Happiness

It’s the greatest thing that we possess, you know? But what does it look like and feel like? Well here goes.

For my screen saver at the moment I’m using all the photographs of Granby that Nick Hedges took for Shelter around 1969. Because they’re some of the best photographs I’ve ever seen and because day in day out, at quiet moments, they remind me of how bad life can get and also how good. Like the day the people of Jermyn Street got Ken Dodd to come and visit.

A perfect picture of happiness from a long ago Granby to get us going then.

Now if you’ve been around this blog for a while you’ll know that I have a tendency to be depressed from time to time. Like late on last  year when I wrote about it in a post called ‘Not Waving but Drowning’. So consider this post a kind of parallel to that one, the light to its shade. There won’t be much about how I got from there to here. That was about time, love and friendship. Instead this one will be more about what the happiness of these late May into June days looks and feels like.

Some of it is about being on my own. I like being alone sometimes, I’m happy with my own company. My partner Sarah’s away for three weeks, sea kayaking in the Outer Hebrides, so it’s a good amount of time I’ve got, but finite and therefore never feeling like loneliness.

Not that I’m particularly doing anything I wouldn’t do if Sarah were here, beyond reading a bit more and listening to a bit more music (Joni Mitchell’s Hejira, Tracey Thorn’s new one and loads of classical) in the hours when she’s not here to talk to. And talking to myself instead? Probably? Not absolutely sure about that, but I wouldn’t be surprised.

‘I’m porous with travel fever
But you know I’m so glad to be on my own’
Joni Mitchell

I go for cups of tea in local cafés too. Often on my own, but if you’re a friend of mine who hasn’t been asked lately well it’s probably because I’m just getting round to you.

I love a good conversation me, and somebody told me they work best in cafés because of the noises going on. Other conversations and orders being taken. The coffee grinding, quiet music and some laughter. The sounds of other lives being lived makes us happy, apparently. We’re sociable us lot.

And I do some good work in these happy noises of cafés too. Not deep, serious and long like I’ve bought the table for the price of a cup of tea. No, just some planning and thinking seem to get done more quickly there than if I sat at home with too much silence to distract me.

Then I go and do my longer bits of work that need more concentration in a library. You don’t have to be quiet in them anymore, but most people are. And so hours pass in happy productivity.

I’m sleeping really well too, in case you were wondering. I don’t when I’m depressed because I’ll often get worried about things that get all out of perspective and will end up growing accustomed to the sound of the milk float trundling past somewhere around dawn.  Not these days though. I’ll read for a while, then be sound asleep from soon after midnight until the  next morning.

And I’m looking forward to mornings. I like the feel of them, the possibilities in each new day. I’ll often write the things you’ll find on here early in the mornings or, like I did today, be out early on for breakfast with a friend.

It helps that it’s springtime going on summer of course and that the weather’s been pretty well seasonal, in an old fashioned sort of way. That all makes strolling along Princes Avenue to Squash at not much after eight, together with their good food and my friend’s good conversation, into the kind of happiness that filled me up until well into the afternoon.

I’m gardening too, in a limited kind of way. Sarah’s left me to care for her allotment at this peak growing season and I think I’m doing ok. I’m there for at least some of most days doing basic maintenance. And if a couple of the neighbours have called in specifically to laugh at my sitting by the shed reading method of gardening, so what? What needs doing is getting done and the place looks great, so why make it seem like hard work?

I won’t go on. I’m generally happy, you get the picture?

And I’m well aware, too, that all of this might sound and feel fragile. Like, why does he need to go on about it? What’s he trying to prove? Well only this, that the darkness of illness and depression that nearly overcame me last year didn’t and doesn’t last forever. And if you’re in the darkness now, know this. That love, help, time and friendship can pull you through, really. Time, with help, really can heal.

It’s an unusual time of my life this, too. I know I’ll be starting my MA and PhD at University late in September so my work’s  becoming different now, already more reflective than project leading. Some of this work is being fitted in before all that starts. And some of it is actually the beginnings of University work. Reading generally around the sociology and the history I’ll be thinking a lot more about once I get going. And loving it. New things to think about and the gift of something so unplanned and unexpected turning up in my life.

So it’s a time of change and that’s making me happy. Not because I’ll be leaving all the things I care about behind me, because I won’t, not all of them anyway. But I needed this new thing, even though I didn’t know I did. We all need new things, new thoughts sometimes.

‘I felt you and I knew you loved me’
Tracy Emin

And I’ve been to the moon, like I always wanted to. A lot of us in Liverpool have been there this week.

We needed something to cheer us up after not winning the European Cup last Saturday, and so the moon turned up. Coming down to Earth to visit and hanging in there at one end of one of our Cathedrals, while Debussy and the sounds of moon landings played in the background. Just what was needed, as you can probably tell from the photographs.

That’s all I wanted to say then. So I’ll remember and maybe you will too, that when the bleak days of depression come, then with some help and time  brighter days of happiness, like these, might not be that far behind.

And then the day might come when, after much sadness, you’ll sit quietly in the choir stalls gazing at the moon, which happens to be back and hanging there at the far end of the Cathedral.

Or get a day like this one, long ago in Granby, when Ken Dodd came to visit. I believe it was great.

Happiness, yes.

‘Museum of the Moon’ by Luke Jerram at Liverpool Cathedral is over now but wasn’t it great? Thank you to everyone there responsible for it. You filled a whole city of us with a sense of profound wonder.

6 Replies to “Happiness”

    1. Hi Liam, well it’s jointly supervised by the Sociology and History departments – and also Port Sunlight. So it will definitely be about Senses of Places in some way and how they work for us over time. But exactly how is to be worked out as I get going. I am of course enjoying the not yet knowing x

  1. Thank you…! My depression resulted in a near fatal overdose at the end of December but I’m here to tell the ‘story’ the depression is lingering, like you the brighter moments sometimes shine through, not always.
    You spoke of coffee shops, i used to frequent them a lot, people watching, writing my journal, meeting friends why did I stop?
    I could go on…. your ‘blog’ has helped me so much this morning.
    As I began Thank you!

    1. Thank you Joan, very glad to have helped and that you’re here to tell your story. Maybe by the time you read this reply you’ll be in a coffee shop somewhere, writing happily in your journal, while I’m happily meandering around Granby Street Market or watering Sarah’s allotment.

  2. I loved this Ronnie! Although I read most of your blogs this one resonates with me. Depression is the worst thing and when I lost mum this year I was literally in a cave and was not willing to come out for anybody! But equally didn’t recognise that I was! Friends are so important and the messages and calls I got from people at this time (including you x) bring you, step by step, back out of the cave and into what is important to me today. I value every day with the kids and my tony and enjoy every new flower in the gardens and every day the sun is shining. Thank you for sharing this xxx

    1. Thank you Ann-Marie and very glad to have helped. I think friends are essential when depression and grief arrive. And not friends who tell you what to do. But just say ‘Hello in there’ and sit with you, really or metaphorically, for a bit.

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