You see, when you have a child you have to get them registered, otherwise they have no name and must go through their life only signing documents with a paw print. Or something. I imagine something pretty terrible must happen anyway as it seems quite a serious thing.
The seriousness of the situation didn’t manage to shake us out of the funk we were in after the birth of our daughter. We had 42 days to register the name which was, it turned out, only just enough. In the end we managed to get an appointment at the registry office when we rang on the 42nd day. Just over a month in and we had already almost failed our daughter in a way which would affect her for the rest of her life. However, we just snuck in the appointment and so we were off.
The registry office in Coventry is in a wonderful old building in the centre of Coventry. It looks fantastic, but is impossible to find, hidden away behind a row of estate agents. Which is a problem when you are coming into the city on a bus, which is running a bit late, in order to meet your wife and her brother with your almost two month old baby and you can’t find where you are supposed to go. I think this was where I began to get flustered. You know that dream where you are in a perfectly familiar place, that you have been to hundreds of times before, but nothing makes sense and you just know that the place you are heading for is just round the corner, except it isn’t and you find yourself in a totally different place to where you were expecting. Never had that dream, well, imagine that you have, and now imagine me living out that dream in real life. But then there they were, there it was, and the fun was just beginning.
We made it in and sat to wait for our appointment. It was not a very long wait, but the whole time I had that tingly feeling, the one where you know that you have done nothing wrong, that your paperwork is all fine and that this really is your daughter, but can’t help thinking that this is the time that they will find you out and you will be deported back to your own country and refused the right to see your child. It had been the same the last time we had been in the place, when we registered to get married, I had to check my passport about thirty times to convince myself that it was me, that I did belong there, that I had been born in this country and lived in Coventry for plenty long enough.
The panic only grew when we were called in and sat down. By this point she had woken up and was not happy at these people trying to tell her that up to this point in her life she hadn’t had a name. My role then, whilst the paperwork was being filled out was to hold the child and try to calm her down. Simple enough, in fact I probably got the easy end of the deal, it did mean that I wasn’t really paying attention to the proceedings. But then, suddenly, a pen was being thrust into my hand and I was signing something. I can do that, I have signed my name a number of times, though sadly never at the request of a small boy with an autograph book. I can dream.
It turned out I was signing the birth certificate, and I signed it with a particular flourish, my first child and all that. Only it seems that my signature is not very legible, and so I was asked by the registrar what I had signed. I would like you to bear in mind my current mental state, the flap I had been in to find the place and the child who was still not entirely comfortable with the lax attitude of her parents, when I tell you that when she asked I presumed she was just making conversation and so I told her that my signature is just an ‘M’ which was quick and simple. I still didn’t twig what was going on when she pressed me if that is what I had really signed. It was, and so I said it was. My wife at this point was looking on with a pained, stunned expression on her face, and I still didn’t register the seriousness of the situation.
|In case you think I might lie to you.|
It transpired that the registrar was trying to clarify what she should write as the father’s name for my electronic signature. As I had been so insistent that I had signed an ‘M’, that is what she put. My child was duly registered, she has a name and will not have to go through life with the stigma of having no name. And won’t she be excited when she finds out that her father, far from being a dull Classics graduate is, in fact, a character in James Bond. At least neither of us ended up being called Bertha.