Wednesday 31 October 2018

On #Satire

I’m still mulling on humour. What are your thoughts on satire? I’ve always been fond of a bit of #lampooning. I found myself – as in what makes me tick, by watching and mimicking Kermit; the voices I heard on the radio in #TheGoonShow; by reading my stepfather’s #SpikeMilligan books – Balls! I exclaimed without looking up from the pages in the presence of my mother, who immediately told me not to say that. What’s wrong with Balls! I enquired.

My stepfather had #MontyPython records as well. I was beside myself and clutching my sides. Later, courtesy of my uncle – the mad one, but not the fiddly one - there was #FrankZappa who sang very politically incorrectly, about Catholic Girls and “goblin girls from a mystery world.”. Everything was up for grabs. Later, at #TheNationalSchooloftheArts, in #South-Africa where I really came into my own, there was the twisted humour of my best friend Jane, where everything was up for spearing. Most fundamental of all I saw myself in the writings of #JohnLennon. I love him passionately to this day, screwed up as he, and indeed I, was.

Years later when I won a national book award and had the luxury of agents approach me, I chose my agent based on the fact that she operated out of Spike Milligan’s offices – I could have wet myself – and practically did at some of those free flowing literary parties amongst the practically wall to wall Cambridge types. I needed to drink to cope with them on account of my own inadequacy. Besides, drinking helped me take the piss too.

But what of satire, and why do we not have more of it in this age, or am I missing something. When I first came to live in the UK, #Blackadder and #SpittingImages totally sent me, there was nothing like Spitting Images for keeping our politicians in their place and the rest of the country on the floor with them – albeit from laughter. Why can’t those puppets come back to lampoon the puppets and the puppet masters of our day? Please direct me to what I’m missing.

Tuesday 30 October 2018

On Being Funny

I’m almost half a century. In some ways, I am very much the same. My daughter rolls her eyes at my childish humour. Often my twenty-two year old tries not to laugh because he suffers from the misapprehension that women are not as funny as men – this may be a hangover from his father, an absurdly funny man, who is a bit of a sexist on the side. If my own husband did not make me roar with laughter, married life would not be as fun as it is. He’d likely say the same.

Humour, and ‘being funny,’ has got me through life. During primary school, I blocked out the pain by putting on skits for my class. In Standard 4 at Tennyson School in Bulawayo, my class and my old fashioned teacher: If the cap fits wear it – whatever did he mean? – watched me as I did silly voices round the fountain. To be fair to my audience I’m not sure whether my classmates were laughing in horror or just laughing. One morning on the way to school in Standard 4, I was given a ‘bloody good hiding’ in front of my family who were sitting in the car waiting for me. I had forgotten to clean my teeth. This kind of humiliation administered by a man who was not my father, while I was going through puberty, was hard to deal with.

In Standard 5 at Courtney Selous School in Harare, my friend and I wrote plays. Scarves around our heads, skits involved my friend and I discussing the price of eggs in Cockney accents over a rope on which washing hung. Another popular skit was our Aggie and Mabel act, in which we dressed up in our mother’s evening dresses and jewellery and gossiped about the garb of imaginary women. In case you haven’t gleaned, Maggie and Aggie were ‘posh.’ We didn’t know about the aspirational middle classes then, and were unlikely to have been able to communicate their state. In 1979, we only knew our lowers and uppers circa 1945 which was when most of our grandparents shipped over from the UK. The skits were a hit and on one occasion the entire school watched in the assembly hall.

This kind of showing off helped me all the way through childhood and into adulthood where it reached fruition in my writing. Until my forties, my only other comedy act apart from performing with my 90’s indie rock band was in a drag act with a friend in fashion and a bunch of queens. In my teens I was known as (how to say this without boasting?) a bit of a wit. I sound a bit of a twit saying it, but a friend from the National School of the Arts (Kim Gaylard if you must know) recently remarked on it. In my twenties, my stunning sidekick and me were known as the queens of the putdown. An ace performer, she’s still on the stage. I sharpened my tongue and then my pen into a razor. It’s doesn’t take Jordan Petersen to tell you that this was a defence mechanism. It was, is, but what’s the alternative? To lie down and weep? No. You have to rise up laughing or you are defeated.

Monday 29 October 2018

A Season of Rest

 The last three years have been hard. The battles are not over but I know that I am currently in a season of rest. Warning: Open-minded bonnets on now please… I am a believer, so when the battles of life rage, I always turn to the only true source of hope that I have: the God of the bible. When I say, ‘believer’ I don’t mean ‘Christian,’ I can’t use the term for myself given all the understandings and misunderstandings the term provokes. Besides, I’m a crap Christian. I prefer to think of myself as a meandering follower of Jesus via The Way, as it was termed by the early believers. I did not intend for this to turn into a theological exposition, but felt to state my case upfront, in case of misunderstanding. I have as much difficulty with organised religion as the average woman - or man – a nod to Life of Brian here. Hope you get this militant atheist/humanist friends. If you can’t, tie the bow on your caps and walk around outside for a bit.

Anyway, back to the season. In the book of Ecclesiastes we are told that there is a time for everything under heaven. If the bible is too hot for you to grasp, you can entertain the sentiment by listening to The Byrds musical version, Turn, Turn, Turn instead: I believe we need to discern and fully embrace the season we are in, in order to face the next season. I have a terrible habit of looking back, which only winds me up. In this context I shall provide you with an Oasis: ‘link’ Don’t Look Back in Anger. Tenuous, I know. Their look back to The Beatles with those chords wasn’t though hey?

Anyway, here I am in a season of rest, albeit forced, and I am embracing it, resting, feeding body, mind and spirit, and getting stronger for the next season, for which I know I will need to be strong in at least one instance. I am writing, reflecting, and warbling along to music. As I do so, I take time to reflect I thank God for all the good gifts in my life, not least my astonishing husband and children. When I am tempted to dwell on the past beyond the appropriate telling of truth, I fix my attention on the God of hope and the treasure in my hands.

Saturday 27 October 2018

What people don’t tell you about a hysterectomy

It has been a little over a week since I had a complete #hysterectomy (look away now if the sight of Lady Gaga in her meat skirt, made you lurch) with a little more tissue around my gall bladder, I think it was (I was whacked out on morphine when they told me) taken out for posterity. I have a sideways smile down my middle, now relieved of it’s metal parts that appears to have been sewn with bone and gut - but I'm not gutted in that sense - who cares about the cosmetic when your health is at stake?

The pain. That's what I was unprepared for. Having prided myself on being able to give birth without drugs, I went into this rather blithely. Having come round as it were, from surgery, I was handed a clicker thing to press every time I needed pain relief. Well, I was like a kid in a sweetshop. They prised it out of my white knuckled hand the next morning, swapping it for Nurse Ratched who kept telling me to try Paracetamol and Nurofen first. Were they suffering under the illusion that I had a headache? I soon became one. I’d suffer through the required 40 minutes torture time before they would give me 5ml of ‘oramorph’ or if I was really realllly good: Tramadol – love, it’s good for the soul when you’ve had your insides out and sent for testing even as your pain levels are. 

Now I’m back with some white support tights, and orders to inject myself with Clexane each night, so I am making patterns by varying my injection sites. You've got to make art where you can. I had my staples taken out by a nurse that had also had a hysterectomy. I'll spare you the gross notes, but she told me things I hadn’t even thought of. Glad I went in there ignorant. We both agreed on one thing, lady, I would have high fived if I could have done so without busting a gut: #Hysterectomy pain is up there man. Never mind labour without drugs. Getting through this is the new badge of honour. Cheers.

Friday 26 October 2018

Yes. #Me Too

There has been a lot of fuss around the #Me Too movement, and mostly for the right reasons. It was a long time coming. Women have been silenced by what they have had to endure for time plus time. French movie stars have signed a letter denouncing the movement; people have been complaining that things have gone too far; and so on. When things begin to be birthed, they are often messy, but they clean up as they grow up. So it is with #Me Too. It has only just begun, so perhaps its looking a bit messy but it will grow, and as it does, lessons will be learned and women will grow in confidence. And this is what women need.

I didn't begin speaking about my own abuse (other than to therapists) until a cataclysmic event in 2015, engineered by my mother, caused me to reach my end point and find a new beginning. A decades in the formation, paradigm shift clicked into place: I was never going to expose myself again and thereby collude with the forms of emotional abuse I had become used to receiving from my mother and other family members. Consequently, I also decided to speak out about the abuse  I suffered as a child: sexual abuse at the hands of an uncle; physical abuse; emotional abuse and verbal abuse. I also suffered various abuses as a Premier Agency model, not least at the hands of my agent. Unhealthy relationships followed. Key for me was that I realised that even though people were related to me by blood, I did not need to keep riding the same cruel carousel. I could get off. And I could say why. Forgiveness does not always mean restoration.

Soon afterwards the #Me Too movement took off and I heard the voices of many others - through the movement - but also just by speaking about what had happened to me. Speaking, and hearing resonance, is part of healing; letting the light of individual truth shine, banishes the darkness. For me it helped exorcise the shame and the lie that it was ‘my fault’; that I deserved it; that it didn't happen; Let us never call for silence.

PS I was delighted to learn recently that I am one of #BrandBallot's top 200 parenting blogs recently. Thank you very much indeed! - Good philosophy you have there. Glad to be part of it.