FAR be it for me to question the brilliance of A Good Man is Hard to Find, Flannery O’Connor’s slice of Southern gothic, but I can’t help thinking the title of the 1953 short story could do with something extra to bring it up to date.
Here goes, then. A good person (in for a penny ...) is indeed hard to find, but they are probably to be found slumped in a corner somewhere, exhausted by the sheer strain of trying to do the right thing all the time. Eat vegan, shun plastics, volunteer for charity, pick up litter while walking the dog. Being a goody two shoes is becoming a full-time job in itself.
This thought came to me on Thursday evening when I was putting the bins out. Despite this being a “boy’s job”, according to our woman Prime Minister, there never seems to be a boy to hand come bin night, hence the sight of women up and down the land sneaking out into the dark in their jim-jams, one of them forgetting that next door has just installed a security light that would not have been out of place on Alcatraz.
So it was that I came to be standing in a puddle of brilliant light, bin-diving (or as we used to call it, midgie-raking) for all the world to witness. 
I had tried to be a good person, you see. I had rinsed, wiped and sorted the rubbish into plastics and paper. Alas, I had been a tad zealous and thrown out an old newspaper I now needed. That was trip number one. Trip number two came after I recalled wrongly putting a greasy pizza disc into the paper bin. Trip number three I don’t want to talk about.
We know why we do such things as recycling. There is the big picture, helping the planet, etc. Then there is what we might think is the small picture, but is really the one that gets you up off your backside and into the night. For a lot of people these days, this will be a scene from Sir David Attenborough’s Blue Planet II. The one of the whale, her milk poisoned by plastic, dragging her dead calf through the water perhaps, or maybe the sea turtle snared in fishing line, swimming towards inevitable doom. Once seen, never forgotten.
Trying to be virtuous does not only benefit a third party. As the title of a publication from the Mental Health Foundation puts it more snappily: Doing Good Does You Good. Helping others makes you feel better about yourself  and life in general. Less stressed. More in control. All that fine, wholesome, motherhood and apple pie stuff.
The thing about doing good is that it can be contagious. Sometimes it spreads in a good way, like laughter. Other times it is as welcome to other folk as nits. When competition enters the fray, or confusion, or if it begins to feel like there is no choice, doing good can start to make you feel bad. Where to start and stop. He’s a meat eater, she only eats organic, he’s a vegetarian, she’s a vegan: who is better? That family flies abroad on holiday, this one drives up the motorway for a staycation: who is harming the planet more? Disposable nappies or cloth? Rescue dog from the UK or abroad? Cheap clothes or ethically sourced? And pick up other people’s litter, including the dog mess, while you are at it.
Some people just have have to convert others to their cause. Again, this can be a positive thing, but not if taken too far. Social media gives individuals the ability to inform, persuade and gently cajole. It can also be used to bully. Officialdom needs to be particularly careful how it spreads the word about doing the right thing, whether it be recycling or eating healthily. Lectures are needed, but people do not want to be lectured. Truths have to be told, but gently.
It is a tricky business, this doing good. Sometimes the hardest thing of all is to keep going when difficulties arise or doubts set in, otherwise known as coming down with a bad case of “Why should I bother?” syndrome. Anyone who has tried to change will have had a dose of this. What does one pizza disc in the wrong bin matter compared to the building of yet another power station in China? Why do things for charity when I already pay my taxes? 
There are plenty of reasons not to do good, or simply do nothing, if you set out to find them. 
But there is something very human, and rather wonderful, about bumbling on regardless. Trying your best, in the hope that if enough people think like you then change might, just might, happen. A journey of a thousand miles begins with a dash out to the recycling bins and all that.
Now, if you will excuse me I’m so exhausted from doing good I’ll have to go out and buy a double espresso. In a reusable cup, of course. But not in my jim-jams. At least not today.

PULL-OUT guide from a magazine. Check. Snacks in the cupboard, ice cream lollies in the freezer. Got ‘em. Rough idea what a halfpipe and skeleton are. 
Nearly ready, in short, for a fortnight’s coverage of the Winter Olympics.
I know it is going to be tough at first. It always is. Despite Scotland doing well in several sports, the Winter Olympics can be a struggle. Too complicated, too many unfamiliar names and faces. 
There are a few cultural barriers to leap over as well. For some of us, snow and ice are to be avoided, not embraced. I went on a skiing holiday once and hated every cold, damp minute, especially the ones spent on my tush. Unless you come from winter wonderland territory, skiing and suchlike seem like elite sports.
But then I recall that among the time capsule sporting moments in my life are such sights as John Curry winning gold in the figure skating, and after him Torvill and Dean. 
Add to this the location of the games, and the presence of the North Koreans, and Pyeongchang may make a convert of me yet.

THREE cheers and put a drink behind the bar for Jo Swinson, Liberal Democrat deputy leader.
It is perhaps not something the SNP’s John Nicolson shouts often, given she replaced him as the MP for East Dunbartonshire at the last General Election, but most folk hearing her turn the tables on John Humphrys on Today would have given her the thumbs up.
“While I’ve got you here John,” she said at the end of an interview on harassment at Westminster, “can I just ask have you apologised to Carrie Gracie for the remarks you made about her courageous stance on equal pay?” Humphrys duly harrumphed at being reminded of the recent leak of what he thought was an off mic conversation with a colleague.  
“What a rude, pompous man John Humphreys is,” tweeted Tory MP Nadine Dorries later. “Couldn’t quite take being owned by a female politician. Well done Jo Swinson!” 
Still, he did answer her question, saying he had written to Gracie. Task for next woman MP on Today? Ask him what was in his letter, and what she replied.

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