Being cynical all the time can be really hard work.
I’ve just come back from voting in our local elections. I started out well: I left the block and made some flip remark about "wishing I had an airgun" to my neighbour as we both stared up at the almost hysterically chirruping blackbird that always seems to be the roof opposite.
Then I walked to the Community Centre—a phrase normally guaranteed to rouse the sneer in my soul—to the polling station. Trouble was it was the sort of come-in-and-have-a-cuppa, take-the-weight-off-your-feet, mild-to-the-point-of-dullness spring afternoon that England is so good at. I strolled through clouds of scent from blossoming shrubs and trees. I could see people of different ages and colours migrating to the entrance with me. Two representatives from opposing parties were exchanging banter on the door as they asked for people’s numbers. Behind me an Oriental-sounding lady who had lost her voting card was being patiently reassured by one of the officials. At the desk were two smiling twentysomethings. A girl with slightly misaligned teeth scribbled on my voting paper.
Once I was in the booth, that was when I lost it. It was as though I was an extra in a propaganda film about the joy of being British. I thought about all the people who were bleeding in a ditch in some sub-tropical car-crash of a country feeling the cold of shock wash over them as their internal organs collapsed and bled in the wake of a bullet. And I thought about all the people who had died in ditches so I could be here, healthy, well-fed and in possession of most of my marbles. It was a simple, precious thing to be doing on a warm, gentle day.
After I'd checked for the third time that I had indeed voted for the right person I had to rush out into the street before I burst into tears of gratitude. Then I had a flashback to stuffing leaflets through doors as a little kid when my dad stood for election as a local councillor. I can remember being so excited and proud it hurt. It was only when I got home that I could really let it all go.
I just wish it was possible to say how much I loved my country without sounding like some Dail Mail-reading idiot. Or a member of the National Front. Those bastards stole my flag.
Now I've got to go and have another little cry.