I was so shocked and lividicated last Tuesday evening with a story headlined “Ireland Has Worst Quality of Life” on IrishCentral.com that I'm certain our lady editor was equally shocked in New York at getting copy from me within hours.
I normally don't file early and Debbie often gently reminds me of that. I suppose it is an ill wind that blows no good at all.
Anyway, the story was based on a recent poll by the consumer protection website uSwitch (a poll which I later perused in detail) and the survey said that, in terms of quality of life, Ireland came bottom of the European survey in relation to 16 comparable factors in 10 major European countries.
These included income, the cost of essential items, lifestyle, hours of sunshine, holiday entertainment, working hours and life expectancy.
The bald statistics look bad for Paddy right enough. He pays more for his petrol, diesel, gas and electricity. He pays more than anyone else for his food, for his booze and for his cigarettes.
He gets at least 500 less hours of sunshine than any other European nation, gets less holidays, has to work about four years longer than any of his peers before getting the pension and works more hours daily.
Worst of all, according to uSwitch, Paddy is going to kick the bucket at 78.41 years while Pierre in France and such as Pablo in Italy are infinitely more likely to reach and surpass the European average of nearly 79.342 years.
It is indeed a bleak picture if you are working, like uSwitch, on the bare international statistics. But, thank God, there are other realities.
This learned uSwitch group do indeed call their occasional polls of this type a qualify of life index. As far as I am concerned, that is not accurate at all. It is a comparable cost of living index in the way it is constructed almost entirely from consumer society statistics across Europe.
And let nobody try to convince me that my quality of life is hugely enhanced by the fact that the fact that my beloved cigarettes will cost me a couple of euro less for the pack in France, or that my pint of beer will be cheaper in Wolverhampton than at home. That won't enhance my life at all. (In actual fact I nearly got murdered in Wolverhampton once when drinking such a pint and failing to disguise my Irish accent.)
One's quality of life is based right across the scale of existence rather than on the mere cost of the necessities. You could be an Irish millionaire (maybe a rogue banker?) living lushly in a Bavarian castle and likely to be nowhere near as happy as a Dublin street sweeper on a Friday night.
Or, for that matter, an unemployed worker in Cork waiting for our economic upturn. Or a Galway mother counting the cents in the aftermath of sending the kids back to school.
It is quite simply not true, now or in the likely future, that Ireland has the worst quality of life in Europe.
We may now be in recession. We may have a tottering and enfeebled government. We certainly have high unemployment and the related social cutbacks and problems.
We are feeling the pinch everywhere. Across our society we are often angry at the workings of both church and state.
But above and beyond that, despite all the pressures, we still have a wholesome and thoroughly enjoyable quality of life. This is a great little island, today and tomorrow, on which to live and enjoy.
And every year of my life here, often for no economic reasons at all, usually just because of Ireland's special charms and character, thousands of Europeans of all ages and classes come to settle down and live here for the rest of their lives.
According to the uSwitch stats, they are leaving sunnier paradises to settle willingly in a drenched and sunless hell. How does that happen?
An Irishman lives more in one year than most Europeans of my knowledge live in two. An Irishman -- and Irishwoman -- knows how to work hard, make light of life's upturns and downturns, and then how to play hard.
An Irishman has a marrow knowledge of how temporal and tough this mortal road is, and an equally intuitive knowledge of how to make the best of it.
We know how to have spontaneous craic, and that is a word Europeans just don't know. We can and do sing and dance at the drop of anyone's hat anywhere.
We know how to survive the wet and windy weathers. We know how to rejoice when the sun does shine.
We are surrounded by the kind of beauty that money cannot buy. We are surrounded by the best people in all the world to walk the road of life with, rough or smooth, uphill or down dale.
And that, uSwitch, is the real quality of life. Not the difference between the price of a bag of coal between Bradford and Belmullet.
We have less sunlight, yes, but then we have no bouts of hot weather that kills us in hundreds from heat exhaustion in France and Spain as happened recently. We have none of the weather extremes that often ravage Europe from end to end.
We are not bred for those and don't need them. We have no rabies and we have no snakes since the time of good St. Patrick. Small things like that matter too.
Our policemen still don't need to carry guns on their hips and are not corrupt. Our cities are not too big to be fearsome. Our small towns wear their hearts on their sleeves.
Our pubs are so famous for all their communal/musical/social souls that they are copied all over the world. I could go on and on.
If Ireland has the worst quality of life in Europe then, for sure, I would hate to have to live anywhere else no matter what uSwitch says.
And that's that!