I was on holiday last week, in a marvellous place which had no mobile phone reception, no internet and not a tremendously good TV signal. It was like a holiday from the election, and it was great. I want to be there now, as you can imagine, but sadly work has intervened. Anyway, I avoided the dead-tree press, too, keeping my eyes firmly away from the news-stands while I was away.
Unfortunately I caught a glimpse of the Sun's front page in motorway services on the way home - it was like staring directly at Satan's unwiped anal ring after a particularly painful evacuation - but apart from that, I managed to avoid it all.
So in many ways, it was election-time detox. I recommend it. Next time you're overwhelmed by it all, just get the hell out. Force yourself to do it. Smash up your communication devices, and embrace the outside world. Maybe get a bit of cabin fever, and start worshipping the oven gloves as if they're possessed by the magical tree monster (which they are, I insist). Just stay away from the media pollution. It's such a lovelier world without it.
And I've voted. Popped my little slips of paper into the post, and away they've gone, into the ether, to be counted, whether they actually count or not. And that's a relief, too. It's yet another way of bodyswerving the advancing election Godzilla and scampering away to freedom. I'm terribly sorry, you can tell everyone you meet, I've voted already. It's in the post. I'm immune to everything now. I don't have to watch party political broadcasts. I don't need my newspaper to tell me what to do with my X. I don't need anyone to try and sway me, one way or the other. It's done, gone, voted, finished. Phew. And indeed, hooray.
One thing I missed - not that it would have changed my mind - was Bigotgate, as I fear it's going to be called. I needn't write anything much about this, other than to point you in the direction of these fine writers here; but even by the low standards by which we need to judge the media in this country, the coverage that I've since read of it is simply bizarre, a whole universe away from what really happened. It's the whole kind of victim mentality that the likes of the BNP (whom I will bring up, though I'm not suggesting by any stretch of the imagination that you need to be a BNP member to be a bigot) wants to cultivate - the idea of the disenfranchised, the people shut out by politicians, the people who aren't being listened to. It strikes a chord because the vast majority of us are disenfranchised, shut out by politicians and aren't listened to - but not because we dare mention 'immigration'. We're just shut out anyway.
But then, just as immigrants make convenient whipping boys when it comes to blaming problems on them rather than the real reasons why people can't get jobs, houses, enough money or whatever, it's easy to blame Gordon Brown. Blame him for calling someone he thought was bigoted bigoted; blame him for being unguarded in public, rather than keeping what he really thinks to himself out of the range of microphones. Blame him for saying what he thought. Blame him for whatever you like - and he will be, by the Labour vultures keen to try and feast on the corpse of the party in a few days' time and magic away all the problems as being the fault of the scapegoat, rather than anything else. Was it really him who turned the election? Of course not. Was one slip of the tongue really such a turning point? No, but our media need stories to tell. It's easier to explain away Labour's woes in terms of one man making a silly rather than several thousand people deciding the policies weren't attractive enough over a long period of time; so, as they always do, they do the easy thing, rather than the hard thing.
I'd have preferred it if Gordon Brown had not said he was 'mortified' or gone around to the house of the 'woman who dared speak the truth'. But in a sense that's New Labour all over. You think someone's a bigot, but it makes you look bad if you think that, so you pretend it was all a big mistake. Why not just say "Yes, I thought she was bigoted, and I still think it" - would that really be so awful? Apparently so. Try and make yourselves look good, even if it's not what you really feel. It's why people don't trust politicians.
But as I say, I've voted. The media didn't change my mind, and a week of detox was just the ticket. For those of you poor souls who haven't put your Xs down yet, you've got days of this to come before you can do anything about any of it, before you get handed the little slip of paper and the pencil that mean you actually get a chance to say what you think, for once. And no-one's going to be in that booth with you, just you. They can't get you in there. Hopefully, they haven't got you already.