September 30, 2010

Ow, comprehensively revisited


Got an email from a friend a little while ago:  Dentist bad, worse, or unspeakably horrible?

            Um . . .

            The ‘unspeakable’ part might only be functional, ie can’t/don’t want to open my mouth, except that I managed to oversleep this morning* and it was an early appointment**.  From this a long cascade of unfortunateness descends.  When I finally woke up I looked at the clock, gave a someone-is-standing-on-my-tail hellhound yelp, banged into the first seven articles of clothing*** I could find, tore downstairs, scooped hellhounds out of their crate†, added All Stars†† to the array and hit the road running.  The hellhounds are better at this last part than I am.†††

            But by the time we got back from our truncated hurtle I was well into Panic Mode, so I had the cup of very, very, very strong tea but couldn’t really face lunch.  And I hadn’t had time for my breakfast apple(s).‡   So I leaped into the Wolfmobile and shot off to Mauncester on zero food and a megakick of caffeine and sugar.  I am a sane, responsible grown up.  I am

            They scraped me off the ceiling at the dentist’s and pumped me full of anaesthesia.  The kind with adrenaline, so I wouldn’t bleed so much.  Have I mentioned that this was the first stage of my first implant?  They’re going to slash open my gum and drill a hole in my jawbone.  I was really looking forward to this experience.  So the adrenaline-laced junk is a perfectly reasonable choice, and the ‘not bleeding so much’ part appealed to me.  Except for the fact that after they filled me up like a swimming pool I started shaking so badly it was hard to read the magazine‡‡ I was holding, or perhaps that was my eyeballs vibrating in my skull.  I was, you see, sent out to read in the hall while they turned the office into an operating theatre.  Jeezum Crow.  I’d have been terrified when I was finally waved back in if it hadn’t looked so much like a TV set.


            Looks really good, said the dentist from R’lyeh jovially.

            I am instructed in rolled-handkerchief biting, the correct application of packets of frozen peas, and how much ibuprofen I can take before I become the Incredible Hulk.  And sent on my way.  There’s a funny little peg sticking up in the middle of what used to be a gap in my teeth, and four extremely neat little stitches around the edges. 

            I got back to the mews, looked queasily at my rejected salad, and made another cup of tea.  I put a cosy on my cup and took hounds out for a hurtle.  And did I mention handbells?  Thursday is handbells.  I got back from hurtling, drank the extremely well steeped tea, and bolted back to the cottage to repel boarders, I mean, welcome my fellow ringers.  Fernanda is still struggling with the basics of bob minor, and Niall, who is like this, kept me on the 3-4 which forced me to concentrate.  Unfortunately Colin was there today too so then we had to ring major.  Eight bells!  I don’t ring major!  And I have no brain!  It’s all burnt up with adrenaline and caffeine and PAIN!§  And a certain lack of calories.  I still haven’t had anything to eat.  Food.  Ewww.  There’s got to be a better way.

            Handbell ringers left.  I hurtled hounds again.  They’re still time-short, but they’ll just have to be time short today.  I staggered down to the mews. 

            I am eating.§§  I may live.  You can check in again tomorrow.

* * *

*How . . . not unusual

**Okay, as I count early.

*** Bra, knickers, two socks, jeans, tshirt, little hot pink cardigan with white polka dots

† Oooooh!  An adventure!  We like adventures!  Will there be things to chase? 

†† hot pink 

††† I haaaaaaaaaate other dog owners!  Hate!  Hate!  Hate!  Hate!   The rec ground beyond Warlock Gate has been discovered by way too many of the Exacerbated Fathead subheading of this generally unlovable^ clan.  There’s one dog we’ve now met several times, always off-lead, always borderline aggressive—if my guys ever grow up and stop presenting as puppies, I’m going to be in the middle of canine gang warfare several times a frelling week.  And yesterday we got jumped by an Alsatian about the size of Peter.  Turned out he was wearing a muzzle, but I’d already had my heart attack at that point, you know?  The owner’s girlfriend thought this was hysterical.  If my hands hadn’t been full of leads I might have hit her, so what a good thing my hands were full of leads.

            And today . . . those of a sensitive disposition might want to look away now . . . My Best Beloved Hot Pink All Stars are very old.  Here’s a photo:   Old.  They were the driving force behind my desire to find waterproof shoe liners, okay?  There are HOLES in the bottom of both soles.  Waterproof shoe liners are so I can go on wearing them a little longer, especially on days of high trauma, like this one. 

            Now—do I have to remind you delicate flowers to look away?—contemplate stepping in dog crap with a hole in the bottom of your shoe (even when covered by a waterproof liner). 

^ A few of our forum members excepted.  And the owner of an adorable Pomeranian+ we meet occasionally around here.

+ No, really!  She is my Pomeranian Conversion experience like my very-ex-British editor’s stud Pekinese was my Pekinese Conversion experience.  Unfortunately I don’t dare tell you about my very-ex-British editor because he just might concievably know about this blog.  He and his wife bred and raised wolfhounds . . . and Pekinese.  And he introduced me to Eva Ibbotson’s books, so he is a Force for Good.  Nobody’s perfect.

‡ Hot off the tree.  This is really appalling timing for having to eat soft food for a few days.

‡‡ Kew, as in the Royal Botanical Gardens.  Usually one of my favourite journals, but I may have just imprinted it with today’s events.

‡‡‡ He needs a new DVD.  I’ve seen this one kind of a lot.

§ The anaesthesia has worn off.  And I’m going through the arnica pretty much with both hands.  Arnica works surprisingly well for most things for most people^, but you do kind of have to keep your nerve to begin with.  I started off taking it about every five minutes and am now down to . . . um.   Over an hour.   I’ll take the ibuprofen if I have to to get through the night—fumbling for tiny white pills gets old when you’re trying to sleep—but at this rate of improvement I won’t have to.

^ And for incised wounds, like this one, you might throw in a staphysagria. 

§§ Broccoli (somewhat overdone in the circs) and fish salad.  I like broccoli.  Get used to it.^  And the fish salad features Peter’s mayonnaise. 

^ Actually . . . broccoli is a comfort food for me.  Okay, I admit it.  That’s sick.

Tir nan Og


From out of nowhere I had a pretty good day today.*  Hellhounds had a proper hurtle, much to their surprise**.  This way! I say cheerily as they look over their shoulders at the short option, and then dubiously back at me.  PEG II even failed to resemble the Dumbarton Rhapsody*** today.†

            So I decided to have a Bell Adventure.  Twit. 

            Years ago, I think before I started writing this thing, Niall and I rang at Tir nan Og a few times, and I went back once or twice by myself.  It’s a little too far away, and in those days there was Ditherington and Wild Robert on Wednesdays.††  Did I say a little too far away? †††   Dear hinterlands and seven league boots.  You wouldn’t think you could get so far from anywhere else in Hampshire.‡  But (contrary to myth) the people there are friendly and so are the bells, and the good thing about the middle of nowhere is there are no motorways involved, so me behind the wheel of a car becomes a possibility.   Therefore when an irresistible craving to ring bells tonight‡‡ began sweeping over me this afternoon I thought of Tir nan Og. 

            It’s a good idea to phone the tower secretary if you’re planning on going to a tower you don’t know:  in the first place you want to make sure they’re having practise.  The Handbook for your local districts only comes out once a year and things change.  In the second place, unless you’re a Wild Robert or a Niall, you want to be sure they have a happy, positive attitude toward visitors.

             I started trying to ring the tower secretary at 4 pm.  No answer.  Oh, she’s probably at work.  4:30.  5.  5:15.  5:30.  Hmmm.  It’s raining and I need to hurtle hellhounds again.  I phone Colin, whom I would have said knows every bell ringer south of London and at least two-thirds of them east, west and north.  But he doesn’t know anyone in Tir nan Og.  I phone Niall, who is about to sprint off to ring handbells with James and Darcy.  I phone Vicky, who isn’t home.  I phone Wild Robert, who is in London (according to his housemate), ringing bells.  My blood is up by now however . . . I ring Boadicea.  She was in a good mood, and supported my idea of ringing at a new(ish) tower‡‡‡—but she didn’t know anyone in Tir nan Og.  At this point Vicky rings back and suggests I ring the district secretary—Tir nan Og isn’t even in our district.§

            I ring the district secretary.  She sounds tired and discouraged till I say ‘bell ringer’ and suddenly she’s a hellhound that’s caught sight of a rabbit.  I identify myself and she says, I know you.  You used to ring at Kilimanjaro.  Eeep! I say.  That was over ten years ago!  (I have no idea who she is.  She’s a name in a handbook under ‘district secretary’.)   I had to give up ringing when I fell ill, I say.  Yes, I know, she says.  Oh, I say, erm.  I’m so glad you started again, she says.  And gives me a phone number for the ringing master at Tir nan Og.

            Who answers her phone.  Who also remembers me.  Note to self:  maybe I should do something about this American accent after all.  Yes, they’re having practise.  Yes, they’d be delighted to see me.

            So my fate is sealed.  Hellhounds and I go out into the teeming rain, and they are glad to come back indoors again after a mere token hurtle.  This is a good thing, since I then spend about half an hour staring at an assortment of maps and thinking about how it would be nice to stay at home, go to bed early, and read a good book.  Too late:  I have the honour of a foreigner with a funny accent to maintain.

            The first thing that happened is that the road I was planning to take, on the other side of Ditherington, is closed.§§  Oh.  Usually Tir nan Og doesn’t stoop to this kind of tactic.  It doesn’t need to.  It just retreats ever farther just over the horizon from wherever you’re coming from . . . teasing you down long dark tracks only one car wide where the trees have closed over your head and through . . . what is that unusually dark patch on the road ahead?  That looks like WAAAAA—splaaash . . . fords. 

            When I got, as I fondly thought, somewhere near it, I rolled windows down to listen—since I was late—for the sound of bells.  No sound of bells.  But I hit a 30 mph zone, which is a good sign . . . except that I found myself passing back into a 60 mph again.  One of my favourite things:  a one-car-wide two-way sort-of road with trees shouldering closely along both sides, where the speed limit is 60.  And, of course, nowhere to turn around.  I turned around.  I got back to the 30 mph zone.  Still no bells, but there are faint lights from a new direction.  At this point even will o’ the wisps would be company. . . . I figured out there was a church in the vicinity when I saw the lych-gate gleaming at me through the fog.  Of course there was fog.  I was trying to find Tir nan Og, wasn’t I?

            And I was welcome.  I was not only the sainted sixth ringer so they could ring doubles methods, I am an inside ringer so they could grapple with the complexities of plain bob and Grandsire.  Sigh.  Crash barrier all the way tonight.  Never mind.  The people (and the bells) are friendly and the ringing master is lovely.

            I’ll spare you the details of the return journey. . . .     

* * *

* Looks around warily for whatever is waiting to take it away from me.  Shoo!  Go on, shoo!   

** Darkness has been lame which is breaking all our hearts, because here we are in stubble-field season and I don’t dare let them off lead because he’ll just strain whatever it is again—or Chaos will full-body-ram him which I half-suspect may be where the trouble started.  Darkness is the tense, responsible one:  Chaos is the loose-limbed thug.  Furthermore, when I’m having a tottery spell it would be very nice to let them off lead and let them hurtle each other.  

***  Occasionally I like reminding myself that there are much worse obsessives out there. 

† I’m still fabulously behind on . . . almost everything, if there’s anyone reading this and muttering to themselves about failing to hear from me about x, y, z or all three. 

†† Sob  

†††  I actually do have the symbol for the Ó —Tir na n Óg—but I don’t think I can face what WordPress will do to it.  Which is to say I’m using it in this footnote, and we’ll see.  

‡ Cornwall, yes.  There’s a series of tourist-attracting semi-guidebooks called ‘Haunted . . .’  Haunted Hampshire:  um.^  Haunted Cornwall means it.  I think Tir nan Og is in Cornwall really.  Which would help to explain why it seems so far away. 

^ But I have told you about Gnomehenge, haven’t I?  Hampshire’s finest landmark.  And much older than SPINAL TAP. 

‡‡ Especially since Gotterdammerung is still . . . twilit and sulky.  And I didn’t hear from Gabriel today.  Siiiigh.  I did finally hear from my builder.  After I rang again and screamed.  

‡‡‡ You should want to ring at other towers.  But you aren’t allowed to express any self interest in doing so while at the same time you need to arrange to ring with bands better than you are if you are ever going to improve.  But you mustn’t waste better bands’ time which is selfish of you, towers shouldn’t be expected to teach other towers’ small fry and lower their own standard to give you time on a rope.  But you are failing to support your own tower (which is also selfish of you) if you just slack around ringing stuff you can already ring by choosing the wrong towers to visit, because when you improve your entire (home) band improves.  But you should support towers with bands less good than you are by ringing with them and helping them improve.  The world according to Boadicea.    

§ Well, of course.  It’s off the edge of the map.  Any map. 

§§ I’m almost sure I recognised some of the camouflaged signage from Mauncester last week.  But this is out in the mountains of the moon with a waste of lightless emptiness all around:  they don’t waste their six-legged diggers here.

Another Day Bites the Big One


In the first place, the ME has been an utter ratbag for about ten days now, and I’m running out of places to hide.*  And in fact I went bell ringing last night (stubbornly) on the grounds that it would do more for morale** than it would do against everything else, which is probably true, but it still meant I got up today . . . and might have made a u-turn and gone straight back to bed again if the hellhounds hadn’t heard me moaning and running into things*** and set up a little counterpoint melody and bass line of their own.

            Just as well.  I had to get hurtled and down to the mews in time for Raphael and Gabriel to show up with the laptop’s new memory which was going to fix all our problems, right?  Okay, even I’m not that naïve, but I did think it would do something.  And no doubt it has done something† but whatever it is is not visible to the naked eye†† or the tapping fingers.

            The main thing is that Finale still won’t work.  Waaaaah.†††  

            So Computer Men loaded a Diagnostic Programme and went away, leaving it running, and telling me kindly that it would take about an hour, and I could ring Gabriel with the results, and they would decide what to do then.

            It took three hours.

            And the laptop failed.  Well, of course.   But when I rang Gabriel with the gh&^%87cccc22222.89+!!!!gzzth34bltz£”# that was the pithy summing up of the diagnostic’s tests—that and the large pink FAIL‡—there was an ominous silence on the other end of the phone and Gabriel then said, Hmmmm.  I’ll have to talk to Raphael about it in the morning.

            And have I told you that I’ve now rung Third House’s builder three times about the fact that the tiles are coming off the new dormer and he still hasn’t rung me back?

            Tomorrow will be better, right?‡‡ 

* * *

* Let me see, autumn garden photo post, hellhound photo post^, recipe post^^, Ask Robin post^^^ and I was thinking of experimenting with the page 99 test which (for example) I feel PEGASUS passes admirably.^^^^    And I still haven’t got you to the end of the first chapter of KIRITH. . . .  Okay, I still have a few places left to hide. 

^ the hellkitten has been getting all the critter time lately and while hellhounds are perfectly balanced in semi-permanent+ breathtaking adorableness and kittens grow, still, enough is enough 

+ Not nearly semi-permanent enough.  Hellhounds are four years old:  if I’m lucky they’re only about a quarter of the way through their life span. 

^^ Not absolutely necessarily containing chocolate, but it probably helps 

^^^ Questions are very, very useful crutches to prop up a tottering brain 

^^^^ So does SUNSHINE.  

** We rang Kent.  Kent!  Successfully, I mean.  YAAAAY.  I haven’t rung Kent in months, and you’ve heard me on the subject of grind.  It’s a funny thing about Kent though, for me;  I haven’t rung it all that often—nothing like my usual required grind for a new method—and while I am nothing like steady on the freller, and I’ve only ever rung it from the three, still, it makes sense to me in a way that lets me stutter through it even when it’s sprung on me, as it was last night.

            Our—that is to say Niall’s and mine—usual Monday practise with Colin was unexpectedly cancelled by Colin being inconveniently held up in Oslo or Baku, but Niall and I both felt we had to go ringing somewhere.  So we—which is to say Niall, who does the driving—agreed to go to Stanhope^ which is where Wild Robert teaches on Monday.^^   We packed our pemmican and our chocolate^^^ for the long journey and set out. . . .

            Niall had had the forethought to phone ahead, so we knew we were welcome, but when we got there there were about 1,000,000 people, most of them fairly beginnery . . . so I suppose we were welcome because it meant more critical mass for people taking those first terrifying steps into methods and touches of methods.  But I sighed a small inner sigh on the subject of my own ringing, and prepared for an evening of being a crash barrier for Formula One.  And then after a particularly enlivening~ episode of call changes, Wild Robert strolled over to me in his patented off-hand manner and said, I think we can about manage Kent tonight.


            Well, we did manage Kent, as above, but it was another awe-inspiring example of Wild Robert at his maddest.  Of the six of us two of us knew what we were doing:  Wild Robert and Niall.  The treble had had to have treble-bobbing explained to her, the two was dubious and inclined to wander afield, the three was me, the four had never rung Kent before, and the five and six were Niall and Wild Robert.~~  Steady the Buffs.~~~

            We did it.  We did it three times.  I don’t even think Wild Robert went home hoarse. . . . but then he has a throat like a bell after x number of years teaching ringing. 

^ Kent?  (Which would be appropriate in the circumstances.)  County Durham?  Peeblesshire?  No.  Iowa.  A very obscure ring of six.  Almost no one knows about them.  

^^ I am so totally missing Wild Robert on our cancelled Ditherington Wednesdays I cannot tell you.  I feel like I’ve lost my best friend or something.+ 

+ No, no, I meant second-best friend, Hannah, if you’re reading this.  You’d better be reading this.  

^^^ And our freeze-dried champagne—ewwwwwwww  

~ Not 

~~ Most ringing masters you figure you’re doing a favour by being able to supply critical mass, as I can do for the basics.  With Wild Robert you have a sneaking suspicion that you’re actually ruining his fun. 

~~~  First definition.  I’ve never heard the second one before, and I’m pretty sure Kipling predates the writer. 

*** Or possibly running into things and moaning 

† To my bank balance, anyway 

†† Or the spectacled eye, although this is a trifle aggrieved in my case.  I don’t think I’ve told you that I’ve been winding myself into postures more suitable to a twenty-year-old contortionist to try to focus on my computer screen, finally despairingly took myself in to my optician again, expecting to be told that I need three new pairs of glasses because they can’t fit all the corrections necessary in one pair of varifocals any more . . . was told my eyes are fine (that’s the good news) and that my glasses were made up wrong.  

††† The not very ha-ha-ha thing is that the programme that seems to have put Gotterdammerung or whatever her name is^ over the line is a music printing programme so I can download sheet music off the web.  I’ve now deleted it but It Is Too Late, and All Is Lost, Alas Alas and Woe Is Me.  

^ My error.  I gave her a nice friendly heraldic name and haven’t used it, and she’s surreptitiously morphed into a Gotterdammerung in retaliation.  Well, she’s where iTunes lives, so I keep plugging Apocalypse into her, what did I expect? 

‡ In this case pink is not a comfort 

‡‡ Peter’s playing bridge, Niall is ringing handbells in Aberystwyth.  Maybe I can find a tower to ring at. . . .

Banned Books Week. Sigh.


It’s National Banned Books Week in America and there’s a lot of heavy, depressing stuff going down:  I’m particularly thinking of the blow-up about this disgusting little toerag Wesley Scroggins who thinks Laurie Halse Anderson’s terrific novel SPEAK is ‘soft porn’ and should be taken off library shelves.  Many other people have pointed this out, but the first person I saw doing so is Joanne Harris on Twitter:  that the accusation itself tells us all we need to know about Scroggins, who manifestly finds rape sexually arousing.

            There’s plenty out there on both Scroggins and the wider remit of Banned Books, and I’m not even going to try to post a judicious selection of links about it.  Here’s one  , which is the blog of the Office for Intellectual Freedom of the American Library Association.  There’s a lot of interesting stuff on it, and it’ll certainly get you going—in more ways than one—if you need or want a place to start.  It also includes Scroggins’ original complaint, Halse Anderson’s response on her blog, and various other links to excellent if dispiriting further reading.  I particularly recommend the old essay by Kurt Vonnegut Jr in response to the news that his SLAUGHTERHOUSE FIVE was not merely banned off library shelves but thrown into the school furnace.  He writes:  ‘It was so cowardly, too—to make a great show of attacking artifacts. It was like St. George attacking bedspreads and cuckoo clocks.’

            And then there’s the don’t-know-whether-to-laugh-or-cry division.  I follow HuffPostBooks, and they posted this on Twitter:

which is an annotated list of the 2010 top ten most often ‘challenged’ books, which is to say the books people most often want to ban.  I can’t remember if TANGO made it into Days in the Life proper, but I remember there was a lively forum discussion about it a year ago because at that point I hadn’t heard of it, and my reaction was, What?

            I particularly like flashlightworthy’s* comment on this one: 

Tango the baby penguin and his two dads must be sad to have slipped from the #1 slot to #2 over the last year. The reason for requested removal? Homosexuality. Yes, apparently gay flightless waterfowl pose a serious threat to the moral fiber of our nation. On the other hand, it’s good to know that our society has become more tolerant of non-traditional penguin families.

             And then there’s this I retweeted from @thebookslut: Shel Silverstein “encourages children to break dishes so won’t have to dry them.” Banned Book Week

              This one presents us with The Top Ten Ludicrous Reasons to Ban a Book (and unsurprisingly if somewhat solipsistically gives us a link back to the American Library Association web site: ).  These are if anything more stunning than the previous list**.  The one thebookslut quotes is first, and it gets even more deranged and other-worldly as you go on.  I remember this one:  ‘If there is a possibility that something might be controversial, then why not eliminate it?’ which was used to recommend against BURY MY HEART AT WOUNDED KNEE, by Dee Brown.  I apologise for repeating myself but, WHAT?

            I also remember the accusation that Garth Williams’ THE RABBITS’ WEDDING is an incitement to miscegenation.  This is beyond WHAT? and into gibblegibblegibble territory.  You all know Garth Williams, right?  Illustrator of CHARLOTTE’S WEBB?  Little furry friendly critters?  Yeah.  WEDDING is little furry friendly critters too.  Here’s the cover:

I’m like yo, you folks there, whoever you were, can it get any more warm and fuzzy?***  The Wiki article quotes Williams as saying that he had no idea that fur equated with race and he just liked the colours.  But, you know, what if it was a secret text promoting miscegenation?  You know, so?  And your point would be?  We’ve got a president (who I for one still believe in) who’s the result of whatsit, although probably not among rabbits.

             Both these lists, however, take the same cheap shot at TWILIGHT:  go on, ban it, please.  I’m afraid I thought this was funny, at least the first time, and @radmilibrarian wrote:  ‘I know he’s trying to be funny about Twilight, but I actually have a BIG problem with people suggesting it’s OK to ban “bad” books.’

            Sigh.  Yes.  Okay.  True.  I tweeted back that I reserved the right to feel that certain bad books cause actual harm, and I would include TWILIGHT in this category† . . . but book banning isn’t really much of a joke.  Fair point.

            But @radmilibrarian tweeted me once more:  Also,

            Yes.  This is one of my Favourite Things.  I feel I must have known Peter’d got it up on his web site, but I didn’t remember it.  And it’s wonderful.  And it’s a good place to end even a lightweight, glancing discussion of the sad and thorny problem of banning books. ††  It’ll make you laugh, cheer, and go to bed with a favourite trashy novel.  On my way. . . . 

* * *

* I’ve bookmarked which is where the Huffington Post picked it up, and which describes itself as ‘Lists of Great Book Recommendations’—397 of them at present, but more all the time—‘books so good, they’ll keep you up past your bedtime.’  I’m drooling at just the idea of 397 lists of books.

** Although the lead-in claims:  ‘It is easy to become a little cynical of old disputes like the ones that thwarted Ulysses and The Catcher In The Rye. Those books are canonized now and their scandals seem removed by the passage of time and cultural norms.’  Well, CATCHER IN THE RYE is still on 2010’s most challenged list (as is TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD and THE COLOR PURPLE), so I guess I’d say you’re only allowed to be cynical if it doesn’t make you complacent. 

*** And the person or persons unknown who objected to FLICKA because ‘a female dog is called a bitch’ we hope will never come in contact with LADY:  MY LIFE AS A BITCH by Melvin Burgess.  Or, then again, maybe we do hope. 

† For all the reasons you would expect of a hellgoddess who has made a career out of writing stories about girls and women who do stuff themselves.  

†† And, just in case you’re wondering, yes, I’ve been banned.  You’re all nodding wisely and saying DEERSKIN.  Yes, DEERSKIN—but HERO and SWORD too.^  Really.  I’ve also been more comprehensively condemned for writing fantasy ‘which teaches lies’.  Good, huh?   There’s some really dismal and pitiful stuff out there. 

^ I can’t believe SUNSHINE hasn’t been banned somewhere, but I don’t think I’ve heard about it.  I’ve heard from people who want to ban it, but that’s something else.  Maybe now with the flashy new YA-target SUNSHINE edition—that’s the shiny gold one—some outraged parent or school board member will notice it.  It was published as adult, as DEERSKIN was, not because I don’t want teenagers to read it, but as some warning that the subject matter, or any way the manner of telling, isn’t really suitable to kids, however precocious their vocabularies.

A contest winner, frelling Twitter and . . .


And the winner of a signed hardback of A KNOT IN THE GRAIN is:  Esther S. Bernstein.  Whose very first post to the forum this was.  See, it’s good to join the forum.  And then post stuff.  In this case:  The Goddess Poena’s Sojourns In Strange Lands.

. . . other things that have gone wrong.  And at least one thing that has gone right.  I dare say our contest winner will also feel that at least one thing has gone right.  Which makes two things because that’s not the one I was thinking of.  Sorry.  I’m being confusing again.  I’m short of sleep.*  Last night I dreamed I was singing Violetta in La Traviata.  La Trav is possibly my favourite opera—it is also an old war horse of old war horses.  I would conservatively estimate I’ve listened to it 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 times.  Conservatively.  All of you know about comfort reading.  La Trav is one of my comfort operas.  It’s also one the few operas I allow myself to have . . . ahem . . . several different recordings of.  The one I fell in love with as a teenager was Beverly Sills’, and while there are other ones I like a lot**, Sills’ has never been supplanted in my goopy, permanently adolescent affections.***  So it figures that if I’m going to have an anxiety dream about opera, it’ll be about La Trav and Beverly Sills.†  It’s just like those dreams where you have to take an exam you haven’t studied for:  everybody thinks I’m Beverly Sills and I’m going to go on stage and wreck her career for her. . . .††

            Yesterday afternoon I decided to do a preliminary count-and-giggle of silly-title entries.  Forum:  fine.  Facebook:  fine.  Twitter:  there are half a dozen entries and at the bottom the bland announcement:   ‘older tweets are temporarily unavailable.’


            What’s Twitter’s idea of temporarily?  Those old entries are still not available today—they’re still not available now.  And yes, there were some.  And yes, I waded through Twitter’s so-called help—I also agreed to ‘follow’ them so I could DM about my little problem—except I can’t DM them because my DM menu refuses to acknowledge their existence—and meanwhile I have to put up with their terse, manly††† tweets of deadly invasions repelled and dastardly monsters slain, OH SPARE ME, because I am following them, whether my DM machinery believes it or not.  I tweeted them nine hours ago, and they have not deigned to reply.

            So, this evening, my virtual ears ringing with friendly admonitions from mods and others to copy and paste frequently any time I’m planning on relying on a Twitter hashtag list‡, I thought, okay, what do I do now?  And I decided to gamble.‡‡  When you have pushing 200‡‡‡ entries to count through, you are really hoping that the Random Numbers Generator gives you a number from the front end of that 200.§  I therefore decided to put the few Twitter entries having survived the swathing Twitter axe at the back and pray that I didn’t get that far.  I suppose if the RNG had produced 193 I could then have switched them to the front, but that actually would feel like cheating.  No, if I got 193, I was going to have to announce that the contest was reopened for forty-eight hours on Twitter only or some damn annoying thing like that.§§  My chips were all going on the red square and the croupier spun the whatsit and . . .

            I got a really low number.

            So, congratulations, Esther!  Please send me an email and give me a street address and to whom, if any, you want the thing autographed.  You have till next Saturday midnight to get in touch. . . . 

* * *

* I’m always short of sleep on Sundays.  I have to get up on Sunday mornings.  Every Sunday morning as I drag myself resentfully and resistingly out of bed however I think, at least we don’t ring for the eight o’clock service:  ‘for’ means before, you understand.  Seven-fifteen every Sunday morning?  I don’t think so. 

** And in case there are any violent, impassioned operaholics out there, I am going to say something provocative:  I’m underwhelmed by the Netrebko/Villazon/Hampson La Trav.  Aaaugh!  Heresy!  This is the La Trav that had audiences and critics alike fainting in coils a few years ago^.  I’ve only recently bought the recording.  It may grow on me.  But two things stand out, not in a good way.  First is that Netrebko gives the impression of a woman upon whose shoulders the weight of all those previous Violettas weighs rather heavily, and she’s a little too determined to make her own mark on the role.  I think she overdoes it.  And I’m a big Netrebko fan^^.  But I’m an even bigger Thomas Hampson fan . . . and he’s all wrong for Papa Germont, who is a pompous ass.  You don’t want a warm sympathetic Papa Germont!  Cognitive dissonance—clang! 

^ and which, to my lasting shame, I did not see when it was in London. 

^^ Barring the deeply ick-making way she is mostly packaged.  She is small and dark and lovely, and they tend to go all pink and chocolate-boxy with her, and it’s pretty revolting.   And as one of TIME’s 100 most influential people a couple of years ago, I feel she could say no. 

            But I’m listening to her in Bellini’s Romeo and Juliet while I’m writing this and I like it a lot.      

*** It’s the Sills I loaded onto Apocalypse.

† I like how subtle my subconscious is.  Making me dream about singing means I can ratchet up the guilt about still not having rung the Cherub and the terror of the approaching beginning of rehearsals for . . . aaaaaaaaugh.

†† She died in 2007.  She’s actually pretty safe.

††† Sic

‡ Thank you very much!  So helpful!  I will have to run another contest soon just so I can exercise my new facility in mistrusting Twitter!  

‡‡ Thrilling as an old Steve McQueen film, this blog 

‡‡‡ You will remember that I said that any title that made me laugh out loud would go in twice.  There were quite a few of these.  A few at random are:  Braids & Beetles: Or, How the Faerie Queen’s Evil Twin & Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Saved the West;  Rapunzel and the Helm of Doom;  Alexandra and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, or I Really Hope That Was Just a Bad Dream;  The Importance of Being Entish;  Lamb’s Lettuce! Multidimensional Warrior!;  A Junior Course in Individual Human Dimorphism: Five Inter Phylum Case Studies;  I Wrote A Bunch of Short Stories That Have Nothing To Do With Each Other, But My Publisher Wanted A Novel Instead… So, Umm… I Mixed Them All Up!;  Right-Handed Two-fingered Salute: or Does the Purple Side of this Dress Make Me look Fat?;  Surka To The Stars;  Yoda in the Rye. 


§ Yes, you could count down from the back end if it’s 187 or so.  But what do you do for 98 or 101?

§§ And then what was tonight’s blog going to be about??  Well, on a theme of things going wrong, I could tell you about turning up for service ring this morning and having barely got my feet off the ladder, hearing, disbelievingly, Niall calling for Stedman.  I thought I was saved when a seventh ringer appeared—yaay!  Call changes!—but noooooo.  Bob minor!  With a cover!  Leaving the two out!  AAAAAAAAAUGH!  Let me attempt to explain.  You’ve got the ‘early Sunday morning barely awake out of an evil dream concerning singing in public,’ right?  Okay.  Bob minor is a six bell method, with all six bells part of the pattern—no tenor behind.  And when you ring six of eight bells you ring either the front six or the back six because anything else is too confusing, right?  You do not promiscuously leave out, say, the two, so if you’re on the bell you know perfectly well is the four, which should therefore run in and do five-six down next time, you’re not suddenly ringing the three’s place in the pattern which is to run out and make seconds next time.  And furthermore there’s this damn repeating bong at the back!  There are no bongs at the back, ringing minor!  —I’d have rather rung frelling Stedman.

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