Not Stopping Traffic? Blame Wikipedia

By | February 14, 2007

I’m not one to court fame, although it is flattering, I must confess, to be recognised in the street. First there’s the odd sideways look as they approach you. Then the diffident approach:
“Excuse me, are you Jeremy Wagstaff?”
“Why, yes, I am!”
“You don’t remember me, do you?
“Er, no.”
“I’m your wife.”
“Oh, yes. So you are. Sorry.”

Actually, that almost never happens. In fact, it’s unlikely to for the simple reason that no one has thought to create a page about me on Wikipedia. Of course, why should I be so presumptuous as to think I deserve one? And would I not be obsessively checking it were such a page to exist? And do I want people to know what I did that night in Bangkok in 1990 when I was chased by a woman in a car reversing at speed through heavy traffic on Sukhumwit? Probably not although I’ll tell you if you really want.

Still, there’s definitely a cultism about Wikipedia biographical entries. The organisers have had to gamekeep against congressional aides, PR companies and even the entries’ own subjects to prevent them whitewashing their past. Even one of the founders has been alleged to have indulged in a bit of airbrushing of his own past.

But my beef is this. Why, should the mood take me to search Wikipedia for my humble name, do these matches appear?

Results 1-13 of 13

I am not a rugby league footballer. I never went to the RCA, although I once won a Lego competition. I am not, as far as I know, fictitious although my lack of an entry on Wikipedia may suggest I am; my mother was born in Yorkshire but I, alas, was not, and while I suppose the Nonjuring Schism is a part of my heritage, I never went to Charterhouse and therefore cannot claim to be an Old Carthusian, let alone a notable one.

Still, given the amount of airbrushing out, and bland self-hagiographic rubbish one does find among biographies on Wikipedia, it’s probably as accurate as any other entry on a living person in the otherwise excellent online tome. In any case, it kind of captures the kind of person I sometimes wish I was: an artistic scrum half Yorkshireman playing notably in the Charterhouse First XV , not averse to a Schism or two so long as it’s Nonjuring and doesn’t leave any stretch marks. Now that kind of entry I would like.

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