Alexander Averin

Sunday 31 August 2008

Happy Days

Header picture, Connemara Farm is an oil painting by Elizabeth Ryan

Dear Diary,

It is the time of the New Moon. This is a time of growing energy, renewal and hope.

If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.

Dalai Lama

Every morning I am woken at 7 am by Radio 4’s Today programme; I don’t mind this, especially if it is dear old John Humphries taking the programme. What I do always bemoan however are the constant results of surveys that crop up amongst each daily dose of the news, it is always guaranteed to make my hackles rise. Surveys were never ‘news’ when I was young. When I was young - that phrase is creeping into my vocabulary on a too-regular basis of late. It’s not that I am old, I really am not but I slip and fall too easily into Victoria Meldrew mode because of the way life seems to be going in this country. Is it just me? Or was it ever thus? Is it a generational thing?

Anyway I digress - again. Yesterday’s survey made my ears prick up.

Where is the happiest place to live in the UK?

This sounded Interesting.

Powys came the reply. Folk living here are apparently happier than anywhere else in Britain.

A warm glow of satisfaction came over me. Yes!

And then smugness - weren’t we the clever ones to choose this fair county to escape to,eighteen and a quarter years ago.

This was closely followed by doubts, suspicions and insecurities. As ever in my psyche!

How did they work that one out?

More sheep than people - that always crops up. OK for sheep lovers I suppose but although I adore them all, my love of animals concentrates on dogs, cats, horses and especially donkeys.

Still, millions of sheep have to be a plus point, especially if you don’t like crowds.

The wonderful views. I can’t argue this one . I feed off them daily.

The lack of crime. Another truism. How lucky we are. There is crime of course but it is low scale and we feel relatively safe wherever we go.

I don’t remember the rest of the happiness-inducing delights of Powys as, even though it was Saturday, I had to get up and get ready for work but I can make my own list for sure.

I put it out of my mind but the subject cropped up in the library when one of my borrowers brought it up. This lady is a favourite of mine, a Welsh woman of 83 going on 30 who I see as a kind of role model, such is her zest for life. Her intelligence and energy are outstanding. She is always off here there and everywhere, looks years younger than her age, is still feisty, still drives, maintains quite a large house, gardens, belongs to all the town’s clubs etc but enjoys her own company too (she is a widow and has been for quite a few years). She is an ex-teacher and was originally from South Wales. I have recently helped her to set up an email address and taught her how to use Google Earth so she can both communicate with and see where her daughter is living in Los Angeles.

I have digressed again, whoops.

Anyway P, this lovely lady, told me that Hay-on-Wye had ‘taken over’ the results of this ‘happiness’’ survey, had jumped on the bandwagon and made their town the happiest place in Britain. Clever old Hay I say. But it really is the whole of Powys and not just that dear little town.

M and I went to Hay yesterday after my usual quick 1000 on a raft Saturday lunch. (beans on toast). M wanted to buy a few more Jeffery Farnol books and there is a shop in Hay with a whole section.

And the sun shone and there was no rain. Hallelujah!

Hay always makes me happy, it has to be said and if you’ve never been there it’s more than worth a visit, especially if you are a bibliophile like me.

While M browsed Farnol I scoured the poetry section and struck lucky finding two Kerry poets I love: Gabriel Fitzmaurice and Michael Fanning. Too cheap to miss, I spoilt myself.

An Old Man and His Joy

Today I saw pain’s beauty
In an old man and his joy -
His brain-damaged grandson.
(For years I’d passed them by;

The old man would support him
And clap his grandson’s hands,
But I had no children then
And didn’t understand).

Propped up, protected in the old man’s arms,
The boy shambled down the street,
And while he gave no smile, no sign
(Nothing that I could see),

I felt the care between them.
Though life needs anodyne,
I’m grateful for this beauty.
I suffer it as mine.

Gabriel Fitzmaurice.

Then I did the wrong thing - I went into a favourite clothes shop because they had a sale on. I was immediately drawn to a shirt and matching skirt. I have a weakness for gingham and everything was half-price. I was only going to buy the shirt and not the skirt but, for once, M was interested and actually encouraged me to buy both. (This is a first!). He even chatted to the lady in the shop about how the two items could be worn separately and would go with other things. He was even suggesting colours they would go with, frightening stuff, this is most unusual behaviour for M, or any man don’t you think?

The shirt and skirt.

(Not shown well, you can hardly make out the cotton gingham and it has come out far too pink, it is more on the reddish side in reality. Apart from that though it's fine...... :-)

You might think that I am forever buying clothes, especially with the recent acquisition of THE Purple Coat, but it could not be further from the truth. I usually have to be egged on, by my daughter usually or a friend. But Hay has such wonderful shops - it is best to go at sale time though as they are not cheap.

We stopped off at a favourite garden centre on the way home and topped up with compost (three bags for a tenner) and I bought winter pansies (purple of course) and some winter heathers to plant in my old Belfast sink which is now in the garden. I will post a photo when it is planted.

And we bought four more solar lights, tallish ones. My artistic brother’s idea was to put one each side of the river - why didn’t I think of that? These lights are so fantastic, I love their gentle blue-white glow.

So we were Happy In Hay and it was a Happy Day altogether as it ended with an impromptu invitation to go round next door for a drink. We sat outside (now that was a first this summer) and we enjoyed a barbecue round a makeshift fire in a bucket, a quickly made brazier. We enjoyed our much-loved neighbours’ company and a couple of friends came too. There were stars in the sky, for once there were no clouds and it was a very enjoyable end to Another Day in Paradise.

Yes - they tell me that in Welsh, Powys really does mean paradise.


Role models
Poetry (of course)
New clothes, gingham.
Solar lighting.
Our lovely neighbours, conversation, the outdoors, firelight.
A day without rain.


Grab it while you can.

Bye for now,


Tess Kincaid said...

Oh, I think I might be completely and utterly happy living there, too. Sigh.

But, I am perfectly happy living right here, smack dab in the middle of the midwest at Willow Manor!

CAMILLA said...

Oh Cait, what a lovely lovely post, but then all your posts are lovely.

I like your new two-piece in pretty gingham, and know what you mean about 'men' on women choosing clothes. My HL never compliments me on any clothes at all hardly, not bothered by it now as have got used to it. Then was deciding on which shoes I should wear to wedding next week, when HL reply was WALK UP AND DOWN..... oh, love those ones they really suit you.

How I would have adored to have been in Hay On Wye, I have always wanted to go there, and of course all those wonderful book shops too.

I am happy living here too Cait, but would be even happier with a river. I have popped over to your slide show again, and see amongst those beautiful pictures, your pretty cottage and the river.

So pleased you and 'M' had an enjoyable day out, love that Poem too Cait.

Pat Posner said...

Lovely post as usual, Cait.
Love the pink gingham.

Frances said...

Hello Cait,

I enjoyed this post so much, it's difficult to know what to comment upon first!

Perhaps the poem. I will carry its thought with me throughout this day, and will surely be reminded of the poem again and again.

I do quite like your new gingham outfit, and also that your "stylist" participated. Every so often we do have some gentlemen in the store that actually seem to enjoy helping their wives/girlfriends ... sometimes moms, pick out clothes. It's more usual for the gentlemen to sit in one of our comfy armchairs and look through one of the books that we keep nearby.

On to books and Hay and happiness! I do want to see Hay, and am still waging a debate with myself about whether I can actually afford to go anywhere on my upcoming weeks off (late/mid Oct into early Nov.) I want to see Marrakech, Wales, Scotland, Cornwall, France and Italy, amongst other places! have lobbied very well, in reminding me that I have never been to Hay ... just never got that far west. I will keep you posted.

Meanwhile, I would say that any place that claimed you would be a very happy place! xo

Milla said...

I DO like the way that your blogs are even longer than mine, kind of comforting! And glad that you like John H too, where so many seem to dislike him - E cannot bear him, but I'm fond of his irascibility. Where we live never wins surveys but is too small, but SHOULD!! Well done on the clothes, am rubbish at clothes buying, bewildered by too much choice.

Casdok said...

Happy in Hay! A lovely post :)

Pondside said...

Another beautiful post, Cait. I didn't catch on, until today, about your love for donkeys. We share that. I am waiting for a donkey that needs rescuing, much to the The Great Dane's bemusement.
There is so much unhappiness and strife in the world - and posts like yours are a balm.

Deborah Carr (Debs) said...

I love your corner of the world, so beautiful and the photos of it are glorious.

Unknown said...

Oh wow. I really didn't want your post to end. What a perfect day and a truly idyllic setting.

I've only ever been to Wales once - to Llandudno. Enjoyed it but didn't feel it was "Welsh" enough.

The gingham is beautiful. I so want your life!!!

Tea said...

Sigh.....what a lovely place you live in...


Fire Byrd said...

What a peaceful place your post took me to. Makes me want to visit it in reality. Although I'd have to leave all money at home, cause it would be too dangerous near all those book shops.