Sunday, 18 September 2016


It might have killed the cat but curiosity has greatly enriched my life. There's a fine line between curiosity and nosiness, and I think I straddle that line rather precariously. I'm hugely curious (aka nosy), I always have been. Ever since I was tiny I wanted to know who, what, where, when and why.  Ad infinitum.

Young children have a natural curiosity. They need to make sense of this strange world in which they find themselves.  A newborn baby's first sensation is through his mouth, via nipple or teat. It's no wonder that their mouths continue to be receptacles for every lump of earth, piece of fluff, coin or small toy as they roll and crawl their way around. This is fine when your baby is grabbing a handful of shepherds pie and sending it in the vague direction of his face, but not quite so clever when you're washing out a mouth filled with soil and worms.

Curiosity is the catalyst for exploration.  If humankind had not been curious we would never have split the atom or got chicken nuggets. A mixed blessing some would say.

I realise now that my curiosity is the push I need to sort out problems of any kind.  If it's the Hoover that's bust I'm quite happy to take it to pieces to discover where (this bit goes), why (it does what it does), how (it does it) and what (the hell I am doing, wasting time like this when I've got a husband who should be capable).  Emotional problems often follow a similar course (why is he doing that? How can he be so selfish? What can I do about it?)  The questions – and potential answers – are endless.

For some unknown reason I share a trait with my mum. We both believe that we can solve all problems with just a little determined delving. Copious amounts of tea, a shoulder to cry on and a large roll of sellotape can all come in very handy but the starting point is curiosity.

My mum tells me that ever since I could go off on my own at about the age of eleven I would come home with a story. The overheard conversation on the bus, the group of kids who were misbehaving, the family making a meal of eating out.  Everywhere I went there was a tale unfolding. My life was spent watching a series of real life sitcoms.

I'm sure curiosity was the basis for my burgeoning interest in street photography, the photographic equivalent of earwigging.  When we go out together these days my long suffering husband now has to put up with me not only shushing him so I can hear neighbouring conversations but also shifting him out of the way so I can shoot some unsuspecting soul with an interesting face.

Thinking about my husband's lack of practical skills and the fact that he rarely joins in a communal conversation, I was hit by the sudden realisation that he simply lacks curiosity.

He has no desire to listen in to a conversation if it doesn’t mention music, football, films or beer.  There’s possibly one other category but I won’t go there.  If he’s on the phone, I’m desperate to quiz him when he finishes (and sometimes before),  “Who was it? What did he want? How’s his wife? What was he saying for you to say……..” and so on and on and on.  However, when I come off the phone, he doesn’t so much as ask who it was.  He simply has no interest.  If the toaster blows out black smoke Dave doesn’t question it – he has no desire to know why, and certainly no desire to take it to pieces.

I’m thinking this could be a problem to delve into a little more deeply.  Put the kettle on Dave, it’s time to investigate.

Curiosity (by Alastair Reid)
may have killed the cat; more likely
the cat was just unlucky, or else curious
to see what death was like, having no cause
to go on licking paws, or fathering
litter on litter of kittens, predictably.
Nevertheless, to be curious
is dangerous enough. To distrust
what is always said, what seems,
to ask odd questions, interfere in dreams,
leave home, smell rats, have hunches
do not endear cats to those doggy circles
where well-smelt baskets, suitable wives, good lunches
are the order of things, and where prevails
much wagging of incurious heads and tails.
Face it. Curiosity
will not cause us to die–
only lack of it will.
Never to want to see
the other side of the hill
or that improbable country
where living is an idyll
(although a probable hell)
would kill us all.
Only the curious
have, if they live, a tale
worth telling at all.
Dogs say cats love too much, are irresponsible,
are changeable, marry too many wives,
desert their children, chill all dinner tables
with tales of their nine lives.
Well, they are lucky. Let them be
nine-lived and contradictory,
curious enough to change, prepared to pay
the cat price, which is to die
and die again and again,
each time with no less pain.
A cat minority of one
is all that can be counted on
to tell the truth. And what cats have to tell
on each return from hell
is this: that dying is what the living do,
that dying is what the loving do,
and that dead dogs are those who do not know
that dying is what, to live, each has to do.
Thanks for reading,     Jill