Life

We can all agree politics isn't much of a laugh. Here's how to rediscover fun after the election

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Liberal Democrats leader Sir Ed Davey attempts an Aqua Jungle floating assault course during a visit to Spot-On-Wake in Henley-in-Arden

Fun is a funny thing all right. As far as concepts go, it’s about as slippery and subjective as they come. While researching my book Here Comes the Fun: A Journey into the Serious Business of Having a Laugh, I must have asked a thousand people what their idea of fun was. One person said it was being in the bath, watching Andy Murray. Another said it was shopping in Aldi wearing only a raincoat. What nobody mentioned, or got close to mentioning, was politics or the election. 

Politics does have its moments though. There was that time someone shared their milkshake with Nigel Farage. And there was that time Ed Miliband condescended to a bacon sandwich. But for the most part I think we can agree that politics – and the discourse it has been dragging along with it like a ball and chain this election – isn’t much of a laugh.  

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During an election campaign, things only get worse. The last few weeks have felt like being trapped in an episode of Question Time. Elections can be many things – engaging, enraging, exceptionally important – but they don’t tend to be a hoot. Income tax will never have you in stitches. Waiting lists will never make you piss yourself.  

That said, one person who seems to have had a fairly mirthful election period is Lib Dem leader Ed Davey. He played frisbee in Hampshire. He licked a spoon in Hertfordshire. And – to make a point about young people’s mental health needs not being met – he slid down a slide in Somerset.    

It might have been a clumsy approach but I could see where Davey was coming from. Things like diversion and enjoyment and curiosity and play are crucial to wellbeing. If you take them all away, the resultant void will typically be filled with things like worry and disquiet and concern and insecurity. Not ideal.  

Now that the election is done, maybe it’s time to spare a thought for our old friend fun. Below are a few nuggets of knowledge that formed (sometimes painfully) during the process of writing Here Comes the Fun

Spicing up your fun life is as much about subtracting as adding. I stopped drinking and swapped my smartphone for a stupid one, and the deletions bore fruit – they made me more available for fun, more intrigued by it, more in the mood for it.   

Being rubbish is good for you so become a serial beginner. On top of the biochemical perks of novelty, the gains you can make from a position of utter crapness are seismic, meaning you get rewarded with a swift surge of positive hormones for making marginal gains. 

Daftness is important. Micro-doses of mucking about will act as tiny correctives to the overarching seriousness of life. A simple improv game is a good place to start. Enlist an accomplice, pluck a scenario out of the ether (you’re auditioning for Britain’s Got Talent), and then just go for it. There’s no reason to, and therefore every reason. 

Fun is a thing of the past. MRI studies suggest that the act of recalling something can be as pleasurable as experiencing that same something, which is an enticement to take a trip down memory lane if ever there was one. Old emails, ancient texts, vintage footage of you and Cassandra in Benidorm circa 1986 – give yourself an hour and indulge. Our former selves are reliably laughable. 

Doing something for nothing pays very well. On top of being energising and social, volunteering never fails to issue some morsel of merriment. The other day, for example, I was doing a shift at my local community library and a kid no older than six came up to the desk and asked if we had “anything by Henry VII”. 

Pursuing post-election fun isn’t necessarily about cranking up the action. Sometimes it’s about doing less. A great number of us have become addicted to being hyperactive: thousands of micro-doses of dopamine have got us hooked on clicking and booking and looking and ticking. It all adds up to an illusion of being full; a sleight of mind that tricks us into thinking we’re fulfilled and engaged and purposeful and prospering, when in fact we’re running on fumes and in someone else’s shoes. 

I’m a bench-sitter. No book, no phone, no agenda – I just park my arse and tune in to the mellow drama about me. Sometimes I chat to my neighbour, sometimes I just close my eyes and listen to the orchestra of everyday life. If there are 50 shades of fun, then sitting on a bench is one of them.  

For the record, my go to bench these days is on the corner of Palmerston and Osborne roads in Portsmouth. So if you’re at a loose end and fancy disagreeing agreeably (or agreeing disagreeably) with any of the above, by all means pull up a pew. It’ll be a laugh. Maybe.    

Ben Aitken’s Here Comes the Fun is out now (Icon, £18.99, with a paperback due 18 July). You can buy it from The Big Issue shop on Bookshop.org, which helps to support The Big Issue and independent bookshops.

Do you have a story to tell or opinions to share about this? Get in touch and tell us moreBig Issue exists to give homeless and marginalised people the opportunity to earn an income. To support our work buy a copy of the magazine or get the app from the App Store or Google Play.

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