How to be happy even if you're English

what is happiness and how to get it


Here’s another good one from the Dalai Lama..

ah yes.

listen first


For some reason this quote and I have only just got acquainted. It’s a good one, and brings to mind the expression ‘spouting off’ which has always made me smile.

The very same reason is probably responsible for why another related adage had passed me by;

You have two ears and one mouth. Apply them in that order”.

Ah yes, again. Hmm.

I received a lovely comment to a post recently.  It was about the process of blogging, and how it had helped her learn when to speak, and when to shut up.  A most valuable lesson.

Hmm, again.

Can you see a pattern emerging?

I’m passing them on, these synchronistic phrases, quietly and thoughtfully.  Today’s gift for you, with not another word from me.

Responses, however, are most welcome.


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A very Sunday post….


This is so true, isn’t it? It reminds me that we really are capable of moving through our difficulties and beyond. Once we’re at that point, the former fades away. All that angst, all those tears…gone. Passed through, into the new.

That line in Desiderata by Max Ehrmann;

“Avoid loud and aggressive people, they are vexatious to the spirit”

Too true. We always have choice, and that includes the company we keep. Some are so busy appearing to help us. Those that help us, nurture us, care for our hearts and our thoughts; they’re the ones to value and hold close.

Here’s to good people. I hope you find them, and they find you.


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Sweating the small stuff


“You’re a brave blogger” a good friend offered. “Your posts are very personal”. Well, maybe. It’s true I sometimes hesitate before pressing ‘publish’. Occasionally it takes several days to recover, which is odd really. As if it really matters.

Because although it’s out there, on the big web thingy, for anyone to see, the likelihood is that the anyone isn’t a someone who actually knows me from Adam. Most likely, you don’t know me personally.

This isn’t a journal. It could be, but it’s not. It’s an evolving vehicle for my observations. And because the observations are mine, they inevitably involve some elements of personal experience. It can’t be helped. This is my life and these are the things I see. Her comment was helpful though, causing me to ruminate on just why and how my posts appear personal. Why is that difficult, and what does that mean?

I don’t have a problem with ‘personal’. In fact looking at it, ‘personal’ is what interests me most in the world. I’m interested in individual experience.

It’s the small, everyday stuff that grabs me; the profound in the ordinary. The wise in the mundane. For me, the beginnings of understanding humanity stem from the communication of personal experience.

As a species we’re an organism. As I see it, if we don’t share we don’t grow. Sharing the small stuff, the gritty everyday, illuminates the personal. And it’s the personal that counts, because it’s dangerous to perpetuate what we assume rather than what really is.

Years ago, I was peripheral to a conversation about homeless people. The contributors were all professional, well-meaning, educated. “What I don’t understand” one of them said, “was how people can get themselves in that state. If they run out of money, why don’t they just sell some of their shares?”.

I was gobsmacked, but illumined. A fabulous lesson in the prevaillance of misconception.

Situations, values, persuasions; all these are transient, but we elect to see them as fixed. If we were less fearful of sharing our circumstances and perspectives, our perceptions and our politics would be far more embracing, conciliatory and mobile.

No, personal doesn’t scare me. For me it’s a tool for growth and understanding, and I cherish that. Whether it’s brave or not is a different story.

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Good Friday and the call for unhappiness (and an excuse for a Robert Powell image)

53a427ab4a97924843cc4a68a7fa9242Every year the same question; “Why is it called Good Friday?”.

Why indeed, when it was so clearly a ‘bad’ Friday from all other perspectives.  Surely if any day over the period is a good one, it would be Easter Sunday, the day of the resurrection.  I was brought up in a C of E school; measuring what I learnt, I’d veer towards the logic in ‘Bad Friday’ and ‘Good Sunday’ for clarity.  I think a lot of my classmates still retain confusion over the Easter story, and I don’t think the names really helped. For the key dates in a religion, there’s a certain poignancy required in a name.  Ambiguity (or irony) would perhaps be better left with lesser calendar events, where they can sit unnoticed and not cause any fuss.

Etymological searches point to ‘good’ traditionally alluding to ‘holy’ (or a recognisedly designated day for religious observation or practice).  Apparently there’s a ‘Good Wednesday’ too.  That’s helpful research. I can rest now.  It’s not a weighty addition after all, the ‘good’ part.  A sort of accident, really.

Research brought another small point – that other origins are in ‘God’s Friday’ and the Anglo Saxon ‘Long Friday’ (that makes sense).  There’s also ‘Holy Friday’ and interestingly in German liturgy ‘Karfreitag’ or ‘Sorrowful Friday’. Now that’s more indicative of content. The difference between ‘sorrowful’ and ‘good’ is a long one in today’s language.

So why not, then? Why don’t we term it ‘Bad Friday’ or ‘Sorrowful Friday’? Because it seems to me there’s a perfect opportunity here, all set out within the religious calendar; an opportunity for us to really express the duality of human nature and the human experience.

Have I missed something glaring? Or is there something in this?

Here’s a picture of Jesus with an Easter bunny (my interpretation) by Albrecht Durer. Happy Easter, everyone.


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Making happiness your purpose


A purpose differs from a right.

True happiness requires cultivation.

If you are happy, be grateful.

If others are happy, be glad. Happiness breeds happiness.

Being around happy people is a gift.  You have a teacher to hand. Observe their attitude, what they create around them.  How are they with others?

Put your observations into practice.  Be purposeful.  Learn to be happy. Make it your goal.  Only you can make your life a happy one.

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I promised you this…

Yesterday I promised to summarise Gyles Brandreth’s seven secrets of happiness.

Here they are (with my paraphrasing and comments; the bold type is his, but the rest is mine, so don’t quote me beyond the bold type; read his book instead!)

  1. cultivate a passion How many times have you heard this as a recommendation for longevity, and a happy life?  (Nonagenarian marathon running is apparently one of the fastest growing sports!)  Keeping an interest in life, finding new dimensions and passions, is a key element.
  2. Be a leaf on a tree As I said in yesterday’s post, a sense of connection to the community is crucial.  It keeps you happy and healthy.
  3. Break the mirror.  Avoid narcissism and introspection.  A healthy awareness of oneself is good, but too much leads to separation and unhappiness.
  4. Don’t resist change.  Go with it. Grow.  Evolve.
  5. Audit your happiness.  I like this one.  Essentially, look at what makes you happy and unhappy in your life, and do something about it to address the balance.  You can’t blame anyone else, basically.  It’s your choice whether to be happy or not so stop moaning and get on with it. (I hope you agree, Gyles!)
  6. Live in the moment.  Ah yes.  It’s that mindfulness thing again.  Carpe Diem.  Sieze the day.
  7. Be happy.  Choose it.  Whenever you feel it’s absence, bring it to mind.

Is that a good list?  I think/ hope so.  Be happy, people 🙂


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your place in your community – one of the secrets to happiness

Yesterday I read a lovely quote by Archbishop Desmond Tutu.  It came from  ‘The seven secrets of happiness’ by Gyles Brandreth, which is a sweet and entertaining little book.

One of the seven secrets according to Gyles is community.  What he calls ‘being a leaf on a tree’.  He talks about the importance of understanding who you are, and how you fit into your community.  

Obviously as an archbishop Desmond Tutu has a particular perspective, but he says this in conversation with the author;

“Heaven is a community.  A solitary human being is a contradiction. In Africa we say that a person is a person through other persons.”

It reminded me of something I read years ago, when I was researching into ancestral worship. It was said that in Africa when someone dies, their spirit lives on in this world for as long as their name is used in conversation. It’s a valid thought, demonstrating how effective interaction within your community leaves a legacy of impact and character.


Today, bizarrely, King Aethelred came up in a conversation between friends.  As if he had died yesterday!  Aethelred was king of Wessex from AD 978 – 1016.  That’s a long time for a spirit to live on.  Especially when you’re known as ‘the Unready’.

If your name was to be uttered a thousand years from now, I wonder if your spirit would flutter just a little bit?  I think mine would!

I’ll give you all of Gyles’ 7 secrets  tomorrow!