We had some fun at a Humanist meeting last night, thanks to you, Mark [Mark Murphy, BBC Radio Suffolk presenter]. Well, partly thanks to you, and partly thanks to Lesley [Lesley Dolphin, also from Radio Suffolk, and Mark’s wife]. She asked me to be a Crabby Old Woman on her programme a couple of weeks ago – I think you’d told her I could be a bit grumpy sometimes.
We copied the idea at our meeting, when everyone was told they could have a rant for five minutes about something that really annoyed them. I took my red plastic tomato timer from the kitchen, but I needn’t have bothered. As soon as someone started, everyone else joined in to say how much they were annoyed by the same thing. The subjects included junk mail, excess packaging, premium rate phone calls, queues when there’s nowhere for elderly people to sit down, and litter. One of our members despaired at the way we have lots of graduates but not enough people with practical skills, due, he says, to the decline of vocational education. Another spoke about the prevalence of straw polls, on TV and in newspapers, which don’t actually prove anything because they’re not conducted scientifically. It sounds very grumpy indeed, but the thing that struck me was that we laughed a lot. It was like a group therapy session, being encouraged to let rip. Everyone enjoyed it.
I learned a couple of good ways to deal with unsolicited phone calls from sales people – apart from the telephone preference service, that is. Cliff lives in sheltered accommodation, so when someone tried to sell him some double glazing he told them he wasn’t sure, as he was in a home for the feeble-minded. Another time, he said it was a pity they’d rung just then as it wasn’t very convenient; there was a body on the kitchen floor and the police had just arrived – could they ring back later?
Apart from laughing a lot, there was a lot of agreement. Many of the issues were related to the environment. It seems we Humanists care passionately about waste, pollution, and taking responsibility for the planet and the other living creatures we share it with. It may not have seemed very constructive, just letting off steam like this, but I felt heartened just the same. Here was a group of people who weren’t just complaining; they were also talking about the ways they could make a difference, from picking up litter to cutting down waste. It all helps, doesn’t it?