‘Losing my brother made me strive to be happy’
A family tragedy has taught TV and radio presenter Penny Smith to make the most of every moment
I am generally sunny-natured and don’t let too much get me down, but we all have our moments. I discovered the prose poem Desiderata by Max Ehrmann when I was 13. It helped me a lot when I was a teenager, and there are certain lines that I still remind myself of to this day. ‘If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter’ being one of the main ones, because there’ll always be greater and lesser people than yourself. Losing my brother made me aware of how much we should strive to be happy. He was 52 and, thank goodness, he lived his life to the full. His home was in Africa, and his last email to me had been about how he had waterskied over a crocodile’s nose on his way to Timbuktu in Mali. It was a reminder to be as cheerful as you possibly can while all sorts of things are crashing around you. I am constantly amazed at people’s resilience. I have a friend who has had health issues, and yet every time I see her she is always smiling and saying it could be worse! When my house was burgled and some lovely possessions were taken, I thought, well, it’s awful, but at least I’m still here. Walking and laughing with friends makes me happy. Talk about endorphins! I am going to do the Macmillan Cancer Support’s Mighty Hikes series this year. There’s something about being in the fresh air and camping. Particularly being in a tent when it’s raining and you know you’ve put it up properly. You can always look at the gloomy side of life, but I tend to laugh about the terrible things. It’s why we love a pratfall. It may not be the thing you are laughing at at the time, but later on, it’s there in the way you talk about it. Happiness is a choice.
Penny: ‘Walking with friends makes me happy’