As a rule tax returns are not usually a source of entertainment, so my thanks to whichever petty bureaucrat at the Australian Tax Office put together this year’s online E-Tax forms. I hadn’t got much further than my name when I was presented with a doozy of a drop-down menu from which to choose my title of choice. Take a deep breath…
Abbot, Able Seaman, Admiral, Air Chief Marshall, Air Commodore, Air Marshall, Air Vice Marshall, Airman / Aircraftman, Alderman, Archbishop, Arch Deacon, Associate Professor, Baron, Baroness, Bishop, Brigadier, Brother, Cadet, Canon, Captain, Cardinal, Chaplin, Chief Petty Officer, Colonel, Commander, Commissioner, Commodore, Constable, Corporal, Count, Countess, Dame, Deacon, Deaconess, Dean, Deputy Superintendant, Doctor, Duchess, Duke, Earl, Father, Flight Lieutenant, Flight Sergeant, Flying Officer, General, Group Captain, Gunner, His Royal Highness, Her Royal Highness, Honourable, Honourable Judge, Honourable Justice, Inspector, Judge, Justice, Lady, Lance Bombardier, Lance Corporal, Leading Aircraftmen, Leading Aircraftwoman, Leading Seamen, Lieutenant, Lieutenant Colonel, Lieutenant Commander, Lieutenant General, Lord, Madam, Major, Major General, Master, Matron, Mayor, Mayoress, Midshipman, Miss, Monsignor, Most Reverend, Mr, Mrs, Ms, Pastor, Patriarch, Petty Officer, Pilot Officer, Private, Professor, Rabbi, Rear Admiral, Rector, Reverend, Right Honourable, Right Reverend, Right Reverend Bishop, Right Reverend Monsignor, Seaman, Second Lieutenant, Senator, Senior Constable, Sergeant, Sir, Sister, Squadron Leader, Staff Sergeant, Sub Lieutenant, Superintendent, Swami, Very Reverend, Vicar, Vice Admiral, Viscount, Warrant Officer, Warrant Officer 1st class, Warrant Officer 2nd class and last but certainly not least if you like your old school space adventure computer games, Wing Commander.
After skimming through the list I couldn’t help but feel a little disappointed in myself in having to settle for plain old Mr Custard. As the son of a communist gas fitter (a damn fine one I might add) Housemartins fan some of the more aristocratic titles were perhaps always going to be beyond me. Still, even taking the la-di-da’s out of the equation (and really Australian Tax Office, just how many His/Her Royal Highnesses do we have completing their tax returns in this country?) I think I need a fancier moniker to present the world with.
So how do I go about it then? Given the above list the military seems like a good option for plebs like me. Sadly, unlike many members of my slightly odd family I have no interest in the armed forces. The army is, well - you know - the army, and my Grandad’s double torpedoing by U-boats in 1944 left me suspicious of the Village People's claims about life on the high seas. Still my Star Wars obsession did lead me to believe being a fighter pilot might be a goer for a while. After a promising start (I had several almost finished models of the Space Shuttle and a Harrier Jump Jet and was gifted – almost prodigiously so – at Arcadians) a future in the air force was swiftly curtailed when I was luxuriantly sick on my maiden flight in a two-seater Chipmunk training plane. This airborne hurl – along with that whole discipline thing and uncomfortably itchy RAF trousers - meant my chances of Corporal Custard (never mind Air Chief Marshall Custard was gone before I was 15.
Keen-eyed watchers of The Bill amongst you will know that many of the same ranks are available in the police force. I will admit to having unhealthy thoughts about those stockinged ankles that used to appear at the end of the UK's premier cop drama so that was enough to get my attention. Also I am tall, so that's that important entry criterion fulfilled. Sadly two other considerations counteract this early promise. Firstly, I am a complete coward who hates violence, confrontation and all acts of aggression. Even on telly. Secondly, blue is not my colour. If I could dress like Sam Tyler in Life on Mars then I might be interested but I don't think it's a realistic goal.
I could of course aim for higher up in the judicial system with judge and justice (both honourable and just plain old regular flavour) up for grabs. On the plus side I am very judgmental and I love a comedy wig. On the downside, I really am very lazy and the idea of 23 year's study starting from scratch is really very unappealing. Whilst we're at it maybe we should rule out Professor and Doctor on the same grounds. Unless I become really famous and get awarded an honourary doctorate from the University of Woolloomooloo for being lovely, or tall, then I just don't see it happening.
So what else? Well life as a man of the cloth seems to offer a quick route to an interesting title. Even new starters get to be called Brother which is very Desmond Hume. However looking into it there does seem to be a lot of, well, Catholicism involved. Regardless of how cool it would be to have Right Reverend Monsignor Custard on my letterbox I'd rather stay excommunicated. Options in other religions are limited, though Swami is an option. Sadly Wikipedia's definition of a Swami as someone 'who knows and is the master of himself' rules me out. Anyone who has seen our puppy boss me about will tell you that I'm master of no one.
This limits my options for a bit of variety in my titulation to either a post-gender reassignment Miss or Ms (and no offence ladies, but that's not quite different enough for the level of investment required) or me getting my community hat on and running for public office. Given the level of public respect for our members of parliament in 2010 perhaps the time is right to step forward. Vote 1 Mint Custard for Mayor? I'd probably be rubbish but then that seems to be almost expected these days. Honourable Member...? Please. Now you're just being rude.
Aristocratic silver spoons aside it would seem that upgrading my name requires a level of time, effort or commitment which I clearly don't have. I could of course take the option pursued by Def Leppard on their Hysteria album when they listed themselves as Wing Commander Steve "Steamin', Dreamy, Snikker, Mayhem, P.T.W." Clark, A.H.D. (Guitars), Air Commodore Phil "Felix, P.C., The Guru, Wambo, Top" Collen, B.T.H (more guitars) and Baron Beaverbrook "Sir Richard" Rick "Sav" Savage (Bass). I could... but I won't. I think you know why.
So Australian Tax Office, it is with regret and shame that I declare myself as plain old me for another year. Not much to boast about, but hey, my Grandma loves me. Is that tax deductible...?