Monday, 9 June 2014

Chapter 12: Send in the Clowns

"If word gets out I'm missing, 500 girls would kill themselves, and I wouldn't want them on my conscience…
Not when then ought to be ON MY FACE!"

Rik  Mayall as Lord  Flashheart in  Blackadder Goes Forth

9th June, 2014. This evening the barrage of punk references and Young Ones quotes and references to Lord Flashheart has slightly passed me by. I am just killing time until my harp lesson with a quick login to Facebook. I register, barely, that he has died. How sad, I think, he was funny, life is cruel. I move on. Then my harp teacher arrives, who had known Rik Mayall. Now, I have only been learning harp for a year, but there is a strong bond forged between teacher and pupil and I feel my stomach dropping out, a visceral reaction to her loss, to that of his family, of an outrageously funny, generous, grounded free spirit. Gutting.

Growing up I just caught the tail end of The Young Ones,  so for me Rik Mayall was all about Famous Five in  The Comic Strip Presents… and Lord Flashheart in Blackadder. For others it might be Bottom or The New Statesman, or Drop Dead Fred. For all, I believe, Rik Mayall's comedy was anarchic, irreverent, limitless, expressive and perfectly timed. He was the ultimate slapstick clown of our times.

"No, I live on the limit Vyvyan.  The Limit.  Because I'm a Rider at the Gates of Dawn and I take no prisoners."
as Rick in The Young Ones

I hear that Mayall died unexpectedly, and have been thinking of a friend's husband who died suddenly, whose daughter's birthday is today. So poignant, words fail. Then at bed-time this evening, my six-year-old daughter turns to me out-of-the blue, distraught: "Mummy, you are magic.  What will I do when you are gone? I am so scared to think I will lose you one day, so scared." I reassure. I hold. Close. She is at that age. My son went through it. So did I. So did my husband. So will our toddler in a few years time. It's hard-wired into our DNA to ask, what next? Still, I wonder what has brought this on right now? Is it something in the air? Today has been so very humid after all, so heavy. So close. Waiting for weather to break. I think of that later, watching a stunning piece by a student from the National Centre for Circus Arts entitled "Raindance":

And it's a funny thing, but I'm working on a harp piece to play to my own parents this weekend. The title of the piece, by Paraguayan composer Alfredo Rolando Ortiz, is "Esperando" which translates as "Waiting", and when I play this evening, I feel both an anticipated and real sense of loss flooding out.

In something akin to a zeitgeist, the website "Brainpickings" has been very much on my radar raising these issues in the past 24 hours. I went to bed last night reading the latest post on Tolstoy's Confession where, on  reaching 50, Tolstoy in crisis questions our place in the world, and sinks into an existential funk.  If there is no point to life, does it bear waiting til the end? Shouldn't we just call it quits? And then in today's "Brainspickings" offering, "On the Messiness of Mourning and Learning to Live with the Loss", Megan O'Rourke  similarly touches on the tension produced by this sense of waiting for the end:

The dread of death is so primal, it overtakes me on a molecular level. In the lowest moments, it produces nihilism. If I am going to die, why not get it over with? Why live in this agony of anticipation?

The answer? Who knows? But if life is some absurd joke, let's celebrate the clowns who help us laugh at it. Let's live for those hilarious moments that help lift the burden and bring sheer release.

Outside the rain is thundering down. With the odd Flash.

Thank you Rik Mayall, and good night.

"Flash by name, Flash by nature."

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