Is Not Null (LJ)

I had to fill out the electoral register for our house yesterday. We had already told them who we were and where we were for 2003, only a few weeks ago. But there was Ms Lilian Clark on the new form they sent round. We were nowhere to be seen, and the address still referred to the whole house rather than Upper or Lower Flat.

The column headings contain more text than the instructions overleaf. Most of this text is in the form of double negatives. I don’t know why council forms are always so poorly explained, so over-explained. Perhaps it’s fear of being clearly understood. The obvious truth firstly makes it easier for people to send you completed forms, and hence increase your workload, and secondly is more difficult to deny plausibly at a later date. That interpretation might be too harsh, though. It could be that civil service mentality, when coupled with a desire to inform, results in convolutions and contortions of the stream of information. An unavoidable victim, caught up between Sir Humphrey Appleby and Green Cross Code Man.

I filled out the form as best I could. This time round I remembered which way the double negative regarding the “commercial” version of the register panned out, and crossed that box to avoid even more junk mail. But Ms Lilian Clark being registered as over 70 and thus ineligible for jury service confused me, and K. and I were both nearly septuagenarians as far as the council was concerned. Would they have fitted us a stairlift?

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