245. Bedtime joy

I pulled Blog 245. Quality control said not good enough, rewrite needed. Moving on…

 

index

 

For a period of years, in the 1990s, I used to read a bedtime story to my daughters Lauren and Josie every night when they were young. I was usually dog-tired, having got up at around 3 a.m. to get out on the milk round, so would often fall asleep myself, as I read.

“Dad!” they would shout. “Don’t go to sleep.”

One way in which I tried to stay awake was by inventing a ‘Daddy Story’. Didn’t always work. Easy enough to start, but, sitting comfortably, also too easy to drift into slumber, whenever I stopped to think about the next fictional event.

The one way to guarantee wakefulness, while getting away with what seemed like storytelling, was to trot out a joke. We had a particular favourite, about a hospital housing British soldiers injured in a war.

It went like this.

 

The Queen was making the rounds of the wards, to boost the soldiers’ morale. She stopped at the first bed, and asked the accompanying doctor about the soldier’s condition.

 “He has suffered a traumatic injury ma’am. Lost both legs to an enemy shell. The good news is that he is comfortable. Recovering slowly.”

 The Queen patted the soldier’s arm. “Good man, you’ve done well and your country is proud of you.”

 

There was minor restlessness in the two kids’ beds. The good bit was still to come.

 

The doctor and the Queen stopped at the second bed, where a man had lost all his limbs, his nose and both ears.

 

A small giggle or two (maybe my daughters were young sadists), as momentum built towards the sea of laughter in which they would soon plunge.

 

Asked by the Queen about this man, the doctor explained that the soldier was the victim of mortar bomb that had landed six inches away.

 She kissed the soldier lightly on the head, asking if there was any good news. “Yes,” said the doctor. “We think he will eventually regain his strength, and can lead a full life, with the use of artificial limbs.”

 The Queen now approached a third bed. There didn’t seem to be anybody in it.

 

Huge daughter grins were breaking out.

 

The Queen moved nearer. She looked harder. On the pillow, all she could see was…… an eye.

 

Pandemonium would break out. All three of us would start weeping with laughter. It no longer mattered about the punchline. Sometimes a couple of minutes would go past before I could find the silence to trot out the ending.

 

“Is there any good news”, asked the Queen.

“Yes,” said the doctor. “He won’t have to wear glasses anymore.”

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