Philately Friday: Give Me A ‘T’ Please

Dad loved sharing his enthusiasms and he had high hopes that one or both of the Archaeologist and I would follow suit. We did our best but I think, taking the long view neither of us really fell in love with those little sticky-backed squares and rectangles.

That said, as small boys we loved the receiving of letters – apart from birthdays and Christmas we received barely a scribble, maybe a postcard from a relative in the summer, but that was always shared. When dad began taking collecting first day covers (FDCs to the cognoscenti) seriously, the joy for us two was we would each receive a letter, addressed just to one of us with these glorious stamps that dad loved. Dad didn’t waste money so we didn’t both get the same set but we learnt that vital lesson of anticipation, of the next one being ‘our’ turn.

And here we come to a very clear and, for me, not very meritorious bit of family history.

You see, I was the second son: in years, second by some fifteen months and, intellectually by about a decade. Thus, had dad organised for each new FDC to be addressed to us both it would have been to ‘Gordon and Geoffrey Le Pard’. No question as to the order of priority. Primogeniture doesn’t only apply to royalty.

Therefore, as we can see from these two examples from 1963, we each had our own. Brilliant. How egalitarian, how…

But wait! I wasn’t so easily deceived. By this time I had already received an unusually strong dressing down from mum for complaining about the Archaeologist, who had been in hospital to have his tonsils removed and decided he was enjoying it so much he bit through a thermometer and was kept in which they ensured he hadn’t ingested the glass – I don’t think they worried much about the mercury back then. I was taken to collect him when he was finally released and mum had bought him some comic – The Eagle or some such – but not one for me. I moaned about how unfair this was to which mum, rightly furious pointed out that he’d been in hospital, ill and possibly perforated while I’d had everyone’s attention at home. I didn’t really do empathy, aged six.

The examples above are from 1963. If we move forward a year we have these two examples.

The first is addressed to the Archaeologist and is the splendid set that commemorated 400 years of Shakespeare. I remember these as being universally approved. Back then, stamps made headlines. This is April 1964.

I was next and another rather delightful set for something desperately dull called the International Geographical Congress – they really did drag up some anniversaries back then. They didn’t celebrate that many people unless they were BIG like the Man, Will S. Generally they were for events of the worthy sort. Yawn…

Anyhoo, this is it.

Can you see the change?

Yep, in the year I have grown a middle initial. Very American you might think. Wasn’t there a president who just had an initial and no middle name? I digress.

In my case it was a complete name – Thomas – that that T represented. As you can see from the Archaeologist’s oeuvre, he had an F – for Francis, my mother’s maiden name – but I’d not had one.

As with the post tonsils glossy, I complained how unfair was my treatment – boy, was I big on egalitarianism back then. The Archaeologist had a middle name; why didn’t I? How could they, my wretched parents be so cruel and thoughtless as to deprive me of that foundation of all things civilised. How could they not see how they were limiting my life chances by the egregious omission of a middle name?

“You can give yourself one,” said Mum.

“What would you like?” Added Dad.

It wasn’t the same, it wasn’t on my birth certificate – I don’t suppose I knew this winning argument back then but had I… Ha!

So I chose Thomas. After the Tank engine of that name.

Cute you may think, but hang on. Don’t underestimate the duplicity of the scorned seven year old. When the Rev Audrey wrote the Thomas the Tank engine series, he gave various popular names to his engines. Thomas, of course, and Edward and Henry and Gordon….

Arghhh! Not another slight. This can’t be happening. And while I might later have realised that the arrogant smug sod that was Gordon wasn’t exactly the hero in this series, he was the express train, the fastest, most potent… I was only too aware of the lack, the horrendous publishing error that had Geoffrey missing from the list of train names.

So I took that slight and Thomas was added. It only ever appeared on FDCs. I think, even at seven, I realised how I was opening myself to ridicule if I pushed the point of this enormous hole in my name amongst my friends and other relatives.

My parents understood, though. They added in the T as their little secret and the Archaeologist, who was largely oblivious to my presence – another area of contention – never mentioned it.

Yes, you often fail to see how wise parents can be. Mark Twain captured it perfectly

When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.

About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published several books: a four book series following Harry Spittle as he grows from hapless student to hapless partner in a London law firm; four others in different genres; a book of poetry; four anthologies of short fiction; and a memoir of my mother. I have several more in the pipeline. I have been blogging regularly since 2014, on topic as diverse as: poetry based on famous poems; memories from my life; my garden; my dog; a whole variety of short fiction; my attempts at baking and food; travel and the consequent disasters; theatre, film and book reviews; and the occasional thought piece. Mostly it is whatever takes my fancy. I avoid politics, mostly, and religion, always. I don't mean to upset anyone but if I do, well, sorry and I suggest you go elsewhere. These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.
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29 Responses to Philately Friday: Give Me A ‘T’ Please

  1. A fascinating series – especially how these first day covers can add to memories of your childhood. I has noticed the middle initial difference. By 1963 I had given my collections away, so my FDCs covered earlier decades.


  2. Sadje says:

    The child can be so self absorbed and ignorant! Great quote from Mark Twain

    Liked by 1 person

  3. George says:

    Delightful reminiscences. Have you considered therapy to help you come to terms with your inferiority complex, in case hospitalisation, middle names, and fictional steam engines become triggers for irrational outbursts?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. noelleg44 says:

    Wonderful memories. I am particularly taken with the Trans-Pacific Telephone Cable. THAT was a feat.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. The iniquities we find as children! This was such a fun read. Incidentally, the American president with no middle name was Harry Truman, and his middle initial “S” was also chosen like your middle name. (Though I don’t know if as much thought was put into his, I think it was something to do with “a president must have a middle initial!” And he thought S sounded nice). Thank you for sharing your story!


  6. Your brother got an esquire as well. Maybe that signifies he is eldest? Two boys close in age will always end up competitive unless they are nurtured to be close friends which is more rare until later in life, I think. Mark Twain had wonderful, simple common sense. Much missing in the world today.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. willowdot21 says:

    I did enjoy reading this G.T. , I if G.F. did ! Fancy the hospital being more concerned about the glass than the mercury…
    It could explain to a lot!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Darlene says:

    This is a great post. Funny the things you recall from childhood. I recall 1952 well, England got a new Queen and I got a new brother. I was much more excited about the new Queen!
    I love how your parents let you pick your own middle name. So clever of them. I love that Mark Twain quote.


  9. trifflepudling says:

    I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that – it’s no fun being the second-born, never mind without a second name!
    Apparently I refused to wear my sister’s outgrown clothes and lay down on the floor in the middle of Selfridge’s until new clothes were purchased!
    The parents also had a massive studio portrait of my sister but not one of me. It was only later I realised they were probably too exhausted to bother, what with 2 small children and both working (the parents, not us 😀 ! ).


  10. What’s the point of a middle name anyway? None! So you haven’t missed out, not at all. From Anabel C.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I’m really enjoying these philatelic forays! My dad also collected stamps, though much more haphazardly than yours – no FDCs, for example. I was very interested as a young person, when there’s joy in having as many different specimens as possible. Seeing lovely and (to me) exotic selections from another country are a real treat. Please continue to share them. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  12. HI Geoff, the purpose of a second name has always eluded me. Mine is Louise which I hate more than Roberta. I was thinking just yesterday that I should have used a pen name and then I could have chosen my own name. Anyway, that is life. My boys both have Dean as a second name after my father. It caused some issues with hubby’s family. It’s a good thing I am impervious to their comments and sarcastic hints.

    Liked by 1 person

    • TanGental says:

      Oh families. My brother has my paternal grandfathers Christian name and mothers maiden name for his middle and he only got that because my maternal grandfather utterly loathed his name (Percy so no surprise there). I’m named after Geoffrey Chaucer because my mother wanted a quintessentially English name. I’m lucky it wasn’t Beowulf I suppose…

      Liked by 1 person

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