Monday 22 February 2010

A walk on the beach

We paddle in the shallows, waves splashing over our ankles.  The water cools the skin and forces blood from the toes so we flatten the ribbons of sand with stamps to squeeze warmth back into our feet.  

The sky ripples with cloud, and wind squeezes under cuff, up trouser leg and down collar.  Our shoulders hunch and hands search into pockets to stave off the cold.

She gossips and smiles, but anxiety billows and ebbs in my stomach even as I grin at her stories.  Somewhere at the base of the dunes, where the grass gives way to sand, lies the source of my tension.  A ring, sized to slip over her finger, sits in a box, which in turn lies in a bag.  It cannot be seen from here but each time she glances up the beach time slows as I wait for awareness to break across her face.  

She asks what we will do next.  I tell her we need to leave and my gut stabs with nerves as the moment of action draws near.
We pad across the expanse, tracking footprints over blankness, to where our shoes and socks sprawl in the sand.  The ring lurks here and spikes my heart with adrenalin.  

We both sit to brush sand from our feet, and I glance left and right, again and again.  We are alone, only a gull wheeling over the rocks will bear witness to this moment.

I rise from the log, turn and drop on one knee to face her.  One hand wrestles the box from the bag, the other flips the lid.  Under light filtered through cloud, the ring gleams.

Write like Hemingway she said, all nouns and verbs, no adjectives or adverbs.  So I did.

Tuesday 16 February 2010

Tech refresh

Kicked by Google's decision to switch off FTP transfer for Blogger created blogs, I've moved this website to the fantastic Movable Type 5.  I've used Movable 3 in the past and been impressed, but 5 is something else entirely.  I'm still not convinced it's legal for such a powerful piece of software to be free (for me anyway).

Installation was straightforward.  Migration was not.  There's plenty of sites out there that will tell how to format a Blogger export so that Movable Type will read it, but try as I might I couldn't get MT to parse it correctly.  Even more frustratingly it would tell me had been successful, but no entries would appear.

The solution was a little arcane, so I thought I'd post it to help others in the same boat as me.  

In short, it seems MT is very picky about line endings.  I'd been saving the import file on my Vista laptop, which of course then puts a Windows standard line ending on it, which in turn caused MT to throw a wobbly on upload.  All I actually needed to do was download Notepad ++, change the line endings to Unix format and the encoding to UTF-8 and everything worked.

Tuesday 2 February 2010

As quiet as a shiver

For the first exercise in my creative writing class we were asked to write something "inspired by" the similies we had generated in class.

He was glad to finally be alone.  Four hours of walking had carried him up and away from the bustle of the cars and villages; the nagging intrusions of billboards and shopfronts had given way to a calming view of forest, lake and rock.

His walking poles clacked a rhythmic accompaniment to his strides over scree and boulder at the base of a limestone cliff.  He'd been contouring below this vertical rockface for ten minutes, searching without success for a break or ramp to allow him access to the higher reaches of the mountain.

A hundred metres away a bare patch of turf abutting the rockface hinted at a path that ended at the cliff itself, but as he reached the small plateau of dusty earth it became clearer the path continued into a huge crack cleaving the cliff.  Jagged fists of stone faced each other across a vertical cleft no wider than his rucksack.  

At the top of the cliff the rock on each side of the fissure looked sharp and fresh as if split just today by some ferocious force, but at the base each gnarl and crag was smooth, rounded and covered with the grease of a thousand passing hands.  

He eased through sideways, pack held awkwardly ahead of him but still bouncing off the rock as he shuffled through.  After twenty feet the split widened somewhere above his head, collecting and filtering more sunlight down to him.  A few more feet and he was able to stop shuffling, turn square to his movement and stride forward easily again.  And then the previously impassable cliff was breached and he found himself on a ledge above a crater, ringed by vertical walls flawless save for the crack he had just passed through.

Above him the sky was a cool blue and bright sunlight bleached a crescent of limestone on half the walls of the crater, but where he stood the sun couldn't reach.  It was cold here, quiet too, and he shivered involuntarily.