Monday, 14 August 2017


This was the name of a 1966 musical. It’s how most of us seem to feel right now. In common with millions I have the strangest feeling that I’ve left something somewhere but I can’t remember what. The old certainties have gone.

It’s very much not a time as described by Robert Browning in his poem ‘Pippa’s Song’:
“The lark 's on the wing;
The snail 's on the thorn;
God 's in His heaven—
All 's right with the world!”

Not only can I not get off this crazy world, I can’t get away from my e-mails, texts and constant phone calls from people I don’t know calling and asking “What arrangements have you made about your Health Insurance…?”. Just hearing that brings out the hypochondriac in me - an alter ego groaning wistfully just below the surface.

It was time for a holiday. A long one. In our favourite place. Venice.

A time of quiet, artistic inspiration, beauty and certainty. All around the architecture is a confident 500 years old.

And something other worldly happened there.

I learned to read again. Suddenly the contemplative, written world became an essential part of my daily life. Books and especially novels replaced e-communications.

I learned to relish the ceremony of food, not just the taste but the going out and having time to munch my way slowly through gnocchi made in heaven. Meals that made me giggle with pleasure.

And something else strange. Spritz. In the British climate there’s one drink that has me squirming with distaste. Campari. It’s bitter. It’s red. It’s horrid. It has an improbable 86 mystery ingredients including chinotto (a small bitter orange type fruit) and cascarilla (Sweetwood or Croton bark from the Caribbean. It has narcotic properties.  We are warned darkly by doctors it has “side effects”).

In Venice as the heat built up I lived on those “side effects”. It was delicious, refreshing and saw me though the pitiless heat of Heatwave Lucifer. Lucifer racked up temperatures of 40C and humidity up to 70%. Between the heat and Campari I was anaesthetised for almost a month

So I got off the world.

A world of catastrophic Brexit negotiations, British politics dominated by people like Corbyn and Rees Mogg, world politics dominated by Trump and Kim Jong-un. Our destinies are being determined by buffoons. Getting off the world was good for me but now I’m back.

I recently learnt the key to our happiness, as as determined by the Japanese, is “Ikigai” - it’s our reason for getting up in the morning. The keys we’re told are taking pride in what we do; focusing on small things that bring us joy; getting up early and starting the day well and about being fully absorbed in everything we attempt.

This sounds more promising than mindfulness or hygge.

So I’m not going to get off the world. I’m just going to make my own, small world a place of greater joy.

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