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Are you having a laugh?

Well, you should be. Laughter is most definitely good for you.

A twice postponed comedy gig at my local theatre (Kingston’s Rose Theatre) finally took place last night to a packed house. My tickets, purchased on a whim back in 2020 I think, were finally usable. Hurrah!

And didn’t it feel good?

Oh yes, despite some lingering and barely policed mask-wearing, this was an evening for proper laughter. I don’t think I’ve laughed so much or so fully since my first re-encounter with my old college friends last May. Proper belly laughs, guffaws and rippling titters all round. 

I was accompanied by Mr J, a brave move on his part as this was a “Sixty FFS” gig by a self-declared post-menopausal Jenny Eclair and the audience was likely to be a wine-or-gin-fuelled collection of women of a certain age. Indeed, on arrival, it was clear that the predominantly female fan-base was limbering up in groups (not yet giggling ‘gaggles’ – those were saved for the interval – this after all being a generally civilised outpost of west London) at the bar, largely sporting leopard-print and undoubtedly TENA-braced for a jolly good time.

On the end of a row, and with a clear path to the exit ‘just in case’, Mr J felt safe enough as the house lights dimmed. 

Considering her great age (Ms Eclair is in fact very nearly 62 now, approximately 18 long Covid-ey months my senior), our entertainer burst on-stage with surprising gusto and, despite recent surgery, maintained an energetic patter of relatable truisms for more than an hour and a half – scuttling or striding around the stage, baring her middle-aged soul (and her knees), and – impressively, to this relatively under-endowed member of the sisterhood – regularly and illustratively hoiking and jiggling her bosoms.

[I will big myself up (yes, much needed Mrs AA-cup) here by ‘confessing’ that I had a random thought before the performance that, should we be asked by Jenny in an audience participation section which of us had had breast augmentation I would reply that ‘no, two were quite enough for me thanks’ and, blow me down with a handbag fan, she referred to her own breast reduction op as the removal of her third mammary. Great minds thinking alike? I should be doing this for a living, I thought, briefly and ludicrously.]

What joy to be laughing so much. I’ve watched and listened to plenty of comedy on TV and podcasts over the past two years, but a live act is quite different. The laughter is bigger, more satisfying and infectiously shared – those masks not as impermeable as we thought huh?

I guess the trick is to scuttle/stride along a clever line between the widely relatable, exaggerated or not, and the idiosyncratically personal. The audience will laugh in recognition of themselves or their friends and family members, and will either feel better about their own lot because they are not experiencing the same level of problem or, if they are, they are not alone and ‘a trouble shared…’ etc. Mr J and I even exchanged knowing glances more than once – chords were struck here and there for sure.

We are of course laughing at ourselves as much as we are laughing at our on-stage representative. I could smugly (behind my mask, obvs) object to some of the implied mid-life sartorial choices: no, I don’t have a gilet (do I?) and nor do I have a favourite cardigan, named or otherwise  – although I will concede that I too abandoned any form of undergarment with ‘control’ in its title some years ago now and was mildly relieved not to be wearing my best Breton-stripe top (or indeed any form of Breton-esque wear from my wardrobe) when Jenny cast her eye around the auditorium for such an item. I also took heart from the fact that I am apparently luckier than most of my age and gender in the sleep-versus-wee night-time stakes. I believe this largely singles me out from my contemporaries both male and female, and certainly gives me a clear lead (if we were to be competitive, which of course we are!) in that department in Jillings Towers.

(NB. The ability to sleep solidly through the night when heavily pregnant with neither nocturnal bathroom visit nor morning mattress-shaming, is still one of my proudest lifetime achievements. I tried to think of other great personal achievements to list here, but sadly nothing springs to mind. I have possibly slept through them.)

And Jenny, I’m sorry, but I don’t believe your bed-changing frequency, although if it is true I am slightly in awe despite myself.

Aside from the glorious comedy, I think what impressed me most was the fluency of patter. How anyone of this apparently tricky age can retain a train of thought and a cogency (great word that!) of delivery for 90 minutes is a wonder in itself, even with an interval – well, especially with an interval – getting back on-stage without forgetting where we last put our specs, or leaving our iPad in the ladies, or inadvertently starting back at the beginning of Act 1. I will now quietly unsubscribe from the Edinburgh Fringe performers’ email circulation list which I peculiarly seem to be on. I think that ship has sailed, if it ever was more than a ghost ship in the first place.

Anyway, hurrah for laughter and hurrah for menopausal, peri-menopausal and post-menopausal women everywhere. 

Now, what was it I was actually supposed to do today?




Thanks Jenny – or whatever your name is

Sometimes I despair.

Well, quite often, but here’s the latest.

In the knowledge that the offspring would visit to surprise their father on Fathers’ Day, I had surreptitiously purchased (and mostly hidden) some suitable snackable foodstuffs. The crisps and cakes were in my usual hiding place to prevent aforementioned father’s discovery and early consumption. I produced these immediately my daughter arrived, dumping them ceremoniously on the garden table (offspring don’t expect any sort of attractive presentation from me – it would make them laugh), and produced a bottle of chilled rosé.

I had also purchased healthier items, intended to offset the crisps, cakes and alcohol. Needless to say, with the excitement of seeing the offspring (and their father) happily chatting at a suitable outdoor distance, I completely forgot that these items were still lodged at the back of the fridge.

Until Monday evening, when I rediscovered them and realised that it will take me all week to consume them by myself. Or rather, three days of concentrated eating if I am to achieve this before their Use By dates. I spent the rest of Monday evening convinced that this is yet another sign that I don’t have long before dementia takes me completely.

Then this morning I read an article by Jenny Eclair in the Sunday Times Magazine which reminded me that memory loss is one of the many symptoms of the menopause. Her article made me laugh out loud at breakfast – an almost unheard of occurrence, although possibly underlining my mid-life madness to the other occupant of this house.  

Although I have a sporadic determination not to believe in the menopause as an actual thing, perhaps I will reassess and at least allow myself to classify some of my failings this way, rather than simply assuming my family history of dementia is charging towards me ever faster. Of course, I will have forgotten this by tomorrow. Or will find it immensely annoying. Or be too bloody hot to care!

Meanwhile, falafels for breakfast anyone?

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