Sunday, April 28, 2013

Kate Atkinson can't write without a title. "If you have a title, your thoughts gather to it like iron filings to a magnet," she explains during her Q&A session at Bay Books in Strawflower Village, just off Half Moon Bay, on Thursday night.  It's an unexpected privilege to hear a master of her craft in this crowded little bookshop the other side of the world.  She's a witty speaker, with the same dry humour as in her characters use ~ particularly when responding to the more baffling aspects of audience sycophancy: ("How do you know when to turn from yin to yang, Kate?" "I have no idea.").
Dave Minton and I arrived with notebooks in hand, agog to glean tips, while Mo was there as a long-time fan of her Jackson Brodie books.  He lent me Case Histories, which is utterly brilliant, full of blood and dour hilarity. (Does Kate like the TV version? "It is what it is, it's television. If you do a deal with the devil, at some point you have to stop screaming.") Here's Jason Isaacs as her laconically sexy private eye: Kate likes his look but his Yorkshire accent she says is rubbish.

There's been coastal fog in the morning several times this week, holding back the sunshine and blitzing blue sky until afternoon, which has been good to keep me focussed on the writing schedule I arrived here with, or at least some of it. Amazingly, I've kept up the poem-a-day-throughout-April challenge from Carrie Etter (whose blog has some great prompts.) Not all achieve what could be called lyricism, but musing and scribbling along the beaches, headlands, and coastal paths has been a fabulous way to spend the hours. I've been up as far as the Moss Beach marine reserve to watch baby seals bouncing down the beach like hoppity balls, and all the way down Half Moon Bay where the dunes are thick with pink and golden iceplant flowers. The birdlife here is amazing: plovers and curlew fishing in the lowtides, while on the cliffs there's the drama of egg-robbing raptors mobbed and chased away by the tiny blackbirds. It's easy to go into a total reverie but that would be dangerous when re-entering human habitation: road rules here, to my alien mind, seem completely chaotic. Crossing the highway involves pressing a button and waiting for an illuminated little man on the far side, which is logical, but almost immediately a big red hand starts to flash a warning countdown as six lanes of traffic thrums beside you, and as in America drivers are allowed to turn right when the lights are red against them if the road seems clear, and truck drivers appear to think this means clear of vehicles not bodies, this can be scary. On sideroads, paradoxically, cars courtously stop at the sight of me lurking on the sidewalk. Baffling.

On Saturday night we drove 'over the hill' for supper ~ about the distance of Bristol from Frome but over here this is almost like popping to the local. Fusion Peruvian Grill does a fantastic platter of red snapper and seafood, if you're ever wondering where to go in downtown San Mateo. Today the sun's out, the sea's blue and so's the sky, and I can't believe my time here is half over already...

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