Nothing Happened

It is one of Monty Python’s finest moments; the moment when Nothing Happened.

The antihero of this antihappening masterpiece is Ralph Melish, an insurance file clerk from Peterborough.

“Scarcely able to believe his eyes,” it runs,  “Ralph Melish looked down.

“But one glance confirmed his suspicions. Behind a bush, on the side of the road, there was no severed arm. No dismembered trunk of a man in his late fifties. No head in a bag. Nothing. Not a sausage.

“For Ralph Melish, this was not to be the start of any trail of events which would not, in no time at all, involve him in neither a tangled knot of suspicion, nor any web of lies, which would, had he been not uninvolved, surely have led him to no other place, than the central criminal court of the Old Bailey.”

So often, Nothing Happens.

Yesterday was Phil’s birthday. He got up early and padded downstairs where there was not a gleaming red ferrari waiting for him.  Nor was there a  party of 300 yelling ‘surprise’. At no point did he dodge the paparazzi staking out the exit. He did not board a jet plane to The Big Apple for celebrations of his non-existent retrospective at the Guggenheim.

No: he pottered downstairs and discovered his birthday present, a large ungainly item with a flex hanging from it.

It was a posh coffee maker. Beside it sat three packets of fresh coffee.

It was surrounded by birthday cards from his nearest and dearest: me, his mother, the kids, the dog. Happy birthday, the kids had jotted creatively: you’re half way to ninety now.

Phil grinned.

He worked from home yesterday. The dog greeted him early, tidy and preppily shorn, in a new fur-trimmed parka; bought because, as we all know, Phil finds dogs in clothes endlessly amusing. Phil was delighted.

As he worked during the morning, Felix carefully constructed a birthday space lunar landing model for Phil out of K’nex construction kit. It is now parked on Phil’s bedside table pending permission to launch.

And during the afternoon, Maddie made a birthday cake. She’s good at that: she knows the routine. We tried a ganache but accidentally burnt the chocolate, so it became a sinful fresh cream cake.

Phil loves nothing more than to burn things. His pyromania has been healthily channeled into an enormous chiminea in the back garden, and with blatant obsession Phil finished work at five and padded outside to set fire to things.

He sent us all out to scavenge for wood in the forest. We never buy charcoal. Our chicken and burgers and sausages are wood-smoked.

An hour or so later a moderate gathering: us, Phil’s mother, my father –  professed ourselves full. We had devoured the barbecue food and moved onto cream cake. Phil had made the last round of coffee for the day. The children had tried coffee, though their tiny cups remained virtually untouched.

Nothing Happened. Nothing of huge consequence.

Yet, somehow, everyone was very happy.

There must be something we can learn from this.

Written in response to Side View’s Weekend Theme: Things that make me happy. You can find the challenge here.

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57 thoughts on “Nothing Happened

  1. A story with a moral to it and worthy one at that. I applaud your sensibility. The ending so true -‘Nothing Happened. Nothing of huge consequence’. It is not what one see’s or owns rights to that is important, but rather it those events in life that give us ‘warmth’ that is the gold in our pocket.

    I picked up on the name place more than I should have. Just returned from a week of camping/hiking trip with Elvira in Northern Ontario. To get there, we drove through Peterborough (Ontario,Canada). Camped near Bancroft situated along the York River in Hastings County, walked down a path called County Clare Lane -it all sounds UK-ish doesn’t it. Everyday was a celebration of sorts. Cooking on a camp fire, eating under a green canopy -the entire week there was ‘nothing of huge consequence’ just the warmth of feeling alive.

  2. Dear Kate, I think I’ve quoted the following lines before in a comment to you, but they seem so apt today. I think also that William Blake wrote these lines, but the last time I studied Blake was fifty-five years ago and so I’m not certain.

    However, these lines came to mind as you wrote about a birthday and its celebration and the fact that simply being with loved ones is joy. Here’s the quote: “To see the world in a grain of sand and heaven in a wildflower, to hold infinity in the palm of your hand and eternity in an hour.”

    I suspect that when we live in the present moment–as all of you did all day on Phil’s birthday when you celebrated the moment of his wonder–then the abundance of our very being settles around and within us. Or so I think when I, too, am with friends or family and we bond as One. Peace.

  3. “His pyromania has been healthily channeled into an enormous chiminea in the back garden, and with blatant obsession Phil finished work at five and padded outside to set fire to things” – marvellous!
    BTW, can you tell me what’s the best sort of chiminea to get? I’d love one on our patio….

  4. I have been feeling of late the smallness of my life. Reading this made me feel a little bigger (or, at least, better), Kate. Besides, this sounds like the best kind of birthday one could possibly have.

    1. Penny, I know just how you feel. It seems to me that the secret of true happiness is just that: something hidden by the most masterly misdirection by our unconscious selves. Everything points to it being in the big things, in recognition and money and so on. The man you drew me to in the first place – Thoreau, whose Walden Pond I shall visit – he recognised it where it was; in the rustling leaves and the murmured words of friends.

      I do not wish to gush: but I find it every time I come to Life On The Cutoff. It is palpable.

  5. I know I would much prefer a birthday space lunar landing model than 300 people screaming a coronary-inducing “surprise!” at me. Nothing Happened birthdays rock! It sounds like all of you gave Phil a wonderful introduction to half-way to 90 day … and you gave us the terrific Monty Python skit!

  6. sounds like a wonderful day…all about the little things (coffee always makes me happy). I must view more Monty Python… ~

  7. there’s been a lot of chatter in the states of late about a recently published article on “having it all” — a sentiment that seems like an unwieldly and absurd proposition, at best. your post is an antidote, a gentle reminder of what is, of attending and being present. i was inspired to compose a happy post of my own.

  8. I am happiest with ordinary days when nothing happens! I do remember that Monty Python bit…so funny! I am sure Phil had a very happy birthday, and I am late to the party, but do wish him a wonderfully ordinary year just savoring time with family. After all the health scares of the previous months, ordinary is truly extraordinary, and I know you understand that well! Debra

  9. Sometimes nothing is the best. But, I’d have to say that from the sounds of it a lot of love and happiness happened, which is what memories are made of — and that’s not nothing. Lovely post.

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