Tim Key: Tandoori Fort customer is just one of my many nicknames...


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The Independent Online

I'm sat in my flat, going through my mail in my shellsuit and I'm starting to think about my name a bit. I find it odd that every piece of correspondence seems to have a different way of addressing me and I feel myself reacting differently to each. My name is – famously – Tim Key, and yet everywhere I look alternatives present themselves, scrawled on to envelopes or peeping through windows.

No two envelopes can agree. On some I'm called Mr Key, which feels respectful and I like it. Elsewhere I am called Mr TD Key, which sounds square and is from my bank (where everyone I've ever dealt with is square and money-obsessed). O2 are calling me Timothy as is their wont. One addresses me as Tim, which feels casual, but it's on a postcard from a friend driving round Germany, so I'm OK with it. And one goes with 'Dear Tandoori Fort customer', which I don't like at all because it feels one-dimensional and I think there's more to me than that.

Disparate methods of address – in all maybe eight unique efforts. And yet each does make sense. To them that is who I am. And it's the same in real life; in an average week I'll be called lots of different things by lots of different people and, by and large, each will have its own logic. I prefer some to others – some I don't like at all – but they all kind of work.

On Thursday – at dusk – I unfortunately encountered a group of spirited 15-year-olds. They had mischief in their eyes and decided to have some fun at my expense and fair play to them. They focused on my appearance – they weren't idiots – and said some pretty cruel things about my beard – again, good on them. There was some generalised name-calling before they agreed on one they all liked and yelled it in a more organised way. "Billy Goats Gruff" was what they went with. "MATE YOU DA BILLY GOATS GRUFF!" was what they shouted at me down the street.

You grow thick-skinned when you have this kind of beard and I just soaked it up and broke into something between a fast walk and a jog. But in my head I was just saying, "Fine, that's not my name, my name's Tim". Because it is. My name is Tim.

When someone asks me my name, Tim is what I plump for. Mr TD Key would immediately throw up a boundary and volunteering a nickname makes you automatically sound like an idiot. If I start introducing myself as The Keymeister General at meetings and weddings people won't really know what to do with me, so it's not fair. So I stick with Tim or sometimes Tim Key, Independent columnist, accompanied by a firm handshake.

But to each their own. I wouldn't wish all these letters to be addressed to 'Tim Key, Independent Columnist'. Vive la différence. The key is that the right names stay in the right hands. I'd no more like my mother to start using my initials and surname than I would like my bank to address my statements to Billy Goats Gruff.

Yesterday I spent the morning with my godson, who has a very good feel for this sort of thing. He hasn't really settled on a final name he wants to call me – there are so many possibilities I don't think he wants to tie himself into just one. Yesterday he switched between "Timmy Poo Poo" and the more formal "Mr Poo Poo", which I preferred on balance because it felt that little bit more respectful. I happily answered to it. I'm flexible. I am Mr Poo Poo.

I'm panning through my mailbag again. I think I'm fine with how I'm being addressed. I am all of these names to all of these people. I am, from time to time, even Tandoori Fort Customer. However, if Tandoori Fort start sending me menus addressed to Mr Poo Poo, all they will be doing is losing more ground on Gulshaan as my go-to local Indian takeaway.