Not only is this supposed to be the most miserable time of year, when the PR industry bombards journalists with dubious suggestions for beating ‘Blue Monday’, I have just read that I am at the precise stage in life when I am supposed to be at my lowest ebb. According to a study from the US’s National Bureau of Economic Research, people in their late 40s are the most miserable in the world, with dissatisfaction peaking at 47.2 in the developed world, and 48.2 in poorer countries. Guess how old I am.
If that’s not enough, I was (technically) born in Wolverhampton, which not long ago was ranked as the most miserable town in the UK. On top of all that, I support Aston Villa, which should be enough to drive anybody to drink at the moment.
Yet for some reason, I feel surprisingly serene and content.
Now we can discount Blue Monday. It’s cod psychology dreamt up by a marketing agency promoting foreign holidays. The basic premise was that the weather’s miserable, people might have racked up a load of debt over Christmas, so they ought to cheer themselves up by booking holidays that will get them into even more debt. Brilliant.
The other studies, carried out by supposedly bona-fide experts, are harder to dismiss. But despite all the misery-mongers, I remain optimistic.
Perhaps it's because I have been looking at the work of Jemima Packington whose forecasts for the year ahead should put a smile on anybody’s face.
For a start, our high streets will this year see a stunning renaissance in 2020 as shoppers finally see the benefits of supporting local shops, and turn their backs on internet retailers and those dispiriting out-of-town shopping malls. Jemima also says impending ecological disaster will be avoided, as governments around the world finally get their acts together and stop global warming in its tracks. And Brexit? It will go like clockwork. Smooth as silk, without a hitch. When we finally agree terms with our EU neighbours at the end of the year, we will all be wondering what the fuss was about.
There's good news for the Royal Family, too. The Windsors will comfortably weather the storm resulting from Harry and Meghan's decision to break away from their duties.
It won't all be plain sailing, Things won’t go quite so smoothly for Donald Trump, but I guess you can’t have everything. Jemima says he will be re-elected in November, before being removed from office as a result of his impeachment hearing. The growth in veganism will prove to be a bit of a passing fad, with the number or people adopting a plant-based diet levelling off after years in the ascendency. And Villa will qualify for the Champions' League after a stunning run of form which saw them win their last 10 games of the season, prompting the recall of Danny Drinkwater to the England squad. I may have made one of these up.
By this stage, you are probably wondering how Jemima knows all this, and the answer is she is Britain’s only ‘asparamanca’– which means she is able to see into the future by hurling Vale of Evesham asparagus tips into the air. At least she’s the only one at the moment. I suspect that now the cat’s out of the bag, everyone will be having a go. And incidentally, she predicts Evesham asparagus will soon become one of the world’s most prized vegetables. Now there’s a coincidence.
Of course, it’s easy to pour scorn on people like Jemima, but you have to say their research seems to provide more bang for your buck than that carried out by the so-called experts in government and academia.
For example, the US National Bureau spent a fortune hiring a former chief from the Bank of England, who simply came to the conclusion that young people and the elderly are more likely to feel contented than those in middle age. The World Happiness Report reckons Scandinavian countries are the happiest in the world, way ahead of Britain or the US. But Greta Thunberg is both young and Swedish, and would you say she looks especially cheerful?
You can give me an eccentric lady from the Midlands throwing vegetables in the air over the earnest gloom-mongers forecasting misery and mayhem any day of the week. Even a miserable Saturday in January.