Warning for: very sweary swearing.
This morning, a letter arrived in the post. It was from the Electoral Registration Officer. It said: ‘Your application as an elector cannot be progressed as we were unable to verify your identity against government databases.’
I felt a galvanic rage seize me in its crocodile jaws and throw me about the room.
It was not just because of the ugly use of progressed in that sentence.
I am a bit of an old lefty. More accurately, I should say I am a pragmatic centrist small L liberal with whiggish tendencies. My leftness comes most strongly in my belief in government. When my right of centre friends and relations are hymning the free market and wanting to drown the state in a bathtub, I stick up for government. I believe in it for all its faults because I believe in the social contract. I am grateful every day that I live in a liberal democracy where there are no religious police knocking down the door. When people groan and say that politicians are all the same, I state the unfashionable view that most of them are decent men and women who do a difficult job to the best of their ability. I wish they would answer the question on the Today programme and I fall into despair when they ruthlessly stay on message and mouth pablum and jargon, but, mostly, I believe in them.
My government, which I defend every single damn week, to which I dutifully pay my taxes, whose laws I obey, whose history I have studied, now tells me I do not exist.
How fucking DARE it?
I’m so angry I’m tempted not to send in my driving licence and, when the electoral cops come to arrest me, I’ll tell them they can’t, because, according to them, I AM NOT A PERSON. The fuckers will rue the day.
Through my red mist, I wonder why this makes me quite so angry. My heart is hammering in my chest and I want to throw things. A vague snatch of talk from the old days in Hampstead, when I used to sit with my sage and funny Jungian-Adlerian and draw comfort and wisdom from his words, comes back to me. He was talking about children and the fragile sense of self. He said something about how when children are ignored, not listened to, not counted, it is a little like dying, because the sense of existing in the world is so important to them. They need to be seen; they need to be heard. It can feel like a matter of life and death.
I am a woman steaming into middle age. The conventional wisdom is that women grow invisible after the age of forty. I’ve never found this to be true. I think you can be as visible as you believe yourself to me. When I went to Aintree, a cameraman from Betfred picked me out of a crowd of seventy thousand. He was asking people about AP McCoy, the incomparable champion who has bestrode the sport of National Hunt racing like a colossus for twenty years. I was enchanted to be asked and poured out a stream of words. He looked at me and smiled. ‘Was that scripted?’ he asked, in astonishment, as if I had been secretly writing my paean of praise for this very moment. I laughed. ‘No,’ I said. ‘I think about him a lot, that’s all.’
I am not invisible, but I do not conform to society’s rules. I confuse and baffle because I don’t want to get married and have children and I don’t do a regular job with an office and a National Insurance Number and a pension and nine-to-five hours. I have odd enthusiasms. I am a geek. This can make one sometimes feel a little like a non-person. If you don’t conform, you can get written out of the script. You don’t see very many other people just like you, or if you do, they are held up as the freak girls, the cautionary tales, the exceptions that prove the rule. My dear old dad did not even know there were any rules and he bequeathed that to me. Most of the time I don’t notice it so very much, as I merrily trundle on my own way, but sometimes I smash up against the blank walls of incomprehension.
Perhaps that chafes me more than I know. Perhaps it’s just that I work hard to live a decent life and be a decent person, even if I sometimes get grumpy and unreasonable and have the odd bitch and can never tackle that damn cupboard of doom, and now someone has come along and told me that was all for nothing. I try not to need external validation, although it’s a bit of a losing battle, but perhaps everyone needs their passport stamped from time to time.
I want to shout, like John Hurt in The Elephant Man: I am a human being.
But sod it, I’m really just a number, and a number that does not appear on the government database. My red duchess will raise an aristocratic eyebrow when she hears that.
The blinky duchess and the manly Stanley:
Stan the Man and the red mare then had a lovely race up the set-aside to the top gate. She was running because the Paint filly had gone ahead without a permission slip and the duchess was clearly afraid she would eat all the breakfast, and Stanley was running to inspect the tunnel he has dug under the feed shed in his constant quest for rats:
HorseBack UK, where I did not work this morning because I do not exist:
Well, that’s better. Thank you for letting me get that off my chest. Obviously you won’t be reading this because I cannot have written it, but in the parallel universe where someone who looks remarkably like me is typing at seventy words a minute, I wish you a very happy weekend.