London - We knew we were in trouble when my mother phoned to say that anything beginning with a “K” was out of the question.
“Just awful, all those K names! Kevin and Keith and Ken and Kieran,” she said.
“And not Louis! I can’t bear Louis. And you can’t have Charlie - far too many Charlies in our family already. And William and Matthew have gone.
“In fact, what you should call him is Thomas David John - Thomas because it’s a nice sensible name, and David and John after his grandfathers. But, naturally, I wouldn’t dream of interfering.”
She was referring to my much-longed-for first child. My son. Who is now two-and-a-half weeks old and, despite endless helpful (and a few less than helpful) suggestions, remains nameless.
It all started at 4.39pm on Thursday, July 21 when he was lifted, kicking and screaming with a red face full of fury, to meet me and my husband, Miles.
“Oh my God, it’s a boy!” we chorused. ‘A boy! How can that be?”
In retrospect, it was perhaps a bit silly to be quite so shocked. There were only two alternatives, after all. But for some daft reason, we were utterly convinced (and no, we were never told the sex) that he was a she. Which meant, while we had the perfect name for a girl, we never got round to thinking of any boys’ names.
And then the dithering began.
Things started well.
“How about Freddy?” said Miles. ‘Or Sam, or Alexander, or Joe?”
All nice, we agreed. And left it at that, as breast-feeding and general healing and sleep took precedence. ‘We’ll decide in a bit ...,” And so passed the next couple of hours. And the evening. And our first night in hospital. And the next day.
Meanwhile, Miles popped out for The Penguin Book Of Baby Names, and our medical notes were updated to include ‘Baby Davis” (my married name). And every time a nurse popped in or someone came to visit, we discussed it some more.
“Barney? Bobby? Henry? Does he look like an Arthur?”
“Not Arthur - Arthur went last month.” (A friend recently chose it for their newborn)
Never mind, we thought. We’ve got ages to come up with something splendid. Weeks. Six weeks, to be exact. Six weeks to settle on a name and register his birth at Chelsea Town Hall before we’re fined £200 and covered in shame.
After all, how hard can it be?
Very, as it turns out.
Because a week in, home from hospital and up to our eyes in interminable feeding, winding and changing, and gritty-eyed with sleep deprivation, we were no closer. If anything, it got worse. Because our indecision opened the floodgates.
If we’d sent out a neat announcement from the outset, setting his name (however silly - and for some reason Harper Seven Beckham springs to mind) in stone, no one would have dreamt of expressing an opinion. At least not in our earshot.
But having demonstrated our general hopelessness, suddenly everyone got involved.
Every “Congratulations” message included an “Any name yet?” Every card a “Have you thought of Archie?”, “or Gordon?”, “or Howard?”. Everyone had a suggestion, which they were extremely keen to share.
A touch of egotism slipped in here and there. “Will’s a good name,” said my nephew Will.
“What about Paul? Paul’s a bloody great name. I think you should give Paul some serious consideration?” slurred Miles’s friend Paul after a particularly energetic head-wetting session.
Even Miles got in on the act.
“We could call him Miles?”
Er . . . Daddy Miles and baby Miles?
“George Foreman called his sons George,” he said stubbornly.
Indeed, he did. Every one of his five sons is named George - George Jr, George III, George IV, George V and George VI. Oh yes, and two of his daughters are called Freeda George and Georgetta.
It turns out baby naming problems run in my husband’s family.
For weeks, Miles was nameless while his jazz enthusiast father campaigned relentlessly for a son called Miles Davis until, eventually, he got his way.
And 45 years later, the jazz theme lurks worryingly.
‘What about Sam - Sammy Davis Jr? Or Eddie ‘Lockjaw” Davis!”
Who? “He was a brilliant tenor saxophonist - we could call him Locky!” says Miles, who inherited that love of jazz and was soon warming to the theme.
“Or Sonny (Rollins) Davis. Or Dizzy (Gillespie) Davis.”
No, no, no and no.
‘Well what about Kenny (Dalglish)? Or Luis (Suarez)? Stevie (Gerrard), Ian (Rush)?”
My Liverpool-mad spouse beamed at me hopefully - and so another week passed.
A thoughtful colleague sent me a news story about the most popular boys names of 2011 - topped by Oliver, Jack, Harry, Alfie and Charlie - all of which have been nabbed by close friends or family in recent years, the perils of coming rather late to parenthood.
Or ruined because they remind one of us of someone we loathe, ex-boyfriends I’d rather forget or, worst of all, anyone who plays for Chelsea.
At least there’s no government interference here. If you think of a name, however silly, it’s yours. A friend of a friend is named Danger after her father’s favourite dog. There’d be nothing to stop us calling him Dave David Davis, if we wanted to.
Indeed, Britain’s rules on baby names are among the most liberal in the world. Pretty much anything goes as long as it’s not deemed offensive - 36 Arsenals (of both sexes) have been registered in the past 15 years, along with 29 Gazzas and two Supermans.
Unlike in Norway, where Ikea and Metallica are among a range of banned names.
Or New Zealand, where, after a spate of very odd names in 2008 - including Benson and Hedges and Fish and Chips for two poor sets of twins and Violence and Number 16 Bus Shelter for two baby boys - the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages have cracked down, rejecting 102 names in the past two years.
These include Lucifer, Messiah, King, Knight, Judge, the number 89 and punctuation marks including * (asterick) and / (forward slash). Which makes Harper Seven sound positively mundane.
Meanwhile, our own tentative shortlist has shrunk. Not because we were getting any closer to a decision.
Bobby was rejected as “a dog’s name”. Barney was dismissed as “too dinosaury”. Henry declared to be “too posh”. Fred was the “tyrant uncle”.
Now well into week three and with the baby nicknamed Poppet (by me) or Bubber Miley (by Miles), we’re running out of steam. Despite the £200 fine marching towards us, days pass and we barely discuss it.
Maybe a half-hearted “What about Laurie?” and “Do you like Max?”. But no serious discussion - the urgency has faded.
“It can’t be that hard,” says a friend. “Who does he look like - a Bert, a Joseph? Or something a bit wackier?”
Actually, he looks like a baby. An utterly perfect, gorgeous, adorable baby. Which is why all the names springing to mind are cute and cuddly, like Sammy, Bobby, Barney or Freddy - indeed, pretty much anything that ends in a Y.
Which, of course, is great for a baby. And fine for a boy. But perhaps not quite so apt for a great hulking teenager or a young man trying to be taken seriously.
Meanwhile, his undecided name hangs guiltily over us like a piece of unfinished homework - never properly addressed, but lurking in the background.
And then, right as I’m beginning to think we’ll never decide, he was being checked at the health clinic and, to add insult to injury, I noticed that, as well as being noted as “Baby Davis”, the poor boy had been registered as “Female”.
Which, frankly, seems a bit much. So though Bubber doesn’t look remotely bothered, we’re determined to decide by the end of the week - Alexander and Frederick are favourites.
Or settle for Bubber Miley, which turns out not to have been the random baby nickname I’d thought, but was the original jazz king of the growl trumpet. At least it doesn’t start with a K. - Daily Mail