Monday, 11 January 2021


I must be living a sheltered life because  I recently heard a word new to me. “Doom-scrolling”. It’s defined as  "an excessive amount of screen time devoted to the absorption of dystopian news" (!).  I realised I was becoming a “doom-scroller” watching the American Dream crumble as the Capitol was invaded by bearded hippies.

I then saw Covid infection rates soar in the UK, the economy totter, Brexit lorry jams and food shortages (no Stilton reaching Northern Ireland), our Government wobble, Covid naysayers like Katie Hopkins saying she’d walked through empty hospital wards so – obviously - the whole Covid thing is a sham (they’re all crammed in the Covid wards and ICU, you buffoon) and please don’t have an accident and need an ambulance…there are none.  Then we had a murder of a local celebrity in Hove…yet Hove never has murders. 

So yes, the world has gone mad, bad and sad. Scroll; scroll; scroll.

I started 2021 bounding from bed and bellowing “hurray for today.” Just ten days later I was turning over in bed in the morning after realising the beast from the east had paid a nocturnal visit and that all I wanted to do was snooze. But then I remember that horrid refrain “snoozers are losers” so I stumble out of bed and settle for another day of house- arrest. But just writing this has helped me realise how foolish I’m being. I have my health, well actually my hypochondria, which is a source of considerable comedy. 

Ooh my foot, ooh my head, ooh my leg etc. I eat well. I drink well. I have many friends and my wife, nurse, chef, psychiatrist, motivator and chum is keeping an eye on me. As Matthew Parris wrote on Saturday:
“Covid, Brexit and Trump have created a national mood of anxiety but don’t despair – the future looks a lot brighter.”

He advises that we write lists of things to do … because as you get them done the ‘black dog’ that’s terrorising you is tamed. So no more snoozing. Just lots of listing.

And of course he’s right. Despite the government being allegedly in despair at the civil disobedience the electorate is showing, I’ve been impressed by how little traffic there is and how empty the streets are as we go for exercise (another thing ticked off the list.)

In fact I think people are being amazingly compliant and tolerant. When two young women drove five miles to a beauty spot in Derbyshire for a walk clutching a coffee and were fined £200 each by a intimidating squad of coppers for not following the spirit of the lockdown and claiming coffee constituted a picnic, I stopped being like the legendary Victor Meldrew and spluttering “I just don’t believe it” but instead started laughing, certain that the fine would be revoked. It was. 

Living in this Monty Pythonesque world in which “not following the spirit of the lockdown” are deemed criminal offences is silly and it’s comedy and satire and burlesque are what will get us all back to calm and sanity. 

And that’s why I’m creating an even newer word. One we need to use and celebrate every day for the remainder of this lockdown. Laughter-grafting. Everyday we all need to find at least six things that make us howl with laughter. If in doubt look for the funny side. With politicians and activists like we have it shouldn’t be that hard. 

Which is not to ignore the misery and loss many are feeling right now. But even when events  hurt we need to recall Ken Dodd’s words  “laughter is the greatest music in the world”… and, of course, the vaccine our greatest hope.

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