Monday, October 1, 2007

It's never too late - in fiction or in life - to revise. - Nancy Thayer

Let me start this with a shout-out to Bitwrathploob whom I sadly missed at the rugby last weekend. Sigh. Maybe one day our paths will cross again. Come to Shetland!

Matt's schedule this week is 4-11pm, so we've got the days to play. Today it was too rainy to cycle, so we drove south instead and found ourselves at Jarlshof, a fabulous archaeological site at the southern tip of Shetland. There is something quite moving about wandering around ruins dated back over 3000 years. It consists of layers upon layers of stone dwellings, most of which were hidden by turf until the late 1800s, when a violent storm ripped the turf away from the coast. It's a fascinating place, especially the 'wheelhouses', which divided the homes into rooms while supporting the turf above. Archaeologists think this place may have been a stopping point for passing Viking ships en route to Greenland, Norway, the Faroes and the UK. The place is drenched with stories, and wandering through the immaculately preserved ruins twists perspective on its head. Some of these buildings were used for 400 years, others for 1000. We toss figures like this around, and don't ever think of the lives this included - that's generations who lived in the same house, shared the same life.

The sun decided to come out in the early evening, so I took a walk. It is difficult to explain the peacefulness of Shetland at dusk. The hills gracefully float atop the sea, the clouds flirting with the sun and the hilltops. Bursts of sunlight shine in sporadic places on the hills, and the sea stretches out forever, to a horizon brightened by faraway blue sky beyond. The wind tonight came in gentle gusts, beckoning rather than shunning. For a brief moment, it was the most beautiful place on the planet.

I turned a corner at the top of a hill and saw a crowd (read: 10 people) gathered at a stone wall, staring at the sea. We've got an oil platform coming to town. Two large tugboats pulled a rig into the harbor, and this is Big News. As I walked back to the flat, I noticed more and more people sitting at the shoreline, watching the rig slowly slide through the sound. Oil is a big thing around here. Apparently BP wanted to drill, and Shetland got itself 1/3 of the profits before they allowed BP to consider the project. This island could easily be self-sustaining, with the windmills, the oil, and the sea. Tough characters here.

Website of the week: No Catch, a Shetland company dealing in sustainable seafood. I've had the cod and it's delicious. Book of the week: Kevin MacNeil's The Stornoway Way. One of the best Scottish novels I've ever read. It gives a glimpse of island life that is painfully honest - he got into a load of trouble with the locals (though he is from there) after it came out. He includes explanations of Gaelic words and expressions as footnotes, which are as amusing as the book itself.

Am now midway through the re-read of my first draft and, again, I am appalled by some of the things that came out of my fingers. Grammatical errors! Inconsistent characterization! But I've not thrown Sven across the room yet, and am still thinking about this story all the damn time, so I suppose it is salvageable.

I keep waiting for the Northern Lights...

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