August 31, 2009

The Thirty-First of August



            I was going to have PEGASUS finished by the 31st of August.  Last spring when I was floundering in several million words* and had this fabulous life-saving lightning flash of creative problem-solving and decided to whack it in two and have PEGASUS I and PEGASUS IT’S NOT REALLY A SEQUEL, IT’S THE REST OF THE SAME STORY, for about six hours I knew all was well.  I could get PEGASUS MOCK I** done by the end of the summer, no problem.***

            And then the doubts started.  There was quite a little flock of the frellers† by, oh, say, the beginning of June. 

            By July I was saying, okay, I can get through the third draft by the end of August, and while it would have been nice if that was it, it isn’t, and I’ll just have to print it out and sit down with the red pen, the scissors, the yellow legal pads, and the disbelieving computers sniggering in the background.  I can do this.  Gods know I’ve done it before.

            But I’m not there either.  I’m near the end of the third draft.  I am still going to get it done in time to turn it in this autumn.  I have a PhD in catastrophic behindness.  I got a First in not turning things in.  I know what it looks like.  This isn’t it.

            But it is the 31st of August, and I’m not through with the third draft of PEGASUS ONE.


* * *

* Nearly.  Well, not as nearly as Patrick Rothfuss. ^

Especially the ‘my book is long’ part about halfway down.  The part that says NAME OF THE WIND is over 250,000 words^^ and the next one is likely to go over 300,000.  The best-selling part of Rothfuss’ life is pretty appealing^^^ but juggling over 300,000 words all at the same time?  Not to mention remembering what the hell you did in the first over 250,000?^^^^  Nope.  No thank you.  Uh-uh.  In fact, ewwww

            I also, because Worry Is My Middle Name#, worry about Mr Rothfuss.  I hope he’s happy juggling his over 300,000 words.  Because I have spent most of my professional career behind on deadlines, and while this is a lifestyle you learn to live with like you learn to live with ME or menopause or hellhounds because here you are, you are not necessarily having a good time.##  And I notice that that same link from the 26th of February is still answering the book-two question on the 31st of August. 

^ I haven’t quite bookmarked this page but I can find it with remarkable grace and aplomb.  (You go to his web site, click on the FAQ, and click on the first question, When is volume two out, and click on the blog entry.  Just in case you want to know.)  Every couple of months or so I find I have to go look at ‘Kindly die screaming in a fire.  Your tears are delicious to me’.  For some reason. 

            Have I mentioned that I’ve had several ‘We think you should write a sequel to SUNSHINE/are you going to write a sequel to SUNSHINE/why haven’t you written a sequel to SUNSHINE there’s all this stuff you left out’ emails over this long holiday weekend just to brighten my day and make me smiling and happy and relaxed and even readier than usual to deal with the droves of idiots and their hysterical off-lead dogs and their hysterical off-lead children+ that even half-cooperative-weather bank-holiday weekends bring out of the woodwork?  No?  Well, I have now.++

            I did however, during a desk-escape with hellhounds, have a nice chat with another local two-legged dog adjunct, a tiny little not-really-old-she’s-probably-my-age lady, out walking her infinitesimal terrier, who is also scared silly of our local swan population.  She has reason:  a good-sized swan could probably pick her up and fly away with her.  And the terrier.  It would take two or three swans working in an unswanlike posse to carry me away+++ but I worry about them nailing a hellhound, since hellhounds are necessarily on short lead as we pass any wildlife, and they wouldn’t be able to dodge.  This is a bad time of year for live-and-let-live, it’s-their-river-too with swans:  this summer’s new generation is almost as big as mum and dad but they’re still living at home, and they’re starting to practise their hissing and striking techniques.  Eight swans all lined up on the riverbank coiling and uncoiling their long snaky necks and going hsssssssssss does not gladden the heart of the hellhound-hurtler. 

            Um . . . where was I. . . .

 + My favourites are the ones that run screaming up to your dogs and then jump up and down, still screaming,  waving their hands in your dogs’ faces.  WTF

++ Today I also had one of those, Check your real-o-meter, Sophronia, I think we may have slipped out of our usual space-time continuum, emails, which requests me politely for a review copy of a book by someone I’ve never heard of.   In the first place, no.  In the second place, no.  In the third place . . . no. 

+++ They’d need an alliance with a couple of merrels to carry the hellhounds. 

^^ Yes, I know.  It takes up nearly as much space on my shelves as thirty-six volumes of collected Kipling.+ 

+ I said ‘nearly’ 

^^^ Now there’s a man who took his first royalty check and had steel braces put under his soon-to-be-backlist-bearing attic.  

^^^^ He’s younger than I am.  He may still have a functioning memory. 

# Some people get good middle names.  Some people have middle names like Trouble or Terror or Fabulous or Greatest.  I get Worry. 

## I am reminded of the Robbie Burns prayer that begins: 

Some ha’e meat that canna eat,
And some nae meat that want it . . .

That would be menopausal me and the hellhounds.

** Ha ha. 

*** I would even keep up with the garden this summer.  Although I didn’t anticipate the voice lessons. 

† Speaking of things that hiss and strike.  And how fast the new generation grows. 

†† Major news flash.  Hellhounds ate their supper.   With such an omen on such a significant day, can there be any doubt that a beautifully polished up, completed and ready-for-delivery PEGASUS I can be far behind?

Oven cloths and things to take out of hot ovens with them


 You guys want a photo of an oven cloth?*IMG_0344  

So.  Fine.  Your wish is my command.**

 Happy now?*** 

            Meanwhile, there is adventure afoot.  Also acomputer.  Or aforum. 

jmeadows writes:

Black Bear wrote on Fri, 28 August 2009 23:02   They didn’t use to ship direct to the UK;  but it now appears they do?  This could be the end of Robin As We Know Her. . . .

But she’ll be so happy all the time. I vote yes! to All-Stars. 

Happy all the time I’m wearing shoes, anyway.†  Well, I vote yes to All Stars too but postage and all the multicoloured and multifaceted nuisances of sending stuff back are inhibiting.  It doesn’t happen often, for example, but it does happen the wrong shoes get put in the right box, and even that the right size is stamped on the wrong shoes.††  Also the fit is different from pair to pair these days—I don’t know if the variation is from factory to factory or country to country or Chuck Taylor relic to Chuck Taylor relic††† or what—but the lasts, or whatever you use for canvas, are different, which can make about a half-size difference in your choice.  And amazon uk may ship postage free but the individual companies do not.  You send something back, it’s your dime/shilling, and it’s your dime/shilling again if they send you another pair.  One of the little sub-amazons was also going to charge me a handling fee to send another pair in a different size.  No.  Keep your frelling shoes.  And getting one of these jokers on the phone doesn’t guarantee anything either:  he says one thing and then the trolls in the warehouse do something else.  Doing all this transatlantic makes me feel a little faint.  And I guarantee does not ship to England for free.  Which is why I.  Am.  Fighting. The.  Urge. To.  Go.  Look.  At.  Their.  Selection.  In.  Case.  Of.  Accidents. 


Black Bear wrote on Fri, 28 August 2009 23:02
This could be the end of Robin As We Know Her…

Nah, probably not. We already know she collects All Stars with almost the same dedication with which she collects roses. And she can’t buy a Fourth House with suitably reinforced attic until she becomes a best-selling author in the UK…

 I plan not to need a Fourth House, thank you very much, but I would like to finish the job on Third.  It still needs new kitchen cupboards, new carpet everywhere the builders didn’t tear up the old, new light fixtures,‡‡ and one or two other minor items like bookshelves‡‡‡.

            However, I wouldn’t mind an acre in the country with a hellhound proof fence around it where I can also grow some fruit trees.  If I’m going to be a best seller.  If I’m a big best seller I will buy several acres and have a Home for Retired Gentlehorses.


I think we ought to have a forum field trip to the UK to show off Robin’s books and find her a few thousand new readers. We’ll start on the south end of the island and march north. Forumite with the most converts wins. Well, pair of forumites. Safety in numbers, after all.

As dedicated readers, I think it’s our duty — nay, our calling — to do this. For Robin.

 Buyers.  You want several§ thousand more buyers.  For the Gentlehorses.  And think of all the photos of bolting hellhounds I could get if I weren’t always looking in sixteen directions at once when they’re off lead and the last thing I want to do is blind myself with a camera lens. 


Road trip! I call shotgun. 

Shotgun?‡  I’m not that hard a sell, am I? 


We could pair up and go door to door, like missionaries, with the McKinley book of our choice under our respective arms, conservatively dressed except for outlandish All Stars, 

Ooooh.  Do I get to choose? 

 ready and eager to convert the masses… 


AJLR wrote on Sat, 29 August 2009 13:11
The frustrating thing for those of us in the UK who like Robin’s books is that we know other people here would like them too, if the publishing industry would just get off its backside and make them more available.

We’ll just have to stop in bookshops, too, and harass the employees until they agree to put Robin’s books on the order list. 

We will make this happen! (Muahahaha.)

Okay.  You do that.  And when you come back from a hard month on the road, I will feed you these for tea: 

Several Kinds of Chocolate Shortbread (sort of) 

This has its origin in Rosie’s All Butter Fresh Cream Sugar Packed No Holds Barred Baking Book, which has graced these virtual pages before.  But I don’t think this particular recipe has.  The original is called Brownie Shortbread and has only one kind of chocolate in it.  Really.  That’s not No Holds Barred. 


1 ½ c all-purpose flour

¼ c sugar

12 T slightly salted butter (this is also a short three-quarters of a 250g block of butter)

1 c shaved, grated or fine-chopped dark, good-quality-eating chocolate.  You can use chocolate chips but it’s nowhere near as satisfactory.  And full-size chips are too big, and the shortbread won’t hold together properly. 

Mix flour and sugar and then mush in the butter, which should be about half-soft.  You want it workable but not gooey.  I usually do it with a spoon but you can use a food processor.   Stir in the chocolate evenly.  Pat on the bottom of a 13 x 9” baking pan, or equivalent.  You may conceivably want to grease it lightly first, but this has so much butter in it already I never bother.  Bake 350°F about 20 minutes, till it looks almost done:  faintly gold but not quite dry.  Cool.  The original recipe says ‘place in refrig for 15 min to cool completely’.  Put an oven hot pan in your refrigerator?  Are you nuts?  It doesn’t have to be dead cold, but it’s true it needs to be a little cooler than it’s going to get if you make the topping right away.  So go do the dishes or the dusting or read a chapter in a wonderful fantasy novel or something and come back. 


4 ounces dark, good-quality-eating chocolate

8 T slightly salted butter

2 large eggs at room temp

¼ c sugar

2T flour

1 tsp baking powder. 

Melt chocolate and butter over very low heat (or a bain marie).  Cool enough not to curdle the eggs.  Beat eggs, sugar, flour and bp together till fluffy.  The bp will make it fizz, so don’t stop too soon:  you want it thoroughly mixed.  Then add chocolate and beat like mad.  A whisk is best.  

Spread over your barely-warm base.  Bake till the top rises and forms a thin crust, about 20 minutes.  The centre will still look faintly damp.  You don’t want it quite dry but you don’t want it positively squidgy either:  a toothpick in the middle will come out tacky, but the edges should be pulling away from the pan slightly.  It will probably fall slightly as it cools.  (It doesn’t always.)  Cool completely before you try and cut it.    

At this point, because I am of unsound mind, I like to melt a little more of your good-quality-eating dark chocolate and drizzle it over the top.  I usually use plain chocolate for the two bottom layers and then something else for the drizzle:  orange is good.  Or mint.  This is now a good time to put it in the refrigerator till it’s cold enough to cut neatly. 

* * *

 * Mmmmrmph.  Represses various things that could be said about the hellgoddess’ opinion of communal sanity, most of them perhaps not very flattering.  

** On the second to last day of August when the moon is waxing and there’s an early obscure Mozart opera on Sky Arts and the hellhounds aren’t eating their dinner^ and I’m in the mood.  

^ Well that’s an easy one 

*** I also have a second, back up oven cloth, but Peter is getting that for Christmas.  It’s to encourage him to put one through the washing machine occasionally.^ 

^ I admit my heart leaped up when I saw a black oven cloth.  The back up one, sadly, is not black.   But it is amusing.+ 

+ And yes, anyone craz—I mean dedicated enough to remember to ask me at Christmas, I’ll post a photo of that oven cloth also. 

† Still leaves the way open for Very Weird Dreams. 

†† Yes.  It’s happened to me.  

††† The foot bones work the best, of course 

‡ Not shotviolin? 

‡‡ No one has forgotten the plastic baronial chandelier, I hope, of unsainted memory.  Naked dangling light bulbs never looked so good. 

‡‡‡ And if I’m a best-seller, I’m going to buy those cast iron radiators. 

§ hundred

Guest post by Jeanne Marie

Of Music History, Kittens and Final Exams


I recently had a conversation with a former student of mine, who has gone on to an undergrad degree in Vocal Music,* regarding her schedule for the upcoming year, in which Music History class will play a prominent role.  That took me back –ahem– a number of years to my own days in Music History class… 

My Music History professor was a very fun and slightly outlandish guy in his 60s, who was fond of driving his teal blue Mustang convertible with the top down while wearing sunglasses with Carmina Burana** blaring on the stereo.  Nevertheless, Music History was one of those classes which tended to make undergrad music students hyperventilate, and I was no different.  Exams for Music History were heralded by lengthy study parties, which usually involved overnight stays in the music building or someone’s apartment/dorm room, listening to various musical selections, and attempting to find five intelligent things to say about them.*** 

The days before the Music History Final Exam were particularly fraught.  Some+ were teetering between grades, and the final would either lift them up or slam them down, depending.  Some of the more difficult music was explored just prior to the second semester final, and the professor had also threatened to go back to some other stuff he felt we hadn’t covered sufficiently on earlier tests – so anything all year was considered fair game.  This was especially rough on those who still had trouble correctly dividing the various music periods into their corresponding years.++ 

To make things even MORE exciting, the day before the Big Study Party At My Apartment, I rescued a kitten. 

A neighbor in the student apartment complex in which I lived had an illegal cat, who had recently given birth to illegal kittens.  I was walking past one day, and was invited to come in and coo over the cuteness.  Two of the three were tumbling and playing as kittens are wont to do – but, one was not.  She was wobbly and teetery and slow, moving more like a 90-year old without her walker than a weeks old kitten.  I asked what was wrong with her, and was told (brightly) that the morning after a rather convivial party two weeks prior, the kitten in question had been sitting in a corner, mewling piteously.  It took the kitten two days to decide to move out of the corner, and when she did, she walked like a little old woman.  I asked what the vet had said about her. 

“Oh, I haven’t taken her to a vet,” she replied.  Grrrr… 

I left her apartment, wrestled with myself for about an hour, then went back, and snatched the poor kitten up out of there.  I called my Music History Professor‡, who was himself a cat lover and had two Himalayans‡‡, and asked him about a vet to take the kitten to for a checkup.  He was appalled at the story, and after calling his vet to make an appointment for me, volunteered to take the kitten to the vet himself, right after our Music History final the next day, since I had three finals all in a row. 

That night, five of my Music History classmates descended upon my apartment for snacks, drinks and study.  Tears were shed over the predicament of the poor battered kitten, and she was dubbed “Threnody Sprechstimme Klangfarbenmelodien±” in honor of her tragic story and 20th century Music History. Most of my classmates left around 1:00am, but one girl stayed the whole night, lying across my sofa with her sunglasses on, and periodically hollering “Chopin! Etude!” 

The day of the Music History final dawned, and I and my sunglasses-wearing classmate ate pancakes, to fortify us both for the coming ordeal.  Just before the 8:00am final¤ we headed off, with Threnody Sprechstimme Klangfarbenmelodien along for the ride.  She was still pretty tottery, but after some attention and good quality kitten food was starting to show a bit more interest in life and looked around brightly at everything.  She sat quietly but interestedly on my Music History Professor’s desk throughout the final, and all of us periodically looked up at her and smiled (well, I certainly did) during the test.  She was kind of our cute-though-decrepit Music History Mascot! 

The vet kept her overnight, and after a round of routine vaccinations and more good quality kitten food, she seemed to be doing much better.  The vet thought that one of two things had happened: either she had been stepped on and had suffered nerve damage¤¤ or she had been given beer by stupid party-goers.   In either case, he said, Threnody seemed mostly fine, and he suspected that she would either recover completely or learn to compensate for back leg weakness with her front legs.  Relieved that it wasn’t something worse, I took her home, and she began the rehab process.  Her rehab consisted of enjoying a lively gallop across the tile floor of my student apartment until her back legs gave way and she slid the length of the room to thump against the wall under the dresser.  I actually don’t know if this was her idea of rehab so much as entertainment! 

I passed Music History, and my classmates passed, and Threnody Sprechstimme Klangfarbenmelodien not only survived, she thrived.  After some thought, I didn’t leave her with the multi-syllable appellation our sleep-deprived and History-soaked brains had given her. ¤¤¤   She never did regain much strength in her back legs, but her front legs compensated amply.  She lives with my parents now, cranky and cantankerous as a mumble-year old cat has a right to be…and, she still likes 20th century music!   

 * * *


**  –  this is not the best performance I’ve ever heard of Carmina, but it’s not bad. To do Carmina justice, I think you really need about 3 times as many singers as they have onstage, but then you’d also need an inconveniently large stage to hold them all… 

*** Composer, Year, Musical Period, Style, and Language/Instrument were the preferred 5, but if we were creative and/or at a loss, things like Favorite Performer Of, Like/Dislike, This Is Really Similar To This Other Piece I Know Better, The LP/CD Cover Looks Like This, You Know This Composer Was Never My Favorite But, and Hey Did I Tell You About The Time et al. were also employed… 

+ Moi?!?!?? Surely you jest…! 

++ Guilty.  I would list them for you now, but I always tend to flip Romantic and Baroque around.  All I remember is that one period in particular^ ended when Bach died.  

^ No, I don’t actually remember which one.  I think it was the Classical period.  But, I’m not sure.% 

% And the really scary thing is that I STILL get paid to do music stuff…and the lack of knowing this has not yet resulted in me having (too much) musical egg on my face.  Of course, it’s still early… 

‡ My university was small and familial enough that I had most of my professor’s home phone numbers, and knew where they all lived.  This was always great fun at Christmas, when we’d go caroling, but had practical applications as well.  I called my Academic Advisor in a panic one morning, desperate to borrow a toilet snake to clear a clog. 


± some helpful definitions from the Dolmetsch Online Music Dictionary

Threnody: (from the Greek threnos, ‘wailing’ and oide, ‘ode’) a dirge, a song of lamentation, an elegy, a funereal song 

Sprechstimme (German f.) synonymous with Sprechgesang^

^ Sprechgesang (German m., literally ‘speech-song’) or inflected speech, Sprechgesang is a term used by Arnold Schoenberg (1874-1951) to describe a voice delivery midway between song and speech, although he preferred the terms sprechstimme speaking voice, which was first used by Engelbert Humperdinck (1854-1921) in Königskinder (1910), sprechmelodic (speech melody) or rezitation (recitation). The crosses through the note stems are one form of sprechgesang notation, another is to use crosses for the noteheads themselves

Klangfarbenmelodie (German f., literally ‘sound-colour-melody’) coined by Arnold Schoenberg (1874-1951) to describe a style of composition that employs several different kinds of tone colors to a single pitch or to multiple pitches, Klangfarbenmelodie is achieved by distributing the pitch or melody among several different instruments 

¤ Yes, 8:00am.  In the morning.  Music Professors are cruel. 

¤¤ The X-ray exam showed no broken bones. 

¤¤¤ She became Marti.  Just Marti.  I wish I could explain why…but, I have no idea. I’ve slept since then!



Look what came in the post today. IMG_0337 crop

It must have been a really good day.*

            It all began last week when a visitor put his hand through the holes at the ends of Peter’s oven cloth—you know, those long double-ended mitt things—and burnt himself on what he was trying to pick up.  He turned to me and said severely, Peter needs a new oven cloth.  And no, this is not a grotesque and shocking example of 21st century sexism, didn’t we leave all that behind in the ’70’s?**   It’s a clear-eyed, practical understanding of Peter’s character, and of how Peter ever will get another oven cloth.

            Besides, I will buy an amusing oven cloth.  When I first moved over here Peter had this horrible sort of white-towelling (or rather ex white towelling) oven cloth that would not die.   It took me years of sneaking downstairs at night and setting fire to it and playing tug of war with the whippets with it and so on before its seams finally condescended to part.  

            Since then we’ve tended to specialise in the National Trust look:  tasteful herbs and berries with the odd castle thrown in.  Although I have an iconic Maine oven mitt here at the cottage with moose on it, which I don’t actually use any more because it’s, you know, iconic, and if I want to pick up something hot I have some nice William Morris National Trust potholders.  The secret truth is that I don’t much like oven cloths:  they’re always the wrong length. 

            Anyway.  I am no longer restricted by the next time we go to a National Trust property:  there is the internet.  So I went on line and started looking for oven cloths.

            What is the matter with this country?  It has no amusing oven cloths.***  You can get white!†  You can get grey!  You can get navy blue stripe!  Aaaugh!

            Which is how I ended up on amazon.  The same thing happened to me a few weeks ago whilst looking for an Amusing Dustpan and Brush.  Well, yes, since you ask, I do prefer my boring household implements to be amusing;  you’re going to have a close personal involvement with them, you might as well enjoy it.  And I’m tired of carrying the dustpan and brush up and downstairs at the cottage:  but the bathroom, with the floor that needs brushing, is very small, and if it achieves its very own dedicated dustpan and brush, they’re going to be visible.  The (boring) downstairs ones live under the tallboy and are only actively boring while they’re in use.

            I couldn’t find a UK mail-order Amusing Dustpan and Brush.  I kept not going to amazon uk which did, of course, keep popping up on google.  Oh all right, I said finally, and in its household department, lo, there were amusing dustpans and brushes.  As, last week, there were amusing oven cloths.

            But there’s a problem about amazon.  They also have about the best selection of All Stars in this country.  I found that out a year or something ago, pretty much by the same system. ††   And amazon never forgets.  You, which is to say I, go to amazon, and the opening screen always shows All Stars.  More aaaugh.  Get thee behind me, canvas demon spawn.

            But there’s a further problem about mail order All Stars in England, and it’s a dranglefabber.  You never know what size you’re getting.  Amazon’s sizes all say UK, but chances are very good that when your shoes show up they will have stamped into their rubber soles the number that you punched on the internet—which is to say they’re an American size whatever.  Frell.  I went through this—whenever it was I went through it.  I ordered four pairs.  One arrived the right size.  If the deal was consistent, then you’d know just to order your American size, you know?  Whatever amazon says.  But that would be much too easy.  So one pair was the right size.  One pair was cancelled because sold out.†††   Two pairs arrived bearing the American numbers of my UK size.  I sent them back, requesting my correct American size.  One was never heard from again.  The other sent a replacement . . . in any old goldarned size, as it happens, two sizes too large.  I think they probably just pulled the only one left off the shelf.  Sell her something!  Anything!  We don’t want to give her a refund!  We’ve already spent the money on Fritos and beer!‡  At this point I was so demoralised I kept them.‡‡  I even wear them sometimes.  I invariably trip over my extra-long toes when I do however.

            Meanwhile, All Stars always show up on my amazon opening page.  But after the last experience I avert my eyes.

            Until last week.  Silver lamé All Stars.  Seventy-seven gods and all the angels.  Even in the old glory days of All Stars, lamé was hard to come by:  I nearly came to blows with a friend who managed to get the last pair of checkerboard blue—I would have come to blows with her if it would have done me any good, but her feet were smaller than mine.  I did manage to score a pair of gold lamé All Stars which I kept long after they had fallen apart—lamé does not wear well—indeed I only finally regretfully threw them out in the Great Purge when we left the old house five years ago.

            So.  Anyway.  Silver lamé All Stars.  Must.  Have.  What bloody size?  Surely they must have got the size thing sorted by now?  So I ordered my UK size.  Wrong again.  They’ve arrived American.  Never mind.  They fit well enough.  I’m not going to hurtle hellhounds in ’em.

            Oh yes, and the oven cloth—remember the oven cloth?—is amusing.  It arrived today too.

    IMG_0338 crop       

* * *

 * Actually it’s been a ratbag sod of a day.  Never mind.  It had one very bright, scintillating spot. 

** Insert decade of choice here.  Any one will do. 

*** Even the National Trust failed me.  Their only oven cloth has roosters on it.  Roosters? 

† No!  No!  Anything but soon-to-be-ex white! 

†† What I don’t understand is why some of the little companies that stand under amazon’s umbrella don’t show up in searches as themselves.  It’s like the hobbits in the Old Forest:  all roads lead to Old Man Willow.^

^ Listen, I’ll cope.  Just keep Tom Bombadil the hell away from me. 

††† In some size or other. 

‡ That’s a lot of Fritos and beer, what All Stars cost over here. 

‡‡ I remember I blogged about this, but I think you missed the exciting finish.  Or I may be remembering it wrong.^  But I’ve definitely got a pair of All Stars that are two sizes too big. 

^ This could become a serious problem, as the days and the blog posts mount up, my memory being what it is.

Comforting food


I have been hammering my few remaining brains on PEGASUS today* and am feeling in the need of comfort food.  Which is to say high calorie and low social redemption factor.

                You are probably all aware that the first world generally seems to be piling on the pounds—the UK** and the USA certainly are—we’re all spending too much time at our computers and not enough of us have hellhounds to hurtle.   As someone whose physical self is just as cranky as her mental*** the balancing act among the various personal bits that some people are able to ignore for decades has always been a big bristly elephant in the middle of my living room, which is perhaps no bad thing after all because I am therefore obliged to deal with it.   I’m sad and alarmed that obesity is not merely on the rise but as you might say the charge, like Errol Flynn and the Light Brigade.  And yes, I am going to tweet briefly about The Unhealthy Society We Live In . . . but we do live here, you know?  By all means choose a few battles†† and make the world a better place, but meanwhile try to find a way to make yourself comfortable here.  I therefore had mixed feelings about this article from TIME magazine a couple of weeks ago:,8599,1914857,00.html

The title is ‘Why Exercise Won’t Make You Thin’ and here are a salient couple of paragraphs: 

“In general, for weight loss, exercise is pretty useless,” says Eric Ravussin, chair in diabetes and metabolism at Louisiana State University and a prominent exercise researcher. Many recent studies have found that exercise isn’t as important in helping people lose weight as you hear so regularly in gym advertisements or on shows like The Biggest Loser — or, for that matter, from magazines like this one.

              The basic problem is that while it’s true that exercise burns calories and that you must burn calories to lose weight, exercise has another effect: it can stimulate hunger. That causes us to eat more, which in turn can negate the weight-loss benefits we just accrued. Exercise, in other words, isn’t necessarily helping us lose weight. It may even be making it harder.

 Well . . . yes and no.  I was a fat unhappy teenager who ‘ate’ her misery.  I spent my teens in a spiral of gaining ten pounds, losing five, and gaining another ten, and by my senior year of high school I was a good fifty pounds over what I am now.  Nearer sixty.†††  I then spent my twenties in a spiral of losing ten pounds, gaining five, and losing another ten;   and in my thirties I learned how to live so that the whole weight thing stopped being an issue.‡  And that ‘how to live’ was crucially about exercise.

            I will probably get around to boring you rigid about food and eating and so on, as the blogging years pass.‡‡  But for the purpose of denouncing this article just a little . . . I think that anyone who promptly and/or regularly eats as many or more calories than they’ve just burnt off at the gym or wherever hasn’t really made the necessary adjustment about how to keep their body-self happy.  There’s another level where it all kind of balances out, and you know what you can (or can’t) eat because your body tells you. 

            I’m not saying it’s simple or easy or it always works‡‡‡, or that there’s a checklist you can keep by your bedside table and you can figure it out every night before you turn your light out§–and I also admit that I have several enormous advantages:  not merely the hellhounds but the self-employed schedule that lets me hurtle them.  But I am saying that I think this TIME article kind of misses the point.  As long as I get as much exercise as this body wants, then my appetite controls itself. §§  I also tend to be an easy endorphin high:  force me out on a walk even when I don’t want to go, and I’ll probably come back in a better mood.§§§  Even now, with frelling menopause spoiling my fun, my appetite will tell me when I shouldn’t eat that second lettuce leaf, even if my mouth and my morale are saying, oh shut up you rotten scumbag, we want chocolate!

            And, speaking of comfort food, that’s exactly what I am going to have some of.  On the sofa, with hellhounds . . . and the proofs of SPINDLE’S END. 

* * *

 * ‘A writer is someone for whom writing is harder than it is for other people’.  Yes.

                —Thomas Mann, courtesy of THE WEEK, which has a ‘wit and wisdom’ column every, er, week, and I keep ripping them out to use on the blog and then forgetting.   And then the little pieces of paper slither down to the bottom of the carryall I use to lug PEGASUS, plant catalogues, sheet music, etc^, back and forth to and from the mews every day, and get progressively mangled underneath everything else till one day when I’m looking for the missing 4,812th page^^ of PEGASUS and have everything out, including the small bashed-up bits of paper at the bottom. . . . 

^ At the moment including the proofs of SPINDLE’S END, which are so dranglefab gigantic I’ve had to move up a carryall size for the duration.

 ^^ Well, it feels like it 

** The recent clip that caught my eye was also in THE WEEK:  ‘credit munch:  Recession-induced comfort eating. . . . The condition . . . has seen three in five Britons put on weight in the past 12 months’, italics mine, which is pretty scary.  Here’s the original: 

*** Yup:  all the same critter:  mental, physical, emotional, spiritual, the voices^, and the weird itchy bit behind the left knee 

^ ‘There is no sequel to SUNSHINE.  Probably.’  ‘You didn’t leave the axototl out, did you?  Well, put him in at once.  You’re going to need him in chapter seven.’ 

† Scare yourself more. :

Here, as determined by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, are the latest percentages of obese persons — who have BMIs higher than 30 — in six major nations:

  • Japan, 4 percent
  • Italy, 10 percent
  • France, 11 percent
  • Germany, 14 percent
  • Great Britain, 24 percent
  • and topping all the competition with ease, the United States at a literally hefty 34 percent, or a shade more than one in every three Americans.

Although the page opens here:

  • People currently in their 50s weigh, on average, 20 pounds more than people in their 50s did in the 1970s. To help visualize 20 pounds, that’s what a standard automobile tire weighs. Adds a little oomph to the phrase “spare tire,” doesn’t it?

†† I’ve just been signing a Downing Street petition to stop the codex alimentarius from ruling my (and your) life.  I’d give you a nice clear link at this point if I could find one, but I can’t.  It’s a bit like the Google settlement:  no I don’t understand it and any choice I make has a fifty-fifty chance of being the wrong one, but my gut instinct says that Big Brother is a bully. 

††† I don’t know how other people who have successfully lost weight feel about it, but for me I’m permanently an ex-fat person.  It’s something that you don’t forget, that doesn’t go away.  I no longer worry that I’m going to go mad some night and start methodically eating everything in the cupboards, starting at the top shelf and working down—which is more or less what I did when I was a teenager^—but I still remember what it was like. 

^ I worry that menopause is going to win, but that’s another issue 

‡ . . . until menopause, when I became an android with a self-sustaining mechanism to which all calories are unpleasantly superfluous 

‡‡ Years???  Blogging?  Years? 

‡‡‡ Poor Hannah, for example, is having an even worse time with menopause’s anti-food policy than I am.  

§ Ugh.  I’d rather be reading 

§§ It’s not all (metaphysical) cakes and ale in the Body McKinley however, philosophically or literally.  Remember ‘cranky’?  I have no tolerances.  This is why travelling is such hell.

§§§ Endorphins are another thing that science periodically takes away from us.  Never mind.  My version is that some people get off on raising their pulse rate by various sporting usages of lungs and muscles, and I’m one of them.

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