How To Do Everything And Be Happy

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Trophy Board 2016

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Phew! Done it! I finally got around to clearing down my Trophy Board. Why finally? Because, for the first time in two decades, my A2 board wasn’t enough to hold all my ‘trophies’, and so back in October or November I added an A3 extension! To put it another way, whilst 2016 wasn’t the best year for a lot of folks, for me it was my busiest, ‘funnest’ (if that’s a word), year – EVER!

If you’re not really sure what a Trophy Board is, take a look at this earlier post (and extract from How To Do Everything And Be Happy) by clicking here.

Of course, a pin board isn’t the only way to capture memories. How about a Memory Box?memory-box

This one is available on Etsy here

 

Have another ‘trophy board’ idea? Share it in the comments. Or share your Trophy Board with other readers on the How To Do Everything And Be Happy facebook page – here.

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The Printer’s Tray

printer's trayBack in the old days (I’m talking really old – older than me – long before computers, one might even say ‘back in ancient times’), newspapers were printed by taking small blocks of metal, each of which had a letter embossed in the bottom, and laying these blocks side by side in a tray to form words and sentences. The blocks were wedged together, inked, and the paper quite literally ‘stamped’.

As you can imagine, setting type must have been a time consuming business. So to speed things up it was essential that these little metal blocks were organised. And so they were. They were kept in specially made drawers – trays – which themselves were divided into sections.

What happened to these trays once the world went computerised? Well, most were cast to one side. Some were probably chopped up to make firewood. Others are probably on a landfill site somewhere. A few, however, ended up being sold at boot fairs, and antique markets, and on eBay. I’ve just done a search and found 193 on sale, for about a tenner each.

And why should you care?

Printer’s trays are absolutely perfect for all those things you’d like to pin to your trophy board, but can’t. Get yourself a tray, clean it up with wire wool, then screw it to the wall, and pretty soon you’ll have something like the one pictured (click the pic for a closer look).

Unlike the photos and the trophy, the items in the printer’s tray tend to stay in the same place year after year with only the occasional purge or addition. But that’s just me. I can’t even remember the significance of some of the items in the tray, but in a way I kinda like that. Like there’s a memory there that’s locked away and could only be retrieved by a particularly gifted hypnotist or psychic.


Click here to read more about Trophy Boards


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The Trophy Board 2011

business cardsSo that was 2011, and I have to say my Trophy Board has never looked so impressive!! I’m quite amazed that the thing stayed on the wall under the sheer weight of the stuff pinned to it.

(If you have no idea what I’m talking about you can get up to speed here – opens in a new window).

Click any of pictures at the bottom of this post and use the arrows to see how the board grew during the year (or click here to do that on facebook if you’re reading this in an email).
If I were a more patient man it would have been fun to create some sort of stop-motion animation but… hey, you have to draw the line somewhere!

It being December 31st it’s time to take all the items off, carefully slide them into a padded envelope, then throw that in the loft to join the other twenty or so envelopes.

Here’s what I’ve carefully squirrelled away for my relatives to go through in many years to come.

54 x business cards
33 x tickets
14 x postcards
12 x thank you cards / notes
6 x clothes tags
5 x intineraries / programmes
4 x badges
4 x bank cards
3 x photos
3 x hotel passes
2 x city maps (Rome & Paris)
2 x “certificates of achievement”
2 x party invites
2 x leaflets
2 x pieces of paper cut into heart shapes
2 x packets of chili seeds
2 x key rings
2 x odd things my niece has given me
2 x membership cards
1 x bookmark
1 x lottery ticket
1 x gift tag
1 x playing card
1 x gift bag
1 x valentine card!!

It would be great to see how your Trophy Board develops during 2012.  Feel free to share pics of your Trophy Board on the facebook page.

Here’s the story of my 2011 Trophy Board.


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Now List – The Importance of Being Earnest

mr earnest worthing

If you’ve read the book then you may remember that

  1. playing a part in The Importance of Being Earnest was on my original Now List, and
  2. near end of the book (page 209 if you have the paperback) there’s a throw away remark that could suggest that I had achieved that item.

Indeed I had.

This time last year, almost to the day, two things dominated my life. I was finishing up the first draft of How To Do Everything and Be Happy, and I was preparing to play the character of Jack Worthing in Oscar Wilde’s most famous play.

I first read The Importance of Being Earnest at the age of twelve or thirteen, in Miss Pyrah’s English Literature class. And when I say read, I mean out loud,  in front of thirty or so other kids. Back then reading out loud was possibly the worst experience I could imagine. Second only to having a love-note intercepted by someone other than the intended recipient. As Miss Pyrah handed out dog-eared copies of the script she proceeded, tyrant that she was, to allocate parts seemingly at random, and of course she picked on me. I realise now her casting wasn’t random at all, and though I, along with my class mates, feared this woman who we all assumed ate small children for breakfast, she was actually showing a huge amount of favouritism by casting me first as Algernon, and later as Jack.

By the end of the first act I had fallen in love with the play. I suspect Miss Pyrah always knew I would.

So, some thirty or so years later it was kind of inevitable that it would end up on my Now List.

Saying those words again, but without the script in front of me, and as if Jack’s words were my very own thoughts – I think it’s safe to say I’ve never been more nervous about anything in my entire life. Nerves that were both eased and aggravated knowing that I was performing alongside professional actors and actresses for whom I have a great deal of awe and respect. And whilst to you it might not seem as impressive as, say, mountain climbing or hand-gliding, when I was stood in front of that audience, made up of paying members of the public, the air felt just as thin, and the stakes just as high.

It was exhilarating. Terrifying. Wonderful.

Would I do it again?

No. Never. Ever.

What about a different play?

No.

Although… Miss Pyrah did manage to instil in me a similar love of Shakespeare. Hmmmm.

Anyway, sadly I don’t have any pictures of me actually on stage, but below are a selection of back stage photos.

If you have any acting ambitions lurking on your Now List, or if you know the whereabouts of Miss Pyrah, I’d love to hear from you. You can use the comments box below.


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To Begin With

The opening Chapter from ‘How To Do Everything and Be Happy’…

Once upon a time I got sold a dream: I would grow up big and strong, marry a blonde (my mother was convinced of this), have children, and live happily ever after in a big house, whilst I held down a job as an astronaut. Or a train driver. Or a how-to-be-an-astronaught-230x300fireman. And this wasn’t a ‘maybe’ – something to aspire to – this was my God given right. This is what was going to happen. All I had to do was wait.

Not that I was very good at waiting. I’m still not very good at waiting! I wanted this idyllic life now. I didn’t want to wait until next week or some other distant point in the future. I must have told my parents this because they would smile and tell me not to be in such a rush. “Peter,” they would say, “schooldays are the best days of your life.”

Obviously they were mistaken. They had to be. When my parents’ eyes glazed over and they talked fondly of ‘schooldays’ they must have been recalling the days of their own distant childhood, days sitting around camp fires outside the school mud hut, marking bits of slate with chalk whilst village elders told stories of dragons. Their schooldays were clearly a far cry from the mixture of humiliation, bullying and boredom that I endured. They had to be. Because if they weren’t, for schooldays to be the ‘best’ days they would logically have to be followed by ‘something worse.’

Then I got older, and things got worse.

Actually, that’s not quite true. They didn’t get any worse – not really – but they certainly didn’t get much better, and they definitely got more complex.

‘Work’ turned out to be very similar to ‘school’ – different bullies, same rules, just as boring. And whereas I was given money in return for surrendering five days out of seven – more money than I’d ever dreamed possible – now there was a slew of people queuing up to take it away from me.

And then there were relationships. Just when I’d got classroom note passing down to a fine art, the game changed completely, and note passing wasn’t going to cut it.
I could go on, but suffice it to say, the initial ‘dream’ seemed less and less likely. It was clear that I was never going to be an astronaut. Or a train driver. Or a fireman. It also seemed unlikely that I would ever live in a big house. Big houses needed big money. I was on small to medium money. Two bedroom flat money.

Finally, on my thirty second birthday, I realised there was a distinct possibility that I might never ever find ‘the blonde’.
This was a serious blow. Without the blonde I might never be married, I might never have children – and whilst I could probably cope without being married or having kids, or my blonde actually being a blonde, I couldn’t imagine being single for the rest of my days. That was unacceptable. Something had to be done.

So, for the first time in my life, I started to plan – to make lists, and take control of my own destiny. Many of the techniques in this book are nothing more than the skills I had to develop to avoid a life of bachelorhood. But it worked. Eventually I found the blonde. Took me a few more years, considerable effort on my part, and a somewhat unorthodox approach to dating, but I found her.

And we did marry.

And when she died in my arms three years later I was heartbroken.

People rarely ask me how Kate died. It’s just not the sort of question they feel comfortable asking. Most assume she must have had cancer – that we’d have had some warning. We didn’t.

I was off to our place in Croatia for a few days to finish my novel. Kate drove me to the airport and as she dropped me off she gave me the world’s biggest hug, bit back a few tears, thumped me in the arm, and told me she loved me – and that I’d better call her when I got to the other end.

I walked towards the main airport building, turned to give her one last wave. Something wasn’t right. I could see our car, but not her.

The next few hours are a bit of a blur. I remember dropping my bags and running back to our vehicle. Taking her in my arms. The lady police officer trying to revive her. I remember the paramedics, the ambulance helicopter, being rushed to the hospital in the back of a police car. And I remember that god awful waiting room, the stoney faces of the doctors as they told me there was nothing they could do, that my wife was gone, and that they’d be switching off the life support machine.

Several hours later I drove our car back to an empty house.

I’ve learnt since that deaths like this – a sub-arachnoid haemorrhage, according to the certificate – are surprisingly common. Kate had a weak part in her brain – probably since birth – it could have happened at any moment. It was almost inevitable.

I’ve learnt too that after the shock comes the guilt. Every cross word, every nasty thought, every lie – they all come back to haunt you. And amongst the demons that were queuing up to torment me was the realisation that I wasn’t happy, and maybe, I never had been.

There had been happy moments, of course. Quite a lot of moments. Most of them in the previous three years, and most of them down to Kate, but they were moments none the less. I wanted to be happy all the time. Not just occasionally. Not just for a moment. And for the second time in my life I decided to tackle a problem in the only way I knew how: by making plans, and lists, and taking control of my own destiny.

Welcome to ‘How To Do Everything and Be Happy!’ If you’re dissatisfied with your life, this book may be for you. If you want to do something – anything – to increase the amount of happiness you feel, this book is probably for you. And if you know how to use a pencil, if you own a diary, if you can make a list, if you’re moderately organised, or could be if you had a good enough reason to be, then this book is definitely for you.

Now then, let me tell you about this dream that I have for you…

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Listen to an interview with the author here

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