Saturday, 31 October 2015

Was my face red

Mistakes and mishaps always make me laugh. I know it's wrong but I just can't help myself. The mirth of the unex-pected. The mirth of human frailty.

Someone falling into a pond, denting the car, dyeing everything purple in the wash. Someone delivering the wrong speech, catching the wrong train, going to the wrong funeral. Isn't laughter a spontaneous reaction to the unforeseen?

Naturally I sympathise as well. I feel for the person who's messed up, especially if it's a friend or someone I admire. I know how I would feel in the same situation. Thoroughly embarrassed and angry with myself. I wouldn't appreciate the laughter one bit.

But I usually end up laughing at myself, once the dust has settled and the initial embarrassment has faded. A week later I'll be chuckling as I tell the story to someone else, painting a vivid picture of my idiocy or absent-mindedness.

Of course I'm not talking about blunders that lead to severe injury or death. They have to be treated with the seriousness they deserve. But a politician struggling with an over-filled bacon sandwich? Who could fail to be amused?

Mishaps are especially funny if they happen to someone who's normally the soul of rectitude -  pompous, strait-laced, sanctimonious. When they come a cropper like anyone else, it's delicious. I remember when a particularly loathsome boss had his house burgled. When the staff heard about it, they could hardly stop laughing. It was such a wonderful come-uppance.

The richly ironic gaffes are comical too. Like the gay-bashing politician caught in bed with a rent boy. Or the "happily-married" vicar whose secret mistress goes public. The ultimate futility of such strenuous pretence can only be relished.

How dull life would be without the endless joys of human error.


  1. isn't it strange.
    now i'm oddly aware of trying not to gush.
    one of my favorite movies is 'the bird cage.'
    it's come up before. and this post made me think of it.
    i hope you get to see it. knowing you better little by little here...
    i think you would love it!
    it literally has you mopping your eyes with laughter.
    i've seen it many times now... and i STILL laugh like that at it.
    and thank you for the kind support on the last post nick.
    no worries there. it's a free country.
    and opinions are like asses. everybody has one.
    that's me. being humorous. an old tired joke. but still true.

  2. Tammy: I haven't got round to The Bird Cage yet, but I will, I will! This is my response to all those blogmates who've never noticed my sense of humour.

    "Opinions are like asses, everyone has one". Very true. And very necessary they are as well.

  3. Your "response to all those blogmates who've never noticed my sense of humour" makes less than hilarious reading. So you laugh at others' misfortune. Congratulations, Nick.The word "Schadenfreude" was invented for the likes of you. If you believe, as some of your blogging friends do, in Karma please do beware the next banana skin you latch onto, to the hilarity of (see above) the likes of you.

    Here is a little morsel of fodder for thought: Has it ever occurred to you that if people CANNOT see the humour in your writing that maybe there is no humour? I am judged (rightly or wrongly) as highly critical of others. Being highly critical of myself, the first question I, self aware, ask myself when someone criticizes me what merit there may be to their(even yours, Nick) observation - instead of just casting them and their views aside. Try it some time, Nick. It will broaden your horizon.


  4. Ursula: You've misinterpreted me as usual. I don't simply laugh at others' misfortunes. If you read paragraph three, you will see that I sympathise at the same time. It's called irony. Or maybe ambiguity. Or maybe just not being the soul of rectitude.

    I think my sense of humour is more evident in my offline existence than in my blog. Not sure why. Maybe face-to-face repartee lends itself to humour whereas straight text not so much.

    I respond to criticism all the time. Some would say I over-respond and worry too much about other people's opinions. Which only goes to show that my blogmates don't all think alike.

  5. tammy,
    I've move The Birdcage to the top of my Netflix queue.

    Andy laughed out loud at a blurb in yesterday's local paper. Apparently a woman and her daughter were in a car with another woman when the mother and daughter started fighting. The mother stopped the car and she and her daughter got out and started fighting. In the process they rolled into the street right into the path of a poor driver who couldn't stop in time. Both women died and no citations were issued. Both the mother and daughter were legally drunk.

    Andy said, "Only in New Mexico." I don't know if that's true, but his laughter wasn't shadenfreude. The situation just seemed funny. As George Bernard Shaw said, "Life does not cease to be funny when people die any more than it ceases to be serious when people laugh."

    As to all blogmates not thinking alike, I prefer celebrators to critics. It makes the internet more friendly.

  6. Hurrah for generosity of spirit!

    I added this separately just in case the link didn't work.

  7. Ursula: Highly critical people are some of the most horrible people on earth. They make other people's lives an utter misery. My father was hyper-critical and I hated him. I didn't speak to him for almost 20 years.

    By the way, I'm most impressed that you have never ever in your entire life laughed at someone else's misfortune - even for a second. Such remarkable saintliness.

  8. Jean: My point exactly. You can't help laughing despite the tragic outcome. But that doesn't stop you feeling sorry for the victims at the same time.

    And George Bernard Shaw was dead right. He appreciated the constant irony that runs through everything we do.

  9. Jean: To understand and be understood indeed. Unfortunately misunderstandings are all too frequent, however carefully we explain ourselves and however carefully we listen to others. Perfect understanding of another person is a rare and beautiful thing.

    Generosity of spirit seems all too rare these days. Too many people get a kick out of abusing other people rather than supporting and nurturing them.

  10. This is the sort of story that cracks me up. Some people are just plain crazy.

  11. This on the other hand is not remotely funny. It's just horrible.

  12. Nick, I like you yet am close to giving up on you. I said that I am perceived as "highly critical" - (mostly of myself not others) and I take that on board. Unlike you, who doesn't appear (please note that I said "appear", I didn't say you don't) to take anything on board. You are defensive. Even when here, and in comments to you on my own blog, I make sympathetic noises you don't hear them. You hear what you are wired to hear without actually listening to what is being said. It's not your fault, but it doesn't make it easy to communicate.

    It's all very well for Jean aka Cheerful Monk to say that she prefers "to celebrate rather than critique". That is, presumably, the reason she latched onto my one little side remark in a comment to David aka Magpie (about you), and not a word about the actual content I posted. That is not celebrating, that is stoking a tiny flame unnecessarily.

    I am truly sorry for you, Nick, not least since your father appears to have had a rather unfortunate impact on you. However, for your own sake, and I know it's late in the day considering your age, please don't make the same mistake as he possibly did of not giving others the benefit of the doubt.

    No one, and I have said it before, Nick, is after your hind. Kindness comes in many forms. But you have to have the vision to actually recognize kindness when it's offered to you.

    Other than that: Yes, I am a saint.


  13. Ursula: "I like you yet am close to giving up on you". Please do.

  14. Humor is highly subjective. I don't find things you mentioned to be particularly amusing. They would make me either sympathize or feel disgusted. I've always thought The Three Stooges were stupid and South Park just offensive. Other things crack me up, like simple memes or the Seinfeld Show and Stephen Colbert.

    That's the beauty of the world........everyone is unique.

  15. I have to admit to laughing when a coconut hit my husband when he was bending to pick up one which had dropped earlier....I realised the danger immediately...but the laughter came first.

  16. Nick: I don't think we can ever completely understand another person, but it's neat to come close. That's what's so great about long-term marriages that have worked. To be accepted and loved just the way we are, there's nothing like it.

  17. Bijoux: True, humour is very subjective. I love Friends and Frasier and Woody Allen films, but others might dislike them intensely. I can quite understand your different take on personal goofs.

    Helen: Yes, it's a kind of spontaneous reaction, isn't it?

    Jean: To be accepted and loved just the way we are is quite something. Very hard to achieve though, there's so much scope for misunderstandings and incomprehension.

  18. Nick: Andy and I have known one another for over 54 years and have been married for 51 years. We've built up a lot of trust, which goes a long way.

  19. Phew! Just noticed the comment storm of these two posts. I was laughed at a lot as a child so am excruciatingly sensitive to laughing at others' misfortunes, accidental slips, "funny" tossings into pools fully clothed, etc.

    I've been classified as "too serious" to "get it". "Get what?" another's misfortune and humiliation and maybe pain?

    Erm, like I said, get what?

    BUT I can laugh to breathlessness at my own stupidity or ineptness - or watching some segments of Smack the Pony.

    Humour is highly subjective. And there are endless varieties.

    Love wit. Love satire.


  20. Jean: Trust is so important. Once you lose trust in each other, the rot really sets in.

    www: I can understand your sensitivity to people's ill-luck, given your own childhood experiences. I guess you would dismiss the idea of irony - an accident is seldom funny to the person concerned, so why laugh at it, even if it's private laughter?

    I guess humour is a very slippery thing. One person's riotous humour is another person's crass insensitivity.

  21. We recently had the case of a leading meat ban politico exposed as being an investor and director of a meat exporting firm!

  22. Ramana: That's pretty amazing, even by the normal standards of political hypocrisy! Did he really think he could get away with it indefinitely?

  23. Ursula,
    "It's all very well for Jean aka Cheerful Monk to say that she prefers "to celebrate rather than critique". That is, presumably, the reason she latched onto my one little side remark in a comment to David aka Magpie (about you), and not a word about the actual content I posted. That is not celebrating, that is stoking a tiny flame unnecessarily."

    We obviously interpret that differently. In my mind I was celebrating Nick. I may have been too subtle, so I'll say, "Yay, Nick!" :)

  24. Jean: Funny how someone can interpret a remark as meaning the exact opposite of what was intended.