Births, Marriages and Deaths

I was the executor of Dad’s will, a circumstance both appropriate and unfortunate. Unfortunate because administration is not my milieu even in the mill-pond days of the psyche, and they are few. The storms that churn my teacup depths are many and varied. My cup spilleth over at the slightest disturbance. Taken together, the employment doldrums I drifted into after the Labs, the edginess they engendered about staying in the U.K. and the consequent move home were enough to fill the saucer. All of this prior to Dad’s death.

For me, at least, procrastination – the procrastination that makes me a friable administrator – is driven by some anxiety or other. There are many to choose from, and particular circumstances throw up novelties for the menu. So it was when we came home to the funeral. Nature was aided and abetted by the coroner. In order to finalise Dad’s affairs, his death certificate, or a certified copy of same, was required by most interested parties. On top of the delay introduced to the funeral by the coroner, was the more or less constant call to calm reflection by the Department of Justice and Attorney-General, represented by the Registry of Births, Marriages and Deaths. This meditative pause ranges from five to six weeks.

To everything there is a season, especially, I should think, to marriages. But births and deaths? I don’t know. In any case, the delay seems to be predictable, which leads to the conclusion that the staffing levels are sufficient to maintain the balance between work flowing in and work completed, except perhaps in peak season for one or another of life’s milestones; which leads, in turn, to the speculation that, were sufficient resources made available to clear the backlog, such that the delay were reduced to, say, one to two weeks, then the original staff would be able to maintain that position.

There must, of course, be something wrong with this argument. I can’t see that it is to do with increased demand as a result of the quicker turnaround. The Registry has a monopoly, and every birth, marriage and death must be documented. There’s no getting fed up and opting out. “That’s it. I’ve had it. Dad, as far as the State of Queensland is concerned, you are going to live forever.”

So maybe this formal, structural procrastination is also driven by the sum of individual anxieties. Perhaps, at every level in the system, a head of backed-up demand is required to open the valves. Perhaps there must be a threshold of pressure, a degree of difficulty sufficient to engage the attention and commitment of those involved. If so, I will have to go to the end of the queue of critical commentators, because I understand this dynamic all too well. There will probably be a fight for the position.

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