Ho Ho No…

What do you get if you cross Father Christmas with a duck?

A Christmas quacker.

I’ve got a great idea! I’m going to send a Christmas themed joke to Hubs every night when I go to bed, so that when he wakes up in the morning he can have a little chuckle and think of his Christmas homecoming. Brilliant, should be easy enough, there are LOADS of funny Christmas jokes aren’t there……

It started well, as you can see by my first effort above, but it has to be said by the end of the second week I was struggling. It also seemed that the quality of joke and my levels of bed time fatigue seemed inexplicably linked, but once you have begun something like this it is almost impossible to stop. And with the power of the internet at my fingertips it couldn’t be that hard……

Whats brown and hides in the kitchen?

Mince spies.

But no matter how many searches I made and how many websites claimed to be packed full of ‘hilarious holiday howlers’ it seemed that they all contained the same dozen or so fairly mediocre Christmas cracker standards that failed to raise a smile, let alone a chuckle. Once or twice I hit gold. But more often than not I found myself wishing, (for more than one reason), that Hubs was due home much much sooner.

But just why is it that ‘Christmas cracker jokes’ are very rarely about Christmas, and even more rarely funny?

Well having searched long and hard I can assure you that there aren’t a huge amount of funny seasonal joke out there, so this would answer one of the questions, but why are they just so…bad?

What did the bald man say when he got a comb for Christmas?

I’ll never part with it.

According to Psychologist Professor Richard Wiseman, (really I couldn’t make it up a professor called Wiseman in a blog about Christmas….), who lectures on ‘The public understanding of psychology’ at Hertfordshire university (just in case you think I did make him up), thinks that the reason the ‘jokes’ are so bad is thus:
‘If the joke is good and you tell it and it doesn’t get a laugh, it’s your problem. If the joke’s bad and it doesn’t get a laugh, then it’s the joke’s problem. My theory is that it’s a way of not embarrassing people at Christmas.’

But according to Rachel Davis, the head of design at Britain’s largest cracker producing factory, over the course of the last 50 years all the jokes have been vetted for political correctness and therefore ‘all the really funny ones had to go’.

What do you get when you cross a vampire and a snowman?

Frostbite.

And so as I write this Hubs should be sitting in departures at Hong Kong international airport waiting to board his flight to Paris reading his final Christmas joke before coming home. And, weather worries aside (because if he doesn’t make it home because of the snow that really wouldn’t be funny), I cant wait to greet him later today because it will mean that my quest is finally over and I don’t have to sift through all the humourless drivel I have been subjecting myself to for the last 23 days!

Whatever you do this Christmas I hope it is filled with joy, peace and laughter.
Although I wouldn’t count on your cracker jokes for the last of those things. Happy Christmas to you all. But before I go, I want to share with you MY favourite joke so far.

Which Playwright is terrified of Christmas?

Noël Coward.

A Bientôt.

Liar, Liar.

I am nothing but a bare faced liar.

There’s no two ways about it. I am a peddler of misinformation, misdirection and downright lies.
I have spent the vast majority of the past few weeks lying shamelessly, time and time again heaping untruth on untruth until I can barely separate fact from fiction. In fact scratch the last few weeks and insert the last few years.

Yes it’s Christmas time again. The time for peace on earth, goodwill to all men and lying to your child. Yes Santa Claus is coming in a couple of weeks, yes his elves are stationed around the planet to ensure the niceness, or otherwise, of little children everywhere and yes of course his reindeer can fly.

I do feel pangs of guilt after spending hour upon hour trying to instil in my little lady that lying is bad and then becoming the biggest fattest liar in the village. Guilty yes, but not quite guilty enough to stop.

But it’s OK, because it’s a ‘good’ lie, a ‘white’ lie, it makes people feel good.

But where do you draw the line? Does my bum look big in this? Do I really want an honest answer to that?

I watched a film recently called ‘The invention of lying’. Not a very good film it has to be said, but an interesting premise nonetheless. It creates a world where everybody tells the truth, all of the time, and when one man discovers that he has the ability to tell lies he finds that everyone believes him, however far fetched his tales become, because no-one understands the concept of falsehood. The ‘world of truth’ that was created for the film was a bleak one, it seemed that not only did people not lie, but they deliberately went out of their way to hurt people’s feelings. The whole premis of the film seemed to revolve around the idea that telling the truth made people unhappy and that lying was the only way to achieve a contented existence. The truth, apparently, hurts. But is it really more harmful than lies?

It seems justifiable to spare someone’s feelings by not telling the whole truth, but what if by sparing one persons feelings causes someone else to be hurt?Is not telling the whole truth the same as telling a lie? And what if the person finds out that have been lied to? A favourite quote of mine goes like this: ‘The worst thing about being lied to is knowing you’re not worth the truth’. Discovering that someone has lied to you or not been completely honest with you, particularly if it is someone you love, can crush your very soul.

We all expect honesty and openness in all our public officials and are scandalised when it is, almost inevitably, found that they have lied to us in some way. Any yet if we stand back and take an honest look at our own lives can any of us claim that we are morally superior than those who are vilified daily in the media? Is lying to a lot of people worse than lying to just one? In this current climate of ‘whistle blowing’ it seems that we will all be told the truth, regardless of the consequences, whether we want to hear it or not.

You will probably have noticed that this piece contains a lot of questions and not much in the way of answers. Many greater and more philosophical minds than I have debated, and I’m sure will continue to debate, the nature of truth and lies, and few of those minds have come up with any satisfactory conclusions.

I guess for me it’s all about judgement. Will the truth really hurt, does a little white lie here or there make me a bad person? Whilst I don’t intentionally pursue a course of active deception, Christmas fibs excepted, I have been known to tell the odd whopper from time to time, but never intentionally to harm. Did I hate my parents when I found out about Santa, was I damaged emotionally? Well of course not. They, as I do now, judged that a few stories to engender that special feeling of magic and excitement leading up to the big day itself were well worth the price of a few ‘fibs’. And I can but hope that one day my little Moo will be able to exercise that same judgement.

And so here I sit, with no more answers than when I started, encouraging my little girl to write her letter to Pere Noel, and desperately hoping that my pants do not spontaneously combust.

A Bientot.

There is no truth.  There is only perception.  ~Gustave Flaubert

Remembering a legend.

On a day the internet and blogsphere have been awash with tributes to the late great John Lennon it would be easy to join the throng and create a blog telling you all just how much influence his song writing and philosophy has had on my life.

But that just wouldn’t be true.

It’s not that I don’t admire the man or his music, because I do, but there is another great artist, who died on the same day in 2008, who really did influence my formative years with his artistry and vocal stylings and who I greatly respect and admire.

I am talking about the Animator and British children’s television legend who is Oliver Postgate.

Along with his business partner, artist Peter Firmin, their company ‘Smallfilms’ revolutionised children’s entertainment and animation in the United Kingdom. At a time when there were just 2 television stations and children’s programming was scheduled for the coveted ‘tea-time’ slot Postgate and Firmin brought us many delights including Ivor the Engine, Noggin the Nog , the Clangers and, for me the greatest of all their creations, Bagpuss. Which to my astonishment only ever had 13 episodes commissioned as the BBC thought that the puppets were ‘too old fashioned’ for those forward thinking children of the early 70’s. When in 1999 Bagpuss was voted the best children’s television of all time in a BBC poll I guess they must have realised their mistake.

By the time I was sitting watching that wonderful saggy old cloth cat whilst munching my tea, it was already on its 2nd or 3rd re-run, but for me it opened up a world of magic and possibility and I never looked at my toys in the same way again.

The power to unleash the imagination of a child is one of the greatest gifts on earth.

From as early as 1959 ‘Smallfilms’ were producing ground breaking animation techniques from their studios in Kent. Although in reality their first studios were a disused cow-shed in Firmins back garden they were able to produce a staggering 2 minutes of film per day, over 10 times the amount of any other studio at the time. As the production budgets were minimal, Postgate not only created the characters and scripts, but he also provided the voices for many of his much loved characters.

His was a gentle humour which at times bordered on the surreal. When taken to task for ‘dumbing down’ by using only whistles to give voice to ‘The Clangers’, Postgate was able to produce every single script meticulously written out with the words then whistled precisely .
It was this precision that earned him a censure form the BBC when one of the ‘lines’ was correctly translated as “Oh sod it, the bloody thing won’t open”.
Not at all fitting for tea-time on the Beeb.

But Oliver Postgate was more than just a children’s programme maker.

A look back at his life will show that, like Lennon, he was a great campaigner for peace.

In 1943, when called up for military service, Postgate was imprisoned in Feltham prison as a conscientious objector, and after serving out the war years as a farm hand he joined the Red Cross on Humanitarian service in the devastation of post-war Germany.

Throughout his life he was an active member of the campaign for nuclear disarmament (CND) and spoke at numerous rally and CND meetings up and down the country. In an interview shortly before his death the recounted the tale of one particular address he was giving. He felt that some of the younger members of the audience weren’t paying proper attention to ‘this waffling old codger’ and so switched to his ‘Professor Yaffle’ voice and it had an immediate effect on his audience who became much more focused and attentive.

For those of you unfamiliar with his work I strongly urge you to have a browse and seek some out, and for those of us who are already fans I urge you to revisit some of your favourite moments.

Whilst the influence of Oliver Postgate may not be as far reaching and news worthy as that of John Lennon, it is his voice that transports me to that magical place inside, where anything seems possible.

“And of course when Bagpuss goes to sleep, all his friends go to sleep too”

Oliver Postgate. 1925 - 2008.

A Bientot.