The Bright Side of Life

“If I was 15 years younger I’d be packing my suitcases right now”… So said the lady we call Granny Argentina. She runs a bakery down the road, and isn’t too happy with the way things are going in Spain at the moment. The government is beginning to exhibit unpleasantly right-wing tendencies, the economy is in dire crisis and not about to improve, and the country is, both financially and emotionally, depressed.

So Granny Argentina, who brought her family from Argentina to Spain, via extended periods of life in Italy and Helsinki (so she clearly isn’t afraid to move with the times), says that if she was younger, she’d be off.

At a lunch party the next day, my sister-in-law asked me the same thing – “…haven’t you considered leaving Spain? It’s so depressing here, and you could easily go back to the UK with the family. You’d be much better off tax-wise too”.

This began to bother me. Yes, working from home we have the flexibility to leave Spain and start up just about anywhere new at a moment’s notice, but do we want to? Is Spain really that bad?

Let’s see. The landscapes of Spain are still stunningly beautiful. Our son still goes to a great school. We still have great friends here. It’s still sunny most days. It’s still a democracy. There are still a million beautiful things to see and enjoy every day we walk out of the door!

Later on that day, after the lunch with the relatives, I went to a two-year-old’s birthday party with my son. The parents, bright, positive, happy people, had put a lot of work into the occasion. Great food, baloons everywhere, toys… but best of all they’d invited the music teacher from their daughter’s nursery to come and give a little concert.

He started with a kind of feast of sounds from a wild range of intruments he’d brought with him – a huge, pancake-thin drum that he dripped little ceramic balls onto so that all the kids said, “oooooh, it’s like rain!”, and he blew a meter-long brass hunting horn, and sang/wailed African chants and rang tibetan singing bowls, until both the kids and the adults fell into a deep melodious musical trance.

Then, after a wonderful story from the birthday girl’s dad, about a mouse that spent the summer collecting colours and the winter collecting sounds and the spring collecting smells, the music teacher picked up the guitar and fired off an hour of rip-roaring classic Spanish party songs, while we all clapped wildly and sang along at the tops of our voices.

The first song had a little English chorus that all the Spanish knew, “Always look on the bright side of life…. Always look on the bright side of life…” with the happy whistling that accompanies it.

Standing in that room, singing and clapping with beaming adults and children, with a magician of a music teacher leading us on from the front, life had rarely seemed brighter. There was no crisis in here, no doom and gloom, no need to pack our bags and ditch the sinking ship. While we still have work and Spain is still a democracy (which I’m pretty sure it will continue to be!), why would we possible leave when we can have as much fun as this?

So in the face of future invitations to go and live somewhere with a little bit less tax, or (if such a place exists) with slightly less useless and corrupt politicians – I’ll say, I’m fine thanks. There’s nothing wrong with Spain (or the UK, or the USA, or with this day wherever you are…) if you keep looking on the bright side of life!

And if anyone still needs convincing – What a Wonderful World!

2 thoughts on “The Bright Side of Life”

  1. The party “was” very “now.” (comma inside quotes in the U.S.!) You could have been at the party but not present, worrying instead about the myriad things our minds so naturally tilt towards, and so missed out on the fabulous music and stories.

    Music and stories can wake us to the present more easily than, say, climbing stairs. But how wonderful is it to feel muscle working as we ascend, enjoying this moment, moving with effort from the second to the third floors…

    Now. Being happiness. Now.

  2. Thanks James, it looks like you totally understand how and why the party was so great! Certainly the music and the concert of sounds brought me straight back to the present moment – it’s harder during everyday tasks, though as I am chief dish washer at home, I get a lot of practice while doing that particular chore!

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