Sunday, September 21, 2008

Once the grammar has been learned, writing is simply taking on paper and in time learning what not to say. - Beryl Bainbridge

I've always loved September, not least because it's my birthday month. The scent of new school supplies and the stacks of textbooks in bookshops give me a weird, inexplicable buzz. I've begun tutoring a couple of local girls who need help with their English Highers exam (sort of the Scottish A-level) and it's been great teaching literature again after years of working with ESL students. One of the girls is reading The Alchemist, which I hadn't read in years and have loved rediscovering. That book gets such an undeserved bad rap from the intellectual set. It's a simple fable, but a lovely story and a wonderful book to explore with an 18-year-old about to embark on the rest of her life. I recently took a collection of Coelho's nonfiction writings, Like the Flowing River , from the library and devoured it - it's a fantastic read that resonates with the Polyanna mentality that I am inclined to channel. It touches on his relationship with Brazil, gratitude, challenges, politics, spirituality, bravery, personal legends - it's a beautiful way to spend a few lazy hours.

Inverness has been settling into the early autumn. The sand at Falcon Square has disappeared (hurrah!) and the Halloween tat has engulfed the store windows. Christmas card sellers began sitting at a table on the high street a week ago. And the weird and wonderful Highland festivals have begun. My favorite I happened upon a few Sundays ago, when a loud parade of vehicles towing people in fancy dress seated in boats drove through the streets of the city center (to the chagrin and grumbles of my neighbors). An hour or so later, the boats and inebriated sailors floated past the Greig Street Bridge, which I can see from our front windows. By the time I found the camera, I missed the more elaborate designs and had to settle for these guys, who were scream-singing a Glasgow Celtic song to mixed applause from the (not so huge) crowd assembled on the bridge.
The Highland Feast festival has apparently taken place throughout September, but other than a fantastic food market the first Saturday of the month (which always happens), I'm yet to realize the significance of this well-marketed festival - basically for lack of the £40+ it takes to attend an event. Other Septemberings include a comedy show, a ceilidh with the young doctors of the Inverness area, a few curry meals, and reacquainting myself with how to properly paint a wall. Exhilirating work. Got in some more driving practice. Please note that though I have been driving for more than half my life, I have to learn 480 pages of a book of weird words and ridiculous laws (there are pelican, penguin, puffin and giraffe crosswalks in Britain) and it's doing my head in. And those damn roundabouts! I think I might take my practical test in Matt's village that has one traffic light and no roundabouts.
The above is a view of the Kessock Bridge and Inverness from a beautiful tree-filled forest walk. I'm a city girl, and when I get broody for a bit of grit and filth and noise I remind myself of places like this that are a short drive away. And, below, a view of the Highlands from the Black Isle.
Book is finished; revising has begun. I'm loving the new story, and I know it's infiltrating my head as I'm always thinking about it while doing other things. Letting go of the book in its past incarnation wasn't difficult. Balancing the elements of story, character, plot, description and the nuances that make books magical is the tough part.

Oh, and got my absentee ballot. Only a week left to get one, Ameritskys!


Erik R. said...

Re-learning to drive in a foreign country is fun. At least you're studying in your native language. Well, sort of...most of the British traffic terms are completely alien to Americans. The most complicated concept in American driving is the four-way stop sign.

I got my absentee ballot, too! I'm voting blue in a red state, too.

Anonymous said...


I'm a big fan of Paulo Coelho! You will love this! He's the first best-selling
author to be distributing for free his works on his blog:

Have a nice day!


sarah said...

Paulo Coelho rocks!.. especially The Alchemist and The Zahir. September just doesn't have the same feeling in Asia as in Europe.. for me it is our wedding anniversary month and time to harvest grapes and make port wine. Oh, good times ;-)