Off to the pigeon loft after completing the census form!

Mention how you care on census
I DON’T see myself falling particularly into the Luddite envelope – I happily embrace new technologies and am not fighting the great fight for vinyl over mp3 file. Emails – no problem. Texting – all good (LOL).

But one thing I do miss is the actual hand written and posted, falling onto your doormat-type letter. Lord Byron is alleged to have said, “Letter writing is the only device for combining solitude with good company”, and I think he had a point.

Anyway, you may be aware that we’ll all be getting a letter very soon, starting this week. Well more of a form’ I suppose (and yes I know you can do it online as well). It’s census time.

The reason I mention it here is that many carers’ organisations have been lobbying to retain a question about the ‘caring role’, introduced in the 2001 census, which I’m happy to report has been successful. This is important not only because it gives a clearer picture of how many carers are actively in the role but also because for many it will be the first time they have been directly asked the ‘carer question’.

Margaret from Quedgeley, in Gloucester, is a case in point. “For many years I saw my caring role as just being another pair of hands”, she said. “Just helping my husband after his stroke. But the amount of help he needs has gradually increased until I find now it’s a full-time job.”

Margaret never saw herself as a carer for many years. “I’m sure it’s quite a common thing for carers to say,” she said. “But I didn’t apply for the job, there was no advertisement, no interview and so there has never really been a ‘grand plan’. I have to take things a day at a time.

“Each day is a fresh day and you have to use whatever you have to cope. I mean, it would be lovely to take a holiday but it’s not a ‘job’ that comes with leave and holidays are difficult to plan for. But you do have to try to set time aside to take a break and re-charge your batteries because you can’t go on forever. Well, I know I can’t!”

Margaret reflects that the carer role doesn’t come with a job description. “Perhaps that’s just as well. You can’t switch off. I wake up in the night if I hear my husband moving around in case he has a fall – so you never really sleep properly.

“I suppose I’ve learned to be a Jack of all trades,” she said. “Most importantly you have to be ready, you have to be willing and you have to be able, to do all the different things that come your way.

“I hope the census gives people in a similar situation to me pause for thought: if you see yourself as a carer for the first time. You might get some help and support more quickly.”

The American writer Henry Thoreau once wrote: “I have received no more than one or two letters in my life that were worth the postage.” Whilst I appreciate that there are some mixed feelings about the census, I sincerely hope that it helps many more people identify themselves as carers and, like Margaret, that this leads to more carers seeking help and advice and feeling more equipped to continue with the most vital of jobs.

Meanwhile, this is job done for me. All that remains is to transcribe my quill pen longhand onto the steam operated hand cranked banding machine ready for printing and then it’s off to the pigeon loft.