Monday, March 14, 2011

Trying to make sense of the Census

It’s amazing what pops through the letterbox when you’re least expecting it.

Only last week, as the Dixons were at work, or school, or whatever else it is they’re supposed to be  doing between breakfast and supper time, the postie came along with a great big purple envelope and crammed it carefully through the door.

It had a picture of an origami bus on it, and it threatened dire legal penalties if we didn’t open it up and give it a jolly good read. So we did.

Inside was one of those questionnaires that start off easy but get more and more complicated as you go on.

You know the kind of thing.

“What is your name?

“No, not your surname, your first name. Answer in BLACK or BLUE ink, NOT purple, or green, or red or any tint, shade, admixture or combination thereof.”

So if the original questionnaire is printed in purple, why can’t you fill it in with purple? Just asking. Not really expecting an answer or anything.

Next question: “What is your address?” Oh come on. They know that already: they sent the form to our house, and it arrived safely, if a bit scrumpled, so They must already know where we live.

Whoever They are.

OK, humour Them. Anyone displaying this level of ignorance must be pretty important.

“Will you be living at that address on Sunday March 27?”

Probably. Unless we’re made homeless by a herd of rampaging wildebeest, or we win the Lottery and zoom off to the Caribbean.

A bit like Mrs D’s brother. Not that he’s won the Lottery, you understand. But he’s a plumber, which comes to pretty much the same thing. However, we digress.

“Did you answer YES or NO to Question 7a?”

Sorry, can’t really remember. We were too busy digressing.

“If you answered YES to Question 7a, proceed to Question 15b. If you answered NO, go back to page 3 and sign the declaration thereon.”

By now you’re getting fed up with all this bureaucratic snakes and ladders, but persevere you must.

Because after some research on the UK Census 2011 website, you find that failing to complete the form  will leave you open to a fine “subject to level 3 on the standard scale under the Criminal Justice Act”.

Which in layman’s terms is anything up to a thousand quid.

So onwards and upwards. “A man walks two kilometres east, rests for half an hour and then walks 3.5 miles west. Where is he?”

Trick question, eh? Ah, hang on, it’s Dixon Junior’s maths homework. We’ll get on to that later.

Because finally, we reach the last few questions and can start to relax.

“What is your religion?” After the multiple choices (Anglo-Catholic, Postlapsarian, None, Nun...) there’s a box to fill in if you don’t feel you quite fit in to any of the pre-defined cultural norms.

You could use this space to claim  that your religious beliefs preclude you from filling in census forms, or do the sad old joke about the Jedi. But it’s probably best to be sensible.

Because, after all, They DO know where you live.

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