I'm 4823/24ths you know.
Prompted by my friends at Beware of the Leopard, I've recently reread The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy. I am, as you'll have noted, of that age where the Hitchhiker's Guide has been, pretty much, part of my entire life. I was first introduced to it by the television series, at my Dad's prompting I think, then read the book, then the subsequent books as they were published. Someone at school had tapes of the radio series, and they were passed around samizdat style. Of course as a 12 year old growing up in the middle of Norfolk all the jokes about council bureaucracy, getting drunk, and struggling to find one's place in the world completely passed me by, but I could recognise that it was funny. It clearly had jokes in it, I just didn't get them. Obviously I would never have admitted that because, at school, we all thought we were frightfully cool and clever for knowing about The Hitchhiker's Guide. It was our thing (replacing our previous thing, Not The Nine O'Clock News, until it was in turn replaced as our thing by The Black Adder). The fact it was on TV and you could walk into a bookshop and pick a copy up off the shelves in no way flagged to us that millions of other people were also enjoying it too.
As I've revisited the Guide, in its manifest forms, over the years, it's become progressively funnier and bleaker. Whether this is because I recognise the world is as Adams described it, or that the world has becomes more Adamsian, well, there's a PhD in there somewhere (which, once written, we'd get a computer to read for us because we're too busy doing something else). By some coincidence (although of course in an infinite universe the probably of anything happening rapidly approaches 1), the radio series is currently being repeated, so I've taken the opportunity to listen again. It was reasonably fresh in my mind, as I last listened to it maybe only three years ago, sharing headphones with Harry (who was then pretty much exactly the age I was when I first heard it) on long slow train trip home back from Fishguard, but even so I was completely caught out by the ending of the first series. You know the drill, Arthur and Ford, stuck on the prehistoric Earth with the B Arc Golgafrinchams, trying to teach the Neanderthals Scrabble. It's pretty downbeat, but this time round, I found the pathetic futility of it all really quite crushing. I was out walking my dogs at the time, and I just burst into tears in the street.
So, yea, thanks guys.