Thursday, 15 June 2017

The Accidental Comedian

A really hilarious thing happened about 6 years ago.  Well, I say hilarious, it would have been if I had seen it.  Unfortunately, for me, I didn’t.  I wish I had, it would probably still crease me up just to think about it.  Just every now and then when I wasn’t expecting it, BANG, there it would be, the image of the funniest thing I’d ever seen.

“Ha Ha!  Oh my God, did you see that?”

“Brilliant … mint, I could watch that all day!”

A little film clip, replaying in my head, like something from You’ve Been Framed.  I can even imagine the Harry Hill voiceover.

Hilarious.  Absolutely priceless.  Why didn’t I see it?  Bugger.

I was in London for the weekend with my family, staying with friends and introducing the kids to the wonders of the capital.  I grew up in London, after moving there from Luton when I was quite young, and still, in a bizarre way, consider myself to be a Londoner (although I moved away 12 years ago and have absolutely no intention of ever returning to live there).

My family are from there, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles the lot, and though my two children live in a beautiful part of the country, I still feel that it is important that they get to experience city life, if only to scare them so much that they resolve never to want to ever  live in ‘That there London’.

Unfortunately for me, they love it, they love the noise, the smells, the size of it, just the amount of people there and all the different races and nationalities (ethnic diversity hasn’t really reached North Yorkshire yet).

They love it but they don’t understand it.  They haven’t really grasped why people in London don’t talk to each other and never, ever make eye contact.  Ever. If you make eye contact you’re mentally ill and should be avoided at all costs.  If a stranger says hello to you in the street that means that you are about to be mugged, killed or raped (or maybe all three, and in that order).

They love the double decker buses, the museums and the tube.  Yes the tube.  London Underground, the first plane of hell, where the sinners are packed together, forced to smell each others body odour and the strict rules of London are multiplied a thousand fold;  No eye contact and no talking.  Talking is for the nutters and the drunks, the unclean and the unwanted.  Yes, if you’re spoken to, pretend to be foreign, pretend to be blind, pretend to be deaf (in extreme cases try all three).

And so, where were we, ah yes, this most hilarious happening (which I happened to miss).  On this particular day we had decided to try to fit two museums in.  Firstly, the Science Museum.  Second only to the Natural History Museum as my most favourite place ever to visit when I was a child (they were both free to get into).  We went.  It wasn’t as fantastic as I remembered it through the tinted spectacles of my memory and we left by lunchtime.  Job done.  (Although I did buy a funny shaped boomerang which was being professionally demonstrated by a member of the gift shop staff and which I have never been able to make come back to me.  Ever).

Our next step was a short tube ride to The British Museum.  A place that, I confess, I had surprisingly never been to before (as it was also free).  Our main aim for this visit was to check out the mummies.  My eldest was looking at Ancient Egypt at school and we thought that we would enhance the educational experience provided by the school by actually showing her some real life corpses of people, cats, baboons etc.

What I didn’t realise about The British Museum, was what a glorious place it was, to marvel at all the wonderful pieces of history which we had stolen from other countries when we were in charge of the world.  If this was The French Museum however, and was displaying British Anglo Saxon artefacts the Daily Express would have a field day.  (on quiet news days i.e. when there wasn’t a new Diana conspiracy theory).

So we went, we saw, we took a few pics (child with mummy, child with mummified snake etc.) and then we left happy that we had done our bit for our child’s education over the half term break.

We walked across Russell Square to the underground station and there, once again, descended into the pit.  Incidentally Dante referred to the first plane of hell as ‘Limbo’, where those guilty of the following sins were cast; Incontinence, Violence and Fraud.  I don’t know if Dante ever had a premonition of what the London Underground would be like, but he pretty much nailed it.  Nice one Mr Alighieri, but sorry no one ever listened properly to your warning.

We stepped into the lift with all the other sinners and, following a short and odorous journey down, found ourselves on the platform just as a train approached.

Now there are certain nightmares that every parent suffers; losing your child through illness or accident, abduction by paedophiles and that horrible day when they come home from school saying they want to be in musical theatre and start singing numbers from Annie.

Today I was particularly concerned with the first of these.  London is busy, my children are country bumpkins and what would happen if they got on the tube and the doors shut before their mother or I made it on.  I saw visions in my head of my children happily waving to us through the window as the train pulled away from the station, taking them to the den of some bizarre serial killer (or worse to the den of a musical theatre).

These visions disturbed me as I didn’t want to see my children on the news let alone side by side with Lord Webber and Graham Norton as the next ‘People’s Star’.  So with that horrifying thought playing in my head I was determined to ensure that we all squeezed on to an already full carriage, all together, joined, no paedo’s or ‘Les Miserables’ here thank you very much.

“Get on, move in! Are you in? I know that man smells but you must stand next to him. Are you in?  If someone speaks to you remember the Danish phrases I taught you.  Are you in?”.
The doors closed.

I realise that I have been rambling on, dangling the promise of the most hilarious thing happening, like a carrot, for quite a while now so I’ll cut straight to it.  No more rambling, no more jokes at the expense of obnoxious stage school children.  Here we go.

The doors closed.  We were safe.

The next five seconds of my life are a blur.  Well I suppose five seconds would be, it’s not a long time is it and it was nearly a year ago now.  I can only describe the feeling which overcame me next as similar to being punched in the back of the head by Mike Tyson, on steroids.  Hard.  It struck me just behind my left ear and knocked me sideways to my right. The next thing that I felt was similar to Mike Tyson’s older, bigger, stronger brother punching me on the right side of my head.  Ow.
“Oooooh!” said the passengers in the carriage as the door hit the left side of my head.

“Aaaaah!” Said the passengers again as I flew headlong into the other door and was struck by it on the right side of my head.

“Ha Ha Ha Ha !” they said as the doors continued to close and clamped either side of my head like some large humorous vice before quickly realising that they were joined in some group moment and were COMPLETELY breaking the rules of London.

I say the passengers, it was probably half and half, half felt the pain and the rest felt, as I would have done, that this was the funniest thing they had ever seen.  Normally you have to watch ‘You’ve Been Framed’ to see something like this.

“Look at this poor fellow” says Harry.

”I don’t think his head is properly in the carriage, I’d move it in if I were you mate.  Ooooh look out!  Bang, now that’ll hurt in the morning."

Shut up Harry.

I kept my feet.  You can say that for me, but I felt a little dizzy.  I would like to state now that the other passengers on the train asked me if I was alright, offered their seats to me but this is London remember and this is the underground.  Eyes immediately lowered to closely inspect something suddenly interesting and not a word was said.  Apart from my wife and children of course, they asked if I was OK, did I need to sit down?  It was at this moment that I reverted to being Mr London.

“No I’m fine, honest.  Looked worse than it was.  That would have been funny to watch.”

And in my own little way I was fine, I was Ok.  Through a combination of embarrassment and faux macho-ness, I just decided to pretend that it had never happened.

Later that evening, back at our friend’s house while laughing and chatting, playing with the kids and watching the X Factor, I developed a headache.  Not a small one.  Not caused by the X Factor, but a thumper like I had never experienced before.  The kind that made you feel sick, the kind that made light and noise unbearable.  I couldn’t cope with it and, despite not wanting to seem unsociable to our friends, who we had travelled all the way down from North Yorkshire to see, I excused myself and went to bed at around the same time as the kids who were sharing a room with us.

I slept through the night and when I woke up the next day, felt fine.  I even did the driving on the way home.  Great, I banged my head in a humorous way, got a headache as a result and there it was.  Something to look back and laugh at.  It was funny.

Over the next week the headache returned, bigger and bolder than ever and stayed permanent, from the moment I woke up until I fell asleep.  I went off sick from work. and due to the fact that I didn’t have a headache if I was asleep spent a large part of the following two months asleep.  My wife and my children (young still as they are) were terrific.  If you’ve ever tried to keep a four year old and a seven year old quiet for any length of time, you will appreciate just how good they were with me.  They made it more bearable.

I tried various different cocktails of painkilling medicine, in greater and greater strength, (Tramadol is overrated) until finally my GP admitted defeat and referred me for a CT scan and an appointment with a Neurologist.

These were dark times.  Had I caused a bleed in my head?  Was it permanent?  As someone who is, incidentally, a trained Psychiatric Nurse and who worked for six years specifically with people who had suffered from Traumatic Brain injury the irony was almost comical.  Almost.

The CT scan was clear.  Thank you.  And the appointment with the Neurologist was upbeat and on the whole positive.  Although she stated that I should never have taken painkillers as they would have been making the headaches worse.

“There seems to be no sign of any damage, this should improve with time."

But for how long?  Would I be stuck with the constant headache forever?

What the Neurologist said next will stay with me forever as one of the most wonderful ever ways of saying ‘I have absolutely no idea.'

“Well you see this is the art of medicine rather than the science of medicine.  It could stop tomorrow it could stop next year."


I returned to work on a gradual basis after three months and have managed to stay working ever since.  I still attend the headache clinic.  I get physio and acupuncture to help with the headaches.  I take tablets (not painkillers) to help relax me and to help stop the constant numbing grumble becoming a full blown migraine.  They work on the whole, although I do lose a day or two every couple of weeks and I can’t stand to be in front of a pc for long periods.  Again, the irony of me working predominantly at a pc as a writer of tenders and bids to help people, when I can’t stand more than a couple of hours at one myself, could be seen as humorous.

My children still understand and know that they have to be quiet and look after me when I’m having ‘One of your headaches Daddy’ and my wife has been more supportive and understanding than I could ever have wished for.

So there you have it.   'A funny thing happened to me on the way home from the museum’.  Funny to watch.  Still funny to those who I tell the story. When I was recently suffering from a particularly bad one I said that the humour of my accident is beginning to wear thin, a friend responded.

“For you maybe, for us it’s a constant source of humour."

And I agree with him.  If I had been on that train and seen it, I would still be laughing, still replaying the little video of it in my head with Harry Hill’s voice over a background of canned laughter. 

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