I Love to Laugh

Waaaay back in the mists of time (ok, a few months ago) I wrote a couple of posts about lessons learned from Mary Poppins, here and here. I’m coming to regard Mary Poppins as a kind of life guru, as here’s another post based on the wisdom found in one of the best kids’ films ever.

Remember the scene where Mary and the children go to visit Uncle Albert? And he’s doing cartwheels on the ceiling and they end up having a tea party in mid air? The song that goes with that is one of those where you can’t remember the words but it’s infectious. Rather like a good laugh, funnily enough.

I love to laugh, loud and long and clear

I love to laugh, so everybody can hear

The more I laugh, the more I fill with glee

And the more the glee, the more I’m a merrier me!

I love this. I’ve always enjoyed a good laugh but in recent months I’ve come to appreciate really good comedy more. Andrew and I have been watching the latest series of Michael McIntyre’s Comedy Roadshow and the gap between the acts who were ok and the ones who had us in stitches on the floor was remarkable, and makes me realise how hard it is to do comedy really well. But not just that, also how amazing it is when it is right. Michael McIntyre is one who gets it right every time, just by being himself as far as I can gather. I highly recommend his book, his voice just rings true on every page.

I like loads of different aspects of entertainment. I like a gripping storyline, a good historical with beautiful costumes, a good romance, musical shows, I’m easy to please. But I think the thing, certainly at the minute, that really gets my attention and makes me hungry for more is outstanding comedy. ‘Clever’ comedy, I think – more verbal wit and sparring than slapstick. David Mitchell and Lee Mack on Would I Lie To You have me in stitches every time because they parry each other and pick up on the tiniest details to beat each other with.

That, for me, is the killer. The detail. It’s a skill I’ll never have, although I appreciate it very much in those who do. Being able to take an ordinary story and find the one or two details in it that make it hilarious. And nine times out of ten, it’s a detail we’re painfully familiar with; I think this is at least half of Michael McIntyre’s skill. For example, he gives a few examples of his experience of parenthood, which resonate perfectly with us. Or a situation that most of us have been in, but he manages to make it go horribly wrong. The highlights of his autobiography were those sorts of situations. Or, for example, Fawlty Towers. I know it’s grossly exaggerated, but it pushes the buttons that we can identify with. A example – being interrupted several times while in the middle of a job to be reminded to do the job we’re being interrupted from. The details that fit in horribly well later on, like the out-of-date kippers in The Kipper and the Corpse.

We’re also discovering new (to us, anyway) stand-up. I have been ill laughing at Adam Hills and Craig Campbell. They don’t just do a reel of jokes or poking fun at the audience. They observe what’s going on around them, and then let us in on their observations. And because they pick up a few killer details, it’s suddenly more real and therefore funnier. Here’s a treat: try watching this video of Adam Hills (disclaimer: it does contain swearing).

It’s not just tv or books either. When I’m on Twitter, the conversations I tend to pick up on and the ones that hook me and keep me on Twitter for far longer than I should be are the funny ones. Sharing a joke, a funny hashtag. I love it. If I’m in a group (a Real Life group) I have so little self-confidence and assertiveness that I tend to stay back and listen, and generally wish I wasn’t there, but when someone makes a really good joke or I find the courage to say something and the people around me find it funny, I shed a little of that self-consciousness.

I think comedy should be a part of everyone’s life. I’ve had a fair bit of time over the past year or so where we’ve felt really low, floundering. And watching or reading some comedy has lifted me, almost tangibly, every time. Our best times as a family are when we’re laughing together. I love to laugh, and I hope I keep on laughing for a long, long time.

*NB No copyright infringement intended. Words and music by Richard M Sherman and Robert B Sherman

Our Daughters’ Daughters

More Life Lessons from Mary Poppins

Anyone who read my post Sand Through A Sieve and thought it was inspired genius (well, who can blame you?) may realise that I am quickly coming to regard Mary Poppins as a Parenting Bible.

Today I put the DVD in and went about my business, tidying up and generally being housewifely (in other words, quite unlike myself) and heard the Suffragette Song come on. You know the moment – and if you don’t I suggest you watch  Mary Poppins urgently, there are valuable lessons to be learnt. Mrs Banks comes home after a day’s campaigning for votes for women, and launches into song. Among the many wonderful lyrics (I particularly like ‘Though we adore men individually / We agree that as a group they’re rather stupid…’) the chorus goes like this:

“Cast off the shackles of yesterday

Shoulder to shoulder into the fray

Our  daughters’ daughters will adore us

And they’ll sing in grateful chorus

‘Well done, Sister Suffragettes!'”

This set me off thinking. If my last scan was right, I am expecting my first daughter in approximately 57 days and 7 hours, and it would be nice to think that she will have daughters of her own some day and so on and so forth.

I have had all sorts of nice little fantasies about having a daughter. We’ll go shopping together – she’ll probably teach me more than I will teach her in that department – we’ll have girly moments, painting toenails etc like in Mamma Mia! We’ll finish the dollhouse I started when I was a teenager. She’ll have the voice of an angel and the grace of a ballet dancer. I’ll buy her girly dresses and dolls and she’ll ignore them all and go for the monsters and aliens. I’ll introduce her to Georgette Heyer and Jane Austen and she’ll devour Stephen King and Terry Pratchett. She’ll adore her big brother and be a real Daddy’s girl and the four of us will go out and eat ice cream on the sea front at Whitby in October.

I haven’t really stopped to think about the more profound things I want to teach her. I want her to be strong and assertive, two things I have failed at miserably so far. I want to pass on my faith, but leave her the freedom and conviction to figure out her own beliefs. I want her to think about the world and how she can make it better, so that her daughters’ daughters can look back at her and her generation and think “Wow, what can we do to build upon that?”

I don’t know about you, but I, to my shame, very rarely think about what our ancestors had to fight for to get to where we are now. The whole movement for women’s suffrage in England, for example, fought against the tide of popular opinion and went through arrest, force-feeding, torture, ridicule and even death because they believed it was wrong to deny women an equal say in how their country was run. Do we ever think about those women, and ‘adore them’? As we would like our daughters’ daughters to adore us?

They are, of course, a tiny representation of the people throughout time who have fought for what they believed in. Our own lifetimes throw up a handful of names – Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, Nelson Mandela. Mother Teresa, fighting against the poverty and injustice she saw every day in India’s poorest. Nameless campaigners out right now, protesting against war and injustice and human rights.

I want my daughter to grow up with a social conscience and awareness. I want her to not be afraid to fight for what she thinks is right. Our ancestresses have left us a legacy of being able to vote, to speak out and be heard. They have given us a platform to speak from, on behalf of women, men and children all over the world who are still being oppressed, and I know I don’t do their efforts justice.

Mary Poppins has reminded me that we also have a chance to leave a legacy, that we will have descendants who will look back at our generation. They can ignore us, despise us or adore us. I would like to think that I and my daughter can still do things that will make our daughters’ daughters adore us after all.