Becky says things about … the first day of Uni

Wondrous Listeners, many 18 year-olds are about to embark on the biggest adventure of their lives: University.

(Well, the second biggest adventure – the biggest adventure is the epic trip to Wilkinson to buy more kitchen supplies than they will ever use, 90% of which will spend the entire first year under their beds, never touched by human hands).

So what happens on the first day of this epic adventure?

I shall tell you a story.

My first day of University was on the 21st of September 2003.

[Pause while I consider the dreadful fact that this was 12 years ago.]

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I arrived at the concrete jungle that is the University of East Anglia with my parents and my younger sister. I went to the Student Union (what the hell was a Student Union?) to collect the keys to my room, trying to swallow the fear of being surrounded by more 18 year-olds than I thought existed in this world (where did they come from?). The girl who handed me my key said ‘Oh, you’re in Waveney Terrace. I was in Waveney Terrace in my first year. You’ll have a wicked time! Just don’t be put off my appearances.’

My mother almost drove me home there and then.

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The girl was not wrong. I later heard a rumour that the design of Waveney Terrace had been inspired by that of a Swedish Prison, and there were definite incarceration-like qualities about it: a great, snaking concrete building that ran from blocks A to Q, each block with four floors. I was in N Block. A long corridor, seven rooms on each side, one kitchen with a McDonalds-style plastic table bolted to the floor, and a ‘bathroom’ with three toilet cubicles and one shower.

One shower.

For 14 teenagers of various genders and hygiene standards.

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My room was a tiny breeze-blocked cell with a single bed barely big enough for Billy Bear and Huggy Bear (yes of course they came with me). My family and I stoically unpacked my things, my ears pricking at any sound of approaching fellow students. After a couple of hours, my family said they had to go.

I waved them off, watching their car trundle across the muddy car park.

I went back to my cell and stood in the middle of my few possessions. What did you feel, Becky? I hear you cry. Was it excitement? Freedom? No. What did I feel? I’ll tell you.

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I then undertook the single most incredible feat of bravery that I have, to this day, ever performed: I swallowed the burning urge to burst into tears and hide under my bed, legged it up the corridor and exploded into the kitchen where two people were sitting awkwardly at the table, and yelled

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[Extracted from Chapter 3 of ‘How to Break Ice’, by Prof. Becky Mayhew]

And so it began. One by one more quivering teenagers skulked into the kitchen, each eyeing the others with the fearful stare of a rabbit about to be ploughed over by a Ferrari, and I realised something wonderful: everyone was shitting themselves. Probably the greatest realisation of my young life. It made it so much easier. (Note to any impending Freshers reading this post: always remember, you are only as scared as the Fresher next to you, and he is cacking his pants.)

Conversation happened quickly. Judgements were made almost instantaneously (100% of them turned out to be wrong, obvs). Soon there were about ten of us bundled into the kitchen, and so I learnt another important nugget: on your first day of University you spend a lot of time yelling place and subject names at people, and it works remarkably well.

 

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After we’d all exhausted ourselves by yelling our home towns at each other, someone uttered the words that would become the most frequently used phrase next to ‘Whose eaten my Admiral Pie?’: ‘Shall we go to the uni bar?’

And off we trundled, clinging to each other like King Penguins, to the heaving Uni bar which was full of other clinging groups of King Penguins who were – hallelujah! – all shitting themselves. And there, over insanely cheap drinks (99 pence for a gin and tonic. I know. Take a moment to digest that) more barriers were broken down, common interests were discovered, and I bonded with Mel and Emma in the toilets when my bra strap snapped.

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And then, a couple of hours later, someone said ‘Hey, I’ve got some cheese – fancy going back to halls?’ And we must be the only Freshers in the history of Fresherdom who went back to halls at half past nine on the first day of Uni for cups of tea and a cheeseboard.

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Then came the dread: it was suddenly half one in the morning, I was exhausted from being so inhumanely sociable for so long, and I wanted to go to bed. But no one else had gone to bed. I couldn’t be the first one to go to bed! I would forever be remembered as The One Who Left the Party Early. I knew how crucial this first day was, how important first impressions would be. Fortunately, the urge to snuggle up in my Aspirin packet-sized bed outweighed the fear of being labelled lame, so I bade them goodnight, claimed that I’d been up since five that morning (a heinous lie, but needs must), and scuttled off to my room. And, even more fortunately, about half an hour later, I heard them all do the same.

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So there are several morals to this story, which you may like to share with anyone who will be starting University in the next few weeks:

  1. Congregate in the kitchen. The kitchen is the centre of your world on your first day.
  2. Don’t let your parents hang around. The longer they hang around, the less time you will have to yell your home town and subject at your new friends.
  3. Even if you want to crumble into a sandy heap of terror, run up to the nearest housemate and bellow your name in their face.
  4. Never forget that everyone else’s pants are equally as soiled as yours.
  5. Bring a cheeseboard.

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Becky says things about … kids’ books

Before I commence, faithful Listener, Stickman has something to say to you.

 

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Oh great, thanks a lot, Sticky. Now can you say that other thing please? And do it properly.

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Why do you have to be so difficult about everything?

Anyway, moving on.

I recently gave my friend’s daughter the first Where’s Wally? book for her fourth birthday. She ruddy loved it. Within minutes she was hunched over the glossy pages and musing ‘Where’s Wally on this page?’ (She was soon firmly telling me that she knew exactly where Wally was on every page, because it was ‘in her brain’. I’m sure Stephen Hawking started with an equally momentous educational training.)

I am very much hoping that Where’s Wally? becomes one of little Lily’s favourite childhood books; which has led me to consider my own favourite childhood books, and would you believe it, there’s a list of them RIGHT HERE!

 

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George’s Marvellous Medicine 

 Roald Dahl

 

Fortunately, this book did not make me want to murder my own grandmother, but it did, however, lead me to make a series of glorious concoctions in the bath, while I was in it, using everything from Dad’s shaving foam, bubble bath, toothpaste, soap, talcum powder, and, on one unfortunate occasion, bleach. Oh yes, I became the Evil Genius of the Bath, swilling around in a murky cocktail of my own satanic invention – until Mum came in and told me to get the hell out and clean it the hell up.

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Tom’s Midnight Garden

 Philippa Pearce

 

A young boy, bored in a 1950s converted mansion house, wakes up on the strike of 13, and ventures out of the back door to find, not a dusty yard with bikes and bins, but a beautiful, verdant Victorian garden and a cast of Victorian characters who have somehow entered his dreams. I would wake at approximately 11pm, creep through the kitchen to the back door, unlock it, and stand irately on our patio opposite the rabbit hutch. What the book didn’t teach me about believing in the power of  my own dreams, it taught me in disappointment.

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The book3Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

 C.S Lewis

 

See Tom’s Midnight Garden, except replace the kitchen door with my wardrobe, and a foot-stomping, baffled frustration at finding not a snow-draped forest and a friendly family of beavers, but a heap of my old school projects on Vikings and the box of Christmas decorations.

 

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Would You Rather 

John Burningham 

 

Decision-making is one of the most crucial skills a child can learn. Life is crammed with bone-crushingly significant decisions that we are forced to make, so what better way to be trained in this art than considering whether you would rather have breakfast on a river or supper in a castle, or whether you would rather your house be surrounded by jungle, water or fog? In addition, the choices we made in this book may well have given our parents some crucial insight into our developing characters.

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Where’s Wally?

  Martin Handford

 

(Yes, my American chums, this is your Waldo. Let’s not get into that old debate. It is upsetting for us Brits.) I spent many happy hours hunting for Wally as a child, and the books also taught me the first hint of that important adult concept of putting off duties.

 

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The Famous Five

Enid Blyton

 

These books taught me despair. Reading about a bunch of kids my age being let loose on clifftops and in forests and caves, solving mysteries, catching bad guys and generally having a jolly spiffing time, and knowing that I would never in my entire life have as much fun as they were having, was a pretty hard pill to swallow; not to mention the picnics that Aunt Fanny (snigger) would chuck at them to ensure they had sufficient nutrition for fighting evil. Would I have liked to sit on a grassy knoll with my best chums and eat tinned pineapple, ham rolls, hard boils egg and barley sugars? Yes. Yes I would. book9

 

 

 

 

 

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The Railway Children

E. Nesbit

Yes, the 1970 film adaptation taught me that it is possible to cry so much at the end of a film that several major organs are at real risk of collapsing, but the book made me want, more than anything, to own a red flannel petticoat. Okay, it also made me desperate to live in a stone cottage in the country and muck about on railway tracks, but I really wanted a red flannel petticoat. Red flannel petticoats, as well as being stonkingly cool, save lives. 

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So tell me, Listener! What was your favourite childhood book?

Becky says things about … hobbies

As, splendid Listener, I have just turned 30, WHICH WE SHALL QUICKLY GLOSS OVER WITH THE SPEED AND STEALTH OF A RABBIT TRAINED IN NINJA SKILLS, I feel I should mark the beginning of a decade by taking up a new hobby.

I’ve never been very good at hobbies. I have always admired and/or detested those folk who answer a ‘What are you doing this weekend?’ question with ‘Oh, I’m going rally car racing then I’m foraging for fossilised mountain goat horns. It’s my hobby, you know.’ That sounds so impressive.

Back in the day when you had to put your hobbies on your CV (or resume for my American buddies), I had to reel off sad banalities like ‘going to the cinema’ or ‘reading’ or ‘socialising’; I was never able to write ‘alpine belly sliding’ or ‘taxidermy’, which was a shame.

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I tried photography for a bit in my teens, which was pleasant, but once I’d filled an entire photo album with slightly blurred pictures of sunsets and close-ups of flowers, there wasn’t much else to do apart from occasionally look at them and wish I knew what an aperture was.

I once played badminton two Tuesdays in a row, so that was nearly a hobby.

As a very small child, I collected stamps with one of those magazine subscription offers that try to get kids interested in wholesome pastimes instead of plummeting into a life of drug abuse and prostitution. I got a stamp book, some tweezers and a magnifying glass (which I wasn’t entirely sure what to do with, as I could see the stamps perfectly well using my normal eyes), and I quite enjoyed myself; but then I saw my friend’s rock and precious stone collection from National Geographic magazine, and my stamps became a vicious symbol of my inability to judge the excitement levels of a hobby.

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Then I thought I’d take up ice skating. My aunt took me on my first trip to an ice rink, and I, filled with confidence at the simplicity of figure skating because I had watched Torvil and Dean in the 1994 Winter Olympics, decided I would take it up as a hobby and become brilliant and move to Switzerland and compete in skating tournaments. Then I put on a pair of ice skates, spent 15 minutes clutching for dear life onto the side of the rink, and quietly crossed off this diabolical recreation and cursed my physical ineptitude.

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I am currently sitting in front of a list of hobbies on Wikipedia, so let’s see if I can draw some inspiration for my new hobby.

Electronics. Well, I turned on the bathroom light earlier, then about four minutes later I turned it off again, and I’m currently using electrical gadgetry to use my laptop and cook my cod fillet – hell, I’m already doing electronics as a hobby and I didn’t even realise it!

Jigsaw puzzles. Now, I love a jigsaw. My Funnybones puzzle gave me many hours of pleasure as a child. But surely you can’t do a jigsaw puzzle every night. I’m certain that after a while it would affect your day-to-day life.

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World-building. According to Wikipedia, world-building is ‘the process of constructing an imaginary world, sometimes associated with a whole fictional universe’. If that is the case, then I spent most of my childhood engaged in this hobby every time I opened my BIG RED BOX OF LEGO DREAMS.

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Hula-hooping. I cause enough damage to objects and people around me when I’m standing still, let alone when I’ve got a giant wheel of death spinning round my torso at 3,000 miles an hour.

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Wood-carving. I do not have the urge to see a particular object represented in wood. More to the point, I can’t peel a carrot without slicing off five layers of skin, so hacking away at a block of oak means certain amputation.

Soap-making. I buy soap in the shops. They sell it in shops.

Archery. Listen, unless you are Robin Hood, or at least live in Nottingham and regularly get into scrapes with the local Sheriff, you shouldn’t be anywhere near a bow and arrow.

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LARPing (live action role playing). I think I’m already doing this hobby: I quite often pretend I’m being chased so that I’ll walk faster and thus get home quicker. Also, when I’m listening to music, I almost always pretend I’m in a film (the genre of which depends on the type of music, it goes without saying). So, one hobby I can tick off the list!

Rock-balancing. Rock balancing. It’s an actual thing. And I’ve just spent nine minutes looking at pictures of it on Google images. It’s like an extreme yet almost meditative outdoor Jenga. I like the sound of it. I’m going to take it up right now. In the absence of any rocks in my bedroom, I’m going to balance my favourite mug on top of a lipstick on top of a glass of Merlot on top of a picture of my grandmother.

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It’s a stupid hobby and I don’t want to do it anymore.

Well, maybe I won’t take up a new hobby. Oh no wait… people watching! That’s a hobby? You mean all the hours I’ve spent staring at strangers and silently making up personalities and histories for them and eavesdropping on their private conversations, is actually a hobby??? Hurrah! I’ll just keep doing that, then. I wonder if I’ve still got that magnifying glass from my stamp collecting days…

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Becky says things about … THE BOOK IS HERE!

Darlings, it’s here!

This Ridiculous Life, the book I have penned and self-published myself, which is a fabulously spruced-up and revamped collection of some of the things I’ve said on this blog – as well as some lovely NEW things – is back from the printers!! Look:

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Click on ‘Buy This Ridiculous Life’ right up at the top of this page, and buy This Ridiculous Life.

Look, Stickman’s been standing out in the cold for ages – at least make his endeavours worthwhile.

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Thank you, dear Listeners. Thank you.

Becky says things about … publishing a book

Oh, sweet, patient Listeners. I have not entered the hallowed sphere of blogging for over two months.

But I have an excellent excuse.

No, I have not been trapped in my wardrobe after burrowing too far into it in an attempt to locate Narnia – I have been SELF-PUBLISHING A BOOK.

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Yes, dearest Listeners, I have been working on adapting some of the things I’ve said on this blog into a book, along with quite a lot of lovely new things to say especially for said book. It’s a book about the silliness of human existence: everything from monstrous things about working in an office, commuting, failed exercise attempts, bad habits, hangovers, to being a rubbish woman, the dentist and getting old.

The book is at the printers as we speak. I have just had to re-do my front cover, having realised – o, the horror – that

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Once the cover has been cleansed of this heinous rogue typeface, it shall be printed. I should have it early next week.

Here is a sneak preview of the front cover:

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Look! Lots of little stickmen on the front of a book!

Soooo…. this totally means that you can BUY this book JUST IN TIME FOR CHRISTMAS!! How utterly brilliant is that?

You will be able to buy the book on here (once I work out how to set up a payment thing whatsit), and what a brilliant Christmas present! Buy it and shove it in someone’s Christmas stocking – OR treat yourself to the best toilet book you’ll ever buy.

I wrote this book because of you lot – you kept telling me I should turn my blog into a book, and now I’ve only gone and done it… so basically, it’s all your fault. Hurrah!

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Oh for God’s sake.

Yes, okay – sigh – Listeners, this book also features the star of the show, Stickman, using his best acting skills to get himself into all sorts of situations and illustrate my points far better than I could ever do using words alone. He has been an integral part of this project, and if he hadn’t been heavily involved I would be a miserable, wretched failure. He is literally the most prolific stick ever to be involved in a literary work of art, and I urge you to purchase this book for his stunning performance alone.

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Well I’ve done all right so far, Sticky.

So that’s it folks, watch this space… save a bit of cash for that last Christmas present (or the first Christmas present if, like me, you thought it was still April and literally cannot believe that OH MY GOD IT’S DECEMBER AND MY LIFE IS TRICKLING AWAY BEFORE MY VERY EYES) – and buy a silly little book full of words about our silly little life.

 

 

Becky says things about … Brits abroad

Greetings! Guten Tag! Bonjour! And other such variants of a universal salutatory expression!

As the summer holidays are now officially dead, gone, ended and over, it seems appropriate to rejoice in some sweeping stereotypical generalisations about us Brits on holiday, because it’s sweeping stereotypical generalisations that make the world go round.

We just love our holibobs. We like booking them in January, when the weather is at its most vile, as it gives us something to look forward to in the grey wastelands of our wintery lives. We then forget about them until around June, when we panic and obsessively make lists of the essential items we need to purchase (3,000 gallons of factor 170 suncream, 15 bikinis, new beach towel because the Seaworld Florida one never really recovered from last summer’s fortnight in Torremolinos), and make lists of friends and neighbours entrusted to feed the cat and water the begonias.

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When it comes to the day of departure, we cannot wait to get into our holiday garb. It’s minus four degrees and raining at home, but will that stop us from adorning our linen trousers and our t-shirts? Perhaps even daring to sport an impish straw hat? No! We’re flip-flopped to the hilt, our cardigans are casually draped over our shoulders, and yes we may contract hypothermia in the polar blast of the plane air conditioning, but who cares! WE’RE GOING TO SOMEWHERE WHERE THE SUN WILL DEFINITELY BE SHINING AND WE SHALL FORGET WHAT IT IS TO BE COLD.

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Now, dear Listener, you may think that holidays are a time to relax; to do away with piddling stresses and woes, and to float along the soft tide of quietude. WRONG. By the time we get to our hotel, we will have complained about the heat, the delayed transfer from the airport, foreign drivers’ irresponsible disregard for road safety, and once we are in our hotel we will immediately complain about the hard beds and the faint discolouration of the bathroom tiles.

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But all that is by the by, because something paramount must take place within two hours of our pale, pasty feet touching foreign soil: we must have a beer.

The first sip of a cold beer at a poolside bar is perhaps the happiest moment of a Brit’s life. Yes, we’ve drunk beer before – hell, we had a few cheeky ones last night to help us get to sleep at 8pm for our 3am rise – but every Brit knows that when a glass of Carlsberg is consumed whilst sitting in a plastic chair at a sticky table, overlooking a kidney-shaped pool and PALM TREES, amidst an angelic cacophony of Euro-trance, it is akin to Christ himself pulling up the chair next to us and saying ‘You have won First Prize in the ‘Who is the Best Human?’ competition, and this is your reward’.

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That first beer is just the beginning, Listener. A particular thrill on holiday – and one that Brits are exceptionally fond of – is consuming distasteful amounts of alcohol. In normal home and work life it would be deemed inappropriate – worrying, even – to crack open a can of beer at half ten in the morning, but in the sweaty luxury of a poolside sunbed, it is a must. Why read your Danielle Steel or your Dan Brown in solemn sobriety when you can paddle in the wooziness of midday boozing! To hell with social convention, you’re on holiday! Seize the day! Or, alternatively, let it slip by in a nauseas fug of alcohol-induced heatstroke.

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And daytime drinking is just the start. Night-time drinking on holiday is like winning the lottery. Why? Because we can sit outside without wearing a coat. This. Is. The. Best.

The concept of sitting at a table that is outside, at night, in weather that is still warm, is alien to us. It is electrifying. It doesn’t matter where that table is, as long as it’s outside. In the warm, un-rainy air.

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At this outside table (outside!!!!) we will get drunk. We will imbibe everything. We will make ambitious and wholly unrealistic plans to move to Thailand and set up a peace-loving commune and sleep on beds of hibiscus. We will get out the obligatory pack of pornographic playing cards we bought from the poolside shop and we will try to remember the rules of Rummy. We will strike up a slurring conversation with the German couple next to us and gush over how their country’s reputation for cleanliness fully counteracts anything dodgy they may have done historically. We will order bowl upon bowl of nuts. We will insist on calling the waiter Pedro, even though his name is actually Colin. We will eventually rise from our outside table and stumble to our room, where we will hit our heads on the French doors, fall over the edge of the very hard bed, and pass out in our flip flops. And this will have been the most successful day of our lives.

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By day four, we will have mild alcohol poisoning, we won’t have had a bowel movement since Heathrow, and we will be sporting some asymmetrical strips of sunburn; namely on our shoulders, back, shins, nose, and chest. We cannot apply suncream, Listener. We haven’t had enough practice. There’s not much call for it on our isles.

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And we will start to yearn for food from home. The Boy Scouts among us will have a small cellophane bag of Tetley’s teabags in the zippy compartment of our suitcases (be prepared!), with which we have made blissful cups of tea (only after boiling the water seven times – you can never be too careful with that questionable foreign water) – but we miss our home comforts. So we go to the supermarket. And, dear Listener, there is nothing quite so exciting than finding a jar of real live Branston Pickle in a Greek supermarket.

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We will spend eighteen euros on a jar of Branston Pickle and a packet of Jacob’s Crackers and we will scoff them on our balcony overlooking the Ionian Sea (whilst doing The Sun crossword (six euros)), and we will be overcome by such a deep sense of contentment that it will bring a tear to our eye, for we have married the soothing comforts of home with the exotic novelty of abroad. We are winners.

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And when we return home to our bleak, grey island, we will curse the mundanity of Branston Pickle, Jacob’s Crackers, The Sun and Carlsberg, and yearn for the vibrant goodness of vine tomatoes, olives, fresh fruit and feta cheese (despite the fact that on the last day of our holiday we declared that if we ever saw another piece of feta cheese again we’d strangle our own mothers), and wistfully search the internetweb for next year’s holiday.

And as long as we exist, and foreign isles with warmer climes exist, this whole scenario will go on and on and on until the end of time, or at least until people stop making sweeping stereotypical generalisations about the whole thing.

Becky says things about … laughing

Since the news broke last Monday about the smackingly sudden exit of our short, furry and funny friend Mr Williams, the Internet has been transformed into a veritable psychology journal, brimming with probing analyses of depression, suicide, alcoholism, hope, lack of hope, life and death. Darling Listener, I don’t want to add to the already lengthy index of opinions on the meaning of life; and besides, who am I to comment on the bleak, crushing force of depression when the saddest moment of my day was realising I left my lunch at home?

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So, most splendid listeners, let us focus on the bright side of life; let us look at what Mr Williams made us do when he put on a rubber mask and shouted ‘HELP IS ON THE WAY, DEAR!’ or when he told Rufio he was a paramecium brain:

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O Listener, I just love laughing. I love every kind of laugh: the painful, uncontrolled giggle that invariably results in an undignified piggish snort; the silent, head-shaking nose-laugh when someone tells you a joke that is wrong on every inconceivable level and you know you are going straight to hell for finding mirth in it; the unexpected, explosive laugh that may well result in an unexpected, explosive emission from your lower regions that you definitely didn’t intend and which you hurriedly try to cover up by making your laughter acutely disproportionate to the thing that made you laugh in the first place.

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Just today I have experienced that joyful, convulsed state that is brought on by perhaps one of the most delicious laughs of all: the ‘finding-something-vaguely-amusing-at-work-and-trying-not-to-laugh-because-the-office-is-quiet-and-people-are-working-which-makes-it-a-thousand-times-funnier-and-eventually-you-are-choking-on-your-own-fist-and-tears-and-sliding-wetly-around-in-your-chair-like-a-floppy-otter’ laugh. Can I remember what made me laugh? Can I bobbins. The laugh made me laugh. The same naughty and forbidden laugh we all experienced a dozen times a day at school when we passed a note that said ‘Mrs Lamos has a hairy back’ during silent reading time.

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Laughter is in everything: that well-timed belch in the middle of a meeting; the little trip up a kerb that you have to turn into a run; the accidental sign-off ‘Love Becky xxx’ in an email to an extremely important and solemn chief-executive; the tail-end of a conversation overheard in the street.

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But we all know that there is no greater joy, no laugh more acute, than the laugh expelled at the misfortune of others. O, Listener, how many ribs have I bruised guffawing at the suffering of my friends! When my chum slipped over on the wet deck of the Statan Island Ferry, going from a perfectly stationary position next to me –

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– to this position –

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– in less than a second and for apparently no reason, I laughed so much that a concerned German had to walk the entire length of the ferry to help her up.

The story of another buddy, a normally dignified yet cumbersome sort of fellow who, whilst stomping home with a bag of fish and chips, fell over his front gate and was deposited in a flower bed, will cause me to erupt in a splatter of glee every time I think about it. My father running into the patio doors, my best friend tripping down her stairs and landing in a heap at the bottom; my sister – crouching and mid-wee – falling backwards down a grass verge into nettles after panicking when I told her there was someone coming (there wasn’t); my boss pretending to use his office chair as a wheelchair and promptly wheeling himself out of it; my pal drunkenly stumbling through a park at night and failing to notice the large pond in the middle of it – all these things make me ecstatically happy.

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Sadistic, you say? Nay, Listener – tis not sadism. Tis merely a keen appreciation of slapstick comedy. We all laugh when Oliver Hardy is bashed in the face with a solid wooden plank, or when Stan Laurel is run over by a trolley bus – why shouldn’t we laugh at our friends and family members doing stupid things?

Life throws up many surprises. Some, like a leaky roof or syphilis, aren’t particularly pleasing – but others, like discovering the wit of our fellow humans, are magical. The world is full of funny people. You, my most dear Listeners, are hysterical. There is barely a liquid I haven’t dribbled painfully through my nose whilst reading some of your blogs or your comments to my posts. And, whilst some of those liquids were especially painful, I loved every second.

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We are all used to comedians showing off their best jokes and their most sparkling wit – but it is the ordinary Colin on the street that makes me laugh the most. Overhearing a grumpy exchange between two old blokes in a pub can brighten my day tenfold.

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What’s better than trudging through your daily commute with a thousand other sorry souls, every single one of you despising the human race and everything it stands for, and then having your train driver come over the speaker and say ‘Good morning everyone – as you can see, we’re going nowhere fast. I wish I could tell you why we’re stuck here, but I can’t, so instead I’m going to tell you that today happens to the be the 30th anniversay of the release of Wham’s astounding hit single ‘Wake Me Up Before You Go Go’… and if someone could please wake me up before we go go, that’d be very much appreciated.’

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I made myself laugh yesterday when I went to get in my mother’s car, which I begged her to let me use while she’s on holiday, and to which she eventually agreed against all her better judgement – and I discovered its battery was flat. Dead as a squashed badger. I left the lights on. Is this a royal pain in the arse, and one that will potentially cause me stress and grief and a ‘Rebecca, you can’t be trusted with anything’ comment? Undoubtedly. But I have to laugh. Particularly because I have no intention of telling my mother, and she will only find out by reading this blog post from her hotel in Greece.

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Listener, there is sadness and sorrow and despair in the world. We know this. Anyone more than five years older than us delights in telling us this every single day. But there is also laughter. And Mr Williams may or may not have contributed to some of the laughs in your lives, but he has been the cause of a billion smiles over the world, and I’ve certainly enjoyed mine. Wherever he is, I hope he’s trying on his old Mrs Doubtfire costume, parading in front of a mirror, and chuckling.

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Charlie Chaplin said ‘A day without laughter is a day wasted’. And, whilst it is undoubtedly easier to laugh on some days than others, this isn’t a bad mantra to live by.