Thursday 7 May 2015

On birthdays and voting

This year's General Election has an especial poignancy for me: it's almost ten years to the day since I was in St Thomas's Hospital, cradling a newborn Littleboy 1, staring out over the river at the Palace of Westminster and wondering if Tony Blair was still in power.

So at the weekend we celebrated his 10th birthday (Littleboy 1's, not Blair's) while feverishly anticipating a new election, and I can't help but reflect on the passing of time.

I didn't vote in that election: Littleboy 1 was nine days overdue, so I hadn't registered a postal vote, thinking naively that I'd be well in an out of hospital by the time the election came around. The fact that I had an emergency c-section and ended up staying in for three days meant I was still there on the Thursday, despite giving birth on the Tuesday after the bank holiday.

What I most remember about that experience is that for the first time in my life, once Littleboy 1 was born I couldn't get worked up about the election at all. I was overwhelmed by dealing with a tiny baby, recovering from a frightening birth and not being able to get out of bed for the first day. My world shrank to that hospital ward, and even when we got home, the newspapers lay around unread. (There's a great photo somewhere of The Doctor lying on the sofa asleep, baby asleep on his chest, surrounded by packs of nappies and one copy of the Times with a photo of Blair in a victory pose on the cover).

Five years ago, we were in the US, and although we marked the election by inviting an English friend round to dinner and I even baked an Election Cake, it was hard to feel too excited when we weren't in the country. The Littleboys, aged five and four, were too young to care. I remember stopping my car in the middle of the street outside the boys' nursery (to the annoyance of lots of angry Moms in minivans) to tell my one other English friend at the time that Gordon Brown had just resigned; she, having lived for 10 years in America, could not have looked less bothered.

Another five years on, I'm far more engaged with the election -- and so are my kids. Littleboy 2 is like a Radio 4 Today programme sponge; he solemnly told me this morning that "326 seats is the magic number"; and yesterday he informed me that one prime minister was going to shoot another one in the eyes. I told him he must have misunderstood; later I realised that a UKIP candidate had actually said this.  His older brother, meanwhile, has finally got over his misapprehension that the Prime Minister is called David Beckham.

This morning I voted, though which box I put my X in I'm not going to reveal here, so any trolls had better go elsewhere. Tonight I will be watching the exit polls and eating fajitas with my lovely friend P, and thanking God that we live in a democracy, where -- however confusing the political choice can seem -- what we vote can still make a difference.


Mwa said...

Have a good election night! I'm so addicted to PM on Radio 4 that I can't help being very excited as well. Who will the kingmaker be??? :-)

Iota said...

I had my first baby, also a boy, just after the 1997 election. I've just googled, and that election was on the 1st May, and my son was born on 31st May, so not as close as your experience. I remember the excitement, though, as Labour had got in after 18 years in opposition. The nation felt on the brink of something new, just as I did too.

Iota said...

Did you get a view of the Palace of Westminster from your bed? That's pretty historic.

I was in St Mary's Paddington, but not the Lindo Wing. Didn't have a stylist to make me look as good as the Duchess of Cambridge when I left...

Muddling Along said...

Have been pondering on how things have changed in the last 10, 15 years - nothing so dramatic as having had children nicely timed to help remind me though

Muddling Along said...

Have been pondering on how things have changed in the last 10, 15 years - nothing so dramatic as having had children nicely timed to help remind me though