Sunday, 30 October 2016


I started to think about what simplifying really meant when a friend glanced at the books in our house and said “I haven’t bought a book for years. I read everything on my Kindle or smartphone.” But the smell, feel and weight of a real book - the ability to flick backwards and forward and the sheer sensuality rather than the mere functionality of reading - that’s what matters. That’s what’s precious.

Marie Kondo’s best-selling book “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying: A simple, effective way to banish clutter forever” sets the tone in a slightly terrifying way. I thought at first how wonderful to help in the removal of unnecessary stuff and create a minimalist life. But is it? Have an occasional tidy-up, yes, but create a world of virtuous empty. No, no, no.

The potential closure of the Walsall Art Gallery is scandalous because it’s a joyous, cultural asset not just a functional piece of machinery.  So amidst all the reductionist gloom it’s welcome to discover “hygge” - the Danish concept of cosy contentment - open fires, comfy furnishings and a good book (can you imagine hygge and Kindle? Don’t be silly.) Hygge, I’m told, has replaced mindfulness as the new fad. It’s generous, warm and embracing; cuddles and giggles not serious, sterile debate.

If everything has to function efficiently that’s why the all too evident flaws of democracy seem to be driving a lot of Generation Y to support the idea of having a despot as leader - Erdogan or Putin - hurrah for strength!

The Lowy Institute for International Policy in Sydney found that only 42% of Australian 18 - 29 year-olds thought democracy was the preferable form of government. OK, it’s Australia and it’s not necessarily typical but the trend to preferring a simplified form of government seems to be becoming more widespread. If only they thought about what this would really mean.

In the 21st century we just have to get used to mess in life. Not everything is simple. Not everything can be swept under the carpet. Complexity is to be treasured.

Recently we were given as a present a tiny wooden box just bigger than a thumb. Our name was etched on it and the cap silkily screwed off. What’s it for? It’s for joy and it’s for fun.  Other moments of joy this week: the CEO of robotics giant Electrocomponents, American Lindsley Ruth, in a major turn-around of the business has banned PowerPoint presentations so his people can start thinking again.

One of the wisest things said to me about live performance was about going on stage simply “to be” not perform. Just stand there and be alive like ‘Catfish and the Bottlemen’, a Llandudno Indie group, have taken the USA by storm - listen to them on the David Letterman Show last year and you’ll see why.

They have the sound of joy - they’re alive - and probably stoned (but I forgive them.)

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