Humour in the time of Covid: A message from Dr Kathy Ryan – BrisDoc’s Medical Director
Time for my fortnightly missive to all colleagues…and I think about time for some humour. When my kids were growing up, my partner and I used to read to them each night. One of my favourites (I think they liked it a bit too) was Bill Bryson, an American travel writer. He is plump, bearded and funny. I used to be in tears with laughter, reading ahead, and the kids didn’t know why. Bill grew up in Des Moines (I have no idea how to pronounce it either), Iowa, but has mostly lived his adult life in England. He travelled around the UK on his own about 30yrs ago. From that, he wrote “Notes from a Small Island”. I include (some paraphrased) excerpts from his visits to Manchester, Liverpool and London, which may resonate?
The Coronation Street studio
‘I have a great fondness for Coronation Street because it was one of the first programmes I watched on British television. I had no idea what was going on. I couldn’t understand what half the characters said or why they were all called Chuck. Then I was cruelly forced into working nights on Fleet Street and fell out of the habit. Now I am not even permitted in the room when it’s on, because I spend the whole time saying, “Where’s Ernie Bishop? I thought Deidre was with Ray Langton? Where’s Len? Stan Ogden is dead?” ’– who doesn’t remember that lot, a little-known fact is that I was an ardent Corrie fan back in the day – ‘Throngs of people walked up and down the street in a kind of reverential hush. I latched on to a friendly little lady with blue-rinsed hair under a transparent rain hat which she seemed to have made from a bread-wrapper. She brought me up to speed with who lived in which house now and soon I was surrounded by a flock of little blue-haired ladies answering my shocked questions (“Deidre with a toy boy? Never!”) and assuring me with solemn nods that it was so. It was a profoundly thrilling experience to walk up and down this famous street’.
‘They were having a festival of litter when I arrived. Citizens had taken time off from their busy activities to add crisp packets, empty cigarette boxes and carrier-bags to the otherwise neglected landscape. They fluttered gaily in the bushes and brought colour and texture to pavements and gutters. And to think that elsewhere we stick these objects in rubbish bags.’
The London Underground
‘I do like the Underground. It’s a little world of its own down there, with its own strange winds and weather systems, its own eerie noises and oily smells. Even when you’ve descended so far into the earth that you’ve utterly lost your bearings and wouldn’t be in the least surprised to pass a troop of blackened miners coming off shift, there’s always the rumble and tremble of a train passing somewhere even further below. And it all happens in such orderly quiet: all these thousands of people passing on stairs and escalators, stepping on and off crowded trains, sliding off into the darkness with wobbling heads, and never speaking, like characters from Night of the Living Dead’.
As ever, huge thanks to you all for your hard work and commitment through this strange time. It continues to be much appreciated. I am sure we are all looking forward to being able to make our own trips in the (near/far) future. I can testify that Liverpool’s festival of litter is largely over; that I have long since lost track of Coronation Street (updates welcome so long as Mavis is still involved); and I think I once heard people talking to each other on the London Underground. Finally, I must confess I quite enjoyed “Tie a yellow ribbon”. Yellow ribbons variably signal remembrance, loyalty and protest. Perhaps all are appropriate at this time.
BrisDoc Medical Director