Monday, 9 April 2018


My own cheerful optimism is unchanged but I’ve encountered a lot a gloom recently. “The dark side is descending on us” I was told by a ‘scholar of doom’, “you can feel disintegration in the air.” Hmm.

Talking about the Utopia of our current world (only relative to the brutish past) cuts no mustard with such people. Take knife crime and the “epidemic” -  about 40 deaths in London so far this year which is awful but – bloody, great, enormous BUT – in 2002 there were over 1000 murders in the UK and recently it had dropped to just over 550. The London victims are of gangland killings not of a homicidal pandemic.

The NHS “horrors” are largely overstated and dramatized for political purposes. My own recent experience with a close-to-dying close relative were of impressively on-the-ball, confident and charming professionalism. That’s at the Royal Sussex in Brighton which is in special measures with wretched inspectors crawling all over them.

The stress of living in 2018 is created by something a lot closer to home than dark forces or catastrophic institutional incompetence. Because in general we are surrounded by great competence and skill.

But we are also surrounded by breathless fear and unreasonable expectations. We all seem on our bad days to be chasing our tails, trying to keep up, rushing around with a glint of terrified-purpose in our eyes. Many of us are driving cars today which would have served as tanks a century ago. We are surrounded by astounding levels of household debt - £1,630 billion with student loans doubled, credit card debt up 23% since 2012. Put in perspective the average household debt level is around 2.5 times the average annual household income. So I guess a little fear isn’t wholly misplaced.

People sleep badly. I keep hearing this. People are having bad dreams. Why? We live in a civilised world populated by nice people trying to do their best. Maybe we’re just trying too hard. Too hard to keep up. Too hard to be judged as successful. As the rumble of Brexit rolls on I suspect it’s like the Russian Novichok nerve agent the horrors of which whilst real seem not yet, at any rate, mortal.

If as pundits suspect we end up slightly poorer and less important in world terms because of Brexit –Britain rather than Great Britain - maybe that’s going to be OK. Less stress, less mess and a happier bunch of people. Trying to exceed our talents and resources is seldom a great idea.

I found this quote from Jack Nicklaus, the legendary, champion golfer and good guy particularly helpful. I hope you do too:

Every player must find the balance between ambition and insanity. Were major championships my focus? Yes they were. Were they my only focus in life? No. My family always came before that. Could I have worked harder and won more majors.? Probably. Could I have driven myself crazy doing it? Certainly.

 Thanks Jack.

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