Solutions, not problems

I had one of those rare moments this weekend when several disparate things came together to form the germ of an idea. And not just any idea, but something that has changed the way I think and inspired me to do something about it.

It started with a discussion my wife and I had over a cup of tea early on Saturday morning about the parlous state of the British economy (yes, it’s all go in our house) and the growing realisation that the Government is very much out of its depth in knowing what to do about it.

I then read an article about the Occupy protests in London, in which the columnist took the protesters to task for failing to have a point. I think this particular criticism was a bit harsh, but I did have to agree that there was a lot of protesting ‘against’ things and not a lot of arguing ‘for’ things.

Tents outside St. Paul's Cathedral

Occupying London, but what's the answer? (Source: Neil Cummings / Flickr)

Then, some time on Sunday night, I read another article somewhere else (I really must make a note of these things when I read them, so I can find them again) that presented the results of some research into electoral voting patterns. The researchers made a very compelling argument, supported by data, that British voters do not vote for charismatic leaders, but rather for the leaders who seem most able to provide the answers to the questions of the day.

I found this quite heartening, because it flies in the face of how the media – and, indeed political parties – present our electoral choices. There’s a lot about style, but not much in the way of substance. But it appears that it doesn’t have to be this way. We are not, it turns out, as shallow and unthinking as people would have us believe.

So here’s the deal. As a society, we’re facing a fair few problems, from economic inequality to climate change. We want big ideas for how to address them, but all that appears to be happening is that everyone’s arguing about the problems, rather than what to do about them. We know what we’re against, but not what we’re for.

This, quite clearly, isn’t going to get us anywhere. We need ideas. And we need to recognise that we can’t afford to wait for our political leaders to come up with something. So what can we do about it? To be honest, I’m not sure. But I plan to find out. Any suggestions gratefully received…

Sunday lunch with the family

I had the best meal today that I have had for some time. But it wasn’t in some fancy restaurant or the end result of hours of slaving over a hot stove. In fact, it was a cheese sandwich, a bottle of water and a piece of carrot cake. So what’s the deal? Are my culinary standards really so low that this qualifies as something special?

Far from it. I’d be the first to admit that this isn’t a particularly salubrious meal. In fact, it’s pretty much my regular lunch (minus the cake). But the thing that made this particular Sunday lunch great was the company of my family.

After a fairly hectic week in which we’d seen each other for the sum total of about six hours, my wife and I bundled the dog in the car and headed for the nearby city of Bath to do a bit of shopping. But before we disappeared into the shops, we grabbed a takeaway lunch from a local deli and found ourselves a patch of sunshine in front of the imposing Georgian architecture of the famous Royal Crescent.

Royal Crescent, Bath

Royal Crescent, Bath (Source: Seier + Seier, via Flickr)

And here we sat, playing with Molly (my Labrador dog, of ‘Gratuitous Labrador photo of the week‘ fame), eating our lunch and chatting about our week. And it was brilliant. We have pretty hectic lives, and there’s always something going on, so we seldom take the time to just chill out and enjoy each other’s company. But loafing there on the grass, we just sat comfortably with each other, sharing our thoughts, our concerns, our hopes and our ideas. In fact, I think we probably talked more over that one sandwich than we have in the previous month.

I tend to struggle a lot in life to set priorities and to recognise what is important and what is not. But this simple meal in the sunshine brought it home to me just how important my (admittedly quite small) family is to me, and that I want to spend more time with the two of them, no matter how busy life gets. And anything that gets in the way of that is, well, something that I’m just going to have to change.