Rab McNeil: Rab’s experiencing the feel-good factor

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Here’s a funny thing: sometimes I feel contented with the world. It’s an odd feeling and I have wondered if I ought to see a doctor about it.

Perhaps it would turn out to be an chronic condition and, after a while, I’d turn up at the surgery and the medic would say: “The old contentment still bothering you?”

“Yes, I’m afraid so.”

“We may have to operate.”

“Just do it. Anything to get back to my old miserable state.”

Of course, I don’t need an operation to feel miserable. It comes naturally. But the contentment has been getting a hold of me, and sometimes makes me do mad, spontaneous things like whistling.

I fear this could alert the neighbours, who whisper as I go past: “Poor Rab. He’s been struck down by the contentment.”

“At his age tae. He used to be such a fine, gloomy man.”

But I guess, in truth, the contentment is momentary. It usually comes over me when I’m out in yon nature, particularly in the wood adjoining the suburban hill.

When I was ill in hospital a couple of years ago, I used to dream about one particular stretch of the forest in particular, and it’s there that I still feel happiest.

I’m also grateful for the time I have to do this, and that I no longer work long hours in sweaty offices full of stressed out folk. I never got any exercise back then, ate badly and got quite unhealthy in a general sort of rundown way.

At the same time, I did at least used to get long holidays back then, and I lived for these. They afforded a real sense of freedom and relief for a continuous period, which is something I haven’t had for ten years.

But my working days are shorter now. Indeed, sometimes I have nothing to do, which has an odd effect on time because you’d think that having nothing to do you’d have plenty of time to get things done. But you don’t.

The more time you have, the less you get done. It’s like something out of Doctor Who. Bertie Einstein would probably have something to say about it.

I guess the exercise aspect of being outdoors also helps the old contentment malarky, loosing off chemicals in the brain. Recently, I’ve rejoined a gym, and at times get a real high from that too. I’ll tell you about it anon. Gyms are peculiar places and most unnatural.

But to be blundering about in nature, among the trees, particularly when the rest of the world is working, is indeed a blessing. In the woods, I have a log upon which I like to sit and stop thinking.

Dogs, squirrels and even once a crow come up for a sniff, and conclude that I’m quite harmless. In Skye, I’ve a rock by the sea, where I sit and nothing pays me any heed, apart from diving birds and, once or twice, an otter.

Certainly. I’d rather be on my log or rock than at a house-party or in a meeting. Some people thrive on these, but I’d end up at the doctor’s saying: “I’m right miserable, ken?”

And he’d say: “I’m going to prescribe you a log or rock to be taken twice a day.”