I've always admired the BBC News website, but it's only now that I'm studying web design that I've come to realise just how accomplished it is. One of the tragedies of good design is that it's often unnoticeable to the layman.
The strength of the BBC News website is that in addition to providing a well-designed, accessible overview of the latest news and a huge archive of content, it regularly comes up with quirky, unusual articles that don't appear anywhere else.
Today, BBC News had a fascinating item about a map of loneliness in the UK:
The loneliest place in Britain is, apparently, Edinburgh, with Stoke-on-Trent at the opposite end of the spectrum. Initially I was surprised to see that the Midlands was the epicentre of human happiness, accompanied by Essex, South-East Wales, Tyneside and Ulster. What about beautiful places like the Highlands of Scotland, Cornwall and North Yorkshire?
The answer, of course, is that the parts of Britain that are generally regarded as the most desirable places to live have seen the highest levels of migration. Cornwall, for example, has suffered because migrants and second home owners have priced local people out of the area and ended centuries of continuity. In contrast, although the Midlands had a huge influx of Asian immigrants during the 60s and 70s, the population has been fairly stable for several decades and people feel connected to the area.
I am a migrant. I left Twickenham because I was priced out of the local housing market and no longer felt any connection to an area that had so many incomers. I moved to Lewes and unwittingly contributed towards the same process here. I love Sussex, but I am very conscious of being an outsider. They say that home is where the heart is, but mine is in fragments.
Judging from this map, it would seem that it doesn't matter where you live. The key to happiness is, as Plato wrote, having a sense of place.