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…

51 thoughts on “Reasons to be cheerful…

  1. Oh Cath, I love your lyrical piece, which unfolded as a beautiful mind-picture as I read it… and that you’d opened a new notebook in which to start. I have such a notebook, but no special project yet.
    It’s quite a contrast to the wonderful Ian Dury and the Blockheads; always such clever lyrics though. I saw them perform that very tune at the Manchester Apollo and I still have the album from the tour on vinyl. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you Chris. I’ve no doubt you’ll find that special project, too!
      I’m rather envious of you getting to see Ian Dury and the Blockheads, must have been quite an experience! Yes, love his lyrics.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Lovely.
    The Pillow Book by Sei Shōnagon was given to me by a friend some years ago, in German … Das Kopfkissenbuch einer Hofdame. I loved it, an enchanting read. May your new notebook be filled with short and elegant observations.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, Rosaliene. I did enjoy gathering the links.

      Storm clouds? I hope you’re not in the line of the big storm I’ve heard is heading for the US, that’s further North, surely? If not, good luck, and by the sounds of it, baton-down the doors and windows.

      We’re keeping well, thank you. Hope you and yours are too. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh, if there’s one lesson to be taken from the pandemic is that we should cherish all the fleeting moments and indeed be cheerful for them. Looking forward to reading some more of your pieces soon, Cath!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you for the blessing, Deborah – on two counts… First, love getting them! Second, for introducing me to Imbolc. I’ve just looked it up. I’ve no idea why I’ve not heard this one before, but now I’ve found it I’m going to make more use of it. So, let me wish you Imbolc Blessings, too, as you take your earliest breath of spring.

      It’s always good to have a cosy rabbit hole to retreat back into though.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. ‘Small pristine notebook’, I guess we all know how special such notebooks are, but now yours has become even more special because you wrote such a beautiful piece in it. 😀
    I listened to this song for the first time, it is hip-happening and fun.
    Also, cheers to Sei Shōnagon for penning her thoughts down.

    Thank you Cath for sharing such a wonderful post. See you on March 1st. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Ah Cath, thanks for the trip down memory lane, an activity which seems particularly comforting at the moment. I loved Ian Dury. I borrowed the album ‘New Boots and Panties’ from a friend and rushed to put it on in my room, turning the volume to maximum. The very first song begins with a stream of expletives which even now would be arresting but back then caused my mother to poke her head round my door. Instead of instant confiscation though, she just said ‘I think you’d better turn that down, don’t you?’ and disappeared.
    Love the tone and ethos of your post. Especially love your beautifully expressed reasons to be cheerful.
    To quote another enduring obsession and possibly lower the tone, ‘Raindrops on roses…’
    Off to make my list now.

    Liked by 1 person

    • How late I am. Apologies, Ruth, for the delay in responding.
      I’m so glad you enjoyed my ‘blast from the past’ – excuse the cliche, I feel the Ian Dury would have to be counted a blast!

      I love the picture of your mother subverting your expectations.

      I hope you did find time to list. Perhaps you’ll share it…


  6. Some lovely connections here, Cath, and your delicate piece of writing somehow reminded me of Dorothy Wordsworth … without whose nature lists brother William wouldn’t have had so much material! Takes all sorts, to coin a hackneyed phrase – reasons to be cheerful, indeed …


  7. What a great chain of associations. Always loved the “Reasons to be Cheerful Part free (!)” and especially that concert version where Dury has a bit of a hostile monologue to kick it off. And Sei Shōnagon and the Pillow Book. Of course. And look where you landed! With mud on your boots and beauty in your book. Looking forward to what comes next.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. A beautiful moment captured, Cath! I do hope you’ve continued writing these sensory-rich moments to reflect upon later, to remember these cheers and what made them so very special. Thank you for reminding ME such moments are worth preserving, too! xxxxxxxxxx

    Liked by 1 person

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