Reasons to be cheerful

28 May, 2012 (15:02) | All articles | By: Stuart Fraser

At the risk of sounding like the script to a Disney film, I thought this week that rather than the usual ranting, I might think about happiness.

So here are some of the things that make me happy, in no particular order.


Drinking with friends at the pub, and the surreal accompanying banter.

Walking my dog in the woods. Even though a certain Brother’s slavering collie dog head-butted me in the unmentionables this morning.

Watching the river: every split second there’s movement and life and interest; today the ducks; maybe tomorrow a kingfisher? Every sound in the woods means something: “I’m hungry. I’m horny. I’m here, heeeere…”

Seeing my children laugh.

Music. Today so far it’s been Thomas Tallis’s masterpiece Spem in Allium, a 1970 concert by Derek and the Dominoes, chugalong Americana from Israel Nash Gripka, the jazz giants Jim Hall and Paul Desmond playing together in 1975 on Concierto, and Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata.


Those occasions – admittedly rare – when the family exhales and sits down to eat together in contentment, or cuddles up on the sofa.

Reading. I’m re-reading Stuart Maconie’s Pies and Prejudice, a book about the north. It’s really funny and perceptive and there are some powerful passages about the damage done to ‘the other half’ of our so-called country: “The British textile industry was doomed, particularly since the days of muscular protectionism of British industry were long gone. The new political paymasters in London spoke of a ‘leaner and fitter’ Britain while featherbedding themselves with dubious sell-offs and fat bonuses. The rest of us, whether we spoke ‘Lanky’ or Urdu, whether we were born in Karachi or Keighley, could go to hell. We did.” And talking of Thatcher – blood pressure rising, rising – Maconie uses this lovely phrase: “Long before Thatcher was a malevolent twinkle in a Lincolnshire grocer’s eye…”.

Looking at the garden (yes, Brother, out of the window). And at the birds bustling back and forth to the feeder. There’s a woodpecker out there now, flaunting his scarlet.

Test Match Special. Isn’t it great that the West Indies seem to be on the road to revival? Maybe next tour they’ll be frightening the wits out of us again.

Rebels. People who keep the faith and can’t be bought. In the Independent today there’s a lovely profile of the Beast of Bolsover, Dennis Skinner, whose Parliamentary and political bootlaces that pointless fop Cameron isn’t fit to lick. Did you know Skinner has never accepted a foreign trip, never accepted a journalist’s drink, never let anybody buy him dinner in the Commons restaurants?


Laughter, of course: William Shatner on Have I Got News for You…. The unwitting humour of Coast, in which the programme featured the 1854 voyage of the Mystery from Newlyn to Australia, the smallest boat ever to make the trip. They gave a voice-over to readings from the ship’s log, and the voice doing the over was about as Cornish as the Queen’s backside. Ohh arrr and straight outta Borsetshire he were. Hilarious.

Friends. Dear Captain Kay was sent to photograph some Olympic torch-bearers last week; one was disabled, head slumped. His wife attempted to manhandle his head into a position suitable for a photograph. “Madam, desist,” said Captain Kay. “It’s only a newspaper, for Chrissake.” Old Father Cullingham bumped into me in the village last week, in a hurry as he and his Management were on their way into Plymouth University to hear a lecture on Islam. There you are: two little life-affirming moments from talking to friends.

Conversation. Debate. Continuing from Old Father Cullingham’s spirit of exploration and tolerance above, there was a beautiful show about the tradition of bread in faiths on Radio 4 last week: a rabbi, an imam and a bishop shared stories from their respective traditions, in many ways similar, shared bread, shared the breaking of bread with their differing congregations and in doing all this together, in friendship, made the world a much better place for a few minutes.

Cooking: I didn’t make bread but I loved making burgers and a Greek salad for dinner on Saturday. I’m still waiting for a few spare minutes to brew some stinging nettle beer. I’m getting pretty thirsty now.

Did I mention naughtiness?

Country churchyards.


Reading your comments.

Finishing a job and thinking: “I did that.” Though given the standard of my workmanship, it’s more a case of finishing a job and thinking “bugger”.

Watching the children play with their friends, and enjoying the way they have learned to have fun.

Generosities. I’m constantly struck by how kind people are.

The great good fortune of where I live.

The fact that I don’t have to sit in as factory or office, clamber down a pit or up a ladder.

Gosh, that’ll do for a moment. But there’s so much to be happy about and grateful for it’s astonishing I have any time to be grumpy at all.

Reasons to be fearful…?

At the risk of several Brothers and Sisters lowering the tone, go on, share your joy. What makes you happy?


Comment from Stents the Younger
Time May 28, 2012 at 3:56 pm

How very optimistic Stuart. I just had to join in.


All of the above at the same time.

My newly discovered ability to make interesting and tasty flavours of gin (although the original version is pretty damn good).

Watching a cat do (or not do) anything. Above all creatures they appear to have just got life completely sorted.

My family. Even that grumpy old bugger in France.

Being old enough that I no longer give a damn what people think about me.

The fact that I am lucky enough to live a life where this list could go on for pages (but, don’t worry, I won’t).

Comment from One Old Fiddle
Time May 28, 2012 at 5:38 pm

Just because it was my dog that caused distress in the dangly bits region doesn’t give you licence to use that inane phrase “head-butted” (or headbutted”). WTF else can you butt with? Your knee? Your elbow? It’s like saying “foot-kicked” or “fist-punched”. A simple “butted” will do nicely becausse you can’t carry out the action with any part of your anatomy other than the head. Now I’ve forgotten what makes me happy…

Comment from Hamster
Time May 28, 2012 at 8:48 pm

Reasons to be cheerful = Stuart.
Let me explain, If ever I am feeling down, which luckily isn’t too often but when it does happen I go to the pub, sink a couple pints and listen to Stuart for an hour and I am cheerful for days to come.

Comment from Hamster
Time May 28, 2012 at 9:34 pm

This weeks Hamster Top Tip – be content and you will be happy 🙂

Comment from StentsRus
Time May 29, 2012 at 7:43 pm

Dear oh dear oh dear Fraser!…The reason for your joie de vivre is obvoius…I suspect that some beastliness has taken place…I do hope that you haven’t been “inflicting” yourself again!?…after all look what happened on previous (no more than two) occasions.

Comment from Bertie
Time June 1, 2012 at 10:12 am

The thought that I may have woken the village up at 4am whilst on the way to work on the bike always brings a smile to my face…..but the surreal conversations partaken of on a Friday evening in the Church House can make my sides ache!!

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