Friday, 24 April 2009

Have you heard the one about...

Dear friends, the weekend is here again and most of us in central and Eastern England will see a little more sun before showers arrive during Saturday. What a fabulous week only spoiled perhaps as it often is in the Eastern fringes of England by a breeze from the still chilly North Sea.

Yorkshireman One meets his friend one autumn day, "Did thee have a good summer Amos?"
Yorkshireman Two, "Aye lad, we had a picnic that afternoon."

The picture above is the spectacular Dicentra Spectabilis, or 'bleeding heart' (click on the picture to enlarge it). I planted this about twelve years ago just after we moved to this house and it was a sickly little thing and in September in the first year it looked as if it died completely. But year after year with no care other than a bit of weeding around the base, it starts to shoot in March with tiny weak leaves from the ground and by mid April, it is a magnificent bush of tender red hearts with tiny white tips which indeed looks like a bleeding heart. Even before the first frost in Autumn, it is a shadow of its former self and it dies back to ground level to snooze and slumber until spring arrives once more.

I was told a non-PC (politically correct) joke today which was neither sexist nor racist, but not for polite conversation and frankly it was funny and tickled my sense of humour. We are frightened aren't we of being risque these days because no-one, certainly in the work place, knows where the boundaries truly are. Sexism and racism are clearly unacceptable in any form during our daily lives so those boundaries are straight forward. Other jokes that are cruel about individuals or a disability for example are cringing and to be avoided as being nasty and wholly unnecessary.

But we do laugh at the banana skin joke don't we, someone falls and hurts themselves and we have the urge to laugh out loud. Someone makes a fool of themselves and we giggle don't we and perhaps it's because it's relief it wasn't us; the TV programme You've Been Framed is a good example. Situational comedy - the ridiculous situation someone finds theselves in or the clever shaggy dog stories are what makes great jokes. Yet the late, great Dave Allen, born in Dublin before the second world war was a comedian who was able to laugh at his own race and its foibles and today we still laugh at the man's story-telling genius and his ability to spot the absurdities of his own religion (in his eyes) and weaknesses in his fellow man. But even he ironically was being PC when he always finished his shows with the phrase, "Goodnight, and may your God go with you."
Did we laugh and was it acceptable because he was laughing at himself?

Why then when we see tapes of Charlie Williams, a mixed race Yorkshire comedian who died in 2006 telling jokes about his race and origins are we now uncomfortable even though the public at the time found it hilarious judging by the audience reaction? And yet when Bernard Manning told racist jokes we were and are rightly outraged. Difficult one to answer and if anyone can enlighten me, please feel free. I am offended by racist jokes in particular but perhaps audiences of the 1960s and 1970s were simply laughing because making fun of the colour of one's skin was part of ordinary life then and now we understand how hurtful, harmful and destructive it is.

I was driving to a garden centre recently with my parents looking for early bedding plants. As I drove along an isolated country road I spotted someone lying on the grass verge by the side of the road. I immediately stopped the car and not without a little trepidation approached the individual who I saw was shabbily dressed and clearly down on his luck.

However to my astonishment, I saw he was eating the grass on the verge.
I asked if he was okay thinking he might be mentally ill and he looked at me mournfully and told me that he was destitute and had no money and hadn't eaten for some time and that he was hungry and saw no alternative but to eat the grass as a last resort. I went back to the car and got one of my cards out of the glove box and gave it to him and told him if he was so desperate he could come to my home and I would see him okay.

He was almost in tears, obviously very moved and clutched the card to his heart. He asked if he could bring his wife and family and I said, "Hang on pal, my lawn isn't that big!"

Have a great weekend! "May your God go with you."

Chat soon


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