Twin peaks of happiness

1963According to the Resolution Foundation people are at their happiest when they’re 16 or 70. It’s an average of course and does beg the question ‘what about people who die before they reach 70?’ but it’s worth some thought. Its research also suggests that people are at their least happy in their 50s which I can understand: kids still hanging around, long way to retirement, body in slow decline etc.

I was 70 in 2017. Of course that’s pretty recent and I can remember what was going on the and much of it continues. I was certainly happy, I still am, although there were some pretty dreadful things happening, Brexit and climate change being the big ones.

I could relax because by and large they wouldn’t affect me. I am of the golden generation. I have my own house without a mortgage, I have pretty good pension provision and I live in a good place. Add to that my good health and two offspring leading satisfying independant lives and I have to acknowledge that I am pretty, nay very, happy.

2017 was a signal year for me. I stood for re-election to the County Council for the third time and received over 50% of the votes. Not only was I successful but I was proud to be a part of a team which worked really well together and supported me. This was to be the backbone of even more electoral success in 2018.

It was a year in which I worked less but was fortunate to enjoy another period working in Spain, sadly that does seem to be the last time. I still work a little but it’s perhaps fair to say that I’ve got a more leisure time and I use that to keep fit and to improve my photography and writing skills.

As usual for recent years we took multiple holidays in 2017. We had a week in Portugal to recover from the election, I had a weekend in Glasgow experiencing the legacy of Charles Renee MacKintosh and we also enjoyed a weekend in Gladstone’s Library as we attended a wedding in North Wales. But the holiday highlight of the year was the big Oz trip preceded by a few days in Hong Kong. We flew into Melbourne, took a minibus tour along the Great Ocean Road to Adelaide, rode the India Pacific train to Perth and then enjoyed a couple of weeks in Western Australia with number one son Charles.

And to complete a very good year number one daughter Clare had her third child. James joined Amelia and Sophia in the Bradbury household in Wetherby in September.

Yes 2017 when I was 70 was a very good year. Reflecting on 1963, the year when I was 16, is a little more difficult but Google is a great help.

The photo is me mid 1963 (I think). It was the year when I did my O levels and then entered the sixth form at Hawarden Grammar School. I was living at Sandileigh in Kelsterton with my mother and by and large it was during a stable and happy period of my life. We had moved to Kelsterton some five years previously and it would be another three before I moved away to university in Cambridge. My mother had a job which she enjoyed and found fulfilling and although I guess she was disabled it wasn’t as life limiting as it was later to become.

The year began with the big freeze. There were several weeks of snow and sub zero temperatures and many houses were without fresh water. Ours was one and every day I had to carry buckets of water from next door for cooking, washing and flushing the toilet.

There were significant developments which would have long lasting consequences worldwide including Martin Luther-King giving his ‘I have a dream’ speech and the assassination of John F Kennedy. At home we had the Profumo scandal and the resignation of the Tory prime minister Harold McMillan later in the year. He was replaced by Alex Douglas-Hume after a process in which Tory grandees made ’soundings’ in order to identify who should be next. Nothing so crass as a vote!

In the real world it was the year in which the Beatles made it big, and probably kick-started the 60s music phenomenon, and the BBC broadcast the first Doctor Who episode. Even in black and white the Daleks were scary; now of course they’re terrifying.

My life was pretty simple. Go to school, where I did well enough to be happy, watch TV, where we had a choice of just two channels, play football and cricket and go on bike rides with my mates, enjoy the cinema, and experience the frustrating beginnings of relationships with the opposite sex. I don’t recall any alcohol or temptation thereof and certainly none of the other drugs we worry so much about today. However I do confess to the first furtive cigarettes. And because I became 16 I was able to ride on my father’s Lambretta which expanded my geographic scope considerably.

16 to 70 is quite a spread of years and the change in the world has been incredible. I don’t expect any of the futurologists of the 60s would have imagined much of what constitutes of our life today. I tend to think that maybe the world at large has gone through ‘peak happiness’ and is now in decline. In the 90s we enjoyed the peace dividend of the break up of the Soviet Union and the first fruits of today’s IT without its excesses. Now we’re back to east west confrontation, with China substituting for Russia in challenging the US, and global warming and Donald Trump being the present day equivalents of the industrial pollution and Vietnam War of the 60s. It doesn’t look good for the world going forward.

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