When I was at Centerparcs, one of the girls brought along a copy of their local paper. My eye was caught by this story.
For those of you who can't be arsed to click the link, it's about a woman who decided to set fire to her Census form as a protest to the Government.
The article begins with some rather inarticulate framing of her grievances - she is something to do with Fathers For Justice - but she seems to have got a bit over-excited at the prospect of being interviewed:
“If the Government doesn’t recognise me and the parents I represent, then it doesn’t recognise us as a citizen so I won’t be counted. I will continue my campaign of non-compliance against the state and holding the Government to account. There is a chance I will be prosecuted and they will try and make an example of a few people but this lady is not for turning.”
I particularly like her loss of syntax in the first sentence and the Mrs Thatcher semi-quote later on. I can imagine her bouncing up and down, lighter at the ready as the reporter tries to get all this down for posterity.
Her plan was to ignite her Census form in the middle of the marketplace, while the local MP looked on in impotent horror, possibly hammering on his office windows, shouting "Noooooooooo!"
"Saturday morning’s census form burning was designed to bring the matter to the attention of Andover MP Sir George Young and give it wider public recognition."
It didn't go to plan.
"In the event the ceremonial flames failed to flare very much as the census form is seemingly made from a fire resistant material, the MP was not looking out the Guildhall window at the time although a few market traders looked on."
I just love - LOVE - that laconic word "Seemingly." And, oh yeah, he wasn't even watching. Perhaps next time she should blow a horn or something first, make sure she has Sir George's full attention before she tries and fails to set fire to a bit of paper.
A friend who was at Centerparcs (another friend, not the one who brought the newspaper with this gem in it) was doing some temporary work for the Office of National Statistics, conducting post-Census interviews in a particular area of Oxfordshire a little while ago. She said she was supposed to visit every single house in a specific postcode area, knock on the door, and try to get the occupant to take part in a survey to follow up on what was in the Census.
She told us about one row of cottages, each one occupied by a crazy person, but each crazy in a different way. She had us agog, listening to her stories of weeping women and slightly too security-conscious older men, but the climax was this one.
She knocked on the door of one cottage, and could hear the occupant moving around inside. There was no answer, so she knocked again. Apparently the ONS people are supposed to try for 10 consecutive days to get a reply, so she wasn't daunted. After another, louder knocking, the occupant shouted "Who is it?"
"Hello! I'm from the Office of National Statistics!" my friend replied cheerily. She had to shout through the letterbox, most undignified.
"What do you want?" bellowed the occupant.
"I'm here to ask you to take part in a follow-up survey, to confirm the Census form. It's entirely voluntary." She said she heard him walk to the front door, and then the bolts and locks being opened.
Imagine her horror when a large man, wearing a Guantanamo Bay style orange jumpsuit yanked the door open and glared at her. It didn't help that his face was traversed by a series of large, nasty-looking fresh scratches.
My friend said she backed away involuntarily.
"Oh yes?" said the scary scratched man. Then, leaning forward he bellowed into my friend's face "WELL I'M NOT DOING IT!" and slammed the door shut.
She said that one was marked down as "Declined to take part" on the form.