"What makes you happy?" I asked a good friend of mine recently, "You know, really happy?" and without missing a beat she said, "I think you can't beat a nice cup of tea." That made me laugh, but she has a point.
It got me thinking about other simple pleasures because it's not just having a cup of tea but lots of little things that begin to take on new meaning as you get older. At least, I think it's because of getting older. Take spring, for example.
I know the winter we have just struggled though has been unprecedentedly long, but still, I don't remember leaf bud and blossom ever causing me quite this level of heart-swelling rapture before. Maybe it always has and I just don't remember but I think there might be something particularly springy about this particular spring.
It's so beautiful at the moment (I wrote this bit on Thursday evening by the way) that I'm even willing to forgive it the attendant hay fever it has so kindly brought along to the party (and can I just add that acute hay fever does not sit well with a middle-aged mother of three who has a weakened pelvic floor, that's all I'm saying, work it out for yourself).
I recall that famous interview with Dennis Potter just before he died, as he alternately sipped morphine and dragged on his I-have-nothing-to-lose-now-cigarette, in which he said that the blossom outside his office window that year was the blossomiest blossom he had ever seen; the point being that he knew he was never going to see any again.
I think some of us feel a teeny tiny bit like that this year: we really were worried for a moment there that it might never come back.
And then I thought of something else that makes me happy, apart from blossom, a nice cup of tea and family and friends, of course, and that's work. Bit of a shock that.
Unfortunately the Nazis rudely stole the dictum 'work sets you free' to use in lieu of a welcome mat above the entrance to concentration camps so its original meaning is entirely disfigured by their extraordinary evil and I will have to apologise for using it, but the whole time I had my nose to the grindstone, working on a little film project over the last few weeks, it kept coming to mind. Maybe a better line is: 'happiness is the completion of achievable tasks'? (I've definitely read that somewhere) but it's much less snappy.
Work per se obviously won't set you free if it's back-breaking grind for little or no pay but work that is meaningful, creative, well-paid, that you can see through to completion and has a sense of satisfaction and achievement attached, not to say decent money, this is a wonderful thing. Another reason why it's just so damn criminal to have more than a million unemployed 16 to 25 year olds in Britain at the moment.
Maybe you knew all about the joys of work already, I guess I did too up to a point, certainly writing has always made me happy or I wouldn't do so much of it for nothing (like blogging) and I'm always happy writing articles for newspapers, despite the fact that it pays so badly, and I was never happier than when I was writing a novel last year...
Ah yes! When writing the novel whole mornings, afternoons, evening slipped away unnoticed beneath my tapping finger tips and that's it, isn't it? Finding that time has passed without realising it, whole chunks of time, that's the hallmark of satisfying work. It means you're so absorbed, you are completely 'taken out of yourself'. No bad thing in my book.
Anyway, being asked to make a short three-minute film by a friend who runs a small production company recently, that was a whole different animal. Here was a task requiring a range of skills from coming up with a concept, researching and writing and interviewing, choosing music and over-seeing the edit and design and execution, most of it from home and all of it for money. Why, forget writing for newspapers! I thought, this is the Holy Grail! Needless to say, I loved every minute of that work, even if it was about a rather unglamorous subject.
Now that it's finished I fear there won't be any more like it for some time, or even ever. Was that my last blossom, I'm wondering? I hope not, but just in case it was I have attached a Vimeo link to the film at the top of the blog on the right, so you can watch it if you want...
P.S. And with regard to the kitchen, I saw a guy last week who did a lovely design and the structural surveyor came round on Saturday to go through ALL the (yawn) details about load bearing, steels and bricks (when all I could think about was wallpaper) and we have asked three builders to provide a detailed breakdown of costs. So, it's onwards and upwards, dear reader.
See you next week...