I look forward to Sunday’s, despite the fact I’m actually working. It’s that regular weekly couple of hours of social observation at the Fisherman’s Arms that appeal. The usual small gang sits at the bar, they have a few beers and discuss news, social issues and generally offer up differing opinions on all manner of things from the past week, and often life as a whole. Sometimes debate can become a little heated but in the main, it’s mostly friendly differences of opinion, often interlaced with a good measure of humour and/or cynicism.
The good thing about Sunday afternoons is the spontaneity of it, there’s no prior or preconceived topic of conversation. It’s wholly dependant upon who’s there, their level of intellect and experience or knowledge about the subjects which have grabbed individual interest or created angst. The value of the session is greatly enhanced if participants are passionate and opinionated about the topics up for discussion, whatever they may be.
I’ve always admired people who have an opinion, and the ability to espouse that opinion to others. Just so long as it’s based upon fact or educated observation, and not simply formulated out of blind alliance to a particular corporate or party line. That or, inherited from some misguided sense of family honour or even worse, simply little more than gossip. Informed debate is an important part of our social structure however, it’s also important that those involved in the debate, actually posses the ability to accept the opinion and views of another, irrespective of whether or not they agree with them.
One of the interesting/exciting aspects of the process (our Sunday gang) is the often random nature of the conversation and debate. Each week there is generally one particular topic or subject matter that emerges as the focal point of the afternoon. In addition there is also usually a ‘facilitator’ directing or driving the conversation, mainly because of the individual level of interest and/or knowledge.
This week it was that old sociological ‘castaway’ experiment… Facilitated by Rab the group’s socially observant philosophical Teuchter… “You are going to be marooned on a desert island and you have five minutes to choose three companions to take with you” he nonchalantly and wryly retorted. He took a mouthful of beer, smiled mischievously and continued; “They can be anyone you like, real or fictional, living or dead, famous or not but they can’t be family members and you have to explain why you’ve chosen them.”
Rab Crusoe led with his band of three and then turned to each member of the group in turn to offer up their selections, a process which also generated further debate. As if the spontaneous selection process wasn’t difficult enough, any initial choice made was then subject to an element of adjustment in your mind, mainly because of listening to the reasoning behind the selections of others. That and wanting to choose differently to your peers. Do I choose an inspirational leader or simply someone who has had a personal impact on me? Do I choose out of admiration for their values or achievements? Do I try to choose differently or simply select one of those already mentioned but add why it was ‘my’ choice?
One of my first choices had been Nelson Mandela however, as he had already been one of Rab’s choices, and obviously not wanting to copy, irrespective of the differing reasons for selection, I made a hasty adjustment. When it got around to my turn I came up with (was left with) the following list… But not necessarily in this order and, whether or not my list would be exactly the same next week, next month or in a year’s time is another matter!
- Bob Marley – Music has always been an important part of my life and reggae is a favourite genre. In addition, Robert Nesta Marley was something of a philosopher and observer of many of life’s ills and social failures, a factor illustrated in many of his lyrics. Arguably, his unusual and non mainstream religious following of Rastafari, which mostly rejects modern western society, calling it “Babylon” and totally corrupt, could be taken by many as extremely prophetic.
- Jamie Oliver – This cheeky Essex lad, who’s parents were also publicans like mine, has used his fame in various ways to help others. He has attempted to improve unhealthy diets and poor cooking habits in the United Kingdom and the United States. His Fifteen Foundation – mission is to inspire disadvantaged youth, including those with drug or alcohol problems, the unemployed and the homeless – has helped many to believe in themselves and the possibility of becoming chefs. He is a reasonably good drummer, I also share his love of Italian cuisine, as well as admiring the international diversity of his cooking ability.
- Billy Connolly – A big man from humble beginnings, well-known for his observational comedy which is often idiosyncratic and off-the-cuff, a type of humour that appeals to me. It obviously doesn’t appeal to all as the outraged voiced by certain PC sectors of society would evidence. That said, his musical ability and social observations skills, both at home and abroad, in TV shows such as his World Tour of Scotland and Journey to the Edge of the World, have been both enlightening and humourous. I’m particularly looking forward to his travels along Route 66 in the USA.
After the ‘experiment’ Rab alluded to similar social trials performed in the past… It was interesting to note that in the main, when audiences contained both genders (our group was all male), females had a tendency to select at least one person who could loosely be refered to as eye candy in descriptive terms. Read into that what you will but I formulated an opinion, although perhaps not the same as yours.
Who are your social companions on the desert island of philosophical castaways and why?