March 31, 2012

Peter Story, continued


I’ve got the ratbagging lurgy again.  Arrrrgh.  Although I admit it’s a bit of a relief that there was more going on on Thursday than sorrow, loss and existential dread—it seemed to me I was overreacting a bit even for me.  But if there were germs involved. . . .

            So what possible better excuse than to give you the rest of Peter’s story? 

The Third Dormouse, part two 

The boat didn’t look nearly big enough from the outside, but inside there seemed to be room for everyone, and what’s more in one place it was cool enough for the polar bears and in another place it was hot enough for the salamanders.  Strange. 

            Then the rain began.  Rain like no one had ever seen before.  Rain like buckets being emptied, like baths being emptied, like swimming-pools being emptied, like ponds and lakes and seas being emptied out of the sky.  Soon Grandad’s boat was floating.  Soon the water was over the tree-tops, soon it was over the fields and over the hills, soon there was nothing but water as far as Anna could see.  The waves bellowed and the wind howled and the thunder roared and the lighting flashed and flashed again.

            Anna was scared by the lightning, and wondered if she hadn’t better throw Perhaps over the side after all, but it didn’t seem fair, and besides the lightning kept missing Grandad’s boat, and she felt quite well and she couldn’t see any sea-beasts, so she went off to look after the rodentia instead.

            The animals didn’t seem to mind about the storm.  They ate and slept and dirtied their cages as if they’d lived on Grandad’s boat all their lives.  It was a lot of work feeding them and cleaning the cages.

            That was the great thing about Possibly and Maybe (and Perhaps).  They didn’t need any feeding or cleaning.  They just slept.

            Then the rain stopped and the clouds blew away and the sun came out and the wind died and the sea stopped surging around and everything was calm and still, as if winter was over, and at that point the animals started getting interested in each other.

            The elks got very interested in each other and the mandrills got very interested in each other and the sloths got slightly interested in each other and the hedgehogs got very interested in each other and the giraffes got very interested in each other. . . .

            “Don’t look,” said Grandma, on her way round checking the cages.  “I must say Him up There isn’t wasting much time about starting over. . . .”

            “The dormice aren’t,” said Anna.  “They’ve woken up, but they’re just sitting in their corners yickering at each other.”

            “Waiting for a bit of privacy, I expect,” said Grandma.

            “You don’t think they’re both boys?” said Anna.  “Or both girls?”

            “Nonsense,” said Grandma.  “Him up There wouldn’t get a thing like that wrong.  It’s probably just something dormice do before they get started.”

            She checked the rest of the rodentia and hurried on to the artiodactyla.

            When she went back to her cabin Anna heard a scratching and squeaking coming from her knapsack.  She realised that Perhaps must have woken up, but she wasn’t qick enough when she opened the pocket.  Out popped Perhaps, dropped to the floor and scuttled out of the door.  Dormice aren’t sleepy when they’re awake.  This one was really nippy.  Anna tried to catch it, but there was a lot of clutter in the corridor and it kept slipping behind things and darting away.  Anna chased it all along the corridor and down a flight of stairs and into the animal quarters.  At least its hurt leg looked to be all right now.

            It seemed to know just where it was going, and scuttled and darted among the cages until it reached the rodentia, where it climbed up the bars of the red squirrel’s cage and started yickering at Possibly and Maybe.  They got wildly excited, so Anna grabbed Perhaps, opened the door and popped it in.

            The first thing that happened was that Possibly and Maybe started fighting each other.  They really went at it.  Perhaps just sat and watched, but Anna was afraid one of the others might get hurt, so she grabbed the nearest one—she didn’t know which it was, maybe Possibly, possibly Maybe, but it wasn’t at all happy about it—and shut it in an empty box which had pine nuts in it for the squirrels.

            By the time she got back to the cage, Perhaps and the other one were very interested in each other.  Perhaps was the female, it turned out.  That’s nice, thought Anna.  I shan’t have to call her “it” any more.

            She went on to clean a few more cages, but the next time she came past she heard an amazing racket coming from the pine-nut box.

            It didn’t seem at all fair, so Anna just swapped the males over.  Perhaps didn’t seem to mind, nor did the one in the cage with her.  They were still very interested in each other.  But the one in the box set up a terrible scratching and squeaking.

            Grandma will be sure to notice, thought Anna.  I’ve got to get it to go to sleep somehow.  So she took it along to the polar bears’ cage and hid it in the coldest place she could find.  The dormouse in the box decided it must be winter again and went to sleep.  Anna asked her cousin Josh, who looked after the ursidae, not to touch it, but she didn’t tell him what was in the box.

            So the voyage went on.  From time to time, trying to be fair, Anna swapped the males over.  Perhaps was perfectly happy with either of them, and there were always just two dormice in the cage when Grandma checked them.  Soon it was easy to tell which was the female, because Perhaps started getting fatter.

            “Told you so,” said Grandma.

            Then there was a lot of business with Grandpa sending ravens out to look for land, and them not finding any.  And then it was a dove, and it came back with a bit of twig in its beak so they knew there had to be land somewhere, and then they came to an island and the humans all landed.  And the water went down and down, and they saw that the island had to be just the top of a mountain, and Grandad said it was time to let the animals go.

            So he and his sons lowered the gangplank and Anna and her cousins went through the boat opening the cages one by one so that there wasn’t a mad scrum.  When they did the polar bears Anna took the box with the dormouse in it and put him back in the cage.  Perhaps was really pregnant by now, so the other two weren’t interested in her any more and didn’t start fighting.  Anna left them to the end before she let them go.

            When she got to the entrance Grandma was busy checking the animals, but everybody else was staring at the sky.  Anna looked, and saw a wonderful rainbow arching right across from one horizon to the other.

            “Look, Grandma!” said Anna.

            Grandma looked up, and the three dormice went scuttling out.

            “What does it mean?” said Anna.

            “It’s Him up There,” said Grandad.  “I’ve just heard him say that’s it.  He’s not going to try this washing out and starting over stuff again.”

            “I heard him too,” said Anna’s cousin Sara.

            “Me too,” said everyone, except Grandma and Anna.

            Grandma was looking at her lists.

            “I seem to have missed the dormice,” she said.  “Did anyone see the dormice go?”

            “I did,” said Anna.

            “How many were there?” said Grandma.  “Just the two?”

            “Probably,” said Anna’s mother, not thinking.

            Now Anna thought she heard something.  It might have been distant thunder, or it might have been somebody laughing at a private joke.

            She watched Perhaps, very fat and pregnant, with Possibly and Maybe yickering beside her, scuttle down the slope and disappear into the clean new world.

Thrilling, thrilling news*



            It was time for the day to start improving by then.  It had not begun well.  It had not begun well several days ago.  The old mews laptop has been off line since last Friday, which is a mega frelling pain in the patootie, since while the little knapsack computer is a gigantic patootie-saver, in all other ways it is too dagblaggingly SMALL.  Somebody sends you something you want to look at?  Forget it.  You have to scroll around so much it’s a seven blind persons and the elephant show.  The keyboard is almost big enough, so you type on it as usual, only you’re making as many errors as Frodo the Nine Fingered would, playing Liszt’s Transcendental Etudes.  

            I had emailed the archangels the beginning of the week, and Raphael had responded that he’d be in touch Tuesday or Wednesday to come out Wednesday or Thursday.  By last night—Thursday night—I hadn’t heard from him so I sent him a one-word email:  whiiiiiiiine.**  This morning there was an email back saying that he’d left a message on Pooka on Wednesday.  WHIIIIIIINE.  In which one’s technology lets one down again.   New phone calls or texts are supposed to show up ON THE OPENING SCREEN of your semi-reliable*** iPhone, and I never think to go looking for them as I go looking for email.  There it was, sure enough:  but Pooka had apparently been having the vapours when it came in, and failed to put it where I could see it.  Meanwhile, however, the little laptop was beginning to emit dark smoke and chittering noises—and the mews had been entirely off the air for about three hours one evening and two hours the next AND I was getting very tired of writing the blog on the off-line mews proper-sized laptop and putting it on a memory stick to plug into a live socket somewhere. †

            So Raphael, who is a wonderful human being, I mean archangel, rejuggled his Friday and came out anyway.  I texted Oisin that I might be a little late . . . I guess maybe.  Two and a half hours later I texted Oisin again, saying, cup of tea or do you want to kill me?  Raphael had walked in the door, pressed ONE MYSTIC SYMBOL—I mean it’s not even a button or a key it’s a perfectly flat, non-contoured symbol—on the semi-dead†† laptop and LO! it was live again.  Kill me.†††  However . . . nothing else was the slightest bit straightforward and two and a half hours later he had to leave because he had to leave‡ . . . and while he had convinced the iPad update not to delete everything stored in my library, iPod, photos, etc, he hadn’t convinced it to, you know, update either.


            I’m also trailing around at one-quarter speed because I was comprehensively shattered by yesterday’s events.  I had slept badly night-before-last in dread of yesterday, and I couldn’t really separate out grief for Gloriana and Gloriana’s family and simple fear of walking into my old ringing chamber.  I also wanted to go to the funeral, but where was I supposed to sit?  With the ringers because I was ringing or not with the ringers because I’m not a member of the band?  I don’t think this is covered by Miss Manners. 

            I was also, of course, terrified that I was going to put my foot or my head through the frelling rope, or break a stay, or fall down in a fit, or something. . . . But in fact in terms of blood and horror it was a complete failure.  I’m pleased to say.  Admin was extremely gracious and I was gracious right back.  And I’m not a good ringer, and I’m a twitchy, jerky ringer but I’m still a ringer, and the feeling of my hands on a bell rope is automatically steadying.  And those bells are—aside from the crucial health and safety stuff that made the work necessary—noticeably easier to ring.‡‡  I had thought it was ‘open’ ringing where everyone who knew how was welcome to come have a pull, but there were only eight of us for the eight bells.  We rang.  Hands on ropes:  bong.  Bong.  Bong.  This is what the bells are for:  well, change ringing was invented by Christian bell ringers for Christian churches, but I cast the net wider:  for me the sound of the bells is a declaration:  there is something beyond us.   You want it at a wedding, but—for me—you need it at a funeral.‡‡‡

            Admin wanted to try to ring after the funeral too.  I had been planning on opting out, but that would have left them with only five—six is a good number, and five isn’t really.  So I stayed.  The funeral itself was pretty gruelling—the church was packed out;  she had a lot of friends, and quite a few of them spoke—and when we got back to our ropes we just rang rounds:  one-two-three-four-five-six, one-two-three-four-five-six, the bells in order, smallest to largest, over and over and over and over.  Your heart lifts at the same time as you’re trying not to burst into tears. . . .

            So.  Yes.  I went.  I faced all those people§.  I rang on several of the bells in the ringing chamber that used to be as familiar to me as my own furniture in my own sitting room.  It was a bit miserable, but then it was a funeral, and Gloriana will be much missed.  And . . . it was still a good decision for me, quitting my tower.  I don’t like that it was a good decision, but it was a good decision.  And I think I slept fine last night, I just need a month or two of hibernation.§§

            . . . So I went along to Oisin’s nearly two hours late this afternoon.  And I drank several cups of tea and raved, chiefly about bell ringing and computers§§§ and after I eventually wound down a little Oisin asked if I’d like to sing something?  I’d even brought my music.  How about that.  I must be beginning to believe in the system.  So I sang something.  And it wasn’t too bad.  I may even learn my entries on Dove Sei.  It is very confusing having some piano galumphing along with you and throwing you off.

            And then I came home and rushed out into the garden because there was a little daylight left and since I don’t dare plant the frellers I’d better pot up the blasted sweet peas . . . and there was a little robin face peering out at me from the shelf in the greenhouse.           

* * *

* Books?  Why would it be about books?  No, it’s not about books. 

** He’s used to me.  It’s a good thing.  

*** This is similar to ‘a little bit pregnant.’  

† Diane in MN

On a typewriter. Remember typescript? [ . . .] Nostalgia.

Yes–but it’s tempered nostalgia. I like word processors a whole lot. I think of my mother, going to work out of high school in a lawyer’s office and having to retype entire documents for a single error because corrections weren’t allowed . . . I really really like word processors! 

I have also spent time typing contracts that you couldn’t make an error on—and while I’m sure that someone on salary who wasted hours retyping wouldn’t be long for that job, it was immediately critical for a free lancer like me who got paid by the assignment.  So.  Yes.  And I love the internet, but a lot of the frenzy of that love is on account of needing underpinning and maintenance for the sodblasted blog which itself wouldn’t exist . . . without the internet.  You didn’t get error messages with typewriters and they broke or blew up only RARELY.  You didn’t have to buy a new one every few years . . . and when you did buy a new one you were not legally required to buy with it a new keyboard layout, a new return mechanism, a new brand of error cover-up paint (with a new dispenser), a new dictionary, new encyclopaedia, a new language . . . all of which you would have to LEARN TO USE.

            Er.  Hurrumph.  I like word processors too.  But I’m not a whole-hearted fan.  Especially not after a week like this one.  And if you’re going to go all snippy on me and say that a word processor has nothing to do with internet connection . . . I shall become CRANKY. 

†† Very like ‘semi-reliable’ and ‘a little bit pregnant’.  

††† Oisin having declined. 

‡ I think this may be very like being paid by the assignment. 

‡‡ Siiiiiiiigh.  Nicest set of bells in the area just got nicer.  

‡‡‡ I know this isn’t going to happen, but I wish ringers were on retainer, so more weddings and particularly more funerals had bells.  We ring ordinary services as part of our charter, but bells for your individual event are expensive.  

§ Most of whom, in a few cases to my surprise, are apparently still talking to me. 

§§ And, tension level?  I seem to have sprung just about every muscle in my body.  Pulling a big, ratbaggy, awkward bell, you may feel it—or anyway who am not very good at it, may feel it—in my shoulders and stomach.  Ordinary ringing on ordinary bells, no.^  But yesterday . . . my chest, shoulders, arms, belly and back . . . all of them were telling me that I had been toting barges and lifting bales all day.  Good grief. 

^ It’s never about sheer strength.  It’s always about (sheer) skill. 

§§§ And the continued non-existence of the New Arcadia Singers

A Peter Story


Peter found this in a drawer a few days ago.  He wrote it yonks and yonks ago*, for a magazine, and neither of us (!) can remember (!!) seeing it in any less ephemeral form, so he said yes, I could have it for the blog, since he hasn’t written me a guest blog in, like, years.  Even if you’ve read it before, you probably haven’t read it in yonks either, and I like it, and it’s my blog.

            And I badly need a night off, so tonight’s the night (as they say).  I’ll tell you tomorrow about ringing at my old tower.** 

The Third Dormouse

 Anna lived on a farm with her father and mother and three brothers.  One day soldiers came.  They said they were soldiers, but really they were just robbers.  They drove all the farm animals away while Anna and her family hid in the desert beyond the fields.

            When they had gone Anna’s family went back to the farm and worked in the fields, which were full of melons and corn.

            “At least you can’t drive melons and corn away,” said Anna’s father.

            The melons grew and the corn grew and they harvested them and brought their crops into the barns for the winter.  While they were harvesting the corn Anna found a dormouse with a hurt leg.

            “Can I keep it until its leg’s well?” she asked.

            “Perhaps,” said her mother, not thinking.

            “Will it go to sleep for the winter?” said Anna.

            “Perhaps,” said her mother, not thinking.

            “Is it a boy or a girl?” said Anna.

            “Perhaps,” said her mother, still not thinking.

            So Anna took it home and called it Perhaps.  When it started to get sleepy she made it a nest in a pocket of her knapsack, which her mother had told her to keep packed with anything she wanted in case the soldiers came again.

            They did.  They were different ones, but still just robbers.  This time they took all the stores they could carry and burnt the rest.  They burnt the barns and the house too.  Hiding in the desert Anna and her family watched the flames.

            That night they slept in a cave.  In the middle of the night Anna had an odd sort of dream.  It was just a voice saying in her head “Go to your Grandad’s.”

            When they woke up next morning Anna’s mother said “I heard a voice in the night, telling us to go to Grandad’s.”

            “So did I,” said all the others.

            “It must be Him up There telling us,” said her mother.

            “It will be a dangerous journey,” said her father, “because of the soldiers.”

            But Him up There had told them, so they set out, carrying their knapsacks.  The soldiers were everywhere, fighting each other and burning and stealing and murdering, but they didn’t seem to notice Anna’s family trudging quietly along.  It was very strange.

            At last they came to the valley where Grandad lived.  The soldiers didn’t seem to have noticed him either.  He was busy building a big boat.

            “Ah, you’ve come,” mumbled Grandad with his mouth full of nails.  “High time too.  The others will be here any moment.”

            “What’s going on?” said Anna’s father.

            Grandad took the nails out of his mouth.

            “It’s Him up There,” he said.  “He’s sick of all this murdering and robbery and stuff, so he wants to wash the whole lot out and start over.  But we’ve never gone in for any of that in our family, so he’s letting us stay on and help him.  That’s what the boat’s for.  The grown-ups can give me a hand with that, and the kids will have to look after the animals.  Grandma will tell you what to do, kids.”

            “Can I look after the dormice?” said Anna.

            “It’ll be more than just dormice,” said Grandma.

            Next day Anna’s two uncles and her two aunts and her nine cousins arrived, and the day after that the animals started streaming in.  Tigers and bats and mongeese and lizards and wombats and rattle-snakes and tree-frogs and sheep and moles and porcupines and warthogs and . . .

            Anyway there was a list, and Grandma checked them off as they came.  Two of everything. 

            Yes, two dormice.  They were very yawny and cross because they’d been woken out of their winter sleep.

            “What would happen if there were three of something?” said Anna.  “I mean, if you took an extra warthog aboard because you were sorry for it?”

            “Him up There wouldn’t like it,” said Grandma.  “He was very definite.  Two of everything he said.  One male, one female.  No more, no less.”

            “But what would he do?” said Anna.

            “Strike us with lightning, I shouldn’t wonder,” said Grandma.  “Or plague.  Or send a sea-beast to gobble us up.  You can’t tell with Him up There.  Mysterious ways are what he moves in, and no mistake.  Anyway, you’re doing the rodentia, so you’ll be too busy to ask any more questions.”

            And that was true.  The rodentia were the agoutis and the bamboo rats and the bandicoot rats and the beavers and the birch mice and the cane rats and the capybaras and the cavies and the chinchillas and the chipmunks . . . all the way through to the viscachas and the voles and the white-footed mice and the wood rats.

            And, yes, the dormice.  They weren’t any trouble.  They curled up in opposite corners of their cage and went straight back to sleep.  Anna couldn’t tell which was the male and which was the female, so she called them Possibly and Maybe.  She didn’t tell anyone about Perhaps, in case they made her leave it behind.  It was still asleep in the pocket of her knapsack, so she just hoped it didn’t count.

            The sky darkened, thunder rolled round the hills, Grandpa banged the last nail in and everyone went aboard.  Grandma stood by the gangplank and checked the animals off as they passed.  The only one she missed was Perhaps, asleep in Anna’s knapsack. 


* * *

* On a typewriter.  Remember typescript?  Which is bumpy under your fingers, and the ‘d’ or the ‘a’ or something is a slightly crooked, and the quote marks are straight up and down and there’s only caps and underlining, no bold and no italic?   And you make corrections by painting over them, or by cutting and pasting pieces of actual paperNostalgia.  

** Nobody died.

***I know.  Famous last words.  But this story exists.

Technology the Damned



Many frells.  Many, many, many frells.  Outlook has comprehensively failed at the mews—and Pooka keeps saying she can’t pick up the server rather than just going to back up, sod it, that’s what back up is FOR* you . . . object.

            I have four pieces of semi-functional technology scattered around the table here.  First there is this laptop, the original elderly mews laptop which is where the trouble began, since it appears to be losing the battle with entropy slightly faster than I’m finishing SHADOWS** and as I keep saying, more and more wildly,*** I do not want to tackle a new operating system while I am trying to finish a novel.  Which means the octuply-damned new laptop is still sitting on the doodle desk at the cottage being a very, very expensive paperweight.†  However, the old laptop fell lethally off the air last Friday and has remained obstinately grounded since.  I have been filling in, irritably, with the knapsack laptop, because the carrying size is right††, but it has got used to living out its twilight years in the kitchen at the cottage and rarely being asked to do anything more strenuous than look up a plant whose unhelpfully stark name label is producing no memory whatsoever of what I should be doing with it.†††  It is not enjoying the rigours of being my chief mews source of on-line.  It sulks and hangs, crashes and, on its way to fiery death, throws up arcane error messages‡, and when it doesn’t quite manage to dive off the air waves completely, molasses in January in inland Maine would be faster.  I am not enjoying its lack of enjoyment . . . so some time today because I was getting too much knitting done‡‡ I came up with the brilliant idea of using Astarte as back up—speaking of back up—on line.  While I waited for something to download on the little laptop I clicked a Twitter link on Astarte.  So that then made three—old laptop, knapsack laptop, and iPad—and now, this evening, I’ve got Pooka going as well, texting wildly to the archangels  . . . and her latest trick is that while I’m getting a big blue error message across the middle of the screen saying server not available if you look down at the bottom you will see the little spinning dial that says ‘downloading’.  So I am getting mail, so long as I pretend not to. 

            Tonight was one of Wild Robert’s occasional rogue bell practises, and at Ditherington, furthermore, which I can find and get to.  Nostalgia.  Oh, the halcyon ringing days when Ditherington practise was a going concern, and Wild Robert ran it.  We only had seven show up tonight—and of the seven only Wild Robert and Roger knew what they were doing—so while we had an enlivening evening it was fairly ramshackle.  And then I hung around afterward to help Wild Robert lock up and we had an intensive hair-tearing session about ringing in this area‡‡‡  I’m not just a miserable git.  It really is frustrating.  Siiiiiigh.

            And tomorrow . . . is Gloriana’s funeral, here at New Arcadia.  There will be ringing both before and after . . . and I have been specifically invited to come and pull one of the ropes.  And I will—I want to.  But I am not looking forward to it for all sorts of reasons. 

* * *

* When I buy that toggle for Astarte I’m going to get the special, whine-free edition, where your gizmo just gets on with business.  But that’s really expensive, right? 

** Although I had a very good day today.

*** I am going to get my high C back at this rate. 

† I don’t need a paperweight.  I have rocks.  The velvet-with-pink-peonies laptop cover is some consolation.  But not enough.  

†† My only other option being my also rather long in the tooth desktop.  Its ancient ‘tower’ is bigger than a Smart Car and would not fit nose in to the kerb.  If you put wheels on it, you’d have to parallel park like a Volvo estate/station wagon. 

††† It’s been positively hot today, with the sun belting down^.  Which doubtless explains why I twice came back to the cottage to find a live-plant order being turned into ratatouille on the front step.  ARRRRRGH.  And in both cases, directly beside the street address—which, unless the deliverer is into reading tea leaves, presumably had to be applied to for location—is the instruction in large black capitals:  PLEASE LEAVE BEHIND GATE . . . which is in the shade. 

            I’d been worrying about my frost-free geraniums last night, sitting somewhere in an unheated warehouse and curling shivering up together for warmth.  They have a few dubious leaves but I think they’re fine.  I potted them up today . . . and will have to bring them indoors again tonight.  With the sweet peas.  

^ Hellhounds in spring spare me.  They gimp around looking miserable and abused during the day, their tongues dragging on the ground for several yards behind us . . . and of course mealtimes are epic.+  But it’s still cooling off drastically at night++ and since I’m trying to use all spare+++ hours of daylight in the garden, our final hurtle is usually late, and they tend to regain their joie de vivre.  Way too much of their joie de vivre.  They nearly knocked me over—twice—last night, which hasn’t happened in a long time.  The first time—arrrrrgh—there’s a local cat that has taken over the churchyard as its personal domain.  I comfort myself with the thought that it’s not going to last long since it has a major death wish, but meanwhile its antics are hard on the shoulders.  Last night I saw it crouched in the MIDDLE of the pavement fractionally before hellhounds did, and even having hit the brakes on their leads they nearly knocked me over++++ going after it.  Then walking down the wide leafy stretch of road that used to belong to the Big Pink Blot when it was a great country house and not a lot of flats and mews cottages, they found a stick, and took off—which they often do.  They know where the ends of their leads are.  I had a split second to realise that they had forgotten, and to go pelting after them at the top of my paltry speed, so when they did, in fact, hit the ends of their leads they wouldn’t knock me over—quite.  YOU.  GUYS. 

+ FOOD?  You’re kidding, right? 

++ Snarl.  

+++ hahahahahahahahaha 

++++ There are skid marks on the tarmac. 

The jeeperstix vk7r!!!!!!!!zongril cannot find the connection dingadingadinga subclassification B+2ykrq.  We are sorry for any inconvenience.  

‡‡ And furthermore I finally cast off the first leg warmer . . . and botched it.  It came off the needles in some transference of the Mobile Knitting Unit from one knapsack to another ARRRRRRGH.  But I am a resourceful bad knitter, and I bodged all the frelling little loops back together somehow . . . I think.  Meanwhile . . .  I have begun the SECOND LEG WARMER.  

‡‡‡ Everyone I have spoken to about the difficulties of ringing at the abbey, when asked for advice, have said ‘Ring somewhere else’.  Wild Robert at least agreed that I had a problem because the abbey is pretty much what there is.



So after a (splendid) weekend of too much champagne and too little sleep and my usual over-effusive Monday, today of course I stayed home and applied myself strictly to work.  Of course.  Totally.  Except for the mmph-mumble hours in the garden. . . .

            And there’s going to be a vile, putrescent THRICE BLASTED FROST tonight.  Atlas, bless him, who was here today working in Peter’s garden, rang Peter when he got home and had listened to the local weather report—Peter listens in the morning, and I play musical weather apps on Pooka, none of which is worth the 69p or £1.23 I paid for it, but watching a series of them being clueless helps to focus the slowly-waking morning mind.  Atlas tends to be right:  he lives on a farm, he’s a farmer’s son-in-law, and he knows how to do that sniffing-the-air thing about coming weather.  If he agrees with the forecasters, you pay attention.  Anyway.  I was back in the cottage garden, out of earshot of either Pooka* or the landline** when Peter was trying to call me, contemplating saying the hell with it and planting my sweet peas, which are busy climbing out of the little plastic nets they arrived in, because potting on all those sweet peas is way too daunting a prospect.***  Providentially I was distracted by the six or a dozen little vases of things on various window sills that have grown roots and are wondering what happens now—I have this bad habit of putting prunings in water, just in case they’ll decide to grow roots:  a surprising number of your average house plants will—and speaking of plants climbing out of what they’re in, I think some of my geranium cuttings have learned to abseil:  there’s got to be GROUND around here somewhere.

            So I was out in the cough-cough-cough potting shed† mixing compost and vermiculite and putting great fuzzy-rooted cuttings†† in small pots till dark.†††  And dark is about two hours later than it was a fortnight ago‡.   So IT’S SUDDENLY EIGHT O’CLOCK, and I race indoors to slam hellhounds into their harnesses‡‡, discover a phone message from Peter about a frost, howl in a singing-voice-threatening way, furiously put down a plastic sheet in the sitting room since the Winter Indoor-Jungle Table has been put away for the year, and start ferrying stuff through. . . .

            We’d better have a frost tonight. 

* * *

* For someone who is theoretically attached at the hip to her iPhone, I’m out of range far too often.  Most of my friends with iPhones who live in jeans like me keep theirs in a pocket, but noooooooo.  Maybe I just wear the wrong jeans.   

** This is less surprising since the landline only actually rings when it’s in the mood.  Poor Cormac rang the cottage three times before the landline deigned to let us know someone was trying to make contact.  Hannah was beginning to worry:  Cormac said he’d call around now. . . . 

*** I’m saving my potting-on stamina for the 1,000,000,000 dahlia cuttings I always find I’ve ordered.   One of the many conundrums of the gardener’s life is ordering early, before the things you particularly want have sold out, but which means you do your spring ordering while winter is clamped over the landscape like a giant iron hand, you’re convinced everything in your garden is dead and you need cheering up, or ordering late, when the mere presence of more daylight is beginning to cheer you up, enhanced by the fact that all kinds of dead things are producing small green (or occasionally red or purple) bumps and nodules^, and you are at least slightly less likely to order enough stuff to overfill Sissinghurst^^.  But your nurseries will have run out of several of your absolute favourites without which your summer will be ruined, AND what you do successfully requisition will mostly arrive so late you will have gone to the garden centre and bought too much stuff there because you couldn’t wait any longer.  On the whole I do better with choice A but it’s not a perfect system. 

^ I’ve got a few gosh golly WOW ::cartwheels of joy:: surprises coming up . . . but I’m afraid to mention them officially for fear such acknowledgment and acceptance will promptly make them die after all.+ 

+ This probably also goes for mentioning that my snake’s-head fritillaries are coming into bloom.  But I’m mentioning it anyway because if I don’t tell you something I will explode.  They are slightly fussy, but we grew them at the old house, but I had been having disastrous luck with them for years at the cottage when Ajlr mentioned that the insanely evil red lily beetle also eats fritillaries . . . which I then realised was my problem too.  But while I have conclusive evidence that both the weather gods and the unexpectedly-living-plants gods read imprudent blogs, I’m hoping that the insanely evil red lily beetle god does not.   


† Which is to say the all-purposes gardening shed, overflowing with pots, pot saucers, trays, tools, buckets of various sizes and materials, bags of compost and fertilizer and boxes and bottles of intensive plant food, my tiny barbeque and attendant charcoal, plastic sheets and fleece, etc etc etc etc ETC ETC ETC . . . and a robin’s nest.  I was really excited when I saw that—I haven’t had a nest since the blog’s first year, and have barely had a robin.  I know he’s around—there’s always one robin in a garden:  they like gardens and they’re territorial—but the blackbirds have become such thugs that he’s kept a low profile.  Sadly the nest seems to have been rejected, and I haven’t seen the happy couple in a while . . . but one robin is very much in evidence.  I also spent time I might have been spending planting sweet peas hoicking out frelling mats of crocosmia and lily-of-the-valley^ around Queenie and Souvenir de la Malmaison and I had a small feathered opportunist at my elbow.  I was reminded that when you’re outdoors the whirr of small flapping wings is quite pleasant.  

^ Which are WEEDS in my garden.  Bullying invasive WEEDS. 

†† I also had one of my moments of hilarity and decided to do the full soft-wood cuttings nonsense from an obstinate house plant that has refused to die, the gallant thing, but needed serious pruning when I repotted it.  Sometimes obstinate plants can be very obstinate and what the hell.  It’s only a pot, a plastic bag and some vermiculite.   To give it any chance at all, I used hormone rooting powder.  This is a story about egregiously bad design.  The pot of rooting powder—which was simply on the shelf in the store, it’s not like I did a customer comparison^ or anything—is wider than it is tall, possibly to make the whole show short enough to fit on an average shelf, since it has a dibber^^ built into the cap like a slightly distrait unicorn’s horn.  It also has a child-proof cap which is too wide to get your hand around to squeeze.  And I have big hands with long fingers.  I had to use the sticky-jar opener^^^ to get the frelling thing open.  The end of the dibber is also the lid, right?  Which means it’s also . . . never mind it’s too wide to get a proper grip on, you don’t need a proper grip to make holes in compost.  But because the lid is so frelling vast you’re busy destroying your previous hole, or knocking over your sad confused cutting, while you’re trying to make the next hole. . . . 

^ I save that colossal time-suck for things like electric blankets.  I think I mentioned that mine died a few days ago.  I was hoping the frosty nights were over for the year.  

^^ Or dibble.  A long pointy thing that makes holes in the ground/compost for you to put seeds or cuttings in. 

^^^ I have the vicious-with-teeth variety, none of these wussy rubber rings. 

††† Muttering to myself, as I have been doing for seven years now, about getting the frelling shed wired.  Which would be dangerous for a lot of reasons, none of them to do with electrocution.^ 

^ What do you mean it’s midnight and neither I nor the hellhounds have had dinner yet?+ 

+ Nor written the blog?

# If hellhounds would like to try, they are welcome. 

‡ One genuine, one fraudulent.  

‡‡ There have been little faces at the kitchen door increasingly often for the last hour or two. . . .

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