Belfast Telegraph

Nuala McKeever: I hope I don’t get a ticking off over census form filling

The Census forms have landed. I’ve mine filled in an’ all, cos I’m fairly sure there’ll be no extra visitors staying in my house on March 27, the actual night of the count.

Of course, things might take a turn for the unexpected and a couple of long lost friends might suddenly turn up on the doorstep that night and then I’d have to go back over all those wee boxes and make changes. It’ll be very messy looking if so. I’ll not bother. If anyone calls on the 27th I’ll just pretend I’m out. Save the bother.

I found the Census form-filling experience relatively easy. Rather therapeutic even. Compared with some of the things I’ve had to write recently, just filling in boxes with simple information came as light relief.

No big opinions to come up with, no need to put a humorous spin on “What religious group do you belong to” type questions. Not much thought required. Bliss.

I know there are those for whom some of the questions are annoying. Humanists object to the assumption in Q.17 that we all belong to some religious group or other. They would prefer “Do you belong to a church or religious group?” first and then a “If yes, go to Q.18 – “Which one?” type scenario.

Also, the follow-up inquiry about which religious denomination you were brought up in presumes that we all were something. There is a box for “None” but it’s at the end, after the assumptions have been listed.

Objectors say that this, again, forces us into boxes. But sure, isn’t that the whole point of a census? To label and categorise and box us all into measurable statistics that can then be used to calculate the services we’ll need?

Services that we probably won’t have enough money to pay for because of all the cuts.

Cuts which have come about because no-one foresaw the huge collapse of financial structures and subsequent recession.

If only there had been a question in past censuses asking whether or not we intended to be senselessly greedy and self-interestedly short-sighted when it comes to money, we might not be in this current pickle.

I say past censuses, but perhaps the plural of census is censa or censae or censii? My knowledge of Latin is even more slight than my knowledge of Irish and Ulster Scots, in which I have a tiny ability.

Unfortunately “Tiny ability” wasn’t available as a possible answer on this census form to the question “Can you understand, speak, read or write Irish or Ulster-Scots?”, so I erred on the side of reality and ticked the box marked “No Ability”.

When it comes to Irish I can speak and understand a “cupla focal”. In Ulster Scots I can understand a “ween o’ wurds” too. But I wouldn’t want to exaggerate my abilities in either.

I’m assuming that I’m probably one of the few people who didn’t see that question as a political one and answer it wildly inaccurately in order to get more money for “their side” when it comes to government spending on culture.

Culture, which, as we all know, is a mark of our civilised nature. “Civilised” implying that we’ve moved beyond antagonistic tribalism.

I hope this is all clear, cos I didn’t tick the box about having difficulty making myself understood and I’d hate to have to go back and change it now...

Objectors say that this, once again, forces us into boxes

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