It’s often the really simple things that have the most impact on us and speaking personally they are the things we most often remember. When all the stresses and pressures of a modern commercialised world need to be countered, for me it’s something very simple and uncomplicated that will be most likely to do it.
The form that has taken has varied from time to time. There are the traditional (some might say clichéd) candidates such as eating fish and chips with plenty of salt and vinegar out of paper at the seaside. Why it only works with that particular combination I don’t know – but for me it’s a constant winner.
Similarly there are the unexpected finds. On a difficult skiing holiday in Canada, I remember taking a wrong turn to find myself next to a waterfall now frozen in time until the spring thaw. Had I stayed on the more widely taken path it was a sight I would never had seen. The tranquillity in that location is something I can still recall today. It remains one of those mental retreats we all have and resort to at times of stress and when we seek some solitude.
Pie mash and eels
Then the third category – for me the best – the vicarious gift category.
I recently took a friend visiting London to an ‘authentic’ pie mash and eel shop in Peckham. These have gradually disappeared over recent years. Manze’s is staffed by three typical ‘East End’ matriarchs – this was not a place for the faint hearted. The food wasn’t exactly cordon bleu, the bench seating was functional and not designed for comfort. The menu was limited (to anything containing eels). However, the pleasure was in seeing how much my guest enjoyed the traditional view of a disappearing part of London life and trying an authentic taste of London.
To him the mundane seemed suddenly interesting and historic. The green and white tiles missed by most observers were mentioned as adding character. The way the mash was trowelled onto the plate to stop the green liquor from overflowing was noticed and the variety of London accents was seen as a celebration of the city’s culture. Isn’t it strange how the routine and run of the mill can seem so full of charm and interest to a new pair of eyes – prepared not only to look but also to see.
Today, I was lucky enough to observe and hopefully share one of those third category simple pleasures. My partner has had a rough few days for reasons that don’t need to be explained here. A mix of the normal stresses and strains of life meant that a quiet, restful and less frenetic weekend than normal was the order of the day. Of course, he was worried that just sitting quietly reading a book in the garden (for example) might be seen as somehow impolite or aloof. I offered assurances that I would be more than happy if that’s what he needed/wanted to do. Following some additional soundings from trusted friends operation rural retreat was underway.
So my simple pleasure has been watching him relax over the past few hours. It has been like watching a wound spring gradually lose tension and gradually return to its natural state of equilibrium. Whilst I’m blogging this post he is enjoying the gentle autumn sun and reading his book and clearly enjoying the relative peace and unstructured time – by himself but not alone. His simple pleasure is that moment of personal stillness and acceptance; mine is seeing him so relaxed and at ease. My first double whammy (shared) simple pleasure – a new category!