Sunday 19 February 2012

location, location

I've been reading about this latest survey that says Carlisle is the happiest place to live in the UK. And I've got a bit of a problem with it.

As it happens, and as usual, the media has somewhat distorted what the survey actually says. The survey is not about how 'happy' people are, it's about how happy people are with where they live...which is different. It is possible to be a very happy person by nature but to be dissatisfied with aspects of where you live. And it is possible to be a person of a more generally cloudy disposition, but to be fairly happy with where you live. 

That's my first gripe.

The second is that, as mentioned before, the concept of happiness is rather a subjective thing so if you don't agree with the criteria Rightmove have chosen as being the most critical determinants of being happy or not, then it's all a bit meaningless.

Of course, it is meaningless anyway isn't it really. It's a bit of PR from a company keen to boost the housing market. Last time they did it Bournemouth came out on top.

But if it gets people thinking and talking about happiness and whatnot, then I'm all for it, despite the above!

It's particularly interesting to read the comments people have posted online in response to the findings. On the Guardian there is a bit of a mass ranting session between residents of Carlisle all basically slagging the place off. Complaints range from it being full of ignorant idiots, to it being littered with boarded up buildings. The general consensus is that actually it's a bloody miserable place to live and the survey is all wrong. Yet the article they're responding to focuses on a whole raft of other residents full of the joys of Carlisle life, celebrating its diversity, its beautiful surroundings and describing skinny-dipping laughter club outings.

So who are we to believe?

Both is the answer. They're all drinking from the same glass, some have it half full, some half empty. 

The whole thing reminded me of a conversation I had a few days ago with Alex. We were musing, randomly, about moving, and if we were to move somewhere else, where might we move to. I mooted the idea of somewhere up North. Alex pointed out that there is not the same economic growth or opportunity as there is in the South, as a reason for not moving there. But I thought actually, that was more of a reason for than against. I thought to myself that economic opportunity and wellbeing are not the same thing and that, as I saw from the stories of Japan versus Bhutan the other week, the pursuit of one can in deed cause major problems for the other. For me, there is always a sense of pressure, of the daily mindlessness of the rat race hovering in the air in the South (until you get as far away from London as Cornwall  that is), that I just don't feel when we're 'up north'. Maybe that's because when we are up north, I'm essentially on holiday but I think  there's more to it than that. 

So it is no surprise to me that (as flawed as the survey is) 7 of the top 10 'happiest' places to live are in the North. And all of the least happy places bar one are in or around London.

As it happens I'm writing this from Walney, an island off Barrow in Furness in Cumbria. And earlier on this evening I did one of my favourite things to do, I walked along the bank watching the sun setting over the sea. And whilst I was out I stumbled upon this. and it made me smile. And I thought to myself, they've all got it wrong, this is the happiest place to be.

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