Wednesday, 4 December 2019

Happiness Factor? It’s a joke, right?


So there I was, aiming for human interaction resulting in happiness, or at least a semblance of contentment.

Fat chance.

Not that it was all bad. A friend and I went off to see a modern re-imagining of John Gay’s 1728 work "The Beggar's Opera" by Mid Wales Opera Company, a production for small spaces and therefore very intimate. Renamed “Mrs. Peachum’s Guide to Love And Marriage” it is a splendidly bawdy, ballsy take on relationships and the relative virtues of virginity. We enjoyed it and, what’s more, my friend and I didn’t fall out in spite of getting into politics.

Another event was a Spanish Evening set up by a local group. There was tapas, Spanish wine, some haphazard music and three short, separate, talks about the painter Joaquin Sorolla, Spanish food and how the speaker liked to cook it and wine talk. The wine talk was the only professional talk, which means that the whole hall could hear that speaker. The other two never remembered to speak into the microphone, in spite of an audience member begging them to do so. What made it worse for me was that I had chosen to sit at a table towards the back of the hall (ready to scarper?) just in front of the wine table where the volunteer wine server chose to use the time of the talks to rearrange his crates of bottles, picking up each bottle, checking it for dregs and plonking it back into its hole in the crate. He took absolutely no notice of my anguished looks in his direction and clinked on busily. Not the most enjoyable evening all told.

You can simply not rely on people to do as they say. I took a very wheezy chest to my doctor; yes, he examined me, asked a few questions and came up with the idea that my childhood asthma might have returned. And yes, he was going to investigate and consult another doctor. "So, should I make another appointment,” I asked. “O no, I’ll ring you later this afternoon.” That was two weeks ago. Not a peep out of the surgery since then.

Gadgets aren’t a whole lot more reliable, either. The whole area had a power cut. When the power came back on after several hours I mentally congratulated the electricity firm and settled down for a cosy evening. By and by the room cooled down, quite considerably by the time I bestirred myself to check on the boiler. One very dead boiler. This was Friday evening of the coldest weekend this year with frost and freezing fog forecast. I fiddled around and tried to relight it but it just grumbled and coughed at me. I spent some time online trying to find the nearest engineer but gave up and rang the manufacturer's company itself - Worcester-Bosch - who are many miles away but have always seen me right in the past. Many miles away also means an expensive call-out, of course. “Yes, we’ll come, On Monday.” Between Friday evening and Monday morning I wore thermal layers, several pairs of thick socks, my pyjamas under trousers and jumpers - who is going to undress completely in a freezing cold bathroom? - , carried around two small fires, and forgot about personal cleanliness entirely. What on Earth do people do who do not have immediate access to the wherewithal necessary to pay for an emergency like this? I had ice flowers on the windows, for heaven’s sake. The female engineer discovered that the power cut had blown the circuit board. She replaced it, serviced the boiler and made sure that all was back in order before she left.

Next stop a major building job. I had my windows on the South side of the house replaced, all eight of them. I was pleasantly surprised by the result. Beloved would have been livid, several years before we debated if we should swap wooden windows for plastic. “Absolutely not,” was his conclusion. "Wooden widows are so much more attractive.” No they’re not, says I. They require constant repainting, repairing and splicing, none of it cheap. So now I have perfectly fitting, draught excluding, plastic windows on the weather side. I was also pleasantly surprised by the workmen doing the job. They were relatively quiet, cleaned up after themselves and caused minor disruption, allowing me to escape to a different room with each window. Even so, there was a moment when the boss man and I almost fell out. Over Brexit, what else. He was a fervent Leaver who trotted out all the long-discredited lies we were told three years ago. There is no getting through to some. I wished him Good Luck and left the room quickly.  I had learned my lesson from a previous experience, much more painful and embarrassing, which I’ll come to next.

You see, there was this dinner party at a very good friend’s house, the guests being a couple from London, a couple from Valley’s End and me. We have met at this house in previous years, always get on well and usually have a splendid evening, with lots of wine, food, good conversation and a general feeling of goodwill to all assembled. Except this time I related my experiences and feelings about the need to apply for Settled Status after 50 years of living the UK, once Brexit has become reality. O dear. It appeared that the couple from London and the host, with whom they were staying for the weekend, had already had a falling-out the previous evening. So my remark simply stirred the flames all over again. It was most unpleasant for a while, a lot of wine had been consumed and tempers flared, in a quietly genteel way, neither bad language nor insults were employed, but tempers flared. I know that families have fallen out, co-workers have fallen out, friends have fallen out over this wretched business but I never imagined that a genial host and his guests would suddenly, in the middle of a most enjoyable dinner party, stage a mini-war. At the moment the UK is not a friendly place.

So, human interaction is all very well, but it does not necessarily lead to happiness.






27 comments:

  1. Sadly familiar.'
    I am sorry that you have been 'piggy in the middle.

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  2. We have much the same difficulty talking civilly with those who think our President is wonderful. The world as it is right now is pretty darn hard to take. The good part is that eventually it will all pass and we'll be left with the aftermath, whatever it might be. I'm glad you were able to get your warm and cozy environment back, at any rate.

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  3. The spanish evening sounds like unmerry hell....but I would have loved the opera.
    I don't envy you the weekend without heating....together with the windows it brought back memories of heating the huge house in France....sliding out to the woodpile over the ice...the ancient boiler that would probably have served to move the Queen Mary. A good job you are made of stern stuff.
    A pity people can't be civilised when disagreeing.

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  4. ready to scarper? YES! Always Wishing youa pleasant remainder of Winter and Spring you feel lucky to have. Fondly,

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  5. Sounds like they have to work it all out, on their own.

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  6. Friko, good to hear that you are putting yourself out there a bit. Don’t know if it will bring you happiness, but better than being too solitary. As for the UK and the US - everyone seems divided these days. I try to avoid discussing politics as much as possible...

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  7. Brexit is the only thing I know which people really disagree on in that way. I think it strikes at fundamental feelings somehow, and there's no arguing with it because it's all about how people feel deep down. I think it is dreadful the way those feelings are being deliberately stirred up for political and financial gain by unscrupulous politicians, particularly when they make little attempt to conceal their lies. On the other hand, both opposition parties in England are so completely lame that I feel almost angrier at them. So I say nothing now when in company!

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  8. Never discuss politics with your contractor. Or perhaps your family, either!

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  9. I wouldn't be pencilling in a dinner party repeat for next year. Why can't people respect differences of opinion without getting into fights. You have been busy of late. I suppose things will slow down now that winter has arrived for you and at least your boiler has been serviced.

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  10. As I was reading, I was beginning to lament that all was bad for you. Then, thank goodness, i got to the good parts. I totally agree about the windows. They are much easier to keep up, and fit better, too. Also, what a relief that somebody DID show up on Monday and was able to remedy the boiler problem. About the political arguments, to me, the most shocking thing of all is how both the U.S. and the U.K. are experiencing the same divisions, I read about what goes on with Brexit, and I know that exactly the same situation is here in the U.S. over Trump. Many families are on different sides of the aisle. I, for one, think it is a lot more than merely a "difference of opinion." The difference is in our entire outlook on life. I cannot have a conversation with anyone who feels that the occupant of our White House should be representing us as a nation. I might as well stop right here. Thank you for your blog. It is always a treat for me to find that you have posted. I wish you some of that elusive happiness!

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  11. "So there I was, aiming for human interaction resulting in happiness, or at least a semblance of contentment."

    You have to find some really nice and wonderful people for that to work. Glad you got your heat fixed! I am surprised they did not send someone out right away. It seems like that would be considered an emergency.

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  12. I don’t think it is a coincidence that both our countries are going through these difficult times together. I have friends for over 40 years and our different politics never divided us. Now it does and I find it so very sad. I want it back to the way it used to be, but I see it getting worse.

    Too often, things break on Friday nights. My gosh, that is terrible that you had to go without heat for the weekend. With it being that cold, it should have been an emergency.

    Keep trying, Friko. There is good out there.

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  13. Glad that the windows turned out well. The dinner party tension is well-understood. Fortunately, no one spoke of our current president at the Thanksgiving table. I would like to assume that all assembled were anti-Trump.

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  14. The Spanish evening reminds me of an episode of Midsumer Murders, where a murder takes place just after such an evening. They do exist then, do they! (Such events, I mean.)
    With most of my relatives in England, I do not even touch upon the subject of Brexit. I know their opinion but won't get into a discussion about it with them. I know they love me and still want me to come visiting, even though the majority of them are Leavers - it is nothing personal for them.
    My house was built in 1953, and plastic window frames were put in about two years before I moved in, which makes them about 18 years old. They are draught-free, and traffic and other noise from outdoors is blocked almost completely. A definite plus compared to the wooden frames in my previous, rented flat!
    Sorry to hear some of your meetings with others have not brought you the happiness you expected. We humans are a very mixed bag, aren't we.

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  15. Hi Friko - glad to see another post dedicated to human travails, character flaws and yet goodness at times ... politely we are in difficult times. That boiler scenario must have been horrible ... but I'm glad it's fixed now and you're warm again ... also I hope the doc gets in touch.

    The Spanish evening sounded fun - but your experience wasn't quite what you'd expected ... I do think 'helpers' don't always think about others, while the speakers really should learn to project their voices ... especially if they don't like using a microphone - and were asked more than once to do so. It was an evening out and I hadn't heard about Sorilla ... so was interested in looking him up.

    Oh windows - I much prefer wooden ones ... but they do let the cold air in and do need work ... so well done though on making a sensible choice re new plastic ones.

    We had our first frost this a.m. - not usual right by the sea - but the red morning sun is out ... tempering our thoughts to rain a-coming according to folk-lore by the weekend.

    All the best ... and be of gentle spirit and I hope the December weeks bring some cheer - Hilary

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  16. I'll be interested to see how quickly the Brexiteers discover the many minor drawbacks and irritations caused by their choice.

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  17. sounds like Trumpers (or MAGAts) and never Trumpers over here. Trump is a cult for his die hard supporters. they don't care what he does or says or how lawless he is. ahhhhhh. don't get me started. there is not one iota of reason that will reach those people. as for your encounters with people, at least you are sitting around lonely and bored. I admire you for sticking out the cold house and what you did is exactly what people did and do without access to heat. me? I'd be looking for a friend I could spend the weekend with who had heat.

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  18. I am finding I prefer the company of children rather to adults who act like bratty kids. A difference of opinion is one thing, but idolizing a rude, crude and ignorant man in power is disrupting our country. Families and friends are divided and makes for unpleasant gatherings.
    As for doctors who do not return calls and repairmen who make you wait, I've been there. Ordered a refrigerator that was never delivered. Glad to hear you are getting out. I suppose happiness comes in spurts and we should appreciate the little things. That's what i try to do.

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  19. I'm reading this wearing an extra sweater as my furnace is giving me some challenges tonight. I'm waiting for Rick to return home from a trip before I call the furnace guy. It might be simple enough for him to figure it out. Meanwhile, it's brisk, so I can empathize, though I think you had it far worse.

    Ah yes, politics. It can get ugly, can't it. Here, too. We try to steer clear of these discussions but it doesn't always pan out. The opera sounds fun, Spanish -- not quite so much. And I can relate with docs, though mine is fairly good. I hope you are much improved by the time you read my comment. Hang in, my friend!

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  20. That's tough. Things are equally contentious here in the US what with the impeachment and all.

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  21. Grrrh! Brexit!! I do have quite decided views on Remaining although I try never to discuss it with fervent Leavers as serious conflict can result. Before the vote back in 2016 I was on hols with an organised U3A group and a most awful battle broke out one evening over dinner. I managed not to get embroiled ~ and left early. But it was a close thing.

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  22. Religion and Politics two touchy areas to converse with friends:)

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  23. How are you doing, Friko? Just checking in. 🌻

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  24. Sorry your surgery left you and hope lungs are doing better. Brexit , Trump lies and missile downing a plane wIch excuse of human error is just not how 2020 is going to be a better year. I finally fixed my comment post glitch. Blogger keeps me learning and still I fear it is now too invasive but it has many of us hooked.

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  25. Dear Friko.
    I did not read your posts for a long time. I've read them from August to January and found out all your news now. What a pity that your Millie passed away, poor dog she loved you so much.
    I think you are doing the right thing to live your peaceful life, sometimes attending friends and social meetings. Good thing you have home and garden helpers. I think that my life also changed after several heart diseases. I try not to worry, not to try to do everything in time. Probably I need to invite helpers to the garden too. Of course, such a life is not entirely happiness, as we understood at ours 30, but is not unhappiness, because we live, breathe, read, and can argue about politics.

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  26. Dear Friko, sorry to take so long to get to this posting of yours from December. I had a total knee replacement on 11/18/19 and was out of commission for several weeks due to a rather grueling recuperation. Now I've reclaimed my life.

    You there in the UK have Brexit; we here in the US have Trump. His impeachment trial started yesterday. If the Republicans allow no new witnesses, I fear he'd be acquitted by them even those Supreme Court Justice Roberts had them swear an oath to be impartial. I wonder if any of us really can be. Here for sure we are living in a culture of them/us. It's so divisive. Many of us fear for our democracy.

    As to being with people: Humans are social creatures and we need others, I think, so that we grow and develop, but, oh, sometimes I weary of the conversations. Peace.

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  27. So pleased to once again savor your posts that vibrate with your determination to live this season of life fully, not just survive. I am sporadically back to blogging but haven't hit a good rhythm. Maybe, in contrast to your experiences, I have allowed my world to narrow.

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Comments are good, I like to know what you think of my posts. I know you'll keep it civil.