Thursday, January 24, 2008

"On life's vast ocean diversely we sail, Reason the card, but passion is the gale." - Alexander Pope

January 24th, or the day before Burns Night, or the day before our friend Zain comes to visit. Shetland has been ornery this week. Spats of rain and wind, then a few blissful hours of sunshine, then a temporary deep-freeze, then more wind, then blue, blue sky, then clouds. Today was the weirdest yet - walked ta da toon, sunshine. While at lunch, rain. Walking to butchers, sun again. Back out and these pebble-shaped snowflakes (not heavy enough to be hail) pelleted us, then in another shop and out, sunshine again. Then rain. Then more pebbly-snowflakes that covered the road, which is where we are now. There's no choice when it's sunny - you take what you can get and get your ass outside to play before it changes its mind. Monday morning we awoke to snow - or Shetland snow, which is a light dusting of similar consistency to powdered sugar, and thick, invisible ice that throws down WWF-style. And it lasted all of about 30 minutes.
The seals were out in full force that day. They let me get to within about five meters before they started barking. The drama queen of the lot began flapping her body around and pushing other seals with her face, but they all preferred to be lazy in the sunshine. I'll miss these guys.
The Clickiman Broch, below, is one of the many on Shetland and is not even two blocks from my house. I've never been. Brochs are unique to Shetland (*LIE! The Tourist Board thinks so...but apparently they're also on various other Scottish islands...thanks JDS) and were built and rebuilt from the Iron Age onward. This one was inhabited from 1000 BC to AD 500 and was restored in the 1950s. Thirty or so people would live in the area, working the peaty land around it. The view would have been amazing from the top of the broch onward towards Bressay and the North Sea.
It's been a good writing week. I had a chat with my agent last week and am now reworking 30K words to create a completely new book. I have to be finished by the end of February, so that's given me incentive to do between 3K and 5K a day, and I have sorted out a new ending. This part is exciting, seeing where the story is going to take me. Our mate Zain is working on a book too, so poor Matt will have to deal with our pretense all weekend as we sip tea with our pinky-fingers sticking out and frown and say things like, "Extraordinary dialogue" and "Magnificent imagery". We're staying in a wee croft house in the middle of nowhere with a peat fire and a kitchen - should be extraordinary, magnificent.

Next Tuesday is Up Helly Aa, the Daddy of all viking fire festivals, and the men are getting hairier by the day. Seriously. Their beards are creepy. Then four more days and we move. I'm so, so excited to have a place of our own (without hairy, shedding roommates who cook ready-made curry for every meal that stink up the apartment and take three 35-minute showers PER DAY) and to have the space to set up (gasp!) a desk to write on and sit on (choke!) a sofa that isn't vinyl (my butt has permanently scarred the sofas in our living room, as it's the only place to sit and write all day). This place is second-to-worst on my scale of Hellacious Living Quarters, the worst being a windowless room in a dark apartment in Lisbon where I shared with a psychotic Portuguese woman who would paw through my things when I wasn't there and thought she was psychic. Obviously she wasn't - I moved out one day without telling her and she freaked out when she got home and I was nearly finished. I digress.
Expecting gales again this weekend, so should be an interesting stay in the croft. They've even cancelled the ferry service until Sunday. (Here, that means no food at the supermarket, no newspapers, no mail either.) For more interesting small-town island news, check out the daily Shetland News.
Happy Burns Night, and go get a beer on Tuesday in honor of Up Helly Aa.

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