I think it was a couple of years ago and we were both feeling fed-up. Lousy weather. Weeds everywhere in the garden. Nobody replying to emails. Savings shrinking. Car starting to make expensive-sounding noises. None were things that would be causes of real emotional pain, but their cumulative effect was very depressing. It was then that we hit on the idea of Reasons to be Cheerful. We had just been given, for Christmas, I think, one of those glazed ceramic write-on pads designed to be used with felt-tip pens. So far it had barely been used, then one of us – and I honestly can’t remember if it was me or Maisie – had the idea. It came more or less fully formed.
When you’re feeling down, all you seem able to think about are other reasons to be gloomy, and what you need to be able to do is break that vicious circle of doom feeding gloom and despondency. So we decided we’d flag up those small reasons to be cheerful that so often get overlooked when life in general is a bit grim. Maisie produced the write-on pad and drew-up the outline of our Reasons to be Cheerful score-card. I can’t remember how the first one went, but from the recent past we found three reasons to be cheerful that we’d just forgotten about in the then climate of persistent pessimism. I don’t know what they were, but they were good enough. We decided that three Reasons to be Cheerful earned us a bottle of fizz (usually Cava or Prosecco). It didn’t have to be drunk then and there, but that first one certainly was. Really (and I mean very exceptionally) important Reasons, such as the impending publication of The Lifers’ Club, earn a bottle on their own. Then came the touch of genius (which I have to allow was Maisie’s): after three bottles of Cava (i.e. at the completion of each page of the notepad) you earn a bonus bottle! Free!!
The photo shows our current score-card. We’re now on page 12 and have just drunk a bottle in celebration of our niece’s pregnancy, plus the acceptance (on two separate occasions) of various things for my upcoming Penguin book (current title: Home: A Time Traveller’s Tales from Britain’s Prehistory), which will appear in early October, if all goes according to plan. The wonderful Viv Stanshall gig was the first reason of the next batch of three. And so it goes.
I know it sounds a bit petty and silly, but our Reasons to be Cheerful help us celebrate the little things in life that have gone well. They’re not Reasons to be Complacent, nor indeed Reasons to be Insanely Jolly. Just Cheerful. And that’s good enough for us… Cheers!