Les Semaines

January 30, 2005

what I'm thinking and doing § what I'm listening to § what I'm reading
what I'm writing § retrospective: old journal


Bad Attitude

Do you ever have those times when the world is just irritating and dissatisfying and you hate yourself and the world and everything in it? Monday built up into one of those times for me. Tuesday wasn't much better. For Jim, too.

There's something in the back of my mind that laughs at me when I'm like this. I've thought up some elaborate excuses for why I'm cranky and the truth is there are plenty of reasons, but the truth is also that I'm just crabby. I'm just going through one of those "how weary, flat, stale and unprofitable seem to me all the uses of this world" times.

That said, I had reasons this week. I may have been already sinking there, but Monday I had a bunch of errands to run after work and I was beyond hungry for lunch and so I decided to eat a couple of the ginger altoids that were hanging out in their tin in my shoulder bag. Yum. Well, I bit onto one and heard a loud crack. From my mouth. And it wasn't the altoid. Oh dear. Then that night Jim opens the mail, and there's a letter from our insurance company telling us they'd inspected our house, found our foundation wasn't continuous, and if we didn't do something about it in the next year, they would no longer insure our house. WTF? The only non-continuous thing about our foundation that we could think of is that there's a small crack in it, small enough that our inspectors have said it's not a problem. It hasn't gotten any bigger in the ten years we've lived here, so was it something else or was the insurance company just being a pain in the ass? Were we going to have to spend thousands on some likely unnecessary work or was something else going on? Jim went out with the flashlight and couldn't see any new or alarming things.

4 I wasn't surprised to see that the BBC declared January 24th the worst day of the year. You're telling me.

We tried to think about our alternatives and the unlikelihood of being able to find a new insurance company once one had turned us down, etc., etc. We were fussing all evening, and I worried about my tooth.

The next day Jim called our insurance agent, who told us that a non-continuous foundation meant post-and-beam, which since we have a basement our house clearly isn't so the letter was sent by mistake -- along with about 300 other letters he'd received copies of. So I guess he was having a pretty bad day, too.

Our day got a little better, except when I was eating some coleslaw for another late lunch it suddenly had a chunk of porcelain in it -- no, not porcelain, but a chunk of tooth. The one I'd cracked the day before. Luckily it doesn't hurt at all and I already have a dental appointment scheduled for tomorrow. Actually, by now I'm kind of used to the little hollow where the molar point used to be, and happily, it still doesn't hurt.

The week did get better. I got news that I will be getting a promotion, and not only that, it will be a better one than I thought. It's actually the one I had a first thought I was getting then was told I couldn't get -- but now I can. I'd lost my enthusiasm for it, but I'm happy again. This is my first real promotion since I started in my job 15 years ago, though my responsibilities have grown from one certificate program to two and a doctoral program. It won't be much more money, but that's not the point.

Then our day-long writing retreat, which is a little piece of heaven, and a pleasant evening with Karen and Barry afterwards.

So my bad attitude has definitely improved. Definitely.

last week's thinking and doing § next week's thinking and doing


Listening to some CDs that have been hanging around my desk. Some I decided to get rid of, but some are keepers, like the very strange disc by local group Saba. I wish I knew better how to describe this. Their label website calls it a blend of trip hop, funk, and world sounds. Yeah, and some punk and garage attitude and a little noise.

last week's listening § next week's listening


Shannon Hale's YA novel Enna Burning is a kind of sequel to her The Goose Girl (see my August 17, 2003 entry for comments) and worked much better for me. Here the sense of wonder and the character's problems felt more real and more powerful. This is the story of a young woman (and friend of the goose girl in the previous book) whose brother discovers a hidden manuscript that describes how to possess the power of fire. The power possesses him, and when he dies killing enemies come to attack their homeland, his sister cannot resist reading the manuscript herself. How she learns to control the power is the focus of the story. Parts of the story are a little cardboard (particularly peripheral characters), but I mostly enjoyed this one.

David Almond's, children's novel, The Fire Eaters, is another slim, powerful tale by this master of children's myth. As always, there is just a touch of the magical in the story. Here there's a young boy living in a depressed area of England in the 1960s who is breaking out of the usual pattern for his class and is about to go to a Catholic private (public in the U.K.) school. His changing (and constant) world view is complicated by him discovering that the fire eater he and his mother meet along the shore was a co-combatant of his father's during the second world war, that his best friend is both proud of him and worried that he'll become a snob, that his friend the daughter of coal pickers who was also supposed to go the school is playing truant and looking after her family since her mother had recently died, and the new kid in town bring new ideas along with him. A great story, full of toughness and tenderness. (See my November 21, 1999, September 24, 2000>, February 10, 2002 and November 7, 2004 entries for comments on other books by David Almond.)

last week's reading § next week's reading


This was a busy week (and I was crabby -- did I mention that?) and I didn't have much time for writing during it, but this was the weekend of our Saturday writing retreat. What a wonderful day! We all made good progress. I made strong inroads into the next section of my novel. This is first time I've looked at this since I originally wrote it, and I'm happy that I like what I'm finding there and think it fits with the rest of the novel. Yay!

Sent out a poetry submission tonight and am forming a new poem.

last week's writing § next week's writing

Retrospective: old journal

Wednesday, July 31, 1991

North Connell

Had an early cereal breakfast and took our luggage up to Charlie [our rental car], then another quick walk around Lochranza Castle. Short ferry hop to empty place (Clainaig -- a place, not even a town) on Kintyre Peninsula. Drove a short bit south to Skipness Castle (ruined), which was being repaired, then walked down to adjoining St. Brendan Chapel (ruined). Interesting cemetery, ruined tombstone, 2 interesting wives' comments from the 18th century: one about how great her husband had been, other about her sad life. Photographed a couple. On the road from Skipness back before we reached Clainaig again, in a hole in the road marked "ramp" we saw a grouse settled in for a rest. Then back to to a little store to ask about the best way to Tarbert (only one). Stopped at Tarbert, bought postcards and a tie for Dad, notepaper for Mom. Filled roll for lunch. Visited the info. place.

Drove up, headed west to see a really cute castle [Castle Sween, which I haven't got to twice now], got nearly all the way there (scary, narrow blind road) and asked someone the way, discovered the road didn't go all the way through to it, though the map seemed to show that it did. No time to go around the other way. Drove back to the main road [backing much of the way because there was no room to turn around] and hung out on the beach at Benfield Bay to recover our aplomb. Pretty stones (mica?).

Then drove up to Dunadd -- capital of the ancient Scottish 500-800 AD kingdom. Beautiful place. We thought we'd passed it then I saw a beautiful hill --- thought it would be a great place for a fort, turned a corner, and there was the sign. Climbed up -- lovely. Surrounded by what looks almost like a flood plain of moor. The Stone of Destiny there with Ogham writing, footprint, bowl, engraved boar. Bits of wall left, grass, got a bit of blown wool. Lovely view all round. [Unfortunately, none of the photographs from Dunadd will look like much, particularly scanned and shrunk, so I'm not including any. Damn, it was beautiful. Trust me.]

Drove then to Dunchraigaig cairn, rocky, small opening, didn't stay long. Drove up to Kilmartin, had tea, soup, scone, then went to Kilmartin Church. Inside 3 6th century Celtic crosses (one small). Outside in shelter more Poltalloch gravestones lined up. Fun one in the church wall with the crossbones and skull and Latin.

Poltalloch stonesPoltalloch stones.


Had got directions from a man at the lunch place (dark, wonderful old pub). Went to the linear cemetery -- a line of cairns down the valley. First went to Mid Cairn, Bronze Age, then to North Cairn -- Megalithic -- could go in and pull a lid over, then South Cairn, could crawl in. Great heaps of stones. Axes etched in rock.

Then went to Temple Wood, site of two stone circles in almost a park, smaller northern one recently found and stones brought to surface. Newer one lovely marked stone with swirls, one with circle.

Temple WoodTemple Wood with cyst grave. Photograph by Christina.


Then to Ri Cruin, ruined the reconstructed cairn -- axe markings on stone. Another beautiful, treed setting.

Saw another stone we couldn't get to in a field.

Drove on, stopped at a stone standing in a field. Christina noticed a ring up on a hill -- never been excavated. Then when we went up to the stone there was a circle next to it, too.

Drove on, tired and cranky winding road to Oban, which was packed with tourists. Found a B&B outside town, drove and here we are. Burned out, alive.

Dunadd is what I think about tonight -- that and the feel of the lanolin and work on James' hand when I shook it [meaning the day before].

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