The hardest thing I did today was shell a hard-boiled egg. It wasn’t any different from any other egg – just your typical brown-speckled orb of springy yolk and albumen – but my hands were trembling too much to gain any purchase as I tried to prise the shell away. My hands were trembling because I had just caught the train, gasping and coughing in small hiccupy spurts as a result of some very rapid perambulation. They weren’t trembling in anticipation, although I was very much looking forward to the end result. I like eggs. So does my friend. She calls them Tamago-Chan and treats them like little people (albeit little people you always end up eating), with respect and fondness and what you might call love. I try to treat them in the same way.

This is why I was getting upset as I tried to shell this particular egg. It was not going well at all. If you’ve ever shelled a hard-boiled egg, you’ll know that the trick is to get hold of the membrane between the shell and the hardened egg-white, then peel it like you would an orange (the goal is, to my mind, largely the same – remove the outer layer in as few pieces as possible – and the technique ends up also being surprisingly similar). All well and good knowing it, but my hands were still shaking far too much to remove more than a few infinitesimal flecks of shell which were, thanks to my rapidly-deteriorating motor control, falling all over my seat and into my bag as I grappled with this Gordian knot of an ovum. Every time I coughed, people threw me suspicious glances, as if to say “who are you, strange boy, to cough like a sissy and fail at such a menial kitchen task?” No wonder – I’d have done the same if I’d been them. Or the egg, in fact.

Ten minutes on and more than half the shell remained, and by this time fatigue was beginning to set in. It wasn’t just my cough or my heat-palsied fingers which were getting tired – my whole body was beginning to ache, collapsing into itself with the weight of committment and deadline and the sheer blessed absurdity of the entire situation. Here I was, this supposedly intelligent and erudite leader of tomorrow, completely and utterly at a loss as to how to shell an egg. I was frustrated, I was vexed, but more than anything I just wanted to eat the egg shell and all and let myself drift into painless sleep.

But there was never any chance of that happening. I never liked the taste of giving up. Moreover, I never liked the taste of eggshells. So, “Tamago-Chan,” I said, “I will not quit. You deserve better. I will honour you even if I die trying.” Whether I actually said this or not doesn’t really matter. What matters is that I kept chipping away at my dear Tamago-Chan, and finally I got hold of the membrane and I slowly pulled and eventually all the shell was gone, lying in a heap of crackly shrapnel in my lap. I had done it. I had freed my Tamago-Chan.

And why, do you ask, did I choose this as our name? I did so because although I may not be the strongest or the bravest or the wisest, I have been granted some gifts which have served me faithfully to this day. And like Tamago-Chan, it is my duty to share those gifts with you, you with the dreaming hearts and hopeful eyes, you who read and want to write. A friend told me once that words aren’t much, but they’re all we’ve got. If you want to command those words and make them count, know that you’re not alone. And to you, I will give as good as I get.

August 2011 (edited Feb 2012)