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Realising that we can't buy happiness is best gift we could give ourselves


Christmas lesson: the film It’s a Wonderful Life gets it spot on

Christmas lesson: the film It’s a Wonderful Life gets it spot on


Christmas lesson: the film It’s a Wonderful Life gets it spot on

Surprised to hear Nigel Farage saying women ought to cover up when breast-feeding in public places. He doesn't seem to mind making a right t*t of himself in public, not sure what he's objecting to.

Funny how people say, "A woman ought to cover up because it makes us feel uncomfortable." How come they never say, "When a woman is feeding her baby in public, we feel uncomfortable. Here, maybe we ought to look at why we have a problem with naked natural body arts. We might like to examine our own issues and see how we can become more relaxed and less inclined to give out about other people, blaming them for our own hang-ups."

No, that would smack of taking responsibility for our own behaviour and God forbid we would ever go down that road. Where would it lead? To an outbreak of tolerance and emotional intelligence??? Quick! Bono! Bob! we need a fundraising song to combat any chance of that!!

"Blame the world! Let them know it's all their fault now."

The irony is, when you have eyes to see, you can't help but notice how we are all exposing ourselves all the time in our behaviours, our unconscious choice of words, our looks, our silences and our body language. All those secrets, feelings and insecurities and agendas we think are hidden are actually all fairly obvious, except to ourselves.

Most of us are scared at some level. But we think we cover it up by smiling, laughing, over-drinking, comfort eating, pretending we don't care.

How many of you reading this are worried right now about your job security? About how you'll afford Christmas coming up? About the state of your relationship? Your health? Your life?

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Do you talk about it? Sometimes perhaps. But there are things we don't generally talk about. The anxieties we feel we can't really share because others will think less of us if we do. So we're not really being authentic in our engagement with other people. We're mostly covering up who and what we really are, in order to survive.

And yet, when you realise that everyone else is doing a version of the same thing, you get how ridiculous it is. What is it we're trying to survive? Other people? Those other people who are just as scared of us and our opinion, as we are of them? Ha! That's crazy isn't it?

All this might seem a million miles away from the "real" issues going on - politics, the talks at Stormont, corporation tax, public spending cuts. But it's not. It's completely at the heart of all those things because people are at the heart of those things.

We have been brainwashed in this industrialised society to think that happiness equals success and success equals money and money equals happiness. So what happens if you don't have lots of money? You decide you're not successful and therefore you can't be happy. But where is it written that happiness depends on those things? We all know, deep down, that it doesn't. So why don't we rise up and throw off the shackles of this huge myth? Because we're afraid to be the one to say: "Actually, my life doesn't make me happy. I'm on a hamster wheel and I never seem to reach the thing I think I have to reach to be in control."

Maybe this Christmas we can pause and be honest with ourselves and others about what we really want. The good news is that although that might take courage, it doesn't cost a dime.

At 13p a week, our arts are a bargain 

Just 13p a week. That's what it costs us to pay for the arts in Northern Ireland. Thirteen pence a week. What would you get for 13p nowadays? A quarter of a finger of Fudge? The foam on the top of a pint? One tenth of the cheapest monthly TV package from BT? We have the lowest funding in the UK and Stormont wants to cut it further. The cut will make very little difference overall to public finances but will make a massive difference to all the projects run on that tiny budget which bring joy to hundreds of thousands of people. Please say no.

The Spectre of the Tories looms large

They've just announced the name of the new Bond film - Spectre. When I watch Osborne and Cameron and those other smug-faced Tories telling us how they're getting things right by plunging millions of lives into greater hardship and misery, it feels like that part of a typical Bond film where the goodie has been caught by the baddie. You're scared, but you know the baddie's gonna get his comeuppance at the end. Sadly, the last reel seems to be a long time coming with this lot. I just hope that when it does, I'm still around to hear them scream.