Friday October 30th 2020

THE LAST LAUGH : “Chew this root at the full moon and spit the remains into a maroon watermelon skin, that’ll cure you in a flash”

We’re dying – all of us are, but some with a little more haste than others. We two who are writing this column have been given timelines which can be counted in months. Facing your own mortality raises several questions: how can I get one of those lovely Ghanaian coffin makers to fashion me one in the shape of a giant cock? What sort of contest can I organise for my friends to see who gets the playstation in my will? Does this mean I get a license to take medicinal marijuana? And – what will people remember us for? We hope that some of you, at least, will remember The Last Laugh.

“Chew this root at the full moon and spit the remains into a maroon watermelon skin, that’ll cure you in a flash”

There are two things that everyone on earth has an opinion about: babies, and illness. Last time we mentioned TEETH – Tried Everything Else, Try Homeopathy. Remarkably, whilst we are battling our diseases, living with them every minute of our lives, and have consulted the entire wealth of wisdom our medical experts and the Great Google have to offer, random complete strangers still believe that they, and they alone, have a simple, and quitefranklyreallyratherobviousandtheycan’tunderstandwhywedidn’tjustdothismonthsago cure.

These cures are usually offered up with a slightly sympathetic head tilt – to the left, always to the left – and the glowing superiority of those who are not dying, and therefore, by inference, have not been nearly as careless as us.

As an example, Cousin Joe – as in tedious second cousin once removed Joe– insisted that hypnotism could cure me. Because, you see, it had cured him of smoking. Joe didn’t just offer this up over the slightly dry quiche and get on with his life. Joe became a man obsessed. He called me daily. He inundated my inbox with news articles about the astonishing ability of hypnotism to cure absolutely everything on earth, as well as a few things on the moon.  Eventually I decided that going to the hypnotist would be easier and more painless, in the long term (although that’s a silly phrase these days) than changing my email address, Skype name, phone number, address, and name. So, on a gloomy Tuesday morning, off I went.

I wasn’t sure what to expect, having already consulted, apart from the doctors, homeopaths and acupuncturists, a psychic, a Wiccan healer, and a self-styled and rather effete sangoma. What I found was an astonishingly bland man called Neville, about whom absolutely every particular can best be described as beige. Neville, without any beating about the bush, began to hypnotise me. Well no, he began to try to hypnotise me. Well no, he began to explain to me how he went about hypnotising people, cleared his throat, said two words and then declared “This is never going to work, you’ve closed your mind to me. I pity you.” Not so beige after all. I left there still dying, and with an increased urge for the cigarettes and booze that Joe had hoped I might also cure myself of, “while I was about it”.

Other cures that have been suggested include: the very simple Christian expedient of confessing all our sins and asking God forgiveness – because no devout Christian has ever been terminally ill, let alone died; visiting one of several sites that may or may not have been visited by the Virgin Mary or other lesser known Saints; bathing in the ocean every morning at dawn; removing “unnecessary organs”; contracting tapeworms; shaving our entire body hair; eating a diet of just charcoal for a week; and one we rather fancied, which was drinking an entire bottle of brandy every day to “preserve the good bits and kill of the rest”.

We must point out that amongst the nutjobs are several people who both a) actually know and give a damn about us and b) are not psychotic and deranged. And we also do understand the urge here. You see, as a very wise friend of ours pointed out, people long to be able to DO things to help. We want a solution. We want an answer. We don’t want to be sitting here, in the year 2010, with incurable diseases. We don’t want to accept that. And we don’t know how to say, quite simply, “It really sucks that you’re dying. I’m so sorry. I hope that doesn’t happen. Let me know if there’s anything I can do.”

And here’s a secret, from us to you: saying that, that’s the best thing you can do for us. Reminding us, every now and again, that we’re not really as annoying as we consider ourselves to be.Laughing with us, crying with us, hoping with us. Because although we have to walk this path alone, it helps to know that, as with every endurance race, there are people at the side of the road cheering us on, and offering us the occasional small plastic bag of water, trying to interview us when we are most in need of medical attention, believing in us every step of the way, and even, occasionally, throwing a small hypnotist or two our way.

Thank you.

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