Trolley Man and the Misgendered Dog

Discarded trolley in the River Freshney in Grimsby, September 2006. Image by Matthew James Hunt.

The Trolley Collector. The man with no name. The Everyman. The people of the world. You, me, or anyone caught up in somebody else’s war. He did have a name, originally. The real-life man that his character was based upon was called Alec. He was a regular service-user at a project for people with mental health or homelessness problems where I used to work. He was tough-looking, but softly spoken; cagey, but gentle-mannered; unforthcoming and inscrutable, but entirely inoffensive. Why I would have a dream about him being held hostage by another, female service-user at the point of a gun, I don’t know.

But that dream was the germ of the novel I Am Not Gog. That was the odd situation that I had to reverse engineer to find out what the heck had brought them there, and then figure out where it would go next. So, while I did that, he went by his own name, Alec. I later discovered the Alexander Romances and their references to Gog and Magog, so now he couldn’t be Alec because someone else needed to be Alex (who, I didn’t yet know). That’s why the poor fellow lost his own name: they were far too similar and it would be far too confusing. Then I realised we didn’t need to know his name, and it would even help his status as the Everyman. So, I just never gave him a new one.

Trolley collecting, or working as a supermarket ‘porter’, is a minimum-wage job. They start their day by checking the tills are stocked with all that’s needed and then go about their main role retrieving trolleys and baskets, ready to be on hand to help with anything else, such as reluctantly assisting strange ladies in finding their lost, misgendered, and imaginary dogs – dogs like Lucy, which, according to Lydia, is short for ‘Lucigrandi Delmondo’.

I have to tell you I came up with that name exactly in the same way Lydia did: on the spot, just opening my mouth and seeing what came out. Lydia and I both have the vague notion that Italian names ending with ‘o’ are male names, and those ending with ‘a’ are female, so, happily, our subconsciouses provided a male-sounding name so she could come up with an explanation for the apparent misgendering of her pooch by saying that it's the name of a male Italian film-star.

As an example of synchronicity in the creative process, it turns out that if you pop this made-up name into an online translation tool, it translates it as ‘great lights of the world’, which you could say is another, rather grand way of saying ‘celebrities’ or ‘stars’. The dog doesn’t exist. It is not real. It has no substance. It is a deliberate fabrication to serve as a distraction. You could also say that the worth of celebrity is not real. The world it presents – the weight given to it by the media and press and wider culture – is not real. It has no substance. It is a distraction.


This is a repository of insights about the novel I Am Not Gog (and future work). There will be new insights every month or so until we have a full library and nothing is left unexplored. If you came here to find out more about the allegory of the novel, start by clicking HERE.

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I Am Not Gog. A novel by Matthew James Hunt.