April 30, 2009

There’s harrowing and harrowing


It has been a harrowing day.  It began way too early with a knock on the door at 8:30 from a deliveryman.  I do not consider 8:30 a.m. a civilised hour to be knocking on people’s doors.  Especially when I wasn’t planning to get up before 9.  Earliest.  I’ve told you that one of the cute things about ME is that when it’s really bad it’s hard to sleep?  Yes.  You get too tired to sleep.  That’s really sensible*.  It’s like you are so tired you don’t have the energy to change states of consciousness, ie from awake (or whatever you want to call it:  awake is a little extreme) to asleep.  It’s like one of those STAR TREK episodes where the ENTERPRISE gets trapped by a black hole or a giant spaceship or a bad plot, and they’ve fired their whatevers and haven’t broken free and they don’t dare try again because they haven’t got enough dilithium crystals/hamsters** left for the effort and they’re reserving their remaining power for life support although they’ve only got eleven hours left and . . . where’s Mr Spock or Data or Jadzia when you need them?   Life when the ME is feeling ugly is a very bad plot.

            So I accepted delivery on some damn thing and crawled back into bed.  I was staring at the ceiling (no, I was staring toward the ceiling:  I can see about three inches past the end of my nose without my glasses on) when the phone rang at 9 a.m.  It was Branwen, who was due here for a cup of tea today but had to cancel due to an illness in the family, and she had to take the victim to the doctor.***  At this point I decided that lying in bed pretending to sleep had got boring at least four hours ago and I might as well get dressed.  No, no, getting dressed was way too much effort.†  So I decided to stumble downstairs and play with the hellhounds instead.

            I and my dressing-gown were somewhat the worse for this activity when there was a knock on the door again.  Frell.  The key to the bolt was back upstairs, safely returned to the pocket of my jeans from its earlier application.  Fortunately this was one of the deliverymen I know–he’s been delivering packages to us since before we left the old house–so when I shouted at him through the door that I had to go get the key he didn’t find this at all disturbing or bizarre because he’s used to me.††

            After this I figured that the day not being my day was carrying over from yesterday and I’d better get dressed before anything else happened.  This was a good decision because I was still meditating on crucial items like socks when there was ANOTHER knock on the door and it was the gas/electric meter man.  DOUBLE FRELL.  One of the meters is behind the stacks of empty plastic pots in the greenhouse.  Any other gardeners out there will realise what a disaster this is:  it’s the Augean Stables, and Hercules is busy elsewhere.  I hate the meter-reading man, small inoffensive soft-spoken fellow that he is.   At this point the phone rang.  So I sent the hapless meter reader out to the greenhouse by himself–having forgotten that there is a newly-arrived regiment of crack clematis in the way–and answered the phone.  Which was Asmodeus, wanting to sell me something.  I riposted with a request for him to track down various bits and pieces of kit toward making the organ software work.†††  He said he’d look into it and ring me back.

            I went out to see how the meter reader was doing, and he had the look of a man profoundly considering making a career move to something more restful, like mountain rescue or alligator wrestling.‡  I escorted him off the premises and told him that Penelope’s café makes a great cup of tea.

            . . . It’s late at night and chronology is never my best trick anyway.  There was at least one more deliveryman‡‡ because he arrived fractionally before the weekly Thursday delivery from the organic grocer, and there was a bottleneck on the stairs to my front door . . . when the phone rang again.  Asmodeus always rings back when he thinks he’s going to be able to sell you something.

            And at this point I put the groceries and the hellhounds in Wolfgang and fled.  To the mews.‡‡‡   Where various things occurred§ with the result that I got to Thursday evening handbells about a quarter of an hour late, braindead and in a state of terminal dither.§§   And rather dreading the next two hours, because if I had any sense and/or we had a fourth ringer I’d’ve cancelled, but when there are only three of you you all have to show up or nobody gets to ring.  Since I was late Niall sat us all down instantly and stuffed bells in our hands and we obediently set off on the well-worn but nonetheless hazard-strewn route of bob minor.  We’ve been ringing proper touches for a while now, and they’ve been slowly and erratically getting longer, with frequent fallings-off the straight and narrow and sudden fatal moments when you wake up to the horrible realisation that you have no idea where you are.§§§  Clang.  Game over.

            This one didn’t tip off the rails nearly as soon as expected.  And then it went on not tipping off.  Colin and I had assorted goes at derailing ourselves, but we always dragged or were dragged back on track again before anything too lethal happened–even Niall went fairly spectacularly wrong once and we had a whole short series of clang!  Clang!  Clang!  partly because neither Colin nor I could believe that it was Niall and we were both a bit slow to form the impenetrable bulwark to force him back where he belonged.

            The first time we came round¤ and Niall said ‘keep going’ I thought, oh, frell, the beggar’s going to make us work tonight.  The second time we came round and he said it again . . .  I thought oh gods he’s going for a QUARTERHelp.  And the third time around–remember the ME is pretty goddam bad, I’m very short of sleep, have had a frantic day, and a quarter peal at our speed is about forty minutes¤¤, forty minutes of continuous, intense, focussed paying attention to what you’re doing, including split-second changes of direction every time your frelling conductor calls a ‘bob’ or a ‘single’–the third time around he said ‘keep going’ I very nearly burst into tears and fell off my chair.  If he’d said it a fourth time, I probably would have.

            But he didn’t.  When he said ‘keep going’ the third time he added ‘just a little more’.  We made our quarter and he let us stop.

            I rang my first quarter peal on handbells tonight.    

* * *

 * I’ve done my rant about The Wisdom of the Body before, haven’t I?  This is one of the pitfalls of the alternative-health realm:  the la-la-la credo that if we all just tuned in to the Wisdom of the Body everything would be peachy.  If it were that frelling easy we wouldn’t need healers on either side of the thorny medical fence (“Charlatan! Scammer!”  “Murderer!  Patsy to Big Pharma!”).   A disease that makes you too tired to sleep is not wise.  Okay, so maybe it’s the result of my flawed living pattern (which the wisdom of my body failed to reject for some reason) . . . what about babies who are so stuck into crying that they won’t eat because they don’t realise the discomfort they feel is hunger?^  What’s the evolutionary advantage here?  

^ I’ve seen this cited often enough that it appears to be the accepted view, but I do wonder how we’re supposed to know this.  Telepathy?  Age regression therapy? 

** Or possibly hamster food 

*** The wisdom of her body had neglected to tell her not to eat rubbish.  Although I consider this whole story pretty fishy really.  Branwen would be perfectly capable of deciding to spare me the severe effort of putting water in the kettle and pressing the ‘boil’ button.^ 

^ I expect an outraged email as soon as she reads this entry.  

† Captain!  The engines are down to 23%!  We’re evacuating Deck Eleven to conserve energy! 

†† Writers.  They’re all weird. 

††† Remember the organ software?  Something to make Finale’s playback sufficiently articulate that I can actually hear what I’m trying to compose?  Did I write about this?  That the lovely organ software a friend of a forumite told me about is based on the idea that you can play the organ, which does not relate in this case?  So we are seeking a technological means by which it can be made to talk to Finale rather than to a person with ten clever fingers and two clever feet.  

‡ I’m sure I saw one of the clematis polishing its bayonet. 

‡‡ You probably want to know what all these deliveries are.  1.  More copper slug rings and a pair of short stanchions that hold a kind of standing hanging basket, the idea being to get more plants in the hellhounds’ courtyard without further limiting their already encroached-on peeing territory.  Not to mention getting said plants above peeing level.  2.  More plants.  3.  My Encyclopedia Britannica Book of the Year 2009 (which is about 2008, of course, which cognitive dissonance has been annoying me for the thirty or something years I’ve been buying Britannica books of the year).  4.  The pink Mary Janes.^  5.  More plants. . . . 

^ Oh gods, what if they fit?  I’ll have to keep them. 

‡‡‡ Where there was another phone message from my builder since I had somehow not managed to answer his on the cottage answerphone from last night yet.  But we are not going to get into a discussion of Third House today.  Nor are we going to get into a description of the very interesting invitation I received from Radio Three.  No, sic.  Radio Three.  As ever was.  My constant aural companion.  I did a gig for them years ago on modern fairy tales and nothing since.  I’m amazed I’m even still on their list.  I think I’m probably not:  I think Madame Leprince de Beaumont pulled out on them at the last minute and everybody else who is on their list by now has a prior engagement, and they were sweeping the corners for names they’d missed and weeping like one of these helpless princess types in an old fairy tale and a spider told them to ask me.  But the result is I may be having fresh unanticipated adventures next week. 

§ See previous footnote.  Plus Asmodeus ringing back a few more times.  Tomorrow I take everything organ-software-related to Oisin, dump it at his feet and say, pathetically, pleeeeeeease tell me what to do.   

§§ Dither has its uses.  It provides a chassis to hang the soft, wet bits on when you’re all soft wet bits. 

§§§ Who are these people?  What are these strange small bell-shaped objects in my hands, with the sweaty leather handles? 

¤ Remember that on six bells the number of ‘changes’ mathematically possible is pretty limited.  You do come back to ’rounds’ periodically whether you want to or not, and have to set out again, if you want to ring a longer ‘length’.  There are rules about all of this of course. 

¤¤ It was also a ‘long length’ quarter.  Never mind.  For our purposes it just means longer.  Even at our speed a handbell quarter shouldn’t take much over half an hour.

Catalogue company follies


 It is really not my day.  On the afternoon hellhound hurtle there was a strange small snapping noise and . . . the spring on Chaos’ long lead had broken, and we limped home again amid entangling festoons of long red lead-tape, with Chaos taking my shoulder out every few yards and then looking wounded when he hit the end too soon because I couldn’t let go fast enough . . . or when he knotted himself up to a falling-over halt and I had to go unpick him, like a bad row of knitting.  Darkness, who, I’ve begun to realise, feels responsible for the welfare (and the tantrums) of all three of us, havered at my heels, wanting to know if there was anything he could do.   And then we were attacked by a swan. . . .

           There’s a big famous catalogue company I’ve been buying clothes from for a lot of years.  I have a lifelong weakness for unnecessary and superfluous clothing, but I have fairly severe requirements in terms of practical silly:  ie canvas rubber-soled All Stars are practical*, hot pink in footwear is silly**, but has no bearing on usage, beyond dealing with how people react to you in your hot pink shoes.***  There are all kinds of clever design features that make me nuts. † Bell sleeves.  Arrrrgh.  First thing I do is push long sleeves up, unless of course I’m pulling them down:  if they’re up, bell sleeves won’t stay up, if they’re down, bell sleeves trail in everything.†† ‘Cashmere blends’ that are 93% viscose, 6% elasthane, .05% Brillo pad, and .05% cashmere.  Ruching.  Mid-knee hemlines.†††

            I’ve always had slightly mixed feelings about this catalogue company, but they’re very in your face, and they’re often in your face with stripes and polka dots and nice bright colours.  But they clearly think they’re cuter and astuter and ingeniouser than I think they are, so while I keep going back, to make sure I’m not missing any really great orange and purple and lime green Laura-Ashley-has-a-heart-attack florals, they’re not first on my list and I don’t automatically fire up a web browser every time I get an email from them about their latest nirvana-inducing offer.

            Ah yes, the internet.  When I was first ordering from them it was a paper catalogue.  I still tend to browse the paper catalogue before I go on line, because big sites with lots of stuff on them tend to be black holes that suck your time and sanity into parallel universes where spaceships don’t have to split infinitives to go boldly and Q is a letter of the alphabet, where it belongs. ‡  I can think of worse–there’s one clothing catalogue company I use rather a lot whose site is so impenetrable that if there’s something in their paper catalogue I like, I order it by phone–but this one is bad enough.  Wherever you are you need to click through to somewhere else, and on your way you keep falling afoul of dialogue boxes that say, Hi, We Want to Put Stuff on Your Computer, But It’s Okay, We Won’t Use It.  In that case what do you want it for?  Also, their clothing is getting more and more deranged, with seams in weird places and GigantoButtons‡‡  and really ugly pockets, and, for example, they simply don’t sell trousers that (a) come up to your waist (b) go down to your ankles and (c) fit, ie ‘narrow leg’ which used to be just, you know, normal.  I also have low-rise trousers‡‡‡ and wide-leg trousers and I don’t like them.  I know I don’t like them.

            So, anyway, with the credit crunch and all, there are a lot of companies offering really reckless deals, so when this company sent me a voucher number I went to take a look at what it would get me.  I’m having yet another bad ME day or I probably wouldn’t have wasted as much time as I did trying to get the site to do as it was told . . .and I certainly wouldn’t have agreed to take a Satisfaction Survey.  I’d forgotten that I’d agreed till I signed off and found the thing waiting for me, like a hellhound for a walk, and by that time I was feeling pretty cranky so I let ’em have it.   Both bobbins, as it were.

            And at the very end of the survey, when they’re saying oh thank you so much!, we value what our customers say!, having not read what I’d written yet, they also say, brightly, wagging their tails and panting just a little, Wouldn’t you like to become a member of our Customer Panel?  We will send you stuff for your opinion and you will get lots of extra special offers.  The imp of the perverse made me do it.  I said ‘yes’.  Why curse the darkness when someone offers you a blowtorch, hey?  They have an escape clause however:  they say that they need certain numbers of Customer Panelists in the various age groups so if they already have too many in yours they will have to turn you down.  Regretfully.  Ha.

            If they took me, I might have to give them a name. 

* * *

 * Unless you wear Armani suits to work.  Although Armani and All Stars is a fashion statement too.^  I don’t really get into fashion.  I don’t have time.  I’m frequently surprised–not always pleasantly–at what is in or out of fashion.  Not to mention extraterrestrial catwalk paraphernalia that has nothing to do with clothing as the rest of us know it.

 ^ Would I want to know this person?  I don’t know, what are they reading? 

** Fetching, but silly 

*** Which is their problem.  Sensible right-thinking people will come up to you and say ooooh, great shoes, Pepto Bismol, my favourite colour. 

 †Yes, all right, this is not restricted to clever design features in clothing.  You name it, I can probably give you a clever design feature about it that annoys me.  Let’s not go there. 

†† I inadvertently have a cardigan-y^ thing with bell sleeves so I have definitive scientific proof of the truth of my theory.  The sleeves didn’t show in the catalogue photo and I was so in love with the BIG FAT LOUD STRIPES that I kept it anyway. 

^ It’s a hoodie.  I think it’s probably illegal for 56-year-olds to wear hoodies. 

††† Although I think these are merely a nasty accident caused by the inconvenient fact that different people’s legs are different lengths.  Surely not even a fashion designer would be that twisted deliberately. 

‡   Hmm.  This is obviously a superior venue.  And if Benjamin Sisko invites me out for coffee, I’m staying

‡‡  Patent pending 

‡‡‡ I don’t think I ever posted my rant about Skinny Jeans, did I?  The fact that one can wear them doesn’t necessarily mean one wants to.  Furthermore, no matter how long your t shirt is, you tend to get draughts, bell-ringing, and even when I was younger I never found tummy-flashing especially edifying.



Yesterday was one of those nil, zero, sod all, sweet Fanny Adams* sort of days, after the rather adrenaline-expensive and sleep-debt day on Sunday.  The world might have ended yesterday and I doubt I would have noticed.  Today, however, life has begun hurtling on again like a hellhound, as life will do.   Seven clematis arrived in the post this morning.  I must have ordered them. 

              I’m pretty sure I’ve told you about Taylors before http://www.taylorsclematis.co.uk/  You could buy plants from them for the sheer pleasure of their boisterous arrival.  Most mail-order plants come looking rather sad and oppressed and shell-shocked.  Taylors clematis arrive looking as if they were going to give you fifteen minutes before they started kicking their way out of the box:  they stride out like Greeks from the Trojan horse.   I have no idea how Taylors does it;  other mail-order nurseries do next-day deliveries and big healthy second-year perennials, but I’ve still never seen anything quite like a regiment of Taylors clematis.

              Meanwhile, today is the promised Gloucestershire-photos day.  I’ve split them up:  this is tourist Gloucestershire.  In another day or two I’ll give you Rioting Hellhounds.img_0003-small


You walked out of our cottage and turned left, and this is what you saw.







 And if you walk a few steps past the wall on your left, and turn to face left just before the little glasshouse, this is what you see:







You’ve turned right out the front door of our cottage for this one, and kept going a little while.  This from Saturday morning’s hellhound hurtle.






Hellhounds pausing mid-hurtle to gaze at . . . sheep.  They’re actually better about sheep than they are other dogs because I’ve never let them near a sheep.






Here we are coming back from our hurtle. 









This is the afternoon hurtle, looking back from the opposite end of town.







 This is over the road and onto the footpath from the previous photo.







We’ve walked a little further along that footpath.








And at this point we’re going to turn around and go back to the cottage, and some of us will have supper, and some of us will refuse it.   Hellhounds sleep better than I do though.  I hope there’s no connection. . . .





 * ‘sweet FA’, geddit?  The English are so creative.   Fanny Adams existed too, poor thing;  she’s one of Hampshire’s more gruesome bits of history.   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fanny_Adams  Don’t read it if you’re of a sensitive disposition.

The high cost of tower grabbing

[Okay, now this is the one from Sunday night, and tomorrow (Tuesday) you should have Gloucestershire–or as a blog correspondent put it to me today, Gsomethingshireverylongname–photos and we should all be standing on the same speck of the time-space continuum again.]

I am functioning [sic] on two and a half hours of sleep here, so don’t expect great things tonight.  Never allow yourself to feel smug:  it’ll nail you every time.  If you suspect the sticky approach of smirking complacency, run away.  Extreme procedures are acceptable.  Call to mind in gruesome detail the time you got that long division problem wrong in front of the whole class.  Remember the afternoon you spilt tea on the vicar’s wife, which wouldn’t have been so bad if you hadn’t said, oh, &^%$£”!!!, and it wasn’t just the vicar’s wife but the vicar’s wife’s mother, who was sitting next to her, and who may have been old and frail but had remarkably good hearing, and used to totter to the other side of the street on her cane when she saw you coming for years after.  Remember the day you put ordinary petrol in your diesel car*. . . .  You should be feeling pretty bad by now. . . .       

              So . . . uh . . . sequential thought is difficult, on two and a half hours of sleep.  Today’s Sunday, isn’t it?  So at least we’re back in the same time frame again**.  These last two days I’ve felt like I was in a bathysphere, exploring the strange country at the bottom of the sea, and my email was pumped up and down a pipe once a day with bulletins from the surface and my latest data reports.*** 

            Yesterday went pretty well, I think.  Family was visited and hellhounds didn’t destroy anything or knock anyone over.  Or if they did it happened while I was out of the room and no one told me . . . although I was never out of the room because if I was gone longer than it takes to have a quick pee, hellhounds would come looking for me.  It was also a gorgeous, glorious, magnificent blue day†, the sort of perfect weather that while it’s not impossible to be in a bad mood in††, it’s an awful lot of work, and while ‘relax and enjoy it’ isn’t a part of my native vocabulary, new experiences are good for you.†††

            And then last night–!  Yesterday evening, blog-free, internet-free, home-distractions-free, golly, what’ll I do with myself . . . I read two (2) homeopathic journals and about eighty (80) pages of THE REST IS NOISE‡ and still got to bed early.‡‡  It was sensational.  And I therefore went to bed feeling a trifle–just a trifle, honestly, only a trifle–pleased with myself, because I was clearly going to be able to get up early‡‡‡ and go bell ringing. 

            Long term readers may recall that I took Peter’s granddaughter bell ringing a while back, when she was visiting here. . . and that she went home and signed up at her local tower.  This sounds good, and I like taking the credit, but her mum had learnt the basics of bell ringing when she was a teenager and had been meaning to get back to it some day.  Daughter can’t get out of bed on a Sunday morning§ but Mum goes, and offered to take me along. 

            So I set my alarm last night and lay down with a smile on my face . . . even having hellhounds in the bedroom with me§§ had not proved a bar to repose the night before and I was expecting no trouble.   I fell asleep instantly with a smile on my face . . .

            . . . And woke up again two and a half hours later.  And that was that.

            It did mean that hellhounds got a bleary bit of walk in before we all piled into the car to drive round the big, confusing, badly signposted town to the village on the other side where my new experience in bell ringing was due to occur.  We all went because of the big, confusing, badly signposted town in the way:  when we drove over there for the first time yesterday I was more or less hysterical by the third roundabout, all of which offered directions only to towns I didn’t want to go to.  I said to Peter, there is no chance I can do this tomorrow morning when I’ll only be half awake, never mind preoccupied with the likelihood of making a fool of myself!  And Peter said pacifically, don’t worry, I’ll come with you.  Granted it’s not early in the morning for him . . . even so.  He could have stayed home with the Sunday crossword.

            So there we were driving smartly round this Victorian maze of town unplanning, we negotiated the final roundabout successfully . . . and the road we needed to turn down was closed.   Big red signs.  CLOSED.  DIVERSION.

            What do I do nooooow? I wailed, taking my foot off the [diesel] pedal and letting Wolfgang dribble to a stop in the middle of the roundabout.   What do I do naaaaoooow?  Even the prospect of not having the opportunity to make a fool of myself did not console me.  If I wasn’t going bell ringing I could still be in bed, pretending to be asleep!

            Peter said in a commanding voice, take that turn.  So I did. 

            And we got there.  Over hill, over dale, as we hit the dusty trail . . . no, wait, wrong country.  (Wrong century.  And there were no caissons involved today.)   We were even there in time, Peter shining like a host of seraphim as we got out of the car at his son’s house.  –And then I made a fool of myself.  Sigh.  Never mind, this was only a village church in the middle of . . . not quite nowhere, but nowhere in particular, and the good ringers were obviously used to people like me.  Hellhounds did not cover themselves with glory either:  as I understand there was a lot of whining after it became apparent that I was going to be gone longer than it takes to have a quick pee . . . but we were reunited at last, and after another quick hurtle around the garden§§§ we all piled back into the car to renegotiate Peter’s sterling bit of trail-blazing, pack up the cottage¤ and go home.

            I can just about stay awake long enough to drive that far, I figured, still hot with the adrenaline of having made a mess of ringing up in peal¤¤, and it’s not quite as far as I’d remembered it was, by our experience on Friday, and furthermore, early Sunday afternoon the roads should be pretty empty.¤¤¤

            Whereupon we were pelting down the whatever monster motorway to make the turn onto the whatever other monster motorway and Peter told me the wrong exit and suddenly we were on our way to Niagara.  Or possibly Neptune.

            There was screaming.  There was language.  There were threats to let certain parties out of the car to make their own way home.

            Our little private diversion cost us twenty minutes and a lot of tyre wear since I was not hanging around.  And thank the gods there were no cop radar traps hanging around either.

            But none of this would have happened–including making a mess of ringing up in peal–if I hadn’t gone to bed last night feeling smug.  I hope you’re paying close attention.  Be guided by my mistakes.  

* * *

 *Actually I haven’t done this . . . yet.  But this is largely due to the fact that I’ve been going to the same petrol station for the last twenty years, where they fill your tank for you.  A friend who shall remain nameless performed this complacency-destroying error just last week.  ‘I stood there thinking that the nozzle really doesn’t want to fit,’ she said sadly.  ‘But I managed to get it in anyway.’ 

** Possibly excepting Australia, who isn’t in the same time frame as anybody, except New Zealand. 

*** The cottage was in fact rather dark–all those thick castle walls–and with the high ceilings and small floor space it felt a bit spherical. 

† And I kept thinking, I could be at home in my garden 

†† Don’t ask me how I know this 

††† That’s what I’ve kept telling the hellhounds, as they ignore another meal 

‡ Alex Ross, http://www.therestisnoise.com/

            Regular readers of this blog will remember him.  I got THE REST IS NOISE for Christmas and keep failing to find time and, crucially, brain, to read it with.  It’s a bright, sharp, energetic read, erudite without being heavy or arrogant with it, but for someone who is coming to learning about music rather late in her personal day it does take some focus. 

‡‡ Well.  Early by my standards. 

‡‡‡ Yes, yes, early by my standards, but on a Sunday morning, early by most people’s standards.  

§ In her defense, she is presently a member of the backstage crew for the local theatre’s current production, which keeps her up late Saturday night and eats her Sunday afternoons. 

§§ With their crate jammed up against the side of the bed–so the, you know, door would close–and when anyone in it changed position, which, as anyone with dogs knows, tends to include the hurling of furry bodies into their new posture, the bed shook 

§§§ Photos tomorrow 

¤ The problem with self-catering cottages is the housework.  I object to hoovering a floor I’ve only been tracking dirt over for two days. 

¤¤ and the adrenaline of hostility to housework is not to be despised 

¤¤¤ When they’re not closed, of course.  Although I dare say a closed road is really empty.

Friday night from the wilds of Gloucestershire

 [I’m afraid there was an error in communication between Blogmom and me.  This was supposed to go up last night.  I went to copy, paste and publish tonight’s entry, now back home and plugged in again, and discovered this one still hanging around in ‘drafts’.  Well, so you’ll get that one tomorrow night and then the night after that . . . uh . . . I can’t think that far ahead. . . . ]

We’re here.

            We only got lost once.  Although you can get lost pretty fast at 70 mph.  Especially when you’re going over the speed limit ( . . . which is 70 mph).   One of the tangential reasons I don’t like travelling is the getting lost factor which I am extremely gifted in.*  Somehow this has never succeeded in making me grateful for airlines, however, where you can leave the driving to them, although I would really like being met at the airport if it didn’t mean being at the airport in the first place.  Anyway.

            I am sitting in the dining nook of the most fabulously darling cottage imaginable**:  it’s all nooks and niches–the fireplace is almost bigger than the rest of the cottage–and I suspect that it’s three witsy-bitsy Thumbelina-tiny buildings knocked together, because it’s on three levels and at three different angles, and you go from one to the next through a magnificent arch or a stone wall that would not disgrace a castle, where the arrow-slits have been blocked off to make more niches.  The middle bit, which is the sitting-room, has a cathedral ceiling taller than it is wide, with great horizontal beams holding the slanted roof-beams out, just like at my Hampshire cottage, except that at my cottage they hit you–thump:  owww–about face level.  There’s even a tiny fenced in garden for hellhounds.*** 

            The three levels are further explained by the fact that this is one of those infamous straight-up-and-down Gloucestershire villages.  I remember this from the last time I was in this area:  I look around and think, gods, this is gorgeous, this is breath-taking, big wow in all directions . . . I’m so glad I don’t live here.  I’m glad I don’t walk hellhounds here, I’m glad I don’t garden here.†  There are a lot of very beautiful and creative gardens within a stone’s throw of this cottage–I’ve seen several this evening, peering over people’s walls–but I don’t want to push a wheelbarrow up (or, for that matter, down), one of these slopes, let alone water the frellers.†† 

             But it is beautiful.  I’ll try and get you some photos tomorrow.  Today was just getting here and getting our heads around being away.  Which the hellhounds are signally failing to do, of course.  Sigh.  I have them on a blanket next to me here in the nook where I can keep an eye on them–I don’t at all like the interested way they sniff things like curtains and the edges of furniture, which is to say I’m not at all sure that previous canine guests have perfectly observed the proprieties of indoor manners–and as a special dispensation for Being Away from Home I fed them their supper in their makeshift bed . . . and far from responding with appropriate gratitude (which is to say eating) they now have themselves wedged up against the far corner of the wall, away from the dreadful food which might morph into a Calvin-and-Hobbes type Food Monster and come after them at any moment.  Take it away!  Take it away!  Chaos tried to bury his, one of those little canine behaviours that always gives me fond thoughts of goldfish.  Did I say sigh?  SIGH.  Fortunately we’re only here forty-eight hours.  Even a ribby hellhound can’t starve to death in forty-eight hours.  I hope.

            Meanwhile, I have spent the evening reading homeopathy and gardening journals in a person-on-holiday, illicit sort of way, and now I think I will take THE REST IS NOISE and go to bed.  Hellhounds, this time in their crate, will be in the bedroom with me.  Which could be interesting†††.  Let me see:  you’re all reading KIRITH as I write this.  All being well, you’ll see this Saturday night, so I can say . . . I’ll tell you all about it tomorrow.‡ 

* * *

* I could be extremely gifted in piano-playing.  Or bell-ringing.  Or breeding roses.  But no.  I am extremely gifted in getting lost.^ 

^ And I tell pretty good stories. 

** With a slight caveat concerning the bathroom.  I hope they got those grey fixtures with the green taps because they were on sale because nobody else would buy them.  I mean, grey?^  What deep-thinking design executive decided that a grey bath, sink and toilet would raise the happy aesthetic level of the universe?  Or that his company could successfully flog the things to the punters?  We’re talking plastic here, you know.  This isn’t some Victorian granite number with cherubs holding the soap, or ancient Mesopotamian mosaic imported at great expense and illegality. 

^ And green taps?  Is this a Conservative brunch party? 

*** There are also a lot of weedy, sad-but-still-valiantly-trying geraniums, which is how geraniums are, in pots on the deep windowsills–which embrasures I agree demand plants in pots–which are breaking my gardener’s heart.  Tomorrow I’m going to find a shop that sells plant food

† Peter says one of the first things I ever said to him was ‘I hate hills.’  I’d just fetched him home from the Bangor, Maine airport and was taking him up, you know, Blue Hill.  Which is a big lump of a small mountain, and not just a town name.  And steep.  Like an infamous Gloucestershire village, only with sugar maples and wild blueberries.  The rest of Blue-Hill-the-village is merely rolling and tussocky. 

†† I left my water-twice-a-day hydrangea in its own pool, which it probably won’t like either.  And I got the dahlias planted.  Well, whapped into little pots with some compost and water, just to let ’em get going.  Which is one of the reasons we got off to Gloucestershire just a trifle later than planned. 

††† Hellhounds are in a state of considerable perturbation of mind anyway, of course, manifested not only in an utter revulsion at the thought of food, but in the way they leap awake every time I do something drastic like go six feet into the kitchen for more peppermint tea.  Some of their twitchiness is likely caused by their experience that her votaries Not Eating usually makes the hellgoddess grumpy. 

‡ Why does 1 am seem later, away from home?

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