Keeping It All in the Family

Keeping It All in the Family
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I’ve never done this before, but I’m dictating this column to my wife.

She has many attributes, among them being trained as a secretary many years ago. We went to the same further-education college when we were both in our late teens, but never met while there. I think she would have hated me, quite rightly, when I was 17. When we met in our early 30s, life had knocked off my rough edges, although the arrogance undoubtedly still shone through.

A further-education college is difficult to describe to an American audience, but it is perhaps the equivalent to a community college for younger adults before they go off to the workplace, or in my case, the university. If you haven’t seen the show “Community,” which is back on Netflix, it is the best TV sitcom that remained a cult hit. If I remember correctly, their strapline was often “one more series and a film.”

Sitcom is the right thing to bring up, as “All in The Family” was a hugely successful American sitcom in the 1970s, but it was actually based on a British comedy program of the ’60s and ’70s called “Till Death Us Do Part.” Both programs were satires based on right-wing men. They were precursors decades before Brexit in the U.K. and the rise of Donald Trump in the U.S. As a kid, I think I always saw the satire, but they did sum up a view of the world that was mostly ignored by mainstream media.

I actually spent a few days working as a purported script editor with the writer of “Till Death Us Do Part,” Johnny Speight. It was a favor to a powerful producer. We both knew Johnny’s film would never be made, but he’d been paid, and for a few days he had to put up with this whippersnapper, who considered him a comedy god.

My wife is typing this copy because I have had yet another rough week. C. diff. has poleaxed me for a couple of days, but I’m really fed up with writing about it. If any of you have read me in the past, you’ll realize that although I’m a lefty, I’ve a fascination with Winston Churchill, who regularly wrote his copy by dictating to a secretary. However, I’m in no position to sack this one, or indeed go the whole hog and get into a bath and dictate copy. I haven’t been able to get into a bath for over 10 years, and it is upstairs anyway.

With lockdown upon us, which I started weeks before it became de rigueur, having my family around has been fundamentally important. A few people I met in MS exercise groups were stoically facing the world on their own. Partners had left when they discovered they’d have a lifetime of being a carer. My wife may still leave me because I am often such an arse.

I have had precipitous luck, although at the time, it seemed devastating. I was refused my fourth infusion of Ocrevus (ocrelizumab), my current disease-modifying therapy, in December because my immune system had become so low. At about the same time, my eldest son — who had done sterling work as an activity coordinator in a retirement and care home for 10 years — was made redundant. This was due to the company wanting to save money by getting rid of activities workers across all of their homes.

For me, this was lucky, because if he had continued to work in this area, the chances of him catching the new coronavirus would have been higher. In the last few days, this has become a major issue in the U.K., as 60 carers have died of the disease, which is probably a low figure.

I saw a news item yesterday in which some lovely carers in the Isle of Wight, an island off England’s southern coast, had decided to live in tents outside the retirement home so they wouldn’t affect their own families. They also wouldn’t need to struggle to get to work with an intermittent ferry service from the mainland. Global warming may be happening, but at this time in the U.K., it is still pretty darn cold.

In lockdown, I desperately miss writing and producing my own satirical stage comedy show. We still have a podcast we started before all this happened, but I have limited input. Still, I get the chance to knock out the occasional one-liner.

One of my comics is currently trapped in Australia (poor him), where yesterday the beaches reopened. I think the requisite social distance of two meters is still a trifle close with a great white.

***

Addendum: I just had my first fall in two years. See, I really have been in a poorly way. The Mangar compressor that we use to raise me in these situations completely failed, despite all its light shining a reassuring green. Precipitously, the lockdown meant all the family was here. We worked as a well-honed team and raised my 17-stone dead weight.

Without the current COVID-19 emergency, I’d still be on the floor!

***

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In the ‘80s, John created the first regular column about the burgeoning London stand-up scene. In 1990 he wrote a book about its effect on the Edinburgh Festival: “Comics: A Decade of Comedy at the Assembly Rooms.” That year he also devised and ran a live topical stand-up team show at The London Comedy Store, The Edge. (It was destroyed in 2020!) In 2009 John was diagnosed with RRMS, which cut short his main job as a TV casting director for “Black Books,” “My Family,” et al. Now, John writes “Fall Down Get Up Again,” an irreverent journey with MS, and also serves as MS News Today Forums co-moderator.
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In the ‘80s, John created the first regular column about the burgeoning London stand-up scene. In 1990 he wrote a book about its effect on the Edinburgh Festival: “Comics: A Decade of Comedy at the Assembly Rooms.” That year he also devised and ran a live topical stand-up team show at The London Comedy Store, The Edge. (It was destroyed in 2020!) In 2009 John was diagnosed with RRMS, which cut short his main job as a TV casting director for “Black Books,” “My Family,” et al. Now, John writes “Fall Down Get Up Again,” an irreverent journey with MS, and also serves as MS News Today Forums co-moderator.
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4 comments

  1. Nick Melliss says:

    Hi, I just wanted to say thanks for writing this.Black Books is a favourite of mine and the only series I can watch repeats of. I was diagnosed with MS in 2005 and have been falling over regularly both before then and ever since.
    I taught in FE colleges in London for years. I always doubted whether the education we provided could help anyone, so it was good to see that firstly, you met your wife in an FE college, though you didn’t know her then, and that you went to university and into script writing. I hope you keep fit and well, and you keep working.

  2. John Connor says:

    Ta Nick. I was the Casting Director on ‘BB’ alongside my wife! We actually met in the London Comedy Store. My metier is actually jokes & song parodies. FE was brill – I was suddenly treated like an adult. The first time a lecturer called me Mr Connor – I looked for my father! And u know what – I started behaving like an adult!
    So, no u weren’t waisting your time mate.
    PS If u’ve got Netflix dive into ‘Community’.

  3. Kathleen Fulghum says:

    Love your columns, John, and pray you continue safe and well. Humor (humour) is the greatest medicine and gift God gave us. Punning online with Pun Slingers and other groups keeps me (semi-)sane. Happy Mother’s Day May 10 to your wife.

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