December 26, 2011


Yes, I worked on SHADOWS today.*  Next question**.

The front door of the mews since last night after dark.

Wreath.  Tactful, Peter-placating***, reusable wreath.†

Tree. You will note Large Box to the right.

I admit I didn’t manage to hang every ornament we own on it, but it’s definitely decorated.  The important baubles are up.  The robins.  The horses.  The roses.  The bells.  Some time between yesterday and New Year’s I’ll probably finish getting the tinsel over the lampshades, picture frames, candlesticks, and piano.


Another view of Large.

Yes.  It’s Large.  Peter said, You wouldn’t buy me a microwave.  I said, No, I wouldn’t, and it doesn’t weigh enough, unless they’re now making plastic microwaves in which case I’m not going to buy you one twice.





Yes.  It’s true.  I bought Peter a Kindle.  Now all we have to do is figure out how to use it.  Georgiana and Saxon will be here tomorrow:  I’m proposing they do it.  Hey, I bought it.  My job is over.††  But the point is that you can dial up the typeface size, and even with his reading specs Peter finds tiny mass market paperback type size trying.


Oooh! Roses!

Peter bought me a book on roses.  How . . . surprising.  Okay, so I’ve been eyeing it on line for months.  But the gorgeous slipcover is a surprise—as is the fact it’s signed and numbered.



Yes, it's still a thrill when other people sign their books.


I had assumed it was just another drop-dead-glam coffee table book full of glossy pictures but it’s a lot more, well, beautiful than that, and a pleasure to handle as an object and never mind its subject matter.†††  It’s smaller and fatter than a coffee table book—like a book you would, ahem, read—and the edges are gilt!—and the pages are matte not shiny, and it’s paintings not photos.  You even have a sewn-in bookmark.

La France. Usual historical suspect for first Hybrid Tea. Blah blah blah.

I grew her at the old house.  She was a frail heroine, prone to fits of the vapours, and a terrible head-hanger.

The GUARDIAN is always full of helpful suggestions this time of year, and look at what I found only a few days ago on offer at :

Hee hee hee hee hee hee


I immediately turned to Peter and said, don’t you really want to buy me a Perspex bat necklace?  What? he said.

Oh and the large parcel/small coffin/medium-sized old-fashioned maiden aunt?

It's a bin.

No, really, this is a great present.  We have terrible bin luck at the mews.  This kitchen is where most of the heavy cooking happens, and you want a serious bin with a lid, and you want something that it doesn’t take both hands to open.  We’ve had a series of expensive foot-pedal-lid-opening bins which are the joy of our hearts for about six months and then they break.  But they’re so expensive you don’t just rush out and replace them.  Well, the last (broken) one is over a year old and . . . I saw this in a catalogue (yes, I have some strange tastes in catalogues) and it had all these rave customer reviews and . . . ask me in six months.

. . . And now I seem to be extremely full of turkey and champagne and Christmas pudding and brandy butter and . . . I forget . . . zzzzzzzz . . . .

Hope yours was merry.

* * *

* Not, perhaps, for very long.  But on four and a half hours of sleep I’m doing very well.  Bells were rung, hellhounds were hurtled, SHADOWS was gently drawn a little closer to being finished . . .  oh yes, and it’s Christmas.

For the first time in my life I have a Christmas cactus blooming on Christmas.  By garden centre error and mismanagement.  On one of those raids last autumn, when I went for a £2.99 replacement spool of green gardening twine and came home with so many plants I could hardly wedge them all in Wolfgang, I bought another Christmas cactus.  I need more Christmas cacti like I need . . . uh . . .  more rosebushes.  At least the roses live outdoors.  But this one was a particularly pretty pink with white edges.  It was just starting to come out.  So I bought it and brought it home.

And all its flower buds immediately fell off.  ARRRRRRGH.

Christmas cacti are generally extremely tough so I assumed that it would be fine next year but that this year was going to be a bust.  Nope.  About a month ago I noticed it was producing little pale tippy knobs . . . a fresh lot of flower buds.  Yaaaay.  I’m not even going to complain that it’s reverted to the standard pale pink of which I have lots.  I have lots because fallen-off or pruned-back branches root really easily.


Stop press! A Christmas cactus blooming on CHRISTMAS!


** And yes, I’ve been singing.  But I haven’t touched Dove Sei in three days.  I’m singing Christmas carols.

*** ‘I don’t need a wreath.’  

† With my eccentric bent for befriending inanimate objects, I find this is another advantage of things like fake, that is, reusable, wreaths and trees.  So every year it’s like, hey, how are you, how’s it going?, good to see you again.

†† I told the archangels when they were last here that I’d bought Peter a Kindle for Christmas and it was so sleek and shiny that if he didn’t like it I’d take it over.  Raphael and Gabriel exchanged a long look.  Robin, said Raphael after a minute, do you really want another piece of technology in your life?

No.  And besides, Astarte has Montezuma too.

††† Well, okay.  Do mind the subject matter.

Grinchly yours



The day did not get off to a good start* when I discovered that my desktop is frelled.  I was only halfway through my first cup of tea of the day, it’s Christmas Eve, I have a novel due in five weeks and there’s something wrong with my bottom line everything backs up HERE desktop computer. 

            Joy.  Possibly not to the world, but to my world.  This leaves me in the interesting position of relying for the duration of the holidays on one elderly, increasingly doddery laptop, one brand shiny new laptop with a hidden and still unknown canker gnawing at its vitals and a brander shinier new OS I can’t use and gives me a blood-pressure headache every time I turn it on**, and one knapsack computer too small too use except bunched up on a train or having a bohemian moment at a café.*** 

            Um.  Well, hellhounds and I had a very nice hurtle this morning.  I had frustrations to run off.

            And the rest of the day has been a blur of wrapping presents and getting the tree up.  Yes!  It’s up!  It’s even decorated (mostly)!  And Peter put the wreath on the front door (after dark†, but dark comes early these days)! ††

            And I even got a couple of hours in on SHADOWS.  Aren’t I fabulous.

            . . . . I’m also exhausted, and I have to ring bells in way too few hours. 


* * *

* We’re skipping over the standard ‘did not sleep and therefore overslept’ part. 

** While we were waiting for other people not to show up last night at the tower we were talking about Operating Systems We Have Known . . . and Penelope offered to drag me through enough of Win 7 to get me started.  Next week, when she’s on holiday.  Penelope is a wonderful human being.  And I’m the kind of low scoundrel who will take her up on it. 

*** I’ve happily done a good bit of writing (serially) on each of my (two) knapsack computers, back in the days when I was going up to London on the train regularly.  There’s something about being able to work on the road that blergs the exasperation of the too-small screen that doesn’t open quite wide enough and the too-small keyboard that engenders even more typos than usual.  Taking notes on it lying on a sofa with hellhounds at home is also excellent but using it for producing text under ordinary working conditions, which is to say my office or the kitchen table at the mews^, and it makes me nuts in about half an hour.  Context is everything.

            Speaking of computers and of context . . . I’ve been reading reviews of another of these WE UNPLUGGED AND LIVED memoirs which, as these things usually do, is tending to polarise its readers.  I probably won’t read it^^ so I’m not going to name it or crank on about it specifically.  But one review refers to the author’s astonishing discovery that life is still possible without their laptop.  This is the point at which I decide I’m not going to read the book.  What does this person do for a living?  If they’re a journalist, how are they pursuing their craft, pray?  How did they write their book? 

            As I have mentioned on this blog with what is probably distressing regularity, I bought my first computer because I could no longer get parts for my typewriter.  I don’t want to learn frelling Windows 7, I just have to—Microsoft, that despicable ratbag, demands it^^^.   I don’t watch television because I don’t have time, and I am attached at the hip to my iPhone because she’s the phone number that my 84-year-old-husband’s emergency service will ring if he falls downstairs.  And yes, my iPad is a pretty toy.#  Sue me.  I could live without Montezuma and Fingerzilla if I had to, but is playing them really different in type from reading a no-brainer murder mystery or LOTR for the 1,000,000,000,000th time because I’m too tired to do anything else but too wired to sleep?  People have always needed (ahem) downtime . . . and have always wasted good time and good brain on the latest fashion in glitz.  I’m very interested in what computers and the internet are doing to our brains and our society but it’s not simple.    

^ I tend to forget how silly this is.  It’s normal to me. 

^^ I finished CHAOS!  In spite of reading/listening to most of it two and sometimes three times . . . I couldn’t put it off any longer!  I am bereft!+ 

+ I will probably download ABSOLUTELY SMALL~ tonight.  Or possibly YOU ARE HERE.~~  Decisions, decisions.~~~ 



~~~ Also dependent on the download working.  Speaking of Life with Tech. 

^^^ I hope to live long enough to see someone bring this monumental creepazoid down.  

# On a somewhat related subject . . . the Mac thing.  I’m not going to shift from PCs at this point for a variety of reasons, starting with that if I’m snarling about having to wade involuntarily into Win 7 I certainly do not want to learn a whole new solar system with too many moons and a binary star, and ending with the fact that Blogmom doesn’t do Macs.  But . . . in fact I am yearn-free.  I love my Pooka and my Astarte.  But they’ve got important stuff wrong with them from the stupid-end-user viewpoint—stuff that makes me wonder if their programme designers were off their meds that day.  Ultimately my little pink darlings are still gizmos like other gizmos.  Mac?  Feh.  

† If we’re counting, I had lunch after dark.  

†† Peter is worrying about his Very Large Present.  I already have a garden shed! he says.  I don’t have space for whatever it is!  —Mwa hahahahahaha.  When I showed up with it tonight—and it did not want to fit into Wolfgang^—he looked at it dubiously and said, well, at least it’s a flatpack shed.  

^ It would have fit fine into the boot but the boot tends to be full of wellies and compost and Mysterious Sticky/Crumbly Objects.  And yes I could have put a clean hellhound blanket down or something but . . . I got it into the front seat.   Where it sat stiffly and disapprovingly upright like a combination of a small coffin and an old-fashioned maiden aunt, and hellhounds sulked because everything else was in the back seat with them.  GAAAH.  CHRISTMAS.  I fall farther out of the loop every year.  I’m not, as I also keep saying, Christian, but I do respond to the still, contemplative, something-larger-than-you-are aspect, and ‘Christmas’ makes me feel as if I’ve landed on a strange planet and the how-to manual I shipped out with is not only several hundred suspended-animation years out of date but was already wrong when it was new.  Wait.  Christmas is about what?  And we do what to celebrate?  Never mind.  Please pass the champagne.

Christmas Eve Eve


I’m not READY.  Hells, I’m not started.  I REALLY must get the Christmas decorations out of the attic at Third House . . . tomorrow.  Must.  Really.  Our nice little plastic tree has one rather serious disadvantage, which is that it’s a ratbag to put together* . . . and after Peter retires snarling** I will have to slam all the ornaments on at extreme speed.***  I ALSO HAVE TO WRAP ALL THE PRESENTS.  Well, all of Peter’s presents.  I withdraw further and further from the whole Christmas thing every year—the official clan and/or people I don’t know very well and/or owe favours to tend to get plants by post† and charity certificates of one sort or another.††  Peter still gets presents.†††  Which means WRAPPING.‡

            I have a novel to write.  In five weeks.‡‡

             . . . .I’m listening to Handel’s MESSIAH on Radio 3.  A while back, and I can’t remember which singing thread, there was a certain amount of giggling on the forum about how doing it yourself makes you more critical of other singers, and I meant to say, but I think I never did, that it also makes you more in awe of other singers.  How do they do that.  Wow.  Golly.  Swoon.  Adore.  Despair. †††  What I do find absolutely true however is that doing it myself, however feebly, engages me in other people’s performances to a degree that is sometimes frelling inconvenient.  It’s beginning to remind me of what a cow I can be about other people’s books—I don’t care if it won the Pulitzer, it’s not good enoughwhich is marginally more understandable in my professional field.  It’s just shameless when I start getting snippy-pernickety about singers.  But . . . this is a very nice MESSIAH, but where is the passion?  ‘He Was Despised’ shouldn’t be beautiful, it should make you cry.§  

* * *

* Peter does this.  But I’m not giving him much running-in time.  

** This is approximately the only time all year that I see Peter snarl. 

*** Fortunately there are rarely speed traps in Peter’s sitting room. 

† Which I’m extremely relieved to report seem mostly to have arrived with a loud simultaneous thump today.  This includes mine.^  One of which is clearly frost damaged and since there hasn’t been any local frost in several days^^ has to have happened en route somewhere.  SIIIIIGH.  The fact that any recipient of a little frill of festively decorated twigs that looks more like a voodoo fetish than a live plant will know that it’s not my fault is very little comfort.  

^ Since they have this system for the orderer to order something for herself by ticking ‘myself’ during check-out, you’d think they could follow this through so that ‘myself’ doesn’t receive a card that says, ‘look inside for a message from the person who gave you this gift!’ and in my case says ‘Happy Christmas, Mrs McKinley Dickinson!’ which begs the question slightly about ‘to’ and ‘from’.  ^^^ 

^^ Except the imaginary kind that gives the indoor jungle something to complain about the nights I don’t bring it in.  At the moment I can’t bring it in, the top of the hellhound crate is covered with not-yet-wrapped Christmas presents.  One them is kind of . . . large.  No frost tonight.  NO FROST TONIGHT.  ARE YOU LISTENING?  —It was tipping it down earlier, creating a bottleneck of wet, cranky, last-minute-shopping people midtown even of little New Arcadia.  Hellhounds and I sat in Wolfgang, listening to the rain drumming on the roof and feeling smug, having returned from our hurtle about forty-five seconds before the heavens opened.+  I am now paying for this complacency, as the frelling weather has cleared off and the temperature is dropping . . . and dropping . . . ++ 

+ I spent that forty-five seconds chatting to Phineas, who encouraged me to let the air out of the tyres of Mr Gormless, should I be so unfortunate as to have contact with his misdeeds again, and whom Phineas apostrophises as not the full shilling.  

++ Speaking of plants, Katinseattle wanted to know about this one from Gemma’s gift:  

^^^ There’s a Schrodinger’s cat opportunity here, although in this instance the cat is permitted to be alive in both its states. 

†† I give driblets and drablets all over the shop including the obvious big guns like Amnesty, Greenpeace, Medecins sans Frontieres, National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children—insert your forty-six favourite charities here.  But I do like to give slightly cheerful things at Christmas, although I realise this is the wrong attitude for celebrating the birthday of someone who was willing to be crucified in the hope it would do the rest of us some good. 

            Admirable intentions don’t always translate into reliable admin, and there are several Big Holy Green Guys I will no longer touch with a barge pole, but for anyone who’s interested, here are a few UK furry-critter organisations that I’ve been subscribing to successfully for years.

What they offer you varies from year to year, but I’ve put in an awful lot of hedgerows.

Lurchers and sighthoundy critters never seem to need sponsoring, or not for long.  At present I sponsor Hamish.  I admit I have just a flicker of doubt about these guys:  your sponsoree never dies, they’re always placed with a private owner and so don’t need sponsoring any more.  Really?

I’ve been doing this so long and they roll over so fast I can’t remember the name of the current half-grown critter.  But the cuteness factor is extreme.  Not only do you receive regular ‘pupdates’ of your own protégé but they send you stuff like the Guide Dog Puppy Calendar every year which is all little fat furry darlings and is a good thing to stare at while you’re waiting for your first cup of tea of the day to turn black. 

              And I’d belonged to the Bat Conservation Trust for years before I realised I had a problem.  I hadn’t noticed you can now adopt bats.  I, of course, don’t need to.^ 

^ Hee hee hee 

††† So do a variety of friends.  But rarely at Christmas.  Or at their birthdays.  When I get around to it.  Sometimes it takes years.  There’s this box in the corner of my bedroom. . . . 

‡ I suppose the next boundary to withdraw over is wrapping . . . but stuff looks so pretty after it’s been wrapped.^  I’m hyperventilating slightly about Peter’s Very Large Present however.  It’s . . . Very Large. 

^ Aside from questions of blog photos. 

‡‡ Only four people showed up for tower practise tonight YAAAAY.  We hardy few barely waited the obligatory quarter-hour before declaring a bust and all rushed downstairs and out into the night.  The other three may have gone to the pub.  I went home to SHADOWS.  Which is still going well, except for the ‘five weeks’ part. 

‡‡‡ Why don’t I take up knitting?^ 

^ I haven’t ripped out the leg warmers lately.  Because I’m cravenly knitting hellhound squares. 

§ Sung in this case by one of my new heroes, Iestyn Davies.  How embarrassing.  But . . .

Oh go away with that Christmas


Today I was roused out at about 8:30 again* . . . this time by the postman.**  Two postpersons.  I heard the first one [gender therefore unknown] and put a pillow over my head but I wasn’t quite asleep by the time the second one showed up and started hammering in that brisk, you-love-me-really manner that delivery persons are unappealingly prone to.  So I did my slither-into-dressing-gown-front-door-key-grab thing and stumbled downstairs.  Unnnnnh.  One of the parcels wasn’t even about Christmas—and the one that was about Christmas was boring back-up stuff to the main event, which has already arrived.***  Now that’s just unfair.

               There were handbells today just like any Thursday instead of three days before Christmas.†  Hellhounds and I hurtled back to the cottage because I was desperate for an excuse to get away from my computer earlier rather than later—usually I throw all of us into Wolfgang at the last minute and hope to arrive before my visitors do††—which meant we were outdoors in daylight twice today, even if this latter was a fainting, fading, twilight sort of daylight.  Better than nothing.  Including the seeing what I’m tripping over and/or what canine effluvia I’m picking up.  The electric torch clenched between the teeth mainly casts shadows, all of which look alike. 


Rejoice, for the longest night is past, and the sun is returning! 

Yes.  Totally.  I am more conscious of daylight every year—every winter, when I am a year older than the last time I had to do winter.  I’ve been hanging on a bit better this year than some by making a deliberate effort to have the hellhounds’ longer hurtle as near to midday as possible—it’s way too easy (especially for someone who keeps unsocial hours anyway) to hurtle briefly in the morning so as to get back to my desk sooner, and then do the longer hurtle at night when I have no brain left and might as well be outdoors shambling around after hellhounds.  But I begin to feel as if I live underground or at least in the Arctic Circle—I would so not be a happy bunny living above 66°33’ north—and I know vitamin D is a wonder drug, but handfuls of the stuff is not as effective for me††† as a regular hour of midday daylight.  As midday as you can get, this time of year, when the sun gives the impression of slinking around the horizon and looking for hedgerows to hide behind.‡ 


I think there must be a bit of herbaceous plant in my ancestry because this time of year I’m a sere and crumbled being, just waiting for the sun to come back. Why didn’t we evolve with a hibernation option?!

Hibernation,  yes.  And in return, during the long days of summer, we don’t need to sleep at all.  Think of all the GARDENING we could get done.

            I took a couple of the biggest [non-rose] thugs out of the cottage garden this autumn so now standing in the kitchen door waiting for hellhounds to pee and come indoors again without sampling any of the dangling indoor-jungle foliage I keep looking at all this freshly available space.  If I didn’t have A NOVEL TO WRITE and 1,000,000,000 more doodles still to do . . .


 I am still doodling, of course, but I admit the factory conveyor belt has slowed. Nothing else is going to get there before Christmas

Ha! Mine just arrived yesterday. And when I opened Deerskin to read a random page, I found myself in the chapter where she saves the puppies. ‘All still alive?’ So naturally, I had to keep on reading….. 

Oh good.  One of my nightmares at the moment is worrying about things that don’t arrive.  There are a number of wistful people inquiring if theirs have gone out yet and the answer, I’m afraid, is usually no. ‡‡   But I’m challenging over three decades of bad postal karma by having run this auction/sale at all and I’m hoping that the sheer chutzpah of the assault will amuse the evil gods of such matters, and let me and my envelopes pass.  Not to mention the doodle shop Blogmom is constructing for the future.  One thing at a time.

            Which at the moment is going to bed. . . . 

* * *

* jmeadows

. . . a couple weeks ago there was a strange barking that kept me up half the night, too. Maybe it’s the same dog! I haven’t heard him since, so I guess he could have made it to England. . .

 I hope he is well on his way to Indonesia.  I’m sure he and komodo dragons will get along really well. 

** Isn’t it charming the way the advertising says, ONLY £17.52 FOR THIS FABULOUS ITEM THAT NO ONE SHOULD BE WITHOUT IN OUR MODERN HIGH TECH WORLD!, and you think, okay, I need a Christmas present and the price is right . . . and then it turns out that to make the dranglefabbing thing work you need a spinglefropper for £123.19 and a zadazdad for £94.82, and if you’re wise you’ll also get the extended warranty for £1,377.40.   Feh.

            And then before you regain your balance and sense of cynicism they start deluging you with emails for bargain accessories. 

*** It SHOULD be written in LETTERS OF FIRE all over both the post office and all local delivery system head offices that IF THAT VICIOUS COW AT ROSE COTTAGE ON THE MOUTH OF HELL CUL DE SAC ISN’T IN, LEAVE THE THING.  Or prepare to lose body parts when she comes after it.  Gah. 

† I do have to fetch the Christmas stuff down from the attic at Third House. . . . soon.

Exchange between husband and wife in response to last mention of Christmas stuff on the blog: 



Subject:  Brilliant Idea!!!!!! 

Why don’t you put all the Christmas decorations up at the cottage?  



Subject:  !!!!!!!! 

Ha ha ha ha ha.  Because then we’d have to have CHRISTMAS here and YOU WOULDN’T LIKE THAT.  Also, your sitting room is probably more photogenic.  It’s all about the blog, all the time. 

. . . Scuppered by his own argument a few days previous.  Mwa hahahahaha. 

†† Colin^ was early.  Will you STOP with the early already??

But look what Gemma brought me.  Isn’t she LOVELY?  Isn’t it BEAUTIFUL?  Hells.  Maybe we have to go ahead with the whole Christmas show after all. 

Hellhound bowls and homeopathic remedy to the left, breakfast apples at the top and TEA to the right.

^ Colin wanted to know if Bronwen had had a good time.  Yes, I said, she’s threatening to come back.

            Niall wanted to know if she was ringing handbells.  I said I thought she was ringing tunes because that was what was available where she is, and he looked distressed.+  Oh, and have I mentioned we’re ringing handbells next Thursday as well?  Hey, why not?  Everybody else is on holiday. 

+ There may have been hand wringing.  HAHAHAHAHAHAHA. 

††† Your experience may vary 

‡ Except of course for those memorable occasions when it’s shining directly in your eyes no matter which direction you’re going.  I blogged about this once:  entire hurtles, so heading away from the cottage, the mews, or Wolfgang, making a big circle or other lumpy non-geometric shape and ending up at the point of beginning, and having had the sun in my eyes the entire frelling way.  All right, you physicists!  Explain that one!  This is totally a medium-sized star in a nothing-much solar system in an obscure arm of the Milky Way having a snit!

^ Clearly the sun doesn’t like winter either, since this only happens in the winter.  I’ll worry about the implications of the southern hemisphere some other blog.  Presumably it’ll have something to do with the sun picking on whoever’s available when it’s in a bad mood. 

‡‡ Victim of my own success.  Grovelling apologies.  It’s a couple of things:  neither Blogmom, who ran the admin end, nor I, drawing pen poised, were anything like ready for the response we had—thank you again, everybody—but even another fangs with muffin—I mean another muffin with fangs—requires a little trickle of brain energy to accomplish.  Even if I weren’t frantically trying to get a novel written there’d be an upper limit on how many doodles I can turn out in a day that would have to do with focus rather than hours I’m (more or less) awake.


Unngh SHADOWS unngh


Okay, so I got to bed later than I meant to last night either.*   And then at about 8 a.m. I was dragged out of sleep by a short, sharp, authoritative bark—very like Darkness either when he feels that insufficient attention has been paid to hellhounds lately or when he’s in trouble and needs to go out now.  I realised after it was too late to block the adrenaline spike that it was not Darkness—it wasn’t loud enough to be from the kitchen, and it was coming from the wrong direction anyway.  I began to drift uneasily back to sleep again—one is not rational about dogs that may need to go out now, even when one’s intellect is saying it’s not your dog—and the wretched animal did it again.  There are dogs at the top of our hill which have been known to bark, but both of them, one lab going rarfrarfrarfrarfrarfrarf and one dachshund going yipyipyipyipyipyipyipyip, you, which is to say I, can turn into white noise and ignore, both because of the stupid stuck-on quality (I’m more likely to wake up again when they stop) and because these are CLEARLY not my dogs.  This abominable creature, whatever it is, did the one short commanding bark once or twice a minute, and then silence for three or four or five minutes, for about an hour, by which time I was longing to let the air out of its tyres and call the cops.  It was also beginning to get to the hellhounds, who ordinarily ignore exterior barking.  So there’d be BARK and then rustling from the hellhound crate and I’d think, in my woozy state, oh, gods, it is Darkness after all. . . .

            We did all eventually get back to sleep again, but it was not the most restful night/morning of my life.  And I’ve been thumping away at SHADOWS** and when it was time for hellhounds’ second hurtle tonight it was like, you mean I have to get out of this chair?  And do what? 

            So I thought, to spare the brain I don’t have available anyway, I’d respond to a few forum comments.*** 


Honestly, I would give Hugo a miss anyway. 

You comfort me.  It did get mixed reviews over here, but they were interestingly mixed, and Penelope really wanted to go.  I’ll ask her what she thought.


Oh gods…audience at a [voice] lesson???

At first my voice died to nothing if I heard footsteps in the hall outside the choir room where my lessons usually are. Which, considering that it’s the church complex and people move around it all day, was not helpful. Then it died only if they opened the door to the choir room (instantly. stopped.) . . . Now I still don’t want anyone there during a lesson, but Suzanne . . . sometimes needs to come into the room…and I can sort of keep going. . . . Sort of. After a couple of years.

Someone else? A friend? At the thought my throat tightens up. And yet I can sing in the choir…but there are others around me, covering up my voice (I think. Maybe not true but I can think that.)

Yes.  This would be me too.   Blondel kept threatening to take us to one of the practise rooms where he was a professional vicar choral, and I kept saying that if he did I wouldn’t be able to sing.  I’ve got used perforce to Nadia’s mum† but I have to not think about it really hard, and one of the things that went wrong the day I had my lesson at Nadia’s house was the presence of other people.  Aren’t we a little old for this nonsense?  Feh.  And totally, about the choir covering you up.  Although in my case I haven’t got much doubt that it’s true.  At best I make an on-pitch noise which helps to thicken up the more interesting noise that the singers are all making.  My usefulness is as a kind of audible corn starch.  


Extra protein in your broccoli? Ewww! Yuck! When I was little I loved lettuce and munched happily with our bunnies. One night I bit down on a leaf and there was a big crunch where no crunch should have been. My father told me I’d probably gotten a spider egg sac. Great parenting, Dad! To this day I can’t eat any crunchy lettuce parts. 

EwwwwI’m amazed you haven’t needed years of intensive therapy to overcome this damaging trauma.††  I think I’ve told the story?, about an entire branch of the Dickinson clan swearing off broccoli forever after Peter served them some from his garden—this was before my time I wish to emphasise—that was perhaps somewhat overpopulated.  He gave up trying to grow broccoli shortly thereafter because it tends to be rather liberally inhabited.  Let the professionals deal.

Susan inMelbourne

Q: What’s worse than finding a worm in your apple?
A: Finding half a worm in your apple!! 

I think I grew up with this one.  I can’t remember when I didn’t know it—speaking of trauma—I’ve eaten a lot of apples in my life.  I started cutting them up young, however, so I could check their insides.  When I persuaded Peter to go organic at the old house and we stopped spraying our apples, this got a bit crucial, but since there were always far more apples than we could eat anyway, having to cut away the occupied bits was not too sad.  (My little apple tree at the cottage seems relatively immune.  I have no idea why.)  I will say however, delicately, this being a family blog and all, that while I’m not happy about finding protein in my broccoli, still, it’s cooked.  And I spent five years in Japan at an impressionable age where I ate all kinds of weird-to-the-western-mind stuff like deep-fried grasshoppers and chocolate-covered ants.^   I can deal with the occasional  cooked half caterpillar in my broccoli.  I have not yet however had to face the raw half worm in my apple and I don’t want to.  (Raw!  Spider sac!  EWWWWWWW!!!!) 

^ Hey.  It’s chocolate.  


~ I don’t think they take fifty-nine-year-old women as able-bodied sailors, do they? Well that’s out then.

Perhaps you could settle for being the ‘pretty cabin boy.’ 

::falls down laughing::

I’ve always liked the captain’s wife’s comment at the end:  Yes, Mrs Captain?  And what are you hiding? 

* * *

* Hey, I’m just doing what I’m told.  Singing Christmas carols is fun.  And it does give me an opportunity to notice that I do have a bit more voice than I did this time last year.  When I was whining to Nadia on Monday about thin and reedy—and about the continuing frustration of not know what to do about this when it happens—she said in her best brisk manner that I should concentrate on the fact that even when I’m singing less than my best (and she’s big on the fact that ‘best’ by definition is rare and you can’t beat yourself up for failing to attain it every time you open your mouth) I am singing better than I was ten months ago.  Yes.  True.  It also amuses me a lot to be brisked at—I’m not quite sure what the correct verb is:  she’s not patronising me, she’s brisking me—by someone about thirty years younger than I am.  

** I am still doodling, of course, but I admit the factory conveyor belt has slowed.  Nothing else is going to get there before Christmas;  I might as well concentrate on SHADOWS for a few days.  So I am.  

*** I should resurrect Ask Robin.  Good grief.  The problem—it’s not a problem, it’s me being shiftless—is that most of the questions people want to ask authors are about . . . authory and publishing things.  Which is reasonable.  It’s just that I have about have .01 micrograms’ interest and/or knowledge of these things.  About writing, it’s something I do, like walking or breathing.  I can’t tell you how I do it and it seems to me a bit daft (and embarrassing) to try.  Merrilee exists as a sort of Deep Space Nine/Babylon Five where my publishers and I can both dock and find someone who can talk/walk/breathe with both of us.^    Over here on the planet Gonzo Mongo we are mostly interested in hellhounds, bells, singing, yarn, roses, chocolate, etc.

             I am ashamed that I almost never blog about other people’s books however, since I still read all the time and it’s not all maths and physics (and knitting.  And roses).  I’m enormously enjoying Lauren Beukes’ ZOO CITY right now for example. 

^ I have never satisfactorily decided if my publisher is the Vorlon, or I am. 

† As I got used—more or less—to Blondel’s neighbour, who, on a week day afternoon, had the revolting habit of sitting in his garden.  Which Blondel’s studio overlooked.  And Blondel would kind of stare at me if I suggested he close the window.  I comforted myself with the thought that I wasn’t very loud, and Blondel’s piano was between me and the window.  I’m louder now.  And there’s an open hatch between Nadia’s mum’s kitchen and the dining room, where the piano is.  I’m not thinking about it.  I’m.  Not.  Thinking.  About.  It. 

†† Also, lettuce is one of the cheap joys of life, and there aren’t that many cheap joys, aside from library cards.

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