Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Happiness is a sad song

Urbis at Manchester are running a new exhibition on play - it looks great.
How long does it take to get to Manchester?

To answer my own question - what makes a writer happy?

Well receiving a comment from one of the amazing artists I wrote about a couple of days ago for a start!

France Belleville of the Wagonized blog that I raved about a couple of days ago (her drawings are amazing - go there immediately. Maybe read this first...) posted a fabulous comment yesterday that made my day. I love comments. Comments make me happy.

France observed in her comment that "Happiness is a sad song." This is a timely observation for me, as I have been ruminating on something puzzling all week that I am calling The Paradox of Happiness.

On Monday I went to the Central Library - fantastic cultural resource that it is - to pick up the next in the series of Alan Moore's Promethea (awesome, btw - you should really check them out, although the library's stop at Volume 4 and I've yet to discover if any more have been published). Clutching it in my greedy, graphic novel hands, I headed up to the Third Floor Cafe for a bite to eat.

I have a lot of memories of the Third Floor Cafe. When I was a child, Bean (my uncle) and I came to the library every week. The Central library was the main recreational venue of my pre-13 years life. We would choose our books - me in the Children's Section in the basement and Bean upstairs, usually in Crime, Science or Biography - and then we would go to the cafe - it was called The Crow's Nest then - where Bean would buy himself a coffee and some toast, juice and a KitKat for me. We would sit at the table in front of the window, at the back right hand side (the cafe is kind of L-shaped) and we would show each other all the books we had chosen. You could only get 8 books each then, not the twelve that modern readers enjoy. Back in my day.

After, I would go and stand on the ledge in front of the window. The cafe's windows run from floor to ceiling, and if you sat at our table you could go right up to the window and be separated only by a pane of tinted glass from a steep drop to the ground below. It scared and thrilled me in equal measure. Bean would order another coffee and we would sit for maybe an hour in best friend silence reading our books until it was time for us to go home.

When I was very small, before my parents had the good sense to get divorced and thus cement their friendship forever (no irony), home was not always a great place to be. Thus, the Central Library with Bean is the site of some of the happiest memories of my life so far.

I thought about all this on Monday, as I walked towards 'our' familiar table with my freshly borrowed Promethea burning a hole in my bag. I stood at the window while I waited for my coffee to cool down and felt that same thrilling fear at the drop below. I remembered how happy those visits in my childhood were. And I felt a mixture of such happy remembering and sad loss that I almost cried there and then.

I have been puzzling over this all week. Is happiness remembered bound to make us sad? I get this same feeling sometimes when I remember the best times of past relationships, too. Or is it an awareness that my particular, special happiness then is not accessible to me now? That I know I cannot be that child again? Is it the loss?

Or is it just, as France suggests, that happiness can sometimes be a sad, sad song?

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