About this Blog

Four Wise Monkeys is designed to unite my desire to develop as a writer with my urge to blog. It is based around the proverbial Three Wise Monkeys, with the focus being on the human senses rather than moral principles. Each post will relate to a sense represented by a monkey: "See no evil, Hear no evil, Taste no evil, Smell no evil." My hope is that blogging in this way will encourage me to think of blogging as a kind of writing exercise rather than something to distract me from my writing.

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Four Wise Monkeys pebbles by Aimee Daniells.


Squelching Pasta

I take an enormous amount of pleasure in that wet, squelchy sound that happens when you stir a sauce through a pan of hot pasta. I’m always surprised by how much I like it because wet, squelchy sounds are normally unpleasant, but that’s the power of association, I suppose. There are few things more comforting than a big bowl of creamy pasta, and that’s what I think of when I hear that noise. It works whatever the sauce and whatever the pasta, but the best combination involves a cream or milk-based sauce and a tubular pasta variety like macaroni or spirali. As always, some of my love of this sound is bound up in memory: the sound of nearly-dinner-time, standing in the kitchen while my mum finished cooking, and countless evenings curled on the sofa with macaroni cheese. When I’m cooking now, I take a moment to indulge in the pleasures of the sound: the soft bubbles of air as the sauce catches in the tubes; the warm, wet sound of pasta squashing beneath a wooden spoon… it’s all filled with anticipation: soon there will be pasta, and it will be hot and delicious.

Monkey by Clive Wesley Dennis 


Christmas Baking Day

It’s become a tradition of mine to make a Christmas pudding and a Christmas cake during October half term. It means I can justify a day in the kitchen – my favourite kind of day – while feeling like I’m investing in the future.

I love the smell of Christmas whispering its way into my consciousness. The Christmas baking day marks the start of the countdown to my favourite time of year: to the comfort; to the ritual; to the festivity. Smells of ginger, fruit and brandy mingle with spices and sugar as the pudding steams and the cake bakes, lacing the air with warmth and anticipation. Most of my favourite smells are kitchen-related, and half of those can be found in the Christmas baking day: the smell of a cake in the oven; warm spices; dried fruit soaking in alcohol; fresh ginger; citrus zest; softened butter; thick treacle… all these combine to give a fragrance so rich and deep that I want to curl up in it. Christmas, for me, represents a unique alchemy of memory and future, and the smells of the Christmas baking day take me simultaneously back to childhood and forward to holidays, to a period of rest and indulgence with family and friends. There are few smells so inviting.

Monkey by Kieran Hazell (www.ownbeat.co.uk)


The Shipping Forecast

I’ve never understood what any of it means, but the shipping forecast has haunted the kitchens in my life for as long as I can remember. I grew up with both my mum and my grandma listening to Radio 4 while they peeled potatoes or washed dishes, and now it plays in the background in my own kitchen. I assume the voices have changed over the years, but the structure of the shipping forecast remains the same, read by measured voices with BBC accents, their tones rising and falling as they say things like, ‘North Utsire, South Utsire: good; rain later’ or ‘6, occasionally 7; moderate or good’. It has a rhythmic and vaguely hypnotic quality that feels safe and comforting, particularly because for me, it brings with it memories of nearly-dinner-time, the smell of onions softening and tomatoes simmering. That it is more or less complete nonsense to me is part of its charm. I don’t need to understand it: I’m in my kitchen chopping vegetables and the chances of having to navigate on a sea voyage are pretty slim. It’s grounding to hear a familiar voice sounding like it has everything under control, especially when you don’t have to think about what any of it might mean.

Monkey by Clive Wesley Dennis 


Fish Fingers

You’ll have noticed, perhaps, the lack of monkeys round here lately. Mostly, that’s down to moving house and getting out of my routine, but I’m planning to get back on track now. Starting with fish fingers.

I came home for lunch the other day to a smell of comfort and familiarity that I couldn’t put my finger on. Warm and mouth-watering, it was the kind of smell that made me want to take my shoes off and not leave the house for the rest of the day. I went through all the things that Dave normally eats, but nothing seemed to tick the right box. It took looking under the grill to figure out that he was cooking fish fingers.

I quite like them now, but as a child, I wasn’t a huge fan. Yet those feelings of comfort I got from opening the door to the smell of them stem from childhood. The warming smell of fish and breadcrumbs takes me back to going round for tea at someone else’s house, when crispy things served with baked beans were a child’s idea of heaven. I wasn’t that child actually; I much preferred a good lasagne or a home-cooked roast dinner, but I aspired to be like other children, and I could get into chicken nuggets and fish fingers when it was required. The smell of bread crumbs and spaghetti hoops was synonymous with playing with other people’s toys and exploring unfamiliar homes. It signified a treat. And that’s where I go now in my head when I smell fish fingers cooking: back to early winter’s evenings, lights on and curtains drawn, the smell of someone else’s parents preparing dinner while I played with toys I wished I had and friends I was pleased liked me.

I wonder if that’s why I warmed to fish fingers as an adult, or if it was a genuine shift in taste. Taste is never straightforward: it is bound up, always, with smell, memory, and association. And that’s why fish fingers are a monkey.

Monkey by Kieran Hazell (www.ownbeat.co.uk)


Red Wine at Night

Red wine is generally my drink of choice, and there are few things I welcome more after a long and tiring day. The sight of that first glass shining garnet reflections onto the coffee table is something I enjoy indulging in before I take the first mouthful. The richness of its colour, bursting with the promise of flavour and relaxation, warms me like an open fire. It signifies that I’m here; that I’m not going anywhere; that it’s time to stop. It’s a simple monkey, and not one that lasts long before it is overtaken by smell and taste, but it’s one I always enjoy.

Monkey by Clive Wesley Dennis