Laughter during Lockdown by Paulyne Pogorelske

A daily stroll in the Spring sunshine, creative, culinary delights for dinner and sound slumber at bedtime have helped maintain a quasi-wellbeing during lockdown. Recently however, I discovered, thanks to my partner, a much more sanguine solution to social isolation by recharging some dormant cells in my brain.

Thirty-five years ago, a six-part BBC-TV series called “Blott on the Landscape”, adapted from the 1975 novel by English writer, Tom Sharpe, was broadcast here, but I missed it. Familiar with the series, my partner recommended watching it together as a humorous diversion from lockdown distress.

Erupting in hilarious laughter almost immediately, my unexpected merriment continued over several hours for two nights as I sat enthralled, entertained and excited by the series’ events, trying to guess what happened next as the story unfolded.

With a tight, crisp script and a brilliant cast including David Suchet of Poirot fame as Blott, the narrative details the madcap, if not macabre, shenanigans about a proposed new motorway through a grand, 500-year-old manor estate. 

With a sexless, childless marriage between a parliamentary Sir and his good Lady wife who live in the manor, Sir’s boudoir fetishes indulged by a widowed dominatrix, pompous political spin, a buffoon public servant entrusted to oversee the motorway construction and an apparent simpleton gardener as an unlikely hero, the story satirises issues still relevant in today’s woke culture.

Unable to clarify what was missing in my lockdown life, I found laughter was the key for the joy I lost amid the solemnity of COVID, offering salvation with a smile on my face during and after watching Blott.

In the 1300s, a French professor of surgery, Henri de Mondeville, first proposed post-operative therapy with humour, fostering the adage that “laughter is the best medicine”. Stimulating endorphins, laughter promotes a sense of wellbeing, protecting the heart, improving blood vessel function and increasing blood flow.

Indeed, Proverbs 17:22 attests “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine…” while Ecclesiastes 8:15 opines: “I commend mirth”.

If laughter seems a flirtatious frivolity, American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr remarked seriously many decades ago: “Humour is a prelude to faith and laughter is the beginning of prayer.”

As a Jewish agnostic, appreciating laughter as holy inspiration has enriched my spirituality and dissipated my disbelief.

Perhaps Psalm 2:4 best reflects my new faith with “God, who sits in heaven, laughs”. As Ella Wheeler’s 1883 poem “Solitude” states: “Laugh and the world laughs with you…,” making a sense of humour a paramount priority, even important necessity, in these current circumstances.