It’s turning into a bit of a preoccupation at the moment….how much stuff do we really need?
A few days ago, I was sitting on a bench in St James’s Park with a friend in the unseasonably warm and pleasant sunshine. Hoards of tourists walked first in one direction to catch the Changing of The Guard, and then, after the swirl of the band had faded back into the barracks, they all returned in the opposite direction. Meanwhile we sat and chatted, while the children ran around playing tag, avoiding a group of young lads playing football under the trees.
It reminded us both of times in Moscow when we had remarked on how little it took for our Russian colleagues to make a party. They didn’t seem to need a special place or special extra forms of entertainment; it was enough that they were together and were going to have some fun. If there was a ball they’d have a game, if there was a lake everyone would swim, if someone had brought a guitar along there would be singing, but even if there was nothing, a game could be devised, or a song in which everyone could join in and dance to.
In my early days in Moscow, I’d wonder what we were going to do when we appeared to have nothing with us. What were we going to eat and drink; not knowing that all you needed was potato, tomato, cucumber and a bit of dill and you could make any manner of things in all kinds of combinations. Take a few shashlik skewers, build a fire in the woods, and you’d have yourselves a full on feast.
When do we lose that ability to make something for ourselves by the simple act of sharing it?
When I hear of children participating in endless improving after school activities, followed by hours of playing on computer games, I wonder how they would make out given a sunny day, a grassy park and a couple of friends. Can they still imagine a game for themselves, or do they need more equipment and a supply of electricity?
Don’t get me wrong, I was quite often bored as a child, but that was usually because I’d finished my book and had to sit still somewhere. These days, the absence of obligations and things that have to be, or should be done, presents tremendous freedom to sit and stare, to people watch and to imagine stories; or to sit with friends and to share those moments of both quiet and noisy laughter.