Why having a sense of humour makes sense of the world

PUBLISHED: 07:57 03 March 2018

You have to laugh... even trying not to fall over on a freezing Hickling Broad. Picture: Archant library

You have to laugh... even trying not to fall over on a freezing Hickling Broad. Picture: Archant library


You ‘hev to larf’, says Keith Skipper. It makes sense of the world if you do...

A lively sense of humour could prove a mixed blessing as Norfolk continues to put its trust in academy status, roadworks marathons, all-year-round tourism, harnessing frisky offshore breezes and planning even more new public green spaces in Long Stratton to see us through the worst depression since Melton Constable ran out of steam.

Come to think of it, closures after the war of Gressenhall Workhouse, Dereham Maltings, Swaffham Railway Station, Fakenham Gasworks, Longham Ostrich pub and the back road from Beeston to Litcham for essential repairs cast dark clouds over the county’s potentially richest area for progress.

Ah, but we could laugh things off in those days. We were all in it together – especially if the honeycart took a wrong turning before life moved beyond the pail. Like the new leader of North Norfolk District Council reminded us recently, we had to “grow up and get on with it”.

It is far more fashionable now to gripe and groan in public, blaming “them in charge” or unstoppable global forces for making the slightest alteration to a daily routine that, in some cases, could do with a well-aimed kick up the charisma bypass.

Why, only the other day I heard a former scholar of the famous Trunch & Knapton Bored School put this current complaining agenda in sharp focus when he said too many folk thinking out loud were merely rearranging their prejudices.

There appears to be a growing number of informal clubs for such miscreants springing up in shops. Woe betide the brave soul aiming to lift a bit of fun and perspective off the top shelf to share with those bellyaching down below. Any attempt to introduce a little light relief is greeted with the sort of stare designed to curdle fresh milk at around 100 paces.

In a small town like Cromer, with an inherent acceptance that qualifying for a grumpy badge should not be confined to holidaymakers on wild and woolly summer days plucked from high November, it’s still possible to seek out the cream of all-year-round society for reminders of what makes gale-force breezes and salty exchanges worth having.

They saunter where others rush. They grin while too many grouse. They are swift to praise, slow to chide. Cheerleaders of the old school, pavement preachers with a simple text: “Where would we be without a sense of humour? Sheringham!” I know there are similar beacons of bonhomie in that grand resort just along the coast.

I tried hard to explain this kind of local rivalry to a young lady researcher for a national television company keen to do a feature on the Crab and Lobster Festival. It seemed unkind to continue when she asked how to book members of the United Nations peace-keeping force in blue sou’westers stationed on neutral soil in West Runton.

Winding up the national media can be a dangerous pastime as I discovered more than once while working for the BBC in a county some of the top brass do know may be out there somewhere. Even so, it’s important to assert Norfolk’s unique approach to matters other places either ignore or fail to comprehend. Our capacity to laugh at ourselves surely affords us the right to take the gentle rise out of everyone else.

Comedian Peter Cook may have been serious when he said: “There’s terrific merit in having no sense of humour, no sense of irony, no sense of anything at all. If you’re born with these so-called defects, you have a very good chance of getting to the top.”

Go on, compile a list of people who might fit that description and can only see a joke by appointment. I can think of several politicians, football managers, captains of industry, showbusiness moguls, media trailblazers, financial experts, cookery celebrities, literary darlings and the odd USA president.

I am being slightly flippant when I suggest a smile adds to everyone’s face value. Some people are simply not happy unless they’re wallowing in an ocean of misery and calling out “Come on in, the water’s fine!” They don’t need a recession, wet bank holiday, record council tax rises or a touch of flu to spread germs of discontent.

Yes, doom merchants will continue to rail against the bright and breezy brigade. But victory will eventually go to those who genuinely believe humour is the shock absorber of life. It helps to take the blows.

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