In the fourth book of Douglas Adams’ Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy trilogy, “So Long, And Thanks For All The Fish”, John Watson is driven to an extreme act by a seemingly trivial discovery – a packet of toothpicks with instructions on how to use them. “It seemed to me”, he said, “that any civilisation that had so far lost its head as to need to include a set of detailed instructions for use in a packet of toothpicks, was no longer a civilisation in which I could live and stay sane”.
I have been driven to start a blog by a similarly trivial-sounding incident. On Sunday 8 July 2012, at the wonderful Runaway café at Lewes Station, an elderly (well, maybe not so much older than me actually) couple were getting up to catch their train after having coffee. The man picked up his empty cup, as if to return it to the counter, whereupon the woman told him to leave it there; and he obeyed and shuffled out.
My reaction had little to do with the fact that I believe strongly that in such situations people should deal with their own dirty crockery and not expect overworked, underpaid staff to pick it up. It was because I hate to see old couples who are arguing or bickering, or who have such an asymmetrical power relationship. I’d like to think that after decades together – as these two presumably had had – two people can evolve a mutual tolerance of one another’s foibles. It made me sad; and I wanted to say that, in some forum that was not the dreaded Facebook. So I started this blog.
Incidentally, John Watson’s reaction was rather more extreme. He rebuilt his house with the bricks on the inside and the wallpaper on the outside, and called it “The Outside of the Asylum”. Oh, and changed his name to Wonko The Sane.