This is my seventh post on LLPs (Life’s Little Pleasures). Post (1), Post (2), Post (3), Post (4), Post (5) and Post (6) can be seen by clicking on the links.
Lady Luck and the Good Fortune of Others
“Happiness is six green lights in a row”…
~ from Reader’s Digest
I once found this quote among the jokes and bits of whimsy in small print at the end of an article. It became a quotable quote in the family because we lived in a very large city bisected by countless long and straight avenues, and six green lights in a row would be the cause of unalloyed pleasure and a story worth repeating at every opportunity for the next week at least.
How do you feel when you arrive by car late for an appointment in a very busy part of town with a sinking heart, and there, right in front of your destination building on a teeming street is one beautiful, perfect space, waiting for you. It might as well have a shaft of light beaming down on it from heaven. Or a seat on a crowded train? For a few minutes the angels sing – you say thankyou thankyou thankyou, though you don’t know to whom to direct your gratitude. That’s one of life’s little pleasures.
Discovering the wonders of automatic transmission was another. Against general advice (“only the gears give you proper control”) I took a chance and decided that my next car should be a small automatic. Now heavy commuter traffic and traffic jams have ceased to be more than the usual annoyance. The muscles in my left ankle have recovered and instead of having to think aout what gear I should be selecting, I can keep calm with classical music, or by thinking about a story.
I had often noticed people with iPods in their ears and wondered why they would wish to be listening to music when out in the fresh air – surely that’s an indoor pastime? And now I know – it’s to distract you from discomfort and to fight boredom. I found this out also by chance, and now the 15 minute walk from my car to my desk is almost half the effort it used to be. Part of my job is to do mailouts occasionally, and they’re now quite enjoyable because I plug into BBC radio plays and funny shows as my hands automatically slap bits of paper around.
There is a special kind of pleasure to be gained from the pleasure of others, as the Olympic fortnight has shown. It was wonderful to see the happy and harmonious atmosphere at the games, and I felt no conflict of interest when Team GB came up against Argentina. The UK had plenty of medals to rejoice over, and I was willing Argentina on to get a few for herself – as she did, ending up with a gold, a silver and two bronze medals. I understand the achievement this was, because there is very little investment in sport in Argentina (except for football) – in fact there’s very little money around. Whereas the UK had funding from the National Lottery and other sources.
“Heroism is endurance for one moment more.”
~ George F Kennan
Sometimes I have been drawn powerfully into a news story with a happy ending, and feel some of the pleasure which the victims themselves have experienced.
The Andes plane crash. In 1972 towards the end of my final scholastic year we heard that a Uruguayan school rugby team had been lost in the Andes. In October a chartered flight carrying 45 people including the team, friends and family had been heading for Santiago, Chile to play in a friendly match against another school, and crashed in the Andes. Some of my school friends knew a few of the boys who had been on that plane. A quarter of the passengers died in the crash, and others succumbed to cold and injury. Of those left, another 8 were killed by an avalanche a fortnight later; by the time two of them had trekked for 10 days and been found by a shepherd, there were only 16 of them left and 72 days had elapsed from the day of the crash. The shepherd alerted the authorities, and two days before Christmas they were rescued. It was all over the news in Uruguay and Argentina – and no doubt elsewhere. We had been following the attempts of the authorities and the parents to find the victims for over two months, and when we learned of the story we all felt a rush of delight that some had survived against all odds. I have followed their lives where possible ever since.
John McCarthy. I felt the same rush of pleasure when the British journalist John McCarthy was set free in 1991 after more than five years captivity in Beirut, Lebanon, where he had been kidnapped by Islamic Jihad terrorists in 1986. The efforts by his then girlfriend Jill Morrell to obtain his release were heroic, and it captured everybody’s imagination, making his release even more exciting. I followed his fortunes later and learned more about the Irish hostage, Brian Keenan, who was freed slightly earlier than John, and of the extraordinary fortitude and spirit showed by McCarthy during all that time.
The Chilean miners. In August 2010 a mine collapsed in Copiapó, Chile, burying 33 miners 700 metres underground and 5 km from the mine’s entrance. For 17 days there was no response to the bore holes drilled to try and find them, and the mine’s instability and poor safety record led the authorities to believe that there would be no survivors. But on day 18 a drill bit returned to the surface with a piece of paper attached that said “We 33 are in the shelter, and all well”. The country as a whole erupted in a wave of euphoria. Help was received from other governments and donations, but it still took a further 50 days to put the machinery in place to get them to the surface, during which they were fed and watered by means of a tube. On 13th October they emerged in relatively good health, to be greeted individually by Chile’s president, Sebastián Piñera. I was pretty euphoric myself, and followed every morsel of news as closely as I could. I felt enormous pleasure that they and their families had been reunited.
The miners had been trapped underground for roughly as long as the young Uruguayan rugby team had been isolated at 3,600 m up in the Andes. John McCarthy had been chained to a radiator by his fellow man for over five years. None of them lost hope that they would be rescued; all did their best to cope in impossible circumstances. All were heroes to us the observers.
- from Lonicera's non-digital archive
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Vicky, my father's cat