July 17, 2015

Shadows is here!

EVERYMAN

 

Admetus, Peter and I went to the live cinema screening of the National Theatre’s EVERYMAN tonight—yes, the medieval morality play*, yanked into the present day and adorned with bad language and cocaine by Carol Ann Duffy, of whom I am a besotted and drooling fan**, and when I saw this play existed and that, furthermore, the National Theatre was going to live-screen it I WANTED TO GO.***

IT IS WONDERFUL AND AMAZING AND POWERFUL AND TERRIFIC.  GO IF YOU HAVE THE CHANCE.  They do rescreenings for these live things some times . . . check your local listings.

* * *

* Which I read in college.  Hey, it’s shorter than Bunyan’s frelling PILGRIM’S PROGRESS.  Even us English majors have our limits.  Although I read most of Bunyan too.^

^ And I like Spenser, who usually appears on the same class syllabus.  Sue me.

* I admire both her poetry and her politics.  Generally speaking I remember a pressing engagement on the other side of the planet as soon as some arty type starts coming out in political activism like a rash, but there are a few who do it with aplomb, Duffy being one of them.  The fact that she’s hot on women’s and sexual and gender rights AND HAS A SENSE OF HUMOUR WITH IT might have something to do with this.^

^ Also my wet-liberal tendencies are getting larger and meaner and shorter-tempered+ as my Street Pastor and Samaritan duty hours rack up.

+ Frightening.  Yes.

*** There followed several months of frustration.  I cannot BELIEVE the level of meatloafhood in many and possibly most arts and entertainment web sites.  ARRRRRRGH.  I think I only found out about either the play or the live screening because I’m on the NT’s STREET MAIL CATALOGUE LIST.  But you have to buy your tickets from your local cinema, supposing you can find the right local cinema, since the cinema list on the NT site will not match the local cinema’s information when, the NT link being dead or missing, you try your local cinema’s own web site.  This tarantella of frustration is further enhanced by the original performance site—in this case the National Theatre, but it is by no means the only perpetrator of this variety of on line crime—whining continuously in obtrusive pop-up boxes for your location so it can give you a personally tailored web site experience, and, when you cave and give it to them, and it is, let’s say, Hampshire, immediately offering you 1,000,000 cinemas in London.  THANKS EVER SO.  I KNOW IT SOMETIMES LOOKS LIKE THE ENTIRE SOUTH OF ENGLAND IS A LARGE BEDROOM COMMUNITY FOR LONDON BUT SOME OF US REALLY LIVE HERE.^

Meanwhile . . . I could not persuade my local cinema to take my money and give me some seats for EVERYMAN, and since it’s a flapdoodling cinema chain, you can’t get a local human being on the phone—nor is the on-the-ground ticket office open during ordinary town-errand-running day hours—to tell you if it’s coming to your particular local.  The chain’s theatre local to a town 300 miles away is not really what you are after.  ARRRRRRGH.  So the NT web site went on saying it was here, and here went on saying Page Not Found.  So I finally threw up my hands^^ and bought tickets at a theatre in Greater Footling, which isn’t impossibly far from here.^^^  I didn’t find out that yes, indeed, EVERYMAN is coming to the local scion of national cinema glory until we walked in to see the Royal Opera House live screening of GUILLAME TELL~ there a fortnight ago, and saw large flashy posters for EVERYMAN on the walls.  AAAAAARRRRRRRRGH.

BUT THE STORY DOES NOT END HERE.  In the first place, there are two theatres belonging to this other incompetently head-officed and web-sited cinema chain, AND with nearly the same name, ie the Toadstool and the Toadstool Phoenix, both of them not merely in Greater Footling but the same end of Greater Footling and Greater Footling is not exactly a gazillion-citizen megalopolis AND BOTH OF THEM WERE SCREENING EVERYMAN.  Go figure.  Admetus had looked up how to find the Toadstool Phoenix and I had looked up the Toadstool, and there was a certain amount of frantic cross-checking yesterday.

Well we got that sorted and we even successfully arrived at the Toadstool~~.  Now my on line booking was, according to what I printed out to take with me, only a booking and we had to get there HALF AN HOUR EARLY to pick up the tickets.  Fortunately, having wasted time going in several wrong directions, we got there only about a quarter hour early . . . fortunately because the box office was not open.  The ticket machine did not show EVERYMAN.  The androids behind the snacks counter were only programmed to provide snacks.  The whole dranglefabbing complex was pretty comprehensively deserted and since there are 1,000,000 screens at the Toadstool Stepford we might still be there wandering hopelessly down identical corridors except the screen number was on my booking page.  We went there.  We decided we didn’t like the seats I’d booked—who can tell anything from a web schematic—and sat somewhere else.  Since there were only about ten of us perched randomly in a theatre that would probably seat 200 it didn’t matter too astonishingly.  And no one ever checked our booking, or asked for our tickets, or offered us a wet fish or a glass of Prosecco, or anything else.  But there must have been a Stepford minion pressing the button for the show to run, because it did run.  Yaaaaaay.

^ The worst offender in the web site visitor location category however is the frelling New York Metropolitan Opera.  I don’t know what the frelling doodah is going on with the Met Live this year—tickets should be on sale by now—and I can’t find a cinema anywhere around here that admits to screening it, including the one I’ve always used in the past.  But if you click through all the dazzle to the Met Live page on the Met Opera site, and ask it to find you your local cinema, it will ask you for your country and then for your city.  I clicked hopefully on Mauncester, which is even on the Met Live drop down menu of Hampshire cities . . . AND THE CINEMA LIST STARTS OFF IN AUSTRIA.  THEN GERMANY.  THEN . . . Belgium, I think.  I forget.  But you’ve scrolled down several pages before you ever get to the UK at all.  If they’re trying to impress me favourably with the number of cinemas worldwide that screen the Met Live this is not having the desired effect.

^^ There may have been language.

^^^ Especially when Admetus is driving.  Ahem.

~ The now nationally if not internationally notorious new ROH production of GUILLAUME TELL.  Yes, yes, William Tell, but Rossini was an Italian writing for the French opera, okay?  Whatever you call it it’s supposed to be Rossini’s unknown masterpiece, never put on because it’s five hours long and you’re only allowed to write operas longer than four hours if you’re Wagner.+  I was THRILLED when I heard that the ROH was going to do it, and QUADRUPLY THRILLED that they were going to live stream it and live stream it at a cinema close enough for me to drive to.  YAAAAAAAAAAY.  I bought tickets more or less the moment they went on sale and was enormously looking forward to it.  ENORMOUSLY.

The beginning of that week I got a text from Admetus saying, erm, have you seen the reviews for the opening night of GUILLAUME TELL?  I hadn’t.  The hot young director++ in his creative capacity as an enormous flaming asshole had decided that the bad guys’ bad-guy-ness—whatever else you do with it, the story is still basically about a bunch of locals being stomped by an invading army—needed to be heightened, and never mind that Rossini and his text provider actually took quite good care of making the bad guys bad in the libretto—and so staged an extremely graphic rape scene during the chirpy ballet+++ at the beginning of the third act.  A local woman is harassed and molested by a gang of the bad-guy officers . . . and then stripped naked, thrown on the banqueting table and gang raped.  BECAUSE THE AUDIENCE NEEDS TO UNDERSTAND ABOUT THE BRUTALITY OF WAR.

Opening night was booed so thoroughly that (according to reports) you couldn’t hear the music.  Quite a lot of ink, newspaper and virtual, was spilled subsequently (most of which you can still find on line if you’re interested) and I spent rather too much of that week reading reviews and feeling ill.  I almost didn’t go.  I don’t need to understand about the brutality of war, or about the gross inhumanity of man to man or men to woman# and I don’t think the first night reaction was anything about British parochialism, which is one of the things that was elitistly suggested.

They’d toned it down some## by the day of the cinema broadcast . . . but I did go, and that scene still made me feel physically sick and I almost walked out.  The only reason I finally went at all was because the reviews were also universal that it was exquisitely sung AND I WANTED TO FRELLING HEAR IT which is where we came in.  And it was exquisitely sung, and I in fact came home and ordered the CD with the same cast and conductor which gets about twelve stars in the Penguin Guide as well.  But for gratuitous, inappropriate, stupid, pretentious shock value, the rape scene takes some kind of gigantic toxic biscuit.  I’m also happy to say that the controversy did not put bums on seats around here:  I’d never seen the cinema so empty for an opera screening.###

+ I will probably never see Parsifal, partly because I’d be throwing rubbery carrots and small dead animals at the stage by the end of act two, but also because, supposing I hadn’t been ejected yet, I’d have pressure sores by the end of act twelve, or whenever it finally stops.

++ On whose head let there be a positive avalanche of small dead animals in an advanced state of decomposition

+++ French operas of that period apparently HAD to have ballets.  There are a lot of standard rep grand operas that seem suddenly and startlingly to come to a thundering [sic] halt for the ballet.  Good time to sneak out for another glass of Prosecco.  Especially if it’s GUILLAUME TELL under this director.

# Oh, and?  The actress does not—or at any rate did not—get a mention in the credits.  Several of us saw some further symbolism in this.

## After both director and ROH head did the blustery bit about artistic integrity and said they weren’t going to change a thing

### There was a lot of raging stupidity elsewhere in this production.  Why the freedom fighters took their shirts off—rarely a performance plus in a large group of opera singers—to smear themselves in blood and dirt before they went into battle was not clear, and went CLANG in a production that had more or less updated the story to the 20th century.  And there is a scene at the end that I’m surprised was even allowed, when the villagers’ children are stripped down to their underwear and bathed in a series of small tubs dotted across the stage.  Presumably it was to indicate Fresh Young New Beginnings, the bad guys having been against the odds seen off, but it was creepy in the extreme.

~~ Some of our wrong turnings tonight looked very familiar since Fiona and I had made them a while back when we tried to find the Toadstool.  We had of course complicated the issue by stopping at a yarn store first which for some reason Peter and Admetus were not interested in.  Men.  Sigh.

 

The HandleBards. No, really

 

If you have a chance to see these dangerous lunatics*, I mean, this exceptionally talented and engaging AND ENERGETIC troupe of young men, do climb into or onto your internal combustion engine vehicle of choice, bring along a large picnic hamper of high-calorie comestibles and, if you’re sensible, a bottle of fizz, and several blankets because this is England after all**, and possibly folding chairs, if you’re ancient and decrepit***, and GO.  The HandleBards are a hoot.

http://www.peculius.com/handlebards.html

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BeGV4NBz43Y

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KF0TYbVXBKQ

Admetus and I went last night.  I admit I was not instantly overwhelmed with desire to see four men doing the stripped-down bicycle [sic] version of Shakespeare, since it sounds like a dumb-ass idea and I am not a Shakespeare fan, but I watched a few clips on YouTube, as above, and . . . well, I am rather drawn to insanity.  I still can’t get my head around the 2000 miles on a bicycle thing, carrying all your kit, from show to show, plus setting up, doing your play at a hundred million miles an hour of adrenaline-cranked frenzy, striking it all down again, getting some food and sleep and then doing it all over again tomorrow, but then I am ancient and decrepit.†

What we saw last night was Midsummer Night’s Dream††.  Now you go knowing that there are only four of them and they play ALL the parts.  But I still spent the first scene with fathers, lovers, Theseuses and other riffraff milling about not having a clue what was going on, except that some of the people who were supposed to be on stage were being indicated by empty coats on poles which the four, you know, live actors would swirl into and back out of in a hurly-burly of something or other AND AFTER THEY’D CYCLED HALF A GAZILLION MILES EARLIER THAT DAY?  Beulah, peel me a grape.

You do tune in pretty quickly to the mayhem.  They also pad out a few scenes by shanghaiing members of the audience†††  The two additional blokes cavorting in rainbow wings as Peaseblossom and Mustardseed deserve special mention and will probably never live it down.  Since all I had was a blanket to keep me warm I was particularly taken with the armful of borrowed dog, bewildered but good-natured.  The tallest and the shortest of the four principals were also the two with the facial hair . . . and who played Hermia and Helena, so they can get off the dwarf and painted maypole‡ lines.

You also start laughing before the show even starts.  The ‘stage’ is mostly pegged-out bunting, but they do have a proscenium with arch equivalent, which must be their heaviest piece of kit.  From audience-eye view it looks like a lot of long spidery legs with joints for folding up bicycle-pannier-sized‡‡ and a kind of mobile circular rail suspended above the not-much-bigger-than-handkerchief-sized curtain that gives them somewhere to hide not-that-scene’s bits, and behind which some of the split-second costume and character changes occur.  They hang some of the scene-specific background bits on the rail—heraldic looking banners for Theseus, village-amateur props for the rude mechanicals.  Someone pins or drapes that scene’s background to the stretch of rail at that moment behind the curtain . . . but the rail is connected to one of the long-suffering bicycles, and one of the longer-suffering bicyclists pedals the rail around, so the new scene background comes whizzing out from behind the curtain.‡‡‡  Snork.

It may take you a little while, somewhat stunned by the energy level as you will be, also to tune into the fact that these guys are not merely corybantic fruit loops but good at what they do.§  When they decide that 2000 miles on a bicycle carrying the complete works of Shakespeare is a bit excessive§§ I hope they’ll go on to be famous actors. §§§  They’ll deserve it in several more than the usual hard graft and working up from the Bottom ways.  May their tyres never puncture and the weather maintain a little fair patch hovering over them wherever they go.  It was perfect last night.  Only one blanket required.

* * *

* Wrong country?  The UK is a great place for a holiday!  We have Stonehenge!  We have the British Museum!  We have skylarks!  We have lots and lots of rosebushes!  And we have more method ringing bell towers than in the entire rest of the world combined!^

^ Although you’ll probably need to take a rather long holiday to learn how to ring while you’re here.

** And, speaking of England, an umbrella, or possibly a tent

*** Or perhaps might be distracted by wondering what you’re sitting on.  You know, ON.  Even before I lived in town with three dogs I used to be a trifle wary about sitting on bare ground . . . although pre-three-dogs-in-town this was mainly because it was likely to be damp.  A few weeks ago the hellterror and I rounded the corner from the main street into the churchyard and found a large number of serious walkers^ bestrewn about the grassy triangle you come to first.  The same grassy triangle that every dog within miles rushes to with little whimpers of joy on sight—including mine.^^  Not all of whose owners are as pathologically over-supplied with plastic bags and paranoia as I am.  And damp may come from a variety of sources.  I hope when the walkers arose from their respite no one was too . . . unhappy.

^ Not a pair of All Stars in sight and I’m sure denim jeans and cotton socks are anathema.  Proper hiking boots with proper hiking socks turned down at the tops and Nordic walking sticks and proper breathable sport clothing and the whole ninety-seven yards.+  Scary.

+ Or 88.69 metres.

^^ The hellterror on this occasion was bemused.   She was willing to be generous, however, since people usually mean petting+ and furthermore, full length upon the sward they are at her level.

+ There is always someone(s) who goes ewwwww bull terrier VICIOUS FIGHTING DOG it’s in the GENES don’t tell me they can EVER BE TRUSTED they’ll RIP YOUR THROAT OUT in your sleep  but there are fewer of these than I feared when I took delivery of my little shovel-headed# badger-faced bedspring-legged bundle of mania## getting on for three years ago.

# While shovel-headed is the term of endearment I’m accustomed to, the unique bullie profile is more, I feel, trowel-headed:  those wide trowels for planting rather than the narrow ones for weeding.  Or possibly pooper-scooper headed.

##Maybe the HandleBards should get their own bull terrier.

† Even if I do hurtle many miles every day in pursuit of the members of the hellmob.  I have tough, case-hardened feet. But 2000 miles on a BICYCLE SEAT?

†† From our CHAIRS.  Admetus has FOLDING CHAIRS.  Folding chair technology has come a long way since my last attempt, specially imported from Maine with the eighty cartons of books when I arrived on these shores, and which I think died in the shrubbery somewhere at the old house.

††† If you go I recommend you do not go too early nor sit in the front row.

‡ I have always been fond of the painted maypole.  I’d forgotten that the canker-blossom, always a good sound Shakespearean insult, had come from this scene.

‡‡ I’m assuming the spider legs fold, and the bicyclists don’t also have to bolt them together every night.

‡‡‡ If you’re hopelessly confused, watch the proscenium set up in the YouTube clips.  I don’t think you see the rail moving, but you can see the hitched-up bicycle

§ And while the four on show are the only ones who climb on the bicycles the directors and adaptors and whoever else back at base are brilliant at what they do too. The cut down, ridiculousnessed-up version really works.  I was surprised at the amount of physical slapstick and roughhousing:  given the whole bicycle thing I would have thought—even allowing for the fact that this is a young man’s^ game—that they’d need to be a little careful of the bruises.  Nobody is so flawlessly accurate about at-speed contact work that there won’t be any.  But they freely grapple and throw each other around and fall melodramatically to the ground.  I hope they’re taking their vitamins.   And arnica for bruises.

^ I can’t help but hope that one of the personnel changes some day will include an insane young woman willing to engage with the imprudence and balderdash and 2000 miles on a bicycle seat.

§§ There have already been some personnel changes as you will see if you work through all the clips.

§§§ Peter and I went to a very beautiful, very grand garden today—one of the private-gardens-open-to-the-public-for-charity that are so popular over here. It was huge, with wild bits and orchards and meadow and views of the surrounding, and then nearer the (grand) house, clipped-hedge-differentiated ‘rooms’ of glorious flower borders, professionally designed and meticulously kept.^ And it really was beautiful . . . but it was also rather too gorgeous and definitely too relentlessly primped and weeded, although this may just be my guilty conscience about my tiny nettle-infested patch.^^   But . . . the HandleBards are better value.^^^

^ And tea with cake.

^^ Although my roses are fabulous.

^^^ And I don’t know if it’s a venue by venue thing or a head office thing but they could be a lot better advertised.  So look them up and go if they’re anywhere near you, okay?  And pass it on.

 

I should have stayed in bed

 

. . . yesterday.  I’d been Street Pastoring Friday night* so getting out of bed Saturday (ahem) morning (ahem) was a somewhat protracted business.**  I eventually came downstairs*** and was fallen on by the hellmob† who feel that six hours is plenty of time to be without the fascinating, stimulating and all-providing hellgoddess.††

And before I go on with this story I want to make it very clear that I had had an adequate amount of caffeine . . .

I have three eggs for breakfast every morning.†††  I make excellent scrambled eggs‡ and this also means that if I—er—don’t get around to eating for the rest of the day I’m still good to go.‡‡  I have NO IDEA how it happened, except that I must have put the pan carelessly down on the edge of the cooker while I reached for the bowl.  Possibly to do with sleep deprivation.  Even caffeine can only do so much.

AND THE BLOODY PAN LEAPED OFF THE COOKER, DID THREE CARTWHEELS MIDAIR‡‡‡ AND PLUNGED TO THE FLOOR WHERE IT FRELLING BOUNCED.  Who knew that a heavy copper pan COULD BOUNCE THAT HIGH?

I had scrambled eggs—scrambled eggs that had just had their butter stirred into them a moment ago—EVERYWHERE.  I mean EVERYWHERE.  I’m starting to feel hysterical again just remembering.  The eggs that landed on the front of the Aga itself were instantly welded into place because the front of the Aga is HOT, you know?  The fronts of the white cupboards were suddenly a shiny mottled yellow.  I had eggs on my computer, eggs on the piles of books and magazines§ to either side of it, eggs on the glass panes of the cupboards above the counters, eggs on my knitting bag . . . eggs on the FAR SIDE OF THE KITCHEN ISLAND, on the table I can no longer get the leaves up of because there are too many hellcritter crates, and on the glass front of the bookcase that stands next to the table.  There are probably eggs in the geraniums on the windowsills too, but it’s a bit of a jungle in there and if there are eggs they can just stay there.

Meanwhile, back at ground zero . . . my kitchen was built by a cowboy.  I have no idea where my predecessor found him, but I hope she put him back where he can trouble no one any further.  Since I have a cowboy mentality when it comes to housework this is mostly not that big a problem.  I curse the drawer that doesn’t open except when it shoots out and falls to the floor, but mostly I can ignore the fact that it has big gaps at the top and on both sides, and that the handle doesn’t fit flush to the front.  I can also ignore that the cowboy was either drunk or high when he put in the footings for the Aga§§ UNTIL I’M TRYING TO CLEAN SCRAMBLED EGGS OFF EVERY SURFACE IN THE KITCHEN.  A heavy copper pot can cannonball its contents with amazing force.  I had greasy scrambled eggs inside that frelling drawer, having slammed through the cracks;  I had scrambled eggs jammed under the not-flush handle.  I had—and, in fact, still have, since I see no way of getting them out—scrambled eggs puttying up the gaps in the Aga footings . . . I had scrambled eggs inside the oven-shaped space in the Aga that contains the gas feed and the striking mechanism and the spigots because there are vents in the top of the door which the eggs came through.  I had eggs sliding down Jesus’ tummy on the brand-new icon I have hanging on the front of one of those glass-paned cupboards§§§.  I had eggs dripping off the overhead ceiling beam.

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAUGH

I spent two hours cleaning the kitchen.~  And whining.  And then I made myself more scrambled eggs and I ate them.  ~~

* * *

* And I got STOPPED BY THE FUZZ ON THE WAY HOME.  Hee hee hee hee hee.  They must have been bored^—or poor Wolfgang has that look of minor criminal delinquency.  I saw a car pull in behind me and I couldn’t see it was cops but I am happy to say that late at night any car that pulls in behind me is guilty until proven innocent of being cops, and I drive accordingly.  At 4 am after being on your feet strolling the city for six hours you might be forgiven for BEING A LITTLE TIRED.^^  I had about decided this car was not cops since it had followed me all the way through town and out the other side and I hadn’t had any near encounters with trees or anything.  But they still pulled me over, one of them ambled out and asked—politely—if I was lost or if perhaps . . . I had had one or two down t’pub earlier?  No, I said cheerfully, I’ve been Street Pastoring, and I waved the sleeve of my jacket, lying on the seat next to me, at him.  Oh, Street Pastors, he said, carry on.  I spared him pointing out that he’d just spoken to me not an hour before on a street corner . . . but the anonymous thing about a uniform?  The SP logo is like a great big HARMLESS sign and I think cop gaze slides right off us.  Not the other way around, you will note.  But I’m still getting used to chatting amiably with The Man.  Or, occasionally, Woman.

^ I’m happy to say that in this area at 4 am, when the final Chinese/Thai/Indian takeaway/kebab shop/Subway sandwiches has closed after the last club+ has closed, things are pretty quiet.  Except for the occasional random old lady serially hurtling a hellmob.  The cops’ve stopped her too, as you may recall.

+ Yes we have those too.  No, really.  You want vices?  We got vices.  It’s just most of them go to bed pretty early.

^^ I would be useless at shift work—like cops—and with the ME the only reason I can do Street Pastoring at all—or all those late Sam duties—is because I stay up late anyway.  Just not quite this late+ and there’s less walking involved++, although what walking there is on an ordinary McKinley late night includes liberal use of small plastic bags.

+ Um.  Usually

++ Or chatting to people, which is much more tiring.#  I like carrying the knapsack, despite the weight of a full frelling thermos, because then I can concentrate on the hot-drinks service and conversation can be honourably limited to ‘vegetable, chicken and vegetable or hot chocolate?’  Mind you wrestling with thermoses that don’t open, plastic bags of paper cups that have no entry point, packets of soup that won’t tear and the regular dismaying disappearance of all the spoons, it usually takes an entire team to get a hot drink made anyway.  I suspect many of our regular homeless don’t want the drink but they enjoy the show.

# Answering the phones at the Sams is different.  They rang you.  You didn’t wander up to them wearing a silly hat.

** I’ve got the standard post-late-Sam duty system reasonably well banged out but I’m still working on post-SP.  I have two major problems about getting to bed before the morning news on Radio 3^:  the first is this three dog drill.  Pav is totally down on bodily functions.  You take her out, she does the necessary and she can’t wait to get back indoors again BECAUSE THERE WILL BE FOOOOOOOOOD.  Hellhounds . . . Chaos has to crap at least twice^^ every time he sets foot across the threshold and Darkness has to find the PEEEEEEEEEERFECT spot.  He can shuttle around a patch five foot square for five minutes . . . and then CHANGE HIS MIND and be obliged to LOOK ELSEWHERE.  And the pee-marking . . . they may have to pee several times and from several different directions on a single tree, dustbin, bus stop, wall^^^, pole, etc.  Although watching them trying to get it RIGHT with a pole is pretty funny since their aim isn’t all that great, and . . .

And the other thing is that I come back from any late duty STARVING.  And more so after following flaming hellhounds around on their eliminatory QUEST.  And eating is, you know, time consuming, since you’re not going to gag down six brownies and an onion^^^^ at the kitchen sink, are you?  You’re going to want to consider your choices and then sit down and enjoy your selection, and maybe get out a book to read or a little knitting and . . .

^ the sound of which produces an OH FESTERING FESTERING reaction, especially if I’ve fallen asleep in the bath again

^^ I am not merely paying for the makers of biodegradable plastic crap bags to send their children to college, I am also funding their tropical rainforest holidays in Maine and sun and surf holidays in Tibet+.  ARRRRRRGH.

+ Both of these options are EXTRA EXPENSIVE for what you might call the obvious reasons

^^^ Walls come in extents, you realise.  A self-contained extent from a peeing-dog perspective is anywhere from three-quarters of an inch to about two foot.  Sigh.

^^^^  Well I hope you aren’t

*** There may have been moaning

† I am DELIGHTED TO REPORT THAT the hellterror is off heat again YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY.  Although the hellhounds are still checking.  Hellterror is all, you want my butt?  I am delighted you want my butt!  Here is my butt!  HERE IS MY BUTT!  HERE IT IS!  HERE!  ARE YOU ENJOYING MY BUTT?  IT’S A NICE BUTT, ISN’T IT?  MAYBE YOU’D LIKE TO TICKLE MY TUMMY TOO?  OR I COULD JUST MUG YOU.  —Remind me why I have dogs.

†† Getting your dogs on your peculiar schedule is easy.  But all those bright little expectant eyes when you crawl through the door at three or four in the morning is perhaps not the perfect solution.  When are they going to invent a dog-walking robot?

††† All right so it’s not necessarily morning.  It’s the first meal of the day, okay?  Unless you count the nosh at 5 am.

‡ Possibly almost as good as Sunshine’s.  Almost.  After all, she’s a professional.

‡‡ There could be some connection here with why I am often starving at three or four in the morning.  But post-menopausal metabolism, you know?  The frelling eggs are an indulgence.  I could maintain weight on a carrot a week, I swear.  A small carrot.^

I am not thinking about Niall’s brownies.  I am not thinking about Niall’s brownies.  NOT.  +

+ However I am apparently ringing at Old Eden tomorrow night, where ringing up those bells is like running a flag up a flagpole where the pulleys are all frozen and the flag is the approximate size, weight and momentum resistance of the Albert Memorial.  Who needs a gym subscription?

‡‡‡ During which I wrung my hands and did not make a grab for it because it had only JUST come off the hot plate and I employ a heavy copper-clad steel pan because I can use all the upper-body strengthening devices I can get AND it cooks divinely not least for its HEAT RETAINING PROPERTIES.

§ You mean not everybody eats surrounded by books and writing implements of various applications, or keeps current reading material on the kitchen counters?^

^ There would be more on the floor except, you know, hellterror.  No she doesn’t eat paper but she does carom off it.

§§ It’s a reconditioned one so it’s possible that whoever did the reconditioning also supplied the footing. This is not an encouraging thought. Fortunately the Aga herself is a star and I wouldn’t be without her.  Long time readers may recall I’ve said that all my friends fell down laughing when they found out I’d bought a house with an Aga in it since I had clearly bought it for the Aga.  Ahem.  I deny this charge.  Although I admit the presence of an Aga may have been a tipping point.

§§§ A few weeks ago, when the real world was beating me up unusually hard, I met my monk on my way into the chapel on Saturday night and he asked me how I was. I burst into tears. The end of that conversation included Alfrick suggesting I buy myself a suitable icon and start poking my problems into the little cave with the skull in it at the foot of the cross.^

^ First you have to find a reproduction that doesn’t chop the cave off because it’s all for tourists anyway and they won’t care.  Good grief.  Or I should probably say God bless.  I finally found a nice shiny working Catholic repro of an icon.  I don’t recall however that you’re supposed to baptise your new icon in scrambled eggs and I was a little worried that the cheap varnish was going to peel off, but it seems to have taken no harm.+

+ This is a monologue for another night, but having been raised, supposedly, to be a generic Protestant . . . generic Protestants so miss out on the evil-papist [sic] ritual objects like icons and rosaries.  Maybe I’m just unusually mired in earthly matters# and/or old to be this young, but I find the props tremendously helpful and supportive.  We are living in this world with bodies in three mortal dimensions##.  I belong to the school of thought that it’s not all about transcendence.

# two hellhounds with chronic diarrhoea and a hellterror with a fabulous butt can do this to you

## and hellcritters.  I think hellcritter bodies exude an extra dimension or two.  Possibly hellterrors have a special Butt Dimension which could explain a lot.

# Small mercies:  the hellterror had been recrated^ before the excitement.  She did, however, have lovely buttery scrambled eggs for breakfast.  She did not care that they’d spent a few minutes on the floor or were seasoned with tears of rage and despair.

^ For an excess of butt-related activities

~ It’s still speckled yellow.  But it’s less speckled.  .

~~ Today, however, has been better.  We went to a ROSE GARDEN.

A night to remember.* Or not.

Niall and I went bell ringing tonight.  Tower bells.  One proper substantial bell at a time YAAAAAAY.  Not handbells.  Two horrible little random bells at a time NOT YAAAAAAAY.

Long pause.

WELL I GOT SOME KNITTING DONE.

Sigh.

One of the things about method ringing on handbells is that it is SO FRELLING INSANELY HERCULEAN AND FORMIDABLE AND DEMANDING** that when you can finally ring something it’s like the most amazing thing that has ever happened to you*** and furthermore since in the process you have completely altered the structure of your brain there’s quite a good chance it will stick.†  Tower bell ringing is a ratbag of epic proportions, but in terms of learning the method line, handbells makes it look easy.

But there are important caveats about that easy.  First caveat:  you have to ring any given method often enough to gouge out a channel in your brain.††  Second caveat:  you have to be able to HANDLE the bell you are ringing ACCURATELY.  Which is the one thing—the ONE THING—that handbells has over tower bells in fatal adversarialness:  handling technique is not much of an issue with handbells.  You just shake the frellers.  Tower bells are mostly bigger than you are—usually quite a lot bigger than you are—and tact and adroitness enter the picture.  More or less.

And then there are mini rings.  Where the bells are buckets or flower-pots or large thimbles that say GREETINGS FROM GRIMSBY and you’re essentially ringing something handbell-sized only with all the style and paraphernalia of tower bell ringing.  I HATE MINI RINGS.  THEY’RE THE WORST OF BOTH WORLDS.  Which is to say I suck at mini rings.†††

It was a mini ring tonight.‡

WHAT IDIOT INVENTED METHOD BELL RINGING ANYWAY.  After this it’s knitting all the way.  Starting NOW.‡‡

* * *

* We’re having a major storm out there with wind and rain and banshees.  Radio 3 has just fallen off the air with a crash and a whine^ and I’m contemplating with disfavour the prospect of getting the hellmob back to the cottage.  I tend to be a trifle top heavy because I’m carrying a knapsack full of misbehaving technology and the hellhounds are not only tall and long-legged but they don’t weigh anything because they don’t eat and will probably take off like kites the minute they’re out the door.  Which will be hard on my shoulders.  Even weightless hellhounds hitting the ends of their leads at speed tends to be painful.^^

^ And is now making intermittent gobbling noises

^^ There is a good deal of hellmob-derived pain around at the moment:  the hellterror is in full bloody [sic] streaming heat, and a good month early.  She wasn’t due even to start inspiring Darkness—who is the more clued in about these matters—to emerge from the backmost recesses of the hellhound bed, which is where he tends to remain when the hellterror is loose about the landscape, to investigate an evolving situation till about now, and never mind having already moved into the dripping [hellterror] and moaning [hellhounds] phase.  ARRRRRRGH.  I DO NOT WANT HER CYCLE GETTING SHORTER.  I CAN STAND IT EVERY NINE MONTHS.  NOT EIGHT MONTHS.  NOT SEVEN MONTHS.  NOT . . .

Meanwhile she’s not in a very good mood either.  Not only won’t I let her play with the hellhounds, and while Darkness tends to disappear into the shadows, torturing Chaos is one of her favourite games+, but she is at present only allowed to hang out in rooms with vinyl floors.  This means, for example, at the cottage she cannot come into the sitting room with me when I enter the Magical Dog Food Grotto to fetch a fresh tin or bag of something,++ nor can she accompany me upstairs to fetch the thing I know I brought downstairs a minute ago but can’t find.  Although this last is a rather desirable state of affairs given hellterror ebullience and the state of my floors as storage space.  Hellhounds negotiate, delicately, the many obstacles to straightforward passage from one room to the next.  Hellterrors spring and ricochet with abandon.  Those little bedspring legs certainly could clear the piles of books, magazines, All Stars, yarn, etc, but what’s the fun in that?  The most interesting effect however was when she knocked twenty hardback copies of SHADOWS downstairs.  Very, very interesting.  Very.

Nobody died.  That’s all you need to know.

+ Second only to hurling herself upon me in gladness and felicity when her paws are muddy and my jeans were clean a minute ago. #

# One of my many failures as a dog owner, as I believe I have told you before, is that it seems to me entirely reasonable that something only about twelve inches tall should want to jump up on you.~

~ Hey, she rolls over beautifully for little pieces of roast chicken.  What do you want, perfection?=

= She is a funny wee thing in a lot of ways.  As Southdowner told me what seems like forty centuries ago—and years before Lavvy got pregnant—you keep bull terriers because they make you laugh.  Bull terriers are also hungry all the time and to a dog, possibly especially a short dog, who is hungry all the time, almost everything looks like food.  Pav has learnt that I have an inexplicable dislike of her ingesting random bits of rubbish we meet out hurtling and we have reached a compromise about this which works reasonably well most of the time.  Something that is positively not edible, like a plastic bottle—she and Chaos share a passion for crunching plastic bottles between their teeth for the noise, but even Pav doesn’t seem to want to eat them—she will, on command [sic], when we stop by a trash bin, ‘drop’.%  If, however, her current prize is deemed edible, she will not drop.%%  But if I have lodged my protest promptly she will graciously not swallow either, but I do have to get down on my knees and frelling hoick it out of her mouth while she stands, unresisting, with the little evil eye twinkling away at me and the thought-balloon over her head clearly reading heh heh heh heh.  When the thus-removed substance is pizza or sandwich-end or similar, no big.  Yuck, but no big.  BUT SOMETIMES.  EW.  WHAT IS THAT?  EW.  EWWWWWWWW.  I swear she prances with several inches more boing per bounce after one of these encounters.

% And her resultant glow of fatuous virtue may last even a second or two.

%% What do I think she is, stupid?

++The Magical Dog Food Grotto contains only sealed containers of bull terrier ultimate desire, but she can tell the stuff’s in there somewhere.

** If there are any method handbell ringers out there reading this and shaking their heads in puzzlement because it is not difficult, I DO NOT WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU.  Indeed if you decide to join the forum so you can remonstrate with me—kindly of course and using words of one syllable as befits the case—I will not only instantly DELETE your comments with menaces and rude gestures but I will tell Blogmom to Ban You Forever^ plus a few years.

^ and your little dog too.

*** Chocolate?  Nope.  Champagne?  Uh-uh.  Perfect love?  Nah.  Hot fabulous lateral-orbitofrontal-cortex-exploding sex?  . . . Um.  Wait a minute.  Let me think.^

^ If I say handbells I will lose all credibility forever.  Such a dilemma.

† Sadly you will probably have to go through the brain-restructure thing with every additional method.  I can now (mostly, sort of) ring both bob minor and bob major AND MY SKULL HAS RUN OUT OF ROOM FOR ANY FURTHER EXPANSION.^  Planning permission for the new conservatory off the existing building will be denied.

^ Cambridge.+ Whimper.  Yorkshire++  Mega whimper.

+ Yes.  This is the name of a method.

++ Yes.  This is too.  Cambridge (minor, on six bells) and Yorkshire (which cannot be rung on fewer than eight bells) represent the PINNACLE of my handbell yearning, and I have about as much chance of attaining either of them as the hellhounds have of achieving weight-bearing lift-off on the walk home tonight and flying me there.#

# Long-time readers of this blog may feel they recall that some years ago I was grappling with Cambridge on handbells with some modest degree of success.  Yes.  Very modest.  I could get through about half a plain course on the front pair of bells.  This is like someone who wants to ride in the Grand National being able to sit in the saddle if the horse isn’t doing anything.

†† Tower bell ringing:  1,000,000,000,000 times, approximately.  This is a lot of hours out of your life.   Handbell ringing:  1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 times, approximately.  Which is even more hours out of your life.  And that’s still only per pair of bells.  You can move around a lot easier from single bell to single bell in the tower^ than you can from pair of bells to pair of bells in handbells.  IT’S LIKE LEARNING A WHOLE FLAMING NEW METHOD, EVERY RATBLASTED PAIR OF HANDBELLS.^^  ARRRRRRRRRRRGH.

^ Barring little circumstantial details like the bell whose rope regularly jumps off its wheel, or the bell that has an interesting relationship with the corner of the church its rope hangs over so that on every backstroke the pew or the misericord or the flying buttress or whatever the doodah that is immediately behind you reaches out and whacks you one.  Keep your mind on your bobs under those conditions.

^^ All these diverse sub-methods do eventually meet up into one grand over-arching meta-method but that’s a lot of zeroes down that very long queue.

††† Niall can ring anything, including mini rings.  I have considered hating Niall, but . . . no.  He makes very good brownies, even if I do have to ring handbells to get any.  Also, I couldn’t hate him tonight, we went in his car.

‡ It wasn’t supposed to be a mini ring, of course, or I’d’ve stayed home.  I’VE BEEN BAITED AND SWITCHED.  I NEED CHOCOLATE.

‡‡ Maybe I’ll even finish this frelling two-years-and-counting scarf by this winter

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 http://www.jackieoates.co.uk/live-dates/ 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?

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