It Must be Leap Year by Trevor Plumbly


There’s a spring in my step of late, and I have regained the name I was christened with; the anonymous grumpy old git with a white cane tapping along the street has gone, and I now stride as a man of some import should. It is, of course, election time in NZ and I, along with countless other nonentities, have been released from the standard sentence of ineffectual opinion. I am no longer ‘the man in the street’; those competing for my favour feel it’s important for me to see the light, or at least their version of it. The previously aloof custodians have abandoned the security of their ministerial cars and now puddle around in trendy little eco-friendly numbers splattered with photographs that make a mockery of the Trade Descriptions Act. One of them’s even got a bus! I strongly suspect that Joe Public will never travel on it but it’s not a bad punt at the common touch.

Trevor’s Back!

I am too! And my home is currently under siege by all manner of would-be new chums. They visit in various guises, the bulk in leaflet form with yet more photos to assault my sensitivity. There are only two versions of these airbrushed artworks: the first portrays our hopeful with a serious, meaningful expression to convey the impression that this is the kid to get things done; the second is like a ‘B’ grade actor’s promotion portrait, complete with toothy but sincere grin suggesting, ‘I’m your buddy, you can trust me.’ To compound the downward spiral for me, they’re always printed on shiny paper; I don’t know about you lot but shiny paper doesn’t really do it for me – when it comes to serious communication, along with supermarket flyers, it just sort of begs for the recycle bin. The next attacks come in the form of canvassers: easy to spot, they’re always young and earnest. I strongly suggest you treat them like telemarketers and avoid any conversation that requires a direct answer from you. Candidates don’t seem to like using old people as canvassers; I suppose it’s a bit tough to find rich, happy oldies to tramp the streets spreading the message, and if you use poor ones it illustrates what one party needs to promise or what the other’s failed to achieve.

Strange Bedfellows

Judging from those who called personally to plead their case, even metaphorical bedfellows would do well to take more than contraceptive protection in the event of close contact. To paraphrase the biblical, ‘They toil not, but boy can they spin!’ It’s like they’ve all been trained by the door-tapping Mormons of old, and daily injected with doses of quiet sincerity before venturing forth to save the politically helpless. They’re all good at it and it’s hard to know which drum to follow. I find the easiest way is to assure all of them that I voted for them last time, that as far as I’m concerned there’s still no alternative and the important thing I stress is the ‘youth vote’. This serves all manner of purposes: it makes them feel secure, removes the need for a lot of conversional spiel and frees them to pester some other poor sod, while allowing me to get back to the armchair and Itzhak Perlman ASAP. I can’t help feeling slightly envious at the goodies my offspring, and indeed his offspring, will inherit if these latter-day crusaders are to be believed: crime-free streets with all the villains locked up; happy, healthy families living in their own homes safe in the knowledge that a free doctor’s visit awaits the first sniff. Add full employment and university education for all and it’s a pretty tempting package to turn down.

What About Me Party?

I should have been a politician you know. I reckon it’s a pretty cushy little number, just like school really except you only get a report card every three years and in that time I could introduce all sorts of nice policies rather than the obscure waffle flowing across my doorstep. What about free beer for the elderly? If anyone pushes for that you can bet the anti-wrinkle cream that hordes of oldies would embrace that cause with missionary fervour. It wouldn’t cost much; knock out the teetotallers and the housebound and I reckon that a couple of million a year would sort it. Funding? No problem: if we get rid of the statistics department, the sports ministry and a few other deadheads, we’d probably end up with enough in the bin to deliver the odd bottle  to those too frail to totter up to the pub. OK, it’s a stupid idea but if anyone can point me towards reality in election year I’ll definitely take a serious look.

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