Between a rock and a hardly big enough place

TWO million years ago (or thereabouts), the first humans were able to form large tribal communities of up to 100.

This was not the beginning of the club culture. Would-be Round Tablers, Rotarians and Freemasons would have to wait a little longer before getting the call.

Rather, it was the start of homo sapiens’ emergence as the dominant species, researchers now believe, for other apes and ape-like creatures around at the time could only get together gatherings half that size, so they were doomed to be the underdogs..

The reason why our ancestors had the upper hand was a quality unique to them – they had the ability not just to snigger or titter (which all apes can do) but to belly laugh and that, it seems, allowed groups to bond together and work as a group better, and act more generously towards each other.

Oxford University researchers doing a study have let their imaginations run wild, suggesting a possible – I would say highly fanciful - scenario of our jolly ancient ancestors sharing laughter around the communal fire with, maybe, the first camp clowns clubbing each other for comic effect. That would have been a real hoot. Comedy at its basic best.

Laughter really is the best medicine, the study concludes. People feel less pain after a good laugh because it may cause the body to release chemicals that act as a natural painkiller.

To prove this, volunteers were split into two groups with one being shown 15 minutes of comedy videos while the other viewed material deemed to be boring such as golfing programmes. Cricket would have done it for me.

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Those who spent the quarter of an hour guffawing were able to withstand up to 10 per cent more pain than they had done before watching the videos.

So you know what to do next time you are about to keep a dental appointment.

Basic would probably have been the most accurate description given by the Barney Rubble estate agency to accommodation available in the days of cavemen.

That could also be a word applied to what is being built for us these days, judging by new research just revealed.

This criticises “shameful shoebox homes” which are failing to provide the space families need. I cannot help but agree with the assessment.

The average new three bedroom home from a sample of sites currently being built by developers in the East of England is around eight per cent smaller than the basic recommended minimum size, equivalent to a single bedroom being missing.

But perhaps we should be thankful. The average three bedroom home in England as a whole is only 77 per cent of the recommended size. I would suggest making up for it by erecting a tent in the back garden but I don’t think there’d be enough room.

I see that the Commons transport committee is proposing a tougher driving test to improve road user behaviour and reduce traffic congestion.

I advocate tougher spelling tests – a press release about the move began by mentioning “The cross-part MP’s” making up the transport committee… Try making that “party” and “MPs”.

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