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loire-valley-roberts_70221_990x742

Photographer H. Armstrong Roberts captured this image of women sharing a conversation along the Loire River in Saumur, France, in 1928.

“I believe the nicest and sweetest days are not those on which anything very splendid or wonderful or exciting happens but just those that bring simple little pleasures, following one another softly, like pearls slipping off a string.”
― L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Avonlea

There was a time when all we needed to do, in order to relax was to switch on the TV and lounge on the couch. Nowadays, this very act means switching through a plethora of TV channels trying to desperately find something ‘good’ to watch, although we already know that something good isn’t there anymore. Once we get through the first fifty disappointing programs and then having the foreboding feeling of more disappointment to come, we go back to that one program we dismissed with the hopes of finding a better one, only to see that it is finishing already. The manual labour involved in watching modern TV is disheartening. It is not just the constant operating of numerous controls and buttons. The relentless instructions to phone, text, tweet, vote, and apply to take part is turning our supposedly relaxing time into an exhausting one.

There is too much to avoid on TV than to watch. In an age where Keeping up with the Kardashians is an actual show meant for people to actually watch, looking for something worth watching on TV is a bit like looking for a needle in a haystack.

The simple pleasure of watching TV isn’t the only fun thing that has become ‘unfun’.

Gardening

Remember gardening, that good old hobby, and our most celebrated communion with nature? We derived satisfaction and enjoyment from a prune and mow of the lawn on a quiet Sunday afternoon. We knew the plants that flower and herbs that were good in a stew. We knew the names of insects and how they pollinate flowers. It was also the gentle hobby which gave us time for our thoughts and reflections, but not anymore. We are now stressfully busying ourselves doing our bit to delay the impending ecological doom. There is our carbon footprint to worry about and whether we are conserving water, saving energy, buying green products and growing more vegetables. The hopelessness of the health of mother Earth is driving people to read up on other people’s eco-friendly gardens than getting up to putter in their own gardens. And, who has the time anyway? When more people are busy watering, planting, weeding, reaping and building in virtual gardens they own on Facebook.

It is no wonder that our kids don’t know the names of plants, fruits and vegetables.

Going for a drive

Those days you could go for a nice drive to take your mind off things. Now, going for a drive means stressing endlessly from the point of departure to the destination. There’s the annoying traffic, expensive petrol and the guilt of not driving a hybrid. Motoring about to see greener sights is not much of a hobby anymore. There are too many reasons these days to not go for a drive.

Rest cures

The days when sickness was followed by a period of rest and fresh air are gone forever. The Swiss Alps in Heidi or British seaside country holidays in Enid Blyton’s books almost sound too ridiculous now. There are no rest cures anymore, just take two Advils or Lemsip Max and self-diagnose on Google for something terminal. Nothing takes the simple pleasure off rest like diagnosing oneself with cancer.

Shopping

There was a certain joy in leisurely walking down the high street, doing a bit of window shopping here and there, testing out fragrances, trying out new clothes and buying novelty teapots from a proper ceramic store – OK maybe you weren’t looking for novelty teapots like me, but you get the picture. Now we have eBay, Amazon.com and online shops that can bring us our shopping to our doorsteps. The taste, smell and touch of things are not what urge us to buy things anymore. It is the sight and probably some label with a fancy name. The irony is lost on us. The simple pleasures of shopping have seemingly disappeared with our ability to feel good in a virtual coat. Somehow, terminating as much face-to-face human interaction as possible also seems to be a prime motive of our culture.

The endless commercialisation and consumerism have dampened the simple joys of meaningful shopping.

Growing old

There’s no need to picture yourself knitting away in a comfortable armchair, wheeled away blanketed and frail in a nursing home, and amusing at your wrinkled self in the mirror any more. With all the modern beauty treatments, injectibles and extreme invasive surgery we can now discard the old art of ageing and re-imagine ‘better’ looking older selves. I guess ageing didn’t win many hearts.

From eating an apple with the troubled thought of whether it is organic, to the disappearance of proper marmalade that doesn’t taste like jam; it seems simple things we used to enjoy formerly have now become too complicated to actually have fun with. Don’t get me wrong, I like progress and technology. Time-saving techniques, discounted prices on eBay and modern development are all fine; however they also mean that the very thing that made things fun and simple has changed. Life’s greatest pleasures can come from the simplest things. That is why we need to enjoy the little things in life. Let the world complicate things on its own, if you look carefully, chances are that you will find plenty of pleasures in life that need not be made complicated. When you do find them, make sure to enjoy and cherish the feeling because they may not remain simple for long.

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