Thursday, October 11, 2007

Shocking News! … part 1 Back in 1998, after 19 “gap years”, I went to Sussex University to study English Literature and Third World Development, which is where I met my good friend David, also studying English and something else. Since then, we have had an ongoing discussion about metaphors and similes— my, how the long winter evenings just fly by! My contention is that one should use one of these devices to describe to a reader something strange, unknown or previously not encountered in terms of something common or well known, so that the reader can than thus easily imagine the thing or situation better. I find a lot of modern fiction writing is sloppy: as if—with their creative writing teachers’ words ringing in their ears—authors feel the need to liken absolutely everything to something else … tedious.

When done badly, the effect is to read about something that one can easily bring to mind described as “like” something that you really have to work hard to imagine. The BBC TV comedy series of Blackadder are a lesson in simile / metaphor. There’s a scene where Baldrick, the servant, tries to describe something to his master, Blackadder. As I recall, it goes like this:

Baldrick, “The princess’s eyes are bluer than sapphires”.
Blackadder, “Baldrick, have you ever seen the princess?”
Baldrick, “No, milord.”
Blackadder, “Baldrick, have you ever seen a sapphire?”
Baldrick, “No, milord.”
Blackadder, “So, what you’re saying is, that something you’ve never seen, is slightly bluer than something else you’ve never seen?”
Baldrick, “Yes, milord.”

All this was brought to mind as I started typing this blog, as I wanted to tell you all about my shocking experiences with electric stock fencing. I’ve inadvertently shocked myself many times since we began using electric fencing to keep our various animals where we want them and foxes out; the first shock received when I was actually trying to use the testing device to see if both the fence and the testing device itself worked: “ouch! that’d be a ‘yes’ then!” I recently managed, for the first (and hopefully the last) time, to give myself a shock on the forehead. The pig fencing needed unhooking for me to mow beneath it (else it earths out on the grass) and I had the goose fencing right next to it and hadn’t switched that off. As I bent down (it’s low fencing as pigs don’t currently fly) to unhook it, concentrating on the job in hand, my forehead came into contact with he adjacent metre (3 feet) high goose fencing, which was live.

I can only describe the event as like being hit hard, square on the forehead, with a cricket bat. Now, if you’ve never received an electric shock through your forehead, neither been struck there with a cricket bat (American readers can imagine a baseball bat, the effect would largely be the same) you can see my problem. Please submit any better idea of how to describe to my blog readers what an electrical shock on the forehead feels like by posting a comment. In Part 2, I’ll tell you more about how I've managed to give myself numerous electric shocks!