I have generally never found it difficult to make a decision. I’d point at cake in the bakery and say, “I want that one.” And it usually has sponge and a whipped cream centre oozing out of the middle of it. Sometimes, if by some complete miracle, I find something in the clothes store which fits me I’ll impulsively tell the assistant to bag up a blue one and a pink one and even the one with the black and white stripes. Okay, it makes me look wider and when I stare at myself in the mirror it makes my eyes go so funny that I have to blink a lot to re-focus. But, these are the days of snap decisions. Hell, the second hand car I’ve bought was because I liked the leather trim on the seats. What do I care if the air conditioning has a life of its own and there is an unexplained thud every time I indicate left? I’m getting used to it. It’s opinions which I’m finding the harder nut to crack.
“What’s your opinion on the current state of the UK government?” asked my friend Gary.
We were sitting in a London branch of Yo! Sushi at the time. Bowls of Japanese food were floating on a conveyor belt which slowly wound its way around the restaurant past the diners and then back into the kitchen and then back past the diners. It was incredibly hypnotic. It was like standing transfixed next to an airport carousel watching luggage going endlessly round and round, only you got to eat the suitcases.
“I don’t know,” I said, staring at a glazed prawn on a pillow of rice glide past my eye line. Trying to make a decision and being asked my opinion at the same time was always going to be a complete non-starter.
“What do you mean you don’t know?” said Gary. He had already removed 3 bowls of something spicy from the belt but because I was spoiled for choice I remained, staring, and starving.
“You must have an opinion, everyone has an opinion,” he said. He was holding a pair of chop sticks in mid air looking bemused.
“Well, I have an opinion on some things but not sure I have one about that.”
For example I have an opinion on the current fad for having circular baskets on living room walls, and I’d have been happy to give Gary my professional interior designer’s view on that. When I was younger my father always told me never to discuss politics, religion, or money with anyone. He said if I did it would lead to all sorts of problems. Which probably explained the fraught state of my parents marriage when I was growing up because my mother always wanted to talk to him about the perilous state of their joint bank account, whilst he refused and just sat blankly watching the football. This could explain why my mother once famously hit my father with a frying pan, so personally I think my father’s view about being silent on some topics was flawed.
”The UK has become a laughing stock. It’s like we’re living in some sort banana republic. We’re slowly becoming the new Italy.” Gary sucked his teeth and took a sip of saki. I sensed things were getting deep.
That’s the thing with opinions. Everyone has one and can’t wait to tell you it. And they are shocked if you don’t really have one, don’t agree with theirs or challenge their thinking. Suddenly there is something wrong with YOU. All round I’d say it’s easier just to agree with everything anyone says. It makes life a whole lot simpler and you can concentrate on the things that really matter to you. Like Japan’s take on dim sum.
“Actually I agree with you,” I said, “I was thinking exactly the same thing myself but just didn’t want to leap right in there and tell you what I thought. I really admire your candour,” I said. I swiftly picked four bowls of food one after the other. I was amazed how easy it was.
Later, Gary said how refreshing it had been to dine with someone who agreed with his views on almost everything he said, and then he utterly insisted on paying the bill. All I can tell you is that I’m guessing it was someone with a big opinion who argued that there was no such thing, as a free lunch.