3 May 2010

The morass of election malaise...

As you will undoubtedly have noticed, keeping to this declared intention didn't go terribly well last week...

"Have you packed your flauchter?" The question every apple-cheeked peat worrier's mother asks him as fidgets at the door, eager for the off. Being an orderly fellow, he will have already pulled up his thigh-length knitted socks, donned his Tom Weir bobble hat and refilled his hip-flask with a generous slosh of the Water of Life. His large unwieldy pack may look as if it will press the poor urban rustic into the soil, one trudge at a time - but its expansiveness is very necessary.

If peat worrying is authentically to be practised, the relevant texts must be kept forever at hand - and who can tell which of his hand cast tools he will find very necessary, out in the wilds? Equally, as he snuggles into his bothie of an evening, he will want some light reading to illuminate the inky watches of the night. Traditionalists would perhaps stick with the obligatory MacTavish's Guide to the Corrie Lochs of Kinlochbuie (1902). Those of a radical persuasion, keen to make the ancient art of peat worrying relevant in the 21st Century, might well prescribe John Baird's indispensable sedimentary pamphlet of 1887: Gritty Paps: Scotland's Story Through the Eyes of its Shale Bings. For light relief, as midnight approaches, our worrier  might well lay this aside and resort to a soothing verse or two from the traditional compendium - the Edinburgh Book of Crypto-Gaelic Verse. Pulling his mackintosh over his sleepy and lonely form, the bothie might hum for a moment with the musical lines of that favourite Highland love ode to a brassica-faced lassie, "My Tumshie Darlin'". All of which is one way of saying that I'm going to be exceedingly busy over the next seven days, so anticipate the lightest of light blogging here.

As it happened, instead of disappearing into the wilds, I rattled out a post almost every day, albeit from the distant rural quags and fens where the mysterious art of peat worrying is traditionally conducted. I'm sure by now that many bloggers and commentators will feel themselves sinking into a different sort of syrupy pool -  the puckered and slurping morass that is election malaise. Feeling jaded as we lurch towards the final hurdle is understandable. Each party has, in so far as it was able, released all of its lines of communication. We know the parties' textures. Are familiar with their familiar faces. Even the encounters of debate (in its formal sense) have come to an end.

We can speculate on the future, if we like, but it will seem daft until the final returning officer has droned out the identity of the last MP to be elected. It may be that some small disaster will occur. A sense of surprise, some unconsidered trifle that the press will snap up and gallivant about with. Their relief will be palpable.

For busy bee activists, buzzing on doors and chapping undecided voters in streets across these islands, now is the hour of groaning exertions and the tired pleasures of the final stretch. And an end in sight. But still pestered by the flights of possibility - if I can just deliver these few extra leaflets, just convince this or that pensioner... The final push is strenuous.

For others, like myself, even voting is already behind us. Too late, we cry to pale faced petitioners, coming amongst us to argue for the virtues of their candidate or the threat of the Tories. As I indicated in my Voter's View of Glasgow Central post (which I commend to any of my fellow constituents who remain undecided) it was my intention to support the gallant Osama Saeed and the SNP. The act is now completed, civic duty done, my ballot winging its way back north across rural England. Postal voting lacks the sense of occasion, the pleasures of crossing the liminal electoral space as you enter the threshold of your local school or church - transformed into the portal through which democracy strides, and hesitates, pencil in paw. Your civic participation isn't seen to be done, as you sit in a quiet room and then prod your ballot inside the envelopes. The post box rather than the ballot box gulps down your distilled preferences, expressed with all the simplicity of an X on the page. It is always a pleasure, though, reflecting on the wondrous complexity of the task we're embarking on, all of the multiplying connections that link endless pieces of paper to one another - the shuffling from one register to the other - by means of which representative democracy completes the literary alchemy of turning paper into parliaments. As you hesitate over your ballot paper on Thursday, spare a thought for what an amazingly interesting social practice you are engaging in. See the wonder in the little things, realised by the agency of something so familiar as literacy and often unseen ties of our massive social connectedness.

Everything now hangs on Thursday's vote. That being so, I don't intend to be blogging  this week until Thursday and thereafter. We have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and, behold, all is now vanity and vexation of spirit...

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