Filled out the household Census form this afternoon, like the worthy and responsible citizens that we are. The last census I remember filling out for myself was way back in 1991, when I was a single twenty-something in a flat of my own, but as I’d have been pregnant during the 2001 census, it probably failed to register and in 2011 we were on the move, so it’s likely that both times I just filled in my bit and left the rest to P.
Not today. The envelope with the purple leaflet and the code for the online form arrived some time last week and was laid aside for the weekend. This afternoon, I fired up the laptop and typed in the code. P said he was happy for me to enter his answers, which were entirely of the white-bread variety.
When it came to my turn, I answered the mandatory questions seriously, but my sense of the absurd overtook me when I got to the voluntary ones. I answered them, but am not in the least bit regretful that my answers are more likely to provide amusement for twenty-second-century historians, than data for twenty-first-century number-crunchers.
G, like Papa, was up for dictating answers. We rattled through name, address, date and place of birth, but when it came to ‘How would you describe your national identity?’ (“Wassat mean?” “It means which country do you feel you belong to – Britain, England, Scotland, Wales or Ireland?”), G turned thoughtful and then positively philosophical.
“Britain isn’t a country, is it? I don’t really belong to England because I’m allowed to be Irish as well, my passports say so and I’ve got cousins in Scotland and France and Italy and Canada…. So I’m all-sorts, really.”
“Okay, so if we tick ‘other’, down here, we can type in whatever you like on the next page, how’s that? What do you want me to put?”
“English. And Irish. And all the rest.”
“Do you feel like you belong to Canada or Italy, though? Your cousins belong there, but do you?”
“S’pose not Canada, ‘cos I’ve never been there. But def’nitely France and Italy.”
“You wouldn’t be able to get a French or Italian passport, though, would you? Does that make France and Italy different from England and Ireland?”
G went to the drawer in the study where we keep the passports, turned them over, stared at the photographs and the covers.
“What’s these words on both ‘f them?”
“C’n I put European, then?”
“Certainly, and I suppose that would sort-of cover France and Italy as well.”
“Yes. An’ then put Allsorts.”
I did as I was instructed and we ploughed on until we came to ‘Which of the following best describes your sexual orientation?’
“What?” said G.
“Your sexual orientation means whether you fancy boys or girls.”
G’s expression shifted, slowly, into an outrage that would have done credit to a Victor Meldrew or Hyacinth Bucket.
“Why d’they want to know that?”
I clicked on the ‘Why do we ask this question’ link.
“Says you’ll be helping your community get the services needed now and in the future.”
G snorted. “I need services for my dis’bilities. Not for fancying people.”
“It’s a voluntary question, you don’t have to answer it.”
“I’m not going to answer it. ‘Sides, I haven’t decided yet. ‘M much too busy foc’ssing on gettin’ back to College to finish my BTEC, to worry about who I fancy.”