Of all the animals of prey, man is the only sociable one.
Every one of us preys upon his neighbour, and yet we herd together.
The Beggar's Opera: John Gay

Saturday, 31 March 2012

Sans moi, le déluge

Honestly! I only leave the country for a week or so and you manage to get yourselves into a right pickle over petrol.

As far as I can see from the reports, it's a national version of the Local Toilet Roll Crisis which I inadvertently precipitated in 2004, when a friend asked me to collect two bumper packs for her from the supermarket and I added one for myself.

I barely noticed the odd looks I was getting as I continued my shopping, but by the time I reached the checkout, every trolley was piled high with toilet rolls and the shelves were starting to look bare; a few days later, the whole town had been denuded of stock.

I have no doubt that the same people who observed the mountain of rolls in my trolley and, drawing their own conclusions, scuttled off to secure some for themselves would react to a petrol station queue in much the same way.

According to the BBC, areas badly hit include Surrey, Berkshire and Hertfordshire - surely toilet-roll hoarding territory if ever there was.

Meanwhile, I see that a certain loose cannon has got himself elected in Bradford*. Galloway, it turns out, has recently published an open letter highly critical of the practice of postal voting which, coincidentally, has surfaced in the French news this week.

The Presidential elections - delightfully celebrated by delit maille (see sidebar link) - taking place during the school holidays, the authorities have realised that some people may be away from home.

They are thus publicising the procedure for securing a postal vote; in advance of the election, citizens must apply in person at their local police station and present proof of identity and address, together with a valid reason for absence.

French bureaucracy being legendary (and the French Police most certainly not an organisation with which to trifle), this is not something to be undertaken lightly; what a contrast to the British system, where, according to the Electoral Commission website, "You do not need a reason to vote by post".

Since the British system relies on self-declaration and the sort of pointless questions you get asked at airports - "Did you pack this ballot paper yourself?" - there seems little to prevent law-abiding citizens discovering that, according to the electoral roll, they are apparently sharing their tiny flats with a dozen or so other people.

*Or Blackburn, according to a tweet spotted by Galloway-watcher Spinoza at Rational Islam?, where the question of postal votes also raises its head. I followed it up: Galloway later dismissed the tweet as a hoax, but as Diane Abbott shoved her oar in at that point, I lost all will to continue reading.

Abbott, incidentally, tweets as HackneyAbbott. On a grammatical hunch, I looked that up too: sure enough, "hackney (adj.): banal, trite". Sometimes serendipity is a wonderful thing.


  1. I'm sitting here, seeing lots of things to blog about - but I'm paralysed by the date! How do I know what's a wind up or not?

    They all look equally plausible now!

  2. Perhaps the Mayans have it right after all, only what will finally end in 2012 is logical reality as we once knew it.

  3. Surely, Hackney is also a cab for hire?

  4. Indeed, Demetrius - with a certain delicious irony, it is.

  5. You went away and left us to it? How could you?!

  6. JH, it was remiss of me, I admit - I'd certainly be much happier if I was leaving government in the capable hands of the Orphans.

    There was a fine example of this sort of thing back in the days of Gordon brown (whatever happened to him?) when 'Diary of a Geek' signed off for a holiday saying "Don't let Gordon touch anything while I'm gone".

    Two days later, the Gillian Duffy incident was front-page news.