Yesterday, I found myself telling a childhood story in a butcher’s shop. I hadn’t intended to spin a yarn – I wanted to buy chicken thigh fillets to roast with vegetables and diced beef to slow-cook into a ragu.
But when I asked my friendly butcher, Luke, about his week, he told me he had just been to Magnetic Island with his family. Most of the island was a sanctuary, he told me, so there was a koala park and you could feed the wallabies.
Immediately, I was transported back to late 1986, aged 13. The scene – my family home. Specifically, the formal lounge-room which was invitation only, three times a year. There was five of us – my parents, my younger sister and brother, and me.
Probably about our holiday to Magnetic island, I thought. They’re probably going to tell us what to pack.
‘There’s good news and bad news,’ Dad said.
Oh dear. What could this mean?
‘The bad news is – we’re not going to Magnetic Island.’
What? No animals, no plane trip, no Queensland sun, no beach?
But wait, there’s good news, right? Maybe there’s a better holiday!
‘And the good news is …’ my dad paused for dramatic effect. ‘You’re going to have a new brother or sister!’
Don’t think we have ever forgiven my youngest brother for our cancelled trip to Magnetic Island!
I was so interested to hear about Magnetic Island from my butcher, someone who had actually been to this place of my imagination. And he and another customer in the store laughed at my story.
Did I exaggerate there? Of course! Am I exaggerating now – of course!
But the kernels of truth are still there – formal lounge, no holiday – and the indisputable presence of my youngest brother can’t be denied!
As Robert McKee says in his book, Story, substance, structure, style and the principles of screenwriting, ‘Given the choice between trivial material brilliantly told versus profound material badly told, an audience will always choose the trivial told brilliantly.’
So there’s my trivial story for the week. And the meat at this butcher’s shop is always good!