Henry Ford famously said that if he’d asked his customers what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.
In short, too often people are so busy fighting change they can’t actually see the improvements moving forward will bring.
Take the cafe culture which has arrived in the north-east on the back of the coronavirus pandemic. There is now a suggestion that it shouldn’t be a fleeting necessity to help pubs and restaurants stay afloat but a permanent part of life in the Granite City.
Of course it should. Having these al fresco spots for wining and dining is possibly the only good thing to have come out of the grim nightmare of lockdown.
It felt like being on holiday
They have changed the nature of the city centre, bringing a bit of colour and life to the place. There have been times when I’ve been in Aberdeen and it’s almost felt like being on your holidays.
One of my most pleasurable dining experiences of recent months was the laid-back and lush lunch Mrs B and I enjoyed in the summer house outside Cafe 52 on the Green in the depths of winter.
There have been the odd beers in the Ivy Lodge on Shiprow, with its artificial grass and fairy lights. And let’s not forget the charcuterie board outside Vovem, or the cocktails under canvas at Malmaison.
All of these places – and more – have adapted to our new way of socialising because they had to. In doing so, it has opened our eyes to the potential of going al fresco.
As we come out of lockdown we need to look to a future beyond just recovery, vital as that is, but toward how we build a better city centre. Which is why Aberdeen Inspired has sensibly suggested that Parisian-style cafe culture should be here to stay.
Right on cue, the usual band of keyboard warriors summoned their powers of negativity online to express outrage and horror over the rain, the cold, the seagulls, the bus route diversions and ugly tents.
Don’t worry – patio heaters are a thing
Fortunately, the nattering naysayers have been matched by the number of people saying: “Bring it on”. Those are the ones aware of the joyful existence of caeé culture in other parts of the world – oh, and that patio heaters exist.
The city centre is tired and failing and needs to find a path out of oblivion.
According to the “nothing must change” brigade, the solution is more shops and buses and turning the clock back to the days when Union Street was chock full of prestigious department stores and quality shops. See the aforementioned “faster horses”.
What the city centre needs is people. And people need a reason to go there. Cafe culture offers that. Done properly, it could transform Aberdeen into a truly vibrant place, full of life and folk.
Let’s ignore the whinging and embrace cafe culture. I think we’ll like it.
Scott Begbie is entertainment editor for The Press & Journal and Evening Express