Simon Kelner: 2011: the year that taught me to value friends

This is the last of these daily musings before Christmas, so it is an appropriate moment to ask what – if anything – we have learnt from 2011.

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The Independent Online


This is the last of these daily musings before Christmas, so it is an appropriate moment to ask what – if anything – we have learnt from 2011. I'm not talking about the big things, like how democracy has its best chance of flourishing if it is seeded from within (the Arab Spring) rather than exported forcibly by a foreign power (the Iraq War). No, I mean the small shafts of illumination that add to our understanding of everyday life.

Speaking personally, this has been the year I've got to grips with Twitter and I've discovered quite a lot about the power, the possibilities and the pitfalls of this highly pervasive medium.

For instance, beware the thought that it's a true measure of public opinion, no matter how consistent one particular view appears to be. It could just be that, not unnaturally, you follow people of a similar mindset. Nevertheless, I have come to think of Twitter as the most significant media development of the past 20 years.

This was also the year I fell in love with the iPad. I'm not exactly at the cutting edge of technology, but this little device has changed my life: no need for video, no need for a laptop, no need for an office, even. Every day, I am astonished by how much I rely on it.

Apart from the late Steve Jobs, the person who has most enriched my life this year is, if you'll forgive my indulgence, Roberto Mancini, the Manchester City manager. He has defied all of those envious supporters of other football clubs and snooty pundits by proving you can turn a collection of expensively assembled individuals into a team that plays the beautiful game, well, beautifully.

I'm also at the age, unfortunately, where I'm likely to have four funerals and no weddings and this year has been particularly bad on that front. I learnt one thing from the slow death of Philip Gould, the New Labour strategist and a man of unimpeachable integrity: if it's possible, put a lot of thought into your funeral, because people will really thank you for it. I've also been thinking a lot about friends and how easy it is not to see enough of them. Our northern European work ethic – coupled with universal job insecurity – means we spend more and more hours at work and end up socialising with contacts or colleagues, leaving an insufficient amount of quality time with friends.

Around this point every year, I always pledge to reverse this imbalance, without success. This time I'm serious, and if you feel like I do, I urge you to do the same. I'd like to say that I've also learnt this year to be more tolerant, less judgmental, more generous, kinder and more altruistic, but that would be in breach of my search for personal honesty. The one thing I have learnt for sure is it's possible to be sick of the sound of my voice (yes, even for me) so I'm giving you (and I) a break over the holidays. Happy Christmas!