Small pleasures

‘Please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, “If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.”’

This Kurt Vonnegut quote is on my fridge.  I like it as a kindly reminder to take pleasure in small things that I meet in the day-to-day.   Monday last week began sunny.  I have a crystal hanging in the window, and on sunny days the sun shines through the crystal, creating lovely dancing rainbows on the wall.  It’s not a year round thing – the sunlight starts to enter the room around mid-March and stops around end-October.  So the advent of the rainbows is a wonderful herald of spring and then summer.   The crystal used to hang in my mother’s window.  She took great pleasure in it too.  So, that day began with a small pleasure, and the memory of my mother’s enjoyment of the same pleasure, and triggered the thought that I would write down each small pleasure that particular day.

I found it an easy task. Following the rainbows, I had a mug of coffee.  That’s a daily pleasure – reviewing my journal, I see I frequently write – ‘mmm, coffee, delicious’.  (Usually I’m writing the journal as I drink my first – only – coffee of the day).  The coffee is invariably Columbian, strength 3, made in a cafetiere, with a dash of warmed milk.  Sometimes, attracted by a cheaper coffee offer, I buy a different origin coffee but then it’s not as delicious, and I regardless of price I now buy the Columbian.

Then I went off to collect my grandchildren to take them to school.   That morning they wanted to be ‘wound up’.  I wound them up, turning an invisible key on their backs, as we all sang ‘Wind the bobbin up’.  and they marched to school in robotic wound-up fashion, laughing all the way.  What joy they bring (when they’re cheerful and having fun!)

I got home to take a look at the sweetcorn seeds I’d sown the previous week, 21 ‘Glass Gem’.  They’d all germinated and now, one week later, they are 10 cms high and I am about to plant them out – in a sheltered, sunny spot.  I’m hoping that there are no more frosts to come in the next few weeks.   I want to put them in a container as I’m moving house soon, but I’m not sure that they’ll do well.  The planting advice – sweetcorn, containers or not – is conflicting.   

The next small pleasure on the day I was logging them, was looking out of my window and seeing the Bissett bamboo I’d planted as a screen, waving in the breeze.  It just looked so lovely, with the wind swishing through, making the leaves shimmer and turn.  I know bamboo is feared as invasive, but there are non-invasive varieties.  I have a couple of other varieties in containers, each has a distinctive character.  The Fargesia nitida is doing well, I saw a picture of one in a garden design book and immediately bought one a few years ago and so are the three Fargesia robusta ‘Campbell’, but the Phyllostachys aurea, after 8 years in the same trough is looking woebegone.  I have been feeding it, but it is time to take it out and see if it will revive in a bigger container or whether it has reached the end of its life.   

Onwards through the day, and to my delight I got to the bus stop just as the bus arrived.  I didn’t have to wait at all.  I just jumped on.  It’s invariably a source of joy to me when that happens.  I don’t like waiting for buses, and when I get to the bus-stop I check on City Mapper what time the bus number I want is due.  I know that it takes about 4 minutes to walk between stops, so if I see I’ll have to wait 4 or more minutes, I walk to the next stop.  On occasion the bus whistles past me before I’ve got there, which is infuriating, but at least I’ve had the exercise of walking to one stop and, if I have to wait more than another 4 minutes, I usually, then walk onto the next stop hoping that the same thing doesn’t happen again.

After that trip, and home again, I put the kettle on for a cup of tea.  For as long as I can remember I’ve had the four o’clock munchies and have a little something carbohydrate. My favourite is a wholemeal scone with marmite, and the day I was logging small pleasures I found I had, in my freezer, a wholemeal scone.  Yippee – an add to my list and I thoroughly enjoyed it!

So by 4 o’clock in the afternoon I’d logged seven small pleasures. 

I was talking to my daughter about this exercise and she mentioned she’d come across a writer, Nikita Gill, who, in a similar vein, noted reasons to live through the apocalypse .  It’s a fun read and has a couple of things in it which made me go ‘oh yes, those I would put on my small pleasures list: ‘Watching birds eat from bird feeders,’  is one.  I keep my bird feeders topped up and do love watching them.  I’m amazed, in the winter, when the four suet balls I’ve put in one of the feeders in the morning, have entirely vanished by mid-afternoon. 

The bird reference reminded me that another of my pleasures is seeing the green parakeets feeding on the pink cherry blossom in the spring.  A couple of weeks ago there were three of them and I watched them from my top floor window – singing (to myself) the Bob Marley song ‘Three little birds’ one of my all-time favourite songs.

Then I remembered I book my mother was very fond of, Rose Macauley’s Personal Pleasures: essays on enjoying life.  Last year, triggered by some memory or other,  I  bought a second hand copy of it myself.  It was a lovely re-visit.  The two essays she often mentioned were Bed: 1.  Getting into it  2. Not getting out of it.  It’s hilarious and well worth a read.  The first, begins:  ‘When I consider how, in a human creature’s normal life, each day however long, however short, however weary, however merry, circumstanced by whatever disconcerting, extravagant, or revolting chances of destiny, ends in getting into bed – when I consider this, I wonder why each day is not a happy, hopeful, and triumphant march towards this delicious goal;’

As I closed my day of logging small pleasures I took a quick glance at that essay, and thought, yes indeed, I am fortunate to have a roof over my head, a comfortable bed, and the warmth not as, in Rose Macauley’s case of ‘a rubber bottle filled with hot water’, but an electric blanket.   As I got into my lovely warm bed I murmured to myself, “If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.”

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