Of bees and teazles


Extreme obsessive behaviour is actually quite easy to write about, but is fairly rare in people. However, most of us have some sort of minor obsession, and those are harder to write about, as maybe we don’t see it in ourselves. If behavioural they can become a source of tension in a relationship and are useful as a tool for a story’s development. For instance many years ago there was someone I knew at a pub who used to say as he left a group of people – ‘Don’t have sex without me’. Worth a titter the first time, after the hundredth it lost even any humour and was someone to be veered away from.

I’m sure I have some equally annoying habits, one co-worker once complained to me that I always moved around the office very slowly, something I hadn’t noticed in myself. But, when I mentioned to her about one of her annoying habits, which was fairly innocuous and for the life of me I can’t remember what it was now, she hit the roof and complained to the Management Committee!

This blog came about from a feature on a radio programme I was listening to in the bath. Someone chose Blue by Joni Mitchell as a song to hand down to future generations. I have never understood how people can like Joni Mitchell, the songs, the voice, turn me off. And yet, I had a very good friend who had everything she’d recorded and played me a new recording of her with an orchestra, which seemed even worse. It was awkward, I didn’t want to be rude as she had got a bottle of wine out and I think expected me to equally appreciate the music.

My now estranged wife had an almost obsessive appreciation of Elvis Costello, she bought everything including music by members of The Attractions. I already liked EC when we met, but maybe every day, I suppose it could have been much worse, Abba for instance. We went to one of the best concerts I ever saw, EC and The Attractions in Liverpool, amazing night, but then a few weeks later we were in Cardiff to see him, then Birmingham. A bit later Wolverhampton, then Manchester, then Hammersmith, then Leeds and other places I forget. Nice to see various cities! (By the way EC was not the reason for the estrangement!)

So am I that perfect? Well far from.

I have been a Port Vale fan since about 1960 and for quite a few seasons not only had a season ticket for home games but travelled to most of the away games. I still listen to all the games and go to games when I can afford. I get very annoyed when something gets in the way of my listening to games.

When I watch films I usually see them through a comparative viewpoint to those made by Francois Truffaut and regularly watch his films; I have read nearly everything Gunter Grass has written; and so it goes on through the music of Ravel, books of Iris Murdoch, films by Jiri Menzel, music by Bob Dylan, paintings by Ben Nicholson and so on and so on. When I like someone I want to read, listen to, see, as much of their work as I can consume.

The thing about these minor obsessions is that we find it hard to understand how others don’t equally appreciate them. I cannot understand how someone living in Stoke-on-Trent can support Stoke City and not Port Vale, it just feels wrong! Or, how many people think Gunter Grass is hard to read, he is not easy but the joy and breadth of his writing is wonderful, or so I think!

I was very kindly given a book for Christmas a few years ago, The Finkler Question by Howard Jacobson. The giver explained that it was a friend of hers’ favourite, so as we had been friends for 40 years and quite often gone to exhibitions and films together where we often agreed on what we saw, I was very hopeful. Although very sharply written, I found it awful, it was meant to be humorous, I couldn’t see any there. Very awkward situation again! It won the Man Booker Prize but then so did my least favourite Iris Murdoch novel The Sea, The Sea. A matter of taste, Jacobson is an excellent writer and I have heard a lot of things on the radio, but this was awful, in my opinion. And those last three words is where the thing lies.

Our characters need opinions and not just our own, they have to live apart from ourselves. However hard it is, we need to people our stories with characters who maybe sexist, racist, right wing, left wing, or just couldn’t give a toss! These minor obsessions are useful to develop and round out a character, create awkward and conflicting situations, so it is worth first exploring what our own are to develop those in our fictional friends. It is perhaps the post Freudian viewpoint on the arts where everything we write or create is just an extension of ourselves, yes this is vital, but we also have to get inside the heads of others.


Today’s photographs are some I took on Saturday at the bottom of the nearby park, of bees and teazles, at the point just before they dry out in autumn, it was a sunny, mild afternoon.


One thought on “Of bees and teazles

  1. We all have obsessions i agree, some to a lesser extent than others. As you know I have to write using a Staedtler pencil, but I’m also obsessive about music and if I like someone or a band I have to collect everything, obscure B-sides, remixes etc. One of my least known OCD afflictions is that I have two sets of cutlery, each is for a certain type of eating/foodstuff. Sounds odd but I cannot eat pasta or salad with the wrong cutlery, or have a roast dinner using the pasta/salad knives and forks.


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