Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The Bureaucracy

I have been filling out forms, lately.

I am terrible at filling out forms. Especially important ones that relate to me. I am very good at filling out forms for other people. After all a lot of my daily work involves form filling. (The life of a lawyer is a glamorous one, my friends.) From when I was young, I filled out forms for my parents and translated for them: Social Security forms, mortgage forms, citizenship application forms, medical forms. You name it and I have probably filled it out.

The form currently occupying my time is my "Becoming a UK Lawyer" form. It has more illegible crossings out on it than any I have filled in so far. I peer at the question and think: What do you mean? Does that apply to me? I recall having similar difficulties when applying to become an Australian lawyer. Perhaps it is the last way the system can weed out the unsuitables: If you cannot fill out this form, buddy, you're probably not cut out to be a lawyer.

The section on forms in the UK that bother me the most are the 'diversity' questions. A limp appendage to the rest of the form, this part comes last. There is a tick box (yes/no) for whether one has a disability and then a blank space where one can be artful in the description of one's deviation from the able-bodied world. Next, is my favourite question:

Please describe your ethnic background.

Instead of a few blank lines, like the disability question, there are 8 or so tick boxes.

They are:-

1. White / Irish
2. White / British
3. Indian
4. Pakistani
5. Bangladeshi
6. Chinese
7. Mixed Race
8. White / Other

I am flummoxed by these choices. I am exceedingly reluctant to tick the "White / Other " box. So I don't. I'm not white. But I do fit into a lot of 'Other' categories. Instead, I write in the empty space: Vietnamese. There, I am recognised. That part of my form will probably just be discarded as it cannot be inputted into a database and will therefore count as "no response".

I love the Mixed Race choice. You just tick it and then there's nowhere for you to say what mixture. It is as if, once you are a mongrel, the ethnic heritages that go to make up YOU are irrelevant. Mixed Race is a category of itself. And perhaps it is: an additional layer that is more than its composite parts. Nevertheless, I expect the parts that make up the whole are important to the individual. Important enough to be put on a form, anyway.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007


I have started to complain about the English weather, instead of being my usual chipper self. It has rained, almost without cessation since late May. I can recall two weekends of good weather in the last two months.

My umbrella, a farewell gift to me from my former place of work, could take the battering no more. Admittedly, it was neither wind nor rain that was my brolly's death knell. I sat on it. I heard a little crunching sound, which I blithely ignored. The very next time I opened up my umbrella, one arm flopped sadly. Although the brolly still protects me from the rain, the broken arm taps a staccato rebuke upon my head.

My trouser legs are not protected by any umbrellas, broken or otherwise. The bottoms of my jeans get saturated whenever I walk in the rain, which is almost every single day. Unaccountably, my right leg is better at avoiding puddles than my left: my left trouser leg is wet to mid calf; my right only to my ankle.

If there is rain, Brisbane is never far from my mind. Whenever I wake up to rain, my first thought is: I hope that's falling in the catchment area. This is one of my more unrealistic thoughts. I catch myself before the thought fully materialises and chant a little reminder: You are in England. Someone else is living in my house in Brisbane and it's their job to hope that any rain falls in the catchment area.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Existential Angst

Sometimes I wonder why I do what I do. I am a little aggrieved that I still experience this level of adolescent angst about my place and value in the world. Surely I would have (should have) grown out of this? Surely one reaches a point in one's life where one can say: Righto. Here I am and this is what I do and I am content.

Part of my problem is that I just don't like full-time working. It's not that I am innately lazy (at least, I hope not).

There is so much that I want to do, and learn, and read, and write, and observe, and muse, and create - and full-time work does not allow me the time to do very much of it, and sometimes, it does not let me do any of it.

And sleep. I resent sleep too. Why do I need so much of it?

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