Friday, January 04, 2008

Stormy Weather

from Jacqueline

I know this might not go down well, considering that here in California we are being hammered with 80-100 mph winds and cold blades of rain are hammering down upon us (and snow, snow, snow in some places) – but I rather like weather. Where I come from we have weather, not climate, so I have come to appreciate weather, though this sort of rain for days and months on end can be anything from tiresome to downright scary. I like weather because, for me, it’s a perfect backdrop to storytelling, if there is such a thing. I can really hunker down to my story without having to shut out that distracting sunshine. Of course, I might like it if I were a Carl Hiaasen, or someone who writes about crime in clement climates. But I’m more of a storms on the moors and smog in London kind of writer. When the weather really gets bad, as a writer, I think you have to use it to your advantage (I don’t mean to be light, I realize that you might be running in and out of the house trying to save yourself from flooding). If the weather doesn’t fit into whatever you’re currently writing, write something different, just for today – never know, might turn out to be the start of a wonderful new novel, or a short story. Some of the best writing ever has been inspired, in some way or another, by weather – from Call of the Wild to The Grapes of Wrath and beyond.

For me, this connection between bad weather and good stories goes back to childhood. As you’ve heard me describe before, we lived in a rural area and often my mother, who worked on a farm nearby, couldn’t go to work because of the weather, so we would stay at home, and if that staying at home was during the school breaks, it was just pure joy for me. In the afternoons my mother would make a fire in the living room and we’d sit around, my brother, Mum and me, and tell stories, and inevitably my brother and I clamored for her to, “Tell us a story about when you were evacuated in the war.” Of course, it sounded like great fun to us – being sent away from home with thousands of other kids to escape the German bombs. There were times, though, that it made me weep. I remember one year in particular, Britain was hit with terrible snow storms and according to news on the radio, our area was “cut off” with roads closed and no way to move in or out. Mum told stories for several days on end, and I wanted that snow to just go on and on and on.

I think it was last year that Our Patty splashed out on some really lovely professional photographs which we all, quite naturally, oohed and ahhed about. Didn’t she look lovely? At the time I thought, “Hmmm, not a bad idea.” But of course, I didn’t do anything about it. Then, around Thanksgiving, we were in Fairfax, close to our home in northern California, when we passed a photography studio that had been there for years, but that I had never really noticed. The reason I noticed it on this occasion was the medley of animal photos in the window – owners with their dogs, dogs with the kids, dogs on their own, cats and their servants, that sort of thing. I mentioned to my husband that I would love to have some “professional” photos of our senior citizen dog, Sally. Usually, to get a decent shot of Sal, we have to creep up on her, then as you’re about to click she moves and that’s it – you get part of a dog and not the whole thing. Sal, incidentally, was my dog first. We chose each other at the pound where I had gone to “just look at the dogs” on Valentine’s Day some twelve years ago. Then, several years later I met John and he fell in love with Sally and I just happened to come with the package. Anyway, John made the point that if we were going to have some photos taken of Sally, we’d better not waste any time. With a fourteen-year-old dog, you have to face it that most of the time is behind you. So on Wednesday Sally and I went along to the photographers for our session. It was a laugh a minute, because Sally is now as deaf as a post and her sight isn’t what it was, so all the calling from John, standing behind the photographer, and the photographer waving a feather duster in the air to attract Sally’s attention, was having no effect whatsoever. But here are two of my favorites out of what seemed like hundreds of shots.

Onto more important things. There are times when I find the whole US election process completely mystifying. Yes, I know, many of you do, too – especially that bit about the Supreme Court choosing a president. I still can’t get my head around that one. I guess one of the root causes of what always seems to me to be very confusing, is that we are a nation of states and not a state of nations, unlike, say, the United Kingdom. When I first saw the way voting was carried out here, I couldn’t believe it – pages and pages of this and that, voting for propositions and mayors and all manner of votable things, and somewhere at the top of the page was the option to vote for President. I considered this issue far too important to get bogged down in other matters, that there should be a card (screen, paper, whatever) with just the names of the candidates and you put your x where you want to put it, fiddle with your chad or touch the screen at the one name you are backing. Then it’s done. All the rest can be done tomorrow, next week or next month. Or even at the same time, but not on the same page as the vote for the person who will lead the United States for the next four years. Perhaps I have too simplistic a way of looking at things, but this system is proof that something, somewhere needs a big fix. The truth is that, despite my opinions, as a “Permanent Resident,” I can’t vote in this country until I become a citizen. I'm hoping that will happen by November.

Well, the lights are flickering and we’re sure to get another power outage soon, so I’d better post the post before the lights go out. In the meantime:


  1. Jackie, that shot of the two of you is absolutely grand!

  2. Sal looks beautiful, as do you, Our J. You will cherish those wonderful pictures forever. I took hundreds of photographs of my beloved Westies and of Tigger-boo the wonder cat. Still more were taken by professional photogaphers, including a couple taken with Santa. Those pictures are on plates, Christmas cards, and on the walls in my house where I can look at them every day.

  3. Jacqueline,

    "Storms on the moors."

    Love it.

  4. Always enjoy your postings. Re: elections, while I can see you point re: simplicity - the nice thing about having them all on the same ballot is it demonstrates the relationship between the various levels of government. As my father always said, all politics are local. Sometimes we forget that - the 'everything' ballot is a great reminder. One day city council - next day White House!

  5. Jacqueline:

    What lovely photos you and Sal sat for. She looks like she has a lovely personality, too. :-D

    I love 'weather' too. The soft hush of falling snow at 3am; thunderstorms; squalls; etc. An open fire, a big pot of tea and bikkies and a couple of good mystery books. I also have been known to stare into the flames when listening to both the storm outside and a BBC mystery play audio book. I kind of like to write in that weather too. :-D

    I'm still trying to understand the election process over here - it seems so cumbersome. As the process repeats itself, I find myself asking my husband "what the hell is the Caucus again, and what purpose does it serve?" Apparently I'm not the only one. After three elections, I have serious doubts about the credibility of the Electoral College...

    PS: We're having a spot of warmish weather now, after a bout of snow and ultra freezing bits. My parents can't believe how cold it gets here. They're in the middle of summer over home.

  6. Thanks, all for your comments. Just after I posted yesterday, the power went down and that was it! Now I'm in the coffee shop at Book Passage bookstore in Corte Madera - and if it's chucking it down with rain and you need wi-fi and a place to divest yourself of some money well spent on books, this is it!

    Stay dry, warm and safe, all of you.

    ... and Marianne, one must never forget the bikkies!

  7. PS: Anonymous - you make a very good point about the electoral process, and the fact that all politics is local - thank you.

  8. Hello dear friend & happy new year!
    I cannot believe Sally is a senior citizen now... and has the graying to prove it. And how wonderful to see an updated picture of yourself. Still the beauty. I am glad I finally figured out how to subscribe to your blog. I enjoy reading both your entries, as well as your fellow authors. I wish all of you unlimited publishing success in 2008. Love your old friend, Helen