Why won’t my kids read the amazing books I recommend?
THE HOLIDAYS – peak time for reading.
I’m about a quarter way through The Enchantment Of Lily Dahl – an old paperback by Siri Hustvedt that I saved from the bin at the charity bookshop where I volunteer.
Before that, I took ten days to crack through Conspiracy, the last (so far) of S J Parris’ Elizabethan-era detective novels.
Prior to those, I demolished Michael Palin’s Erebus and the latest of Ian Rankin’s series featuring the seemingly immortal John Rebus, In A House Of Lies.
I bought both of the latter books in desperation at Luton Airport (Ooh-Eee-Ooh!), feeling twitchy about the books that I’d already packed; dreadfully naked and vulnerable without a satisfactory supply of words to burn through.
My wife has also been cracking on. She’s normally too tired and busy to read at anything but a snail’s pace, but she read a book a week lying by the pool, which for her is pure Linford Christie.
Yoga wasn’t for me when I was younger. But in middle age, it really is making me a calmer, happier, fitter person
I DID A WEIRD, HIPPY THING yesterday – I took off my shoes and socks and I went for a little walk, barefoot on the grass.
I had just finished stretching, after a run in my favourite park, and I noticed that the soles of my trainers were catching somewhat in the lush grass I was treading.
I thought: I’d really like to walk on that, with my shoes off. And something in me answered: Well, go on then. No-one’s stopping you.
So I did. I took my shoes and socks off and walked just a little circle, about 100 metres in all. Around a stately old tree and back through clover that was gratifyingly cool on my soles.
I felt uncommonly calm and at ease with myself, and the feeling lingered for a while… including when I twice had to skirt around some dog turds. But even they seemed not unpleasant: genteel like the park they’d been laid in, small and firm like chocolate fingers.
I was having a bit of an epiphany, I realised. Here I was, actually feeling completely relaxed and at peace, totally unlike my normal self…. So what on Earth was happening to me?
I HAD A SPOT OF LUCK the other day – I caught a cold.
It wasn’t so bad a cold, just bad enough to stop me working.
And I got it on a sunny day, meaning I could sit in the garden with a book.
The book I had to sit in the garden with – Warlight, by Michael Ondaatje – was a very good one.
Which meant I could sit in the garden in the sun with a very good book and read all day.
I told you I was lucky. Because what my cold had given me was the certainty that I would now be happy for the day. Not so shabby, eh?
It’s not an exaggeration for me to state that I would find this life much, much harder without books. So far, they have been one of my few truly reliable sources of happiness in this world and, since I first learned to read, my constant and true companions.
When I’m too low to sweat out The Blues, it’s time to get up to the allotment
THOSE OF US who admit to problems with our mental health are encouraged to come up with so-called ‘coping strategies’ for when things don’t go well.
And because I’ve been struggling for years, I’ve developed quite a few, different, ways of caring for myself.
Eating and drinking the right things helps, of course, as does getting a decent amount of sleep.
I’ve also written recently about how laying off the booze – hard as it is to do – unquestionably helps to start the next morning happily.
On truly bad days, just putting on some shorts and big trainers and jogging up and down the hills that surround my house was my favourite form of mental alchemy – reliably turning panic into contentment and black thoughts towards silver linings.
Now, as I continue to nurse busted knee ligaments, I’ve found that I can achieve a similar effect to running by getting on a bike and pointing it up the nearest big hill, Lifting weights, meanwhile, brings a quiet calmness, a greater happiness with myself.
But most of those things are hard work and there are days when I really don’t have the strength for exercise that involves burning off hundreds of calories.
It’s then that I like to put on some old, sturdy, clothes, get on my bike and pedal gently up to Lotty – the name we have given to our vegetable allotment a mile or so away.