Tuesday, 12 August 2014

On Robin Williams' passing.

Note: I hesitated to post this, in all honesty, with it originally going to be a lightweight beard vanity piece containing a veganised muffin recipe, and somehow turning into an overwrought overshare and an unworthy almost-Eulogy of the late, great Robin Williams. But, as I stared at my good-looking but average tasting muffin and listened (for the first time) to Antony & The Johnsons'  "I Am A Bird Now", something deep within me wanted to put this out there. And what is life, or death really, if it isn't putting yourself out there?

Please take this in the spirit it was intended. Rambling awkwardly with respect.

One of the perils of being a man and having a beard is that some days - it's unavoidable - you wake up with a case of "bad beard". Whether it's sticking up at the corners of your moustache and making you look like Ye Olde Time Fruitcake Fellow, or whether it has been dreaming of the ocean and has curled to the side, therefore going Full Mermaid on you, there's not much you can do. The Beard has a mind of its own and resistance is futile. 


Waking up sad, with a case of a Mermaid Beard.

I woke this morning, saw my beard, grumbled, rolled over and checked my Twitter, only to receive horribly sad news. The great man who smiled and laughed through the pain, Robin Williams, had died. Of apparent suicide. What can one say, really? Not much that could be of any comfort. 

As an only child whose parents got divorced and were *not* getting back together, Mrs Doubtfire was a huge comfort for me. As a child of *parents and step-parents who were people, too*, with broken hopes and dreams, busy careers, but ultimately loved their weird, precocious, lonely performer kid as best as they could despite still trying to find their own way, Mrs Doubtfire made me feel less alone, and more understanding.

As an awkward gay pre-teen who didn't fit into any conventional boxes, and long before gay couples and families were in vogue in Hollywood, The Birdcage made me laugh - and showed me a beautiful, real, boring/exciting, openly affectionate but not sleazy, happy-in-their-quirks gay couple who, with a little effort, patience and understanding, found the love of an extended step- and in-law family; and loved a son who also loved them. Something to aspire to.

As a Genie who cared fiercely for those around him, watching them fall in love and live a life he would never live, while yearning to be free, I related to him. 

As an overweight, hairy, awkward, unstereotypically-masculine teenage alcoholic suffering from mental health issues who tried to crack jokes through the pain in between various private and public meltdowns, I sought solace in seeing my own pained smile reflected in his, understanding the depth and complexity of his expressions, and his desire to make others think, and laugh.

Enough rambling.

Robin Williams was who he was, who he wanted to be, and who he didn't want to be. So were his characters. He defied convention, insisted on being real. The characters he portrayed were so human, always touching your heart with their combination of love and loneliness, always with a sense of "standing on the outside, looking in". Thanks for the love and understanding, Robin. We can only offer you that in return, and hope that you're now free.

Because - as another beautiful, beloved, complex character (the fiercely intelligent and always comforting Nigella Lawson) would awkwardly phrase it on her TV chat show - "life is a combination of light and shade", I was also going to post a veganised/adapted version of Nigella's Chocolate-Chocolate Chip Muffins that I made this morning, to comfort myself. They're not chocolate-chocolate chip, just chocolate chip. But... although they looked fine, on the inside, they didn't quite taste up to standard in their vegan form. So I'm going to keep working on them.



Here's to Robin and Nigella, who both will always make a difference by living their lives in their own ways, who are deeply complex, with unshakeable dignity, now and forever. And here's to all of us who live our life as flawed, complex characters, who don't always know that someone, somewhere *gets* what is going on understand the surface of our smile, and appreciates our existence. Love is always somewhere.

Matt