Technology, Magic, Freeze-Ups…

The screed that follows below was written so long ago I’m probably not allowed to call it a blog – I’ve only just begun to realise there’s so many kinds of rules applied to anything you write online that the idea of it being somehow “de-regulated” is a bit of a laugh. I could ditch it, I suppose – I’m talking about the screed below – but I wrote it so I don’t see it’s inconveniencing anyone if I post it. Three of four days of good weather make it seem strangely dated, a curio, a small slice of a Vanished World: –

Charlie R finished a smashing picture a couple of weeks ago – you’ll have seen it on Facebook – another in his punctillious photo-real style, inspired by the fascinating scrapyard over our way at Kinnoir, where the rows of scrapped cars vie for space with forest – one of those open, dry-floored, elegant woods of Scots pine. A small controversy (by small, I mean no fisticuffs or even much shouting) brewed up over the title of the work, which I do believe is very telling for the difference between poetry and – well, everything else. Charlie, who can be good at titles – though I’m not sure that my book Timeghost was that well titled (it was his suggestion), at least according to the grim lady who ripped the book to shreds in an Amazon review – Charlie had plumped for the smart and telling “End of the Affair” for his picture. Annie and Rachel had some alternative suggestions but by and large agreed that his was a good title for a picture of a bunch of cars sitting in a forest with their essential bits trailing on the ground like defunct organs long since disembowelled. I, in my tight-arsed (you would probably say) way, preferred something like “Composition” – why? because the picture was a feast, a symphony, of shapes, colours, textures, old human attempts at beauty of form, new formless additions of the forest which nevertheless had their own effortless beauty. To make a story out of this, which the preferred title(s) did, seemed somehow a trivialisation.

Isn’t that interesting, now? (I thought to myself). I’m not saying I’m right about the title, of course: presentation’s never been my strong point. I just thought I’d bring it up because I’m posting another bunch of poems onto my poetry page, and I’m always wondering what the difference is between poetry and – well, everything else – everything else being Stories, I suppose. Like stories, poetry’s made of words, but it’s a weird interplay of sound and image and meaning which means you can’t approach it as you do a story…. I don’t even know if I’m right about the controversy being interesting.

Actually nothing really is, just now – interesting, I mean. This “second winter” (that’s the one in the rhyme: If St Bride’s Day be bright and clear, a second winter will follow that year) has got into our brains. Coldhome has become full of people with repetitive ticks, there are vacant starings-into space, quarrels breaking out over nothing and many other signs of intellectual collapse. That’s probably why I haven’t been keeping up with my blog, other than normal fecklessness. Anna’s very busy just now finishing her university course, otherwise I expect she’d have been nipping my heels. We’ve been helping our neighbours a bit over their lambing time, as there’s no grass outdoors, and the water-pipes are frozen, so x million ewes have to be fed & watered & hayed individually in pens. We get up early (I don’t mean Alistair’s version of early, which is shortly after midnight), and they give us breakfast, and then we come back home and aren’t quite sure what to do with ourselves – must be the effect of having to do a hour of real work.

Our second winter actually seems a bit nondescript compared to Finland’s, from where Keith Cockburn and Pam Johnston and a bunch of others have newly returned after a short tour as musical ambassadors for Huntly. They report the country is still in the grip of deepest winter, the lakes being still hard-frozen enough to drive a car out onto…. Why would you even try, I wonder? Is it a Finnish winter pastime, seeing if the lakes are hard enough to…. Well, what’s a really bad winter? A fully-loaded articulated truck’s-worth, maybe? I imagine a watery Finnish version of the Kinnoir scrapyard ….

When not moping or wondering what to do with myself or trying to pacify warring factions amongst the young or trying not to be quarrelsome, I’ve been working on “The Old Boys and the Death Men”, which I explained about last time, the attempt to patch up the missing ten pages having turned into a major makeover for the entire story. I’m just about done now, and after a final proofreading will stick it in the stories page here, as no-one down in London ever seemed to want to publish it. I’ve been working with new gadgetry for this job, namely my cute little digital dictaphone (present from Rachel Anna and Ben last year) in conjunction with my cute little Dragon. My Dragon claims to be able to convert me talking on the dictaphone into written words. The claim is not entirely untrue – though the written words he converts into are not necessarily the words I’d have written.

A fat and incomprehensible manual came as part of the purchase package (ie I bought my Dragon, he didn’t just “come to me” or any such fictive nonsense), and in this manual the claim is made that my little Dragon can “learn”, and will get better, as long as I go on speaking naturally and don’t treat him like an idiot (which I did at one stage, I admit, because he clearly just could not make out a single word I said). I don’t believe he’ll ever get the Scottish accent, though – the ae sound is always rendered ee, so for example “ape” would be “eat” (or even “ET”, he’s very hot on film titles, my little Dragon, in fact I’m certain that’s where his core vocabulary comes from). Some of his howlers obviously, whatever the fat manual asserts, result from his thinking too much (and clearly being endowed with a rather feverish imagination): like the words “dull decay” in a poem, which he rendered as: “gold bikini”. Again, in one of the (not yet posted) audio stories (which I can report are now building up, slowly one by one, though Ben still growls something about the sound being a bit “wet and squelchy”), the linked sentences occur: ‘- Turdy nerdy Merdy!’ (A turd is a rude word for a poop). My Dragon renders this: “Carolyn demerge the third is a rude name for a pope.” This makes me wonder if in fact the little chap has some hidden religio-political agenda – but certainly don’t tell me he’s not doing a whole heap of independent thinking. Anyway, even with the tedious, but highly necessary, correcting involved we can still get the job done in about half the time it would take me to type the text and then correct it, so I go along with his foibles and say hurrah for technology. I mean magic of course – dragons are magic, like forests and frozen lakes….

Finally, a little mention of my illustrious young relatives, granddaughter Goody and niece Mary, who both made it onto television in the same week – only a mention, in Mary’s case, but a full fifteen microseconds of televisual attention in Goody’s. Goody had made a knitted doll which won a prize at last year’s Keith Show (yes, it takes a while for news to filter through, sometimes); while Mary had a baby – yes, Lord! This sort of event doesn’t normally make the News, but in her case she was whisked by helicopter over the fifteen-foot snowdrifts of Galloway and off northwards so that Hilda could have the privilege of being a Kilmarnock baby (I believe “Brunhilde” was contemplated, her being an ice-maiden and all, but was sensibly shortened). As the Ingrams remarked, Mary’s sense of timing was near-on as good as their ewes’ – but when a girl’s gotta go……

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