Regional variations

One of the quirks of living in a nation made up of many nations is the way that devolution is effected in day to day life. Take two examples from today (during which I’ve travelled through England, Wales, Eire and Northern Ireland to get to Belfast for Christmas):

1) Bilingual road signs.
In Wales, there’s no consistency in whether the Welsh is above or below the English place name/traffic instruction. Slightly problematic when you’re driving (when I say ‘driving’, I was navigating as I don’t actually drive) to somewhere you’ve never been to before and in fog/rain. In the Irish Republic things are much simpler thanks to their decision to consistently place the Irish version above the English – at least you always know where to look.

2) Regional TV.
I’m not talking about regional news – we all have that. I’m talking about the random programmes you get in the devolved nations. Like Pobol y Cwm (Wales’ long-running Welsh language soap opera), or, if you’re in Northern Ireland, The Folks on the Hill, a satirical cartoon about Northern Irish politics. (Yes, that is as fun as it sounds.) These may just sound like interesting, regional novelties, but the problem is that they wreak havoc with the tv schedule.

This evening, following a day spent travelling for 12 hours, all I wanted to do was to watch the QI Christmas special and the last two episodes of Gavin & Stacey (in preparation for their Christmas special). According to the Guardian, this would be BBC 1’s line up from 9pm. Yet, on BBC 1 was some weird comedy show involving people with Belfast accents. On checking the Northern Irish Radio Times, it turns out that those across the Irish Sea have to wait until late at night to watch what’s primetime viewing for the mainland. No fair.

Still, thanks to the wondeful iplayer, I’ll simply remedy this situation as I lie in bed tomorrow morning on my first official lie-in of my holidays (despite having been off since Friday). That might make up slightly for the fact that, yet again, I’ve kicked off the holidays with a minging cold. Don’t give me sympathy – feel for my family who’ll have to put up with my annoying, hacking cough for the next few days.

Geographical Happiness

According to research published today, the Welsh region of Powys is the happiest place in Britain, with Manchester and West Lothian coming in 2nd and 3rd. Conversely, the cultural mecca of Edinburgh is bottom of the list.

To be honest, it seems like a bit of a random piece of research, based on various socio-economic factors and people’s general sense of well-being. Even the researchers admit that “happiness is more a product of personal circumstances than physical location”.

What caught my attention was the fact that BBC Breakfast this morning highlighted the research by reporting from Hay-on-Wye in the happy region of Powys. Slowly coming to terms with waking up, my first thought was “of course you’d be happy if you lived in Hay, it’s got more second hand bookshops than anywhere else in the country!”.

It would make me very happy indeed to live there. Not only would my insatiable appetite for books be fed, but I’d have an international festival of literature on my doorstep every year, the gorgeous Welsh countryside to frolic in and, from what I remember of my last trip there, some pretty good bakeries too.

However, I also seem to remember that it takes ages to get there from any place of a decent size and the roads were distinctly bendy (I usually arrive in Hay feeling oh so slightly nauseous). On reflection, maybe I’ll just be happier staying in London with one pretty good second hand bookshop minutes from my office and a whole host of over-priced patisseries…