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Walking in the Mournes, St George's Market, happy kids, having a laugh at a favourite comedian, or hearing a great song... what makes us smile!


By Lee Henry

Today, on World Smile Day, a special day so declared in 1999 by artist Harvey Ball who wanted to promote kind acts and bright smiles throughout the world, we ask well-known figures what makes them happy.

Singer and musical theatre impresario Peter Corry (51) lives in Belfast. He says:

Good company, good comedy and good musical theatre make me smile. I love old black and white musicals - top hat and tails type stuff - and old-fashioned comedy, things like Sgt Bilko.

Classic performers like Phil Silvers, who played Bilko, played every week in front of millions of people live on American television and had to improvise as he went along, and that's entertainment.

When I'm on stage and the house is full, that makes me smile. Even after almost 25 years in show business, performing on stage still makes me happy. I find great pleasure in performing, but also in going to see a good show. I was in London recently and we went to see 42nd Street and it was incredible. Musical theatre is part of my life, that genre of performance, and to see it done to the very best quality is just such a thrill.

I also produce and when you see a show that you're working on really start to come together, when you hear the reaction of a packed audience and see the cast soaking up the adulation, that really makes me smile. And after, spending time with friends and loved ones, sitting back and enjoying a nice glass of wine."

Paula McIntyre (49) is a food writer and broadcaster. She lives in Portstewart. She says:

My job makes me smile a lot of the time. I'm very lucky in that respect. I'm in London at the moment - I was doing a dinner last night, a charity dinner for Action Against Hunger - and I was cooking with 10 other women chefs, some of whom I've known for a long time, and I couldn't have been happier.

It was a banquet in Borough Market, and we all had our photograph taken together and everyone commented on my smile: "Paula, your smile is so wide." But I can't help it. I just love to cook. Whenever I'm in a kitchen cooking, and I'm in control, that makes me smile.

I also love good comedy. There's a programme on Radio 4 at 12.30pm on Saturday morning, The News Quiz, and I always listen to it because I'll be on the road coming home from the BBC or wherever, and there are times I'll be crying laughing at some of the things they come out with. Going to St George's Market on a Saturday morning also makes me smile - seeing all the traders and all the really good food on offer."

Food for thought: Paula McIntyre loves St George’s Market

Playwright Martin Lynch (66) lives in Belfast with his daughter Grainne and grandson Tiernan. He says:

At this period in my life, my youngest grandson Tiernan makes me smile the most. He's a pure delight. I love watching him discover the world, his little quirks and activities and the wee things he gets up to around the house.

He's only 15-months-old, but last night I dropped a sweetie paper on the floor and he grabbed it, reached up to open to the living room door and put it in the bin before I knew what had happened. It's amazing the way that kids even at that age pick up on the things that us adults do.

He lives with me, as does his mammy, my daughter Sue, and he gets into bed with me at night. I tell him stories and he imitates everything that I do. It's just a great, great joy to watch a young child learning about the world.

I have three grandchildren and they were all the same at Tiernan's age.

Conan (12) and Lana (7) also continue to bring a big smile to my face. As a playwright, I worked from home, so I was able to spend a lot of time with my kids, and I'm very happy about that."

Radio Ulster's Good Morning Ulster presenter Noel Thompson (60) lives in Belfast with wife Sharon, with whom he has two children, Matthew and Patrick. He says:

Well, of course, the first thing that makes me smile is my lovely wife greeting me with a cup of coffee when I get home from a tough morning on Good Morning Ulster. (That's the Brownie points won!)

Next, the joy of the great outdoors, walking in the Mournes, breathing in the wonderful fresh Co Down air, watching the different moods and colours of the landscape as the light and weather conditions change.

Standing in the Ulster Hall, the Waterfront or the Grand Opera House with the chorus of the Belfast Philharmonic Society or NI Opera singing spine-tingling music, united in exhilaration with all those other voices and the instruments of the Ulster Orchestra, that makes me smile.

Finally, driving across the African savannah on safari, the sun at my back, the wind in my face, filled with anticipation of whatever wondrous creatures will cross my path that day, and being thankful for having the health and opportunity to do all these things that bring such fun."

Picture perfect: Noel Thompson smiles at the beauty of the Mourne Mountains

Comedian and actress Nuala McKeever (53) lives in Belfast. She says:

I've been doing a lot of mindful meditation over the past few years and I've discovered that what makes me very content is having less instead of more. I used to focus on what was missing but meditation has really transformed that.

Now, I focus on how rich I am in all the great things in life, like health and love and a warm bed at night and hot water coming out of a tap every time I turn it on. I see what's in front of me and gratitude makes me feel good, as opposed to fantasising about what is 'missing', whether that's a relationship or a slimmer waist or more money or better weather or whatever, and ultimately feeling powerless and down.

The magic is that I really am what I've been looking for all this time.

At least, I have all the capacities that I used to look for outside myself. And having that portable, take-it-anywhere access to simple joy makes me happy.

Even when I'm not happy, I can smile at myself and know that this too will pass and it's just me being me anyway, so nothing to worry about."

Composer Brian Irvine (52) lives in Donaghadee and Edinburgh. He says:

Things that make me smile include my dad eating scrambled eggs and pancakes in his pyjamas, toe nails that need cutting, hair like a cotton wool pastie, the imaginary horse that exists in the mind of my dementia smitten mum and its random appearances at the window, by the lane, on my head, on the ridges of the waves by the Copelands.

A half worn poker, the tsunami laugh of the woman I love, the sound of the middle of things or the beginning of things or the inexplicable end, rust, invisible superheroes, freckles, oversized coats, a babushka doll, three day snow, bus tickets, caravans, thistles, polystyrene surfboards, Polish trains, punctures and scrunched up tissues tucked up sleeves."

U105 DJ Paul McKenna (42) lives in Newcastle with his wife Emma (34) and daughters Evie Grace and twins Rachel and Eimear. He says:

Memories and pictures from the past make me smile. I have great memories of growing up in Newcastle, cycling around on my BMX and acting the eejit in school with my friends, one of whom, Ollie Forsythe, regularly texts in during my show about the things we got up to back in the day.

I'm a crowd-pleaser and I tend to be happy as long as everyone else is happy. In my personal life, I smile most when I'm with Emma and the girls. I love going out for family days when we are all together. It just makes life complete.

My work schedule can be tough, as I work so many nights, which means that I'm often not there for Evie Grace's bedtime. When I'm playing music, though, there is nothing that makes me smile more than happy listeners and a busy dance floor.

I have listeners who live on their own, have mental health problems and feel that it's easier to talk to someone that they don't know on a personal level, and I am very happy to chat with them and play their favourite songs. That in turn makes them smile. World Smile Day is a great idea. There are so many bad things happening in the world right now, it's nice to promote happiness. It takes less effort to smile than it does to frown."

Downtown Radio presenter Caroline Fleck (45) lives in Coleraine and Chicago with her husband Tom, son Jack and daughter Molly. She says:

Seeing my children happy makes me smile - watching them loving life with such optimism and not a care in the world, with their whole lives ahead of them.

Seeing my son Jack playing music with his friends and overhearing the sound of boys all together talking about nothing much.

My little toddler exploring the world and observing everything fresh and new for the first time also makes me smile. There is so much chatter about mindfulness these days and Molly keeps me present, in the moment and appreciating the little things in life, like wet leaves on an autumn walk.

I drive a lot to get to work and it's my time alone to think about work and life, listen to new music and occasionally put on a Bob Dylan or Neil Young CD. The lyrics make me smile, as they bring back so many memories.

I also teach media studies and recently finished a project working with kids from interface areas of east Belfast. Seeing how proud they were of themselves and what they had achieved was great - giving something back is an honour."

Author and broadcaster Tony Macaulay (50) lives in Portstewart with his wife Lesley (50). He has two daughters. He says:

Author Tony Macaulay with his wife Lesley

Tiny people and very old people make me smile. I smile and coo at wee babies like everyone else but I also smile when I see a very elderly person who is determined to keep on going.

I was recently sitting beside the window in a restaurant in London enjoying a meal when I noticed a small elderly woman walking along the pavement outside. She looked very fragile and stooped and she must have been in her late 90s. She was pulling a little shopping bag on wheels behind her and walking at the slowest pace on a busy street.

I've never seen anyone walk so slowly, but I could tell she was determined to keep on going about her daily life for as long as she was able. While everyone around her was rushing here and there, she quietly edged along. I watched her for 10 minutes and smiled the whole time. I never met her and she had no idea I was watching her but this persistent elderly women warmed my heart and made me happy. At one point a young couple stopped and asked her if she needed any help. She smiled and declined. That made me smile again. Yes, strangers being kind makes me smile."

The Art Show presenter Steven Rainey (35) lives in Belfast with his fiancee Zoe (33). He says:

These days, everyone seems so busy. It's not always easy to take the time to sit back and do things that make us smile, so I love nothing more than finding a free hour to myself to listen to a really good record.

I've heard more albums than I'd care to admit, but one I always come back to is Everclear by American Music Club. They're a band who never quite cracked the mainstream, probably because their music can seem really downbeat on first listen. Once you scratch the surface, though, their songs stick with you. There's a wicked sense of humour lurking behind the misery. Strangely, for an album that is so downbeat, it always seems to put a smile on my face.

Other than that, the one thing that is always guaranteed to put a smile on my face is when my wife, Zoe, smiles at me. No matter how I'm feeling, when I see her smile, I can't help but be happy."

Sports reporter Denise Watson (45) lives in Lisburn with her husband David and her daughters Samantha (12) and Elizabeth (8). She says:

Happy times: Denise Watson and her husband David with daughters Samantha and Elizabeth

Without doubt my kids make me smile the most. Beth and Samantha regularly make up silly songs and dances to music and have a habit of taking photos on my mobile when I'm not looking. I found about 40 new pictures of them pulling faces the other day.

Silly TV shows like The Big Bang Theory make me smile, and there's an Irish version of Gogglebox on TV3, which is laugh out loud funny. When I'm with other people, I love telling stories about everyday life. It's good, fun banter and I enjoy that immensely.

I'm pretty happy and contented most days. I'm healthy, loved and have great friends and family, so I've got little to whinge about. Sometimes people say to me, "How can you smile and be so chirpy?' But it's just me. I'd find it hard to be serious and moody, to be honest.

What would make me smile more? I'd like there to be an alternative to the AQE Test at P7 age. Even the 11-plus was a better system. I hope it's sorted before Beth turns 11."

Ryan Hand (30) is co-host of Saturday night ITV game show Cannonball. He lives in London. He says:

When on my own, I love a stroll down Murlough Beach. That is my happy place, as I hail from Newcastle in beautiful Co Down. I also smile when I see Liverpool score four or five goals, when I'm eating well, feeling fit, travelling and feeling a sense of achievement. I think I would smile more, though, if I was Holly Willoughby's boyfriend, if I owned a pug or if there was a Country Fried Chicken in London.

We get bogged down by life nowadays, especially in London. One of my favourite things to do here is help people with prams or suitcases up and down the stairs of the Underground. We should all be a little charitable and friendly towards strangers.

My nieces and nephews are little bundles of joy and those munchkins make me feel on top of the world. Children are so happy and can brighten up anyone's day. I think we can learn a lot from children."

Belfast Telegraph


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