Archive | August, 2014

Having an Unusual Day

17 Aug

Hmm, it seems to have been an age since I last posted. That’ll be because it was. There have been two weeks of working non-stop followed by two weeks at the writing den with my children. I’ve had no chance to add my own posts nor to catch up with those of my favourite bloggers. I’ve added to this by incurring a slight impediment to writing or pretty much anything else that involves being alive. Yes, that’s it in the photo below…

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Here we see the author’s hand, working on a blog entry with paracetamol in the background…

The writing den excursion proved eventful. In amongst the usual things – swimming in the Atlantic Ocean, working on my novel, eating well, building dens and so on – there were some more unusual events. I returned from a shopping trip for a humane mousetrap (a mission about as likely to succeed in rural France as the Charge of the Light Brigade) to find a blade of grass that looked like a viper in the house. I looked again. No, scratch that – it was a viper. And as I stared at it, the creature vanished under the staircase. The sapeurs-pompiers – AKA the fire brigade – were duly dispatched but no sign of the serpent could be found. Stopping off on the way home in England, I fell down a slope onto a road and broke my right hand and several ribs. It’s interesting to note how non-functional this renders you when you happen to be right handed. The simplest of tasks suddenly become impossible. Try brushing your teeth or shaving – if that’s something that you do – with the wrong hand.

‘Have an unusual day’ Vivian Stanshall used to say. And I’ve had several of those recently. Here’s wishing my readers an unusual day, but in a better way than mine… Below, for those who might be interested, is a passage from my work-in-progress with which I struggled at the writing den. Note the irony of that sentence in the final paragraph – perhaps I’m developing powers of prognostication.

I have stated that no civil war was ever fought on our soil.  The Vanishing or Great Shaming, call it what you will, brought us as close as we ever came to such a thing.  It was Lev Vikkturavnas who insisted that we must arm ourselves, providing an illustration of the foresight with which he and others organised the faavinikk (yes, I know that’s a loaded term, but I still maintain we had no choice).  Lokomotiv was readied for departure in the vast complex of marshalling yards and engine sheds that lay to the south of Tarrinstøy’s central station (see Electric Locomotive No. 15).  Although armed guards were stationed around the site in an attempt to keep out stowaways and interlopers, it became all but impossible to police.  Pretty soon, our activities were an open secret.  And as I’ve noted, places were strictly limited.  There were those who couldn’t accept the means by which the places had been allocated or that they wouldn’t be aboard.  By the time that the train was ready for embarkation, then, we faced considerable opposition. 

Long before we crossed that wooden bridge across the River Luut, we ran into resistance. As the train negotiated the southern loop, passing through the shadow cast by the prefabricated apartment blocks in the working class district of Nooriizenka, it came under attack.  Beyond those ashen towers, the line crosses an expanse of open wasteland, littered with the shells of workshops and warehouses.  Here a number of burning vehicles had been placed across the track.  With a terrible screeching of brakes, the train ground to a halt.  Fifty or so citizens jumped down and ran toward the obstruction.  And while they deliberated over how the vehicles might be moved, a great army of the desperate and disaffected emerged from the derelict buildings.  They came rushing toward the train, shouting obscenities or wailing incoherently, hatred or hopelessness, perhaps, written across their faces, wielding iron bars, sledge hammers, pick axes and any other makeshift weapons that came to hand.  Numbering in the hundreds, they were clearly intent upon overwhelming us.  Bricks and petrol bombs rained down upon the train.  Gunfire was exchanged.  And then, amid the chaos, a whistle sounded.  At this signal, our citizens retreated, scrambling back onboard, doors locked hastily behind them.  The engines were switched on again and nineteen electric motors let out their electromagnetic howl.  The train lurched forward and with agonising lethargy, it began picking up momentum.  There were still scores of attackers clinging to the exterior, smashing at the windows and doors with whatever implements they happened to be holding.  As the train approached the blazing cars and vans, it can’t have been travelling at much more than 20 kph.  All nineteen horns were bellowing as Locomotive No. 1 ploughed into the first of the vehicles, sending a shockwave from one end of the train to the other.  Those obstacles were knocked aside, smashed like so much tinder wood, our assailants cast off like flies.  The very weight that had seemed such an impediment to our progress moments before had prevented the train from derailing, carrying it through.  It was thundering toward the border and nothing now could stop it. 

And so that had been our send-off.  ‘Gaajuvelik’ our fellow countrymen seemed to be saying, ‘vukkju’.  Well, then, so be it.  We made our first stop at a disused maltings, somewhere deep within rural Løtteskîá.  There were several dozen broken windows needing repair and some dented panels to be beaten out, otherwise the damage proved to be superficial.  The same was true of the citizenry.  Numerous cuts and bruises required attention.  A few broken limbs were set in plaster.  There had been no fatalities, though.  The cowcatcher of the Peetruuskatedraal had also been badly bent out of shape.  We left it that way as a reminder.  

All text and images © PSR 2014