December 21, 2008

A courtesan, a bride, and a mare

I missed the Metropolitan Opera Quiz because the blasted bride was forty minutes late.   Not to mention a lot of Renee Fleming.  Singing, I mean.  Renee Fleming was not late.*

            We–Peter, hellhounds and I–were supposed to be in Gloucestershire tonight for a major clan birthday party.**  During one of the lulls of canine digestive mayhem we’d booked a cottage that takes dogs*** because I was having one of my spells of total sanity loss, when I believed the vet had figured it out.  Foolish me.†  So we cancelled.††  This meant I was not going to miss Renee Fleming singing Massenet’s Thais††† which would recompense me for almost anything.  And then Niall went down with flu, for pity’s sake, Niall doesn’t get ill, let alone ill enough not to ring bells, which is his purpose in life, which meant that the wedding I’d been supposed to ring before I found out we’d be in Gloucestershire and had to cross my name off the list, was short a ringer . . . this was now after I’d noticed what this week’s Saturday at the Met was going to be, drat it, but I am both loyal and very, very local, so I swallowed hard and said okay.‡

            And then the bride was forty minutes late.  And the service took longer than the schedule looked like it ought to.  Sigh.  I’m presently listening to my old Beverly Sills Thais‡‡, which is some comfort.  And Connie and I cantered away like anything this morning.  I didn’t quite dare try a ten metre circle, but we were probably doing fifteen, and she was right there ready to be asked to spiral down a little more.  But because the universe is in perfect balance in all its minutiae, even to someone riding a horse in circles, our trot work was pretty terrible.  We began okay but as soon as we started cantering it was all over.  Cantering Connie is a good way to wake up her trot, if she’s in need of waking, but she hasn’t been in need of waking in a while‡‡‡.  And my impression was that she too was saying, Yaay!  We’ve finally got the canter sorted!  Silly woman!  I thought she’d never learn!  So let’s canter!  –We had some really splendid walk to canter transitions too.  Some of them I’d even asked for. 

* * *

 * Renee Fleming would be fired if she were late.  There are a lot of brides out there I think need firing.^  Don’t talk to me about major one off event planning:  I’m not interested.  Sure, I know the stories about the twelve-car collisions on the M3 and the six hour tailbacks:  those brides I absolve^^.  The rest of them . . . I’m a cynical old curmudgeon but I would bet you that if it were in the contract that every paid professional involved in a wedding started getting time and a half for every minute past fifteen that the wedding was late starting, a lot more weddings would happen on time.  Of course I’ve just missed the Met opera quiz and a lot of Renee Fleming, so I’m not in a good mood.

 ^ There’s a (bad) joke here about building fires under them, but I’ll leave you to finish it for yourselves 

 ^^and some department of social services should provide a free bottle of champagne every year on their anniversary, as a kind of pension

 ** Somebody else turning 80.  Been there, done that.  And a hellhound interfered with that one too.^

 ^ Peter’s 80th last December.  And Chaos had a throat infection and was really really really really sick.  The whole story is back on the old lj blog, if anyone wants to revisit past adversity.

 *** Perhaps our error was in not doublechecking that they took hellhounds, and fate said tut tut mustn’t have this carelessness.  WHAM. 

† I now have some frail and trembling cause to hope I may have figured at least some of it out, but I’m not going to talk about it in public yet.  It’s been a long scary two years and I’m pretty shellshocked.  Make that extremely shellshocked. 

†† I have very mixed feelings about this.  I dread huge parties, but it’s really nice to see everyone.  One at a time, preferably, in corners, between hors d’oeuvres, etc.^  It’s also a great excuse to dress up. 

^ Good luck. 

††† Thais is the courtesan.  For anyone who is puzzling over the title of this entry.  She’s a pretty interesting character, especially for a woman in a 19th century opera:  there’s this monk who decides to try to save her from her wicked ways–so far so standard–but then she actually does convert and he suddenly realises that he has the hots for her.  She dies of one of those mysterious invisible symptomless diseases^ Hollywood would make famous a few decades later–Massenet is fond of mysterious diseases:  he kills off his Manon the same way–ecstatic, with a vision of heaven, and the monk collapses, babbling of his desire for her, with a final cry of Pitié! (which is, just by the way, very effective, like Alfredo crying Violetta! at the end of La Traviata or Rodolfo crying Mimi! at the end of La Boheme.  Anguish and despair are great ways to end an opera).  No less an authority than the New Grove Dictionary of Opera agrees with me that Thais is sadly underrated.  The music is really interesting.  It’s all sort of . . . French.  

^ The Plot Device Disease 

‡ And the torment doesn’t stop:  I’m ringing some damn thing tomorrow evening (as well as service ring in the morning, of course.  With Niall hors de combat I hope we’re not ringing plain hunt on three).  I don’t even know what it is.  I just know I have to turn up at x tower at x time and pull on a bell rope.  Probably another of these frelling carol services.^  I’ve told you before that I’m a strong believer in bells:  we should ring more things rather than fewer–more weddings and particularly more funerals, and more just . . . things.  I think those two-minute silences on Armistice Day should end with a lot of people pulling bells off.  For example.  So I’m completely hoist by my own petard.  But I do find it frustrating that there are a lot of perfectly functional rings of bells around here that have no ringers so when someone wants bells they have to go scouring around other people’s towers for spare and/or mad ringers to fill in.  Learn to ring, you guys!  It’s fun!  It’s good exercise!  It enables you to haul heavy-on-the-bit mares up off their forehands! 

^ I’m still trying to remember to, uh, sing.  You may or may not remember that I’m supposed to learn to sing these wretched songs I seem to be composing.+  So I try to sing when I’m out walking hellhounds–when I’m out walking hellhounds very far away from anyone else.  I will never be Renee Fleming but I can carry a tune, more or less, but I’m only erratically audible++ and Oisin says briskly I need to sing more.  I’ve started making copies of lyrics and sticking them in my back pocket because I seem to have forgotten the lyrics to everything I ever knew.  Except Christmas carols.  I can sing Christmas carols for over an hour without repeating myself.+++   Hoarse but triumphant.  Of course the wildlife that lives near any of our usual routes is becoming increasingly traumatised and the sheep run away sooner than they do when I’m not singing, but I suppose some kind of progress is being made.

 + If I compose slowly enough . . . that won’t work, I’ve got several finished.  

++ Which is arguably a good thing, but counterproductive

+++ Scary.  Very scary. 

‡‡ Although speaking of scary I’ve had a really scary experience.  I was trying to remember what you call the order of service when it’s a wedding–you know, those little white booklets they pass out at the door that tell you what’s going on.  They’ve got a name, don’t they?  So I googled it.  Of course.  And managed to choose the wrong click to info:  found myself facing a huge Adobe file and a license agreement–I’m coming to loathe Adobe, but that’s another story–so hit ‘back’.  Wouldn’t go back.  Wouldn’t do anything.  Hung.  Eventually hit control-alt-delete and got off the web but was now faced with a Task Manager window suggesting I End Task . . . and thirty three little green boxes at the bottom of my screen going gleep gleep gleep in the most extraordinary manner, as if they were thirty three little green mouths serially opening and shutting. 

            And I hadn’t saved this entry before I went on line which I usually do because I’m pathetic and paranoid.

            Oh gods.

            I did, as you see, manage to save around the Task Manager and the green boxes . . . but I can tell you I was feeling profoundly unhappy when I closed and hit ‘restart’.  Would this still be here?  Or would I have to give you my eggnog recipe tonight after all?  Up the point that the bride was only twenty minutes late, you were going to get the eggnog recipe.  Oh well.  Tomorrow.

 ‡‡‡ The weather helps, but indeed today was weirdly balmy.  I should have been out frantically jamming the last tulips into pots but . . . I wasn’t.

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