It’s no laughing matter

WHAT is a joke?

A joke, I hear you reply, is a humorous anecdote; something said for fun.

Not in our house, it’s not.

In our house a joke is a thing that leaks poison into your porridge; it’s the key to a week of frozen kisses, or several nights of cold bum.

In our house jokes have one significant difference to jokes elsewhere – they’re not funny!

They may be sinister, caustic, malicious or dumb, but they’re not funny.

It’s a curious phenomenon of married life, and I mention it here so you can recognise it in your own domestic affairs and slap it in the gob with a custard pie before you discover the porridge tastes strangely bitter.

As you know, perhaps, in recent months life has been a little tense where I live. We have split up, we have got together, we have split up again. Now we are together once more. It would feel like a French farce except that I still have my trousers on.

And it’s beginning to feel permanent (not the French farce… the being together, and while I’m on the subject… thank you, all those people who wrote to wish me well). There’s only one threat as far as I can see.

The joke…

“Are we going out tonight, or are you preparing your hair for something that’s happening next week?”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Er… it seems to be taking… rather a long time.”

“Hmphf! There’s no need to be snotty about it.”

” It was only a joke…”

“Yes, well… you’d probably take as long as me – if you weren’t bald.”

“Where the hell did that come from!”

“I was only–”

“You accuse me of being nasty; then you come out with something like that!”

“But I was only joking…”

I’ll stop there. I’m sure you get the picture. And from this point on the picture is inclined to be blurred. It may involve poisoned porridge, or a cleaver, or barristers.

All of which is really, really stupid. But not so stupid as the basic, underlying absurdity – the two people at the centre of this war are on the same side!

At least, they were when they started. How does that happen? You start out indulging in the same movies, eating the same food, enjoying the same sex, sharing the same house renovations.

One blink, and you’re in blue, she’s in maroon; one sneeze and you’re Iraq, she’s the US. You scratch your bum and the jokes have become cudgels, or knives.

And of course, there are no winners. Just the twin towers, or the remains of them, smouldering in the ashes.

Well… I have a second chance (actually, if I’m honest, it’s a 328th chance – I’m a slow learner). And I am making the most of it.

No more jokes. I may be guilty of the occasional flippant remark in these columns from time to time, but once I have walked through the front door of the marital home, I am, from now on, a serious man.

I told my wife. As a mark of respect, I said, and to avoid any misunderstanding between us, I shall in future keep my witty remarks to myself.

She said: “Very funny.”