Monday, March 17, 2008

A leap of imagination

My writing cave is not air-conditioned and this is the fifth day above 37.8 C (100F) in a row and I am writing about January 1803 in the North Atlantic and the act of visualization that takes me there is getting a little more difficult each day.

It puts me in mind of a January in the North Sea, one of the rare days when we saw the sun, and I was walking aft from the foc'sle on a British crewed tanker. Photo-chromatic glasses were not common in those days and mine had reacted to the sunlight by turning dark and the men on the bridge were certain I was taking the mickey out of them by wearing sunglasses. At the time, I was wearing thermal underwear, a thick cotton track suit and three pairs of overalls under my wet weather gear and had just passed through the shivering stage to actually shuddering. The wind had been from the east for several days and the air temperature was around twenty below. (add to this, I'd flown from Xmas in Australia only days before) I spent another month on that ship, working on deck most of the time, and remembering what it was like to be warm was extraordinarily difficult.

Part of my military service was a snow survival course designed by sadists. We spent ten days clad only in working gear with only the normal ration packs for food and had to move twenty miles across bush country without maps (I seem to remember I actually volunteered (obviously very young and foolish at the time)). I can't remember being so cold for so long as those ten days, but our training must have been good, because there wasn't a single case of frostbite, other than chapped ears.

I'd hoped those two memories would help my visualization, but the sweat is still trickling down down my chin and dropping on the folded towel I use regularly to wipe my hands and protect the keyboard.

It's a great life.

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