Nestled between sea and scape lies the borough of Thurrock, imbued in a vision of quiet, small-town charm. Up until now, it was a mere shard of the gossip-ridden, publicity-powerhouse county that is Essex; now it's my quaint, modest borough making the headlines for yielding an onslaught of misery on its residents.
I've lived in Thurrock for my life's entirety and have yet to be tortured by anything monstrous that many of the mentioned residents make it out to be. Never have I been to therapy to cure the nightmare that is living, working and being educated in Thurrock.
I woke up to see YourThurrock's (the borough's online newspaper) image gallery sweeping across my screen to reveal the results of the government's survey, and I was taken aback by its seemingly unjust conclusion. One week after the results were first revealed, I am still questioning whether it's Thurrock that is an unhappy place to live in, or whether it is merely Thurrock residents that can't seem to crack a smile.
I polled a small pocket of Thurrock resident and asked them what is most important to them in determining happiness in accordance to where they live. It suddenly occurred to me the fundamental flaw in the survey: is there such thing as arbitrary happiness, or unambiguous happiness? A more imperative question to answer is who exactly was surveyed? At what part of Thurrock where they found? Did those surveyed consist of those solely working in the primary sector in Thurrock (of which we have a few) - a sector on the decline and rated as an undesirable career option by CareerCast?
Out of thirty, 66% responded with the paradigmatic answer of education. Education in the borough limbos below the national average year on year, but it is individual schools in the area that dissolve its reputation for poor academic discipline. William Edwards School saw five years of leadership from John King OBE, as the school's headmaster, and Ralph Henderson MBE, as deputy head, both of whom continued the sporting excellence embedded in their ethos from a fine pedigree of former principles by inviting athletes such as Daley Thompson, Rhys Williams and Kris Akabusi in the borough as sources of inspiration. Palmer's College also reins supreme over the data: the sixth form was awarded an Outstanding by OFSTED and sent 520 of its students to university for 2011/2012 entry, despite the now elusive nature of course places.
Half of my poll answered with environment, which included green expanse free of litter and a low crime rate. I noticed how all of those factors suddenly rise to prominence when the national media descends with an intense microscope: only a celestial dwelling will escape the inevitability of crime and litter. The Labour-controlled council absorb the residents' voice through their esteemed councillors; change is always rife in Thurrock in a dynamic, sustainable motion. The sense of community almost immediately suffuses the ground you step on: there is always someone to listen to through councillor surgeries, community events and monthly public forum meetings.
To round off the top three, all of the residents asked give the response of opportunity. One said: "Particularly in this economic climate, it's incredibly important to have access to jobs, whatever age you are." The concept of financial security has never been more relevant. Lakeside - arguably the borough's most successful and notable establishment - boosts over 300 big name stores straddled by a strip of restaurants and a beautiful lake, all of which need people to operate. Obvious employment opportunities are what challenge the integrity of this survey.
There are also a plethora of opportunities for young people to engage themselves in the local community: the Thurrock Youth Cabinet is just one example of a dozen passionate adolescences fighting for local issues and improving their peers' awareness of regional and national controversies.
Putting the matter of Thurrock aside, can anyone really find inherent happiness in the place where they dwell or it is now, in the modern era, merely the view of an optimistic idealist?
Plagued with crime, incident and national embroilment is the country of Britain - a country that reached its peak in bygone decades and is now in a state of decline. That's not to say Britain can't embody the power figure of what it once was, but even just considering the current economic climate, is everybody just currently content with necessity?
The figures and facts printed in black and white provoke little debate to an outsider, but true Thurrockitians know it's all a little sensationalised, just because we like a bit of stolen attention from the TOWIE girls.