It’s No Laughing Matter!

My daughter asked me an interesting question last night. She challenged me to name three personality traits that are intrinsically hers. I believe she thought I would struggle to name even that many and was surprised when I reached at least eight with no signs of stopping. See, I have been paying attention the last sixteen years.

Some of the traits were hers and hers alone – like the way she always finds something of no significance whatsoever to do every time I am up against the clock and need her help. That trait she, unfortunately, gets from her father. We would have six of his friends expected for Sunday lunch at 1pm. He promised faithfully to help, but at 11am that morning decided to completely clean out the shed!

And like the way she gets obsessed with something for a short while, then gets bored with it and moves on to the next thing. Again, inherited from him.

One trait I listed however, is one that we both share, and that is a hatred of seeing anyone being humiliated or embarrassed to the point of fast-forwarding a programme in an unspoken mutual agreement to bypass the “car crash” moment. And it’s not confined to real people, but fictional characters in films or TV shows that are being shown up and belittled also has one or both of us diving for the remote.

I know some find it funny, watching people squirm, but I can’t stand seeing others subjected to pranks, jokes in bad taste, or basically being shamed in any way.

I hate practical jokes as well – you know, the “let’s make someone look an arse and then laugh at them” ones – and don’t find them funny in the slightest. Apparently, I have passed this trait onto my daughter, which I consider no bad thing.

Why do others find humour at other people’s expense? Sometimes it is okay. A friend turns up in mismatched shoes and laughs at themselves, of course you join in. But to deliberately set them up to be the butt of a mean joke? No, that’s never acceptable.

I remember back in the 1980’s there used to be an awful programme on British TV called “Beadle’s About” – although I’m sure there have been versions of this worldwide. Hosted by an obnoxious knobhead called Jeremy Beadle, each week we would witness “hilarious” gags played on unsuspecting members of the public.

Every week, millions would tune in to watch the ritualistic sacrifice of people’s pride, dignity, and respect in themselves, at the hands of this evil joker. The worst part being that it was their own family and friends who had volunteered them for the honour.

I hated this programme, but my parents found it hysterically funny, so every Saturday night it was on. I think the worst prank I ever saw, at least the one that really sticks out in my mind, was an incident involving a man, and a van full of his life’s savings in stock, that he was moving from one location on one side of the harbour to another location on the other side.

Quite why he was doing this, I can’t remember, but in order to take his van across on the ferry, he had to go and purchase a ticket from the harbour master.

Whilst this poor, unsuspecting sap was in there, those cunning tricksters swapped his van for another that looked exactly like his, even down to the jaunty logo on the side. So, this man exits the harbour master’s office just in time to see the van that he totally believes is his, roll slowly down the slipway and into the water – where it sank without trace.

Bear in mind, it has already been explained to us several times that the contents of this van represent thousands of pounds worth of stock. That this poor sod has sunk every penny he has into this venture and losing it will mean bankruptcy, destitution, his kids begging on the streets, and generally bad things for him.

So, what did he do when he saw what he firmly believed to be his van disappearing under the water?

Did he laugh?

No, he didn’t. Would any of us?

This poor man simply fell to his knees, screaming out in horror. Totally oblivious to the stares of the people passing by, he cried. And I don’t mean a single tear slipped down his chiselled face as he manfully contained his feelings. I mean he cried. He proper cried. Like a toddler who has lost their favourite toy. Like a teenage girl who has been dumped for the first time. He wailed and sobbed, and kept yelling a single word over, and over, again.

“No!”

To the soundtrack of raucous laughter from the studio audience, this devastated, broken man simply knelt there and looked into the abyss of his bleak future, unaware that he was being watched and was providing “entertainment” for millions of cackling, insensitive hyenas out in TV land.

Of course, eventually Jeremy Beadle, who had been in disguise watching the whole proceedings, popped up and put the poor sod out of his misery, and he was vastly relieved and felt much better about life. Although whether he would ever go back to feeling as good as he had felt before it happened, is debatable.

Sitting in the studio afterwards and watching the blow-by-blow action replay of his ordeal, seeing his soul stripped bare for everyone to laugh at, there was a certain emptiness in that man’s eyes. To my mind though, the final nail in his devastation was finding out it was his wife of twenty years who had set it all up. That the one person who was supposed to love him more than anybody else had felt it was okay to do this to him. I always wondered if that marriage was forever on shaky foundations after that. I mean, how could anyone trust their spouse after they had subjected them to that?

I later asked my mother if she would ever set my father up like that? She laughed and said no, because the bleep machine would explode – back then expletives would be bleeped out to protect the innocent ears of any children and elderly spinsters who might happen to be watching. My father was never one for handling situations like that quietly.

I know my parents read my blog every week, so sorry, Dad, but you know it’s true.

So, when my daughter asked her question and we went over my replies, it made us wonder about the type of person who is okay with this kind of humour. Who think, all is fair in laughs and comedy? I like to think I have a broad sense of humour, and there isn’t much I won’t laugh at. Anti-religious, political, sexual, sure bring it on – if it’s truly funny, I’ll laugh at it. But, laughing AT other people, instead of WITH them, no, there I draw the line.

Since last week when I blogged about the knife incident that occurred down my road, I have been inundated with messages of concern and support, for which I would like to say thank you. I am yet to go into the station to give my statement as the officer in charge is away on holiday – how very nice for him.

Solicitors have got involved, as an injunction is being raised against this individual, however, a snag has been reached which highlights the ludicrous state of the Western world. This person will be protected every step of the proceedings and will be left where he is until the situation is resolved, but if I and my other neighbours make an honest statement to the solicitors listing everything that we saw and heard, then he will be given copies of our statements including our names and addresses!

In what way is this sensible or fair? He is the one who went on the prowl with a knife in the middle of the night threatening to kill us all, yet if we do the right thing and give a statement, he will then be aware of exactly who is giving evidence against him and where they live!

My neighbour is elderly, lives alone, and is terrified by this whole turn of events. We have been told if we do not put our names to our statements then we might as well not give them because they will carry no weight, but if we do give them then a dangerously unstable individual with a violent criminal record who is known to own a large knife, will know precisely who we are and can come and knock on our doors at any time. We live literally feet away from him, he can see our houses from his balcony, he knows the backway around into our gardens!

I am left not knowing what to do for the best. Of course, I want to give a statement, but am not oblivious to the possible consequences not only for myself, but for my teenage daughter as well. This is an appalling state of affairs. How can he be protected yet the victims are not? And how can the police and other bodies of authority expect normal members of the public to come forward and give statements to help them combat crime, when we are thrown under the bus in exchange?

As my neighbour says, normal people are being treated as merely collateral damage. It is cheaper and easier all round – rather than preventing a nasty incident to simply let it happen, let the violent individual stab one of us then he’ll go to jail and the problem will be solved. As for the poor victim, well, there will be an outcry for a few days, then it will all be swept under the rug and forgotten about.

I really want to believe she’s wrong, but this latest turn of events has made me question everything I ever believed about law and order in this country. I am also wondering if the police hold the same “share everything with the perpetrator” policy that these solicitors do, and if I should rethink my plan to make a statement to them. Leaving it so long to obtain our statements is also indicative of how little the police care about this incident – as my neighbour was told on the phone by the police officer she spoke to when she called next day to make a statement – “he didn’t actually stab anyone, so why are you making such a fuss about it?”

Moving on from such an upsetting and unsettling matter, I have also had lots of people enquire how I am finding my return to work is going? It’s going well, thank you. We are incredibly busy and that has surprised me. Maybe I was judging everyone by how I would react in the middle of a pandemic, but sales have reached January sales levels with people piling into the shop, and a lot of them seemingly oblivious to the fact that Corona hasn’t gone away, that it is still here, and if they keep piling into public places like this, it will be coming back with a vengeance.

I have also found it hard to adjust to being with so many people again. After three months of it being only my daughter and myself, to once again be coping with dozens of people every day has been a difficult realignment, and I am coming home from work exhausted and stressed.

However, I only have another four shifts at work and then I will have a whole two weeks off. It is pre-booked holiday that the company are honouring, and I am really looking forward to it, especially as during those two weeks my birthday will occur.

Normally, I make a bit of a fuss about my birthday and go out for a nice brunch or lunch with my friends, but what will happen this year is anyone’s guess. With pubs and restaurants only tentatively re-opening it remains to be seen whether an “away from home” celebration of some kind can be managed, or whether it will have to be a prosecco in the garden kind of affair. Either is good, so long as I mark the passing of yet another year in some way, I will be happy.

Speaking of the year, does anyone else feel it is galloping by so fast that it will be only a few more sleeps until Christmas is upon us! Looking back on isolation, although logically I know I did get a lot of jobs done, I am feeling annoyed at myself that I didn’t manage more.

I re-published “Erinsmore” in April but fully expected to have also re-published “Lost & Found” and “Fixtures & Fittings” by now, along with the brand new, book three of the series, but everything took a lot longer to do than I expected, so here I am in July with them still unpublished. I am only awaiting one beta reader’s feedback before book three can go off to the formatter and then it will be all systems go for a simultaneous launch of all three. I must be inspired or mad to be attempting to publish all three at the same time!

While waiting for the feedback, I have begun work editing and formatting “The Book of Eve” which I will receive copyright back for at the end of July. I haven’t read or even thought about this book in almost three long years, and re-reading it now I’m realising that it is actually quite good. No, it’s better than good, it’s really very good. Now it’s had a professional edit and will have a beautiful professional formatting job done on it, and have a gorgeous new cover, this book will finally be worthy of the Julia Blake brand and can take its place alongside my other nine published books.

My two-year long mission to re-visit, renovate, upgrade, and republish all my books will then be at an end and I will be able to move onto the next project…

And what is that, I hear you say, well, I’m not giving away too many spoilers, but let’s just say if you think you know the Snow White story, think again!

In other news, my decorators will be back Monday morning to start work on my front of house. They will be completely sanding down and repainting the front door in gorgeous pale grey and painting all the door furniture black. The front porchway will be cleaned and repainted, together with my front railings which will be brushed down and painted with black metal paint.

It will really smarten up the front of my home – just in time for the Bury in Bloom judges who will be inspecting our street on the 13th of July!

I would also like to wish all my American friends Happy Independence Day for yesterday. Having watched the recording of Hamilton on Friday, I have more of an understanding of the whole tangled, complicated, and downright dangerous process the gaining of independence was, and that the creation of this mighty nation was not without serious birthing pains.

And that is this week’s ramble at an end. It has been a strange week, with many ups and downs, and I don’t know if the pandemic is over (as most people seem to think), going away, or merely biding its time and waiting to return with a vengeance. So please, wherever you are and whatever you are doing, stay safe, stay healthy, and stay happy.

Julia Blake

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