You didn’t need politics if you were looking for chaos, tough choices, risky gambles and ineffective leadership this morning. You only needed to come to our house.
It had not been a good night. A combination of a hungry baby, tickly cough and maddening synchronised loo breaks, meant that Andrew and I had been up on an hourly basis. During these disturbances Andrew would check the Guardian on his phone; four nil to Labour at the baby’s first feed, four two at the second bog stop etc…
At six thirty am the children came galloping in and high jumped on the bed as they do every morning. So excited at the new day! So thrilled to be alive! Isn’t today just the best thing ever?!
Though not nearly soon enough.
I remained very still, eyes closed, as the boys clambered over me, hoping that they would leave me alone, thinking me asleep or better still, dead.
As I lay there Andrew got out his phone and began reading bits of the internet out. Hung parliament blah blah, even the Italians are saying we’re disorganised blah blah, numbers blah blah, capital letters blah blah. I buried my head in the pillow and tried to go back to sleep.
By the time I got downstairs for breakfast Raffy had discovered the best way to get his brother to laugh was dribble-spitting water all over his own clothes. He then refused to open his mouth to do his teeth, insisting on cleaning by proxy (ooh, look, a voting joke, without even trying!). As I was getting Edie ready he passed the time by picking the paint off the wall of the stairs, then dragging the dog round by her neck, passing his piece of toast between her mouth and his. Every time I told him to do something he either laughed in my face, ran away or slammed a door. He thought that bowling into our bedroom, cheerfully calling out ‘Good morning!’ like a three foot-high Victorian Town Cryer would make me forgive him. He was sort of right.
On the way to school I accidentally ran over another mum’s heel with the front wheel of the buggy, and timed our return journey with the opening of the heavens and a t-shirt that goes see-through when wet.
It was raining last night when I went out to vote, too. I nipped out in the dead space between teatime and bedtime, stupidly not taking the opportunity to skip bedtime deliberate over the placement of my X for an hour. Although I doubt my husband would have fallen for that. When it comes to human interaction, he is a lot more suspicious than I am. Not just in relation to me but strangers too. (Although it would be interesting to do a nationwide survey and discover the lengths to which British parents would go to avoid the putting-to-bed of their children. I bet the results would be SHOCKING).
So when Andrew got to the village hall to vote yesterday afternoon and an officious man with a clipboard asked him his name, Andrew refused to tell him. Yes! Even though he had a clipboard! And it turns out that the man wasn’t an official, but one of those people who go round polling stations trying to guess political demographics. Clearly up to no good! The last words Andrew said to me as I left the house to vote were ‘do not tell the nosy prick at the door your name.’
Of course, as soon as I got to the village hall, the first thing I did was tell the man at the door my name. I am very tired at the moment. Before I had time to get cross with myself about this I noted the ‘No Selfies’ poster on the inner door. A better/less tired writer than me would be able to make a nice sentence about voting being the ultimate form of selfie. You’ll have to go elsewhere for that sort of thing today. I feel it’s enough that I flagged it up.
Instead, what I will give you is a few suggestions for the UK’s political system, based on my experiences over the last 24 hours:
1. Politicians! Do something about the ‘party’ bit in ‘political party’. Last night at the polling station there wasn’t even a hint of one. Not a single glass of Prosecco, nor a Marks and Sparks mini tartlet, nor game of pass the parcel to be found. Though there was that weird big man on the door, asking for my name.
2. It might help to re-think the names of the political parties. In these days of social media soundbites, unimaginative collections of capital letters like SNP or DUP simply won’t cut it. Even the parties with proper words for names don’t exactly inspire tucking-your-skirt-into-your-knickers-to-do-cartwheels-levels-of-fun. ‘Labour’, ‘Conservative’, borrrrring
3. Perhaps we could jeuge up the colours a little, get Farrow and Ball on board? Shouty blues, reds and yellows just feel so 80’s. And while we’re at it, I believe the lazy assumption that people who care about the planet will automatically like the colour green is the kind of thinking that keeps the Greens from making serious progress.
4. The first MP to offer Sleep Credits for Hard Working Families, i.e. one night in a hotel per annum, kids taken care of elsewhere, will become Prime Minster.
5. The last time we had a hung parliament it sounded so exciting didn’t it? Now it just feels a bit meh. Wouldn’t Newsnight be a bit more sparkly if guests were told to make more of the word ‘hung’, as a euphemism?
Although I’m glad that Labour and the Liberal Democrats gained ground, I’m not going to be hurling myself into the arms of any politician anytime soon. The lyrics to Oasis’s ‘Don’t look back in Anger’ have been going round my head all morning ‘please don’t put your life in the hands of a rock and roll band’. Alright, swapping ‘rock and roll band’ for ‘Jeremy Corbyn’ or ‘Theresa May’ doesn’t have quite the same ring. But the sentiment is still the same. Putting your faith in the hands of other grown-ups, grown-ups who are not (generally) known for their integrity, empathy, honesty or insight, seems a bit daft.
I’m more interested in the grown-ups I know, who are out there taking direct action. Who, instead of promising the world to millions of people, are out there making a very real difference to a handful. Take, for example, one of the most politically loaded situations of the past year, the refugee crisis. I have one friend who went to Calais last summer to help in the kitchens. Another friend who, with a group of other local mums, helped set up a charity for refugees, The Rural Refugee Network. These women are not politicians. They are ‘ordinary’ women, juggling jobs, kids and homes, women who have every excuse not to do a damn thing, yet who go out there and do the damn things anyway.
No one is voting for them or writing newspaper headlines about them. But they’re at least as important to our country as those whose names appeared in last night’s ballot boxes.