I sat down to write something the day after beloved and respected British comedian Ronnie Corbett passed away.
I had been enjoying the Easter holidays with my kids, having one of those leisurely days where they played, listened to music and we made casual plans to do something in the gorgeous Maltese sunshine. Then, 24/7 blogger and all that, I checked my social media and noticed a friend had shared an iconic TV sketch from my childhood: the Two Ronnies Fork Handles and a sad face. No words. Just that emoji.
And I knew…they are all leaving and they’re taking my childhood with them.
The wave of utter sadness that descended on me was not unlike the one I’d experienced when a close family friend passed away years ago. I was bereft. He was the kindest gentlest of men for whom I felt enormous respect. I always felt Ronnie Corbett was like him. It is difficult to explain to anyone who did not grow up watching him, what an absolute legend this entertainer was. Physically on the short side he may have been. A giant of comedy he most definitely was.
The Two Ronnies were, like Morecambe and Wise, a stable fixture of British comedy programming in the late 70’s and early 80’s. They were part of the fabric of my family’s Saturday nights; my father would come home from the shop and The Two Ronnies would entertain us after our evening meal. The Phantom Raspberry Blower, the spoof Mastermind sketches…good grief, the hernias I nearly had laughing!
I was reliving those memories when Musical M said ‘Mummy what’s wrong?’ upon hearing my pained ‘Oh No’.
Mid flipping pancakes and getting arts and crafts supplies out, it had turned into the saddest of days. Yes he had had a ‘good innings’ as they say. But that never helps does it? As soon as pancakes were scoffed, before I even tackled the bombsite aka my kitchen, I sat down with the kids to show them that TV sketch that I had first watched when I was younger than two of my kids are now… I can’t help hope that Mr C was somewhere above us watching my kids howl with laughter watching him and Mr B. Just think, forty years after that sketch was filmed, a new generation is enjoying it.
I tried to write about it, I couldn’t find the words. Other blog posts and projects then required my attention. I put the post on hold promising myself I’d come back to it.
A few days ago, after picking my babies up from school, I took them to our local beach cafe; we sipped drinks, played ball on the sand and enjoyed the sight and sound of the stupendous teal sea and white foamy waves crashing against the rocks after school. We came home and I quickly checked my computer before making a start on dinner. I stared in disbelief at the BBC ‘breaking news’ headline about the death of Victoria Wood, again an icon of British comedy. Once again Musical M watched my face fall, my beach buzz replaced by shock and glassy eyes as I tried to explain the magnitude of this further loss. Victoria Wood was the first stand up comedienne I was aware of. I remember admiring this ridiculously funny intelligent woman hurling out jokes at a rate of 60mph in a heavily male-dominated profession. She was a role model for so many women wanting to make their way in the entertainment industry and was quite simply larger than life.
The next day, I took the kids to the beach after school again.
The intention was to play ball again but we found ourselves watching the crazy waves and the surfers instead, as the sea was covering half the beach making it impossible to play. After another lovely afternoon, the same thing: we went home, I checked my social media and again BBC News greeted me…this time announcing the death of Prince.
It was like a sick joke. Two days in a row, the exact same scenario. I genuinely thought it was a hoax.
I resolved to dust off that blog post I’d attempted and write something after all. I also resolved not to take the kids to the beach the next day. (Sorry, writing this is making me said and I needed some light relief so please excuse the dark humour.) So I sit writing it.
I have to confess, I considered calling the post “Just What the Actual Eff?!”
The numerous deaths this year of so many greats….it’s too much. David Bowie the impact of whose death I also wrote about, Terry Wogan (not an international megastar but a much loved highly respected icon of British broadcasting and entertainment), Alan Rickman, a humble non ‘celebrity-like’ theatre and film actor…the list goes on.
A friend of mine has a theory about why all these deaths have hit us so hard. He compared it to the late 70’s when so many greats of TV and film died in the space of a few years: John Wayne, Steve McQueen, Richard Burton, Rock Hudson, Peter Sellers, Eric Morecambe, Tommy Cooper. My friend realised that the deaths of those silver screen idols must have impacted our parents in the same way these recent deaths have affected my generation and that perhaps it is because our parents were in fact not far off the age that my is generation now. These were the personnages from their childhood. Just like Corbett, Wood, Prince etc are the people from my childhood/youth. My generation is becoming so much more aware of its own mortality, just like my parents must have done then.
Each time another death is reported, it’s like a piece of my childhood goes with it.
The childhood where we welcomed these people into our homes via the small screen. They were part of the backdrop to our lives: favourite films, famous TV sketches, cherished hit songs…these form part of our memory bank as we grow up. In my case, the death of Wogan was most definitely linked to this. I met Terry Wogan when I was seven years-old. He was promoting a product at one of the Cash and Carry wholesalers where my parents used to buy the stock for their supermarket. It seems strange now that he was there doing that actually. Long story short, my parents and I excitedly spotted him, I posed for a photo with him and he asked me to do my best open smile at which point I promptly burst into tears because I had just recently lost a tooth and looked like Goofy. No big harm done. I watched him whenever he presented anything on TV and was a huge fan of his 1980’s talk show and of course Blankety Blank!
And then there is the man…Prince, the Artist Formerly Known As, the Tiny Yet Huge Rock Star, His Royal Purpleness etc etc.
What do I say? So much to say. So very many memories of his songs, fabulous memories. Being addicted to Take Me With You, dancing my bits off to Kiss in a French nightclub, hearing 1999 over and over midnight December 31st 1998, mesmerised by the unique sound of When Doves Cry, cracking up with laughter when a Radio 1 DJ did a series called Twisted Lyrics and hearing the hilarious version of Purple Rain’s lyrics, doing the walk of shame down Camden High Road with Lovesexy playing in my ears on my walkman and possibly best of all…strutting round my tiny Paris apartment with my sisters pouting and posing to the stonkingly sexy Cream.
Legend. Pure and simple.
Legends…all of them. From Bowie to Rickman to Wogan to Corbett to Wood to Prince and all the ones I’ve not mentioned in between.
And if any of you legends are looking down, able to read this, may I just say I had not realised the extent to which you inspired me…until you were gone. The films that have a place in my heart, the songs that are the soundtrack to my life, the TV shows that were like my best pals when my friends were all going out and I had to stay home with only you for company, the comedians that nearly gave me a broken rib from laughing, Thank you so very much for all of it.
I just have one small request.
If I ever join you in Heaven or where ever you are, please could you arrange for a front row seat? I intend to carry on watching and listening to you forever.