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Keep it quiet, but here's more proof West is best for happiness

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: January 21, 2013

Martin Hesp on a coastal ramble at Porlock Bay. Researchers have discovered that people want to live within ten miles of the coast Picture: Richard Austin

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Occasionally we read things in newspapers or see items on television that make us sit back and realise just how lucky we are and how easy and comfy life is… at least, easy and comfy compared to 100 or even 50 years ago.

Here's a list from the latest example of a report that could make you say: "Crikey – perhaps we're all millionaires!"

Apparently a comfortable sofa, off-road parking, fast internet, a spare room, "nice" dinner table, cable TV, a fireplace, large fridge, dishwasher, well-maintained lawn, en-suite bathroom and fitted wardrobes are things which modern British folk feel they need for a comfortable home.

Can you imagine reeling off that list to your grandparents? They might understand about the fireplace – but even then, not as we know such a thing today. A crackling log fire is indeed a thing of beauty – but most modern homes only have one for show and mainly rely on some kind of easier-to-manage form of heating for day-to-day warmth.

As for the rest of the comfy home list… Well, I am certain my late grandparents would require explanations as to what exactly things like dishwashers, en-suite bathrooms and "fitted" wardrobes were for.

Not that I am deriding these modern requirements. No hair-shirt lifestyle for me – I'll take the entire top-20 comfy requirements listed in the survey carried out by Banner Homes, which also includes preferences for large beds, patios, barbecues and garden sheds.

If you want to know the top three essential requirements for a happy home named by the 2,000 people questioned, they are an open fire, a comfortable sofa and good neighbours. Which makes me smile as I am fortunate enough to have all three – in fact, I can boast 18 of the 20 things that apparently make for a comfortable home. I wouldn't mind betting many rural readers in the West Country would say the same.

In my case it's more by luck than judgment – partly because I happen to believe you could encrust each of the listed items with jewels and you'd be no happier deep inside your soul.

And so turning away from the rather materialistic top-20 comforts listing, I was more intrigued to see the survey's other so-called "Happiness Requirements".

These included the commonly-held desire that a local pub landlord should know your name and be able to hale you personally when you enter their bar. Which is a very British requirement – and therefore right and proper, in my opinion.

This is followed by the desire of dream-lifestyle wannabes to own not one, but two pets. I don't know about that – because my lurcher is capable of keeping me on my toes all by himself.

Then there's an apparent need for two televisions. This might sound a bit decadent but, given the vast plethora of channels and therefore choice nowadays, I reckon this is a first-class idea – especially when it comes to the realm of peaceful marital relations (think football versus costume-drama).

How about this, which happens to be my own favourite "happiness requirement"… it's the need to have excellent walks near where you live.

I could not reside in any place – anywhere in the world – that was incapable of fulfilling this requirement.

And that prerequisite is followed by another I hold dear – that to be happy you must live within five miles of open countryside. I can only hope the present Government will take note of the survey's finding on this – if they have their wicked way with the nation's planning laws, we could see half of England under concrete.

Another happiness requirement is apparently the need to live within just a mile of a newsagent's – which, as a newspaper journalist, I think eminently sensible.

None of us should be more than two miles from a pub according to the survey – although with all the pub closures going on at present this could become an increasingly difficult demand. The two communities either side of the village where I live have both lost once hugely popular country pubs in the past couple of months.

The survey also found that people want to live within two miles of a supermarket – a desire which would certainly be anathema to many of us. But I do realise there are lots of people who worship the consumer gods and must pray at their temple daily.

Lastly, researchers discovered that people want to live within ten miles of the coast. I'd agree with this last "happiness requirement", if I wasn't worried that much of the West Country could become terribly congested while the Midlands turns into one vast empty desert.

Indeed, this is what I really think of the new Banner Homes survey that prescribes a list of ingredients for happy lives… a great many residents of the West could tick most of the boxes – which makes us look very fortunate indeed. A fact which I am increasingly beginning to think we'd best keep to ourselves…

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