This Is Not A
The Name's The Game
As part of my attempt to keep myself occupied before I have to return to the pickle factory (next Monday, if all goes to plan), I have recently been scanning old letters and documents. These included my school reports, which - at least when viewing the ones I got in primary school - reminded me that I am living (so far) proof of that famous expression of obituarial regret, "Never fulfilled his early promise".
When I was in sixth form, I was a member of a rather-less-than-serious student society which called itself The Lesser-Spotted Lemming Society (or 2LS for short). What sort of a grouping we were may be summed up by selective quotations from the minutes, such as:
"President buggered off and on his return deposited the Treasurer on his ass."
"The Constitution was read and Mr. _ __________ put forward some amendments:
1. The quorum is 7. Seconded and carried
2. He proposed it again with the same result."
"Mr _ _ _____ [...] took over while ___ ate his pie."
I'm sure you get the picture. As one of 2LS's officers declared in his letter of resignation, we were all a bunch of poseurs. But if you can't be a poseur at seventeen, what hope is there (and there were far worse poseurs than us in that college at the time)?
Anyway, scanning the copy of the minutes book which I had made in longhand shortly afterwards (see, that obsessiveness with documenting everything, I had it then as well), I came across one name which prompted me to write this piece.
This member was an amiable - if somewhat intense and brooding - young chap and, like with many of the other people I had known in those days, I wondered off and on thereafter what had become of him.
Many years later, thanks to the now-defunct Friends Reunited website, I discovered something about his later life. He had gone (and I'm assuming that this was the order of events) to work in Saudi Arabia, converted to Islam and had become a minor functionary of local government there.
No doubt as part of his conversion, he had changed his English forename to a couple of Arab ones, but had retained his English surname.
So, if you ever find yourself in Arabia Deserta and come up against a local official calling himself Muhammad Jibreel Smith, just say to him, "Ah! Es-salaamu el-aikum, Frank!". This should throw him enough to enable you to make good your escape.
Actually, the case of Frank Smith is not without its equivalents elsewhere. In the UK General Election of 1992, candidates were fielded by a new political grouping calling itself the Islamic Party Of Britain (IPB) (not to be confused with the Balsamic Party Of Britain, a formation of middle-class urban trendies which collapsed in sour recriminations within a year over the thorny issue of the correct colour for an Aga). The founder, leader and most public presence of the IPB was another English convert to the faith of Muhammad. He had started out as a Roman Catholic (which, come to think of it, Frank Smith may originally have been as well; examples - along with Frank's radical-left politics at that time - of some people only being truly content with rigid orthodoxy in their beliefs, irrespective of the belief system in question).
Anyway, the leader of the IPB had been baptised David. Upon his conversion, he had amended this to the Arab equivalent, namely Daud, which is fair enough. But he, too, had retained the tribal name of his forefathers. So people watching the IPB's party political broadcast in the run-up to the poll were faced with a gently-spoken and distinguished looking Englishman with a caption underneath him which read:
Perhaps one shouldn't laugh, but I managed a chuckle.