March 26, 2011

Spring gardening


I had six boxes of mail-order plants on my front step this morning.  And so the rush begins.*  This afternoon I spent feverishly slamming things in pots and potting-on trays—and sighing prospectively over this year’s meconopsis—er—meconopses?   Blue Himalayan poppies.  I occasionally manage to get a breath-stoppingly fantastic blue flower out of one but several of them apparently have to die first—the meconopsis god is a savage one—and I have yet to keep one over to flower again the next year.**

            But speaking of cranky things in pots:  you’re told (fiercely) by snowdrop specialists, of whom there are an awful lot around, that you mustn’t put your snowdrops in pots, they don’t like it.  I didn’t mean to put mine in pots, I just . . . well, they send you snowdrops ‘in the green’ because unlike most bulbs (tulips, daffs etc) which you’re sent and you plant dormant, snowdrops prefer to be moved while they’re growing.  Mine were busy coming into flower, and since I couldn’t immediately decide where I wanted to put them*** . . . I put them in pots.  Given the all-the-plumbing-in-Hampshire aspect of my cottage’s garden, pots are always a good choice anyway.  They flowered nicely.†  And then I was . . . vaguely . . . going to get them in the ground because you mustn’t grow snowdrops in pots but where?  Because the thing about snowdrops is they’re little and they droop, and this is not only a tiny garden it’s a tiny untidy garden.  So I kind of didn’t get around to putting them in the ground.  And they died back, the way snowdrops do . . . and I forgot which pots they were in . . . because of course the labels had come out, which is what labels do, supposing I’d remembered to make them and stick them in which in this case I had . . . and I found the labels trampled into the ground, but as spring-bulb pots go over, I shove them back against the walls and pull forward the things that are coming into flower.  I have learnt the hard way not to disturb apparently-empty pots shoved against the walls, because they can be assumed to contain bulbs that I’m expecting to come again next year.††  What is in them frequently comes as a surprise. . . . †††  I thought crossly about my double snowdrops, because I don’t like killing things because I simply don’t get around to doing what they need—as opposed to helplessly failing to give them what they need, as with all those meconopses—and also because they were, as plants go, modestly expensive. 

            So imagine my delight when long strap-like snowdrop leaves started coming up in a couple of those not-empty pots in January.  They’re not only alive, they’re increasing.  By next year—the gardening gods willing—I’ll have to tip them out and split them up.  Maybe I’ll finally get a few of them in the ground.  But I like them in pots:  I can put them on the front porch stairs, where I can see them easily.‡

            I still want some Himalayan blue poppies. 

* * *

* And then there’s the rant about the reality of mail-order plants.  I love being able to order on line and have the things appear as if by magic^, and the fancy named nurseries (mostly) do an amazing job.  But the 4,673 marigolds and a free giraffe companies—the ones that are pretty much your local garden centre, only a lot bigger—and who aren’t really interested in plants, but in moving product . . . they’re something else again.  In the first place, I don’t want 4,673 of anything^^, and I never want the free electric popover kit.^^^  I realise that I and all my gardening friends are supposed to get together and plan what to order together . . . in some other life and probably on some other planet.  So perhaps it’s all part of the system that at least half your marigolds are going to arrive in a previously-living condition.  One of those boxes today held six geraniums.  The box was too big, and the container inside the box that has individual slots for the individual baby plants was also too big, and the slots were too big.  So some clever person had run some tape down both sides of the slots, which hadn’t stuck very well . . . and five of the six geraniums had come loose and toppled round in free fall, scattering leaves, stems and roots as they went.  Geraniums are generally pretty tough, and I expect three of them are recoverable.~   And I don’t actually need more than three—I’d rather’ve had three, it’s just six is what they were offering.~~  But . . .

^ Not by magic, mutters my credit card

^^ Probably not even roses.+

+ I wonder how many acres you’d need for 4,673 roses . . . ? 

^^^ Except very occasionally when it’s the free rose-gilding device+ that is the only thing I do want, and then I have to order the 4,673 marigolds to get it.

+ Gilding the lily is so old 

~ Of course I planted all six.  You never know. 

~~ And a free cheese grater.  Shaped like a hedgehog.  Mmmm.

** I had three last autumn, two that hadn’t flowered last year, and one in its second year of life, that had—you’re supposed to not let them flower their first year which in my experience only means you end up with even fewer flowers, since it doesn’t, in my experience, slow the death rate at all.  Aaaaaand I’m pretty sure all three of them are now ex-.  What a good thing I ordered more.  Learning from my experience.  Now, do I let the new ones flower—supposing they survive and produce flower buds?  Or do I let myself be swayed by the myth about letting the plant have a year to get strong?

            Peter had a glorious blue poppy last year.  I was so jealous.  If it flowers again this year I may have to emigrate to the Antarctic.  Where I will keep a plastic cactus on my bedside table.^ 

^ And I really will have to knit hellhound booties.  

*** This is mysteriously a much harder decision in a tiny garden than it is in a two and a half acre garden. 

† I’m pretty sure I hung photos of them, didn’t I?  Two different doubles?  I think it was only last year.  It might have been two years ago. 

†† I no longer even try to keep most tulips going.  They flower, I pull them out, I buy more next year.  One of the advantages of a tiny garden is being able to afford to do this.  Barring the little species ones, which mostly do come again without fuss. 

††† . . . and a reprimand.  There are also always lots of little pots that get shoved so far back that I forget they exist, and they don’t get watered or fed or anything.  It astonishes me how tough many bulbs are.  I have an unexpected and undeserved forest of small fragrant daffs and striped and white grape hyacinths that I discovered when I was clearing out a larger-than-usual heap of leaf litter—larger than usual because it was a drift over a collection of forgotten pots. . . . 

‡ Not to mention the slight swank factor of having some slightly unusual double snowdrops.

The Therapeutic Value of Handbells


. . . a hitherto unknown and unexamined aspect of the handbeller’s art, craft and mania.   Yesterday was roadkill.  Yesterday remains better not described, barring the weather, which was glorious, and I did manage to totter out and fossick around the garden for several hours.  I love this time of year;  despite the horror and outrage at all the plant life that didn’t make it through the winter*, there’s also not merely the pleasure of what’s alive and coming into growth** but there is all that space left both by the annuals that were supposed to die, and the deaders that weren’t, and looking around there’s that ridiculous sense that this year you know what you’re doing and you’re going to have things under control.  Hahahahahahahahahaha, etc.*** 

            Anyway.  Sunlight on the face and bent back are always good, but yesterday was still bad.  Today started out even worse.  Last night I couldn’t sleep and this morning I couldn’t wake up.  Eventually the pitiableness of hellhounds† got me moving, but it was ludicrously warm today, unhingingly warm, that kind of spring warm that your still-winter-braced body can’t really cope with†† and neither hellhounds nor I were moving very fast, nor, in my case, very coherently.  Got down to the mews, turned on computer and my brain was not working.  Not.  Working.  And handbells were early today††† because Niall was ringing a handbell peal this evening,‡ so I wasn’t going to get any extra vitamin-D time in the garden.  Moan.  Moan.  I even considered cancelling, but while Fernanda has decided not to run away to sea after all, she won’t be back till next week, so if I cancelled nobody would get to ring.  Which of course would distress Niall profoundly, since he’s only ringing a peal (note:  two and a half hours) later. 

            But just the three of us would mean ringing St Clements again, and while I had (to my own considerable surprise) rung it on the trebles last week Niall, because Niall is like this, had told me to look at the 5-6, and I had looked at it, and it had looked at me, and it had said, nyah nyah nyah.  And when I looked at the trebles again this afternoon in something of a sweat, they looked like hieroglyphics from an alien and inimical culture.  So Niall and Colin blew in, dismayingly on time, and more or less the first thing Colin said was, yes!  Happy to ring another practise quarter on the first [of April.  Yes, sic]!  —which before I went into my decline was something I’d urgently wanted Colin to get back to me about, and since I went into my decline I’ve been thinking well, what a good thing I hadn’t set up that quarter.  Ah.  Um.  Niall was busily unpacking bells and he said, so, what do you want to ring?  And I said, Well, I assume you’re going to make me ring St Clements, and I did look at the 5-6, but—

            St Clements!  Great! said Niall, handing me the 5-6.

            No, no, I said feebly.  That’s what I was trying to tell you, I’m not ready to ring the 5-6.

            Yes you are, said Niall, handing the trebles to Colin, who promptly rang them.  Niall followed on the 3-4.

            Whimper, I said, and rang the 5-6.

            There was, let me say, a lot more dragging of the 5-6 by the other two pairs than was at all pretty, but as does just happen sometimes with ME‡‡, I could feel my energy level starting to flow back in again, like a turning tide, and Pooka the Wonder iPhone had clearly given me more of an idea of the shape of the method while I was learning the trebles than I realised.  By the time we’d stopped for tea and then started picking our bells up again afterward and Niall said, what do you want to ring now?, I said instantly,  I want to get this.  So we kept on ringing St Clements with me on the decreasingly inept 5-6.  Now you want to be looking at the 3-4, said Niall on parting.

            Do you suppose I should be telling the NHS about handbells?   

* * *

* Part of the outrage is the weirdness of what does and doesn’t come through.  I must have ten snapdragons still alive, which should all have been dead in last November’s long hard frosts—and I was sure they’d bite it when we had three freezing nights in a row last week because I’d been dumb enough to clear out around them and trim back the dead bits—well there’s still time, it’s not May yet.  On the other hand I have some supposedly-nearly-the-original-wild violas that are supposed to be tough as old boots and to spread like ground elder and . . . they keep dying.  Drainage?  Don’t talk to me about drainage.  Having lost them in the ground I have started putting them in pots where I can provide MAJOR ENGINEERED DRAINAGE . . . and they still die.  I think I’m giving up this year.   

** Markham’s Pink [clematis]!  Yaay!  I kept losing it in the ground, against the back wall, so this third one I put in a pot.  And this is its second year.  And it’s growing.  In fact . . . it’s growing too frelling much.  It’s going to burst out of that pot and it’s taking over the little picket fence that faces the kitchen door.  Arrrrrgh.  Life with plants.   If they’re not dead, they’re triffids.  But still.  YAAY! 

*** Pause to wipe my eyes and get my breath back. 

† The big melting-gold eyes, the flattened, beseeching ears, the hopeful tails. . . . 

†† Especially when the frelling temperature is seesawing 20 or 30 degrees (F) every day.  Glurk.  The ME can’t resist adding its distinctive anarchy to the situation either.  I have been looking and feeling a lot like a badly-knitted hellhound square the last two days. 

††† Quick—another cup of tea. 

‡ Yesterday’s other bright spot was a cup of tea with Penelope who, poor woman, mostly had to listen to me moan.  But she mentioned in passing that Niall at present is ringing seven days a week.  And I suspect this does not take into account days when he rings twice. 

‡‡ And depression, in my experience of it.

My Yarn Stash – guest post by Fiona


So, having rashly mentioned in Robin’s earshot something along the lines of  “I really should get my stash together and take some photos at some point” – a statement which garnered the INSTANT response of “Guest Blog!” – Here I am to provide a yarn fix for those who  are that way inclined. (I’m afraid that those who aren’t yet infected with the yarn virus will probably be groaning and muttering “Oh no! Not MORE knitting stuff !!  ;) ) I’ll try not to bore you all TOO much…

I started knitting with eyelash and novelty yarns, making first scarves, and then patchwork blankets – that kept me occupied for a couple of years, and then I got bitten by the sock bug and the novelty yarn has languished ever since. (I really should do something  with it at some point I suppose).

There’s a direct correlation between my starting to knit socks, and developing a SERIOUS yarn problem… *

Here’s my Picasa Web album of my yarn stash with explanatory captions.


* Snork.  Also . . . Yarn?  Problem?   eeeeeeeeeeep

Good and very damn bad


So, first things first:  is everybody on board with the fact that Elizabeth Moon’s KINGS OF THE NORTH is out today? 

I can use some good news.  (And I can always use another good book to read.*)  It’s been a mortally—literally—sucky day, in that I got the expected-but-you-always-hope-it-won’t-come news that a dear friend is dying.  Damn, frelling sod it and ratbags.  I am therefore a little overwhelmed with the standard forehead-clutchers like so what is life for then anyway?  And, why death?  There has got to be a better system than this sudden-irrevocable-horrible-accident, getting-old-and-going-to-pieces, stupid-ugly-soul-stealing-disease system that we’ve got.  Times like these I remember those sour old adages about how the clinically depressed are the ones with a true view of reality;  those of us still functioning are in denial.

            So I’m going to pull some more comments from the forum to give myself something to think about, since my brain will keep reverting to how much I am going to miss her.  

In response to the multiple-project theories remark, boddhi_d wrote:

…I swear, I’m going to have to include projects in my will, the completion of which is a requirement to inherit. (‘To my beloved second cousin I bequeath my pearl earrings and $1000, to be distributed upon finishing the rosebud quilt that is nearly done.’)

ROSEBUD QUILT?  Hey, I’ll finish it.  (The pearl earrings might be nice too.  Thanks.  Your second cousin can have the $1000.  Don’t you have something else she can finish?)

In the southern U.S., we have an all-purpose phrase that can be used to GREAT effect in many circumstances, and I think is appropriate here: “Bless your heart.” As in, “Bless your heart, child, why don’t you just go sit down and try it again, and this time actually pay attention?” It’s a fabulous way ‘not to be rude.’ AND it can be repeated ENDLESSLY.

(Snork.)  It’s southern, is it?  That’s one of my mother’s family’s phrases, and I have increasingly suspected that my grandmother was far more southern than she wanted to admit.  (I have no idea.  She was a strange woman.)  Hey, do you know ‘oh my stars and heavenly bodies’?  Which is a phrase I love, and have never heard it anywhere except my mother’s family.

‘I have no clear idea who the main character is’

Bless its heart.

::falls down laughing::  I totally have to relearn this.

I can’t help but wonder, is this maybe a problem of the reader trying to decide which of the males is the main character?

Getting slightly ahead of myself here, yes we do know that Rglmmph is male . . . or anyway I have never seen . . . ahem . . .  ‘Rglmmph’ as a girl’s name.   And I’m hilariously tickled that several of you picked this out as a probability.   I have told you, haven’t I, about one of my favourite reader letters, from back in the days when I got letters rather than emails, which was, siiiiiiiigh, a school assignment letter, from a junior-high boy, who had managed to read THE BLUE SWORD under the impression that Harry is a boy?  The thing that made this so killing is that he got the plot pretty well accurate—he or someone had read it—but—but . . . the mind boggles.  One possibility is that someone else read it for him and silently changed the relevant detail of the protagonist’s gender . . . sounds like the sort of thing a brother or sister might have done, doesn’t it?  And maybe he wasn’t paying well enough.

‘If Oisin doesn’t stop flapdoodling around on the flimsy excuse that he has 1,000,000,000,000 things to do already^^^ and get the New Arcadia Singers organised,’

…and write another GUEST BLOG…*

*That was a cue, wasn’t it?

If it wasn’t, it should have been.  I’ll be sure to point this out to Oisin. 

I have had a slender but gratifying stream of emails from blog readers saying more or less what Stephanie said on the forum: 

. . . reading your blog has changed my way of looking at authors – not that I didn’t know that an author is a person, but I just didn’t know any personally. I realize that the blog is just a small and selectively edited part of your life, but a lot of your voice comes through and I really enjoy feeling like I know a little bit about Robin, the person. . . . I want you to know how much I appreciate you spending the time to share some of yourself with us. Thanks

Thank you for recognition of the selectively-edited part;  and at the same time, yes, you do know a little about Robin the person, and to the extent that this blog is succeeding in putting over the concept that authors are ordinary people too (normal = insane) then it is a success, and I feel a lot more cheered up about how much work it is and how much it probably isn’t much of a marketing tool because I can’t think in marketing.  I’m missing a lot of important brain lobes:  higher maths (well, okay, lower maths too), analytical philosophy, British crossword puzzles . . . book marketing.  But this humanising thing is, indeed, one of the things that the internet has proved very good for:  all this connectivity includes making broader genuine personal contact than was ever possible in the era of street mail and rotary-dial telephones and IBM Selectric typewriters.
P.S. And I have a terrible lot of yarn stored up, and a dearth of finished projects too.

Normal.  Insane.  And because I’ve ordered yarn and knitting needles from two mail-order companies I am now on their email lists for SALES and SPECIAL OFFERS.  AAAAAAAAUGH.

cnaught writes: 

Regarding Rglmmph:
I’ll admit I was a bit confused the first time I read Hero and the Crown — an issue sorting out what was flashback and what was current

I wouldn’t do this kind of thing if I had a choice.  I’m too used to hearing people say that they like my books once they get into them but they’re usually a rough beginning—and as someone who buys hellhound food and yarn on book sales I don’t like the thought of how many people may be putting my books back down again because of those rough beginnings, who might have liked them if they’d persisted.  I know what you’re all talking about, but in the first place that’s the way the frelling story comes—and in the second place as a reader I like the indirect beginning, the moseying around the world for a bit before you start finding out what you’re there for, which is no doubt why the Story Council keeps sending me stories like that to write. 

 — but:
(a) it only lasted for about the first chapter
(b) no trouble discerning who the main character was (really??)

Yes.  I understand the slow-deliberately-not-clear-but-it-may-just-look-muddled beginning thing.  But to not recognise the main character?  What? 
(c) I was in fifth grade at the time, and

Just an aside:  arrrrrrrrrrrrgh.  You’re one of the unusual ones.  The Newbery was very, very, very good for my career, and I don’t want to pretend I don’t know that.  But if I had a dollar/pound/handful of yen for every fifth-grader or fifth-grade teacher who has written to me in great offense declaring that my books are too hard for children and some variation on a theme that I am writing them wrong and/or they want their money back and/or they want them clearly LABELLED as for 25-with-a-college-degree-in-English-lit and older, I could frelling retire.  
(d) I liked it!


 It felt so grownup to have to work a little bit to accurately process what I was reading.


Most books that kids get to read don’t really try to challenge them re narrative structure.

YAAAAAAAAAAAAAY!  Oh good.  Oh good.  And when it works . . . yes.  But it’s also true that overfacing a kid with a book they’re not ready for is counterproductive.  I just feel—ahem!—that teachers, parents, librarians, and the various grown-ups associated with early or reluctant readers could possibly take a little more responsibility than is indicated in outraged letters to authors of somewhat challenging books. 

Scorpiomouse writes: 

After nearly three decades of trying to be SANE and SENSIBLE and NORMAL, I’m finally accepting that insanity is just fine. I consider this blog to be part of my self-therapy – we . . . identify with your less sane moments. Ta da! . . . (For those of you thinking, “I could never contain my insanity, it is too central to my character,” I respectfully posit that you probably could, it would just have dire consequences requiring lots and lots of self-therapy.)

Allow me to recommend knitting to complement the chocolate and the To Be Read pile, those bastions of self-therapy.


I do have lots of time-squandering little people (“demonic”?! Really?!)

Hey, I’m a hellgoddess with a brace of hellhounds.  Demonic is our territory.  We like demonic.  Demonic is a major portion of our readership.

 * * *

* Speaking of which . . . those of you who keep inquiring/moaning/protesting/shouting about the lack of e-versions of my backlist . . . you can’t possibly be as big a pain in the neck about this as I am, so please, please, cut me some slack.  There is nothing I can do about it, except inquire, moan, protest, and shout and, trust me, I’m not letting anyone who can do something about it forget that I am still sitting here unresolved. As Merrilee keeps (patiently) pointing out to me, publishers are a very, very, very large herd of cats^:  and the implications of all those proliferating electronic rights are messy, so in fact you can’t just say ‘yo, dudes, stop meowing and do it’. . . . The same plea goes to those of you who want audiobooks:  there’s nothing I can do about the situation.  Merrilee is working on it.  Merrilee is ace.  It’ll happen, but I don’t know when.  

^ Here’s a small but frustrating example of trying to deal with cat herds.  I am not top of anyone’s list for potential plugs for books because I’m neither a big enough name brand nor a generous enough reader, but I do get ’em.  In the last month I’ve had three requests that I read manuscripts—not ARCs or books, but stuff still in page proofs.  They usually try to send these to you in some electronic form or other, but until the iPad 2 comes out in the UK I don’t have an ereader, and I hatehatehate reading anything but Twitter and the blog forum on a computer.  So I ask for hardcopy pages.  I’ve never had a problem receiving ARCs or books—they go in a mailing envelope and they arrive as normal post.  For some reason manuscript pages make everyone go all trenchcoat and undercover—there’s clearly some malign security programme that self-boots:   It’s not a book yet.  Top secret.  Red alert.  Whoop whoop whoop.  Pass it on.  The result is that every one of these frelling manuscripts has arrived for signature.  And delivery company drivers show up any time they frelling well feel like it between 8:30 am and 6 pm.  I know what’s happening:  between the time the editor grinds her teeth over the necessity to provide hardcopy to some aged retro anti-geek who lives in the back woods of where and tells off some hapless assistant to produce said pages, and the resultant bundle still hot and curly from the office printer goes down to the mailroom with my address on it . . . the fact that I’m a solitary human being living in a small house in the semi-wilds of Hampshire and not a fellow behemoth with six receptionists on the front desk has got lost in the factory-assembly-line of a big corporate mailroom.  Their rules to live by say that anything that isn’t a book goes out for signature.  And by crikey that’s what happens.  ARRRRRGH.

A day full of adventures


. . . which I think I don’t want to risk hanging up here because I’m not sure how the more interesting ones are going to work out and—rather like not talking out the plot of a story you’re writing, which might screw up the writing*—I don’t want to talk out the story of my life just now.**  What if I’m right/wrong?  What if what I’m predicting is better/worse than I imagine?  What if a gremlin is listening?  Gremlins are always listening.  You don’t want to give them any more help messing you over than you have to.***

            Last night I wrote that while I’d stumble to a halt pretty soon if there weren’t indications that someone was actually reading this blog, why you were reading it I preferred not to think about too closely.  White_roses posted to the forum:

I’d say we read because it’s a funnier-seeming spin on self-created havoc than we could make by ourselves. We can associate with you, and your issues, and the Yarn Collection/Multiple Project theories. Reading the blog lets us know that, while you create amazing literature, you’re a regular person: insane, just like the rest of us. It creates a sense of kindred spirits, of friendship, even though we might never actually meet you.

Oh good.  (And thank you.)  That’s what I’d like to think I’m doing.  And on days like today—when one of the things causing me to leave head-shaped marks on the wall is/are certain manifestations of the reader/writer credibility gap, frequently apostrophised here as Othering—I can use the frelling comfort.  I’m well aware that I have certain advantages, the chief one being that I’m a professional writer—I’m used to word-wrangling.  I’m also not raising any children, demonic little time-sucks that they are.  But the bottom line is that I’m a lot more like you than I am unlike you. 

            Insane, in fact, if you like.†

 * * *

* The usual reason expressed is that you risk losing the impetus you need to write it.  This may be true in some cases, but my own experience—and you will know that I don’t talk about work in progress^—isn’t about impetus per se, since a story that really wants to be written is a violent and impatient creature, but that you’re hanging harness on something that isn’t anything like tame enough yet for it.  Like a bad trainer you may force it to do something that it will, by that force, do clumsily, and which it would have done gladly if you’d given it a little more time and freedom to find its own way.

^ Barring the odd ARRRRRRRGH I’m going to get a job as a HAT CHECK HAG

** Speaking of the writer’s life.  Allow me to proffer excerpts from two emails that arrived yesterday.

I am a children’s librarian for a private school (ages 3-14). . . .  I have been reading your books for years, starting with Beauty and The Hero and the Crown, and passing them on joyfully to my students for over 23 years.  I have never written to an author before today, but I just couldn’t help myself after finishing Pegasus this morning. . . . I read about 100 books for young adults every year and so feel qualified to say that I think this is your best work yet.  Thank you for hours of enjoyment.


My name is Rglmmph and I am in 7th grade advanced english [ital mine, lack of init cap Rglmmph’s] . . . and I have a few questions. First off, why is The Hero and the Crown so confusing? My english [sic] teacher already made us read 6 chapters and not to be rude,

I always like ‘not to be rude’.  Not to be rude, but your heroine sucks pond scum.  Not to be rude, but DEERSKIN/SUNSHINE/DRAGONHAVEN is the dumbest book I’ve ever read in my life.  Not be rude, but Stephen King/Anne McCaffrey/Edmund Spenser did it better. 

but I have no clear idea of who the main character is and what the plot is.  

Seriously?  Six chapters and you have no idea who the main character is? 

. . . What should I do to better understand your book? I feel like every paragraph has more and more confusing stuff in it. Is there a particular way I should read this book? Should I just read the dialoge [also sic] or the details or both?

Usually when you read a novel you read all of it, yes.  Usually there’s stuff you need to know in both dialog[u]e and, er, details.  But then advanced english has clearly changed a lot since my school days. 

*** One thing I can tell you though is that my voice lesson went far better than it had any business doing^, since one or two of the adventures earlier in the day had knocked me pretty sideways.  I went gimping in there thinking Nadia is going to get bored with me and my excuses^^ but in fact barring that I’d managed to leave the accompanist’s copy of The Roadside Fire behind, which meant she couldn’t keep an eye on what I was doing or play the melody to keep me on track, it went amazingly well.  (We worked on The Minstrel Boy instead, which I did have the copy of.)  If Oisin doesn’t stop flapdoodling around on the flimsy excuse that he has 1,000,000,000,000 things to do already^^^ and get the New Arcadia Singers organised, I’m going to have to start singing on street corners or something.

            The other thing I can tell you is that we rang St Clements minor tonight in the tower.  St Clements is my new handbell trick—Colin and Niall and I rang it last Thursday, and very smug and self-satisfied I felt about it too.  Smug and self-satisfied is a really bad idea with Colin around, it brings out his Inner Tease (which is never all that inner anyway).  So he called for St Clements tonight to yank my chain, and my chain was duly yanked.  It’s a whole frelling different thing on one bell in the tower.  It’s a bit like walking down the same piece of street in All Stars with hellhounds for a hurtle, and in lady clothes without hellhounds to meet Peter at the Bard and Orpharion~ for dinner.  What you’re watching out for and guided by are entirely different (do I have enough plastic bags if Chaos is in one of his Crap Factory moods?  Is that another dog?  Is that other dog off lead?   Did I remember to bring a crossword puzzle?~~  Is that mud?  Is it coming after me?).  It’s still the same stretch of road. 

^ All you singers out there:  what’s your opinion on dairy products?  Regular readers of the blog may remember my going off the nutritional rails with a sticky toffee pudding and ice cream at the Questing Beast with Tilda and Peter a fortnight and a bit ago.  I don’t eat dairy because it blows up my digestion and gives me rheumatism, but I can usually get away with something like ice cream on my sticky toffee pudding if I don’t do it more than about twice a year. But on this occasion it’s taken up till a few days ago—so nearly a fortnight—before my vocal cords stopped feeling like they were coated in an unpleasant substance.  Nadia says that it’s more likely that I’ve been having a head cold that never quite manifested, but that reactions to dairy this prolonged are not unheard-of.  

^^ Although she teaches school kids.  She’s used to the often quite spectacular excuse-making faculty of the human animal. 

^^^ Who among us does not

~ I was going to use Rauschpfeife because it’s supposed to be really loud and good for scaring people—there’s a stop on the pipe organ called Rauschpfeife—but it being a woodwind it’s probably not the best instrument for a bard.  The Bard, Accompanist, and Accompanist’s Rauschpfeife, possibly.  It’s kind of a lot to fit on the average pub sign though. 

~~ I’ve told you, haven’t I, that Peter and I out for dinner tend to do American crossword puzzles together?   Somebody does across and the other one does down, and we take turns.  

† And no, I didn’t stop at the yarn shop today.  Sigh.

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