Monday, December 01, 2008

A map of the heart...

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.


The Poet Laura-eate said...

I find it extraordinary that Edinburgh should be the epicentre of loneliness as there is so much to see and do there, even out of Festival time. It is also an immensely beautiful and varied city, although when it rains (horizontally and often for days) it can be quite grim!

Though having said that, it can be a place of emotional extremes and I have known both the best and worst of times there.

I lived in the Midlands for 10 years owing to family links and it was so dull and demotivating, I was rendered without sufficient imagination to leave a lot earlier!

Anonymous said...

I adore the concept of anomie. And am realising more and more the importance of community; and that is what I miss most about London; our local community cafe. The communities are different in East Sussex, but I believe we will be welcome in some, and are. P'raps just not the traditional.

Lucy Fishwife said...

Anomie! My god I haven't heard that word correctly used since my days studying Camus at Uni! (Yes, I own a black polo-neck). The most depressing place I've ever lived was in fact a rather lovely mansion block near Regent's Park, in my defence it was cheap and I was sharing with a VERY creepy old man who used to rummage through my stuff when I was out - as I could tell from the stained Elastoplasts that had come off his feet and stuck to my carpet. It was a beautiful and vibrant part of the world but I've never felt so cut off and faintly threatened... I think it entirely depends on what your circumstances are.

Anonymous said...

Ha, I learnt anomie at University too. We were more chunky baggy jumpers than polo necks though. (Sociology in the early nineties) Course I did have late night coversations and DM's though.

Steerforth said...

I smoked Gitanes and Gauloises for a couple of months, but instead of looking cool I just developed bronchitis.

John Self said...

Heh, just noticed the legend "No 1971 data available for Northern Ireland." Nope: everyone there had a real strong sense of belonging back then: one or the other.

Either that or the statisticians were too afraid to go out and collect the data.