The Good Life

Fandango today asked a question along his provocative question theme. Today he asks about the good life. What is it? And, are we living it? I have a two-pronged answer. One part is about living for myself, the other about living in conjunction with other people. I’d argue that the good life involves both.

Myself:

For myself, the answer is simple. To have everything I want, to be able to do everything I want. Straight away you see the word I. So this is subjective. What I want might not be the same as what you want. So, straight away, what the good life means to you will be different to what it means to me.

Other people:

But I have to recognise that I share this planet with 7½ bn other people, plus there will be generations yet to come, so I have to temper what I want. I don’t want to consciously screw with these people, although we in the west probably do a lot of unconscious screwing. In terms of giving versus taking, I’d be happy to work out about even.

It most certainly isn’t a case of taking as much as I can out of life, although I realise that having been born in an advanced western nation (I shan’t use the word democracy, because we’re not!), I’ve been given a lot before I evem start. I’ve had medical care throughout my life, and had a decent education. All of this has been afforded to me without even thinking about it. That I am white, that I am male – much as I’d like racism and sexism not to exist, that they do exist has probably made life an easier ride for me.

There. That was easy, wasn’t it? But Fandango also goes on to ask whether we ourselves live the good life. In answering that, I’d have to look at the criteria I just spelled out.

Do I have everything I want?

Well, yeah, pretty much. It’d be nice to be in a working environment again. I’d prefer to be in the company of other people all day. That bit of cash coming in would be handy too, if only because I have learned that I am uncomfortable spending money on anything, while there’s none coming in. A car would be nice, although it’d probably cost some to get it adapted for me. More money.

I’ve also found that having the stroke has made me somewhat toxic. Racism? Fact Sexism? Fact. Hard to find work after a stroke? Fact.

Can I do everything I want?

Actually, a lot of the answer to this is yes.

There are some notable exceptions, though. I used to cycle – anything up to 100 miles – but have not cycled since the stroke. A lot of aspects I have, or at least know, a solution. I was a bike mechanic immediately before the stroke, so I have a fair idea what is possible – mostly just being able to control everything with one hand. However there is a more fundamental issue that I can’t really balance well enough on two wheels. I guess a trike might be an option, but that throws up other issues like storage. Any form of good life would, for me, definitely include two wheels.

Another big no-no is travelling. I’ve already mentioned my attitude to no money coming in. So that puts things like vacations way down the list at the moment.

Without a shadow of doubt, though, the biggest aspect is the environment. In particular, CO2 emissions. Because of it, I don’t fly. And I enjoy meat, but don’t eat much – I think there was some paella at the weekend. Again, because I would sooner we grew crops for humans than for animals. Especially in developed countries, I’d like to see some rewilding. Extreme? Well, maybe too extreme for you, but there are lots of people like me, and the number is increasing. So from this perspective alone, I don’t feel that I can behave as I choose.

And with CO2 emissions, it’s not just whether I am conscious of the predicament, but also whether other people are. Some people are. Some people comfortably put my efforts to shame. But what about Exxon? BP? The people whose very ethos is to produce CO2? And then there is Trump. And Bolsonaro. Whatever I do personally, these guys will cancel it out many times over. But I have to just do what I can, and I recognise I’m not is a position to change others. Especially now. Indeed, it is a very good question whether it is appropriate for organisations like Extinction Rebellion to disrupt people – people like you or I -in order to pressure governments into changing tack. Not only whether it is appropriate to target indiviluals, but also whether it is effective in changing policy. Maybe Fandango will ask that one next time around?

That last paragraph is interesting, because it does open up a wider question. If we’re putting a priority on future generations, how can any of us claim to be living “the good life”?

Tick Tock Tuesday #9 (10 December 2019)

I thought I’d create a new challenge. It is a challenge primarily for me, because I’m new to this platform, and because you don’t really know me yet, nor I you. As my name suggests, I am recovering from a stroke, and I like to push myself in all kinds of little ways… including getting to know the Wonderful World of WordPress. Although this is something I will be doing, I invite you, if this idea takes your fancy, to play along with me and share with me some of your own selections.

My plan is: each Tuesday, until I run dry, I shall post some piece of art with which I have some connection – which has helped to mould me, which makes me tick. Okay, a piece of art is a bit vague – it might be a piece of music, a movie, a book, a painting, or ???? – so my phrasiology is deliberate. It might be anything – I will play this post by ear, so I’m not sure what I’ll think of each week. And, I’ll keep posting on the theme weekly until I run out of ideas.

My rules? Well, I’m not big on rules! My choice will be something with which I feel a connection. That’ll be the important thing, just having some kind of fleeting affection for something probably won’t be enough, unless I’m using my choice as an example of something bigger.

It will be one choice per week – I’m aware that long posts can be quite onerous to read, and I’m in no hurry to complete this so if I have two ideas, I’ll probably hold the second until the next week.

In that same vein, I’ve created this block as a Reusable Block, which I intend repeating for every post on this theme. The block ends with a full-width separator, so if you want to skip ahead each week it doesn’t really matter.

I probably won’t post any lyrics, or any kind of analysis – if you like my choice, the information will be out there for you. But I will try to briefly explain why I feel a connection to my choice, just to try and enhance readers’ understanding of what makes me tick.

I will tag my posts #TTT and I will go looking for other posts with that tag. If you’d like to join in, please do the same, or comment, or pingback to this post, and feel free to reproduce my graphic. Lastly, I look forward to reading about what makes you tick.


Last week I talked about a childhood film, but this week I am thinking a tiny bit older and back onto music. But classical music, so still a bit of a twist.

I guess we all have that age at school where we narrow a broad spread of subjects down to some in which we actually have an interest. In the UK it was age fourteen, for competitive exams at age sixteen. In my day, they were ‘O’ Levels.

My school was worried when one of my choices was music. Although in my pre-teens I had sung in a church choir (you can read about that here), this was not commonly known by the school, where it was most definitely uncool. I didn’t even play a musical instrument, so as far as the school were concerned, my choice was….er….unexpected.

In truth I liked music, what’s more I was pretty good at the practical side – composing, harmonising and generally analysing what I was hearing. But one area where I realised I might come unstuck was when we had a selection of classical pieces to study, in which we had to come up with an essay in the exam.

I remember it now. Six pieces. Six percent, per essay. Thirty-six percent overall. And essays? My whole strategy had been specifically geared so as to avoid essays! I made the decision, there and then, that I would give up on these essays, and do as well as I could otherwise.

The six pieces? Well there I lucked out.

  • There was Monteverdi’s Beatus Vir, memorable only because it was so tortuous. I have never listened to it again, neither do I want to.
  • Two others I have forgotten, they were that bad. Actually, I think the teacher took a punt to skip them to allow us to concentrate on the other four.

But, then the stunners – and bear in mind that I sat my O-levels back in 1984, so these pieces of music have stuck close to me for 35 years, totally voluntarily.

  • Gabriel Fauré’s Requiem Mass. Okay, a requiem mass is a very depressing piece of music – a funeral mass – but I have found that I like sombre music. What does that make me? But it is so sombre, not to mention around ¾ hour long. It does split into sections, but those sections follow a sequence so it is difficult just to jump in. Anyway, I want to keep these posts quite upbeat, so I’ll pass for today. Maybe another time.
  • Another piece was by Mozart. I shan’t say exactly which piece, since I want to keep the surprise for a later post. Mozart really was unique not just because of his age, but because a lot of the music he wrote was pretty much perfect, from a technical point of view. Believe it or not there are rules for writing music – combinations that work, combinations that don’t. Mozart got these combinations right most of the time, which is why people still find him aesthetic. But having built it up, that one is for another day.
  • Our last piece was by Malcolm Arnold. You might never have heard of him. An English composer of the 20th century (1921-2006) among his works are sets of dances. Scottish, English, Welsh, Irish, Cornish. I’ve listened to them all over the years, and recommend them to you, but our O-level study was his Four Scottish Dances.

So I present today the second dance of the four. Quite upbeat, it doesn’t really strike me as Scottish – but maybe you can hear something? To me it sounds more like something from a British movie of the era. Possibly not surprising, as Arnold was also responsible for over 100 movie scores of the 1950s and 1960s, including winning an oscar for the film Bridge on the River Kwai in 1957. In my choice today, you can tell that Arnold is having fun, because the same melody is continually passed to different instruments in the orchestra.

Oh, and the exam? Well, based on my tactic of learning as little of these set pieces as possible, I just about scraped an overall pass. Actually, pretty miraculous, I scored zero for the essays, then must have scored five of every six points available in all the rest. But I learned my lesson and steered clear of music again, except when listening for pleasure. If there is any irony here, it is that I refused to study these pieces as an academic exercise, yet have retained a lifelong love for them ever since. Surely, that was the real point?

This piece is around 2m30.

Song Lyric Sunday (8 December 2019) – Limbs

Last week, Jim (NewEpicAuthor, A Unique Title For Me) set the subject of facial beauty (my choice). This week he gives us the subject of limbs – arms, legs, knees, elbows.

As soon as I read Jim’s challenge for today, I thought I’m sure I have a song where Louis Armstrong sings about Elbow Room. And after a bit of hunting, here it is.

No particular story this week, except than Louis Armstrong is one of my loves and my collection contains a fair bit of music by Pops. [Note – I’ll have to get used to not saying that. I just bought a Spotify subscription so my collection contains a fair bit of everything!]

This one is a bit of Trad Jazz, taken from the 1960 Broadway musical Wildcat. I must admit, jazz is not my favourite style of music – I wish they’d get on any play the dang song rather than showing off how good a musician they are – but I’ll gladly make an exception for Pops. It helps that the song is a real foot-tapper, and perhaps one or two of you might remember the musical? The song was originally written by Carolyn Leigh and Cy Coleman, and was performed by Lucille Ball in her only Broadway appearance. It has since been covered by a host of artists including Bing Crosby, Judy Garland and, of course, by Pops himself.

It took a bit of hunting out, so I hope you think it was worth my while. Hey, Look Me Over.

Hey look me over
Lend me an ear
Fresh out of clover
Mortgage up to here
But don’t pass the plate folks
Don’t pass the cup
I figure whenever you’re down and out
The only way is up

And I’ll be up like a rose bud
High on the vine
Don’t thumb your nose
But take a tip from mine
I’m a little bit short of the elbow room
But let me get me some
And look out world
Here I come

Yes, hey look me over
Lend me an ear
Fresh out of clover
Mortgage up to here
But don’t pass the plate folks
Don’t pass the cup
I figure whenever you’re down and out
The only way is up

And I’ll be up like a rose bud
High on the vine
Don’t thumb your nose
But take a tip from mine
I’m a little bit short of the elbow room
But let me get me some
And look out, world
Here, I, come…

Carolyn Leigh, Cy Coleman