Monday, 27 February 2023


The problem with globalisation or anything which encourages macro-think is it becomes too imposing for most of us to get our heads round. When people say “we must fix the NHS” they look flummoxed on being told the cost of the service in 2022/23 is likely to exceed £180 billion this year and that there are 1.2 million people working in it. 

Branding – People's History of the NHS

Try fixing something this big and you’ll spend so long working out where the money goes, is needed and can be saved that at the end you’re likely to conclude the NHS is underfunded and understaffed.

We have a lot of very clever data scientists in this country and 1st class minds who seem to spend their life baffled because challenges facing them seem too enormous.

I’ve always enjoyed the sayings of Calvin Coolidge – the 30th President of the United States: “if all the folks in the United States would do the few simple things they ought to do, most of our big problems would take care of themselves.” 

Biography of Calvin Coolidge, the 30th US President

Imagine that we lived in a house nestled in the heart of beautiful country. The house has a thatched roof, gorgeous beams and splendid rooms. There’s a bit of damp (but who minds about that?) or some crumbling pointing. Our gardener and cleaner have both left us because we’re paying less than the normal rate. We’ve had a squabble with our neighbours so we’ve stopped going to social events locally.

You know what?

We’re a bit lonely and the house is crumbling. That’s like Britain.

We need to make up for years of neglect and spend some money – doing what George Osborne said: “Fix the roof whilst the sun’s shining”. Great thought George; what did we do back in those days of austerity? Nothing much. We are guilty but not alone. In the rich west we don’t invest in upkeep; we invest in dreams.

Ułóż online puzzle Przytulny domek kryty strzechą, Broadway, Cotswolds,  składające się z 360 elementów | Thatched cottage, British cottage, Cottage  exterior

It costs £17 billion a year to run the British rail service. It’s going to cost nearly £100 billion to complete HS2. Imagine having that size of budget to spend on updating the existing service?

Start thinking achievable, needed and smaller rather than phantasmagorical. Stop pretending the future is all that matters and that the present and things that prevent life being worth living today don’t matter. Stop trying to be what we are not, can’t be and don’t need to be.. 

Every time I’ve been to the USA I’m full of excitement and awe. Tell me New York isn’t marvellous. Well, some New Yorkers say the problems there are challenging. But let me remind them of how it was in Harlem in the 1970’s or the time I was threatened with a gun in a snowstorm by a guy wanting my cab and  shouting “give me that cab or I’ll kill you.” “Be my guest” I said. New York was great then, gun and all. Today it's wonderful but a bit shabby.

Simply Shabby | Huntington Station NY

As is Paris, Rome, Lisbon and London. I was in London recently – that long journey up from Brighton – bright, smiling and vibrant, full of young people doing great work. But in need of a clean-up.

And that imagined house of ours?

New thatch. Repainted. New plumbing, repaired electrics. Gardener and cleaner rehired at decent pay with new tools in the garden and a new vacuum cleaner. Good relations with neighbours – we’ve said sorry over many glasses of prosecco.

Dartington Party – Kings & Queens

Why does it take so long to refresh the present? Nothing much is that wrong apart from gloomy inertia. So cheer up, start Spring cleaning and live for today.

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