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Tag: happiness

And there are gooseberries

Tuesday, 18 June, 2019

“Country life has its advantages,” he used to say. “You sit on the veranda drinking tea and your ducklings swim on the pond, and everything smells good… and there are gooseberries.” — Anton Chekhov, Gooseberries

Storyline: Ivan Ivanovich Chimsha-Gimalayski tells of how his brother Nikolai Ivanovich, a government official, becomes obsessed with the idea of returning to the countryside where the two of them had spent their happy childhood. The symbol of this obsession is a gooseberry bush. So, Nikolai buys a farm, plants gooseberry bushes, and when Ivan Ivanovich visits him he’s shocked so see this apparently happy man, now grossly obese, living in what he imagines to be his earthly paradise. Nikolai refers to himself as “We, noblemen” and expresses delight when his cook, as fat and pig-like as he is, arrives with a heaped plate of gooseberries. All this makes Ivan Ivanovich think about the nature of human happiness, which for him is the result of any happy man’s unawareness of how much grief and pain there is in the world.

Gooseberries


Strong structures, solid foundations

Sunday, 10 April, 2016 0 Comments

“We depend on our surroundings obliquely to embody the moods and ideas we respect and then to remind us of them. We look to our buildings to hold us, like a kind of psychological mould, to a helpful vision of ourselves. We arrange around us material forms which communicate to us what we need — but are at constant risk of forgetting what we need — within.” Alain de Botton, The Architecture of Happiness

The tower


The sixth Station: Childhood

Sunday, 29 November, 2015 0 Comments

One of my best friends in this photo is a dog. Actually, the dog is more of a playmate than a friend here. Animals are not toys, but they can offer children endless delight. Cuddly creatures are far more fun than gewgaws of wood or metal, no matter how cleverly these things might be designed and crafted. Farms are zoos of a kind, and while most of the animals are involved in the earnest business of converting their meals into milk, meat and eggs, there are other players on the periphery, such as cats and dogs, and their roles blur the line between work and play.

Childhood in Cullane

One of the noticeable things about this photo is the lack of things, apart from a very utilitarian bucket, a tin can and some items drying on the wall. Subsistence farming in the rural Ireland of my childhood did not generate luxury. It wasn’t quite a cashless society, but there was little in the way of disposable income. Despite this, there was no hunger and neither was there material or spiritual poverty. Ghosts still existed and fireside stories about “the troubled times” and characters who “drank the farm” had the power to enchant — if one was disposed towards enchantment, that is. And I was.

Even the prosaic had charm. On the last night that I sat and spoke to my mother beside the fireplace, she told how a neighbour, Hanny Egan, assisted her with the knitting of jumpers. Going to a shop and buying clothing for children was still a novelty at the time. The money wasn’t there, anyway, so the alternative was to make the clothes oneself. Hanny Egan wore a long black coat and she would put a large ball of yarn in each pocket. As she walked to the village of Ballylanders and back, with her knitting needles in hand, she would cast on the stiches — one plain, one purl — and pass away the journey productively. Hanny specialized in the knitting of sleeves, which was quite tricky; my mother worked on the bodies of the jumpers, which required more exertion, and the two of them would then join up the parts over tea.

Love cannot always be articulate, but this act of love was one of many that made for a happy childhood and the creation of those jumpers says all that one needs to know about these people. Within their limited means, my parents did heroic things for their children. They were totally selfless. No holidays for them. No extravagances, either. There may not be much in the way of stuff in that photo but the things that are absent could not be bought nor captured by a camera.

Our next station in this series of meditations on 14 photographs is Farming.


In sickness and in health

Thursday, 31 October, 2013 0 Comments

The Rainy Day team celebrates the annual anniversary of its union today. We have a lot to be grateful for and wish for many more days, rainy or fine, to celebrate our good luck.

Rainy Day hands

Days

What are days for?
Days are where we live.
They come, they wake us
Time and time over.
They are to be happy in:
Where can we live but days?

Ah, solving that question
Brings the priest and the doctor
In their long coats
Running over the fields.

Philip Larkin, Collected Poems