November 6th

Your Tuesday morning therapy session! As usual, respond by clicking on Comments.


Did you have a happy childhood?
What is your happiest memory?
Are your parents happily married?
Are you happily married?
Is your husband happy?
Do you believe you have a right to happiness?
What would you choose if you had to decide between being happy and being secure?
Are your children happy?
Could you make them happier?
What’s the happiest thing you can imagine doing?
Do you cry when you’re happy?
If you had to locate happiness in one part of your body where would it be?
Do you ask yourself Am I happy?
Do you believe New Years should be happy?
When you are happy how do you express it?
Do you think that searching for happiness is one of the main sources of unhappiness in the world?
Is happiness your goal?
What is more important than happiness?
Would you take a happiness drug?
Could happiness be a negative state, a passive condition, which undermines things you should value more – your striving and yearning, your improving and growing, your inventing and discovering?
Is happiness a side-effect?
Would you rather be a happy pig or an unhappy person?
Is there such a thing as false happiness?
If you went to a fancy dress party that had ‘Happiness’ as a theme what or who would you go as?
What’s the point of happiness?
Is it true that happiness justifies the means to its attainment?
Are serial killers happy?
Who’s the happiest person you know?
Do you know what happy is in any other language?
When was your last really happy birthday?
Do you know the etymology of the word ‘happy’?
Is it possible to dislike very happy people?
What does happiness taste like?
What shape is happiness?
If you were given a single wish would you wish for a happy life?


  1. I look around and all I see are grim, worried faces. I wonder whether they are here voluntarily or were they sent here by their husbands and wives and parents and friends? I decided to come and see whether there was still hope for me, but now when I sense all this reluctance and bad mood I start to doubt. What am I doing here where no one smiles?

    The door of the classroom opens and in comes a young teacher, her lips stretched into a 160 watt smile.

    “Morning, ladies and gentlemen,” she pipes. Not surprisingly, I find her cheerfulness even more revolting than the gloominess around me.

    “How are you on this beautiful morning?”

    No one answers. She looks at the name card on my desk. “Miss Leland, tell me, how are you feeling?”

    I stand up and stay mute. She eyes me questioningly. Finally, I stammer, “I feel okay.”

    She smiles wider still and corrects me, “Now, this is how we do it. Watch me. I feel great.” She jumps a little on the balls of her feet and I watch for molasses starting to drip from her sweetness filled mouth. “Repeat after me, all of you.” And she does it again. We repeat and the droning noise fills the classroom.

    “I see you still have a lot to learn,” she observes. “By the way, my name is Miss Melody.”

    “First, we’ll learn to pronounce the word happiness in various languages.”

    And she starts scribbling on the blackboard. Happiness, felicidad, gioia, bonheur, Froehlichkeit, sreča, shiawasé, etc.

    That was my first day in the happiness school. I had a feeling we were going to get enormous amounts of homework. And when I thought of the exams, I got really scared. But it was worth to try, wasn’t it?

    Brigita Pavshich

  2. Gor blimey, it's the bleedin' Spanish bleedin' Inquisition. Wot's wiv all the questions? Que sera sera, luv, if you arst me. You'll melt yer brains if you go on worryin' abaht stuff like that. Nice cuppa tea, that's wot you need. Wiv a coupla sugars, by the sound of it.

    There, that's better, innit? See, the fing abaht 'appiness is, it's elusive. E-lu-sive. You start tryin' ter find it, or aim for it, or, I dunno, identify it, an' it slips through yer fingers. Like tryin' ter drink water wiv chopsticks. Pointless. 'Appiness, it's either there or it ain't. An' if it is, then make the most of it. You never know 'ow long it's gonna last. Now I'm not saying that to be a miserable old bugger, it's just a statement of fact. Sometimes it lasts for ages, like when I 'ad my first an' my old man was working away. It was just me an' the babe, an' I din't get out the 'ouse all week, but I din't care, 'cos I was in love wiv that kid.

    Uvver times it don't last long. But, see, the uvver fing abaht 'appiness is, it don't always come when you expect it to. Like at me old man's funeral. I weren't 'appy 'cos 'e'd died, well I weren't exactly sad, either, 'cos 'e was a right old bastard those last few years, but I was kinda sad 'cos I'd always 'oped 'e might change back again, know wot I mean? Anyway, I remember coming out the chapel, an' it was a beautiful day, winter of course, 'e died in the January, but sunny an' still, an' I saw the trees, all bare branches, set 'ard against the bright blue sky, and I was just so damn 'appy ter be alive.

  3. I could bore you senseless on the subject of misery but to me, happiness is a more slippery character. Until recently, I thought it was a conspiracy or an illusion, a mirage in the desert of misery perhaps. Here are a few theories of mine:

    1 Happiness can only be enjoyed at the expense of something else, its binary opposite (sorry, that misery thing again). The fact is that in order to be happy, you have to have been unhappy in order to enjoy it. Otherwise, you wouldn’t know you were happy and if you didn’t know, then what’s the point of it?

    2 Money can’t buy happiness. That’s not entirely true. If you won the lottery, I bet you’d be happy, even for a little while and this brings me to my next point:

    3 Happiness rarely lasts. No sooner have you clambered out of the depths of despair (sorry) that you’re looking for the next fix.

    4 It’s not to be found in a bottle. See points 1, 2 and 3. Add to that the fact that afterwards, you will have a headache, be more miserable (sorry), poorer and you’ll have forgotten about it anyway except that some helpful soul might remind you of your happy antics the night before.

    5 You can’t plan for it. Holidays are notoriously not happy (trying not to say miserable). Christmas and birthdays ditto for reasons 1,2,3 and 4.

    Now here is the solution. It is sensible to take Prozac because:

    1 The tablets are there every morning misery or no misery. You do not need to be miserable every day to take them.

    2 An NHS prescription costs £6.75. Bargain.

    3 They’re happy to give me 2 months’ worth.

    4 No hangovers.

    5 They make holidays, Christmas and birthdays more tolerable.


  4. Happiness is the only thing that matters. That is why my job is so important. It’s not easy though. You’d be surprised at some of the things I’ve seen. Broken hearts, smashed souls, battered brains. I have to start somewhere – so I start in their mouth.

    This is where my journey begins, and it is difficult from the outset. People think they want me to help them – but they aren’t quite sure. Sometimes they leave me waiting at first. I try to encourage them. ‘Let me help you! I can make things better for you!’

    But they try other things. They fill their mouths with fine wine, and their nostrils with tobacco. They try to blot it all out with vodka, with marijuana, with whisky sours.

    Some people get it right. They fill their mouths with words, with song, with poetry. They feel the warmth of someone else’s tongue, someone else’s body – and then they don’t need me.

    But for those that do – I am there. It helps my journey if they take a little – water, wine, coffee – something, at the same time. Not too much though, they mustn’t drown me out.

    This is where it gets clever. I need to touch the brain first and I can only do this by getting right into their inner being. Down, down I go. Warm and salty, turbulent and bloody. I break, I dissolve. This doesn’t make me weaker – it makes me stronger. It makes me what I need to be. It lets me do my job.

    I permeate everywhere. I seep into their brain and do battle with the bad thoughts. I slip into their heart and heal it, make it whole. And the hardest thing of all – I sew their soul back together. It’s my job to make people happy.

  5. “Smile honey.”
    “No. I’ve forgotten how.”

    She’s sixteen. She’s always been emotional. A temperamental child. She’s crying again. Refusing. I don’t know what to do to make her feel better. I can’t seem to find the words. I hug her, but she cries even more. She tells me that her heart is broken into two perfect pieces. She tells me that she’ll never be happy again. I smile. I tell her that her heart will mend and that one day she’ll remember him and that she won’t cry anymore. She scowls at me.

    “Smile honey.”
    “I’ll never smile again.”
    “But you will. I promise.”
    “I don’t believe in promises.”

    She’s been hurt. Deeply. She’s crying in a shoulders shuddering, nose dripping way. I am running out of words. Her first love, her only love has found another. And when I hold her she tells me that she wants to sleep forever. I smile. I tell her that tomorrow will be a new day. I tell her that there will be time to find the one who will give her a happy ever after. She frowns. I know what she’s thinking.

    “Smile honey.”
    “Why? Do you want me to smile in the same way that you do?”
    “I want you to smile. You’re so beautiful when you smile.”
    “OK. I’ll perfect a smile that’s just like yours. I’ll pretend that the world is a wonderful place.”

    I cry. I have words that won’t flow. They’re stuck and twisted and rotten. I am to blame for her pain. She is seeking. Security, happiness, love. She is jumping and searching for all that I have refused her. There is no forever. There is no happy ever after. I have no promises. I long to sleep and never wake up.

    I smile.

  6. I taste you on my tongue. A candy coating. A skimming layer. I walk from your wrinkled bed sheets. I turn.
    You smile.
    Down the carpeted stairs. Careful with my footing. I reach the final step.
    I stop.
    I have two choices. The front door or the glass of water that I promised to you.
    Then it happens.
    I twirl on the balls of my feet. I spin around and around and around. I am naked. I am giggling. I stop spinning. I am pointing towards your front door.
    I guess that I’m sounding kind of crazy.
    But I have this thing inside me. And when I feel even the tiniest touch of happiness, this thing is activated. And then I start spinning.
    I twirl, swirl and whirl. I become the most graceful of ballerinas.
    And when I stop.
    A decision is made.

    This morning. I was tasting, being, becoming. And then there was a moment when I began to feel happy.
    I really don’t like the feeling. Happiness comes as thunder. It covers me. I am deafened. My whole body vibrates. I lose touch. I forget to be on guard.
    I have been here before.

    This morning. With you inside me, over me, on me. The lightening flashed.
    And I knew.
    The thunder was coming.
    And so that thing within was triggered. And I started spinning. And I had to leave your bed.
    You see.
    I really don’t like feeling happy.
    And so I’ll leave you.
    I’ll leave you waiting for that promised glass of water. I’ll grab my clothes and go out of your front door.
    I guess that the scent of me will linger. In your bed. On your fingers. And you’ll be confused. But you’ll be spared. And I will be saved.

  7. I wore yellow, which I thought meant ‘happy’. Mr Happy is yellow, the sun is yellow, sort of.

    “It’s the colour of depression,” said Marcia, adjusting her Minnie Mouse deely-boppers. “It’s a suicidal plea, especially with your skin colour.” She did a polka-dot pirouette and grinned. Happy. With her skin colour, coffee-cream with an undercoat of ivory, she could wear bin-bag grey and look radiant.

    The party was raucous, incense-fumed, jumping, crammed. Was it happy? Add together the individual happiness of each person, divide it between the number of people in the room; the mean happiness - what does happiness mean?

    Marcia was dancing with a teddy bear. Are teddy bears happy, or do they just offer happiness, security, comfort? “Comfort,” I once said with confidence.
    “Is what makes you happy.” I was happy then.

    I was uncomfortable now. The net of my borrowed skirt scratched my thighs; the straps of the tutu strained, too tight. A yellow tutu and the face of a clown. Sad.

    Silence. Darkness. Everyone stood still. A power cut. End of party. Someone flicked a lighter, then two or three, fireflies, out-shadowed by the dark. A giggle, a squeal. At last a tea-light lit, placed on the silenced stereo. As one, unseeing, we turned towards the light. A pale yellow tinted glow; it wavered, threatened to blink out. We held our breath. We were in a cave, a cathedral. We held our breath; waiting for a roar, an organ chord, a revelation.

    Music. Light. Power restored. Laughter, a giggle, a squeal.

    The tea-light flickered out-lit by the disco ball. There was a hand on my waist, warm through thin nylon; a familiar face, an offer of comfort from a silver-lurexed cowboy. My nylon net scratched his wrist. A flicker, a recognition, a pale yellow glow.

  8. Hey, what’s this for? The Book of My Face Spice? You already know my name, my age, my sex, my town, my friends; you’ve got my pic, and my accent. And now you ask me all these happy questions. You fire them at me, triggering a cacaphony of smells: warm milk and frankfurts, cinders, doonas, wet stones and slime, and pink marshmallows.

    I hear shouts and screams and gentle warbling. Songs and shudders paint the walls.
    Einstein’s tongue is licking the fine hairs at my nape as we roll with the pigs in the magic of mushrooms. Giggles like bubblegum burst over my face and clog up my nose. I am dying. I am flying. Memories mingle with flowers and brickbats, soaked in aromas of vegemite jam. And there are the dragons, the ones that I fight with. The red ones, the blue ones, the lizards of the land. And the land, it is dry, yet the waters are rising and there’s a green goo at the end of the road. Or was that your nose?

    Rights, you ask? Who has rights these days? Secure rights? Right to security? I hear the gallop of oxen and morons. Of course I cry, and I’m not ashamed. I sometimes do it so much that I pee. Maybe that’s where it lives, in a five n’ ten bladder.

    I ask myself many things, but don’t often get answers. I should be so lucky, but let’s not moot the point. You still with me? It’s whiskers on raindrops, and brown-paper geese and all of that’s hard to sew as a costume. But it tastes of sherbet. And it fizzes on your tongue and warms the skin on your wishbone.

    You think you’ve got my number, but you forgot to ask if I were happy.

  9. The best part of New Year’s Eve is the dressing-up. The disguise. I went to a party once dressed as a Bunny girl, all curves and teasing except that I bulged in the wrong places and was immediately recognised by my lumpy ankles. No disguising them in fishnet stockings, high heels, gold anklet. At midnight one heel snapped in two and I floundered before falling in a heap at my partner’s feet. He was not amused; neither of us was happy at that moment.

    He went as an artist, not that original, but it worked for him. The black beret at a sly angle tipped over one ear; the thin line of a moustache that I had pencilled in, tongue thrust between my teeth in concentration; the blue maternity smock, a relic of past pregnancies and a paint brush poised behind the other ear. When he looked in the mirror he was pleased at the transformation. He was happy at that moment.

    It was hilarious really. None of his patients recognised him. Such a relief – no bowels tossed into the conversation, no mention of lumps and bumps, varicose veins, enlarged prostates, bleeding orifices. He was just another reveller; I became a person not just an appendage to those who worshipped him as God. I was happy at that moment.

    Some of the patients joined in the fun. Released from their inhibiting disabilities, mingling with the able-bodied, identifying with them their spirits were given a temporary lift. I was overwhelmed with sadness as we trundled their wheel chairs in formation to the Gay Gordons. It seemed grotesque; an insult to their sensibilities. Disguised as pirates, fairy queens, chorus girls’ whose feet would never tap the floor; over painted, wigs askew they were merely caricatures. But they were happy at that moment.

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  11. Applebee waited watching at the window, wearing a hat of contemplation in the happy hope that a beginning and an end would soon arrive. Their inimitable arrival would bring a long awaited climax of closure, a joyous feeling for which Applebee yearned. Applebee wished to tell a tale and though it was a fully formed whole, an object in the mind, ( which could be viewed from a multiple of possible positions), putting it into words, to do it justice, had proved an impossible task to date. Without a beginning or an end perhaps it was not even a tale. Applebee did not fret much , content to collect words and lines, form them into pretty prose of perfunctory use to people, Applebee was happy to be simply in the doing.

    Applebee’s pleasure in pleonasm had become somewhat of an obstacle of late, though still an effective way of avoiding the truth. Distraction made Applebee happy, but it was impeding all efforts to write effectively. Before Applebee could fix in words, all which needed to be fixed, it was necessary to find those elusive flighty fellows, who up till now had evaded every effort made to pin them to a page. Applebee searched with fervent determination through dictionaries, of old and new, through the texts of literary geniuses, philosophers and visionaries for words which would give sublime satisfaction to the audience waiting in the wings. Applebee’s initial search for words of wonder turned into an obsessive pleasure in everything from tautology to pleonasm, resulting in superfluous overuse of nonessential adverbs and adulterated alliteration. Applebee was constantly distracted by the pleasure to be found in new exciting words, which when laced, in multi syllabic strings, caused senses to soar. Applebee persisted in gesticulating gibberish and hoped audiences got the gist .

  12. In the light, I am haloed. I may be smiling. My shirt is blue with a texture like towelling – it wasn’t, but in forty years I have never discovered what the material is called. My knees are thin and suntanned beneath cream short. My shoes are out of the frame. Behind are mountains, but the line where they meet the sky is blurred – perhaps by distance, perhaps by time.

    I have never seen this photograph. No-one took it. But I carry it everywhere and it comes to the surface of accumulated junk every once in a while. I recently moved house for the fourth time in six months, and here it is again. I am wearing a hat of stiffened grey felt, with a small feather on one side. It casts a shadow, which is why I am not sure if I am smiling. I think I am. It smells of warmth in the pure sun.

    The camera points the other way, to where we all look. Across an empty road are fields and, beyond, mountains, clear and sharp against perfect blue. I remember every detail, each hard ridge and soft curve of snow. My parents are close. I remember this, although they are not in the photograph that no-one took.

    Once, a few years back, I flew over these mountains. Pressed against the humming window to avoid reflections, I took a photograph. Later I compared it with that old, untaken picture from my first trip abroad. There was no denying it was better framed and, in spite of the movement of the plane, it was steadier. The digital colours were considerably brighter. The funny thing is that, although it’s so recent, I seem to have lost it already, whereas – as I said – this old one keeps turning up. Look.

  13. Once upon a time there was a little girl whose doleful expression was so pure that people mistook it for the unfamiliar beauty of a higher order. Even her lacklustre movements were mistaken for a certain languid grace. Only the little girl’s mother could see her daughter’s exceptional beauty for what it really was - the distilled essence of the saddest soul. But it suited the mother better not to understand this and so she started training herself to see her daughter in the same way everybody else did.

    This wasn’t always easy for the mother, especially when the little girl showed signs of bruising under her dresses and complained of terrible stomach-aches, but she persevered until eventually she too could see only the delicate beauty that everyone else saw. She enjoyed the way people enviously looked her family, admiring her handsome new husband and beguiling young daughter.

    But as the years went by the daughter’s beauty started to fade and one day angry little pustules began appearing on her face. It wasn’t long before the broken spirit that had been festering inside her erupted into great weeping sores all over her skin. The once-beautiful daughter’s character exploded too, like the boils on her body. She would scream and swear and smoke drugs in her bedroom.

    The mother felt ashamed and disappointed. She knew that she should try to help her daughter but she was afraid that this would involve uncovering things that she did not want to uncover. So mostly she pretended that nothing was wrong. Occasionally she would seek the comfort of her friends, throwing up her hands in despair and crying, “I don’t know where her stepfather and I went wrong!” and they would reassure her by replying, “Don’t worry, dear, she’s just at an awkward age.”

  14. Libraries, she’d always thought, were the exclusive territory of old people who couldn’t quite reach the toilet in time. But after she’d finally moved out of the place she’d called home for five years, into a far tighter and darker existence in a one-room flat, this was only one of the opinions she came to question.
    The irony of the fact she was researching a thesis on how ancient tribes define happiness relative to the Western concept hadn’t escaped her. ‘Should I set myself up as a one-woman control group?’ she’d joked, crisply, to her friend Philippa.
    Her first few days on her own had consisted of unpacking the essentials and touching unfamiliar surfaces. Philippa visited, taking in the broken sash windows and carpet that didn’t quite reach the skirting board in one glance. ‘You can’t work in this dump. What about that library around the corner?’
    And so, a few days later, Emily parked herself on the end of a vast melamine table in the middle of the library, opened her laptop, placed her hands around her cheeks and tried to blot out the bustle.
    But there was one noise that refused to budge. As her gaze slowly drifted up from the computer screen, pupils adjusting their focus from close to the middle distance, she found its source across the table. A large mouth, one of the biggest she’d ever seen, was chewing gum. The squelching sound was rhythmic and meditative, like walking through mud on a winter walk. As Emily watched, the mouth’s owner, a young mixed race man, spotted her. The noise stopped as he pushed the gum aside with his tongue and the shape of his mouth flattened out, like he was trying to make the sides reach his ears. Without thinking, Emily did the same.

    Claire Murphy

  15. When I was young, I was asked if I was happy. I’m talking about five or six here, the earliest I can remember. I don’t recall what answer I gave, but it was probably ‘no’. It’s likely that I thought happiness could be bought or passed on as a gift like a new doll or a puppy – I loved that puppy. I was so sad when it ran away and it wasn’t until thirty years later when we buried my father that my sister let slip that it had been destroyed.

    In retrospect, they were happy times. We had the biggest house and garden of anyone in my school although we were poor as church mice. The house wasn’t mortgaged, my father barely earned enough to pay the bills and my mother learned frugality in feeding us. She was happy. I doubt I’ll ever meet a woman who was as happy as she was despite the hardships. There was no washing machine, just a fire-heated boiler in an outhouse that had to be filled with rainwater and boiled. Everything was washed with the aid of a dolly and a mangle, then hung on the line to dry whatever the weather. We had no heating but for a single coal fire and no drier.

    In order to supplement their income, they sold whatever they could from the garden: cut flowers, vegetables, soft fruit, apples and pears and in the spring she and my father would sow and prick out hundreds of trays of seedlings and make up hanging baskets and patio pots. She made her own clothes, cut her own hair and slept for an hour which ‘Watch with Mother’ was on television.

    She was the happiest woman in the word and my father, when she died, the most disconsolate man.

  16. ‘Are you happy?’ asks the counsellor.

    What a stupid question, I think. I mean, would I be here if I was happy, if my life was perfect? I know, of course, that whatever I reply she will challenge me. That’s her job and she’s bloody good at it.

    I’m no longer sure why I started coming to see her. I suppose it was that underlying feeling that there must be more to life than this. More than cooking, cleaning and nappy changing. More than yearning after a supposedly perfect lifestyle I’ll never be able to afford anyway. I just don’t know how to answer. What exactly is happiness? Do I have the right to expect to be happy?

    So she tries again. ‘Well, are you unhappy then?’

    I pause and think. No, I’m not really unhappy. My life is comfortable. I have a beautiful, healthy child and a partner who, I believe, loves me. I have good friends.

    Of course I have been unhappy in my life. I was unhappy when I was bullied at school. I was almost suicidal when my heart was broken for the first time. That sadness only gave me the impetus to achieve more. It made me what I am today. But what am I? Am I happy?

    I try to explain all this to the counsellor. How I am confused about whether not being unhappy is the same as being happy. About how I have this desire to be really happy all the time, to live a life full of joy, as the self help gurus might say. But what the hell does all that mean anyway?

    She looks at her watch.

    ‘Go away and watch the television news every day,’ she says. ‘Next week, come back and tell me whether you are happy.’

  17. A journalist took genetic tests, she said of course the big one is Alzheimer’s. You can tick a box to say you want to know about everything else, but not Alzheimer’s. If you have the e4 gene, that increases your risk of getting Alzheimer’s by 400%, apparently (400% of what?). This journalist hasn’t even got a family history of Alzheimer’s! But she’s still worried. Everyone is. That’s the big one, nowadays.

    Or is it worse to die of cancer? At least Alzheimer’s isn’t painful. And the worse it gets, the less it’s your problem. (Mum has bad dreams, though.) “She’ll find a sort of happiness in it,” the psychic told me. (Dreams it’s hard to wake up from.)

    S. says, I’ve already told you that, you never listen to me. Will she look after me, if I get it? My brother is scared if he gets it, nobody will look after him, because he doesn’t look after Mum. He’s right about that. At least, I’m not going to. Ha ha. (If he gets it and I don’t.) My other brother says he’s got two daughters, so he’ll be all right. Wouldn’t count on it.

    Mum says she lost all her children in the war.

    Only a postmortem can determine whether you have Alzheimer’s or just dementia (but the terms are used interchangeably). Brain scans only reveal patterns of dead cells.

    If the agency carers think I won’t be there, they often don’t turn up. They fake Mum’s signature on the timesheet. They don’t get paid much anyway. Carers are leaving the agency. It’s haemorrhaging staff.

    All the journalist’s tests were clear. She unexpectedly felt a great wave of joy. Now her only worry is, whether she’ll ever die of anything! I hope she gets run over by a bus tomorrow.

  18. She was the happiest baby. We played peekaboo on the tube this morning.

    Truth be told, it was her dad (big surprise), I noticed first ... wedged into a corner of the carriage, right next to the glass partition (what good’s that anyway ... to give the seat elite some semblance of seclusion?). I couldn’t see his face (his nose was to the wall, banished to the naughty corner), but I could tell ... spitting image of my ex (you recognize people from behind all the time, don’t you?).

    She was divine, all strapped onto his back. Maybe nine months old (two years since he left me ... wow, time flies). Coal black cowlicks sprung from her perfect little head. Impossibly big, brown eyes (her daddy’s) sparkling at anyone lucky enough catch them.

    Could he really have a baby?

    I flashed a smile to his peaceful angel ... blissfully floating above the conflux of commuter hell. She looked back towards her daddy's head. I dipped mine into my Metro.

    You can always tell when someone's staring at you (or reading over your shoulder, rude, the papers are free you know). I looked up and found her grinning at me. Her daddy’s eyes burned holes into the graffiti-etched wall (or maybe he was napping, he always fell asleep standing up). He’d have made the best parent. He said he wanted kids.

    Just not with me.

    Marisol’s (we always named the babies, at least the cute ones) eyes darted between me and his nape … miniature hands on his head to keep steady. Her face lit up with silent laughter every time our gazes locked.

    I longed to play with his hair, to smell his sinewy neck.

    I gave a little wave. She gurgled with laughter.

    Why wouldn’t he look at me?

    bob [at] bobzyeruncle [dot] com

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  20. ‘….And they’re playing matchstick men and matchstick cats and dogs…ah ah ah ah ahah ah ah ah ah ah ah ah ah…’

    The self help cd ran on and on, droning in the background as I hummed, then whistled the tune I keep for moments like these and what I call the ‘tune' that:

    got me through my degree;
    got me through the French tape sessions;
    are getting me through my neurotic mid-life crisis.

    Help! Dear God help… I’m having one of those moments and I feel I need some damn ‘happy’ pills to sort out my wretched existence on this God forbidden pod of an earth.

    Why, hell! I need answers now! If only my mother hadn’t perched me on the bed as a baby and then panicked when I’d broken a collar bone, I’d be a calm and panic-ridden sensible grown up but instead, she had to turn my mind into a wrecked vessel of stranded attachments that went nowhere except up the creek.

    She made me what I am today, yes, a paranoid schizophrenic which I wrote about in a poem called
    ‘Probably’ and it goes like this:


    I'd be a smoker by now,
    a heavy drinker on the side,
    an insomniac,
    a singer (just in the shower),
    a paranoid schizophrenic,
    an hallucinating hypochondriac,
    a rambling prankster,
    an hyena,
    a school/uni drop-out,
    a nervous wreck,
    a workaholic,
    a telly addict,
    a regular church-goer,
    an organist,
    a seamstress,
    a fashion designer,
    a graphic artist
    and a brilliant cook
    with a flair for
    haute cuisine
    if I'd a had ma ways.

    That flaming stork must've
    got da jitters.
    And got me
    the best

    Yes, my poetry alright
    and story of my neurotic traits come to light.

    I am happy.

  21. He smiled gently.

    ‘Can I do anything for you?’ I asked, a new therapist on the hospice ward.

    ‘Hold my hand,’ he whispered.

    ‘But I feel I should be doing something to make it better for you,” I replied.

    It’s not easy sitting beside a total stranger, especially one so very ill. You want to do something to make it better. Plump up the pillows. Smooth the sheets. Bring water, grapes, chocolate. Read out cards from well-wishers. Anything to make the pain go away. Anything to bring some cheer, to raise spirits.

    ‘Hold my hand’ was all he said.

    And so I reached under the sheets and found his cold, thin hand. Embraced it in my own healthy, warm palms. Held it. Nurtured it with warmth and compassion. He closed his eyes. Said nothing. Just smiled, a blissful, happy smile. Time seemed to stop. I’d heard of ‘being in the moment’ and this was it. This experience of holding a dying man’s hand. Never before had I felt anything so profound. This deep connection with another soul. Not doing anything, just reaching so deep and so far into the peace and stillness that exists between human beings, not human doings. Such a gift, this lesson from a dying man.

    I marvelled as his rapid, irregular breathing started to slow down, his face relaxed and looked so at ease, so free from pain and fear. I wondered what he felt, if my hands in his brought back some distant memory of a safe, secure childhood.

    He slept.

    I held his hand. Tears rolled down my cheeks and landed softly, silently on the sheets. But I stayed sitting by his side. I don’t know how long I stayed there.

    ‘He died so peacefully, such a happy look on his face,’ they said.

    mary atkinson

  22. "Harold?"

    Harold put down the teapot mid-flow, carefully pulling the crocheted cosy over the spout. Doris had bought him that.

    "Come here, there's a rat."

    Harold sighed, Bert was a lovely bloke, but he really was an old woman. A rat, in Cedar Court, I ask you?

    He pulled the concertina door across the kitchen as he stepped into the living room where Bert was pointing out of the window.

    "...Alright, alright, I'm here now. No need to wake Mrs Hamilton next door. She'll think its the undertaker again and you know how much boiling her sheets take at the best of times."

    Bert, shook his head, but spoke quieter.

    "What I was trying to tell you is that there's a rat, look."

    Harold followed his pointing finger, wiped his glasses on his tank top, had a second look and then laughed.

    'Ooh, you daft old beggar, that's not a rat."

    Bert looked confused.

    "Looks like a bloomin' rat to me Harold Wilson. What the 'eck is it then?"

    Harold, shook with laughter.

    "That isn't a rat, it's Amy Winehouse's merkin. Gord, she'll laugh when she hears that one. She'll love that, she will."

    "Amy Winehouse's merkin? Why the bloody hell have you got that?"

    Harold smiled.

    "Oh, she got a good soaking when I turned the sprinklers on this afternoon. She was hiding behind the compost bin..."

    Bert nodded in recognition.

    "Yes, I found Lily Allen in my 'fridge again this morning, behind the bread. Didn't notice her at first until she handed me the prunes."

    Harold sighed.

    "Oh, I know people complain about all this celebrity stalking, but I think it's just nice to have someone new to talk to. I've got her beehive in the airing cupboard, do you want to come and have a look?"

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  24. I must have been happy on the day. It's meant to be the happiest day of your life. And I'm smiling in the photographs. We both are, in our leather coats and overgrown hairstyles. But when I think of our marriage, I don't remember happiness. I remember you leaving me alone on our honeymoon while you went to visit Jayne. She'd picked that weekend to leave her husband and needed to talk.
    I remember the nights when you didn't come home for supper until it was dried up. Once that made you so cross that you brought the plate upstairs and threw ribs at me in bed. Your mother came up to see what all the row was about and you raised your hand to her, so she made me go and sleep with her. Not that either of us slept. I had to go to work the next day. I wasn't very happy about that.
    But it was so long ago and in another country so that when I think about it, it's as if all that unhappiness went on in a book I once read.
    Ten years ago you came to visit me. Before you arrived I got out our wedding photographs for my children and explained who you were. It didn't stop them from hiding under the table. My story of a hot iron flying across the kitchen cancelled out the smiles, just as it did at the time.
    The next day you phoned. You'd joined AA and you'd promised them to make amends for the wrongs you'd done to others. It was part of starting a new life. You said you were sorry for not making me happy.
    You didn't ask me to forgive you but I did that anyway. It made me happy.

  25. Looking back I can see that my father was a brilliant man, top of his profession. He had achieved this ultimate through making my young life a misery.

    Mother tells me now that she had pleaded with him in vain. ‘Not with the children, darling, anything else but please I beg you, don’t experiment with our little Girlie.’

    My father had put an arm lovingly round her shoulder. ‘You don’t understand dear, she is the most receptive material I could possible have. She’ll provide me with all my missing links.’

    My earliest recollection was at about two years old. One moment I was happily spooning my favourite cereal into my mouth, the next I was hiding timorously under the table investigating my newly acquired tail and whiskers and squeaking feebly. I heard my mother scream, my father breathe a long satisfied sigh of triumph.
    Once, as a cat, I left deep claw marks across his cheek.

    There was the occasion when my mother, holding my hand tightly, set off with me to a children’s party, dressed in a frilly pink dress with a large bow in my hair, clutching my parcel. Skipping along happily at her side, she relinquished my hand for a moment to take a hanky from her pocket. In that second I had vanished and at her side trotted a small poodle with a big pink bow on its head. If poodles could cry I should have been in floods of tears. Even out of his sight he could use me. My mother facing the inevitable, grabbed the thoughtfully provided lead dangling loosely from my collar and we turned towards home again. Tightly wedged in my canine mouth was the gift wrapped offering intended for my friend. In this ruthless and persistent manner, he sapped my childhood.


  26. Henry was a happy pig
    he splashed around in mud,
    he oinked at all his piggy friends
    and thought that life was good.

    Then one day it all went wrong
    (get ready with your tissues)
    Henry gained a new sty-mate
    who really had some issues.

    Her name was Penny Porker
    she was plump and pink,
    and all day long she would grunt
    ‘Does my bum look big in this, d’you think?’

    For Penny had aspirations
    of the very unpiggy kind,
    not for her the grilled pork chop
    she had other things in mind.

    She dreamt of being a model
    and glamorously strutting her stuff,
    muddy sties and troughs of grub
    really weren’t enough.

    Penny caught young Henry’s eye
    he thought he’d try his luck
    But she just oinked a piggy laugh
    and told him to try the ducks.

    Poor Henry grunted his distress
    and hid at the back of the sty
    whilst Penny danced along the fence
    amusing passers-by.

    The farmer’s children took a shine
    to Penny pig that day
    they stole her from her sty
    and took her home to play.

    They dressed her up in their clothes
    (just like in her dreams)
    but these fans didn’t smile and cheer
    they teased her and were mean.

    Wriggling free, she ran away
    and headed towards her sty;
    forgetting her dreams, she scuttled home
    to sit in the corner and cry.

    She thought about Henry as she ran
    how he really wasn’t so bad,
    maybe she’d been too harsh
    he had looked rather sad.

    But Henry was nowhere to be seen
    their little sty was empty
    he had grown round and fat
    and the truck had come to get him.

    Penny had missed her chance
    she felt alone and forsaken;
    she’s left in a lonely sty
    and Henry’s turned into bacon.

  27. Are serial killers happy?

    Someone asked me this the other day and I can tell you without a doubt that they are. They are a frequently over-excited bunch and tend to be a bit obsessive about everything in their lives.

    Serial killers live in a bit of a paradox. They don’t enjoy killing others but feel compelled to do so. Our whole lives really are one big compulsion, from our morning habits to the way we sleep at night.

    More than anyone else, serial killers are creatures of habit or routine. It is why they are so good at killing others; they have everything planned from one moment to the next. From ever speck of blood to every fibre of skin.

    There are the occasional angry serial killers. Those are the ones who give us a bad name. Most of us are trying to leave their mark upon the earth, upon the skin, so that we are remembered after we’ve been brought to justice. We want to be remembered, talked about.

    The other night, a victim asked me the preverbal question: Why?

    It’s more than the simple “Because I can.” I took out my knives, my set of drills and all manner of little finicky instruments. I explained this all to her as I have just explained to you, about my need to be remembered, about the need to become a myth.

    Myth plays a large part in why we do what we do. We exist not to inflict pain on others, though that certainly is a side effect. We all begin as Myths; allegories struggling to break through the hard dirt and breathe air. Myth is our beginning and, for us, our ending. We exist not only for blood.

    We exist to become the things of legend.

    Jamieson Wolf

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  29. Life, liberty and the pursuit of effing happiness, if you’ll excuse my French. Can’t be done, can it? Happy childhood? Don’t get me started, but there was this day… They eff you up, don’t they? Happily married? They are now – happy being miserable. They got divorced only they couldn’t stand the peace. So now they live in sin screaming the place down. Give me security any day. The kids? That’s another matter. But you can’t live their lives for them. Breaks my heart when one of them’s upset, though. Most days all I want to make me happy is a soak in a hot bath. It might not be everyone’s idea of heaven, but when I feel all the tension float into the water. Christmas. That’s my thing. I spend months planning it. I have to make it perfect every time. It’s that look on their faces when they open the presents – even now they’re grown up – you can’t beat that. But you can’t can it either. Not that I’d want to, mind – can it that is. Effing doctor told me once he thought the government should put Prozac in the water. What’s the point of that? If you’re never miserable you don’t know when you’re happy. Wouldn’t be real anyway. And, let’s face it, no one likes people who are permanently bloody cheerful, do they? Get’s right on your wick. Like that woman Marj down the road, always got an effing smile on her face. I always think there’s something a bit missing from people who are always happy – well, there’s that much suffering in the world – they can’t have much of a heart can they? What does happiness taste like? Strawberries and chocolate, darling. Silly bloody question though. And it’s shape – my kids when they were just born.

  30. happiness [hap'i-nes] n
    1. the quality or state of being happy.

    Okay, ‘happy’. Look up ‘happy’. My eyes scan the page in desperation.

    happy [hap'i] adj
    fortunate; full of or characterised by content, well-being, pleasure or good.

    I look up ‘content’, ‘well-being’, ‘pleasure’, and ‘good’, but I don’t find the answer there, either. I bang the dictionary down on my desk in frustration. I am not sure I can be bothered anymore.

    My dad sympathises. He says that modern women are so much harder to please. In his day, you just bought the girl a new frock and she’d be happy for months. Now, buying her a new kitchen only makes her happy until the sink gets its first scratch. I found that out for myself.

    ‘Don’t do that. You’ll scratch it. Oh, look at that! Look what you’ve done to my new sink. Ohhhw.’
    And she stomped off into the other room.

    All I was trying to do was wipe the bubbles off, after having done the washing up. Trying to make her happy.
    This was after I spent eight grand on a new kitchen, trying to make her happy. (So, I think it’s probably my sink, actually… but I didn’t say that.)

    She was happy with everything I did/said/bought her, until we were married. That was when she started to become…

    unhappy [unhap'i] adj
    not fortunate; miserable; mischievous (obs).

    Obscure it might be, but that last definition is the most apt. It was a good few years before I worked out that she had it all worked out. First the children, then the big car, the big house, the big income (that I had to go out and earn).

    And now she’s leaving me, because, she says, she just wants to be happy.


  31. I am in England, and I am happy to be here ,now for so many things, to be happy with my husband and children, to be in the United Kingdom the language of which is the window
    of the world, the library language and lingua franca of the world . But unhappy at the moment
    for one thing that is , I am missing this year Diwali the festival in India , the festival which is being
    celebrated because the people are happy for on this day the demon was killed by the lord Krishna.
    I cannot partake of sweets being exchanged to relatives and kith and kin, the joy of bursting high
    crackers and wearing new clothes. But this momentary unhappiness did not turn into a perennial
    longing for I derive happiness by logging into my laptop , a timely gift by my eldest son , and my realm of creativity, writing poems , short stories , into many web sites – a source of untold
    Happiness indeed.
    Mathematics was one subject which I found it very difficult to understand and
    I did not have an aptitude for Maths subject English hour was very much looked forward. Maths period was a chagrin to me and I would feign to put the clock forward given a chance .
    That way in my school days during English hours I was happy, happy to learn by rote
    the poems of Wordsworth and the sonnet by Milton’s ‘On His Blindness’.

    Eve n a man of wealth cannot be happy these days for he must think, think as to how to
    Pay to the Income tax or how to adjust, of course in a reasonable way. My Guru’s
    Assurance, his succour, in times of distress, a source of happiness all times to me limitless.

    Radhamani Sarma

  32. How could you do this to me? How? We have been through so much and you ask these questions, such fundamental deepness. I cannot go there into the depths of my soul. I cannot tell you, I can barely examine myself, and yet you feel that we should openly discuss what happiness would taste like.

    No. I choose another path. I feel, since you feel the need to ask these questions you should furnish us with a set of answers. I cannot give so much.

    I will be silent, alone, my life is choices not taken, opportunity missed, I wait for the end of time in a solitary, purposeless wood that hides the sunlight from my eyes. I am forced to examine that which is hidden from others. My inner self is opening doors to dark places, to serial killers, to children dreamt of in fitful sleep.

    Now the anger is free, ripped from my heart and flung into the public domain where it can wreak havoc on all who see its burning passion. An inverted, self destroying passion that looks for release from its bonds, and it is you, with your questions that provided the key. Beware, the price of your naïve curiosity will be the answers to questions that should never be set upon the world.

    I am who I am, and that is my history, my future and those who will seek to enter my world will become as I am. Happiness is not within me. Happiness is what I jealously search for, ever chasing more, further. Hunting it till my dying breath. I will give of myself, one thing only, this question, no more, answer and maybe you will see your heart.

    If you could wish happiness on anyone, would you wish it on your enemy?

    Jim Barron

  33. What?

    when I asked him the question he hopped out of bed and began to twirl around the room and this is what he said, happiness is a black bear that I have to teach how to dance, in a wood, under moonlight, mindful of its two left paws; I take it slow, start with a waltz or a cha-cha-cha (which isn’t as hard as everyone thinks though its origins lie in Cuba) then move on to a foxtrot, truthfully I’ve never learnt these steps myself, I make it up as we go along and generally speaking if you can waltz you can samba and sometimes the bear is eager to please but other times its grouchy and glares and growls and squeezes me so hard that I fear for my bones until I remember my position as a natural born leader and growl right back at her.

    when I asked her the question she hopped out of the bed from the other side and began to twirl around the room and this is what she said, happiness is a black bear that I have to teach how to dance, in a wood, under moonlight, mindful of its two left paws; I take it slow, start with a waltz or a cha-cha-cha (which isn’t as hard as everyone thinks though its origins lie in Cuba) then move on to a foxtrot, truthfully I’ve never learnt these steps myself, I make it up as we go along and generally speaking if you can waltz you can samba and sometimes the bear is eager to please but other times its grouchy and glares and growls and squeezes me so hard that I fear for my bones until I remember my position as a natural born leader and growl right back at him.

  34. People discount happiness. I don’t know why we do that - not always, and not in the same way, and at different times - but we do.
    We only realise we are unhappy when we hit the depths or suddenly experience happiness.
    Other things have become the most important to us, jobs, the target is god and our basis for satisfaction.
    Relationships flow and founder on the most superficial of things or events, leaving us wondering what it is all about – not are we happy it worked out that way.
    We don’t even notice that we are unhappy because life is so busy, so task orientated, so hard, and we don’t take time to ask ourselves or recognise it.
    We don’t know ourselves, we take time to ‘find ourselves’, but to do what - if not achieve happiness.
    Blissful moments of euphoria with sex, friends, glorious weather – moment that perk up the endorphins and flood our systems with happiness juice,
    They make us know our human condition – those of us who are lucky enough to know how to think.
    Are we the lucky ones? The less knowing full of raw wants and needs and gratification – don’t they attain an easier level of happiness?
    Is happiness a side effect? Of what, what does it matter, so long as the end result is happiness, nuff said my boy!!
    We make others happy or not, that is a fact, we impact on one another and we know it – albeit subliminally or consciously – we know, at all sorts of levels and we employ the means.
    And yet – and yet, we all also know the beneficial, the all-pervading pleasure of happiness within, or physically without bringing us those pleasures within,
    And yet if you were given a single wish would you wish for a happy life?

  35. jane

  36. Fish Out of Water (or The Mermaid's Tail)

    “He who is not contented with what he has, would not be contented with what he would like to have” Socrates

    "Happiness is the light on the water. The water is cold and dark and deep." William Maxwell

    Marena kneels on the damp sand; a gesture of desperate prayer, or humble submission to the sea's strength and her inevitable return. The cold air ripples her nakedness. She tastes brine, whiskey and tears on her silent, wind-chapped lips, hears sad songs locked in her head.

    She takes a last swig from the nearly empty whiskey bottle, then stands and limps forwards under the weight of her strange, lead heavy black boots. She steps into the shimmering sea, leaving her hopes and dreams on the shoreline – brittle driftwood among her scattered clothes.

    Walk becomes wade. Her arms caress the water with their curves. Once way out of her depth, she dives downwards. Bubbles burst from her mouth, lungs gasp, her aching legs flail, fingers claw for something solid. Will she fail in this as she has failed everything else: marriage, children, her life – new and old?

    But the slippery water, once more familiar than earth or air, slides away from her smooth skin and unnatural legs. Then the sound of the sea fills her ears, her mind stills and flesh turns to liquid silk as she glides towards infinity.

    When she surfaces again some days later, the coroner finds her torso strangely preserved; skin untouched and sleek as fresh seaweed. Clumps of malignant cells, clustered like caviar, smother her ovaries, uterus and lungs. The trawler man who found her tells how her body dropped from his nets onto the deck; her skin shining in the sunlight like the scales of a wet fish.

    Sarah James

  37. I’m happy, sure. If that’s the answer you’re looking for. And as far as I can tell this is what you mean when you ask the question. But I’ve always had trouble with the way you use language.

    Are you happy? Like it’s some sort of valid question, with some sort of equally valid response. Like happiness is something consistent, something enduring, something that defines you, something that you can maintain – like I am woman, I am breathing. If it were something like this, there wouldn’t be much point in asking the question. Happy wouldn’t mean anything.

    Those who come close to some sort of enduring answer don’t know happy like I do. They throw the word around, like we throw around love… not in any way that means anything. And I guess, to them, it doesn’t. What they speak of is mere contentment, mere satisfaction. They are, merely, resigned to feel less. They are, merely, motion sick from the fluctuations. They are, merely, afraid to feel less than ‘happy’.

    And so, while they don’t suffer, they also don’t soar.

    My sadness is intrinsic to my happiness. My sorrow pervades every moment, every emotion I feel. But don’t cry for me. I’m happy, sure. This is, in fact, the very reason for my sorrow. In my willingness to feel, I exist in extremes. I have accepted that this is – must – be the case. And so, I have accepted that whatever happiness comes over me, it will be fleeting. And I grieve these brief glimpses most especially when my whole body smiles. While at other times, my mind dulls these memories so that I can go about my day not missing it, like a dear lost friend.

    Are you happy? You ask me like you aren’t even aware of the implications.

    Alison Baldwin

  38. Happiness (n) means good luck, good fortune, well-being, comfort, ease, felicity, euphoria, having a flourishing life in propitious times, enjoying palmy days, living in a golden age; it is a state of blessedness, beatitude, of achieving the summum bonum, of being in the seventh heaven, of being on cloud nine, in paradise, the Fortunate Isles, the Hesperides, Eden, Arcadia, the Isles of the Blessed, Cockaigne, Avalon, Happy Valley, the very Bower of Bliss;

    Happiness is a state of exaltation, exhilaration, delight, gladness, bliss, rapture; being as happy as a king, happy as a sand boy, happy as Larry; on top of the world, being blithe, joyful, gladsome, merry, beaming, smiling, gleeful, cheery, jovial, radiant, sparkling with fun, starry-eyed, being worthy of congratulation; full of beans, completely satisfied in all respects;

    Happiness is the experience of enjoyment, fruition, gratification, satisfaction, fulfilment, delight, contentment, relish, gusto, zest, merry-making, larking about, frolicsome fun, jolly gambols, good cheer, cakes and ale, beer and skittles, panem et circenses;

    Happiness is very pleased, it hugs itself, it purrs with pleasure, it jubilates and celebrates, it gets pleasure out of life, gets a kick out of things, goes into ecstasies, goes into raptures, enthuses, raves, delights and rejoices;

    Happy adj. (of person or circumstance) contented with one’s lot; cheerful, glad to help other people; (of language or conduct) apt, felicitous; (colloquial) slightly drunk;

    Happy Birthday; Happy Christmas; Happy Easter; happy holiday; happy event; Bluebird of Happiness; happy-go-lucky; happy turn of phrase; happy release; Happy Hunting Ground; Happy Land (heaven); happy medium; happy home; happy pill; happy ship; happy hour (bars); bomb-happy; trigger-happy; happy-clappy; happy-go-lucky;

    This happy breed of men …..
    I could be happy with you if you could be happy with me …..
    Call no man happy till he dies, he is at best but fortunate.

  39. She’s had a whole week of it. If she hears another thing about happiness, another single bloody anecdote, witticism, wise saying, she might scream. No, that isn’t enough. She might smash something, or someone. Wipe the smirks off their smug smiling faces. This is what too much happiness does to you, she thinks: it drives you mad in the end.

    It was Julian’s great idea, this. They’d done no-smoking day and breast cancer awareness day, road safety week and anti-bullying week and national nutrition month. What about an initiative of their own, he said? What about something simple and positive and life-enhancing like Be Happy Week? It would be great for the ratings, show they could lead the way, not just jump on other people’s bandwagons.

    They’ve had a different theme every day. What’s Your Happiest Memory? Do People Have A Right To Be Happy? Is Anything More Important Than Happiness? They’ve brought in experts, tedious bores to a man (and the women are worse) who’ve made happiness sound like an A level subject you wouldn’t touch with a bargepole.

    And they’ve encouraged the listeners to phone in, to e-mail, to join the Happy Blog. You wouldn’t believe how many people want to tell you how happy they are with their husbands, their jobs, their children. What a wonderful wedding day they had, what a perfect holiday, what a lovely person they met on the bus. How the weather cheers them up, or chocolate, or chopping carrots.

    Think of all the miserable bastards out there, she wants to say. How do you think all this public happiness is making them feel? Mind you, after this week she knows exactly What Kind Of Person Makes Her Happy. She’s after the guy who posted a message on the blog saying “sod happiness”.

  40. Who decided we should be governed by unquestionable questions? If the answers already exist, why ask the question in the first place? Why is 'why?' considered such a destructive question? If questions need answering to naturally progress, why is there such a lucrative industry surrounding the 'unexplained'? Who allows for the word 'question' to possess the second longest entry of alternative meanings in any public reference manual? Why do questions render humans evasive, uncomfortable, defensive or aggressive? What was the first question ever asked - and why? What does 'asking questions for questions sake' actually mean? If questions are the building blocks in the pursuit of knowledge and enlightenment, why isn't everyone on the planet a genius? Whats the difference between aggressive and passive questions? How do fighters ask questions of each other without even opening their mouths? What is the 'million dollar question'? If an outcome is questionable, is this not an indicator of a weakness in the questions fuelling the problem? Why do regular people question their sanity on a continual basis? If questions are so prevalent in our daily existence, why is 'I don't know' still so often used? Who ensures a question master gets it right? How would you describe '?' without saying 'question mark'? Is cash for questions a get-rich-quick scheme woth pursuing at my local cash converters store? When my boss asks me to 'hold the question for now', where am I supposed to put it? When I have to 'turn a question on its head', does this mean it could pass out or loose feeling in its hands and feet? If so, then what does a question really look like?

    Should I refine my question?


    Would we be justified in challenging our sensibilities in summary of our questions?

  41. Two years old and pretty as a picture. She walks around the house in her little purple crown saying, “princess, princess.” She’s happy with Cinderella, Ariel, Diego and Dora. Blueberries make her happy, although she seems to be a bit allergic but I give them to her anyway.
    Happiness, you see it in her whole body, from the way her hair flies around her to the twinkle in her eyes and the little skip in her run - happiness in blue jeans and a Dora T-shirt.
    She doesn’t have to think about all these hard questions … if Dora is on and she has a bottle of milk, her little lamb and her bear blanket she is happy. There isn’t the struggle with ends justifying the means. There are no goals. She doesn’t worry about tomorrow. She doesn’t dwell on yesterday. Happiness is bubbles in the bath or not and just splashing.
    How do I get back to that? Where I don’t spend my days miserable for what I don’t have or what I do have. Where I ‘m not stressing about what didn’t happen yesterday or what’s going to happen tomorrow. Where can happiness be found.
    I want to be carefree, burden less – like a child happy in the moment. Happy to be going outside and I’m not worried about the heat or the bugs or the neighbors stray dogs.
    I want to sleep, deep dreamless sleep content not even aware that there is a future to fret about. And awaken happy as a small child who doesn’t worry where breakfast comes from but finds as she rises in the morning – piles of steaming hotcakes and syrup, just the right kind of orange juice and adventure in the everyday or a morning of cartoons.
    That would be happiness.

  42. What shape does happiness take?

    Happiness is nebulous, chaotic, fluid. With no sides or edges, it changes form as it spreads through me, finding the smallest places to lie in wait. It seeps steadily, unhindered, occasionally catching me unawares. Sometimes it demands to be heard, bursting and spluttering out in explosions of laughter and then subsiding again to gently bubble away inside me.

    Happiness is green and yellow with a dash of crimson. It’s vibrant, it zips and it zings, It lightens my step as it seeps through the gaps between my toes.

    Happiness sings.

    Happiness presents itself more quietly too - a cold clear morning with black branches etched against a winter sky, the company of a robin searching for worms around my feet as I dig, a romantic movie where the girl gets her boy, a passage in a book, a painting on a gallery wall. Happiness keeps me company when I’m alone, wrapping itself around my limbs as I reach for my dreams that wait for me across the hours.

    Happiness is a smart new hair cut, new shoes with Louis heels and small round leather buttons up the side. It’s the sharpness of green olives on the tongue and the first mouthful of wine. It’s a favourite song, a cup of hot chocolate in a French café, a view of the sea. It’s a mountain just climbed with a view of the bay.

    It’s that time we got drunk on Marguerites and stomped home through the snow singing ‘Could it be for Ever’ to the sky.

    Happiness is the shape of things to come. It’s lovers with their first kiss, parents as they look at the squawking ball of new life, a mother as she watches her child’s first steps.

    Happiness is my long purple sofa.

  43. My childhood, filmed in black and white
    I remember crayons in the cupboard, coloring outside the lifelines
    Mom and Dad--one bed, two continents
    Yet boys can't marry boys

    So my husband married Angelina
    I left my rights in San Francisco
    Security blankets and straight jackets--both available in winter white

    Kids smile like jack-o-lanterns
    I drop candle sticks in their heads to make them brighter

    Watch me butterfly along the Equator
    Those aren't tears--it's the Atlantic's spittle
    Honey, I'm just happy to see you

    Baby, I don't question myself
    It's only the year 2000 in Ethiopia
    I got overdue high-fives in Addis Ababa

    Binoculars and mirrors only make me self-critical
    I guard my face-value like a goalie
    Nothing's more important than stopping black and white bullets

    I'm not an addict, maybe that's a lie
    Depressed Delaware is a negative state
    Poems may have positive side effects

    I love bacon
    True or false

    At masquerades, find me in the men's toilets, staring at my reflection, never looking so familiar
    What’s the point of disguises

    It's true that devils can justify the mean; it's false that gods can attain the nice
    Me and Charles Manson go way back
    The ex-wives of lobotomists always have ear-to-ear grins...

    Cerveja. Pivo. Cwrw. Birra. Happy.

    There's a photograph of me, age 4, plugging my ears while classmates sing "Happy Birthday to William"
    My surname means "dreary" in German, they call me Billy Badweather

    Deadbolt your good cheer in the basement for a year and see what color it is in 2008
    It'll taste like a splash of orange juice in a minty-fresh mouth
    It'll be shaped like an hourglass, a grandfather clock, a Rolex wristwatch, a sundial

    Some fools say it's better to give than receive, but wishing wells plunge so deep and some buckets
    have holes

    Bill Trüb

  44. “Happiness is the opiate of the masses.”
    Gloom is good. When things get bad, as they will, there is always the warm feeling of being able to say ‘I told you so.’
    Worry is worthwhile. If you didn’t worry about a mad elephant getting loose in Tesco’s you wouldn’t be ready to duck into the loo when it really happens.
    Misery is a must. Half the nice conversations in shops and bus queues and surgeries would never happen if people didn’t exchange symptom stories and have the chance to explain how much worse off they are.
    Regret radiantly. What better way of explaining how intrinsically better you are than airing a regret like ‘I am sorry, now, that I didn’t accept that invitation to advise the Archbishop.’
    Depression can be a delusion. You may think the world has it in for you and wonder if you should leave by the latest pill. Then you realise it is really a stomach ache and start to worry about it being something more serious than last night’s vindaloo.
    ‘Pessimism for the perceptive!’ A much underestimated source of delight. A really expert pessimist can be surprised by as many as 28 things in a day going better that he expected.
    Hostility is honest. Don’t begrudge yourself a comforting sense of self by repressing your natural dislike for the taxman; your neighbours; men with long hair and white socks; boys in hoods, body-pierced girls and people with bigger, better cars.
    Rage relieves. Remember how much better you felt after your last really ‘red spots before the eyes,’ stiff haired, fine focussed, fully expressed, uninhibited outburst?
    Loneliness can be lovely. Lying in a hot bath with a book and a glass of champagne after they have gone.
    Zenophobia is to be savoured—- and starts at Calais.

  45. Don’t talk to me about happiness as if it’s a continuous state of mind.
    As if it’s something we can get into other people’s heads to find out about.
    Or something for which we can legislate.

    Don’t talk as if you don’t know that things like security, sharing, learning, improving and growing or inventing and discovering are part of what it means to be happy.

    Don’t ask me what is the happiest thing I can imagine doing because you’ll get a different answer every hour, every day, every week. And even if I end up doing it, will it make me happy? Maybe it will for a time, but it won’t last.

    And if I cry because I’m listening to a beautiful piece of music is that happiness? It’s certainly not sadness although the music may be sad.

    So if we can agree that the feeling of happiness is transitory and most likely a response to external stimuli then our ability to experience it and to recognise it must be located in the brain.

    By the way, What’s New Year got to do with anything? It’s just a change of date.

    And surely having a purpose in life is more important than happiness, especially if it makes you happy.

    As for the pig. Well if it’s in clover and it likes it there, and it has good owners and no responsibilities, well then. But not if it’s going to end up upside down with its throat slit.

    Well, if I went to a ‘Happiness’ fancy dress party among the suns, the large cheques, the Madonnas or the Poshes ‘n Beckses, I’d be the one with no clothes, clutching a glass of bubbly and hoping to get seriously happy.

    False happiness? Are you suggesting we should comply with a happiness code?

  46. Happiness belonged to the girl with the sleek dark hair, the big brown eyes, the skin that wasn’t covered in spots, the arse that didn’t bulge out of her jeans that she didn’t have to lie down on the bed to zip up risking thrush or cutting off her circulation below the waist, the girl who floated through the corridors of the technical college, arrived silently without doors closing in her face or books falling out of her bag, which was slung low on her left hip, whose essays weren’t soggy and streaked from being dropped in puddles, whose lunch wasn’t toted in a Mother’s Pride bag with one half of the sandwich made from the end of the loaf, who had a boyfriend who dropped her at the gates, who made French sound sexy, who smoked without choking or setting fire to her hair, who turned heads in the refectory, who didn’t have boys shout ‘fat arse’ at her, whose parents doted on her, whose brother looked out for her and whose sister looked up to her, who lived in a house with a drive and was learning to drive, who never ate chips, or if she did they never went straight to her hips, who didn’t spill food down her top at lunchtime or have sweat stains under her arms or buy her clothes from the market, who knew how to accessorise, who knew how to apply make-up and remembered not to rub her eyes when she was wearing mascara, whose smile could fell a boy at fifty paces, who never went short of anything, anything, whose boyfriend adored her, who knew he loved her, didn’t she, who knew to wear long sleeves to conceal the bruises, how to cry in the toilets, how to never tell anyone.

  47. Last message from medwaymaria is form Maria McCarthy,

  48. Emily spent many happy afternoons next to her Grandpa on his high backed armchair, nestled in the curl of his arm, reading from her illustrated book of nursery rhymes.

    ‘A great love affair indeed,’ Granny would say as she watched them through the kitchen door. It made her happy to see the bond they shared.

    Over time the two of them had developed routines for the nursery rhymes. For ‘Sing a Song of Sixpence’, Grandpa was the King counting out his money and Emily the Queen eating bread and honey. After the last line where Grandpa’s hand swooped down to peck off Emily’s nose, Emily would always giggle and raise her hand to her nose to check it was still there.

    But each visit she noticed Grandpa was growing paler and weaker.

    ‘I have no-one to sing nursery rhymes with anymore,’ Emily said, her small hands clasped tightly on her lap, when she was told Grandpa had gone to heaven.

    ‘We’ll sing with you,’ her mum said, blotting a tear as it fell down Emily’s cheek.

    But Emily didn’t sing nursery rhymes anymore. One day she was visiting Granny and she said;

    ‘Granny, don’t you wish Grandpa was still here?’

    ‘He’s still alive my dear,’ Granny replied.

    Emily looked over to his empty high backed armchair and then back at her Granny.

    ‘Up here and down here,’ she pointed to her head and then her heart, ‘he’ll always be with us’.

    Later that night after Emily had gone to bed, her mum and dad heard singing coming from her room. They tiptoed in and saw that Emily was asleep but singing and miming as she ate her imaginary bread and honey. At the end of the rhyme, eyes still tightly shut, she laughed and cupped her hand over her nose.

  49. Realising it’s the weekend and pulling the duvet back over my head The heat of the mug against my lips before the first mouthful of tea The sound of a parcel dropping through the letterbox My dog’s enthusiasm Finding something I thought I’d lost Random acts of kindness The flatness of my stomach Spontaneity My dad’s voice at the end of the line Spotting a robin in the garden A friend’s success The unbridled flow of creative energy Politeness The recycling van A full fridge Photographs of my mum Looking out the window at the South Downs and knowing I’m nearly home Clarity My boyfriend’s devotion Learning from my mistakes Pet names Finding the way on my own Being remembered Honesty The perfume of hyacinths Bright-pink sunsets Seeing the sea My sister’s laughter Equality Truly connecting Letting go Good hair days Praise Old people holding hands Finding the right words Handwritten letters The perfect pair of jeans My granddad’s chips Dreaming of people I can no longer touch

    The sound of my alarm clock The coldness of the bathroom floor at 6am Bills bills bills My dog’s disobedience Losing my keys Violence The way my smile turns down instead of up Procrastination My dad’s silence Finding slugs in the kitchen A friend’s desperation Feeling blocked Rudeness Plastic bags Hunger My mum’s grave Missing my train Not being able to think straight My boyfriend’s jealousy Making the same mistakes twice The word moist Getting lost Forgetting birthdays Telling lies The stench of fish Grey days Losing touch with nature My sister’s sobs Hierarchy Feeling alone in a crowd Feeling inhibited Hairdressers who just don’t get it Being shouted at Loneliness Sounding inarticulate Junk-mail Shops that don’t have my size My granddad’s fragility Waking up and realising it was only a dream



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