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Finding happiness in unlikely places

May 11, 2021

This week I’ve made a concerted effort to be happy.

Boris Johnson has just announced that it’s OK for us English to hug each other. Even though Johnson himself is the last person in the world I’d like to hug, except possibly the Orange Monster, I’m delighted that the Ministry of Silly Hugs, locked away in Westminster, has made this determination. What other physical acts will we soon be allowed to perform? The mind boggles. My only quibble is that we’re only allowed to hug our loved ones. I should have thought that unloved ones are more deserving.

Anyway, what other reasons are there to be happy? I sometimes think of finding happiness as a form of alchemy – creating emotional gold out of the base metal of experience. Hence the Breughel painting (The Alchemist) above. Let’s find some examples.

On Saturday, it pelted down with rain. I wimped out of a round of golf, but it was such a pleasure to see the rain bathing my roses and kissing the grass. I wonder if Noah felt the same way about his pomegranates before God spoke to him.

We’ve just had an election, and the Charlatan Party carried almost all before it (I’m not talking about the Scottish Nationalists or Welsh Labour). But I don’t care, because we’re not about to go to war with France. That makes me very happy.

The social media thinks I’m an alien-obsessed Manchester United fan with an interest in buying gold coins and electric radiators. Let them think that. I shall continue to do random searches to throw them off the scent. It shows how dumb their algorithms are. Such fun to be had with pieces of inanimate code.

It’s someone’s birthday today, Facebook informs me, but on principle I’m not bothering to congratulate them because I’m not an electronic sheep. I’m happy about that.

LinkedIn wants me to apply for all kind of grand-sounding chief executive jobs, because it doesn’t know I’m seventy and I’m quite happy not working for anyone, thank you very much.

My local online website has just informed me that Japanese knotweed undermines houses and makes them harder to sell. I’m delighted, because no little knotweed seeds have been drifting past our house lately.

Over the weekend, we went to dinner with two other couples in someone’s garden. We’re all fully vaccinated, and the whole thing almost felt normal. We talked, among other things, about holidays in Tristan da Cunha and St Helena. I was fine with that, because I’m good at delayed gratification.

The other day, our little grandson spent the day with us while his mum was at work. He was as good as gold. I felt smug because he’s driving her mad at the moment. Don’t worry, I was able to say with the wisdom of an experienced parent, familiarity breeds contempt and it’s only a phase. Smugness counts as happiness, even if it’s a slightly twisted version.

Skimming through my MSN news feed, I learn from a Daily Mail “expert” that “farting could help lower your blood pressure”. I’m delighted to hear that, until I realise that misread the word “fasting”. But I’m sure the former statement is also true. So I’m pleased, because I now know why, against the odds, my blood pressure is consistently normal. I also have a little giggle when I imagine Trump in one of his medical press conferences telling the world that flatulence wards off COVID. The consequences would have been unimaginable.

Last week, someone stole my identity on Facebook and created a rival me, seemingly to spam my friends. I’m delighted, because the new me was born in 1953. This means that in a couple of years I’ll be able to celebrate my 70th birthday again. Oh joy.

Soon there will be cricket on the telly again. England are playing New Zealand. Not only that, but I’m going to a real live match. I shall have the opportunity to take a train for the first time since lockdown. Such pleasure to be had from small things. Also the prospect of falling asleep among hundreds of others is almost as exciting as being able to indulge in a group hug.

Speaking of telly, we watched Tenet the other night. My block was comprehensively busted. I don’t think I’ve ever sat through two hours of crash-bang-wallop, much of it in reverse, and not had a clue about what was going on throughout, except that the ending was neatly set up for an equally incomprehensible sequel. Why was I happy about that? Because we were spared the effort and expense of going through the same fatuous experience at a cinema seven miles away.

I’m currently reading a book called Putin’s People, which of course is about Vladimir Putin and the irredeemable shits with whom he has surrounded himself during his distinguished political career. His life is a reminder that you can have wealth and power, but if you find yourself unable to walk away without being eaten by wolves, you are condemned to an eternity of paranoia and sadness. Sic semper tyrannis. Which makes me profoundly grateful that fate granted me a life of obscurity.

This little stream of disconnected thoughts is the result of a concerted effort to be happy at a time when good cheer seems to be in short supply. If you’re feeling a bit miserable, please remember that if I, the gloomiest bastard on the planet, can do it, so can you.

But fear not, no doubt tomorrow I shall find many reasons to be melancholy again. Because, as Gordon Gekko didn’t say, gloom is good.

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