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Tuesday, 29 May 2012

On Having A Laugh

Today I am writing this from a double bed in Rye in East Sussex. Rye is Home to Benson's Mapp and Lucia, Henry James and birth place of Edward Burra who painted The Snack Bar, which is one of my favourite paintings. I love the sliding salami and the way Burra depicts the seated prostitute eating a sandwich (other painters tended to opt for the more erotic view of the French prostitutes found in 1930's Soho). The composition always makes me ponder about what the woman, paused, just outside the door, is doing.

The bed I'm reclining on is a trendy old hospital bed with a thick white bar at the end where a clean white towel has been hung. Across from me on the wall, above a pink kettle, is a print of The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark which I feel attached to because someone once kindly said my writing reminded them of hers. It is also a very attractive print, and is screwed really well to the wall.

A fan is cooling my fat foot (see Naked Posing blogwhich became flat and normal for a while, but after running for a bus last week, has ballooned again. I am not ill, I am hardly ever ill, maybe because I regularly enact all the pleasurable bits about being ill. Someone waits on you, you don't have to get dressed, or feel guilty about not doing any work. So, on this mini break, I am sitting in bed at 3pm wearing my Japanese light-weight dressing gown and watching a movie with four plumped pillows cradling my shoulders. I don't have to do anything but just admire the smooth sheets all tight under me because the chamber-maid (proxy mother) pulled them really tight earlier when I went out for my savoury crepe. I have a glass of water on the bedside table and a coffee. I am ignoring the pull of the sunshine, a red triangle on my left breast got enough of that yesterday on the beach.

I am thinking about how much I love my mother. Though I never seem to be able to translate it, or show her, very well. One year when we couldn't afford our yearly trip to Spain, mum and dad hired a caravan at Camber Sands. We had to travel to Rye on the train, then get the adjoining bus to the coast which is fifteen minutes from Rye. As we killed some time in Rye, I remember dragging my feet as we walked around the cobbled streets, a sense of death coming over me as Mum oohed at the wooden beams of the fifteenth century cottages. It was only when I saw a funfair that my spirits lifted and I went on a ride though my sister refused to join in, making the experience rather a solitary one.
In Camber Sands, one night, I secretly won a pound on a fruit machine all in 2p's when I was supposed to be fetching the fish and chips. And then even better, I triumphed with first prize in a talent competition. At the age of nine it had been my largest audience so far, of over a hundred people. I performed my 'set': impressions of Janet Street Porter, Sue Ellen from 'Dallas' and Margaret Thatcher whilst wearing my mother's bi-focals. Everyone had laughed (apart from my sister) and especially my mother. My sister tells me now, the other contestants had been rubbish, because they were both under five and had merely recounted a nursery rhyme or done the dance to Michael Jackson's Thriller. The prize was a wooden pencil case with a sliding drawer which seemed the height of sophistication. Years later, when back at the same caravan park, I had my first kiss with a boy in the Camber sand dunes and I remember how I had found sand in my underwear, and it had got everywhere.

Still, I think about my mother. Last week I put something on Facebook which was not entirely true about a conversation we'd had on the phone.

"Just tried to explain to my mum what an @ is so she can get the instructions for her new fire emailed to my account. Patience needed for this one, I thought, explain it as if you're teaching French.
I ended up saying very loudly, 'Just say AT, they will know what an AT is.'"

When I met her in the street she told me off, saying I had made her look stupid. I had posted it without any thought. I had done it to make my Facebook friends laugh and give us all a boost of lightness. Looking back the entry is really about how impatient and cross I am at times. I couldn't foresee, or didn't think it through, that her sister would see the entry, then laugh about it on the phone to her later that evening. It was an easy joke to make, because mum has encouraged this kind of self-mockery all her life. Being 'green' is as much part of her personality as it once was mine, before I had to start acting less scatty, because it's not actually funny, to knock yourself by pretending to be dumber than you are. It's the opposite of wit and charm. I did it the other night in the pub, I remember. When I couldn't quite hear what the person had said I made up what I thought they had said, and repeated it back to them, sounding like a deaf granny (stop me if I ever do this to you). Being old is not funny, there's plenty of other stuff out there.

My girlfriend has knocked at the door. I do my pretending to be ill walk across the room as she comes in having a sneezing fit. She laughs at the way I'm holding my back as if I'm pregnant. That's funny isn't it? To have bowed legs and a fake puffing face. I got the laugh, not a really big one, but one that didn't hurt a fly.

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