The middle of the night
Oh for pity’s sake it’s the middle of the night already and I still have to write a blog entry. I haven’t eaten supper yet either. It can’t be that late if I haven’t eaten supper yet.
Yes it can.
My days usually do kind of flash by but for the next five days I am under the colossal, the description-beggaring strain of having to wash my own salad and chop my own hellhound chicken.* Peter is in Scotland for these five days; he has a proper author gig at the University of St Andrews** and he’s using the excuse (fie!) to visit relatives.*** Do you realise how much time it takes to wash sixteen lettuces?† I am reminded every occasion Peter takes it into his head not to be here for lunch. Ordinarily it’s a rather bracing shock.†† But it’s rough on Fridays when I have both a piano lesson and home tower bell practise. And possibly a novel to finish. I was coping before the novel-to-finish went acute.†††
On Wednesday I thought my latest assault on poor Mr Warlock’s Capriol Suite‡ was going rather well. Last night at about one am I realised this was not the case. And so this morning—having overslept again through a combination of going to bed too late and refusing to acknowledge that three hours of sleep is not enough—I got down to the mews as rapidly as possible . . . was annoyingly held up by sixteen lettuces . . . and finally sat down at the piano.‡‡ Aaaaaaaaugh.‡‡‡
I tried to keep Oisin talking about . . . oh, publishing deadlines and things.§ But eventually the deed had to be done. AAAAAAAAAAAUGH. Oisin, being Oisin, said, no, no, very good, it’s mostly §§ there (I think music teachers must have to take a Sincerity Module to get their license) . . . here, have another two pages for next week. And I still haven’t learnt the 9/4.§§§
. . . There were only seven of us at tower practise tonight, and three of us were beginners. I still managed to ad lib a trifle undesirably in various directions . . . sigh. It’s a rough deal when you have both a Pegasus and a Warlock biting your butt.¤
* * *
* Which almost is rocket science. Both the size of the individual flecks of chicken are carefully calibrated as well as the proportions of chicken to kibble to chicken stock, and profound thought must be given to the addition of any supplementary enticements such as liver or cheese. Fooling a hellhound into eating is a deeply complex business.
** Mention of whose name always gives me a tiny thrill of what-might-have-been. There are any number of roads not taken in my or anyone’s life, but some of them haunt you more than others. My first college—I’ve told you I dropped out and went back later?—had a junior-year-abroad programme. I’m sure the programme included somewhere in England, but in my youth while the UK was the UK was the UK, if I were going to choose, I’d choose Scotland.^ And the Scottish option was St Andrews. I totally wanted to do this. However, my parents weren’t going to wear it, so I didn’t lose much by dropping out. A few years later I made friends with someone who had had her junior year there. She said that it was really cold and really damp. And there were no clothes dryers. She bought a mangle for her jeans. I love this. But I’m glad it’s someone else’s story.
I’ve still never been to St Andrews.^^ But I’ve been to a lot of Scottish castles.
^ My first printed-up flyer-type pass-out-at-conventions author bio said that while I loved my little lilac-covered cottage in Maine, what I really wanted was a castle in Scotland. I think I’m over that phase.
^^ I wonder if they ever got round to installing clothes dryers. I’ve not actually had one since I moved over here; if you live in a small flat with six children, you need a dryer. A lot of the rest of us don’t. Peter’s always objected to them on price-of-electricity grounds, and I’d been going increasingly green for a few years before I married him, and relearning the quaint application of clothes pegs. At the old house we had space for racks of damp clothing. My little lilac-covered cottage in Maine, while in floor space probably fairly equivalent to my little rose-congested cottage in Hampshire, did have a screened-in porch where I could hang a clothes-line. Here. . . . Ahem. I know I’ve told you that one of this cottage’s selling points for me is that for its square footage its walls are unusually tall—a good extra bookshelf’s worth. I believe I also have referred to the fact that this also means space for one of those airers you hoist up and down on a rope. http://www.lakeland.co.uk/traditional-airer/F/keyword/airer/product/8849 Although I’m still embraced by wet clammy sleeves and trailing sheets and things kind of a lot.+ And there’s the Aga of course. All hail the Aga, especially this time of year.++ But Peter has a heated-by-presence-of-hot-water-tank airing cupboard at the mews big enough to hang laundry in. Peter wins.
+ Also, since it hangs near the ceiling, the pulleys are near the ceiling, and the rope running through the pulleys is near the ceiling. I’m assuming I’ll find out I need a new rope some evening when I’m peacefully reading in the bath and the whole works falls down.
++ It’s supposed to Rain Torrentially this weekend. Joy.
*** Hellhounds will be intensely interested in the traces of his expedition upon his return. They have a dog.
† I eat a lot of salad. Lettuce has a great caloric profile for people banged up, so to speak, by menopause. Fortunately I like salad.
†† And I do the twelve handsful of herbs and the various other bits and bobs even when he’s here. But he does do the lettuce.
††† But I think I’d regret the hot fudge brownie with vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce for lunch, even if that meant I could get someone else to make it.
‡ Which sounds like this only different. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W73UErBmXEQ
There doesn’t seem to be a youtube of the piano duet version. Which is really pretty, or would be if Oisin had someone else to play it with.
And which I keep insisting on calling the Capriole Suite.
‡‡ I can’t decide whether cleaning salad dressing off your piano is better or worse than cleaning salad dressing off your computer.
‡‡‡ At least the hellhounds ate their beautifully-chopped lunch. Eventually.
§ He also had a Schubert duet lying negligently on his music stand. Oh, I said, you’ve got a student who can actually play duets. Yes. He does. She’s seventeen, she’s going for her grade-eight (piano) exam, she’s on her way to Oxford, she hasn’t decided whether she’s studying to be a civil engineer or a doctor, and she’s pretty.
Going back to PEGASUS now. Maybe I’ll take up the crumhorn.
§§ There’s a very wide range of possibility contained in ‘mostly’
§§§ The one thing that can perhaps be said for me as a piano duettist is that I get it about keeping going. That’s the bell tower training: DON’T STOP! WHATEVER YOU DO DON’T STOP! There are two absolute rules to bell ringing. The first one is HOLD THAT TAIL END. That’s the absolute absolute rule of bell ringing. NEVER LET GO OF THE TAIL END OF YOUR ROPE. But the other absolute rule, only slightly less unqualified and thoroughgoing because you don’t positively break anything^ if you fail, is KEEP GOING. Your conductor has a prayer of sorting you out if you keep ringing; if you stop, everyone falls in the hole after you.
^ Like the stay on the bell, which the steeple keeper will tell you through tight lips is a *&^%$£”!!!! to replace.
¤ Note that hellhounds have also eaten their beautifully chopped supper. And Peter rang me from Scotland.
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