Thursday 31st January 2013
I had an appointment in town this afternoon and decided to walk home so I could combine exercise with thinking about this year's Edinburgh show (possible new topics include Hell, Death, the concept of being cool and not cool - still nothing leaping out at me). As I approached home, ninety minutes into my nomadic wanderings I suddenly recalled an incident from my childhood. I am not sure what mental process got me there, but it is a chilling reminder of how one stupid action or misunderstanding could possibly alter the course of your life. Luckily in my case it didn't, but it wouldn't have taken much for it to have done so.
I guess that I was about 15 and I was sitting in the lounge with my dad. He was about ten feet from me. For some reason I was playing with a yellow plastic boule (a heavy ball used in the popular French version of bowls). I can't remember exactly how we got to this, but I think I was larking round pretending I was going to throw it at him. I wasn't really going to do it. The ball was hard and he was only a few feet away. But my dad told me to go ahead and that he'd be able to catch it however hard I threw it at him. I told him he was being ridiculous, but he insisted. Perhaps I was still in awe enough of my father to believe he was superhuman (he was a cricket fan and had been something of a sportsman) or maybe I thought there was some trick involved. I still hesitated, but he scoffed at me and said however hard I threw it he would catch it.
So I did.
Now I was sitting down and a bit of a weakling and maybe I held back a little bit (not sure I did though), but I threw the ball hard at my dad. He got his hand to it, but couldn't hold it, though fortunately that deflected it away from his head. He was slightly hurt by the impact and a bit cross with me. He had assumed that I was playing with the soft yellow sponge ball from a tennis game I had. It wasn't exactly my fault that he had made this error (though it might have been a bit weird that I had a boule indoors) and he had egged me on. It was a stupid misunderstanding, fuelled by a son testing his father's limits and a father slightly showing off to his son (though not really if it was a sponge ball). Of course he thought I was insane thinking he couldn't catch such a light orb however hard I threw it and I thought he was insane for thinking he could.
But thankfully his reflexes were good enough to stop the much heavier object than he was anticipating speeding towards his face (I think I might have been smart enough to aim it away from his body and it might just have smashed the window, but I was not a reliable shot and it could easily have hit him instead) because if it had made contact with his skull or his temple then it might well have killed him. It would certainly have hurt him. One moment's stupidity and miscommunication might have led to me committing patricide.
It would probably be quite hard to come to terms with the manslaughter of a parent and it would have been embarrassing trying to explain the chain of events to my family. My mum might have some sympathy and understand that it was going to be tough for me having accidentally murdered my father, but then I would also have murdered her husband. I suspect she'd have quite mixed emotions, but it would be difficult for her not to bear some resentment.
And that's if people believed my story. Might they think it more likely that I had killed him in a fit of adolescent anger rather than playful misunderstanding? I might just be coming out of prison. I think it would seriously have derailed my comedy career (though with enough time it might become a brilliant Edinburgh show - dammit, that would really get me out of the hole I am in at the moment).
You could argue that it would be even worse for my dad.
Life is so random and terrifying. Luckily we all got through this incident with nothing but a bruised palm and a more realistic idea of the superhero status of my dad.
But if a teenager ever wants to throw something at you then double-check what it is - it might look like a small pineapple to your old eyes, but it might be a hand-grenade.
All the dates for the Talking Cock tour can be found here
Buy the Talking Cock book here
Tickets are now on sale for both my Edinburgh Fringe shows. "We're All Going To Die!" is on at the Pleasance Beyond at 8pm Book here
Richard Herring's Edinburgh Fringe Podcast is at Stand 1 daily at 14.10. Book here
You can get video downloads of Richard Herring's Leicester Square Theatre Podcast from Go Faster Stripe
A video explaining the idea can be seen here
You can buy tickets to the shows from the Leicester Square Theatre website
You can still download the audio for free from the British Comedy Guide or iTunes
You can subscribe to this blog on Kindle. Now only ï¿½0.99 a month here. Or just carry on reading it on here for free.
Also on your kindle (or any smart phone or tablet with the kindle app) catch up on the early years of Warming Up (with extra retrospective additions) with Bye Bye Balham and The Box Lady and Other Pesticles (only ï¿½3.53 each)
[ Email this edition of Warming Up to a friend ]