Tag Archives: happiness

Forty Two Posts to Go

Forty two posts to go until I hit 3,000. The sad thing is that when i go back over them, I lead a life that is a lot less interesting than it was five years ago, and have also managed to forget a lot of the good bits. By the time I hit 4,000 what will life be like?

Will I just get up, moan for 250 words, eat some sort of dietary grade swill and hurl abuse at the TV? That is, to be fair, a direction I can see life taking.

Or will I spring from my bed after a miraculous change in lifestyle, pen a witty 250 words and attend to my latest sparkling poetry whilst turning down an invitation to yet another awards dinner?

You can never tell. Life, so far, has been a succession of constant surprises. Mainly, these days, the surprise is that I wake up without feeling that something else has worn out, but summer is coming and that is usually good for a few months of relative happiness. Talking of which, we sold a coin from Bhutan this morning.

I was going to go into a couple of hundred words about happiness, but I looked for a link, read the results, found out that Bhutan isn’t as happy as it is generally said to be, and decided to give it a miss. This just goes to show that too much information can lead to unhappiness. A few minutes ago I was quite upbeat and well on my way to a joke about having a clown as Prime Minister (Boris, not the current one). Now it seems that I have been massively misinformed and Bhutan isn’t really a happy place (actually being 95th out of 156 countries in the 2019 survey). Now I’m sad, as it seems my faith in Bhutan may be misplaced.

The header picture is Julia, if you look closely. She is one of life’s constant surprises, as nobody who knows me can understand why she puts up with me. I can’t either. She probably ranks higher in the world happiness rankings than Bhutan too.

Cold, Customers and Contentment

All I did this morning was scrape three windows and two mirrors and my fingers became so cold that I couldn’t get the safety belt on until I’d beaten my hands together to restore the feeling.  That was probably the worst bit of the day, because it took a distinct upturn once I got to work.

We have been arguing with a customer and were expecting eBay to find in his favour despite his stupidity and unreasonable behaviour. We sent a parcel to the USA and the USPS tried to deliver it. Nobody was in and they left him a note to tell him. He claims they didn’t. We hear this a lot from customers and, based on experience, tend to disbelieve them.

He then said he didn’t know what to do and we would have to sort it out for him. We said that we couldn’t and he would have to sort it out himself. I don’t see this as unreasonable – what can we possibly do from this distance? I advised that he should contact his local delivery office or ask the postman. They would be able to tell him what to do. He refused.

He told us that he has 100s of post offices within a 20 minute drive and couldn’t visit every one. We said he didn’t need to as one conversation with his postie or on the phone should reveal all. And so it carried on. And on. He clearly had no intention of collecting it. or making any effort, and finally told us he didn’t want it and opened a case with eBay to get his money back.

They took the logical view that as it was at the local sorting office waiting for him it was his responsibility to pick it up and they would not issue a refund. This, to be honest, cheered us up after a  three week exchange of emails.

The parcel should, eventually, come back to us, and we will issue a refund, but we don’t have to refund the postage, which would have been annoying.  And that, minor as it may be, was enough to cheer me up fro the day.

It then improved even more. Someone had wanted a parcel delivering by Christmas. He agreed to pay for Guaranteed Delivery and we made a special listing for him to buy and then made an extra trip to the Post Office with his parcel.

It went to the post office at 3pm, was in London by 10 am and was delivered at 11.20am. Not bad for a postal service that is hampered by strike action. I not only have the beard of a Santa, I have the instincts too.

I tell you this story as most of our customers are fine people and most of our interactions are good. Unfortunately I always moan about the bad ones and this may not give you an adequate picture of my sunny disposition and my love of humankind.

Day 214

Sometimes plans go well. I woke reasonably refreshed and was able to get ready quickly. Leaving home at 7.30 I had a closer view than I wanted of the new roadworks on the Ring Road and arrived at Queen’s Medical Centre for 7.50.

I noted that the phlebotomy department at the Treatment Centre is still socially distanced, unlike the department at City Hospital. The paperwork I needed was at Rheumatology Reception, where I read and ticked the boxes on my forms (apart from the one about pregnancy – I’m just fat, honestly).

After that it was down to Phlebotomy, where I was number 105. 102 went in as I sat down and I was soon seen. The TB test is, it seems, the most expensive test they do as the blood is sent  to Sheffield for testing. They take one tube of blood but have to divide it into four lots. It was interesting to have a test I haven’t had before. In case you are wondering, I have to prove I don’t have TB before I can go onto the new medication.

The perfection of the day was broken when the parking ticket machine broke down. I buzzed the office and they told me to go to the exit and they would let me out. This was what happened. I must check my statement when it arrives and see if a payment went through – I also want to check, after making several attempts, that I haven’t been charged multiple times.

Julia was up by the time I got home and we went out for breakfast at McDonalds.

It is not, so far, a day of great sophistication or significance, but I’m enjoying it and I’m happy to settle for that.

It’s a case of being happy with what you have and not making yourself unhappy about things you can’t have. I’d like to be eating seafood on a private yacht in the Caribbean. I’m eating junk food in a rattly VW in Nottingham. In a minute I’ll be drinking tea in front of TV with Julia and deciding what to do with the rest of the day. More poetry filing, I think, followed by lunch, TV, a little light writing and more TV. Possibly internet grocery shopping and pizza and salad for tea – we have a lot of home-grown tomatoes and they won’t eat themselves . . .

Day 30

In terms of creativity and industry things haven’t worked out that well. In other ways it has been  a pleasant and relaxing day. This qualifies it as a tick in the “good day” column of the celestial ledger, and I am now bringing it to a close with a smile on my face.

Normally I like to approach a deadline with plenty of material already written and refined. My deadline is 31st January which is tomorrow (for the next 22 minutes, when it will become “today”.

Fortunately, last time I had a rejection all the ten haiku had been written a few days before submission so I was able to look at them again and make improvements (I know I ought to give time for them to mature, but it always seems like I don’t have enough). I’m hoping that one will be acceptable this time round.

Submitting to editors is an art and not a science. What works with one editor doesn’t necessarily work with another and many of my poems have been accepted after two or three rejections. The best example I have is my haibun about Philip Larkin. I’ll add it at the bottom of post if I can find it. That haibun went out four times and came back four times. I tinkered a little each time to tighten it up, but didn’t change it too much. The fourth time it came back I sent it out again the next day and had it accepted in two days. Which goes to show that you can never tell what is around the corner. I have seen interviews where established writers have sent out poems a lot more than that. I don’t have that sort of confidence. After three or four failures I usually retire them.

However, I’ve been trawling through them today, looking for pieces that are good enough to send out. I’ve found three, polished them, and sent them out and am now looking for three more. After that I just need to write ten tanka in the next 23 hours and I’m laughing.

There are several more deadlines that I decided to ignore. One journal has been rejecting me constantly since a change of editor, for instance, and another is fond of heavy-handed editing. I’m going to give them a miss this month and catch them next time they come round.

In fact, I’d better get back to work – ten tanka won’t write themselves.

Later, far too much later on a work night, I have all three of the next batch of haibun assembled, and I realised I forgot the Larkin piece. I will search it out tomorrow.


Day 22

Got up, had breakfast, went to work. There was one parking space left when I arrived. Is this what my life has become – repetitive with worries about parking spaces? I used to think there was more to life than that.

On the positive side, I have started to find myself laughing and smiling more. You are supposed to get happier as you age and I had been waiting for it to kick in, as the last few years have been hard work. I may be lagging behind the curve (nothing new there) but it looks like I’m finally becoming happy.

The customer who has been irritating us for most of the week with unrealistic offers has finally decided to order something. He still tried to do a deal until we had gone to the post office (it closes at lunchtime on Saturdays) so we won’t be able to send it until Monday. By Tuesday I expect he will be writing about something being wrong. Some deals just have an aura of doom hanging around them.

One bright spot in the day was that we put some second-hand display cases on sale. After a bit of a lull they have started selling and we sold our last three during the week. The owner checked in the overspill stock room (as I call his garage when talking to customers) and found a couple more, which I added to our eBay listings around lunchtime. One of them sold twenty minutes later. It always feels good when that happens.

Seven Reasons to be Cheerful

I am feeling particularly cheerful today and decided it called for another list. It won’t run to 10 points, but I’ll try to keep it going as long as possible.

One, I have a wife. She’s still with me after 30 years. I don’t know how, or why, she puts up with me.

Two, I have a sister who worries about my health and sends me face masks by post.

Three, the kids have grown up and become reasonable human beings. I actually quite like them, which wasn’t always the case when they were teenagers. You have to love them, because it’s what parents do. And you have to feed them because that’s the law. But liking them is a bonus.

Four, Number Two Son, currently still in Canada, rang Julia today to say he’d seen a Cardinal and it was the best bird he’d ever seen. Nice to know he has grown up with a proper set of values.

Five, we have enough food. This wasn’t the case a few months ago, when panic-buying was in full swing. I thought of this because I used the last of the pre-cooked rice I’d bought in case things got worse.

Six, after the Mexican style fried rice I made (which was better than it sounds) we had apple crumble using apples from the Mencap garden.

Seven, we had ice cream with the crumble, which was delicious after a hot, stuffy day.

I could get to eight, but seven seem OK, and scans better in the title, so I’m going to call it a day.

The photos are from an old camera card I rediscovered recently.


All is Right with the World

I had a great night’s sleep last night, and woke ready for my weekly shopping trip. We travelled across town, past the empty university and arrived at the supermarket at 8.15. There was already a queue.

Fortunately we had ordered the shopping via Click & Collect and there was only one car in front of us. As we finished packing, another car drew up behind us. Annoying as it is that I can’t get another slot, you have to admit that they are working to capacity. It looks like I will be having to queue with the oldies again next week.

Government advice is that the best thing to stop coronavirus is your front door. Next best, I suppose, is collecting your shopping from a Click & Collect bay where the two staff on duty stay well away from you. Shopping, even once a week, is a very poor third in the list – despite the limits on entry, the one-way system and the supposed social distancing. Last week I estimate I had around 20 people getting far too close, which defeats the point of staying isolated all week.


I have just finished breakfast (bacon, mushroom and black pudding in white cobs). It’s not a healthy breakfast but as long as I don’t eat it every day I don’t suppose it will do me too much harm.  I could have eaten high fibre cereal and brown toast (again) but there is little point in being the fittest corpse in the coronavirus ward.

The best thing is that I was so hungry I could eat it all again. There’s something that always seems so virtuous about finishing a meal and still leaving room for more. I really ought to try it more often.

I’m considering beans on toast for lunch, possibly with tomatoes and eggs, which will mean I have managed a Full English Breakfast by installments.

The picture is a much-missed Little Chef breakfast. I would have been better off photographing my own breakfast but, let’s be honest, it never seems to last long enough to give me time to fetch the camera.


Antidote to Happiness

I had an interesting phone call today – someone trying to sell me “old coins”.

They were actually sets of football medallions from the 1998 and 2002 World Cups, which were sold or given away in supermarkets at the time. They are virtually worthless and even with the help of eBay they are almost unsaleable. We buy them if they come in with other things and even then we try to avoid them because they clutter the place up and encourage people to bring in even more useless junk.

Like Gresham’s Law, in which bad money drives out good, a shelf of unsaleable crap seems to just grow and grow until you become a junk shop rather than a coin shop. Actually, that’s more like Topsy, but I’m trying to sound intellectual.

I apologised, even though it’s not my fault, and said that we didn’t buy them. This started an argument as the caller pointed out that we were a coin shop and these were “over 30 years old” so we had to buy them. (As I write that, I realise they are only 20 years old).

I’d been in the middle of a tricky email, using Google Translate, to an idiot on eBay, and this new idiot had interrupted me, so I’m afraid I didn’t put things as tactfully as I might have done.

I could have been less blunt in telling him we had coins that were 2,000 years old so 30 years wasn’t a selling point.

But the problem really started when I told him they were medallions not coins. He couldn’t understand the difference. And I, unfortunately, was even less tactful in my explanation of why they weren’t coins. Well, to be fair to me, I was tactful on the first and second time I tried to explain it. I was, I admit, a bit sharp on my third attempted explanation. He just couldn’t grasp the ideas that not all round flat things are coins or that I was free not to buy them.

It ended with him shouting “I’m not an effing idiot you know!” and disconnecting the call. (I have altered the language slightly.)

Of course, he was wrong in that too, because he was an idiot.

After that, I went back to the email. We have an unhappy Spanish customer but we aren’t sure why. He has now sent us two messages in Spanish and the translation websites are struggling. I can’t work out what he is actually unhappy about – it seems that I got it wrong on my first attempt but his second email is no more help. I’ve composed a message using short sentences and very simple concepts in the hope that the translator won’t garble it.

No doubt we will sort it out one way or another.

This was probably the sort of day I needed as an antidote to my recent unusual happiness.

Happiness and Haibun


I’ve just had a rejection letter from an editor.

My current levels of happiness are such that I have offered him my sincere thanks for his feedback and have already rewritten one of the pieces to send elsewhere later this week.

I am seriously worried about my levels of positivity.

It’s not natural, it’s not me and I know it will all end in tears. I’m wondering if I’m associating with too many Americans. What with Pollyanna and a can-do attitude you lot ought to be quarantined.

I am, of course, a little bit annoyed at the rejection because I’ve clearly sent out sub-standard work and I need to tighten up on it. Fortunately the feedback I was given made the rewrite on one of them quite easy. That will be going to an editor who has never accepted anything from me before. It is very likely to be rejected again, because I don’t think the two of us are on the same wavelength, but you never know…

I’ve actually looked back on one or two posts that mention rejection and seem to have taken it in my stride. However, there was one double rejection that I had, which did stop me in my tracks for a few weeks. I can’t find any mention of it in the blog and may have kept it to myself. That’s how you look successful – talk about the acceptances and gloss over the rejections.


I have had, if I remember rightly, I’ve had nine acceptances and six rejections in the 12 months since I started sending things out. It’s all written down but it’s in another room and I’m lazy. As I started off with three rejections the average isn’t looking too bad.

In some ways, acceptance is worse than rejection. Every time I’m accepted I worry about if I’ll ever manage it again, or if editors will ever realise I actually don’t have a clue about what I’m doing.

The key to a good haibun is, it seems, a good haiku, which should be the first thing you write. Well, that’s what a number of well-respected people have said on more than one occasion. It makes sense. You should not, they add, start writing haibun until you are having haiku accepted regularly by reputable journals.

If I’d known that in the beginning I’d never have written haibun. In truth, I started writing them because my haiku are rubbish and I was hoping to conceal this by hiding them in a chunk of prose.

My writing method is to write the prose and then wait, sometimes for weeks, until a thought for the haibun presents itself. If I make a half-decent attempt the editor often suggests improvements, which I immediately agree to.

It may not be the classic method but it seems to work.




The house needs repair, summer is ending, I am old and arthritic. Politics has degenerated to infantile levels, nuclear war is just around the corner and the planet is dying.

For some reason, as detailed yesterday, I am inexplicably happy.

There is quite clearly no reason to be happy, and I don’t consider it to be normal. I prefer gloom and think that a sensible man should expect nothing from life because that is what life is likely to give him.


Botham’s Whitby – an excellent pork pie

I could probably go to the doctor for pills – there must be something I can take to calm me down a bit – though they are likely, as so often, to find something else wrong with me. I wouldn’t mind if it was something interesting but at my age it’s usually something that involves taking your trousers down.

With an interesting disease I could have a whole new career ahead of me. If you can build a modern TV career on being from Essex what could you do if you had scrofula, also known as the King’s Evil or, less interestingly, cervical tuberculous lymphadenitis. That has good historical roots, gives a chance to talk about coins and I feel less guilty making jokes about it than I do about leprosy.

Julia - looking sophisticated in Bakewell

Julia – looking sophisticated in Bakewell

Leprosy used to be a good area for humour when I was younger, as Monty Python proves, but when you read up about it and the fact that more than 50 kids a day are diagnosed with Leprosy worldwide it doesn’t seem so funny.

When you think about it, I do have a lot to be happy about.

Maybe I should look on the bright side of life.

Tea, scones and sunshine. Bettys, Harlow Carr

Tea, scones and sunshine. Bettys, Harlow Carr

I added the photos later, when WP was working properly – they are things which make me feel happy. And in case you were wondering, they are in no particular order.