TIME SHIFT

Penny Hunt's blog coffee conversationsIs there a word for that sound that we all make when the lights suddenly go out? It’s a sort of ‘oooh’ with a little note of affront and wonder. It’s happened today. The café sandwiches will not be toasted.

Then that little ‘hummy, buzzy’ sound follows: a release signal that everyone can now acknowledge what’s happened, and each other.
Hard to be independent and separate now…

Togetherness has been a bit of a theme this week. (And not just that little news story I can’t quite bring to mind involving something small, like a sort of referendum or something).

The Wigan Diggimage01ers Festival took place at the weekend.

Wigan?

Wigan was the birthplace of Gerrard Winstanley, who led the ‘Diggers’ or the ‘True Levellers’ at that violent time of revolution as King Charles 1’s head was removed in 1649.

It’s hard to really grasp how radical their thinking was.  The ‘Diggers’ were for equality. Absolute equality. That included equality between men and women.  They believed that the land was ‘a common treasury for all’.  They lived and worked for a while on St Georges Hill in Surrey. They cultivated the land together and lived together; until they were all mown down by those in power. Their ideas were just too dangerous.

Leon Rosselson wrote a song about this in the ‘70s. It has been covered by so many. Here’s the Barracudas’ version.

‘Selling the earth for private gain’ and a ‘common treasury for all’ still hits home.

There are so many parallels to today.

How is our common treasury faring, now?

(Don’t look at St Georges Hill. It’s one of the most exclusive and expensive residential areas outside London. History sure has a quirky sense of humour.)

And that lovely phrase ‘common treasury’ might now include the worldwide web, culture, arts, public spaces, the workplace..…
The feelings of betrayal, disappointment, and cynicism in the 1640s on seeing so much bloodshed deliver so little change boiled over into looking at things differently. It’s powerful background music, and it may still be tinkling away right now.

image00Then, it led to fresh thinking. Are we doing that now?

Winstanley wrote of ‘men in a mist’. That hits home, too.  He concluded that action had to, eventually, take over from words.

And that suddenly felt very real today in this little café place, because togetherness broke out, and it felt good.

With so many daily life habits – our smartphones, how our offices are arranged, our busy-ness, our self absorption – keeping us all separate, it seems a good moment to remember the pleasure of working together. I shall try to think of the workplace as a ‘common treasury’ and see what happens.

As the fingers hit the keys, I heard a voice on another table.
‘Here, have some of this – we can share’.
I kid you not, but the lights came back on.

SPEED AND SCOTLAND

Penny Hunt's blog coffee conversationsWhoosh. Snap. Ring. Sort. Done. It’s all chop-chop in the café today.

Possibly literally – there are 2 jabby-finger growly ‘yoou’re wrong/ noo yoou’re wrong’ Scots in the corner.Two shouting ladies drawn by Penny Hunt

Are you a Yes or a No?

I usually rail against reducing stuff to binary options.

But the dawning ‘oooops’ affecting those who should have known better……well, it’s absolutely thrilling. It’s suddenly made something happen.

Speed is feeling good.

As they talk, what’s really annoying Ms Yes is broadcast, with some passion, to the rest of the café where we are all doing the same thing. We must all be reading the same email. It says ‘don’t take your eyes off the screen, make like you’re entranced, and you will be completely invisible to the people on whom you are frankly, shamelessly, eavesdropping’.

Ms ‘Yes’ is making things clearer to Ms ‘No’.

The latest intervention is being filleted (Gordon Brown’s dramatic appearance in the role of Banquo’s-ghost-with-sweeties on Sept 8th. Wonder for a moment at the pleasing notion that the word ‘timetable’ is being used as a rallying cry. It’s not quite William Wallace, is it?).image01
The proposals are ..’a ridiculous panic behaviour, patronizing, desperate knee-jerk reactions, far too late, unworthy, and…’ here some fantastic Scottish word that even I can tell is probably better spoken than written.

Ah, the old ‘ad hominem’ attack. If the content is tricky to counter, then attack the presenter. Messenger not message. Everything about the messenger in fact – motives, size, haircut, probity, halitosis…

Ms ‘No’ gives as good as she gets. What’s more patronizing than being told to by Mr Salmond ‘not to worry about currency until later’? Eh? Does Ms Yes realise what being in financial limbo will do to business confidence, to Scotland’s standing in the world?

Ah, the ‘exaggerate the opponent’s proposition’ attack: combined with the ‘make your opponent angry’ attack I suspect.

This is such a serious issue. Thank goodness they mind, thank goodness they’re getting stuck in.

But I think they’re stuck into their positions, not into what is, or could be, real.

OK, they’re both right at one level. Panic, irresponsibility, suspicious motives, not very likeable people telling others (telling the Scots! The nation with one of the highest educational achievement profiles on the planet!) what to do or what not worry about – and making generalised, unlikely promises.

Suddenly that’s not what it’s about.

image00Out of a swirling cocktail of higher purpose, dubious personal ambition, betrayal, integrity, greed, desperation, fear and hope – a plan is hastily concocted: a plan that would have taken aeons to develop in less urgent circumstances.

Speed. It’s helped.

With only days to go to the referendum, speed and panic has brought something into being that can just about be grasped, measured, and judged. Hurrah. The most unlikely (and in many cases unlikeable) interests suddenly align themselves behind keeping the UK together, and despite themselves and their inadequacies produce a tangible plan. Speed has injected practicality and real-ness. A motley crew of messengers do actually have, at last, a message

There’s a lot to be said for ‘no one leaves this room until we’ve got something’.

We’ll know on Sept 18 whether it has had any impact. I hope so.