Conduct your own audit of pleasures

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The Independent Online
IN HIS novel A Landing on the Sun, Michael Frayn imagines the setting up of a government department to measure human happiness. One of the civil servants performs a pleasure audit on his own life. He discovers that the only period in which he knew he was genuinely happy was the seven minutes he spent playing the piano for his dancing family in a candlelit room during a power cut.

The Government's talk about "sustainable development" and "cleaner growth" slightly obscures a similar initiative: to identify the things that make people more contented, more secure and more likely to feel well-disposed towards their political masters.

But quantifying pleasure or contentment is an activity fraught with peril. So The Independent offers some guidelines here. A range of activities that come under the Deputy Prime Minister's "headline indicators" have been awarded the following UPs, or Units of Pleasure.

Climate change

Sunny morning 20

Cold morning 3

Windy morning 5

Rainy morning 0

Cold but sunny morning 12

Cold, rainy, windy morning with dense fog, your car will not start, and you have to scrape frost off back windscreen with expiring credit card -1,000

Heatwave in Britain 250

Heatwave in Britain while you are in Dusseldorf at sewage convention -250

Sniffing ozone 0

Sniffing pollen -20

Sniffing carbon monoxide -50

Sniffing charming flower in park, plucking it and inserting in buttonhole 100

Being pursued by irate parks official with slavering lurcher and on-the- spot fine -50


Having head cold -5

Having pint of Night Nurse and four hot whiskies 40

Having medical check-up (private clinic) -5

Having medical check-up (NHS) -250

Joining gymnasium 100

Attending gymnasium 20

Employing personal

trainer 100

Having sex with personal trainer 200

Sacking personal trainer (chronic back pain) 300


Driving through English country lanes in May 400

Driving through St Martin's Lane in May -100

Driving very fast down M4 in Mercedes convertible with elbow stuck out window, glamorous companion by side and Springsteen's "Sherry Darling" playing at teeth-rattling volume on tape machine 800

Taking a taxi 30

Taking taxi with driver keen to share views on Millennium Dome funding -50


Bird singing in tree (Leicester Square) 1

Bird singing in tree (Cotswold village) 15

Pigeon on hat (Trafalgar Square) 30

Pigeon on hat (elsewhere) -10

Robin on log 30

Robin on log in snowy garden (1-25 December only) 100

Frozen chicken in Waitrose 10

Vulture on roadsign -10

Water quality

Sighting of salmon in Thames 20

Sighting of dolphin in Thames 200

Sighting of shark in Thames 300

Sighting of shark and ex-home secretary in Thames 1,000

Sighting of Iraqi navy in Thames -100