Addressing the chair
It's not a bad idea to occasionally spend a little time thinking about things you take for granted. Plain everyday things.
The Today planning team evidently share my view on that and to that end have set up some interviews on bizarrely prosaic subjects of late.
We recently ran one on road signs, for example.
This morning it was the turn of chairs to take the spotlight. You can hear the interview with furniture designer Tom Dixon below. (Thinking about it, chairs are very relevant to this year's budget, in that when you listened to it you rather felt you needed to sit down).
So, what did I learn about chairs from meeting Tom Dixon?
At one level nothing at all.
You see, I had thought Mr Dixon would tell me about how a good chair works; what the optimal ergonomic design consists of; what the relative dimensions are that spread the weight of the body over the widest possible area. That sort of thing.
Not a bit of it.
He appeared remarkably uninterested in the functional aspects of the design and almost exclusively preoccupied with the aesthetics.
That was initially disappointing.
I thought I was somehow missing out on securing any crucial new insights into the pure ideal of a chair. Until Tom explained that good chairs are not about function at all.
And now I understand...chairs are really about meaning.
A chair's function is not just to provide a place to sit; it is to provide a medium for self-expression. Chairs are about status, for example. Or signalling something about oneself.
That's why the words chair, seat and bench have found themselves used to describe high status professions from academia to Parliament to the law.
And the implication is that the statement a chair makes through its design is as important as any ergonomic performance. Or to put it another way, most of us would put up with some discomfort to have the smartest looking chair on the block.
Obviously one can't push the argument too far...the comfort of a chair does matter of course. And some chairs - like the plastic one I'm sitting on, in fact - are designed to be little other than cheap, stackable and sturdy.
But the general message that there's more to a chair than its contact with our backside applies to most of what we consume. Once we are fed, heated, housed and healthy, our extra consumption inevitably has an element of luxury about it.
And once luxury enters the scene, the practicalities are in trouble, as women who wear expensive stiletto heels can testify.