I ALWAYS wanted to be one of those people who write the articles headlined, “Are you..?” or, “Have you..?” or something along those lines.

It seems a fun way to make a living.

You know the sort of thing. “Have you got a ticking health time bomb among your giblets?”

“Is your cat fantasising about killing and eating you?” “Are you in danger from your tin opener?”

“What does your favourite flavour of crisp say about your love life?”

Some issues in the local news lately have inspired me to have a go. Many of us, especially if we’re prone to insomnia, ponder all manner of interesting questions, but few are more interesting than that of whether we are something special or just an ordinary, run-of-the-mill person like almost everybody else.

We can best answer it by imagining some simple scenarios.

For example, imagine that a developer wanted to build something near where we live. A couple of hundred houses, for example, with no infrastructure and crammed so tightly together that neighbour could shake hands with neighbour simply by opening a landing window.

Or some sort of unpleasant industrial plant, say, where garbage from hundreds of miles around is processed.

Or nuclear waste is buried, giving the local landscape a cheery glow. Or poorly pigs are shot and immolated, 24 hours a day. Or something else of that nature.

Imagine you object strenuously to the proposal because you feel it will wreck our home life, your health, or both.

If the people who want to build the thing in question are immediately warned off by the authorities and told to take their nonsense somewhere far, far away, the chances are that you are special.

If they are given free rein at the highest level to trample all over your wishes, the chances are that you are an ordinary person.

Now imagine that there is a sudden crimewave in your neighbourhood, with all manner of lowlife breaking into houses, stealing cars and intimidating people.

If you can afford to get together with your neighbours and put a dirty great iron gate at the entrance to your neighbourhood, or perhaps club together and employ private security patrols, then you can be fairly certain you are special.

The same is true if you know enough important people to ensure no criminal dares to set foot in your street for fear of being loaded into a police van five minutes later.

On the other hand, you may find yourself mostly obliged to let your neighbourhood be overrun by crooks.

Or be told to gather your own evidence because you having your stuff nicked or wrecked isn’t a priority.

That’s usually a clue suggesting ordinariness.

Turning to the subject of health and wellbeing, imagine – painful though it may be to do so – that you suffer some dreadful mental health crisis.

Imagine that this crisis is so severe that you present a danger to yourself and perhaps others, and must be immediately taken to a place of safety where compassionate, carefully-trained people can assess you and begin addressing your torment.

Imagine that such a facility exists virtually on your doorstep.

Now imagine that the organisation in charge of the place is looking to save some cash.

Do they do so by making sensible changes, such as a radical restructuring of senior executive pay structures?

In that case, you’re special.

Or do they simply set about trying to shut down the facility, obliging you to either to go to some private organisation or be shunted to another one in a completely unfamiliar place many miles away?

In that case – yes, you guessed it – you’re ordinary.

Parish Councils: Just do as you are told

CENTRAL Swindon South Parish Council recently tried to change its name to South Swindon Parish Council.

It polled local people and, of the small number who responded, the overwhelming majority were in favour of the change.

Last week the majority of borough councillors vetoed the bid, blaming what they called a lack of consultation.

Perhaps I’m misremembering, but when parishing was imposed on us, weren’t we told it was a way of promoting local solutions for local issues?

Having said that, in a way I can understand the borough’s caution.

If name changes were easy, some people might make mischief. They might raise petitions to change their parish council’s name to We Didn’t Want This Parish Council Parish Council, for example. Or Parish Councils are Just Another Tier Of Collective Irresponsibility Parish Council.

Or Swindon Borough Council Is To Basic Democratic Processes what Rabid Hyenas are to Petting Zoos Parish Council.

While that might not be so good for the borough, it would at least encourage more of us to become engaged with local democracy.

Who knows, perhaps we might elect – or in some cases become – a new kind of local politician who knows their place in the master-servant relationship.