Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Happiest Day of My Life

I don't think that children and animals tend to contemplate the nature of happiness. If you see a happy dog, it's all HAPPY and no room for anything else.

That's how I was when I was a child. Going on holiday = HAPPY. Arithmetic test = SAD. I was a much-wanted only child until the age of nine, when my brother was born. My parents had enough money and I had plenty of friends and I got on well at school and although I wished that I didn't need glasses, I didn't have any major things to be sad about.

When you get older, it's hard to find that easy, uncomplicated HAPPY. Some things always do it for me. Rounding the corner on the road into Tenby and seeing the view of the harbour for the first time every year. Travelling up Lindale Brow on the way to visit my relatives in Barrow-in-Furness, and seeing the sea behind me. Swimming in the sea. And, of course, fairly recently, arriving in America for the first time ever.

There are quite a few things that make me happy and they're mostly to do with friends and family and lovely places, sometimes all at the same time.

But there was one time in my childhood when I was amazingly, incredibly happy - the first time I really felt it, and noticed that I was feeling it. And it wasn't anything that you might expect.

It was towards the end of the week, on a schoolday. I was probably ten. I was a great reader of comics - girly ones like Bunty and Judy and comedy ones like The Beano and The Dandy. But, if there was a pile of comics somewhere, I'd tackle any of them, no matter how BOY they were. I loved comics. My mother rather disapproved - she wanted me to read Proper Books. But I always did that as well - it was just that I loved comics, and I was fortunate enough to have my current favourite delivered every week, and it was always like getting a present.

At this time I had just moved on to a pre-teen comic called Diana which was slightly more grown-up in its content. These days I expect the equivalent would be all about fashion or teen celebrities but when I was ten it was mostly school stories and horses and the very occasional pop star. I loved it.

I woke up on this schoolday and realised that we'd be breaking up for the holidays soon so schoolwork wasn't going to be too onerous. Everyone assumed that I must like school as I was quite good at it: but I didn't. I had far better things to do with my time and found it boring. Throughout my childhood I'd hear grown-ups say to each other "Oh yes, Daphne likes school." Did they ask my opinion on this before saying this slander? No. Did I like school? No. I liked my schoolfriends, but I didn't like school. I always thought that there was something a bit odd about children who did.

So, the holidays were coming. Hurrah!

And then I remembered that some of my favourite relatives, Frank and Amy from Barrow, were coming to stay for the weekend, and we'd be off out with them to do interesting things in interesting places.

And then I remembered that my new comic, Diana, would arrive the next day. And it had a free gift of a ring with a blue stone.

And that was it. That was enough. I knew it was the happiest day of my life, so far at least. I knew it would be hard to beat.

I've still got the ring from Diana, of course.


Anonymous Milo said...

The happiest days of my life were back in school. The first couple of years at boarding school. It wasn't all happiness. Lots of low points too. But I have vivid memories of being manifestly _happy_.

I remember being 11-12 years old. In 'lower school' as it was called then. I remember having intensely close friendships with other boys. Best friends if you like. I remember one summer. We had a meadow not so far from the school. We'd wander there, either after classes or at weekends. I remember having a girlfriend (we all did, we were 11-12) - ironic perhaps, seeing as society now labels me as being as "queer as a 3 dollar bill". But I just remember this long, hot, hazy, halcyon summer. Probably 88 or 89. And just being incredibly happy with life the universe and everything. 22 years on, I still remember it.

The only time I've been that happy since then is perhaps 10 years ago, when I lived in Japan where I taught English. It was a great adventure and I remember, like it was yesterday, looking out at crystal blue skies and exquisite foliage, probably during the hanami (cherry blossom season) and feeling tangibly physically honestly happy. I had a great life, great friends, great adventure. The UK was a distant grey blur that meant nothing to me.

The last 10 years in London haven't elicited any such feelings, unfortunately. I've simply sleep-walked my way into middle age.

You do know that your blog gives rise to a deep catharsis within me, don't you?? It has always been thus. It's your 'remembrances of things past' (a category on my own blog too) that seems to trigger these outpourings.

7:27 pm  
Blogger Daphne said...

Milo - thank you for your interesting, evocative comment and lovely last paragaph too. And you're not middle-aged yet, oh no! I bet the hot summer was 89 as that was when Olli was born and it was incredibly hot for weeks, it seemed.

10:28 pm  
Blogger Debby said...

I'm smiling. I ponder the things that make me happy every single day. I'm a hopeless happy person so that's a lot of pondering!

Thank you again for sharing!

1:52 am  
Blogger Dumdad said...

I used to love comics as well at that age - Beano, Dandy, Eagle, Valiant, Beezer, Topper, Victor etc etc, and the American DC Comics like Superman. The weekly arrival of my comics was the highlight of the week. Yes, I was happy cocooned in the land of comics!

11:03 am  
Blogger Yorkshire Pudding said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

5:33 pm  
Blogger Yorkshire Pudding said...

For me replace "Diana" with "Look and Learn"...all that wonderful knowledge...and then there was the time I saved up tokens from "Beano" and received a family day ticket for Butlins at Filey. I can still see the looks on my parents' faces now...translated into English those grim faces would have read in unison "Oh shit! Butlins!" But we went and I loved it. The camp is all gone now. Last time I saw it it looked like it had been nuked.

5:35 pm  

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