Sid’s wisdom a laugh to the end

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ON Sunday evening, as the sterile and bloated Olympic closing ceremony deflated onto the screen in the corner of our living room, I sat with my head buried in a laptop, ignoring it all, laughing joyously.

Eventually she turned from One Direction. “What’s so funny?” she asked.

“Sid Waddell’s died,” I said.

It is perhaps, on reflection, not the done thing to chuckle one’s way through an obituary. Those who laugh at death will one day fail to see the funny side. The bell tolls always for thee.

But commentator Sid Waddell?

The voice of darts? A Cambridge graduate so enamoured by overweight blokes chucking metal about he would recall Freud, Milton and the Jarrow Marchers to describe it?

A son of a miner with a turn of expression both so delightfully articulate and so marvellously jumbled it was a poetry which Shakespeare himself could not have written?

How could you not laugh at the words of such a man?

“When Alexander of Macedonia was 33 he cried salt tears because there were no worlds left to conquer,” the BBC-turned-Sky man once famously noted. “(Eric) Bristow is only 27.”

How could one not feel grateful for having had, briefly each year, the pleasure of such a man’s company coming into the living room?

Easily, as it turned out.

She didn’t get it.

I tried explaining how Waddell, who passed away peacefully aged 72, had once described a darts match as more exciting than Elvis walking into the building and ordering a crisp butty, and still her face was blank.

I pulled out the big gun - “as Freud said to Jung in Vienna, you can psych up too much for a darts match” - but she was losing interest.

“Perhaps you had to be there,” she said, and turned back to Jessie J.

Well, perhaps you did.

But, as the hoary rock clichés continued to suck at the corporate teat on the screen, that so-called celebration of British-ness that didn’t include Sid - or any sort of Sid-ness - suddenly felt all wrong.

Because what is being British - indeed, what is being an Olympian - if it is not to appreciate the maverick, the dedicated and the eccentric?

What is spending your life throwing a javelin (or a dart) if not brave, brilliant and slightly bonkers?

And so, as Kaiser Chiefs pretended to be The Who, Beady Eye pretended to be Oasis and Spice Girls pretended to be relevant - and as Dave and Boris danced in their extra-room seats while one establishment-co-opted pop museum piece after another was wheeled out from wherever they’re stored between events like this and the Diamond Jubilee - as all that was happening, I found myself yearning for someone like Screaming Lord Sutch to come along, belt through Jack The Ripper, set himself on fire and then send everyone home to play darts using BoJo’s face as a target.

Or maybe, actually, I didn’t.

Maybe I’m too British to be all that bothered in the end. Maybe, as she started nodding to My Generation, I shrugged and thought, well, each to their own.

Still, for me for now, you can have The Who and Madness and Take That as your symbols of being British, and I’ll have Sid - a man as cool as a prized marrow - as mine. For I reckon if a man’s obituary can make you laugh out loud, it has been a life as beautifully lived as any.