I’ve got a fairly normal (if slightly porcine) and unremarkable face. (An ex-employer once suggested that I should go to work for the clothing company Fat Face, ‘Because you’ve got one.’) But for some reason, people continually think that I am somebody else. I work in a shop and I have often been faced by customers saying ‘You’re that bloke off the telly aren’t you?’, although few of them seem quite able to put their finger on exactly who. Most often (generally when I am wearing contact lenses) they think that I am ‘the bloke off Homes Under the Hammer’ or, if bespectacled, one of the ever-growing roster of experts from the similarly expanding catalogue of ‘Antiques’ programmes that clutter the daytime viewing schedules. Some become quite agitated, convinced that I am clearly moonlighting and being unduly coy in owning up to who I am when they have so clearly caught me at it. My denials are so much in vain that, by and large, I no longer bother.
On holiday this year one waiter took to calling me John as he was struck by how much I resemble John Lennon. I do not (nor ever have – even when he was alive) in any way look like the erstwhile proto-Beatle. I am not as tall as he, nor as thin. I do not have his angular face or nose (in that particular facial compartment I much more closely resemble W.C. Fields). I have ginger hair! All I do have, currently, are small round glasses. It’s not enough is it? A few years ago I was bothered by a fellow hotel guest who really did (rather more disturbingly) believe that I was Elton John. I will not bother you with all of the things that separate he and I, but I did wear at that time large red spectacles: short, fat, could be a wig, might have had a facelift, teeth done etc, must be Elton John. He seemed to think that I was denying it just to preserve my privacy. (And please bear in mind here that this all took place in a hotel that I could afford to book into. I suspect it would have been of too humdrum a standard for even Sir Elton’s wig primper or third comis chef.) He was not to be denied however, so I sang him a chorus of Rocket Man – that did it.
A few weeks ago we were in a park with the grandkids and I wandered past a couple of families picnicking on a large rug. I was aware of a certain amount of nudging and covert pointing – enough that I felt obliged to check my flies – and indiscernible whispering, but nobody actually said or did anything to cause concern. Except that when I walked past them on the way back a few minutes later the whispers of ‘It is him…’ and ‘I told you so…’ were quite distinct. I had to pass them a few times after that and on each occasion there was nudging and whispering and the growing determination that I really was whomever they thought that I was. I toyed with talking to them but, come on, why would I want to spoil their day? They had a story to tell their friends. ‘You’ll never guess who we saw in the park today? He was a bit older than I thought: shorter, fatter and a bit more ginger, but it was definitely him. I’d know those glasses anywhere…’