Happy daze

It's odd that the happiest countries in the world aren't particularly known for their sunshine, a key factor for our happiness

Peter Edgerton

For the fifth consecutive year, Finland has been named the happiest country on the planet, with Denmark and Iceland coming in second and third respectively. This is very odd. Not because I can't recall ever meeting anyone from any of these places who seemed particularly joyous (although that might be because they're all wandering around their homeland grinning from ear to ear) but because we've been told for decades that one of the most important contributory factors to our happiness is sunshine. None of the three countries in question is, as far as I'm aware, internationally recognised for its riotous beach parties. So, what's going on?

Well, I suspect we've been sold a pup. Here in Malaga, it's a universally accepted truth (at least in my house it is) that July and August are wholly unbearable owing to the sun beating down incessantly for weeks on end, reducing residents to little more than puddles of sweat and leaving anybody wishing to survive relatively unscathed no option but to lock themselves in a cupboard until September. Meanwhile, in Helsinki in the summertime, temperatures hover between a very pleasant 15 and 21 degrees centigrade. There are probably a few clouds knocking about too.

That's another factor that's often overlooked - grey skies can be extraordinarily beautiful and profoundly inspiring. Here Comes The Sun is an exquisite song because of the context - it's been cloudy for yonks but now that big yellow ball is about to make a guest appearance. If that ditty had been written in Fuengirola in August it would have been called For The Love Of God Not The Sun Again, which, I'm sure we agree, isn't quite as catchy. And what about Joni Mitchell's sublime song Clouds? - Bows and flows of angels' hair/ And ice cream castles in the air/ And feathered canyons everywhere/ I've looked at clouds that way. Rest assured, the Benalmádena version would have been quite different - Burning flames from distant sun/Hammer down on everyone/Dry your throat and burn your bum/ I've seen the sun that way. It might have been a hit, I suppose.

Quite clearly, the lesson here is that, contrary to conventional wisdom, incessant sunshine is not a guaranteed recipe for joy. Finland is surely the happiest country in the world because it's very often cloudy; then again it might be because of that race they invented where blokes carry their wives on their shoulders over a 250 mile obstacle course. Until they reach the Finnish line.