The Centre for Solution Focused Practice

‘What does Solution Focused Brief Therapy have in common with a Monet Painting?’

Who else in the world has Christmas Crackers (2)? Surely only the British . Who else would spend considerably too much money on a ‘segmented cardboard tube wrapped in a brightly decorated twist of paper’ which two people, one holding one end and the other holding the other, pull apart, to be rewarded with a dull pop and a number of usually rather cheap and tawdry plastic gifts, which one of them ‘wins’ and then tries to lose as quickly as possible, having initially felt obliged to exclaim with feigned delight ‘oh it is a tiny nail clipper – just what I need’. Were our European neighbours to reflect on the British character whilst bearing the Christmas Cracker in mind, their pain at our departure from the EU would almost certainly be lessened. ‘Let the British pull their crackers on their own’, Michel Barnier might say to Jean-Claude Junker while they enjoy together a glass of wonderful, rich 2004 Ch. Lafite Rothschild, Pauillac, (still incidentally available at a little over £8,000.00 per case, but worth every penny, in my view, to the discerning and sophisticated, and obviously not British, palate).

But anyway back to the crackers. I left out the best bit. Obviously the only ingredient that makes the cracker worth pulling at all is the tiny slip of paper with a joke on it, that tumbles out. These jokes (3) often take the form of a question and answer. For example :

How will Christmas dinner be different after Brexit? 
No Brussels.
What's the difference between the clementine in your Christmas stocking and Donald Trump? 
Nothing, they're both a little orange. 
What do you get if you cross Donald Trump with a Christmas Carol? 
O Comb Over Ye Faithful.
(You need some knowledge of British Christmas Carols for that one!)
Why is Bob Dylan's sleigh so quiet? 
Because it has Nobel. 
What does Santa suffer from if he gets stuck in a chimney?
Claustrophobia!
What happened to the man who stole an Advent Calendar?
He got 25 days!
(Bit demanding that one too.)
Who delivers presents to baby sharks at Christmas?
Santa Jaws
What do you get when you cross a snowman with a vampire?
Frostbite!

For those of you lacking years of practice in trying to answer these ‘riddles’ I am sure that you are beginning to get it, to ‘know your way about’ the British Christmas as Ludwig Wittgenstein might have said. However perhaps I should add for any of you who are not British born but who for some incomprehensible reason, are thinking of coming to join us for the festivities, that you will give away your lack of cultural savoir-faire immediately if you ever were to allow yourself to laugh at one of these so-called jokes. The correct response is a groan, the louder and longer the better, and the more you groan the more that you will blend in with your companions, in this way appearing British (should you so wish) without the inconvenience of having to wear a deer-stalker hat, pretending to enjoy bitter (it’s a type of beer), adding ‘as the actress said to the bishop’ to every appalling ‘double-entendre’ or feeling obliged to smile and get on with it.

So, to get back to where I started, in recent days I have been trying to come up with a Solution Focused Christmas Cracker joke. And it has not been easy. I have no history of writing jokes, and if you were to ask my family they would probably - no not probably but certainly - doubt my capacity to come up with anything even mildly amusing. But then in last week’s Sunday Observer I was reading an article about a missing Monet painting that had been discovered and the article contained a Monet quote from 1895. ‘Other painters’ he wrote ‘paint a bridge, a house, a boat . . . I want to paint the air that surrounds the bridge, the house, the boat . . . the beauty of the light in which they exist’. Wow I thought. Monet really ‘got’ Solution Focus. He was there a hundred years before the rest of us. Solution Focused therapists are not interested in bridges or houses or boats, as it were, either. We are not interested in solutions but in the lives within which those ‘solutions’ exist, effortlessly, naturally and obviously, the air, in other words, within which they take on life. And then with a great deal of grinding and clunking, the unused humour gears slowly turning and with huge difficulty, I arrived at

‘What does Solution Focused Brief Therapy have in common with a Monet Painting?’

Wait for it. Wait foooor it.
And the answer is:

‘They both contain a lot of hot air.’

Did any of you guess it? What do you think? Well the air in Monet’s paintings could be ‘hot’. Obviously not the ones of Westminster Bridge where the air looks rather cool, nor indeed the other London ones generally, and perhaps not those of Rouen Cathedral either, the air doesn’t look very hot in those, I do realise that. But what about the Venetian one, San Giorgio Maggiore? You couldn’t argue with the heat of the air in that one. And obviously ‘hot air’ doesn’t sound very complimentary for what we do in therapy really. But then Steve de Shazer did call SFBT ‘just a bunch of talk’ and you could think of a ‘bunch of talk’ as being a little bit similar to ‘hot air’ . . . couldn’t you? Well I think that you could . . . possibly.

Well anyway that is my contribution to Christmas cheer and I’ll try to come up with a better riddle/joke for 2018 but if you could think of one sooner then please send it in. All contributions will be appropriately groaned at. I guess we could all score the groan factor of any that you post with a 10 standing for a deep and satisfying groan and 0 standing for not even the mildest hint of a groan, a completely ‘groan-free’ riddle as it were. Did you groan at that? A ‘groan-free’ riddle? Like ‘problem-free’ talk?

So very best wishes from all of us at BRIEF to all of you for a happy/restful/peaceful/fun-filled/joyous/reflective/creative/graceful/lovely/energetic (select as preferred) Christmas period.

We Brits have appreciated your company and support during our eventful, and painful, 2017 and hope that most of you will still be talking to us in 2018.

(1) A cracker consists of a segmented cardboard tube wrapped in a brightly decorated twist of paper with a prize in the central chamber,[1] making it resemble an oversized sweet-wrapper. The cracker is pulled apart by two people, each holding an outer chamber, causing the cracker to split unevenly and leaving one person holding the central chamber and prize.[1] The split is accompanied by a mild bang or snapping sound produced by the effect of friction on a shock-sensitive, chemically impregnated card strip (similar to that used in a cap gun).[1] One chemical used for the friction strip is silver fulminate.[2] Wikipedia UK definition

(2) Actually it seems that I was wrong. Wikipedia UK suggests ‘Christmas crackers—also known as bon-bons in Australia—are part of Christmas celebrations primarily in the United Kingdom, Ireland and Commonwealth countries such as Australia, Canada, New Zealand and South Africa.’ Clearly there are others in the world as daft as the British.

(3) I found these jokes online when I searched for the 50 best Christmas Cracker jokes. Clearly by now you will have realised that I did not make them up myself.

Evan George
London
24th December 2017