‘I’m not a skipping down the street while whistling kind of person, but I’m happy’

A LONG time ago, in a galaxy far away (Glasgow), there was a moment when I realised that single malt and me do not a good combination make. It had been my best friend’s leaving do. She was a whisky drinker. I thought it would be a grand gesture to drink a dram (or five) as a tribute on her last evening in Scotland.

All that you need to know is that the – or rather my – evening ended dejectedly on a doorstep (it was mine, I couldn’t find my keys) with me saying, “Are we always destined to be this unhappy?”

Maudlin? Moi?

But, no, it’s not true. Malt free I’d say I’m a fairly chipper sort. I mean I’m not a skipping down the street while whistling, only stopping to coo over freshly sprung spring flowers kind of a person, but I’m, you know, happy.

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And it turns out I’m not alone. The Scottish Household Survey results published last week revealed that an increasing number of us, particularly women, are happy too. Good news. That ought to make us, well, happier.

But wait. I don’t mean to rain on anyone’s parade here but I worry about happiness becoming quantified and calculated, because once you do that, aren’t we only a small step away from being told exactly how to get happy? What I like about happiness is that it’s a bit random, a bit unpredictable and the weirdest things can bring it on. For example...

n Bonbon bonus: thinking that I’ve eaten the last strawberry bonbon and then finding another one right down in the corner of the bag. Sometimes it’s a runt bonbon, smaller than the average and often misshapen, but there’s nothing runty or misshapen about the happiness it provides – full-size, perfectly rounded joy.

n A wee blether. I find the most pleasurable ones happen at bus stops and are with people over 80 who wear jaunty red raincoats and smell of Imperial Leather and who say things like, “dear, I’m nearly blind because of my cataracts but I can see your smile and it’s made my day.” Kerching!

n Number blunder. Misreading the timer and realising you’ve got 10 minutes less to go on the treadmill than you thought. This also applies to the mileometer on your bike when you realise you’ve gone several miles further than you thought, the bill when it is less than you thought, and your payslip when it’s more. I think what I’m saying is that some kind of mild numerical dyslexia can provide unexpected moments of happiness. Embrace it.

n The right tune. I once had a job that terrified the bejesus out of me. I found the only way to coax my knocking knees to carry me over the threshold was to listen to Engelbert Humperdinck singing Quando Quando Quando. I did it every week for two years. I have a similar relationship with Wayne Newton singing Danke Schön and Ethel Merman singing You’re Just In Love. Irresistible, irrefutable happiness. Guaranteed.

“Do you think anyone could possibly feel unhappy after listening to this?” I asked R the last time La Merman was blasting in the kitchen.

“Merman? Misery,” was the answer.