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Navel fluff is there to be gazed at

    Is it just me? Or have people suddenly become obsessed with quantifying anything and everything? And I mean everything.

    It feels as though I can no longer open a newspaper without being assailed with statistics and studies, surveys and research into any and every subject under the sun.

    In the past couple of weeks, for example, I have learned that Mr and Mrs Average drive a blue Ford and go to bed at 10.23pm. There was me thinking I was special. Turns out I am the same as every other boring person in the country. (And how did they know that we enjoy takeaways twice a month and argue five times a day, usually over what to watch on TV. My husband may be wonderful but his lack of interest in The Great British Bake Off will no doubt be a source of dispute for many years to come).

    I have read that, from the age of 29, women “panic about saggy breasts, thinning hair, receding hairlines and middle-age spread”. Well, hey girls — let me tell you that if you think it’s bad now, just wait till you hit your mid 40s and it’s all started to come true. That’s the time to panic.

    Who knew that a typical Twitter user is a) aged 28, b) English-speaking and c) has a penchant for purple? As one who spends half her life condensing her thoughts into 140 characters or less, it’s a relief to know that, at least as a tweeter, I am neither commonplace nor run of the mill.

    Although… well, actually I am now rather curious to know the ratio of other social media aficionados who are also a) in denial about their ever-increasing need for bifocals, b) cannot sleep if the open end of their husbands’ pillowcases are facing towards them rather than away and c) have daughters who would like to spend every waking hour making Torahs out of assorted materials from their recycling box.

    And there’s more. The most annoying noise to the human ear is — according to yet more data released last month — the sound of a sharp knife running across glass. But who discovered this? (And perhaps more to the point — why?) And, actually, I’m not entirely sure I agree with their findings. My own (admittedly not very in-depth) survey shows that hearing one’s child vomiting into the back of one’s car is by far the more offensive sound when you’re talking aural trauma. Knife, schmife…

    What on earth possessed someone to wake up one day and say: “I simply must do some scientific research into the nature of navel fluff?” (It happened). And although it’s clearly a major breakthrough in understanding animals to discover that pigeons can discriminate between “good” and “bad” paintings by children (also true), I’m far more interested in knowing what possible benefit this fact can offer to any sentient being.

    That’s not to say I haven’t picked up some useful tips from all these facts and figures. I’ve found out that if I was called Brian (unlikely) or Helen (more plausible) I’d have a much better credit rating — especially if I also lived in the postcode SL4. So, I’m off to change my name by deed poll and Google estate agents in Eton.

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