Sunday, October 12, 2014

Mustn’t Grumble

We here in the UK are not noted for our optimistic outlook on life. Ask anyone, “How’s life treating you?” and you’re likely to get the response, “Not bad.” Or even, “Not too bad.”

Not actively miserable—most of the time— just not exactly bursting with the joys of spring, either.

We Brits are generally not the happiest bunch in the world—that honour is taken by Denmark—with the top ten in this year’s World Happiness Report looking like this:

1 Denmark
2 Norway
3 Switzerland
4 Netherlands
5 Sweden
6 Canada
7 Finland
8 Austria
9 Iceland
10 Australia

And in case you were wondering how the UK fared, we were a gallant 22nd, behind Costa Rica (12th), Mexico (16th), the USA (17th) and Belgium (21st).

And bottom of the league?

Portugal, apparently. They came 85th. Don’t ask me why.

The reason for thinking about this subject was because this week’s news mentioned the latest report by the UK Office of National Statistics measuring National Wellbeing around the country.

The study by the ONS was carried out in March this year, taking such factors into account as the state of people’s health, relationships, personal finance, and environmental issues to provide a guideline to the UK’s levels of satisfaction and quality of life.

The results were surprising—although possibly not to those concerned. The top four happiest places in the UK were all in Northern Ireland:

1 Antrim
2 Fermanagh
3 Omagh
4 Dungannon

And having been to Northern Ireland, I can vouch for the fact it’s a beautiful place, and despite the high unemployment rate, they maintain a positive outlook.

The mainland only managed 5th with Babergh in Suffolk.

And the least happy areas?

1 Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria
2 Dartford, Kent
3 Torridge, Devon
4 Maldon, Essex
5 South Ribble, Lancashire

What does it say about me, I wonder, that I’ve spent quite a bit of time in Barrow, but never been to Babergh?

This week’s Word of the Week is sinecure, mean a job that requires little or no work for the money. It’s from the Medieval Latin phrase sine cura, which means quite literally without a cure. Sinecure was originally used to describe the holding of a clerical post for the church without the bother of having to care for people’s spiritual wellbeing. Such posts had been abolished by the beginning of the last century, but by then the word had come to mean any paid job with few responsibilities attached.


  1. Portugal probably is so unhappy because of their economy. You might recall a little while back there was a 5-letter acronym (it escapes me right now) making the rounds of the news for 6 months or so, made up of the 5 countries in the EU that were in danger of economic collapse. Seems it was (in whatever order) Greece, Portugal, Ireland ( or Italy? one of those 'I' countries) and two others. I've always found it interesting in these "happiness polls" that it always seems to be primarily the colder countries that are the happiest. Go figure.

    So what's the opposite of sinecure? That would describe the positions of the writers on this blog, slaving away for us week after week, with no remuneration in sight... :-) Hmmm... slave? Maybe we need to get some T-shirts made up: "I'm an MIE slave!"

    1. I think the description of a writer you're looking for is 'mushroom', and I'm sure I don't need to explain that one to you ... :)

      And yes, cold countries do seem to be happy places.

      Not thinking of moving somewhere colder though!

  2. Could Irish happiness be due to alcohol and singing loudly? :) That's not in any way a political thesis, just an observation!

    1. Apparently, it's partly related to unemployment figures. If you have a job and the economy's looking rocky, you worry about losing it. But if you don't have one to start with ...

      Or maybe I didn't quite get that right ...

    2. I always enjoy my visits to Ireland and enjoy also the Irish people. However, I always leave with a feeling that underneath the singing is a deep layer of melancholy.

  3. And where precisely would you rank the fine ole town of Pittsburgh? In its old form you could have said "Borough-in-furnace," but today it's "O ma God" wonderful though from the way their football team is playing "Dung Annon" might be more appropriate.

    I could go on and on...for there is no cure for this...but I'm in a merciful mood at the moment.