Reasons to be cheerful

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The week has passed as if it were five minutes, leaving many tasks, and even sentences, unfini

In times of strife and brouhaha (I don’t want to go into too much detail because I intend this place to be one of shelter from the ills of the world, but, well, you know) – as I say, in times of strife and brouhaha it’s healthy to take refuge in things that make life better. Sometimes they’re tiny and incidental, but nonetheless they’re things that nourish us, and give succour and solace.

Here are a few that do it for me. Feel free to a) disagree, b) try the ones you fancy, and c) add your own in the comments.

  • Mozart.
  • Book. Tea. Duvet.
  • Forgetting I bought something on the internet and then getting a surprise package a few days later, even if it turns out only to be five pairs of comfy socks.
  • Going for a long walk, or even a medium-sized one, or even just a short and brisk one. Failing that, just going outside and looking at a tree, I mean really looking at it, examining the gnarl or smoothness of its bark, the colour and shape of its leaves, the particular way its branches stretch away from me and intertwine as they reach for the sky, its individual geometry and character, drinking it in until I’m lost in it and the world is all tree. I don’t half get some funny looks, but that’s the price you pay.
  • Pondering the brilliance of the tube map.
  • Cooking a meal for my family and playing a board game with them and getting a bit shouty.
  • Ordering a takeaway to eat with my family and playing Mario Kart with them and getting really shouty and a bit angry because DAMN YOU BABY MARIO YOU HIT ME WITH THAT RED SHELL ONE MORE TIME
  • Putting on a comfortable and loved piece of clothing.
  • Taking a square of good chocolate, and I mean really good chocolate, and allowing it to melt on my tongue. No chewing, no biting – that’s what Twix was made for. No, just leaving it until the liquid chocolate slides warmly down my throat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Ok that’s enough now. Maybe just one more. Oh go on then. Oh look, lunchtime.
  • Standing outside in the gathering autumn dusk, when the sky seems to change every second and goes through a range of colours that some people call things like vermilion, carmine, aurulent or incarnadine but I prefer to call ‘all the pinky-orangey-purpley-reds oh wow just look’.
  • Resisting the temptation to photograph the above and put it on Instagram, but just drinking it in and remembering it.
  • Eating all the pistachio nuts with a large glass of red wine.
  • Buying really good pencils and using them to mark up scores then losing them and buying more and using them to mark up scores then losing them and on and on and on.
  • Sharpening really good pencils that I know I’m going to lose. Seriously, there are few things more satisfying than a well sharpened pencil why are you laughing go away I don’t like you any more.
  • The perfection of a really good cheese.
  • The West Wing.
  • Sitting on the sofa writing on my iPad and pretending it’s work.
  • Waving my arms in front of musicians and pretending it’s work.
  • Warm kitchen. Oven. Cooking smells.
  • Hearing a single robin singing in a tree and standing there watching it for ten minutes and persuading myself that it’s doing it for me and me alone.
  • Just looking at the sea.
  • Reading the work of a writer and going ‘Ah yes this is how you do it’ (although also a little bit ‘I wish I could do it like that’, plus a little bit ‘How do they do it perhaps if I work really hard I might do it a bit like that one day’, but also knowing deep down that I won’t and that that’s ok).
  • Doing the same thing with musicians but obviously it’s listening not reading.
  • Piero Della Francesca.
  • Relishing the glory of Ronnie O’Sullivan’s five-minute 147.
  • Those times when, almost by mistake, I make a really good cup of tea.
  • Realising that we haven’t watched Best In Show for like forever and wanting to watch it again but not finding time but then remembering some of the good bits and having a smile.
  • Some Like It Hot.
  • Looking out at the garden and thinking how lucky I am to be married to a gardener, because frankly if it were down to me the place would be a wilderness with two rusting bikes and a rotten cricket bat.
  • Remembering the bit in John Finnemore’s show the other week that made us all HOWL with laughter, and looking forward to it being on the radio.
  • Home made bread.
  • This goes to eleven.
  • Food that delivers the triple hit of umami, gooeyness and a good crispy bit on top.
  • A really good cover drive.
  • Any moment in music that feels like sinking into a really comfortable sofa.
  • Sitting in a good pub with a glass of something after a country walk and getting that feeling of ooh yes this is just right.
  • The smell of a perfect melon.
  • Going to an art gallery. (PS This is a lie. I rarely go to art galleries. Mostly I notice an exhibition is on and think ‘Ooh that looks good I must go it’s on for six months that’s plenty of time ah bugger it it’s finished’. It’s entirely possible the last time we went to one was the Hockney exhibition at the RA and it was the last time Oliver saw his grandma he was six SIX he’s nearly thirteen now crikey and then we went for tea and fancy cakes at a posh cafe over the road and it was a good afternoon).
  • Actually I tell a lie we went to Dulwich Picture Gallery last year it was the Escher exhibition and that was good too.
  • Looking at a beautiful building or an area of urban green space that’s been cleared and planted and tended, or maybe just seeing two strangers smile at each other or offer a small gesture of politeness and concern, and then thinking of all the people who go out of their way to help others when they could so easily ignore them, and thinking that maybe humans aren’t so bad after all.

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  1. Being snuffled against on the sofa by your dog. Giggling (at anything). Reading lists like these. Good coffee after a blustery dog walk. Electric blankets on cold nights. Not having to ride on any more rollercoasters because your child is big enough to do it on his own. Making friends on The Twitters.

  2. I don’t yet know what I like better: what you say or how you say it. Oh, bother, it’s all of one piece, isn’t it? And John Ritter and Hyfrydol, both of whom/which were sung in church today in Des Moines, Iowa.

  3. Dumb, dumb songs: “Louis, Louis”, Chumbawumba’s “I get knocked down”. Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick and Tich’s “Legend of Xanadu”, Cream’s “Mother’s Lament”. I could go on, but I won’t. Be happy!

  4. 1. For Mozart, read Beethoven
    2. My Amazon delivery surprises are normally for son Nick, which he forgot to tell me about
    3. Pencils – eventually there is an invisible sea of them (a bit like Dirac’s sea of negative electrons); sometimes an unexpected event will cause one of them to emerge and be available for use (a bit like Dirac’s positron). Its half-life will be a bit longer than that of a positron, but not much ….
    4. The West Wing – tempted to binge-watch it again, but am put off by the fact once started, it will soon be over and then I will be back to grim reality and Trumpery. Better to preserve it, like a childhood memory, to savour but not revisit.
    5. Some Like it Hot – yes!
    6. John Finnemore – normally there’s repeats on R4e, for binge-listening during sleepless nights.
    7. Umami – try tamarind paste (but the really dark sour stuff from the local Indian)
    8. Hockney – permanently available in the old Salt Mill in Bradford; the Salt Mill itself is a secular cathedral devoted to reading, writing, drawing, listening, and (er) home furnishings.
    9. Escher – ditto in Lister Park, Bradford.
    10. Bradford – has even more pleasures; on the edge of the Yorkshire dales, and the (restrained) wilderness of North Yorkshire….

  5. I love this, thank you for resharing on your June stuff email. In no particular order but just as they come to me.
    1. West Wing, oh yes! The writing, the acting, sublime. In this updated list I can now add Fleabag!
    2. Finishing something, doesn’t matter what although the bigger the better, painting the fence (we have a lot of fence), my latest quilt, a wonderful book. The sense of satisfaction and enjoyment is unrivalled
    3. Freshly mown grass
    4. An unexpected wonderful day
    5. Fabulous friends
    6. A stunning garden, the sort that takes your breath away and makes you want to try harder with your own patch
    7. Spring birdsong, loud brash and in your face

  6. Too many to compliment and agree with. I laughed a bit at “Eating all the pistachio nuts with a large glass of red wine.”. The idea of “all” of them.

    Also having a glass of something after a country walk.

    I’ve bookmarked a memory of being parked for an entire winter afternoon in the Plaza hotel bar with my best friends in grad school, drinking and laughing about nothing in particular. Simply to have had that day with them.

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