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.
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.