October 26, 2011



ARRRRRGH.  I HAVE A BOOK DUE IN THREE MONTHS.   I DON’T NEED TO BE DRIVEN ROUND THE TWIST BY TECHNOLOGY.*  I have wasted an EXTRAORDINARY amount of time today . . . trying to get Feynman’s SIX EASY PIECES to download onto Pooka.  I have already referred to the possibility of a small unassuming fringe of supporting background maths** in SHADOWS, except that maybe I mean physics***, and if it’s the latter, the obvious person to start with is Richard Feynman.†

            Every time†† I have tried to download something from frelling www.audible.co.uk except that by now I’m fairly sure it’s not audible’s fault, everything blocks up like a kitchen sink drain full of tea leaves.  This time . . . when I’m downloading something I really need to be listening to NOW . . . I’m completely stymied.  Every time I jump through these downloading hoops there’s at least one more hoop than there was last time, but I’ve eventually toiled through to the last.  Not this time.  The audible ap on Pooka just sits there saying ‘connect to WiFi or iTunes’.  YOU ARE CONNECTED TO WIFI AND ITUNES, YOU MORON.  YOU’RE SITTING THERE WITH A CABLE COMING OUT OF YOUR BUTT AND STUCK INTO THE LAPTOP’S SIDE.   The wretched book is on the laptop—it’ll play on the laptop—but it won’t travel down the wire into Pooka, who is clearly manifesting her Apocalypse side.  I even swapped cables, thinking it might be a cable problem. . . .

            I emailed Archcomputerangel Raphael at about 10 o’clock tonight and . . . because Raphael is both angelic and mad, he answered.  He’s on holiday.  He’s on holiday and he’s still checking—and answering!—business emails at ten p.m.†††  He’s going to rouse poor Gabriel tomorrow morning, who is busy holding down the fort by himself, and try to get him here to scrape me off the ceiling (again) and (possibly) do something about the situation.  It’s not like it’s just the downloading problem—it’s my ongoing broadband nightmare.  I’m not crashing off the internet as often, I just frequently go to a page and find the ‘page not found’ squatting there like a toad.  Refreshing 1,265,928 times will usually bring whatever it is back again . . . eventually . . . although meanwhile I’ve read two more chapters in a book I’m not enjoying nearly as much as I should be due to reading it under adverse conditions.  The blog is particularly prone to these Cheshire cat fits when only a fiendish grin is visible.  And having got so far, it’s all very well copying from Word and then hitting ‘save draft’ before I hit ‘publish’, in case of accidents, but the ‘save draft’ takes another minute or two and I have no reason to think it’s any more stable that just hitting ‘publish’ in the first place. 

            And the TIME WASTED.  Gazum frelling argleblargle FRELL.  At a moment—or rather at a three months—when I absolutely cannot afford to be wasting time—I am WASTING TIME.  STRESS.  STRESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS.

            Now let me tell you one more story of straightforwardness and efficiency, although taking place in a different dimension, out here in the reality of bruises and . . . rain.  You will remember that the auction/sale did rather better than Blogmom or I were expecting.‡  I hastily ordered some backlist books which have been infuriatingly slow to arrive, not least because once they did arrive on these shores, the frelling carrier (a) kept putting cards through my door saying SORRY TO HAVE MISSED YOU, we’ll be BACK some day in the next MONTH, some TIME between 5 a.m. and 9 p.m., but we’re not going to tell you WHEN and (b) ignoring my emails saying WILL YOU PLEASE JUST LEAVE IT?

            I wrote them again over the weekend saying, I have no particular reason to believe you’ll pay attention to this email when you’ve ignored the last three, but this is my LAST try before I attempt to fight my way through your possessed-by-automated-demons phone labyrinth again this coming week.   Of course they didn’t answer.  But today hellhounds and I went back to the cottage on an extra hurtle because I wanted to fetch Pooka’s other cable, in case the downloading problem was the cable.  It’s been tipping down rain most of the day, and I hadn’t been planning to go as far as the cottage again because the rain’s got heavier as the day’s gone on.  But I wanted that cable.  So we plunged through the door, streaming, and found . . . another card on the floor from the carrier.  They’d delivered the box.  They’d left it as requested.  YAAAAAAAAY.

            Um.  Modified yaaay.  When I tell anyone to leave a parcel, I am very specific about where.  Beside the dustbins there’s a little roof, provided by the fair and clever hands of Atlas.  Also, it’s a roof, you know?  You can see it’s a roof.  Roofs are good for keeping rain off, right?  So . . . whoever this driver is had left it between the dustbins—opposite the roof, not under it—so not only was it sitting in the torrential rain, it was receiving additional drenching from the run off from the dustbin lids. 

            But because I had come home for the frelling cable, the box had not yet soaked through.  I guess I have to count this as a win. . . .‡‡ 

* * *

*Which is further yanking me around at this moment.  I’m listening to Ruddigore on Radio Three via their ‘listen again’ programme—or let’s say I’m trying to listen to it—and it’s just dropped off the frelling airwaves again.  ‘Low bandwidth’ the pop-up box says, primly.  The story of my frelling life, lately.  Low.  Bandwidth.^  Arrrrrrrgh.  When the frelling government does all these useless frelling studies of where they can shoehorn in more people—and the whole ‘build more houses!’ thing makes me nuts anyway, when we’ve got a colossal empty house problem already, at least in Hampshire—when they are passing over the whole infrastructure question because it doesn’t suit them to recognise that there is more to be considered than merely plot size for houses, do they even have internet access and broadband feasibility as an item on their list to be passed over?  Or is that a dumb question?  Don’t answer that.  

^ It’s presently not saying anything.  It’s not playing either. 

** And have therefore terrified most of you into silence, apparently.  I did tell you that you have nothing to fear:  you’ll only notice it as a lack of polar bears in the desert.  Or as I said in the afterword to OUTLAWS:  I wanted to make the story historically unembarrassing— I’m aiming to make SHADOWS scientifically unembarrassing—at least up to the point where I jump off the deep end clutching my solemn textbooks and laughing maniacally.  At the moment the magic, and the gruuaa, are winning.  Which is fine.  As long as it’s a fair fight. 

*** My ignorance knows very few bounds. 


 †† Except not every time.  That very first book—DON’T KNOW MUCH ABOUT [American] HISTORY—the first two of its four parts downloaded fine.  Nothing like setting the frelling hook before you start fishing in earnest. 

††† Angelic.  Mad. 

‡ And in case you’re wondering why I’ve never given you a final absolute total, that’s because I don’t know what the final absolute total is.  It’s not so much the postage and envelopes and pads of A6 paper and things, I’ve got books that were donated by the publishers and books that I paid for—at author’s rate, mind, but still, paid for, and since there are more than two or three of these I need to reimburse myself, which I hadn’t originally expected to be an issue—and I’m going to have to take the whole show to the Tax Man and find out how to present it, and what goes in column A and what goes in column B, because I’m going to have to pay tax on it and then wait till the lovely IRS grudgingly disburses at least some of it back again.  This has been a steep learning curve and no mistake.  I have every intention of doing a little tiny charity auction again some day, because it’s a perfectly good idea and when you’re not thinking ‘eeep’ it’s also fun, but there’s an emphasis on little tiny.  And Blogmom hasn’t forgotten the doodle window, it’s just that all the stuff she didn’t do while she was running the unexpectedly-successful Days in the Life sale/auction, has kind of fallen on her and she’s still catching up. 

            However, it is safe to say that I will be, thanks to your enthusiasm, writing a Very Attractive Cheque for the bell fund.

‡‡ The continuing saga:  when I went to copy and paste into the blog admin window . . . it took six and a half minutes for the thing to open, an additional minute while it thought about accepting the copy and paste I had just (as I thought) inserted . . . and when the words finally appeared on the blank white screen all the formatting had disappeared.  No punctuation.  No paragraphs.  Isn’t life with modern technology fun?

Hee hee hee hee hee


Niall and I stopped at our—this entire section of Hampshire’s—favourite pub on the way home from Glaciation.  We do occasionally stop at a pub after ringing, usually when we’re deep into a conversation about—for example—exactly where the ordinary plain-bob bobs dump you back into the pattern when you’re ringing (say) St Clements College Bob or Double Oxford Bob or Little Bob as opposed to Plain Bob.  All very well that you negotiate the interstices of the call itself* if you don’t know where to go once you’re out the other end.  If you’re leaping from one escalator to the next, I don’t care how beautiful your leap was, you’d better know in advance which way the one you’re now on is going.**  Now imagine an escalator that behaves like the road in Grand Prix Legends 4,928:  The Terminator, and you have to have memorised the twists and turns before you begin.***

            So we were just settling down to our (half) pints and I had got Pooka out to check method details† when I realised that Niall was nearly bursting with his Hidden Agenda.  We weren’t sitting around having a companionable half pint and a bell chat.  Niall wanted to make sure Algernon hadn’t put me off ringing handbells.  It’s true we’d rung handbells the very next day with Colin and Gemma—and that I’d had my 5-6 epiphany—but I could have still been in shock at that point.  And then I hadn’t seen Niall Friday or Sunday in the tower due to blood on the kitchen floor.  I could have been having all kinds of deleterious thoughts without constant haras—I mean nag—I mean input from Niall.  Well, I might.  But as I tell him at regular intervals, clenched teeth optional, I’ve got waay too many hours in this handbell madness to give it up now.  I was tempted—briefly—to string him along a little tonight but . . . oh well.  I didn’t. 

           Niall had seen Thormond again on Sunday when they rang (handbells) with Titus and Thormond, apparently, was a little anxious about my mental health also††.  He told Niall that he had even warned Algernon that I hadn’t ever rung touches of bob major before, and that that’s what I wanted to practise—and to be gentle.  All I can say is if that was Algernon’s idea of gentle I don’t want to see him in a peevish mood.

 * * *

Voice lesson today was less awful than anticipated.†††  I’d been getting along pretty well last week and then . . . Darkness happened.‡  Saturday I had no voice at all and Sunday I had a range of about three and a half notes.‡‡  Frelling frell this ‘your instrument is your body’ thing.  This morning though my wandering and capricious voice was more or less back ‡‡‡ which was absurd in another direction because it was as if I didn’t know what to do with it—like someone handing me a (squealing) greased piglet.  Whoa!  Wait!  What is this thing!  And of course what I’d been practising had crashed big time but hey.  I went in today not expecting anything, just wanting to sing

            And it wasn’t too bad.  This is largely due to the fact that Nadia is brilliant with the consequences of emotional adversity and just takes you as you are, all three notes or three octaves as may be.  Every singer I’ve ever known says that you sing with the voice you’ve got, that day or that hour, and while of course the boundaries change about what you have to be able to winkle out of yourself if you’re a professional, the basic fact remains. 

            At the end of torturing the Italian of and hacking out a facsimile of the tune of Non lo diro col labbro (again), Nadia said, you’ve done a lot and learned a lot with that song.  Go home and sing it for fun for a few weeks, and meanwhile . . . here, have a new song.


* * *

 * If I understand it correctly, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if I don’t, the entire family of plain bob methods use the same calls^—the same means by which to mix the bells up further—which involves the conductor shouting Bob! or Single! at the moment the treble is leading, in a given series of courses.  

^ The really attractive thing about the plain bob methods is that the calls only involve the front few bells.  This means that by the time you get to royal, say—ten bells—the majority of you don’t have to do anything when the conductor shouts.  If you’re lucky you can just go on ringing plain courses, with the other poor frellers around you shimmying back and forth.

            This is also a teaching method, of course.  When you ring your first touches of plain bob anything, the conductor will call when you’re at the back and unaffected, so you can get used gradually to the other bells shifting their path through the course before you have to do it too. 

** I said some time recently—the memorable Sunday service ring when the very first call of the very first method involved me having to ring the diabolical Grandsire Long Third Single, which, I said, was second only in horror to the Dreaded Three-four Down Plain Bob Single.^ CathyR on the forum begged to differ, saying that Grandsire Long Thirds are four blows^^ in the same place before you are allowed to escape, and the Dreaded Three-four Down Single is only two. 

            I don’t care.  It’s a whole lot easier to turn around and go down again than it is to turn around and go up.  When you’re going up—‘out to the back’—you’re having to pull harder on the rope to get the bell ‘higher’—not in its frame, obviously, but relative to the pattern you’re ringing.  I know the good ringers are always going on (and on) about letting the bell do the work, but even a good ringer may admit after a second pint at the pub that ‘turning’ a big bell—ringing it in the pattern, not ringing last every row, as tenor-behind—requires some physical effort.^^^  And they’re good ringers.  I am not a good ringer, and the more anxious I am the more I over-ring—which is to say pull on the rope too hard so I’m having to catch and yank like a madwoman every stroke to keep the poor thing under some kind of control and where I should be in the frelling pattern.  There’s nothing like the sound of ‘SINGLE’ as I’m approaching my three-four down dodge in plain bob to make me panic. 

            Inertia is your friend as you trundle down to the front.  It is not your friend as you toil up to the back.  Also the four blows in long Grandsire thirds give you a couple of seconds to wrench your brain onto its new track:  okay, I’m going back down to the front again.  I can do that.  Two blows in thirds is not enough time to get your pitons back on to reclimb that frelling cliff.

            Okay.  Sorry, all you glazed-over non-ringers.  Stopping now.  

^ and at 8:50 in the morning on an emotional par to waking up and seeing Freddy Krueger bending over you.  

^^ It has always kind of fascinated me that pulling on the rope to make the bell go ‘dong’ is called a blow.  Who’s whacking who here?  

^^^ There are also fabulous ringers who can ring gigantic bells in spite of looking like they would blow over in a strong breeze.  Wild Robert is one of these.  I’ve seen a few others, including one tiny little old lady who made me look like Arnold Schwarzenegger, speaking of the Terminator.  That level of skill is just . . . gah.  

*** Method bell ringing.  Whose idea of fun was this? 

† The post-Saturday-morning blood-on-the-kitchen-floor adrenaline-spike backlash is still making me stupid two days later, and I managed to forget to bring my method books to practise tonight.  So when Colin called for St Clements I got Pooka out:  Mobel, the iPhone ringing ap, has forty-six million methods on it, way more than any book I own.    I thought a few of our senior members—all of them, let me add, better tower ringers than I am—were going to kill themselves laughing.  A bell-ringing programme on a smartphone!  I considered challenging them to handbell bob major at dawn but I decided this would be counterproductive.  We’re already short of good ringers in this area as it is. 

†† Hey.  I ring handbells. 

††† Expect the worst?  Me? 

‡ Darkness who is crashed out happily in a tangle of tails and limbs with Chaos in the dog bed.  He seems to be good as new—although I’ve got a week’s worth of pills for him, so the vet is obviously taking it seriously.  I could use some good-as-new pills for me.  Probably not the same ones however. 

‡‡ Leonard Cohen time. 

‡‡‡ Possibly as a result of Darkness’ first normal looking evacuation since It All Happened.  You wanted to know this, right? 

§ Although I’d brought hellhounds along, and backed up Nadia’s drive so I could see the car from her window.  I wasn’t expecting trouble but I was still sufficiently freaked out I wasn’t happy about leaving them alone at home in the kitchen that long.  After the initial horror of, You mean we can’t come with you?, you mean you’re leaving us in the car?, no little faces in the back window means all is well.




Both Darkness and I are feeling a trifle thin on the ground.  Darkness is monumentally better, I hasten to add, but he’s clearly not right yet and from the severity of this, er, outburst, I know it’s going to take a little while to calm down completely.  But I’m not sure what I should be expecting and I worry easily.*  I did not make it to service ring this morning and have pretty much felt like a flag at half mast all day.  This is exactly the sort of thing that makes the ME come back full bore—sudden crisis followed by clean-up and worry.  In theory I have a voice lesson tomorrow.  And tower practise at Glaciation.  Not to mention a novel to write in five months.  

Mrs Redboots wrote:  No, don’t tell us anything about the not-Pegasus novel you’re doing just now! Tease us by referring to it as NOT-PEGASUS and tell us absolutely nothing else until it is set in stone and the editors have given you the proof. We will all plead and beg – myself included – but it would be such fun not knowing what, or who, to expect!

 This really made me laugh.  I think the readers who want to know something about MYSTERY NOVEL outnumber those of you who don’t—and I had been planning on telling you enough to be annoying.  I’ve pretty much had this conversation with both Merrilee and my editor—how much is enough** for various audiences—blog readers as opposed to marketing departments, for example.  Because nobody knows anything at all about this book yet (except me) I had to write some copy for my editor’s presentation at her big autumn sales meeting.***  Aaaaaugh.  Writing any kind of advertising copy is a unique and exacting skill, and being able to write novels and semi-truthful blog entries is no indication of success in this demanding area.  And the short and snappy is not my forte.  You also do find yourself thinking, what is there new and original to say about pegasi-dragons-vampires-fairies-goddesses-magic in a paragraph or two?  Merrilee and I sweated over this for a while and I believe the ultimate outcome was something along the lines of:   New Robin McKinley fantasy novel!!!  No, not PEG II!  That’s later!  To be followed by PEG III even later yet!  New!

            . . . Tick the box and move on to the next item.†

            So here are a few random facts about MYSTERY NOVEL:

(a)    It is not a mystery novel.† 

(b)    It’s modern-alternate-this-world.  Contemporary fantasy.

(c)    There are no vampires.  Just to get that out of the way. ††

(d)   There is origami.  This is why I was trying to drag what little I used to know of it, dusty and creaking, out of the back cupboard.  Which is fine.

(e)    There may be trying to be some . . . maths.†††  I am resisting this.  This is also why I pulled ALEX IN NUMBERLAND off the shelf where it’s been sitting for over a year, and when I discovered www.audible.co.uk  had it, bought,‡ downloaded and listened to it. ‡‡   I haven’t decided yet if this was a good idea or a bad one.  It doesn’t seem to have had any influence on the story, but then my futile attempts at research rarely do.  These attempts do, however, occasionally allow me to keep up.

(f)     I’m going to get this random fact over quickly:  If all goes as planned‡‡‡ this will come out the year I’m sixty.  It will also be my first official YA novel, with a heroine in her senior year in high school.  Feh.

(g)    Its working title is SHADOWS.  And I’d rather call it SHADOWS than NOT PEGASUS or MYSTERY NOVEL, if you don’t mind.  Well, even if you do mind.  Author’s prerogative.  I have to write the thing.

Audrey Falconer:  Mind you, I do also want that one that featured bells….


If I’d had any sense, I’d’ve got that one out and had a run at it;  there’s a lot of it already on paper.§  Although SHADOWS isn’t totally a bolt from the blue, just almost.  The initial idea drifted past about eighteen months ago, and I wrote a few pages of it to check the, um, storyness of it, but I had PEGASUS to be getting on with,§§ and put it (nameless at the time) in a folder and forgot about it.  But it’s SHADOWS that came boiling out of the . . . shadows . . . when I knew I had to put PEG II aside, and said meeeeeeeeeeee.  

                But THE BELLS OF MAZAHAN is still on the list.  It’s just ‘list’ in my language is probably not what it is in anyone else’s language. §§§  Like ‘sanity’ or ‘organisation’.   

* * *

*Yes, I’m going to ring the vet tomorrow and ask.      

** . . . to be annoying 

*** And I’m certainly not going to tell you that much. 

† Eeep, I said.  It’ll be fine, Merrilee said.  Eeep, I said.  But I’ve been reminded that she was right the last time. . . .

jmeadows:  See? Merrilee told you it [the announcement] wouldn’t be bad AND IT WASN’T. You should listen to your agent more. *g* (*may have just experienced something like this and should take her own advice*) 

††When I was younger, and also thought I would write ‘straight’ fiction some day, I also wanted to write at least one mystery.  Even then I knew I wasn’t going to be good at the plotting and the deviousness but I thought I might manage one. 

            You never know.  I wasn’t going to write a trilogy either.^  As several of you have pointed out, however, PEG is not really a trilogy, it’s a Novel in Three Volumes.^^  Like Tolkien’s LOTR, as one or two people further helpfully suggested.^^^  I appreciate your faith in me, but this is not a reassuring thought. 


PEGASUS is a trilogy.

Oddly – and I mean oddly as I have no idea why – I’m not surprised. It just feels like one of those things that, when you find out about them, had to be. 

Sigh.  Yes.  I should have known. . . . 

^ anef:  OMG you’re having triplets! Many congratulations! 

Snork.  Thank you. 

^^ Diane in MN:  Oh, Robin—not a trilogy, a three-volume novel, right? 

Right.   Think of all those Charles Dickens novels that were published serially in volumes.  

^^^ Whom I will not quote here, for fear of bursting into tears.  I can deal with Charles Dickens’ three-decker novels.  I can’t deal with even remote and superficial similarities to the author who probably made me a fantasy writer, even if a significant part of how he made me a fantasy writer is by inspiring a burning ambition to have some girls involved in the story. 

†† Although I think it is in SUNSHINE’s . . . continuum, as you might say.  It’s not the same world, but I think it’s the same universe.  I’m pretty sure all my ‘high’ fantasies join up somewhere;  it wouldn’t surprise me if all my alt-moderns do too. 

††† No, no, no, you maths phobics.  Stop screaming.  It’s not like that.  It’s like . . . if there’s going to be a desert, there’d better not be a pine forest and polar bears.  This is the writer’s problem.  You the reader are only going to see the desert.  Relax. 

Again.  As a study aid, this two-media thing is a very good deal.  From a financial standpoint . . . not so much. 

‡‡ Not without difficulty. 

‡‡‡ Erm.  Better to say hoped for. 

§ And on a floppy disc somewhere.  Although you probably need an Antique Tech Translating Device to extract it any more.  The floppy is not hugely crucial since when I go back to it I’ll start on page one of the hard copy and write a fresh draft. 

§§ Hollow laughter. 

§§§ “When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.”
“The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”
“The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master – – that’s all.” 


Very Not A Good Day, with Veterinarians


Darkness didn’t get better yesterday.  He got worse.  He couldn’t possibly have anything left to put through . . . but he went on trying, with distressing results.  I finally went to bed at about . . . six, believing or at any rate hoping that he had finally settled down and was over the worst.  Darkness has these episodes oftener than Chaos first because his gut is more sensitive—or more damaged, take your pick—and also because he’s a more determined scavenger.  I’m pretty sure he found something in the dark Thursday night, and I wasn’t fast enough seeing, to tell him to drop it.  Hellhound honour:  they both will drop if I tell them to, but I have to see what they’re doing in time, before they bolt it. 

           But these unwelcome melodramas usually only last a day.  They usually begin with a Morning Cataract and have subsided by evening.  Even though this one was clearly more severe than usual I assumed we were working to more or less the same pattern.  I also went to bed believing that if Darkness was still in trouble he would call me to let him out.  This is one of the reasons I have gone on crating them:  to ensure that if someone is in trouble he will howl.

            Wrong on both counts.  I got downstairs at about noon to a Terrible Smell . . . and when I let them out of the extremely nasty crate Darkness squirted all over the floor.  Twice.  There was bright red blood involved.  Quite a lot of it.*  I opened the kitchen door to the hellhound courtyard while I dove for the phone and yelped at the vets’ receptionist**—IhaveadogcrappingbrightredbloodalloverthefloormayIbringhimin?  I did remember to get dressed. . . .

            The good news:  it probably is ‘only’ colitis, which is to say inflammation of the lower intestine, duuuuh.  To give my vet credit he expects you to know that ‘colitis’ is just a fancy Greek word for inflamed bowel, and that it doesn’t tell you anything you don’t already know.  But Darkness actually still looks fine, if you don’t know him well enough to see otherwise***:  his eyes are still bright and his coat is still shiny.  And there’s no bloating, and his gut area is no sorer than you’d expect.  So we came home again, somewhat reassured, and with drugs.† 

            I had been planning on putting up a guest post tonight, but then I had also planned on using blog-writing time to do some auction doodles.  But I’m exhausted.  I’ve been in a post-adrenaline haze all day, to the extent that I was fairly ill with it myself for a few hours, the way it can go, when the world is an alien unknowable place, reality is a theory, and my head hurts.  I needed something grounding†† and so very reasonably I turned to . . . knitting patterns.  Deramores http://www.deramores.com/ on whose mailing list I am sorry to say I am on, is having a 10% off all books sale and, well, um, I haven’t actually bought anything yet but there does seem to be stuff in my virtual shopping basket.†††

            I’ve rung Niall to say that I may not make it to service ring tomorrow, but I’m planning that that should be because I sleep about twelve hours tonight‡, not because there are any more dramas. ‡‡  Can I go to bed yet?  

* * *

* Although bright red blood is extremely eye catching.  Even in my state of frantic alarm I recognised the quantities as ‘inflammation’ not ‘haemorrhage’.  

** I’d forgotten they were open on Saturdays.  I had assumed that one of the reasons this was happening was because it was a weekend.  Although Rowan, my first whippet, was the queen of out-of-hours disasters.  She was accident-prone, but only late at night and on weekends.  Yes, I’m sure this was deliberate.  She was that kind of dog. 

*** Or it’s not your kitchen floor. 

† It makes me sad that I’m not a good enough homeopath to cope with a bad bout of the Hellhound Disease.  Ars Alb, the standard food-poisoning remedy, usually immediately cheers a streaming hellhound up—which is an indication that it’s working—even if the streaming goes on a bit longer, and I assume is why these events usually don’t last more than eight to twelve hours.  There are a few other standard remedies I will try—Pulsatilla for changeable Chaos, Lycopodium for Darkness’ noisy colic for example—but yesterday nothing touched it.  One of the reasons I was up till six was that I had most of my homeopathic books off the shelves and on the floor, looking for what I’d missed.  The answer was in there somewhere.  I just couldn’t find it. 

            I’d been meaning to tell you my latest Magical Arnica^ story.  I was wrestling with my frelling dustbin in the dark.  They’ve changed our garbage-collection day and I’d forgotten, although the truth is I frequently wrestle with my dustbin(s) in the dark because I forget even when they haven’t changed collection day recently.  I managed to jam my left thumb between the bin and the opening gate—and there isn’t quite enough room for the dustbin to get through the gate even when there isn’t a thumb in the way, and you have to force it through.  I was already in mid-force when my thumb misaligned itself.  *&^%$£”!!!!! that hurt.  I did not drop everything and rush indoors for my Arnica bottle because I was rather involved with the standard developing situation of dustbin falling down stairs.^^  By the time I did come indoors again my thumb would no longer bend and was going THROB THROB THROB in an extremely unpleasant way.  It was a shock when I saw it too:  it had swollen about half again its normal size and the site of the jam had turned black, while the rest of the thumb was purple.  Yeeep.  Arnica.  I was thinking, this is going to take a while, should I take another pill every five minutes or every fifteen minutes (frequency allowable in an acute)?  By the end of the first five minutes my thumb still looked appalling, but the worst of the pain was blunted, so I didn’t take another pill.  By the end of fifteen minutes the black had reduced to a pinprick and the joint would bend again, although there was still a fair amount of purple.  At this point I took hellhounds for their hurtle, being perhaps a little cautious with my left thumb.  Today—less than two days later—the purple is gone, and the black pinprick has turned red.  It’s a little tender to the touch.  That’s all. 

            But I couldn’t fix my hellhound. 

^ Which is also to be thought of when you have vomiting and diarrhoea together.  

^^ I hate dustbin collection day.  It is nonetheless to be preferred to no dustbin collection day. 

†† Something furthermore that can be done while keeping one eye on the hellhound bed at all times. 

††† We also spent about two hours on the sofa during which I read, with increasing bewilderment, one of these frelling dystopian novels that everyone but me loves.  It’s very well written and I started off thinking, hey!  This is a good one!  . . . but it’s all these horrible dysfunctional people doing horrible dysfunctional things, and going on and on doing them—get out, you morons!  Why are you putting up with this nonsense?—and I have the heart-sinking feeling that this is the beginning of a series and will therefore end somewhere calculated to make you buy the next one.^  However the hellhounds liked it.  

^ Not that I would ever stoop to doing such a thing.  Especially not twice in a row.  

‡ Chance would be a fine thing. 

‡‡ I consider it a good sign that Darkness was outraged by being given a shallow bowl of chicken broth for supper.

Maths. Boo.


I have a double-ended geysering hellhound.  Sigh.  I missed both cup of tea with optional singing with Oisin this afternoon and home tower bell practise tonight, feeling that I will remain much more serene, given the circumstances, if the hellhound in question is immediately under my eye at all times.*  I’m Olympic-standard fast with the newspaper for the front end and I still had to do an unplanned floor-mat wash this morning**, and a hellhound that requests to go out in the given state of duress tends to mean NOW and while Peter could probably get the door open fast enough, the ensuing pick-up is not inspiriting*** and I don’t entirely trust either hellhound not to set off immediately in quest of the absent hellgoddess, since you don’t hang around putting harnesses on before you let the trembling hellhound out. 

            So after a slower-than-usual afternoon hurtle we retired to the sofa.†  I had liked Alex Bellos’ ALEX’S ADVENTURES IN NUMBERLAND so much that I decided to look for some other maths-popularisation book, preferably one that would cover a few of the basics.††  One thing that did make me a little testy about NUMBERLAND is that while it genuinely is popular maths for ordinary readers, he still occasionally forgets what ordinary means to a lot of people, even people who might conceivably pick up a book about maths if it gets a good enough review†††.  So I made the mistake of buying 1089 AND ALL THAT by David Acheson.  Mathematicians.  Spare me.  I should have paid more attention to who was giving it all those glowing reviews:  ‘An instant classic . . . an inspiring little masterpiece’ Mathematical Association of America.   ‘Highly accessible and entertaining’ The Mathematical Association.   ‘Great fun’ Mathematics Today. Boldface mine.  Please.  These bozos wouldn’t know ‘accessible’ and ‘fun’ if it bit them on the ends of their pocket calculators.‡  Do literary nerds misunderstand average pizza-eating TV-watching ordinary people this badly?   Have I ever convinced someone whose major reading to date has been the ads on the walls of the subway/tube/metro/underground and the sports pages that they should start right in on MOBY DICK or BLEAK HOUSE?  Anyway.  1089 begins with the trick about twiddling two three-figure numbers around in a set pattern that means the final answer is always 1089.  Fine.  I’m with him so far.  But that’s as far as I am with him.‡‡  I felt distinctly ill at ease with Konigsberg’s seven bridges—there was no ‘of course’ about the solution to me—but I crashed off the rails for good with Euclid’s proof that prime numbers are infinite‡‡‡.  That was on page twenty-five.  The next paragraph begins:  ‘But some problems in number theory are more tricky.’  HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.  As one of the celebratory reviews says ‘David Acheson works his way up to chaos and catastrophe theory.’  Well, yes, I’d say so.  But probably not quite in the way the reviewer meant.  And . . . he does it in 169 small, heavily illustrated pages.  Can you say MASSIVE ASSUMPTIONS UNAVOIDABLY MADE HERE?§

            Maybe the hellhound has streamed enough to allow me to lie in a hot bath and reread some Georgette Heyer for a while. 

* * *

* I’ve taken hellhounds with me to my voice lesson twice, I think, in similar situations, but neither Oisin’s house nor any bell tower I’ve ever met has a good driveway/window ratio for observation.^ 

^ And may I add that during the writing of this blog post the theory that the geysering hellhound needs to be kept under close and constant scrutiny has been borne out.  Plentifully.  Twice.   

** I know I’ve blithered about these people before:   http://www.turtlemat.co.uk/

The mats are not, in fact, supernatural, and you still have to both sweep your floor and put the mats through the washing machine occasionally.  They are nonetheless a great aid in the war against entropy and critter effluvia.  And they’re pretty. 



They’re also pretty expensive, but I’m not going to buy any more till MYSTERY NOVEL^ goes in.  At the end of January. 

^ Mwa hahahahaha 

*** AAAAAUGH.  It is very difficult to be a good citizen when the physical properties of viscous liquids are against you. 

† I am counting on hellhounds not being bright enough to figure out that geysering = hellgoddess staying home = more time on sofa.  

†† What the eff is effing algebra, for example.  Sure, I can recognise a wodge of squiggles containing letters and numbers and bizarre specialist symbols not found on any sane keyboard and  (probably) an equal sign in there somewhere as (probably) algebra or semi-algebra or once-having-had-something-to-do-with-algebra-before-it-became-the-answer-to-the-known-universe^, but what makes it algebra?  Wikipedia’s answer just makes me cry:

Algebra is the branch of mathematics concerning the study of the rules of operations and relations, and the constructions and concepts arising from them, including terms, polynomials, equations and algebraic structures. Together with geometry, analysis, topology, combinatorics, and number theory, algebra is one of the main branches of pure mathematics

^ Wait, that was 42, wasn’t it?  No algebra.    

††† This one:  http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2010/apr/17/alex-bellos-adventures-numberland-maths I posted it when told you about finally getting the little sod-all downloaded onto Pooka.  

‡ I meant to say—I meant to fish this bit of the conversation out of the forum—I too had a slide rule.  Slide rules were cool.  As I recall it mostly took me more time lining up the tiny rows, hoarsely whispering prayers and genuflecting than it would have just to do the calculations on a piece of paper but there were one or two things I couldn’t do on paper.  Square roots, maybe?  It’s not an era of my life I remember at all clearly.  But I did like my slide rule.  I think it’s sort of sad that slide rules have been so comprehensively eliminated.  If people are still driving horse-drawn carts, why couldn’t a few nutters still be using slide rules?  I have similar feelings about abaci, but I think people do still use them.^ 

^ Alex Bellos talks about both slide rules and abaci.  Abacuses.  Whatever.    

‡‡ No, I liked the jigsaw puzzle proof of Pythagoras’ theorem (about the frelling right-angle triangle) too.  

‡‡‡ I feel I’m doing well to know what a prime number is. 

§ What does a wavy equal sign mean?  So far as I can find, he never tells you—and gods forbid there should be a glossary of terms^—wavies just start showing up in equations.  Although by that time I’d pretty much lost the will to live so I may have missed something.  

^ There is however a list of books for further reading.  Mm hmm.  No Georgette Heyer, for some reason. 


« Previous PageNext Page »