November 24, 2011



In the first place, I had scrambled eggs, Nina had soy sausage* and Peter had leftover lamb stew.**

            But the real mood of thanklessness and festive unjollity was established earlier in the evening.  Colin is threatening to give up handbells.

            He’s been ringing handbells about two and a half years.  He’d had minor surgery that was going to keep him out of bell towers for a while and the idea of no method ringing at all was making him twitchy.  And I think he’d had it in the back of his mind that he was going to give handbells a go some time. 

            He picked it up instantly, of course.  That’s the result of forty years and four hundred million peals and keeping everybody else straight in the tower.  We—Niall, Colin and I—were ringing touches of bob minor by the end of his first evening on handbells.  They were a little ragged, but they were nonetheless genuine touches of bob minor.  It took me years to get to the ragged touches of bob minor stage. 

            The thing is, he’s never gotten a lot better.  He’s got some better, and he can bodge through anything on handbells because he can ring anything in the tower***—but he has never morphed into the fabulous handbell ringer that I had confidently† predicted he would be at the end of his first six months.  He still trips and hesitates—even on bob minor.

            But Colin with a pair of handbells in his hands does mean that Niall and I can ring handbells on Thursday evenings in New Arcadia.  Gemma?  Gemma—who was not there again tonight—is not going to make a handbell ringer.  She’s a doctor, she has a life and a family, she has too much else going on.  She doesn’t have the time—or, I imagine, the brain energy—to learn handbells.  Handbells are a difficult skill.  If Colin goes, that’ll be the end of Thursday evening handbells at Rose Cottage. 

            And tonight—okay, after derailing an attempt at a Thanksgiving quarter peal—out of the blue Colin said that he’d decided he was going to give handbells a final, make or break, shot—he’s going to try to ring a full peal on handbells with a couple or three tower-bell friends of his who are also demon handbell ringers.  I am a sort of bottom-level soggy-porridge handbell ringer, and even Niall is only demon third class, although he’s getting there.  Colin seems to think that his stratospheric friends will either shock him into precision, or confirm his decision that he is not a handbell ringer.†† 

            If we fold, it won’t be a disaster for Niall:  he already rings handbells three other nights a week, and is perfectly happy to drive to Vientiane for a full peal of quadruply spliced Doohickey Splendour Royal, and then drive home again.  I don’t have time either to drive to Vientiane, even if I’m hitching a ride with Niall, and I sure as frell don’t have the time to learn Doohickey Splendour.  Niall will doubtless—because he can’t bear the idea of even a soggy-porridge††† handbell ringer going to waste—try to find other opportunities to foist me on . . . I mean, to find another band for me to ring with.  But it’s going to take alchemy and transmogrification.

            And I’m already (justifiably) pessimistic about the tower bell situation in this area.

            Maybe Colin’s handbell peal will be a dazzling, exhilarating success, and he’ll come back to his next Thursday night with us on fire to ring . . . uh, Doohickey Splendour.  In which case as an offering to the Gods of Handbells I will learn it.  And maybe he was having a gloomy night tonight and he’s not quite as near the end of his tether as he says.‡ 

            But I do know what he’s talking about, about his handbell ringing.  I’d MUCH rather he rang than stopped—there’s also the little matter of him being a nice guy and easy to have around—and he only winds me up when he’s trying.‡‡  An awful lot of the good handbell ringers are very intense and just being in the same room with them makes me green and queasy—or they’re like the Mean Man the other week who wants perfection or he’s going to drop-kick you into the next county.  I’d rather ring with Colin.  And knowing he’s a bit erratic helps keep me in line. 

            But I understand how a hot shot tower ringer might not want to hang around indefinitely doing ringing that he’s not really good at.  It would be like me writing Sudoku or travel guides to Papua New Guinea or economics textbooks—I’m not built for it and I would not be good at it.  And it wouldn’t take me two and a half years to bail.

            But . . .


* * *

* She’s a vegetarian.  But they smelled really good and I’ll have the rest of them on Saturday when she and Peter are playing bridge.  

** Peter and I talked about Thanksgiving.  But . . . neither of us really eats all that much any more, it happens right after my birthday^, Peter’s birthday is in three weeks and then it’s Christmas.  And yes, there’s a turkey for Christmas.^^  So we talked about Thanksgiving and . . . 

^ Which when I was younger and on better terms with more calories just made it value-added:  coming to the end of the birthday cake was made much less tragic by the immediate prospect of pumpkin, mince and apple pies.  

^^ I have retained a few of my American standards, and a turkey at some late-year holiday is necessary.  

*** This is, you can believe, a source of deepest and wildest frustration to me.  I can only ring on handbells what I have spent hours and hours and HOURS learning^—since the advent of the bell-ringing programme on Pooka, I can at least put in my hours and hours and HOURS privately, without ruining anybody else’s day(s).  It’s still hours and hours and HOURS

^ Methods on handbells are harder than on tower bells.  Don’t let anyone+ tell you different. 

+ Niall, for example. 

† And despairingly 

†† The point about a full peal, for those who ring them, which would not include me, is that there is, or should be, in a peal that goes well, a long stretch after everyone has settled down when the band fuses into a single many-roped monster and the ringing really flows along.  You do get this effect to a much lesser degree in a good quarter peal—which I have rung on occasion—but it is (I’m told) more dramatic in a full peal because a full peal goes on so much longer.  It’s this stage that Colin wants to find out if he can reach on handbells.  If he does, then our Thursday nights probably have a future.  If he doesn’t . . . 

††† I am at least a soggy-porridge first class handbell ringer.  But the sort of thing Niall rings the other three nights of his handbell week are the equivalent of the Grand National when Pony Club gymkhanas still scare you to death. 

‡ Although he didn’t give the impression of being gloomy.  There are . . . perhaps more than the usual number of All Stars just inside the front door at the cottage at present, and I was doing my coming-back-ten-seconds-before-the-others-arrive^ trick tonight and didn’t have a chance to shovel them out of the way.  I was pulling harnesses off hellhounds when I heard Colin’s voice behind me saying, Robin, how many feet do you have? 

^ Which is still much better than the five minutes after they arrive trick. 

‡‡ See previous footnote. 

‡‡‡ Colin doesn’t have a date yet for Peal of Destiny.  I’ll let you know.

Some Forum round up



The bottom pendant does in fact date from my childhood in Japan. The characters are supposed to say something like happiness† and long life but I always wonder if really they say something like Public Restroom This Way or I Am an Apple Dumpling.

I once saw a picture of a girl’s side, upon which she’d had several large Chinese characters tattooed–I believe she said they were some sort of blessing for happiness/nirvana/etc. Except then someone commented, “Um, actually, that says ‘I am a picnic table.'” 

Well . . . one does want to know the attitude of the person who did the translating toward the person with the tattoos. . . .

            Now this is also a true story, because I was there.  I was helping an older adult friend go back to college—she was attending summer school to get her MA.  We’d unloaded her into her dorm room and had gone to the cafeteria for food.  She was wearing a brown and white dress with big shiny gold characters all over it.  They were stylised but they were still clearly characters and therefore presumably readable.   Some years before my friend had spent several weeks in Hong Kong, where she had bought the fabric for this dress and had it made up for her.  (This is DECADES ago, when much of the Far East was a cheap option even for non-wealthy people.)  She was very fond of it and wore it a lot.  We were behind two Oriental women who were talking to each other in what I assume was some kind of Chinese (Japanese is the only Eastern language I ever recognise).   One of them glanced casually at us . . . and then did a double-take and started staring at my friend’s dress.  She nudged her friend, and her friend looked.  They gave the impression of two people trying to keep a grip for a few seconds and then went off into whoops of laugher.  Apparently the big gold characters were fertility symbols—and not particularly tactful ones at that.

            My friend was horrified.  She was a proper old-fashioned lady and the idea that she had unknowingly . . . !!!!! made her want the earth to open and swallow her up.  The thing that she kept getting stuck on was that not only had whoever it was sold her the fabric (and she wouldn’t have been going anywhere that hadn’t been extensively vetted by the local Western proper-lady mafia) but that the extremely proper tailor had accepted it and made it up without the faintest flicker of an eyelash. 


I must say, that is an excellent Secret Agent Pose photo with your coat. 

Sorry about that.  I was trying to get a black coat to stand out against a muddled and badly lit background.

            And apologies for BELATED thanks for all the forum Happy Birthdays.*  I’ve just been answering rather too many not-yet-answered cards and well-wishings and emails and things because . . . my sense of time is BENT, you know?  I totally believe in the space-time continuum and the way that everybody’s sense of time is individual.**  Some are more individual than others.  I also received an email today whose subject line was ‘belated happy birthday’.  Belated?  What?  Belated doesn’t even start till about January . . . which I wish I could belate a little more.  Fiona gave me the album from the concert I kept missing*** for my birthday . . . and one of the tracks on it is called Too Late for Shadows.  Nooooooooooo. . . . .†


. . .  it makes me feel somehow slightly better to know that other people forget things occasionally… My defense is that my mind is all filled up with how to do my profession, and there is no room left over for anything else. It’s probably not true but it sounds good. 

Snicker snicker snicker snicker.  My mind is definitely filled up with how to do my profession . . . but people tend to back away slowly when I say this, at least as soon as they find out what my profession is.††  


Also, I wanted to mention how much I’ve appreciated the recent running commentary on math and popular science books; I know I have a huge blind spot in math particularly, and I want to appreciate it better. Perhaps one of these pre-vetted books will help. 

I’m a little startled at how much I’m suddenly enjoying my recent clodhopping collisions with maths and science.  It’s like now over forty years after I graduated from high school the scars of the experience have finally faded.  I know that what appeals to me is the sense of another language, of another world—although speaking of clodhopping, the best bit about modern physics is that so much of it is about not having a clue†††—but this begs the question of why I’m suddenly engaging with this now when this was true over forty years ago too‡ and I’m afraid the chief answer is that I was mostly very very badly taught.  When you’re naturally reasonably good at something—as I was at reading and writing‡‡—you can probably figure out how to teach yourself.  I could, and can, not teach myself maths and science.

            Because I remember only too acutely being a maths and hard science phobic, I have to say that none of the books I’ve mentioned here are going to convert you unless you’re ready to be converted.  But I would say the friendliest are the Bryson SHORT HISTORY and the two Ian Stewart oddity-collections, CABINET OF MATHEMATICAL CURIOSITIES and HOARD OF MATHEMATICAL TREASURES.  The latter are (diabolically) real maths all right, but they’re light-hearted even when there’s serious purpose folded into them—and you don’t have to be able to do any of the problems, the answers are all at the back!  And they’re all SHORT!  You can read one before bed and it doesn’t hurt at all!‡‡‡ And how can you resist a book that begins with a retread of the old I-always-lie conundrum concerning the starship Indefensible and Captain Quirk and Mr Crock?

            The ‘easier’ Hawking, BRIEFER HISTORY, is, in fact, comprehensible, which was not an issue I had with the first one§, but it’s pretty dense.  Fascinating, occasionally infuriating§§, but I don’t recommend it for bathtub reading.  And Devlin’s THE LANGUAGE OF MATHEMATICS is very appealing for his enthusiasm for his subject, but I need to put my head in a bucket of ice water about once every fifteen minutes to keep my brain from overheating.  I’m still not good at ANY of this.


The problem is that Blah Blah Blah has a smaller frelling hard drive. I want more memory than god. That’s the plan.

Er…do you mean memory or do you mean storage? I’m assuming that you mean storage, if you’re talking about the hard drive. And what Ownedbycats says . . .  is what I also wondered if it would be worth your considering, ie having an external plug-in hard drive . . .  as well as a bigger internal one. OK, you would have to remember to take it with you and they’re usually about the size of a trade paperback, but it could be useful and a less-expensive way of increasing your filing space? Or maybe I’m just going over something Raphael has already equipped you with. 

I tend to depend blindly on what Raphael and Gabriel tell me, and they do not seem to me to want to sell me stuff I don’t need.  But I think I mean memory.  I have several fairly gigantic programmes on my computer(s)—the whacking gigantic-est of which is this monster professional homeopathic thingummy plus the several million book library that goes with it.  Plus Finale, the music composing software, which is a whole lot bigger than I need because it’s full of midi file stuff that I don’t want and won’t use but which I can’t bin, plus frelling Microsoft Office, of course—and the OED—and some more reference stuff that is probably by now available on line for a subscription, but given my broadband I’d rather have them on the computer.  And a few bell ringing programmes and . . .

            Raphael told me a while ago—I think when Finale went on—that the laptop was beginning to have moving-around-and-doing-things problems.  That’s when he stuffed in what more memory it would hold.  Which is now also full.  I’ve already got my photos on too many bits of external memory—I do still need a better answer for storage, presumably some kind of external hard drive.  This has been on the list for a while.  But it’s not going to happen now until I get SHADOWS turned in. . . . 

* * *

 * Most of which, strangely, were pink.  

** It has to be true.  I read it in Stephen Hawking.  Of course he was kind of talking about event horizons where your feet would have a different sense of time than your head, and you’d blow up anyway, but never mind. 

*** Whimper. 

† And a pair of PINK hand knit socks.  I don’t understand why you people are all so obsessed with pink. 

†† Or it may have something to do with the way my eyeballs turn red and my teeth grow long and pointy when they say oh?, and ask if I’ve ever written a real book. 

††† And how about that faster-than-light neutrino then. 

‡ Even if physics didn’t have different clues forty years ago 

‡‡ Although I could tell you stories about this too.  My eighth grade English teacher wanted to fail me to make my writing ‘freer’.  Um.  This would not have had this effect.^ 

^ Eighth grade was not a good year.  That was also the year of my first algebra teacher, whom I’ve already told you about, who said that I was the dumbest child she’d ever taught and I’d never get it. 

‡‡‡ They are also in nice lightweight trade-paper editions so you can read them in the bath. 

§ But I was also still in my phobic phase when it was published. 

§§ Humour does not seem to come easily to Mr Hawking, or Mr Mlodinaw in this company.

Another Fiona Day


And yes, ENORMOUS QUANTITIES of sale/auction stuff was parcelled up and hauled off to the post office by the gallant Fiona.  Or rather . . . toward the post office.  Fiona was here nearly eight hours–and so far as I can tell she never bothers with the frivolities lesser humans enjoy, like tea breaks and food–and was STILL stuffing things in envelopes and justifying my untidy heaps when I took her by the hair* and ordered her to go home.  So she’s actually bundled up the bundles and is going to take them–in batches, she says, so they don’t lock the door the next time they see her coming–to her post office.

             But I’m still not done.  I’m nothing like done.  Fiona comes again on the 9th** and then we’ll see where we are.   Meanwhile I’m so frelling tired I’m having trouble finding the keyboard.***  Okay, it’s a funny flat thing with bobbles . . . I know it’s around here somewhere. . . .

              And I was PLANNING on doing a doodle blog . . . and then discovered that I’d USED the last of my extra-special Blogmom Photo Templates and, you know, she might have been taking her evening off . . . fortunately she was still reading her emails and Took Pity.   But it’s a lot later than I meant it to be either. 

               So anyway.  Here are a few more recent highlights.

There are a lot of Mystery Doodle Requests.  Why does anyone want a velociraptor on PEGASUS?

Why does someone want a velociraptor on PEGASUS?

Dragon. My dragons, I find, vary, but they all have arrowhead tails.


Another Mystery Request: a hellcat cuddling a platypus. WHAT?

Rosebush. No, definitely not botanically correct.

Terrier. Well, the fabulous doodle-buying person didn't stipulate what KIND of terrier.

Nothing like leaving ENOUGH ROOM ON THE TITLE PAGE to autograph, let alone doodle.

Tsornin and Narknon. Sorry about the shadow (where I've blocked out the dedicatee's name, having forgotten to take the photo first.) I was getting pretty punchy by then.


So bag the title page. Keep turning. To find Greatheart.

 And you know what I’ve been DOING while all these photos load?  Starting a new knitting project.

* * *

* Having slacked off for several hours to work on SHADOWS.

** Steeleye Span concert.  Ahem.  –Fiona was playing Steeleye today and Cold Haily came on.  QUIET!  I said (I believe we were discussing bubblewrap for the illustrated ROSE DAUGHTERs^).  I have to LISTEN!  They make it sound so easy.

^ One of the insane people who has spent excessive amounts of money for her very own personalised copy of this huge glamorous art book illustrated by a genuine fine artist WANTED A DOODLE.  (*&^%$£”!!!!!!!!!   I also nearly had a heart attack from nerves.  What if I BOTCHED IT?  I would have to fall on my (sharpened) drawing pencil. 

*** Oh gods, I haven’t sung yet.  Speaking of keyboards.

Not Dove Sei


She made me sing Dove Sei.  I went in there saying, I’ve only just started on Dove Sei.  I’m not ready to sing it.  That’s fine, she said.  We’ll sing just a little of it.

            And here I thought she was a nice voice teacher.  I also went in there with that first exercise in the Vaccai book with the consonant clumps and said, I can’t read this at all, so I’ve been singing ‘aaaah eeee’ and she looked at me and said, that’s fascinating.  I’ve never heard that before.

            I have almost no voice and I’m a moron.

            And I go up to my full hour lesson next week.*


            I also said that I had wasted a disquieting*** amount of time trying to get the flipping lyrics to fit the flipping tune on Cold Haily and she grinned an evil teacher grin and said that’s folk music.  I hadn’t really thought about this in a coherent manner† but she was saying you have a poem or a story, and you slap it on an extant folk melody and—good luck.  So the good news is that I’m allowed to mess around and make it fit the way I sing it.††  Also, bless her, she reiterated that my voice lessons are for my personal pleasure††† and if I want to learn folk songs to have more to sing while I’m out hurtling that’s fine with her. 

            Meanwhile, back at the Handel. . . . I told her about the first two bars of Marilyn Horne and the rich furry mezzo student recital and she started getting that Teacher Gleam again and said, why were you looking it up on YouTube?  I blinked—because I’m used to YouTube as a crib—and said, chiefly for the rhythm.  I realised after I’d stumbled through a few bars of it on the piano that I didn’t know this one—since I know the title and Rodelinda‡ I’d assumed I did, and was embarrassed to discover that it’s just something I might hear on Radio 3 occasionally.  My ability to count beats is rudimentary at best and when I start sticking individual bars together into phrases it can get ugly.  So I check with YouTube.‡‡ 

            My alarm bells go off when you talk about rich furry mezzo voices, said Nadia, because you seem to like singing high, and have put yourself in the first sopranos at the Muddlehamptons.  If you listen to rich furry mezzos you are at risk of trying to sound like that yourself, which will make it much harder to free up the top end of your range.

            Gleep.  The things I have no idea about.  I do acknowledge the point about unconsciously having a specific performance of a song playing in the back of my mind . . . and I suppose as I may slowly be emerging from the totally hopeless to the may-yet-make-a-good-choir-member, which as of last week I have begun officially to hope for‡‡‡, I need to take this on more fully.  I will be arriving at a point where it’s not just struggling through the dratted melody and quadruply-dratted meter, but will involve performance . . . and furthermore my individual interpretation, which of course she’s already on about.§  But at the moment . . . the idea of trying to sound like anyone is a joke.  I’m still at the stage where just hitting the notes in more or less the right order at (more or less) the right speed is tightrope-walking-over-Niagara thrilling. 

            Meanwhile . . . I didn’t go bell ringing tonight so I could get on with SHADOWS.  I hope you’re impressed.  

* * *

* Well, maybe.  She’s going to a voice-teacher master class next Monday so she’s teaching from home on Wednesday for those of us so devoted to her art that we can’t bear to miss a week.  I’m hoping her husband won’t be there.  He’s a frelling serious frelling musician and I’m entirely terrified of him.^  But he’s also disturbingly free-lance and might conceivably be home looking after Stella.^^  I’ve had enough trouble adjusting to the presence of Nadia’s mum on Mondays—it’s Nadia’s mum’s house, and she takes care of Stella while Nadia teaches.  Nadia’s mum is also a professional musician . . . but (mostly) retired, and I didn’t know any of this when I began with Nadia, so it was a little late to have the nervous breakdown after I found out. 

            . . . However.  I nearly never got started with Nadia when I couldn’t find the address.  Long time readers may remember this story.  I drove to the end of their village not having seen the road sign, turned around at the pub, asked at the pub, and the man behind the counter there said dubiously, I know all the roads around here and I don’t know that one.  Great.  Wonderful.  Turns out the road DOES NOT HAVE a road sign.  Which Nadia had forgotten to mention.

            So now I have to try to find her house?  I wonder what she’s forgotten to tell me this time?  It’s in Rumbelow, so I know how to get that far—over the last hill behind Mauncester and straight on till morning—except that you have to plunge into the maze off the main road before you get to any of the landmarks I know.  You turn right at the aspidistra, left in front of the Horror at Red Hook, right again at the Sign of the Boiling Marmalade, and then look for a clear space among the trees, stop, fetch your sextant, and look for a star.  Any star.  

^ No, I’ve never met him.  Why would I need to meet him?  

** I’ve just had a bracing email from Hannah, who both reads the blog and receives supernumerary moaning when we talk on the phone.   She wanted to tell me about taking her daughter for her riding lessons this week.  Ruby takes both dressage and jumping lessons, one right after the other^, and she told Hannah afterward that the jumping had gone well but the dressage had gone badly.  But, says Hannah, from her perspective looking on, the dressage had been the ‘better’ lesson because Ruby had so clearly learnt something whereas she had pretty much smoothly done what she was supposed to during the jumping, and was riding much the same at the end of the lesson as she had been at the beginning.  So maybe my madly frustrating and head-banging singing lessons are really good.  Yes.  And too much of this goodness will drive me to commit hideous perversions like eating Twinkies and wearing beige saddle shoes. 

^ What it is to be young and stretchy  

*** Singing is disquieting!^  HAHAHAHAHA.  I’m so funny.  Sorry.  I didn’t mean to do it, but then I couldn’t not leave it in, could I? 

^ Especially mine. 

† Although I should have, since I was just complaining about the muddle of the long version of She’s like the swallow that some helpful forum member found a few weeks back when I was complaining about wanting to know the rest of the story.   Some of those verses were obviously imported—they don’t fit with either the meter or the melody of the version I’m singing. 

†† This is also good because I would so lose a competition with Maddy Prior. 

††† Even if occasional nightmares of beige saddle shoes do interrupt the flow. 

‡ Renee Fleming the 3 of December.  I’d better make it to this one.  Handel is also long . . . but not as long as Wagner. 

‡‡ I also said that it was mostly countertenors and I wanted a mezzo—that while I like good countertenors, and I’m a big fan of Andreas Scholl, for example—that the countertenors just didn’t connect with what I wanted when I was looking for a crib, and Nadia said, that’s probably because the physical mechanism for a man singing countertenor is nothing like how you are producing your voice.  I get along fine with tenors and—even better—baritones, I said.  She grinned the evil teacher grin again:  baritones are probably closer to how you sing. 

            Oh.  Golly.

‡‡‡ I had last week’s voice again this week.  Yaaay.  And Nadia remarked again on the fact that all that work we did when I was buried under the Persistent Throat Gloop has paid off.  Then she licked her finger and drew a line in the air.

            And then she reminded me that if I’m serious about this better-choir thing I need to start thinking about learning to sight-sing.   AAAAAAAAAAUGH.

§ And stuff like thinking of the phrases of Caro Mio Ben as sighs was very helpful as a way in to thinking of performing rather than surviving

Prospective Anguish


Voice lesson tomorrow.  How can it be TOMORROW again already?*   I’ve been putting my practise time in and I’m still nowhere as far along as I meant to be.**  I’ve been reminding myself again that you can’t have a breakthrough every week or you’ll be trying out for the Met[ropolitan Opera] by the end of the year.***  I can have a nice, supportive, ordinary voice lesson tomorrow and it will be fine.

            Except of course that I’m convinced that I’ll sound underprepared—as if I’ve been lying around admiring myself all week instead of practising.  It’s exactly the same arc of non-triomphe as all the rest, about having something to lose.  When you are first learning something—okay, when I am first learning something—I have nothing to lose.  Everything is a huge fascinating wonderful exciting adventure.†  And then . . . suddenly . . . you’ve learnt something . . . and now you have something to lose.  I remember vividly this happening the first time I tried to learn bell ringing—when I went from being a very mildly precocious learner-handler†† to being someone who was supposed to be able to ring call changes reliably enough to ring Sunday service.  I had something to lose.  I don’t think I seriously considered dropping out at that point††† but I was glumly aware that ringing had gone from being the best fun ever to a responsibility.‡  Feh.  Thanks to bell ringing however ‡‡ when the something-to-lose line was crossed in my voice lessons, first singing for Blondel, and now, more emphatically, because whether I like it or not I’m farther along with Nadia than I had the chance to get to with Blondel, it was like oh, frelling gods, you again, and wasn’t a huge crisis.  Only a moderate sized crisis.   I live to make life hard for myself.  And I’m good at it.  SIIIIIIGH. ‡‡‡

            One of the singing things I haven’t been getting on with this week is learning Dove Sei§ because I’ve got hung up on various other things instead—the new warm-up exercise with the consonant clumps, fitting the frelling words to the frelling tune of Se Tu M’Ami, and ditto Cold Haily Windy Night—which last is embarrassing since not only is Cold Haily my own whim, it’s in English and it’s a folk song.  How hard can it be?  HA.§§ 

            Dove Sei turns out to be one of these madly famous arias that I don’t happen to know.  So of course I turned to YouTube.§§§   There are a lot of countertenors but I wanted a mezzo if I could get her.  And there, lo and behold, was Marilyn Horne, one of my idols. 


* * *

* This, you realise, from a woman who regularly wishes she had more money than sense^ and could have another voice lesson midweek. 

^ Not that this would, in fact, take a great deal of money. 

** Rather similar to where I am on SHADOWS and doodles.  Sigh. 

*** Not with this voice.  I suppose I could try out for Singing Stagehand.  

† This is assuming you’re learning something you want to be learning.  Although the first week of a new year of school often had this effect on me.  This was the year I was really going to learn stuff.  As well as get all As.  Then reality struck.  

†† This means I was ringing both strokes together by the end of my first lesson.  Which for anyone who has tried to learn to ring may sound pretty good.  But in the first place the two of us learners^ were told to come half an hour before proper practise started, so we were the only ones ringing—most beginners have to put up with the scrum of the general practise—in the second place we had a very good teacher, and in the third place . . . I caught up with the being stupid part as soon as I tried to learn to ring inside.  

^ The other one, a bloke, dropped out after the first few weeks.   He wasn’t getting over being afraid of the bells.  It happens.  

††† That would come later, with the arrival of the ME.  

‡ I don’t know if most of the rest of the adult world negotiated the ‘growing up’ thing better than I did, but I still arbitrate the responsibility/fun boundary with much angst and second-guessing.  I’m not sure I ever quite regained the ‘fun’ of bell-ringing that first time, much as I loved it, but some of that was my stupid health getting stealthily worse while I tried to ignore the whole situation.^  But that was also the first time I’d tried to learn a wildly, spectacularly, visibly brand-new thing in a lot of years.  I’d started learning gardening when I moved over here and married a gardener but gardening happens a lot more slowly, you’re much less likely to be ruining five or seven other people’s day and the tower’s local reputation if you screw up, and generally speaking you can whip your failures out and fling them on the compost heap before anyone else (but your husband) notices.  I was ready for the something-to-lose phase when I started ringing again this second time at New Arcadia—and in fact almost didn’t notice, because I was so busy panicking about the approaching learning-to-ring-inside phase.

            I was thinking about this today, ringing Grandsire doubles and bob minor for service and lurching successfully through both the Evil Long Thirds Grandsire Single and the Dreaded Three Four Down Bob Minor Single^^ despite being half awake at best.  I’m a mediocre ringer but . . . I am a mediocre ringer.   I’m not a beginner or a drop-out or someone who only turns up when she has nothing better on.  I aspire to being the same kind of mediocre singer . . . which is where I came in. 

^ Speaking of responsibility.  But I’ve told you, haven’t I, that I started bell ringing the first time during the two-year period before the ME floored me, when I had Regularly Recurring Glandular Fever+ and had had to give up riding horses (again) because of stamina and reliability, neither of which I possessed.  Bells don’t need regular exercise.++  And if you can’t come some week because you’re horizontal, someone else will fill in.+++ 

+ Mononucleosis 

++ Actually, they do.  Which is why we keep grimly ringing at Old Eden. 

+++ Theoretically.  We need more ringers.  I’d like to start with a band for Old Eden.  And another one for Ditherington.  And a third for Madhatterington.   Sigh. 

^^ Which is just the luck of what bell you’re on and what touch your conductor is calling, but it still feels very unfair. 

‡‡ See all the above footnotes 

‡‡‡ One of the things I’m whacking myself around about presently is my having ADMITTED TO YOU that if I’m really unhappy with a doodle I’ll do it over.  This has roused my perfectionism to a shrieking hysterical froth.  I can’t redo every doodle I’m not 150% delighted with, because if I did I would still be redrawing the first one for the 1,000,000,000th time.  The ones in books are especially traumatic because they’re in BOOOOOOKS.  BOOKS are SERIOUS.  Also expensive, if I really have to do one over because I spilled tea on it or something.

            Have I mentioned that the doodle-icious books are VERY LABOUR INTENSIVE?  Yes.  Very.  This is the something-to-lose thing with great toxic Lovecraftian knobs on:  on the short list of practical definitions of pure fun, one of them is getting to DRAW in your own books.  How fabulous is that?  And I’m busy trying to ruin it for myself.  ARRRRGH.  

§ Handel.  Rodelinda. 

§§ I’ve also wasted a certain amount of time riffling through the rest of the book, which is on loan from Nadia, and I have to give it back.  But hey.  This counts, right?  It’s Familiarising Myself with the Repertoire.^ 

^ Like hell.  It’s reading THE THIRTEENTH CHILD in the bath instead of ALGEBRA I FOR DUMMIES. 

§§§ Where I’ve been bolstering Se Tu M’Ami with a lot of Cecilia Bartoli.  Funny the way she agrees with Nadia.  

# After I finished lying on the floor and sobbing, however, I found a student recital performance that I really liked:–xc   It’s not perfect—there are a few rogue moments with the tune—but she’s got a gorgeous voice and she’s so obviously into it.  I can’t aspire to the voice, but I can aspire to the into-it-ness.  And the idea that you can not be perfect.  Which assists in putting aside the desolation of not being Marilyn Horne.  Or Janet Baker.  Or Cecilia Bartoli.  Or . . .

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