OPINION: Humour really is the shock absorber of life

Busy but not brazen ..,. Cromer at its most inviting along the seafront a few summer seasons ago

Busy but not brazen ..,. Cromer at its most inviting along the seafront a few summer seasons ago - Credit: Submitted

I suspect even larger rations of tact, tolerance and humour will be needed to steer certain old killjoys through another bumper summer season along our enticing north Norfolk coast.

Make that bumper-to-bumper season as trippers from near and far strain to make up for lost time, lost travel and lost opportunities to follow a traditional flair for all going to the same place at the same time.

The queuing instinct, thankfully, remains in good nick if jolly crowds of city shoppers are anything to go by as hinges creak loudly to announce opening of a door from lockdown limbo towards the promised land of freedom.

A few handy impressions soon followed in Cromer as I ventured out for my first crab of the season. I treated girls in the fish shop to an annual airing for that old crustacean cracker about chances of them walking straight if they’re drunk. ( That’s the crabs .. not the girls).

No such gripping banter to go with dripping batter as customers multiplied outside fish-and-chip takeaways, Same story stretching out at pubs, ice cream kiosks, supermarkets, coffee shops and anywhere else where someone could be spotted looking in a window.

It is dangerously premature to assume the virus dragon has been slain by a St George-like spirit after so long a period of restricted living. Popular holiday spots must be most prone to losing the steady recovery plot if they shun obvious risks of rampaging visitors carrying variants.

Yes, we are still all in this together. Sadly, it seems far more fashionable among a considerable number to show noisy defiance ahead of measured care and attention. They blame “them in charge” or unstoppable global forces for the slightest alteration to a daily routine … even if said routine cries out for a well-aimed kick up the charisma bypass.

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Why, only the other day I heard a former pupil of the famous Trunch Bored School put this current moaning agenda in sharp focus when he suggested too many folk thinking out loud are merely rearranging their prejudices.

An increasing rash of informal clubs for such miscreants are springing up in shops trying to let in gentle rays of recovery. Woe betide the brave soul aiming to lift a bit of fun off the top shelf to share with those bellyaching down below.

Any attempt to introduce a little light relief is often greeted with the sort of stare designed to curdle fresh milk at around 100 paces. In the interests of balance in our topsy-turvy retail world, I have to admit some of the worst offenders are hardened locals.

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 days plucked from high November, it’s important to seek out the cream of all-year-round society.

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 rise out of everyone else.

One of my favourite quotes concerning humour must not be taken as a cheeky reference to all who fell short of fully appreciating my ideas of verbal fun during full-time years of ploughing creative furrows with newspaper, wireless and entertainment stage.

It should serve as a general indictment of any business or profession where banter and laughter are treated automatically as devilish intruders, particularly where gloom and graft rule the rotas.

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

Remind you of anyone? I am being slightly flippant when I suggest a smile adds to everyone’s face value. Some people simply are not happy unless they’re wallowing in an ocean of misery and shouting: “Come on in, the water’s fine!”

They don’t need an economic depression, wet bank holiday, five-mile traffic tailback or global pandemic to spread germs of discontent.

Yes, gloom merchants will continue to rail against the bright and breezy brigade - even in God’s Own County – but victory has to go to those who genuinely believe humour is the shock absorber of life.

It helps us survive the blows.

A seagull watching over the beach activities from the railings of Cromer Pier.Picture: ANTONY KELLY

A seagull watching over the beach activities from the railings of Cromer Pier. Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

Skip's Aside: It’s impossible to argue about most figures connected with Norfolk’s tourism industry – simply because they are too big.

So, in the interests of fairness and balance, qualities attracting so many for holidays or to put down full-time roots, I conducted a completely impartial survey on Cromer’s bustling streets and seafront.

Sunshine beat down to take some of the sting out of a sprightly post-Easter wind as I set out my statistics stall like a real tourist board official and projected all figures collected into the most likely end-of-term report.

I couldn’t reach many locals as 68 % prefer to stay out of sight until October while a few visitors not wearing masks claimed they couldn’t understand what I was on about.

Here’s what tourism may well mean to Cromer as this summer season unfolds:

Average journey by car through the town centre provided 2,118 drivers with a perfect chance to catch up with holiday reading. Of these, 72 found time to buy new books along the way and 15 joined the local library service.

A total of 1,457 people struck up friendships while waiting to cross the road. On one busy corner there were a dozen reunions, four proposals of marriage and three trial separations.

Out of 35 local businesses questioned, 29 said there were plenty of people about. But they were invariably suffering from a common Norfolk affliction …”They ent spendin’ noffin’.

Of 3,456 visitors carrying fish and chips,97% preferred eating them outside, with seats overlooking pier and promenade favourite spots. Nearly 900 plump seagulls and starlings said they approved of tourism in general.

Cromer Pier facilities were applauded by all but two of 1,600 people interviewed. One complained he couldn’t get a mobile phone signal. The other complained that he could – and he’d come from Aberdeen for “a wee bit o’ peace and quiet”.

A cynical 13% refused to answer any questions, claiming it was too easy to twist replies to suit any cause. One said: “We take all statistics with a pinch of salt, drop of vinegar, drizzle of butter and bunch of samphire”.