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Olivia Williams on incessant blubbing and big laughs
By Olivia Williams
12:15PM GMT 12 Nov 2013

In her regular monthly column, Olivia Williams is glad to be laughing after a week of being regularly moved to tears

I have spent WAY too much of this week in tears. The last week performing Scenes From a Marriage has made me susceptible to pretty well any passing stimulus, be it a harsh word from the crazy pigeon lady next door or a vintage episode of Butterflies. But the letter to the editor of the Independent on Sunday from Greenpeace activist Frank Hewetson, written from his Murmansk cell, left me inconsolable. The paper’s website displays the letter, handwritten on grey paper. The content is a spoof travel piece/restaurant review of his six weeks in a 5m x 2m cubicle, intended, I am sure, to slip past the censors, maybe to reassure his partner and children that he is keeping his spirits up, or simply demonstrating an unbreakable humour. Whatever the truth behind the letter, I can’t believe his bravery. Here is someone who is fighting to preserve the planet, forsaking everything that makes life bearable, now up against a regime that thinks nothing of poisoning state enemies with polonium in London sushi restaurants, and still finding it within himself to be humorous.

To protect my children from my incessant blubbing, I decided to entertain myself by teaching them about Spoonerisms. I explained the principle and picked out my favourite example attributed to the Rev William Spooner, “Three cheers for our Queer Old Dean.” With astounding speed my daughter created an at once gratifying and slightly hurtful Spoonerism of her own, announcing with a grin: “I have a mossy bum.” I suppose it was deserved as I had just used every threat in the canon to force the child to submit to 20 minutes of homework and piano practice, and I was more proud than hurt.

I took the kids in to the St James’ Theatre over half-term to show them where I go when I desert them just before bedtime every night. We took a turn around the Victoria Memorial, and I ran through some vague facts about her reign, her nine children, her love of Albert and her mourning. The memorial is whiter and golder than when I last went up close, but all that pristine gilt can’t hide the fact that Victoria looks like she is sitting on something very uncomfortable. The girls read the inscriptions as I tried to place the Dear Old Queen’s miserable expression. As we walked away the younger daughter asked me if what was written there was a very rude Spoonerism. “I don’t know darling, what did it say?” “Victoria Regina.”



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