THIS ISLAND LIFE JUST over 40 years ago, some of the happiest days of my working life were spent on the sports desk at the old Portsmouth Evening News.
I used to travel over from the Island every day aboard one of the proper old ferries (the type which managed to provide a service not regularly disrupted by 'operational reasons’.)
One day, a woman approached me with a clipboard and a professional smile. The conversation went like this.
"Good morning sir, we are doing a survey on how people travel to work. Would you be prepared to assist us?"
"Thank you. Can I ask first of all whether you get to work by car, train, ferry, bus or by walking?"
"Yes, that’s right."
Her look darkened and the smile turned glacial.
"Well, if sir is not going to take this seriously, I’ll find someone who will."
And with that she stomped off up the aisle, before sir had the chance to explain that every day he used to drive to Sandown station, get the train to the end of the pier, board the ferry, get a bus from The Hard to Hilsea and then walk from the bus-stop to The News Centre.
You will understand, therefore, why my faith in the accuracy and integrity of surveys — and the people who conduct them — has diminished over the years.
Which brings us rather neatly to the Office of National Statistics, which apparently has nothing better to do with its time than embark upon a Measuring National Wellbeing Programme.
One of the results of this compelling research is that Islanders (of whom more than 1,100 took part) are now officially the 27th happiest in the country.
If a few of you, like me, had a good laugh when reading this fascinating guff, we may already be up to 26th.
Among the questions asked were 'overall, how happy did you feel yesterday?’ and 'overall, how anxious did you feel yesterday?’
How come I never get asked to take part in these surveys?
It must be the same reason I have never yet been asked to sit on a jury — my judgement is obviously considered suspect.
Among the answers they would have received from me were 'overall I felt happier yesterday than I do today, because I’m now anxious about why you are asking me these bloody stupid questions.’
There are plenty of important subjects which would benefit from some meaningful research, and foremost among them is the question of whether there should be a fixed link between the Island and the mainland.
Those in favour of such a monstrosity should be asked to move immediately to a suburb of Portsmouth or Southampton — because that is what this lovely Island will become if such an ineffably egregious idea is ever put into practice.
A century and a son – Bill’s perfect weekend
Former Island cricketer Bill Clutterbuck is second from left, front.
I HADN'T seen the old boy for well over 30 years but there was no disguising the stalking, slightly stooped walk; a predator still in search of wickets and runs.
Bill Clutterbuck was one of Island cricket’s outstanding all-rounders during the 70s, and is now in his 17th season as head groundsman at Guildford, one of Surrey CCC’s outgrounds.
This is the venue where England star, Kevin Pietersen, scored an unbeaten double century a few weeks ago, so we can safely assume Mr C knows his stuff.
He turned up at his old Steephill stamping ground the other weekend, and wasted no time making a happy man feel very old.
"Newbs," he said, "I remember scoring a century here against your Havenstreet lot. I clouted you for a few, if I remember correctly.
"In fact, it was quite a weekend because my son, Jim, was born the evening before that match."
I swallowed hard. "And how old is he now?" "He’ll be 40 next birthday," came the mortifying reply.
Believe me, when cricket folk start yarning it usually takes at best, a call of nature or, at worst, a declaration of war, for the flow of words to be staunched.
Unfortunately, I had to dash off on this particular day but I still had time to ask Bill what it was like dealing with the stars of the game in this country — several of whom have played for Surrey in recent years.
Mark Ramprakash, for example? "A smashing bloke" (which came as a relief to Mrs Newbery, who remains unchallenged as his number one fan in this country).
And Alec Stewart? "A great guy. I know him and his father, Mickey, very well. They’re a couple of real patriots, complete cricket fanatics and tremendous company."
And the aforementioned Mr Pietersen — self-styled superstar and a South African who now thinks he can decide when and where he will play for England?
"No idea what he’s like, mate, because he never talks to anyone."