Bill Bailey is a lovely man.
I know this because I've just read Bill Bailey's Remarkable Guide to Happiness, a book that is a good deal less "self-helpy" than it sounds but which is 100% delightful. I initially thought he'd gone meta and actually written a version of the infamous "Little book of calm" from Black Books.
Instead it's a book that grew out of lockdown in which Bailey attempts to recall, and in some small way explain, the moments and periods of his life in which he has been truly happy. This is done so in the hope that we each might find some glimpses into our own triggers for happiness and in knowing them, foster them more.
Happiness might seem an odd or even perverse topic to tackle during these strange times, but perhaps this whole experience has made us all take stock a little and consider what is most important, and happiness is right up there for me, along with correct footwear.
There are numerous chapters in the book, most accompanied by a whimsical, slightly amateurish drawing by Bailey himself by way of illustration. Each chapter is short - often only a few pages - just enough time for Bailey to share some remembrance of happiness past and maybe drop in a scientific tidbit that more or less explains what's good about that thing. It's all very lighthearted and the science bits are simply explained, it's not heavy-going stuff by any stretch. I found it the perfect book to pick up for 5 or 10 minutes during lunch, and just dip into a little of someone else's sunshine.
I've often thought that you can tell a lot about someone based on the things they hate, but most especially the things they love. And surely the things that make you truly happy fit in there too, which is why I feel confident commenting on the loveliness of Mr. Bailey. For how can a man who has experienced true joy playing mini-golf be bad? Other sources of happiness (and therefore chapters) include caring for plants, reading, trees, paddleboarding, birdsong, letter writing, dancing, dogs, speaking another language, and being someone to rely on. The chapter on "swearing" aside, this has to be the most wholesome thing I've read (and enjoyed!) in a good long while.
The chapter on singing is notable for its description of a kind of awkwardness that is well-known the length and breadth of Aotearoa.
“When nobody’s sorted out a waiata ahead of time” is a specific kind of Kiwi awkwardness that Bill Bailey has had the honour of experiencing firsthand. pic.twitter.com/HS1VtEsquj
— Madam Snazzy (@MoataTamaira) February 3, 2021
I had a great many people reply to this tweet, and among the songs they recounted having sung when stuck for a waiata were: I'm a little teapot, God of nations, Yellow submarine, and - I kid you not - the theme song to The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. So in this respect Bill Bailey is very much not alone, unlike the chap who sang "You'll never walk alone"... alone.
So if you're in the mood for a light read with some utterly charming little stories and a bit of wisdom to boot I'd recommend Bill Bailey's remarkable guide to happiness as it might just, remarkably, leave you in a state of happiness.
- Bill Bailey is also touring New Zealand later this month, including two dates at Christchurch Town Hall on Thursday 18 and Friday 19 March.
- Bill Bailey to host TVNZ comedy panel show
- Black Books starring Bill Bailey on DVD