Wednesday, May 6, 2015

A TRULY FUNNY MAN


One of my favourite humour writers is Miles Kington, who seems to have started life as a very knowing baby. In his book Someone Like Me readers are asked to believe that even in his pram he knew the difference between “Hoochy coochy coochy!” and his brother’s “I’m going to kill you, you little ...!”  And that on his first day at kindergarten he amazed the teacher with a deeply philosophical remark, although he soon reverted to childish pursuits like sticking dried pasta shapes onto paper.

In this memoir of his early life, Miles Kington describes many things about the Kington family, some of which could even be true.  In a series of short pieces he launches into anecdotes that start ordinarily enough but develop into vivid, quirky accounts of family doings guaranteed to make readers laugh and to wish the Kingtons would invite you to dinner. 

Kington’s father, the subject of many of the pieces and clearly an intellectually curious and lateral thinking man, used to rehearse tongue-twisters like “The Leith police dismisseth us” in case he was ever pulled over by a traffic policeman and suspected of being drunk in charge.  He used to take his own sausages when staying in hotels.  As a result of reading the Narnia stories he was convinced that terrible things happened to people in wardrobes and he refused to go near them.

He invented things, among them a gadget designed to pull a hot water bottle slowly out of a bed while the occupant slept. (Why?) The experiment was abandoned when Mr Kington’s big toe became entangled in the string. He also built a bird feeder which was burgled by squirrels, so he and his son invented a squirrel feeder like a lazy machine gun that fired nuts one at a time. The birds got their own back and found a way to help themselves without triggering the mechanism. 

This was a man who made insurance history when he was involved in a two-car traffic accident in which he was legally in charge of both cars.  He was delighted with the resulting confusion, although both insurance companies weren’t, at least until they saw the funny side of it and the case became an urban legend.

These were people who, over dinner, could argue fiercely about liquorice allsorts, and finally decide that the ones with little multi-coloured beads stuck all over the outside had been inspired by a French impressionist painter, to become the first pointilliste sweet.  It is no surprise that Miles Kington grew up to become a popular humorous columnist who invented the fractured French/English language known as Franglais. 

4 comments:

  1. One of my favourites too. He was the main reason that I read Punch. He was a very funny man who died far too young.

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  2. I bet you like Alan Coren and Patrick Campbell too, Judith! And Clive James. Humourists who shed intelligently quirky light on the world.

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  3. P.S. - and Keith Waterhouse and Katherine Whitehorn ...

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  4. Yes, yes, yes. And yes and yes.

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