Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Who is Smirrell?

I’ve had many nicknames over the years, Pringle, Poodle, Pricey, but this is the story of my first nickname, and how it would come to affect me one day later in life when I least expected it. 
So where shall I begin?
When I was young we lived in a small quiet cul-de-sac.  
At the end of the road was a tiny patch of grass, it wasn't a park, there were no swings or slides, and was about the size of a small school football pitch, which was exactly the boys around my age used it for.
The older kids I had been playing with moved away, which left me playing on my own, kicking the ball repeatedly against the wall, like a small footballing Steve McQueen.
Then one day another boy appeared who lived in the next Street.  He was about the same age as me, ten, and  was called Mark,  he asked to join in, as you did at that age, and I said yes okay then,  as you also did at that age. We played for a few hours. 
And then again the next week.
And the week after that. 
And so it continued.
We usually played three and in, one person would be in goal and the other would try to score three goals, and when they did they would go in goal. We would pretend to be different footballers we'd seen on Match of the Day when we were trying to score, usually I'd be Glenn Hoddle, and he was Ian Rush. But one week he insisted on me being Smirrel, his version of Cyril Regis I assumed, and from then on that's what he called me. 
The same the week after too, until he was knocking on my door asking if Smirrel could come on to play. 
I was pleased, it was my first nickname after all, no one had thought to find me a nickname before then. Not one that I'd been told about anyway. 
Okay fair enough it was quite a strange one,  people in my school usually have versions of their surnames,  usually just with an 'ie' on the end of it,  like Finchie,  or Bestie,  or Gerrard, alright some names don't work,  but you get what I mean. 
I now had Smirrell.  
My parents would ask me when I came home from the park "why does he call you Smirrell?" 
And I told them I really didn't know, but I would ask next time, although I never did.
Eventually he moved away, and as I was 15 so my 'three and in’ days were over.
I saw him in passing a few times over the years, but the days of football in the park were gone, and we each had our own friends and teenage pursuits to conduct instead.  

I was 30 when I next properly spoke to mark again.  I was at a collective job interview, as was popular at one stage of the nineties. There were 10 of us in the room, all trying to outshine each other, even though the brief for the day was that they were looking for how well we could collaborate, and work as a team, none of us were fooled. 
It was like a very poor apprentice episode.

We'd had the discussion about leading a team, whilst a female manager sat in the corner of the room, marking us and making notes about our input.
Then we had an interview, with two managers, the standard questions were asked, "what would you do if....", "what are your strengths and weaknesses.....", "where do you see yourself in 5 years’ time", I had stock answers for all of these, I just had to pass these parts competently. I had my ace card still to be played, my advantage that would push m beyond the rest of the candidates, and I was pretty certain that it would.

Then came the final stage of the day, we were to meet the customer service director, the youngest director they'd had, some whizz-kid who had changed the way they'd worked, and made quite a difference to the company, if only I were to know him, then maybe it would give me a foot in the door for the job.
Except of course I already did know him, it was Mark, and although he didn’t know I'd applied, how could he - we hadn’t really spoken in years, but if I knew Mark, then once he'd seen me I was pretty sure that I would be in the driving seat to be the new customer services manager.
I just had to wait for him to appear.
After ten minutes of small talk between the candidates the door opened, and someone vaguely familiar strode confidently through the door.
"Smirrell" he almost cheered, he looked pleased to see me, and shook me vigorously by the hand. "Are you here for the interviews? I didn’t see your name on the list. It’s great to see you again Smirrell, how long has it been?"
Before I could answer though, another candidate interjected, she had a sour look on her face, and no one else had been greeted in such a way. 
"You two know each other then?" She scowled? "Wait, why did you call him Smirrell?"
I looked at Mark, I had no idea why that was my nickname, and I decided to pass this explanation on to the only person here who knew what Smirrell actually meant. 
"I'll let the boss answer this one" and nodded towards Mark.  This was an uncomfortable situation now all round, Sally obviously now thought this whole interview process was a shame.  I hadn't really thought through what would happen when Mark arrived to conduct the interviews
I looked at Mark expectantly,  
I was keen to hear the answer too, I didn't really know what had made him choose that name, so I leaned in and was keen to find out also. 
Mark looked confused, like we were ganging up on him to play some cruel joke.  
"What?” he stuttered? 
"Why do you call him Smirrell?” dally repeated. 
"Because his name in Cyril" he looked at me, a confused look on his face. 
"No it's Chris" Sally said.  I nodded dumbly and we shook hands, having known each other for let twenty years, but having just been introduced by a complete stranger. 
Cyril? that's really what he thought I was called? Did I look like a Cyril? I thought not. I imagined him calling out to him mum years before that he was doing out to the park to play football with 'Cyril'. The 'Smirrell' name must have been out of some embarrassment of using my supposed first name.
Cyril. 
Mark stood between us looked crestfallen and embarrassed, "I've just got to go over here" he pointed to a corner of the room weakly, and walked away. 
"Awkward "said Sally with a now growing grin on her face. 
That didn't go at all to plan I thought as I left the building, but surely a little bit of embarrassment wouldn't stop him thinking of me for the job? 

After a few weeks of not hearing anything I decided it probably would.  

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