Deborah Ross: Happiness is Essential

If you ask me...
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The Independent Online

If you ask me, these are tough times for shallow people, such as myself, who have neither the wit nor the energy to think things through and make sense of them. Breast-feeding at work? How is it possible? Wouldn't it be like taking a puppy to the cinema? And David Cameron's "happiness survey"? What is that all about? Apparently, come spring 2011, the Government will conduct regular surveys of our well-being and happiness, on the grounds that, as Cameron says, and materially privileged people always do say: "Money isn't everything" although when I recently told this to the VAT man, he still seized my car and television and handled me quite roughly.

How can happiness be surveyed? Whose happiness, anyway, ever stretches to more than a few seconds at a time? I'm thinking it is probably no more than an average of 11 seconds a day, down from 16 seconds in 1958, when it peaked due to the nationwide launch of Bird's Eye Arctic Roll, which excited shallow people enormously.

So happiness is the odd moment here and there; moments like these: beating someone to a seat on the tube and catching their eye for a fraction of second, ha, ha; noting the "Essentials Balsamic vinegar" on sale in Waitrose and asking the girl on the till: "Whatever next? Essentials saffron? Essentials halibut?" and making yourself laugh, at least; marvelling at Shaun Ryder's teeth, and wondering if he asked his dentist for "big, white, strong teeth, good for chewing kangaroo cock"; thinking you've run out of wine but then piercing the silver foil thing inside the box and discovering another glass in there, hurrah; watching dads who, having left the mother to it all week, struggle down the swimming pool on a Sunday morning ("Now, Oscar, does mummy let you do that? I'm sure she doesn't. Or does she? I wish I was at work..."); Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon in The Trip; new socks; a driver moving off promptly from a parking space in a hard-to-park area without faffing about at the steering wheel (what are the steering wheel faffers doing? A tax return?); tormenting telephone cold-callers ("No, I'm not in. No, I don't know when I won't be back."); a new five-pack of socks (five lots of happiness!; all served up together!).

So it's moments like these, and that's it. It's how it is. It's the human condition, and no-one should expect true happiness although, if Piers Morgan and Jeremy Clarkson were to punch each other at exactly the same time, that would probably be it, pretty much. I'd tick "overjoyed" if I were ever surveyed about that.