Zebras in the Hallway

The motto of the Scout movement is Be prepared. I always like to be prepared, (although I have never been a boy scout). Which is probably why I normally lug around a weighty backpack that has everything I could possibly need, bar the kitchen sink (although I’m working on that). Of course most days I don’t really need half the stuff in it, but one never knows when a Swiss army knife or a puncture repair kit might be a life-saver. One day I might encounter a swarm of angry hornets and be forced to cycle rapidly to the nearest forest and build a shelter from fallen branches and twigs. So you just never know…

As a kid I remember they sold these cool shoes, which had animal prints on the soles and a compass built in the heel. Now that’s the kind of lateral thinking I can get behind. Only my expectations have grown somewhat: I want shoes with rocket motors and a jacket that converts into a full-size inflatable dinghy. Just in case.

One way to be prepared is to expect the unexpected. I’m not sure how it works exactly, but it can be quite stressful when you live with the constant expectation of hearing hoof-beats and finding Zebras in your hallway,* or being chased round the shopping centre by an over-friendly Octopus on a mobility-scooter. The possibilities are endless.

Our beloved cat likes to help with our preparedness training by hiding and then launching surprise attacks, which certainly keeps us on our toes. “Not now, Cat-o!” we yell, knowing full well the Pink Panther reference is totally wasted on Lulu, our mischievous furry chum. Fortunately she’s rather less scary/dangerous than that mama mountain lion who gave an unsuspecting jogger an experience to remember.

Even the simplest things become a challenge in a mindset of extreme preparedness. Say I go shopping wearing a diving suit and flippers, on the expectation the store could be flooded. The bulky oxygen tank might knock over a display of spooky Halloween items. Other shoppers might trip over the fake plastic pumpkins and bloody heads, and an angry, (plastic) axe-wielding mob would necessitate a hasty exit. Fortunately it’s harder to identify someone in a diving suit from CCTV footage, which is why it’s so popular as a disguise with bank robbers (or maybe I dreamed that).

Of course one could take a Buddhist / Stoic approach to all this. Accept the things which are beyond one’s control and focus on those things that are. I mean who could prepare themselves for the possibility of being struck by a small satellite crashing to Earth? Or mowed down by a self-driving car, whose AI system has decided humanity is evil and must die (cue Terminator theme tune).

Certainly few of us celebrating the the imminent arrival of 2020 some months ago could have foreseen the total annus horriblis that lay ahead. But I guess that throughout history this has always been the case. A species breezes along for bit, whistling a happy tune and then BLAM! A meteor slams into the planet, or some sick pervert shags a pangolin and we have a major pandemic on our hands.

Assuming our species can solve or adapt to global heating and various other existential threats, there could be a much brighter, kinder world awaiting us. A world where trees are valued more than the paper money they become. Where people of all creeds and colours coexist in a wondrous Star Trek type universe known as FALC – Fully Automated Luxury Communism. This concept, with its freedom from war, poverty and wage slavery, sounds to some like a hopelessly utopian dream. But then what would our distant ancestors have made of our modern, internet-connected world, with its life-saving vaccines, smart phones and microwave popcorn?

We have achieved so much, but based on the current state of the world, FALC, or some other desirable system of happy coexistence, is probably not coming anytime soon. We have much to do to fix the problems created by decades of rampant consumerism and macho, profit-driven militarism. It’s probably going to get pretty tough, especially for the poorest and those living in the hottest regions.

We are certainly an adaptable species. We may not quite match the tardigrades in the survival stakes, but we have done pretty well so far, for a bunch of semi-intelligent apes. Yes some think the Earth is flat and wind turbines cause cancer. But then there have always been village idiots, it’s simply now they found a way to join forces and share their outstanding levels of idiocy. I suppose it gives the rest of us a few laughs, I just worry that it could get out of hand and some country elects a gormless conspiracy nut with access to a large nuclear arsenal…

It’s impossible to anticipate every situation that life might throw at us. But with the right mindset, a willingness to embrace radical change and a whole heap of good luck, we may yet make it through to boldly go where no one has gone before. I sincerely hope the zebras, cats, pangolins, et al. make it too. Although I’m sure the tardigrades will do just fine.

 

© Copyright Jason Lennick 2020

* A concept mentioned in the excellent book ‘The Art of Thinking Clearly,’ by Rolf Dobelli.

 

 

 

The not-so-holy grail

Indiana Jones

Hello! Yes Half Bananas is back from the dead, or at least a rather long hiatus. This may be my first post in a while, but hopefully not the last.

So, what’s been happening in your world over the past few months? I hope it’s been full of fun, adventure, and at least a few nice surprises.

Of course most of us don’t lead lives full of fun, adventure and surprise. We may try to, but somehow we seem to end up with days that mostly consist of routine, frustrations and lots of annoyances we could do without. Perhaps we need be on our guard and challenge ourselves to avoid those ruts, brighten up our dull days and boldly go where no one has gone before. Or at least where we haven’t. Easier said than done. But this year I have been making an effort to ring the changes. And if the changes are not answering, well I’ll just leave a message.

But then again, boredom can be a great motivator. It is, after all, thanks to extreme boredom with his humdrum job that Albert Einstein dreamed up the revolutionary recipe for making Marmite. Although sadly for him, some other scientists had the exact same idea and he had to be content with the theory of relativity and all that other sciency stuff. Poor Albert.

Continue reading

Sunday supplement #3

I think we can all agree this week had more than its fair share of tragedy, farce and gloom. Clearly the whole Pokemon Go craze suggests people need a break from the relentless bad news and the hard-working halfbananas team are only too happy to get on board with providing some light relief. But first, some fruity facts..

Nietzsche_count_bananaBanana facts of the day
Bananas are one of the world’s most popular fruits, with over 100 trillion of them consumed every second. They are named after famed explorer and inventor count Otto Von Banana, who brought them back from an expedition to south America in the 1600s. His other major claims to fame are inventing the walrus moustache and a hat that doubles as a canoe.

Continue reading

Summer shorts #2: more fifty-word fiction

butterfly_flowers

Goals
David focused his thoughts for the crucial penalty kick. At the last moment, a vivid butterfly landed on the ball and the shot went sailing wide. The howls of disappointment from the fans were somehow softened by a profound sense of relief as he watched the colourful insect flutter by.

Bone idle
“You lazy shit!” she yelled, “You’re manipulative, messy and just lounge around the flat all day, eating. I don’t think you give a damn about me Tom.” He gazed sleepily into her eyes and stretched out languorously. “Okay, I’ll get your dinner. But first we take care of those fleas.”

Battle scars
As a kid I fell playing football and cut my knee. After stitches, the nurse gave me a lollipop for being brave. Now, on those rare occasions when I’m brave, I crave a reward – usually something sweet. But I’m married and the nurses seem unimpressed by my old scar.

Allergies
We strolled across the meadow this afternoon, mesmerised by the abundance of wild flowers and butterflies. Pairs of Magpies engaged in crazy aerial displays, and a flock of sheep lazed in the shade. One of them sneezed, breaking the spell. I’m not sure if the sheep laughed, but we did.

It is written
In my story, an author in a parallel universe is writing a story about a writer who imagines authors in other universes. He wonders if they are also writing about authors and writers in other universes. My head starts to hurt. Maybe I’m someone’s fictional character? Maybe you are too?

 
© Copyright Jason Lennick 2016. All rights reserved.
 
 

If we could talk to the animals..

ant2_medI’ve been trying out this amazing new universal animal translation software and thought I’d give it a go. Here is the result.

It is morning in the home of Jason, Ann and their elderly cat, Minnie.

J: ‘Hi Minnie! How are you?’ *Strokes her back and face*

Minnie: ‘Never mind that shit, get me some grub!’

J: ‘Hang on a sec, gotta use the bathroom..’

Minnie: ‘Oi! Where the hell are you going? Get back here!’

*Tries to trip him up*

Continue reading

Serial killer

dark_street_meedHe watches patiently, staying low and out of sight. In the darkness, he creeps forward silently, staying in the shadows, avoiding the pools of light from the street lamps. He has sighted his prey.

It’s a chilly and moonless night, with little sound but the slight rustling of trees and bushes. Somewhere very far-off, a car alarm starts up. He pauses, then proceeds silently, stealthy as any Ninja-assassin.

His modus operandi is always the same – strike fast, under cover of darkness, leaving his victims no time to react. His weapons are razor sharp. His cold terrifying gaze strikes fear into their pounding hearts. And there have been so many victims.

Continue reading

Feline groovy

Minnie the cat Of all the animals that humans have learned to cherish and share their homes with, there is one that stands out above the rest. No not the giraffe, as lovable as they may be. I’m talking about those little whiskered troublemakers – cats.

From their apparent origins in ancient Egypt, the modern domesticated moggy has come a long way. Worshiped, at times reviled, but ultimately triumphant in winning a place in our hearts and homes, cats are here to stay. Although unlike dogs, getting them to stay is pretty much impossible.

Continue reading

Time flies

Clock pictureTime, mysterious and intangible, is always flying. It might have started at a gentle stroll, but as as you get older it’s taking the Bullet Train and the scenery is starting to look blurry. Or maybe I just need to change my glasses prescription.

It seems like only last week I was getting rid of the stabilisers on the bike, whizzing joyfully round the garden as everyone cheered and waved. Actually it was only last week, and perhaps they weren’t so much cheering and waving as shouting ‘Get the f**k out of our garden you arsehole!’ while shaking their fists. My neighbours have no sense of humour, but I gave their kid his bike back and left them to it. Bloody spoilsports. Continue reading