How to be happy even if you're English

what is happiness and how to get it


this is a truth


All my life I’ve had the uncomfortable feeling that I never really knew what was going on.

Instead of  dissipating, (which I hoped/ expected to be the case), the further I progress along the mortal coil, the more this observation holds.  In fact there’s a recognition of such massive complexities around me that any given situation seems so far beyond comprehension or opinion as to be almost out the other side.

The enormities of my un-knowing have reached so far that I stopped watching the news several years ago.  Now it seems radio too is so steeped in judgement that all I pick up is the judgement itself, and not the content.  So again, I reach for the ‘off’ button.

Conversation on current affairs sees me backing into corners.  Asked for an opinion, all I can offer is ‘it’s more complicated than that’.  Because I know it is.  There are truths, more truths, individual and collective truths.  And all the feeding and steering in between, that we participate in and strengthen with each opinion voiced.

I’m conscious that this could sound like an anti-propaganda rant; an anti-them, us-against-the-state stream of bitterness.  But it’s not that.

I’m looking at the judgement we seem to enjoy so greatly.

How would it look if our urgency to express an opinion, to belong in a camp of thought, to be on this side or that, wasn’t such a driving force?  I’ll bet the content of articles on our news programmes would change.  It seems to me that each news article exists primarily to create judgement, to generate strong feeling.  And I suspect that without this driving force, the programmes might disappear altogether.  I wonder.

My son is saturating himself with history.  He knows so much about world war 2.  More, and differently, I suspect, than those who participated in much of it.  How confusing that must be to them.  We talk about war crimes.  We discuss judgement, and punishment.  The need people have to punish for a crime committed in a different time, a different place, an altogether different set up, that we really can’t comprehend, in the here and now.

I wonder about that.

I wonder if the reason we object so strongly call so vehemently, isn’t purely the fight to have one’s opinions venerated and accepted.  And if it has anything at all to do with the crime itself.

I hear there’s a Buddhist philosophy of ‘no blame’.

I like that.  No blame.  If we removed blame, what are we left with?  A little empathy, perhaps, some compassion, an effort to understand, to deal with, to mend, learn, and grow?  Is that really so scary?

I don’t know.  I know less and less.  But it’s worth considering.


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30 secrets for starters..

here's a secret..

here’s a secret..

Occasionally it helps to write things down. These are reminders.

  1. Find out who you are.
  2. Say thank you. And mean it.
  3. Parents are just people in disguise.
  4. Giving is really important.
  5. It’s up to you. No excuses.
  6. Ask. Learn. Be smart.
  7. Redefine problems.  There are challenges, obstacles, blocks, surmountables, learning curves, new experiences, growth curves, different viewpoints.. all these are positives. Choose one of these instead of a problem.  Much nicer.
  8. Friends are family you’ve chosen yourself.  Let them know you value them.
  9. Expect more from yourself than from others.
  10. Grace is seriously underrated.
  11. Think big.
  12. Learn when to shut up.
  13. Don’t wait for others. Get on with it.
  14. Exercise is key. Walk to the shops.
  15. Your mum was right about food. Eat well.
  16. You are really, really amazing. Honestly.
  17. There’s always help.
  18. Asking for advice is a good move. But you don’t have to act on it.
  19. Look people in the eye and smile.
  20. You have one mouth and two ears. Use them in that proportion.
  21. There’s always a way.
  22. Don’t wait for others to invite you. Call them.
  23. Everything’s connected.
  24. Learn the difference between belief and focussing.
  25. Staying in bed solves nothing.
  26. Go one step at a time, all the time.
  27. Think first (your actions might bite you on the bum one day)
  28. Other people notice.
  29. Greetings are important.
  30. So are goodbyes.

That’s just a few. Do share yours.

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a long, sweet and surprisingly small story about making a bed (honestly)

On Tuesdays I have a part time cleaning job. On alternate weeks I’m required to change the sheets in either the adult or kids bedrooms. Today is Big Bed day. Sue leaves the selected fresh bedding on the appropriate bed for me. Fitted sheet, flat sheet, duvet cover and four pillowcases.

The bed is the first thing I do when I arrive. That way I can wash and dry the covers whilst doing my remaining tasks, then iron them and replace in the airing cupboard. I put little post-it’s on (KS flat sheet/ fitted double etc), which are kept to hand in the cupboard. It’s a good system. Foolproof.

This morning I wasn’t the brightest button in the box, but set about undressing the bed positively, amassing a vast cloud of laundry. I try to be tidy (experience tells me this makes jobs simpler) so filled the machine before re-dressing the bed.

It’s a funny thing, making beds. If an alien landed in the room I’d be hard-pressed to explain what I was doing. An oddity of the developed world. I find it curious, amusing, unfathomably laborious and tiresome. But also inexplicably wonderful and rewarding (“Humans do what? Really? That’s so funny”. “Ah yes but it does look nice. All neat and flat and just so. It smells good too”).

I begin with the fitted sheet (beautifully folded. Well done, Jane).

Then flat sheet. Perfect.

Duvet cover; corners together. Hold fast and pull back. Great. Big muscular shake, and voila!

Actually that doesn’t look quite right.

I’ve changed this bed fortnightly for 6 months. It’s a king sized bed. Unlike my bog-standard easy peasy double, this quilt is rectangular. Just occasionally I fit the cover the wrong way. Never mind. I rectify my mistake and smooth the cover.

Now that’s odd. I’m sure I rotated the cover 90 degrees. But it’s definitely not fitting. Don’t tell me it was right first time!

I put it down to fuzzy-headedness, and try again. It’s hefty work, all this duvet lifting. Muscle building. Third time lucky.

Oh. Now that’s odd.

Whats happening here? I may not be a rocket scientist, but I’m not dumb either. Time for rational thinking.

Perhaps the labels got switched. Ah, that’s it. The spare room has a double bed, and a similar cover. I must have mis-applied the label. That’ll be it.

To be extra clever (never assume. Cover the angles), I put my head round the spare room door. Within, the bed is made up beautifully with a well-fitting white waffle cover. Well there’s a thing.

It must simply be speed. Perhaps I judged my actions too hastily, and placed the wrong verdict. Go slower, Jane, and be more focussed in your assessment…

Have I placed the quilt the wrong way four times? Is that humanly possible?

If I were home I’d have a coffee, do something else, come back later. But this is my job. I’m supposed to be a professional! last time, then. You must be looking at it from the wrong angle. There’ll be some thing, some small detail, you’ve overlooked.  Maybe you’re trying too hard. Go steady. Nice and slow. Think. Breathe.

Unbelievable. Un-be-lieve-able.

What other rational explanations could there be? Had I inadvertently fallen through a crack in the universe? (Really, I was starting to think this way by now). One more time.

I’m not making this up. Aged 48, with hundreds of successful bed-making episodes under my belt, it took me seven stoic attempts to get it right. Seven! Thirty-five whole minutes later, success. No erroneous selection, no shrinking in the wash, no mis-orientation.  It fitted. Smooth, aligned, level, gorgeous. Just lovely. Like Cinderellas slipper.

Never has a bed looked so good. You would never, ever know. And I have no idea how.

Of course, I couldn’t share the story. That would be folly, as I would only expose my incompetence. The joy, though; the pride in my perseverence, my maintained application, my solid reasoning. Sheer resilience. Priceless.

There are ways of perfecting competency that delight us by their artistry.  Other times artistry hides it’s face, but the result can be just as delightful. Even more so when it illuminates our humanity. And often it’s a case of looking from a different angle. The more you look, the more angles there seem to be.

I hope you find the right one.

The end.



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Don’t hold on too tight


You need only look at the history of medicine (for one) to recognise the profound truth of this statement.

Things change, minute by minute. You and I included. But knowing that we are very likely to be proved wrong in the future doesn’t always stop us spouting off. Sometimes my arrogance can shock me. It dances on my tongue and there it is, a rabble of unleashed words and statements freshly laundered from my ego.

If my memory was half-decent, I’d hope it could present this quote before my next outpouring. If it did, I’d be enormously grateful.


Hmmmm. Happiness..


I like this.

Often we think of happiness as something that’s out there to be got. Something elusive and evasive. Something others have and we deserve.

Nobody has a right to happiness.

What we should have, though, is the freedom to make our own choices. And it’s choices that bring happiness.

We learn what works. What brings us together. What feeds our soul. What makes us smile.

We are all responsible for our own happiness. No-one can do it for us. Others can show the way, sharing opportunities, actions and fortunes, but ultimately our happiness is self made.

The Dalai Lama attributes gratitude and altruism as primary source of happiness. No-one else can feel grateful or give on your behalf, or mine.

I guess he’s looking straight at me. Another pointer on the road. Hmmm.