Sometime in the early nineties, a letter arrived on my doormat. It had been sent, unsolicited, via airmail from the USA. Los Angeles, to be more precise. It purported to be from someone who had written to me on the basis that we had the same name. Since I want to retain at least a smidgen of anonymity, I'll call him troUSers (see what I did there?).
My initial reaction was that it was a practical joke: I knew at least two people at the time who were living in Los Angeles and I could imagine it fitting in with their sense of humour.
A couple of things tempered my certainty that someone was trying to pull a fast one, however. Firstly, the address on the envelope had enough inaccuracies in it to have run the risk of not being delivered to me at all. If this was a friend playing a joke I don't think they would have gone to that level of cunning detail.
Plus, from what was written in the letter, troUSers had found my address via a book which contained a huge list of people with my/our surname. I guessed that this information was gleaned from the same databases that junk mail senders would have access to. I recalled that my grandfather had, a few years before, been sent a similar book on approval by some sort of book club. He'd sent it back to them, saying "what would I want with that bloody rubbish?"
So, it seemed possible that it was indeed a letter from another trousers. Different middle name. 5 years younger, to the week.
I was a little freaked out. My surname isn't uncommon, but my first name is - there can't be ever so many of us in the world. I remember wandering through town the same day, and feeling like I was being watched: nonsense of course. But, if I could receive a letter from the other side of the world from another trousers, then it wasn't quite so easy to dismiss that slight feeling of unease.
This was also a good few years before the internet, for all intents and purposes. This kind of thing didn't happen, you couldn't just run a search for someone. It was weird.
But, I'll cut a long story short. It was true. This guy genuinely was troUSers. He turned out to be a nice guy too. I'd had the feeling at first that he was going to be some stereotypically snotty, arrogant, brash kid, and I was quickly proved wrong. Similarly, I learned, he thought I was going to be an uptight, aloof, typically English sort of bloke.... which probably wasn't helped by the fact that my first couple of letters were written to him with a chisel-tipped fountain pen, full of squiggles and flourishes, and lots of Jane Austen-style language. I was relieved to find that his own preconceptions were quickly dispelled.
We wrote to each other on a fairly regular basis, and we met once as well. He was in London for a week, and travelled up to see me by train. I had a very odd time explaining to the staff where I was doing voluntary work at the time, "sorry, I can't come in tomorrow, there's this guy who's also called trousers, from Los Angeles, and he's in town..."
We're in touch via the net these days. He's a musician, like me. He's an active musician, unlike me, and he's also verrrry talented (like me - obviously). I'll be meeting him for the second time ever this weekend, since he's over on these shores and is going to be playing a gig.
As with the above, its going to be weird....but wonderful. I can't wait.