It Is Just You, Everything’s Not Shit

It Is Just You, Everything’s Not Shit
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The Optimist’s Encyclopedia.In this A-Z of all things nice, Steve Stack takes the reader on an alphabetical tour of the good things in life.Trivial things such as dunking biscuits, drawing pictures in steamed up windows and the sound jelly makes.Big important things like falling in love, Nobel Peace Prize winners and the Internet.And pretty much everything in between from Lego to the shipping forecast, popping bubble wrap to meerkats with guest appearances from Sir David Attenborough, Oliver Postgate, Columbo and The Flaming Lips.It Is Just You, Everything’s Not Shit is the perfect gift for the cynic in your life. It will cheer up even the most miserable of old gits.


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Steve Stack

for you know who with love x

In recent years there have been a number of popular books moaning about life and how crap it is. Whether it be grumpy old men, miserable old women, or people asking, ‘Is it just me or is everything shit?’. I am OK with that, I accept that the world can be a crappy place sometimes, but do we have to be so bloody pessimistic?

I am a fully paid-up subscriber to the notion that life is actually pretty damn great. There are loads of wonderful people, places and experiences surrounding us every moment of our lives and if we ignore that fact, then it is no wonder that we end up grumpy and miserable.

This book is designed to celebrate what is good in life and to act as a reminder that there are truly great things to experience all around us. I have tried to select an array of subjects that should inspire, delight, fill us with wonder or just make us smile. From the humble, but highly amusing aardvark to the altruistic global vision of Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhamad Yunus; from breakfast in bed to Patrick Moore playing the xylophone; I hope the following entries present the case for the nice things in life.

But whatever you do, don’t take it too seriously.

Steve Stack

(from my hammock in the garden) 2007



Whether you are an ardent Creationist or zealous advocate of Darwinism you have to admit that the aardvark is one amazing creature. Weighing in at up to 150lb and with a nose like a Clanger, the aardvark is almost entirely hairless and can seal its nostrils at will.

The unusual name comes from the Afrikaans for ‘earth pig’ and makes it ideally placed for coming at the beginning of encyclopedias, much to the envy of yaks and zebras. Native to Africa, the aardvark is no relation to the anteater, in fact it doesn’t eat ants at all—it eats termites, often by sucking them straight out of the ground. An accomplished digger, it can burrow through even quite hard earth, but generally it can’t be bothered, moving on to softer stuff elsewhere. Not that it is a lazy animal, far from it; when an aardvark first wakes up it leaps around for 30 feet or so before going about its business. And when attacked, it will use its strong tail to somersault out of harm’s way.

Put Richard Dawkins and Pope Gregory XVI in a room, show them a picture of an aardvark and for a brief moment they will be united in appreciation at the sheer wonder of such an animal. And then they’d spend the rest of the night arguing about just who made it.


The collective noun for aardvarks is aarmory, although some experts disagree on this. Not that they have ever offered an alternative so they should probably keep quiet.

Advent calendars

Why restrict the joy of Christmas to one solitary day when you could extend it to cover the twenty-four preceding ones as well? All you need to do is hang up a sheet of cardboard with little windows cut into it. Easy.

For some reason, pulling open the little hinged flaps to reveal the picture and—if you are middle-class and not related to a dentist—chocolate hidden behind is a minor miracle every December morning. Just watch parents volunteering to assist children who are having trouble getting theirs open.

The first advent calendar was made in either Austria or Germany in the early part of the twentieth century. The Austrians and Germans can’t seem to decide who got there first, while the rest of the world thinks of them as pretty much the same country, anyway, so isn’t that fussed. Before printed calendars, families would light an advent candle (some still do) or mark the twenty-four days off with chalk marks on the fireplace (slightly less popular now).


You might find it odd to see an entry for allotments in a book about all things nice and wonderful but there is a very good reason for their inclusion. Put simply, if it weren’t for allotments you probably wouldn’t be here today. During the Second World War, when the UK was blockaded by U-boats, the women, children and old men of the nation picked up their spades as part of the ‘Dig for Victory’ campaign. The 1.4 million allotment plots across the land yielded 1.3 million tonnes of produce a year—that’s nearly 1 tonne per plot! The fruit and veg grown on small pieces of council land fed your parents, grandparents or great-grandparents and led to you sitting (or standing) there right now holding this book.

The idea of allotments—small areas of council or parish land given over to local residents for them to grow fruit, vegetables and flowers—dates back over two hundred years but they really came into their own during Victorian times. As more and more families moved to the cities, less and less agricultural land was being tended and the new urban dwellers were encouraged to ‘grow their own’. It was also seen as a way to keep the lower classes occupied and off the demon drink.

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