It was easy to make me deliriously happy when I was a child. The night before Christmas I would try to expel my pent up excitement by jumping up and down on my bed until the wee hours, then jumping up and down on my mum’s bed at five in the morning. Being allowed a 99 flake on a summer’s day would elicit squeals of delight and Disneyland was my childish Mecca – a place so magical that you had to wander around it with a grin constantly plastered to your face – and even the fact that Sleeping Beauty’s castle was just a gift shop didn’t dampen my spirits.
Now I am an adult, that level of joy is harder to reach and sustain, especially in wet and windy January. This week we experienced Blue Monday, supposedly the most depressing day of the year due to debt, weather and a lack of motivation. Despite being a PR stunt from 2005, it must be true as it has been graced with its own Wikipedia article. Bearing this in mind I’d like to share with you the collection of essays, Modern Delight. I picked it up in a charity shop quite a while back and it contains bite sized 500 or so word essays from well-known people as diverse as authors Phillip Pullman and Nick Hornby to politicians like Vince Cable and even Henry “The Fonz” Winkler.
It was designed as an update of J.B Priestley’s 1949 book of 114 essays called Delight. In gloomy post war times when The Ministry of Food controlled our food supplies and the economy was in tatters he wanted to boost morale by reminding everyone of the small happinesses of life like giving advice, not going to a party and the perfect G&T.
In the 2009 version, Modern Delight there are the expected subjects, like the countryside (Vince Cable) or grandchildren (Michael Palin) which are sweet but forgettable. My favourite essays are the ones that force you to look at these celebrities in a different light. Picturing Sebastian Faulks, a critically acclaimed CBE and an author I very much admire listening to Girls Aloud to get him through writers block or amiable journo John Sergeant saying “I do take a delight in pulling a fish onto a boat and killing it with one or two fierce blows” was somewhat shocking to me, but all the better for that.
Harry Hill’s torment of telemarketers makes me wish I was brave enough to try it:
“I’m calling from Replacement Windows”
“At last! (as if calling to someone in another room) ‘Darling, fantastic news! – Replacement Windows have finally called us!
(As wife) ‘Great! At last!’
This book is definitely worth a look, especially if you’d like to know how motorway service stations, frog spawn and the death of friends can bring people enjoyment. As for my delights: nothing brightens up my day than getting that last tube seat on the commute home, changing out of a binding outfit into comfy saggy pyjamas or spending the whole day in bed reading a book . There’s also one that I share with Nigel Slater, the last roast potato.
What are your delights?