It’s Wednesday 14th March and so far this week we have lost two great, clever, funny and totally human people. They seem so different from each other, and yet there is a common theme of humanity, love and happiness that runs through their work.
Ken Dodd was born, lived and died no more than 3 miles from either my office or my home address. He was infamous (and famous) for his ability to put on a show and keep the people there until well after midnight. It was a running joke: you never took public transport to a Doddy show, because you’d miss the train, or the last bus would have gone. My husband went once and told me that his sides had never ached as much. Really, you’d laugh til you cried. Or, if you were a middle aged woman, until you wet yourself.
He died aged 90, having been a comedian on stage and TV for 60 years.
When I was young, Ken Dodd and the Diddymen was a popular programme we all sat down to watch. Indeed, one of my second brother’s nicknames is Mick The Marmalizer simply because that was one of the Diddy men. Programmes and people you watch from so young have a way of staying with you. He was messy, anarchic, rude (oh, yes, he could be rude) but not lewd. His shows are forever associated with his theme song, Happiness.
On Monday I finally got to use the joke we’d said on the playground so long ago. When my hubby woke I said to him, “Ken Dodd died.”
“Did he?” said the unsuspecting Husband.
“No, Doddy.” I replied. Finally, it worked.
And then today, Wednesday, as I was getting ready to come in and write about Ken Dodd and happiness, came the news about Stephen Hawking.
It’s like we’re losing all the great giants at once. Stephen Hawking must be one of the best known people on the planet. The man who made science sexy… well, no. Not really. But he made it interesting because this guy was a genius. A remarkable genius whose story as told in The Theory of Everything is heartbreaking, life-affirming and so, so inspiring. Really, if he could do what he did with how his body was, what right has anybody else to complain about a headache or twinge in the back? What could have been disaster (fantastic brain trapped in a shell) became his freedom to think. He communicated through a cheek muscle, became a popular scientist after writing A Brief History of Time and had a crazy sense of humour… this, from Wikipedia, is so cool:
On 28 June 2009, as a tongue-in-cheek test of his 1992 conjecture that travel into the past is effectively impossible, Hawking held a party open to all, complete with hors d’oeuvres and iced champagne, but only publicised the party after it was over so that only time-travellers would know to attend; as expected, nobody showed up to the party.
He didn’t believe in an afterlife or a God, but I do, so there’s a bit of me imagining him and Terry Pratchett sitting together in Heaven drinking tea and going, “Well, this is a bit embarrassing, isn’t it?” He did believe in love, though. And that humans could be their own worst enemies.
I’m sure he hated being thought of as an inspiration, but he was really stubborn. When his body refused to fit in with the world, he made the world adapt to suit him. For that alone… for the sheer brute force of making sure he could be himself despite (or because of?) his disability… the man is a legend. Don’t give up: there’s always a way. And if there isn’t one yet, invent it.
Both these people have taught me lessons.
- We only have one life, so live it well.
- Laughter will always have more power than anger.
- The Universe is a big place, but the centre of it for me is my home.
- It’s not the size or the power of your arms that matters, but the size of your heart and the power of your brain.
- There are few things in life too important to laugh at.
Bless them both. I shall raise a glass to them tonight, wipe away my tears of laughter and sorrow, and wake up every day thankful that humanity is capable of producing great minds and great love. It may be the only thing that saves us in the end.