Archive for April, 2013

Happy Coaches for London?

Saturday, April 20th, 2013

Happy news! Harrogate, North Yorkshire – where I live – is officially the happiest place the UK. This is according to the “Happy at Home Index” 2013. The local media made a lot of this. It may well have only stayed local news, however, Ant and Dec featured it as a quiz question on their Saturday evening TV show – so now everyone in the UK knows. This success needs reinforcing – perhaps the Town Council should consider changing the town’s name to “Happygate”?

My daughter came back from University a couple of days after the announcement of this very prestigious honour. It was – quite understandably – the first thing we discussed when I picked her up from the station. We decided to enjoy and experience some of this happiness. We started waving at other car occupants as we drove to Sainsburys. Unhappily, nobody waved back. We then looked for people in Sainsburys with that air of happiness. We stopped looking after a couple of minutes – and came to the conclusion that all the drivers and people in Sainsburys must be from out of town – coming to try and take in some of this happiness.

This week I am working in London … for a full seven days. I have written before about my love of London – and in particular its Tube and DLR system.  I am currently staying locally, and travelling to a place of work each day on the Tube. Living like a Londoner for a few days – and I’m like a kid in a toy shop!  I love the Tube … I like the smell, I like the names of the stations, I like watching the people … but I do think I’m in the minority.  Judging by the people on the Tube, their city probably didn’t come too close to Harrogate in the Happy League.

In fact, I mentioned this of the Tube to a couple of Londoners about a fortnight ago. One responded that this was because I didn’t use it every day. I then mentioned how fascinating I find it watching how people know the best carriages to be in to use the shortest cut-throughs at particular stations.  The two people then started discussing how they have particular seats; “For me the third seat in on the left from the middle double doors on the Metropolitan Line, but on the District Line I usually sit ….” It was something like that, anyway. I have to admit that I did start to lose interest in the conversation, until one of them then said, “But the Olympics – that was the worst time. Everyone was so happy. People were smiling and some tried to talk to other people – sometimes it was difficult to avoid them. Didn’t they realise some of us were going to work and not meant to be happy”.

I tried to picture the clash of cultures. Happy people on the way to the Olympics and unhappy people on their way to work. I assume there was only one winner – as there usually is where majority and minority cultures meet.

But, could it be different I thought? We know that happier people live healthier lives, and recent research has shown that those people who live together in a relationship tend to live longer than those who live alone. And we all know people who if they haven’t spoken to somebody for 10 minutes need to go and find someone to talk to – the extreme extraverts (how do they cope with a 45 minute Tube ride surrounded by people but with no one to talk to?).

On some main line train services they have “Quiet coaches” – perhaps there could be a “Happy coach” on each Underground train.

What will be the benefits? Well, they would include:

  • An Olympic legacy spanning further than sport
  • Underground travel opportunities which appeal to both Introverts and Extraverts
  • In about 50 years’ time, there will be research showing that people who generally travelled in the Happy Coach lived longer and healthier lives than those travelling in the other coaches

Well, Boris, what do you think?