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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…)
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:
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…)
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…)
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
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…)
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…)