Live from the Homefront – pushing boundaries towards happiness on demand
by Susannah Grant
So finally we are allowed out for a spot of exercise, albeit each one of us jostling for space on the pavement due to the fact that the huge open spaces such as the Casa de Campo remain closed. If you are feeling cut off from the rest of the world after 8 weeks’ confinement at home, spare a thought for the ex-Russian investor and former member of Vladimir Putin´s inner circle, Sergei Pugachev. In 2015 he filed a claim against Russia in excess of 12 billion USD for expropriated assets and he has been confined to his chateau in the South of France ever since. Fearing for his life every time he leaves. Perhaps I´d even imprison myself in a huge chateau with sea-views for 5 years if anyone would like to pay me a few billion dollars….all offers considered….
Whilst Pugachev can invite friends over to his abode, we are still forbidden from socialising which reminds me yet again of my time, as one of 50 girls, at an 850-strong boy´s boarding school where visitors of the opposite sex were strictly banned. Admittedly some girls tried to defy their own anatomy by contorting themselves into wafer thin slivers to slide in and out of the windows that could only be raised 20 cm. However, the boys were more valiant and preferred to sneak in to the girls’ quarters after parties when security was lax, one such chap was expelled after he experienced a coughing fit after smoking in a girl´s wardrobe at 2 am.
Other girls used illicit alcohol as a means to liven up our lengthy imprisonment at our Mallory Tower-esque retreat. Never having been caught in flagrante, biro in hand as I tried to force the cork back down the neck of a bottle of Bulgarian Country Red (frequent random searches of our rooms by the teaching Gestapo precluded us from keeping a handy corkscrew), imagine my surprise when my nosey housemaster turned up at 11 pm while I was having a peaceful nightcap of Baileys with 2 friends….Stern punishment ensued although I suspect it was somewhat harsher on my parents having me back home for an extra 2 weeks, than it was for me to spend it studying in the local London library.
As we embark on yet another week of quarantine I cherish my restorative daily treats to keep up my spirits, often losing myself somewhere in the potent aromas of Montezuma´s cocoa bean. Whilst chocolate certainly provides a well-trodden route to contentment I wonder if it provides happiness?
Richard Wurman, founder of the infamous TED talks questions whether happiness is our ultimate goal or is it more about having our interests satiated? Buying a new Armani dress will certainly bring contentment but is that happiness? The designer garment could gratify our interest in feeling fabulous, fortunate and fashionable, yet, arguably trigger an ephemeral sensation of pleasure more than a route to boundless happiness.
For a lot less money than any designer dress, you can spark more joy in your life by enrolling on a free course offered by Yale on The Science of Wellbeing https://www.businessinsider.com/coursera-yale-science-of-wellbeing-free-course-review-overview?IR=T which includes the following:
- – Misconceptions about happiness
- – Why our expectations are often negative
- – we can overcome our biases
- – Stuff that really makes us happy
- – Putting strategies into practice
If you´re looking for inspiration on how to upscale your vintage Zara dress for your virtual dinner parties, here is a truly uplifting, fascinating documentary behind the scenes of the Dior: Designer of Dreams exhibition that was staged at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris. The hour-long film (via Youtube), in French with English subtitles, will teleport you away from ironing jeans and other mundane tasks to a world of glittering glamour and haute couture. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FLWDWzMrkBE&t=763s