July 26, 2011

26 July 2011


. . . is the twentieth anniversary of the famous day when I picked up that eccentric English writer Peter Dickinson, whom I slightly knew, at the Bangor, Maine airport, saw him coming through the gate, and went ‘oops’.

            The rest is history.  My twentieth anniversary of living in England—and specifically this little bit of Hampshire—is the end of October.  And our twentieth wedding anniversary is the third of January next year.*

            We will now briskly fast-forward to today.  Peter had spent most of yesterday going to a funeral**, came home shattered, and is only semi-de-shattered today.  I had nine hours and twenty minutes of sleep last night and I still feel like death and dog crap.***   We have Luke and his family arriving tomorrow, and I’m supposed to be making Third House differently-abled-friendly.  We hadn’t really decided what we were going to do for our summer twentieth when we found out this was when Luke could come;  and so in our usual never-mind-I’ll-think-about-that-tomorrow way we decided we’d have a gentle half-day outing to Wisley, which is the big RHS garden† not undoably far from here . . . but ‘not undoably’ is a relative term and in this case involves a long stretch of motorway driving.  That was not going to happen today.

            Peter and I stared at each other over the kitchen table.††  We could go to Zigguraton, I said tentatively.  The media centre††† has a little art gallery and a nice café.  There might even be two or three books on a shelf somewhere they haven’t reassigned to a computer docking station.‡

            So that’s what we did.  The art gallery contained an unexpectedly charming exhibit and the café is a really nice space‡‡ . . .  But the thing that really caught my eye was the knitting exhibit in the case by the front door.‡‡‡  There’s a KNITTING GROUP that meets in the café every Tuesday morning.  All welcome.  Just bring your current project. . . .  

* * *


Please forgive me if this has been answered but are the book doodles going to be book themed? Say…muffin doodles in Sunshine (or muffins with fangs) or a sighthound for Deerskin and so forth? Not that I wouldn’t appreciate any doodle but a specific book themed one would be really fantastic.

As what I say keeps evolving it is not surprising you are having trouble keeping up.   People buying anything that includes a doodle will have the option of specifying what general category of doodle they would like.  I’m hoping there will be an actual email submission form which will include a space for doodle requests—with a limit of, say, ten words, and with the caveat that my doodle skilz are limited and I can only do what I can do.  I should start keeping a list of the things people suggest for doodles and post samples.  (I can do a muffin with fangs for example but I’m not sure you’d like it.)  But ‘themed-to-book doodle’ is certainly an option. 


I know I can’t outbid for an autographed book, but I’d love a dragon doodle to go into my copy of Dragonhaven. I’d also love a doodle of the whippet. Just because. These will be autographed doodles, won’t they?

Remember that in-print hardbacks, signed and doodled, are going to be available at a flat fee of $35—it’s only the out of print stuff that is going to be some kind of auctioned.    But the loose doodles will TOTALLY be autographed.  The basic premise is:  ‘best wishes and thanks to YOUR NAME HERE, Robin McKinley’.  The $5 doodle will have a smaller doodle than the $10 is all.  I wanted to have them on two different sizes of paper, but barring that I get to what looks like the nearest really good art supplies store—which is not near—they’ll both have to go on the WH Smith standard A6.  Which means the $5 will have more white space as well as fewer lines. 


And – you may snigger, at this point, if you wish – the timing of Sunday morning service where I ring is going to be brought forward in October so that we’ll need to start ringing just after 08.45 instead of 09.45! Can you give me any tips on how to survive such horror?

If you will forgive a brief excursion into semi-seriousness—and, may I add, well aware that you are pulling my poor sore ME-raddled leg, since you routinely get up at 6 or 7 o’clock in the morning§ during the working week—the way I get myself out of bed on Sunday mornings, hours before my usual, is by remembering that this is what us bell ringers are for.  It doesn’t matter if you’re a Christian or not—and I’m not—the reason our bells exist is to call Christians to worship.  The way we frelling pay back for the honour of ringing our bells is by ringing for service in the churches where they hang.  This is something of a hobbyhorse of mine—people who can’t be arsed to ring for service infuriate me.  It’s dishonourable.  It’s stealing.  The only literal financial cost to any bell ringer is a piddling yearly guild membership fee.  The rest of our subscription is paid by ringing for service. 

            I don’t actually say this over to myself every Sunday morning when the alarm goes off much too early.  It’s just something you do, if you’re a bell ringer, like if you have a dog, you take it for walks.  There are people who have dogs who don’t take them for walks too. . . .

            Don’t get me started.  But Aj, I’m not worried.  You’ll get up.  

* * *

And just in case anyone was worrying . . . yes, there was champagne for supper tonight. 

* * *


* Over halfway.  I told Peter I’m expecting thirty-five years.  More is negotiable.  It’s all in the contract.

** Of a branch of the family I’ve never met, which is why I didn’t.

*** Our local pet shop, which orders the hellhounds’ monster bags of cereal-free kibble, greeted me with cries of triumph when I went in to pick up the latest delivery the end of last week.  You’ll like these! they said, and flourished a packet of biodegradable dog-crap bags at me.  Biodegradable dog-crap bags are remarkably elusive, or possibly illusory:  the ones I used for a while turn out, on close inspection of the fine print, only to be degradable if you have a major metropolitan recycling complex available.  I found this out as one might say the hard way—and after they’d changed their advertising.  This new lot avoids all such tricky questions by declining to provide any justification whatsoever for the label ‘biodegradable’.  They just say they are.  Well, everything is ‘biodegradable’, given sufficient eons.  When I have a spare minute and at least one spare brain cell I will look them up on line.  Meanwhile, I’m using them . . . and they feel biodegradable, which is to say they have that slippery corn-starch feel . . . and they are so thin as to be seriously alarming to the person employing them.   I will endeavour not to tell you if . . . anything of a distressing nature occurs. 


†† Haggard and red-eyed optional. 

††† which used to be a library.  Cue extreme local controversy.  

‡ Temper, temper. 

‡‡ Even if it should be full of BOOKS.  The thing that bugs the grangblatting, rumplehammering hells out of me is that they have room for a lot more books than they’ve bothered either to have shelves for or, having shelves, put on them.  The café is gigantic, the first/second^ floor is a frelling rotunda, there’s more SPACE than there is anything else, they could frelling well have wedged in a few more shelves in the pathetic amount of square footage they have allotted to bookshelves and then put books on them.  ARRRRGH.^^

            Oh, and there’s a shop.  Having utterly failed to find any of the books I thought—just for laughs—I’d look for, since the media this is a centre of is supposed to include books, I BOUGHT a book in the SHOP.  How frelled is that.

            But we did have a very nice slice of lemon cake with our tea.  And Peter read his New Scientist and I knitted.^^^  Just like an old married couple.  ::Hilarity:: 

^ British:  first.  American:  second. 

^^ Postscript:  neither my, which is not surprising, nor Peter’s, which is shameful, books appear anywhere on said shelves.+  Sure.  We can pretend they were all checked out. 

+ And the children’s room is a grim little afterthought.  ARRRRGH.

^^^ Stupid square knitting is fabulous when the ME is winning.  Why did it take me so long to discover knitting??      

‡‡‡  All of them, I think, out of this single splendid book:   http://www.amazon.co.uk/Knitted-Cakes-Twenty-Susan-Penny/dp/1844483614 

Which I just happen—er—to have.  It’s near the front of the queue on my Knitting Shelf.

§ I believe you have been known to grumble briefly when you have to get up at 5



In which the ME gets in the way of progress


Today has been a ratbag ME day wherein not all my complete sentences are compl. . . .   And I find myself standing outside some door or other staring at my keys and wondering what the one thing has to do with the other thing.*  And Mondays are voice lesson and ringing at one of Colin’s towers in the evening.  Oh, and earning a living.

            Remember first and foremost that as ME goes I have a mild case.  But it is interesting the extent to which you can sometimes learn to manage your shortcomings.  I was talking to Niall about this coming home from bell practise tonight—that first time I began learning method ringing I had to give it up when the ME felled me.  I did have to give it up—I spent about eighteen months not able to do anything but lie on the sofa and watch BUFFY—but I remember the six months or so leading to that culminating takedown.  There were a lot of days like today, where everything is foggy and slippery . . . but I had no idea how to cope.  The only thing I knew how to do was fight back—which is the wrong answer.  You have to learn to . . . slip and fog yourself.  You don’t confront ME as an enemy—or as an equal;  you’re not equals—it’s stronger than you are, which is your First Lesson.  And I don’t, after all, find the enemy model all that useful;  I know some people do.  But the ME is part of me.  As someone with a chronic, lifelong case of Low Self Esteem, self-hatred is a real and constant danger as well as an incredible waste of time and energy.  Let’s not go there.  So I don’t (mostly).  I’m a 59-year-old female Caucasian mezzo-soprano bell-ringing rose-gardening storyteller with bad teeth, hellhounds and ME.  Nu.  Deal.**

            In my experience you have to learn to slip and fog individually for each activity—and I’ve been ringing bells longer than I’ve been taking voice lessons, for all that bell ringing is a deeply alien activity for someone with my shape of brain*** and singing is pretty normal for almost everybody—and I’m on the right side of the line in that I can carry a tune.†  Which is another way of saying that today’s voice lesson was not the most superb I’ve ever had, although some of that is the frelling Italian.  Today was not a good day to be trying to sing in a foreign frelling language for the first time for Nadia.††  But I did come away with some new stuff written down in my notebook and a wary sense that it might some day be possible to remember that I’m only allowed five vowel sounds.†††

            I came home and found an email from Niall wanting to know which house to pick me up from.  Of course I went bell ringing.  I clawed what neurons I could find out of the shadows, dusted them off, tied them up with twine, and went.  And while I was about as reliable as a plastic tin-opener, we did ring Stedman and I did successfully ring several evil coathanger singles, and they’re becoming positively familiar, which means I’ve learnt how to slip and fog my way through Stedman (doubles), which is good.  The shocker of the evening was the Cambridge—having been dragged by the hair through a plain course and preparing drearily to stand my bell, Colin kept us going through a second course which, after I had totally frelled the beginning because I was expecting to stop . . . was about as good as I’ve ever rung Cambridge at all.  Which isn’t very good, but it’s nonetheless a testament to my increasing slip-and-fog skills.

            I then came home again to a lot of questions about the auction from poor Blogmom, who is trying to make the practical end work . . . and the last neuron I had I blew on Cambridge.  But I thought I could at least answer a few of your questions.

Maren wrote 

PamAdams wrote on Mon, 25 July 2011 12:15
Have I missed something or is the auction not posted yet?

Don’t worry! It’s not up yet, but Blogmom is feverishly working to get it ready.

She would be less feverish if I had given her everything she needed.  But we are getting there.  Truly.

I don’t think you’ll be able to miss it when it does go up, as I expect there will be a blog post or several with big pink text.

I think that’s a fair prognostication. . . .


. . . Robin has nearly 3,000 people who “like” her Facebook page, and more than 3,000 followers on Twitter. Even if there is a certain amount of overlap, that’s a great many people. Imagine if we all gave $5 to help save the bells. That’s a lot of money! Granted, it isn’t terribly likely that EVERYONE from FB/Twitter would give. But if even half that number did- 3,000 people times $5 each is 15,000! I know that I could manage $5 for sure!

Remember the doodles.  There will be $5 and $10 doodles.  You aren’t expected to throw money at me!  I will throw doodles back!  And, since you mention it . . . $15,000 would do nicely, thank you. . . .


. . . I will bid as much as my graduate student budget allows! . . . I’m also eyeing a copy of Knot in the Grain (if Knot in the Grain is on the list…I can’t remember) and a foogit doodle. Yay, foogits! 

KNOT wasn’t in the original list because I . . . forgot.  But it was in the list by the time (blushing slightly) I read this comment.   And a foogit doodle is entirely possible.


. . . I’d pay at least $10 extra for an autograph . . . And I would go for a doodle as well. I’m on one of those exceedingly strict student budgets but I’d be willing to go without a lot to support you and the bells. (Heck, I’d go without tea for a while if necessary. And tea is one of the essentials of life.)

No, no!  You mustn’t try to go without tea!  That would be dangerous! [says the tea addict, trembling at the thought].  Present plan is that all McKinley hardbacks in print will be available, although that rhythmic thumping noise you hear is Blogmom and I beating our respective heads against our respective walls as I change my mind again.

Rain.drop 7

I would ABSOLUTELY pay a premium for a signed copy of Sunshine! . . . I was worried all I would be able to afford was a doodle (Not that there is ANYTHING wrong with your doodles, I will still be buying one either way I am quite sure). This is a great idea, especially for those of us across oceans who can’t attend book signings. PLEASE do this! Think of the bells.

I am thinking of the bells.  No, don’t worry, the signed-with-doodle books are now firmly on the list.  Details to come.  As soon as I figure out what they are and Blogmom has patiently explained to me (again) that they’re hopelessly unwieldy and I have to think of something else (again).    


So are the doodles going to be auctioned, or will they have set prices? 

Set prices.  Doodles ($5 and $10) and signed-with-doodle hardbacks (probably $35 for any/all) are for those of you who don’t want to get into the auction thing. 


You could do the doodle on bookplates (or bookplate-sized paper); Jan Brett does this to good effect, autographing bookplates.

Jan Mark is a proper artist.  I’m a writer who doodles.  My doodles are just a value-added joke to give this charity gig some . . . er . . . fizz.


Thank you for considering autographed books with a doodle! I would definitely like one, and would have a hard time not being greedy and going for two. And a separate bat doodle, of course.

Excellent.  Very excellent.  I like greed in a contributor.  Have several doodles while you’re at it. 

Susan in Melbourne

In the Project Management world that I inhabit we refer to the concept of ‘scope creep’ when people have lots of good new ideas, usually long after the budget has been established. 

This made me laugh and laugh.  Scope creep indeed.  That’s exactly what’s been going on, and why it’s taking Blogmom so long to get the back end built . . . and why we are not taking any more ideas, new or creepy . . . I’m creepy enough without help.  But it’s also why you’re going to have autographed and doodled flat-rate books as an option, so what a good thing someone spoke up before the portcullis crashed down.

And . . . thanks.  Thanks very much.  I’ll thank you even more when it’s all over . . .  

* * *

 * Or just now, when I filled the electric kettle with water and turned it on.  I then went into one of my little dazes and came out the other side staring intently at the right rear burner on the cooker, listening to the water coming to a boil and wondering what the significance^ of boiling water plus back burner might be.  Unh.  Well, on the days I have a brain, I put my teapot on that burner, fill it up with peppermint leaves and hot water, and put a tea cozy over it.  On days I don’t have a brain, I stand there staring.

            Days like this I’m afraid I’ll forget to feed the hellhounds.  They’d probably be delighted.

^  ‘Significance’ is a very good word to remember on a day like today.  It could easily have been the whatsit of boiling whatsit plus back whatsit. 

** Sure.  Puns intended.

*** Lots of fantasy.  No maths.

† Mostly. 

†† Che Faro—that hoary aria from Gluck’s Orfeo—doesn’t count.  My Italian is no better in it, but all those funny syllables are familiar in this particular context and order. 

††† And furthermore I have to choose the right one every time.  Cheeeez.  But I want to be able to sing in Italian.  If I don’t get any farther into foreign repertoire I can live with that.  But I want Italian.

Bell doodling


Today, as so often, began last night.  Because I had a guest post from Oisin I had booked an appointment with a friend in America for a phone conversation during the usual blog-writing time.  Appointments for such conversations are necessary first because I tend not to answer the phone—nasty noisy pushy thing—second because you never know which house I’m in and the last thing I want is people ringing me on Pooka—Pooka’s my friend!  Don’t make her do the noisy-insistent thing at me!—and third because the landline at the cottage is now so thoroughly frelled that it sometimes takes the sacrifice of several black goats* before a usable connection is made.

            I’d emailed Rima that I was going to be a few minutes late and I’d email her again once I got back to the cottage.  Got back to cottage.  Turned tiny backup laptop** on while taking harnesses off hellhounds***.  When I went back to the computer it had large flashing coloured warnings all over its face saying your virus protection is out of date.  Prepare to die.  Mwa ha ha ha ha ha.  So I, poor fool that I am, and since I know that both the desktop and the mews laptop are healthy, assumed it was a simple matter of pressing a button that would make the virus protection update itself. . . .

            Most of half an hour later I was hoarse from screaming†, my neighbours had all decided to spend the night at a hotel, and the hellhounds were crammed into the back of their crate pretending to be dust motes.  My virus protection will only download at 3 pm because that’s what the Archcomputerangel Raphael told it to do.  It’s not 3 pm, it said, stop trying to bully me.  And by the way, your virus protection is out of date.  Prepare to die.

            Rima and I did eventually have our conversation.  I emailed her from Pooka. 

            But not sleeping awfully well last night was not on account of the bats.††

            Vicky is especially scary on Sunday mornings because she’s awake and I’m not.  She gets up early.  She’s had her coffee, and her breakfast, and she’s thought about stuff, and she’s ready to deal.  I reeled up the ladder, flopped on the bench, and became uneasily aware that Vicky was talking at me.  She kept trying to make eye contact.  Go away!  It’s Sunday morning!  I can’t possibly walk and talk at the same time!  Or even sit and talk!  I’m gathering my meagre resources to pull on a frelling rope here in a minute! 

            We need a flyer that can go in the order of service one Sunday, she was saying (or words to this general effect).  As part of our push to raise money for the bells, we need to be seen to be doing something to encourage more people to learn to ring†††, especially young people.


            We need something that sounds fun and nonthreatening, she went on (or more words to more of this general effect).  Maybe you [note:  you] could do something with heavy metal?

            Or how bell ringers get to make lots of loud, annoying noise, said Niall helpfully.  I attempted to give him a I’ll-get-you-later glare.   She wasn’t trying to make eye contact with him. 


            So I thought, Vicky went on relentlessly—Vicky in mission mode is the irresistible force and the immovable object, especially on Sunday morning—you and Penelope‡ could get together and come up with a flyer.  The church will print it up for us . . .


            I am so not an advertising type—and neither is Penelope, although she’s one of these people who can put her hand to most things.  But it was a beautiful Sunday morning, once I had adjusted to the morning part via massive injections of caffeine, and while I was out hurtling hounds‡‡ I considered this matter of the flyer. 

            And I was, if I say so myself, inspired.‡‡‡

Yes, the bell is imported. With a stapler.


* * *           

* ‘Sacrifice’ in this case means ‘tickle the tummies of and send on their way’.  It’s possible my problem is that I’m not doing this right.  

** If it were new, it would be a netbook.  It’s not new.  So it’s a tiny, knapsack-sized laptop.  The keyboard is big enough to use, which is all I care about.  Pooka, I love you, but your keyboard is a nightmare.  

*** . . . disgruntled by the prospect of staying downstairs.  We had to stay downstairs because the phone that (usually) works is downstairs.  Also, the mouse on the desktop upstairs in my office is fritzed.  It’s not nearly old enough to be fritzed yet.  Technology hates me.  This is not new. 

† I really have to stop this.  I’m ruining my singing career. 

†† Which have wildly erratic schedules.  I think they’re all teenagers.  

††† Penelope writes reviews for the local paper and poetry when she has time.  She and Peter get together over a cup of tea most weeks in pursuit of the latter.  So in the New Arcadia bell tower Penelope and I are the writers.  

‡ This is a perfectly valid point, by the way.  The church is underwriting our ten thousand smackers and that’s a lot of money for our little church. 

‡‡ And listening to AC/DC on the Walkperson.  Heavy metal is so uncool. 

‡‡‡ This is a very rough sketch.  It’s too big—it has to fit in half a sheet of A4^—and I have to sort out my spacing^^.  Still.  This is it.

 ^ 11.7 x 8.3”.  British standard paper size.  Just enough off 8 ½ x 11 to be weird.

^^ Spacing.  Ugh.  Spacing is way too much like maths.  I can redo the people all right, but the lettering, even if I use the computer, is going to be bad.





 Music Teacher Stuff

 I promised a blog a Very Long Time Ago…. but there was lots of water that needed pumping under that bridge first.

Talking of “first”, the very first thing to note is that teaching music (one-to-one), whether it’s piano, flute, organ, theory (which I do) and ocarina, kazoo or bicycle pump (which I don’t), isn’t altogether about teaching music.

Does that make sense? No? Good! Now you are nicely set up for the rest of the blog. Try to stay with it …

It is devoutly to be hoped that at the end of any given period of time, the pupil will become more proficient at their instrument. In the intervening times, though (and they certainly will intervene), there is much else to be done. Take nerves and confidence, to name but a million: a Gibbering Pupil is seldom an Accurate one, let alone Musical.** Here we come to the first frustration: schoolchildren are sponges, and given a modicum of talent, progress can be made astonishingly quickly and with little or no nerves, even under exam conditions. However – to do this they Have To Concentrate. And they so often don’t, especially boys who have their daily quota of Macho Poses to strike. Girls, on the other hand, are swots (universally known, and attested by the News of The World). Adults, by comparison, are not sponges, but can concentrate like fury. Their other major attribute is that they often gibber at the drop of a hat, which rather spoils the effect. So dealing with nerves is an essential part of the whole music-teachery thing. You have at times to even get past the “but you know what you’re doing and YOU’RE LISTENING TO ME!” stage***, which mostly affects adults, but can affect children as well, especially if they have a nasty, but too-fashionable case of Low Self Esteem. Scraping off the ceiling may be needed from time to time, but the goal is to allow gravity to take its normal course, and keep them on the piano stool.

To this end, I use humour (as if you hadn’t guessed) a great deal. The pupils I have trouble getting on with are the mercifully very few who have little or no sense of humour. Quite besides putting pupils at their ease, I find that you can put many more serious points across with a smile. And for me, smiling, and even the occasional guffaw is GOOD! In the past I have inherited pupils from teachers who regularly reduced them to tearful messes at the end of a lesson, but I don’t subscribe to that. Apart from anything else, I would hate to teach like that, and if I hated teaching, I couldn’t do it. My purpose is primarily to show how much fun, enjoyment, rapture, or whatever, there is in music. The incentive to work at a craft or a skill, nine times out of ten, is the pull of the sheer pleasure of being able to play a particular piece. (To that end, I have often allowed a pupil to go for something that properly is out of their current league, on the grounds that they can haul themselves well ahead by the efforts they put in to master it). On that front, I know of many teachers who choose the exam pieces for their pupils. While it is true that you often have a feel for what would suit the pupil best, I feel that the choice of pieces MUST be theirs. I always play all the set pieces and let them choose. Sometimes, relatively rarely, they make a bad choice; this manifests itself in a firm declaration at a later stage – “I don’t like this piece!” Then we try something else. Another manifestation can be simple unwillingness to go anywhere near the piece between lessons – this brings up the whole unpleasant topic of Doing No Practice At Home.

No pain, no gain – yet another modern cliché, but, sadly, true. Playing an instrument is a skill as well as an art, and skills require daily development. Even adults have been known to succumb to the I-haven’t-done-any-practice-this-week-so-I’ll-cram-it-all-into-one-last-ditch-panic. With adults, there are often any number of valid excuses for lack of practice, but for sheer creativity you can’t beat an 8-year-old. The prize has to go to one child: as one lesson progressed it became increasingly obvious that she had done no practice whatsoever that week. I finally broached this delicate subject, and to her credit she capitulated at once, admitting the enormity of her offence. Mitigation (and fame) came in the elegant simplicity of her excuse: “my sister got a new rabbit!” No contest – surrender of fierce teacher …

The whole practice thing becomes ever more delicate, I find, in a low expectation both of achievement (that isn’t immediate and instant) and of input required. This expectation is one that is rife in our modern instant gratification world, and also in parental attitudes. No longer do the words “I’m very sorry, but at this rate you are wasting my time and your parents’ money” reduce the pupil to abject contrition, if not tears (the only good use of tears is in this situation). Blank looks and “oh well, I’ll stop lessons, then” are the most likely result.

Which moves us swiftly onto the Thorny Problem of Money. I used to trust people to pay me when they properly should. A turning point came when, 10 minutes into a lesson, I received a call from the parent: “little Johnny isn’t there this week”. The empty piano stool indeed confirmed that statement. “He’s had (!) to go to a party”. All bad enough, but the clincher came when the mother did not expect to pay for the lesson, as “little Johnny” had not had one on that day!

I now have contracts and stuff – I still offer monthly terms, but if this is abused I join many of my fellow inculcators and demand payment for the term in advance.

I also get new pupils or their parents to sign a sheet that I have produced laying out my terms. These do cover things like payment and absences, but they also cover the aims of the whole operation: to develop as a musician, and to have fun while doing so. I set out realistic levels of practice, too, as I find that vague notions of 30 minutes’ practice a day fill the minds of some prodigies’ parents. Better to make it 15 minutes CONCENTRATED practice a day for at least 5 days a week, with as much fun playing on top as possible – progress will ensue. Anyhow, 30, or even 15 minutes is far too much in the early stages – there are only so many things you can do with 2 notes in each hand … This document also covers the expectation that a minimum course of lessons will be followed. Exceptions for severe cases of Beri-Beri and Bubonic Plague are almost guaranteed – never let it be said that I am an unreasonable man. 


* * *

* Hey.  I couldn’t possibly make this stuff up.  I’m only a fantasy novelist.  Dragons I can do.  Pegasi.  Even unicorns.  Music teachers . . . nope. 

** Sigh. 

*** SIGH.

† Especially stuff.  You should see his studio.  It makes my office look like . . . um . . . like . . . um . . . like they both came from the same Bedlam Planet.

Rose Dreams



An annually dreaded moment happened today:  the arrival of the new David Austin Rose Catalogue.  It’s not like I don’t have both his and Peter Beales’ sites favourited*, and it’s not like they’re not both places I go when I’m cross/tired/cranky/frustrated/procrastinating. **  But there’s something about a shiny new paper catalogue. . . .

Ooooh. Aaaaaugh.

 This particular rose, the lead-off for this year’s introductions, is called ‘William and Catherine’ (Catherine??).  Snork.  I may have to give it/her/them a go anyway.   Austin is claiming that it/her/them is ‘extremely healthy’ which would be a first in a repeating white rose.


 I grow St Swithun (on the left) and Tess of the d’Urbervilles (on the right).  I do not yet grow Teasing Georgia or Snow Goose (in the middle).  Yet.


 I grow Mortimer Sackler–that’s the flowering pink triffid on the right–in a pot by the front door of the cottage.  Apparently I will be in trouble soon.  I have noticed she’s a little more exuberant than I was entirely planning for.  Oh, I also grow Scepter’d Isle–middle on the left–and Wedgewood, bottom left.  And clearly I have to add Maid Marion–top left.  I missed her last year somehow.   One of the nice things about keeping a list–of, say, roses to be acquired–on your iPhone is that it keeps looking short even when it . . . isn’t. 

. . . . But this also brings me nicely to what I’ve been meaning to blog about for several days and things keep intervening.

            There are two high-ticket items in the auction.  One of them is the personally tailored masterwork by that hitherto little-known composer, Robin McKinley.***  The other one is the limited-edition ROSE DAUGHTER illustrated by Anne Bachelier.  


And before you freak out because you’re not high-end gallery-art collector types—with which I sympathise:  keeping oneself in reading books† tends to be quite enough—I wanted to flash a few of the illustrations at you.   I think those are all the plates on the CFM site, but I think they look a little bland lined up in rows like that, if you don’t know Bachelier’s work and don’t know that ‘bland’ is approximately the last word applicable.  They’re much more fabulous in situ in the book.  Bachelier is not to everyone’s taste—but then neither am I, and neither is anyone whose work is genuine and individual—but I adore this book.  As an explicit rendering of my ROSE DAUGHTER, no, it’s not, but if you’re asking me it’s not supposed to be.  What it is is a magnificent dreamscape of Beauty and the Beast with my ROSE as a jumping-off place—or a jumping on place, where she can bring her vision back and tie the red thread of story to it so all may follow. 

Roses. Well of course. It's a slightly shiny, jacquard-y fabric, like expensive bed linen.


Title and facing page. They're all already signed, but Your Name Is Added Here.


First page.


Random gorgeous picture from the middle somewhere.More random gorgeousness.


The glasshouse. (And yes, all the illustrations are tipped in.)


Oh, and yes--ahem!--I own one or two of the originals. (Don't strain your eyes. It's Purcell's Evening Hymn.)

* * *

* http://www.davidaustinroses.com/english/Advanced.asp?PageId=1988


** Now joined by Etsy http://www.etsy.com/ and Ravelry http://www.ravelry.com/ , both of which wave cheerfully and say, hi, hellgoddess!, when I go there.  Well, ‘Robin’ was already taken when I needed a username.  A username I could remember.    

*** But four of you are going to club together and commission me to write something for French horn, bodhran and two mezzo-sopranos, right?  Fine.  Just don’t make me learn to orchestrate. 

† And yarn.^ 

^ A friend has just been yanking my chain about my knitting needle collection.  Feh.  I’ll do a knitting-needle post some night and you’ll all just crumble away with admiration.+ 

+ You non-knitters . . . I don’t know . . . you’ll have to go bowling that night or something.

Okay, I knew I was pushing it.  WordPress has eaten one of the photos and added its caption to the previous photo.  ‘More random gorgeousness’ was another photo.  But it’s late and I’m tired and I’m not going to try to re-insert the missing photo, and WordFrellingPress won’t let me cut the superfluous text.  At least the formatting is back (I hope):  it disappeared the first time I hit the ‘publish’ button.


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