It’s not fair.
If you google names like Tessa Woodward, Catherine Walter, Judy Garton-Sprenger, Scott Thornbury, Jeremy Harmer, Lindsay Clandfield, Jason Renshaw or Gavin Dudeney, the first million or so hits are for the ELT Hall of Famers that we know and love.
If you google Ken Wilson, it’s a completely different story. Until I started my blog last year, the first 100 google links to Ken Wilson were not about me. Since then, I’ve crept up the list and (unless things have gone pear-shaped again) nowadays, I creep in at number 4.
I know it’s very sad that I google my own name, but none of us in blog-world get out enough.
Wilson is the eighth most common family name in the UK AND in the US. In the UK, it was the sixth most common 150 years ago (we’ve gone down two notches – clearly we Wilsons have a fertility problem). And an awful lot of Wilsons name their sons Kenneth (why? why? it’s not a great name!!).
Sometimes having a name which you share with other people can lead to misunderstandings. More of that later.
First of all, who ARE these other Ken Wilsons? Wikipedia offers the following US-focussed list:
Ken Wilson (sportscaster) (born 1947), American sports broadcaster
Ken Wilson (ice hockey) (born 1923), Canadian minor hockey league general manager and owner
Kenneth G. Wilson (born 1936), American theoretical physicist
Kenneth G. Wilson (author) (1923–2003), American author and editor
Kenneth Wilson (athlete) (1896–1979), American track athlete
Kenneth Wilson (canoer), American Olympic canoer
Kenneth Robert Wilson, American drummer for band Marilyn Manson, often called “Kenny”, better known as Ginger Fish
Kenny Wilson (footballer), former Scottish footballer
Ken Wilson (Australian footballer), Scottish-born Australian footballer
In addition, there is a Ken Wilson who won first place at the Rogue SUP division in Newport Oregon. Ken is one of the top KIALOA riders in the Northwest. Not only is that not me, I have no idea what any of it means.
Then there’s Doctor Ken Wilson, a research scientist who uses epidemiological principles and life-history theory to explore the evolutionary interactions between parasites and their hosts, focussing particular attention on Lepidopteran larvae and their viral and fungal pathogens, especially in Africa. See the last sentence of the previous paragraph for my understanding of this important work.
Actually, looking closely at those last two photographs, I’m now wondering if they are one and the same person…
Moving swiftly on. I would also love to meet the Ken Wilson from San Antonio Texas, who is in the Yamaha V-Star Hall of Fame because of the 1100cc bike that he rides.
I’m not even the only Ken Wilson who blogs. There’s another blogging KW, who lives in Ann Arbor Michigan and describes himself as ‘an unrecovered Jesus freak’. Ken wrote a book called Mystically Wired: Exploring New Realms in Prayer
In his blog of May 27th 2010, entitled ‘Mystically wired: Love the Lord with your whole brain’, Ken explains the thesis of his book as follows:
Most of us only use a small portion of our brains when praying and there’s more to pray with than that. Mainly we use the parts of our brain used for study, for conversation, perhaps for problems solving, analysis, and argument. We use the rational parts of our brain. Sometimes we add the parts of our brain that sing, perhaps even the parts of the brain engaged in tongues speaking.
No, definitely not me! I’m with Ken about using the whole brain. Not so sure about the tongues stuff.
There’s an even more famous Ken Wilson here in the UK who I haven’t mentioned yet…
When I joined the Society of Authors a few years ago, I was invited to a new members’ evening. I thought long and hard before going, because believe it or not, I actually find it really difficult going to a party by myself where I’m pretty sure there will be no one I know. But I went.
When I arrived, I was handed an A4 sheet of paper, printed on both sides, containing the names of the other new members who were also attending the meeting, many of whom I could see through the door in the next room, already partaking of the free wine and crisps (potato chips).
There were about fifty names on the list, and they had all written a couple of sentences about their specific area of expertise. They were an impressive bunch, if only because some of them seemed to have found some pretty unusual niche writing areas.
I ghost-write military autobiographies, said one; My special area of interest is catalogue descriptions of medieval wall-hangings, said another. My favourite was: I am the author and illustrator of the Eric the Sheep cartoon strip. There weren’t any other ELT writers on the list.
I looked at what I had written about myself. I was alarmed to see that it was three times longer than anyone else’s and looked frankly a bit over the top.
I’m an author of English language teaching materials with more than 30 titles to my name. Ten of them are course books, some of which I have written with co-authors, including a series of books for Chinese schools which has sold more than a hundred million copies. I also write songs, sketches, short plays and radio programmes for the BBC English language teaching service.
Why couldn’t I have been as economical with words as the author/illustrator of Eric the Sheep???
I walked through into the delightfully old-fashioned room where the party was taking place and was immediately offered a glass of wine by one of the nice SoA employees, who are really good at mixing people together. I soon found myself talking to a pleasant woman who wrote children’s stories. She had published two books, and had two more being considered by different publishers.
“And you are… hold on, let me have a look,” she said. She glanced at my name badge, turned over the A4 sheet of paper, and her eyes widened when she read my frankly unnecessarily grand résumé.
“Excuse me a moment,” she said. “I just have to …” Her voice tailed off and she headed to the ladies’ room.
So now I was by myself, and wishing that I could somehow cut the last 56 words of my biographical details on the sheet of paper I was clutching.
A rather serious man walked up to me. In the way that everyone in the room was doing, I glanced at his name badge, and glanced down at the list.
I am the author and illustrator of the Eric the Sheep cartoon strip.
Before I could say: “Ah! Eric the Sheep!”, the man said:
“Are you THE Ken Wilson?”
Now, if someone asked me that at an ELT function, I would probably answer “Yes” and smile bashfully. But I doubted that this chap would know anything about ELT, so I said:
“The author of Classic Rock?”
“No, that isn’t me.”
We talked for a few minutes about this and that, mainly about Eric the sheep, who sounded like a dysfunctional animal with very few friends. I began to wonder what the Ken Wilson who had written Classic Rock might be like – a rock journalist whose speciality was the 60s and 70s, maybe? For a second, I thought it might be fun to pretend to be him at some future literary function. Just for a second, you understand…
Eric, or rather Eric’s creator, broke my musings by saying:
“I thought you might be the Classic Rock bloke because you look like the outdoor type.”
Outdoor type? Me?? The person who gets nose-bleeds if he drives outside the M25 London orbital motorway? The man whose idea of a walk in the country is to park 100 yards from a village pub and head inside for some lunch??
And why would an outdoor type be writing about 70s rock bands?
It was then I had the flash of enlightenment. He was talking about Ken Wilson, the famous mountaineer and author of several books about rock-climbing.
This wasn’t the first time I’d been mistaken for this more famous (and undoubtedly much fitter) Ken Wilson.
About twenty years ago, I was trying to think of a topic for a listening text about health and fitness and I noticed that a new sports centre – the Sobell – had opened in North London. I decided to contact them and ask if I could come over and interview someone who worked there.
This being the days before email, the internet etc, I actually wrote a letter to them, and included my phone number.
The next day, a woman called and was incredibly helpful and enthusiastic. “Of COURSE you can come over and interview someone!” she gushed. “It would be LOVELY to see you again!”
It was the ‘again’ that stopped me in my tracks.
“Again?” I repeated.
“Yes!” she said. “It was so GOOD to meet you when you were here last week!”
“I haven’t actually been there yet,” I said.
“What?” she said, her enthusiasm dipping somewhat. “Aren’t you Ken Wilson?”
“Well, yes —“
“Er … no.”
Ken Wilson the mountaineer had officially opened the sports centre the week before. He had apparently given a very amusing speech and a lovely day was had by all. The woman thought that she was talking to this charismatic outdoor type.
To give her credit, once we’d established I wasn’t the Ken Wilson she was looking forward to meeting again, she was incredibly helpful. A couple of days later, I went up to the Sobell with a bulky Marantz ‘portable’ tape recorder and interviewed one of the fitness trainers.
I still haven’t met Ken ‘Classic Rock’ Wilson, but if anyone out there knows him, do tell him to read this and maybe we can meet for a pint somewhere.
I wonder if he’s also responsible for the Ken Wilson Award, which I also found out about on google. It’s awarded annually to a young person who lives or works in the Yorkshire Dales and has contributed in an outstanding way to some aspect of the Dales environmental heritage.
This may not be THE Ken Wilson either, but he’s clearly someone who has spent more time out of doors than I have.
I really should get out more.
PS – if you google Ken Wilson ELT (without quote-marks), it’s all about me, me, me!!!😛