Lots of us grown-ups will be doing something a bit silly tomorrow. We will go into a building in a nearby street and be given a piece of paper. We will take the piece of paper over to a cubicle. There’s a pencil there. You pick it up and draw an X in one of the squares on the paper. You then fold the paper and put it in a large, black, metal tin, with a slit in it, like a post-box.
Then you go home again.
It’s a bit like a test at school. And a bit like putting your hands up to choose which person in your class you think would be best at doing an important job. All the crosses people draw look more or less the same. It’s easy-peasy really.
Tomorrow we grown-ups will be putting these crosses on these bits of paper in order to show which party we like best. No, not birthday parties. We’re not choosing between going with loads of your friends to the Fun House or a trip to the cinema or a party with a clown and Pass-the-Parcel and a cake with candles on it. We grown-ups are far too serious to have proper parties!
These parties are groups of people who make the rules. They decide stuff. They think they know what’s best for everybody. They will decide how to spend lots of money. They are in charge of lots of things like schools and hospitals, roads and trees, the police, and old people like me.
Some grown-ups will draw an X on their bit of paper to show that they like the party that says everybody can be rich; or the party that says too many people from overseas live in Britain; or the party that wants those who are already rich to give more to those who are poor; or the party that can’t make its mind up about anything.
You only get to draw one X. It’s all a bit dull really, because there’s no place on the piece of paper to draw your X if you’d like a party that remembers what the best things in life are – like love and laughter; leaping like a leopard or lazing like a ladybird; libraries, Lego, lasagne and lullabies. You can only draw an X, not an L, tee hee.
As you know, I’m getting old now. I’ve been doing this silly thing with Xs and bits of paper for years and years. This time, I’m not going to draw an X for what I like, but for what I’d like for you three.
I hope, dearest granddaughters, that when you’re my age, you will be living in a better world than the one I see through my fading eyesight. I hope the air will be cleaner, the waters clearer, and that land and sea will still sing to the songs of beautiful bees and wonderful whales.
I hope that people won’t be in such a hurry all the time, that they’ll stop fighting each other, and that nobody will need to feel hungry. I hope there will be less shouting, fewer alarms, no poisons in the sky, and that people will greet people they don’t know – on the street or in the park – with friendly grins and warm handshakes.
You can’t take your own felt-tips when you go and draw your cross on that piece of paper. If you could, I’d take a green one. That’s because it’s the colour of growing things, like the leaves of a sapling, or a caterpillar, or those vegetables Mum knows are good for you.
I’m voting for tomorrow tomorrow. For you. It’ll be like having a party, because drawing my one X will be like drawing Xs not only for you three, but for children the whole world over.