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.
. . . 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.
^^ http://www.amazon.co.uk/product-reviews/B006X0M06I/ref=acr_search_see_all?ie=UTF8&showViewpoints= 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.
I had an appointment with Dentist from R’lyeh on Friday*, the second in a fortnight.** I knew that being pumped full of anaesthesia twice in slightly less than fourteen days was not going to go down well with the ME*** but you want to get it over with, you know? ‘It’ being death, taxes, anything to do with dentists and being tour guide for the friends of friends of friends who were told to look you up and whose idea of casual chat with a stranger doing them a favour is to complain about women bishops, Obama, and your fashion†/career††choices.
I have therefore spent the weekend in a daze of chemical hangover.††† That no doubt explains why having made it to church, because Wolfgang knows the way, I was actually inquiring about the job‡ vacancies Buck was haranguing us about. Because I’m so fuzzy-minded I can’t remember that I already have too much socially engaged yatta yatta stuff to do. There’s a meeting tomorrow night about this apparently. Maybe I can forget to go.
* * *
* I now have uniformly smooth grey front teeth rather than furrowed speckly brown ones! Yaaaay!
** We’ve been bonding over our mutual first ownership of terriers. A Whole Other Life Form, we concur. I got distracted by the ‘bull’ thing and the grin, and he has a preteen son who wanted his own dog, not a part share in one of the (several) family dogs, and went for a little manic hairy thing. The paw marks on the ceiling take some getting used to as does the robust response to the hearing of burglars at inappropriate hours.^
^ ‘Inappropriate’ being a mutable term. During socially sanctioned inappropriate hours I’m available to suppress the little varmint. It’s when she wants to disembowel the mailperson at 7 or 8 am that I get a little testy.
*** Which is also why I will not have my teeth whitened, and the grey will stay grey. There are chemical sensitivities I don’t have to find out all the fascinating details of, and elect not to.^
^ The Appalling Perversities of Bodies. It’s not enough that my multiple chemical sensitivities are probably one of the sources and maintaining causes of my ME but my frelling metabolism burns through anaesthetic with the speed of an exuberant hellhound after a frisky young rabbit, so the frelling dentist has to keep slugging more into me. ARRRRRGH.
† ‘You could hire a tailor to replace the [disintegrating] lining of your leather jacket^ and wearing Converse All Stars is very bad for your feet.’^^
^ Yep. I could. And I probably will as soon as the lining rots away from the bottom hem, so all the stuff that has fallen through the holes in the pockets and now resides lumpily in the gap between lining and leather starts falling to the ground and being lost forever.
Fortunately my last lot of interesting companions for an afternoon never saw Wolfgang. Wolfgang would have given them life-threatening palpitations. I met them at the train station in Mauncester, guided them to the obvious photo ops in the obvious picturesque bits of town, and put them back on the train again.+
+ You know what really rankles though? That I can never think of anything clever and quelling to say at the time. I just suck it up like a dope and seethe like anything later on.
^^ I’m really tired of being told that All Stars are bad for my feet. I’ve been wearing them for forty years+, three to seven miles a day for most of that time and my feet are in pretty good shape thanks awfully. Some of the rest of me, not so much, true, but I doubt it’s because of lack of cushioning and arch support in my All Stars. The properly-engineered-shoe argument reminds me of the other one that says that you can’t just walk three to seven miles a day you have to belong to a gym and have a personal trainer create a specific exercise programme for you. No. You don’t. It’s not in the contract.
Now some of my best friends belong to gyms, have personal trainers and don’t wear All Stars because they hurt their feet. I feel sorry for them about the All Stars++, but it’s all what works for you.+++ I have a hellmob. We go hurtling together. It works for us.
++ Personally I do not wish to envision a life without All Stars.
+++ Although in the absence of gym membership I need to keep ringing tower bells to maintain upper body strength.# Although lifting the hellterror out of harm’s way on a regular basis counts for something.##
# Over-ringing does serve a purpose. It also burns calories. Wild Robert, who is built of toothpicks and super glue, can ring the 1,000,000,000 pound abbey tenor with one hand. And does occasionally to be annoying. But rumour has it he doesn’t eat, so he doesn’t need to burn calories, let alone go home and comfort himself with chocolate after he’s screwed up a simple touch of a simple method on a well-behaved modest-sized bell. SIIIIIIGH.
## Chiefly mental anguish.
†† ‘Have you ever written a REAL book?’
††† I was supposed to ring frelling handbells again yesterday. I seem to have got myself ambushed into this semi-regular extra Saturday in which Melinda and Niall try to chivvy Spenser and me into ringing quarter peals. Apparently this is what handbell ringers do. They don’t just, you know, ring handbells, they get together and rack up stuff they can put on their life list. Quarters. Full peals. Shudder. I told Spenser and Niall Friday night, during our usual, ordinary, low level, lots of wrong notes just-get-together-and-ring handbell session with Gillian or Gemma, that I had been badly dentalled and wasn’t likely to be up to much the next day. Spenser said he was chiefly interested in practise and didn’t actually care about quarters, which is how I feel about it, and Niall is an obsessive crazy so never mind what he may or may not have said. And Melinda, who seems so normal,^ would already have rung one quarter that day^^ and would probably bear the disappointment of not getting a second.
Well my brain kept blanking out and we kept crashing and burning. As predicted. Spenser and I had swapped pairs of bells too so I didn’t even have relative familiarity to plug the gaps. It wasn’t all bad: both Spenser and I felt we were getting useful practise.
Now as it happens the monks were holding a bingo night for prospective oblates or something and my usual Saturday night contemplative service wasn’t on. I had told the assembled bell crowd that I didn’t have my usual time constraints and so of course Niall suggested we have one more crash and clang at the frelling quarter after our tea break. I was already tired and getting stupider with multiple failures. . . .
Yep. We got it. And as I wrote to Alfrick later, God once again proves to have a funny sense of humour.
^ She babysits for her grandchildren! It doesn’t get more normal!
^^ One of the Super Surprise Delight Domineering Demented methods. The kind of thing where I can’t even read the line, let alone imagine ringing it.
‡ Volunteer. Things like chair-straightener and crucifix-polisher and cable-winder and tea-and-cake producer. But these apparently harmless if time-consuming occupations have fancy names like Dapifer and Manciple and one has the suspicion that the moment one had said ‘okay’ the task list would turn out to be seven single-spaced pages of deviant Anglican jargon meant to intimidate and enslave. Or they’d have more volunteers.
Crabbiton, for better or worse, is becoming a fixture of my Thursday nights.** And I was thinking tonight, as I made a complete squishy overdone dog’s dinner of a touch of St Simons doubles***, that I’m beginning to remember how much fun bell ringing is, even when you’re being hopeless.† I’m also beginning to brandish a tiny amount of autonomy. I have a habit of staying off the bigger bells in any tower however light the ring is overall, where even the big bells aren’t very, because I’m such a jerky ringer. Bells are a lot bigger than you are, even the little ones, and you have to ring with grace and discretion or they will get the better of you. You can recover from ringing idiocy by violent yanking to some extent on the littler bells. The heavier the bell, however, the faster it will embarrass a tactless ringer, and genuinely big bells are only rung by good ringers. I am not a good ringer. Crabbiton is a light six but I’ve still been cringing around front.†† Last week I decided it was time to stop being quite such a little old lady. Okay, so I made another mess of ringing up the six tonight†††, I made a dive for it anyway when Wild Robert called for plain hunt on six. I’d successfully rung a few touches on the five, and plain hunt does require you to move your bell down to the front and back up again but there’s none of that dreadful dodging business, I should be able to do this for pity’s sake. And while there was a good deal of Wild Robert saying things like ‘keep the six moving along’, ie go faster, which is hard when you over-pull, which I do, because that’s a bigger bell you’re wrestling with the inertia of, I did stay in place. And it was weirdly exhilarating, tackling another aspect of my less than fabulous ringing skill,‡ and it made me think about handling, which is a good thing to do.‡‡
So I was chirping cheerfully about this at the pub, about what is essentially relearning stuff I used to know, but in my case, possibly because I’m such a slow learner about most things, relearning is usually a good thing because I learn more the second, or third or fourth or seventeenth, time through.
On the learning of bell ringing however there is only one focus of interest for Niall, and I found myself discussing learning frelling handbells again. He referred to some pronouncement by one of the stars in the handbell-ringing firmament and I made Rude Noises. He is a nasty man, I said, after you and Colin dragged me through a couple of quarters of bob minor he kept asking when I was going to ring a peal. I AM NOT GOING TO RING A PEAL.
There was a silence.
You could ring a peal of bob minor dead easy now, said Niall insinuatingly. Now you’ve rung a couple of quarters of bob major.
To be continued. I fear.
* * *
* It’s because I’m ringing too many handbells. TOO MANY HANDBELLS. MY BRAIN CAN’T TAKE THE STRAIN. AAAAAAAAUGH.
** I drive. Niall buys the beer at the pub after. HE FORGOT HIS MONEY TONIGHT. I HAD TO DRIVE AND BUY THE BEER. ^
^ As I told him however, having first exercised my inner cow by doing shock-horror-flounce, given the amount of driving he’s done in support of my ringing progress+ I probably owe him a few beers. 1,000,000 or so.
+ A few weeks ago, for example, handbells at Gillian’s house, I didn’t know Hampshire had that much back of beyond, and little twisty confusingly-mapped# roads that always have tractors coming at you around blind, one-car-wide corners. Of course this was for handbells. If it weren’t for the whips and chains## I could have stayed home.###
# It would almost be worth finally making up my tiny mind~ and buying a satnav~~ to take it out there and watch it weep. I could be wrong, but I bet it would say TURN AROUND! TURN AROUND! GIVE ME STREET LIGHTS AND MOBILE PHONE MASTS! AAAAAAAAAUGH!
~ The money Peter gave me to buy one is long gone on books/music/yarn/All Stars/chocolate
~~Niall doesn’t need satnav in pursuit of handbells. He can smell a handbell ringer two counties over.
## Don’t let that mild-mannered exterior fool you. Niall is FIERCE in pursuit of handbells. FIERCE. Tigers have nothing on Niall when he has his handbell bag out. And it’s always out.~ I have an American friend coming through next week and I’m going to take her tower ringing. It’s so, you know, exotic, and she reads the blog. I told Niall about her since I’m hoping to, ahem, rope him into this adventure and his immediate reaction was, is there time to start her on handbells?
~ There are rumours of mysterious disappearances in his part of town and the sound of handbells and moaning at strange hours.=
= Of course in my part of town there are stories of an elderly woman with wild hair and All Stars carrying a series of large lumpy pink knapsacks and accompanied by a series of furry four-legged creatures of the night whom she cajoles with such phrases as, I don’t care if you are a stomach on four short little legs you may not eat that . . . ewwww . . . whatever it is, and, I don’t care if you’re entire males you do not have to pee every five feet I want to get home before dawn.%
% Preferably. This doesn’t always happen. Especially lately with, you know, spring looming and longer days and everything. Street Pastors and Sams£ are really ruining my ability to get back out of bed in the morning.
£ Although no one’s holding a gun to my head and making me sign up for late shifts. I have a Dr Strangelove hand. It . . . must . . . press . . . late shift buttons.
### Gillian must have a private helicopter pad~. I can’t believe she drives everywhere.
~ And one doodah of a private income
*** The frelling bobs are the same simple-minded bobs as for plain bob doubles, the frelling method you frelling started with!! What is my FRELLING PROBLEM!!!!^
^ My frelling problem is that it’s a different basic method, so the bobs are stuck into the course line slightly differently. Just enough to derail someone like me who doesn’t actually count to five+ very reliably.
+ ‘Doubles’ means five working bells. ONLY FIVE. Amazing the amount of mayhem a mere five bells can get up to. Apparently there are a lot of us numerically challenged ringers who can’t count to five.
† Mind you I’d just successfully called my baby touch of Grandsire doubles and for the second week in a row like I actually knew it or something.^ There are drawbacks to success with Wild Robert around. Hmm, he said, we’ll have to teach you another touch.
^ Last week everyone just tied up their ropes and wandered away which is what usually happens at the end of a touch. I WANTED PRAISE. I WANTED PEOPLE TO TELL ME HOW CLEVER I AM. I said this to Niall over our beer afterward. This week there was applause. Led by Niall.
†† Although I don’t much like Crabbiton’s treble—the littlest bell—either because it’s so little I tend inadvertently to try and spring it out of the tower. See: jerky ringer.
††† I GOT MY HAND THROUGH A LOOP OF THE ROPE AND COULDN’T GET IT OUT AGAIN. You can’t finish ringing up unless you let all your loops out. So I either had to sort it or undergo the utter humiliation of ringing back down again, extricating myself, and ringing up in Grisly Solitude. I did get my hand out without ringing down, but I was still late getting up with the other bells. Arrrrrgh. Wasn’t I saying something about fun? What was I saying about fun?
‡ I survived two plain courses of Stedman doubles with two of the other bells going adrift. This may count more than calling a touch of Grandsire.
‡‡ I was also feeling a little self-conscious because one of the Forza ringers was there and gazed at me as you might say inquiringly, because in theory I belong to the Forza band and haven’t been there I think by now over a year. Erm, I squeaked, I’ve been ringing here lately because it’s, you know, casual, and, um, low key. Lots of Grandsire doubles. Only six bells. Rather than forty-seven. Aglovale nodded gravely. Arrrgh. Eeep. I suppose I could turn up at Forza practise some week. . . .
This one: http://www.metopera.org/opera/la-donna-del-lago-rossini-tickets [If the link dies at the end of the season: LA DONNA DEL LAGO by Rossini]
In the first place it was fabulous. I’m enormously glad I went. The singing from the four principals was AMAZING.**
In the second place, however, it’s way up there on the silly scale—not quite ERNANI but close. REALLY SILLY PLOT. REALLY REALLY SILLY. REALLY. SILLY. I also felt the translation was more cack-handed than was strictly required.*** We want to know what’s going on, we don’t necessarily want the exquisitely precise rendering of the Italian, which word choice may have more to do with how it sings rather than whether it makes any sense at all as something anyone might ever say, even two hundred years ago in a Walter Scott novel. †
In the third place, it’s all about Joyce Di Donato’s breasts.
I admit I wasn’t expecting this last. I’m fine with the fact that she has breasts, but I wasn’t expecting them to be Triumphant Before Everything, aka Beware the Bustier.†† I suppose the designer/costumer might be trying to make sure we know that Di Donato is the girl, since her boyfriend is played by another mezzo soprano†††, and the boyfriend is, furthermore, in a kilt, which is perhaps not the best choice for a girl playing a trouser role. I mean a kilt role. It turns out that the entire Highland army—you got it that this is Sir Walter Scott, yes?—is in kilts, but you haven’t taken this in yet when Malcolm first strides on stage/screen and starts mooning over Elena. Even knowing that Malcolm is going to be a mezzo the urge to giggle is powerful when she appears in a kilt. It took me about four bars into her, um, his, um, her first aria however to become her drooling slave and beyond that I couldn’t care less. ‡
But I get ahead of myself. The first bloke we see on stage is Juan Diego Florez ‡ in really icky plastic leather.‡‡ He’s the king, who has allowed himself to be distracted from stamping the crap out of the Highland rebels by tales of a mysterious beauty, whom he has disguised himself to get a glimpse of. I mean, you don’t expect to see your king in plastic leathers, do you? Elena is picking plastic‡‡‡ heather in another one of production/design’s curious choices for stage business. She, for some reason, thinks he needs help§ and offers to take him home with her. That loud bang you just heard was plot credibility exploding. HONEY. YOU’RE OUT IN THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE WITH A MAN YOU’VE NEVER MET BEFORE§§ WHO IS, FURTHERMORE, SHOWING SIGNS OF FINDING YOU HOT §§§. I THINK YOU MIGHT AT LEAST MENTION THAT YOU LIVE WITH YOUR DAD, AND THAT A CHORUS’ WORTH OF HENCHPERSONS IS JUST OVER THAT PAPIER MACHE HILL. I think. The operatic geography remains a trifle underexplained. Because the show is called The Lady of the Lake~ there has to be a lake, which our heroine rows across every day, apparently, to gather plastic heather and have random encounters with gleaming-eyed strangers. After that, beyond a throwaway reference to taking the current random stranger back to the shore~~ the characters just hop around from set piece to set piece. Special non-points are awarded for Elena’s cottage, which is a small roof on two walls, like a capital letter ‘E’ stood on its front with the central bar removed, plonked down in the middle of the stage, and through which the henchpersons/chorus eventually swirl, and to give themselves something to do, set up some banqueting tables out back. Hope it doesn’t rain.~~~
I was regularly distracted from all the nonsense by the sheer glory of the music. I like Rossini, I like bel canto, and I’m now passionately in love with not one but two mezzos.= But this is one of those evenings when I came away thinking, It does not have to be this daft. It does not have to be this daft. It’s hard to do a lot of acting when you’re a girl in a trouser role dressed in a kilt, the king is mainly required to flounce variously, which is fortunately one of Florez’ skills, the superfluous tenor has nothing to do, poor man, but stomp about looking heroic== and be spurned by his affianced bride, who wants to marry the other mezzo. But Di Donato is a really effective actress, and watching her creating small shining bits of sense within all the doolally is almost worse than if she’d been a student of the Leontyne Price school.&
Let’s also just take a moment to contemplate the character of the king. Okay, he falls for Elena big time in that insta-whammy way popular in both opera and Hollywood romcom. He’s the king. What is he planning to offer this small-time laird’s daughter, before or after he finds out she’s one of the revolting scum raising arms against him? I kinda doubt it’s anything her dad would recognise as honourable, even if her dad weren’t a member of the revolting scum. And this is an era when the male relatives get to dispose of the bodies of the females, you know? And when the short hero she doesn’t want to marry objects to her clear loathing of him, her dad tries to play it off as virginal modesty. Uh huh.
But the king is supposed to be a good guy. Well, I think. I think he’s supposed to be being a good guy when he leaves the battle to go hunt up Elena and give her a ring that he says, rolling his eyes theatrically, if she shows to the king he will be merciful and give her safe passage to somewhere or other. Tahiti. Guam. But there’s this hilarious exchange between them when he’s trying to go for her again&& and she says No no no! I’m in love with the other mezzo! And he replies, in what I feel is not wholly inexplicable bewilderment, Well, why didn’t you discourage my ardour when you took me HOME WITH YOU the other day? Well, yes. Although possibly because she’d only set eyes on him half an hour ago and she was wrapped in a sweet naïve mist of Scottish hospitality and concentrating on her rowing. Oh, and she’s already in love with the mezzo named Malcolm. But I repeat . . . what exactly is the king of Scotland OFFERING her? A big fat dowry to cover up the fact that she may be pregnant when he pats her on the . . . head and sends her on her way again?
I’d forgive either the story or the staging a lot if the last scene weren’t quite so determinedly demented. So, the rebels have been crushed absolutely, the (short) heroic rebel tenor has been conveniently killed, and Elena, with the safe-passage ring&&& has gone up to the palace to try begging for the life of her dad and her beloved. And she meets the bloke she last saw in plastic leathers now all decked out in white and gilt and she says, oh, hi, I’m here to see the king, um, I have this ring that this random guy gave me . . . um, you gave me. You’ll see the king, the random guy says. Grandly.% So now we have languours of daftitude while the court all processes in and does galliard-y type things around Florez, who stands there looking like a stuffed prat, while poor Di Donato has to go on and on and on and on and on NOT GETTING IT. She doesn’t get to get it till one of the courtiers plonks a frelling crown on Florez’ head.
Okay, whatever. Cue general rejoicing. The king pardons both dad and Malcolm and is apparently not requiring them to emigrate to Tahiti or Guam, which is very nice of him, and proves that he is supposed to be a good guy. And if he draws Malcom aside later and mutters something about droit de seigneur, it doesn’t happen till after the curtain comes down.
I’m glad I went! The music was spectacular and my head is still full of it!%% I just wish—um—I just wish—um!
. . . And if not writing regular blogs causes me to write three thousand words when I finally get around to it again, even under the extreme provocation of an opera to rant about, I’d better rethink. Um. Again.
* * *
* How Christianity Ruins Your Life. My Saturday evenings are now dedicated to sitting in the dark with monks. The thing is that I want to sit in the dark with monks, but I miss my Live at the Mets.^ I have not figured this out yet. ^^ There are slowly more live opera broadcasts at your friendly neighbourhood cinemas but the New York City Met is my opera company and they broadcast to the distant punters on Saturday afternoons in New York, which is Saturday evening sitting in the dark with monks time in Hampshire, England. Also, most cinema web sites are possessed by demons. For example, apparently the ROH^^^ is streaming a Guillaume Tell which I would love to attend and THEORETICALLY it’s coming to my cinema but my cinema’s web site won’t discuss it. ARRRRRRGH. And since it’s a chain, you can’t get a local on the phone—and because something is coming to the chain, that does not mean it is coming to all the individual theatres belonging to that chain. ARRRRRRRRRGH.
^ Including the prosecco and knitting in the interval. There’s no reason I couldn’t do prosecco and knitting at home, I just don’t. Way too self-indulgent somehow. Because of course I am never self indulgent. Ever. About anything.+
+ Choooooooocolate. Also how many books in the TBR pile(s)? And we’re not even going to mention yarn. # Or All Stars. ##
# Or for that matter furry four-legged creatures of the night.~ Some people would consider three of these somewhat self-indulgent. Personally I just call it dangerously insane.
~ Although the ‘of the night’ part is kind of my fault. I go to bed late.
## I had to THROW OUT A PAIR OF PINK ONES recently. I’m still in mourning. But the amount of water they were letting through the holes in the soles was getting kind of extreme.
^^ I have told Alfrick that they should lay on more silent sitting-in-the-dark contemplative services. Only one a week seems, you know, careless. Unprofessional. For a bunch of monks.
^^^ Royal Opera House. Which is one of my problems. The ROH tend to be up-themselves scum-sucking banderglizzards. When I first moved over here a quarter century ago and was bouncing all over the landscape with JOY at the prospect of two, count ‘em, TWO, world-class opera houses only a little over an hour away+, my heart was quickly won by the English National Opera, which was the other one, both because it was CHEAPER++ and because they hired real human beings who answered phones and personned the front of house if you wandered in off the street and who were nice. The ROH hired scum-sucking banderglizzards. And, guys, in today’s economy, including twenty-five years’ ago economy, you can’t afford not to take the money of vulgar Americans who want to buy full-price+++ seats and you should behave accordingly. Vulgar Americans don’t necessarily think brass-balled rudeness in a British accent is charming. Some of those memories linger. Although the memory of going to The Huguenots at the ROH on what I think was my first birthday in England, with Peter in a dinner jacket and me in green velvet, also rather lingers. I’m not sure what Peter has done with his dinner jacket but I still have the green velvet.
Anyway. The ROH does beam some of its screenings down here to the one cinema within my driving range, but the ENO does not. Yet. I hope they’re planning to cast their webby net wider soon.
+ Especially the way Peter used to thunder up the motorway when he and Wolfgang were a lot younger.
++ And before any ROH supporters tell me, with lashings of dudgeon, that the ROH offers cheap seats too, it didn’t use to. And I’m only taking it on faith that you can actually hear and/or see anything from the cheap seats.
** I admit I didn’t think the supporting-role baritone was quite up to the standard set by the two tenors and two mezzo-sopranos, but that may be the sheer physical facts of a low voice emerging from a human voice box. Are there coloratura baritones? I don’t know.
*** But I think I’m losing my grip on the whole translation question as a result of struggling with the Bible. There are a lot of WHAT? moments about the Bible anyway and groping hastily for some other translation usually only makes it worse.
† What is it with opera composers and Sir Walter Scott? Surely they could have got their silly from a wider range of sources?
†† That’s bust-ee-ay as in corset, not bust-ee-er as in possessing more bust.
††† And as the off-duty operatic soprano doing the backstage introduction to us nonpresent audience drones finished her plot synopsis by saying: and so the mezzo gets the mezzo, and tough luck to the two tenors.^
^ Note that this opera has a HAPPY ENDING. YAAAAAAAAY. Mind you this happy ending requires the killing-off of the awkward superfluous tenor, but hey. He starts breathing again in time for the curtain calls.
‡ Her name is Daniela Barcellona. And it’s just as well she doesn’t have an enormous back catalogue or I’d be taking out a bank loan.
Just for the record, they kiss. Which I like to think is another blow for irrelevant-detail-blind staging.^ Like the Oscar Wilde play—I can’t even remember which one—I saw in London about twenty years ago where the actor playing the female lead was black: which I’m afraid is the first time I’d seen historical-drama colour-blind anywhere but Shakespeare. Yessssss. But while Wilde plays don’t call for black actors and Malcolm in DONNA DEL LAGO is written for a mezzo, Di Donato and Barcellona’s duet that the kiss is at the end of is so frelling ravishing you’ve probably forgotten everything but ohmygodohmygodohmygod, and also, Barcellona is TALL, so she can do the male-swagger thing, including the looming protectively over the girl, pretty well. Better, in fact, than most tenors, who tend to be bandy-legged midgets. Barcellona towered over both of last night’s tenors. Just by the way.
^ Maybe Rossini was thinking about gay sex really. But the story on stage is het.
‡ Who is a SHORT TENOR. Di Donato, who doesn’t look very tall herself, was in flats. Florez’ boots had substantial heels on them. But he is a bloke.
‡‡ Or if it was real leather, the Met needs a new buyer.
‡‡‡ I perceive a pattern. Not in a good way.
§ HE’S IN PLASTIC LEATHERS. IF HE WERE A GOOD GUY HE’D BE WEARING A KILT.
§§ WHO IS WEARING PLASTIC LEATHER.
§§§ I know you’re a legendary beauty and all, but the bustier is not really supportive^ of the modest Scottish virgin thing. And while Florez does the overheated Latin^^ lover persona very well the character he’s playing in this case would be forgiven for the thought bubble appearing over his head saying NOBODY TOLD ME THE LEGENDARY BEAUTY IS FAST.
^^ He looks about as Scottish as Barcellona looks like a bloke. I can deal with this. The plastic leathers must go.
~ Um, why? The Lady of the Lake as an Arthurian trope has been around a long time, and Scott must have known Malory’s Arthur? Surely? Or is there some Arthurian resonance in the Scott novel that I’ve forgotten?^ And if Rossini’s librettist cut it out why didn’t they CHANGE THE TITLE?
^ I read shedloads of frelling Scott at various times in my misspent youth, but in my memory, never my best feature, the stories have all mooshed together in one gargantuan wodge of forsoothly, studded with hopelessly wet, floppy heroines. Don’t Rebecca me. She only looks good in comparison.
~~ And leaving him there? What?
~~~ It’s the Scottish Highlands. IT NEVER RAINS THERE. NOOOOOOO.
= The tenors are fine. And I’ve been a fan of Florez for a long time. But . . . give me one of those mezzos. Please.^
^ I am of course Giving Up Singing Forever again. Had a voice lesson today. . . . No, no, this blog post is already reader-numbingly too long.
== which is harder still when you’re the shortest person on the stage. Pav is taller than this bloke.
& Stand Like Fence Post, Wave Arms and Sing. I adored Price and have a lot of her recordings but she was not an actress.
&& Nothing like a little rumpy-pumpy to soothe those battlefield nerves.
&&& I mean, how much can you trust someone wearing plastic leathers?
% Trying not to take a cheap shot here. But grandly is not Florez’ metier.
%% To the extreme detriment of my own singing. Sigh. Why didn’t I take up the xylophone?