We’re nearly there. The final week of the election.
A bit like the lead up to Christmas, there is a frenzy for a few weeks, a small period of eerie calm, and then months of recrimination.
Certain seasonal traditions and words appear, as if brought down out of Ireland’s attic.
One bit of word-tinsel, stored carefully in a Quinnsworth bag is ‘moratorium’.
An armistice about the election on its eve. The media goes silent. Journalists emerge and swap cigarettes and play football.
Actually the moratorium is a bit of a cod. The whole thing is still going on online anyway.
"Close the doors they’re coming in the windows.” But the moratorium does mark a shift in the cycle.
From the external to the internal. Because now we the electorate are on our own. Perhaps walking on our own to the polling station. Looking at the ballot paper on our own.
It’ll be like a Leaving Cert paper where some of the expected stuff didn’t come up. We’ll realise maybe we didn’t do enough study.
There will be people on the paper who we didn’t even know were running.
Those with handwritten flyers, an endorsement from a Tridentine Priest, and who get enough votes so they can work out who in their family didn’t vote for them.
And the moratorium marks another transition from the hypothetical to the actual — from people and ideas and feelings to NUMBERS. A new shift of people will take over on the media. Called in our greatest hour of need, they turn up at election time and then they disappear.
The psephologists. They turn up to do a job that no one else can do. Small talk mightn’t be their strong suit.
There are numbers to be worked. While the rest of us deal in emotion and gut instinct, these experts in ‘Pseph’ could calculate a quota by the smell off the ballot box.
They’d tell you what the swing was since the last election taking into account constituency boundary changes while you were still trying to get the porridge off your jumper.
They know that all life and human existence is transitory and that numbers conquer all.
You might think you’re a unique and special human being with your child called after a hero in the Fianna, a bugaboo pram, and a career in The Internet of Things but you’re at election time you’re nothing but a number, behaving on average exactly the same way as a Longford farmer in the general election of 1954 wondering whether to take a chance on Clann na Talún.
I have among my treasured possessions a handsomely bound copy of The RTÉ Week In Politics Election 2011 and the 31st Dáil. It’s a useful historical document.
But most importantly it’s full of Excel Spreadsheets with lots of numbers with cells that say things like non-transferable cumulative, hopes and dreams extinguished as names disappear after the 8th count.
You can tell a psephologist has been around. There’s no emotion or “what we are hearing on the doorsteps”. Just numbers.
And if the numbers feel like it, we might be back in the autumn giving the psephologists another call.