I am a nice person, honest.



Yesterday I received an email from a friend of mine who I haven’t seen for a long time. He’s been reading my blog and he gave me his frank opinion of the stuff Sheen and I have been writing here. I’ve always thought he was a very observant person, so I’m taking his remarks seriously.


He says, “You seem very contradictory. You come across as alternately bitter and warm, harsh and kind. Sheen’s bipolar condition is nothing compared to your own. Nowhere is this more apparent than in your obsession with transformation. You claim to be “possessed” by something called the Somontano Monkey, you convert your friend Soraya into Sonic the Hedgehog, you imagine people in Madrid being turned into vegetables, you think your neighbour’s dog has somehow reincarnated into Barack Obama… I have to conclude that you are extremely dissatisfied with your life and, rather than try sensibly to improve it, you invent ludicrous alternatives by deliberately altering the state of your perceived reality. Are you on mushrooms, or what?”


I must say I was shocked to read these comments. It’s undeniable that I see life very differently these days, compared to my life say, ten years ago. I am aware of much more of what is happening around me; I make a conscious effort to pay attention to what I see and I honestly try to interpret it as best I can. Is the Somontano Monkey a figment of my imagination? I swear He is not. He lingers in my psyche, like a worm in an apple, like the green fairy in a glass of absinthe. Did I convert Soraya into Sonic (instead of Pamela Anderson, dammit)? I did indeed. I must point out at this point that I’m doing my utmost to turn her back, but it’s proving to be hard work.


Maybe the dog thing and the vegetable thing were hallucinations, but certainly not the product of mushrooms, magic or otherwise.


Perhaps I do have a thing about transformations. But does this mean I’m dissatisfied with life as it is? Or perhaps I just see things that other people don’t see? It’s not a question of wanting to improve it, it’s about appreciating the Other Side. (Make of that what ye will.)


More distressing was my friend’s implication that I was not a nice person. Yes, he balances “bitter” with “warm”, and “harsh” with “kind”, but it’s the first of each pair that stand out. Am I bitter and harsh? I know I wouldn’t like to be, and I wouldn’t want to give the impression that I am if I could help it.


Maybe it would help if I highlighted some instance of my warmth and kindness. This might sound like blowing my own trumpet, or even rigging up a one-man brass band, but here goes:


This very afternoon (to go no further – this suggests it is by no means a one-off, and I do this kind of thing on a regular basis) I was walking home when I came across a young lady struggling under the weight of an outsize suitcase, the type of thing you would use if you had to cram all your worldly possessions into before fleeing the country because of a typhoid epidemic or something. She was also carrying an English translation of Genji Monogatari, the great Japanese classic, which is what really attracted my attention. Now, I’m not one to go up to girls in the street and comment on their reading habits, but I gracefully managed to combine my curiosity with an offer to assist her with her luggage, and within seconds I was talking about Japanese literature with a charming girl called Carmen while gasping under the weight of her suitcase. In the space of four minutes, we had discovered a variety of things we had in common. Later, I thought to myself: I wonder if I made as good an impression on her as she did on me. I hadn’t made a special effort to be nice, I had just behaved in a natural, friendly way. And I felt good. And that feeling made me feel even better.


So I thought: if I can enjoy being nice without even trying, just imagine what it would be like if I tried.


Ladies and gentlemen, I am about to embark on a journey. I am going to go out of my way to be polite, kind and friendly to all and sundry. I confess I am doing this  to enjoy the feeling it provides, but not exclusively so, as my pro-active politeness, kindness and friendliness will also (I hope) afford some gratification, relief and happiness to my fellow man. As we approach Christmas, that fabled time of goodwill, mistletoe and wassailing, stockings dangling from the mantelpiece, reindeers alighting on the rooftops and turkeys roasting in our ovens, yours truly will be walking the talk – Ho Ho Ho all the way, jingling bells in strangers’ hearts, dashing through the snow to lend a helping hand, and decking the halls with boughs of benevolence. 


And no, I’m not turning into Santa Claus.

One response to this post.

  1. Posted by Well-known Acquaintance on December 2, 2008 at 10:11 pm

    Hi Heen, I know you very well and I think your friend’s description is spot on. I wish you well in your endeavours to be “a nice person”. And bring back Soraya – she owes me 25€. By the way, your comments about Jules et Jim are all wrong, I think you completely misunderstood the film. You should leave the film reviews to Sheen.


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