliver, which meant a tedious remote log in and delete process was my ongoing task.

I contacted them many times and asked them to tell their customers, clients and employees to please not send me email; they were rather inefficient about dealing with me, and as my patience wore thin, revenge plans emerged from my tortured mind, and Dwayne was born. Since I couldn’t escape the torrent of emails and large attachments, and they wouldn’t deal with it to my satisfaction, I decided to engage with them on a guerilla level.

I didn’t want to cause them damage; I wanted them to wake up and get them to listen to my sincere requests. I began to scan emails which had arrived for comedy nuisance potential. This email arrived:

Subject: More dates for Project Management

Hi Ian,

This email is just to follow up a voicemail message I left for Colin earlier today.

I would like to look at setting some dates for Project Management training for 2006.  I would be looking at another session at Group Support Preston, another one n London at Grays Inn Road and one in Newcastle.

They would need to be spread out throughout Jan – July.

Can you suggest some dates when you would be free to deliver these and we can get dates set.
This training has received good feedback and we have has a positive response in the number of people wanting to attend.  I am planning on preparing a feedback report following the sessions in October, which I will forward you a copy as well.

I look forward to hearing from you.
Kind regards,

I replied to Ian (in the guise of Dwayne):

NONE of these dates are suitable as they are all in the future and we require past dates to be certain of attending.

Ian then emailed Joanne:

Hi Joanne,

Please see below a response to an e-mail I sent to Carolyn,

Unsure what this means?

Please let me know if you need me to respond to this.

Do not hesitate to give me a call in the office on 01XXX XXXXXX.

Kind Regards


I then replied to Ian:

It means these dates are not suitable as they are all dates in the future and dates in the past are required so that we can be certain of attending. If you can look back and find previous times when we have attended, you can be totally certain that we will have been there.


And on it went, with me calmly insisting on the impossible, in the guise of corporate planning.

Exasperated, but now committed, I played this disruptive role in such eminent subjects as Dry Riser Boxes, Development at Cringleford, Norwich, the West Hull ‘Decanting’ Bid, 186-206 & 229-231 De Montfort Park, T5/5 – Proposed Maintenance Works – Toronto Primary School… asked for my response on this one, I emailed:

I love this so much I want to marry it

When asked to clarify:

now i am going to divorce it and marry you

To a job applicant:


you’ll never get a job that way.

also see spelling of opportunities

The amount of documentation I received was immense and it went on for months. I received legal documents, bank account information, confidential details about staff misdemeanours and sackings, personal addresses and home phone numbers. I could have been so very much naughtier than I was, but I always had a sense that any reaction on my part had to be proportionate. In truth, I wasn’t always quite so creative. I was responsible for an advertising campaign being cancelled because I told them it was “very silly” (!). Towards the end, I really was fed up, and the creative spark fired no more. I upset one person by telling her to throw her computer away and get a job at Morrissons on the check out. Some of the emails I replied with just said, NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO and NO! or BOG OFF!! and the very last one I sent, January 2006, simply said the word, cock.

Now don’t get the impression that this kind of nonsensical disruption was the norm; I haven’t repeated it in any other guise since then, neither has Dwayne, and neither of us are likely to. Some people seem to thrive on this kind of thing – I didn’t. I’d much rather adopt a nom-de-plume with which I can happily be associated. Dwayne passed into internet oblivion when the organisation concerned employed an intelligent IT person, who rapidly sorted out the problem. Amens were said all round.

Now the reason for this recall is a sad one. My good friend Dan’s mum Jill Churchill died on Friday morning. The last email I sent her was a brief example of this hilarity. I can’t remember why I thought she’d find it funny, but anyway, she understood it was a “wind up” and got the surreal nature of the communication. If at the time I’d have written the narrative above by way of explanation and sent it to her, she probably would have appreciated it.

Jill, who used to be a top magazine editor and was involved in publishing all her life, was one of the people who most encouraged me to write Blog of Funk. When she read it, she kindly compared me to Bryson “but more sexy” and told me to get it into print. So, this is dedicated to Jill, whose emails remain in my inbox, and whose encouragement gave me heart when I didn’t even know I needed it.

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This thing has 3 Comments

  1. Indigobusiness
    Posted 22 January, 2007 at 9:13 pm | Permalink

    I like what Dylan’s character said, in the movie Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, when Pat asked him his name:

    Alias, he said.

    Alias what?

    -Alias Anythingyouplease.

    btw- My grandma was married in Pat Garrett’s house (at his insistence). Damn fine man, Pat Garrett, but I’ve never forgiven him for shooting Billy.

  2. Antiques
    Posted 27 January, 2007 at 5:43 pm | Permalink

    Hi, this may seem a bit random but I read your piece as by chance as I was trying to search for some details on Jill Churchill on the web. Please could you advise if the Jill you mention is the same one who used to work for BBC Homes & Antiques Magazine? If so, I used to work with her and like you, she was such an inspiration and changed my life and I am going to miss her greatly!
    Many thanks

  3. Deek Deekster
    Posted 27 January, 2007 at 7:05 pm | Permalink

    Yes, sorry about the bad news – Jill used to work for the mag. I don’t ordinarily reply in my comments to readers’ comments. To contact me, click on “Donate” (you won’t have to spend any money, that will take you to my email address.)

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