Being Paul Dalgarno


I’ve become friends with a couple of Paul Dalgarnos on Facebook.

It would be crass and impertinent to reveal too much about their personal details, their racial profiles, their daily travails … Suffice to say they are both quite clearly Paul Dalgarnos.

Sometimes I’ll look at what they’ve posted and think, “Jesus, that’s so Paul Dalgarno.” They’ll make a joke, an off-the-cuff remark and it’s like looking at myself. It’s uncanny. Cut them, they will bleed – we’re like Black Eyed Peas in an iPod.

It’s nice to know they’re out there, that we form a triumvirate of Paul Dalgarnos who could – why not? – become lifelong buddies, share our experiences of being Paul Dalgarnos in an age of recession and moral panic. We could hang out at beach parties, commit three-way benefit fraud or turn up for the same job interview one after the other.

Facebook protocol means you don’t necessarily need any contact beyond the obligatory: “Paul Dalgarno has added you as a friend and we need to know he’s not a raging psychopath, a stalker or just really sad.” The newest of my Paul Dalgarnos, who I’ve been chums with for a fortnight, simply clicked on “accept”, with no further comment. It was enough that I was a Paul Dalgarno: he knew the score in a way no Jack Smith or Billy Bunter ever could.

There’s another one I’m currently chasing, a more reticent Paul Dalgarno, who has not yet responded to my advances. But I must be on his mind. The request is there, breathing smuttily down his inbox. He’s maybe wondering what this missive from another Paul Dalgarno means, whether there’s space for two Paul Dalgarnos in his life. Because, make no mistake, Paul Dalgarnos like their space.

Often I’ll be mulling over a thorny dilemma and ask myself: what would Paul Dalgarno do? I’ll be a click or two away from contacting one of my Paul Dalgarnos and then pull back, ashamed of nearly taking liberties with our identical identities. Without restraint we could morph into each other in unseemly ways.

Once I was interviewed by a student journalist who wrote that I had studied nano-optics at Heriot-Watt University. I didn’t, but I can see where she was coming from: it’s the kind of thing a Paul Dalgarno would do – the brainy bastards. Indeed, according to not only is Paul Dalgarno a “gonzo journalist” but also a research associate at Heriot-Watt. I think he even got a First. Awesome. Sadly, we’re not friends yet: it’s the old science-versus-arts thing, though many Paul Dalgarnos are renaissance men.

There are several others out there, faffing around being all Paul Dalgarno: an extended schools coordinator in Cleveland (who knew?), some bloke in Sussex and a couple of those weird white-on-blue bequiffed people that stand in for real Paul Dalgarnos on Facebook.

The dearest of my Paul Dalgarnos has been a Facebook friend for more than a year now. Sometimes I’ll click the “I like this” button when he writes something particularly Paul Dalgarno; sometimes he’ll click on mine. The only proper virtual chat we’ve had was at the beginning of our relationship.

Overcome with a sudden burst of Paul Dalgarno self-flattery I wrote, “I love your name, man,” on his wall. Two days later, having clearly given it some thought, he wrote back saying: “Yeah, man, I love yours too.”


First published on Herald Scotland