The Duke - January 20, 2016

A Generic Photo of Davos. See PA Feature TRAVEL Switzerland. Picture credit should read: PA Photo/thinkstockphotos. WARNING: This picture must only be used to accompany PA Feature TRAVEL Switzerland.
A Generic Photo of Davos. See PA Feature TRAVEL Switzerland. Picture credit should read: PA Photo/thinkstockphotos. WARNING: This picture must only be used to accompany PA Feature TRAVEL Switzerland.
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Have you survived Blue Monday with a smile on your face? No, I don’t mean the classic New Order track of that name, I’m referring to the third Monday of January.

According to the psychologist Dr Cliff Arnall, it’s scientifically proven to be the most depressing day of the year, and he should know because he’s a “Dr” and an “ologist.”

Strangely, rather like that other colour coded date in our diaries, Black Friday, Blue Monday was only identified as such in 2005 when a publicist for Sky Travel persuaded (or paid?) the good doctor to create a “scientific formula” that looked so, well, sciency that no news editor in his or her right mind could possibly resist.

So step forward please W+(D-d) x TQ/M x NA – or something like that. For mere mortals this translates as W for weather, D is debt, d = monthly salary, T time since Christmas, Q time since failure of attempt to give something up, M low motivational level and NA the need to take action.

In short, that all adds up to Blue Monday or, in the real world, Slow News Day.

Except in a worrying case of “be careful what you wish for” it seems that happiness can actually, almost, be measured. Or so says Glenn Everett, director of the Office for National Statistics’ (ONS) Measuring National Well Being Programme. Wouldn’t we all love a job title like that – even though your business cards might be a bit bulky?

Not surprisingly, bearing in mind what a nation of miseries we can be, Glenn states: “The UK has done world leading work on this.”

And it’s all down to David Cameron’s 2010 launch of the “well being agenda”, seeking to judge policies on more than only economic criteria.

ONS officials toured the land (hands up anyone who actually saw one? No, me neither) asking 30,000 people what really mattered to them and scoring them out of 10 on things such as satisfaction with family life, concern about job security and overall anxieties.

Then there’s the World Happiness Report (published in 2012, 2013 and 2015, so perhaps 2014 was just too gloomy to bother with) where the UK languishes in 21st position, while the Swiss laugh all the way to their many banks in top position.

Mr Everett’s not too happy about that one. He points out that the World Happiness Report measures happiness (this is what he’s paid for spotting?) while the Well Being Programme identifies, yes, you are ahead of the game here – well being.

Happiness is transient, he says.

You can be satisfied with your life, but not very happy with yourself. Or you could have just won the Lottery, but still feel life’s not going too well.

I’m all for trying that one – especially given that my own Blue Monday really sucked.

For starters, I double-checked all the recent Lottery tickets I’d been tempted to purchase. I leave the checking until Monday, so as not to put the dampener on to the weekend.

Then I headed to the dentist, where I’m convinced I’ll be made to recreate Dustin Hoffman’s painful scene in Marathon Man for a rather gruesome amdram revival.

And then the piece de resistance. A Speed Awareness Course in Lancaster.

Yes, despite the Only One’s theory a man with a red flag precedes my every drive, I was copped going faster than I should on the A-something, somewhere between Samlesbury and Skipton. Don’t ask for details because if I wasn’t watching my speed, then I clearly wasn’t paying attention to anything else either.

Allow the head to make decisions

I feel sorry for Norbreck Primary Academy headteacher Karen McCarter.

She hit the headlines for banning birthday cakes being brought into her school.

Some parents were immediately up in arms because it might mean they’d have to look after the cake cutting themselves, before or after the few hours their youngsters were at school.

Others felt it was a potential lifesaver in case their allergy-prone offspring succumbed to the temptations of nutty sponge cake and icing sugar.

When I was at primary school we didn’t have cake bans – we just didn’t have cake. I don’t remember us having allergies either.

What we did have was a headteacher who was allowed to make decisions without having to justify them under the guise of health and safety.

He banned school caps on the grounds of “if the Lord had meant us to wear caps he wouldn’t have given us hair”, and outlawed chewing gum because it was “too American”.

He would have probably been against birthday cakes because you either subscribed to school dinners (free or otherwise) or you went home.

We survived not nibbling all day, and we certainly didn’t need copious amounts of water to be gulped.

So good on you Mrs McCarter. You’re the head. Hope you feel the same about crisps.