Please tell me this is Saturday, otherwise I must ponder the confusion! Admittedly, I have a large gin beside me but it is 7pm, after all. It has been a glorious summer’s day, albeit for the hour immediately after I hung out some bedding to dry when, of course, the heavens opened! Somebody up there has a wicked sense of humour. Wonder who that might be?
This staycation lark is not good. How I used to revel in footage of Brits abroad as, courtesy of their all-inclusive deals, they headed for Spain and its environs. Lured by the promise of … copious amounts of alcohol soaked up by the ‘delicacy’ of greasy English fayre – in the sun – it was a no-brainer. Wrong choice of words? I think not. The point is, thanks to COVID-19, they’re all here! The streets of St Andrews are packed as they spill out of every bar and eatery, seemingly, more than happy to queue the length of South Street for the reward of a Janetta’s ice cream. The same, too, can be said of the well-known fish and chip shops. Meanwhile, every shop keeper I spoke to, today – make that ‘attempted to communicate with’ thanks to the latest answer to self-suffocation – had had enough. Months of lockdown have, I think, affected people differently. There are those – like myself – who only ever tolerated fellow beings anyway! Albeit, outwardly gregarious, only the chosen few are preferred to one’s own company and, thus, isolation has proved of little hardship. The very real danger, however, is that one has no wish to return to ‘normality’; to mingle with one’s fellow man. On the other hand, most are desperate to join the crowd! Fed up with box sets and carry outs, God forbid they take a book from the shelf – slightly difficult in the absence of any book on a shelf, perhaps, but … Pardon the cynicism but the images of the crowded beaches and bars – resulting in the inevitable litter in every shape and form – beggars belief. Crowd mentality. From whence did it originate? A packet?
So, as the West Sands is engulfed in the masses, I can only apologise, Pop! Never in all my years growing up on that beach have I ever witnessed such scenes. The tailback of cars driving up past the R&A is unprecedented (and that is pronounced as written, not à la Nicola!)) as this staycation thing manifests into a nightmare – but why? Nobody, or very few, holidayed abroad in the Seventies and yet, somehow, the popular destinations remained civilised. Forty to fifty years on, the word ‘civilised’ is obsolete. In its place are several others: ‘brash’, ‘uncouth, ‘ill-mannered’, ‘egotistical’, ‘aggressive’, ‘uneducated’, ‘moneyed’, ‘sheep’ … need I go on? Is there any hope? Ask John Cleese!
I had heard John Cleese, a week or so ago, on Radio 2 chatting away with his characteristic sarcasm. His laugh was reminiscent of Pop’s, as he promoted his upcoming live-streamed show, ‘Why There is No Hope’, and my ticket was in the bag. Please, God, an intelligent, humorous take on life in 2020! If anyone could restore a semblance of sanity – my kind of sanity – then John Cleese was it. Or, not! Laptop positioned, glass of chilled wine at the ready, the countdown began and, then, someone resembling John Cleese appeared, on screen, looking like … well, more like Thomas Markle! Overweight and dishevelled, he was a far-cry from the halcyon days of Basil Fawlty but, then, isn’t that to be expected? Forty-odd years on, life has taken its toll and John Cleese is not one for subterfuge. For my part, however, he shall forever be the genius that is; the master of sarcasm synonymous with my father. Hallelujah! How sad, then, to witness that genius, seemingly, drained of the humour which once empowered him.
The Cadogan Hall was empty – obviously – as he advanced to the lectern. Unshaven – if I recall – wearing jeans and a navy polo shirt, he looked as though the passing forty-odd years had beaten him to a pulp! Perhaps they have. Gone was the sarcasm; not a hint of humour, he was telling it as it is. Today’s world according to John Cleese: Why There is No Hope.
Taken aback from the moment he appeared, it was a portent of what was to come; the larger than life, Basil Fawlty, all but a memory. It was as though he had thrown in the towel and, thus, he proceeded to cite the fact that only 10% of employees – in any job – are capable of, or know what they’re doing! Well, that was the gist. Add to that the inevitable ‘ego’ and we are in trouble – and who could argue? Ultimately, though, he believes that we are, now, living in a world ‘where people have no idea that they have no idea what they’re talking about.’ Therein lies the truth! He’s right and, for that reason, it’s not funny. In fact, it’s downright depressing! Imagine, the infamous Basil Fawlty has lost his voice; the ability to mock in the face of the ridiculous – or, merely, the unacceptable. ‘Basil’ is dead. ‘Manuel’ is dead! Who will speak for us, now, or are we destined to live in a proverbial lockdown; a PC world controlled – nay, terrorised – by the inadequate driven, only, by the negative energy borne of their believed victimisation?
There was no funny ending. No punchline. In fact, as he sipped his water, John Cleese made it quite clear that he had had enough. There can be few, however, who can lay claim to such a magnificent legacy; testament to a gentler world when humour was just that and laughter was forthcoming. I miss it.
‘American guest: “Is there anywhere they do French food?”
Basil: “Yes, France, I believe. They seem to like it there. And the swim would certainly sharpen your appetite. You’d better hurry, the tide leaves in six minutes.”’
Fawlty Towers, the inimitable, never, ever to be forgotten!
This is Trish, signing off.