The 7 Guesses of Psephologist  

Lucinda Palme

The 7 Guesses of Psephologist  


“Are you visiting this area?” Bengt Magnusson asked.

Mary de Souza answered, “No.”

The housing association of the neighbourhood was organizing the annual flower show for its residents. Residents with children, and those who have retired with financial security both from the state and individually sourced, among others attended.

Annual flower show is the time for the residents to interact and interpret their observations (or experiences) about the locality.

“Do you live somewhere here?” Bengt Magnusson asked.

“No,” Mary de Souza answered.

Magnusson and Mary had met at a 3-day conference at the Institute for Critical Studies on Social Alienation and Social Amalgamation organised by Gothenburg University’s Department of Political Science. The visiting Mary held the accomplishments of Magnusson as the psephologist and academician in high esteem: his ability to identify the electoral trends across the continent, his envisioning of political moods and temperamental seeds, and his constant stream of securing funds for projects from one body or another authority in the EU.

“Do you live here? Asked Bengt Magnusson.

“Yes,” answered Mary de Souza.

The neighbourhood is exclusive. The psephologist guessed she would be living somewhere nearby, and had popped over. The annual flower show is relatively popular among a section of people for the delights it offered.

“In this neighbourhood?” Bengt Magnusson stressed referring to his area.

“Yes,” answered Mary de Souza.

“Sharing?” Bengt Magnusson guessed. He is more interested in social interactions than pottering with pots or examining the veins of a leaf or the sprouting of seeds at a particular time. But his wife and children like the other residents of the neighbourhood have wheeled out of their pots of plants from their backyards and windowsills to showcase at the flower show. The psephologist was not keen to interact with residents in his neighbourhood (shades of his own class) unless it was mandated. Currently, there was Mary to query.

“No,” Mary said as calmly as she delivered ‘yes’.

On a slope of a hill running in the border of Mölndal and Gothenburg is a cluster of independent villas: severely guarded and proudly owned.

“Secondhand contract?” Bengt Magnusson guessed.

“No,” answered Mary casting her eyes on a flower pot brought to the attention of the psephologist by a neighbour’s daughter.

The jargon of finding a house in Gothenburg invariably involves firsthand contract or secondhand contract or thirdhand contract. A newcomer like Mary can at the most secure a secondhnad contract but she did not opt for that. Then, how?

The psephologist was nagged by his mind, then how? The psephologist purchased the house along with his partner, a decade ago, and raised a family. He knew about his neighbours’ political orientation and electoral attitudes by spotting which newspaper is delivered to which house or where s/he shopped. Ideologically, he is not like most of them but gradually he became one of them as they have more concerns in common and more disapprovals in common.

“Firsthand contract?” Bengt Magnusson asked.

“No,” answered Mary de Souza.

To buy a house in the neighbourhood is expensive, and also difficult to purchase. In fact, it is an exclusive zone: exclusive because the house owners have to give their consent to the would-be buyer.

Another question form Bengt Magnusson would have been did you buy the house, here, but it became obvious to him. His jaws did not drop but he became speechless. Speechless at the surprise: How can she buy a house, here? How one can buy a house so quickly, that too, here? He remembered an email he received from the neighbourhood’s housing association to express his consent or dissent or reservations or disapproval for a would-be buyer but he ignored for he was cocksure someone of his type would only buy, here.

The psephologist wanted to ask one more question, the elementary financial curiosity, how much did it cost you but he reined himself for he could find such information elsewhere and at any time.

“Any more questions, do you have,” asked Mary with all the sweetness in Gothenburg tumbling out of her lips.

More questions, welled up in Bengt Magnusson. “None,” he answered, and wished, “Hope you will have a good stay.” 

And, the psephologist queried himself: What jaundiced my mind?

—Lucinda Palme