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.

Saturday
Oct182014

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 

Sunday
Oct122014

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)

Friday
Jun272014

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 

Saturday
Jun212014

Wood

I can’t think of a type of wood that I don’t enjoy the smell of, but in this case, I’m thinking specifically of oak. I was in the houses of parliament with a group of children the other day, surrounded by dark oak panelling as we listened to our tour-guide. I haven’t the faintest idea what he was saying at that moment; I was too caught up with breathing in the deep, rich smells of wood and polish. The smell of oak is dense and solid, a grounding scent that reaches through you, almost oppressive in its power.

Oak panelling – and specifically its smell – reminds me very much of the kind of pub my granddad used to favour: cosy places full of oak, with open fires and real ales. When I was little, we’d go for a lot of pub meals: ploughman’s lunches or giant Yorkshire puddings filled with roast beef. Somehow, the smell of roast beef has woven its way into the smell of varnished oak in my mind, and smelling the latter evokes a strong memory of the former. I may be standing in the House of Lords, but really I’m far away, tucked around an oak table in a country pub in some distant corner of my memory. 

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

Sunday
Jun152014

New Books

There’s an excitement in the acquisition of any book I really want to read, but for some reason, there’s none so great as that brought by a brand new book. It’s a pleasure I rarely indulge in, but sometimes, when I simply can’t wait for a title to turn up in a charity shop or second hand on Amazon, I’ll order one, or – rarer still – physically buy one from a bookshop. (The latter remains my favourite but it’s a luxury I can’t really afford). There’s such anticipation held in those perfect, unmarked pages for a story told, it seems, just for me. Crisp and uncurled, the pages wait to be brought to life, enticing me with promises of characters and plots. The cover shines and the spine is stiff and lifeless until reader and writer meet in the pages and breathe life into the story. The sense of possibility mingles with the pleasure of newness, of freshness, and it’s worth lingering a while before I start to read, savouring the joy of an anticipated book.

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