The School of Life, or should that be, Get a Life?

by Jack Gardner
the school of life, London shop

The School of Life is a shop in London, motto, ‘Ideas to Live by,’ that runs courses like, ‘Have Dinner with a Stranger.’



The school of life in old money meant hard knocks, dirty socks and learning that turning the other cheek usually meant getting that one slapped as well, but not any more. The School of Life is a shop in London, motto, ‘Ideas to Live by,’ that runs courses like, ‘Have Dinner with a Stranger.’ at £38 for a Curry with some like minded strangers and a talk on how to de-clutter your life. Or how about ‘A Fry-Up with Jack Kerouac.’ £30 for egg and bacon, but obviously not with Kerouac himself as he is dead, but with a promise of, ‘Satori,’ meaning a Zen awakening, over breakfast? The promoters say, ‘As Kerouac himself would advise, “the only thing to do is go.”’ Yes, go anywhere other than…

This event is being held in a replica fifties, American coffee shop, so bound to be an authentic ‘On the Road,’ experience then. But I don’t think ol’ Jack had in mind the sort of people who say about Dinner with a Stranger, and I quote, “Seriously, one of my most enjoyable nights out in a long time.” And “It was like being thrown into a sea of interesting – and interested – people and having a refreshing dip.” This is E Harmony or Club 18-30, for people who want friends and a social life without the inevitable consequences of dating. Or maybe I’m wrong and it’s the poshest dating club ever. Instead of speed dating, slow dating. These people call a shoal of Whales a pod and flock of crows a murder, and use olive oil for everything, when in fact putting it in your ear is the only thing it’s good for.

The School has a website about its philosophy, which appears to be to do with learning stuff to make you a better person and at their prices a poorer one, like courses called, ‘How to have a Better Conversation, How to be a Better Friend,’ and ‘How to Stay Calm.’ And at the moment on the website is some mad bird giving a talk on learning from other people’s suffering. Talk about recycling. That’s a win, win then.

So the scenario goes like this; you think that your life needs a dinner with some strangers who will turn out to be fantastic company and beguile you with their witty repartee and intelligence? Is that the deal? Says a lot about your current friends, if you have any? Or you want to be taught how to have a good conversation? Or how to be a better friend? You don’t know how to have a conversation or be a good friend? Save your money, or send it to me as I am going to tell you the answer to both, be yourself, that’s it, be yourself. It’ll all be fine.

Now would you want to go to dinner with people who had decided to pay £38 to meet some new friends? That’s what you are doing unless of course there is a hidden agenda here. Is this really just another symptom of a morally bankrupt society spending money on creating an image that all is well, Marie Antoinette’s milk maid and glamping at Glastonbury, come to mind.

I see that Alain de Botton, the millionaire philosopher, is one of the people behind the School of Life. So obviously hadn’t taken the, How to Stay Calm or How to be a Better Friend, courses when he wrote on Caleb Crain, the critic who had panned one of his books blog, ‘I will hate you till the day I die.’ Would’t want to sit next to him at dinner would you?

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