Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Musa acuminata by Bill Kirton

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
After several years at the game, I’m beginning to understand how bloggers find so much to say. Of course, my natural idleness continues to prevent me spending too much time putting this new-found knowledge into practice but, with another train journey home 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 with her two young sons in the back. In front of us, a VW Beetle. Dangling in the centre of its 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 (thankfully 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. They've also, thanks to some barely credible stupidity on the part of some voters, contributed to our divorce from the EU by reason of an apparently Europe-enforced straightness. 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 status of those whom they target. Bananas may, indeed, be today’s moral arbiters. (God knows, we need some.)

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

And so on, and so on.

Indeed, had my grandsons not pretty soon made it clear that the various banana analogies were becoming terminally 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 suspect that the main effect of this post may be to make you skip any future offerings carrying my byline and certainly determine never to share a car with me, but it does have a point, at which we’ve almost arrived.

I mentioned the banana incident to a writer friend, who immediately suggested we might have underestimated its significance and began to develop her own thesis by introducing the concept of a banana republic and informing me that the posh name for the fruit is in fact Musa acuminata. (And musa = muse.)

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 point de départ is of greater significance – the death of an individual, the revenge of one person on another, the pulsing of some extreme passion – its potential for generating a narrative is correspondingly greater.

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

8 comments:

Wendy Jones said...

Love this. Who knew a banana could be such a conversation booster

Jan Needle said...

Anyone try to straighten my banana, I'll do time for em

Reb MacRath said...

Nice one, Bill. But...your poor daughter, who probably thought she'd squelched you with her brilliant quip, "Oh,look..." I doubt I'll ever look at a banana the same way again.

Bill Kirton said...

Thanks, all. I must say it seems to me that, since I wrote this - a month or so ago - as a jokey entertainment, the absurdities of the everyday have turned it into something eminently reasoned and sensible.

griseldaheppel said...

Catching up now - wouldn't have missed this for the world. Love the idea of the banana's serious contribution to political thought being so misunderstood. I look forward to further musings (tee hee) on our failure to listen to the extremely valid views of various fruits and vegetables.

Bill Kirton said...

I think we may already have 'various fruits and vegetables' actually in government, Griselda.

julia jones said...

If the banana was colour co-ordinated with the car then your and your daughter's conversation was even more highbrow than first appears. For many years my younger boys (and I) had a ghastly game played on the way to school whereby if you saw a yellow car you shouted "Yellow Car!" and hit the person next to you. There were many recondite sub-rules about the degree of yellowness, whether the car was parked or moving etc etc but to this day I find it hard to encounter a car of that banana influenced shade without wanting to should and hit someone...

Bill Kirton said...

Ah, if only I'd known that at the time, Julia. Combining our intellectual rigour with your boys' (and your) pugilistic tendencies might have helped persuade my grandsons that thinking was not necessarily for wimps.