Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The significance of a banana.

I’m beginning to understand how bloggers find so much to say. Fortunately, my lethargy will continue to prevent me spending too much time putting this new-found knowledge into practice but, with another train journey to fill, I can muse a little on a totally insignificant event which nevertheless managed to achieve some momentum – and which I think I can twist into something connected with the writing process.

I was in my daughter’s car, being driven to Loch Lomond, her two sons (aged 9 and 5) in the back with her, her husband at the wheel. In front of us, a VW Beetle. Dangling in the centre of the rear window was a plastic, half peeled banana – exactly the same colour as the car.

‘Oh look, an amusing banana,’ said my daughter, with the devastating satirical tone which is obviously my legacy to her.

Never one to be out-satired, especially by someone for whom I’ve striven to be a role model for years (with limited success), I challenged her choice of adjective, suggesting that it might actually be quite a serious banana. Bananas, after all, have a bad press in that they’re always held responsible for unfortunate slip-ups (NB and sic) by politicians and others. Rather than being mere instruments of comedy as they lie on pavements or in corridors of power waiting for unwary strollers, their intent may well be to draw attention to aspects of the ideology, theology or overall morality of those whom they target.

So compelling were these considerations that we didn’t even progress to speculating on the owners of the car, who’d chosen a dangling ornament which was colour-coded exactly with their paintwork, but implicit in that choice was a whole history involving jaundice, egg yolks, fluorescent safety vests, cowardice in the face of the enemy.

And so on, and so on.

Indeed, had my two grandsons not pretty soon made it clear that the various banana analogies were becoming homicidally tedious, we could have still been analysing the socio-political influence of bananas and their role in the development of Western Philosophy when Ben Lomond loomed over us.

I know that the main effect of this blog will be to make you vow never to return to it and certainly never to share a car with me, but it does have a point, at which we’ve almost arrived.
I put a short note summarising the above on my Facebook page, whereupon one of my friends wondered whether we’d considered there might be links with a banana republic.

So my point is this. When people ask ‘Where do you get your ideas from?’ the answer is ‘Everywhere’. Because it’s not necessarily the original idea that’s so important but the life it takes on and the infinity of directions it can follow. Words generate other words, synonyms, antonyms, and all of them open more doors, bring more layers of meaning. The banana was a silly example but, for that very reason, it makes the point better. If the initial idea is of greater significance – the death of an individual, the revenge of one person on another, the pulsing of some extreme passion – its ramifications are correspondingly greater.

All of which means that writing’s dead easy, doesn’t it?


Jean Henry Mead said...

I agree with your analogies, Bill, but I don't think writing is dead easy. Sometimes a good muse comes along but most often it's akin to pulling teeth.

Bill Kirton said...

I have to admit, Jean, that my tongue was firmly in my cheek as I wrote that.