March 31, 2009


 abigailmm writes:

 Rewrite? Well, of course you would! Kirith is over ten years old, right? you clearly learn more and more about your craft every book, so it seems to me you couldn’t possibly strain the old copy through your eyes to your typing fingertips without filtering in the improvements your more experienced brain requires you to make. I don’t think that creativity is like spoons, is it? Does improving one work make it impossible to work on another?

 Sigh.  I evidently can’t strain the old copy through my eyes to my fingers without . . . jerking it around a little.  The point was supposed to be that I could.  That KIRITH is lying in a box in a dark cupboard and not doing anyone any good and that in my eternal quest for blog entries, especially less labour intensive blog entries*, I could lasso two hellhounds with one loop and have a dozen or so free entries and make some use of all that wasted sweat, screaming, and well-thumbed thesaurus pages, KIRITH being of the days not only of typewriters–which is part of where the trouble began now–but also the paper Roget’s under the elbow. 

            But I wrote about this a little when I posted the first fragment:  that if I start rewriting it then I have to stop posting it, because presumably I am trying to turn it into a publishable novel after all, instead of hoicking out the good bits for your delectation here.  Arrrrrgh.   Not to mention that the queue of stuff waiting urgently to be written** is presently quite long enough without KIRITH adding herself in.

            The current plan is?  would be?  might be? that I’ll finish posting through the first chapter (as I get around to it) and see if I go on rewriting.  If I do then [heavy sigh] I will start actively thinking about it as a novel again.  I guess.  I dunno, as I stand poised somewhat reluctantly here to do so I realise I’ve got rather fond of it as the mythic Failed Novel.  A romantic tragedy, like a bad love affair:  desperately traumatic at the time but lending colour to the daily grind of the present.  It had become the perfect opportunity to beat my breast and tear my pixels and not have to do anything.  And no, working on one thing doesn’t prevent you from working on another, but given hour/energy constraints and Middle Aged Brain, it’s quite a good idea to concentrate on one thing or you find yourself making beautiful segues where fairy smiths make the best charms against the really bad Others who are all Northerners, of course, and President Eleanor Singh revealing that she had been a regular at Charlie’s coffeehouse when she was doing grad work at City University in New Arcadia.


Meanwhile, the reason I was trying to escape my obligations here last night . . .

             There is a thing in the change ringing world called a mini ring.  This means that some bozo, I mean dedicated ringing enthusiast, has strung a bunch of buckets upside down above or below the ceiling, if there is a ceiling, usually in his garage, punched holes in the bottoms and hung long screws down the middles of them and wound nuts up the ends to serve as clappers, tied bits of clothesline to them, and called them bells.  Colin, I admit, did it a little more comprehensively than that–for one thing there are a variety of nuts screwed on the ends of the clapper-bolts to try to adjust both striking and tone–and the bells are proper cast bells, they’re like really enormous handbells, like the size of your two hands cupped together–well, like my two hands cupped together, I have big hands.***  And they’re on proper full-circle frames (they’re also in a box to preserve relations with the neighbours).  And they even have sallies–proper woven ropes with the fuzzy striped handgrips.  In miniature.

            They’re still tin cans.  Tinkle tinkle tinkle tinkle tink tunk tank.

            And they are the weirdest things to ring.  There’s absolutely no weight to them and of course since they’re little they make little circles so they go like the very devil. . . .  While at the same time there’s so little happening that there’s like this pause between one stroke and the next. 

            I knew about Colin’s mini ring but I’d never rung there.  For one thing, Colin is seriously one of the big boys, and practises in Colin’s garage tend to feature touches of Gotterdammerung Whapdoodle Spliced Surprise† and suchlike and Stedman is a warm up.  But this is as much about who shows up to ring as it is about who’s welcome, and now we’re ringing handbells with Colin both Niall and I have been to Colin’s Monday practises at the tower–and Niall has rung the buckets too, on days when I’ve been home nursing my ME††, although Niall is himself a big boy and Gotterdammerung holds no terrors for him.  This Monday practise was at the garage, and the ME and I were going.

            And then Monday afternoon I got one of Niall’s bright casual little throwaway phone calls.   Like the bright casual little throwaway conversation when I found out I was going to be ringing handbells for a wedding.†††  Niall does this.  Niall is Niall, but Niall has also got me sussed out, unfortunately.  I panic easily, and one way to short-circuit the system is to mention the thing I’m going to kick and scream about as a given and keep on going.  So yesterday there was a message on my phone machine at the cottage from Niall saying (brightly) that Colin had talked Daniel into coming early to ring handbells so he–Niall–would swing by to pick me up an hour early.


            I was there, nonetheless, (quivering) by the side of the road when Niall drove up.  And the four of us rang major, which is to say eight working bells, which is a whole galaxy of complications beyond minor on six bells, which is Colin and Niall and I (nearly) every Thursday, and I was not the least among equals, although I had bagged the easiest pair by declaring that they were the only pair I was even willing to try to stay right on.

            The result of all this superfluous method-wrangling however is that all of our brains were in a semi-liquid state before we even started on the official practise on the mini-ring.  I made a diversion with trying to learn to handle the little monsters–TINGLE  TINK TWANG TWANK–and then Colin, being a ratbag, launched us on Stedman. . . .

            So I was very tired last night.  And then I came home and inadvertently started a new rewrite on an old novel. . . . 

* * *

 * I know this is my own fault.  It’s just the way it keeps happening.  1000-1500-or-so-word entries once a day.  This works for me.  This is, when I sit down to write an entry, what comes out.  Which would be fine if the days were forty hours long.  And meanwhile if I read one more clever, witty, engaging blog entry from someone who has been effortlessly keeping a blog for years which refers to the fact that he/she has more sense than to try and write an entry every day^ I am going to track them down and kidnap their collection of commemorative teapots/ sequined hoodies/ Victorian hedgehog brasses/ scale models of Machu Picchu made out of matchsticks^^ and leave little ransom notes about sacred promises never to snark about frequency of blog entries again. 

^ The implication being that those of us who do are sad, obsessive control freak nutters with no lives.  I plead guilty to all but the last.  I wish I had fewer lives.   Just one life would be nice.

^^ Or pebbles.  Pebbles are probably better. 

** Which now I fear includes music, whether what I write is ever worth anything to anybody but me^ and the closest it gets to performance is/are a few animated exchanges on the forum.  And poor Oisin, of course. 

^ Bizarre factoid of the day:   The composer Bohuslav Martinu was born in a bell tower in Bohemia where his father was a watchman.  (He studied briefly at the Prague Conservatory but was dismissed for “incorrigible negligence.”  Hee.  He then went on to write nearly 400 compositions, including symphonies, operas, etc.  School doesn’t mean anything except that you were good–or bad–at doing school.)  I know it must be true, I read it on wiki.   But Radio Three has just been playing his bizarre, speaking of bizarre, opera Julietta, and so I was looking him up and . . .

*** Me and Rachmaninoff. 

† Can’t remember if I’ve mentioned that in THE BELLS OF MAZAHAN, which is one of the Third Damar Novels on the official active list, I have a lot of fun with bell-method names.  Of course these are change ringing bells.  You have to keep the borders rung, don’t you know anything

†† And a grudge 

††† In June.  I think it’s too late to organise a book tour so I can be out of the country. 

‡ Let’s put this into a little perspective.  I’ve been change ringing four and a half years.  Niall has been ringing seventeen or eighteen years.  Colin has been ringing forty.  Daniel has been ringing fifty–and Daniel has been ringing handbells much of that time too.  Colin admittedly is new to handbells, but he’s a very experienced tower captain, which means he’s used to keeping all the frelling lines in his head so if a bell goes wrong he can tell it how to go right.  If I want to whinge a little and pounce on the pair of bells that have the easiest lines through the method, I’m allowed.

Kirith, second fragment


I am absolutely shattered.*

            So let’s have some more KIRITH.   I’m beginning with the last sentence of the first bit just so you know I haven’t accidentally left a line out. 

* * * 

            “Have it your way,” said Gadge.  “But I don’t believe she’s an orphan either.”

            “The rear wheels on the big waggon are both needing new pins,” said Jafe, a little too quickly.  “There must be something wrong with the way the crossbars sit, for this is the second time the pins have worn out.”

            “Ah,” said Seler.  “I’ve noticed a roughness when it’s heavy loaded.  Maybe we should –”

            The boy stopped listening.  Kelar, he thought.  Only Gadge took kelar seriously–or at least admitted he did.  The others said they did not, but it irritated and intrigued them enormously for something of no importance.

            It had come up before, in Gadge’s stories;  just twice in Alel’s.  The second time Alel had said the word, she’d flinched, as if it had bitten her tongue, and looked at the boy sidelong, trying to pretend nothing had happened–and the boy let her do it.  He let her do it because the first time she’d used the word, and he’d asked her what it meant, she’d been cross with him, and told him he wasn’t paying proper attention–which amazed the boy, since he was paying all the attention he had, and hadn’t guessed there might be kinds of attention–and had not only refused to tell him what kelar was, but had refused to tell the rest of the story either.  That was the first time the boy had seen the warding sign.  She had made it defiantly, glaring at him, and as she snapped her wrist and spread her fingers she said, “That’s to keep the Northerners from snatching wicked little boys.”

            Gadge had been a little more forthcoming, but not very much, and his words had had a queer, dragging, almost echoing quality, like they sometimes did on especially achingly cold days he spent near the fire;  but that day was clear and warm.  “Kelar,” he said thoughtfully.  “I can’t rightly say what kelar is;  but then, nobody can.  It’s like magic–a sort of magic–but it isn’t magic, because people have it, and it’s real.”  The boy had been disappointed–what good was magic that wasn’t magic?  It didn’t sound worthy of a wild Algiav girl who could set an entire dlor on its ear–but he had recognised that Gadge was telling him the truth.  He also saw from the look on Gadge’s face that that was all he was going to say on the subject.

            “What’s this?” he said, trying to make his wrist and fingers snap and fly as Alel had.  He’d been practising it off and on since he’d seen Alel do it;  if it worked against Northerners, he wanted to know it too.  But he couldn’t seem to get it.  This surprised him, because he was usually clever with his hands.  One reason he was allowed to stay indoors with Gadge on bad days as often as he was was that Kay had taught him to hem, and to put in a straight seam, and he could do simple sewing while Gadge worked with the heavier gear used outdoors on the farm.  Kay had laughed over the boy’s first efforts, saying that he sewed better than she had when she was three times his age, and it was already a family joke that anything the boy sewed never came unravelled.  But he couldn’t get the simple crack and flourish of Alel’s gesture.  And going on trying made his hand sting and smart strangely, as if his wrist were stuck all though with pins, and eventually his fingers stiffened so much his hand was useless for a little while after he stopped.

            “Ah,” said Gadge. “That’s the warding sign.”

            “Alel said it was to keep the Northerners from snatching wicked little boys.”

            “It may work for that too,” said Gadge neutrally.

            The boy’s first try was always the best, but not right–never right;  he was sure of this, though he’d only seen Alel do it the once–so he would try again;  and then he only got worse till he stopped.  He had to stop again, this time, like he always did.  He sighed, and rubbed his stiff fingers with his other hand, and shook his whole arm to make the pin-cushion feeling leave his wrist.  “Can you do it?”

            “No,” said Gadge, and his voice was so odd the boy looked at him in surprise, wondering if he were ill, if he should fetch someone.  “No more than you.  Nor Alel.”

            “Alel did it!”

            “I’m sure Alel tried to do it.”

            “She –” The boy tried the wrist-shake one last time and said, “Ow.”

            “Don’t do it so hard.  You’ll only hurt yourself.”

            “It’s not that,” said the boy, rubbing his hand again.  “It’s the pin-cushion feeling.”

            Gadge frowned at the bit of harness he was mending.  “The what?”

            “It makes my hand feel like it’s stuck with pins.”  He touched the back of his hand gingerly, as if he might find the pins were still there.  Gadge didn’t say anything for so long the boy looked up.  Gadge was staring at him.  As the boy looked up, Gadge looked away.


            “I said, don’t do it,” said Gadge.  “You’ll only hurt yourself.”

            “But what if the Northerners come?”

            “We’ll have to hope they don’t.”

            This was alarming enough that the boy’s mind veered away from it, and from the strangeness of Gadge’s staring at him.  “You said ‘it may work for that too.‘”

            “Some folk believe that saying the word kelar out loud is a bad idea, like standing under the only tree on the plain when there’s lightning around.”

            “You don’t.”

            There was another pause.  Gadge rubbed a hand over his face, and then looked at the palm.  “Not the way the others do, no.”

            The boy thought about this.  “But what’s that got to do with Northerners?”

            A longer pause this time.  At last Gadge said:  “D’you remember who Aerinha is?”

            The boy nodded.  Aerinha, who first tamed horses to human use, and who may have been a god.

            “Some say it was one of her own kin who went north and . . . that it’s kelar that runs in the blood of the Northerners too.  Now, you get on with splicing that rope, like I showed you, and not so many questions.”

            Gadge never cut you off like that.  It was what made him different from the other grown-ups.  Sometimes he answered you and sometimes he didn’t, but he never told you not to ask questions.  The boy could hardly bear his curiosity.  And now he thought that since he’d heard that dangerous, exciting word spoken when all the grown-ups were there, he might get a little farther.  So he asked Kay. 

* * *

 Frell, frell, frell, armpit, ratbag, stepping in dog sh*t, half a dozen creatures from the black lagoon, and Shub-Niggurath, Black Goat of the Woods with a Thousand Young.  Arrrrrrrgh.  I’m rewriting. 

* * *

* For reasons I will tell you tomorrow.  Probably.  If nothing more amusing presents itself. 

** There is probably a better way to look something up in the archive, but I can’t figure it out (also, it’s late, and I’m shattered).  If you want to read the first bit again, it’s entitled ‘Well well well’ and it premiered on 5 March.  You can click on ‘my books’ and it’ll then be about three quarters of the way down the second page.  Here:


Daylight Savings Crime

So, I turned my light out at the shockingly early hour of 1 a.m.  And I made it to Sunday service ring this morning.  Where’s my medal?

            Hellhounds couldn’t believe I was up* at such an indecent hour.  They stared at me with astonishment when I opened the crate door . . . for about three seconds, and then you could see the still-open eyes glaze over again and they were out

            And it’s a good thing I decided to go in for heroics:  there were three of us, as predicted, Niall and Dorothy and me.  We rang up veeeerrry slowly . . . ringing up counts too when you’re desperate . . . and then embarked on Whole Pull Plain Hunt on Three, which will bore you to death in twenty minutes, and service ring is forty-five.  So fortunately we were saved from this ignominy** by the arrival of Leo and Cordelia.***  Cordelia only rings call changes but call changes on five is mortally to be preferred to whole pull plain hunt on three.

            Then I tottered back into the daylight and stood staring vaguely at my surroundings.  I seemed to be in a cemetery, and there was a familiar-looking old gentleman standing beside his bicycle . . . oh.  Peter.  Right.  I’m married to him.  I remember now.  He usually comes up Sunday mornings and greets me as I come out of the tower, and then we go off to the newsagents’ together and Peter buys a paper and I buy chocolate.†

            And then sometimes he comes with me to the florist’s.  When a second florist opened in this small town the first florist started being open on Sundays.  And there’s something very self-indulgent about buying yourself a posy on Sunday mornings–and furthermore it’s calorie-free which the standard Sunday profligacy of elevenses at a caf醆 is not

            Over the months I’ve been going there every Sunday morning the proprietor has been developing an excellent habit of offloading her gone-overs on me.  I posted about the daffodils she gave me on a grim winter Sunday that really needed daffodils.  I could barely stagger up the street with my armful today, including as it did flowers for the mews which would come down later in Wolfgang, thus sparing Peter trying not to crush them in his knapsack, and I make a point of buying flowers even if she’s given me some because I don’t want her deciding that giving me flowers is a pecuniary error. img_1761

            One of the advantages of a tiny house is that a vase or two of flowers really makes its/their presence felt.†††  I don’t know if any of the rest of you have a weakness for cut flowers‡ or if you do how you choose to gratify it.  I have settled into spending about an hour on Sunday morning after service ring having a cup of tea, fending off hellhounds, and poking flowers in a vase.‡‡  Anybody who does anything similar will also have noticed just how long that Just Poked in a Vase look may take to achieve

* * *

* Up is, of course, a relative term.  Periscopes are up.  Inflation is up.  Peter and I argue about whether it’s up to the mews or up to the cottage.^  Chocolate is a staunch and trustworthy up.  I am slightly unhorizontal.  Less and less however as this twenty-three hour day grinds on.  I will slither off the chair into a mushy little heap here in a few minutes.  Did anyone else profoundly identify with this in English lit?  Hey, you mean old English duffers like Eliot had a sense of humour?^^  When they weren’t going on about stiff dishonoured shrouds and the way the world ends not with a bang but a whimper. 

Slips and pulls the table cloth

Overturns a coffee-cup,

Reorganised upon the floor

She yawns and draws a stocking up 

‘Reorganised’ and ‘yawns’ are perfect

^ Both.  There’s a valley at the bottom of main street. 

^^ Hey.  I was about nineteen when I read Sweeney among the Nightingales   for the first time.  And in my defense I’d spent a lot of my adolescence compulsively rereading LOTR, and Tolkien was a little . . . humour challenged.    

** Think of the headlines:  Three Dead in Bell Tower:  Police Baffled 

*** Cordelia is Leo’s daughter and a teenager.  I would love to know how her dad got her out of bed this particular Sunday morning, when her show rate is only about 50% even when we haven’t lost any hours recently.  Snakes?  Spiders?  Very loud classical music? 

† Priorities.  I’ve got ’em.  Sometimes I help Peter read the paper. 

†† Chocolate croissants:  get thee behind me, wicked tempter!  I look forward all day to my Green & Black’s hit in the evening, and for the rest it’s salad all the way! 

††† One of the very, very, very few good things about the process of selling the old house was that it gave me the excuse to spend lurid amounts of money on cut flowers and house plants to look cheery for potential buyers.  I then spent lurid amounts of time on upkeep which was not a lifestyle I could maintain, but it cast an interesting light on the grand ladies of yore who had dozens of servants but–how quaint, how frivolous–liked to arrange their own flowers.  If they took it seriously, flowers for a big house are a full-time job. 

‡ It’s a character flaw not wholly unlike that for obsessively buying books, with the captivating difference that cut flowers go away after a week or two.  They do not mount up higher and higher and higher, absorbing shelf, table, under-bed and floor space and secretly reproducing^ in the corners. 

^ I never bought that.  I know I never bought that. 

‡‡ What does absorb space is the vases.  You’re always picking up another nice useful one–with the shopping bag of used paperbacks–at another car boot sale.

Sharp frost


 So yesterday and the day before my dahlia tubers arrived*. 

            And tonight we’re going to have a sharp frost.   Putting bubble wrap over my entire garden at the cottage is beginning to look pretty good to me.  I suppose it wouldn’t hurt to ask Atlas about some kind of framework. . . . No, no, what am I saying?  Atlas has been asked to do a lot of fairly peculiar stuff over the years**, but he can probably be pushed too far.***  So in the absence of a new bubble-wrap conservatory I’ve just spent half an hour unfolding plastic sheeting over the kitchen and sitting-room floors and hauling in a lot of plant life.  And muttering.  It’s not merely the old jungle, it’s also the new jungle, the little trembling green things that have arrived in the post and been potted up–plus a few of the (smaller) camellias which are about to pop, and I’m not going to lose all those flowers if they’ll still fit through the kitchen door.†

            And now I have to go to bed early.  Our clocks are finally going forward, drat them, which means Sunday service ring tomorrow is at 7:45 am.  I haven’t been up before eight in years.††  And the ME presently means that I resemble a giant walking bowl of oatmeal for several hours after I crawl out of bed–hence my clinging to the treble on recent Sundays–tomorrow is not going to be pretty.  I actually told Niall–who’s in charge tomorrow–that I might not make it.  He looked alarmed, as he well might.  In my oatmealy way I hadn’t followed through the implications of my knowledge that Vicky will be in Kent, and Penelope has this tedious new job that demands her presence on Sunday mornings.  That’s two of the Faithful Sunday Four gone.  Now if we knew that there would be only the two of us we could just cancel–but we don’t.  Dorothy, for example, might well show up:  she’s faithful when she’s home–she has this ugly habit of travelling–and I know she’s around, she rang at the wedding today, and she’s even an early riser.  You can’t ring with two.  You can ring with three.  I guess I have to go.  Whimper. 

* * *

 * My far too many dahlia tubers.  I can pawn a few off on Peter but the infuriating thing about the man is that he knows how many or how much he wants of something and doesn’t want any more.   He doesn’t have room, he says.  What’s room got to do with it?? says the woman who received the second bill^ for her weight bearing attic floor today and is already having dire fantasies that when the builders leave she’ll discover that she has more books than will fit in her new weight-bearing attic either.^^  I think this happened to the British Library:  by the time they got moved into their flashy new quarters at St Pancras they’d already run out of shelf space.  Again.  I know there’s a lot of stuff in their catalogue that you have to order in advance because they have to bring it in from Skye or Bangkok first.  I sympathise. 

            But Peter doesn’t understand about greed.  It’s probably my Visigoth blood.^^^  All that sack and pillage. ^^^^ 

^ Aaaaaaaugh 

^^ Quite a few of those boxes are Peter’s backlist.  Ahem. 

^^^ After I wrote about bad dreams concerning Visigoths the other night Peter emailed me:  Don’t tell me you aren’t aware that you have Visigoth blood.  They’re probably coming to tell you that you’re their long-lost queen, under whose banner they really are going to conquer the world this time.  (Too much Red Sonja last night.)  Strange bonding rituals between new spouses include–although I had forgotten this–that I made Peter watch Red Sonja+ with me soon after I moved over here.  It must have been one of those moments when he wondered just what he had done.  I have a lot of time for Red Sonja, blisteringly awful as the film is:  it doesn’t undercut her.  Granted she’s been given her sword-arm strength by a goddess, but the point is she has it, and she gets to use it.  Even the villain is a sword-wielding woman!  How many times in the history of Hollywood nonsense–especially Hollywood swords-horses-and-forsoothly nonsense–have both the day-saving hero(ine) and the villain been women!  Nielson and Schwarzenegger’s acting shortcomings are relatively minor in comparison!++

            Anyway that ME day last week I watched Red Sonja again for the first time in . . . enough years you might have thought I’d finally Grown Beyond it.  Naah.  Just waiting for the right moment.  But Peter, who had been pottering about in the kitchen, came and watched it with me.  I didn’t say anything!  I promise!  We’ve been married eighteen years!  He’s under no fresh aegis for bonding rituals!  I think this may be similar to how dogs and their humans start to look alike after a while.+++  Having similar political opinions or the same favourite sport is possibly dangerous to one’s individuality and autonomy.  But a few shared vices is cozy. 


++ All right, my standards are a bit warped.  Also, I have a crush on Sandahl Bergman.  Do you want to live forever?# 

# Geek moment.  Sorry. 

+++ Looks nervously at hellhounds. 

^^^^ The science bozos are lately deciding that what happened to your parents and grandparents can be passed on to you, and that genes and evolution are not the whole story.    This makes me both dance around punching the air and want to dance out and find a nasty sneering scientist and punch him.+  Among other things this is pretty well spot on a crucial part of homeopathic case-taking and understanding–which has been one of the sticks the usual suspects have been beating us homeopaths with for over two hundred years.  Yaaaaaah.

            Anyway it’s unlikely that my Visigoth forebears actually passed on a gene for an unusual craving for bright sparkly things and books.  Were the Visigoths big readers? 

+ Or her.  But it’ll probably be a him. 

** Building collapsible, uh, weight-bearing tables to fit over hellhound crates, for example, although the weight-bearing in this case is of jungle brought indoors from the freezing weather.  I’m looking forward to being able to get between the crate and the (real) kitchen table again, some time in May, when I can afford to collapse the table.  I think Peter told me that there’d once been a frost in June at the old house.  I didn’t move from Maine to southern England for this. 

*** He knows I write fantasy stories for a living and am therefore probably dangerously unstable and uncertain about where the boundaries of reality lie. —Boundaries?  There are boundaries?

† I don’t like frelling Jingle Bells, but I still object to losing all those flowers she’s put so much effort into producing to spring frost, and she’s a lot too big to fit through the kitchen door.  Since I now have enough plastic sheeting to cover most of Hampshire, from those weeks when I had the growlight in my sitting room and I like the colour of my carpet and my sofa as they are, I’ve put some superfluous plastic sheeting over her. 

†† At least not since autumn 07 when a certain blog premiered.  Except possibly two other late-March Sundays.

Spoons, frelling

I need more frelling spoons.

            I met the deadline at more or less the 11:55 hour of sending the FIRE galley corrections back yesterday.*  And I’m still trying to get the contracts read (and, ahem, signed and sent back, so we can get paid).

            I managed handbells last night.**

            I scrambled through my piano lesson this afternoon.***

            I even made it to tower practise tonight.†

            I have a frelling wedding to ring tomorrow.

            In the last two days I’ve had two boxes of dahlia tubers arrive.   And miscellaneous botanical extras.

            . . . And I want to get back to PEGASUS.     

* * *

 * Revealing, as proof reading always does, at least one heinous if minor error.   Our hero’s dad in FIRST FLIGHT is the local carpenter.  Later on however I refer to some other bloke as the carpenter.  Arrrrrgh.  In earlier drafts the dad carpenter was the joiner, the furniture maker, where the other bloke would be the guy putting in weight-bearing attic floors and catching people before they fall over ladders.  But this delineation had subsequently dropped out.^  Too late now: you can replace the odd word in galley proofs but no more.  I said I’d like to make him the cooper but I wasn’t sure if there was any wood dust involved, were barrel slats pre-cut or what?, an allergy to wood dust being the crucial point, so I supposed we could make him the next village’s carpenter, drat.  And my editor’s wonderful amazing wits-about-her assistant googled barrel making–where was my brain?  Oh, right, the ME ate it–and discovered an anecdote about someone giving it up because of an allergy to wood dust.  Yaaaaaay.  So when you read FIRST FLIGHT and come to the bit about the cooper’s son. . . .

^ Note:  rewriting is bad for you. 

** It was to laugh, however.  I was (and am, I’m afraid) still feeling mentally pretty marginal so . . . we rang Cambridge.  Cambridge is that first ‘surprise’ method^ you learn, supposing that upon the revelation of the method book in your flushed early days of ringing rounds and call changes you didn’t decide to dedicate yourself to collecting vintage plastic jewelry^^ instead.  Supposing that having survived all the bobs and a few Grandsires and maybe even a saint^^^ or two, and possibly been driven to learn Stedman, you are still ringing . . . you may find that you have no choice but to venture onto ‘surprise’ territory.   Surprise methods are the ones that really look like a clematis climbing a wall^^^^.  Cambridge is the first surprise you learn, and with it come the tattoo, the secret handshake, and the whereabouts of the Bell Geek Club, which up until now you’ve at least half suspected was only a myth.^^^^^

            The point is, surprise is nightmarish enough ringing one bell in the tower.  I rang Cambridge last night on two handbells?  No.  I rang it off my little piece of paper with the lines drawn out.  Niall and Colin rang it. This is however my one peculiar talent:  reading methods off bits of paper accurately enough to be able to ring them.  Never occurred to me this was a talent till I had several people tell me they couldn’t do it.  What’s not to do?  You just read the frelling lines.  I admit that in the heat of battle you may have some trouble remembering whether your right hand is the red line or the blue one . . . but I’d much rather have a talent for learning the damn methods.  I said at the end of the evening to my co-conspirators, okay, you are allowed to give me one piece of homework:  I will have a go beginning to learning one method.  Thence followed an intense dialogue between the boys that appears to have ended in my going home with three.  Eenie, meanie . . . 

^ I really have to ask somebody why they’re called ‘surprise.’  The urge is very strong to make bad jokes about the first guy who wrote one bouncing in to his next practise waving the sheet of paper with the new method on it and everyone taking one look at it and going ‘bluuuuuurrrrrgggghhhh, are you nuts?’ in appalled surprise.   

^^ If you open a shop, let me know. 

^^^ St Clements being the way station on the road to Cambridge that I can sometimes be found dithering at now. 

^^^^—Clematis-Montana_web.jpg   Yes.  Exactly.  Now imagine this as a line you’re supposed to memorise and follow.  –Oh, and this is so not a montana.  It might be a tactfully sun-faded Nelly Moser.  Nice happy (inextricably ensnarled) clematis.  I have one.  I like her.  But she’s not a montana. 

^^^^^ Of course you are further tested by whether or not you can learn and pursue the directions, which involve Scylla, Charybdis, Laurel, Hardy, and a Moebius strip. 

*** I have been practising what remains of my brains out to be able to play the second page of the frelling Mozart duet:  I’d got a bit sidetracked on Just a Little Piece for Organ^ earlier in the week, so the third page of the duet wasn’t going to happen, but I could at least polish up the second page to a high gloss.  This morning I had a pre-letting-Oisin-see-it-for-the-first-time-yelp crash and bang on Just, having spent last night turning the second page of the Mozart into the Koh-i-noor.  Oisin looked interestedly at Just and said Hmmmm, another of your simple, straightforward little tunes then^^, sorted out one or two small knotted technicalities in terms of what your parameters are^^^ writing organ music, and then said brightly (in a voice very like the one he used last week when he said Just a little piece for organ please), okay, that looks great.  Now, when you get it finished^^^^ we’ll take it over to the church, and I’ll show you how different combinations of stops will change it, and you can decide what you want it to sound like. . . . I hope this is Portrait of a Music Teacher Having a Good Time.

            And then I made an absolute hash, two fried eggs, bacon, oatmeal and toast on the side, of the Mozart.  AAAAAAAAAUUURRRRRRRGH.  It’s like I can only hold One Musical Thought in My Mind^^^^^ at a Time.  However, there’s always next week.  And the third page of the duet.  Having finished Just, since it’s only a little piece. 

^ I haven’t finished Battle Gem, damn it!  And I wasn’t really finished with Lyke Wake! 

^^ He played a few chords of it to explain what was going to be different on the organ, stopped, played it again and said, I knew that couldn’t be right, it was much too tonal. 

^^^ I’m starting to need a musical bulletin board.  I’ve got the standard voice ranges written down, for example, because I keep writing music for mezzo-soprano that is lower than a mezzo is expected to be able to go.  Marilyn Horne could have done it!  Kathleen Ferrier certainly could have done it, but I’m not sure we even have contraltos any more.  Oisin gave me the standard ranges for the standard organ two manuals and one pedalboard today, which I need to keep under my eye.  And I keep meaning to look up the flute gamut because I’ve had a Strange Flute Noise in the back of my mind for months.+  And I’m starting to want to know about some of the horns.  Oh, and harps.  This is where it starts getting really silly:  I’ve got Oisin for piano and (groan) organ, I have threatened flute- and trumpet-playing friends, but where am I going to find the two sopranos, two low mezzos and the two harps to perform this thing? 

+ There could of course be other explanations for Strange Flute Noises than that I need to write them down and call it music. 

^^^^ italics mine 

^^^^^ sic 

† During which someone else screwed up the touch of Stedman Doubles while I emerged looking all holy and pure, and I rang another plain course of Grandsire Triples.  This is one of those moments I want to lie down on the floor of the tower and scream Admire me!  I’ve rung a plain course of Grandsire Triples now I think three times.  That’s three times.  That is not a lot.  Three times is still you’re only learning it.  Three times doing it right, people are still supposed to say, Well done!  Only . . . I seem just to be ringing the frelling thing so nobody like notices.  I didn’t even have a minder this time!  And someone had the cheek to ask if I wanted a touch (ie a fancy course, not a plain one).  No!  No!  I want to be able to ring a plain course without coming to the end shaking like a leaf and feeling like I’ve got away with something!  This is one of those mixed blessings about experienced ringers being supportive.  They’re always way too willing to think you’re better than you are and they don’t notice things like that you’re shaking like a leaf when you tie up your rope after having successfully rung a plain course of Grandsire Triples for the third frelling time.  Whimper.  Sulk.^ 

^ I will point this out to Niall at the next opportunity for the pleasure of hearing him say, That’s because you’ve rung Grandsire Triples on handbells.

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