Tuesday, 17 December 2013

3 Happy Things

After writing the Hardwiring Happiness post, I started thinking about how I could turn noticing the little things that make me happy on a daily basis into a habit. So, I thought I'd start a new series here on the blog called "3 Happy Things" just to keep the idea fresh in my mind. I hope these little posts spark your imagination and keep you on the lookout, too!

After a weekend jaunt to Bath, here's my first offering...

One: Visiting a funky, vintage guitar shop with my husband

Two: Incredibly uplifting, bright red cyclamen

Three: Discovering Bea's Vintage Tea Rooms and the most delicious lemon meringue cake ever with my lovely friend Victoria

I wonder what three little things will make you happy today?

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Jeeves and Wooster in Perfect Nonsense

Oh my, I can't remember the last time I saw a show where the audience laughed so hard, so often and so genuinely for the entire performance! The woman at the end of our row had one of those shrieky laughs that made her sounds as though she were rapidly inflating and deflating, but she was having so much fun that no one begrudged her the weird noises she was making! The bottom line was that we were surrounded by pure joy for the whole evening, reminding me once again that laughter really is the best medicine.

Matthew Macfadyen was stupendously good as Jeeves. His quick-fire character changes (he often played two people at the same time!) were astounding. The comic timing was impeccable, the energy zinging and the script word-perfect. Even the set was brilliant — and funny in its own right! I've never seen anything quite like it.

Stephen Mangan was extremely endearing as Bertie Wooster and Mark Hadfield did a great job of covering all the other parts with aplomb. If pre-Christmas preparations are stressing you out, and you live within shouting distance of London, I highly recommend dropping what you're doing and booking tickets… but be quick, it's only on til March.

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

The Diary of a Provincial Lady

While I am not particularly girly, I have to admit that I am a sucker for a Virago Modern Classic. The beautiful new cover designs are like catnip and make me want to buy them all up just so I can look at them all lined up on my shelf together. Shallow? Perhaps, but they make me happy and buying a hardback feels blissfully indulgent in these times of austerity.

Somewhat oddly, I seem to be making a new habit of old books. The Diary of a Provincial Lady by E. M. Delafield was originally published in 1930.  I love novels that detail the social history of a time and this one deftly, but gently satirizes the life of an upper middle-class woman and stalwart member of the Women's Institute. The book, which started life as a serialization for a popular weekly, is set out as the "diary of a provincial lady" living in Devon.

She (we never learn her name) is plagued by her hapless husband, unruly children, troublesome servants and, of course, the unofficial "head lady" of the village to much comic effect, but really it is Delafield's use of language that endeared this book to me. (The same reason I was drawn to The Enchanted April; see that post here.) People don't write or speak this way any more and I so wish they did! One example: our heroine's husband must attend a funeral and she is helping him by pulling out "his accoutrements of woe". How wonderful is that?!

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Hardwiring Happiness

I recently read about a book called Hardwiring Happiness, which explains how to reprogramme your brain by focusing on positive experiences through the senses on a daily basis. So, paying attention to a smell that conjures up a happy memory (maybe your grandmother's apple pie), a sound that lifts your spirits (a favourite song playing while you wait in line for a coffee), a sight that makes you smile — such a cliché, but the autumn leaves get me every single year!

I started trying to notice little things like this as often as possible each day and it really does work in terms of making you feel "glass half full". I was with my youngest daughter in a candy shop last weekend and Abracadabra by The Steve Miller Band was playing. It took me back to the happy, optimistic part of my teen self. I felt like she often lost out to the jaded, cynical part (although several friends have told me that what they remember most about me during those years was my laugh, so maybe not).

Abracadabra got stuck in my head and made me smile all day long. Little things like that go unnoticed if we don't make a conscious effort to stop and honour them, but it's so worth the effort because they can change the whole tenor of your day if you let them. Who says only the "bad" stuff should hold our attention? Here are some other happy things I noticed recently:

* Our apartment faces due west and every night I get to watch the spectacular colours as the sun sets, and it's always majestic

* I've started looking out for interesting doorways — they always hold "possibility"

* It makes me happy to see people wearing or displaying handcrafted things. I am lucky to live in a neighbourhood full of creative people so I watch out for their talents

* I visited a yarn shop this week and spent some time sitting on the floor immersed in the colours and textures of a whole wall of wool — and, of course, had to bring some home...

* My mother bought me a stunning mini orchid in a greeny-yellow shade that I just can't stop looking at

* I am obsessed with the smell of my new face oil (see post about it here)

What have you noticed lately?