Reasons to be cheerful…

Those of you who are old enough might recognise my title as belonging to a song from late in the 1970s. It was catchy, and therefore popular for a while, but not something that struck me, at the time, as important. After the few weeks when it seemed to be on the radio every day, it was overtaken by some new tune. That’s the way popular works.

Except for me, the phrase, ‘reasons to be cheerful,’ had not gone. Those four words were swirling around my head when I woke on Sunday morning.

I spent my half-hour walk with Rusty struggling to match them to a tune that I later discovered belonged to a song by another group. Thank goodness for search-engines.

As soon as I’d read that Reasons to be Cheerful, Pt 3 belonged to Ian Dury and The Blockheads, I remembered the correct tune, though the rest of the lyrics defeated me, until I looked them up. It was a list song, and I’d been developing a writing exercise based on lists only four days earlier.

My idea had been triggered by a review of a book called, 14,000 Things To Be Happy About, by Barbara Ann Kipfer. It was first published in 1990, then was revised and republished again, twice: first in 2007, then in 2014. In her forward, Kipfer says the book is a record of 50 years worth of moments. It takes the form of a stream of consciousness list that can be dipped into.

About a thousand years ago (and how magical does that sound?) a Japanese woman called Sei Shōnagon wrote a series of intriguing lists in her Pillow Book. They are a poetic observations that are beautiful in their own right, but also provide a fascinating glimpse into her life at a Japanese court. The titles alone are worth savouring: Things that should be short; Elegant things; Rare things

All of these things (and more) were in my head as the sun set. A couple of blackbirds began arguing in the shrubs beyond my office window. Outside was icy: inside was warm. If I hadn’t been thinking of anything wider than that, creating a list of my own good thoughts would still have seemed an appropriate activity.

I opened a small pristine notebook that has been waiting for a special project. I wrote the date on the first page, and without too much thought, began…

Snowdrops budding through weeds, bluetits, finches, robins and sparrows flock around feeders, and across the field four Roe deer pause to watch before flashing white rumps as they turn, their parallel route rousting a pheasant into squawking flight, unsettling the roosting buzzard and the mass of fieldfares chattering in the ash and the oak; mud builds on my boot soles, soft, smooth and heavy; the pull of earth, and branches slick with drizzle.

The drift of wet washing in the winter breeze, to be gathered at dusk…