‘For I dearly love to laugh’.

‘Something funny next time, please’, said Liz, ‘this one made me cry.’

It’s good for you to cry, actually – I read it in one of the self-help books over-loading my bookcase. Tears contain a mild antiseptic which wash your eyes when you cry. At the same time, your body releases endorphins – those feel-good chemicals which lift your mood. Hence, you really do cheer up a little. Try it, next time you feel like bawling and are straining like mad to keep it in. Just let go! Trust me, in my extensive experience, it works.

And according to the book, ‘Why Women Burst into Tears at the Drop of a Hat and Men Seem to be Complete Bastards’, crying is not a sign of weakness in a woman, no sir-ee. It’s genetic, a hard wired tool handed down from our fore-mothers for eliciting sympathy from the alpha male. Or was that empathy? Sympathy AND empathy. To make him think “Nay, I WILL return to my significant female and the screaming, squawking fruit of my loins! I WILL ensure their survival! I will NOT keep all this woolly mammoth to myself!” So it’s natural, see, and I can’t help it.

So, what would Liz find funny? I know what used to make her laugh: a maraschino cherry dropped into a pint of Stella at The Horse; me telling her to give it up coz workplace romances never work (how is Neil by the way, Liz? Don’t forget that invite to your 25th!); lemon curd tarts from Birds; the classic coffee-break question “shall we go back upstairs or try the Times crossword as well?” (the answer usually “Nah, it’s fag time,” and out we would trot to the back porch, even though I didn’t smoke); espadrilles on a rainy, lunchtime walk to town; the postcard we sent Helen from her appendix, ‘having a lovely time here in Barbados’; the satisfyingly plumy intonation of the word ‘knob’ when used to describe Research Associates, partners (usually mine), random idiots in numerous places. All these things made Liz laugh.

But Liz is an Artisan these days. Has moved away. We are comedy partners no longer, haven’t been for some time, in fact, nor typed a report or faxed a proposal or franked a letter for many a year. My coffee breaks are now called Play Time and regimented by the blow of a whistle and if Liz drinks coffee, she does so by an open fire, looking out across Northern Irish hills. Even The Horse isn’t what it used to be – have you seen what happens now of a weekend nightime in that sought after village where she used to live? That wouldn’t make her laugh, for sure. Nor would it anyone else for that matter, especially if they’d forked out top house-buying dollar on the basis of a daytime viewing.

But I would dearly like to make her laugh because she needs to right now and because her laugh was always so delicious. And probably still is.

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