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MARTEL MAXWELL: The secret of happiness? Put down your phone and go for a pootle

Amazing the things you see when you look up from your phone screen. Photo: Shutterstock.
Amazing the things you see when you look up from your phone screen. Photo: Shutterstock.

You might remember I was rather taken with the word ‘mooch’ a couple of weeks ago.

I was recalling the joy of just mooching around somewhere lovely like V&A Dundee without a care in the world.

I looked up the definition and found this: to loiter in a bored or listless manner.

To me a mooch is something far more splendid and involves no boredom. It’s the idle pastime of daydreaming, wandering, browsing – of just ‘being’.

Jim K emailed in agreement and suggested another choice activity – to pootle – asking: “When did you last go out for a pootle in your car, with no particular place to go?”

I told Jim I loved the word pootle, maybe even more than mooch.

And its definition – to move or travel in a leisurely manner, e.g. they were pootling down a canal in their new boat – sounds most agreeable.

Jim replied later that day to say he’d been inspired to take said pootle in his car with his wife. With no fixed destination, they drove past several areas in Dundee and just took it all in.

“I don’t know if I’d ever noticed how grand the Blackness Library on the Perth Road is, even though I must have passed it thousands of times,” he said.

On they went until they reached the Perthshire hills, where they stopped and sat on a wall near Errol surrounded by fields and opened a flask of sweet tea.

“I pointed to a cloud that looked like a heart and my wife told me I’d always been a romantic and that the cloud looked like a sheep. Eventually she conceded it looked like a heart – if you squinted..a lot. We laughed and it was bliss,” Jim said.

The Tay reed bed near Errol: one of many beauty spots on our doorstep. Photo: Steve Brown / DCT Media.

“Up there, as unlikely as it seems, with one of my favourite memories with my wife. Oh and by the way, we left our mobile phones at home because my wife gets a ping every ten seconds. It drives me mad.”

Secret of happiness? Leave the phone at home

Aha! Jim K, you’ve hit the “being in the moment’” nail on the head.

I looked up the other day and saw that every person in my house was on a device, eyes so glued to their screens they’d have been oblivious had a soot-covered Santa tumbled down the chimney.

“Right, that’s it,” I said in the kind of tone that could make glass crack (and every mother will be familiar with).

“Banned. The lot of them.”

Life is precious, I told them. Life is in the house with cuddles and conversations – and it’s out the window with the sky and clouds.

It is a miracle we exist – that Earth is even a thing. That the sun and moon are exactly the right distances away to sustain our lives and world.

Martel and kids mooching around outside the V&A Dundee.

Utterly glakit were the expressions before me. But I think they took my point – or at least, from my tone of voice, they knew not to mess.

Predictably, I caved in and the ban became a limited period of half an hour each night.

I may cave in further. Don’t we always?

But back to Jim K and what he has to teach us. The moments we remember are the passing clouds, not a phone ping or a YouTube clip.

Let me know if he inspires you to go for a pootle – and where your journey takes you, in Dundee or beyond.

Mask rules change, decency doesn’t

A few weeks ago, when I travelled to England for work, I was confused as to why no one in the hotel I was staying at was wearing a mask.

Then I remembered you didn’t have to down south.

The following day, for work in Wales, I was even more baffled until a kindly woman explained you had to wear them in shops and some public places, but not in pubs, restaurants and hotels.

Rules on mask wearing differ across the UK. Photo: Shutterstock.

Last week, with work set in Birmingham, the rules had since changed to be in line with Wales.

The hotel receptionist said there was no obligation to wear a mask but personally, she’d rather I did.

Meanwhile, in Scotland, we have to wear masks in all indoor public places – but not in certain instances, such as when you are seated at a table.

It’s a divisive topic – whether you’re for or against covering your face.

Even if part of me thinks we’ve all now got to live life more normally and move on, I follow the rules – in no small part because I’d never want to offend anyone who was anxious.

I understand their anxiety – we all have it to varying degrees.

But following the rules when travelling between the nations is everchanging and baffling.

Sometimes, even by following the guidelines to the letter, you’ll offend someone anyway.

As the saying goes: “You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time.”

I guess all we can do is what feels right for ourselves and those around us.

Another secret of happiness for the dark January days

They say January can bring a sense of deflation.

The cold weather is still here and we can feel a bit low.

Daffodils bobbing in the spring sunshine.

If you’re looking to cheer yourself up, a simple thing I do at this time of year is buy daffodils.

They’re available in almost every supermarket for £1 a bunch.

I scatter them in vases around the house and suddenly, spring has arrived – or at least in your home –  with the promise the weather won’t be too far behind.

Little bundles of yellow joy trumpeting defiantly that the future is bright.


MARTEL MAXWELL: My mental health message? Listen when someone wants to talk

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