June 30, 2011

On varieties of public performance



So, who’s the hot babe in the strapless black dress?  That would be Shannon Park, voguish young editor at Penguin UK.  And who’s the wizened prune* opposite her, gripping her champagne flute in a this-is-a-PARTY-get-me-out-of-here spasm?  Oh, that would be . . . uh . . .

            Well, whoever she is, she’s going to be at Forbidden Planet tomorrow week/a week from tomorrow **  to sign copies of the frisky new UK edition of PEGASUS.  And, possibly, frighten the horses.  There has been a conversation on the forum about costume.  Highlights:

Ajlr:  I’m considering getting my Schiaparelli-pink, feathered, sequinned, cat-suit back from the person I loaned it to, just for the occasion… Mwahahaha

CathyR:  Now that would be a blog photo to remember!!  Especially if you were with Robin in her black leather mini …..

Robin:  I’ll wear the leather mini if Ajlr promises to wear the pink catsuit.  Mwa hahahahahahaha.

Ajlr:  I suppose I ought to dig out the rhinestone-covered clogs with the six-inch killer soles, to go with it?

Aaron:  This is entirely unfair. I was sorry to miss the opportunity to go all fanboy over one of my favourite authors in person*** but the cost of getting there from California made the choice reasonably easy. I don’t need this kind of temptation. Besides, what would the rest of us wear to live up to this kind of standard?

Ajlr:  Perhaps we could have a competition whereby everyone sends in photos of what they would have worn to fit in with the evolving dress code at this occasion?

Ajlr is joking.  I, on the other hand, am thinking about it.  And if I’m not locked in a cupboard and told to shut up I’ll put up a copy of the UK PEGASUS as a prize.  So, what are the parameters here?  The first one is that this is a family-friendly blog, aside from occasional manifestations of extreme crankiness from yours truly, and therefore any potential submissions must not give precocious eight-year-olds† nightmares.  Mad, falling-down-and-rolling-around laughter is allowed.  It may even be encouraged.  I am thinking that both Ajlr’s catsuit and my leather mini are going to be pushing both these boundaries rather hard.  I will also say that I suspect—dreadful, faithless person that I am—that Ajlr is planning to bail on the catsuit, and that I am not going to show up looking like a Goth Miss Havisham without support.  Which means I need a few detailed, specific promises of curious apparel on the night, before I go rootle around in the attic and see if the moths, frustrated of their true desires by an excess of cedar oil, have turned to black leather as a substitute.  You might want to think twice, however.  If I wear the black leather you’ll be missing the cutaway denim skirt with the white chiffon and the appliquéd roses.  Choose carefully.

            But we could still do a photo contest.  Couldn’t we?†† 

* * *

* Nice sparkly hair pin however, except that it’s not sparkling in the photo.  And the long black swirly cotton skirt with the lace insets^ is entirely wasted.  Just for completeness I will tell you the tote bag you can see hanging from my left shoulder contains THE YARN.^^

            I particularly like the background of this one, which to my eye moves it from being some damn snap of some damn party to an interesting photo.  That’s our fearless leader stooping for her water glass^^^.  I’m also interested that our photographer can apparently slow the shutter speed down enough to let this much light in—you know how dark my photos were~ —and keep what he’s aiming at in focus while the background blurs.   Our adaptable friend, technology.  Clearly he has read the instructions for his camera.  Ahem.

            Note:  our fearless leader’s black jacket is very sparkly.   I was tempted to ask her where she got it, but what if she had told me?

^ Lace insets = cross ventilation

^^ Jodi Meadows wrote:  Some yarn is definitely more pettable than others. And it’s soooo easy to become even more of a [natural fibres] snob.

SIIIIGH.  I’m sure I would have been perfectly happy with the half-acrylic green.  It’s really very pretty.  For various reasons everything I’m working on at the minute—three Secret Projects and the hellhound blanket—is at least part acrylic, and actually it’s all pretty nice and friendly.  But every time I sneak one of the pure wools out of my STASH to fondle I swear my pulse quickens.  Mmmmmm.  

blondviolinist wrote:   Manos del Uruguay. Now that’s the good stuff!!! Your perfect green is one of the best yarns in the world.

Oh? she says in a very small voice.  Oh.  Well.  The thing I’m noticing is just how soft it is, although ‘soft’ doesn’t really do it justice, it’s like saying Taittinger’s is fizzy.  Tell me about these sheep, you know?  What is with these Uruguayan sheep?  It’s obviously been spun and dyed to exemplariness, but it starts with the sheep.  

^^^ Or possibly gin and tonic:  I didn’t check. 

~ Although if you’re asking me, mine are truer to the colours of the pillars.  Maybe I have dark eyes. 

** And just for the record, I am NOT going back to the yarn store afterward.  I’ve decided that the answer^ to the Stash Problem is to buy ONLY THE BEST.  Which means I can afford about one lot of Manos del Oro-guay . . . once a year.   I might even start catching up on my stash that way.  At the moment it is threatening to spill out from under the table beside the piano.  There’s a further problem.  I have this tote bag habit which I have hitherto somewhat contained by the mantra, Come on, McKinley, how many tote bags do you really NEED?  The answer to this question changes irrevocably as soon as you are thinking of them in terms of project bags.  And I had bought a new PROJECT BAG on sale recently and . . . I really NEEDED that green yarn to put in it.  Really.  Needed

^ The ANSWER?  Hahahahahahahahahahahhahaha, stop, stop, you’re killing me hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha 

*** Awwwwww. 

† Or elderly hellgoddesses 

†† I may merely be raving.  It was one of Wild Robert’s special Wednesdays and he had even fewer good ringers tonight than he did last time.  Which meant that three of us who didn’t have a clue what we were doing were ringing touches of Kent Treble Bob Minor—six bells, all of them working—for everyone else to have a go at treble-bobbing on the treble, plus Wild Robert and Roger trying to maintain some semblance of control from the other two bells.  It was a lot of fun, as ringing over your head always is with Wild Robert.  But I’ve come home, you know, reckless.

            Which reminds me, speaking of extracurricular, Joseph-ine wrote a few days ago:

Okay – so this probably has little to do with your post today, but I have to tell SOMEBODY and you all count right?

 Yes of course we count.  To continue: 

Had a lesson with my singing teacher this morning, and I stayed for an hour instead of my usual half . . . Because we had more time, she had me warm up for longer, and tried a new exercise on me . . . I was so busy concentrating

Ah yes.  The classic teacher ruse

as she went up the piano notes, that I didn’t notice how high I was singing – and produced a B!! A high B! A NICE sounding high B. I don’t think I have ever sung higher than an A. . . . Incredible! I am all enthused now. Of course singing it in a song is totally different – but the comment she made after was ominous: “I think we can get you higher eventually….”

Congratulations.  I sang my first high B in about forty years^ at the Muddlehamptons’ last rehearsal.  I’ve said Ravenel is short high sopranos, and I like high soprano because you get most of the tune, and when it isn’t the tune the harmonies are usually interesting, which cannot always be said of the alto part.  This meant a high B.  I looked at it on the page and thought, oh, frell that.  But he’s short of sopranos!  First time I gave it a miss, and he fixed us with the Ravenel Look and said, Just go for it.  So I thought, what the hell, it’s practise night, and I’m not singing in the concert anyway ( . . . as I thought), so I did.  And mine was not a nice sounding B . . . but it was definitely a B, and if there were five more of us it wouldn’t be bad at all.  Unfortunately there are not five more of us. 

           Nadia has said she expects me to have a C at least, but whether I will want to flourish it in public remains to be seen.  I was planning on having A as my official top end. 

Now that’s been vented – I would totally encourage you to go to the concert – parties come and go – but concerts are fun! 

Ummmm. . . .

^ I used to have a very silly range—nearly four octaves.  None of it was good but it was there.  More of it is coming back than I was expecting.  And with luck and Nadia it may eventually not sound too bad this time.  Supposing I don’t die of old age first.

In Which I Both Do and Do Not Deserve What I Get


Sometimes you don’t get your just deserts, and sometimes this is a good thing.  Have I told you about trying to get my CRB—Criminal Records Bureau—clearance?  Pleeeeeeeease.  But as Deputy Ringing Master I am perceived as possibly having contact with kiddies or ‘vulnerable’ adults.  Another Deputy Ringing Master might very well do so.  I don’t—teach someone to ring?!?  HAHAHAHAHAHAHA—but never mind.  It looks nice to have all the paperwork tidy and paper-clipped and square-cornered.  Except the CRB people keep sending my paperwork back.  Either I’m not Robin McKinley Dickinson or I’m not J C Robin McKinley Dickinson or I wasn’t born 21 August 1862 in the Gilbert Islands.  Fuss fuss fuss fuss.  Angelica, who has the unlovely task of being liaison between the bell ringers and the arcane inner world of the greater church hierarchy*, keeps phoning me up apologetically and telling me my rubber papers have bounced once again.  Meanwhile my phone machine is possessed by demons.  I’ve told you that British Telecom, which is a whole category of ‘unlovely’ all by itself, insists that my regular recurrent problems with my landline are my problem, despite various geeks and technos arranged on the other side, and I’m so sick of the argument that when my phone goes meshuga yet again I ignore its ravings until it reverts to being a phone.**  So although I was aware I’d had a message from Angelica—and I could guess what it was about—I couldn’t actually hear it, so I chose to ignore it too.  In the hopes that the CRB would go away. 

            I made the mistake of answering the phone on my way out the door to catch the train yesterday, thinking it probably had something to do with London or parties or yarn or something, and it was Angelica.  Curses.  Foiled again.  She said that she had to have the latest frisky forms in the post tomorrow—which is to say today—or we had to start all over.  I said (grudgingly) I’d be round this morning for the hoop-jumping.

            I was a little late getting moving this morning what with one thing and another. ***  Which meant it was ten to noon by the time I got the hellhounds crammed back into the kitchen at the cottage and hared down the street toward the church—just like Sunday mornings for service ring†—gaah—and slowed down for the blind corner into the churchyard, which was a good thing, or I might’ve run full pelt into Angelica, specifically Angelica’s rear end, as she toiled to shove a monster pallet piled high with boxes, which was also being dragged from the front by the driver of the Monster Pallet Transportation Company lorry who had been ill-informed about delivery conditions.  I applied myself to the pallet also and I’m here to tell you she wouldn’t have done it alone.  We could have used a third.  That’s a surprisingly nasty little hill—as the locals rediscover every winter when it has ice on it.  Hi Robin, Angelica said, panting, How nice to see you.  What a good thing I was late, I replied, by now also panting.  The funny thing is that I was thinking, well, she can’t yell at me now . . . at the same time as I knew perfectly well she wouldn’t have anyway.  Things happen around Angelica because she wills them to.  Like that I’m still showing up (even if late) to play pat-a-cake with the CRB when if it weren’t for Angelica I’d’ve tied my rubber papers in a knot and given them to a kid for a Frisbee several caroms ago.  And if I hadn’t come along at that crucial moment of necessary propulsion . . . someone else would have.  Angelica is like that.  I’m just grateful that she seems to have chosen to commit her considerable powers to the furtherance of goodness and harmony.   If she’d decided to go for sedition and iniquity we’d be a Borg peripheral by now.

* * *

Meanwhile.  Yarn.   I walked into I Knit yesterday afternoon not knowing what to expect except that it better be good first after all the frelling build-up the store gets as a Hub of Knitting London and second after the flaming†† ordeal of finding it.  It’s surprisingly small††† but, you know, dense.  The long front-to-rear walls are floor-to-ceiling shelving and it’s all full of yarn and yarn books.  And across this crowded, confusing, hot, unfamiliar room . . . was the yarn.

Mmmm. Yarn. Mmmm. This does not, of course, give you the real colour, which is a much clearer green than dim indoor light reveals in a photo. But you get the idea. And it's Manos del Uruguay Handspun Pure Wool Kettle Dyed.

            I perhaps need to explain that I have been on a quest for some really good green yarn—the good to apply to both the green and the yarn—pretty much since I started this knitting shakedown diddle . . . when, last February or so?  Granted this hasn’t really had time to roll into true epic quest stature . . . but I can get intense pretty quickly‡‡ and furthermore green seems to spend most of its life in the fashion industry being the dubious second cousin of someone’s stepmother.   All these frelling mail-order yarn sites that keep sending me come-ons never have good greens.  And then . . . there’s a green that I’ve had my eye on, which is pretty much the right colour, which is to say a slightly variable, self-evolving green, and it’s from a good brand, but it’s half acrylic and I’m already a natural-fibres snob, barring things like catering to allergic hellhounds.  And last week it went on sale.  The only reason I hadn’t already bought it before I found out I was going to a party in London on Monday was because I hadn’t got round to it yet.  And then when I found out I was going to a party in London on Monday I thought . . . I might make it to that yarn store everyone thinks is so wonderful.  Maybe I should wait—just in case I see the yarn—the sale goes on a few more days . . .

            Sometimes your unjust deserts are at least a little bit earned.‡‡

 * * *

* Her official title is ‘benefice coordinator’.  Eeep.  

** I admit that it’s taking longer to regain its senses this time than usual.  

*** Those of you who follow me on Twitter know that I was out rescuing idiot hedgehogs at 3 a.m.  And tweeting about it.  

Once a week is ENOUGH.     

†† Sic.  It was hot.  And there’s nothing hotter than walking on city pavement with nothing but city pavement, city overpasses and city walls around you. 

††† And possibly the best thing about it is the dog.  Well, I would think so, wouldn’t I?  

‡ Some enchanted evening

When you find your true love

When you feel her call you

Across a crowded room

Then fly to her side

And make her your own

Or all through your life you may dream all alone

   Once you have found her

   Never let her go

   Once you have found her

   Never let her go


‡‡ Ahem.

‡‡‡ Although speaking of  earning, while this yarn is clearly fabulously more wonderful than the half acrylic on sale, IT ALSO COST THREE TIMES AS MUCH.^  I’d better be one hell of a clearly fabulous knitter when I tackle it.

^ Manos del Uruguay is one of those names to conjure with although this is my first exposure to it.  http://www.artesanoyarns.co.uk/Manos%20Del%20Uruguay/manos%20del%20uruguay.html

And this is mine:  http://www.artesanoyarns.co.uk/Yarn%20Pages/manoswoolclasica.html

A Day in London


I had a lot more fun than I was expecting to.  But that was mostly the yarn shop* (and the cafe http://www.lepainquotidien.co.uk/#/en_UK/locations/royal_festival_hall_se1).  The party, eh.  The party was a party.   And yes–it was HOT.  

        I went to the yarn shop first, and after an hour of lust, adrenaline and HEAT I was fading badly by the time I paid for my latest foray into vice and staggered back out into the street.  The party was at Whitehall [sic] so the logical thing to do was go back to Waterloo** and find a cafe in the South Bank Centre near the pedestrian bridge over the Thames;  Whitehall is about a five-minute walk*** from the other end of the bridge.   So that’s what I did.

Walking across Hungerford Bridge

Presumably the great barbed barricade is to prevent people from jumping the gap and adding to the ornamentation on the train-bridge pillar wall (the train bridge runs slap next to the pedestrian bridge) but the thing that fascinates me is that if you kept your nerve you could do it anyway. It's like they almost want you to try. Ewwww.

Note the date as well as the nice use of grocer's apostrophe

Party. Ceiling. Good grief.

This--the Banqueting Hall at Whitehall--was the last thing Charles I saw before he was led outdoors to have his head removed. It might almost have helped resign him to having it all over with.

I am, as we know, easily amused. Here we have old pillar, middle-aged chair, and hot, happening (purple) spotlights. Plus people having a good time (?) and a few fire extinguishers.

I assume when they don't have purple spotlights on them they're white and gilt.

Sorry. I'm mesmerised.

And our fearless leader (with pillar) gave a speech about how wonderful we all are. Did you know it's the 75th anniversary of BALLET SHOES?

Then I came home.

Party All Stars. With party socks. And feet, very glad to be out of them. I did have a pair of sandals with me in case the heat got too much, but I don't WALK in sandals.

* * *

* In case any of you missed this:  http://www.iknit.org.uk/shop.html  And it is INCREDIBLY impossible to find.  It’s part of  what looks like a really nice, funky neighbourhood community main street, but the neighbourhood is surrounded by the Dead Marshes, well populated by corpse candles, wills o’ the wisp, and Gollums.  If I hadn’t found a nice cop-like person–I don’t think he was a cop, but he had a kind of cop-echt uniform–I might still be wandering in spirals around Waterloo.

** Lower Marsh Street is on the opposite side of Waterloo from where the station shoots you out onto the tarmac.  So you can go out the door and turn left or go out the door and turn right.  I hesitated, staring at my map, and chose left.  Of course I should have gone right.

*** Even when burdened by fresh manifestations of iniquity.  Which I’m saving for tomorrow’s post.  I need sleep.  I need sleep NOW.

Direful Anticipation


 (This just in from @CambridgeMinor on Twitter:  http://t.co/J3rFML3  Snork.

I seem to be even shorter of sleep than usual on a getting-up-for-early-service-ring Sunday.  Something to do with HEAT and DREAD.*  Going to parties always brings out the inner eremite in me anyway . . . at this point I was going to say especially publishing parties, but ALL parties are ‘especially’, they’re just different especiallies.  Publishing parties involve bracing yourself for being introduced to the author who wrote the worst book you have ever read and trying not to blurt out, in your laudable effort not to say this, something like, I thought you were dead, which in the private context of your exploding brain sounds pretty polite, but neither the author nor whoever introduced you will think so.  Or—also possible—being introduced to the person for whom you are that author. 

            As if the mere fact of a party is not bad enough**, it’s HOT.  It’s been disgusting today in Hampshire but it’s supposed to get up to 90° *** in London tomorrow.  There are places on this planet where 90°F is bearable.  London is not one of them.  Whimper.  And so the dread burgeons and ripens:  will I manage to get on the only train/car whose air-conditioning is not working?  Will there be a screaming child in the Only Car/Every Car of the Only Train?  Don’t even think about opening a window:  they’re all hermetically sealed at the factory.  Will the tube† be air-conditioned?  Am I better off wiltingly resisting the brutally hammering sun or the claustrophobically smothering tunnels?  Will there be an outbreak of basilisks and salamanders, who are known to love being boiled?  Whimper.

            I could just cancel.††  But . . . there’s a fabulous YARN STORE immediately opposite Waterloo Station.†††  If it weren’t for the party—well, and the heat—I’d be totally stoked about going to London tomorrow.‡

            I discovered Mrs Redboots’ forum comment about it about an hour after I’d discovered I Knit myself:  http://www.iknit.org.uk/shop.html  I’ve been reading knitting books of course and when I saw I Knit in a ‘resources’ section the post code had made an impression as possibly near Waterloo.  YESSSSSSSSS.  Mrs Redboots was suggesting I go round after the signing, but I think that evening is going to be complicated enough, so really this party is doing me a favour by giving me another chance.  Unhhh. . . .  

            I’d heard from a couple of the mods that Ajlr’s crossword was difficult, and so when I finally saw it last night‡‡ I was relieved I knew all the answers.  One of the supernumerary anxieties of Author Appearances is Those Questions from the Audience Which Manifest a Stronger Memory and Overall Grasp of My Work Than I Myself Possess and Which I Therefore Can’t Answer.  And, furthermore, will look like a twit by failing to answer.  Siiiiiigh.  The more books I’ve written the more often this happens‡‡‡ . . . and I’m going to be in worse knots and spasms than usual because of the PEG II situation.  In the first place I can’t talk much about PEG I for the sake of anyone who hasn’t read it yet, which is fairly normal for new-book signings . . . but in the second place I can’t talk about PEG II at all because of that extremely nasty ending of PEG I which, because of the colliding weirdness of internet shipping and international publication dates, most of you have already read § . . . and in the third place PEG II is now mostly realer to me than mere . . . reality§§, and I’m going to have a lot of trouble remembering anything I can risk saying about anything. Usually by the time a book comes out I’m well into some other world. §§§

            But anyone who asks about a sequel to SUNSHINE will be instantly killed.#  Just so you know.  

* * *

* That totally sounds like an urban fantasy.  HEAT AND DREAD^.  Maybe I’ll write it after ALBION.

^ No, no, no.  HEAT AND DUST was literature. 

** I’ve been trying to decide if the prospect of a sudden party—since I only found out about this one on Thursday—is better or worse than a, er, Long Awaited Party.^  No.  Yes.  No.  I think it’s another ‘especially’.  

^ I’d’ve put the Ring on at the beginning, not the end. 

*** 32° for you modern C people 

† Underground.  Subway. 

†† And if I have any sense, if it’s really gruesome, I will.^ 

^ In which case I will be FURIOUS because I’ve already cancelled my voice lesson.  Furious and . . .  whimpering. 

††† Where Hampshire trains arrive in London. 

‡ I think there may be something a little wrong with the logic here.^ 

^ Um.  Logic? 

‡‡ She’d offered me a preview and I said, no, no!  Not necessary!  Guest post and CONTEST?  You can do anything you like. 

            To which she responded perhaps a little too quickly:  ::Ponders the licence this may confer…::

‡‡‡ Age, which causes crumbliness on all fronts^, and menopause, which eats your brain, probably also have some input here 

^ And backs.  I will discuss prospective author apparel and the black leather mini some other evening between now and bursting in on an unprepared Forbidden Planet like a really, really bad B movie extra.  

§ I will have several large, burly, invisible bodyguards protecting me from any attempt to wrest the end of PEG II out of me.  Mwa hahahahaha. 

§§ Barring hellhounds.  Hellhounds are always very real. 

§§§ I don’t ever want to do this continued-in-the-next-volume thing again!  PLEASE! 

# The invisible bodyguards are multi-talented.

Twelve days and counting… (guest post by AJLR)


This post is not about bees* but it is about creating a bit of buzz. It’s about the fact that it’s now only 12 days until the UK publication of PEGASUS and the book-signing that Robin will be doing at the Forbidden Planet store on Shaftesbury Avenue in London on the 7th of July. We’re planning to have a very good time that evening, possibly including cake – eaten, not thrown – and to listen to the dulcet tones of our Hellgoddess as she surveys the throng that will be there and addresses us in stirring fashion.+

However, not everyone who would like to be there will be able to make it. We thought, therefore, that one way of sharing some of the enjoyment of the publication day and signing would be to have a competition that can be entered online by anyone, whether they’re one of Robin’s readers in the UK or are elsewhere in the world. Penguin UK, the publishers of the UK edition,  have kindly offered some copies of the new publication as prizes and will post them to wherever our three winners turn out to be.

The competition is a crossword puzzle.** The clues and answers come from PEGASUS, CHALICE, and SUNSHINE and from the chapters of those books that you can read at the scribd link from Robin’s website. So no-one is excluded because they haven’t (yet) managed to get their own copy of any of these. You can download a PDF file of the crossword, the clues, and an answer template that can be completed and then copied and pasted into an email here – McKinleyreadersCrosswordJune2011. ***

The email address to send your answers to is mods @ robinmckinleysblog.com (there are no spaces in the live address, obviously) and this is also shown on the PDF file itself.

The competition is open for a week, until 12.00 British Summer Time on Sunday, 3rd July. (Time zone converter)

We will be contacting the winners by email two or three days after the closing date so don’t forget to send in your answers from an email address that you check regularly. The three winners will be randomly drawn from those entrants who have submitted a list of the correct answers to all the clues. And I hope you have fun doing it. :)

* * *

* They’re doing fine, thank you. More about their first month in their new home in about three weeks’ time.

+ ‘Stirring’?  ::Hellgoddess trying to get her head around audience as cookie batter::

** Made using the free-to-download Hot Potatoes software. It’s been used to create basic e-learning materials here for quite a while and I thoroughly recommend it.

*** The download link for the PDF file has been tested several times but if for some reason it doesn’t work for you (and don’t forget to click the usual ‘save’ icon to put a copy of it on your own computer) then please email the mods’ address given above.

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