Ireland performs very poorly in a brand-new international review of jolliness data, writes Maurice Gueret, who may have a political cure up his sleeve
Santa Claus may not be quite so jolly this year. According to Brendan Kelly, Trinity College Dublin's professor of psychiatry, a rotund Father Christmas may have eaten too many cookies and probably now has type 2 diabetes. This startling claim is made in a new research paper, to appear in December's edition of the Journal of Mental Health. There has been much scientific study into happiness in recent years, but Professor Kelly points out that jollity has been very much neglected. He traces the association between Christmas and the 'season to be jolly' back to Scottish musician Thomas Oliphant, who penned Deck the Halls in 1862. Though related to happiness, jollity very much has its own identity, being associated more with merrymaking, a festive spirit, laughter, winks and generally having fun.
The theory that Scandinavians may be jollier than the rest of us because they are closer to the social network of an ebullient fat man with a flowing beard was tested by Professor Kelly in his research. He examined jollity data from 21 European countries to see if there was any local 'Santa Claus' effect. There was none. Professor Kelly found that young, healthy and wealthy Swiss men led the way as the jolliest folk in Europe. Rivals in the jolly premiership were the Dutch, Danes, Belgians and a few Swedes, too. France, Spain and Portugal occupied much of the second tier, but Ireland was in a very disappointing third division, drowning sorrows with Germans and our British neighbours, who have been most cheerless since their Brexit vote. Ireland scored just under 19 in the jolliness index, where 5 means not jolly at all, and 27 means extremely jolly. The only consolation is that we weren't the worst. Propping up the fourth division were Lithuania, Poland and Estonia, all in danger of glum relegation.
Perhaps the country needs a new political party to jolt it back to jolly ways? Jolly bankers and jolly builders remain the overriding concern of Fianna Fail. Fine Gael maintains the jollity of its big farmers and string-pullers. Then there are parties who are there only for a few jollies of their own. It would be great to see a novel political entity dedicated to the jollity of all people in all Irish seasons. The Gaelic word for jolly is aerach. Saor Aerach could be just what the doctor ordered.
Reciting old jokes helps the jollity of morose medical folk. I was saddened to read of the death of American comic Jerry Lewis, who was a great stalwart of our television childhoods. Lewis used to say that his doctor had diagnosed him as having a dual personality. When the $82 bill arrived, he paid only 41 bucks and told the shrink to get the rest from the other guy! How do I know it's an old joke? Well it must be half a century or more since an American psychiatrist billed only €82 for a half-hour on the couch.
Some doctors care about their waiting rooms. Others couldn't give a toss. They used to say that you could tell a lot about the care of your GP from the way he or she cared for the indoor plants. Dead palms or ferns in the waiting area were a bad sign. An empty fish tank could be portentous. I never minded local businesses or advertisers putting their leaflets on the table, but I did draw the line at undertakers. I see that a GP surgery in Wexford town has just installed a little library in their waiting area. Patients can drop a book in and take a book home on their visits, so the library is always replenishing itself. Reading is a great way to reduce stress levels when you are waiting to see a medic. I'd only worry about the length of the queue if I saw War and Peace on the shelf.
Disease of the Month has to be hyperemesis gravidarum. News that the Duchess of Cambridge is expecting another heir to the throne has sent doctors rushing to polish their silver bowls. The Latin disease term directly translates as excess vomiting of pregnancy. The media call it extreme morning sickness. We are told that Duchess Kate is being "cared for at the Palace" which is probably code for the fact that she is not in need of an intravenous drip, as rare cases are. It will pass in the second trimester, as will the over-familiarity with the porcelain toilet bowls of Kensington Palace.