Wrong conclusions

Feb 22nd, 2008 | By | Category: Personal Columns

Odd ideas arise in childhood years. I do not remember our school teacher ever reading Aesop’s fables, but the stories must have been part of the education for them to have become so familiar. We mustn’t have been told anything about Aesop himself because in my mind Aesop was a black American who sat in a rocking chair on a verandah of a wooden house, dressed in dark trousers with braces and a white collarless shirt. (The American word for “braces” creates altogether the wrong image!) The discovery years later that Aesop was Greek and lived six centuries BC shattered the picture I had cherished for so long.

Where did the picture come from? Was there a children’s television programme where this grandfatherly figure sat and told the fables? It wouldn’t seem likely. Children’s programmes were confined to “Children’s Hour”, one hour of broadcast time, though this did stretch to an hour and a half. The programmes were very familiar and the only storytelling I remember was Jackanory. At some point an impression was created that was to last for years.

If Aesop’s Fables were told by an American, then my impression of the United States came from Sesame Street, it was a fun place to be, even if they seemed to take a long time to learn the letters and numbers. Sesame Street wasn’t just fun, it was a safe place. They sat on the steps of that big old inner city house and there was no danger. Vietnam and all the other unpleasantries did not intrude into a world of laughter and song.

A tiny piece of a picture does not always reflect the whole canvas; impressions can be wrong and wrong impressions can stay with us for years.

Passing a group of very drunken Scottish rugby supporters, dressed in rugby shirts and dark green kilts, in Dublin last evening, I watched eastern Europeans shy away from them and hoped that this would not be an impression that stayed with them.

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  1. Ian – my parents both suffer from dementia (different presentations) and it’s become noticeable that they only recall people from impressions formed many years ago even though those impressions were not necessarily correct then, or now.

    Luckily, I seemed to make the right impression! 😀

    Com’on Ireland!

  2. Steph,

    I’m sorry to hear that – you cannot have an easy time.

    I spend quite a lot of time visiting people with varying degrees of confusion. I’ve had to learn to dig out what I can from their younger years and talk about those things. Sometimes talking about things sixty, seventy or even eighty years ago will trigger other things in the long term memory. I think I must be a reasonably benign person because most people will talk.

  3. Thanks,Ian – I will admit, I’ve become pretty good at solving puzzles as I spend a lot of time ironing out confused stories.

    I love old folk for the wisdom they have to offer when you take the time to ask. It’s a joy to watch the residents at the nursing home and especially the more demented ones, come alive to music from the good old days. Music is a great leveller.

  4. Wow that took me back, I remember Jackanory and the kaleidoscope titles. I don’t remember being read Aesops Fables either but the stories are clear in my head. And re impressions … I feel for the Americans actually, I’m guilty of American bashing and tarring all with the bad tourist or right wing maniac brush but I know a few who are perfectly reasonable, lovely people. Then I guess the world’s impression of us as a nation (those who know we exist) is of beer bellied, constantly barbecuing nation who has the audacity to eat both the animals on it’s national crest!

  5. Ian I think you may be confusing Aesop’s Fables with the Uncle Remus stories as I said the other day, as the years pass the short term memory tends to get worse whereas some things that happened sixty plus years ago are still very clear. Or is it that the memory can be very selective.

  6. Dad,

    “Uncle Remus” meant nothing to me, I had to Google him, and there he was, right down to his collarless shirt. There must have been a television series at some point and I conflated him with an ancient Greek!

  7. Ian

    There was a book of Aesops fables in Miss Rabbidges classroom I do remember reading them and finding them hard going.

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