Never Forget The Prompts

6 Mar

Have you ever eavesdropped on a conversation you weren’t supposed to? Tell us about a time when it was impossible not to overhear a conversation between people who didn’t know you were there. What was the conversation about? How did it make you feel?

It wasn’t eavesdropping so much as my first ten minutes in a new job in Johannesburg.  A secretary walked into the office in great distress, crying her eyes out and complaining that ‘he threw my elephant ears off the balcony!’

Hillbrow flats are small and their balconies are tiny and I wasn’t interested in the argument – instead, I was consumed with a desire to know  what exactly were elephant ears?  If they were ornamental elephant ears, how huge were they?  Did he have to use a tool to tip them over or was he so adrenalin/drink/rage fuelled that it was like a mother lifting a car from her child’s pinned-down body?

Or were they genuine elephant ears?  If they were, they’d still be pretty big but surely they’d have shrivelled to mankiness; and where would you buy something like that anyway?  You could buy legal ivory because elephants weren’t protected in South Africa in the Eighties but I never heard of anyone buying wrinkly skin flaps before.

I felt quite sorry for her distress and empathised with her experience of that terrible creature known as ‘man’, but I was cripplingly shy in those days, kept my head down and never stuck my nose in where it wasn’t wanted.  I went all day without knowing what the argument was about but, finally, at 16:29, one minute before leaving, I had to ask: what on earth are elephant ears?

She laughed and replied, ‘A plant.’

How mundane.  Eavesdropping: it’s really not worth the ear-burning it causes.


Tell us about a situation where you’d hoped against all hope, where the odds were completely stacked against you, yet you triumphed. Be sure to describe your situation in full detail. Tell us all about your triumph in all its glory.

I really hoped those ears were real.

That was back in the days when I wasn’t animal-mad; or unselfish (no kids yet).

I triumphed because I plucked up the courage – in the face of twenty-four years of terror at the thought of asking questions of a complete stranger, especially about her personal life – to satisfy my curiosity.


A song comes on the radio and instantly, you’re transported to a different time and place. Which song(s) bring back memories for you and why? Be sure to mention the song, and describe the memory it evokes.

Nellie the Elephant…some of you may have heard of it.  I’m transported to church at half-past seven in the evening and the recollection that I forgot to tell you that I’d had a spicy dinner that day and had to clench my butt cheeks the whole time I was on my knees practising CPR, in case the evidence seeped out.

Don’t mock: I could save your life one day.


You’re 12 years old. It’s your birthday. Write for ten minutes on that memory.

I can’t remember it.  I’m not an elephant.


What giant step did you take where you hoped your leg wouldn’t break? Was it worth it, were you successful in walking on the moon, or did your leg break?

You never take giant steps when you have a wind problem like mine.


When was the last time you were embarrassed? How do you react to embarrassment? 

Did you not read my last answer?  How easily embarrassed do you think I am?

Okay, you’re right: I am very easily embarrassed in real life; blogging is fairly anonymous so it removes my inhibitions.  If I were to break wind in your physical presence, I think I’d be embarrassed beyond measure.  We both would.


Publish a post in the style of a favorite author/blogger or photographer.

A nonsense poem for you, written in five minutes, as an homage to Ogden Nash, Roger McGough and the city of Chicago.

In Praise of Gas 

There’s an art to the fart, I’m sure
(just follow a wild beast’s spoor).
But if a pump makes you jump
stay away from the elephant’s trump.

He who has gas laughs last (and usually alone).
He capers at vapours and gels with smells;
but he secretly prays there’s no belligerence
caused by his intense flatulence –

he feels embarrassment
but masks it with merriment
and expensive,
frequently sprayed scent.

Apologies to my audience:
I feel I ought to rescind my words about wind –
I suspect I am less sinned against,
than I have sinned.

35 Responses to “Never Forget The Prompts”

  1. bevchen March 6, 2014 at 13:20 #

    I’m disappointed that the elephant ears were just a plant. Real ones would have been much more fun!


  2. Indira March 6, 2014 at 13:36 #

    Lol throughout the post. What a gas song!


  3. Al March 6, 2014 at 13:39 #

    There once was a girl named Tilly
    Who thought that flatus was silly
    So she watched what she ate
    So she wouldn’t “deflate”
    But what got her was one bowl of chili.


  4. judyt54 March 6, 2014 at 13:49 #

    did you ever discover why he threw them over the balcony? then again, having been accosted by elephant ears now and then, I can see why someone’s patience would snap.
    bevchen, you’re right. Real ones (attached or unattached) would have been much more interesting…

    I picked up a snippet of a cellphone convo one day; a young woman was stomping down a hallway, shouting into her phone: “well Im surprised Aunt Slyvia hasn’t had an effigy of herself done in chopped liver, it’s wayyyy overdue!” oh ho, i thought, family.


    • The Laughing Housewife March 6, 2014 at 14:38 #

      How brilliant!

      I don’t recall if I ever found out what it was about but she was a lovely girl so I blame him.


  5. laurieanichols March 6, 2014 at 14:29 #

    Love, love, love this! I bake Elephant ear cookies (Palmier cookies in French) so I thought that the bad man had thrown her cookies off the balcony, I never heard of a plant called Elephant ears. I would have been crying too if a bad man had thrown my cookies off the balcony, they are so delicious, flaky pastry dough folded umpteenth times in sugar and baked until golden and caramelized, cookie bliss. 🙂


  6. March 6, 2014 at 14:31 #

    I empathise with the wind: I could fart for France! I wonder if the elephant’s ears plant is anything like our lamb’s ears – silvery green, succulent and slightly furry, very pretty. I love your little poem.


  7. slpmartin March 6, 2014 at 16:38 #

    Might make an interesting tune…flying elephant ears in the dark…as always a most delightful read.


  8. Elaine - I used to be indecisive March 6, 2014 at 19:08 #

    My plant knowledge has just increased today! I agree if would have been much more fun if it had been real elephant ears that were thrown off the balcony – but a bit gruesome to think of the elephant, minus its ears, standing in the apartment. 🙂


  9. SchmidleysScribbling March 6, 2014 at 21:02 #

    Talk about a trip down memory lane…Calamity Jane was one of my all time favorite movies, Golden Girl with Mitzi Gaynor was another. I was born in Texas, and my parents were Midwesterners from the prairie area of WI. My great grandparents immigrated to Chicago in the 1840s. My grandfather was a stage coach driver in North Dakota. Why he might have had the very route Jane takes to Deadwood City. The stagecoaches were extensions of rail and granddad was with the Chicago Northwestern RR for fifty years.

    As for eavesdropping…one of my favorite past times. Why do you think I became a social scientist? Humans are sooooo interesting.


  10. Grannymar March 6, 2014 at 21:39 #

    Great gas altogether!


  11. Rorybore March 6, 2014 at 23:46 #

    That was a real gas!!
    That does mean funny over here – in case you were wondering.
    And I somewhat embarrassed that for a split second, I was hoping she had actual elephant ears. sorry dear elephant.


  12. jmgoyder March 7, 2014 at 04:59 #

    Started cracking up at the elephant ears!


  13. Eliz@MirthandMotivation March 8, 2014 at 19:03 #

    I see you haven’t missed a bit! Still cracking us all up. Howdy?


  14. bluebee March 21, 2014 at 06:49 #



  15. colonialist April 4, 2014 at 16:11 #

    The last bit was a gas!
    Of course, to a Garden Judge, elephant ear instantly conjures up Alocasia.


    • The Laughing Housewife April 4, 2014 at 20:09 #

      You’ll have to speak English if you want me to follow, Col 🙂


      • colonialist April 4, 2014 at 20:27 #

        ¿Usted no habla español?

        Er, sorry, just been exchanging comments in Spanish and haven’t got out of the habit yet.



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