August 22: carcassonne

I have four impressions when I see or hear the word Carcassonne. One: my own visit to this smallish town in south West France about twenty-five years ago. It is an ancient walled city with some gift shops inside but nice if you walk round the medieval walls on a sunny day. There is also a modern town beyond the medieval one. Two: my neighbour Tom tells me he plays a game on line called Carcassonne, which I suppose is about capturing medieval fortresses.  Three: at work in my room there is a framed poster of Carcassonne as it was in the 1960s (to judge by the one or two cars visible in the picture). It is less spoiled by modern tourism and you see the vegetation encroaching round it where now there is a big car park. Four: in recent days I have seen an advert by the French Tourist Board on TV trying to get tourists to come to France. The image they choose is that of Carcassonne. some images of the walls; some of trails of tourists in shorts; some of gift shops. It doesn’t look as alluring as it does on the poster in my room or even in my own memory from 25 years ago. What you think of something is a mix of memories, some personal, some collective; representations; transformations or translations into other modes or iconographies; interferences from extraneous elements (the sunny day I went round the walls; the evolution of the French tourist industy). It’s no wonder one can never be clear about stuff.

I don’t know what I think of Carcassonne now. If I go there again, maybe I’ll go in the winter.

August 15: the answer should be implicit

I did another survey. It must be survey season. This one was Mori Ipsos. There was a phone call out of the blue. Would I do a survey on my personal finance? The man had a fruity voice. Why not? I was hoping to get paid but no money was mentioned. They phoned me back at 4 pm but it was n’t the man with the fruity voice; it was a woman with an accent I could never quite understand. I had to keep asking for her to repeat the question, like an proper old-timer. I answered no to most of her questions.They had said the survey might take about 45 minutes. I’d wrapped it up after 20 minutes because of my negatives. Did I have a credit card? No. Did I have Life insurance? No. Did I have a smart phone? No. I said I bet that’s the first time anybody’s said no to that one? The woman grinned back, thinking what a freak! What kind of a pension did I have? No idea. Would I be taking out an annuity whenI retired? Haven’t thought about it. What kind of car insurance did I have? Don’t have a car.  Do I invest in stocks and shares. Nope. Do I have an Isa? No Siree. Then finally, do I think I manage ny finances well? Answer Yes. There was a pause on the end of the line. How could I manage my finances well if I didn’t have all their shit? The answer should be implicit, I think. Oh, and their first question was: what am I? Male? Female? Other? A different tack from the ONS.

August 13: prefer not to say

We did a survey from the Office of National Statistics. They pay you £30. It’s worth it. There was a simple flow-chart telling you about its usefulness. You do it – you send it – we look at it – we collate the information – we use the information for decision-making. Basically, if you do the survey you’re almost running the country. First question. Gender. Three options. Male. Female. Prefer not to say. You imagine some boffin at the ONS dealing with the recent gender debate. I suppose we’d better put something in for all those people stuck in between somewhere. Prefer not to say should do it. As you go through the questionnaire prefer not to say figures greatly. You wonder why. Might one feel that information might be used against you in certain cases? Is this the worry? Or is it the fear of treading on the toes of the hyper-squeamish? In which case why are the hyper-squeamish banking £30 for the survey? Am I being anti-hyper-squeamish discriminatory? Further question – the survey was mostly about mental health attutudes to coronavirus – : on a scale of one to ten where 0 is not at all and 10 is greatly, how depressed did you feel yesterday? I got toothpaste on my clean t-shirt again. I prefer not to say. It could well be that Boris Jonson is running the country on the basis of my tooth-brushing ineptitudes.