It often strikes me how if statistics and some of our national newspapers are to believed, the UK's stats show this nation ranking far below other comparible western countries in its quality of living.
Divorce rates,taxation,housing shortages, number of babies aborted, unmarried parents, binge drinking, health provision, knife crime, gun crime, road and rail infra structure academic standards, literacy and numeracy and so on, are all shown as being well below the average of our near neighbours, so much so that if those stats are all accurately pointing to a socially decaying society, one wonders why so many people are clamouring to gain entry to this supoosedly ungreen and unpleasant land, at all?
One answer might be that the stats are wrong; possibly but a better answer I feel is that what is not being measured and nicely wrapped up as reliable statistics,
are the national characteristcs that make life here so positive despite the series of negative statistics outlined above. The toleration of eccentrics for example, the live and let live attitude that still largely prevails, the cosmopolitan nature of the population, odd national sports like cricket (though not my cup of tea) the English language,the arts, one of the greatest capital cities on earth and the way in which the particularly British interpretation of the Catholic religion is respected by Rome.
The latter for me was illustrated during the visit in 1982 to Britain of His Holiness the late Pope John Paul II, when he was asked about the Vatican's position on contraception.
His reponse as I recall was to challenge what he called the contraceptive mentality rather than to enter into the silly debate at the time about the mechanics of artificial contraception compared with say the 'Billings' natural method. This response entirely comprehended the British questioning of Catholic orthdoxy on the point yet sensitively showed the British faithful the deeper questions which needed to be pondered over.
Back to the less profound, jogging over Wimbledon Common on a Saturday at will in the British still temperate climate, is a simple reminder of the ability to enjoy life and personal freedoms without cost - long may that continue.
It is fitting then that the phrase "Lies, damned lies, and statistics" is attributed to a British Prime Minister. I agree.