Only rarely do countries get the opportunity to describe themselves to a watching world. Today's Olympic opening ceremony is a defining moment for this country - literally.
But trying to pin down national identity is always a difficult and dangerous occupation - even more so if your chosen medium involves marshalling 1,000 people, nine geese and 70 sheep on a sports field.
As much of Britain basks in longed-for sunshine one senses that, despite all the economic gloom, our national spirits have been lifted. We instinctively believe that warm weather makes us happier. But is it true?
Yesterday's well-being statistics suggested the opposite. The happiest region of the whole UK is the most northerly - Shetland, Orkney and the Outer Hebrides. Some islands see only around 1,000 hours of sunshine a year compared to a UK average of 1,340 hours.
There is a risk of jumping to conclusions with today's well-being figures. We know that people in rented accommodation report significantly lower levels of life satisfaction than home-owners. But that doesn't mean renting is bad for your happiness.
All we can say is that there may be something about the kind of people who rent their homes that makes it more likely they will have lower levels of well-being. Home-owners are generally financially better off than people who rent and they are more likely to be in a stable relationship - both factors that are also associated with higher levels of life satisfaction.
I need more time to digest the new statistics on national well-being, but one finding got me sitting bolt upright in my chair today.
Among the four questions asked as part of the survey is "Overall, how anxious did you feel yesterday?" Respondents must pick a score between 0 and 10 with any score below three being regarded as indicative of a pretty chilled-out individual.
We learn today that there are almost half a million more people living in England and Wales than official estimates had suggested. We are pretty good at counting babies and corpses, so we must have been under-counting net migration during the past decade.
It is not a wild underestimate - less than 1% of the total population. But the 480,000 individuals of whom the authorities were unaware will fuel arguments about immigration and how we best deal with an ageing population.
Sometimes you ask one question and discover a surprising answer to another. I wondered how many of England's youth clubs had closed down after council cuts. But what became clear as I researched the issue was how, all over the country, volunteers and communities were managing to keep services open.
You can try it yourself. Do a simple internet search on "youth club closures" and read the local online newspaper stories.
It is boom time for the mobility scooter industry.
The new millennium dawned to the electrical hum of around 70,000 powered wheelchair and scooter users in Britain. Today there are five times as many, with warnings of "mo-sco" gridlock in some of our more populous retirement villages.
To William Beveridge it was about eradicating evil - the "giant evils" of squalor, ignorance, want, idleness and disease. To David Cameron it is about encouraging citizens to do the right thing - to work, to save, to take personal responsibility.
The prime minister urges us today to go back to first principles in thinking about what the welfare state is for.
It was promised last autumn. Then it was the spring. Publication slipped until June and now we are told there will be nothing on government proposals to reform the funding of adult social care in England until at least July.
I have been given an exclusive insight into why the Treasury is dithering on Dilnot.
The government's determination to redefine the word poverty is likely to re-ignite the once red-hot political debate as to whether poverty actually exists in Britain.
There will be many people reading this now who instinctively believe that you cannot have a breadline if everyone can afford bread. It is obvious that the UK does not suffer from the levels of squalor and starvation associated with poverty in previous centuries or less developed countries.
Until now, the person charged with inspecting the police in England and Wales has always been an ex-copper.
Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) is supposed to be independent of government and the police - its boss technically an appointment of the Crown. But the reality has always been that the home secretary chooses the Chief Inspector of Constabulary and that individual is drawn from the senior ranks of the police service.
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