Monday, 21 January 2013

Winter Writing

It is a snowy day in the Highlands and I am sitting at the Red Squirrel Cafe just after opening - watching the Squirrel’s eat their nuts. I still have my coat on, plus two hats and despite my thermal socks my toes are cold. A writing day is the plan. After some fussing with the computer I have shut it down. It is being more of a distraction than a useful tool. For the time being I will stick to my notebook. I watch the world go by and try to focus, not fidget. Birds come in to take seed, their bellies are plump, eyes alert - Disney cute. I look back to my page and try to return to the fiction... 

Disney cute Winter birdlife - Scotland

A while later most of the squirrel’s have moved off to other things, all except one - which sits eating and eating. It is the hoarder. Perhaps it knows what it is to go hungry. Perhaps it has a brain injury and does not know that the friendly folk at the cafe feed it’s kind twice daily. Down below the ducks are nosing in the snow for food. From their tail waggles I can only presume that they are finding a bounty. Their low slung bodies brush the top of the snow - adding an extra disturbance to their footprints - whose trails track this way and that amongst the trees searching for a woozle... or perhaps just a worm.

The sun catches at the very top of a high grey cloud bank - tinting it white. Hinting that up there someplace there is a brilliantly sunny day. God light points the way to heaven up beyond the grey. Down here it adds brilliance to the scene - lights the shadows. But then a few moments later the sun breaks through more thoroughly - and I realise that up until now we have been in the dark. The sun is addictive at the moment - I see it so rarely that when it comes out I have to stop myself from stripping naked in it’s presence. Instead whenever I am outdoors and I encounter it I turn the only uncovered piece of skin too it - my face - and bask.  
My brain begins to fog a little  - and as the sun is out and the day is clear I pack up my notes and head out to walk. 

Walking the path to Aviemore

Walking with a thin layer of snow underfoot is a curious sensation - closest approximated to walking on firm sand - a bit of give and a squeak with each footstep. At first my path takes me along virgin snow, but soon enough I am sharing the path with dog walkers, joggers, cross country skiers and fellow amblers. The loch is on my left and the hills are on my right -and every now and then the sun comes out and the world sparkles.  True this might not be the best scenery to inspire the story I am working on - a tale of an Australian childhood - but a walk in a winter wonderland sure beats taking a break to do the laundry. The muted silence of a snowy landscape must surely help the brain to percolate.

Sun and snow in the Highlands - January 2013

Back inside I read and write, notes flowing sometimes - sometimes things go haltingly and I stare out the window at the distant hills. A muted pallet spreads before me - a black and white world with just a tincture of dark green where the foliage peeps through. Around four pm the cars begin to roll down the road from the Cairngorm ski centre. Light is fading and the snow sport enthusiasts are calling it a day. I write on, slightly distracted by wondering what adventures have come to those up on the hills. People drift in with tidbits of news from the world beyond - higher up it seems things were all a blur of wind and snow - those of us who stayed lower had a different climate from those who ventured higher up.
Later, in conversation I am noted that I am an oddity - people don’t come to this part of the world to stay inside, ‘A lazy day then?’ I am asked.
‘No.’ I reply, ‘It did not feel like one to me.’

View near Glenmore, Highlands January 2013

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Reading List

I had a project towards the end of last year - a 30th birthday present for my brother - and it kept me distracted from writing towards the end of the year. It was a bookish project that involved creating a poster filled with images of my books that I miss - and which my brother and his girlfriend very generously store in their home. When I skype them at their house they usually take me on a little tour so I can mentally pat my books.

Alice in Wonderland detail from the poster

Luckily to keep me from too much book-anguish there has been plenty of new reading in the last twelve months.

Here are some of the highlights:

The Difference Engine - William Gibson and Bruce Sterling - a must read for any steampunks out there.

Written on the Body - Jeanette Winterson - very beautiful love story.

Snow Crash - Neal Stephenson - a good sci-fi tale of adventure in a future gone awry.

Cheerful Weather for the Wedding - Julia Strachey - random library pick based on looks - that I loved.

Virtual Light - William Gibson - a good sci-fi tale of adventure in a future gone awry... again.

Miss Dahl's Voluptuous Delights - Sophie Dahl - bio / cook book what is not to love.

Breath - Tim Winton - sun, surf, drama done as Winton does best.

Snow Falling on Cedars - David Guterson - love and history all wrapped up in a mystery.

Bird Cloud - Annie Proulx - a bio focusing on home and nature by this superb American writer.

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie - Murial Spark - a must read for any new resident of Edinburgh.

If anyone has any book recommendations for 2013 I would love to hear them.