The best thing about turning 50 is the amount of comedy material that generously lands in my lap. I’ve finally found my calling in life. Making people laugh by taking the piss out of myself. All those foibles and idiosyncrasies that Father Nature (Oh come on, it couldn’t possibly be a woman, could it?) hands out by the bucket load.
I’ve been on a bit of a roll writing about the menopause, middle age spread and heightened anxiety. Although something occurred to me the other day, what if I get better? I overcame a challenge with flying colours recently and I thought that that’s one less thing to be funny about. I’ll come to that one another time, but take my word for it, it was momentous.
I know I’m a funny lady because my Mum told me so. And I see the fruits of my labour on the face of the person I’m talking to as it contorts into the kind of expression reserved for private appearances only. That’s when you know you ARE bloody funny.
As a child my family moved around a great deal. This was very hard for my brother and I. Always the new kids on the block. The first day of school was like groundhog day for us. I recall on one occasion praying at night that I would wake up paralysed so that I wouldn’t have to endure being the new girl again.
Northern Ireland (NI) 1978 was a very bad time to be an English resident. Everywhere we went there were slogans screaming ‘Brits Out’, even cut out of the high mounds of snow piled up on the sides of the roads. The people of NI wanted the British Army to leave; bombing was at a peak; cars left unattended were taken away and destroyed in controlled explosions; soldiers with big guns patrolled the streets and we were searched in every shop we entered. If we got lost in the wrong area we were right to be scared with our English Registration plate.
My parents finally changed our car registration when my Mother was the target of makeshift missiles as she drove along the Falls Road in Belfast when Bobby Sands, member of the Provisional Irish Republican Army died on hunger strike in HM Prison Maze in 1981.
So, there I was, Little Miss English thrown into the Lion’s Den. Not the fault of the children, they learned from their parents that we/I was the enemy. I was 13 years of age, I could forgive the children, but not the teachers. It didn’t matter that I was of Irish descent, I was from the country that as far as they were concerned had stolen their land; I was an alien, an unwelcome immigrant.
This is when the humour really started to kick in. Not easy, but a necessity to survive. It’s awfully hard to kick someone’s head in when you are laughing so hard you almost wet your pants. I was talented and skilled at impersonations and accents. I knew the words and songs to every advertisement on the television. I could do all the voices, and Cilla Black was my pièce de résistance. Being funny and smart saved me from years of bullying.
I was saved from being bullied by the children, but not the teachers. I was in a school play just before we were about to make the move back to England. I played a Belfast woman, my accent was spot on. The next day the maths teacher commended me on my performance, the same teacher that would make me answer questions with the number eight in the answer because it sounded SO FUNNY. He said, “it’s a shame you are leaving just as we’re getting used to you”.
I learned how to judge and cater to my audience to save my backside. This is something that will live with me forever. Survival. Even if I am cured, I will always find the funny in everything. Being funny overcomes shyness, anxiety, bullying and insecurities. Laughter really is the best medicine, and nothing feels greater than being the one that makes it all happen.