Charles Nevin: A lesson in the lost art of enjoying life

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The Independent Online

Flux; rearrangement on the bridge and elsewhere of the ship of state, from the bridge down to the deckchair attendants. New treaties, resignations, welcomes, envois; even Thierry is going this time. An excellent moment, then, for a review of wider society, and a particular area of keen personal interest, Leisure.

You will have noted the comparisons between Ascot and Glastonbury in the past few days. One too popular, the other not popular enough. Considerable confusion, also, about which was the more authentic expression of middle- and upper-class values, thanks to a weakening of privilege at the former and a strong showing of phlegm in the face of mud at the latter.

Wimbledon has resumed its usual preparations for British disappointment: Murray's wrist, Henman's, well, Henman. I'm not sure, given the response when England won the rugby union World Cup and regained the Ashes, what's going to happen if a British chap ever wins Wimbledon again; can I suggest now a week off, a lap of the M25, a mass net jump and renaming the strawberry after the victor (unless his name is Plumb, or Pears, obviously)?

But that is clearly some distance in the future. No, we are in need of some new diversions. Even theme parks are passé now, according to a report noting that they are no longer the key to instant profit and regeneration. Queueing up to go round and round and up and down palling slightly? Fancy.

And not only that: there is also a general crisis of taste in popular entertainment, as evidenced by the divergent reactions to Bernard Manning's death, and, even more extraordinarily, the decision to present revellers visiting Blackpool with a code of conduct. Blackpool? A code of conduct! The genius of the place has always been the liberating idea that here the taboos and conventions of Society don't apply in all their daily rigour, that here you can escape. What do they want to turn it into? Glastonbury?

You're almost tempted to conclude that some brooding, dour killjoy is taking over the country. The test, I would suggest, is whether this famous morris dancing troupe at the Ministry of Justice survives the departure of its patron, Lord Falconer, or whether the jingle of the bells falls silent in a sad re-run of the 1640s.

Still, I was encouraged to read this headline in Saturday's newspaper: "Bruce to host antiques show". How apt, I thought, and just what the dusty old Antiques Road Show needs: that warm grin, that sparkle. And then, reading on, I discovered that it was Fiona Bruce, not Bruce Forsyth. Another missed opportunity: imagine the conveyor belt, and the feigned drops of Wedgwood.

That's television. As safe as a talent show and as predictable as Bruce Willis in a vest. So, what to do? Where is fresh, robust, uplifting, unsnobbish, healthy, and vastly exciting live entertainment to be found? Unfortunately, Knowsley Road, St Helens, stage for the inspired fusion of high art and thrillingly honest endeavour that is rugby league, has a capacity of only 17,500.

For a gentler fillip, many will take inspiration from Mr Paul Singer, of Handforth, Cheshire, who is building his second model of Old Trafford with 80,000 matches. But if it's a raw, uncomplicated adrenaline surge you're after, why not take to the road among these 50,000 or so motorists who got someone else to take their test for them? There's plenty of queueing, too.

Hey, chaps. Hold on to your shirts

Forgive the sexism, but I should like, briefly, to address only male readers. I see that nine out of 10 of you want to lose around a stone in weight so as to look good on the beach. Please accept some advice: losing weight takes iron dedication, fierce willpower and more time than you now have left. Use it to practise holding your breath and lying about why you are not taking your shirt off, such as sunburn, or scars from Pamplona. Meanwhile, to inspire you for next summer, and in no way to preen, but to show what can be achieved by applying the above vital qualities, plus eating less, I am showing you what a toned commentator's body can look like beneath the quizzical and intelligent face. Scissors and on to the fridge door now, please.

* Lewis Hamilton has revived that fascinating theory about the British and sport: the ones we're good at involve sitting down. Motor racing, riding, rowing, sailing, canoeing, bobsleigh, cycling: the bottom line every time.

You can push it too far: in the 2004 Olympics, a third of our medal-winning events were not sedentary (Dame Kelly rather let the side down). And, although it's been pointed out that the triple jump ends in a sitting position, which takes us into events with a bottom resting quotient, like darts and snooker, it also brings us back to SW19, and our heavyweights.

But if you were to add events that take place indoors, do not involve shorts and that, until next week, allow you to smoke at the same time, I should say we would be pretty near invincible.

Why sitting? Ignore foreign sneers: superior intellect, as it's surely more clever to win sitting down. Our youngsters also put in huge amounts of practice from an early age. And we haven't begun to exploit lying down yet.

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