For many people this winter is proving long, hard and very disagreeable. Trying to be cheerful can be exactly that — trying. It is all very well invoking ‘the Dunkirk spirit’, especially if it isn’t one’s own home/farm that has been flooded out, or one hasn’t spent the last 48 hours without power or even the prospect of that British necessity, a cup of tea, but most of us will admit to a little ‘justifiable grumbling’ on occasion and a failure to keep smiling through. Being cheerful is admirable, but also, in some situations, very hard. Perhaps that is why St Philip Neri, the founder of the Oratory, remarked that the best way to advance in holy virtue is to persevere in holy cheerfulness. The link between cheerfulness and virtue may not be obvious, but it does exist; and the mortifying thought is, we may do more to help others by our cheerfulness than by our ‘virtue’.

Go figure, as our American friends would say.