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Death of the Dining Room

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According to the latest figures by Lloyds TSB Home Insurance, dining rooms in British houses are a dying breed. If they are dying over here in Britain (once a bastion of formal dining) then you can bet that they will be fading away in other countries.

The rather depressing survey suggests that homes are now being built or refurbished with 'kitchen/diners'. Indeed, my own Hanson Towers (a modern city centre flat) does not have a separate room just for dining. Although, for flats - where space is at a premium - I can perhaps see the need to double-up. But there should really be no excuse for building (or buying!) a two-storey house without a dining room. It would be like buying a car without an engine.

I recall once filming a piece for The One Show on table manners, and turning up at the presenter's house for the producer, and I to see that he didn't have a dining table! He did have a flashing, garish jukebox, a treadmill and a 55-inch television! He was single.

What this survey shows is the change in social trends and habits. I am all for progressive change when the result will be for the better, but in this case it is not good. The dining room is where one sits down to eat the main meal of our day (which now falls in the evening for most working people). We also chat with our wives, husbands, girlfriends, boyfriends, housemates or friends about how their day went. We interacted with other human beings. Perhaps the lack of sitting down at the end of the day, and being slightly calmer than we perhaps have been during working hours, has caused so many of the problems that we now face on a daily basis.

No one really knows how to interact with one another at the dinner table any more - certainly not the younger generations who have grown up sans dining room. A typical family will eat in two or three different places of an evening: the parents in the kitchen, one child up in their bedroom, and the other perhaps eating on their lap in front of the television in their 'front room'. And without wishing to make sweeping statements, a majority of this sort of family will be dysfunctional on some level - and the children will grow up to be dysfunctional adults. Not always the case, but true. Families who insist that dinner is eaten all together, at the table where proper table manners will be employed and conversation will flow, are bound to function better. There is no scientific research to back this up, but just mere conjecture on my part, having experienced life and worked within family houses where the dining set-up varies.

The Lloyds statistics showed that one in 50 houses now have a gym; again, another revealing nugget about how we live. Gyms are there for the individual to get fit and look good. A dining table is there to talk to other people and get to know about them and their lives. This only backs up my belief that we have become shallow and materialistic - only concerned with how things look. That is, of course, important, but it is not the be all and end all. Dining is, after all, essential to all of us. It is high time we recognise again the importance of communicating and interacting as a family. These two activities, when practiced together, enhance the benefits of both. The all-important dining room provides the ideal sanctuary in which to build strong family values, something that is slipping dangerously away.

When I move into my first house (rather than a flat) I shall insist that it has a dining room. I mean, how are people to supposed to throw dinner parties without such a thing?