The Trouble With Architecture (originally published on CandG site 5/30/2011)

I’m working on chapter two of the second draft and two main things keep sucking up all my time in research.  Plus a few little things.

1.  Trying to construct one small conversation between Cricket and Grey in Scots.  Hours of research for one tiny bit of true color.  Now, if only I had my own Scottish person from Glasgow or the little towns immediately near it I could simply say “Here’s what I want my characters to say… please translate” and it would be done.  Sadly, I’m Scottish friend free at the moment.

2.  I’m not an architect and never until writing this book have I considered that a shortcoming in myself.  I can picture the cob cottage that Peter built in the woods but only bits of it, like what the individual rooms look like, what the outside looks like, and where the pigeons live, but not how all these rooms are connected.  When I try to sketch how I see it, it is clearly an impossible design.  Does there really need to be a single bearing wall?  It’s like my brain keeps hiccuping every time I try to really bring it into focus so that I can be more clearly descriptive in the story and give a better sense of scene.  How hard can that be?  Apparently, pretty damn hard.  Am I really going to need to get some graph paper out and work it out to scale?  Do I need to get a degree in house design before I can finish writing this book?  The charm of cob construction is that you can practically make it any way you like with some simple building considerations.

The cabin layout question is made further complicated by the fact that it also has to house the pigeons the Winters’ keep.  I had it clear in my mind until double checking old style dovecotes and realizing that some functions necessary to raise and keep homing pigeons might not have been accommodated in the “design” I came up with for one.  My mother pointed out to me that dovecotes are for doves and not pigeons.  She is not actually correct.  The term is for a structure built to house either doves or pigeons.  However, in modern day pigeon keeping it seems you keep them in a “pigeon loft” rather than a dovecote.  But I can have my characters build a dovecote if I want.  It’s fiction.  And they’re individuals.  That’s not the point.

The other slightly minor distraction is that I needed to finally decide what the hell Shockey’s “White” is really distilled from.  It’s his cheap all purpose moonshine.  But moonshine can be any illegally distilled hard alcohol.  I think grains are too hard to come by and he saves the grains for his rarer expensive quality whiskey (for sale to the few who can afford it or those lucky enough to have become personal friends with him).  The white isn’t grain but I thought it equally problematic to have it be made from potatoes.  This has to be something he can make from abundant produce.  Grapes.  This valley is full of vineyards and in this period of time I don’t see many of them having survived.  I think many vineyards will go derelict and be abandoned to overgrowth and a return to the wild, so to speak.  I think finding feral grapes will not be hard.  I think the White will be made from whatever he can get his hands on cheaply and in abundance.  So predominantly grapes.  But sometimes other crops like maybe potatoes or corn.  So White is very much like grappa or Aqua vitae.

A few things I learned in research today: homing pigeons can fly distances of as far as 1, 118 miles and fly an average of 50 miles per hour over more average distances (500 or fewer miles).  For very short distances they can fly up to 110 miles per hour.  Quite a few pigeons earned medals of honor in World War l and World War ll.  I’m including the links to a couple of those birds.  I also learned that Mike Tyson is a lifelong pigeon fancier.

About the Scots language (which is NOT Gaelic but the dialect of English Scots speak), it is notable (to me) for having about a hundred words for “drunk”, “dirty”, and “crazy” but very few for “rude”.  It also has about five thousand ways to call someone stupid.

Homing Pigeon

Mary of Exeter a pigeon who won a medal for flying important message across the English Chanel from France while injured.

G.I. Joe a pigeon who won a medal for saving over a thousand lives by delivering a vital message in time.

Scottish words and phrases

Common Useful Scottish Phrases

Useful Scots Phrases

Scottish Vernacular Dictionary

Some Fine Old Scottish Sayings

Scots Online this one has a translation feature that is cool

Glossary of Scottish slang and jargon

Glaswegian this one is really funny.  Be sure to observe the pictures used for illustration and read their examples of use and translation.

Scots Dictionary

Speak Scots

Some Glaswegian/Scottish phrases

You see how sucked in I was?  You start reading through these sites you’ll be sucked in too.  Maybe not.  I guess you have to love Scottish people, Scotland, and colorful language.  These links represent hours of (mostly) useless research.  Or maybe once my book is published someone will give it a review in which they say “…her use of Scots is exemplary and clearly represents painstaking research which the readers will appreciate…”

For all the time I spent looking up cob cottages I found no useful links and am still hung up on the seemingly insurmountable problem of not being an architect.  Onward, then.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.