Happiness is defined as ‘feeling or showing pleasure or contentment’.

Unhappily, I thought of this as I weaved my way back to my birth town, not-so-sunny Hastings, where the general populous seemed distinctly hacked off, even given their proximity to the sea.

Certain areas of the town have always been, how should I put it? ‘rough’ and despite numerous false dawns, investment in infrastructure, buildings and people has never really materialised, even while Amber Rudd was the local MP. Poverty intensifies and drug dependency becomes the norm, not the exception.

The shops are deserted, as folk have no money to spend on niceties, and the only growth industry at present seems to be shoplifting.

It was no surprise then, a few days later, to read the ONS 2023 ‘happiness’ index which ranked Hastings as the second most miserable area in the UK, followed by its near neighbour, Eastbourne, in third.

With a UK average ‘life satisfaction’ score of 7.45, down from 7.54 last year, Hastings scored poorly.

East London and West Essex Guardian Series: Brett Ellis was born in the second most miserable place in the UKBrett Ellis was born in the second most miserable place in the UK

On the other side of the coin, the top 10 happiest were made up of places I have never visited, which could be a contributing factor as to why I am such a miserable sod, with the Shetland Islands scoring 8.22.

So how come the two happiest places in the UK are distant islands off the north of Bonny Scotland?

It seems solitude, isolation and the biting cold are preferable to being around ghastly people as they live a life that is as old-fashioned and community-based as possible, where everyone knows one another and their business.

It genuinely saddens me however as to how successive politicians have left areas like Hastings (and Eastbourne) to fester, year after year and decade after decade.

There is never any culpability and despite rhetoric to the contrary, the only thing that is going to put a smile back on the faces of folks in these areas are multi-billion-pound investments in jobs, business, training and infrastructure.

The only thriving business, which has remained the same since I signed on there many years ago, is the dole office.

Devoid of hope and living in run-down slums, surrounded by a crack epidemic leaves limited options as to any future hope and many, such as me, take extreme action, pack a bag and move out overnight.

As for me, rest easy, as I will not end up as a statistic but, if things don’t improve and soon, I may be tempted to pack up my sheepskin and get a one-way ticket to the Shetlands to taste some real happiness, as the modern world continues to stress and test us all - there’s only so much of that any of us can take now, isn’t there?

  • Brett Ellis is a teacher.