All the Fun in Just One

Quite near to the end of August, my Wife and I went on a holiday together. The boys are old enough now to easily fend for themselves so we waved goodbye and off we went. 

It was a great holiday. There was long walks on deserted beaches, leisurely food in posh surroundings, a quite pint in a venerable old pub. There was a lovely room that was only a stone’s throw from the Atlantic Ocean. There was a wild drive through some unbelievable scenery. There was a  quiet time too, just reading and listening to the waves. 

Then we went home again, all refreshed and revitalised. 

Our holiday provided a break from the routine, an opportunity for a little down time, and some great, potentially lasting, memories. 

Our holiday lasted one day.

It’s a little lesson that I’m constantly trying to remind myself of and one which I constantly fail to remember. Perhaps if I write it down like this, it might anchor a little more steadily in my mind.

All of the pleasure, all of the fun, can exist in just a tiny part of something.

Earlier in the summer, I went to London. I met old friends, saw great stuff in a museum, had some nice food, perused  some shops, got rained on,  rode trains, flew planes... again the trip was just twenty four hours all in. 

This sounds like the opposite to a  'humble-brag'. A sort of a 'humble moan'. As if life is not as good as it could be but I'm not going to acknowledge it. That's not it though. That's not it at all. Life is great. The tiny bits are particularly great. You've just got to appreciate them a bit more.

It also sounds like I'm really good at all this. The extracting of pleasure from small things. I'm really not.

Supposing I bought a bag of sweets, Jelly babies, for instance. Supposing I kept them in that side compartment in the door of the car. Something to have a treat from on the long drive. (This might not be complete supposition.) I would eat all of those sweets. Invariably. Every last one of them. I would even be considering the eating of the next one while eating the current one. 

But, here’s the obvious thing. The thing I’m always forgetting. All of the sweetness, all of the taste, all of the joy, if you will, is there in that very first jelly baby. All the other jelly babies are simply more of the same. A series of repetitions leading invariably to excess. 

If one can extract it, one can get all of the great jelly baby experience that one could possibly need from that  first single sweet. The rest are largely redundant.

So can it be with pretty much everything. Our holiday was a single day and yet it was this perfect, leisurely, exciting thing. Like that first jelly baby, we really ‘tasted’ it. We weren’t thinking of the next day because there wasn’t a next day to think of.

It sounds like bullshit, I know, but it isn’t really. I think it’s a useful mindset that can help me to appreciate the tinier joys that are thrown at me. It isn’t about buzzwords like ‘mindfulness’ or anything like that. It’s just about enjoying whatever tiny part of something the fates allow you to have.

The next time I encounter a bag of jelly babies, I’ll probably dispatch the whole sodding bag. But I’ll try not to. With the very first one, I’ll really try to get what I want from it and then settle for that. 

I’ll probably fail.

I nearly always do.

But, man, that jelly baby is gonna be sweet…

1 comment:

Jim Murdoch said...

It’s been a while since Carrie and I’ve been away together. It’s the bird’s fault. And the wee bugger simply refuses to die. I mean I’m sure if I asked next door she’d pop in, lift his cover, make sure he had enough to eat and drink and even open his cage so he could entertain himself with his “castle” on the top of his cage until it was time for bed. And with a little training I’m sure she could even get him back inside. But she wouldn’t sing him his night-time songs or be there to respond to his calls checking if we’re still close to hand, insecure thing that he is. He may be older than your oldest kid but at heart he’s still a three-year-old and he really needs his mammy and daddy to be accessible. It’s our own fault. He gets the run of the house not that he shows much interest in investigating these days. He comes into the kitchen and “helps” me with the dishes but only if he’s in the mood. If he’s not he’ll dig his heels in—I suppose he must have heels—and that’s that. Occasionally, if he’s getting to be a nuisance, he gets to visit with the shaving mirrors in the bathroom. With the door shut.

The last time Carrie flew to the States was the day after Trump’s victory and I’m not saying that’s the reason she’s stayed away but he’s not exactly done a lot to make the place feel welcoming and homey.

In the twenty years since we’ve been married we’ve actually only had four holidays: the States to meet her family, the Lake District, Dublin and Oban. There wasn’t one where we weren’t glad to get back home. We’re not really holidayers. My parents went to Blackpool once when I was about three and that was the only holiday we ever went on; needless to say I remember very little about the trip other than coming home with a tin truck. Holidays were like relatives: I never really got them. The only holidays I had with my first wife were caravans in Ayr and St Andrews and a B&B on Arran which is where I tell my daughter she was conceived. F. and I managed a two-day honeymoon in Edinburgh which we spent shopping for gifts for everyone we’d left and that was it.

Not had jelly babies in years. We have bags full of chocolate in the kitchen but we only allow ourselves a wee plastic tub with our second coffee (and first TV show) of the evening, about 30g. A taste is enough. Gone are the days I can afford to wolf down a whole packet myself. People whose lives are as sedentary as mine need to watch what they eat.