GOOD and bad things happen all the time. Here is a balance sheet of what makes me sad or glad.
There is gladness in the small. In walking around the garden just now and seeing trees spectral with frost, spider webs coldly petrified, the air straight out of nature’s freezer. The cold can make you both glad and sad: glad to confront the chill and happy to return to the warmth; sad if you cannot afford to keep your house heated.
Gladder by the day is our 15-month-old granddaughter, rattling with life and curiosity. How uplifting to watch a life uncurl while still thinking about my dad who died in September. A baby lifts the sadness. At the crematorium she turned to wave and smile at people she didn’t know, who then felt a little less sad.
This catalogue might also contain a homemade sourdough loaf to gladden my heart; or a weighty brick to sadden my wife’s stomach. Why don’t you just make a tin loaf, she always says, bravely nibbling a cobblestone disappointment. So sometimes I do.
Gladness comes in no longer having to work every day, or hardly at all. Yet it is still possible to mourn the lack of worldly purpose. An occasional feature keeps the cogs turning, as does writing ‘unseen’ novels, as does this blog.
Raising our eyes, sadness lies in a world forever gone tragically wrong, as is happening again in Gaza after a truce lasting a week. At the time of writing nearly 200 Palestinians are said have been killed and 650 wounded since the fighting resumed.
There should be sadness, too, in how we are expected to take sides in absolute terms, to totally support one party or the other.
Whatever your own feelings or politics, the human truth is that innocent people die, ordinary men, women and children who have nothing to do with the war being fought.
Surely it should be possible to hold in your heart the Israelis who suffered barbaric terrors at the hands of Hamas terrorists, while also having a heart made heavy as a stone by the daily death and bombardment dealt to the Palestinians.
Admitting sympathy for one shouldn’t wipe out awareness of how the other suffers.
And, of course, a wider sort of sadness rests in wondering what we can do about it all, and if what we might do makes any difference. Then again, joining a march to whatever cause does show your feelings, raises the common humanity.
There is little in our tawdry domestic politics to stir gladness. Still, it is cheering that little Rishi Sunak – to be recited in the voice Greg Davies uses to introduce Alex Horne on Taskmaster – is reported to be growing more and more tetchy in Downing Street. That’s what you get for behaving like an entitled prince even though not a single person voted for you.
Something that should surely sadden us all is the performative politics surrounding migrants. If we scorn these disadvantaged people, if we are fooled into thinking they cause all our country’s ills, we are playing the government’s cruel game.
It is shocking, and saddening, to hear mainstream Tory politicians spouting the sort of rancid rhetoric once espoused only by the far right.
As for the so-called boat people, they are relatively small in number compared with migrants arriving by less extreme and dangerous means.
Sunak’s government, like those it succeeded in shabby quick-change succession, pays endless attention to migration, yet the numbers only rise. Perhaps we should just switch the calculus and tell ourselves having many cultures within one makes us stronger, makes for a better country, a bigger Britain, not the skulking, sulking bully boy.
Also in the political playground, it gladdens me to see Sir Keir Starmer shaping up possibly to be prime minister. Here’s hoping. He may not excite, he may not be perfect, but he offers the best hope of a Labour/non-Tory government in ages.
Also, on the ‘it saddens’ side of this register, how predictable that some who once backed Labour now say they won’t support Starmer, for this or that offence. Internecine sulking is quite the habit among those who still pine for Jeremy Corbyn (had his turn, didn’t work out).
It is nigh on impossible to compile this glad/sad account without appearing ridiculous in noting small pleasures alongside international fears and worries, yet that is how we live, isn’t it?
We take joy where we find it and worry about the rest.
But if worry is all we do, there won’t be any joy left.