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Sex, alcohol, people: what makes you happy?

I’m sitting on a high-speed train, next to the window, with an empty paper cup.  How best can I make myself happier?

One of my most popular blogs is W. Somerset Maugham on sex, turnips and the meaning of life (links in bold italics are to other posts on this blog).  In his 1938 essay The Summing Up, Maugham explores whether alcohol, sex, writing or companionship can give you fulfilment.

If you are interested in this subject, you may want to explore the links in this post.

I was thinking about happiness recently as I caught a train from London to Manchester (where my mum lives).  I had treated myself to a cup of tea at Euston Station before boarding the train.  Having enjoyed the tea – hot and wet – I wanted to discard the cup.

On the train to Manchester

‘These old Intercity trains usually have a bin by the doors,’ I thought.  I got up, went to the end of the carriage, and, (more…)

10 rules on how to work better: my father’s list, part 2

My blog of January 2016 recorded the discovery of a handwritten list of ten rules of behaviour amongst my father’s papers, two years after his death in December 2013.  The title of the list was: “How to work better”.

You can see the list itself, in my father’s handwriting, at the link above.

The rules seemed profound – or were they?

Research revealed a mystery around the words and whether they represented, as some believed, wise slogans from a Thai factory; or were actually a project by some Swiss conceptual artists.

A reader, @mrRooBKK, has brought to my attention this photograph:

(more…)

Vienna unfriendly? San Francisco a hell-hole?

Respectable Austrian news service APA has published a report saying, and I quote, “according to employees sent abroad by companies, Vienna is the third-most unfriendly city in the world”.

Could this really be true?  How did they work it out?

I looked at the statistics more closely.  It turned out that the report was based on a survey of expats carried out by the “InterNations” network.  You may have heard of them before: two years ago I examined their “Expat Insider 2017” survey, which also rated Austria as one of unfriendliest countries (links in bold italics are to other posts on this site).

Many Viennese are friendly – here at Zum Schwarzen Kameel

Let’s look at a few more statistics from the 2019 report:

  • the InterNations survey rates Milan and Rome as the second- and third-worst cities on earth for expats – behind Lagos, Jakarta or Moscow.  In fact, of the 82 cities measured, Rome comes 81st, Milan 80th.  Just ahead are Paris (78th) and the awful city of San Francisco, ranked 77th.
  • in fact, US cities score terribly in the survey: New York, LA and San Francisco rank 74th, 76th and 77th of the 82 cities rated worldwide.   This seems hard to square with the fact that the United States is a magnet for immigration from around the world.
  • the survey rates Taipei and Kuala Lumpur as the best and second-best cities on earth for expats, narrowly ahead of Ho Chi Min City – the third best city on earth for expats, apparently, and way better than the best US city (Miami, ranked 27th).
  • InterNations members score Vienna as the 23rd best city on earth for expats, just behind Luxemburg City and Manama (in Bahrain).  Vienna comes in fifth out of 82 on the “quality of urban living” index, dragged down by an odd 31st place in the “safety and politics” measure (crime rates suggest Vienna is one of the safest cities on earth).  Under “getting settled”, Vienna scores a poor 68th place, dragged down by coming 80th out of 82 on “local friendliness“.   Hence the headlines.
  • the figures jump around: Vienna came 8th overall in the InterNations survey in 2016; 28th in 2017; 34th in 2018 (must have been a bad year); before soaring to 23rd in 2019.

(more…)

Austria: the best footpaths in the world?

How beautiful can a footpath be?  Austria’s are amongst the best.

I particularly enjoy the country’s system of footpath signs.  Over the past three years here I have photographed many of them.  I reproduce a selection here.

You may wish to pay attention to:

  • nature – many signs are worn or overgrown or both, as wind and weather reclaim them.  This is usually a good thing;
  • texture: the interplay between sign, tree (or rock) and background is often sublime;
  • seasons: some, but not all, footpaths can be enjoyed all-year round.

Each of the following pictures represents a moment of perfection, somewhere in Austria.  If you know where, feel free to comment.

This squirrel is urging people to care for nature (more…)

Appreciating the Cloud Appreciation Society

I recently visited one of my favourite places on earth, Lundy Island off the north coast of Devon, for the 22nd time.

Lundy Island has superb cloudscapes

Between the arrival of the island ship, the MS Oldenburg, and its departure that evening, I was puzzled to see dozens of people wandering around wearing badges around their necks. (more…)

Waugh, Wodehouse, Durrell & Alan Clark: four quotations

Do any of our actions make any difference to anything?  What makes us happy?  What makes us laugh?  What about the power of memory?

This week’s quotations look at all these issues.  The scandalous Alan Clark, whose remarkable and disturbing diaries I have reviewed, clearly thought that sexual activity was keeping him young.  Evelyn Waugh, in his elegiac Brideshead Revisited, blows us away with his reminiscences.  P G Wodehouse, on whom I blog frequently, is the one of the best comic writers on earth.  Lawrence Durrell, meanwhile, is sceptical that any of our lives achieve anything.  I disagree!

Personally, I am a strong believer that our lives can make a difference

4 quotations

Why am I still, in the main, so zestful?

I know, but I don’t like to say

In case the gods take it away.

Alan Clark, The Diaries (more…)

Being happy: Paranoid and Bachelor Boy

What are your all-time favourite songs?

If you are over 25, did you first hear those songs recently or – as I suspect – did you hear them in your teen years or early ’20s?

I am intrigued that the usual lists of things that make people happy, such as family, friends, work, wealth, health, freedom, personal values, and beautiful environments, do not include music or the arts (bold italics are links to other posts on this site).

To hear music is a profound human need; the impact on your wellbeing can be sublime.

So I was fascinated when writing my recent blog How to stay sane: never take yourself too seriously, featuring the wit and wisdom of Deep Purple, to explore my old collection of singles.  What were the first I ever acquired?

To be honest, I am not certain.  My singles were once mixed up with the larger collection of my elder brother (who I believe I remember bringing home “She Loves You” by the Beatles in 1963); and have been culled over the years, including by my giving some to my daughter for her new-fangled vinyl record player.

Leaving aside these quibbles, the oldest singles now in my collection, in reverse order of antiquity, are:

6.  Paranoid, by Black Sabbath (1970) (more…)

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