Magazine article The Spectator

Fleeting Happiness

Magazine article The Spectator

Fleeting Happiness

Article excerpt

For some time now, I have been feeling messed up and disillusioned about pretty much everything. My new house is an utter toilet and I now realise it will be years before it's properly inhabitable. I have Lyme disease and no one believes me. My shares have all gone down. I'm not going to be an Internet millionaire. Journalism is a truly useless way of earning a living, especially now it's so heavily controlled by the PR industry. I deserve a big, well-paid `me' column in a national newspaper and no one has offered me one. I haven't touched my new novel for about two months and won't ever be happy until it's going well again. Everything I write is rubbish.

And, as if to remind me how ineffably shite life is, we have just been going through possibly the worst six months of TV in the history of the medium. Go on. Tell me I'm not right. How many times have you rolled home from work, gagging for a bit of televisual distraction from the horrors of existence, only to find that there's nothing - absolutely nothing worth watching?

No surprise then that I should have felt so pathetically grateful and bizarrely euphoric when the other night I managed to spend a good four hours in front of the box and everything I watched was really brilliant. Okay, so I cheated slightly: I filled in some of the gaps with preview videos. But, even so, I think there are signs that we're turning a corner here. Even Frasier's back on form.

My evening of fleeting happiness began with Ray Mears's Extreme Survival (BBC 2, Thursday), which I love because it tells you about some of the more interesting and horrible ways in which you can die. And, more practically, how to avoid them. The episode I saw (last week's), taught you about surviving grizzly bear attacks (e.g. don't climb trees: they're better at it than you). Mears is a solemn sort and I'll bet he doesn't really like talking about such trivial things: he'd rather teach you for the umpteenth time how to make fire when you've no matches or show you how to live on slugs. But I guess someone has had a word in his ear and explained that teeth and claws are what the viewers want, hence his tabloidish question to a grizzled outdoorsman: `And what's the worst grizzly bear incident you can recall? …

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