The Warm Fuzz of Happiness

In Bargain Booze grabbing Heinekens.  There is one woman in front of me in the queue. She is fumbling with her words and with her purse as she attempts to purchase a bottle of vodka and some cigarettes. She is the living, breathing reason why shop assistants everywhere ask you ‘anything else?’ after you have carefully and deliberately selected your items for purchase.

‘A bottle of… Tolsty… Tolstoy vodka, whatever it is… yeh, that one… ummm… AND TEN RICHMOND SUPERKINGS! (laughs)’

She is drunk and her mind can only deal with one thing at a time. Now the assistant has placed the bottle on the counter, she remembers that she needs cigarettes. She is very pleased, as if she had been speaking to a friend for an hour before remembering a really funny or really juicy piece of news to tell.

‘Yep, ten superkings and… er… OH! Sweeties! DON’T FORGET THE SWEETIES!!!’

‘Can’t forget the sweeties!’ I reinforce her joy for sweets. I exchange looks with the shop assistant, who has obviously served thi s woman before.

‘Thats £7.09 then please.’

She fumbles with notes and coins stuffed into a tiny purse. ‘Do you want the 9p?’

The shop assistant says no, ‘lets not make this any more complicated than it already is’. I am impressed by his wisdom. He is a well spoken man in his late thirties. I wonder what the law says about serving drunk people in an off-licence. Is it not like a pub, where the barperson has the right to say ‘I think you’ve had enough mate’?

‘I’ll just… give you the change. I always look after you, don’t I?’

Its all smiles in Bargain Booze as the shop assistant and I wait for the woman to put the £2.81 in her purse, pick up her bag of vodka, superkings and sweets, and f**k off.  She laughs, acknowledging her drunkeness. She is middle-aged and has limp auburn hair that clings flatly to her head. We’re all smiling and laughing because she’s struggling to function having spent the afternoon in a pub in Sherwood. The shop assistant rolls his eyes as I thrust the Heineken towards him.

Then I think, is this really funny?

We might be laughing now, but how many broken lives lie behind this polite laughter? Will the woman have a great time when she returns home with her booze, fags and sweets? Or is she depressed? Does she really find it funny that she can hardly pronounce ‘vodka’ or remember what it was she went to the shop for? What other people are in her life?

We three we were, laughing in the shop, were not presenting real happiness.

I walk home with beers, its dusk in June and I am wearing t-shirt and jeans. The taxi dropped me in Sherwood after my shift. My shift was 30 minutes long because work was quiet and I fancied a night treating myself to beer, curry and film. What a good life. The warm feeling of happiness surrounds me. I feel proud to be my own man, sailing my own ship. I might play a short session of poker, or just watch the England game and write this blog, before I get stuck into beer, curry and film.

A few weeks before, in a pub in Stoke, DJ Bacca Chine is playing records in a small room. It is Saturday night. I am surrounded by long-time friends, and we are enjoying ourselves. I have had a couple of pints but am not drunk. I feel a little emotional, so happy to be here. I think positive things, about how far I’ve come with poker and how I can now turn round to someone and tell them I’m trying to make a living with it and its going well. I think about all the songs I’ve written and gigs I’ve played and wonder how much fun it will be to play more gigs with musicians I haven’t even met yet. I wonder about the friends and lovers I haven’t even met yet. I think about the article I wrote that got published in a magazine. All this good stuff swims around my head and I feel the warm fuzz of happiness and my eyes are wide. I’m just standing looking at the record spinning round and people around me are dancing, laughing, having conversations, raising their voices above the makeshift PA playing Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons as loud as is reasonably possible.

‘Lets hang on, to what we got

Don’t let go girl, we got a lot.

Got a lot of love between us, hang on, hang on, hang on, to what we got.’

Perhaps I look strange in my red-and-white farmboy checked shirt, tucked in at the belt, dancing vigorously to the music and singing along with passion. Well, I might be strange, but I’m damn sure I’m for real.

All the best records help you feel like that, unlocking your propensity to experience the warm fuzz of happiness. Whether just a small fuzz or a large dose I suppose depends on your own personal circumstances at the time, and how many reasons you have to feel good and free.

Don’t let go girl, we got a lot.

When I listened to Frankie in the pub, I could think of a lot of reasons to feel good, and the effect was quite overwhelming. The best records make you feel like a soldier in a one-man army, all-powerful, all-confident. Feared, famed and evaded throughout the land. I feel like that when I listen to The Verve’s Bittersweet Symphony, or Dylan’s Like a Rolling Stone.

The feeling is like having the world between your teeth. Existing in the moment. Your mind stops rattling through worries and concerns, ceases to leap and lunge from one crazy thought to another. You know who you are and where you are. You are unafraid to experience grit and pain. You have no time for soft soap, bullsh*t or weakness. You are aware how small you are and how little time you have, but this knowledge does not diminish you, it empowers you.

You discard the normal fear of death, knowing that death is just the last sleep of the hundreds, or thousands, or tens of thousands of sleeps you have to come. You will know as little about death as you do about the moments between when you fall asleep and when you start to dream. You will know as little about death as a lamp knows about being switched off. You will know as little about death as you know about the moments after you put on a mask and took the anaesthetic that sent you to sleep.

You feel like John Wayne. Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.

I feel the warm fuzz when I listen to Lucinda Williams sing. Her voice is so beautifully well-suited to her words, or perhaps the other way round. The songs on Car Wheels on a Gravel Road focus on imagery. The Americana imagery of trailers and coffee, cars and towns. She sings the name of a city like she is tasting a delectable dish.

There are lots of Lucinda Williams songs on Spotify, which I would recommend that you download if you haven’t already. Its like i-tunes but you can just listen to songs for free.


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