September 30, 2008

Flat tyre

 I knew something had to go wrong.  I had a second-in-a-row brilliant lesson on Connie this morning.

            My stomach and I were sufficiently on speaking terms again last Saturday that I did ride, but I’m the kind of hopeless drudge who would rather school than hack* so I asked Jenny if she could fit me in, since I’d missed my lesson on Tuesday.  It’s usually wall-to-wall ponies at Jenny’s yard Saturday mornings, and I tack Connie up for our usual Saturday hack watching the procession of kids, ponies, parents, best friends, resentful siblings, great-aunts, fourth cousins, dogs**, pet sheep, palanquins, etc.  But Jenny wedged me in.  And the weather was still clear*** so we were outside where there’s more room for those of us who have trouble keeping all of our limbs organised† so that when Jenny says do x at y when you overshoot†† there’s still z before you whang into the fence.  And we were doing some not at all bad flying changes.  Now we’ve done the occasional flying change from the first, because it’s one of the things Connie can do, and I’m along for the, ahem, ride.  But trying to do them accurately and on my signal as opposed to when Connie thinks it’s a good idea or has one of her telepathic fits and thinks, oh!  That’s what she wants!  What a pity she can’t seem to say so!, has been rather a longer time coming.†††

            Today has been one of those really ugly, grizzly‡ days that will neither rain nor not rain and the wind lashes and bangs around to enhance the irritation value.  Jenny decided we’d have the lesson indoors.  The indoor arena is small . . . and you really do not want to run into the wall.  But Jenny was really getting after us:  10 metre circle sitting trot at M, when you get back to the track again, pick up canter, at A turn down the centre line.  Yeep. ‡‡  We don’t do 10 metre turns at the canter.  We did today.  So you get back to C and are ready to stop and take a bow, but no, sitting trot and we do another ten metre circle and then shoulder-in‡‡‡ down the long side, at K come across the diagonal demonstrating extensions.§  There are at least sixty-four limbs involved in all this.  We did it though.  We didn’t do it smoothly or accurately but we did do it, with pauses and have-at-it-agains, and bracing advice from Jenny . . . and even if a fair old bit of it was Connie doing her telepathic trick§§.

            I was so high after all this, not to say completely exhausted and mind blasted, that I forgot to give Jenny her money.  She never worries about it;  she assumes you’ll bring it next time.  But I had to walk hellhounds again, so I decided to drive back out to Jenny’s yard and walk from there, that being one of my favourite bits of countryside anyway.  And we came round the very sharp corner off the main road onto the little road the yard is on . . .

            . . . and there was a kid on a bicycle on the wrong side of it.

            I wrenched the wheel over–I can’t have been going more than about 15 mph;  it’s a horrible corner, and you don’t ever know what’s going to be there waiting for you.  I wouldn’t have killed him even if I had hit him–at least I hope I wouldn’t’ve–but it would have been messy and painful and requiring trips to A&E and I don’t like running over small squishy things even when they plonking well deserve it.  So, as I say, I wrenched the wheel over, and hit Hampshire’s Biggest Pothole. KaCHOING.  And missed the kid.

            I gave Jenny her money and walked hellhounds.

            And drove home at 10 mph.  Flapflumpflapflumpflapflumpflapflapflapflump.         

* * *

* Hacking is just beautiful countryside, bonding with nature, enjoying the company of your critter–WATCH THE (*&^$£”!!!! YOU WRETCHED ANIMAL IT’S A COW AND FURTHERMORE IT’S A COW ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE (*&^%$£”!!!! FENCE^–and all that oneness of the universe stuff.  I get enough of that with the hellhounds^^.  Schooling is interesting.

^ Connie is, like most horses, mad.  She will shy spectacularly over a mild, munching, solitary cow or cow parsley+ and then only startle and maybe squat a little++ when a pheasant barrages out of the shrubbery at us.  We had a pheasant on Saturday that startled me.   Maybe Connie was just worn out after all the flying changes.

            The hellhounds and I saw her out with her Other Rider the end of last week and she shied at us.

+ Queen Anne’s lace

++ That sense of the back end dropping makes me grab the mane with the speed of a snake striking.  Just in case. 

^^ Sleet, mud, hailstones, aggressive off-lead dogs, motocross bikes, moats of head-high nettles+, etc, optional.

+ And just by the way, I resent head high nettles when I’m on horseback.  Fortunately Connie is fairly proof against riders going AaaaaaAAAAAAaaauuugh.  Kinda makes you wonder what other riders she’s had in her life though.

** This occasionally becomes interesting, when Jenny’s Jack Russells decide to get territorial.  It is their yard.

*** The weather is doing its usual perverse turn.  It rained hard for just long enough to ruin all the cut crops that were lying around toasting in the sun, if any, which there wasn’t for eight days or so.  Then it cleared off and all the farmers got out their shufflers–I don’t know what you call them, but they look a lot like the large mechanical version of someone tossing salad with their hands–and turned the lying crops for all they were worth, and they’ve baled them now too so presumably they decided it was worth the trouble.  I wouldn’t be a farmer for anything.  They should have medals and combat pay just for existing.

† I am fond of saying that you grow more of them–limbs, I mean–the moment you get on a horse.  But in bare fact between the two of you you have eight, which is really quite enough to have to keep track of, especially when there are all these subdivisions, hands, fingers, wrists, forearms, ankles, knees, etc, not to mention head(s), forehand, quarters, the bend of equine body between the two, preferably in response to something your legs are doing, and of course the crucial partnership of your seat and the horse’s back.^

^ A while ago I referred to a half-halt as digging your butt briefly into the horse’s spine.  Blogmom, who rides, took me up on this.  I really have to learn to choose when to exaggerate for effect and when not to.  I’ve just been reading Wiki on the half-halt which is making my eyes spin round in my head somewhat.  My first dressage teacher explained it as a brief cessation of flow:  riding is all about flow, about matching yours to your horse’s, which is how you can then affect what your horse is doing.  A half-halt closes the conduit for a moment:  both your seat and your hands gently go still.  And then you open the conduit again, by moving to the horse’s–now slightly more collected–rhythm.

†† Due to some of the membership of limbs getting left behind

††† And in fact it hasn’t arrived yet, but I think I can see it against the horizon.

‡ Yes, eight foot tall, brown, furry, big teeth.  The meteorological version.



§ If you scroll down, there’s a brief description of ‘extended’ trot, which is pretty much what it sounds like, only more exciting

§ And I’ve seen Connie do all this stuff with Jenny riding her

§§ Or possibly she understands English, so when Jenny says ‘ten metre circle at H . . . ‘

Other games people play

 Comment readers will know that Katherine kept trying to post in response to the games entry and WordPress kept eating it, which is WordPress’ little game.*  So she emailed it to me, at approximately the same moment as I was writing an answer to her comment saying ‘email it to me and I’ll post it.’  That was, as I say, a while ago.  Better late than never.**  I’ve added a few links:  her email apologises for not containing live links, for fear that my computer will run mad and start biting people.
I am not a fan of games of strategy–my mind doesn’t work that way and during slow times (most of the game, really) I find myself thinking, “You know, I could be READING right now.”

Yup.  Took the words right out of my mouth. 

Settlers of Cattan, for example, swept through my friends with the force of a thousand tornados. When made to participate, I tended to do things like trade everything for sheep cards and create in my mind a town entirely populated by an all-sheep dance troupe. I was usually overrun and never won. I am no longer forced to participate.

Yes, I understand this.  I like twiddling with the pieces*** and admiring the board as opposed to playing the game.  I loathe learning the rules.  It occurs to me this is very like my attitude toward facts as described in the FAQ on my web site:  there are two kinds of facts.  Boring ones which I want to escape as fast as possible, and interesting ones which I want to make up stories around, and never mind the context.†  Better games sets rouse in me the sense that I could really do something with this. . . .

            This is in stark contrast to the standard Dickinson clan response to a new game.  They jostle each other to read the rules, and get to grips instantly with the crucial question of how to change them.

I prefer games that require random knowledge of trivia (reading thousands of books is very good for this skill set)

Only if you have the memory to back it up.  Not one of the features that came with this model.

 or understanding of the psyche and personality of my fellow players. I kick butt at those games and they move much more quickly. Games like Trivial Pursuit, Balderdash, Taboo, etc.  I like interaction. (I also REALLY like to win, but that’s neither here nor there…mostly).

I merely dislike winning somewhat less than I dislike losing.  I’d much rather not be forced to do either one.

Here are a couple of my all-time faves:
–Cranium: combines trivia and charades (for you!) and word play and the loosest artistic ability. It’s brilliant and because there’s a wild option, I can win by breezing through the wordplay category. And because one plays with teams (two or more), I can foist the bits I’m not as good at on other people who are. Everybody wins!
–Loaded Questions: Fascinating game. Often falls under the category “ice breaker” but I prefer playing it with people I know fairly well. One person asks one of the six questions on each card (“If you had to kill one person in the world, who would it be?” “What do you not eat enough of?” “Name the best quality of the person on your right?”) and then has to guess who answered what. And the idea is not so much for you to guess right (although you get points for that), but for the person to guess your answer correctly. If they pick your answer as yours, you get to move up. You can win without ever guessing correctly yourself. (This is a very confusing explanation, but I swear it’s a good time).

I rather like the idea of winning merely by being more emphatically yourself than anybody else is themselves.  Being forcefully Robin is something that comes pretty naturally to me.††  It’s still a game.–4nu8fMReUgTtLrsPyB3xkRc&hl=en&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=5&ct=result#PPA91,M1
This takes forever to load, and then you may need to scroll around to find the relevant bit.  And it’s nothing about playing the game!!  But I thought it was pretty interesting about the mindset of the fellow who invented it.††† 
Two other games I find weirdly addicting are dominoes (which I only learned to play two years ago) and Pass the Pigs. Which you can find on Wikipedia (I’d link to it, but I’m not sure if your email will accept links without deletion).

And here you can play it on line.  Brrrr.  Just looking at the rules makes me feel twitchy and claustrophobic. . . . Sorry, can’t play, have to walk hellhounds, make cookies, plant something, iron the car.

And then Kyndigen says:

Our favorite non-digital game thus far has got to be Fluxx
<<>>.  It’s the only card
game I’ve ever played where the rules change continually throughout the
game.  Even when it gets crazy it’s still relatively approachable since
the rules are all printed out on the cards.  To figure out what the
current rule set is, you just read everything that’s on the table.

Here’s a nice user friendly schematic.  Okay, okay . . . it’s still a game.

Meanwhile, speaking of unusual takes on games and playing, two of you with my best interests at heart have emailed me this:

Er . . . thanks.‡‡   I can’t get the Whedon clip to play, and Peter says ‘seriose’ is not a Latin construction.  So I’m just cranky.  I concur that Whedon walks on water‡‡‡ so obviously I’m missing the point:  But professionals inviting amateurs to give it their best shot make me nervous.  What’s in it for the amateur?  If they’re that good, they should be producing their own we-try-harder-because-we-have-no-money DVD, not being patronised by the best in the business.  I’m suffering concept failure and sense of humour drop-out, right?

And last but definitely, definitely definitely not least, jmeadows sent me this link:

Which is unspeakably wonderful in every way§ and just in case I’m not the last person on the planet to have discovered it, but only the second to last, and the last person reads this blog. . . . Check it out.  You’ll be happy all day.  Probably tomorrow too.  I’ll let you know.  

* * *

* Ha ha, very funny, now cut it the (*&^%$£”!!! out.

** If I were organised, I’d be dangerous.

*** And I always hate it when they’re cheezy plastic with ridges all round where they’ve come off the mould or the stamp or whatever, and I especially hate them when you have to break them off an even cheezier plastic frame, so they have a horrible little rough plastic tag forever.

            I am not, as I keep saying, a games person, but my old Scrabble board is one of my prize possessions:  it’s so old it still has wooden tiles.

† I write fantasy.  Unusually dimensioned angles on things is what I do.

†† Other people have also remarked on this fact.

††† Typical.  I don’t want to play the game.  I’ve just effectively distracted myself.

‡ Is there an echo in here?

‡‡ All those little icons at the bottom are LIVE!  And I haven’t heard of ANY of them!^

^ Well.  Google.  Facebook.  But why does a bookmark thingummy name itself Delicious?

‡‡‡ Even if his stupid video won’t play.  Mmmph.

§ And I want most of the stuff in the shop

Games People Play

 I am approximately the least political person in the galaxy, and while I agree that the global economy going phut is the bigger story I’ve been seriously nonplussed that there seems to have been comparatively little attention paid to the first Obama/McCain debate two days ago.  Um, pardon me, but the USA still has, for better or worse, lately mostly worse, the biggest national economy on the planet*, and that biggest national economy, which, just by the way, is also leading in the recent plunge into the bottomless ravine**, is about to change top guys.  This seems to me rather important.  It’s also increasingly making me nutso that the Democrats ought to have this election on a platter and tied up in ribbons, and they don’t:  it’s an abominably close race, and I don’t think this is only because there are still way too many Americans who will only vote for an anglo.***   [Berserker Liberal Alert:  if you’re a Tory, a Republican, or anyone who remembers the 1950s nostalgically, stop reading now.]  It ought to be an absolute no-brainer that the best, indeed the only thing to do is to get the hell as far away from Bush and his engines of spoliation as swiftly and decisively as possible.  That means a Democrat in the White House-even if the Democrats had put up a three legged gerbil with mange†.  And Obama is quite presentable.††

This was the first substantive piece I could find yesterday.  I didn’t watch the debate myself††† but I’ve watched about half an hour’s worth of clips‡ and I was rather relievedly more impressed with Obama than I expected to be.  And I’m with the people who are saying Obama agreeing with McCain all those times works to his advantage, not his disadvantage.  I felt he was doing so graciously, giving the impression that he could afford to be generous because he was speaking from a position of strength.  I don’t like or trust Obama’s charm, but I thought this was an excellent use to put it to.  I felt the same about his politeness, his turning to the moderator instead of interrupting:  it didn’t make him look weak, it made him look as if he was refusing to lower himself to the level of that crude chappie at the other podium.

            The crude chappie at the other podium, just by the way, scares me silly.  He’s almost got one of those Monty Python arrows over his head labelled ANGRY PERSON.  I really do not want him in arm’s reach of the legendary Red Phone.  He smiles like someone has just put a gun to his ribs and said ‘smile’.‡‡

            Well, you can ramble through google as well as I can:  I’m not bringing up anything that took any serious searching.  I found all of these interesting:

. . . and I also agree with the people who are saying that while the debate itself may have been a tie, Obama got more out of it than McCain did, because Obama by not losing has proved that he can go up against someone with as much experience as McCain and hold his ground. 

Today there’s a bit more, as Tomasky predicted.  As here:

And one last juicy link: :

‘. . . Yet McCain’s trip to Washington accomplished nothing and may even have set back the negotiations in Washington. The fate of the bail out remains less clear than when McCain chose to get involved. But no matter. McCain decided to debate anyway, making clear that the whole idea was about manufactured drama from a campaign that loves nothing more than an audacious political stunt. (See Palin, Sarah.). . . .

‘As it happened, McCain delivered a strong performance. He made a crisp and engaging case for his own leadership abilities, while Obama was professorial and dispassionate.‡‡‡ But it may have been too little, too late for a candidate floundering in the polls who has seen the political climate swing ruthlessly against him. . . .’

Yes.  Exactly.  Granted the Guardian–and its Sunday avatar the Observer–are lefty.  Even so.  We may not have it on a platter with ribbons, but we’re still in the race. 

* * *

* I think.  I’ve just been wrestling with google about this.  Wiki agrees with me, but I don’t really trust Wiki to tell me anything I don’t already know and have only slightly mislaid.

** How do epic global crises manage to happen in like twelve hours?  Obviously there have been symptoms–the news media have been rumbling along about bad economic markers for some time–but one day everything is still holding, more or less, and the next day, kablooey, like the lava in the volcano finding the weak place in the wall of the mountain.

*** Those of you who’ve been reading this blog for a while may remember that I wanted Hillary.  Both pundits and ordinary people as well as underinformed, volatile, and very nearly clueless slobs like me, can’t help but worry what effect Barack’s dad is having on his son’s chances to make president.^  It’s very exciting to have a black candidate . . . but it’s not going to be nearly exciting enough if he loses.  Would Hillary have done any better?  Then we’d be worrying that it’s too soon to swing Middle America toward having a girl in the White House.  She’d be buying shoes when she should be waging foreign policy.  Or whatever one does with foreign policy.

^ Mind you, that Obama is ‘black’ makes me crazy.  He’s half white.  He’s half white and half black.  But that’s not how the world works.  If your mother shook hands with a black man at a church picnic once ten years before you were born, you’re still black.

† Do gerbils get mange?  Do I have to make the point here that specifically what I am not doing is comparing Obama to a three-legged gerbil with mange?  What I am doing is expressing lack of faith in my political party.

†† He’s way too inexperienced and way too fond of himself, but he is presentable.

††† Frankly I can’t even imagine sitting through 96 uninterrupted minutes of politicians, but very slightly in my defense our TV is on the fritz.  We have no idea when it went on the fritz since neither of us has watched it in months.  I found out this last week, when I was horizontal with stomach flu, and might have watched TV if there were TV to watch.  I’m not sure the debate even ran over here, although in these internet days there must be a way around this.

and elsewhere

This is apparently the whole thing:

‡‡ And even less do I want his so-called running mate only one 72-year-old ex-POW with health issues^ away from the Red Phone, or anything else she might drop or fumble, like the country.

Presumably they’ll have briefed the bejeezus out of her before they let her out in public again, but she’s still a walking disaster zone. What was he thinking?  Or, since he had barely met her, what were his advisors thinking?  It really depresses me that what they were thinking is that all us Hilary-voting women would instantly take Sarah to our hearts because she’s another girl.  Speaking of someone who might be buying shoes when she should be waffling foreign policy.  In Palin’s case I’d rather she were buying shoes. The one silver lining–and it may even be a silver lining in the mad circus event that is the global news–to the economic crisis is that it may mean that Palin’s reign as queen of the cosy sound bite is already over.

^ I keep wondering if that’s where he got so angry.  Torture does tend to have a negative effect on your character.

‡‡ Well, yes, but I would still say in a good way.  A cool head and a sharp professorial grasp are quite positive things in a world leader.

Dead Men’s Boots

 You know by the end of the first paragraph if this is your sort of book or not:

‘I don’t do funerals all that often, and when I do I prefer to be either falling-down drunk or dosed up on some herbal fuzz-bomb like salvinorin to the point where I start to lose feeling from the feet on up, like a kind of rising damp of the central nervous system.  Today I was sober as a judge, and that was only the start of it.  The cemetery was freezing cold–cold enough to chill me even through the Russian army greatcoat I was wearing (I never fought, but poor bloody infantry is a state of mind).  The sun was still locked up for winter, a gusty east wind was stropping itself sharp on my face, and guilt was working its slow way through my mind like a weighted cheese-wire through a block of ice.’

It’s up to you, but ‘rising damp of the central nervous system’ does it for me.  But then this is the third in a series, and I’ve now read all three:  The Devil You Know, Vicious Circle, and now Dead Men’s Boots.  I was looking for the next one, and would have been groping in my wallet on sight:  I didn’t need to read the first paragraph till I was already home and lying in the hot bath in a state of delicious anticipation.*  These books are by Mike Carey, and they’re about a private detective-y sort of bloke in present-day London, named Felix Castor.  He’s not exactly a private detective.  His office door says ERADICATIONS.  He’s an exorcist.

            It’s not quite our present day.  In Fix’s world, the dead started waking up in force and bothering the living right before the turn of the millennium.  No one knows why.  But it opened up exciting new career horizons for people, like Fix, who are not merely sensitive to ghosts but can see them off, when they need seeing.**  Fix does it with a Clarke Original*** tin whistle†, key of D:  ‘the music is a cantrip, and if it works it has the same effect on bodiless spirits as flypaper does on flies.  The ghosts get wrapped up in it and they can’t get free:  then, when the music stops, abracadabra, there’s nothing for them to hang on to–so they stop too.  When the last note fades, they’re just not there any more. . . . In reality it’s hard and slow, and it only works at all if I can get a real fix on the ghost . . . The clearer my mental image of it, the better the tune. . . .’  The problem, as you can guess, or there wouldn’t be three books (so far) about it, and Fix wouldn’t have so many bruises, is that some ghosts are tougher than others.  And there are other things out there too:  a demon named Asmodeus has taken over Fix’s best friend, Rafi, with the result that Rafi lives in a special high-security cell in a small private hospital for the criminally insane.  And when Fix needs fancy info from a tech head, especially illegal fancy info, he goes to a zombie named Nicky.  Fix often pays for these risky favours with an expensive bottle of wine:  ‘Nicky doesn’t drink the wine.  He doesn’t manufacture any stomach enzymes any more, so he wouldn’t be able to metabolise it.  He says he can still smell it, though–and he’s built up a nose for the expensive stuff.’

            And a succubus named Juliet.  Juliet, I am telling you, is the best.  I love the funny, catchy, noir voice of narrator Fix anyway, but Juliet is the character that I would happily have committed major felony to have found first and nailed for one of my stories.†† You meet her in the first book, when she’s been called out of Hell by the bad guys and given a contract on Fix.  Which she almost succeeds in performing.  But he–with a little help from his friends–proves resourceful enough about escaping her clutches that she has time to look around at the land of the living and decide she might like to stay there for a while.  For variety.  All she has to do is not fulfil her contract.  So instead, at the end of The Devil You Know, she comes to poor Fix’s office with a plan:  ‘I was summoned for a specific task,’ Juliet said at last, her incredible shot-silk voice caressing me like the flat of a razor blade. ‘It never occurred to me before . . . that failure would bring such extensive benefits. . . . I need something else††† to occupy my time. . . . And I believe the job that you do would suit me well.  But clearly there are rules, and some of them will be alien to me.  So I’ve come here looking for instruction–you being the only human I’ve met who’s still alive.’‡

            In the first book there’s a haunted library.  In the second book there’s a haunted church.  In the third book there’s a very strange take on reincarnation.  The plots are clever and complicated, and Carey, having invented a tricky, messy, chaotic world, stands by his own rules, which is probably first on my Crucial Requirements for Good Fantasy Literature list‡‡:  but the plots are still only there as an excuse for the story-telling and to give the characters something to do, which is also as it should be.  I enjoy the hell‡‡‡ out of these books and hope there will be more of them.  And they’re excellently long.  Generally speaking I prefer my superior trash§ short and snappy, giving me a nice little holiday §§ without making me start to twitch about all the stuff I’m not getting done, but I really relish the fat handfuls these books make.

* * *

* And preferably before 2 a.m. so I can in fact lie there and read for a while.

** ‘My careers teacher said I should go into hotel management, so exorcism it was.’

*** He tends to be kind of hard on his musical instruments, however, and the beginning of Vicious Circle has him tootling on a Sweetone.


†† But what a good thing I didn’t, since Carey writes sequels.

††† Ie, than f—–g men to death, which is what she does.  And all men want to f— her to death, because that’s what being a succubus is.  Fix is not having a good time here.

‡ Juliet is just endlessly good copy.  Here’s a conversation from Vicious Circle:

            ‘Is she okay?’


            ‘Ajulutsikael.  Don’t anthropomorphise her.  That’ll get you in trouble somewhere down the line.’

            ‘Doesn’t the use of a female pronoun already anthropomorphise her?’ I asked.

            Nicky scowled.  ‘Anyone who can give a dead man an erection has earned that pronoun, Castor.  Consider it an honorific.’

Or this one:

Juliet and I met up in the evening at a pavement café close to the refuge where she lives.  She arrived late, without apology.  One of the other residents had a problem with an abusive husband, she told me:  and this guy had turned up out of the blue and tried to make his wife leave with him.  ‘So I had to step in and help.’

            ‘What, you mean you ate him?’ I asked.

            ‘In front of everybody?  No, of course not.  I have to go on living there, Felix.’

‡‡ Maybe second.  If you have enough style you can probably get away with what you like.  But I’d rather you stuck to your rules.  Back in the 60s we were desperate and would put up with anything, but the standard escape from a sticky plot problem of Mr Spock hey-presto developing a new mysterious power is no longer acceptable.

‡‡‡ especially Juliet

§ Superior Trash TM.  An important and little understood genre.

§§ Probably spelled out in baths

Good Things

 In reverse order of importance:

1.  It’s a 26th.  You know, we celebrate 3rds and 26ths*.  I acknowledge this is only a modest good thing, because, after all, we have 24 of them a year, and only two of them are important.  But a Good Thing is still a Good Thing.

2.  I got through a perfect ‘single’ ringing Stedman at bell practise tonight.  At least I now believe I am eventually going to be able to ring touches, and am not forever damned to plain courses.  But tonight’s particular victory would have been more impressive if I hadn’t then gone to pieces afterward.**  This is a not uncommon reaction to beginning finally to clamber through Stedman calls.  Stedman is a tricky and volatile method anyway and liable to explode at any moment, and the shock of having done your ‘call’ correctly may last a dangerous and discountenancing while afterward.

3.   Okay, listen up, people.  This is the NEWS you have been waiting for.***   Robin McKinley is having a London bookshop signing on Thursday, the 6th of November, hosted by Murder One

at 6 pm,† followed by an informal Q&A.  More or less. 

            This has been in the process of being set up for the last little while but I have kept waiting for it to fall through:  I sell three copies and die in this country, etc.  What bookstore would want to invite those odds?  And Murder One doesn’t even carry SF&F any more††–I knew it in an earlier era, when it did–but I’m told that the Q&A will be addressing their Romance Book Club.  Eeep.  I don’t really see myself as inheriting the mantle of Georgette Heyer†††, but if they show up and buy books, I’m not complaining.‡

            And if any of you wanted to come that would be especially pleasing.‡‡

4.  A brand new pair of Converse All Stars arrived in the post today!!!‡‡‡

5.  Now this is the really important one.  I had my piano lesson today, as usual, and I went in there whimpering about wasting time having stomach flu.  But I had spent some of my sitting-up moments in front of the piano this week nonetheless, and produced two new short Things, one of them rather longer and more nearly finished than the other one.  Oisin makes me play my own freaking pieces myself first but we don’t actually hear how they sound–which is to say if what I’ve written is what I think I’m hearing in my head–till he plays them§ which unfortunately is still somewhat dependent on his being able to read what I’ve written. §§ 

            Anyway, we’d been dubbing around with the longer, more finished piece for a while, and Oisin finally turned to me and said, When you get this to the point you’re happy with it, and you’ve put it in Finale so you can produce a nice clean readable copy, I would like one.

           My piano teacher wants a copy of something I’ve written.  And, you know, finished and everything.  He wants a copy of the piece as a piece.  Squee.

* * *

* We seem to be celebrating with toast, soup, and an unexpectedly nasty merlot, but it’s the principle that matters. 

** Niall, who was standing out, rushed over and deftly extracted me from my imbroglio.  After we’d got to the end and stood our bells, and I said thank you, he said, not at all, that he’d missed the single.  –Yes, but you get to miss things when you’re sitting out.

*** Well, a few of you have been waiting for.

† I think.  If they change it I’ll let you know.  But the date’s fixed–or anyway it’s totally out of my control.  Allow me to insert the fervent plea here that no one write and say, oh can’t you please make it some other day?  I could come any other day, but I’m receiving my Pulitzer/taking delivery of my custom-made Harley Davidson on the 6thIt is completely out of my hands. 

†† They have said they’ll advertise at Forbidden Planet too.

††† Although anyone who wants to discuss how handsome and romantic Con is will be instantly killed.  I’m just warning you.

‡ Quite the contrary, I will weep tears of joy. 

‡‡ Or if any of you are members of the Murder One Romance Book Club, it would be a kindness if you could reassure me that SUNSHINE isn’t going to come as a very rude shock to the Jane Austen and Elizabeth Gaskell readers.  Or for that matter Kathy Lette and Catherine Fox readers.  I don’t think even Kathy Lette gets into vampires.  But I could be wrong.

‡‡‡ I have my priorities perfectly in order.  I have no idea whether the 6th of November at Murder One is going to be a disaster or not, and even perfect Stedman singles are evanescent.^  With Converse All Stars you know what you’ve got.  You’ve got a pair of shoes.^^

^ But then so is going to pieces afterward.  Look on the bright side.  The 6th of November will be evanescent too, for that matter, but the two (say) hours from 6 pm could be very, very, very long indeed.

^^ Note, Susan of Athens, this is all your fault.  And I didn’t find the pegasus ones.  Phooey.

§ This is of course why I now have Finale.  Which I am still laboriously endeavouring to learn to use.  Most of this week has been a wipe–learning new stuff is not on the agenda when you have stomach flu–and the worst of that is that I’ve now forgotten some of what I either did manage to learn or Oisin showed me last week:  of course I took notes, but the notes read like:  Chs rt ptr, hld dwn C, p entr:  if n, 4.  I have no idea.  I would like to declare it isn’t my handwriting, but unfortunately I have rather distinctive handwriting.^  For my this week’s trick I would like to get an entire small Something fully loaded and unfurled:  dynamics, the lot.  Because my awful confession is . . . I bought a pair of teeny weeny but rather nice speakers.  To plug into any computer with Finale on it.^^  So it really should sound the way . . . well, the way I’ve written it, as opposed to the way I want it to sound, which is probably something else, but I won’t know till I get there. 

 ^ Way too distinctive.  I would much rather it were legible.

^^ It comes allowing you to load it on two machines.  Unfortunately, due to my curious living arrangements, I would like to load it on three.  I haven’t tackled the Finale Admin about this yet.  Hey, I only finally managed to get authorised today.  You have a month from when you load the sucker for the first time to register with the company or at midnight on the thirty-first day it turns into a pretzel.  Pretzeldom was looming in eight days, but I was tired of all the various little ways the website could say no, we don’t like you, and refuse to play.  I’d even had a live human being at headquarters intercede for me and it STILL wouldn’t talk to me.   So tonight I left a message on their phone machine–they have a phone machine–to this effect and then, just for laughs, gave it one more try . . . and it went through.  I have till 9 am Monday morning to ring them again and say, disregard previous message. . . .

§§ Even more excellent reasons for Finale.

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