Election day in an ‘affluent’ Dorset village…
If you are in the UK, then today is the day we all wander down to the polling booths to vote.
If you live in a village like me, today is also the day you fail in your carefully concocted strategy of going to the village hall at a time when you are least likely to bump into your neighbours, and therefore as you retreat from the booth with an impeding sense of doom that whoever you voted for is unlikely to make a huge difference anytime soon, you must awkwardly make small talk with your neighbours, knowing you almost certainly have very different political alliances and have just voted at opposite ends of the political spectrum.
Being British, you will politely smile and talk about the shocking weather for the time of year, the aphid problem affecting your roses, and the building work the new people at number 17 are having done, which caused your driveway to be blocked for an inconvenient 5 minutes last week when they had building supplies delivered.
Your neighbours will ask how the children are getting on at school and you will roll your eyes and smile; ‘Oh, you know - teens…’ and your retired neighbours will give a knowing nod. You won’t mention the fact your eldest is looking at university places which, if he gets the required grades will mean 4 years of crippling debt for you as you have to contribute towards living expenses, and many more years of debt for him when he finally graduates, having totted up an estimated £40k in fees alone, plus student loads and interest. You won’t comment on the education cuts which have meant the local school PTA desperately trying to buffer funds with weekly cake bakes, bingo, car boot sales and god knows what else (you are ashamed to admit you don’t always read the weekly emails sent out by the PTA as you’ve run out of bric-a-brac to donate and have started selling the good quality old clothes on Ebay in an attempt to buffer your own dwindling funds).
When your neighbours talk about the house opposite selling for an astronomical sum after just a day on the market, and how they bought theirs, 40 years ago, for a price which wouldn’t buy you a decent mountain bike these days, you raise your eyebrows noncommittally, aware that although that means your house has increased in value considerably, you are still mortgaged to the hilt with the depressing knowledge that the chance of your own kids being able to afford to buy their own properties in the future without you dying and leaving them a hefty inheritance to use as a deposit, (after they’ve paid off their uni debts), is virtually zero.
After a short while of chat, during which you are joined by the lady who owns the village shop (which you rarely patronize due to the prices being hiked to such an inordinate amount, it actually proves more economical to drive to the farm shop in the next village for your exotically flavoured cider), you all eye a local candidate approaching the village hall, and are simultaneously gripped with fear that they will try and engage you in policy talk. You all make hurried, mumbled excuses to get on your way, and disperse faster a shoal of tuna when a great white shark turns up; all of you pretending you didn’t spot the local candidate now looking self-conscious at the mass exodus of villagers as he/she enters the hall.
Politics. It’s all such a very un-British business at the end of the day. Unless you’re on Facebook. Everyone on Facebook becomes an armchair politician in the run up to an election ;o) But for now, excuse me whilst I run out to vote. It’s just started raining and I’m pretty sure everyone in the village will be waiting for a break in the weather before they go out to cast their vote…