• As I was walking along upper Cuba St in central Wellington last weekend, my attention was caught by a red notice posted in the window of an empty shop. I approached close enough to read it. “This is an earthquake-prone building,” it said. “Do Not Approach.” Then it carried on with the sort of stuff that one lawyer gets paid $200 an hour to write, another lawyer gets paid $300 an hour to interpret and a third gets $500 an hour to argue about in court. But, truly, unless you have eyes like a hawk, you have to approach the building to be able to read the notice telling you not to approach it.
At the other end of the street (yes, lower Cuba St) was a road sign with a graphic of a car, a bike and a pedestrian, which said “Shared Space”. “Shared Space” is new to me. How long have cars been allowed to drive on footpaths? The sign, and the attractive paving, invite people to walk in this area, but it seems to me cars and pedestrians can’t “share” the same space. Or if they do, just hope someone’s around to dial 111.
• Last week, I wrote here of my distaste for slasher fiction. That does not mean I’m not attracted to tales of suspense, fear and loathing, but instead of reading novels I follow the Greek debt crisis. It is the best cautionary tale a voter anywhere in the world could read, if you like being scared out of your wits but prefer the cuts made by international bankers to those inflicted by serial killers. But this, too, is alarming stuff. I have even reduced our weekly household expenditure out of a fear of the International Monetary Fund crashing through my front door in a dawn raid. Soon I am going to take up reading crochet patterns.
• If you’re happy and you know it clap your hands, urges the well-known song for children, but to become happy in the first place it helps to be a woman who has lived long enough to bury her husband. Merely divorcing a husband, according to the latest UMR survey on happiness, doesn’t cut it. For both men and women, your spouse needs to be actually dead. As a cohort, you are then likely to be happier than people who never married, or who are divorced or separated.
The survey does not drill down into why this should be. Possibly, a kindly interpretation is that widows, and to a slightly lesser extent widowers, feel privileged to have shared their life with a spouse they loved and who loved them in return and that is better than never having enjoyed that experience. But in the absence of qualitative research, I find myself wondering whether widows and widowers are happier than divorced people because not only will they never see their dead spouse again, but they have also freed themselves of the in-laws – as well as possibly interring a few marital secrets.
The research also shows that once you are past 19, you are not as happy again in life until you reach 65. Well, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out what that one’s about, does it? Work, of course. Your working life is a bloody misery is pretty much what the research says, reaching its nadir with those aged 45-49 – only 20% of them are happy.
The good news, especially for an ageing population, is that happiness increases with age, and 40% of people aged 75 or older rank themselves with a high degree of happiness. Presumably some of that is because most of them are no longer working. Another finding, too, was that people without dependent children (as is likely for older people) are happier than those with them. Also, there must simply be a Survivor element to satisfaction beyond 75. Of course you are happy; you are still here.