TV and Radio

Radio review: Taking the train in search of happiness

To fend off January gloominess, Start the Week explored the search for happiness

Start the Week - Searching for Happiness, Radio 4

Open Country - The Strawberry Line Community, Radio 4

IT is the hot topic for a cold January, so Start the Week focused on searching for happiness. There are no easy answers.

Laura Freeman wrote The Reading Cure: How Books Restored My Appetite. She had anorexia as a teenager and chatted about how reading helped.

Take Charles Dickens - Laura did. She set out to read the complete novels and discovered that food symbolises warmth, comfort, conviviality, home, friendship.

In Virginia Woolf, she found appetites, passions, colours, smells and tastes like mushrooms from the Downs and the thrill of a good ginger biscuit.

But perhaps, like the unicorn, happiness is elusive - the more you seek, the more you shall not find.

Also in the conversation was science journalist Linda Geddes.

She talked about the effect of sunlight on human beings and an experiment in Iran about the increase in MS which could perhaps be linked to the revolution, when women started to wear long dark clothing in 1979.

But for those feeling the weariness of a dull January, her message was about how, even on a dull day, the light is at least 10 times brighter outside, so get out.

Paul Dolan wrote Happy Ever After: Escaping the Myth of the Perfect Life.

Yes, poverty buys you misery but you don't need much more than a certain amount of money, he argued. In fact, at a certain stage, too much money can make you less happy.

In Open Country, the stories flowed easily about the old train service known as the Cheddar Valley Line that opened in 1869.

It fell victim to Mr Beeching's cuts in 1963, but folk have wonderful memories.

A man remembered a boyhood spent catching the train to school. The boys would take the light bulbs out so that when the train hit the tunnels, they would be in the dark with the girls. Oh, innocent days...

And the strawberries - the smell of thousands upon thousands of strawberries wafted through the stations every August as the train delivered the farmers' wares on to the market.

It was known as the strawberry line. People in the fields could smell the strawberries as the train passed.

Now, a community is working to restore a little of that era - from a walk along the old line to a path through the apple orchards and a strawberry tea at a station cafe run by people with learning disabilities.

A warming story in a cold winter.

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