Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Is It Just Me? by Miranda Hart (final version)

Are you sitting comfortably? Do you have a couple of biscuits at hand and a mug of tea? Okay then, My Dear Reader Chum (as Miranda Hart would say), let’s talk about Is It Just Me?

In this day and age we have twenty four hour access to videos of talking dogs on the internet and comedy films and TV series available for us to watch on our smart phones/tablets/laptops on the train to work when you are supposed to be reading over that report your boss gave you last week. It can sometimes be difficult for the written word alone to make us laugh. Miranda Hart manages it effortlessly in her new book: Is It Just Me? Her autobiography is so animated that you can almost see her walking through a restaurant with toilet paper trailing from one of her shoes without the need of a TV screen. If you are a fan of her TV series then you will already know that she is a comic genius. If you are not a fan then I still urge you to read this book as her sparkling anecdotes come to life in ink form.

Don’t get me wrong, the TV character of Miranda is still present throughout. If you have watched the series then you will know that every episode includes conversations with us, her ‘chums’, and her book is no exception. It is a technique which she uses to her advantage, drawing you into her chaotic world. However the real Miranda surfaces from underneath through her honest confessions about her real life off the screen. She travels back in time to her school days, an awkward time for anyone, let alone for an ungainly teenage girl. We can start to see why Miranda’s awkwardness began. Growing up in an all-girl boarding school where it was common knowledge that you could get pregnant by sitting on a rugby ball (you can’t by the way!) it is no wonder that her life is so full of mishaps. She says herself that life has ‘a tendency to throw up difficulties’ and is it just me or is she right? Who hasn’t had an awful date or humiliated themselves at a family reunion? By writing what she likes to call her ‘Miran-ual’ Miranda tells tales of pure embarrassment that will have you in stitches, proving that no matter what situation you find yourself in you can always laugh about it later. Through the nature of her misfortunes she asks us whether it is just her in the world who manages to find herself in awkward situations at least once a day.

Some of the events that take place in the book are repeated in the TV series, yet she manages to shed new light on them. Her book becomes more about her musings on life than it is an autobiography as she explores each event and asks: why exactly is this embarrassing and why can’t life just be simpler? If you have watched the TV series you will know that she defies her mother’s snobbish behaviour and refuses to run with society’s common belief that a woman’s aim in life is to get married. These beliefs burst onto the page in the form of female empowerment. She describes the main events in her adult life through imagined conversations with her 18 year old self who had all these dreams and ambitions of getting married and having a respectable job such as a lawyer or doctor. She imagines that her younger self would call her a loser for not yet being Prime Minister but replies that she wouldn’t change a thing; that deep down she’s always wanted to be a comedienne, even if it’s not the most respected of professions, and that even now at the age of 38 she still doesn’t feel ready to settle down. She has got to the nub (great word, nub) of life: who wouldn’t want to go back in time and tell their former self that life isn’t going to be exactly what you think… In fact, it is going to be even better!

Separate to the serious elements of the book, the events are retold in a light-hearted nature and appeal to the humanness in all of us, for as the saying goes we do all make mistakes. It is a great book to have around if you have had a bad day at the office or, just an example, if you walked around for an hour today with your skirt tucked into your knickers and nobody had the common decency to tell you (certainly did not happen to me… Yes it did). Miranda highlights the fact that we can all feel alone in the ridiculous moments life throws in our way, but this embarrassment is actually what brings us closer together. We all feel it, so why do we keep running and hiding from it?

Although it’s easy to relate to her on this level, sometimes the events in Miranda’s life are so farfetched that you start to wonder whether they are true. That just made me sit back and think more about all of the strange things that have happened to me and that if I did write them down no one would ever believe me in a million years. I think we all need to be a bit more like Miranda in life. I don’t suggest we should all make a TV series or write down all of the cringe worthy experiences that we’ve had in our lives (for me that would take up more time than I actually have). Instead, when life gives us lemons we just need to sit down - making sure there is actually a chair there first - and laugh, then repeat after Miranda: ‘life, eh?’
I suggest you gallop off to your nearest bookstore right now and buy a copy of Miranda Hart’s Is It Just Me? as you are guaranteed plenty of laughs. A great gift this Christmas!

Georgia Fish

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