The weekend, time to relax and spend it with those who matter. Its no secret that I love to spend as much of it with my wife and daughter as I can, but its also important to make time for friends, and this weekend I was lucky to be spending some time with a great bunch of friends who had all got together to surprise one of the group with a weekend away in Liverpool. I’d managed to secure a minibus for this occasion, and had made sure the appropriate insurance was in place, so we could all head up together in one vehicle, and then only one person had to worry about driving… although unfortunately that was me!
We set off on the Saturday morning around 11am and after a couple of comfort breaks arrived in Liverpool around lunchtime, and found a lovely little pub to stop for a little while to eat in, as we were running a little early to meet one of our friends who lived up that way that we’d arranged to meet. The Shrewsbury Arms was a very friendly little local pub and considering the bargain prices, the food was suitably impressive, and soon we were back on our way so that we could meet our friend and I could dump the bus for the evening to join everyone else for a few drinks.
We caught up with our friend at his house and all relaxed with a few drinks , and so with some of us stopping the night at our friends house, and some stopping at a hotel, the hotel guys eventually went and checked in so they could also get ready. The rest of us got ready at the house and caught a train into the centre of Liverpool. The train we caught had a very familiar feel to it, it all felt a little London Underground Tube like, with the way it was all set out. It felt like something Birmingham should have had a long time ago, but in fairness I haven’t caught a train in Birmingham in over 10 years, so they may well be like that now! We had the name of the restaurant where we were meeting the others, and although we had never been to Liverpool before, with the magic of the iPhone and gps and google, we found our way there on foot, from the station, in less than five minutes. You have to love technology! Getting off the train in an unfamiliar city, and walking straight into an unfamiliar restaurant just minutes later, without getting lost and successfully meeting up with your friends, its clever stuff! We’d set our sights on a recommended restaurant called Bem Brasil which was not the kind of place you’d see many vegetarians… it was carnivore heaven! The staff were walking round with swords full of meat that they’d place on a stand and carve off for you at your request, all different cuts, cooked to perfection. This is the kind of place where you need a will of steel just to stop yourself from eating more and more until you realise you’ve gone too far and its just too late!
After we’d eaten we headed out to experience the Liverpool nightlife, and it looked like a fairly cool place… until we left the first bar and headed for the second bar and were refused entry for no good reason, popworld you suck! The rest of the night proved to be fun, and Liverpool has many cool bars to offer, although we were all suffering a little from overeating at the restaurant. It was a good night and there was clearly more to see than we could get around in an evening, but just before we were done we noticed that one of the group was missing, the guy whose house we were supposed to be staying at. After numerous calls and text messages to his phone, it became apparent that he was clearly asleep and we were not getting in, even if we got in a taxi and banged on his door. We decided to hang on to our friends who had booked a hotel room, as it may mean sleeping on their hotel room floor or the street for the evening. The street had limited appeal, and although it wasn’t the comfiest night I’ve ever had, at least I was warm and dry in what had quickly become a crowded hotel room.
The following morning we picked up the minibus and headed for the motorway, and had decided to grab a late breakfast at the first service station we came to. After a reasonably poor nights sleep, this quick bite to eat was just what I needed to pick myself up and focus on the road for the drive ahead. Several traffic jams slowed us right down, but we still got back in time for lunch, although Sunday here in the UK was mothers day, and as most of us had children, it meant we had abandoned the wives on mothers day. We’d all explained the situation and had been given a pass, so there was no friction caused as a result, but I did feel a little bad that I wasn’t there on the morning to hand over Olivia’s card and present. Still, it was a 40th birthday, and we’d struggled to all agree on a weekend and make sure that everyone was off work and that all the other halves were on board, even though some were celebrating mothers day for the first time! But, we’d pulled it off, and it was long overdue. Clare was round at her parents house with Olivia and I made it just in time to join them for lunch. I was even lucky enough to be allowed to take over the tv and watch the recording of the Australian Grand Prix, even though it was mothers day and the race is of little interest to Clare. It was the first race of the year, and if I hadn’t gone away I’d have been up about 4:30am to watch it live, most probably at Aprés with my friend, and would have been done, dusted and home by 9am. It was either watch it in the afternoon or take over the tv on Sunday evening. Sunday night was reserved though, it was actually our Saturday night, we both sat down for a film with a glass of wine and a beer after Olivia had gone to bed, although we had to both put our hands up eventually to being beat and in desperate need of an early night. I needed it, and it felt very good, I should do this more often, this being a night owl thing is over rated!
I did take one significant thing away from this weekend, it was a chat with my friend S as we sat down over lunch. He was talking about moving house in the next couple of years, although he has spent a long time and a significant amount of money turning his house around from the dump it was when he bought it to the show home it is now! Its a beautiful house, with lots of space, it feels light and airy, and its the kind of house we’d dream of owning. I questioned why he’d possibly consider making a house look so beautiful and then moving. It all came down to location and the importance of being happy. Being happy, I mean properly happy, its something we don’t often think much about, and often confuse with what I consider pleasure, which tends to come in short bursts and doesn’t last, and is often easily brought about, especially by things that have price tags attached to them… a nice ice cream, a new phone, booking a holiday, a compliment… they may all bring pleasure, but they won’t make you happy in the true sense of the word. It was funny that we were talking about this as recently its something that has been on my mind, in a good way of course. Happy is that feeling when I lock up the house at night, walk upstairs and check in on my sleeping daughter and stop for a minute to ponder how wonderful she is and how much I love her, then walk into our bedroom to see my sleeping wife and ponder how wonderful she is and how much I love her too, and how lucky I am to have these two wonderful women in my life and be in this blessed position. It’s true that I am in a job that I do enjoy, but it doesn’t pay me much and a lot of my friends earn a lot more than me, and can easily afford much nicer cars, better holidays, and nice gadgets around the home. I don’t even consider comparing myself or what I have to them, its completely pointless. I can’t get jealous about not having the same flashy toys that they own, they’re just ‘things’ and the end of the day! Things can never make us truly happy, things break and get forgotten about, and lets face it, I am not friends with any of these people because of what they have, or what I can get out of them, I’m friends because they’re good people who would have my back if I needed them, and know they can count on me when they need to.
Going back to the house, S was saying a similar thing about the decision to move and make a better life for his family, and why it would make him happy. Their next move will be for good, so at this point its about the location, which I can totally understand as this was a big consideration for us too when we were thinking about house buying. They want to move to what he describes as a ‘semi-rural’ location, away from the city, a friendly little village where there is a local pub to walk to, and the butcher knows you by first name, but its still not a huge drive back into the city. We’re all different and obviously different things make us happy, as for S, part of his plan is to end up living in a place like this and then finally slowing down and being able to appreciate time with friends and family a little more. For me, I am already in the happiest place I have ever been in and once never thought I would be in, getting married was the first turning point, I never thought I would end up meeting someone who would want to marry me that didn’t drive me crazy very soon afterwards. So many of my previous relationships started out as what seemed to be a good idea at the time, but ended up with me plotting ways to hide a body! So meeting Clare was a breath of fresh air, then stepping that up a gear and buying a house together, and then having Olivia… I couldn’t ask for much more. Sure, more money would be nice, its always nice, but that wouldn’t bring happiness, only the short term pleasures. Happiness can’t be bought, and I have seen plenty of people with more money than me who are not happy at all and have to fill that void with pleasures by spending their money on ‘things’. I’ve seen people with money where the marriage is over in less time than they even spent engaged. I see other people who have even less money than us and are equally as happy. Having the love of a wonderful wife and a beautiful, well behaved (yes, I know she hasn’t hit the terrible two’s yet!) daughter are priceless. Having just seen one of my oldest friends split up with his wife makes me even more grateful. I have found the yin to my yang, and someone that not only encourages me, but can also keep me grounded when I need it. Those shiny expensive gadgets are often nothing more than pleasures, and pleasures don’t last. Once the thrill has gone, in the gaps between them you are only left with what you had before, and if that isn’t much then its time to go shopping again and look for the next pleasure to entertain you. Quite simply, the happier I am, the less gaps I have to fill.
I still like the gadgets though!
What are you thoughts on being happy? Is ‘stuff’ important to you?
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