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Living by the Dartby Heather Long Laughter Really Is The Best Medicine

Comedy Cures – T

he gloomy grey of January and February were helped greatly in the Long household by the Christmas arrival of comedy DVDs. Thankfully I was involved in (well respon- sible for) the purchase of said comedy items and that meant everyone received gifts that I wanted – perfect!

We’ve enjoyed battening down the hatches and tuning in to some comedy classics – and the great thing about the children being older now is that they can share the humour too. Although I have reminded them that hearing those jokes is one thing, repeating them in class (or indeed in front of Grandma) is quite another.

They understand the rules and appreciate the hilarity. So much more enjoyable than when shared viewing was a mid morning collapse in front of the Teletubbies - however I was grateful at the time for a sit down, a coffee, and the chance to nod off for half an hour. Clever how mums can still manage to murmur “yes dear,” “I know” or “hahaha” when they are virtually asleep. I’m sure the boys were so enraptured by Tinky Winky that they never noticed my head flung back, jaw slack and gaping.

Anyway we have laughed a lot at some old favourites and it amazes me how classic comedy transcends the generations. We like to laugh, we need to share humour, we use it as a language of our own to cheer us in later conversations. We carry comedy with us - it becomes part of who we are. I have really enjoyed bringing to my children things that made me collapse with laughter through my youth. I was going to list some of our favourites but there’s nothing more likely to inflame opinion than what we allow our children to watch, so I will keep that to myself.

The boys have responded by introducing things to us. Jokes and recommendations shared at school can be instantly accessed via the internet – all that great comedy at our fingertips. New songs and sayings now inhabit my head and conversations thanks to them – I love that. With the Comedy Festival about to kick off, Dartmouth feels like it’s getting ready for a good laugh. How fortunate we are that a group of comedy fans have organised the cream of the crop to come here and entertain us. The Flavel is the venue for much of the fun, and I was

part of a mass guffaw there the other week when I went to see the King’s Speech. Expecting a decent film, I was unprepared for the sheer hilarity. I’m probably not giving anything away because you probably saw it – it sold out night after night. And it was wonderful to sit there among so many familiar faces and see everyone laugh out loud.

I would still have chuckled if I had been home on my own with a DVD, but there was something truly uplifting about sitting with my fellow humans and sharing the humour. Unity made the film all the more moving. I’m not from soppy stock, my family laughs a lot. We

don’t dwell on troubles or analyse our woes, we take the mickey, make a joke and move on. This isn’t always helpful when you have real woes that need a bit of TLC rather than LOL, but on the whole it’s a natural reaction isn’t it? Biology getting us to laugh our way out of trouble. If you fix your face in a smile you actually do feel happier. It won’t stop the inner sobs completely, but it’s a start. We need humour. When we’re standing beside a chilly rugby pitch on a Sunday morning watching our little darlings, funny stories fly and laughter unites us. Book club and bell ringing are great in themselves, but it is the shared humour and belly laughs that keep me going back for more.

I’m no naturalist but I assume this is a unique human thing. Thinking of pets past and present I see no evidence of laughter. True the cats would purr, the dog bounces and wags her tail. The stick insects give nothing away but they do a trembly dance sometimes – maybe that’s mirth induced. Some scientists believe that sounds made by rats, monkeys and dogs are laughter. I suppose it’s possible that animals laugh because of the health benefits, just as laughing is very good for us people. Laughter can lower blood pressure, ease stress, produce growth hormones and actually be good for the circulation. Preschool children apparently laugh as often as 400 times a day. Grumpy adults somewhat less but we still enjoy a chuckle, and we know it does us good.

Rachel and I met at school and we still fall about laughing so that we can barely speak or even breathe nearly every time we get together. She is my longest serving friend and we’ve entertained each other greatly since we decided we liked each other too much to carry on being enemies at the age of 11. Husbands sit baffled and unable to understand the words so distorted are they by our gales of laughter. This laughter has continued to come even when there have been dark days of illness, sorrow and unemployment. Our humour is always there, kindly meant and nourishing the soul, most recently exercised in the bar of the Royal Castle over a couple of pints of Jail Ale. Sorry if you were in there and had to put up with it. But we all need to laugh out loud – it does us the power of good.

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