The event was a debate of the motion “To Stop Climate Collapse, We Must End Capitalism.” Proposing were George Monbiot (a left wing journalist and author) and Farman Yamuna (an environmental lawyer and leading light in the Extinction Rebellion movement). Contesting the motion were Adair Turner (Chair of the Energy Transition Commission as well as many other high level govt posts) and Tony Juniper (former executive of Friends of the Earth)
I’d booked the tickets well before Xmas as my son is a vegan on “saving the planet” grounds. I thought he’d be interested, and I have some strong views on the subject, so wanted to listen to the topic argued by people with more expertise than I. Also, he lives in London and my wife is always happy to have an excuse to visit him.
So why grumpy? Well firstly because we’d asked him to book the restaurant. He’d booked The Ivy.
As we headed down to the station, yesterday morning, I grumbled to my wife “isn’t there some unwritten rule, some natural etiquette, some common sense that would tell you not to book the most expensive restaurant you can find if somebody else is paying.” All this through the coughing and sneezing of a really crappy cold. My wife had minimal sympathy with either … further cause to be at odds with the world.
This isn’t a blog about politics, so I’ll strive manfully to keep my views to myself. What was fantastic, in our short attention span, contentious, world, was to see four intelligent people debating an issue at length, calmly, rationally and with courtesy. The absence of a Rottweiler interviewer, desperately trying to advance his or her career with trick questions, was a noticeable and blessed absence. What was also striking was that there was 100% agreement on the scale and urgency of the problem, only in the approaches to its solution were there differences.
We were asked to vote on the motion on the way in, and again after the debate. It may have helped my enjoyment that my side won, which is not what I would have expected from a Metropolitan London audience with an average age much less than 40.
I was already much more mellow anyway because The Ivy had been a delight - a lovely restaurant in which we'd enjoyed a very convivial afternoon. My son was a late addition to our family- he (and his girlfriend) are 23. I’m 63. Amongst many other topics we had a lively debate about woke identity culture. It was interesting and heartening to see how his generation thinks and argues. We disagreed, but that’s also possible where there is mutual respect. We also both learned something about the other perspective. Beyond this there was much banter and a great deal of laughter.
Son tried to take over the wine list and asked his girlfriend what she’d like. I explained they had a helpful set of numbers, opposite each wine, down the right-hand side of the list. Numbers under 50 were extremely rare on this list and therefore definitely the ones to go for.
My cold manifested, occasionally, as an intense paroxysm of coughing (notably on receipt of the wine list). Some neighbouring tables looked over in alarm. I waved weakly and explained I hadn’t fully got over the jet lag from the Beijing flight
When the bill came, they were both effusively grateful, as indeed was I … for having had the foresight to arrange a second mortgage before the event. I don’t know what stage in life your parents stop being your parents and become just other adult human beings to whom the normal rules apply. Clearly, he hasn’t got there yet and, well, so what? I’m very proud of him.
Also, I console myself by gleefully calculating the rate at which I’m getting through his inheritance…