Stephen Taylor: ‘I was feeling pretty unhappy about enforced happiness!’

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WHEN I saw the new Weatherspoons open at the top of Holmeside under the name of The Cooper Rose I thought that there might have been a spelling mistake. Surely the Copper Rose was what they meant. Curiosity got the better of me and I wondered if anything on the inside might enlighten me. I wasn’t disappointed. Just inside the main door a sign tells all.

 Dr Henry Renney lived, more or less, on the site of this building when it was called Albion Place back in 1890.

 He was Sunderland’s public vaccinator, and like many other doctors of every generation, had to try hard to persuade people to have injections when they weren’t ill.

 One such gizmo for immunisation was called the Cooper Rose, which had five needles and gave a twist when in the arm.

 There were about 15 competing instruments, and this one had to be an improvement on the Bleeding Lancet, its forerunner.

 They became more complex in the mid Victorian era, offering bewildering choices for what was essentially a very simple task.

 The Cooper Rose was invented in 1871, and in 1900 Dr Renney designed a box to carry it in. Maybe the new Weatherspoons should have been called The Box?

I HEARD on the news this week that a ‘happiness project’ has been launched to make us feel better and smile more in these hard times.

 So far there are 4,500 members, which I thought was pretty poor given the 60 million of us that live in this country.  

 Then when I visited their website, called Action for Happiness, I discovered it was even worse!

 These 4,500 members are spread across 60 countries! What a miserable race we have become.

 So whereas at first I was feeling pretty unhappy about enforced happiness, sensing there was a bit of North Korean ‘you will be happy about it’, on looking at their campaign messages I’ve become much more sympathetic.

 It’s about promoting healthy relationships and not about encouraging materialism or self obsessed individualism.

 So they now have 4,501 members – I’m convinced!

A WHILE ago I was introduced to the Grinning Idiot Comedy Club, which attracts top comedians to the North East in venues you wouldn’t expect.

 So for example when Andy Askins comes to the region next month, The Barnes pub on the Durham Road is the first of all the venues to have sold out already, but if you really want to see him, you can travel to St Dominic’s Monastery in Newcastle.

 There is something about being together in groups, which is intrinsic to our sense of well-being – or even being fully human.

 It may be a night at a comedy club or the latest show at the Sunderland Empire; it could be live music at the Smugglers or in the crowd at the Stadium of Light.

 Nevertheless there continues to be something corrosive about bedroom TVs and video games, about iPods and Kindles that prevent us from talking to and meeting with others.

 Thankfully, Sunderland, perhaps more than many other parts of the country, has retained in some part a sense of community.

 May this continue to enrich the lives of our current generation and give them a sense of joining in and being part, and less isolated, more motivated and yes – happy!