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Like many offices throughout the land, we had a Macmillan Coffee Morning the other Friday and prior to the coffee and cakes there was a raffle. I'd bought two strips of tickets but as I was involved in editing a particularly nasty pdf document at the time, I didn't exactly leap out of my chair when the word went round that the raffle was about the be drawn. I'm one of life's unluckiest people when it comes to lotteries, raffles and the like so imagine my surprise when a colleague came rushing down the office to tell me I'd won one of the prizes. Still involved with my pdf document, I left it to her to pick a prize on my behalf and she returned clutching this book explaining that as Peter Kay was northern and so was I, she thought I'd like this. She was right!
This is Peter Kay's latest offering and as hinted at with its title, this is a sort of supplement to his current tour 'The tour that doesn't tour, tour'. It certainly reads like one of his performances and is chock full of characters that wouldn't look out of place in an episode of Phoenix Nights. This is really just a collection of his off-the-wall ramblings about growing up in Bolton, work, life and family. Peter Kay has the knack of talking about things we've all experienced, such as supermarket shopping, throwing a sickie (Oh, come on, even those of us who were genuinely ill, have hammed it up a bit when we phoned in!), toothache, negotiating the M6 tolbooth and the like. He has the ability to turn the most mundane of events into something truly hilarious.
Peter begins his book with the confession that _'Writing this is a bit of an effort'_ and explaining that he still associates any kind of written work with being given homework as a child. That's all he needs to set him off on a tirade about algebra - with which I can totally relate - and this in turn leads on to the already mentioned sickies, hyperchondria, coathangers, personal hygiene, homemade draught excluders, to mention just a few. It's rare that a book has me laughing out loud and even rarer for it to happen whilst reading practically every page but that's certainly the case with this book.
At first glance, each of these anecdotes may appear to be totally unrelated but when you actually read them it all makes perfect sense and each story flows seamlessly into the next. Just like his live stage and TV performances, the stories involve not only himself but his friends, his days working at Netto and his family, including his Nana and her many Malapropisms, his favourite Uncle Nobhead and his dad. These two gents provide some of the biggest belly laughs in the book. I especially enjoyed the one which begins _'The only other times I saw my dad cry was when the IRA (allegedly) kidnapped Shergar and when he trapped his balls in a sun lounger in Lloret de Mar.'_ Now this particular anecdote made me shriek with laughter though I suspect it might have male readers wincing and crossing their legs!
Peter Kay may be a northerner and his humour largely based on his Lancashire mill town upbringing but such close knit communities aren't the exclusive preserve of the north west of England and can be found in pockets throughout the towns and cities of the land, so everyone will be able to relate in some measure to his life experiences and the stories in this book. What comes across more than anything else is that he's just like us. He watches telly and talks about certain programmes such as How to Look Good Naked, Embarrassing Bodies, Master Chef etc). He goes on diets, works out to DVDs and goes to the supermarket and he always manages to see the funny side of even the most serious situation. Incidentally, having tried online shopping, Peter's gone back to doing 'the big shop' and he provides an excellent tip for anyone who has difficulty finding a parking spot. He goes every week with his mum and parks in a Parent and Child slot because as he points out 'I'm with my mum and they don't have an age limit on it.'
The final anecdote which is longer than any other relates to his attendance at his school reunion and is presented in the form of an exercise book and allows him the scope to reminisce about his Catholic school days. Now I have to come clean here and admit I've never felt remotely tempted to attend any of my school reunions to discuss the most miserable time of my life with people I haven't seen in decades, but I found this section really very funny. Peter comes to the shocking realisation that time hasn't stood still, "You know you're getting old when the local lollipop lady was in your class at school', before meandering off on his trip down memory lane and despite my own unhappy memories, he managed to cherry pick all the little things about those far off school days that were excruciating at the time, such as the casual cruelty of the teachers, school dinners, PE and games, as well as fellow pupils and he actually made it all seem far funnier than ever it truly was.
This book isn't just text, however, and the photographs, of which there are many, are an excellent supplement to the words. Many of them feature Peter either as himself or masquerading as his father or some other hapless soul from the world of Peter Kay. The sources of these pictures are many and varied, some coming from Peter Kay's own family album and the mock ups are mainly the work of Matt Squire with illustrations coming courtesy of Bill Greenhead.
In my opinion, Peter Kay's latest offering should be available on the NHS. I can honestly say that I haven't finished reading a book which has left me feeling so much better and happier in a long time. It's true what they say, laughter really is the best medicine. He may not be everybody's cup of tea, but he's definitely one of my favourites and although this probably isn't a book which can be read through more than a couple of times, it would make a great Christmas present for anyone of any age, as long as they're OK with some (slightly) rude words but nothing too offensive. I guarantee there will be more than just one situation you've been in and though you may not have seen the funny side at the time, Peter Kay will make you view your life experiences in a totally different light.
Published: September 2011 by Hodder & Stoughton
Price: RRP is £19.99 but it's available from Amazon for £9.99
ISBN: 978 1 444 73381 5
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