i'm happy just to dance with you

According to a new piece of research published today, Manchester is Britain's second happiest place, after the wilds of beautiful Powys. This is based, apparently, on the results of a survey into people's sense of well-being, and 'takes into account factors such as employment, health and educational qualifications'.

Well, hurrah! Finally Manchester comes near the top of the table for something other than gun crime. Although if I'm honest, the result is something of a surprise, given the looks on people's faces first thing in the morning as they shamble off the Metro on the way to work...

However, maybe I'm just being cynical. Perhaps we truly are uplifted by the presence of the highest residential skyscraper in Britain? Those tales of disturbed TV reception as far away as Whalley Range must be exaggerated...

For me, Manchester does have a lot going for it. I've lived here for half my life, since I arrived as a shiny new art student way back in 1985. I love the history of the place, its suffragettes, radical thinkers and scientific pioneers. I love its spirit, quite a lot of its music, its proximity to so many wild and beautiful parts of England and Wales, and working in its oldest building. I enjoy arthouse cinema, galleries, cafes, theatre, a craft and creativity epicentre, and all the other fun urban stuff, yet although I live only three miles from the city centre my back garden is surrounded by trees and silence. We share it with bats, owls, foxes, squirrels and many many birds.

Sure, there are drawbacks to living in Britain's second city. You can probably imagine most of them. There is much that is dirty, ugly, or just plain lame. I was brought up in the countryside, and would still find it difficult to exist without frequent access to it. Yet, I can truthfully say that I am very content with my life. How much that has to do with Manchester, I'm unable to tell, but I'd be sad to leave it, that's for sure. Many of my friends and acquaintances feel the same: we all moan about the litter and the students and the traffic, and dream of our cottage in the country, but when it comes down to it, we're all still here, and show no signs of moving.

Perhaps we're happy? Now there's a thought.

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