Monday 14 October 2019

The Book of Idle Pleasures

I found this unexpected delight at the recent Newcastle Lifeline Book Fair. A few days later I was prostrated by illness and a rather consumptive cough and took an afternoon rest and decided that this would make a great accompaniment. How right I was.

I'd never heard of this book before, or either of the two editors or 13 contributors I suspect. But I'm mightily impressed with this little book from 2008. It is a "restorative gift book for the stressed out, tired and hassled" according to the back cover.

Very simply, it is a compendium of mini essays about Idle Pleasures. Some of these are rather obvious. Cloud Watching. Taking a Bath. Good Company. Others not so much- Slouching, Putting Out the Washing, Learning the Names of Trees and Walking Back Home Drunk. 

It turned out that even Being Ill was an Idle Pleasure. Which is lucky I guess because I'm still ill over a week later, although I've been at work and not particularly idle. The Book of Idle Pleasures was actually quite prescient for its time. While concepts such as mindfulness and hygge were yet to take the world by storm in 2008, they were spelt out here using slightly different words. 
Enforced idleness is a rare treat. Those brief moments in life where for one reason or another you are forced to just stop and think. In waiting rooms, queueing, for example, or even just sitting on a train. Waiting for the tea to brew is one of those moments. 
Which is all so delightfully English. In 2008 these moments didn't give us enough time to 'do' anything else. Now of course we have a screen handy at all times that we can stare at and scroll. 

I loved the deliciously English turn of phrase so often used, and how wonderful it is to find that chuntering is indeed a real word: from the start of a passage extolling the virtues of Sleeping in Your Clothes. 
After a busy day you find yourself lying on the sofa drifting off into a hypnogogic state in front of a chuntering TV screen. 
Or that merely owning a dressing gown could be a sign of hope, that a dressing gown can actually be the uniform of revolution. 

Each Idle Pleasure is accompanied by a fabulous illustration by Ged Wells. I think they are lino cuts, whatever they are, they're great.

The whole book is great. I was going to read it and pass it along. But I'll be keeping it on my shelves instead. 


Deb Nance at Readerbuzz said...

I have added this book to my list to request. It sounds quite lovely.

I started listening to a similar book last night. It’s called The Book of Delights by a poet named Ross Gay. He began the book as a challenge to write an essay a day on the things that delight him. I may do something similar. It certainly seems to lift my mood.

Louise said...

I'm sure it'll be perfect for you Deb. They have a number of other books too about Idleness.

The Book of Delights sounds great, I'll look for it. I hope you write your essays, I'm sure they'd be wonderful.