Friday, 9 February 2007

News and a thought provoking adventure

First, I shall be doing a very regular spot once a month on Speculative Faith a really nice website to do with Christian fantasy writing. I will probably recycle some of these blogs with expansions there. Do come and join in.

Second, I have acquired a Macbook. However I am unable to break myself entirely from my PC, which has such things as a nice voice recognition package, and so retain a foot in both camps. My first impression of the Macbook is that, while I would not go all the way with the wild-eyed Mac evangelists, I do think it's got a lot going for it. In particular, and here would-be writers may want to pay attention, there is an excellent writing package called Scrivener, which really does wonderful things for authors. I think, when I start a new book, I will use this. But at the moment, I suspect it is a capital mistake to shift wordprocessing tools midway through a manuscript with a looming deadline.

Third, today, I had an adventure. It doesn't often happen these days; this is Swansea, not Beirut. Basically, Swansea missed the great British snow yesterday, much to the chagrin of all and sundry. So we all went to work today in the predicted rain, expecting more of the same. However, during the first lesson, snow to fall heavily and to everyone's surprise, began to stick. The result was something not unlike the Titanic striking the iceberg. There was soon a notice that some of the college buses would be taking students home early; this was followed within a quarter of an hour by news that all the buses would be going and very soon after, that the entire college would be closing down at twelve. It wasn't quite panic, but it was a pretty feverish evacuation. By now the snow was about an inch thick, which of course, by American terms, is nothing, but in our part of the world without snow ploughs, snow chains, and precious little in the way of gritting equipment it is enough to make a mess of the roads. Especially when, as it did, it arrives without warning.

Anyway, I decided to head home very quickly afterwards and it was soon pretty obvious that driving conditions were atrocious, and getting worse. It was compounded by the fact that very few people here are used to driving in snow, and either take it too fast or in the wrong gear, and that almost everybody had decided to head back at the same time. I had to make some hard decisions about what route to take to get home as both the main possibilities were over winding hills that I suspected (quite rightly, as it turns out) would be log-jammed with traffic stuck on slush. So I slithered my way with a trusty old Peugeot along the road I normally take home and at the foot of two hundred metre hill that that lies at the back of our house parked the car safely on what was now becoming a rapidly deserted road. I acquired a couple of plastic bags from the nearby supermarket and put them over my socks and then set off over the hill on the snowbound minor road.

The road I took is an odd little one that seems to bear no resemblance to the fact that it is within the Swansea city boundary; along much of its length it is a deep, winding, narrow road shaded by trees, with fields either side and you could be in the very heart of Wales. Now, with the snow bending the branches and utterly devoid of traffic it was a pleasant, and almost exhilarating walk. Yet far away over the snow and under the grey clouds, I could hear continuous sirens as the police tried to deal with the crashes and clogged roads.

One of the things I thought about, as I trudged up through the snow, was how very easily a little flicker on the weather systems had taken a routine Friday and turned it into utter chaos for everyone. Within ninety minutes, a city of a quarter of a million people had totally ground to a halt. Perhaps it is a legitimate task of fantasy, or at least a subgenre of fantasy, to remind us in our comfy, cosy worlds that the only grace of God separates us from utter disaster. It was Will Durant who said that ‘civilisation exists by geological consent, subject to change without notice’. There are a lot of provisos that I would want to put on that statement, but it doesn't hurt us to be reminded once in a while that things are far more fragile than they seem.