More on laughter and ideas by Bill Kirton

 As a follow-up  (or -on) from my previous two posts (on the themes of 'what is laughter?' and 'where do writers get their ideas?') I offer this anecdote about an incident during a car journey I took many years ago with my daughter and her family. It was a totally insignificant event which nevertheless managed to achieve some momentum – and which I've decided I can twist into something connected with the writing process.

I was in my daughter’s car, being driven from Glasgow to Loch Lomond. She was in the back, with her two sons (aged 9 and 5), her husband was at the wheel beside me. In front of us was a VW Beetle. In the centre of its rear window dangled 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, for all we knew, it might actually be quite a serious banana. Bananas, after all, already have a bad enough press in that they’re always held responsible for unfortunate slip-ups (NB and sic) by politicians and others of stature. Thus, rather than being mere instruments of comedy as they lie on pavements or in corridors of power waiting for unwary strollers, their purpose (or even intent) may well be to draw attention to aspects of the ideology, theology or overall morality of their targets.

So compelling were these considerations that we didn’t even progress to psychological or sociological speculations on the owners of the car and their decision to accessorize their vehicle with a dangling ornament which was colour-coded exactly with their paintwork. No, the object in itself offered us a multi-threaded mix of postulate and conjecture 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 semantic and socio-political importance 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 thankfully short blog will probably be to make you vow never to read anything I write ever again (and certainly never to share a car with me), but it does have a point, at which we’ve almost arrived.

At the time, I put a short note summarising the above on my Facebook page, whereupon one of my friends began to speculate on the fruit's place in the developments of democracies, dictatorships and (of course) banana republics.

So my point is this. When people ask ‘Where do you get your ideas from?’ (see my blog last December) 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 potential layers of meaning. The banana was a silly example but, for that very reason, it makes the point better. If the initial trigger for the idea had been of greater significance – the death of an individual, the revenge of one person on another, the pulsing of some extreme passion – its ramifications would have been correspondingly greater.

All of which means that writing’s quite easy really.


Sandra Horn said…
It's the way you tell 'em, Bill - which is both frivolous and deeply profound, so there.
Jan Needle said…
It's Charles Dickens's birthday today. He was born in Portsmouth just like me, and it's my birthday tomorrow. Where did I go wrong? Quite clearly a day for serious existential ponderings. Sorry...
Eden Baylee said…
Hi Bill!

We get our ideas from sticks, heh.

Great write.

Reb MacRath said…
I shudder to think what you, on a train, might have made of the same hapless banana...which was minding its own business, after all, not a thought in its wee yellow brain that it might inspire such Kirtonian flights of fancy. Well done!
Yes - this is exactly it! So we shouldn't really blame lockdown for a lack of ideas, as long as we have bananas.
Umberto Tosi said…
You've driven me seriously bananas thinking about all these issues, Bill! I always wanted a banana car myself. Mock the lowly Musa berry all you want; peel one and you'll always find another joke. Just ask Chiquita! Witness Carmen Miranda's headdress! I will never accept "Yes we have no bananas" as a final answer. Tell me that I'm comparing apples and oranges and I'll tell you to look on the bright side and say: Orange you glad I didn't say banana?

Peter Leyland said…
Curiously Bill, this reminded me that when I was staying in New York in 1971 a friend took me to see Woody Allen's new film, Bananas, which was very funny as I remember. Thanks for your amusing post.
Bill Kirton said…
Thanks, all, for the varied, revealing comments. Jan, my son, you have my commiserations and blessings for the Dickensian hand you were dealt and, in the context of the post, simply regret on your behalf that the near-shared birthday was not that of, say, Robert Peel. Which reminds me, Umberto, that final pun will never be forgiven.
Seriously, folks, I do appreciate the feedback.
Bob Newman said…
Years ago I did some programming work for a major supermarket chain. Bananas caused no end of trouble, because they are sometimes sold by the piece, and sometimes by weight. Consequently there was a bug that caused the database to regularly get corrupted. I wrote a program I called 'unbanana' to fix it up.
I like to trisect bananas lengthwise. If you wiggle the end of a banana back and forth, it naturally splits three ways.
By clever use of needle and thread, you can arrange for a banana to be sliced before it is peeled.
And creationists (hilariously) claim the banana is the atheist's worst nightmare.
As a source of inspiration, bananas are fruitful.

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