Deborah Ross: Our woman in Crouch End

Things that make life worth living (or at least will stop me biting you while I quit smoking)

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How, a colleague recently asked, is the not-smoking going? "Fine," I said, "apart from the fact that a) I am getting really fat and b) I am still really bad tempered and c) if I carry on like this there is every chance that I'll end up as a tub of lard with the meanest scowl on it you ever did see." She said: "You're not that fat yet." And? And, nothing. So I bit her. And then gave her a Chinese burn she won't forget in a hurry, let me tell you. I know, I know, I must get a handle on the rage, and I am working on it. Lately, I've been making a real effort to not get cross or irritable about anything while only thinking about stuff that is beautiful, like:

Bird-song; puppies; snowdrops; bright copper kettles; warm woollen mittens; gambolling lambs; non-gambolling lambs, as everyone loves a lamb, whatever; cashmere for £20 at Tesco; T.K.Maxx so long as you're prepared to put the effort in; Ikea (ditto) and so long as you don't get stressed by the thought of so many veneers, so little time; the BBC's Bleak House which is sure to make sense any day now, so just stick with it; teenage boys who, when told that their mothers have to go into hospital for an operation, say: "Oh good. Does that mean I can have the house to myself?", God bless 'em; drivers who return to their cars in hard-to-park places and then, while you are waiting for their space, so blocking the road, proceed to do something mind-blowingly lengthy at the steering wheel, like embark on War And Peace, the cheeky little monkeys, and I'll have a good chuckle about that, while my hazards go tick-tick, tick-tick, and other drivers hoot and shake their fists and shout: "Move your fucking car, you stupid fucking bitch!," but I shall only smile more beatifically which, strangely, may make them yet madder. Some people! Always in a rush! Take a chill-pill, mate!

Other things that make life worth living: raindrops on roses, naturally; hot chips from the chip shop; whiskers on kittens; kittens in pies; lamb chops as lambs are too tasty for their own good; cakes; sweets; full-fat anything, reduced-fat nothing; wild geese that fly with the moon on their wings; ludicrously-priced face creams, the more expensive the better; Rebekah Wade allegedly punching Ross Kemp (oh joy of joys); introducing teenage boys to the art world by forcing them to spend Sunday with you at the Tate Modern where their questions range from "can we go now?" through to "how much longer?" via "don't you think it's time to go?", so proving it hasn't been a complete waste of a day; brown paper packages tied up with all those strings you won't be able to undo, but what the hell; TV programmes like Wife Swap and Supernanny which preview what is coming up after the break then, after the break, recap on what happened before the break, which surely means it is only a matter of time before the two meet and you will always know what has happened and what will happen but never what is happening but that's OK because what's a life for, if not to be entirely wasted in this way? Therefore, I will not throw anything at the television.

Country life

And now on to: cream-coloured ponies; Betty Crocker frosting; teenage boys whose rooms don't so much need tidying up as mucking out with a hot bucket of Dettol and a stiff broom, the little tinkers; Dairy Lea triangles; crisp apple strudels, salad-cream toasties; schnitzel with noodles; Simon Heffer, with or without tongue firmly in cheek, the saucy little sexpot; snowflakes that stay on my nose and eyelashes; girls in white dresses with blue satin sashes; people who move to the country and then go on and on about how much space they have got and how great the schools are and while you might want to say: "Hasn't it ever occurred to you that hunts for serial killers and crazed paedophiles always begin IN THE WOODS where ABANDONED BLUE SATIN SASHES are two a penny" you keep a lid on it, because that would be raining on their parade. So, instead, you agree to come and stay two weekends from now if your charity work allows, which it probably won't, because that's in the nature of charity work and if you are a good person who does charity work, this is the sort of thing you just have to accept unless you are prepared to let down a lot of sad homeless people who don't have a house through no fault of their own unless you include alcoholism, drug addiction and that general fecklessness which makes them their own worst enemies.

My new philosophy

Plus, of course: door bells; sleigh bells; anything on Radio 4 that begins with: "And now, a wry look at ..." because you know it'll be something charming along the lines of those "whimsical" vicars who write in the magazines Nana gets (The Picture Post?) and who will take a comical look at anything so long as it involves Mrs Vicar making marmalade, what a gas; supermarket packers who put the bananas under the potatoes but, then, all the world loves a squashed banana (particularly in a sandwich, with lashings of lard) and so, to conclude, and to outline my new philosophy, when the dog bites, and the bee stings, and I'm feeling sad, I simply remember that Jarndyce v Jarndyce has to become clear soon, otherwise I really will have wasted one heck of a lot of time, and I'll get furious, and it'll be back to square one. I thank you, which is an improvement already, as only yesterday I'd have bitten you and left it at that. Soon, I may even threaten to sit on you.

d.ross@independent.co.uk

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