Health and Fitness

The fundemic starts here, but it’s not as simple as it sounds

Apparently it’s very important at this stage of the global pandemic that we all learn how to have fun again. I read an article on the subject which quoted Laurie Santos, a Yale’s “happiness professor”, saying a return to fun was vital for our physical and mental wellbeing. She said we need to do a “fun audit” and try to remember the most fun we ever had and how we can inject some of those good times back into our lives. Forget the joy-killing pandemic. The fundemic starts here.

This is not as simple as it may sound. We’ve been institutionalised out of fun-seeking by the Great Awfulness. When joy was cancelled, how could we spark it? When everything uplifting was banned, where did we find fun? There was none, so we just got used to going without. Or we made our own version of fun. For a while there I started to believe that having fun meant occasionally going to a different supermarket to my usual one for the weekly shop. “They have spatchcock chickens in the meat section,” I’d come home and say to the children. “Fun!”.

Slowly though, joy is returning. I had some proper old-fashioned fun in St Anne’s City Farm recently. Jan Brierton, author of debut poetry book What Day Is It (Who Gives a Fuck?) was doing a reading. We sat at picnic tables drinking red wine and eating pretzels and listening to Jan read poems about life during the pandemic, love, loss and much more. At one point when Jan, who was wearing a very fun pink boiler suit, was reciting a poem about the joy of menopause, I heard myself snort-laughing. This is it, I remember thinking, this is what we used to call fun.

Like the rest of us, Leo Varadkar has been looking for fun lately. He was photographed having a bit of it at a music festival in London but some people didn’t find that very fun. The good news is that from this week concerts and festivals are allowed in Ireland. This funseeker is going with her mum to the Hinterland festival in Kells, Co Meath on Saturday to talk about life and books and oversharing which I always find fun. Marian Keyes, Patrick Freyne and Paul Howard are also going to be there so fun times are guaranteed.

In search of more funspiration, I asked a few friends what they were doing for kicks these days. One of my friends is very excited that her Brazilian dance instructor is starting his classes again. She sent me a video of him doing a hectic dance. He was lepping around like a good thing to a tune called I’m Coming Back to Me. I had to lie down after watching it. Coming back to you and having fun may be exhausting, I’m just warning you.

The pandemic has set the bar very low for fun which is quite helpful when it comes to finding joy again

Another friend said he’s been kayaking for thrills and is planning to head to Clifden to see John Gerrard’s spectacular Mirror Pavilion in the 4,000-year-old Derrigimlagh Bog in Connemara which is there as part of the Galway International Arts Festival. Fun comes in many forms.

At one friend’s recent family gathering, the first in quite a while, siblings hung out getting “nicely inebriated”. After they sorted out the world, reassessed themselves and their relations, conversation turned to a discussion on “the colours of our interdental brushes”. Clearly, the pandemic has set the bar very low for fun which is quite helpful when it comes to finding joy again.

A baker friend sent me a photograph of some barley grown in Flanagan’s Field, an inner-city community garden where the Fatima flats’ pram sheds used to be. The barley is going to be milled this week and baked into 20 loaves for a harvest party in the garden. While working in the garden he got his hands in the earth, learnt a lot and had encounters with new people in his neighbourhood. In other words, he had lots of fun.

“There are no expectations other than care for the garden, pull your weight and don’t be a dick,” he told me. “Egos and notions left at the gate, beside the compost. I felt the glow of meitheal on my cheeks and had fun. Do something completely new with people you don’t know from Adam is my suggestion.”

I suppose even Yale professors get stuff wrong sometimes

Do something new. With people you don’t know from Adam. This is precisely what led to me saying an enthusiastic yes when I was asked to join a synchronised swimming group recently. (I’d been watching the Olympics, you know yourself.)

“That will be fantastic fun,” I thought. Three nights later I had reassessed this decision, realising I did not have the commitment or co-ordination to sustain such an energetic, water-based brand of fun. I am glad to say despite my dropping out, the women (and one man) of the synchronised swimming group at the swimming baths at Clontarf in Dublin have been playing a blinder. They have colourful vintage swim hats and moves called the bunny breaststroke, the waterwheel and the eggbeater. Soon, they will perform a display in aid of Raheny hospice. Whether in the water or watching from the sidelines, that will definitely be fun.

I should probably mention something else the learned Yale Professor says on the subject of fun: she reckons it’s important not to get fun mixed up with relaxation. She further claimed that lying in bed watching Netflix with a share-bag of salt and vinegar crisps and a box of chocolate fingers does not count as fun.

I suppose even Yale professors get stuff wrong sometimes.

roisin@irishtimes.com

You can donate to the synchronised-swimming hospice fundraiser here 



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