Over the past few years, it’s become deeply fashionable to whinge and worry about ‘dumbed down’ Britain.
News stories abound about how the internet is making us stupid and that the general public’s general lack of general knowledge is hitting new and extraordinarily low levels. There are even helpful quizzes online to show us just how dumb we are.
My parents’ generation seems infinitely cleverer than my own. Doing the Times’ crossword with Best Mate’s mother is something of a walk in the part, and I know no one on the planet whose geographical knowledge surpasses that of Pa Blonde. I, on the other hand, quake with fear when it comes to the fight for the blue cheese in a hotly-contested game of Trivial Pursuit (let me assure you: there are no other ways to play board games chez Blonde), rarely able to tell you how to get from A to B, let alone the largest city in Asia by surface area.
And daily evidence does seem to suggest that Generation Y, particularly, inhabits a cocoon in which celebrity magazines proliferate and the nation is gripped by television programmes entirely devoid of merit – intellectual, artistic or otherwise. If you need further proof, do check Twitter during scheduled crowd-pullers, when ever so depressingly, people whose opinions you value and enjoy suddenly out themselves as avid fans of the X Factor – or worse, Made in Chelsea.
But sometimes, things come along that remind us we’re not going to Hell in a handcart.
Small things crop up, like the fact that The Writer is currently reading Plato - just for fun, and that a fellow commuter on the 07.29 is currently choosing to teach himself Japanese on the way to work.
There has been massive love shown for not reality television, or talent shows, but a natural history programme during the past few weeks, and both Social Circle Blonde and the wider media have concurred that Frozen Planet might just be the best thing on telly, ever, purely for the number of penguins per frame. And this follows hot on the heels of Wonders of the Universe, and Professor Brian Cox becoming the first celebrity rockstar physicist the country has ever know.
And, perhaps most hearteningly of all, there were whacking great queues last week for the sold-out show of paintings by Leonardo da Vinci at the National Gallery. Massive online scrambles and heaps people willing to stand in the London cold on a November morning for tickets to high art exhibitions fill me with a deep, deep joy.
Maybe it’s not all as bleak as we think. If only I were better at Geography.