Going Bonkers with Jennifer Saunders

       The perfect spot for our afternoon read of Bonkers

I must admit that I’m not a big fan of Christmas or, to be more precise and at the risk of offending our Australian readers, I’m not a big fan of Christmas in Australia. There, I’ve said it, sorry.

Just to balance out the offence, I’m not a big fan of January in England either which is, I assume, why civilised countries with ski fields such as Switzerland, France and Italy were invented. I have probably also just insulted our New Zealand readers

Now that only two people are left reading I’ll tell you what this blog is about. It started as a book review but became so full of other stuff that I thought calling it a review may be misleading. One day some person looking for an accurate synopsis of Jennifer Saunders’ book Bonkers: My Life in Laughs may innocently stumble across this via Google and it would probably not be what they are expecting. It never ceases to amaze what some people google to get to our website – actually Google analytics never cease to amaze me and I could waste as much time being side tracked by this as Jennifer could with Twitter. Who, for example is reading our articles in Iran?

So, back to the blog and Christmas. We don’t do presents, which probably explains why I don't like Christmas, but the two things I eagerly look forward to are a new book (chosen by my husband and bought from a real book store) and a large box of English chocolates sent from Yorkshire by my mother (Thorntons Continental, yum yum).

Not only are the chocolates delicious but the paper thing that tells you what's in them (if anyone knows a word for that, please let me know - surely not a chocolate menu??) makes a fine bookmark

After a morning of pulling out ivy in our wilderness garden I spent the rest of a 30 degree Boxing Day lolling on our gloriously comfortable day bed overhung by large trees. I opened the book and was transported back to London in the late 1970’s (I think I just lost another reader)

It turns out that Fer, as she is known, and I were at the Central School of Speech and Drama in London at the same time. I too first wore a leotard there in 1977 while Mesdames Saunders and French – yes, both of them – were starting their BEd in Drama and English.

This may come as a surprise to those who know me quite well or at least have read my Facebook profile. I'm sure that those poor souls who occasionally request to be ‘my friend’ on Facebook expect to get great insight about high flying equestrians only to find a blank silence on my part plus the occasional postings from photographers taking pictures of a chestnut show jumping horse I co-own and tagging it as me. My recent Facebook 'friends' probably think I am a talking animal and they are not far wrong.

Therefore some may be vaguely aware that I studied French at London University but not many know that it was a joint honours course with Central, situated in Swiss Cottage, just a short number 13 bus ride away from Westfield College. The Central School of Speech and Drama boasts alumni such as Judi Dench, Laurence Olivier and Carrie Fisher (the one in Star Wars with plaited bagels on either side of her head and the famous mother whose name escapes me), Jennifer Saunders, Dawn French and me.

Did I want to be an actor? Nope. Neither did Jennifer Saunders apparently. I did however want to be in London with the then boyfriend and Westfield College in Hampstead, bless them, had a spot in their French Department on a new course combined with Central. As the young people say now, whatever…..

While Jennifer and Dawn were surrounded by teacher types, I was surrounded by foreigners. My drama course was for various language students at Westfield and it was packed with the more esoteric French, Spanish, Bolivian, German and English bods which added a twist to the drama course. When you read Jennifer’s description of the egg experience (you can’t miss it, fittingly it starts chapter one and describes how we were to act out coming into the world by breaking out of a papier mache and Sellotape egg), imagine this role being played out by people who spoke English as their second language. I think I learned more about acting trying to explain to my class colleagues what was going on than I did from any of the tutors.

By midnight on Boxing Day I had finished reading Bonkers. I am such a greedy reader but I can’t help myself. For those people who, all my life, have been saying you can’t possibly read a book properly like that, well, I'm afraid that I do. However, there were still some chocolates left; the ones I don’t like that I give to my husband.

You (the one reader left, assuming you’re still there) are probably wondering what on earth this book has to do with eventing as this is a website dedicated to eventing and you don’t come here to read about drama students. Well, there is a link. Jennifer Saunders, having been pony mad all through her childhood, has, in her own words, on page 274, ‘got back into the horsey world’. She is not only an Ambassador for British Show Jumping but also owns Piggy French’s young horse Aubane Boy.

I have a feeling that I would love Fer (say it fast and it’s quite sweet) although I do like eye contact which may scare her a bit. I hope that one day, when I’m covering an event in the UK, I see her and have the courage to ask her to tea - read the bit about Rowan Atkinson in the book and you’ll see why.

Her letters are hilarious and it has been many years since I laughed out loud the way I did lying there that day, reading the chapters about the Goldie Hawn script. After laughing like that, you remember how to breathe again and maybe that is why comedy is so good for you.

So here’s my review. It’s great. It’s got horses in it. It’s funny and will make you laugh. Buy it.

Life’s too short not to read books and laugh out loud. If you’re female and over 50, eat the chocolates too as they are full of serotonin and you can’t get enough of that ……… enjoy them both

Bonkers: My Life is Laughs is published by Penguin, hardback ISBN 978-0-241-00156-1, costs $39.99 in Australia and is available every single place in the world thanks to online bookstores. However, if you have the time, my husband suggests you find a lovely local book shop near you where they actually know something about books, take a walk with the dog, buy the book and have a cup of coffee nearby (bit bizarre for a man who runs an online publishing company but there you go)