Thursday, June 16, 2011

I live in the ugliest house in California

And can offer the following exhibits to support my case.  Here is the view from the kitchen window:

Yes, the view from the kitchen window is the bathroom wall.  The first time I came to look round this place I assumed it was a prefab that came in two bits and that someone had measured something wrong.  Apparently not, though.  It's a real house designed by an architect (who might have got their degree at Joe-bob's School of Architecture and Ribs-to-Go).

Now that summer's here, though, it occurs to me that the peculiar setting of this window might be "designed" to keep the kitchen cool by cutting down the amount of direct sunlight hitting the glass.  That could also have been achieved with a pretty, vine-clad pergola of course but Joe-bob's School of Landscaping and Mufflers While-you-wait must have been away across on the other side of town.

And while we're on windows . . . if you've got a stretch of wall and you need a window in it, where do you put that window?  In the middle, right?


But if you've got a stretch of wall and four windows to go in it, two big ones and two little ones, you space them out evenly and balance the sizes, right?


And if by some fluke you happen to put two doors side-by-side leading onto the porch, symmetrically arranged on a step, you make these two doors the same, right? 


Every opportunity for symmetry, balance and order that this house offered has been wilfully ignored in favour of an architectural approach I like to call "fling the windows at it and where they stick, they stay".

Except one.  This one.

Two windows, the same size, the same design, on either side of the apex of the roof, which is halfway along the length of the wall, giving the whole elevation the character of being "eye-sweet".  And where was this care taken?  Where were these simple classical rules of building design applied?  Look closely; note the wheeliebins and the fuse panel.  Yup, it's the garage.  Just to rub salt into the wounds.

I'll spare you the inside (for today).  The sunken chocolate-brown bath with carpet up the side and gold taps.  The collection of centre-light/ceiling-fans, each one different and every one hideous (ripped out of Saddam Hussein's palace, perhaps, for being too ornate), and the Flinstones' climbing-wall of a fake fireplace.

So why did we buy it?  Well, here's the view from one end of the porch.

Here's the view from the other.

Tell you what, though:- I'd rather be me, in here looking out at the view, than be some poor jackrabbit or coyote out there in the view looking in at this eye-sore.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

deleting and weeping alone in a room

I was going to write about writing this week, but actually putting into words the process of trying to get a new story up and humming - the deletions, the pages of useless notes, the procrastination, the casting about for someone to blame, the realisation that if I blame my undergardener (he whose job forced this recent 7,000 mile flit) I'll basically be saying "I can't write in this quiet, comfortable house in this beautiful sunny valley" and I'll feel like a fool, the checking of email, the pouncing on and meticulous execution of any scrap of admin, the guilt of thinking about my characters sitting there cramped and abandoned in fewer than 20,000 words of story, the profound desire for a powercut or a heavy cold . . . laws, sausages and suspense novels, people, and I've decided to spare you.


To turn to reading, then, since I don't have anything like the same trouble there: I'm sure the talented and delightful John Lescoart wouldn't mind me saying that even though I read two of his wonderful Dismas Hardy/Abe Glitsky novels last month - one of life's true pleasures is the discovery of a series with a dozen and more titles waiting to be read - neither The Vig nor Hard Evidence is my book of the month.

That's only because, mind you, I also read The Grapes of Wrath.  Right here, in California, surrounded by fields and farmworkers, newly blown west myself (although thankfully not by a dust-cloud), so that I felt like the Joads' long-lost sister.  And get this: at the end of the month I'm going to read East of Eden in Monterey!  On a wee holiday by the sea.  EofE and the new Michael Connelly, I'm thinking.

I'm sure, since I'll be on holiday, both of them will be utter bliss and not, as is more usual, bliss and torture mixed.  The torture is-  Hey! (I just thought of this) I can blame John Steinbeck for the fact that getting my current work in progress into top gear is like pushing a bus up a ladder.  Quite simply, reading TGofW infected me with a case of the why-bothers.

Stephen King does that to me every time; so does Joyce Carol Oates.  Both of them are such big-hearted writers - tellers of stories as well as wordsmiths - and they invent such fantastical tales with such honesty.  Most of all, they are quite clearly -even after their astonshing outputs so far - still as enthralled as they are enthralling. 

I'll never be Stephen King or Joyce Carol Oates but I do the same job they do and that's a blessing I'd be wise to remember.  Right, must dash.  There's a bus and a ladder waiting.