‘Happy’ Days

14 Jan

‘It’s not necessary to be happy. It is only necessary to be brave’.

I was strolling along the Boulevard, locally pronounced Bullyvard, in Hull, with my boyfriend, a philosophy student at the University, and, dipping contentedly into my bag of chips, had asked the question, ‘Are you happy?’, unaware of the great swathes of philosophical meanderings on the subject. His answer wasn’t original, it was a quote, I discovered later, but it was loaded with inference.  Just when I thought I had found happiness with someone, turns out he couldn’t  give me a simple answer to a simple question.

The required answer, at the time, a moonlit summer evening, returning to our Bohemian love nest on the first floor of a semi derelict house in the heart of Hull’s red light district, after a mellow evening at the pub was, ‘Yes, I am happy.’, and the perfect evening could ensue. However, as usual I was forced to contemplate the shades of grey implicit in the concept, as well as the fact that maybe he just wasn’t happy with me.

Life with him was like that. His degree dissertation was about happiness and satisfaction so he was always pondering and, it has to be said, verging on miserable.

‘So what have you concluded?’ I would politely enquire from time to time, hoping he would resolve the matter so we could get on with a happy life together. But the more he studied the subject, the more confused he became.

‘Happiness, it seems is fleeting, better to use the term contentment.’ he announced one freezing evening in November  ’73, shivering in his long Army and Navy coat and piling sticks on the feeble fire.

I had returned from Bridlington, where I was doing a six week teaching practice; worn out after a five o’clock start to catch two busses to the coast and a busy day of embarrassing mistakes, in an attempt to educate thirty five boisterous ten year olds, finally arriving home with icicles for fingers at nine in the evening.

He would light the fire for my return, doing without all day to save fuel, wearing his huge coat and fingerless gloves as he scribbled his tormented thoughts on reams of paper.

We had baked potatoes, cheese and cider, then snuggled up to keep warm and listen to Bob Dylan.

I would have said we were happy, but perhaps we were just content.



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