The first in a series of posts about story/spoken word events I am smitten by.
This is Let Me Tell You A Story, Jack - brought to you by the amazing duo that is Will Harding and Shonette Laffy. Next up at Left Bank, Stokes Croft on Tuesday 12th Mar 19 at 6:30pm - I'll be there.
One of the most eclectic events in the calendar, it's hard to describe without under-selling it. So, I'm sharing my Alien's take on it, told at Jack's 5th Birthday party last year.
Let Me Tell You A Story, Jack
I am an alien.
During my time on your planet, I have been recording the things I don’t get about your planet.
This is about one of those things.
Let Me Tell You A Story, Jack
I don’t get…
…that you chose such a long and confusing name for a secret society that is not secret and does not involve a man called Jack. In response to signals, mostly on the incorrectly named book that is not a Book and does not have a Face, Earthlings come together in darkened rooms in bars in Bristol. The bars are in the part of Bristol that is not a Croft and is not in Stoke.
This confuses me.
The purpose of coming together is so that Earthlings can play a game of sardines. The Earthlings sit on seats and shelves and the floor and they sit on each other. Random strangers are invited to speak in order to distract any claustrophobic Earthlings that would otherwise shout ‘get the fuck out of my space’.
The sardines like these distractions and smash their hands together in the noisy gesture of appreciation that Earthlings think is endearing.
The games are put on by two Earthlings that should not work together but do.
The man-Earthling, sings made-up songs whilst hitting pieces of wire stretched over a large and inaccessible bird box he carries in his arms. The man-Earthling is inclined to wear trees or lights on his head and attaches bells to his feet whilst singing songs about Mexican food and Nick Cave. I have observed the man-earthling called Will on many evenings. The sardines always like his warbling cries, although it does not surprise me that no birds have yet nested in his box.
The woman-Earthling always tells the first story. The first story is always a true story featuring the woman-Earthling and a funny or unlawful or inexplicable or embarrassing or life-threatening event that has actually happened. The woman-Earthling is a dispenser of life-advice having failed at many of the tests that life has provided for her. Shonette is generous and has saved many lives by advising the sardines not to go to Iceland and pitch a tent on a volcano at night in a howling gale.
I don’t get…
…that the secret society has one rule.
The one rule is that no story can be more than 5 minutes in length. The rule is recited at the start of each meeting of the secret society in a sentence that finishes with the words...’or whatever’.
These are not the optimum conditions with which to enforce a rule.
The rule is not enforced.
This inefficiency would confuse me.
But all the Earthlings are off their heads on a sugar rush after eating Moams. High on Moam sugar leaves people more chilled than smoking the baccy you Earthlings refer to as wacky.
Some of the Earthling sardines are chosen to tell stories into a tall stick with a knob on the end that amplifies their terror. The stories are stories or memoirs or anecdotes or songs or extracts from a subjective book of evidence called a diary or prose or poetry or random waffles from a sardine who is high on Moam sugar or impaired by alcoholic poisons or both.
The stories are interrupted by anonymous confessions submitted on small and luminous pieces of paper and by more hand smashing.
At the end of the evening, the most hand-smashy stories earn their Earthling tellers a medal. The medals are hand-crafted by children in the school that Will works in but the sardines all pretend that these have been made by Shonette. For the absence of doubt, sardine Earthlings, you must maintain this pretence tonight and all nights.
The medal winners feel excited and proud and slightly embarrassed to collect their medals. Except the Earthling that travelled from Belgium to play the very first game of sardines and has, in the five of your Earthling years that have followed, won more medals than all of the other sardines put together. The Belgian King of stories is called Sven. The Earthlings are hoping King Sven will declare this place an independent republic so that we might all listen to more stories and not be so completely fucked by Brexit.
I have listened to many of the stories here and I have been watching you Earthlings respond to them.
I have heard stories of funniness and stupidity and the throwing of a poo outside of a window.
I have heard of love and lost love, in stories and poems and songs that have crushed the souls of the sardines that were telling them and polished the souls of the sardines that were listening.
I have heard hellos and goodbyes, including the goodbyes to Earthlings that now only live in your Earthling hearts and not on your Earthling planet.
I have seen the Earthling sardines shout and erupt in spontaneous barking.
I have seen the Earthling sardines smash their hands until they hurt.
And I have seen salt water leak from the Earthling sardine eyes.
It seems the Earthlings are confused whether they are sardines or seals.
These games of stories and laughter and the sharing of your souls – these show the best of you Earthlings. It is one of the best things I have found on your and many other planets.
That all of the Earthlings on your planet do not do this – confuses me.
But then not all the Earthlings are cut out to be sardines.
Or Will and Shonette…or Sven, The King of us all.
And although it would be a breach of your laws relating to child labour and it would cost Will his job…I think all of the Earthling sardines who are telling or listening to stories on this and other nights…you deserve a medal too.