Mark Andrews on Saturday: Skateboarding dads, comedy on the NHS, and a very chilling precedent

Skateboarding in middle age is good for the health, says Paul O’Connor, a researcher at Exeter University. He reckons it can help people navigate depression, bond with their offspring and gain ‘spiritual meaning’. I’m not entirely convinced about the ‘spiritual meaning’ of an obese middle-aged man in a baseball cap and Bermuda shorts shuffling about on Waitrose car park. And I’m pretty sure their offspring would cringe with embarrassment. Still, it will give the rest of us a good laugh. And they say laughter is the best medicine.

Yo Daddy! Apparently skateboarding in middle-age is good for you
Yo Daddy! Apparently skateboarding in middle-age is good for you

Talking of which, the NHS in Bristol is now offering comedy classes on prescription. It’s nice to see that extra penny on National Insurance being put to good use.

And here’s an idea. If comedy is really that therapeutic, instead of sending people on courses, why show it somewhere it can be accessed by everyone, free at the point of delivery? Like on television perhaps?

I’ve just looked through this week’s TV listings, and on the five main channels there was just one prime-time comedy, the BBC’s okayish remake of Open All Hours. But back in the 70s, 80s, and even the early 90s, there was something funny on most nights. Not the niche, often nasty, late-night stuff, but mainstream programmes the whole family could enjoy: The Likely Lads, Only Fools & Horses, Terry & June, Reggie Perrin. Or more recently, One Foot in the Grave and Men Behaving Badly. By contrast, this week’s schedule has been dominated by documentaries about people getting nicked for speeding, programmes about dietary habits, and flogged-to-death soaps. Plus a delightfully uplifting drama from the BBC about a predatory serial killer. No wonder people need cheering up.

The “Colston Four”, who admitted pulling down a statue of slaver Edward Colston and tossing it in the harbour, have been cleared of criminal damage. They claimed they were entitled to remove the statue because its existence represented a ‘hate crime’. Now Colston may well have been a wrong ‘un, and I won’t lose too much sleep over his statue. But the precedent this verdict sets, that you can now smash up any monument you like providing the individual it commemorates offends your sensibilities, I find rather chilling. I wouldn’t call myself a fan of Karl Marx, but I wouldn’t desecrate his memorial. And wasn’t it telling that the most vocal of the ‘four’ was a foul-mouthed, posh white boy called Sage, with his hair tied in an infantile ‘man bun’? Not that they conform to stereotypes, you understand.

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