By Kaz Cooke
First appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald
Spectrum section, 3 April 1999.

We’d be much happier in the nuddy

Once upon a time Paul Wilson published The Little Book of Calm and it sold approximately 14 gerzillion copies, was a bestseller in England and made me so tense that I immediately had to write The Little Book of Stress (published by Penguin Australia) which sold less gerzillion copies.

Mr Wilson’s calming suggestions (one thought per tiny page) included ideas such as always wear white, sing Christmas songs and watch fish. As you can well imagine this made one rigid with a fury only alleviated by a great deal of shouting at the small volume in question.

Anyway, since then Mr Wilson has written The Little Book of Calm at Work and now, The Little Book of Pleasure. The Little Book of Holiday Houses on Five Continents and the Odd 60 Foot Yacht cannot be far behind. Good on him.

But may we dwell for a moment on The Little Book of Pleasure? I don’t wish to be impertinent but I believe I can only add to the great tidal whoosh of pleasure for readers if I may help them better grasp some of Mr Wilson’s bits. Here’s one: “At least once in your life savour a fresh garden salad picked before your very eyes in Provence.”

You’ll notice this is a multi-faceted task. It seems easy, but as with many pleasures, it is not simple. First, you have to get yourself to Provence, which presumably is somewhere in Scandinavia, or possibly Portugal. You’ll be needing travel insurance, long khaki culottes, and maybe a Swiss Army knife, although you could buy one cheaper over there if Provence turns out to be in Switzerland.

Secondly, you will have to locate a vegie patch and then incite a passerby to pluck you some salad vegetables. Also, it must happen before your very eyes – no turning away, or just sitting in a cafe ordering a salad. If you do that you’ll have to follow the waiter through the kitchen and out to a paddock, all the while watching, watching.

Thirdly, no bolting down the salad, and no saying, “Yeah, it was alright, I s’pose”: you have to savor it. I realise it seems like we’ve exhausted the subject, but finally, on no account should you order a Greek salad, or a Caesar salad, or one of those groovy parmesan and roquette thingies. It must be a garden salad. Right. That’s all. Off you go.

“Kiss a friend (or a complete stranger) under a waterfall.” First, find a stranger. No, first, find a waterfall. No, first… oh, bugger it.

“Feel the relief as you sink into a queen-sized mattress after a strenuous day on your feet.” Presumably the bed size is important because the heading reads: “Ease down on a queen.” Oh, baby, fluff my tulle.

“Try standing naked and spread eagled in a brisk wind, allowing it to caress you in ways that are decidedly natural.” And then try explaining it down at the station.

“Communicate with somebody important (to you) without uttering a word.” It’s crucial to get this one right. If you go off making silent gestures at important people (as opposed to people who are important to you) you may well find yourself in serious trouble. Ways that you can communicate with a person who is important to you without using words include: kicking them under the table to get them to shut the hell up; making a corkscrew motion with your index figure pointed at your temple, and biting their extremities.

“Make love.” (And if you don’t have a partner, just get stuffed.) “Indulge in the visual sensuousness as you and your partner sit naked, untouching, and appreciate one another.” (If you’re still awake after a minute and a half, you’re not parents.)

“What a delight it is,” Mr Wilson concludes, “to suppose there are hundreds of thousands of people – just like you – who are discovering the world is a much more enjoyable place than the evening news would have us believe.”

Well, exactly. The sooner those Kosovo refugees suppose themselves over to Provence and just insist someone makes them a garden salad in front of their very eyes, the happier they’ll be.