Little things can not only intrigue but also enchant you. Like a leaflet advertising a Hyderabadi pearl exhibition at which you could buy a “pearl neckless”
Nobody wants to hear bad news on a good day. And today is supposed to be a good one, right? You’re waking up (late, I guarantee) to a happy new year blah blah, trying to ignore the fact that — to paraphrase Tom Wolfe — your head feels like an egg without a shell, just a membranous sac from which your yolk brain threatens to spill out at the slightest movement. (I’ve always found that image of a hung-over journalist from The Bonfire of the Vanities particularly evocative.)
So if you’re feeling less than chirpy this morning, weakly turning down requests to come jog around the block five times, do ten laps in the pool or listen to some thrash metal, maybe you should float on a lazy swell of happy thoughts. This is the time to tell you about something called The Positivity Weekly started by a blogger friend of mine. Contains only heart-warming stories, not a trace of negativity. I’ll send you a link if you promise not to gag — snigger, snigger. I’m afraid I simply cannot subscribe to a free and relentless flow of optimism. The world’s too grim for that. But I’ll do you a favour, though. Just this once, in my column, I’ll stay off the big issues (I’m being considerate, I don’t want your yolk to spill out), and bring up the most trivial ones. Which may not be so trivial after all.
It’s always the little things that delight, excite, annoy or surprise us. Let me tell you about what astonished me recently, and it’s not the futuristic developments in the sci-tech world, not 3-D printers printing designer food, or virtual currency, or any of that. I walked into my kitchen one morning and saw a cockroach sleeping on its back. As god is my witness I saw it with its legs up in the air, and obviously assuming it was dead I proceeded to scoop it up in a dustpan, but the moment it felt the broom it swiftly flipped itself over and scurried away behind the gas cylinder. A roach that sleeps on its back. Who’d have thunk it? Please note that I also carefully examined the floor for ants, because the determined little soldiers have sometimes been known to surround a large, live insect and immobilise it like Gulliver tied down by the Lilliputians. But no, no ants were in sight.
Little things can not only intrigue but also enchant you. Like a leaflet advertising a Hyderabadi pearl exhibition at which you could buy a “pearl neckless” (how to wear a necklace if you don’t have a neck?). Like two coloured capsicums, one red one yellow, of the same size, sitting side by side in a glow of waxy perfection. Like a South African cricketer named Philander (I’ll bet he wouldn’t have got teased in school as much as De Kock did).
Little things can aggravate you, too. For instance, I was deeply aggravated when I read this sentence in this very supplement (the parentheses contain my reactions while I was doing so). “As the Bard said, all the world’s a stage [you’ve got it right so far] and the people are all actors [he didn’t say that, you prize ass!].” The irritation I felt was the stone-in-the-shoe sort. Forget a stone, even a tiny piece of grit in your slipper seems like a rock between your toes or beneath your arch and you simply can’t walk another inch without stopping and prising it out.
Now let me come to little things that are not as trivial as they sound. A cold. A grazed elbow. A cut on the finger. I can hear you scoffing at me already. When there are people with splitting headaches, fractured legs, cancer, paralysis, do you dare whine, “Pity me, I’ve nicked my finger”? Or “I can’t come to work, I’ve got a cold”? It’s a weak-kneed, spineless, megaflop of a complaint. And that’s what makes it doubly frustrating. The sniffling, the sneezing, the heavy head, the listlessness — you feel ashamed to talk about it because it’s “just a cold” but you’re feeling so wretched that you want someone to slice your head off, place it carefully on the bedside table, and pour a steady stream of green tea into your torso via a tube through your gullet until the head is repaired and ready to be refitted.
A bruise is more painful, somehow, than a cut. As for a careless knife that barely touches your forefinger and causes a trickle of blood, it impedes your smallest movement or gesture. And by the way — I can vouch for this — it’s twice as painful if it’s on the back of your finger instead of the fleshy part. So you wince and say “ouch” and the onlooker snaps, “Oh, don’t be so childish.” You stick a plaster on it but it inhibits healing and when you remove it the skin is pale and wrinkled. If you keep the cut exposed, however, there’s the exquisite agony of a strand of hair getting caught in open flesh...
But you don’t want to hear about pain on a gay day. I’ll leave you with a bit of fun. Sign on back of lorry: Phir Milen Gay. See you once again, and you’d better be gay when I do.
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