Log in

No account? Create an account
An ordinary trip into town - Many a mickle maks a muckle

> Recent Entries
> Archive
> Friends
> Profile

May 14th, 2003

Previous Entry Share Next Entry
04:59 pm - An ordinary trip into town
Walked into town today. It was dry on the way into town. Along the way, I was reminded of the saying which I may misremember as "Perform senseless acts of kindness and random acts of beauty". I thought about randomly picking litter off the streets, decided against it, but decided to smile at everyone I met on that trip. So I did. It ended up being a fairly fixed sort of smile, rather than a deliberate sort of particular I've-made-the-effort-to-smile smile, but everyone got it. Even the clearly underage kids who were smoking, drinking whisky from a bottle and saying "me mam's going to kick me out 'cos I was selling fucking ecstacy" got a smile, but their smile was from a distance because they made me feel uncomfortable.

Reached town. Purchased a sandwich, inevitably from Hungry Jacks. A new lady served me; I didn't recognise her, she didn't offer me extra cheese or coleslaw (an upsell of 40p!), she clearly was less fluent than the others and she piled all the salad up into the middle of the bun. All the same, I was very polite. I then bought a copy of the local newspaper, the Evening Gazette from a newsagent; a lady with a walking-stick asked me to pick up a newspaper from the bottom shelf for me, so I did so as politely as I could. I sat outside in the gardens next to the town hall, which were unusually crowded; many people were flowing out of the Magistrate's Courts nearby and I overheard one of them mention "bomb scare".

On the way home, I saw that one of the empty lots on the outside of a shopping centre had temporarily been taken over by the Cleveland College of Art and Design for an exhibiton called "What Makes You Smile?". I had seen this from the outside yesterday, when it was closed; possibly this had subconsciously put me in a smiling mood. I went in; at the entrance level was a vestibule introducing the exhibition, a table with leaflets on it and a guestbook. The guestbook asked people to write in what made them smile, so inevitably I started thinking about some bon mots to put in there. (Why are bon mots not bons mots?)

Upstairs, in a generic gutted shop, there were portrait photographs lined up along the walls. Each had a sticker underneath naming the photographer, the subject and what the subject had said made them smile. A particular favourite was a photo of a large councillor, because a local MP had answered "the ridiculous nature of local government", and another was a man with a fantastic assortment of tattoos, piercings and other body art (not least "FUCK U" tattooed on the inside of his lower lip, which he showed off with pride) who claimed that little budgies made him smile. (longsunday, superfi and any Teesside lurkers out there, the exhibition probably isn't worth a visit to Middlesbrough on its own, but it is worth a look while you're already here. It'll be at the Cleveland Centre until the 22nd, then the Dorman Museum from June 3rd to September 7th.)

There was also a photographer there taking snaps of people with proper lighting. (Theoretically our photos might be used in a later exhibition and/or put on the Internet. We were also invited to buy copies of the photos from a particular camera shop, which set my "aha, commercial" detector tingling.) A photographer named Steve took two of me; I kept my mouth shut for the first, but opened it to show the world my big teeth for the second. The first photo didn't come out, but the second one worked surprisingly well. I felt I looked OK in it - my hair was mostly in place and I didn't have chicken tikka stains around my mouth. It might actually be worth buying a copy for Mum, simply because there isn't a good recent casual photo of me. Then one of the lady students took my details and asked me what made me smile. I said "My Friends," - and you'll understand the silent capital! - "making a difference, surreal conversations, naughty thoughts... and you." The last of these had to be said, really. Happily we were both smiling and laughing as she took the details down, and she did reply "I can make you cry, too..." - but, hey, she's got my phone number!

Walked home, smiling on the way back. It started to rain, but I had an umbrella with me and so remained dry. I managed to get one definite smile back, from a girl who looked about ten years old and had a wide face. I also found one girl who challenged me back with eye contact and laughed dismissively after I passed. (No smile there.) Someone else pulled up their car beside me and asked for a set of directions; happily it was to South Cleveland Hospital, which is famous and isn't small, so I was able to give a really clear set of directions. I only hope they were correct!

Also walking home, I was reminded that on my recent trip to Cambridge, while waiting in Milton Keynes for my connection, I did the "50 things that make me happy in 20 minutes" non-meme going round.
  • Games

  • Ideas

  • Listening to the rain while I'm inside

  • Naughty thoughts

  • Seeing bodies doing unusual things you wouldn't expect they could

  • "P~" (coy shorthand for "the pornographic version of the above")

  • Ducks

  • Pandas

  • Cuddling

  • Systems

  • Numbers, especially 23 and 47 (born on the 23rd, longer story behind 47)

  • Maps

  • The London Underground, its map and its extensions

  • Friends

  • Jokes

  • Fanfic

  • Overhearing other people talking about things they like

  • Nice surprises

  • Doing things well

  • Winning prizes for doing things well

  • Getting something for nothing

  • Improving, particularly at shaving

  • Snow

  • Sliding

  • Bouncing

  • Well-developed arguments

  • Elections

  • Peter Snow

  • Tastes

  • Textures

  • Colours

  • Telling someone who thinks that they're funny that they aren't if I don't think so (NB turnabout is fair play, so do do this back to me as appropriate)

  • Sport

  • Good ideas in sporting organisation

  • Airports

  • Discovery

  • The Forbidden Corner (a spectacular but little-known folly garden in North Yorkshire)

  • Attractive faces

  • Conquering fears

  • Kind people

  • Logos

  • Darkness

  • Dreams

  • Repetition making things funny

  • Concidences

  • Compactness and efficiency

  • Secrets

  • Smiles

  • Technology and prosperity

  • New buildings

  • Manchester Piccadilly railway station

  • Interests lists

  • LiveJournal, the prospects that it brings and its neat interconnectedness

  • Past achievements

  • Comeuppances

  • Familiarity

  • Fantasies

  • The concept of the Mind Sports Olympiad

  • Seeing people once a year and becoming friendly with them

  • Books with interesting information

  • Singing

  • Game music

  • Cooking well (probably, more specifically, having well-cooked food served to me)

  • Glamour

  • illegible (I suspect it means "Dinner jackets" but it could just as easily be "Daydreams")

  • Memories of old friends

  • Shared common jokes

  • Preparing for things and finding your preparation was useful

  • Green

  • Computers

  • Pinball

  • Learning

  • Softness

  • Bravery

  • All Your Base Are Belong To Us

  • Flash animations

  • Explaining

  • Politeness

  • Exploring

  • Things that you normally expect to find indoors being found deliberately placed outdoors and vice versa

  • Warmth

  • Friends' music

  • Friends being happy

  • Movement

  • "Things wk" (presumably "things working reliably"?)

  • Good costumes

  • Long hair

  • Dancing (though I only feel confident enough to enjoy this when I know what steps to do)

  • Codes and seeing them explained

  • Magic and seeing it explained

  • Stunts

  • Safety

  • Being liked

  • Chance meetings
I can definitely recommend the practice for the next time you're waiting for something and uncomfortable in the surroundings.
Current Mood: happyhappy

(43 comments | Leave a comment)


[User Picture]
Date:May 14th, 2003 09:31 am (UTC)
What a great list - I'm making my own right this minute. I love smiling at strangers - and I too was caight in the rain but luckily had my umbrella. Study leave started at lunchtime today, so naturally I've been t00bing online all afternoon, although in my defence I've been looking at university websites. Talked to teacher at school who deals with Oxbridge applications and she said Merton was a good college for me to apply to - good school links. Am booking for the open day later. Why are no universities as appealling as Oxford?
[User Picture]
Date:May 14th, 2003 09:54 am (UTC)

The "things that make you happy" list meme is almost worth saving for when you feel you need a bit of comfort. Of course, there's no reason why you can't make it more than once, though you might find yourself falling into the same pattern again and again, which might bring you contentment or might bring you unease at the lack of progress. I'm not sure.

she said Merton was a good college for me to apply to - good school links

I've never been sure what this means in practice, but here's my theory. The recommendation from your teachers and headmaster theoretically ought to count for a lot, but every teacher and headmaster will want to give their strongest possible recommendation in a very large number of cases, which must lead to an awful amount of dilution of the effect. If your school has referred people to Merton who have worked out in the past then at least someone there will know that that particular recommendation is one of those which is meaningful rather than one which is primarily self-interested. It must be very hard to get right from a headmaster's perspective.

Why are no universities as appealling as Oxford?

Well, some university has to be the single most appealing one! :-)
[User Picture]
Date:May 14th, 2003 10:15 am (UTC)
After reading glissando's list, I came to see yours (since she mentioned yours as inspiration). This one has me curious:

# Numbers, especially 23 and 47 (born on the 23rd, longer story behind 47)

47 is my favourite number, but probably for different reasons. So - care to share why it makes you happy?
[User Picture]
Date:May 14th, 2003 01:32 pm (UTC)

I should wager good money at long odds that our reasons are different. :-)

Years and years ago, a friend and I made up large numbers of games involving rolling our unusual D&D dice. Many of these were football management simulations in the style of the computer games particularly popular at the time. One such one (quite possibly the Duckfoot referred to in inky scrawl, or at worst a family member thereof) witnessed what seemed to be an unnaturally frequent appearance of 47 rolled on percentile dice. Accordingly, the friend with whom I played decided he was averse to the number; just as accordingly, I decided that I would adopt it as my favourite.

Ever since it has cropped up in unusual places from time to time; I'm sure I see people referring to instances of 47s more frequently than, say, instances of 43s. (There's some reasonable theory that numbers should broadly appear inversely frequently in proportion to their magnitude - the number 68 should appear in the world half as frequently as the number 34, but twice as frequently as the number 136, and so on.) It's also nice because it's prime.

So why do you like the number 47?
Date:May 14th, 2003 10:25 am (UTC)
one of them mention "bomb scare"

"but it turned out to be the usual sort; all scare and no bomb." - People Like Us, 1995.

Why are bon mots not bons mots?

Francophobia, laziness, or ignorance. Probably all three.

[User Picture]
Date:May 14th, 2003 10:31 am (UTC)

Were it not so many thousand miles away, I would definitely see this exhibit.

You're posts almost always make me smile. I think it comes as much from a general sense of joy I think you had when writing it as well as always being well written. Please keep it up.

I will definitely be doing my own list, but not right away. I may wait until I need it as you've suggested. Or I may just wait until yours doesn't influence me so much.
[User Picture]
Date:May 14th, 2003 01:36 pm (UTC)
Writing tales of happiness while in a good mood is generally more fun than writing tales of misery, though that's not to speak ill of writing while miserable. I tend to start entries and not finish them while miserable, or frequently don't feel like writing at all.

It was a pretty happy afternoon. The evening's been fine, too.
Date:May 14th, 2003 10:55 am (UTC)
That sounds like quite an enjoyable afternoon. Walks are loffly -- especially dry ones. The quote as I've heard it is Practice random acts of kindness; enjoy senseless beauty. *Makes it a point to do more of both in the near-future*

Your "happy list" is inspiring -- I think I may well start scribbling later.

Given many of your responses, I'd say that you're very sensory. And I'm intrigued by the numbers -- what's the story behind 47? Coincidentally enough, my two favourites are 4 and 7. (4 for the points of spiritual/seasonal/cyclic balance that I've come to understand, 7 simply for the days of the week.)
[User Picture]
Date:May 14th, 2003 01:56 pm (UTC)
Middlesbrough is reasonably well served with a network of cycle paths, which are also good walkways. I took Route 1 of the National Cycle Network into town (mainly because it passes through the local park, alongside the big boating lake with both fountains and ducks) and walked up the main shopping street on the way back.

The "50 things which make you happy in 20 minutes" list isn't original, though I hope that nobody has ever put the Milton Keynes Coachway spin on it before. I think I can recall daweaver and rialtus doing it before I did and doubtless it is several iterations older.

47 story above, as discussed. :-)
Date:May 14th, 2003 11:24 am (UTC)
Someone else pulled up their car beside me and asked for a set of directions.

Never do that to me. You will be told to follow the road round for about half a mile, turn left and then ask again for directions from there. The logic here is that it might be right, and if it isn't I'll have had plenty of time to make my escape by the time you realise as much.

I'm a member of the 47s community, after whimsically following a link from timwi, and I still don't know why it exists. There must be something intrinsically pleasing about 47 that I'm currently unaware of.

You were perhaps sensible to have an item in between Repetition making things funny and Compactness and efficiency. Meanwhile, slimp.
Date:May 14th, 2003 11:27 am (UTC)
Ah. Suddenly it all makes sense!
Date:May 14th, 2003 01:28 pm (UTC)
I like airports too. :)
[User Picture]
Date:May 14th, 2003 02:02 pm (UTC)
Did you take the Flytoget from Oslo Torp?

I think it may be time for a quick round of "favourite airports". You start.
Date:May 14th, 2003 02:22 pm (UTC)

Manchester blithering Piccadilly?!

How on earth can you like Man Pic?! No, really, have you actually been there lately?

I had to go to Manchester to be an exhibit at a careers fair recently, and for reasons too long and dull to relate, but predictably tied to quizzing, I was due to arrive at Man Pic at 2am. Now Man Pic by day is pretty ghastly, but trying to find your way out of the "remodelled" Man Pic at 2 in the morning is horror itself. I got stuck for at least five minutes in an endless loop of escalators, and spent another ten minutes looking on entirely the wrong level for the taxi rank, which they have now moved to the sub-sub-sub-basement. It took me a full 20 minutes to get out of there (and make it to a freezing cold expensive hotel room, but that's another story).

On the way back, the light was such that you couldn't read any of the display boards for the platforms, so I had to guess which was my train, with about three minutes to spare. Thankfully, I'm a good guesser. This was, of course, having spent another ten minutes navigating the now-packed escalators in the reverse direction (not recommended with heavy luggage).

The old Man Pic was pretty horrible - ghastly memories of getting lost there during old UC - but at least it was all on one level. Multi-level train stations should be limited to London Bridge, and even that deserves nothing better than a demolition ball. But the new station - Ugh. Just Ugh.

Rob, who really ought to get himself an LJ account, but is too damn lazy
[User Picture]
Date:May 14th, 2003 03:09 pm (UTC)

Re: Manchester blithering Piccadilly?!

No, really, have you actually been there lately?

Bluff called! Not since the 30th of June, 2002, when the latest(?) batch of remodelling was still in progress. It can't have been finished in time for the start of the Commonwealth Games, can it? I was attending a board games convention at the part of Manchester University which was being used as the athletes' village; the athletes hadn't arrived, but the security was in place at the time and the staff were undergoing practice. (They gave us a "Bump In Pass" to permit our wanderings throughout the grounds. I note that some wag mutated mine into a "BumpkIn Pass".)

Accordingly I have only ever known it as a single-level station - well, except for the tram station below and the overpass to get to platforms 13 and 14. I'm prepared to take your word for it that the facilities once complete could be significantly less useable than they were before in the name of misplaced style. It's still bright, spacious and airy, though... isn't it?

Rob, who really ought to get himself an LJ account, but is too damn lazy

Oh, you've got mail, Mr. Linham. Come on in, the water's lovely! ;-)
Date:May 14th, 2003 02:40 pm (UTC)
I love smiling, to myself mostly, when I'm listening to songs that I love and meandering through town. I, too, keep thinking about picking litter up but can never quite bring myself to do it - I may, now. Is it just me, or is the Boro generally full of people who look glum? I find that smiling, no matter how quickly at someone, makes me feel better - and the reciprocation is fabulous. I spent a whole lot of time walking with my eyes to the ground and my face as straight as a post but, I don't know why, everything is so much more fun right now and I'm facing the world head on and don't feel an utter dork for smiling at people whenever the hell I want. I think people up here need it. :)
[User Picture]
Date:May 14th, 2003 03:15 pm (UTC)

Random smiles are only good. :-)

I, too, keep thinking about picking litter up but can never quite bring myself to do it - I may, now.

Ooh yes - I picked up and binned a sandwich box and two Greggs bags on the way back. Only one of the latter disintegrated within my fingers. *looks angelic*

is the Boro generally full of people who look glum?

Broadly so, especially on overcast days like today.

There was a survey on smile return rates done for Comic Relief t'other month. I'm kind of glad that Teesside flew under the radar else we might have given Edinburgh a run for its money at the bargain basement.

Mr. L. (other Mr. L., Australian Mr. L.) please note that Liverpool came joint-sixth out of fourteen. Evidently there are far worse places to live!
[User Picture]
Date:May 15th, 2003 03:03 am (UTC)
they'd be beaux mots, anyway, not bons. But I imagine that much of a change would be too difficult to sustain in a word borrowed in from another language.

sounds like a good day.
[User Picture]
Date:May 15th, 2003 11:35 am (UTC)

beaux mots

Ooh, I like the sound of that. The vowel sounds, at least, must be mighty similar, even if the spellings are completely different. (Can't remember - would one pronounce the phrase something like "bow mow" or something like "bose mow"?)

Yep - was a nice day. :-)
Date:May 15th, 2003 02:14 pm (UTC)
a very nice list indeed. Sorry you haven't seen the PanAm terminal at JFK while it was in service. (You've likely seen it by now in [i]Catch Me If You Can[/i]. Quite the spiffy and mod place.

What's a folly garden? (I'm guessing it's what I'd call an "amusement park;" if so, I like your term better and will endeavor to see that it's used here.)

[User Picture]
Date:May 16th, 2003 06:14 am (UTC)
What's a folly garden?

Not really the same thing as what I would call an amusement park. I would think of an amusement park as a not-particularly-themed theme park - lots of rides, lots of stalls with games to play, lots of things to see and do. By contrast, a folly garden is first and foremost a garden. A folly, in general, is simply a whimsical building built for art and amusement's sake. The Folly Pages have a slightly different definition and some good examples.

The Forbidden Corner is elaborate and intricate and I don't want to describe it because I want you all to come and see it for yourselves. However, if you can rule this out as impractical, you have my permission (!) to Google for spoilers - but it's a very poor substitute for the pleasure of discovering its secrets first-hand. This is why I keep nagging British folks in the vicinity to visit. (Hint, hint, leiabelle, though I know your time here is limited and you have much to do.)

You could reasonably compare it to a partially-outdoors funhouse, only with rather stronger ties to nature. Much more imaginitive than cool.
[User Picture]
Date:May 16th, 2003 07:29 am (UTC)
The last time I randomly smiled at people, I got a very worrying reaction. People actually crossed the road to get away from me. I think Geordies are just very mistrusting (is that the right word?)

I found your list very inspirational and think that I may do it.
[User Picture]
Date:May 16th, 2003 11:04 am (UTC)

I think Geordies are just very mistrusting (is that the right word?)

I'd be prepared to believe that, though I'd hope it wasn't the case. Certainly Newcastle came towards the middle of the probably-not-very-scientific-really smiles survey, so not much different to many places.

> Go to Top