Sometimes a hug is all you need. Then again…

Man On Ledge does not normally look to the Daily Express for sustenance. There are only so many times one can read about the forthcoming icy Armageddon. Dear rain-blasted me, that newspaper does like a madly hyperbolic story about the weather.

But a skim of this morning’s newspaper headlines brings a quirky story to raise the spirits. “It’s a clincher… a hug is all we need to be happy” says a report in the Express.

As anyone who has worked on a newspaper will recognise, this is one of those stories based on a bit of mildly spurious research commissioned by a company in search of a headline. “Here, knock some shit out about this, would you,” as the news editor might say.

According to this story, “nine out of ten of us say it only takes a small thing, such as a clinch or hearing a favourite song on the radio, to improve a bad day”. A spontaneous hug made 40 per cent of those polled feel happy. Hugs are tricky things and not everyone is happy with a hug. Not me. I like a good hug from male or female friends or family members. A hug is a warming act of human contact.

Of course such polls have what might be termed the awkward obverse element: every stated statistic has its flipside. If 40 per cent of people are cheered by a hug, then 60 per cent presumably are not. Could that be the real story here? A significant majority of people don’t like hugs. Perhaps they are affection averse. Or maybe we are a hands-off nation, suspicious denizens of a touch-free land.

Other findings in this research, which is surely a shoo-in for a Noble Prize, are that 11.17am on a Monday is the most miserable time of the week. The battery in my watch has given up the ghost this morning, so with luck I will escape that miserable minute.

Optimists among you will be pleased to learn that 2.35pm is in contrast the happiest time of the day. Personally I find that to be the doziest time of the day, a little hillock of sleepiness to be surmounted or surrendered to. The research doesn’t mention horizontal time-out as being one of life’s small and cheering pleasures, but in my book it should have done.

A psychologist was on hand to interpret the research to readers – “No it doesn’t have anything to do with the bloody weather” – explaining that it is often the small things that cheer us up: never mind a “flashy new car”, a hug will make you happier.

This is true, although those of us who drive unflashy old cars sometimes need a hug as well after whatever mechanical calamity has just arisen.

Mostly I like this story. But then these days I am often in need of a hug. Many people who are kind enough to read these jottings offer words of encouragement. Such support is truly welcome. As I told the friend who took me out to lunch last week, writing this blog is a lifesaver (if not an earner).

Yet this blog was born in a desperate moment, and it’s fair to say that not enough has changed in the interim. A fair few job applications have fallen by the wayside, while others are still in the pipeline. The freelance work is rewarding but there needs to be more of it. The thriller is being rewritten again. And so on.

Beneath the rising thrum of anxiety, a tremble of optimism does remain: something good will come of all this, won’t it?

Another story today, on this occasion in The Times, tells us how to pronounce Don Quixote. Apparently 43 per cent of Britons can’t get their tongues round the title of the title of Cervantes’ novel. The correct pronunciation is “Don-Key-Hoh-The.” The more spittle the better, I guess.

These, well, quixotic stories are often the ones that lift me when the weight of serious headlines threatens to bring the roof down.

Incidentally, this summer we put up a Spanish man for two weeks. He came from Don Quixote country and his pronunciation was a challenge– but his English was a lot better than our non-existent Spanish.

Anyway, let me just say that you haven’t lived until you’ve heard a Spaniard trying to pronounce Exeter. It took us a while but we got there in the end. Our guest was called Cesar, which was pronounced “Thesser”. At least I think so. My stubborn English tongue struggled with that one.

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