Belfast Telegraph

Who wants to live forever if it means giving up our chip butties?

By Robert McNeill

Life, eh? On it goes. Never a day off. And then it ends, sometimes sooner rather than later. New, unofficial life expectancy figures are just out - read all about it! - for the various parts of the UK, or England and the Other Bits.

Predictably, the Other Bits - particularly Northern Ireland and Scotland - have come out badly.

Not funnily enough, top spot for shortest lifespan goes to Bootle in Merseyside.

But the next nine spots are taken by Scotia Minor and Little Britain: Castlederg, Strabane, Belfast, Saltcoats, Londonderry, Prestonpans, Port Glasgow, Kilbirnie and Alloa.

The top ten longest living towns are all in southern Englandshire, with Hinton St George, Aldeburgh, and Frinton-on-Sea taking the first three spots. Hats off to them. Truly, they're living long and prospering.

The figures come from "a leading global professional services company" - ie a firm with no identifiable purpose - so they could be cobblers, but they seem based on a study of 1.5m people.

In the Somerset town of Hinton St George, men live to 89 and women to 92.

Oddly enough, other figures out this week show that men will soon be outliving women, as the former stop smoking and the latter succumb to stressful careers.

So it's not quite clear what's going on among Hinton's men, although pictures show them wearing Barbour jackets and baggy beige corduroy trousers, invariably a symptom of moral decline.

What, though, can Scotland - or at least southern Scotland - and Northern Ireland do to prolong the exquisite misery known as life? Eat fewer chips, I suppose. Pray for more sunshine. Earn substantial incomes from work that's almost certainly of no social use and probably usury-based.

But it's more complex than that. Poverty seeks poverty, just as wealth seeks wealth. Despite everyone having a flatscreen telly, there's still an entrenched class system in Britain, with different cultural morés.

I wouldn't last five minutes in Frinton-on-Sea. They'd suss me oot with one look at my Poundstretcher glasses and Asda troosers.

Also, they'd leap back in alarm when I say hello. Not necessarily at my accent, just at someone saying hello. Friends of mine who moved to posh places in southern England said nobody spoke and they never got to know their neighbours.

I see it too in Home Counties incomers to my native Scotia, who look horrified and frightened when you say hello. You'd think you'd mooned at them or something. Indeed, you should see their faces when you do moon at them.

Having just generalised, I should add that you can't generalise.

But, generally speaking, it may be the case that a grim, Thatcherite, salad-sucking, dog-eat-dog approach to life helps you live longer.

Invest wisely to make money out of money, save anally, and gratefully accept the timely inheritance that helps pay off the mortgage.

I'm not knocking it. We all get a chance to make something of life, up to a point and with differing handicaps. All men and burdz are born equal, a situation that lasts for three minutes before reality shows you your place.

Citizens of Strabane, Derry, Belfast, Port Glasgow and Kilbirnie need not feel ashamed of their place nor worry about shuffling off before the good folk of Moneyshire.

At least, during our three score years and nine, we crammed in loads of lovely chips and said hello to folk.


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