Metro 23

By Richard Herring - 17th July, 2012

Richard Herring: I only want to make you laugh and occasionally think
Our resident comedian Richard Herring rues those special moments in life when he should have grabbed the bull by its horns…

Last week’s column proved mildly controversial. My guess is you didn’t notice when you read it but inadvertently, for a few people at least, I became one of those shocking in-your-face columnists. I didn’t like it. I am only trying to make you laugh and occasionally gently think. Do AA Gill and his ilk spend the day after their column has come out feeling confused and a bit upset, like I did? I doubt it but maybe they did the first time, then decided they’d get people back by being even more controversial. It’s the first step towards shooting a baboon or thinking Mary Beard is anything but the most wonderful woman alive.

But only a fool would want to be like AA Gill (the AA stands for Anus A***hole, incidentally), so I’ll play it safe and give you an innocuous story from my schooldays, brought to mind by the recent weather.

It sums up the way I have lived my life: largely failing to grab bulls by their horns or any other available appendage (their tails, obviously).

When I was 17, I was out on the school playing fields one lunchtime with my friends, a mainly platonic mixture of boys and girls. It had been a really beautiful summer’s day: the sun had been shining only seconds before. Then, suddenly, rain started to pour from the sky. Not just a few drops. It was like Jesus had filled a huge bath in Heaven and then, having one of his (rare and justified) petulant fits, turned the tub upside down.

I saw the liquid sheet approaching us and, being a sensible lad, ran for cover. But for some reason, my friends, led by non-sporting house captain Steve Cheeke, decided to stand their ground. They were immediately drenched but just stayed where they were, laughing and hugging. Some primeval instinct made them spontaneously dance, as if praising some ancient goddess for her bounteous generosity.

It was subversive and celebratory and rawly sexual, in an innocent and exquisite way. But I’d made my incorrect choice and gone inside and I was too embarrassed or proud to reverse my decision.

I should have played it cool. I should have made myself a coffee and waited for them to get bored. But not only was I too childish at 17 to drink coffee, I also chose the dweebiest of options, which was to stand as near to being outside as possible, without actually being outside and watch them. It was one of life’s seminal moments and there I was, standing in a doorway looking at it rather than taking part in it.

I probably opined that they’d catch their deaths. But, of course, they were catching life – something I’ve managed to fumble and drop pretty consistently ever since.

Eventually they ran inside, buzzing with excitement, looking for something to dry themselves with. They were so alive in the moment they hadn’t realised it wasn’t games today, so they didn’t have their towels.

I had realised this. It had been a consideration when I stayed indoors. They were soaking but only I was wet.

In hindsight, I wish I’d danced in the rain. But you can’t go back. I’m 45. It’s too late.

If I hung around outside my local school, waiting for a downpour and then encouraged 17-year-olds to dance and hug me, it would lead to misunderstandings. And we don’t want any more of those.

What’s that? AA Gill’s on the phone crying? I’ve done it again.

Richard Herring’s Talking Cock: The Second Coming will be debuting at the Edinburgh Fringe in August.

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