The Sweet Shop

Published on 27 April 2024 at 20:23

I can’t remember his name, or what he looked like, or anything about him really, except that he hit me quite a lot, as he was, incredibly, perfectly entitled to, and that he changed my life.

He was my English teacher and, apart from the hitting, and throwing things at me, all because I just couldn’t keep quiet when I was meant to, he was alright.

Then one day, just before my 10th birthday, the last day of term before Easter, he wrote something on the blackboard, with squeaky chalk, that I remember still.

Holiday Homework - ‘most people lead lives of quiet discontent’. Discuss, over two pages

Back then, if a teacher asked for two pages, I wrote as big as I dare, about four words a line, double-spaced, and filled those pages as quick as I could, and not a single word more.

Yet there was something about that gloomy Thoreau misquote that got me thinking, like never before, and set me on a quest that continues to this day.

It had never occurred to me, wrapped in my ten year old world, that most people might be unhappy, and I was both a little alarmed and completely fascinated, and set out to find if it was true.

Over the next couple of weeks I asked every adult I knew or met - my mum and dad and their friends, the butcher, the baker, not the candlestick maker, the grocer, the man in the garage and Mr Twigden, who owned the sweet shop, a simple question.

“Do you lead a life of quiet discontent?”

I don’t remember all the answers, although I wrote them down in my notebook, like the reporter I imagined myself to be, but I do remember the look in people’s eyes that I asked.

The harsh truth of my 25 page essay - which took my English teacher by surprise, although he never marked it and never mentioned it to me again at all - was that most people did indeed lead lives of quiet discontent, but they didn’t need to, not if they listened to Mr Twigden.

Mr Twigden, you see, told me that, ever since he was a kid, he had wanted to own a sweet shop, and he worked for years, in awful jobs, scrimping and saving, and he didn’t mind at all because it was what he wanted to do, he was following his own plan, and the day he bought his shop felt like his dream had come true, and every day since he thanked his lucky stars.

He saved me, Dear Reader, and if ever you’re feeling a little discontent, think of Mr Twigden, who knew what he wanted and pursued it relentlessly, and was happy, and follow his lead.

Or, just buy a sweet shop.


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Comments

Angela
a month ago

Love this message this week - follow your dreams. I think life is too short to be discontent and when you make a change incredible things can happen!