This weekend I read a wonderful article by the even more wonderful Dolly Alderton, one of my favourite journalists and, to be honest, girl crushes. I love everything she writes – I remember reading a quote by Joss Whedon once in which he said that he wishes he could ‘eat someone’s brain and steal their ideas’ – and that’s kind of how I feel about her, except to 'ideas' you could also add 'insane legs'. But her latest piece was one of my favourites - this beautiful list of all her delights in life. A lot of posts on my blog focus on this idea that happiness is found in the ordinary, but I’ve never been able to sum up as perfectly as Dolly how the beauty of life resides not in the extraordinary but in the everyday. I’m sure I still won’t be able to put it as well as she did, and you are perfectly welcome to click off and go and read her list instead, but I wanted to add my selection – the mundane that I delight in, all the time.
It’s quite long, I warn you. I’m quite a happy person. Sorry about that. But here we go anyway.
Properly done medium-rare steak gives me delight. It must be pink in the middle, not dry round the edges, and served in a pool of garlic butter, with thick-cut, burning hot salty fries. I have only really ever found this in tiny, stuffy restaurants in nondescript French towns, except once, quite astonishingly, in Gauchos Canary Wharf on a rainy Tuesday night. But it is the most perfect thing.
Breakfast in bed – preferably eggs - eaten late in the day with sun streaming through the windows and a really good documentary lined up on my iPad. Knowing there’s a TV show I want to watch on in the evening and that nobody else is home. Creating and eating a strange concoction of all my favourite foods when I’m not cooking for anyone else and nobody's going to judge me (like courghetti with pesto and sweetcorn and hummus and an egg on top). Long baths on a miserable day – sometimes just the thought of a hot bubble bath, when I’m in central London with wet feet and an inside-out umbrella and a heavy bag, can get me through the day.
The first morning of a holiday when you pad out onto a sunny balcony, feel the warmth on your skin and see a whole two long, languid weeks stretching out ahead of you with absolutely lovely nothingness to fill them with. Travelling home for Christmas. Getting so engrossed in a book that you forget where you are and say ‘Hmm? Sorry, what? Yeah, sure,’ whenever anyone speaks to you. Enjoying a book so much that you have to put it down for a second to think ‘Well, this is good, isn’t it?’ The smell of the garden at my parent’s house in Spring, and watching bumble bees land on clover. Drawing messages in the steam on a mirror or a car window for someone to find. The way my married name looks written down. A midweek text from my husband saying 'Drink tonight?'
Being in a bad mood on the way to work, seeing some school children and realising that no matter what, you’ll NEVER have to sit through Mrs Emery’s Double Maths lesson again. Sitting on the naughty table at a work event. Spooning. Waking up, remembering you have the day off work, and going back to sleep with a smile on your face.
A cold glass of wine as the sun sets from a balcony on holiday. A cold glass of wine in a cosy pub with a crackling fire. The noise white wine makes when you pour it into a glass – the sound of promise. The fizz-crack-pop of an opening champagne bottle.
A pair of comfortable black suede heels, or even better, realising you’ve finally broken in an uncomfortable pair. Handbags that look small and are light but can carry a cardigan, a book and a face powder compact with a mirror in it. Coats with fur collars. The smell of Chanel lipstick. Completing a crossword. Costa Black Forest Gateau hot chocolate in a cup with a snowman on it.
The morning after the night before, when you’re all a bit hungover in your pyjamas and someone’s made tea and you talk about the night and laugh until your stomach aches. The moment when everyone leaves and you can relax, go back to bed, take two paracetamol, order a Domino’s and put Russell Brand’s Ponderland on. Really well fitting dark wash skinny jeans. Jean Paul Gautier aftershave. Tassimo caramel lattes, drunk on the sofa on a day off work with my feet tucked underneath me.
Cinnamon scented candles. Cinnamon scented bubble bath. Bedsheets that have been washed in double the recommended amount of fabric softener. Wearing a clean pair of pyjamas every single day. Getting my hair washed at the hair dresser. Seeing a sausage dog puppy. That YouTube video where the ducklings can’t get up the stairs. Running down a hot beach and throwing myself into a cold sea.
The way YSL Rive Gauche perfume makes me think of my mother. Smiling at someone attractive on the train and them smiling back – a ten second love story. Men in suits and white shirts on Friday nights after work with their top buttons undone and the sleeves rolled up. Being five rum and cokes in and sitting around a table with my friends shouting over each other about politics which begins relatively sensibly but descends into ‘Jeremy Corbyn looks like Stig of the Dump,’ and 'You can't tell me you're left wing, you said earlier that you wanted to pay someone to do your washing up!' That bit of a night where you and your friends are in the toilet queue and can’t stop talking about how much you love each other and how intelligent and pretty and great you all are, and one of you might start crying.
Hot cross buns with too much butter. A bagel with too much butter. French bread with too much butter. A really good sandwich with too much butter. A croissant with too much butter. A jacket potato with too much butter. Jacob’s Hovis crackers with butter, eaten on Christmas Day in front of the Royle Family when the extended family have left and you’re not even sure why you’re eating anymore.
The opening riff of the Arctic Monkeys’ ‘Do I Wanna Know.’ The bridge in the middle of the Beatles ‘Something.’ My Dad singing ‘We have no bananas,’ or ‘I’ve got sixpence,’ or ‘I’m the Urban Spaceman, baby.’ Any clothes, shoes or accessories in ox blood red. Cornwall. The South of France. The smell of frangipani. Espresso martinis in the jazz bar by Waterloo Station. Watching my sister walk round my bedroom room picking things up and putting them down for no reason. Family dinners at the Beefeater, always culminating in a chocolate fudge sundae. Making somebody you respect laugh harder than you expected.
The bit when you’re writing, whether it’s an article or a story or an email, and you manage to describe something exactly right – the AHA! moment, when you think ‘that’s actually bloody good, that is.’ I don’t get that last one very often – you should ask Dolly Alderton about that.