Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Vespas, wasps, aphantasia and Shakespeare

"Bear with" as Miranda's posh friend Tilly is fond of saying in the sitcom Miranda - bear with and prepare your mind for a flight into fantasy. Actually, if I succeed it will be a flight into the deeper recesses of your imagination, but as this is dependant on my summoning up of the necessary descriptive skills and recent forays into literary exploration have been much hampered by extreme lack of sleep, it will probably fail and instead you will be left looking at a few paragraphs of gibberish.

On the other hand, if you suffer from aphantasia and are not in possession of a 'seeing' mind's eye my words will be gibberish anyway, so best to stop reading now. Or not. Aphantasia is a most unfortunate affliction (search for 'aphantasia- Professor Zeman - Exeter University blog') - words have meaning but lack colour, shape and pictoral form. In aphantasia the mind's eye can't create pictures. I see every book I read; better than any film. I listen to radio plays and see the characters, watch the action unfold and place it in a landscape created by hints and suppositions from the words. Someone with aphantasia can understand the story, understand the interplay between characters and understand the words describing the place but without a picture I wonder if they can truly understand the emotional  feel of the story.

Gibberish already?

What of the Vespas and wasps I hear you scream (In my mind's ear? Do I have a mind's ear? Or is it part of the bigger picture in my mind's eye? Does it matter if they are separate or part of the same thing? What about earworms and hearing a song inside your head? Earworms are intrusive and annoying but to never hear music inside your head would be truly sad. Is there a word like aphantasia for this?)

Gibberish now?

Wasps and Vespas! Vespas and wasps!


I. Hate. Wasps.

I cannot see anything about the wasp to like. The 'why does it exist' and 'what role does it have' questions pertaining to the wasp are a total mystery to me. What blind tortuous alley had evolution trudged up before deciding that the wasp was a good idea?

Where does one start in the character assassination of the wasp? Its colour perhaps? The yellow and black combination is never easy on the eye. Too bold. Too much a folly. Too Malvolio look-at-me-in-my-yellow-stockings-and-cross-garters like - except that the wasp has a body hugging, waist pinching, yellow suit tube, daubed liberally with thick black rings.  Like overweight but keen lycra clad cyclists, wasps bulge at their behinds. Not that there's anything wrong with bulging or cycling - one does not have to look at the overstuffed shorts or rolls of flesh peeping out beneath the gilet! But one does have to look at the wasp. Cyclists can't sting you. Wasps can!

One minute wasps are minding their own business, scraping strips of wood off the porch or garden bench or front door and veering round you when you stray into their flight path. The next, they sense that you have brought food into the garden and an unruly, noisy gang of them descend, triggering instant chaos as children run screaming, arms swipe wildly, chairs are upturned and drinks are spilled. They weave like little men on magic flying Vespas through forests of fingers, forks, flowers and glasses. Accelerating, slowing down, stopping, perfectly judging where that airborne food is going. Into a mouth - no problem! A portcullis of teeth - easy escape! And a soft fleshy tongue - no match for what I have in my tail!

I do hate them. But I am a little in awe of them too. My attempts at wasp eradication vary from the successful but gruesome beer-in-a-jar trap (Vespas parked on the lid?)

to the dismal failure - it took less than 24 hours for them to excavate the plug of soil that I had stamped into the opening to their ground nest. Respect! (Perhaps the Vespas were traded in for diggers?)

Thus I have to admit that the wasp, though 'notoriously abused' like poor Malvolio, is actually a fairly industrious creature. If one that I would rather not have in my garden. Or kitchen. Or car.

Or fruit. Bertie Baggins aka chief-apple-thief worries them out of the apples he has plucked from the tree, using an apparently successful technique of shaking and dropping until they look safe enough to eat. I haven't yet witnessed him being stung, but his wariness would suggest that occasionally the wasps have bitten back.

Monday, 7 September 2015

Wanting. And wanting what really matters.

"It is hard to fail but worse having never tried to succeed."

These words of Theodore Roosevelt are written in red pen across the top of the white board that sits on my desk. Along with several password reminders, a Quentin Blake postcard, some smiley faces drawn by a trespassing child, flyer cards advertising my favourite a cappella group and more words "Scribo ergo sum immortalis." It probably doesn't take a genius to ascertain that the something in which I wish to succeed may involve words, specifically the magical distillation of words into patterns that create stories.


the easy part is telling the story;

harder is finding the good words to write the story;

harder still is reading the story aloud;

hardest of all is sharing it.

I really want to do this. I really don't want to fail. But years of 'never trying' are horrible.

Teddy puts forward 'trying to succeed' as the only sensible option. There is a risk of failure. Always a risk of failure.
And a lot of fear and self-doubt. It is coruscating to examine others who have succeeded. They look so bright, so full of brilliant ideas, so compelling in their drive and ability. Against them, how do I compare. Well - I might as well give up before I start, accept and expect the 'It is hard to fail' bit of the quote.

What is success anyway? I would love one day for someone to read something that I have written and  stop and ponder for a moment. And perhaps change how they think or feel or act. I want to make people laugh and cry. I want children to dream about my stories.
That's all.
That plus learning how to write better, how to analyse and edit, how to build narrative structure. This all matters to me. It is what I want. It is what has driven me to apply for a creative writing course. So that I can do this properly.

of course, though what I want matters to me,
it doesn't really matter.

Not in a world where millions of displaced and dispossessed people are on the move.

It would be a dereliction of our humanity 'to fail' them and shaming if we 'never try to succeed' in changing their lives for the better.

My wants are as nothing compared to theirs.