I can recall two occasions in my young life when I laughed so much that I was moved to tears, where quite literally I was unable to control myself. Once when I was about 15 when I retired into the dining room where there was a spare TV as the lounge was occupied by the family watching what ever. The reason that I made my pilgrimage was because John Cleese at 8 30 on a Thursday night had just launched Fawlty Towers. It was radical, manic, and extremely funny to my 15 year old brain. I laughed so much that my dad actually came in and asked me if I was alright, as my usually reserved laugh was on loud speaker/foghorn mode.
The second occasion was when I was on a train heading from Birmingham to Manchester aged about 19 I think, where I was a student at De la Salle Teacher Training College which was part of Manchester University. I had either been given a book as either a Christmas present or popped into WH Smith at New Street, the book was the first part of Clive James biography. I had always loved his wonderful style of presenting and commentary on the numerous TV shows that I always watched when I knew he was broadcasting. As the good old British Railways choo choo snaked its way up north, I entered into the Clive James kingdom. I can still recall the slow roll of mirth as he described an occasion on Christmas Day when his uncle I think started to choke on the thrupence coin that was traditionally placed into the Christmas pudding, as it is all over the world. His style of painting pictures with amazing wordplay, was always so creative, straight and gifted, as I entered the chocking festive tale more, my mirth rose proportionately to the point where I was almost unable to breath. And I was very aware that people on the train were doing that very British thing, of trying not to look but still glimpsing surreptitiously.
Clive James died yesterday after a ten year battle with Lymphoma cancer, he was told aged 70 that he had months left. He said that his writing was more poignant because he regarded every day as his last, and that was what he did, make each day count. He has written an epic poem about coming to terms with life and death. I have not read it, but I will, obviously for me as a cancer patient now in palliative care, it will be an evocative read. But, I am really looking forward to it, I learned a lot from Clive James, his ability to use the medium of speech and word to create amazing images on the page or ear, and for someone like me who has been gifted with the medium of the phenomena known as the blog. Really dont know quite how I ended in this blog world, but one of the best things I ever did to be honest. Clive James style of thinking and laughing encouraged me to follow my own instinct and style about observing and recording the beauty, adversity, and ironic pathos and humour of the human condition.
What has really impressed me today, the day after his death, is just how many people have posted respectful eulogies to Clive James on facebook and other channels, and the impact that he made on their lives. I found that a really good tribute to a guy who frankly came over to the UK from Australia with the square root of nothing in his pocket in the early sixties. Who managed against all the odds to become not just an iconic, author, commentator, wit, and also all round good bloke who made a good, strong and very positive effect on me and many others. So, thank you Clive James, a life well lived and you left a big footprint. RIP Cobber