You’ve never had it so good - or so they say

Angela Strachan and  son Hayden, four.  "If my kids are happy I'm happy."
Angela Strachan and son Hayden, four. "If my kids are happy I'm happy."
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We are now 1.1 per cent happier as a nation - but is it true in Blackpool?

How are you today? Not too bad, eh? It’s the British way. It’s hard to smile with that proverbial stiff upper lip.

Cliff and Arlene Vincent from the east coast of Scotland - a bike, a beautiful Promenade, a sunny day: happiness

Cliff and Arlene Vincent from the east coast of Scotland - a bike, a beautiful Promenade, a sunny day: happiness

But here’s the seriously good news. The nation often branded the most miserable in Europe is perceptibly cheering up.

A bit. In that time honoured Lancastrian “not too bad” kind of way.

The Bulgarians are said to be the most miserable. The Danes, surprisingly for fans of their TV crime gore fests, are the happiest in Europe.

This seems to come down to working fewer hours and paying less for childcare than we do.

But we Brits are catching up. We are now 1.1 per cent happier as a nation than we were this time last year, says the Office for National Statistics.

Aw come on, pessimists - it’s a start. One point one per cent may not seem a big deal but add it to the length of your lunchtime banana and you’d perk up no end. Take it off your pay and you’d be downcast.

Simply put, some 77 per cent of us are now feeling a bit better than we did last year. As opposed to 75.9 per cent of us last year. We are more satisfied with our lot in life - across work, partnership, finance and health fronts.

The remaining 33 per cent - a third in old money - are still languishing in the doldrums.

So how does it all break down in Blackpool - officially named and shamed as the gloomiest place in the country last year?

And can so many comedians who choose to live here be be wrong? Let alone Ken Dodd -who hails Blackpool the tickle stick capital of the country. “If you can’t be happy in Blackpool you can’t be happy anywhere.”

Using a less scientific approach than the statisticians we took to the seafront to find out – and found locals and visitors alike decidedly happy.

Take retired couple Arlene and Cliff Vincent from the east coast of Scotland.

For starters, they don’t get the “midgies” there as much as the hapless souls on the west coast.

And they no longer have responsibility for others, adds Arlene. They have outlived their own parents, much as they still miss them, and their own grown up children have moved to Australia.

They’re now looking forward to their first holiday there and, who knows, perhaps a permanent relocation in time.

“My daughter says we will fall in love with Australia,” says Arlene.

But right now they in Blackpool, on a week’s break with the Caravan Club, at a “very nice site” in Marton, and have cycled to the seafront to take in the sights. The couple haven’t been here for years, and Cliff, a retired maths teacher, can’t believe how good it looks now. Arlene agrees: “We’ve been to other resorts but Blackpool really is the best.”

They have their health, they have each other, and they have something planned daily - and it all boosts their happiness quota.

“You have to be proactive with happiness,” adds Arlene. “You make it happen.” She applies the same theories to friendship, a crucial happiness factor. “I’ve known some of mine for more than 40 years.”

The Office for National Statistics - which also suggests a small reduction in anxiety levels between 2011-12 and 2012-13 - conducted official research.

It is part of the programme 
ordered by Prime Minister David Cameron to help the Government develop policies to 
improve people’s well being.

That was three years ago - to guffaws of disparaging laughter from many of us.

Can you measure happiness?

To quote those fun loving statisticians: “Subjective well-being is a valid construct that can be measured reliably.”

Their survey must be a laugh a minute.

It includes questions such as: Are you satisfied with your husband, wife or partner?

How satisfied are you with your mental and physical health?

Are you happy in your job?

Do you feel involved in your neighbourhood?

Are you happy with your personal income?

When the first survey came out Labour ridiculed it as a “statement of the obvious” when the pace of juggling work and family, childcare and finance was revealed as affecting individuals’ happiness in the UK.

Incredibly, figures from the Office of National Statistics suggest we are actually “working on average an hour or two less than we did in 1971” but it does not feel that way, as the internet and email mean we are never off-duty.

For those of us doing a paper round at 15 - and papers weighed a lot more in those days - it proves there are lies, damn lies and statistics.

The survey also says teenagers and those above retirement age are the happiest.

Well, we’ve already found two very happy retired people - now for some teenagers.

Try keeping up with these Jones... the Jones family, who are staying at the Cala Gran caravan site, Fleetwood, for a week.

Heather Jones, 28, married John last year and on a scale of zero to 10 rates her happiness a 10. Then and now.

In fact, the whole family score perfect 10s on the happiness index. Bar one. Dad John. “This lot’s costing me a fortune,” he growls. “I’m a one out of 10.”

Given that the clan includes not one but three happy teenagers it’s a testimony to Blackpool’s funshine factor. Katie, 13, Jane, 16 and Jake, 14, all say they’re 10 out of 10 for happiness - and while Jane puts it down to the sunshine, Jake says it’s “because we’re all together, I’m not on my own.” Katie says it’s because of all the fun stuff they can do as a family here. They’re off to Sandcastle Waterpark next and have the Tower to visit and Madame Tussauds.

Blackpool Pleasure Beach? “No,” says stepmum Heather. “We’re not big on rollercoasters. In fact, we’re wusses.” As a Bolton lass she used to regularly visit Blackpool. “It’s so much better than it ever was,” she admits. John came once on a stag do. “I don’t remember a thing about it.”

Our pursuit of happiness ends with Angela Strachan of Marton and her youngest son, four year old and very camera shy son Hayden.

Hayden will start school when the holidays end. He’s happy about going to what he calls the “big school” (Marton Primary) as opposed to the “very big school.”

“He’s a naturally happy little boy,” says his mum. “And if my kids are happy I’m happy.

“ I think that’s all you can ask for as a parent. More money would be nice but it’s not everything. It doesn’t buy happiness. It’s about love, and health and doing things together which may not cost a lot but mean a lot. I only go to the Pleasure Beach now if they’ve got an offer on - but we go to Stanley Park a lot.

“Last night we discovered the Woodland Walk near the Zoo for the first time and that made us happy too.

“A lot don’t get time to enjoy their families but it’s the biggest priority of all.”