Now, that’s a good idea.
It came to me last week when I was sitting in a local pub in a place called Wooler.
Let me explain how I came to be there and where I’m going with all this…
Last week my most beloved and I, together with the woofer, were on hols. In fact we walked St Cuthbert’s Way from Melrose in the Scottish Borders to Lindisfarne in Northumberland.
65 miles in five days… and it didn’t even rain for some of it.
We had booked one of those packages where you stay in local pubs and a nice person picks up your bag in the morning and takes it to the next place ready for when you arrive… all very efficient.
But it was the pubs we stayed in that were really interesting. Two of them, The Plough in Town Yelthom (pronounced Yettum) and The Black Bull in Wooler were brilliant and could have been the same place with the same, slightly out of date décor and group of people dropping in for a drink after work.
In particular, The Black Bull was very busy at 5.00pm with a group of mostly blokes standing at the bar just… well, talking really.
But here’s the thing. They were discussing a wide range of subjects, mostly from the news, such as the Jubilee, the football, Prince Philip, the state of Spain’s economy.
Now, I’m pretty sure they weren’t a group of economists or constitutional specialists (the paint stained trousers kind of gave the game away) but there were differences of opinion, which were discussed with some passion, but always politely, with give and take, in a friendly atmosphere and, most importantly, inclusively.
We were outsiders but both Renee and I (and on a number of occasions, the dog, too) were asked our opinion and included in the conversation… and the place was set up for it. No-one was hurrying, people were lingering and simply conversing. It was a real pleasure being there.
Here’s the contrast…
The final night we stayed in a place called the Lindisfarne Inn, which, I think has just been taken over by a chain. We found the staff unresponsive and pretty much unfriendly, concentrating more on their up to date till system than the punters. There wasn’t an atmosphere that allowed discussion and debate. In fact, you could see the place was designed to get people in and out as quickly as possible in order to increase sales.
So, that’s what happened: people came in, ate their meals and left… all entirely insulated from each other.
Okay, that may not be a bad thing, but what if you had staff who were trained to start conversations that aided understanding… what sort of country would we have then?