March 27th. What a day. My dad’s 65th, my estranged sister returning from Australia after three years, clocks robbing us of an hour but giving us a precious new window of sunny delight.
And the day to declare my ‘individual enumeration’. AKA the census…..
The world’s oldest surviving census data comes from China over 4000 years ago. The most famous census in medieval Europe is the Domesday Book, undertaken in 1086 by Billy the first so that he could properly tax the land he had recently conquered.
And of course, to those of us predictably and laboriously schooled in the C of E tradition, Jesus was born with the cattle lowing, during a census.
The term itself comes from Latin: during the Roman Republic the census was a list that kept track of all adult males fit for military service. I wonder how many that would total nowadays?
I filled mine in after completing an illegal rolling procedure upon it. My tiny act of rebellion…..(http://tinyactsofrebellion.com/?page_id=2).
On telling friends about his many were aghast –
“but you have to fill it in ON March 27!!”
Yes, if we want to totally jam the web and halt the already random postal system.
This, I am youthfully proud to say, is my first census.
My aim; to fill it in truthfully. The result – bad fog of loneliness.
Who usually lives here? Just me.
Who else is staying overnight here on 27 March 2011? These people are counted as visitors. No option for ‘quick frisk’, which means thousands of people across the nation could be declaring a casual shag their boyfriend or girlfriend.
What if someone comes round for a quickie, and leaves at 5am? Are they staying overnight? Cheeky pint gets out of hand and evolves into cheeky lines at 4 – are you in my household?!
My poor parents have the whole of my sister’s family to account for. She actually had to send for another form to fit the jetlagged buggers on. They may have thought they’d escaped blighty, but the pharaoh still taps them on the shoulder…
But on my return, again, only one.
How many cars or vans? Zero.
What is my legal marital or same-sex partnership status?
Never married and never registered a same-sex civil partnership. I softened this blow by deftly changing my facebook status to ‘in a civil union’.
My favourite soothsayer at work had much fun with this question – widowed, separated and divorced. Now there’s for a colourful picture of the population, deserving of a few sherries.
Do I stay at another address for more than 30 days over year? Nope. Just l’il old me rattling around in my three allocated rooms, (and I couldn’t skin a cat in the kitchen).
How is my health in general?!
Hmm, how is general defined? No guidance.
I’d say ‘very good’, but I’ve got a creaky neck, and this country stresses me out no end.
I opt for ‘good’.
A friend of mine, who suffers from severe asthma, reasoned that we should put ‘very good’, considering the spectrum of health – we have all of our own limbs, none of which are gangrenous. We don’t hook ourselves up to a dialysis machine at night.
The census then made me feel resignedly white, middle class and British, which is no fantasy of mine. I’m sure somewhere down the ancestral line there was an Asian, or a Viking even – can I hedge my bets here? No.
Religion. A biggie. Eight options, including freestyle. Disappointingly, no option for ‘spiritual’, which is my preferred ethos of choice.
No religion. I’m starting to feel like a complete waste of space by now. Do I count? Do I believe in anything? Yes, form-filling, as is customary and compulsory in our beautiful democracy.
The qualifications question gives me a glimmer of hope, a slight upturn in my looming heart. I am categorised with the PHDs – though I have a lowly degree in ‘film and drama’, which involved sitting in a disused toilet twiddling with knobs for a few years, (the edit suite).
In 1871, economic status was added as a category: they asked whether you might consider yourself an imbecile, idiot or lunatic. No such euphemistic treadmill nowadays, but they would like to know about what you do to fill up your time, other than fretting over purple pamphlets and trying to fit yourself into boxes.
I am ‘working as an employee’ – *metropolis*, though I actually consider myself retired. I am asked to briefly describe what I do in my main job.
In 34 spaces. ‘Assist the director with duties’. Does that cover it? On reflection, I consider changing this to ‘servant girl’, or more accurately, ‘slave’.
And suddenly, the online system tells me ‘there are no more questions for person 1’.
I contentedly stuff the form into the recycling, to reincarnate itself in ten years time….and wonder if I will still be around to complete it: if the answers remain the same, the likelihood being that I will have been deceased for several years.
I conclude: On the downside, 33 years of colourful existence has been boxed into three lonely rooms, a smack round the face and no one to love me.
On the upside, completing it didn’t take long….and I still live in hope that I may have an unexpected guest staying overnight in my household-for-one tonight.
Now that would be a fun email to send:
“Dear official of national statistics, (sir/madam/transgender preference),
I filled in my census (senseless) form online before I discovered that my sexual prowess would render me irresistible to the opposite gender.
As a result of this new-found revelation, there was indeed someone ‘staying’ overnight at my property on 27 March 2011.
Though we didn’t sleep.
Unfortunately, I am not entirely sure of their full name, though I referred affectionately to him as ‘Bob’. He was male, and approximately between the ages of 22 and 47.
I have no idea, and no desire to know, where he usually resides, and I was actually quite glad to be free of him when he eventually found the door.
(March 27 2011 was quite a night).
Yours sincerely, but unstatistically,
number 15, 638, 972 x”