Followers will be familiar with my tendency to rely on my brother Ron to fill in the many gaps I leave in my postings with the occasional anecdote or chunk of wisdom. Here’s the first in this series. Thanks, Ron.
I’d driven my VW camper van all around Europe and lovingly maintained it for ten years before selling it. I was mansplaining, to the potential buyer, how everything worked, including a neat little solution I’d devised to help top up the engine oil. This was by means of a home made funnel -a cut-off plastic bottle with the cap removed, but cleverly retained to prevent spillage after use. I suppose I was hinting that I was a practically-minded owner with DIY credentials, just the sort to buy a VW van from. He interrupted me to politely ask,
“Isn’t there a built in extension in the oil pipe?”
And, sure enough, there was and -for the first time in ten years- I eased it out and had to inwardly acknowledge that, yes, those cunning German engineers had resolved this issue some decades ahead of me. I threw my dirty funnel into the wheelie, noticing that the bin was big enough to accommodate me and my ego at the same time.
This embarrassing van memory was triggered by a recent visit my daughter and I paid to her old toy cupboard, in search of any toys we might share with her young daughter. We came across the doll at the head of this blog: a visual aid to use in telling the story of Little Red Riding Hood. I’d never used it to tell the story and think it was bought with grandchildren, rather than my daughter, in mind.
As the fairy story unfolds, Red Riding Hood’s dress flips from toe to head, to reveal the form of her granny, complete with her own dress and a fetching blue bonnet. Because I’d never told the tale, it didn’t occur to me that the narrator needs a third character, namely the wolf. Now, here was my daughter flipping granny’s bonnet to reveal the wolf himself, not too scary but suitably grey and with a knowing smile. I was properly surprised, as if hearing the tale for the first time. This time, I wasn’t trying to sell the doll or my own powers as a storyteller and my daughter smiled indulgently so the doll was not confined to the bin.
Incidentally, like a good learner, I undid the velcro fastening on granny’s dress to examine her torso, in case the doll-maker had provided the means of granny having a Caesarean wolf-child but so far have found nothing. (There are differing versions of this tale but the one I know has the wolf swallowing the live granny whole and thereafter being sliced open with an axe to save her, she possibly suffering no more than a few hydrochloric acid burns).
Now, what place does any of this have in an award winning writer’s blog?
Firstly, although self disclosure doesn’t have a very positive recent history on social media, this recount has given me the opportunity to unburden myself to an audience that Bill assures me, and the counselling world calls, ‘trusted others’ and thus make room for my next embarrassing blunder -and my next blog offering.
Secondly, and with more relevance, I recall getting stuck, in a story I was writing, where I needed a lothario to come and make a play for the girlfriend of my hero. After some fruitless hours trying to squeeze an intruder into the tale, I realised the character was already in the narrative with, as it were, a bonnet over his face. His subsequent transition from bit part player to villain appeared planned and seamless. Like the scoundrel he became, he was hiding between the lines of my own story.