You will probably know JB Priestley best for his plays. In particular, An Inspector Calls. But he also wrote novels, scripts and invented a theory of time. (And, as I was piqued to discover, lived in the same house in Highgate, north London, that was once home to Coleridge and is now Kate Moss’s.)
But I like him best for his book, Delight; a collection of short essays on the things, people, places and feelings that delighted him most. Famously curmudgeonly, Delight was Priestley’s rebuttal to this reputation. See, I like all this stuff! This stuff included fountains; cancelling plans in order to stay in (very relatable); reading about awful weather when tucked up in bed.
I had this book pressed into my hands by someone during an unsteady time and it helped pick the lint off my jacket, straighten my lapels and push me out into the world again. It helped me appreciate my own pockets of pleasure: the swirling sounds of an eight-minute end-of-album track, the route of a bus newly taken, a reinvigorating cold-water swim.
During recent turbulent times – the high frequency bickering of social media; each day a Trumpism plumbing new depths; the quagmire of Brexit “negotiations” (I use the term loosely) – I found myself reaching again for Priestley’s delights. He found his in 1949, when the national mood was far from buoyant – a postwar period of rationing and an austerity drive close to the one we’ve experienced post-crash (and which, despite recent government noises, doesn’t look to be ending any time soon). I figured that if this grouchy Yorkshireman could take the time to sit down and document his everyday exultations, then I, a Scouser whose default is a sort of droll cynicism, could do the same, no matter the fraying edges of 2018. No matter the global, macro snafus, or the quotidian, quiet furies (the headphoneless music -listeners, the reply-all emails, the cash-only bars).
This column, then, will be my attempt to present to you the flowers in a tangle of weeds, the lilac of the gloaming, the most comfortable ever tread of a shoe. Inspiration to get you through the day, without the need to text a friend a gif of a burning dumpster or to empathise with Edvard Munch’s The Scream.
So, next week: an appreciation of the dressing gown, the sartorial womb that, if I could, I’d spend all day in. Frankly, when the world feels like it’s made of spikes, who wouldn’t?