Saturday, May 31, 2008

future perfect

I've seen the future, and it works. It's a hydrogen-fuelled car, where the hydrogen is made with the surplus energy ( after heating and lighting a large office/workshoplaboratory) generated by two wind turbines. So, technically, this futuristic vehicle is powered by wind. A car that runs on fresh air, and has h2o as its by-product after combustion. Oh. My. God. This might save us yet.

On the other hand, possibly due to our pesticide overuse and monoculture as an efficient way to grow vast fields full of profitable crops, our honey bees are dying off in droves, so, people, we might have cars and heat, but no food. Hmmmm.

Yesterday Noelle and I had a day on the island of Unst. We visited an amazing 'alternative' school in Uyeasound, went to Hermaness ( the most northerly point in Britain) and saw puffins galore, amnd then visited the Pure Project, makers of the world's first hydrogen car. Spent a heady two hours talking ( no, Debi, ranting) about peak oil, oil at $200 a barrel, the need for decent governance regarding climate change and how we're going to tackle it, the need for energy rationing and soon - like by the end of this year and other such full-on topics. It was amazing to meet with the co-designer of this immensely complex, yet simple hydrogen car, and not only to be able to understand him, but to actually feel that change is coming.

I so hope I'm not deluding myself. I mean, we've been here before. Remember that historic May morning when it all seemed soooo hopeful? Labour were in after umpty dreadful years of toryblah, and the morning news on BBC1 began with not the usual corporate muzak, but with David Bowie singing ch-ch-changes. All things seemed possible that morning. Change felt like it was just around the corner. And yes, I know the argument about how it's like trying to steer a cruise liner, and how it takes ages to change course, but somehow, I'm pretty sure that we don't have years left. I think if we don't get our climate act together ay ess ay pee, we're heading for extinction and catastrophe on an unimaginable scale.

On a far lighter note, I had a Shetland haircut. It took two hours ( !!!) but it looks pretty sharp. Gone is the Susan Sontag witchy intellectual look, and back is the bobbed fluff-brain. Ahhhhh, so much more mwah. Haven't actually washed it yet, so it will undoubtedly go into frizz hell thereafter, but just now it's sleek and swingy. Vanity is appeased, temporarily.

Monday, May 26, 2008

toot sill

I've been getting my hands dirty with Shetland soil - weeding my
hosts' rose garden and fighting what I hope is a winning battle
against the pernicious creeping buttercup, which has always sounded
to me like a guerilla freedom-fighting cow, rather than a weed. Also
touched the Shetland sky and trucked up Ronas Hill on Saturday in the
good company of a friend from Shetland Arts, and we both remarked
upon the fact that the miles fairly fly by when you have a companion
to blether to. On Sunday I nearly made it to the top of Fitful Head
( the migraineur's summit) but ten feet off the summit, I was
dissuaded from climbing higher by a determined and scary Great Skua
( or Bonxie as they're called here)which divebombed me with
increasing ferocity and proximity until I had to turn back. so back
allll the waaaaay down to sea level and I went for a paddle in the
turquoise and icy waters of Quendale beach. Tucked myself up in a
sand-dune and read the Sunday papers and had a cup of tea - just like
a proper tourist.

Beautiful weather - sunny and chill, but on Saturday, in the odd
sheltered hollows that we found by the side of the many tiny lochs
which turn the landscape into lace, the sun was blissfully warm.
Still, it's more of a weatherbeating than tan that now has turned my
face even more wrinkled than usual. Sigh. None of the perfumes of
sweet Araby nor the diligent application of precious unguents have
made a blind bit of difference to the marks that Time has scribbled
all over my skin. I am rapidly approaching a prune-like state, which
is something that I manage to forget until confronted with the
evidence in the mirror at tooth-brushing time. Whereupon I leap
backwards from my reflection with a squeak of dismay.

Can this really be me?

I must learn not to mind. Most of me doesn't, because I fit myself
far better as the years go past. There's a kind of comfort inside my
own skin, most of the time. Well...except those times when I'm aware
that I've increased in girth, and discover that my clothes don't fit
and that realisation stupidly, still has the capacity to make me feel
grim. But doesn't stop my forays into the secret bar of Green &
Blacks tucked at the back of a kitchen cupboard. I think I need re-
programming. I need a brain-wipe in the chocolate- loving synapses.
Actually - my love of food generally makes it well-nigh impossible to
turn myself into a sylph. I'd hoped that the solitude of living on my
own again up here in Shetland would reduce me to monkish aescetism.
Alas - no. I have been cooking up a storm since I arrived here, with
the sole beneficiary of all this culinary largesse being myself. Last
night it was bouillebaisse ( the quick version) before that it was
coq au vin, the day before it was a puy lentil, red wine and chicken
stew...the problem is, I'm still, in my head, cooking for the family,
so the net result is that I end up eating the same thing three days
on the trot. And that is dull, dull, dull.

I even made bagels for the hillwalking at the weekend, and the first
thing I did on taking possession of this kitchen, was make a batch of
sourdough starter, which I turned into bread five days later. I'm a
hopeless case, I fear. Cooking is simply what I do between the hours
of five and seven each day. I have invited Mary Blance and her man
for tea next weekend, and already I'm planning pudding.

Monday, May 19, 2008

sixty degrees of chill

Phwoarrr - it's cold up North. Like an idiot, I swung into summer mode at the first ray of sunshine, so consequently have packed for Shetland as if I was heading off to Biarritz. Oh, sigh. And I forgot to bring socks, except for my hillwalking ones which are vast hairy thick things for yomping up and down chilly hillies, and also my running socks about which, the less said, the better.

The rest of my island wardrobe is all floaty silk nonsenses or full-on hill kit with fleece and goretex. Nothing, but nothing in between. had to email home to say - please send socks. How sad is that, pray?

However, on balance - who cares? Socks? pffffff. I'm here and it's every bit as gorgeous as I remembered from last autumn and I feel completely at home. It's Monday morning and I'm sitting at a table and roughing out a new Mr Bear, I've got my mp3hifi belting out Faithless and lunch is about to fill the house with the smell of coq au vin because, dammit, my eldest daughter isn't here to disapprove of my odd forays into eating Dead Beast, and I wanted to make a comforting lunch for Noelle and i to ease us into the week.

Last night Noelle and Tommy made some amazing stew with Shetland lamb, which is a lamb like no other. Vegetarians, please turn away now. Sweet, tender and without any of that horrible background taste of lanoliny muttony greasiness. Haven't tasted lamb like it since I was on Crete as an art student. But sadly, I can't walk past the dear little white fluffy things with a clear conscience now. Not until I've done some months without having eaten lamb again...

My portable broadband dongle thing is working, but the connection speed is painfully s lll ooo w. Urrrgh. If anyone sends any photos, I'll be in trouble. consequently it takes forEVER to get onto any websites, and as for posting pictures myself while I'm here.....eeeeeee, fergeddit. shame though, especially once I get out there and get some miles on my boots. Oh, I can't wait.

Right. work to do. Less chat. more pencils on paper. Laters amigos...

Friday, May 16, 2008

the prodigal returns

It's growing dark outside on the sea, but I'm currently on the boat's
wrong side to be able to see the lights vanishing off to portside, so
I'm not sure if we're still tacking up the East coast of Scotland
heading for North by northwelcome, or if we're actually out at sea.

I'm going back to Shetland, bless my great good fortune. Can't wait.
Can hardly believe that I'm being given the chance to come back here.
Or there, since technically, I'm not there yet. And yes, it's still
grey out there, just like it was back last August/September/October.
But hey - I have high hopes that I will see a few sunny Shetland
days. After all, I have to see the fabled 'Simmer Dim' when it hardly
gets dark, when the sun barely shaves the horizon with its lowest
curve before heading straight back up into the blue heaven again.

At least, that's the theory.

Off out in the darkening, there's the silhouette of a huge ship with
all its lights on. Fishing? Freighting? Tall as a skyscraper, a vast
chunk of metal drawing across the surface of a dark blue sea. It's
all so like rewinding a well-loved tape, I'm working on another
hideous edit of another Witch Baby story, but sadly, further back in
the editorial process - this is Witch baby 2 v2.1, so if past history
is anything to go by, I still have many grey hairs to go. I don't
want to waste my time on Shetland on cudgelling a reluctant m.s. into
shape - but I'll have to do some work on it. Like I did last time I
was here. Plus begin roughs for a Mr Bear picture book, think long
and hard about 'Stormy Weather' for Bloomsbury and put together a
proposal for Mary at DK ,and, and.

What do I really want to do? Drink sundowners with Noelle and Tommy.
Run Quendale beach. Go back to the vicious cardio class at the gym in
Lerwick. Go to Makkin' and Yakkin'. Go back to Oyeasound and cross to
the island. Go to Eshaness and take loads of photos. Say hello to
Harry and Mandy, wherever they are. Swim that beach. Have a long walk
with Donald. Play my fiddle better, but not always on my ownsome.
Play with other people. ( never easy for an only child) Draw some big
smudgy b/w things for future paintings. Lose some of the blubber
( mental and physical) Visit Mr Stewart the fiddle maker. Laugh till
I have to leave the room. Only connect.

So, yeah. Should get that all done in the first week.