May 23, 2015

Shadows is here!

It’s Friday, it must be handbells


Have I told you I’ve gone back into therapy because I Am Not Coping with Reality Very Well Right Now?*  I went in for an assessment a while ago but it took them some time to find a slot for me.**  I’ve seen Metis a few times now and like her—if ‘like’ is quite the word you want to apply to your shrink—and have some hope that she’ll crack me open like whacking off the top of your soft-boiled egg with an egg-spoon.***  But it’s still early days.  Yesterday she taught me a relaxation technique.  Chiefly it served to demonstrate that I do not relax.   Nadia could have told her this.  Sigh.†

But weekly therapy meetings are one more thing on the schedule.  And in the last fortnight I seem also to have been to three concerts†† and not merely done my standard weekly Sam duty but the frelling occasional-required long overnight duty which reduces you to a little pile of sticky ashes even if you’re healthy††† plus picking up an extra (late, not everyone’s favourite time of day for some reason) duty when someone went down sick at the last minute.‡

And of course there’s still monks.  And singing.‡‡  And the hellmob.  And the garden, which is booming into early summer.  And bell ringing, although tower ringing has taken a hit the last fortnight due to all the other excitements.  But handbells . . . it’s Friday.  There were handbells.‡‡‡

* * *

* I’m an American, we believe in therapy.  And my best friend is a New Yorker and everyone in Manhattan is in therapy, it’s a civic ordinance.  You want to live there, you need to sign up with a therapist before you try to find a place to live.  Your rental agreement or your mortgage application will have a query on it something like ‘Are you currently actively engaged in seeking self-development by way of a professional relationship with a psychotherapist whose name appears on this year’s list of Persons Licensed to Charge More Than $1000 an Hour which you gladly disburse for the Privilege of Discovering What a Hopeless Dolt You Are?’  You need to be able to fill in the ‘yes’ box.  Residents of the Tri-State Area are given a tax rebate for being in therapy, although it doesn’t run to $4000 a month.  Hey, what do you want, healthy, well nourished children and a car that runs^ or greater self awareness?^^

^ All the festering DRIVING involved in my proliferating life-enrichment programmes is a pain.  It’s worth it but IT IS A PAIN.  And while I’m both a careful and a law-abiding driver I do kind of yell a lot.  I had a Classic Robin Moment on my way to my last voice lesson.  I was late, of course, because I’m always late, and I got stuck behind this moron going thirty-five miles an hour in a SIXTY MILE AN HOUR ZONE.  I was not doing my singing voice any good in my description of his heritage and his likely future.  Then we hit town—I’ve tried going the back way and all that happens is that I get stuck behind tractors, and that doesn’t do my singing voice or my blood pressure any favours either—and the slow wiggly main road was made even slower and wigglier by the plethora of frelling LORRIES parked on it while they unloaded shoes and sausages and hammers and mattresses into all the frelling shops.  So you and your soon to be overheating car are ducking back and forth from one single lane to the other, depending on where the latest lorry is parked and you are getting later and later for your voice lesson and CRANKIER AND CRANKIER.  Now, despite my malevolent views of other drivers, I’m quite the—ahem!—Samaritan about letting other drivers in, especially in a situation like this one where we’re all suffering.  Well I’d got stuck behind the final lorry and no one was letting me into the other lane.  Guess who finally did.  Yep.  Thirty Five Miles an Hour in a Sixty Mile an Hour Zone Man.  I waved gratefully but I hope he doesn’t lip-read.

^^ Note that Metis’ practise does not charge £646 an hour.  Trust me, I would not be there.

** It’s a group practise.  I imagine them sitting around at their admin meeting and saying, okay, we have an axe murderer, a pathological collector of HP Lovecraft t shirts^, someone who thinks they’re Napoleon/Marie Stopes/Edward Cullen and a writer with writer’s block . . . and a chorus of voices reply eagerly, I’ll take the axe murderer!  I’ll take Lovecraft, AT THE MOUNTAINS OF MADNESS is the best novel of the 20th century!  I’ll take Marie Stopes! . . . Silence.  I am fully booked, says the person remaining.  I totally must shampoo the cat, and then sort the contents of the kibble bin by size.  Fluffy is so particular.  I can’t consider taking on a new client till someone else has been desperate enough to take the wri—I mean, probably not till next year.

^ ::whistles::

*** Personally I scramble my eggs.  But Peter does the egg-spoon trick.

† Note to self:  Metis and Nadia must never meet.

†† If Jackie Oates comes anywhere near you and/or you have a friend who is willing to do the driving, speaking of driving,^ and unless you are one of these poor sad creatures who doesn’t get good folk music, go.  And listen especially closely to the newly arranged and adapted 21st-century lyrics to A Cornish Young Man, which are delicious.

^ Fiona and I found a new yarn shop.  I was doing pretty well+ till I made the mistake of checking out the sale bin again.  I had thought on the way in that the Yarn Pet percentage might be a little perilous but at that point I had a whole shop to be endangered by and adrenaline was running high.  And I then managed (mostly) to resist the breathtakingly gorgeous single-skein small-local-indie-dyers gauntlet, chiefly because I have some self-protective resistance to spending more than a New York City shrink’s hourly rate on a one-off that there isn’t even enough of to make a scarf.  A fichu maybe.++

AND THEN I WENT BACK TO THE FRELLING SALE BIN.  Alpaca is evil.  Especially when it is mixed in big fat fluffy skeins with merino.  You can frelling hear it purring when you cradle it in your arms.+++

+ I say nothing about how Fiona was doing

++ If you’re small and flat-chested.

+++ Dogs purr too, you know.  At least every dog I’ve ever had purrs when it settles in your lap.  Whether it fits in your lap or not.

††† And/or stay up late and don’t do mornings anyway.  Although some annoying person^ has pointed out that I do do mornings, I do a lot of mornings, I just do the, you know, little end.

^ I never name names on this blog but this particular person is very annoying about handbells.+

+ What do you mean you can’t ring handbells tomorrow, the next day, the day after that and three times on Madnessday?  —GO AWAY.  YOU’RE RETIRED.  SOME OF US ARE STILL WORKING FOR A LIVING# AND FURTHERMORE MAY POSSIBLY DO OTHER THINGS IN THEIR SPARE [SIC] TIME THAT AREN’T HANDBELLS. ##

# Or at least staring despairingly at an empty computer screen regularly.

## Aren’t . . . handbells? this person murmurs brokenly.

‡ And this potent sacrifice was absolutely worth it for the barrage of brownie points thus accrued.  I can probably spill scalding coffee on the director/the fancy new computer/the delicately poised for heightened reactivity electronic fire alarm and no one will say anything.

‡‡ Your Body Is Your Instrument I Wish I Had Taken up the Guitar When I Was a Teenager Like Everyone Else Did.  Nadia told me the last time I was beating up Batti Batti O Bel Masetto to skip the allegro, which has all those frelling runs in it AND goes up to a high B.  Last time, as I recall, I did leave it alone.  This time I was idly leafing through it again when a little light went on and I said, Hey!  It’s a B flat!  I can (usually) get to B flat!  —So, occasionally, late at night^, when my voice is feeling all relaxed^^ and warm and willing I sing the allegro.  I can’t frelling sing and play the piano at the same time, but I do have a finger poised to hit that B flat to make sure I’m hitting it, if you follow me.  I usually am, in my squeaky un-self-confident and death-defying-not-in-a-good-way way^^^.

And next time through I can’t hit G.  I can always hit a friggleblasting doodahing G, give me a flapdoodling BREAK.  Yes, I can always hit a G, except right after I’ve hit an A sharp/B flat and my voice says NO WE DON’T DO THAT and shuts down.  That’s SHUTS. DOWNArrrrrrgh.  And then it’s back to Edwardian parlour ballads till it forgives me.  ARRRRRRGH.

^ Or in a little morning hour

^^ Sic

^^^ Yes I can hear the unglefrakking difference when Nadia manages to persuade me to float down from above a note rather than ramping up at it from underneath like a guerrilla attack on a dangerous enemy.  Sigh.  Sometimes I’m very flat indeed.  Sometimes I just . . . sound like I’m attacking an enemy I’m terrified of.+  SIGH.

+ I also indulge in a concomitant worry that St Margaret’s will decide they’re not that desperate for singers at the evening service.

‡‡‡ And brownies.  I had told Niall firmly that if there were no brownies I would remember a prior engagement.  What prior engagement? said Niall suspiciously.  Well, I forget, I said, there are brownies, right?

The Once and Future Blog*




* * *

I have started and restarted and re-re-re-restarted this blog post any number of times in the last fortnight and become variously distracted and imbroglio’d** and then at blurglemmph o’clock decided (again) that sleep was possibly more crucial than getting it finished.  And in terms of immediate preoccupations late on a Saturday night, like, now, I have another voice lesson on Monday, and it might be quite a good idea if I went to it WITH SOMETHING TO SING, especially since Nadia recently said briskly that I should increase my practise time and never mind that I think that being the Mad Singing Lady out with the hellmob counts.***  A fortnight ago, after this alarming statement, I came home and rootled anxiously through my extraordinary amounts of sheet music, 99.3% of which is pure and unsullied and the remaining .7% is dog-earned, written on, liberally tea†-spotted and only half-learnt.  But:  Mozart.  When in doubt, Mozart.   

Which pertains to some of the following.  The problem is that both verb tenses and footnotes get a trifle provocative . . . not to say hopelessly confusing . . . when written on the run over a period of time.  Even I can become only so disastrously tangential over the course of one evening. . . .

Therefore the following may be even more incomprehensibly non-linear than usual.  I know.  Mind boggling.  I’ll wait if you want to fetch smelling-salts (or Scotch) to have at hand before you make any attempt to engage with this misleadingly text-shaped object.  Good luck.

* * *

* I am reading H IS FOR HAWK^ and T H White is kind of on my mind.

^ So are you, right?  Everyone is reading H IS FOR HAWK.+

+ Which is a very good book.  But since everyone is reading it nobody needs to be told to read it.  Everyone should be reading MS MARVEL which is spectacularly wonderful in so many ways.  Now, everyone may be reading this too and it may just be that I am humiliatingly out of the loop# but even I had heard of H IS FOR HAWK before I made a pact with Hannah that we’d both read it so we could talk about it and I had not heard of MS MARVEL till I tripped over raving, lunatic mention of it on some drooling feminist blog or other and thought oh, okay.  A Muslim kick-ass comic-book heroine?  Yep.  I’m totally there.    

I’ve just been saying to my monk I am so ratblasted TIRED of the gender wars.  And turning Christian has thrown me into a whole seizure of fresh front lines about this since, of course, the origins of Christianity ARE HEAVILY FRELLING PATRIARCHAL and we’re still fighting this battle two thousand years later.  I don’t care what the Ephesian thugs say, or that frellwit Paul##, the head of me is me and not some up-himself bloke. 

But if you’re a woman in a male-biased society you can’t, you know, pass.  You’re a woman all the time.  You’re up against it ALL.  THE.  TIME.  When I was younger I had only two settings about this:  ON.  And OFF.  My younger ON was extremely, um, draining, so I would periodically flip the switch and lapse into a black leather, studs and pink All Stars haze of apparent submissive femininity, and if any testosterone dingdong wanted to assume the wrong thing so long as he kept it to himself I would not endeavour to hand him his balls on a plate.###  Because it was all going to change, you know?  It was going to CHANGE.

This runs parallel to my foolish assumption that by the time I was the age I am now we’d’ve got the available heroines in books thing sorted.~  My generation of writers was going to sort this.  I wasn’t too surprised~~ about the initial deluge of OHMIGOD A HEROINE WHO ISN’T WET AND HOPELESS about Harry in SWORD . . . I’m depressed out of my tiny aging mind that forty years later I’M STILL GETTING THESE LETTERS.  Or emails.  There are more genuine heroines out there . . . but there aren’t enough.  THERE AREN’T ANYTHING LIKE ENOUGH.  And the unconscious—or anyway I hope the doodah it’s unconscious—chauvinism about men’s and women’s writing . . . don’t get me started.~~~

But the point is I didn’t think the gender wars would have come so not far in the last forty-odd years.  I’M BORED.  I’M BORED WITH ALL THE STUPIDITY.  And I’m driven spare by being dropped about two thousand years back in social-equality time . . . WOMEN IN THE MINISTRY SHOULDN’T EVEN BE A PHRASE LET ALONE AN ISSUE.

Oh, and on the unassailable perfection and clarity of Scripture, here concerning the sacrament of marriage?

. . . At least having just had a state-of-the-world tantrum at my monk I was a little bit extra warm.  Afterward I went to the monks’ chapel for the Saturday evening silent contemplation before the prayer service.  It’s the middle of May, it’s shirtsleeve weather, I didn’t bring my blanket, how cold can it be in shirtsleeve weather, I NEARLY FROZE TO DEATH.  Next week I bring the blanket.  And the monk who calls me Blanket Lady may rupture himself laughing. 

# True

## I should add however that I have a curious soft spot for Paul, ranting nincompoop that he often is.  I sure never used to:  he and that toadwart Augustine were two of the flaming angels keeping me out of the holy green room.  But I empathise with the shock of Paul’s conversion experience even if I hadn’t been torturing Christians before I had my own shocking conversion experience.  I see a lot of his more distressing extremes as overcompensation.  I haven’t ever killed anybody so I can overcompensate less. 

### I also had a black boyfriend.  Speaking of passing and not passing.  I could at least jam a fireproof lid over my real attitude and put on a skirt and some pearl-pink lipstick.  If you’re a black man over six feet tall hanging out on the streets of America?  Pass?  Forget it.

A bit like being a Muslim in a Christian-centric society, perhaps.

~ I’m not going to say ANYTHING about the rest of the arts/media.  Film, for example.  ARRRRRRGH.  And the Tate’s summer issue devoted to female artists didn’t do a lot for me either. 

~~ Beyond the—continuing—surprise that strangers read my stories. 

~~~ Looking on the bright side:  the current award-sweeping literary phenomenon, H IS FOR HAWK, is written by a woman.

** Including, but not exclusively, such activities as Twitter, texting, emailing, ordering pink All Stars,^ reading, frantically channelling all that sappy riotous green spring enthusiasm in the garden before the leafage takes over and the hellmob and I can’t get out of either door without a machete, learning more diabolically frelling methods for handbells, Samaritanning, force feeding the blasted hellhounds, plus long bluebell walks and a curious spasm of concerts.  You know how when you book your cultural enrichment programme ahead your diary looks EMPTY?  And then suddenly you find you’re going to fifty-six performances in eight days.  Oops. 


+ And while I was at it I bought a pair of turquoise with red and yellow flowers.  They were on sale, there was a pair in my size, it was meant. 

*** Well, it does count.  It’s just that it counts in terms of coming home all warmed up and ready to practise rather than wasting a lot of time whining about having no voice and what there is of it sounds like a broken buzz saw.  And, unlike singing folk songs and Edwardian parlour ballads to the trees and bluebells, whining is not a good way to warm up. 

† And probably tear-

* * *

If I had any sense I’d break this up into two or even three posts.  There’s enough frelling wordage.  But if I do that I’ll just not get any of it up AGAIN while I try to tidy up the edges.  And fail.  So that when I finally do start posting it’ll be EVEN MORE CONFUSING.*  So don’t read it all at once, okay?  It’ll keep.  So will the Scotch and the smelling salts.

* You wouldn’t want me to WASTE any of it would you?^

^ . . . Don’t answer that.  Please.

* * *

I have rung handbells four times in the last forty eight hours.*  I am brain fried.  I am crazy.** 

But it’s a useful displacement activity.  I also went to an entirely fabulous ‘operatic singing masterclass’ recently enough for my head still to be ringing like an, ahem, bell:  Nadia has mentioned singing masterclasses and festivals and summer schools before that I might be interested in attending as an audience member but they tend to be held in unsuitable places.***  I had all but given up the intriguing fantasy of sitting in the audience at a singing seminar listening to people who can really sing being enlightened and inspired to sing even better and being personally crushed with despair and futility† and swearing to stick to KNITTING hereafter.

Nadia had told me some of the things to listen out for but had also warned me that I wouldn’t necessarily be able to hear either what the tutor heard or what changed for the singer.  It wasn’t going to matter:  it was still going to be a delicious and varied concert by a lot of clever skylarks and nightingales showing off like mad.  But as it happened I did hear.  This was a lot of why it was all so edge-of-seat fascinating.  In a lot of cases I could even guess what the tutor was going choose to work on.

And on balance, and surprisingly, it was more inspiring than it was crushing.  Probably because the stuff that all these talented, fancy people need to work on is still the same stuff that pathetic, talent-free dorks like me also need to work on.  It’s all the same stuff.  We’re all still human beings making music.  Even if they are the shiny dancing racehorses and I’m the three legged Thelwell pony.

* * *

* It’s all Niall’s fault, of course.  How the cross-eyed bindlestiff did I get sucked back into this frelling vortex of HANDBELLS?  And I’m now contributing to the cacophonous plague:  I was talking it up to Vidhya and Ceridwen^ and they were foolish enough to express an interest so Niall and I showed up like a plague of locusts two Saturday mornings bearing handbells and large, toothy grins.^^  Friday evening has been the standard New Arcadia handbell gathering for several years and I used to be a pillar of that community and recently have been becoming more pillar-like again.^^^  Saturday afternoon began as a one off with Niall finding a steady experienced fourth for Spenser and me to ring with, but of course there are no one offs with Niall about handbells. 

Sunday evening was demonic.  Niall knew I was going to church in the afternoon^^^^ and so he said Mwa hahahahahaha, now, as it happens, Titus and I are minus a third ringer tonight and since you’re free. . . .

And so today, Monday, I stayed as far away from all bells and frelling change ringing bell METHODS as possible, right?  Right.  Yes.  Absolutely.  I went tower bell ringing.  At Glaciation.  Haven’t been there in yonks.  It hasn’t got any warmer.  And it took me three tries to get through a frelling single in Stedman doubles SIIIIIIIIIIIGH.^^^^^

^ They’re significantly younger than I am+ and I was probably trying to convince them that getting old doesn’t necessarily mean creeping++ sanity and sobriety+++ and that indeed the pink All Stars are a true reflection of my inner being.++++  Plus bell ringing and singing opera really, really badly.  Really badly.

+ As, mysteriously, increasing numbers of people are

++ you know, like fungus

+++ We were down t’pub at the time.  Just by the way. 

++++ Including the muddy pawprints.  SIIIIIIIGH.  I have a spectacular new pair of REALLY REALLY HOT NEON PINK All Stars# which I was foolishly wearing today hurtling the hellterror by the river and we met an OBVIOUSLY DANGEROUS OTHER DOG## and in tearing her away from her legitimate prey I received major mud activity over most of one leg of pale blue denim and a generous speckly blast worthy of Jackson Pollock over one All Star.  Sigh.### 

# I was down to my VERY LAST PAIR of basic Pepto-Bismol pink. EEEEEEEP.  Had to lay in a couple of spare pairs in case of accidents.~  The problem with this excellent plan is that there are two Basic Pinks presently on offer on line.  So I bought one of each, right?  One of them proves to be the Pepto-Bismol.  The other one is NEON.

~ Invasions of sneaker-eating aliens, etc.  It doesn’t do to be unprepared.

## Clearly a sneaker-eating alien disguised as a harmless terrestrial dog.  Pav is very clued in about these things.

## But the alien slunk away swearing to lead a virtuous life hereafter and convert to donuts. 

^^ It remains to be seen if they’re still speaking to me.

^^^ Possibly caryatid-like.  I identify with that grim stalwart expression of carrying something too large and heavy.  On your head.  Learning frelling bell methods, especially in the geometrically-horrifyingly-enhanced handbell version of said methods, is really very like carrying a large building on your head. 

^^^^ Because I am stupid and have a big mouth.  Usually I go in the evening and it’s a funny thing but Christ wins over handbells.+  But this Sunday afternoon was a special ‘remembrance’ service for friends and family lost in the last year.  I was going for Alcestis and it seemed to me only polite to invite Admetus.  It never occurred to me he’d say ‘yes’.  And when I picked him up HE WAS WEARING A TIE.  I DIDN’T KNOW ADMETUS EVEN OWNED A TIE.  I nearly jumped out of Wolfgang and ran away.

+ Although when the Jesus Is My Boyfriend song selection is at its worst my mind may just drift to Sunday evening handbells.#

# It wasn’t The Little Drummer Boy, you know.  It was The Little Handbell Gang.  I’m not at all sure the baby smiled either.  And it seems to me very likely that Mary said Get these people out of here.    

^^^^^ BUT I DID IT.  It still counts.#

# Edited to add:  I’ve done it since too.  So it still still counts.

** Although I believe these two attributes are frequently found in the same trembling zombie-eyed victim.

*** Most places are unsuitable.  I don’t drive on motorways, I don’t drive for more than about forty-five minutes to get to anywhere at all, and I have a hellhound that needs a pee about every four hours.^  Six on a good day.  I have the impression that the hellmob goes into a state of suspended animation when I leave them all behind:  nothing is going to happen till she gets back.  This is useful in bladder control terms.  If Chaos is keeping a hopeful/suspicious eye on me as I twitch around the house muttering to myself he will need to go out in four hours.

But this is somewhat limiting.  I keep looking at live-opera schedules and homeopathic seminars and sighing heavily.  Because I have so little to keep me busy at home, you know.  But I am not going the dog minder route again ^^.  So I might as well stay home and practise my repertoire.  And continue the tragically hopeless quest for a homeopathic, herbal, behavioural or any other multiply-damned remedy that doesn’t include either barbed chains or hard drugs, that will make the hellhounds eat voluntarily.^^^

^ Bless his pointed little middle-aged prostate but he made it through the masterclass.  They’d frelling printed the frelling tickets wrong:  I thought I was going to have just enough time to, you should forgive the term, hurtle back home and let everyone out during the break, but not a hope.  I tried to convince myself either to miss the first singer after the break or leave before the last but I was too totally riveted by the show.  I told myself that it wouldn’t be the absolute WORST thing that ever happened if I came home to a puddle on the floor.  Or on the wall.+  I leave them locked up in the kitchen at the cottage:  there should be a limit to the amount of damage they can do. 

Anyway I arrived home to dry floors++ but Chaos was very glad to see me. 

+ Ewwwwww.  I can’t remember ever noticing that come-ons for house paint ever mention urine resistant. 

++ And walls.

^^ ::breaks out in a cold sweat of terror::

^^^ Eat? says the hellterror alertly.  FOOOOOOOOD??

† Which is no doubt why I came home and fished out Mozart, since several of the Singers with a Fabulous Future sang Mozart.  Knot those self-flagellation straps.  More knots.  Even more knots.  We will have blood

Hi there ::waves::


Sorry everyone.  I’m just so freaking tired.*  It’s been a somewhat action-packed week/ten days/fortnight/century.  The good news is that I haven’t knocked Peter over with the car again recently.  YAAAAAY.  But we’ve had three lots of visitors** and assorted emergencies.***  And Niall and I seem to be teaching more people to ring handbells.

Also, it’s definitively spring.  The weather is still jerking us around† but the primroses are flowering like mad—AND MY SNAKESHEAD FRITILLARIES YAAAAAAAAAY—and the early pansies, and the early tulips and there are daffodils and hellebores everywhere as thick as marmalade on toast and it is unmistakably SPRING.  So I’m out there frantically potting up little things that keep arriving in the post†† . . . and occasionally I’m also potting up things that I stuck in some perlite because I was REALLY IRRITATED that I or a member of the hellmob or some discourteous frelling typhoon broke off a perfectly good branch of something or other and if I sliced it up in pieces and stuck them in perlite . . . well, they’d die, of course, but at least I’d’ve tried.

Occasionally they live.  I now have five abutilon megapotamicum.  If they’re happy, they can get to eight foot.  The original one—the one that got blown off the kitchen window shelf and snapped off a long limb—is getting on for six foot.  It’s a terrific plant—it flowers all year.  But FIVE of them???  This is just possibly superfluous to requirements.

And now, if you’ll excuse me again, I have to go sing something:  voice lesson tomorrow.†††  I’m supposed to be learning Rachmaninoff’s Vocalise . . . but it’s in four sharps, and I don’t like sharps, and it’s all foolhardy lines of unusual intervals—these blasted great composers are so frelling unpredictable—and he keeps flatting and/or double-sharping things that in some cases don’t have a black key there anyway AND YOU HAVE TO KEEP TRACK OF ALL THIS STUFF and . . . my brain hurts.‡  I may be leaning on YouTube a little more than I should be.  Was that a chromatic scale when you strip out all the persiflage or wasn’t it?  No.  It wasn’t.  That would be too easy.  Quack.  Quaver.  But possibly the most annoying thing . . . Nadia told me I can just miss out the line with the high C in it—unless it’s a C flat which would make it some kind of B, and I occasionally have a high B—and I was wibbling along with YouTube and not thinking about it . . . okay, maybe the singer I was yodelling with had knocked it down a semi-tone or so but I got to the end and thought . . . wait a minute.  I sang that line.

Haven’t been able to do it again of course.  Your body is your instrument.  Your instrument is a gibbering neurotic nutso.  Sigh. . . .

* * *

* I’m reading a nice restful book^ in which our heroine winds up briefly hospitalised and is driven mad by having nothing to read, and when a sympathetic nurse loans her a copy of HELLO! magazine . . . she reads it as a desperate alternative to ripping her sheets into long thin strips and using broken clothes-hangers as knitting needles^^.  And I read this with a feeling of cold deep horror and thought again THIS IS WHY MY KNAPSACK WEIGHS MORE THAN A HELLTERROR.  It’s my phobia about being trapped somewhere WITH NOTHING TO READ.^^^  And given the number of times Peter has closed his hand in a door—never mind the serious stuff—and we’ve spent several unscheduled hours in A&E/Emergency, I am not being paranoid I am being practical.

^ THE JANUS STONE by Elly Griffiths which is the second in her murder-mystery series about Ruth Galloway who is a forensic archaeologist.  And which are fabulous.   Ceridwen loaned me the first one and when I read it in about forty-eight hours+ laughed in an evil and knowing manner, and loaned me the second.

+ despite not being able to read it in the bath because it belonged to someone else and IT WOULD NOT BE GOOD IF I DROPPED IT.  I have quite a few paperbacks with curly pages . . . and I barely have a knitting magazine that doesn’t have curly pages.

^^ Okay, I made the extreme knitting alternative up, but personally I might have gone for it over HELLO!

^^^ Or knit.+  Granted most knitting weighs considerably less than three paperbacks and a fully charged iPad,++ and I don’t think they’ve started commercial production of ununseptium needles, possibly because they would be a trifle unstable as well as heavy, and my knitting doesn’t need any help in instability, but the Scarf as Big as the Universe sure takes up a lot of space.  I keep being tempted to take it OUT of my knapsack and finish it at home where it can have its own room+++ but I know this way madness lies.  I would just have the 1,000,000,000th unfinished woolly object lying around somewhere for me to trip over in the middle of the night.

. . . But starting NEW woolly objects is fun.  Especially during that early halcyon period before you’ve made any really ghastly errors that you can’t figure out how to fix.

+ I actually went to an AGM recently.#  WITH MY KNITTING.  THANK YOU, GOD, FOR KNITTING.

# Reasons not to join things:  the dreadful possibility of an AGM.

++ Note that I take my charging cable with me everywhere too.  Just in case.

+++ Mind you in my house it would be sharing that room with 1,000,000 other yarn projects, 1,000,000,000 books and 1,000,000,000,000 All Stars.  Plus assorted miscellaneous items.#  But the rooms at the cottage, while small, are all larger than a knapsack.

# The miscellaneous-item problem is worse than usual at the moment because the American government in its wisdom~ decided that I had to re-prove that I live here and have lived here for quite some time and so you find salient documentation of ten-plus years ago, especially less than a year after a major house move when everything that CAN be shoved into the back of an attic HAS been shoved into the back of an attic including gruesome old paperwork.  My tribulations began with the question which attic?, but more or less climaxed with insane-even-for-me tottering piles of everything all over my office floor at the cottage.  Sigh.  Which, the adrenaline of panic having worn off, I have no enthusiasm for sorting out and putting away again.~~

~ ????????????????

~~ Putting away WHERE? %

% Er.  ‘Putting away’?

** NECESSARY HOUSEWORK.  NOOOOOOOOO.  Failing this activity would certainly be a way of ensuring that people don’t come back, but unfortunately anyone who gets as far as being invited to stay is probably someone I want to come back which leaves me in a terrible predicament.  I keep trying to teach the hellhounds to pull the hoover.  And the hellterror to mop the floor.  Nobody does much about the cobwebs.  Or the dust.^

^ Ways to Tell What I Am Really Truly Currently Reading:  it’s not dusty.

*** See *, ^^^, +++, # above

† If I put long johns on in the morning^ I will be hot and cranky at 3 pm.  But if I don’t put long johns on^^ I will be cold and cranky at . . . 3 am.

^ Oh all right, when I get dressed.  There are drawbacks to sleeping in something you can answer the door in, because you can also put your gardening apron and your wellies on and do some gardening—just while your tea steeps, you know.  Today this innocent activity led to my realising I was due to ring handbells in an hour while I was still in my nightgown equivalent and hadn’t had breakfast/lunch or hurtled any of the waiting hurtlables in this household.

I was late for handbells.  Never mind.  This fresh victim is catching on way too quickly and will be ringing Surplice Maximillian while I’m still trying to sort out the details of Basic Stupid.  Which I have been for the last . . . decade.  Siiiiiigh.  And Niall is, I fear, only too accustomed to me being late for handbells.  He may have a much-punctured dartboard somewhere with my face on it but . . . he doesn’t let even lumpy, brain-fogged semi-handbellers escape without a struggle.  AND HE’S PUT AN AWFUL LOT OF HOURS INTO ME OVER THE LAST DECADE.  I think I’m doomed.  No, I know I am.  But so is he.  However as he throws darts at my face I’m sure he murmurs to himself, If I can teach her to ring handbells I CAN TEACH ANYONE.

I’m a good thing, really I am.  Really.  I set the standard.  Ahem. . . .

^^ When I get dressed

†† More, or sometimes less, suitably attired.  Hey, what’s wrong with a simple cotton jersey dress with a BLUE HILL MAINE sweatshirt over, a muddy apron and hot pink wellies?

††† Okay, I am now loud.  When do I get to the hits the right notes part?  I went off and stood in a corner and sang into the wall again tonight at church.  I’m assuming God doesn’t mind, but the congregation might.

‡ It’s not just handbells.

A Day of Lows


Wolfgang and I managed to run over Peter today.

No, no, Peter’s fine*.  JESUS GOD AND ALL THE SAINTS.  I’m a freaking hysterical meltdown mess.  Peter seems to have thought it was FUNNY.  He thinks it’s FUNNY to be married to a CRAZY HOMICIDAL** WIFE.

We’ve had two beautiful spring days in a row.  I’ve been trying to hack out time for frantic gardening:  this is the time of year when I very very briefly believe that maybe THIS year I’m going to have the garden at the cottage in something almost resembling order for more than three seconds the end of April.***  I’m not expecting to attain a very close facsimile of order . . . just, you know, frothy ebullience caused by healthy plants doing what they feel like doing instead of what I had planned for them to do.  This does however require that the plants I planted thrive and the frelling weeds grow less fast than I yank them up.  The back wall is at present a jungle nightmare of last year’s skeletal goose grass, all of which will have seeded and seeded and seeded.

ANYWAY.  Peter and I usually go to the big library on Tuesday afternoon and have a nice cup of tea in the café, usually with two or three or eight books per while we decide what we want to check out and take home with us.  Peter felt that a fancy country garden with a café with outdoor tables was what he wanted today †† . . . and I brought Pav along for her first encounter with Montmorency’s Folly.†††

The last bit of drive is narrow and lumpy.  I wanted to let Peter off as close to the gate as possible, so I’d pulled in pretty hard against the end of the hedge so that other cars heading for the car park could squeeze past me.  He climbed out of Wolfgang and . . .

I know how slowly he moves these days, and I know the way that right foot turns out, and that it’s slower than the left foot.‡  I know these things.  I guess all I can say is that I was worried about getting out of the way before—ahem!—someone ran into us, and that I was preoccupied with cars coming up on my right.  I put Wolfgang into reverse and . . .

There was a colossal thud, and Peter disappeared from view.  AAAAAAAAAUGH.

And some helpful person came rushing over while I was hysterically turning Wolfgang off and slamming on the handbrake.  When I scrambled around to the other side I discovered my husband lying on the ground with his right foot trapped under Wolfgang’s left front wheel.

Not very far.  Peter was saying I’m fine, I’m fine, or words to that effect—I admit my memory is not totally clear on this point—but it was only his shoe, not his foot, that was being lightly crushed.  Now if I’d had any sense whatsoever I’d’ve told him to get his foot OUT of the shoe before I tried to roll forward, but I didn’t, I rushed back to the driver’s side—shaking like an aspen, I might add—while the Helpful Person said, Be careful not to roll backwards!

Ahem.  Do I have to tell you we were on a slight hill so that the moment I took the handbrake off we would roll backwards?  By this time the Helpful Person’s husband had turned up, why didn’t one of these people who wasn’t related to the man on the ground and wasn’t driving the car that had just knocked him over say LET’S GET THE SHOE OFF AND GET HIM OUT OF HARM’S WAY BEFORE WE DO ANYTHING ELSE?

But they didn’t.  And I spent a few seconds taking deep breaths, put Wolfgang into gear and . . . rolled forward perfectly.  Peter said later that the fender had caught him on that weak right leg as I turned the wheel to angle away from the hedge—having not adequately checked first that he was clear—and when he fell his right foot had . . .

I don’t remember much about the garden.  Pav enjoyed herself and thought rolling around on the courtyard gravel outside the café was an adventure, and while she was perhaps a trifle exuberant her only serious breakdown in . . . well, let’s not say manners, let’s say pretence of manners, was when I left her BRIEFLY tied to Peter’s chair to fetch sugar and silverware—Peter having brought me a fresh pot of tea—and you’d have thought I was leaving her in a basket on some convent steps with insufficient provisions.  This has nothing to do with emotional attachment, you realise:  it’s because from her perspective I was going toward a place that smelled more like food than where she was and leaving her behind.  A fine coloratura of protest followed.

I didn’t run over anybody else.  NEXT WEEK WE GO TO THE LIBRARY.

And you may have noticed the title of this post is ‘A Day of Lows’ as in plural?  Yes.  On any other day I would tell you how I spent over an hour on the phone to my American bank and they having confirmed that the wire had been sent, followed up shortly with an email saying it hadn’t, and that I have to do it all over again tomorrow.

* * *

* Believe me if he wasn’t I would not be writing this blog report of the incident.  I would either be in jail or throwing myself off a bridge.^

^ Having first left the hellmob in a series of baskets on the steps of the local . . . um.  We don’t actually have a local convent and I’m not sure how the monks feel about foundlings.+  I think really it’s a good thing I didn’t run over Peter very hard.

+ I do know that Alfrick does not like dogs.#  Which is his only major character flaw now that he’s given up smoking.

# Shocking.  Oh, no, wait, it’s probably the Franciscans who have to be soppy about animals.  I don’t remember if Benedict says anything about critters being your brothers and sisters.~

~ ‘Sister Death’ is pretty well known but apparently Francis also called his various illnesses and disabilities his brothers and sisters, which casts a slight shadow on his attitude toward our animal brethren and sistren.  This also makes the ME my evil twin, but I knew that already.

** Homicidal and incompetent.  Fortunately.

*** We are not facing the reality of the garden at Third House at all.^  Nina recently was saying kindly that she could come round some weekend afternoon and help me get the stuff out of its overgrown pots and into the ground.  Politely failing to point out that some of it has been in its (overgrown) pots for years.  I do usually manage to get the pots-in-waiting stuff fed, which is of course part of the reason some of it is quite so overgrown.  I’m sure garden centres sell their plants in flimsy plastic pots for reasons of price control, but if you have to CUT the plant out of its pot by the time you get round to putting it in the ground, flimsy is good.

^ I still haven’t got the attic any more sorted than ‘can fight way through from stairs to back wall’.+

+ Worse, I keep looking around and wondering if there’s ANY CHANCE I could bash out space for the green horsehair sofa, which is the one remaining oversized piece of furniture at the mews.  We’re supposed to be selling it.  It’s not grand, it’ll only fetch a ‘just about worth it to hire the van’ price, but it’s another of the old Dickinson family pieces and we got it restuffed and recovered as part of the New Wife thing when I first moved over here into the old house, and I am a sentimental cow.  Also I chose the green velvet it is now covered with, and the hellhounds and I have spent many happy hours on it.  Some of the upholstered old family furniture had seen a few more generations than was good for it, and as I recall I blanched and trembled at it in its earlier state.

† It will be worth it, trying to catch up with the wretched stuff^ if it has seeded really enthusiastically in my neighbour-over-the-back-wall’s garden, whose ugly shed roof ruins my view.  The problem with this plan is that the neighbour won’t care.  He’ll just hire another gardener.

^ At least it’s easy to pull up unlike most of the worst perennial weeds.  However because it is, as Peter used to call it, nature’s Velcro, you also come away from a weeding session looking like the Abominable Goose Grass Person and needing frelling hedge trimmers and possibly a flamethrower to get it off you again.  Also, however many huge green garden bags you have satisfyingly tamped full of the stuff, by the time you’ve squashed as many of these as you can fit into Wolfgang to haul off to the dump, and possibly sat down to have a cup of tea, it will all have grown back again.

†† It’s not like we don’t have plenty to read. 

††† Hellhounds have been round the edges of Montmorency’s Folly many, many times, but the rules about dogs inside the garden are discouraging^ and they would be miserable lying in the courtyard while we had our tea.  Pav, on the other hand . . .

^ And with the number of uncontrolled dogs and quantity of unpicked-up crap there is in this country I am not going to argue about this ruling.

‡ You Americans must remember we have right-hand drive in this country, so my passenger is getting out on the left, with his right side nearer the side of the car.

I have spent all day . . .


. . . doing STUFF.  You know, stuff.  FINALLY got the laundry from three days ago actually hung up to dry.*  Well.  To finish drying.  It’s mostly dry already and golly is it ever wrinkled.**  I fought my way to the countertop in the kitchen next to the Aga where I sit every morning and have my tea, and where the pile of unread magazines gets taller and taller and taller.  I threw out with a sigh of relief all the catalogues saying Great bargain!  Order on line by midnight 31 March! ***  I swept the floor.†  I took delivery of 1,000,000,000 baby plants ARRRRRRGH THIS FRELLING WINTER IS GOING ON FOREVER WE HAD ANOTHER FROST LAST NIGHT THIS IS THE SOUTH OF BLOODY ENGLAND AND IT’S THE FIRST OF BLOODY APRIL.††  I’ve run out of floor space to bring in tiny geraniums and tiny dahlias and tiny begonias and tiny chocolate cosmos every frelling night††† and that’s before today’s influx of petunias.

It’s been a seriously mad ten days or so.  And I haven’t even got started. . . .  Maybe I can get back to the blog tomorrow and continue the fascinating story.  Or maybe Friday.  Or next Gammelfug day.

* * *

* This involved getting the laundry that’s been hanging for about . . . um . . . a week, down off the airer dangling from the bathroom ceiling and . . . gasp of astonishment . . . folded.  Now let’s say I have four—let’s say pink—socks.  These of necessity comprise two pairs.   You are with me so far?  They were bought at the same time from the same shop and are the same brand and the same size.  So tell me why three of them are a pair and the fourth one is clearly odd?

** I have found that the trick with unhung laundry is to get it out of the washing machine and into my open-weave-with-lots-of-holes-where-the-wicker-has-broken basket and stir it up a couple of times a day and it won’t help the wrinkles but I won’t have to rewash it because it’s started to smell a little peculiar.  If you leave wet laundry in the washing machine for three days it will definitely smell peculiar.   Ask me how I know this.

*** I put into another pile, with a guard rail around it, all the envelopes that say, Do this immediately or the world will end and you will die, love, HM Revenue and Customs.^

^ Now I am not a fan of all those government departments on both sides of the Atlantic that steal+ my money but I FRELLING WELL HATE TECHNOLOGY A WHOLE LOT WORSE.

Okay.  I know I’m a screw up but I so have help.

About twice a year I have to import money.  I earn very little in the country I live in so what there is of it accumulates in America and then I haul it in chunks over here.  First obstacle:  my Maine bank wasn’t answering my emails.  UM.  PEOPLE.  YOU HAVE MY MONEY.  They hadn’t told me my contact of the last twenty-five years had retired nor was anyone watching for rogue emails that might be coming in to her asking for little things like international money transfers.  Gibber gibber gibber gibber gibber.  Okay.  Made contact with some new unfortunate who sounds young so maybe she won’t retire for a while.  And after comparatively few failures I got the necessary fax sent and acknowledged.  Then I had to make confirmatory contact by phone.

This has taken something like ten days.  It’s true I should have smelled a rat sooner but I am used to things going wrong and . . . what was happening never occurred to me.  MY IPHONE IS EDITING THE *&^^%$%$£””!!!!!!! NUMBER.

I’m going to say that again.  POOKA, MY IPHONE, IS EDITING PHONE NUMBERS.  Not satisfied with merely destroying three-quarters of my contacts list, we are MOVING ON TO MORE CREATIVE FORMS OF HARASSMENT.

. . . I had had a comprehensive all-tech-wide meltdown a month or so ago when Raphael had to reinstall nearly everything.  One of the many, many things that went wrong was that Outlook ate most of my contacts which I have since been laboriously reinstalling a few at a time, including some of the oldest, like my American bank, which have been on Outlook since before I had a mobile phone.  And apparently in some fabulous Apple update or other that came with the reinstall the iPhone was told to put in the random British zero . . . even when the address is American and the hapless human has put in the country code because she knows she’ll forget.#  The random British zero appears between the country code and the area code and is not at all conspicuous. 

After several days of ‘this number has not been recognised’ and choruses of beeps, clicks and whistles I finally decided I must have punched the number in wrong so I pulled out my paper address book.  No, it was right (still not noticing the villainous zero because the iPhone also controls the spacing).  So I frelling wiped the number and poked it in again thinking there might be one of those invisible tech bug things that was going HA HA HA HA CHOMP off stage.  And this time I finally SAW the sodding phone adding the zero.  AND IT WON’T LET ME DELETE IT.##

At the frelling moment I have my bank’s phone number memorized.  But after the initial fury wears off I’m not GOING to remember to omit the superfluous ratblasting zero . . . and I can’t hit the auto button at all of course.

And presumably this is affecting ALL MY AMERICAN PHONE NUMBERS????  Somehow I haven’t wanted to check.

So meanwhile I finally successfully rang my bank.  AND THE FAX IS NOW TOO OLD AND I HAVE TO START ALL OVER AGAIN. 

It may be very useful that the hellhounds would rather not eat at all, and I’m a postmenopausal woman, I don’t need food . . . Pav is going to be a little distressed, the next fortnight or so, till I finally get my money transferred and can afford to buy food again.  Maybe Peter will throw Pav a crust from time to time.

# Actually I tried it without the country code and it still puts in a zero.  It’s possibly more conspicuous without the country code but that’s not the point.

## I have, of course, emailed Raphael.  I was HOPING he was going to say, oh, yeah, that’s a known glitch, press the zurgle button and tell it to flamboodle the dorkomart and it’ll be fine.  That’s not what he said.  He said, what?

Kill Steve Jobs.  Oh, wait, phooey, that won’t work.

+ If they put more money into organic farming and non-fossil-fuel energy sources and less into weapons development and finding new ways to avoid letting people have their civil rights I would feel a little better about this.

† I should have washed it, but let’s not get carried away.

†† No fooling.

††† Not to mention scraping hellhounds off the ceiling when the eaves at the cottage insist on wailing like women who have lost their demon lovers.^  One salient difference between hellhounds and hellterror:  hellhounds try to wedge themselves under (or over) the front door to get away from the kitchen door that is making that terrible coming-to-get-us^^ noise.  The hellterror trots interestedly straight for the kitchen door and puts her nose to the corner that is causing the row.  She did me a favour, in fact, because it seemed to me, standing up at human height, that the noise was coming from the top corner, not the bottom one, but wedging the top didn’t do much.  But it turns out I can just about stop the ululation with a well-placed dustcloth around the bottom corner  . . . but try closing the door accurately on said well-placed dustcloth with the wind hammering at the other side.  Without involving fingers and even more noise. 

^ This winter is not only endless, the frelling storm winds come from the wrong direction.

^^ 1 + The inspiration for Chuck was the previous generation of course, but the hellhounds’ whippet blood is well to the fore when the eaves are howling.

+ It’s on Kindle.  You can download it and read it right now.

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