Sunday, 20 June 2010
Dinsdale the whale - part one
If you're new to this blog, this particular posting won't make sense unless you read the previous one, in which I unwittingly asked for the ingredients for a blog. I should have known better. So the blog which follows is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and events described herein are products of the imagination of the author and some of his more or less deranged friends. All is fictitious. Any resemblance to actual events, locations, organizations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental. Oh, and any material which seems to resemble that of other writers is straightforward plagiarism.
I think I’ve spoken before about research for The Figurehead being practical (wood carving classes, sailing on a square-rigger) as well as bookish. But it doesn’t always work. When I started writing it, a few years back, I still had my boat, Tantilly. She was moored in Findhorn Bay and, as well as sailing her out on the Moray Firth with the Black Isle's mountains as a backdrop, I loved just sitting at the moorings and relaxing. I once thought it might be interesting to take the laptop out and try writing some of the sea-going passages while I was on board. Big mistake.
It was OK at first. The water was flat calm so I could type quickly and easily. ‘The Chester River snakes inexorably toward the bay,’ I wrote, ‘narrows bleeding into broader expanses until the silver-grey fresh water bleeds and twines with the turgid march of the tidal behemoth waiting at the mouth’. (I rather liked the idea of a ‘tidal behemoth’ and made a mental note to give it a story of its own one day.) I thought for a second, looking at the glassy water, then wrote some more.
‘We'd upped anchor early, the sky threatening, sails pulling hard on a downhill run, lifting, twisting in a gut-wrenching swivel to slam hard into the next short swell...’ Bloody hell, this was good stuff. I read the passage again, out loud this time, feeling the words on my tongue. It was a mistake. I heard a sudden bubbling followed by a gasp and the squeaking of rubber against the hull. Bloody Dinsdale again.
Dinsdale is OK. He’s a sort of friend and he’s always trying to pick my brains about his writing. I’m always happy to help other writers when I can, but Dinsdale’s different. You’ve heard of Method actors – well, Dinsdale is a Method poet. If he wants to write an ode to daffodils, he spends a week lying on the grass and, when there’s a breeze, waving his hands a bit. His haiku on a rainbow, which he called ‘a phantasm of colour’, involved him standing under his shower for a day with a torch shining through the droplets. And it took him two months to recover from his preparations for a sonnet on necrophilia.
Anyway, it was Dinsdale – wet-suited and treading water beside the boat.
‘It’s fate,’ he said.
‘You and me. What we’re writing.’
‘I don’t get it,’ I said.
‘Your tidal behemoth,’ he said. ‘That’s me. I’m writing a prose poem about a whale. Want to hear some?’
I didn’t, but I knew I’d have to at some point, so I hauled him on board and he sat in the stern.
‘All is green-blue,’ he said. ‘The water flows past my massive brow, while my powerful tail propels me forward into the plankton bloom.’
I was about to suggest that his tail could hardly propel him backward when he started making weird whale noises.
‘Weeeeeehoooooooofrrrrkkkkkkk...... the joy of being flows through the green-blue world,’ he sang. ‘TkTkTkTkTkTkTkTk frrrrr eeeeeeeeee tKtKtK.....it will always be so.’
‘OK Dins,’ I said. ‘First, you’re sounding more like a dolphin than a whale and…’
But he was gripped by his inspiration.
‘I sometimes catch sight of birds swimming in the thin air as I surface to blow,’ he said, ‘and wonder at their stupidity, living in an element that provides so little flotation’.
Ah, there it was – the word that gave him away every time. Flotation. Ever since his brief affair with a Native American student who’d come to Aberdeen to complete her PhD thesis on Mythic Pleomorphic Asymmetrical Koaniform Anagrams in the works of Enid Blyton, he’d been hooked on some of the substances she used to induce the trances she needed to help her overcome the crushing boredom of academia. According to her, she entered a world of ‘flotation’ and she often took Dinsdale with her. They rose through layers of vanishing consciousness until they reached the ‘portal to universal intelligence’ (her words), indulged in several versions of excess and eventually dropped back down into reality and its attendant bitterness.
(End of part one. Next time – we meet Dinsdale’s student friend, toy with cannibalism, and encounter … phlogiston!)