Canvassing in Maldon

Four-minute story

Canvassing in Maldon

I knocked once on the front door of the bungalow, uncertain. My companion pushed past me and knocked twice. He was my minder. Again he stepped forward and rapped twice more.

For the first time in my life I was canvassing in a general election, knocking on doors to drum up support for a political party. Inside the house someone stirred. The sun was shining on our backs and the building itself reflected the sun’s warmth; we could not have chosen a better day. My companion raised his hand again but the door was opened by an elderly lady.

She looked at us, a pair of strangers in collars and ties. She was dressed for her home; it was mid-morning and we had clearly interrupted her. Our purpose, for which I had been well briefed, was to turn her against our main opposition party in the town. She lived on an estate of bungalows, then owned by the council.

There was our business; one of us had to state our business.

“Good morning. I’m sorry to disturb you but we would like to canvass your support for our candidate in the election. My name’s….” and with this my companion cut me off. Could we count on her support in the election?

This troubled me. We had interrupted her in the middle of whatever she was doing and she deserved some sort of explanation. She ignored my companion’s question and looked back at me.

“We’re simply trying to drum up support for our candidate. We’d like to know whether you have any problems that you would like him to take up, that we could report to him.” To one side I sensed that my companion was ill-at-ease.

She shook her head. She had good neighbours, she was well housed and she and her late husband had been very happy there until he had drowned at sea; he had been a fisherman. And no, she did not want to bother other people for a bigger pension and more benefits. With her husband she had put money by whenever it was possible and things were not too bad.

She stood there as if there was nothing more to say and I no longer wanted to trespass upon her dignity or her time. I have not canvassed since.

How would you sum up the purpose of the two men?

What was the effect on the writer of meeting this old lady?

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