I am aware that my regular meanderings on this platform have an unfortunate tendency to veer towards the maudlin and may well give the impression that I am perhaps myself a little dour, but it’s not true. I am happy to tell you now – largely because I fear that nobody else will – that I am, by and large, a happy man and fun to be around. If I have a fault at all – and God knows, it’s hard to imagine – it is that I am, if anything, too jolly; just too much fun to be around. You would be surprised to find out how many people laugh out loud every single time I open my mouth. I suppose that is the price you pay for NHS dentistry. If I sound pessimistic from time to time, it is almost certainly because my red nose is in the wash. I am the life and soul, ask anyone. (Alright, not exactly anyone: my wife thinks I’m deeply unfunny and the kids just think that I’m losing my marbles. The grandkids like me, but they’re not overly sophisticated joke-wise. As long as I can make ‘rude noises’ with my tongue, I’m onto a winner as far as they’re concerned.) I am the man that everybody wants to sit with at the pub – which is why I never go. If I was a chicken, I would probably qualify for my own crossing. If I was a bowtie, I would spin enough to generate the electricity required to power both a secret hand buzzer and the water-squirting flower in my lapel…
As I get older and life begins to bombard me with all manner of shit, it becomes increasingly important for me to root out enjoyment wherever I can find it. I’m not suggesting that it’s a good idea to deliberately go out in search of a bad haircut, but that you might as well laugh about it when you do get one, after all, everybody else will. You fall over in embarrassing circumstances – usually whilst showing off or forgetting that you are a good few years older than you used to be – and everybody laughs at you, and before you know it, despite the pain, you find you are laughing at yourself. Laughter is infectious and, like most infectious things, you tend to catch it when you least expect it. You cannot get vaccinated against it, but you can marry an Estate Agent.
There is so much joy to be found in the every day – not least of which is the fact that it is the every day. In my dad’s later years, when he became too ill to get out and about, my mum used to cut his hair, but she hated doing it because he moaned so much, so I said I would do it. When I first started to cut – and believe me, I am no hairdresser – he duly started to moan and I, for reasons I cannot comprehend, started to laugh. The more he moaned, the more I laughed until, magically, he saw the absurdity of it all and he began to laugh as well. We finished the haircut in tears of laughter, so I decided not to destroy the mood by showing him his shattered head in the mirror. We both grew to look forward to our father/son time – although dad never stopped moaning and I never showed him a mirror – but we definitely grew closer through shared laughter.
Most of us who ‘go to work’ to make a living know that we find ourselves annoyed by some things and amused by others every day, and, as long as the laughter outweighs the misery we are happy. I am exceedingly fortunate, I am currently in what will without doubt be the final paid employment of my life, and I enjoy the company of everybody with whom I spend my days. I cannot begin to imagine what they feel about me, but they haven’t thrown me out yet. (Unless the letter’s in the post.) And all of this despite the presence of an electronic till that clearly dislikes me almost as much as I dislike it. Anybody who believes that Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a thoroughly modern thing should meet this early century fiend. It is choc-full of all manner of AI and every single molecule of it is malign. I am by no means certain that ABMI (Artificial Bloody Minded Intelligence) is actually ‘a thing’ but this little bundle of demonic computer chips sits like a malignant deity on the shop counter and dares me to press a button, ready to lock me out at any moment, ready to force me to rummage through my own pockets to find the customer’s change. It behaves impeccably for everybody else and I know that it shares in their laughter as I stare, uncomprehendingly, at its smug LCD face. I don’t know who invented it – I picture a brow-beaten Japanese inventor wreaking vicarious revenge on a scornful spouse and indifferent children – but I am pretty certain that DAVROS stuck a couple of castors under one of its siblings and taught it to scream ‘EX-TER-MINATE!’ If I turn up for work one day and find a sink plunger attached to its mephistophelian little head, I will be straight round to Wilkinson’s to buy a new sonic screwdriver (and £2 worth of Pick ‘n’ Mix while I’m there – let’s face it, there’s no point in missing an opportunity. A pack of Love Hearts always cheers me up*, even if I have to buy my own). And there you have it, I think of that black-hearted till and all I get is the taste of Love Hearts – and life can’t get more magnificent than that.
*It goes without saying that two packs make me twice as happy.
I called this post ‘Magnificent’ purely because I knew I was going to end it with the first verse and chorus from the song of the same name, by Elbow, simply because, other than me, it is the most joyous and optimistic thing I can think of.
“This is where the bottle lands
Where all the biggest questions meet
With little feet stood in the sand
This is where
The echoes slow to nothing on the tide
And where a tiny pair of hands
Find a sea worn piece of glass
And sets it as a sapphire in her mind
And there she stands
Throwing both her arms around the world
A world that doesn’t even know
How much it needs this little girl
It’s all gonna be magnificent
It’s all gonna be magnificent.” – Guy Garvey
Truly magnificent, isn’t it?