Life is simple when you can reduce everything to a simple binary choice of right and wrong.
When you can bask in the comfort of believing that you are on the side of good and that those who oppose your view are, if not evil, at best misguided and muddle minded.
When age old certainties make things much easier to handle and you can just swim with the tide of popular opinion.
Indeed, I have now reached the age where I should be more sure of my ground and the simplistic assumptions of my youth have become the embedded wisdom of maturity. The Grumpy Old Man with grumpy old views about a grumpy old world.
I wish it were so. Life would be so much simpler. And yes, I admit to having my share of Middle Aged Moans. But on some things, my mind has been opened to new ways of thinking instead of being closed like a clam.
I put this down to my time in politics, and in particular working in No10 with David Cameron. It was his job to lead – but to listen first. To take a firm position, but only after weighing up the pros and cons and testing the alternatives. To recognise that many issues were shades of grey, even if our conclusion had to be argued in monotone sound bites.
Why, my regular reader is now pondering, has Ramsay wandered down this road of revelation? What earth shattering event has made him pause to reflect? (And why is he writing in the third person?)
Don’t fret. I have not changed my view on the great constitutional and political questions of our time. I am not a secret Nat, nor a closet Corbyinista. My mini crisis of conscience isn’t that severe.
It is a question of sport. In particular the World Athletic Championships and Justin Gatlin. The US sprinter who twice, in 2001 and 2006 was banned for violations of drugs rules had the temerity to beat the greatest athlete of all time, Usain Bolt, in the Jamaican’s swan song in the 100m in London.
The crowd booed him on every occasion he was introduced to the arena, and most vocally when he was proclaimed the victor on Saturday night. And that was my moment of reflection. I felt uneasy, indeed queasy. This is sport. Gatlin was not a mass murderer. Just a destroyer of the spectators’ dreams to be there when Bolt bowed out.
I had long believed that all drug cheats should be banned, not just for two years, but for life. No ifs, no buts, no second chances.
But the bans were for two years. The first was dubious as it involved medication for ADHD he had been receiving since the age of 11 and was declared to the authorities. It was reduced to two months. The second ban ended nearly a decade ago. Can we really blame him for returning to competition? Can we really blame him for daring to want to win? And is it right to treat any fellow human being to such public humiliation?
It might not have been the fairy tale ending to Usain Bolt’s otherwise golden career on the track. Gatlin might indeed have been the party pooper. But Bolt was magnanimous in defeat. He recognised the American’s right to be there – and to beat him.
And the London crowd – otherwise the wisest and best in the athletics world – let themselves down.
We all want sport to be clean. We all want the cheats caught. We all want to be sure that the winners win fair and square. And, in truth, all these things happened on Saturday. Like it or lump it, Gatlin ran. And won. And is now clean. And whatever his history, he does not deserve to be booed. It is not his fault he was allowed to compete nor that Bolt was past his best.
The boorish reaction made me reconsider my old certainties. So much so that I haven’t yet come to a conclusion.
Except to realise that wisdom isn’t knowing all the answers, but knowing more of the questions.
Edinburgh is a buzz with festival frolics. I took in a few shows over the weekend. One good, indeed very good; one bad and one indifferent. But that’s showbiz and that’s the Fringe.
The main venues are awash with performers and audiences mingling in the sunshine and showers. Bars abound, beers flow, and every kind of street food you could wish for is on offer.
Shows last an hour, and most spaces are wall to wall with performances – as one show winds up, the next rush in to set the stage. As one crowd departs, the next queues to enter.
Which we do rather well in the UK. We know how to line up. Our innate sense of fair play comes to to fore. Not for us some kind of free-for-all, but calm, dignified queuing. Albeit with a watchful eye for interlopers and sneaky side entrants.
So a word to the stewards at the Teviot: when we have all formed our own queue, leave us be. We know what we’re doing. Asking us all to move to line up a few yards from where we were isn’t necessary. We wont block the bar. Or the toilets.
We’re British. Queuing is what we do.
I’ve not drunk alcohol for well nigh 15 years. I’m a useful man to go out with – always available to drive, ever the voice of good sense when the booze brain afflicts others. And I never have to suffer the morning after.
It has it down sides though. Believe me, I know I’m your best mate. And that you love me. And that the story you’ve just told me for the third time is really, really funny.
When in restaurants the reaction I get is still, on occasion, out of the dark ages.
A quizzical look. The assumption that I must be driving. Or the unspoken belief that I have a booze “problem”.
As it happens, it is none of the above, but an intolerance which means a migraine beckons if a drop passes my lips.
So a wee plea to the few dinosaurs still out there: alcohol is not compulsory. You can have a good time without it.
So when I ask for a glass of fizz, make it sparkling water.