I don’t suppose many of you will have heard of The Mighty Boosh.
Noel Fielding and Julian Barratt have developed a cult following. They are not everyone’s cup of tea. I might venture to suggest they are very few people’s cup of tea: their penchant for nightmare imagery is extreme. But they are, to the right audience, very funny indeed.
They are Howard and Vince, a pair who work at a zoo. Vince is young, beautiful and blessed, Howard older, ungainly and seems to get the rough end of life.
And Howard gets stressed. He fancies himself a writer, but whenever anyone offers criticism, no matter how benign, he decks them with one blow.
In a little hut in the zoo lives a shaman called Naboo. Howard goes to him for help. He lies on Naboo’s sofa and exhibits supreme tension.
So the wise shaman takes out a picture of two kittens.
“Look at the picture of the kittens in the barrel,” he says. “They’re having a whale of time. The one on the left is called Philip. Look at his little eyes: he’s happy.”
Angels sing in the background. Howard gazes with adoration at the happy kittens.
Naboo continues:”Whenever you’re feeling angry, I want you to look at Philip, and your anger will recede like an ocean.”
It is an instant panacea for anger. Howard is cured, so long as he keeps looking at the little creatures. “That’ll be 156 Euros please,” says Naboo, putting away the kittens.
Howard tenses in fury: “156 euros? ” he begins to complain. But Naboo is razor-sharp: out comes Philip the Kitten and Howard hands over the extortionate amount happily.
Exquisite irony: watch it here.
I am in dire need of Philip the Kitten. On Thursday afternoon at 3pm, as Big Al was preparing to come with me to collect the rest of the children from school, I received a call to say my school will receive a visit from the inspection agency.
And it arrives at a time of flux.
So I feel a little as if, even with the best planning in the world, I shall be walking onto a stage in front of a huge audience with no script, just as my nightmares often insist I should.
Every week I potter off to learn how to get the best from life. An expert in a local university is kind enough to take an hour to help me review my week and bring a little cognition into the mix.
On Wednesday, we painstakingly deconstructed goings on, and looked at how the weight of a lifetime can make one perceive things differently.
Memories, emotions attached way back before we care to remember: they helped to make beliefs about ourselves which have a sledgehammer force out of proportion to the challenges we face today. The beliefs have grown, my academic said, like a great tree that has taken half a lifetime to grow and tower over everything we do.
The solution is to grow a new tree: a new set of beliefs. And we do it by collecting evidence which makes the new sapling grow according to what we see, hear and record in our notebooks.
We’ve all got them, the folks in cognitive behavioural therapy: it’s the cognitive man’s diary. We write down the good stuff: the pebbles, if you will; and then analyse it to see where it confirms and where it confounds our beliefs.
Sometimes, though, the old tree prevails. Times like this, in fact. It’s hard to ignore the weight of evidence from our memories and the great walls of feeling which wake old terrors.
We need something to stop that old tree in its tracks, and redirect us to the sapling at its side.
That Something is different for everyone: a phrase, a quote, a picture. Something which says: hold your horses. Is this how it really is?
My mentor told me that was my homework. What would stop my old tree in its rumblings?
I was called into school twice yesterday on my day off as people rushed to prepare. The second time, I took the children. I told them how I was, and why. And I shared the story of Philip The Kitten.
Every time I begin to disappear into a vortex of panicked speculation, my daughter calls me out. “Mum,” she says, “Remember Philip The Kitten.”
And I laugh, and I remember: this is a job. I shall do my best. And if the worst happens, I shall handle it.
I turn to the new tree.
And so, forgive me if I do not visit for a day or two, and if I repost here and there.
I shall be back soon. I am off for an odyssey with my trusty sidekick, Philip The Kitten.
Picture source here