Tears of a Clown

Sep 25th, 2006 | By | Category: Personal Columns

The comic and the tragic are never far apart.

Perhaps it’s the genius of British comedy to be able to express the saddest moments and most profound emotions in a way that we can understand and share.

The closing moments of the final Blackadder, when Captain Blackadder and his men go “over the top” and fall one by one under a hail of fire as the war scene slowly fades to be replaced by a field of poppies is one of the most moving moments on television.

David Jason shares Rowan Atkinson’s genius in being able to express the profoundly tragic as well as the deeply comic. Del Boy in Only Fools and Horses is selfish and superficial and completely untrustworthy, but the character was redeemed for me in the episode when Granddad has died. Del is his usual buoyant, ebullient self, taking everything in his stride. Granddad was old, old people die; what should Del Boy feel about it? When Rodney challenges him, he breaks down; he hasn’t even begun to cope.

Katharine’s mum died four weeks ago today. There was much thanksgiving for a long and greatly blessed life, much laughter; many, many smiles at all the memories. At 86 she was old and don’t old people die? And, if we’re Christians, don’t we rejoice that someone has gone ahead of us?

Except, like poor Del Boy, some of us don’t cope so well with things, or perhaps it’s just me that doesn’t cope so well with things. Clergy are supposed to have a Del Boy personality, always smiling, always positive, always on top of things. We don’t even have anyone like Rodney to ask the awkward questions. Sometimes behind the smiles there is a deep sadness, but, like Edmond Blackadder and Derek Trotter, we carry on, because we don’t know any other way.

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