‘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

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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’

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