Colin Drury: Australia’s a soap opera of happiness

Libby Kennedy (played by Kym Valentine)
Libby Kennedy (played by Kym Valentine)
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Controversially, given it’s a place where plate-sized spiders sometimes crawl out of the toilet, Australia has been ranked the happiest country in the developed world.

On the one hand, perhaps this shouldn’t be a surprise - it’s a land, after all, where everyone eats Christmas dinner on the beach - but on the other: Neighbours? If there’s one thing a youth spent in the company of Harold Bishop and Dr Kennedy taught me, it’s that, Down Under, happiness is but a temporary state experienced immediately before a prolonged period of intense misery. As in: I am currently more content than I have ever been - but will shortly take a phone call informing me my fiancé has been shot dead in a hunting accident.

Them’s just the breaks, Down Under, them’s just the breaks. You shouldn’t judge an entire country by a soap, of course. But, basically, we all do. I lived with an Australian once. She got so fed up with conversations turning to Lou Carpenter, she took to introducing herself with the clause that she knew nothing about Ramsay Street. I’m pretty certain she was a single Castlemaine XXXX from punching the lad who replied with: “What about Summer Bay”.

She wasn’t happy. But then, in this day and age, who is? Well...yes, most Australians apparently.

Here in the UK, less so. We’re 10th on that list - drawn up by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. And while that puts us ahead of the French who, let’s be frank, are only truly happy when they’re on strike, it still suggests we’re all a bunch of miserable moaning misers. Take me, for example. Right now, I’m warming myself up for a miserable moan about a survey which ranks happiness. I mean, talk about pointless. Because what exactly is happiness anyway? I’ll tell you what it is according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development: it’s a cold statistical index drawn up using data cleavered from housing figures, health tables and other such dry and dreary material. Except it’s not, is it?

Happiness is an ethereal and immeasurable concept. Happiness is the knowledge you’re having garlic sausages for tea or opening an email to find a clip of Del Boy falling through the bar. Happiness is the little things and the small moments. Happiness is the rarest thing I know in intelligent people. Ernest Hemingway said that. Later he shot himself.

Fair play - because why is this one emotion above all others automatically considered a good thing anyway? Because if you’re always self-satisfied and calmly content where’s the impetus to change or improve or be inspired? And if your serotonin levels don’t need anything more than to be wealthy and healthy what do you do when you achieve that?

You feel empty and disillusioned. So one imagines. Or maybe not. Who knows? Who cares? I’m off home to watch Neighbours. It would make me happy if Libby Kennedy made a comeback.