'I’ve thought of a better way than sticking in a pin,’ Grange Girl said, passing me a cup of tea and taking the pin out of my hand. I tend towards the literal when it comes to metaphors, sayings and proverbs. For instance, I do actually grind axes, I tend to put pans to the back burner, and I make goldfish faces when I drink too much.
‘I don’t know anything about any of these candidates,’ I protested, ‘so I need the pin to help make a democratic choice.’
She shook her head, and I said, panicked, ‘I know you’re going to make me read their manifestos or something. If so, give me back the damn pin, and I’ll use it to stab myself.’
‘Do town councillors even have manifestos?’ Grange Girl turned my list round so she could read from it. ‘Look at their names.’ She pointed to the first candidate. ‘Mr Flake, for the Lib Dems. Well, say no more.’
I nodded. ‘I see what you’re doing. But actually the word ‘flake’ for me conjures up, not an unreliable person, but a delicious chocolate bar which, thanks to the power of advertising, is forever associated with a sex act.’
‘This is an art, not a science. If you like the sound of his name, Mr Flake might be your man.’ She moved down the list. ‘Ms Makepeace, for the Greens. Make Peace. That’s nice, isn’t it? And look, here’s another Green, Alexander Fleming. Discovered penicillin, right?’
‘Different chap, I’m guessing, on the grounds of age.’
‘You can tell so much from a name,’ Grange Girl said.
‘You can’t, though. That’s a proverb you’ve just made up.’
‘Here’s a Labour candidate called Mr Blair.’
‘Well, to be fair to him, he couldn’t really stand for any other party, could he? It would seem like he was trying to avoid his fate: ergo, evasive.’
‘Exactly. And look, another useful-sounding Green: Mr Handy.’
‘Don’t tell me, the Tories are fielding Mr Tickle.’
‘No, they’ve got Ms Orwell, which makes me think of Big Brother and double-think. You know, I think this method does actually work.’
I looked under the table at Grange Girl’s feet. There’s no-one I admire more, but I wasn’t surprised to see that she was wearing clay slippers.
‘Grangey, how is choosing a candidate by their name any less arbitrary than sticking in a pin in?’
‘How is it any more arbitrary?’
‘Fair point. I guess this is the exact sort of random freedom the Suffragettes fought for. So,’ I asked her, ‘You going to use this method for the parliamentary election too?’
‘Don’t be silly,’ she said. She held up my pin. ‘I’m really going to need to keep my eyes closed for that one.’
Beth Miller, 5th May 2015