Due to my last change of address, I had to persuade my GP’s surgery that, contrary to default practice, they should keep me on despite my having moved out of their practice area. This was fairly evidently the right choice given the rest of my life hasn’t moved geographically, and based on Oxford rental experience to date I will be moving, probably to another surgery’s area, in about another 18 months whether I like it or not. Besides, it’s not like I require home visits and I’m still only 15 minutes’ bike from the surgery, but my medical problems are somewhat complicated and I’m unwilling to just take them to an unknown doctor who may or may not (again, judging by experience to date) turn out to be any good at handling them, when my current one is actually good.
This morning, I was engaged in registering for PPL, so as a performer I get royalties if anyone actually officially (as opposed to cash-in-hand from the group) buys / plays in public / etc. a recording I played on. In order to do so, I had to provide proof of address. How am I supposed to do that? I’m not going to keep updating my aged provisional driving licence every time I move (that’s £30 every year or two if I remember rightly!), I rent in a houseshare where I’m not responsible for paying any of the utilities (and if I was I’d go for online billing as you almost always get a discount and it’s more eco), and the council tax bills haven’t caught up with me moving in yet. In the end I used a letter thanking me for registering to vote here, but because the PPL registration system is automated and online up to the point of submitting everything over the web, I don’t know if they’ll accept it or not.
Geographical location – sometimes exact location, not just area – remains of key, perhaps primary, importance to a lot of administrative officialdom. Where you live is not just a contact detail to send you hard copies of particularly important documents; it is part of who you are, shaping your rights, privileges, responsibilities and liabilities.
Unfortunately, this has failed to catch up with modern-day Britain for the under-40s. As home ownership becomes the privilege of an ever-shrinking proportion of the population – a proportion largely shrinking upwards in age, and an increasingly overstretched rental market (in the crowded but hiring south east of England anyway) becomes more and more volatile, frequent changes of address are a fairly unavoidable reality for many people, even those in white-collar graduate jobs, who are not living with a partner. We now frequently move house more often than we change jobs, change towns or enter into a different marital status. The push to electronic documentation means there are practical (storage space? physical weight to transport between homes?) and often financial advantages to minimising the amount of literal paperwork you receive. But many of the most important institutions in your life have to be separately informed of a move between houses, and may treat it as of capital importance because you cross one of the boundaries of their own particular system, even though as far as you are concerned most of your life is stable except you eat and sleep a couple of miles further north, and you would much rather keep as much continuity as possible in everything else given the exigencies of the housing market have already forced you to move to a different house and probably a different set of housemates. (What this must be like for people living close to country borders I cannot imagine – perhaps the difference between very northern England and very southern Scotland regains a practical importance despite its physical non-existence because moving across it would be so much hassle.)
How do we manage a ‘portable’ identity – one that can be carried across from place to place in a relatively smooth fashion, rather than having to be rebuilt brick-by-brick at each relocation? It shouldn’t be an insoluble problem for a web-literate society. In the meantime, it is true that all of us young (in a broad sense) singles (in an equally broad sense) are de facto – not homeless, but certainly insecurely housed; but there’s no need for the system to rub it in.