Psychologists have dubbed 16th January as ‘Blue Monday’, in the UK labelling it ‘the most depressing day of the year’ (post-Christmas gloom, credit card bills coming in, new year’s resolution already broken etc. etc.)
There’s plenty of depressing news this week too. The new high speed rail link, HS2 has been approved by the government. Cutting a swathe through beautiful countryside and disrupting urban communities, apparently the £33 billion price tag is worth it to reduce the travelling time from London to Birmingham to 49 minutes. Living in the Chilterns (for my overseas readers, unspoilt rolling green hills and picture postcard villages), which is in the path of this development, I could be accused of nimbyism (Not In My Back Yard). Lucky for me, I live some distance from the route, but even if my outlook was affected, I would like to think that if this investment (that will bring no financial return until 2026), was for the greater good, I would support it. But I really don’t understand how anyone can justify this huge spend on a tiny part of the UK travel infrastructure, when there are so many more worthy recipients for the public purse.
Another cause for concern is the push for a referendum in Scotland to vote for complete independence from the UK. My father was Scottish and my mother English so I have a genuine affection for both countries and hate to contemplate the break-up of the UK. One bonus of devolution would be the health statistics for what would be left of the UK would improve. The Scots are the least healthy of the ‘home countries’ with higher rates of heart disease, obesity and diabetes. They drink more, eat less healthy food and smoke more north of the border with England. But, my Scottish cousins, despite your unhealthy habits I’d still rather have you as part of the UK, and the English have little cause to be smug about the state of their health either.
What really depressed me this week was a story told me by my friends who live in Manchester, the home of my favourite football team. They were in restaurant recently and saw a very young baby, in a high chair, being fed a cheeseburger by her obese mother. Yes – a cheeseburger! Barely old enough to eat solid food, this poor unsuspecting tot was probably being set on a path to an unhealthy existence and a life blighted by substandard wellbeing. If public health predictions are right, she is likely to be overweight by the time she goes to school, obese in her teen years (currently 20%) and possibly smoking (20%) and binge-drinking (50%) to add insult to injury.
I would feel so much happier if an additional £33 billion was spent on finding ways to educate, encourage, bribe, whatever is needed to persuade parents to do the right thing by their children and start healthy habits from day one.
Now that would be a good investment.