Monday, August 20, 2007

Shetland calling

Or not, as the case may be. Suddenly realised that I am rather alarmingly uninformed regarding what and where and with who I am supposed to be working during my upcoming residency in Shetland.

I didn't mention my upcoming residency in Shetland - otherwise known as Knitter's Valhalla? Perhaps I was silent on the subject less those of you who knit immediately email me with unfeasably long shopping lists which begin 'one sheep, preferably black' and end with - 'if you've got any spare room in your car, perhaps you could squeeze in a couple of hanks of undyed, hand-spun, peed on by virgins and extruded by cormorants extra-fine cashmere/llama twist -i'll owe you big. Mwah, mwah.

To that, meh.

So, yeah. Six weeks in Shetland beckon. I am there under my writer for children hat, but as you probably know, under that selfsame hat there also lurks the writer for adults, the illustrator who wants to save the world, the kintter with L-plates and the fiddler who ought to know better, but doesn't.

Quite a hat, my hat. Shetland is the first time since the second of December 1976 that I've actually had more than three days on my own. That's 2.12.1976. And that's a hell of a long time ago. The little boy who was born back then, who is now an adult, rather plaintively ( despite being almost thirty-one) enquired if I wanted any visitors while I was away. To which the resounding reply has to be - I'd rather floss with a circular sander, whilst eating bees and sticking pins in my eyes.

That'll be a 'no', then.

Who am I again? Will I know when I meet myself? I've been a mother for a long time, adding four more children to the original roll-call. Life, as I know it, involves an awful lot of shopping and cooking and listening. I do have approximately eight hours a day on my own to write and illustrate, but at the back of my mind, despite sitting sploshing on watercolours or sucking the end of my pen and looking every inch the lady artist, I'm silently working out what's in the fridge and what I can do with it, and how long I can avoid having to go and buy more damn food, and when I'm supposed to squeeze in time to make bread, cakes, scones, grind my own garam masala, make stawberry vodka for the winter, deal with the gluts of fruit and veg ( not this summer, though) make jam, jelly, creme de cassis, more bread, sourdough starter, pizza. And work. Do my vat return. Think up new books. Promote older ones. Go to the gym at 5.30 a.m.

God, I'm tired. Perhaps I could go to Shetland and sleep, but then I'd miss the whole experience and wake, sometime around the middle of October in time to go back to the above paragraph.

Meanwhile, as the days tick past before I go, I'm waking in the middle of the night with lists of things running through my head. In keeping with my true nature, my first list for Shetland began:

goose fat
smoked paprika
dried chillies
bay leaves

and then I found out that the place where i'm staying doesn't have an oven - it has a nuke. Nukes and me equal disaster. We had one for six weeks a long time ago, during which I managed to set it on fire baking a potato, and the ghastly quality of everything that came out of its pinging door made me a nuke-hater for life. So. Six weeks of a nuke and two electric rings. This, for a woman who puts her food list first among all the millions of other lists she'll have to write, this is cruel and unusual punishment.

On the other hand, it might just be the bit of grit that this oyster needs.

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