Tag Archives: humor

Comic Nathan Lang: “Self-loathing is not normal unless you are a comedian”

Nathan Lang is from Melbourne. He used to appear in the Australian TV soap Neighbours. But I know him from the London stand-up comedy circuit.

I got an email from him:

“For better or worse, I’m back in the UK. Yes I managed to have a baby in Perth and survive the existential breakdown that comes with living in the most isolated city in the world and now I’m back. 

“I’m running a Comedy Cabaret in aid of Hackney Winter Night Shelter again this year on Tuesday 3rd December. The line up is fantastic. Last year we sold out and raised much more money than expected, it’s a really wonderful night deep in the heart of artsy Hackney Wick.

“It’s not stand-up. The line-up a beautiful, colourful, lighthearted, crazy, unique acts that don’t do stand-up.”

So we had a chat. About two weeks ago.

And I have only just transcribed it.

I got severely side-tracked.

The charity cabaret is tomorrow. Mea Culpa. But, as with many of my blogs, we went way-off subject anyway…


Nathan, baby Chilli and Shelley Lang in Australia

NATHAN: My wife Shelley and I went to Perth on 25th November 2018 to have a baby. Shelley’s family live there. They emigrated from Scotland.

JOHN: I remember I was terribly impressed by your wife when I met her ages ago. Perhaps because she’s Scottish.

NATHAN: Because she’s Scottish, she is a radiant beauty and just the most exhilarating person. That’s definitely what impresses me about her.

JOHN: How long were you back in Australia?

NATHAN: Eight months. We came back on the 9th September 2019. Our daughter is ten months old now.

JOHN: Shelley must have been well-progressed in pregnancy when you got there.

NATHAN: We just scraped in. We really needed the family support and the health care in Australia is really amazing. 

JOHN: And the comedy?

NATHAN: The comedy scene in Perth is stand-up. A very small scene, but the standard is really high. The quality really pushed me to improve quite a lot. It’s similar to a Brighton crowd. They go out; they want to have a really good evening of laughs. Great audiences and one pro comedy club. Just stand-up. It’s stand-up or cabaret there and their version of cabaret is really highly-skilled circus acts who take their clothes off.

JOHN: I want to go there.

NATHAN: Then it’s probably worth that 30-hour journey. 

JOHN: Australia is a faraway place.

NATHAN: And Perth is the most isolated city in the world and it feels like it too.

JOHN: So what are you doing on 4th December, the day after your Hackney charity gig?

NATHAN: That’s my day with chilli.

JOHN: With what?

NATHAN: That’s my day with Chilli – my daughter – Her name is Chilli Bobcat.

JOHN: She’s going to get hell in school with those names.

NATHAN: I was going to call her Strawberry until a friend said: “Remember she’ll go to school one day.”

JOHN: So Bobcat is better?

NATHAN: My middle name is Luke.

JOHN: Biblical?

NATHAN: No, my father used to work for a company that distributed cutlery and our cutlery drawer was full of knives and forks that had ‘Luke’ printed on them… I am named after kitchen cutlery.

JOHN: But, basically, you think Bobcat is a more feminine name than Strawberry?

NATHAN: No, Strawberry was going to be her first name but Shelley came up with the brilliant idea of calling her Chilli – after the pepper – which is a cool name.

JOHN: So why Bobcat…?

NATHAN: On Christmas Day, Shelley and I were sober. She was heavily pregnant. Her Scottish family, obviously, were steaming and we said they could choose a middle name. We had not told them whether it was going to be a boy or girl, so they chose a unisex middle name – Bobbie. But then, knowing her first name, we obviously couldn’t call her Chilli Bobbie.

JOHN: Why?

NATHAN: The rhythm of that and the two double consonants…

JOHN: So Chilli Bobcat is better than Chilli Bobbie?

NATHAN: We squeezed Cat in because my grandmother’s name was Kathleen.

JOHN: Just to recap… You had thought Strawberry was a good name…

NATHAN: Just for a while… Do you know it’s illegal to call your kid ‘Strawberry’ – ‘Fraise’ – in France?

This would be illegal in France if a child (Photo: Irene Kredenets via UnSplash)

JOHN: Why?

NATHAN: Bullying. There is a list of names you cannot call your kid in France – ‘Hitler’ is one of them.

JOHN: Strawberry is on a level with Hitler in France?

NATHAN: It’s child protection. Social Services. For the welfare of the child. They care about their children’s future in France.

JOHN: They don’t want a future generation of fruits?

NATHAN: Who knows. But Chilli Bobcat Lang: it has a nice ring to it.

JOHN: I think the surname lets it down. It’s a bit ordinary after Chilli Bobcat.

NATHAN: She might just call herself CB. Or she might go by a symbol like Prince did for a while. It might be her first squiggle on a piece of paper. Or she might change her name from Bobcat. She might prefer Caracal.

JOHN: Caracal?

NATHAN: It’s a type of cat that lives in the savannah desert. They jump really high and catch birds in mid-air.

JOHN: Anyway, so what ARE you doing after the Hackney charity gig?

NATHAN: I’m always pursuing my acting career.

JOHN: You seem happy.

NATHAN: It’s the anti-depressants.

JOHN: You’re on them?

Nathan Lang at St Pancras station, London

NATHAN: Yeah. You have obviously never lived in Perth.

After my daughter was born, I had a psychological breakdown and was put on very strong anti-depressants immediately and entered into depth psychotherapy analytic psychotherapy – which was well overdue.

JOHN: Because of Perth?

NATHAN: Well, I can’t blame Perth any more than I can blame my parents, really.

JOHN: Why was it long overdue?

NATHAN: It’s not like I had a psychosis or anything. I had a very sudden intensification of what turned out to be a pre-existing condition of depression and anxiety that I had been living with for so many years I just thought it was normal.

But, after speaking to a GP and a therapist, I was led quite quickly to realise it’s not normal to wake up every day under a huge weight, a huge pressure of knowing that everything you do all day is never going to be good enough and you are going to punish yourself for everything at the end of the day as you run through every single thing you’ve said and done in your mind or just drink yourself to sleep.

It’s not normal to exist in every waking – and sleeping – moment in a state of constant self-loathing and believing you’re a worthless piece of shit… unless you are a comedian, in which case of course (LAUGHS) it IS normal.

So… yes… anti-depressants are wonderful… I feel like I got myself back… and I got my joy back.

JOHN: And you are OK now?

NATHAN: I’m able to be an engaged and joyful father. I was really, really worried about what Chilli would absorb. And it was so hard on Shelley. The first few months of being a new mother AND having me falling apart was… I tried my best to hold together but your most intimates see what’s happening.

JOHN: Men are not supposed to get post-natal depression.

NATHAN: Well, they do, though I have never met one who will admit he has. But I don’t think that’s what I had. It was not a sudden, acute affliction. It was just the exacerbation of a feeling that I was already quite familiar with.

JOHN: I guess women get post-natal depression because they suddenly realise the full enormity of what they’ve let themselves in for.

NATHAN: I heard some interviews with British women who suffered postpartum psychosis and they were sectioned immediately after their children were born and those stories were horrendous.

JOHN: Why did you come back to the UK?

NATHAN: Our careers.

JOHN: What is Shelley?

NATHAN: A trainee psychotherapist.

JOHN: That’s useful.

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Filed under Australia, Comedy, Mental health, Mental illness, Psychology, UK

Lynn Ruth Miller says Amsterdam is not all about marijuana and prostitution…

Lynn Ruth Miller arrives at Schiphol Airport

Lynn Ruth Miller (86 years old physically; in her twenties mentally and creatively) is an American comic and burlesque performer living very happily in London. But she has been off on her travels again, performing in Amsterdam. 

Here she tells all…


Everyone thinks Amsterdam is all about marijuana and prostitution, but that isn’t the way it is for me these days. It could be because my estrogen has flown the coop or I am so small they don’t notice me but my Amsterdam experience is like a warm, fluffy blanket. I always feel like I have just flown into a cozy cloud of senior love even before I land in Schiphol.

While I was waiting for my plane, I met Fred, a man from the south of the Netherlands who does publicity for theatres. He offered to charge my phone but I am a very proper lady and I do not plug into strangers until I am confident I won’t get a shock.  

However, we did have a spirited conversation about Dutch theatre and love. Fred told me why he married his second wife. I asked him why they couldn’t just live together until one or the other of them got bored and he said: “When you love a beautiful woman, (I realized immediately that I was out of the running… but I was still curious) you are so proud that she loves you back that you want to show her off to all your friends and say You see? This gorgeous creature wants only me!

I have to say that was how it was with my father and mother.  

My daddy was a very homely man – short, and stocky with a bad complexion and horn-rimmed glasses. My mama was exquisite. She was a tiny redhead with sparkling blue eyes and she was built like a brick shit-house.  

When my father took her out to a movie or to someone’s home for dinner, he wore my mother like a jewel.

Listening to Fred’s defence of marriage clarified why my two husbands left me so quickly. Obviously, if you are stuck with a dreamy idealist who is flat chested and clomps around the place in sensible shoes, you want to hide her under the carpet as soon as possible.

But I digress.

On the plane, I chatted with Emma who is from Paris, studying economics at UCL in London. She and I bonded over our cream cheese and spinach (that is what the label SAID was in that little sandwich; although it tasted like nothing at all to me) because Emma has a dog named Balthus, a beautiful Jack Russell mix. I am confident that I will be occupying her Parisian guest room in the spring. Oui, in effet.

I understand her bathroom is equipped with a luxury bidet and a hot tub big enough for two. I am thinking Balthus and me, of course… not that I would refuse her father. French men are quite an experience, so I hear.

Amsterdam: “I felt like a miniature Lilliputian among a horde of blonde giants.” (Photograph by Sávio Félix via Unsplash)

As soon as I disembarked from the plane, I felt like a miniature Lilliputian among a horde of blond giants. The average height of a Dutch gentleman is well over 6 feet and the women are all about 5’7”.  

I am now 4’10” and I spend all my time in Amsterdam staring at belt buckles while I make scintillating conversation (in English of course).  

If I am particularly witty (which is all the time) I am often aware of a visible male reaction… and THAT is surprisingly rewarding for me.

I got a cab to take me to my lodging. And that was when I met Mustafa.  

Mustafa’s father escaped from Afghanistan when he was a little tyke of eight years old. His daddy hid out in another country, but he sent Mustafa, his sister and his mother to Amsterdam and followed a couple years later.

Everyone always thinks people who are granted asylum are hysterically grateful for being granted a safe haven in a benevolent foreign land, but we are wrong. Mustafa told he how terrified he was moving to a city filled with tall, blond people he couldn’t understand, who made fun of little brown boys. His mother couldn’t find the foods that comforted him because she had no way of communicating what they were to the local grocer.  

And the weather was abysmal.  

In January, the weather in Holland is a wet, rainy 36 degrees Fahrenheit while in Mustafa’s hometown in Afghanistan it was always a sunny 44.

I was staying in Edo Berger’s guest house this trip.

Nina, Edo’s beautiful wife, met me at the door with Doris, their 14-month-old daughter. The two decided to name their daughter Doris because they wanted her to be able to spell her name. They wanted to keep it simple – only 5 letters. After all, one never knows how intelligent one’s offspring will be.   

They need not have worried about Doris, however. At 14 months, she carries on an only slightly unintelligible conversation, expresses her opinions vociferously and crawls with great energy into toilets, cupboards and under tables.

Nina is an abortion doctor and we discussed the strict limiting laws against abortion in some of the American states.

She explained abortion is not an issue in Holland because anyone can have one whenever they please. However, she recalled when her clinic had to close for a couple months and she read about a woman who had hanged herself.  

“I am pretty sure she was one of my patients,” Nina said.

It was Anna Quinlan who said: “When men legislate for women’s bodies, the coat hangers come out.”  

So do the ropes.  

Take heed all you men who think you know best about a woman’s right to give birth.

That night I was booked to headline at Mezrab, a wonderfully vibrant club in Amsterdam and Mustafa drove me there. He even walked me to the door and, as we made our way together, I thought: Here we two are, a Muslim and a Jew, who just love to be together sharing stories. 

Listen up, Israel and Palestine.

International comedy line-up at the Mezrab club, Amsterdam

Mezrab is a crowded, exciting place to perform comedy.

Their line up is always diverse.  

This time, they had Aidan Killian from Dublin, Henrik Elmer from Sweden, Raul Kohli from Manchester (a foreign country to me) and Jia Yuan from China, now living in Amsterdam.   

On Sunday afternoon, I met Mikaelia a comedian who is originally from Detroit. I was born a mere 40 miles away in Toledo, Ohio, a town that borders a dead great lake, Lake Erie. The town fathers there were so upset to have this polluted dead body of water on their shore that in 2018 they passed a law creating a Bill of Rights for the lake. They agreed that their residents were deliberately dumping garbage into the dead lake and letting objectionable creatures pollute it.

Would that they would pass a similar law for their politics.

Ohio was one of the states that gave the world Donald Trump, a man one of my friends refers to as That Orange Turd.

Mikaelia and I went to the Amsterdam Affordable Art Fair and I was shocked at how different the art was there from the same fair in London.  

Although the London Affordable Art Fair is always very original and interesting, the one in Amsterdam had a completely different definition of what visual art can be.

There were many three dimensional pieces, many that used unusual optical illusions, a great deal of photography combined with paint and collage. It was a spectacular exhibition.

Comedy Cafe, Amsterdam: “always filled with tourists…”

But, in Amsterdam, the frosting on the cake for me is always my gigs at The Comedy Café run by Tim van’t Hul, a very capable comedian in his own right. He will be coming to London to make everyone here laugh at the beginning of January.  

His shows are always filled with tourists, which means I can do the same set over and over without boring anyone but myself. Sunday was especially good with a packed house and a lot of funny men on stage. Sadly no women in the line up except me and, at my age, I think I am more neutral.

My plane left on Monday and Mustafa drove me to the airport for my good-bye gift.  It was both beautiful and touching to share life experiences with this very young man who had endured far more trauma in his life that I have yet to see, yet is so generous with his time and so kind to old ladies.  

In many ways, our friendship should be an example of what can happen in this angry turbulent world of ours to make it a more comfortable place to live. Recycling isn’t the only way to make our lives better.

The plane was an hour late. Evidently, KLM has a problem with timetables. I am guessing their schedule is Jewish.

I did arrive home in London in time to have two very lovely men cook me a vegetarian dinner.

I now have two blissful weeks in London basking in the autumn downpours and debilitating winds, until I hurry off to sunshine and political unrest in Southeast Asia.  

The bug spray has been purchased and I am so ready to sweat.

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Filed under Comedy, Holland, Humor, Humour, Uncategorized

Listening to my own death rattle and the circling black bats of Borehamwood

Dark thoughts and dark deeds amid the shopping paradise that is Borehamwood in Hertfordshire

I buggered my back two Mondays ago. Well, it’s an old, unrepaired spine injury, I blogged about it.

After osteopathic attention, it was sort-of mending this week.

Lying on the floor and walking a lot both help – not simultaneously.

But I also have a bad cough. And, yesterday afternoon, a coughing fit must have dislodged something and I was in agony again.

The bad cough thing involves mucus in the nose and throat which may explain what happened in my mind at around 5.00am this morning, in that strange semi-consciousness time between sleeping and waking and dreaming.

I couldn’t move much because it resulted in multiple phantom scimitars being sharply shoved into the base of my spine and I was lying there listening to myself breathe through light mucus muck in my throat. A hoarse, throaty, liquidy, breathy, inhaling-through-water sound like listening to my own death rattle.

In 2001, I sat in a dimly-lit room for 45 minutes – or it might have been 90 minutes, I can’t remember – listening to my father’s breathing as he died. Just the two of us. His death rattle went on for the whole time. 

So listening to my watery/throaty breathing this morning, pretty much unable to move, was like lying there listening to my own death rattle.

Which is something I would like to do twice…

Well, the first time would be interesting… just a flash forward to what it would be like to die…

The second time, I would not really care whether I heard it or not.

It seems such a pity to miss experiencing your own death with all your senses which, I guess, many or most people do. I think the doctors pump you full of morphine to kill you off if they are certain you are going to die fairly soon… Better, they think, to have ‘a quiet death’ than all that throaty rattling sound.

Anyway, I did not die, of course, and my eternally un-named friend came up to Borehamwood this afternoon to see me, bringing stewed apples.

As dusk set in, she asked: “Are the bats still here?”

“Bats?” I asked.

My eternally-un-named friend and bat bush

“There used to be bats in that big hedge/tree thing…”

“Were there?” I asked. “I don’t remember.”

“You seldom do,” she told me.

This is true. I have always had a shit memory.

A few days ago, my friend Lynn (not to be confused with Lynn Ruth Miller) told me that she and I had gone to some sort of premiere screening of Terry Gilliam’s movie Brazil.

According to Wikipedia – always correct on factual detail – this must have been in 1985. 

I have absolutely zero memory of this.

But, then, once I mentioned to Lynn that, although I had worked on the children’s TV programme Tiswas when Sylvester McCoy had been semi-regularly appearing on it, I had never seen him perform live on stage.

“Yes you have,” she said. “You’ve seen him perform in West End plays at least twice. You went with me.”

…or she might have said “three times”… I can’t remember…

Anyway, when she said it, I then did vaguely remember having seen him on stage in Dario Fo’s Accidental Death of an Anarchist. This seems to have been in 1981.

That was a long time ago.

Anyway, back to bats…

As my eternally-un-named friend and I stood in my kitchen tonight, with dusk setting in, she said to me: “Unlock the back door.”

The aforementioned bush/tree is close to my back door.

“Give me two 5p pieces,” said my eternally-un-named friend. “They have ribbed edges.”

“The bats?” I asked.

“The coins,” she said. “If you rub the edges of the coins against each other, the bats can hear it… It summons them.”

“Rubbing two 5p coins together?”

“Any coins with ribbed edges.”

She rubbed the two coins together.

My eternally-un-named friend summons the bats by rubbing together two 5p coins

A bat shot out of the bush/tree and swooped round in a circle.

“Does this mean bat shit on the grass tomorrow?” I asked.

“They usually go a lot faster…” said my eternally-un-named friend.

“That was pretty fast,” I said.

“…and they do a figure-of-eight,” she continued.

“Why do they do a figure-of-eight?” I asked.

“Well,” she conceded, “maybe they don’t do a figure-of-eight, but it looks like a figure of eight. They go really fast. That wasn’t. That was just a circle.”

“Surely,” I suggested, “if it looks like a figure-of-eight, then it IS a figure-of-eight.”

“You are just being difficult,” she said. “It’s going so fast that, if you try to take a photo, then it looks like a figure-of-eight in the photo. But I’m not really sure. Alright, I am now guessing… You are so annoying.”

When we shut the back door, we found there was a daddy-long-legs in the kitchen. 

That is another story. 

I won’t tell it.

But the daddy-long-legs survived.

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Filed under Death, Eccentrics, Humor, Humour

Hairy moments for Harry H Corbett filming Terry Gilliam’s “Jabberwocky”

Hirsute, suited Harry H Corbett in the 1970s

In my last blog, I mentioned I had buggered my back.

Before that, I went to a one-off screening of Terry Gilliam’s 1977 movie Jabberwocky.

Before the screening, Terry Gilliam mentioned what it was like working with Harry H Corbett. 

Corbett achieved fame in the BBC TV sitcom Steptoe and Son and played a small but memorable part in Jabberwocky. Terry Gilliam said:


Harry H Corbett (right) & Wilfred Brambell in Steptoe and Son

Harry H Corbett – Steptoe & Son – brilliant, absolutely brilliant. But there was a little problem on Jabberwocky.

My wife Maggie was head of the make-up department and she had to go see Harry and talk about his medieval haircut. 

He was there with a nice full head of hair.

She said: “We can do it by cutting it like this…”

And he said: “Neuwaaagh….” and said he thought maybe a wig would be better.

Well OK…

So Maggie goes into her kit and pulls out a wig and starts putting it on him and she’s fiddling with his head and his hair is… Wait!… He is wearing a wig already! 

And he was not going to have that trimmed in a medieval style. Clearly.

So, throughout the whole film, he is wearing a wig over a wig.

“When it came to lying under a bed and getting the bed squashed on him… He was happy with those things…”

Harry was brilliant. I wouldn’t say he was the easiest person to work with, but he was absolutely wonderful.

When it came to lying under a bed and getting the bed squashed on him… He was happy with those things. 

It was just bizarre knowing this man was wearing two wigs.

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Filed under Humor, Humour, Movies

Donald Trump’s message to the world on climate change… and my bad back

My spine got damaged in 1991. I got hit by a large articulated truck. It has never mended properly. My spine, not the large articulated truck. I think the truck survived unscathed.

Occasionally, though thankfully rarely, if I twist or bend slightly oddly, my bones go out of alignment at the bottom of my spine (I think that’s what happens) and I have to sleep on the floor for three nights which, somehow, sorts the problem out.

It is Saturday morning now. The bones went out of alignment on Monday morning and I am still moving slowly around inside my house with the aid of two walking sticks and a stick which picks things up off the floor or low-lying surfaces. Every now and then it feels like an anarchic invisible presence stabs a long sharp sword into my back at the bottom of the spine..

I am seeing a new osteopath later this morning. I discovered on Wednesday that the excellent osteopath I have gone to since maybe 1992 died two years ago. So it goes. It gave me quite an unexpected shock. You don’t expect healthy medical people to die before you. Certainly not osteopaths. I mean, he was a strong man.

But back to me… and my back.

I also have a cough. Not the normal and – I’m told – very annoying dry cough which I have had since my early twenties and which I inherited from my father who had it throughout his known life. This is a dry, hacking cough given to me a couple of weeks ago by an eight-year-old who, in all other respects, is entirely amiable.

So, every now and then, I suddenly get slight coughing fits which result in what feels like 10-15 rapid atomic explosions at the bottom of my spine with the pain then zooming out in all directions.

What I am trying to say is that, although I have been sleeping a lot, I have been occasionally waking up unexpectedly. And I had a dream. It is 5.00am in the morning as I write this. I woke up unexpectedly, in the middle of a dream.

Yesterday, there were worldwide protests about climate change.

I had a dream about President Trump. Never a good thing. It woke me up. He was speaking about climate change. His speech went something like this. Truly. Would I lie to you?


The whole Global Warming thing is #FakeNews – Did you see that footage of the big winds in the Caribbean recently? Big winds. Cold. Wet. Big winds. Not hot weather! What are those guys in the Bahamas even thinking about? Build your houses of brick! Have they never read The Three Little Pigs? Dumb.

Global Warming is #FakeNews started by #BadHilary to hide her crimes and made worse by #BadObama’s policies. But I saw a Fox TV program on rising ocean levels last night. Those Fox guys are great. Great. And rising sea levels is real. It’s all real. Really real. And dangerous.

Rising sea levels will affect important US infrastructures – oil installations, golf courses and historic national sites like Mar-a-Lago in Florida

But it’s easy to fix, right? I figured out how this morning over breakfast. I have time for breakfast, right? Right. And no-one else has thought of this.

My people told me about a Wikipedia news report on this Greek guy called Archie Meads. Hundreds of years ago. People have forgotten him. But I rediscovered him. He was a stable genius. It takes one to know one, right? 

And Archie Meads had this idea. If you take something out of water, the water fills the space where you’ve taken out the object. Right? Obvious. But people have forgotten that. I figured it out again.

So the fastest, quickest, simplest way – it’s quick and simple, right? – is to kill all the whales in the oceans. Take them out and  that will create all these big, big gaps. And the water will rush in to fill the gaps. It’s pure science. And the ocean levels will get lower.

I have asked the guys at the Pentagon to work out a plan to do this as quickly as possible.

Kill the whales and keep America great. And safe. And dry.

It’s simple.

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Filed under Humor, Humour, Medical, Politics

Comic Lynn Ruth Miller is “Ridiculously Old and Getting Better” in a monastery

Here, in the latest of her travelogues, 85-year-old globetrotting American comedienne and burlesque performer Lynn Ruth Miller, based in London, tells us about her latest jaunt…


Lynn Ruth’s passport photo is even worse…

I went to Farfa in Italy.

When we landed in Rome, I apologised to the officer because my passport photo was so bad but he said he could recognise me. I said I had to wait ten years before I got a new one and that one would be even worse than the one I had.

He agreed.

Maddie from Wales was waiting for me. She and Nader Shabahangi – my dearest of friends from San Francisco – are running an Eldership Academy in Farfa and I was an honoured guest.

Nadar’s mother Elizabeth is convinced that I am a burden to her son, taking disgusting advantage of him. I have tired him out; I have incurred huge expenses, what with his having to rent a car and forcing her darling baby to stay awake hours past his bedtime. Nader is 62 years old.

Throughout the ride home she reminded me that, if my plane had not landed so late, Nader could have gotten his much-needed rest. She also pointed out that, because of me, he had to drive at night and it was very difficult for him because the road was dark. She told me repeatedly that they had to leave Farfa early because of my late arrival and now had to drive back on an unfamiliar road, which was a hardship for all of them. She explained several times that both she and Nader desperately needed their rest and I had thoughtlessly and deliberately deprived them both of that requirement.

Nader’s car had a navigating device that spoke to him in Italian. Maddie helped him interpret the route and we only got lost three times. We arrived at the monastery in Farfa at midnight.  

Yes. 

A monastery.

Many people from around the world go to this monastery because it is a well-known B&B.

My beautiful room was on the third floor of the immaculate monastery with a lovely view of the hills. I had a private bathroom, plenty of hot water and a desk for my computer. But NOT a WiFi connection.

“Ridiculously Old and Getting Better” – soon

Nader, who does not share his mother’s opinion of my value (whew),  brought me some yogurt and a galley copy of my brand new book Ridiculously Old and Getting Better, which is my take on living a good, productive and satisfying life. At that point, though, I thought the title should have been: Why the Fuck Am I Still Around Making Everyone Suffer?

I managed to read half the book and then drifted off to sleep in that very quiet peaceful place where the air smells sweet and you can actually hear birds singing without a hearing aid.

I awoke the next morning feeling a bit more like the title of my book and met the first of three of the most charming nuns ever. The first was Citadel (really) originally from the Philippines who fixed the plug on my computer and explained that I could get WiFi in the sitting rooms, but the entire monastery loses its wi-fi when the wind blows. Ordinarily, I would think this is a tragedy but somehow it felt like a blessed relief.  

Gabriella came to clean my room, extolled over the book and Justine made me a special breakfast. They are all three happy, smiling people. The interesting thing is that ALL the nuns there are happy, smiling people. It makes me wonder if a celibate life is the secret to happiness.  

Statistics say that single women without children are the most content and, if the nuns are any indication, the answer to the world‘s malaise is to confine all men in a separate camp where women who want to ruin their lives can get it on and have a baby. The rest of us can just go about our business growing flowers and dancing in the sunlight, as women do. 

Elizabeth came to get me because she is a devout Christian woman who believes in being kind to the vermin of this world. She scampered down four flights of stairs to remind me that she is in better shape than I am. She hugged Justine several times and gave me a triumphant look to remind me that I am scum and she is blessed.

Maddie told me a bit about herself.  She is a potter from Wales. Her husband died three years ago but had vascular dementia for about 20 years. She has two sons both very intelligent and creative and an artistic daughter. She and Nader along with Julia from Australia have been running the workshop at the monastery for three years.  

In the garden, I met two others on the course: Iris whose real name is Ruth and her husband Spider who is really interesting and very well-travelled because his father was in the military. He lived his early years in Paris but cannot speak a word of French. The two met in a cooking school some forty years ago, have one child and are both fun to be with. They are from Sonoma in California. They work with the elderly there and are interested now in coming to terms with their own advancing years.

Another person I met in the garden was from Cape Town, South Africa. His name is Rayne. He has a small company that provides services to care homes in Cape Town and is without doubt the most well-read human being on the planet.  

I am quite a reader but there is not one book I mentioned that he has not only read but can discuss the plot of far more intelligently than I. (I AM American) He is a delight.

Farfa. Lovely but with dodgy WiFi (Photo by Renio Linossi)

We all met in the garden because it was the only place where you could get on the Internet (sometimes). 

The rest of the group had arrived by dinner time: all truly wonderful, innovative, creative people from all over the world.

Joyce and Ed were from Denver, Colorado; Anna from near Brighton, England; and Bernie, a doctor, from Redding, California.  

They were all there (some had returned from previous years) to explore who they are and where they are going in their lives as older people. Of course, they all looked like children to me, but I am guessing most are in their sixties with the exception of Bernie who is 52.  

Ageing is a frightening thing to contemplate in this plastic world that worships muscular, fit bodies, healthy diets, endless plastic surgery and non-surgical techniques to make us all look like teenagers without the angst.

I do not fit into this picture.

That first night, I took a late-night walk with Spider. He said it was his losses that made him strong. His closest friend, the man who married him to Iris whose real name is Ruth, died of multiple sclerosis at 62 and he has never yet come to terms with his own loss. He is making up for the gap in his life with the elderly people he is helping now in Sonoma.

Joyce is 72 and into mysticism and The Kabala. She brought up her daughter alone and managed to travel the world and experiment in a variety of life styles, always supporting herself and her daughter. Ed just retired from a counselling type thing in Berkeley and he has been her best friend for at least forty years.  

Everyone in the group connected with one another. The discussions were hugely interesting and very spirited.

One of the more interesting topics was how we listen to one another. Ed showed us there are three levels of listening. One is about the hearer, one is about the listener and the third when it is about what the speaker is feeling. We listen not just with our ears, but with our eyes and with our body.  

This is why Facebook and Instagram are robbing us of the ability to hear what our friends mean when they type in a remark online.

The finale of my stay was my talk on Optimistic Ageing, which I have already done in the UK for the Brighton Women’s Institute, the retired NHS workers of South Croydon and the Mental Health Unit in Birmingham. 

Seeing the back of  her forthcoming book…

This time though, I was preaching to the choir because every one of the people in this group takes risks and makes waves in an effort to live the fullest, most meaningful life possible. It was an exhilarating experience to be part of their search for meaning and direction.

I am now home in London, practising bowing and saying “Ah! So!” to prepare for my trip to Japan where I am planning to tell jokes and rip off my clothes.

Maybe then they will forgive me for Hiroshima.

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Filed under Age, Humor, Humour, Psychology

BBC Studios and Channel 4/E4 comedy ’theft’. A plagiarist in both their houses?

Colour duplication is fully operational at the BBC in London. (Photograph by Tim Mossholder via Unsplash)

BBC Studios have become embroiled in what they are claiming is the theft both of one of their programmes and of their name by a company calling itself BBC Stewdios.

BBC Stewdios have sold a sitcom pilot idea – Stepson & Co – to E4 (part of Channel 4) about an old-man/young-man rag-and-bone man team. The show is set in the 1990s and bears some similarity to the 1960s-1970s BBC TV father-and-son sitcom Steptoe and Son, which was also about an old-man/young-man rag-and-bone man team.

However, BBC Stewdios claim their sitcom characters were independently developed by producers in their company, none of whom had ever heard of Steptoe & Son and that the setting – the 1990s – clearly distinguishes it from the BBC’s product… Steptoe and Son ran on BBC TV for around ten years.

As for any similarities in the company names, BBC Stewdios have issued a press release saying they came up with their name independently and they had not previously heard of BBC Studios. They say:


“We had obviously heard of the BBC in various contexts – the British Bathroom Company, the Berkshire Boys’ Choir

and, of course, the Blair Broadcasting Corporation based in Iowa – but not the British Broadcasting Corporation.

“Our name came about because our founder John Charles Walsham likes Irish Stew and his Spanish mother used to say it was their family’s God: thus the name Stew-Dios… and ‘BBC’ was decided on because our ideas are Big, Brassy and Creative – thus the name ‘BBC Stewdios’. 

“There is a tradition of three-letter names being used by a large range of television companies – ITV, ABC, CBS, NBC – it is the Rule of Three. We believe there is room in broadcasting for two BBCs and we see a clear distinction between BBC Stewdios and BBC Studios, just as there is room in broadcast TV for two rag-and-bone men sitcom series and we see a clear creative distinction between our Stepson & Co sitcom and the BBC’s ten-year run of Steptoe and Son shows, of which we were honestly and innocently totally unaware. 

Today’s BBC Stewdios Press Statement

“BBC Studios claim their Steptoe and Son sitcom is widely known and respected, but our producer Ken Bawdell had neither seen nor heard of Steptoe and Son.”


When contacted for comment, Ken Bawdell said: “I don’t take much interest in the broadcast television industry… They’re not nearly as important as they think they are”.

Meanwhile Carl Columbia, Controller of E4, has been quoted as saying: “Channel 4 has a statutory public service remit that it should ‘be innovative and distinctive’. We are satisfied that there has been no infringement of intellectual property by BBC Stewdios in this case and there is plenty of room in the industry for two companies called the BBC.”

A BBC Stewdios spokesperson said: “It is a case of pot-kettle-black. BBC Studios have a long-established reputation for ripping-off ideas. Anyone approached by them should expect and prepare for the worse and neither get their hopes up nor give up their day job. Sadly, it now seems necessary to give the same warning about E4 and Channel 4… #JusticeForObonjo

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Filed under Comedy, Humor, Humour, satire