Never let it be said that this blog is nervous about bucking a trend.
As I write, the G20 is meeting in
. The world’s leaders are acting like startled rabbits caught in the headlights of what will happen when, as seems likely, Cannes eventually defaults and exits the Euro. Even Belusconi has decided that he should try to run Italy rather than indulging in Bunga Bunga (though to be honest I have never been able to work out what 'Bunga Bunga' is – the Italian equivalent of the bear from Rainbow, perhaps? I'd really like someone to tell me). Greece
Big, serious conversations are the order of the day, and I have decided to write in praise of small talk.
Call me superficial. I like small talk. I like the kind of conversation you have with perfect strangers as you wait for that illusive bus. I like conversations about the weather, the failings of public transport. I well remember with affection the morning a fellow bus waiter told me I looked like Marlene Dietrich (well, in a certain light, don’t we all?).
As a Labour candidate, small talk is taking on a whole new meaning for me. I’m doing rather a lot of door knocking, getting to know the people in the ward I hope to represent and the things they think need to be done. I’m enjoying it. Local politics is interesting, because while you do have conversations about the state of the world, the economy and those Big, Intractable Questions, you more often than not have conversations about the bins, noise, antisocial behaviour and the alarming tendency of some people to wee in the streets.
Some would mock such concerns, which, when placed along the pressing questions of our time about the failings of capitalism, rising unemployment and a government that has no growth plan worth mentioning can seem small and piffling. But these seemingly small things are massively important to people because they make the difference between somewhere being a good or a bad place to live.
There’s something else about small talk that its detractors forget. It’s not just that small talk paves the way for those bigger conversations as you get to know people. It’s also that it provides the glue for community. If we took more time to cultivate passing conversations with our neighbours and the people we meet as we go about our business, we might see the place we live as more than somewhere to sleep at night. We might see it as home. And as those irritating 'Love Is…' characters from the 1970s never ceased to remind us, home is the place where you never have to say you’re sorry. Though in the case of people who wee on the street, I might make an exception.