Monday, 15 December 2008

Snowdrops on Moses and noses on mittens

Seven things that make me happy.

1. Summer thunderstorms
I love the release of the tension in the air when a really big storm hits during a hot, humid day. I remember once running outside to stand in a downpour wearing a vest top and skirt. My boyfriend at the time just couldn't understand it, but the feeling of cold rain on hot skin was simply blissful.

2. Books
When I started at school, I was pretty much the only child in the class who couldn't read. Within a term, I'd learnt and there was no stopping me. Books are amazing, absorbing, transporting and once I start reading a good one, not much will stop me, short of being hit round the head with blunt instrument or forcibly prizing the book out of my locked fingers. I get so caught up in books that they regularly reduce me to tears (of sadness or laughter), but there's nothing quite like the quiet solitude of the printed word. They're infinitely portable, require no batteries and good books can yield new insights on every re-reading. They can provide an easily accessible form of escapism or, whether in fact or fiction, provide earth-shattering insights into all sorts of things. You can say the same of TV, film or radio, but there's something about reading it in a book that helps you have the realisation by yourself.

3. Playing my clarinet
I've played the clarinet since I was 10. Playing on my own is fun, but there's nothing quite like the buzz you get of playing in an ensemble. I don't know the science of it, but certain chord progressions, tunes, key signatures etc. are known for generating feelings of happiness and wellbeing. Over the years, there have been times when all the hairs on the back of my neck have risen up, and I've felt simply electrified to be playing in a group. The feeling of being part of live performance can be amazingly uplifting, like a gentle, prolonged orgasm. It's not the same as a sexual experience, but some of the physical sensations are remarkably similar. The feeling of everyone playing together, getting it right and producing something moving and beautiful and unique is just wonderful.

4. Writing
When I produce something that feels original, skilled, interesting and well-crafted, it really is immensely satisfying. It's good to put something of yourself out into the world.

5. Skin
Skin is amazing. It is so sensitive and soft. There is nothing like the feeling of skin on skin. This ranges from sex to the touch of finger tips on the back of the neck. From shaking hands when you first meet someone, to embracing them before you leave. All the sensations are exquisite in their own way. Harking back to the first point slightly, skinny dipping is one the best things I have ever done. Feeling the whole of your body being caressed by water all at once without a swimsuit is a fantastic sensory experience. It makes you feel really whole in a way you don't most of the rest of the time. You are aware of every inch of the surface of your body and it gives a wonderful feeling of inter-connectedness. I've only done it twice and I really hope the opportunity presents itself again.

6. Dancing
I love dancing. I love moving to a rhythm or beat. There doesn't have to be tune, even, a set of complex rhythms will do. I love things like African or Japanese drumming. I don't care what I look like, I just love feeling a pulse and expressing that through movement. I don't like learning a set of steps, I just like moving in a way that feels natural to me. I would say I'm a good dancer, but the secret of that is just to be confident in what you're doing. Inhabit your body, don't be ashamed to do what you're doing and you'll be fine. It doesn't matter what anyone else thinks of you, as long as you move to the beat, it doesn't matter.

7. Leather jackets
I have five (one brown, one blue and three black). At one point I had seven. I don't own any other leather clothes, like trousers or shirts and I'm not into heavy bondage. I just love leather jackets. I've bought brand new ones, I've been given old ones, I've bought second hand ones in charity shops. They're practical, durable, always stylish, comfortable and versatile. They're probably my favourite pieces of clothing out of everything I own.

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