My name is Bond. Stephen Bond. When you hear this, it might occur to you that I have the same surname as a certain well-known fictional secret agent. You also might feel like pointing this out to me when we meet. It will then probably strike you that this must happen all the time. If it does, don't worry. It happens all the time.

Oddly enough, jokes about 'Bond' really don't bother me and never did, though before you go launching into the 007 theme, be aware that I heard the last original riff on my name sometime back in 1986. No, what bothers me more is that in 23 years of hearing such comments, I still haven't come up with a witty retort. When people say things like "Ah, Double-O-Seven!" I can rarely muster up anything other than boredom.

The most annoying thing, though, is that some people never want to believe it's my name unless it's written in black and white before them, and sometimes not even then. I always hate having to give my name in shops, for example, because I know it's going to be a frustrating experience. It's as if people's ears refuse to process what they have just heard, and replace it with the nearest possible alternative. My surname has variously been repeated back to me as Boyd, Boland, Bard, Barnes, Bart and in one case Harold, which I attribute more to deafness. I often have to say things like "Bond, as in James" or "you know, 007" before people actually get it.

The most extreme case of this happened about a year ago at a pharmacy in Dublin. I handed the attendant a prescription on which my name was written, spelled correctly. She gave the prescription a puzzled look for a while, then had a five-minute consultation about it with the pharmacist. She then looked at me strangely, looked at the prescription again and then had another five-minute consultation about it with someone else. Finally I got my medicine, with my name printed on the receipt: "Stephen Balls".

Hell, it's not as if it's that uncommon a name. The occasional vanity search I do on Google reveals that there are quite a few other guys called Stephen Bond on the Net. There's one guy who's a professor of something in Oxford, another guy who has a PhD in maths somewhere in America (academically I have a lot to live up to), another American guy who likes marching bands, and also a guy in the UK who posts dodgy ads to personals boards (I would like to make it absolutely clear that this is not me). And that's only the ones on the Net. When I began my degree course, I found out that there was another guy who did theoretical physics a few years before me who had the same name. (One of the lecturers even asked me if I was his brother. Yeah, sure, my parents had a fit of amnesia at the christening.) And there must be many more.

I must confess, though, that when faced with unusual names I'm just the same as everyone else. If I were to meet someone called, say, Stephen Trotsky, I would unfailingly point out to him that - well, you know, and I would probably keep on making jokes about revolutions, the proletariat, and so on. All this despite getting 23 years of the same treatment myself! I think it's part of the natural human practice, noted by Douglas Adams, of saying really obvious things when faced with something unusual. Maybe it's some sort of comforting mechanism.

And now to answer some of the most obvious questions. Yes, my uncle is; yes, some of them; unfortunately not; I'd rather not give my number on the Internet; and Sean Connery. That should cover everything, I think.