From time to time, and especially when I am feeling cold, discouraged, or just plain curmudgeonly, I allow myself a little grumble. Only a little grumble, you understand, and usually whispered into the ear of Bro Duncan. Grumbling changes nothing: it merely makes us and those close to us more wretched. (Bro Duncan, being a dog, allows nothing to interfere with his happiness unless one mentions baths or cuts off the supply of dog biscuits, so he is a safe audience for dyspeptic monologues.) Why do we all love to grumble? I used to think it had something to do with idealism and the quest for perfection; now I think it more likely that we simply love the sound of our own voices and believe it is somehow ‘unhealthy’ to restrain our negative thoughts and feelings. Benedict, as so often, seems to have been right: most grumbling is not justifiable and is corrosive of community. Advent isn’t usually seen as a time for giving up things, but I certainly intend to try harder to give up grumbling. Being nice to be near isn’t just a question of which soap one uses.