Does anyone speak Frisian? Day 12 of confinement
As I was lying in bed this morning in the basement, having been awoken by my son’s impersonation of a herd of elephants doing the complete dance sequence to a Gene Kelly film in the room above (couldn’t quite work out which film), I had a great insight into a sticking point in the development of my novel: I’m writing the wrong one. Quite frankly, I am getting sick of these revelations, and the sooner I stop getting them the better.
I am currently 30,000 words into the novel and, while the characters are good and the story is obviously brilliant, all I have been writing so far has been the surrounding casing into which the central story will go. The central story takes place on an invented island in the Wadden Sea, which is part of Nordfriesland in the German Land of Schleswig-Holstein. It is set in inter-war period and deals with the story of two young islanders who are arrested by the Gestapo and sent to a concentration camp.
I’ve been approaching it from the standpoint of the present day, with characters reaching back into the past to tell the story. It is a common device. But I don’t like it. And as I was lying in bed listening to Babarwacker Jr., I figured out why I didn’t like it. It seems artificial. For a long time I have been considering on making the story a trilogy of loosely connected stories with characters that have some link to each story but are not actively involved in all of them (a bit like Roberston Davies’ The Cornish Trilogy).
He is a much underappreciated writer outside of Canada is Davies (and actually inside Canada too). I think he is one of the finest proponents of Anglophone literature from anywhere in the world, and were I not facing a race against time to get though my bookshelves, I would happily reread all of his canon at least once a year. My worry is that I am going to do this and inter-relate the stories from the beginning and then not be able to either separate them sufficiently or carry it off.
But I spent a good 5 hours chugging out words on the new story and the main character came through quite well, so now I am not sure, not sure at all. It’ll mean a rejig of my schedule and focus, but that may be no bad thing, I mean I might as well be hanged for a sheep as for a lamb. Coming back from Spain when I did threw me completely off in more ways than one, and I lost the sparkle in what I was writing (Jesus, did I actually write “sparkle”? I sound like Barbara Cartland) and that whole story felt rather lumpen and heavy back here. But the new one flowed, as I said, and I had already done a lot of the research, so I might just spend the next couple of days thrashing it out and see if I can get to 6-7,000 words and review.
One of the problems I still have is that the island is placed in an area where the predominant language is Frisian. It’s an interesting language, quite similar to English in some respects when it is spoken, but very different when written. It has place names like Süderoogsand (pronounced “Blackpool”) and Oevenum (pronounced “Barrow-in-Furness”). See how similar it is to English? Of course, that’s not true, and even if I cribbed my way through Theodor Storm’s Der Schimmelreiter, I am still really none the wiser about how names are formed or whether an invented name sounds authentic. So if anyone knows, on the off chance, anyone who speaks Frisian – preferably the dialect spoken on Föhr, but I am at this stage really not picky – can you send them my way? I’ll be eternally grateful and will of course give credit as appropriate.
After that morning blitz, I received a bit of good news about the LCBO order: I didn’t need it. Have no fear, I have not turned into a model of temperance and sobriety; I have been shown alternatives to the official route, and have dived on in. I emailed Sylvia the stiletto-heeled dominatrix and told her I no longer needed her services: I had new friends with new things to offer. In particular, a brewery called Vimy who not only took my order but delivered it free of charge within two hours and, to top it all, Dial-a-Bottle.
Dial-a-Bottle take your order for alcoholic beverages, go to the store for you, purchase it and deliver it to your door. They do this for an $8 fee (if you are in their delivery range, obviously). Eight dollars. To my door. That is $3.95 cheaper than the LCBO was charging me to NOT deliver it to my door. How had I never heard of this company before? They will deliver tomorrow between 11 and 1. I immediately reorganized the speed dial list on my phone, replacing two of the emergency numbers with Vimy and Dial-a-Bottle.
After that, I managed to book a couple of hours of Ottawacker Jr.’s busy schedule to read him two chapters of Lord of the Rings. Strider/Aragorn is in it now, so I was able to do my Sean Bean impressions and keep him entertained. Although I might have mixed up Sam Gamgees and Merry at one stage – but I think I got away with it. I made it properly scary too – and at one stage he got up, went to get a blanket and cushions, and put his head under the blanket to listen. When I finished, I closed the book with a flourish, slamming the covers together. He removed his head from under the blanket and said, “you can’t stop there, what about the Black Riders?”
I cackled, and disappeared back into the bowels of the basement. He'll be back tomorrow.