February 24, 2011

I Brought My Knitting


It is amazing the adventures you can have when you live in the back-of-beyond-’burbs* of Hampshire and never get any farther than five miles out of the tiny town you live in.  Although five miles is enough when you’re walking back in the dark.  With hellhounds. 

            Wolfgang went in to the garage today for his MOT—the UK version of the Are We Going to Let This Car on the Road for Another Year test.  And we’ve gone on using the garage** from our old village, which is now five miles down the road.  There’s a perfectly good cross-country footpath between there and here, but it is cross country.  And five miles.  I’d been planning to drive out there midafternoon and stroll back in broad daylight.  And then we’d had to reschedule the chimney sweep when they had the drive at the mews up again ***, and I’d written the appointment down for an hour earlier than he’d written it down, and he came to the mews first . . . which means that by the time he’d packed up his surprisingly tidy kit† at the cottage it was already getting dark.  Bundled cranky hellhounds into the back of the car—they usually get their long walk in the morning, and had been increasingly doing Canine Outrage as the afternoon hours wore on—and shot off to Warm Upford. 

            We started back to New Arcadia at 5:50.  That’s twenty minutes after sunset.  I was telling myself that I know the footpaths around here so well I cannot possibly get lost.  Mmph.  Well, I didn’t—quite.  But I almost took the turning that would have been eight miles home instead of five . . . the first half hour there was still enough light left to differentiate Darkness from his surroundings, and the mud puddle from the ravine, but by the time we got to the wood on the south side of New Arcadia it was pitch.  And did I mention there was a heavy overcast?  Along with all the other excitements there was the constant background worry:  don’t-rain-don’t-rain-don’t-rain-please-don’t-rain.  It didn’t.  But there was no moon or lingering twilight either.  The one other gleam in the darkness besides glimpses of pale-fawn Chaos was where rain-rivers had scoured the track down to chalk.††  I was by then navigating by smell, which as I said to Peter when we got back, works better if you’re a hellhound than a human.  Hellhounds were entirely unfazed—and I think they forgave me their abbreviated morning hurtle.

            I had three minutes—no, really—to scrape mud off hellhounds and sprint back out the door to make curtain-up of the opening night of THE OCTOPUS AND THE CHANDELIER.  This aim was complicated by the fact that I was, of course, still on foot and I had no idea where the theatre was.   This is not a large town;  I knew it had to be Over There Somewhere . . . and fortunately it was.

            And then there was a glitch, and they started late.  But I had brought my knitting!!!!  I almost didn’t, you know.  I was bleating about this on the forum today:  the Mobile Knitting Unit won’t fit in my current knapsack, and Pooka already has her own dedicated tiny bag since she goes with me on hellhound hurtles, which means I’m already schlepping around two pieces of luggage.  A third . . . but I’m also resisting upsizing to a knapsack that would hold both the Unit and Pooka’s little bag.  It did not come at a good moment that my new camera, compact though it still is, is about twice the size of the old one. . . .  †††

            But the important point is—I brought that third suitcase!  I brought my knitting!  And I knitted!  And it was great!  The lighting in the hall was, predictably, dire, and I wouldn’t have been able to read and would have had to just sit there.  Aaaaaaugh!  I am so glad I have discovered knitting!

            But the glitch was unglitched at last and the show . . . is pretty damn cute.‡‡  The hall is smallish, and they’ve choreographed it both on the stage and down on the floor, so during the big numbers the chorus is in your lap as you sit in the audience, and you want to look like you’re enjoying yourself because they can see your face.  This was not difficult.  There are a few standouts:  the heroine’s best girlfriend, who is a terrible flirt, sashayed around the stage like a combination of Marilyn Monroe and Mae West—even though in real life she’s about fourteen.‡‡‡  The kids’ chorus are all so adorable you could die, and there is one little boy among about thirty little and medium-sized girls.  I remember him from my brief stint as a member of the chorus:  in the first place he’s no taller than a hellhound and in the second place he has this utterly humourless look of intense concentration.  Several of us were waiting for him to drop out;  he so didn’t look like he was having a good time—the manifest concentration didn’t appear to be about anything going on in his immediate vicinity.  But he is still there, still no bigger than a ten-pound bag of flour, still concentrating

            And yes, it is clearly a small local amateur theatre group.  But it was very thoroughly staged and businessed and drilled, and that kind of movement and flow can carry you over a lot of wobbly bits—and there weren’t in fact a lot of wobbly bits.  What they have particularly learnt is panache.§   It was snappy and bright and jolly and a hoot.  Yaay Minnie.  And big yaay Oisin—I couldn’t believe what he got out of his cough-cough orchestra—although I know he’s spent a lot of time doing arrangements as well as building the coral reefs and lichen-covered castles, still, you can only be clever with what you’ve got—and what he had wasn’t quite a tuba and a kazoo, but nearly.  And Oisin himself of course, burning up the keyboards.

           Hey, I’ll go to their next show.§§

* * *

* It used to be the back of beyond.  It’s been colonised by bankers from London with turbo-charged Porsches. 

** Despite the rising numbers of turbo-charged Porsches there are surprisingly few garages that work on cars around here . . . or anyway that you’d want to work on your car.  Or anyway that you’d want to pay for working on your car.

*** Having the Drive up at the Mews is turning into the latest party game.  I don’t want to play.

† He has a hoover that will suck paint off the walls if you wave it around carelessly.

†† Totally Kipling.  We’re a part of the great swathe of southeast-England downland here, and sightings of the underlying chalk always give me a brief rhapsodic rush of this is England and I live here.  And while I know we’re in the wrong area for Tolkien, there’s a lot of the Shire around here too.  That’s not just me:  Peter agrees.

            However, I prefer my rhapsodic rushes in daylight. 

††† Sigh.  Here we go again.  I’ve been carrying around enough basic kit to start a small colony on Mars since sixth grade.  I still remember that really splendid red leather tote bag. 

‡ I also knitted through intermission.  Gods, this knitting thing is so wonderful.  And when people came up to chat, as people will do  . . . I kept knitting!  If people come up to chat while you’re reading, you have to stop

‡‡ Special mentions for the coral reef and the kraken.

‡‡‡ The heroine is your standard drippy ingénue.  Fins, a tail and a green wig don’t really disguise the awful truth.  And she has a standard drippy boyfriend.  Musicals.  Feh.^

^ Bring on Stephen Sondheim.

§ And am I sorry I dropped out?  No.  Not even a little?  No.  Why?  Because . . . because the fun stuff is for the people who can walk and chew gum at the same time.  Back row of the chorus is boring.  And I can’t even begin to imagine how you organise your body to sing and dance at the same time.  I don’t think I have that many neurons. 

            But am I now even more fixated on the New Arcadia Singers?  Yes. 

§§ And take my knitting.  By the time they put on their next show I will be . . . still knitting more hellhound blanket squares.

Apologies. Here Be More Chirping.


PEG II is (still) going well* and I’m still tediously chirpy about my new voice teacher** and I’VE JUST BEEN RINGING THE 5-6 TO BOB MAJOR ON HANDBELLS YAAAAAAAAY.  It’s both a good and a bad thing that you begin to pick up the Essential Pattern of the method—in this case plain bob major—sort of through your particular pair of bells as through a glass darkly.  How people learn handbell methods varies, possibly more so than how people learn the same methods on tower bells, because of the two bells aspect;  I learn based on the relationship between the two bells*** and the shape the two lines make—more in my head than on the page, but it has to start on the page.  But before you start learning a specific pair of bells you learn the entire method as a single line, on or in which each bell starts at a different place.†  This means that the ‘shapes’ your pair of bells are making tend to come up in a different order and different relationships to each other on different pairs of bells.  YES, THIS IS VERY CONFUSING.  And it means you’re happily dubbing along on (say) the 1-2 and suddenly find yourself sliding inadvertently into the 3-4’s place(s) because it looks too comfy and familiar.  And I apologize for chirping protractedly two days in a row, but the endorphin high from singing†† is a lot different from the endorphin high from ringing handbells.  Singing . . . I got into this because I like writing songs, and then started wondering if it might eventually be a way of doing music with other people (I’m carefully avoiding the verb ‘perform’).  But I’m never going to be any more than back row of the chorus, I just may be a somewhat louder and more expansive back row than I hitherto had imagined. 

            With the handbells . . . Lots of people sing.  It’s quite a reasonable thing to do.  ‘Oh I sing in the choir’ is not a conversation-killer.  Method ringing on handbells is a small crabbed cult of weirdos just going in.  Ringing tower bells is crabbed and weird enough:  handbells are a sort of boiled-down essence of total weirdness.†††  ‘Oh I ring methods on handbells’ is a conversation-killer because no one has the faintest idea what you’re talking about . . . and an uneasy sensation they don’t want to. 

             One of the reasons method handbell ringing is so small and crabbed a cult is because learning the frelling methods on handbells is so FRELLING DIFFICULT.  We’re all out of our minds.  What minds we once had, before we discovered method ringing on handbells.   And I have been resigned to hanging on to the cult’s trailing hem with my fingernails.‡  If I don’t have the right shape of brain to learn methods for tower ringing I doubly—or rather quadruply or possibly octagonally, since geometry is one of the many things that is bent in anti-Einsteinian directions by the dangerous radiation caused by the presence of handbells—don’t have it for learning methods on handbells.

            And then Pooka happened—and a method-ringing ap for iPhones:  my secret weapon.  And I am no longer the least of handbell ringers.  The least of handbell ringers couldn’t possibly ring all four pairs to bob major.  I’m almost . . . the middle row of the chorus, in handbell ringing.

           At the moment however we’re still only ringing plain courses.  This won’t last.   It’s all going to go astronomically pear-shaped as soon as Niall can’t restrain himself any longer and starts calling bobs and singles. ‡‡  

* * *

* The problem with more words on more pages is the eternal prospect of REWRITING the more words on more pages.  Back in typewriter days I used to get to the end of the third draft and say THAT’S IT.  WHATEVER IS WRONG WITH IT CAN JUST STAY WRONG.^  In these sleek clicky computer days you don’t get to say ‘my fingers are bleeding’. 

^ Barring little things like that it’s drivel. 

** I think I didn’t tell you that Oisin^ had spoken to her after my first lesson and since I’d told her I got her name from him she mentioned me—and that she was feeling a bit guilty because originally she’d said over the phone that we’d have a nice ‘chat’ and ‘ease’ into the singing bit . . . when in fact I got there and she was like, right, sing this.  What music have you brought?  Right.  Sing that.  —I’d forgotten.  She had said we’d ease into it.  But she’d had one of her A-levels students before me and was obviously in full headmistress mode.  I didn’t quite say ‘Yes, ma’am,’ ‘No, ma’am,’ but I was feeling it.  And I came home and have been singing like crazy, so it’s all good.  And yesterday was thrilling.^^  Now if only we could do something about her brother.  Although the duet thing is growing on me.   Hey, he could join the New Arcadia Singers.^^^

^ Speaking of whom, there’s a rumbling and a murmuring on the forum concerning the long-deferred Oisin Blog Post(s).  I couldn’t agree more.  However—let the poor man survive the Octopus this week . . . and then we’ll get him.+ 

           I suggest that—Sunday or something—I will have a line in that night’s blog that WE ARE NOW ORGANISING AN OISIN-BLOG-POST PROTEST.  Everyone who wishes to be involved can post something to the forum . . . which I will then sweep up and send him

           If you’re hearty and graphic (not too graphic:  under that testy exterior he’s a nice boy) enough I might even get a BLOG POST out of it.  

+ All Gahan Wilson resonances here are valid. 

^^ I should try to find Blondel and tell him that he wrought better than he could have guessed.  I had no idea that I’d blow into Nadia’s studio—AKA her mum’s dining room, with piano—open my mouth, and sing.   I will go to my grave remembering that day in Blondel’s little music room—probably about a year ago—when I’d been learning He Was Despised from MESSIAH.  But at home alone learning the tune by picking it out with one finger on the piano I hadn’t registered that place in the middle when the accompaniment falls silent and you have to come in all by yourself.  This happens constantly in vocal music, of course—or any kind of music with solos—but it was the first time it had happened to me.  There are a couple of these naked ratbag entries in Che Faro.  But I’m all old and blasé about it now.  That day with Blondel . . . I couldn’t do it.  Eeep.  Uggggh.

^^^ Let me say that the very idea of Wild Robert singing duets makes me totally fall down laughing.  Which, barring the Monday Afternoon Peal option, is possibly my best answer to Another Person in the House.  Laughter is a lot less work than organising peals.  

*** How feminine of me.

† Which is why everybody I frelling ring handbells with has an enormous advantage on me, because I don’t ring bob major in the tower.   Experienced ringers will say off-handedly, oh, all the plain bob methods are alike.  You just keep adding the same piece of work, over and over, to the back end:  so first you ring it on five bells, then six, then seven, then eight . . . however many you have (and have the brain to keep track of).  And from a perspective of being able to ring Thirty-six Spliced Pantechnicon Twiddle Supreme Maximus, it probably is all the same method.  Down here among the rank and file it is not all the same method.

†† Which may only be lack of oxygen to the brain, although she does keep reminding you to breathe.

††† Hi there, multi-handbell-peal ringers who may be reading this.  Nice to meet you.

‡ If ungleblarging Niall hadn’t been so desperate for handbell ringers a few years ago.  And it’s totally too late now.

‡‡ PS:  I should have brought my knitting.  Over our tea break the boys got into an incredibly boring conversation about central heating alternatives.  AAAAUGH.   I was ready to start plaiting the contents of the kindling basket.

Singing and Ringing


It’s already past midnight AND I HAVEN’T STARTED THE BLOG YET.  Well, oops. 

            I was a little worried about getting out of bed this morning.  Usually when the ME is bad and I do stuff anyway—like, say, ringing a quarter peal on no sleep—it may let me get away with it, but it will probably also come down on me double-strength, or rather double-floppy, the next day.  I couldn’t afford to be double-floppy today!  I had my SECOND VOICE LESSON!*

            Her brother came home while I was there again.  Oh, that’ll be Robert, she said, as the front door banged and there was a lot of mad jingling:  I can tell by all his keys.  —I really have to do something about the brother.  With my new organizational skills maybe I can arrange for a series of peals . . . not just in London but all over the south of England.**  The Monday Afternoon Peal.  It could be famous.  Soon bell ringers from Australia and America would be organising their ringing holidays around a prized invitation to ring in a particular Monday Afternoon Peal.  The one constant would be the presence of Wild Robert.  Who would be kept out of his mum’s house while his sister was giving voice lessons forever. 

            She says ‘oh that’ll be Robert’ in this sprightly, carefree voice.  I have so failed to give her a proper understanding of what a neurotic little git I am.  The problem is that I’m just so happy to be singing again—not that I’ve exactly stopped in the interim, but voice lessons give you an excuse to go for it, like a ticking crocodile after a one-handed pirate captain.  It’s like, don’t bother me!  I’ll be neurotic later!  Right now I just want to SING!

            This leads to other errors.  So, what do you want to do with your singing? Nadia says bracingly.  You must feel ready to join a choir?  Glurp, I reply.  Well, I am trying to convince Oisin that he really wants to start a nice little local New Arcadia singing group.  What an excellent idea, says Nadia.  I think he’d really enjoy that.  Hmmmm.  If I got Nadia on my side. . . .   Hmmmmmm.

              And a little later, after we’d got to the singing bit, I’d brought Finzi’s Let Us Garlands Bring and Purcell’s Evening Hymn as well as Che Faro and the folk songs*** as evidence of the great galloping breadth of my vocal industry and she said, oh, Finzi, my husband loves Finzi, all English song really—whereupon I confessed my plan to learn some of Vaughan Williams’ settings of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Songs of Travel.  You’ll have to come out to us some time, she went on in her relentlessly jolly manner† and let my husband accompany you.

              EEEEEEEP.  Well, that’s certainly one way to get their top notes out of your students.††

               I then had to pelt home again because the branch of the family containing the bell-ringing Swanhilde is visiting, and I’d offered to take her to tower practise at South Desuetude.  She’s, um, second to last year before university†††, and this week is half term‡, and she was remarking on the disconcertingness of holidays, and the way catching up on your sleep makes you tired.  Swanhilde is starting young with the overdoing I’m afraid.  I proceeded to preach my new gospel of Knitting as the Sublime Fidget‡‡, we discussed the evolution of feminism, and agreed that The Great Gatsby is overrated.  And rang some bells.  The South Desuetude bells are not the lightest or the easiest-going in the world but we stayed on the front six ‡‡‡ and valiant grappling was done, and we got through a few courses of Stedman Doubles with Swanhilde bonging behind.§

               And now I will (finally) go to bed, and worry about getting up tomorrow morning, since the ME may be running a tab. . . . 

* * *

* I am so pathetic.  It’s half term, and a lot of her students are, you know, students.  She’d made vague noises last week about the possibility that enough of her students wouldn’t want lessons today that she might cancel.  No, no! I thought.  Noooooo!  —And then the week has passed without hearing from her and it’s like every day the tension rises.  By this morning I was thinking I should really ring and just check.  And I couldn’t do it.  What if she said—oh, right, I’m so glad you rang, I’m not giving lessons today.  Like my phone call was going to cause this.  I’m how old and I still haven’t got past a six-year-old’s magical thinking?  —If nobody notices, I didn’t break Mrs Cholmondeley’s 500-year-old stained-glass window with the thumbprint of Henry VIII in the corner.^ 

^ Although isn’t this a standard philosophical query?  If no one hears the tree fall in the wilderness, did it make a sound?  Unfortunately I think Mrs C will probably make a lot of sounds when she finds her broken window. 

** Although I kind of like the idea of threatening him with duets.  He doesn’t have to know I’d tank. 

*** The Minstrel Boy and The Miller of Dee, if you’re asking. 

† I’m not sure Nadia Boulanger was ever relentlessly jolly. 

†† Yes, Oisin is also a professional accompanist, but I know him.  He also knows me.  He is not expecting much. 

††† Sixth form.  But I will never learn the English educational system. 

‡ Holiday.  I should have said that before.  But it’s too late and I’m too tired to reorganise the footnotes.   Reorganising footnotes is almost enough to make me want . . . a logical mind. 

‡‡ And in fact after we got home again and had dinner and everyone was sitting around chatting . . . I got out my knitting.  There was the standard hilarity at how well tricked out I am after a fortnight, with an assortment of knitting bags and yarn.  I rose above this vulgar heckling.  Hey, I knitted half a square.^ 

^ The Mobile Knitting Unit actually went to my voice lesson.  Well, you never know, right? 

‡‡‡ Also Colin was feeling wimpish because he has another crop of blisters from being given the multi-ton tenor to ring^ for his latest full peal.  Have I mentioned that he’s ringing a full peal Friday morning, before our flimsy little practise quarter Friday evening, about which I’m not stressing out YET?  There are people who think I’m a bell junkie.

^ Inside, of course:  none of this feeble tenor-behind business.  Niall has been trying to convince me that the best way for me to learn the rhythm of triples—seven working bells and the tenor behind—is to ring the tenor for a quarter peal.  In someone else’s dreams.  I’m so intimidated by our tenor at New Arcadia that while I can ring it for a touch—and it’s a perfectly nice, cooperative bell, it’s just a little large—I’m a gibbering wreck by the time we stand our bells.  I cannot imagine ringing the thing inside. . . . and Colin commonly rings full peals on working tenors substantially bigger than ours.  I think he’s human. 

§ Speaking of peals, Niall was absent tonight:  ringing a handbell peal.  Feh.



Yes.  We got it.  WE GOT THE QUARTER.  I have no idea how.  I knew we weren’t going to.  

            In the first place . . . I had been so proud of myself.  The ME was being a ratbag and I was determined to take my best shot at the quarter today anyway, so I went to bed EARLY last night.  Having conveniently forgotten that when the ME is bad . . . so, usually, is the insomnia. 

            I couldn’t sleep.  Nothing to do with going to bed early;  I was tired enough, and when my hormones aren’t dorking me around I fall asleep beautifully.  Couldn’t sleep.  Had a few gruesome half-dreams for a few hours there and then woke up again too early with that slap-in-the-face-with-a-cold-wet-fish jolt that goes with this scenario.  GAAAAAAH.  Had two service rings this morning and I was all, Is this a bell rope which I see before me, The sally toward my hand? Come, let me clutch thee. I have thee not, and yet I see thee still.  (I know.  I make this joke about twice a year.  Live with it.)  The barbershop-pole striping of the average sally is not a good thing early on a Sunday morning when you’ve had no sleep;  the Doppler effect—if it’s Doppler I’m thinking of—as the sallies bob up and down as the bells ring is as potent as an hallucinogen.*  And of course the bells—and therefore the sallies—at Old Eden, where we had the second service, are always possessed by demons.  Adding to the fun.

            Then I crept home and hurtled hellhounds in a faltering, feeble sort of way and came down to the mews to hide in Balsinland for a while.**  Peter was in the garden pruning roses*** and I was being swallowed by a roc and there was a knock on the door . . . Peter having forgotten to tell me we were having people for tea.†  Try to get your sleep-deprived, roc-distracted, prospectively bell-terrified brain around an unexpected concept like visitors.

             I got out my knitting.††  Of course.†††  Georgiana knits‡ and she went home and sent me a couple of links, one to a fabulous hat, http://vivianeschwarz.blogspot.com/2011/02/oh-brave-new-world-that-has-such-fish.html and another with the instructions-for-the-eternal-ages:  scroll down to the knitted squid.  http://thefleecestation.wordpress.com/   OH MY DRANGLEFABBERS.  THESE ARE THE PEOPLE WHO YARNBOMBED PICCADILLY CIRCUS. ‡‡ 

              But—alas—too soon I had to lay down my knitting needles and take up a bell rope.  We were not going to get this quarter.  We weren’t.  I was always going to be fried out of my little mind from the fact that it was a service ring—it was a service ring that if we got the freller was going to be dedicated to someone’s retirement—and that was before the ME slugged me with a sledgehammer and didn’t let me have any sleep the night before the event.  Penelope has recently taken on a second job and is out on her feet most of the time.  And Roger hasn’t called a quarter in fifteen years.

              Eeep.  No chance.  Might as well relax.‡‡‡

              Three leads in Dorothy came adrift and we had to start over.  Eeeeeep.  But then we settled in and . . . it was not, in fact, too bad.  The treble did have to keep order once or twice§, but not for long enough for said treble to panic.§§  We even mostly sounded pretty good. 

              AND WE GOT IT.  YAAAAAAAY.§§§

              Now I have to start worrying about Friday’s.  I have to ring inside on Friday.# 

* * *

* There’s a marketing opportunity here.  Which I’m not going to touch.  Pity though.  We need money for our bell restoration.  

** Which is a really bad place to hide right now.  The bad guys are winning. Mwa ha ha ha ha ha.^

^ Any of you who follow Jodi on Twitter will know that she takes reprehensible glee in torturing her characters extensively.  Oh the younger generation.  I haven’t got the stamina. 

*** He has a surprising number of roses.  Ahem.

† Not in the Flanders and Swann sense.  http://www.justsomelyrics.com/1653493/Flanders-And-Swann-The-Reluctant-Cannibal-Lyrics  Why can’t Keats and Browning get stuck in my head on an endless loop?  Nooooo.  It’s Flanders and Swann or Beyond the Fringe^ or Monty Python^^.  Or Buffy, of course.^^^

^Then there’s running at the coal face with your ’ead—one of the worst methods, known as the Bad Method of the Getting out of Coal.


^^^ You named your stake?  Remind me to get you a stuffed animal.

†† I finished another square.  And I managed to cast off in spite of pretending I had an end of a conversation to hold up.  Although I really have to learn to do it with the needles, not my fingers. 

††† Why did it take me so LONG?^  It is the best fidget.  And when you’re preoccupied with dread of the immediate future and are suddenly expected to make conversation—blah blah blah blah tea? blah blah blah—it is a life saver.  You can talk about your knitting.  A certain amount of humour was expressed at the completeness of my equipage.  It’s not just a pair of needles and a ball of yarn, is it?  It’s already a stash, if a modest one, a needle case^^, a dedicated, made-for-purpose knitting bag with a hole for the yarn, and a Mobile Knitting Unit, even if it is an evening bag.  And I’ve been knitting—what?  A fortnight? 

^ Stop purring, you:  Jodi and blondviolinist and Fiona and the rest of you. 

^^ I managed not to flash my imported rose needles today.  We’ll need something to talk about next time. 

‡ She’s one of these tediously multi-skilled people.  She doesn’t ring bells though. 


‡‡‡ Relax? 

§ Where You Pass the Treble is one of the most crucial signposts in learning—and ringing—most methods.  Therefore if one of the inside ringers comes unstuck everybody frantically checks where the treble is.  If the treble is in the right place, chances are things will settle down again and you’ll keep going.  <OVERSIMPLIFICATION ALERT> 

§§ It’s all about rhythm.  Which I haven’t got.  Much. 

§§§ As Penelope said, I have just proved I can stand on my feet for forty five minutes and pull on a bell rope.  Yes.  What really interests me . . . you remember I said yesterday that it’s about two years since I stopped ringing tower quarters, which means that tower ringing is two more years more familiar.  I am so not in good shape today.  But those extra two years have given me enough autopilot to let me keep my line and my count—even if it was only the treble—when my brain had gone squidge, which it had, rather.  

# I’m not growing my hair out again, I keep forgetting to get it cut:  there is a crucial difference.  But I decided today that it has to stay long enough to tie back for ringing quarters.  Since of course I’m going to be doing more of them now.  Starting Friday.


Bell Ringing with ME


So I have my first practise quarter peal tomorrow, the first of what I hope is a series of practise quarter peals for those of us who want the extra time on a rope without the stress of trying to ‘get’ the quarter. . . .   

            And the ME* has knocked me down and poured a few avalanches over me and I’m now lying, bruised and twitching faintly . . . and thinking about the fact that that frelling first practise quarter tomorrow got commandeered for not merely Sunday evening service ring but for the retirement of one of our church’s important frock-wearing and service-taking people . . . which is EXACTLY what I was trying to avoid.  I was doing a little sotto voce muttering about this last night—before the ME snuck in at 3am and nailed me to the bed—and everyone was saying soothingly, no, no, don’t worry about it, it’s fine that it’s only a practise quarter and if we don’t get it it’s not a problem.  Yes but ‘not worrying’ is Not One of My Skills.  If the ME were really going to say ‘look, quarter peals are a bad idea, this is why you stopped ringing them, remember?  Dork,’ I wish it had said it sooner.** 

            There was another article about another frelling study about ME in the Guardian yesterday:  http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2011/feb/18/study-exercise-therapy-me-treatment which is pretty much the same mixture as before—which means pardon me while I go bang my avalanche-bruised head on a wall.  I tell myself I should be glad they’re at least bothering to study it—I agree that there’s still a stigma that ‘it’s all in our heads’, that all we need to do *** is stop whining.  Um.  I don’t think that will fix anything, and in the meanwhile whining is one of my restricted pleasures.  I’m not going to give it up.

            But the reason I’m bothering to quote this article here is because as an outed and somewhat public sufferer of ME I feel a certain responsibility to protest when the standard crap starts circulating, in defense of anyone who hasn’t had it as long or has it worse than I do, and is more vulnerable to this kind of expert rot.  This is one of the things I have against most doctorsyou are not at your best when you’re ill and you’re not in a position of strength or wit to argue with some expert telling you what to do. 

            I still believe that what is presently called ME/CFS is going to turn out to be a syndrome or a range of diseases/conditions;  I’d guess that there are viral/bacterial/genetic triggers and predispositions, but I doubt it’s ever going to be finally defined as this, this and this and not that, that and that.  Is it real?  You bet it is.  The headache, the weird vision stuff, the aches and pains, the dizziness, the nausea, the brain fog—especially the brain fog—the unmistakeable awareness of notrightness—is unlike anything else.  It’s not like ordinary headaches or ordinary aches and pains or ordinary stomach upsets or ordinary klutziness.  Or ordinary brain fog.  It’s the ME.  You know.  Believe me, you know.  And—with reference to ‘all in your head’—it’s not all in my head, but it’s certainly in my head too.  I’m a homeopath;  we know that the mind and the body are one critter, and so the right kind of mental therapy is going to be helpful, just as the right kind of physical therapy will be.  That shouldn’t be insulting;  and it’s true.

            Personally I have my doubts about CBT, cognitive behavioural therapy, which is the psychological therapy the study in this article was examining.  I don’t much like things that only treat symptoms†;  I don’t want a crutch for my bad leg if I can fix the leg.  And I want to spend some time trying to fix the leg.  If CBT works for you, that’s great, I’m a huge believer of what works††, but if it doesn’t work for you it doesn’t mean you failed, you know?  It may mean it’s the wrong therapy.

            But GET—graded exercise therapy—as recommended to ME sufferers makes me crazy.  I have no doubt it works for some people;  I’ve heard the stories, and it seems to have a habit of throwing out the occasional fabulous miracle cure—there’s another one in this article.  But blood transfusions used to throw out miracle cures too, when they didn’t kill you, before the experts got the blood-type business sorted.  I think GET is dangerous.    GET basically makes you do a little more every day to GET’s schedule, not yours or anything individual to you—no matter how crummy you’re feeling.  In my experience, and in the experience of the other ME withstanders††† I’ve spoken to personally, this is a recipe for disaster.‡  One of the (many) things that makes me testy is the New Age la-la aphorism that illness is good because it teaches you stuff.  Yes.  It teaches you that life can be crappy.  I don’t think any of us needs chronic illness too to learn that.  But my ME has, as sure as it will hail on the day of your first voice lesson with your new teacher, taught me to listen to my body.  And my body (and my brain) has its good days and its bad days—on its own schedule.  Not some frelling expert’s therapy’s schedule.  When they’ve got a bit more of a clue what ME is, then maybe they’ll have a bit more of a clue of who GET can help.  Meanwhile . . . I think it should have a big red warning sign on the package, and anyone asking my advice I’d say don’t do it. 

            . . . Apparently I drizzle on longer when I feel like death and overdue taxes.  And I’d better go to bed early.  I haven’t told you I have three service rings tomorrow.   But only one of them is a quarter peal. 

* * *

* And anyone who emails me or Blogmom and wants to know what ME is will be instantly killed, okay?^  It’s in ‘about’ in this blog. ^^ You can also google it.  It may not come top of the list on your screen the way it does on mine, but it’ll be there. 

^ I suspect this comes under the heading of me being ‘crusty’.  Yesterday’s email writer revealed herself on the forum last night to say somewhat plaintively that she also liked the footnotes, they were just a little . . . a little . . . uh. . . . to which blondviolinist offered this excellent advice, which, as she says, has come up from time to time before:  

Two browser tabs: one for the main body of the blog post, one for the footnotes. It makes everything so much easier.  I just click back and forth. (On especially footnotey days, I have been known to open up three browser tabs: one for the blog, one for the footnotes, and one for the footnotes on the footnotes.) I get hopelessly confused when I try to read the blog in only one browser window.

But I wanted to add that I really, really did not mean to be getting at HeiQ and I hope she didn’t think I was.  I was using her comment as an excuse to do something else that comes up from time to time on this blog, which is remind everyone why it takes the particular shape that it does:  this is the blog I can write.  I’m glad it has fans (thank you thank you thank you!).  It is fun, I don’t deny that—especially reading forum remarks after it’s all over—but it is also an immense amount of work.  Immense enough that I try not to think about it.  Immense enough that if I made it more like work by doing some dignified pulling-together and rewriting I couldn’t do it.  And would stop trying in self-defense.

^^ But if the links are broken you are encouraged to tell Blogmom.   

** HOW MANY TIMES DO YOU HAVE TO PUT YOUR HAND IN THE FIRE BEFORE YOU LEARN IT’S A BAD IDEA?  —Several times, clearly.  In fact, many times.  I want to be able to ring quarters.  I am a dork.  We move on from here. 

            And I’m not quite as entirely insane as I look.^  I’ve been ringing something like two more years since I stopped ringing tower quarters.  Ringing is therefore two more years’ worth of familiar which means the mere grabbing hold of a bell rope is two more years’ worth of Less Automatically Scary and Stress Making.  And practise quarters—which are less scary and stress-making than proper, serious, going-for-it quarters—have fallen into disuse in this area, and I’m trying to fish them out of the back of the cupboard and dust them off as a concept.  If practise quarters turn out still to be a few triathlons too far for me, I’ll try again in another couple of years . . . by which time I should be really good at organising the frellers, since I am in theory making this into a regular occasion for anyone who’s interested.

            Meanwhile . . . I have a second (practise) quarter peal next Friday.   Eeep.  But Friday is six days away.  I don’t have to worry about Friday yet.

             I’m only on the treble tomorrow.  I ought to be able to ring the treble on my head.  Or, you know, lying down, if there were a way to persuade the ungleblarging rope not to catch round the bedposts. 

^ Stop that giggling. 

*** It’s the same sort of thinking that produces deathless wisdom like that all a lesbian needs is a good boffing from a bloke.  I would like to offer the counter-generalisation that any remark that begins ‘All you/they need to do’ spoken in hearty manner is going to be bogus.  And probably annoying as all hell. 

† And, no, I haven’t ever had it myself.  It wouldn’t be the right therapy for me.  And I have been close to a few people who’ve done it, and I haven’t liked what I either saw or heard of their results and their experience. 

†† Barring unacceptable side effects, and my standard for unacceptable is a lot more stringent than Big Pharma’s.  

††† I’m tired of the word ‘sufferer’.  It’s so pathetic.  

‡ And the Guardian, bless its little leftward, open minded leanings, does quote Action for ME as saying that in their poll 34% of those surveyed said GET made them worse.

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