June 29, 2012

More KES forum



I wonder if something similar to this has ever happened to Robin…? 


I really want to know how many times this has happened to Robin 

Speaking of the Great Divide between writers and readers—which is sometimes there and sometimes isn’t, and sometimes talking to friends who have nothing to do with publishing I’m brought up short by the stuff they don’t know because why should they—it never occurred to me that you wouldn’t KNOW that of course this has happened to me.  I hope this isn’t unbearably conceited.  It’s just . . . my books have always roused strong emotional reactions in a visible, and frequently noisy, segment of their fans.*  From the first con I ever went to I’ve . . . er . . . had people flinging themselves on me, more or less literally.  I need to make a point here of again saying that THE VAST, VAST, VAST MAJORITY OF MY READERS  KNOWN TO ME BY POST OR IN PERSON ARE PERFECTLY NICE PEOPLE.  The problem is that the ones that aren’t are the ones that stick in your memory.  I’ve told you some of those stories.

          Stuff/situations/people like Hayley are . . . um . . . charming and authorial-heart-warming.  In spite of the four inch heels she’s obviously a real person—and a feminist (in spite of the four inch heels).  And—speaking of the four inch heels—I’ve told you already that I didn’t know Hayley was a fan till an ep or two before she pulls the book out—she’d been not meeting Kes’ eyes right along but I didn’t know why either.  And I like that too—as a person who is a writer, who meets people who are readers.  I like it that people surprise you.  That people are surprising. 

            Okay, the worst?  Probably the worst is when people love your books so much they cry on you.  Oh.  Gods.  I mean, I’m an easy weeper myself, but having someone break down in the middle of telling you how much they like your work and how much it means to them and so on and BURST INTO TEARS . . . it’s not gratifying.  It makes me feel half an inch tall, and I want to run away. 


I always told myself stories, too. . . . the storytelling went on . . . day and night, in school and out. Told them, drew them, wrote them, got caught writing them instead of homework, learned to hide them better, hold them in my head until later…all that. 

I think I’ve said on this blog more than once that the great shock to my system was when I found out not everyone was like this.  I also needed to escape from my childhood and stories were obviously the ticket out.  But it wasn’t like ‘oh, okay, let’s go live in a story I like better than my life.’  It was just there.  Like walking or breathing.  It was the way things were. 


I know people who create stories because they can’t not. 

Yes.  As above.  And I differentiate between daydreaming and storytelling.  Daydreaming is yours.  In storytelling the story owns you.  

It had never occurred to me how stories might come to them, that they might have met the characters just as their audience [meets] them. What a thrilling (when it happens), frustrating (when it doesn’t), surreal experience that must be. 

It’s only surreal later on, after you find out that not everybody is like this.  Then you start thinking, oh, how surreal.  Oh, I must be weird.   . . . Sigh.


It’s a pity Kes had to be hit on the head in order to meet Flowerhair, but I’m quite glad she did! (Met her, not got hit on the head.) 

I know this is not what you meant, but I’m going to make the opportunity here to say that I am strongly of the belief that YOU DO NOT HAVE TO SUFFER FOR YOUR ART.  Okay, so I don’t know if greeeeeeaaaaaaat artists have to suffer or not—although I’ll hazard an impertinent guess and say they don’t either—but the codswallop that is sometimes shovelled around about the Agony of Creation, oh, bollocks.  Writing is very, very hard work, yes, and that other old truism about going out and having a life is the best thing you can do for your writing because you need something and somewhere to write from is hugely and thunderingly true.  But the whole suffering artist thing gives me a sharp pain in the rear.  I think it was Joyce Carol Oates I first saw protesting the idea that writers are all neurotic and that we write from our neuroses.  We write IN SPITE of being f*cked up, however f*cked up we are.  We would write BETTER if we were NOT f*cked up. 


            So it happens that Kes met Flowerhair the first time as the result of being hit in the head.  But the Story Council already had Kes’ name on their books.  She’d’ve met her one way or another. 


Hmmm. I want to read about Flowerhair as well, but Amazon isn’t listing any books yet <g> . On the other, I have found an out-of-print series featuring “Hellflower” who looks as if she might be a temporary substitute….Robin, you’ve never written under an alias, right? 

HELLFLOWER??!!  Oh . . . dear.

            At the torturously snail-like speed I write?  Robin McKinley wouldn’t have a reputation (good or bad) if I were busy spreading her around under aliases.  So . . . no.  But you’ll see more of Flowerhair.  I just don’t know how much more, or when.  


I had a really rough day today, and opening up your blog to see the next installment of Kes was just what I needed. Thank you. 

::Beams::  Many thanks to all of you who have posted, tweeted or emailed similar.  What Kes says is true:  it’s not just earning a living.  Authors do long to feel appreciated.  


I couldn’t respond to #21 right away…it punched me right in the stomach (not unlike Kes’s bully) and cycled together with memories of my own childhood, and the glorious escape my imagination was. Sometimes, just as described here — the only escape. 

Yes.  Isn’t this one of the reasons we have an imagination?  To make us more than we are?

There’s a part of me that still opens closet doors and feels the back wall, just in case. You never know where the entrance to Narnia might be. 

Yes.  Around the next corner of this till-now familiar road . . .

I am also just now deep into the wonderful “Reflections” by Diana Wynne Jones, containing many of her essays and thoughts about writing, about writing fantasy, about writing for children. (Highly, highly recommended, by the way.) And one thought that keeps coming back to the forefront in her writing is how the imagination is our refuge and our strength; it is how we solve problems, when faced with them, and where we find strength, when life is too much. And therefore, how it should be encouraged, in children as well as adults, and not discouraged, as being childish or “not real” enough to be worthwhile. 

Speaking of crying.  I keep reading REFLECTIONS and crying.  And putting it down.  It sounds just like her.  She really was that sharp, and that funny.  It takes me drafts to look clever.  She was clever just out of her mouth.

Hari and Aerin were very much in my mind, as I faced my own childhood (and adolescent) fears and struggles. 

I get a fair number of letters and emails that say this.  And I really appreciate them.  Really.  I’m cranky, but really I’m squishy as hell.  I’m cranky as a defense

I guess, to sum up — I love Kes — it’s making me laugh, and chortle (those are two very distinct reactions) — but this episode made me gasp in recognition and brought tears to my eyes.

Thank you. 

Thank you.

Can’t wait to read more. 

Coming soon to a screen near you . . . 

* * *

* Also in a blessedly smaller segment of their—and my—anti-fans.  Before the blog, when readers hated me, they didn’t have a lot to go on outside the books themselves.  Fortunately most people for whom the blog’s humour (and crankiness and, um, narrowness of focus) is not to their taste, just go away and find someone who is.  What kind of fascinates me, however, in a delete-it-fast sort of way, is that the people who are moved to write to tell me why they will never touch another of my books and have cauterised the blog’s address from their search engines, need to tell me this from a High Moral Plane.  It’s not that my jokes are pathetic or that bell ringing/knitting bores them to death or that if I’m such a poor singer why do I keep doing it . . . it’s less often any more because my books have offended them, although this still happens too^ . . .  it’s that I’m a Bad Person.  What is it with the High Moral Plane?  Is it just me, or is it the standard approach for telling an author you’re dropkicking them into oblivion?   

^ Top Three Reasons for Never Reading Another Robin McKinley Book:  (1) Aerin and Luthe (2) nonstandard Sleeping Beauty ending of SPINDLE (3) language (and sexual details!!!!) in SUNSHINE.+ 

+ The people who hate me for the ending of PEGASUS aren’t paying attention and don’t count.

Bronwen and knitting


Whiiiiiimper.  Bronwen was supposed to come down today—Niall and I were poised to beat her up with handbells—both our third ringers this week having pressing engagements elsewhere.*  And I haven’t seen her in yonks and yonks—I still have her Christmas present sitting in my office.**

            It’s been muggy-sultry-breathless hot*** today and I was worried about her driving in her un-airconned car.  This is the only bright spot in a day of Bronwenlessness, that she wasn’t long on the road in this weather:  no, she was long hanging around for the locksmith.  She rang me about an hour before she was due to arrive, to say that the door lock on her house had decided to secede from the union, and she needed a locksmith to break into her own home.†  She’d been waiting something like two hours at that point, and was obviously not going to make it here.

            Waaaah.††  Bronwen KNITS.†††  I was going to ask her KNITTING QUESTIONS.

            See.  There has been knitting.

First Cardi, a week ago Sunday

First Cardi, tonight (minus the extra rows added WHILE WAITING FOR STUFF TO LOAD). I'm about to start my third skein, how exciting is that?


Scale. Although I'm not sure how useful it is. The fabric is really wodged together on the needles. There's more of it than it looks like here.

And then there has been . . . knitting.

Gratuitous Error #1

I have no idea what I did here.  It looks like the yarn version of that old dumb teenage thing where all nine of you in the VW Bug get out at the stoplight, run around the car, and get back in again before the light changes to green. 

Gratuitous Error #2

I’m pretty sure I dropped a stitch here.  What I don’t know is what I did next.  I know that personally what I hate worst in knitting errors is when there’s a hole so Above All Things There Shall Be No Hole.  Well, there isn’t a hole.  But there seem to be several more stitches.  After I’d knitted a couple more rows I started to worry, so I decided to count.

            And I had SIX FEWER STITCHES THAN I STARTED OUT WITH.   How does this HAPPEN?‡  I counted and recounted obsessively when I first cast on, and used stitch counters and everything to doublecheck.  But I don’t see any way I can have LOST SIX STITCHES in what passes, in beginners’ terms, for a relatively even, regular block of knitting.  WHERE ARE YOOOOOOOOOOU?  So, since I was six stitches down anyway, I decided to let the extra two or four (this is 2 x 2 ribbing) live.  Clearly I need their aid and support.

            But I am so glad that I managed to half-plan and half-luck-into this particular pattern and this particular yarn for First Cardi.  I knew from all those hellhound blanket squares that variegated yarn was the way to go:  solid colours show up your mistakes way too much.  And then I discovered the extra disguise feature of ribbing, so then I had to have ribbing too.  The two errors we are examining here are only the largest and ugliest:  there are lots of little gleeps and oopses.  I want to be able to WEAR this sucker when I’m done—but I don’t want to spend the next six years ripping out and starting over either.  And the yarn itself is just the right level of ‘I really like this, it’s pretty, and comfortable and satisfying to work’ but not to the dangerous ‘I am not WORTHY of this DIVINE STUFF and when I make a HORRIBLE MESS I will have to FALL ON MY KNITTING NEEDLES’ level.  I have some of that yarn in my stash.

            But I may yet have to fall on my knitting needles.  This is only the back.  All the stuff that isn’t like just knitting a Very Large Square is to come.  Beginning with . . . shaping the armholes.  AAAAAAAUGH.  I realised a day or two ago I was within a few rows of having to SHAPE THE ARMHOLES and . . . stopped knitting.  (Note:  siiiiigh.)  But then Bronwen was coming, and she could . . .

            And then Bronwen didn’t come.


* * *

 * How can someone choose a HOLIDAY over the chance to ring handbells—especially with Niall and me?^ 

^ Be careful how you answer that.  I can have you banned from the forum, you know. 

** Of course I could put it in an envelope and post it.  And your point would be? 

*** No, not as E Moon in Texas would recognise sultry.  But we’re flimsy delicate little things here in southern England.  And I frankly wouldn’t survive Texas.^  

^ Neither would the hellhounds.  Another friend with dogs wrote me recently about her vet, who has a rescue greyhound.  Does he eat? asked my friend.  Oh yes, said the vet, he eats.  There was a pause.  Although he’s what you might call a self regulating eater, she added.  If it’s too hot, he doesn’t eat.  If he hasn’t had enough exercise, he doesn’t eat.  He doesn’t always like the stuff at the bottom of the kibble bag, and some of the really high-quality stuff upsets his digestion.  —Yes.  I hear this.  In my guys’ case however the list continues ‘If the moon is in the wrong quarter, they don’t eat.  If the bus at the bus stop when we walk by is the wrong colour, they don’t eat.  If the first fellow in the queue to get on the bus is wearing the wrong shirt, they don’t eat.  If there are the wrong number of squirrels in the Foremost Squirrel Tree, they don’t eat.  If they do/do not see the churchyard cat who does/does not swank around under their noses, they don’t eat.  If the hellgoddess’ knapsack is sitting on the floor at the wrong angle^, they don’t eat.’   Siiiiigh.  But what I’ve finally begun to figure out, the last summer or two, is that they eat better in hot weather with less exercise.  You’d think, once they’d crashed out in front of the fan^^ for an hour or so and cooled off, it wouldn’t matter.  But it does.^^^ 

^ The wrong angle for that day, you understand.  It will be a different wrong angle tomorrow. 

^^ Unless it’s an Objecting to the Fan day.  We have those too.  

^^^ Especially when the moon is in the wrong quarter. 

† This almost happened to me about six months ago—at grrmph o’clock in the morning, of course.  And I don’t think we have 24-hour locksmiths around here.  Fortunately my lock relented and I spent the next week basting it in WD40 and it’s been . . . fine, she says, looking around nervously. 

†† She finally got another locksmith.  But it was still too late for handbells in New Arcadia.  Niall, who is a truly loathsome human being, suggested that I could spend the already-dedicated handbell time learning a touch that I could call next time we get together.  Certainly.  Right after I finish creating this failsafe appetite stimulant for hellhounds. 

††† Bronwen knits appallingly well.  I have to avert my eyes or I would be forced to take up tatting or discus-throwing. 

‡ I don’t think the Twilight Zone ever tackled knitting.  Probably too scary for an ordinary audience. 


KES, 22



“Oh,” said Hayley.  “Oh.  Oh—that would be wonderful.  I—oh—I —”

            I had left my monster knapsack in the car, but the monster black leather jacket I wore eight or nine (or ten) months of the year had excellent pockets, and a pen was not a problem.  (The fact that I had a weakness for fountain pens might have been a problem but the occasional black ink stain on black satin lining and black leather passed, ahem, unmarked.  The one time there had been a situation producing language was when I’d been wearing a white silk shirt under an invisible but not-yet-dry stain.  But what on earth had I been thinking of, wearing a white silk shirt?  The error was not repeated.  Not only because the permanently stained shirt in question went to the Salvation Army.)  I pulled the top of the pen off, shook it, and gently opened the battered old book.  Hayley had fallen silent.  “ ‘To Hayley’?” I said.

            “Yes please,” she said.

            I knew her name was spelled ‘Hayley’ from her emails.  You wouldn’t believe how many ways there are to spell people’s names.  Three hundred and sixty nine ways to spell ‘Mary’.  Four hundred and twelve for ‘Laurie’.  What’s bad is when you’re signing at a convention and you get twelve people in a row all of whose names are ‘Laurie’ or ‘Mary’ and each one is spelled differently.   I wrote:  “To Hayley with best wishes from someone else whose childhood was warped by H P Lovecraft.  Cthulhuanly yours, Kes.’  I handed it back to her, but she didn’t look at what I’d written.  She stood holding the book in a manner I refuse to call reverently. 

            “My brother gave it to me,” she said after a minute.  “He’d bought it—er—for the cover.”

            “The coffee stain is an improvement,” I said.

            She laughed her startled-out-of-her laugh again.  “Well—it’s not quite how I imagined Flowerhair, after I’d read it.  But there hadn’t been anything else in the house to read that weekend that I hadn’t already read a million times, or WAR AND PEACE or CLARISSA or something, and my mother was too busy to take me to the library, and I did kind of like the idea of a woman with a sword.  In spite of . . . er . . .”

            “Yeah,” I said.  “The separating of the sensitive teenage boy from his hard-earned money cover illustration.”

            She laughed again.  “I didn’t mean to spill coffee on it.  But I used to read it on my 8 am class mornings at college—especially that scene when she’s just escaped from Syforian again, and she’s so tired she’s going to sleep for a week, and Wesna has actually paid her what he owes her for a change, so she’s going to hire a room at Ganorac’s inn, and sleep in a bed, and eat every time she wakes up . . .”

            “I feel anxious about your state of mind at college,” I said.

            “My parents both teach English—my mom at the state u extension in Distantville, and my dad at the community college in Xanadu.  I was determined to do something practical.”  She sighed.  “The business course had a lot of 8 am classes.”  She smoothed the un-smoothably ragged cover of her FLOWERHAIR.  “I hadn’t realised just how awful it looks till I pulled it off the shelf this morning.  I have the first hardback omnibus, which is very pretty and very clean, and I was going to bring that, but then I thought, why?”  She looked up at me and smiled.  “I wasn’t going to show it to you or anything.  How embarrassing.  How unprofessional.”  She looked down again.  “So I brought this one along.  For luck.  Or something.  A habit of bringing it along for luck is one of the reasons it looks the way it does, although dropping it in the bath once or twice has contributed.”

            “An author would much rather see a book that’s been carried around for luck and dropped in the bath than the pristine copy that lives on a shelf,” I said.  “We’re vain, you know.  We like the idea that our stuff is appreciated.”  

            She finally opened the cover, but she still didn’t look at what I’d written, which was a (coming-loose) page or two in, on the title page.  I hadn’t noticed, but there was a series of rows of little marks on the inside cover.  “I used to keep track of how many times I’d read it,” she said.  “With a code, which I think I’ve mostly forgotten, for which adventure most nearly spoke to my current situation.  Syforian was extremely popular in junior high, when I seemed to hate all my teachers.  I reread the Osgil chapters obsessively after I had my heart broken for the first time.”

            Osgil had been an unsatisfactory lover whom Flowerhair ended up killing in a fair fight.  ‘Unsatisfactory’ was the polite version.  He’d tried to sell her soul to Syforian so he could get his hands on Doomblade. 

            Hayley looked up again.  “I’ll stop now.  But—thank you, you know?  Thank you.”

            “You’re very welcome,” I said.        


Feeding the Birds


The deed is done.  I bought myself a bird feeder today.  And some frelling bird seed.  We’re cutting back on the live mealworms* which, even allowing generously for relative body weight, cost more than frelling organic cereal-free hellhound food.   But I have spent nearly sixty years resisting Feeding the Birds and have now finally succumbed to . . . two robin nests in about two months.**

          I bought my shiny new bird feeder on line so it’ll be a day or two arriving.  I went for something squirrel resistant, which, in this case, means that the tube of bird seed is surrounded at a little distance by a tempered steel cage whose holes are (theoretically) too small for anything but a robin or a tit or a sparrow or thereabouts to get through.  The thought of feeding the local population of rats with furry tails is one of the things that has stopped me getting caught in the feed-the-birds trap before this.

            I’m having a little seizure of anti-on-line shopping however and with a car that runs I might revert to doing a little more of it in three dimensions, even if this means I can’t do it at three o’clock in the morning.***  But I’m tired of web sites that were stuck together by rather stupid demons using wallpaper paste and the blood of people who tick NO to the free newsletter, updates, special offers and more fun things to clutter the hell up your inbox option.†  The bird feeder site says, YOU HAVE TO CREATE AN ACCOUNT!!!!!, if you want to, like, order anything . . . BUT YOU’LL REALLY LIKE HAVING AN ACCOUNT BECAUSE WE SEND YOU ALL THESE GREAT OFFERS!  How often do you buy a new bird feeder?  I thought I might at least order their FREE bird feeding guide but . . . you have to create an account.  Apparently you have to create another account, because I’ve already created one so I can buy the frelling feeder.  So I’m going to receive TWO copies of the fabulous newsletter and all the special offers??  I don’t think so.  Never mind the dazzling nuisance of filling out your name, address, phone number^^^, and your new secret doodah password^^^^ all over again.

            So I declined.  I can get my bird feeding regime from the http://www.rspb.org.uk/

            But the current pinnacle of on line shopping fury was reached a few nights ago when I was trying to buy . . . socks.  I want colourful cotton socks, not black, navy blue and beige creepy weird fabric socks, and this is apparently going a little far, at least for the British market.  There’s a big lower-limb underwear chain over here whose web site is a nightmare.  I keep not going there because after about ten minutes I’m losing the will to live.  They have videos.  Videos of SOCKS?  WHY?  And if you are scrolling wearily down the long series of Hello Kitty and Robert Pattison socks, because the awful truth is that lurking among the rest there are Colourful Cotton Socks, and you SEE WHAT YOU ARE LOOKING FOR and click on the brand thumbnail, for every different colour you look at within that brand, you will have to come back through that individual screen again before you return to the home screen.  Let’s say there are two different greens, and you’ve clicked back and forth two or three times to compare—?  Yes.  And let me add to your burden of comprehension by further explaining that, probably because of the video option, EVERY PAGE TAKES SEVERAL SECONDS TO LOAD.

            I got out my knitting to avoid killing all the neighbours and laying waste generally to New Arcadia.

            I was on this frelling site nearly an hour.  And at the end, I had finally laid down my needles and was making my way through the checkout when . . . THE SITE TIMED ME OUT, THREW ME OFF, AND WIPED MY ORDER.‡

            Fortunately the pet shop here, which already orders cereal-free hellhound food for me, carries a liberal selection of bird food.  

* * *

* Unless there’s a third nest.  I suppose I should clear out the old ones.  There wasn’t a lot of free space in my greenhouse before the robins found two imaginary gaps to wedge two real nests into.  

** One of my Twitter followers said thank you for the photos,^ that most people don’t get to see this.  It’s funny how quickly something amazing becomes normal:  it doesn’t necessarily become less amazing—and I will be crushed if the local robins never build a nest in my greenhouse again^^:  don’t we have a tradition?^^^—but it still becomes established routine.  

^ Which reminds me, I have to finish the series.  Not tonight.  I’ve spent too much time ranting.  

^^ Although it would be nice to have the next nest where I can see it without the assistance of a camera-tipped gorilla-length arm. 

^^^ Including live mealworms 

*** Arguably the best feature about going to Bowdoin College thirty years ago was that the flagship Freeport 24-hour LL Bean is about a quarter of an hour away.  Back in my college days LL Bean was not yet . . . fashionable.    

† Which might explain the being gruesomely, headachingly tired so much of the time.  Here I thought it was the ME.   Hmm.  And I still get an awful lot of special offers. 

†† 00000000000.  Most web sites created by stupid demons don’t pick this up.  

††† I hate passwords.  I have unique ones for bank accounts and things, but for a site that sells bird feeders?  Give me a frelling break.  And then there’s the PROVE IT stage of paying on line.  PayPal, for example, is one of my unique passwords, so then I have to remember what the sodblaster it is . . . but one of my credit cards demands that you choose a Memorable Name of more than ten letters, and then every time you use the frelling card you get a screen that wants a specific, if random, three of the Name’s letters.  THE LETTERS HAVE WORN OFF TWO-THIRDS OF THE KEYS ON MY OLD LAPTOP.  I can type, because I’m not thinking about where individual letters are:  I’ve been typing on a QWERTY keyboard for fifty years [sic].  But tell me to pick out three specific letters from a lot of blotchy black keys?  Are you KIDDING? 

‡ It’s almost enough to make me rethink knitting socks.^ 

^ NOOOOOOOOOO.+  Cardigans!  I want to knit cardigans!  And jumpers!  And waistcoats!  And things that show that you’ve gone to all that knitting trouble!++  And that don’t get holes in them just because you wear them to walk in! 

+ I wrote this web site a little email, expressing would-be-customer dismay.  Four days went by.  Today I received your standard gloppy gormless infuriating robo-letter saying nothing at all at considerable length.  I felt my blood pressure rising again and answered it saying, this is gloppy, gormless and useless and proves that your customer relations is as rubbish as your web site.

            I got an answer!  And it was just as gloppy, gormless and useless! 

++ And made all these knitting mistakes.  Maybe not-showing has something to be said for it.


How to feel like a GIRL


Gaaaaaah.  Go to farm store and try to wrestle large bags of potting compost.  Large wet bags of potting compost.

            So, I have (theoretically) a car that runs again.  So I decided to put a little strain on this hypothesis.  We went for a proper countryside hurtle yesterday—climbed into Wolfgang, drove somewhere, parked, hurtled, and drove home again.  Between time pressure and will-Wolfgang-start pressure we haven’t been getting out of town for true over hill, over dale, lost in the wilderness, up to our necks in brambles and nettles, hurtles as often as we were once accustomed.*

            Wolfgang ran beautifully.  So today on my way to my voice lesson I decided to stop at the farm store and buy compost.  I had run out with the last lot of half-price fuchsias.**  Peter wanted some compost too, so I headed for the Giant Three for Two Bag area.  Laid my hands on the topmost bag, pulled, and . . . nothing happened.  Got a better grip.  Pulled. 

            Nothing happened.

            When you buy compost at the home-and-garden store, they tend to keep it under a roof because all the wussy London commuters and would-be DIY types and little old ladies can’t deal with Giant Wet Bags of compost.  But some of us are poor and would rather be spending the money on plants***. 

            I got an EVEN BETTER GRIP, added some language, and yanked the &&&&&& sideways.  It frelling shifted.  Reluctantly.  And with a ripping sound.  There are two—or three—parts to the problem.  The first one is, of course, that compost gets heavier when it gets wet.  The second one is that the plastic bags it is not-quite-sealed into STICK LIKE FURY to others of their kind.  Water + two layers of bendy bag plastic = superglue.  I eventually did get six Giant Wet Bags of compost on my trolley—which was gritting its teeth and sagging in the middle—and then I had to ROLL the freller first to the till and then out to Wolfgang in the alpine car park.†  The third part of the problem is the sheer practical physics of an overloaded trolley with wonky wheels, an uneven ground surface, and a frustrated, red-faced, pop-eyed human motive force who weighs less than her possessed-by-demons freightage.   You have to figure out which way the sodblasted trolley wants to roll†† and then apply what influence you have in some kind of clever semi-opposed orientation which may or may not average out in a tiny sprint in the right direction.  And then do it all over again.  Several times.  And they had a huge pot of frelling pansies right in front of the exit door, which is mysteriously cantilevered to throw you away from whatever you were/were not aiming for, which is to say Wolfgang/pot of pansies.  ARRRRRRGH.

            And then you get to transfer your six Giant Wet Bags of compost into your car. . . .

            It’s amazing I could sing at all.†††

            But Wolfgang ran beautifully.  Including when I stalled him out on a hill in the middle of a traffic jam with Monster Bus from Hell behind me.‡‡ 

* * *

* And speaking of brambles and nettles . . . arrrgh.  This was not one of our standard walks, but it was chosen first because I knew I could park Wolfgang in the shade, heat having tended to aggravate his condition^, and second because it was only about two more miles if we had our hurtle, got back in the car, turned the key in the little hole and . . . had to walk home. 

            It’s not one of our standard walks because a long stretch of it skirts the Large Fat Ugly Smug We Have More Money Than You Do and We’re Entitled estate.^^   The deal is supposed to be that if you have a public footpath running beside or through your property you have to maintain it.  Some owners are total stars.  Some are Fat, Ugly and Entitled.^^^  These jokers had put up a fence slicing off the footpath from the rest of the field, which would be fine if you could actually use the supposed path without a machete.  Since we were there last they’ve put up a map CLEARLY INDICATING the path . . . which is now invisible through the thickets punctuated by the occasional fallen tree.  We went down the field.  I noticed with some dry interest that two of the fallen trees had taken out quite a bit of their fence.  We climbed over it at the far end . . . and were then faced with a literally impenetrable stile and a gate clogged shut by brambles that would have done Sleeping Beauty’s castle proud.  ARRRGH.  A machete would have been better, but I do have a jackknife and a bad attitude. 

^ I’m sure any self-respecting mechanic would say ‘tut tut—nonsense’ but from the clueless owner’s eye view it was true.  And he was parked in hot sunlight last Tuesday at the garage, when he memorably refused to start after having been mended to a very high standard by the Niagara-Falls-Wallenda-walking+ equivalent electrician++. 

+ http://abcnews.go.com/WNT/video/nik-wallendas-niagara-falls-walk-daredevil-high-wire-stunt-us-16586935


As someone who has to have Atlas prune the second storey of my Mme Alfred Carriere, this story is scarier than vampires.~ 

~ I mostly dread and loathe circuses, both for the clowns, and for the fact that I don’t want to see anyone get eaten by tigers or miss the net because there isn’t one. 

++ Which is to say this electrician would have fallen off.  

^^ I may have mentioned once or twice that I’m not a royalist.  I’m not an aristocracy-ist+ either.  

+ Have never liked the term ‘oligarchy’.  The few what?  Disease-resistant-rose breeders?  Olympic standard dressage riders?  Flying Wallendas? 

^^^ There are cranks in every stratum of society, but the wealthy and/or blue blooded seem to have a curiously high proportion of self-serving ratbaggery within their ranks.  

** You get these come ons in your email and you’re in a hurry, but you like fuchsias, and this nursery does nice healthy plants and you could use a few hole-fillers, especially the kind that don’t demand twenty-hour-a-day sunlight^, so you order the ‘border collection’.  And then they frelling substitute half the frelling plants and you end up with a lot of hole fillers where you’d rather have the frelling holesI actually wrote and objected and they wrote back sniffily that they had said there was a possibility of substitution.  Oh?  Where?  Not either on their web site or in the original come-on email.  They didn’t answer that one.  Life is too short.  So I potted the bloody things. 

^ I swear our best sunlight happens at about rmmgh a.m. while I’m pretending it’s not that late.  

*** But not again on half-price fuchsias.  

† Who was going to start. 

†† ‘judder’ is perhaps more accurate 

††† More or less.  Last week I went in there very very tense due to circumstances, including cars, trains, planes and buses^, beyond my control and even Nadia couldn’t quite winkle me loose and so I went home convinced that it was all over and I would never sing again, not that what I’ve been doing so far is really what you’d want to call singing.  This week was better.  This week I can Go On.  Although I hope Nadia doesn’t take very much maternity leave or I’ll have to . . . join a yoga class or something. 

^ Okay, maybe only cars and buses 

‡ I did it deliberately!  Of course!  Just testing!

‡‡ I’m sure I recognised it from last week.


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