Dave Mullan, The Saga of Wasp and Other Stories. (ColCom Press, e-Book edition Smashwords 2015). 127 pages.
Wasp was the name of Dave Mullan’s first car. He was never told why. It was a hotted-up 1928 Austin 7 reduced from £65 to £55 and then to £50. (This was 1953). How could anyone resist? The bodywork consisted of flat sheets of corrugated iron welded over a frame of water pipe while the doors were made of plywood. Just imagine! Dave had great plans for this car. As someone living and working in the forest communities of the central North Island, Dave had every confidence that Wasp would be a big improvement on a push bike for travel along the back roads, especially since the reluctant vendors assured him that she runs like a clock.
Dave writes of his exploits with this car that, not surprisingly by its unique appearance alone, transformed him from an ordinary teenager to something approaching a celebrity. His family was impressed and Bev (later his wife) was delighted. But on his way back to the central plateau the engine misbehaved and, despite various attempts at diagnosis and treatment, could not be nursed back to good health. Wasp came to an ignominious end in a wrecker’s yard. By this time Dave had transferred to the South Island. His father persuaded the wreckers to pay £15 for the privilege of acquiring Wasp and Dave learned that the source of her name was that she had a sting in her tail.
Dave Mullan is an accomplished raconteur. The thirty-three stories in this book are drawn from his own experience. He has a racy style and is not afraid to laugh at himself as when, for example, he is following a car home through the streets of Sydney only to find it is the wrong car taking him to the wrong house, or whipping up a culinary treat in the kitchen and trying to interpret the mysteries of a recipe book.
In these stories we also meet a number of people whose characters are heavily overdrawn – and yet we have met them all: shop assistants whose idea of helpfulness is their knowledge of aisle numbers, telephone receptionists adept at misinterpreting the simplest request, designers of forms or instructions that contribute to confusion, church organists who play ‘familiar’ tunes that no one can identify.
Some of these stories have their origin in the forestry communities where Dave worked in the 1950s and there are also cameos of the old Public Service before efficiency experts and management consultants got to work on it. Dave muses how times have changed and, projecting to the year 2026, imagines an 11-year-old boy will require assistance to eat as he has never experienced the use of a knife and fork, will be able to lay a legal complaint against his parents for declining to do anything he requests or for their asking him to do anything at all, and will probably spend most of his early years in his bedroom attached by umbilical cords to his computer and the internet. This, of course, is highly imaginary yet, as with all these stories, humour may provoke questions about values.
Saga of Wasp and Other Stories is well-written and readers are assured of an enjoyable experience. This may stimulate them to think of similar episodes in their own lives. I highly recommend it.
(review of free book)