Laughing at Yourself

jamie_dAfter writing my last post on being a special Mum, concerned family and friends pointed out that some readers might not realise I’m joking. So please let me assure you I was joking. Of course there were elements of truth in what I wrote. I do sometimes drink smoothies and I even have a secret desire to make my own yoghurt. And perhaps I even fall into the trap of thinking I’m so very, very, very, special. I suppose in part my post was laughing at myself.

However coming from a family with four bothers, I’ve learnt from a young age to snap out of such nonsense. It’s not that healthy self-esteem wasn’t encouraged, but anything pretentious, or inflated was definitely to be laughed at. After all, this motherhood caper has been going on for centuries. You don’t become a special Mum because you start blogging about it.

My sister picked up  that my post was in part inspired by the character of Irene in the Scotland Street series, written by our favourite Alexander McCall Smith.  Irene’s character is a satire on helicopter parenting. She forces her six year old son to learn saxophone, take yoga and learn Italian. In fact he does so many extra curricular actives he has no time to play. She paints his room a lovely pink, as she wants to raise him gender neutral. For his birthday he wants a Swiss Army knife and instead she gives him a gender neutral doll. Irene is very educated and very irritating.

I remember when I heard the author speak at the Opera House I spotted one of my university lecturers in the audience. I was surprised because this particular lecturer had told us that she puts her little boy in a dress to allow him to pick his own gender. Not unlike Irene I would have thought.  Obviously she didn’t mind someone having a laugh at her lifestyle. We all like to laugh at ourselves to a certain extent.

As another example take Ja’mie, the absolutely obnoxious private school girl.  I’ll bet it’s the private school girls who are laughing the loudest. They get the joke even better than the rest of us.

Oscar Wilde was wonderful at getting society to laugh at itself. His plays were written for the English upper class and made fun of the upper class. They laughed wildly at themselves being ridiculous on-stage.

I truly hope satire can in some way be a force for good. Perhaps there was an English upper class twit, who after seeing The Importance of Being Ernest, decided that true love shouldn’t be superficial – you should love someone for more than their name. Perhaps their are private school girls who after watching Ja’mie have decided to be less of of a bully. I truly hope they at least realise that Ja’mie is a pretty poor example of humanity.

We can but hope…

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Friday Poetry: Funeral Blues

This week I said goodbye to my younger sister Liz. She flew out of Australia to live and study in Scotland for a year. Despite being six years my junior, Liz and I have always been the best friends. We know exactly what the other is thinking.

One thing I love about Liz is her contradictions. She sometimes likes to fancy herself a bit of hipster. However she also doesn’t mind putting her feet up to a good Midsummer Murders or reading anything by Alexander McCall Smith. Perhaps McCall-Smith is one of the reasons she chose to study in Scotland… Certainly after reading his books the place does feel like home.

Liz and I even lined up to meet Alexander McCall Smith at the Opera House. And a year earlier I had lined up to have my book signed by the author. He was quite the gentlemen, standing up and shaking hands with every person he met.

I think I asked him to sign one of Scotland Street books. But I also brought along a book of poems by W.H Auden.  As I had hoped he was surprised and delighted to see the book. I felt a little smug. I’m sure the whole line of middle ladies had wished they’d thought of such a clever trick.

You see, his novels are full of references to Auden. Characters are always using Auden’s poems to muse on life.

It’s hard to pick a favourite, so I’ve decided to go with one I know my sister loves.

Funeral Blues

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message He Is Dead,
Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last for ever: I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now: put out every one;
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood.
For nothing now can ever come to any good

W.H. Auden

Trains and Lovers

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