Tuesday, July 6, 2010

10 Things to Be Happy About

While surfing the web the other day, I happened upon an article about sunspot activity. Namely, that there suddenly is none. Scientists have never seen anything like this before so the logical conclusion is, it’s the end of the world. (You have to extrapolate a bit to arrive at this conclusion, but just a bit.)

In any event, it hardly matters because, if you surf a little more you’ll find that we’re doomed to collide with a giant asteroid and that Yellowstone Park is scheduled to explode at any minute. Either of these events promises to plunge the world into uninhabitable cold and darkness, but just in case none of this actually happens, BP—as a sort of backup plan—is filling the oceans with oil.

Meanwhile, one half of the world’s population is trying to kill the other half because they don’t have the same imaginary friend as they do.

Add to this the government’s decision that you and I need to pay for the fiscal adventures the bankers went on a few years back and you begin to understand why some people, myself included, are looking a bit grim these days, and walk around as if they are carrying John Prescott on their shoulders. Frankly, I find it amazing that any of us have the strength to get out of bed in the morning.

But we do. We face the day, we fight the good fight and we try, against all odds, to look on the bright side. And that’s what this post is about—ten good things this modern and hectic life offers us that the harbingers of doom do their level best to cloud from our vision:

1. Indoor plumbing: Because an unfathomable amount of time has been saved, discomfort avoided and noisome smell eradicated due to the invention of the flush toilet. Just think about it; this is the only time in history where a man of modest means can rise up from the sofa when Midsommer Murders goes to commercial, have a dump, flush it away and still have time to make a cup of tea before the adverts are over.

2. Modern medicine: Because you would not believe the number of people who, in centuries past, died from simple things like paper cuts, catching a cold or even drinking the water because they didn’t have basic medicines. Once you scratch away the Jane Austin veneer you’ll find life back in the good old day was uncomfortable, brutal and short. And imagine having a hangover and not being able to pop a few aspirin to see you through the morning.

3. Ben and Jerry’s Chocolate Fudge Brownie Ice Cream: Because, well, seriously, what more do I need to say about that?

4. The smell of bacon (or fresh-cut grass, if you’re a vegetarian). Because, even though these were readily available prior to the technology boom, you would have had a hard time noticing them. (See Item 1)

5. Really small laptop computers: Because I’m writing on one now, and if Charles Dickens had tried to do this, he’d be spilling ink all over the seats and stabbing his pen through manuscript pages every time the bus hit a bump.

6. Decent instant coffee. Because when I was younger it, tasted like brown water. These days, it comes close to tasting like good coffee. And you don’t have to wait an age for it.

7. Electric kettles. Because they are the hallmark of a civilized society, as well as the perfect complement to Item 6.

8. iPods: Because when I was in high school, kids who wanted to be a nuisance to others lugged huge radios around and blared really crap music at a decibel level similar to that of an Apollo rocket during liftoff (and they always had a menacing look about them, as if they were hoping you might suggest they turn it down so they would have an excuse to rip your arm off and beat you to death with the bloody stump) but these days, the best they can do is crank up their iPods so that, even though they are six seats away on a crowded bus, the only thing you can hear is the hiss, chink and pops emanating from their ear buds. But whenever this happens you can smile inside, knowing that, by the time they are thirty-five, they will be stone deaf.

9. The Eurostar. Because the option of travelling to Europe in a metal tube skimming (more or less) safely over the ground is an eminently better option than shooting through the stratosphere in a metal tube at the speed of a bullet. A derailment trumps a fiery explosion every time.

10. Blogs: Because I can promise a list of ten items and, when I only come up with nine, I can ask other people to fill in the blank.

And they do.


  1. Okaaaaay I am moved to make a couple of comments from your list Mike...

    Item 2) With you all the way on this one, and then some - speaking as somone who has recently (like 3 weeks ago) had a heart attack and spent some time closely associated with modern medicine - 3 cheers for it and gimme more of it please.....

    Item 7) Yes, I agree wholeheartedly, but this does rather suggest that the USA is not as civilised as we may have been led to believe, as they are not really into electric kettles that much, if at all - my sister in law has one, especially for me to brew tea when over on a visit (nice of her huh?)

    Item 10) Living in a country where there is no rabies - no large predatory animals (not in captivity that is), no poisonous spiders and only one poisonous snake (and no one has seen one of those for years), no extremes of weather.... in fact the only thing in this country that can do you serious harm is er.... the government!

    You have to laugh don't you?

  2. Sorry to hear about your heart attack, Steve, but glad for Item 2. Hope you are on the mend.

    And yes, I forgot! You are unlikely to die from being outside. Back in NY, locking yourself out of the house could be fatal.

  3. It's true that electric kettles aren't as popular here in the US. Having visited numerous time before moviing out, I made sure it was the first item I bought as a resident.

  4. We got an electric kettle for my son and his wife as a wedding gift; really, how can you go through life without an electric kettle. It was difficult to find in the US, however.

  5. My 10 would definitely be central heating! Having lived for many years in houses without, I love being evenly warm. And it saw the demise of that hated and ill-named garment - the 'liberty bodice', into which I used to be buttoned each winter as a child.

  6. Jenny: My wife had to explain what a 'liberty bodice' was. I bet you looked quite fetching in it ;)

  7. I couldn't agree more about No. 1! Indoor plumbing was an even more exciting invention than the wheel. Or fire. Or the patio. For No. 10 I'd have to say a modern kitchen. I ended up rereading all the "Little House" books last year, and if I had to do what they did and build a fire first thing in the morning to get breakfast going and then keep it going all day...No. Refrigerators, freezers, stoves, the works--yes!

  8. #10: Another nod to the internet: because you now can live vicariously through an American expat already living in Britain while you're sitting at your computer (theoretically) at work in Oregon.

  9. Stacy: Much as I hate our little electric stove, it beats cooking over an open fire any day ;)

    Kurstin: Yes, it is nice being over here while people like you read about it ;) My wife an I just returned for a lovely local pub where we enjoyed a drink in the cool evening. Very nice.

  10. I'd agree with including the internet to your list and even Skype - that is just an easy and great way to keep in touch with friends and family. I would be so much more homesick if I couldn't Skype.
    I am glad you didn't mention a Kindle - sometimes things (like books) just can't be improved on, in my opinion anyway.
    Hope you are having a lovely weekend.

  11. Pam: I agree. Skype good; Kindle not so good ;)

  12. Congrats on passing your accreditation exam.....

  13. I love my electric kettle and ipod equally. I cannot imagine life without them.

  14. Oddly, my love of iPods is that OTHER people use them ;) On the very rare occasion that I get to listen to mine, I do appreciate it, however.