Friday, July 27, 2007

alas, poor shawl mk II

Not so poor, that shawl. I may have saved it, actually, but I'll finish it first before breaking out the champagne. It looks so vulnerable, sprawled across those beautiful thistles, though. One tug and it would be, if not exactly curtains, then shreddies, perhaps. The holes, though. Ohhhhh, damn them, every one. I'll try to tweak and mend when I block it, but if it doesn't work, the gnashing of teeth and rending of garments will be hideous to behold.

On the ongoing sweater for the youngest daughter epic, I also may have saved that too. I'm about to do a deeply scary thing and unravel ( be still, my beating heart) both orang-utang sleeves from the cast off edge backwards. this is to avoid hemming them both with a large and bulky seam and inadvertently giving my elfin youngest knitted shoulders like a Teamster on steroids. But then, I can sew the sleeves on and Have Done With It. God. Enough already. It does make me wonder if I'll ever be able to watch my youngest daughter wear the sweater without breaking out in hives. Me, not her.

My Dragons got the go-ahead this morning from Bloomsbury UK, US, and Germany, so whenever I'm back in the studio for a longish period, I'll be able to begin on the artwork. How good is that? From first draft to start date in six weeks? Perfect. The book will be beautiful, especially since it hasn't been distorted out of all recognition and turned into an ongoing compromise arrived at by an editorial commitee.

Talking of which, I've just sent off the final edit and rewrite of my beloved but much revised Witch Baby text. Despite the rigours and multiple changes that the text has undergone, I continue to love it to bits. I've been rewriting it since last summer, and at various points along its life, I've wanted to
cry me a river, followed by a loch, followed by an ocean
beat my head against a brick wall
give up being a writer and get a proper job stacking shelves
have a heart-to-heart with my editors in which an axe is notably present
hurl myself under a train

Never have I ever had such a struggle to produce a book. Looking back to the Darker Days, I'm amazed I kept going. There have been a few occasions when I wanted to repay the advance and give up entertaining any ambitions regarding being a writer. Tough? Rawhaaaaaade, baby. Put me in such a bad mood, too. Every edit seemed like another impossible summit for which I was ill-equipped and rapidly running out of oxygen. But hey. That was then, and this is now, but I swear if the next book is even a tenth as hard, I'll have to call it quits. Too damaging to my tenuous grip of the creative process. It's like being constantly reminded of how far you have to fall when you're attempting a high-wire act.

I am feeling good today, and not just because of the close-to-completion feelings engendered by the above, but also because today was the first day for six weeks that I felt able to haul myself along to the gym. Six weeks is an awful long time and an awful lot of lost fitness. Some of my usual routine was entirely beyond me in my new role as Debi the Milquetoast (as opposed to Debi of the Steel Buns). Didn't have to do a whole lot to elevate my heartrate up to its max either. And still, no running. Today, I just walked very fast on an increasingly raked footplate. Today's cruising altitude was a pathetic 10% incline, but it felt brilliant to be actually doing something again.

My vague plans for running and hill-walking this summer are on hold, though. Tomorrow we trek up to Wester Ross for one week of what had been supposed to be mountain-heaven. Some weeks ago, we'd talked about climbing the Ben Dheraig range, but one little trek in hill-walking boots along a beach in Aberdeen last weekend put paid to that. Sadly, I'm not out of the woods yet, and may not be for some time to come. The idea of getting halfway up something big and pointy and then having my foot pack in and then having to call out mountain rescue...heck no. Good sense prevails. I'll walk in to the foot of Ben Dheraig and then sit at the base and make small, keening sounds.

OOOOOh, I would've
If I could've
But my foot
's gone kaput.

That was the Dirge of The Thwarted Hillwalker, brought to you today by our sponsors; Mr Gordon and his fine green bottles.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Friday, July 20, 2007

Night knitmare

Back to the sweater for youngest daughter saga. Finally added the eight tassels round the hem, then tacked on an extra band of tightly knitted twoply, knitted on a train from Edinburgh to London and then back again the same day. This inch wide band finishes the bottom edge of the sweater and hides where the tassels are sewn on. Still with me? All was looking totally gorgeous in a kind of blobby homespun way, and I was feeling hugely victorious with the end in sight.

You can tell that it's going to go pear-shaped, can't you? Deep breaths. Relax those shoulders. Here we go.

Then I tried to sew the sides and sleeves in place. Since the sweater is going to have to take a fair bit of abuse and also because my sewing together with mattress stitch technique is, to say the least, amateurish, and because I was keen to get to the end, I thought I'd sling it under the foot of my gorgeous sewing machine and whizz, wheeee, we'd have the thing finally finished for the weekend. Finished for the weekend. Unless you've knitted an ongoing mondo project, you can have no idea of the heady rush experienced by a knitter at the thought that liberation is only a weekend away...

Oh, heady thought. Oh, deluded knitter. Oh, complete disaster. Couldn't even dance and shriek and use foulest of foul language, because the entire household was fast asleep and would have risen up as one and stuffed the mangled sweater down my neck in order to silence me. Poor things, it can't have been easy having to come to terms with the fact that they're taking second place in their mother's affections behind a sweater.


Back to the sweater for the youngest daughter saga. Will unpick the hideous tangle and teach myself how to mattress-stitch like a pro. Perhaps I'll have it finished before I go to Shetland. I could take photos of it with me, if only to provoke massed hilarity when I show my feeble efforts to the Experts Up Helly A. Or whatever they call themselves. Stitch and Bister? ( So many landmarks on Shetland end in 'Bister'. I think it means 'farm', but what do I know?) Actually, if I take my feeble knits up there, I'll probably be thrown off a headland and into the sea for crimes against knitting. Nothing would be left floating on the water except for a very smart pair of orthotic insoles, but we won't talk about those today.

As for the shawl in kidsilk haze. I'm on the decreasing last third of the project now, and praying that all will become clear when I block it. At the moment it looks like nothing much, in fact it looks pretty hideous, but I can say that, because I'm its mummy. Despite my rank amateurishness, I still wish I'd tried to knit my shawl in something slightly more challenging than the shell and fan pattern. Perhaps I'll be able to find someone up in Shetland who will help me find a pattern, and then act as interpreter for the more arcane of the instructions. Being self-taught means that I have no idea what's going on when the pattern goes off-piste. I need a guide, but I have no friends with knitting expertise, or if I do, they haven't come out and 'fessed up. However, complete strangers come up to me on trains and in restaurants and pluck my pins out of my hands saying, do you mind, but I just couldn't sit and watch you do that any more. This reflects the degree of awkwardy-fumblethumbish non-dexterity I am obviously bringing to my knitting. The only person who has admired my knitting on trains was the ex health minister, Patricia Hewitt who saw me working away on a long train journey from London to Leeds. As she disembarked ( to be devoured entire by thousands of pissed-off nurses) , she said wistfully, I wish I had time to knit like you...

The moral being - be careful what you wish for.

As for the fiddle part of Fiddle and Pins...well. I hang my head in shame. Fiddle is in its case over on the West coast and has not been taken out to play since February. Must do better. Must campaign for a thirty-six hour day. Must, gasp, phew, cut myself some slack.

Monday, July 16, 2007

was that it?

According to the meedja, fifteenth of July was to be our one chance at picnicking for this entire summer. So we seized the day. Picnics being something we do at the drop of a hat, or even a snowflake, or in extreme circumstances when it's blowing a horizontal gale so blustery that it whips spume off the sea and blows it way up onto the machair - oh yes, we've done extreme picnics. So fifteenth of July was the perfect day to launch our newest and gleamiest member of the fleet. New boat is aluminium, which means that it's (relatively) as light as a small block of flats, as opposed to our first little coracle ( Sleeping Boaty) which was as light as Edinburgh Castle. New boat also has a brand new trailer, which made launching it a thing of joy and dry feet rather than an embarassing nightmare of heaving, fumbling and someone ( usually me) having to immerse themselves totally in scummy harbour water and beat off hordes of jellyfish while trying to float boat in right direction. This time, we ran our new boat on its new trailer bumpily along the beach and it floated off in six inches of water. Oh. My. God. 

This is meaningless to anyone who hasn't suffered the launches-from-hell like we did last year. Our launches were so bad we could have sold tickets to them as Fringe events. We are such rank amateurs that we've given up any pretence to nautical dignity. Fumblethumbs-r-us. But no matter how badly we've launched whatever we've launched, no matter how cold and wet I am,  the moment the outboard catches and we pull away from the shore, I feel so delighted I want to jump up and down hissing - yessssss, in a highly annoying fashion. Which, of course, would have the unwanted effect of immediately capsizing whatever I was yessssing about. 

Anyway, we packed an unfeasably huge picnic and tooled out to Best Beach. To our disappointment, it had three families on it already, which was a drag because we've been spoiled all year by having it to ourselves and thus have deluded ourselves into feeling like it's our very own little chunk of paradise. In fact, it was high time we were reminded that such territoriality is selfish and beaches are for sharing. However, if any of those fair-weather tourists touch our woodpile, they're dead. 

So, not to Best Beach this time. The three families were obviously staying all day, judging by the presence of smoke ( if that's our woodpile they're burning, I'm going to do a one-boat Viking invasion)  and had set up three separate camps on its white sand. A sociable bunch ,obviously. So on we motored. Past Rubbish Beach( where trash washes up and collects, not rotting but piling, due to its high plastic content, past Crispie, past Archipelago Beach, past Seal Knoll and then...we found a huge, wide, sheltering bay and pulled in. There was a long spit of sand pointing out into the middle, a river running peatily into the water, and a satisfyingly lengthy stretch of sand and shingle. Unfortunately, there was also a stiffish, onshore wind. No, it wasn't a breeze. It was of a sufficiently low temperature to make the finding of a windbreak a necessity. It was, for the middle of July, cold.

Later, much later, we went back, past all the beaches we'd passed before, past the basking seals, and finally onto Best Beach where one lone family was packing up to go. They tried to force us not to land, and then not to unpack and get comfy with The Power Of Eyeballs and body language, both of which were switched to 'stun' , but we ignored them. Once they'd gone, taking their grumpy teenagers with them, we went swimming. The top four inches of water were warmer than the gelid depths below, but the one good thing about this horrible summer ( okay, I came out and said it - horrible, horrible, horrible summer) is that the jellyfish numbers are down. Or late. Or something. I'm trying very hard not to think that by the time the children go back to school in August, we'll be sitting staring out the rain-smeared windows, muttering 'was that it?' to the weather. Where is summer? Are we just going to move seamlessly into autumn? How can you tell the seasons apart any more? Don't go there...

Today it's so cold. It rained all night and the chestnut tree whipped and fluttered outside the window. Today's view is wet and grey. To make matters worse, I'm chewing through edit 10.7.4 on Witch Baby and wanting to kill myself with every editorial comment pencilled in the margins. If I see 'make this more funny' one more time, I swear I'm off to London on the next train with an axe in my hand. How we laffed.

 So we'll take the bikes up on the forestry track high above Best Beach and I'll try not to fall off and into a ditch like I did two days ago. Huge purple bruises 'r us. Still haven't been able to run, although I dream about running, probably by way of recompense.

Smallest daughter's jumper is now ready to be sewn together and - gasp - worn. I can't quite believe I've nearly finished it. It's not too dissimiliar to the feeling I get at the end of finishing a novel. Except, and this is a big except, there's no bloody editor going to come in and pick holes in my work. 

Unless you count moths as editors...

Thursday, July 12, 2007

I think I can, I think I can, I think I'm going to get off and push

Well. That was hideous. Who'd've thought going for some milk could be
so strenuous? Spent the whole day inside working my socks off on the
Witch Baby rewrite version 10.3.7 ( or something close - I've lost
count) and as is the case with writing as opposed to illustrating, I
had to work in complete silence. After wanting to off our innocent
next-door neighbour for strimming his hedges one summer when I was
trying to write something or other and couldn't concentrate with the
eeeeee nyeeeee noises coming through the hedge, I cracked and went
out and got hold of a pair of noise-reduction headphones. They're
great, I can't hear the phone, the children, neighbours, nuclear
attacks etc but I feel like a dork wearing them even if they do beat
the heck out of facing a manslaughter charge for wantonly
slaughtering one's neighbours. They hiss, though. The headphones, not the neighbours. I sit writing and look like an alien with my blinking
red light and big black puffs on either side of my head. They help me
concentrate, but for some reason, working in silence makes it really
feel like Work.

So, yeah, picked my way through the twin-headed edit ( on this Witch
Baby book I have not only one editor, but two. Oh lucky, lucky me) up
to chapter six and realised a whole day had gone. This is just to
match the whole year that has already passed on this book, but hey -
who's counting? Five o'clock and cabin fever setting in nicely. I
offered to go get the milk. Put my weird shoe things in place and
headed off down to the village for the low-fat juice of the cow. Down
being the operative word. Bought milk, avoided being squished on the
road, and wibbled back. Took the little back road. About halfway up
it realised that I couldn't squeeze enough breath into my lungs to
fuel the muscles to push the pedals any more. Stopped. Realised that
the midges of Argyll were just waiting for this opportunity to
descend in their ravening millions. Got back on. Pedalled till lungs
gave out. Stopped. Ditto midges. Got back on. Pedalled till etcetera.
Following this rather embarassingly wussy non-athletic rhythm all the
way back. Gave up completely on the drive up to the house and got off
and pushed. How the hell do the Tour de France cyclists do what they
do? Whatever they're on, I want some.

Apparently I was the same colour as the panful of redcurrant jelly I
made later.
Not an entirely wasted day, then.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

She runs not

Still going hobble, hobble. No running for this girl, at least not yet. Today posted off all the roughs for the inside of 'The trouble with dragons'. Now the nailbiting will commence. Strongly tempted to travel down with the roughs to Bloomsbury and stand, fretting, interrupting and apologizing as Sarah unpacks them. Then pace the room like an expectant Dad as she looks carefully at each one.
I'd hate that.
She'd hate that.

I have to let my sketches find their own way, let Sarah enjoy the images on her own, without me hovering over her shoulder, emitting a palpable cloud of worry. After all, I can't stand over every person who buys the finished book, can I? Thank heavens for gin is all, she said darkly.

On the shawl front, I snuck into the wool bit of Lewis's and averted my eyes from all temptations other than one new ball of kidsilk haze required to complete the thing.

Actually, that's a complete lie. I bought another knitting book, which is every bit as bad as buying yet more yarn to feed the moths. I have amassed a large collection of knitting books, most of which are the equivalent of craft-porn. I sit and salivate over the pictures, but in my heart of hearts, I just know I'll never have the courage to do anything that requires me to cast on 367 stitches.

The sweater for the smallest girl is another project still on the pins. Well not on the pins, but requiring sewn together complete with a complicated border and what can only be described as 'tufts'. This is an ongoing saga, started almost eight months ago, and has been something of a labour of love. It began when smallest daughter could no longer squeeze into her favourite, commercially-knitted sweater. When we finally had to admit defeat and consign the thing to the pile of clothes that I can't bring myself to throw out or recycle yet, smallest daughter asked if I would knit her a copy.

At that stage, the correect thing to do was say 'No, but let's find an easy pattern that can be knitted by a three-celled amoeba with non-opposable thumbs,'
Alas, I did not do the correct thing. When have I ever done the correct thing? Please, don't answer that. To cut a long story short, I went out and tried to buy enough dk yarn to make a passable copy of the favourite thing. Let's just pause here and do some simple maths. The original, outgrown thing was bought secondhand in 1996 at an NCT sale for all of 30p. When I went out to buy yarn to duplicate it, I spent over 50 pounds. Sure, we're eleven years on from the original purchase, but even house prices in London haven't escalated in such insane proportions. That's a hundred and sixty six times more expensive than the original. That kind of mark-up is not only eye-watering, but has committed me to making a work of art out of the sweater, and smallest daughter will be unwittingly burdened with a weight of expectation regarding how well she treats said sweater which is, to say the least, a bit unrealistic. In short, the first time she snags it on a thorn, I'll have to kill myself.

No pressure there, then.

Anyway, with a bit of determination, I might be able to bring the creation of this blobby knit to a close before smallest girl becomes medium-sized girl and is unable to fit into her Mama's lovingly crafted thing. There are bits of it I love, and bits I am deeply ashamed of. It's like a diary of the past year, I can remember where I was when I knitted certain panels. As luck would have it, I'll probably finish it in time for our horribly delayed summer to finally arrive, and it will stay hot till November, by which time, smallest daughter will have put on a growth spurt and acquired Attitude.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

flat sunday

Waved weekend guests off before lunch - smallest guest rejoicing that he didn't have to eat another meal under our roof. Tried not to feel too insulted - all my attempts to persuade this small person to eat real food are met with determined refusals. Poor sprog would rather dine from tins than allow any stray atoms of home-made food to cross his lips. Not a crumb of my ciabatta, nor a morsel of pie, not a meringue or raspberry, not a single thing was eaten that didn't come out of a packet. Except a handful of strawberries - rare and precious things in this wet summer season. 

We hauled everyone off to flat beach yesterday - flat beach being easier to negotiate for the two hobbling ex-gym-bunnies amongst us. I'm one of the limping ones, but friend has gout of all hideous things, poor lamb, so we decided that any of our usual off-piste, major rock climbing, mud slithering, tick-infested walks were probably off-menu. So off we went in tandem to flat beach. Two minutes out of the cars, small person who-will-only-eat-crap fell full-length into cow pat with mud puddle involvement. Much wailing, understandably, ( adults as well) and back to the cars to mop, wipe, change, comfort, read riot act and then begin again.


Beach was indeed flat. Every time I find something flattish and big, I automatically assess it for running-on potential. Then the realization kicks in that for me, running is still a long way off. Usually this thought is followed by a desire for fags and alcohol, only one of which I will countenance. Amidst the popping of champagne corks and frothing into cups, smallest daughter's ball flew into the sea and, horror, off-shore winds instantly carried it way out of her reach. I was on my feet and hobbling pitifully to the water's edge before I worked out that I was too slow to be able to reach the ball. It bobbed off-shore, in deep, freezing water. Flat beach is tantalizingly easy to swim from due to slowly shelving sands, but it's always too cold to swim in, even in the height of summer. Couldn't do it, much as I love smallest daughter. Ball bobbed away. Daughter wept. Bloody, bloody hell.

Good and long-suffering partner hauled off on retrieval mission with small daughter in one hand and just-poured champagne in other. The ball now halfway to Ayr, but no matter. The rest of us watched, drank champagne, and the small finicky-eater guest ate major quantities of chocolate and grew steadily more sticky. 

Half an hour later, two far-off dots on the distant shore materialized into daughter and her Dad, triumphant. Ball safe in arms of daughter. Drama over. 

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Need shawl, make shawl, wear shawl

July and it's cold and rainy. The shawl is still on the pins and in desperate need of some concentrated effort on my part if I'm going to be able to wear it when I go to Shetland in September. Actually, wearing one's scabby hand-knit when one arrives in knitting Nirvana is a bit like pitching up at the pearly gates with a pair of off-the-shelf Icarus-type wings. Or, in my case, turning up at Hades with my own bar-b-queue sauce.

Whatever. Suffice to say, the shawl needs another ball of super gossamer kidsilk haze to be woven into its length before I can cast off and wear it. Correction. before I can cast off, soak it in some delicately scented floral water and pin it out on a flat surface in order to turn a pile of tangleweed into the lace pattern that I take on trust is hidden in the weft. Knitting a lace shawl requires a leap of faith. When finished it will only weigh 75 grammes, will pass through a wedding ring and is the exact colour of the sea off the West coast of Scotland on a sunny day.

At least, I think it's the exact colour. I am working from memory here. This year's colours are grey, grey and grise.

It's such a cold day that I resort to deep domesticity to stay warm. After breakfast I lurk in the kitchen's warmth, ostensibly to make a tiny quantity of strawberry jam which, due to eagle-eyed testing for a set is still the exact colour of a maidenly blush, instead of that awful denatured reddy-brown of boiled-to-death dammit-it-WILL-set industrial conserve. One pot is labelled 'strawberry' and the other 'fraise' which sounds as if more care has been expended on it. I wonder which will taste better? One is for right now to cheer our bedraggled rained-on souls. With scones. Or slathered in between the layers of a Victoria sponge. The other is for the dead of winter when strawberries are a memory - this year, a memory of a wet and rather disappointing summer. Upstairs, my workroom is chilly and the view of the Kyle is grey. Still it rains. I try to work, then decide that more culinary effort is required. Back down to the kitchen where I raise a batch of bagels followed by a baton of potato and rosemary bread. There's something deeply soothing about being able to achieve that pillowy, billowy levitation of flour and yeast while rain lashes the windows.

Back to the work. Second last spread of dragon roughs -there's a lot of decorative twiggery in curlicues around the edges of the main picture, and there's a lot of dreamy pleasure to be had from sitting in an upstairs room, letting my thoughts spiral and twirl like the foliage I'm drawing. The music helps, too. Today, as it has been for the last few weeks of drafting out the book, I'm listening to David Sylvian's rather melancholy and introspective 'Dead Bees on a Cake' followed by 'Secrets From the Beehive'. Given that the dragon book is about climate change,my musical choice seems spookily appropriate since the disappearance of several species of bees is being seen as harbinger of future extinctions.

Must fill the last two spreads with live bees. Just in case there's anything in that sympathetic magic malarkey. If magic won't save us, then I suspect nothing will. As it rains and rains and rains I can't help but imagine a wet world like my dragons end up in.
Then the seas start to rise
And the deserts expand
Till everything's covered
In water or sand.

And yet my treacherous soul craves a foreign sun...even as I mutter darkly as sun-bound holiday planes trail overhead.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Deep drain and tick pick

Fun times. One of those days I'm terribly thankful not to be a. a bloke or b. a plumber. Major house drain blocked with vast root from the chestnut tree on the drive. The tree has an appetite for ordure which is pretty gross, but hey - it's a tree-thing and who am I to question its need for sustenance? Anyway, chestnut had sunk its roots deep into the drain and despite repeated attacks with rope attached to his ( white) van, Donald the Heroic Plumber was unable to shift the mess of tendrils and tolys( tolies)* by so much as an inch. Meanwhile yesterday's missing midges are making their presence felt, so Donald is doing the dance of doom under the offending tree. I'm upstairs peering at yesterday's crop of ticks and realizing I need spectacles to see to remove them - the ticks, not the spectacles.

So satisfying to tweak them off with the useful tweezers on my Swiss army knife. I have seen tourists reduced to blubbering heaps on discovering that they have been bitten by one measly tick. We have guests that turn pale when we recount the ticks removed per annum. Obviously tourists and guests are imagining they're about to fall down frothing at the mouth with incipient Lyme's disease as opposed to itch and scratch for no more than, say, ten days. In these latitudes, we do a slick, quick, chick, tick check every bathtime or morning after we've exposed our succulent flesh to ticks by enjoying a walk through bracken and grasses. Our response to discovering that we're a seething mass of squirming pests and infestations is determinedly casual. It's a bit like the kind of blitz mentality that had people sauntering to their nissen huts with half-drunk cups of tea in hand, rather than dropping everything and fleeing for their lives. We have to keep the whole damn-I've-got-ticks-sucking-my-blood thing low-key and non-hysterical in order not to have the little girls having stereo hissy-fits. When they're older they'll probably be furious with us for exposing them to things that crawl and suck, but right now, the smallest little girl was heard to say - look, mummy, a dear wee spider's running across my legs.

That was no spider.
* A toly is what my children refer to as a 'poo'. I think 'toly' is the more elegant form.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007


We're so s ll l l l o o o o o www w today. The joys of village dial-up. No broadband out here in the boonies, however the compensations are various and many. The weather is far better, the midges are nowhere in evidence ( pinch me, I'm dreaming - Argyll is synonymous with midges, no?) and we had a chilly picnic on the beach with a champagne-fuelled swim in Loch Fyne. Day one of the holidays and we're off to a flying start. Pass the yellow jersey, Lance. However, there was a very, very, very dead seal beached on the machair along from the favoured picnic spot. So dead was it that you just knew that if you'd managed to scoop and scrape it into one of the beach's washed-up fish-crates by virtue of much mouth-breathing, you'd probably throw up when it disintegrated under your shovel.

The sun came and went all day, but when it was out it was enough to make us pretend that it was really summer rather than this wet soggy facsimile we're all enjoying this year. However, there's something so ludicrously optimistic about hurling one's naked self into Scottish lochs that never fails to make me truly aware that I must be On Holiday now.This is the third swim of 07. The first being on New Year's Day.

Had to mention that.

Right. I'm gone. Dial-up is too expensive to allow for impeccable prose and careful composition. There shalt be no staring out of windows for inspiration during these E-pisodes. A quick, pithy scrawl and out. At least, that's the plan.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Hell. Handbasket. World's going to/in

Not the most impressive weekend in terms of humanity's ability to coexist. Friday full of possible nailbombs outside London nightclubs and Saturday brought thwarted Glasgow airport bombings and madmen in flames chanting fanantical beliefs. I was talking to children in Borders Books as the loaded Jeep crashed into the concourse. It was the first day of the Scottish school holidays, so the bombers's targets were mainly children. Similiar children to the ones I was telling stories to in a nameless, faceless mall full of mindless shoppers consuming and consuming as if there was no tomorrow.

No-one comes out well in this. We're all sleepwalking. What is going to wake us up to our lives?

Imagine. We're in the queue. We're marvelling at the acid-rain eroded pearls on the golden gates and wondering if a lifetime's nihilism and atheism are going to exclude our entry through and into the Kingdom we never really believed in. Swapping moment-of-death stories with our fellow humans in the queue, we ask - what were you doing when it all went black and the world ended?

I'd be so pissed off if my last moments had been spent in a mall being a mindless consumer.Or standing in a check-in queue, or waiting at a ten-deep bar in some crowded club. Actually, given my age, the last option is somewhat unlikely. I want to go out as I came in. Naked. Innocent of harm. Close to someone I love more than anything. And if it could be in a green place - a wild place, a mountain, a sea, a forest...Close to the earth that sustained us all. Our beautiful home planet.

Back to the queue. Imagine. Some people are going to be soooo smug. The ones, you know them, the ones with wee metal fishes next to the maker's marque on thier rear bumpers. The Alpha course devotees. They've paid their dues. They've done the time and are now in line for Membership Rewards bigtime. The rest of us are stuffed. We're headed for the Big Toaster.

On this happy note, I'm off to slather on the factor 90. Maybe I'll slither off the end of the pitchfork.