If You’re Happy and You Know it

The theme of Louisa needing to be happy returns in E1, E2 and again in E3 when Louisa tells Martin she’s not unhappy as they head to the church for the wedding, next when Martin asks if Louisa is happy that JH is in a daycare setting and then when he asks her if pursuing the idea of becoming a child therapist will make her happy. These three moments relate in kind to what I see as the times when Louisa can be identified as being happy.

I have written many times about the concept of happiness, the inborn desire most humans have to be happy, and how nations have written the importance of happiness into their laws. This time I want to approach the subject of happiness from another angle, a much more practical one. Now that we have heard Martin claim to care very little about his own happiness, or at least found the notion of happiness to be overrated, and Louisa note in S6 that she’s not happy and isn’t making Martin happy either, I am going to stick to the show to see how we can make heads or tails out of this.

We know that being happy is important to Louisa, but what do we think makes her happy? By all appearances she was very happy when Martin first asked her for a date and walked off with a bounce in her step, but she was also enjoying herself with Mark at the local dance. She was quite happy when Martin asked her to marry him and she told all of her colleagues. She has also appeared happy when she told off Adrian Pitts at the hospital, when she thought she had found a solution to Roger Fenn’s employment issue, when she and Danny were stepping out together (although that was complicated by the likelihood that she was trying to make Martin jealous), at various moments when she worked with some of the students (e.g. Peter Cronk, some group events, and finally with Astrid), and when she was hired as the headmistress for the school. She was quite pleased after Martin told her he thought she’d make a fine mother (when they were dealing with Anthony Oakwood and his family next-door to her), and when he gave her the engagement ring. Another prominent time when she appeared happy was when she returned home after an evening out with friends to find Martin having a nice moment with James. There have been several occasions with James when she displayed pleasure at being around him. One that stands out in my memory is in S6 when she and Martin are getting ready in the morning and she sets James down on the bed while telling him he’s gorgeous.

When we distill these moments we are left with Louisa mostly being depicted as happy in response to Martin and related matters, and to some degree with James, and to an even smaller extent when she is involved with students. She has very few friends despite having spent most of her life in Portwenn. Pippa and Caroline (the radio personality) have at times acted as friends, she has seen Danny as a friend and perhaps Roger, but otherwise her friends have come from outside of Portwenn, e.g. Holly and Isobel. It may be hard to include friends in a show like this since that means adding more characters, nevertheless, it is unfortunate that Louisa doesn’t have a confidant or a mother with whom she has regular interactions. If she did, we might know more about her inner thoughts. We got more of those when her mother was around. (BTW, it seems a bit strange that after she spends some time in Spain with her mother while thinking about her marriage to Martin, she has never mentioned her mother again.)

Apparently she is looking for happiness in her close family circle which mostly consists of Martin and James. Apart from that she is anxious to find an outside job that can fulfill her and allow her time at home. She had thought she could get that from being headmistress at the local school, but even that seems to be too demanding of her time. The fact is that being in charge of a school, even in a small village, requires that she deal with all sorts of difficulties encountered by her students as well as filling in for absentee teachers. (I can vouch for the reality of that because my daughter is a principal of a private elementary school and that is exactly what she does all year long.) It’s hard to know if being a child therapist would give her more time at home, but we’re about to find out what it might take to reach that point. In a nutshell, to the best of our knowledge she derives happiness most from her immediate family and from her abilities as a teacher.

Martin may say he isn’t concerned about being happy, but his words are a cover-up for actually needing happiness in his life after all. I say this because when he is rebuffed by Louisa after the concert, he has a sleepless night, can’t concentrate at work, and ultimately proposes to her by telling her he can’t bear to be without her. This sort of reaction recurs several more times throughout the series, e.g. when she is giving birth to their baby, when they rescue James from Mrs. T, and when he operates on her AVM. It’s crystal clear that he needs her in his life. One could argue that the entire S7 is about him being miserable without her (and James). If he’s miserable without her, does that mean he’s happy with her? Well, he’s not unhappy.

We also see him almost smile at times when she kisses him, even if the kiss is only a small peck on the cheek, or when he takes her hand as they’re walking.

We can’t expect too much expression of emotion from this self-contained man because that’s not how they have developed his character nor how MC wants to portray him. However, in his own way we know he’s at least content that Louisa isn’t going anywhere. At this point I would argue he has decided that keeping her happy is what is important to him and what the therapy has convinced him he should do, and he is following many of Dr. Timoney’s recommendations. He is scheduling dates with Louisa; he is empowering her to be in charge by agreeing to the day care, accepting the Rota she prepares, and agreeing to keep the dog; and he is making some effort to be more social. It remains hard for him to stifle his tendency to act superior, but again this would be out of character.

Like Louisa, what makes him as happy as he can get is being with his family. He has no friends unless we count Morwenna and Al. He gets a sense of accomplishment and self-satisfaction out of diagnosing and treating the various medical cases he’s presented with, but the only real sense of pleasure or subtle joy comes after he has given Louisa something to gladden her (think deciding to name the baby James Henry).

Ultimately, therefore, I have reached the conclusion that both Louisa and Martin are depicted as finding happiness in their own family unit. We could also say they both find fulfillment in a job well done, which often means helping others. It is also for this reason that I think they are compatible as a couple. Would it be nice to see them get involved in an activity that they could both enjoy? Sure. Will they? Probably unlikely, although I think that would open up all sorts of humorous situations.

[Dale, I hope this post is what you were hoping for. If not, please feel free to give us your thoughts.]

17 thoughts on “If You’re Happy and You Know it

  1. Amy

    My initial reaction was to consider what makes me happy and is it anything more than the relationships I have with my husband and my children. (To be honest, it’s my grandchildren now who make me smile almost non-stop!) Aren’t those intimate connections what most of us need to be happy? It doesn’t have to be a spouse or family member; it can be close friends whom you trust and enjoy. But aren’t those necessary for happiness?

    And then I realized…maybe not for everyone. Maybe there are people for whom true happiness is found in their work or in some hobby or sport or other activity. One thing that I think did make Martin truly happy was surgery—he was good at it, he loved being a surgeon, and he tried desperately to get back to doing it. It made him happy. Maybe nothing else will ever make him as happy because dealing with relationships is stressful for him. He loves Louisa, he loves his son, but maybe they don’t really make him happy. Or not as happy as being a surgeon.

    On the other hand, I think Louisa really needs relationships to be happy—whether with a partner, a child, a friend. Her work only satisfies her when she deals with people, in this case the children. She hates the paperwork and administrative work. She wants to interact with people. Martin might make her happy if he somehow keeps moving towards a true relationship between equals where she can trust him not to say hurtful things and to give her the support and sense of connection she wants. Perhaps she wants to be a therapist not so much to free up her time but because she has realized that it makes her happy to connect with someone and make them feel better.

    Maybe what makes us happy is what makes us feel valued and appreciated and understood—our work or our family or our relationships. My yoga teacher says that feeling and expressing gratitude for what we have is the key to being happy. Others say that giving to others makes us happy. I guess all of the above is true.

  2. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    I think you’ve put your finger on several truths: that happiness for most of us comes from our family and they are fundamental to making us happy; that we also derive happiness from achievements; and that giving to others is another very likely way to feel happy. Basically, those are the ways this show is depicting happiness too. I would add that sometimes happiness comes from simply appreciating a beautiful day, or taking a walk, or talking about a good book with a bunch of friends in your book club, etc. For many people happiness comes in all sorts of forms and as a consequence of many actions. It made me very happy to finish my dissertation, for example.

    I agree that Martin stated at one time that he loved being a surgeon and felt it was the one thing he was good at, but they really haven’t made much of the loss of being a surgeon in a long time. The other thing that both seemed to be an outlet for him and was something he could feel some pleasure from was his clock restoration, but they’ve taken that out of the show, which I think is a shame. Now his sense of professional satisfaction comes with restoring patients. We see this when he adjusts his shirt cuffs after completing a medical feat, or awkwardly admits he saved someone’s life.

    Louisa used to appear to enjoy a nice day when she could go for a bicycle ride or possibly try surfing. That has gone away at this point too. I mean, they make so much of the beauty of this village, but we don’t see Martin and Louisa enjoying the view or the charms of living there. Instead she has turned inward and is mostly looking for happiness in family and occupation.

    Honestly, despite all the talk about Louisa being happy, I think this condition has now become a goal that is being used to drive other storylines. That’s fine, but trying to make too much of it is going to be a loss leader at this point, IMO.

  3. Amy

    I think I’d draw a distinction between being happy—a general emotional state that we think of as essential to well-being and mental health—and doing some activity that we enjoy and that gives us pleasure for the duration of that activity. That is, there’s a difference between enjoying a hike and being generally a happy person. I think when Martin asks Louisa, “And that will make you happy?,” he is asking about her overall mental state, not whether that activity will be one she enjoys while doing it. If she still came home and was unhappy at home, I doubt that would be enough for Louisa or for Martin. You can be a generally unhappy person and still find pleasure in certain things. That may be true of Martin and Louisa, whereas I think that Morwenna is, for example, a generally happy person who may occasionally be sad, like when she hears her mother may be dying.

    To be generally happy requires more than a good time at a book club or a great day of skiing. I think it requires feeling valuable and valued either in relationships or by your work or both. If you don’t have that, then the momentary pleasures of book clubs or skiing won’t keep you in a generally happy state—unless that people in the book club or those with whom you go skiing are people with whom you connect and who value you and the time they spend with you. Then I think it adds to that general sense of happiness.

    That being said, I agree that it is a shame that we don’t get to see Martin and Louisa doing fun things any more—clock fixing or surfing or biking. Come to think of it—does anyone in Portwenn do anything just for fun?

  4. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    There is a distinction between having an overall sense of happiness versus having fun doing something, yes. But I would say that your book club example during which we connect is more the sort of thing I was referring to.

    At least we both think that the show could take Louisa and Martin into more periods of doing something they both can relate to. The fact that some people in Portwenn sail, row, surf, run, do artwork, go to dances, etc. means there is some fun going on in the town at times, just not in the Ellingham household!

  5. Amy

    I guess I was thinking more of the main characters—Bert, Al, Morwenna, Ruth, Mrs T, and Penhale—in terms of recreation. Aside from hanging out at the pub, I don’t think we’ve seen any of them doing anything recreational like sailing or surfing or doing art. Al was running once when “mugged” by Penhale, and I guess Penhale enjoyed speed walking with Clive. But aside from drinking and some socializing, we don’t see any of those characters just having fun.

  6. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    Ok, I’ll bite. Al joined Pauline in playing the slot machines at the pub and dabbled with computers. We also know he used to fish and tried to take some guests on a fishing expedition. Soon we’ll be seeing Morwenna and Al rowing with a team. Mrs. T plays the organ. Penhale says he works out. Bert’s entertainment seems to be playing tricks on people, although we have seen him act in a community show where he worked a puppet. I think Ruth is all business, except apparently she used to like to take walks. On rare occasions we see the village gather for dances or other performances. Are they having fun? I guess so!

  7. Amy

    LOL! True—Al did fish. There was the episode of him fishing with Bert when the whole paternity issue came up, and he went fishing with the B&B guests. But I’d put the slot machines in the pub category. And yeah, Mrs T does play the organ. And I did chuckle at the line that Ruth used “take walks”—was that a euphemism? 🙂 I suppose that’s a whole other category of fun we don’t see much of on DM.

    They do have the fun run, the various fairs and festivals. But we don’t see much of those any more either.

  8. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    I guess I’m not so sneaky after all…

    It has been a long time since they had a community event that isn’t a wedding, or wedding related, unless we count the birthday party for JH. They seem to have moved on from those to individual interactions for some reason.

  9. Dale Marie

    Karen, This post was right on target for what I had observed about the source of happiness for both Martin and Louisa. M’s mission is to “make my wife happy” even if some of the things he does for her (like allowing Buddy in the house) clearly make him unhappy. And I agree with you that even though he has wondered why everyone always has to be happy all the time he is himself seeking happiness. Martin’s clock restoration was apparently a source of happiness for him. This was obviously a lifelong interest (Ruth mentioned his taking his grandfather’s watch apart to figure out how it worked) but I am not surprised that we no longer see him at it. This was the solitary pursuit of a lonely child and lonely man. Louisa and caring for James now take up the time he used to spend on clock repair. I think it is symbolic that the last time we saw a clock was when Margaret stole his grandfather’s clock, the last one he restored. Martin booted her out of his life and his lonely clock restoration pursuit and the clock itself went with her.

    It has occurred that Martin has not had a lot of experience with happiness (except for with Joan and Louisa) therefore he may not have recognized that the feelings of accomplishment in his life may have been happiness. In S1 E2 when he told Roger Fenn about his homophobia he said “I use to have the Midas touch, you know. Couldn’t look at a body on the operating table without fixing it, really”. Now who would not find happiness in such God-like abilities. Martin liked being a surgeon but he is also a fantastic diagnostician (even Edith mentioned this) and he has reason to use this gift in his life every day as a GP: probably more so than he was a surgeon. (Karen you can better speak to this point than I, being married to a surgeon yourself). Ruth told him soon after Joan’s funeral that she had not expected him to practice such “important medicine” again and that she was proud of him. He respects Ruth and he listens to her and hopefully this made an impact on him. The last time his being a surgeon was mentioned was when the went to Ruth for comfort after Louisa left for Spain.

    The writers have not dealt with how M feels about the accomplishments in his practice. He has saved numerous lives. He knows this and is matter of fact about it because he just sees this as what he does: his job. He either just inclines his head, says “Mmm” or in the case of Jim Winton in the S7 finale says “it was an unusual case”. His accomplishments in saving lives have been validated by many people including Louisa, Mrs T, other doctors, even Adrian Pitts when he saved Peter’s life, and numerous patients who have reported that the Drs at the hospital have said that if Martin had not correctly diagnosed their condition, they would have died. Once again, in this latest episode with the vet, Angela Sim, she also told him that the Drs at the hospital told her that had M not found her and treated her she would have died. M takes all this in stride but I cannot believe that this does not make him happy. Doc Martin the “the saver of lives” has been one of the underlying themes in this show. How many scenes of Martin publicly saving lives have we seen? He even saves Caroline’s life, after her electric shock, while he is rushing to get Louisa off the plane to save her life.

    Martin’s accomplishments as a Dr are also a source of happiness for Louisa. She told him so after he saved Peter and Jim Winton. She advises people to go see Martin. In S7 E2 when Martin saves the life of the girl at the radio station, Louisa, who is holding James while listening, smiles broadly and is very happy and proud when she whispers to James “That’s your Daddy”.

    BTW Karen as I was looking at old episodes I saw your walk-on again. I think I saw you in 3 scenes. It is fun to see someone you “know” in a TV show. I would love to do this. I will have to keep a watch out for any auctions for a walk-ons for the last series and hope I get lucky. ☺️

  10. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    I’m so glad what I wrote is close to your expectations. I’ll just say a couple of things here…We have discussed the scene where Ruth tells Martin she’s proud of him somewhere on this blog. I understood it the way you did, but not everyone interpreted it that way. I am sorry he doesn’t have the clocks anymore. It’s strange to me that something he has loved to do for so long would be so abruptly dropped, especially when it was soothing to him. There’s no reason having a family would mean there’s no time for him to work on his clocks. Surely you know plenty of men who have hobbies or play golf, do yard work, or handiwork around the house.

    I enjoyed doing the walk-on part and seeing the setting. I was there in late May and it was much colder than I thought it would be. When you watch the show, they make it look like it’s warm and sunny all the time, but it’s not. I wasn’t foolish enough to think it would be summer weather, but it was damn cold! I’m sure there will be more opportunities to bid on walk-on parts for S9.

  11. Amy

    I heard Ruth’s comment about doing important medicine again as a reference to his pending return to surgery, not his GP practice. It was in that second episode of S5 when Martin’s plan was to move to London and return to surgery.

    It’s funny how Dale’s comments echo your next post about Martin being like a superhero!

  12. Dale Marie

    Amy, I thought so too when I read Karen’s superhero post. Martin the superhero able to cure everybody with his Madas Touch/Look. So many of the times when Martin saves people it is also public spectacle.

    Martin seems like the kind of person who would concentrate on one activity at a time outside of his practice. He would need to devote all his extra time to his clocks or to his family activities. I also thought clock repair was a way for Martin to hide from life’s uncomfortable moments.

    Amy when Ruth made that comment to Martin it was the first time she had spoken to him since Joan’s funeral and at that time she was not much involved in his life. She told Louisa that they only spoke at Christmas so I don’t think she would have known about his plans to return to London.

  13. Amy

    I guess we will never know what the writers intended. Gotta love ambiguity. But Ruth had been in touch with Joan—she knew about Louisa and the pregnancy because she said, “I see you had the child,” when she sees them outside the church before the funeral. We don’t know how recently she was supposed to have talked to Joan, but if she knew that Louisa was pregnant, it had to be within the last three months of Louisa’s pregnancy. Now Joan didn’t know Martin was returning to surgery until shortly before the birth of JH, but presumably she would have called her sister to tell her that their nephew was returning to London.

    And even if Joan hadn’t yet told Ruth, Ruth easily could have learned once she got to Portwenn. I can’t recall exactly when Ruth tells Martin she’s proud that he is doing “real medicine,” but unless it was at the funeral itself, it would not have taken more then ten minutes in Portwenn for the news to spread that Martin was returning to London. Al or Bert or someone would have mentioned it to her. It was big news, after all!

    Finally, Ruth was based in London and when she first gets to PW, she had her family’s snooty attitude towards small town life and probably towards anything but big city practice—whether it was surgery or psychiatry or something else. It seems more likely she thought “real medicine” was surgery in London than being a GP in a small village in the middle of nowhere.

    But reasonable people can disagree—that’s what makes it all fun and interesting.

  14. Dale Marie

    Yes we can Amy. I do enjoy reading other people’s interpretations and analysis of the issues in this show.

  15. Elle

    I had overlooked this post but just wanted to make a few comments. I agree, Louisa’s happiness seems to be a focus and the producers, writers felt it important enough to carry that “theme” into each episode. Hence, we see Martin striving to make his wife happy. Louisa’s life includes teaching and family. Her own career and her own family. That seems to be the ticket; a rather uncomplicated normalcy that, from what we can observe, seems to satisfy her. Recall the morning her sitting at the table with James and preparing a two-week “ROTA”. She is blissfully happy almost to the point of oblivion to what is happening a couple feet away. Martin discovers the dog, arms himself with Hee-Man gloves, and disposes of the dog. I laugh as I type this as it perfectly depicts the oddity and charm of this quirky union.
    If you remember the scene when Martin goes to London (series 4) in pursuit of or re-establishing himself into that world he left behind . He is with a colleague but what is said isn’t very important in the scene. It is Martin’s face. He is in an almost-trance like state. His reverie and lost in a dream expression, well, I was awestruck! This is Martin’s happy place.
    Louisa, having her own family and career is what makes her happiest. Will Martin ever achieve or find again what makes him the happiest. Gosh, I really, really hope he can.

  16. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    Thanks for your contributions Elle. I am still going to argue that Martin has moments of happiness, for him, and that they are never going to turn him into a smiling, utterly content man and doctor. Being grumpy is who he is and will always be. I can’t disagree that he was once portrayed as finding a lot of satisfaction in his surgical ability, but that was so many series ago and a lot has changed since then. From what I can tell he has dropped any interest in returning to London and to his surgical practice because his blood phobia continuing to affect him makes that prospect impossible. Retaining the blood phobia means that they are unlikely to revisit any plan to do major surgery again.

    I have been stockpiling articles from which I can draw some comparisons to the show and some things to think about. Please see what you think about some of the forthcoming posts.

  17. Dale Marie

    This comment doesn’t really fit here with the happiness theme but: Here we are in Series 8 and it has finally occurred to me how similar Martin, Penhale and Mr. Tishell are. They are, all three, completely cluelass (for different reasons) about how others react to what they say and do. Martin: well he is just Martin. Penhale: He is an idiot and Mrs. T is just crazi. I find their lack of awareness somewhat naive. I don’t remember if this has been discussed already but I apologize if it has. I expect that many will disagree with me.

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