Monday, 23 August 2021


I was unsurprised to hear a joke that must have been around for ages during the Olympics.

A man walking through the Olympic village sees a tall guy carrying a long aluminium tube. He sidles up to him and says:

“Are you a pole-vaulter?”

“Nein” says the man “I’m a German … but how did you know my name was Walter?”

As the late comedian Frank Carson said “It’s the way you tell them”. 

He also asked “What’s the difference between a Rottweiler peeing on your leg and a cocker spaniel peeing on your leg? Answer … you let the Rottweiler finish.” 

I went to a celebration of the life of Richard Attenborough a while back which was full of actors like Maggie Smith, Charles Dance and Judy Dench. A drunk Frank Carson interrupted the praise of “dearest Dickie” with a stream of filthy jokes. The funniest thing was the expressions on the luvvie actors’ faces. But it was hard to laugh.

And it’s been hard to laugh this week. The Kabul catastrophe has been chilling;  a reminder of a new world and the disappearing hegemony of the USA and the NATO Alliance.

On both sides of the Atlantic, politicians and leaders have been characteristically shifty, squirming, prevaricating and shameful.  I recalled the refrain “say it ain’t so Joe” relating to the baseball legend Joe Jackson who cheated in the 1919 World Cup. Another Joe – the US President - seeming not to care about the marooned thousands deserves the same reproach. And then … the Donald was back. Just when it couldn’t get worse he gloated:

"What Joe Biden has done with Afghanistan is legendary. It will go down as one of the greatest defeats in American history!"

No, Donald, that was Hillary Clinton’s in 2016.

There is absolutely nothing we can do about what’s happening across the world. But  I note all the embassies seem to be closing down in Kabul apart from Russia’s, Iran’s and China’s which are working hard, ablaze with lights. 

What is horrifying to most of us is the inhumanity and mediaeval attitudes of the Talban (or rather the Taliban as was - maybe Taliban 21 will be better.) Being horrified but helpless is not a good situation. So what can we can we do?

Nothing apart from cleaning up our own act. Power and might are no longer ours. Maybe we have to accept more refugees many of whom are going to be very bright and make themselves and us much richer. Maybe we should become a better example of good citizenship and kindness. Maybe we should strengthen our security and foreign policy ties with the EU. They need us as much as we need them.

But most of all we need to start laughing more. If we lose our legendary sense of humour we’re sunk. And we must beware of the extreme woke attitudes that we’re seeing here which contain traces of Taliban puritanism. 

The great comedies of our time – Monty Python, Blackadder, Fleabag and anything Robin Williams did …we need more of those. We need satire and as Charlie Chaplin said:

“Life is a tragedy when seen in close-up but a comedy in a long-shot”

No comedy about Afghanistan, not now, but certainly about politicians and crackpot ideas. 

As I look around me at nice, broadminded people I wonder how we are in a situation where this happened:

“Popular Afghanistan comedian Nazar Mohammad, was murdered in Kandahar province last week. He was kidnapped and his throat was slit.”

I’m speechless. Laughter was his trade. RIP Nazar.

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