July 31, 2012

Luke and his family are here for a few days.


They arrived yesterday exactly when they said they would—also Andraste had been texting me about their progress ‘We have just arrived at the standard seven-lane closedown of the M4001.  The tailback on the one open lane is approximately ninety-six miles long, and they are laying on an emergency pontoon bridge to hold the vehicles which are being shoved off the white cliffs of Dover.’  ‘Local flooding* in East Dewlap is general due to the town council’s decision to build a nightclub in the storm drains, and we have been advised we will have to go around via Cherryunripe which will add twenty miles to the journey’.

            Despite all this excellent advice I was still racing up to Third House at the last minute to meet them and let them in.  With hellhounds, who were suffering a hurtling shortage due to the weather.  And I wanted to preen a little about the fabulousness of my hellhounds.**  Well, and complain about the perversity of inanimate objects.

            Hellhounds are still not quite certain about Third House.  I can’t just pitch them through the door and tell them to Go Lie Down.  I had put a blanket down for them but they were much more interested in investigating the corners.***  At which juncture a large vehicle full of people arrived, and mayhem ensued.  Mayhem especially ensued when I discovered I couldn’t get the bolts on the front door open.  I usually go in the kitchen door, but they need the front door for the wheelchair.  AAAAAUGH.  This is now Sunday evening, and I’m not at all sure how long it might have taken to get a 24-hour locksmith round.

            I did eventually get the wretched things pried out of their holes—this door is due to be replaced, but it hasn’t happened yet†—but meanwhile the kitchen door was wide open, people bearing boxes and bundles were streaming in and out, there were even more people passing by on the footpath that runs along the edge of Third House’s garden, and generally speaking there were an infinity of opportunities for hellhounds to misbehave.

            And they didn’t.  Oh, they capered around and greeted Luke and his family with more enthusiasm than was strictly necessary (but Luke’s family have a dog at home, so dogs are known positive, life-enhancing beings) but after that, every time I looked around, either for a hammer or a blowtorch or in a sudden panic about what hellhounds might be getting up to . . . there they were, keeping an eye on me.  Sometimes they were even lying down.†† 

* * *

* We had outbreaks of the solid-wall-of-falling-water type of thunderstorm yesterday—complete with ground-shaking thunder and lightning.  This required my extremely well-muscled obstinacy to shove harder and may also explain why there were only eight of us at the abbey, although they are more often short for Sunday afternoon service than they aren’t.  Also I have mostly learnt where the sudden fords are, when the precipitation has been untoward, at the bottom of little dips in the short stretch of motorway I need to use.  There is a back way to the abbey, but it is wildly inconvenient even for a motorway-phobic like me, not to mention notorious for long strings of traffic going 19 mph behind the little old lady in the deux chevaux^ (the speed limit is mostly 40).  I might put up with all of this . . . except I do like to excoriate myself, now that I ring there, with the breathtaking view of the abbey as you come into town the standard way.^^ 

^ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Citro%C3%ABn_2CV

+ Some of you are on the right track [sic] about Kes’ new vehicle.  I have to say I’m extremely sorry not to be providing her with an MGB . . . but, you know, maybe later.  I think a lot of interesting vehicles probably pass through Jan’s son’s garage.  But this was not one of the storytelling crossroads where I had a choice.  I saw the thing for the first time when Kes did and it was already there, you know?  It wasn’t like it was still at the sponge stage and I could hastily add another jug of water and a couple of pounds of pumpernickel flour, put the butter back in the refrigerator and turn it into bagels instead of croissants.    

          KES isn’t exactly a Story Council product but it’s still not like I can do what I like.  Out there in the aether somewhere it has been noted that Kestrel MacFarquhar is a slightly more official Robin McKinley alter ego than the ‘my heroines are idealised versions of me’ line that applies to most of Robin McKinley’s published books.  That still doesn’t mean I get to do what I like. 


^^ b_twin_1

The other thing about going today is that us abbey ringers, both the real ones and the grim hangers-on like me, are on holiday for August.
HUH? … no ringing for a month..? 

What an appalling idea.  No, the abbey hires itself out, week by week every August, to other bands seriously insane enough to want a crack at a tower with thirty-two bells.  Whoever’s week it is, they ring the Sunday services.  I have no idea why this is the system, but it’s apparently a long-standing one.

            This is still the south of England.  Area-wide we may be short of ringers—and we are, or I wouldn’t be trying to ring at the abbey and they wouldn’t be letting me in the door—but there are still a lot of towers around.  I have no intention of personally taking August off. 

Audrey Falconer

I am off to one of the larger towers in town. Will be interesting. More bells. And they’re hung anti-clockwise. 

Anti-clockwise.  Brrrrrr.  We’ve got some of those around here but I’ve managed to avoid them so far.  I confuse easily.  Please report back. 

** Diane in MN

Yesterday and today we’ve had several more interesting encounters with other dogs and hellhounds have not reacted so they haven’t morphed into little paranoia machines at least—at least not yet.

My guess would be that they would not do so, especially at their age. I think it’s very likely that they might decide that certain dogs–like the one that stalked you into town–demand a certain response, especially since your response travels right down the lead to them, but I’d be surprised if they generalized that to all dogs or even to all unknown dogs. 

I so hope you’re right.  You’re certainly right about the way your critters pick up your reaction.  Anyone who’s ever ridden a horse knows the way the horse picks up what you’re thinking through your legs and hands.  And how many cats disappear before you actually get the travelling-crate-which-means-the-vet out? 


Have walked with small child. Same issue. Dogs jaws at child face-height. Child frightened. “But he’s friendly…” from owner 

I entirely agree.   Of course child is frightened.  Child is being sensible.  But . . . dog that messes with another dog, eh, says authority, it’s only a dog.  Dog that messes with small child is in serious trouble.  It’s perfectly true that the dog owner can claim that the kid antagonised it in some way—which is exactly what happened to me as a teenager once, when this rabid monster came boiling out from behind its house with some kid of the household in hot pursuit, an obvious escapee, you know?  And I stopped, having been taught to stop if confronted by a dog in a bad mood . . . and it raced up to me and sank its teeth in my leg.^  The kid of the household clearly knew that both he and his dog were in big trouble . . . but after I had reported it to the police and gone to the doctor to have my leg looked at, the woman the police spoke to said I’d come into their yard and threatened the dog. 

            Anyway.  I don’t think a dog that damages, or tries to damage, a kid little enough to have its face at dog level, is going to have a long and happy life.  Nor frelling should it^^, although if the situation gets to last posts the owner should receive the lethal injection with the dog.  But the other side of that is idiot parents who let their offspring have tantrums under some dog’s nose.  In some cases I haven’t been sure if this is extreme excitement or extreme terror, but it’s inappropriate.  My guys basically like everyone—with the recent occasional exception of belligerent other dogs—but they are a little dismayed by the very mixed signals some of these kids give.  And I’ve seen other, nervier dogs growl a keep-away . . . and my sympathy in those cases is with the dog.  


. . . I shut it up in the enclosed carpark of the Gospel Chapel and phoned the non-emergency police number to let someone know it was there. . . . Eventually the police phoned back . . . to say the dog warden declined to collect it because it was unattended. 

WHAT?  So what happened to the poor frelling dog? 

^ Bare leg, in fact.  Perhaps my aversion to shorts began then. 

^^ Southdowner will come rampaging in here and talk about retraining and rehoming.  Yes.  But it’s a sticky issue.  (As Southdowner would be the first to acknowledge.)  A dog that has bitten will bite again.  I have put up with a level of unreliability with various dogs I’ve lived with, dogsat for, and owned, but . . . I’ve never forgotten that they’re unreliable and I’m a grownup. 

 ** Which are mostly full of book boxes.  Sigh.

† It may just have moved up the list a little. 

†† This is one of those things you can’t depend on, but it is the result of hellhounds and I/me being in each other’s company all the time.  I haven’t specifically trained them to be all over me like a cheap suit, but that is their default position:  when in doubt, lie down in the room with the hellgoddess in it, even if it’s a strange room.  The hellgoddess yelling at inanimate objects is, of course, not at all strange.


Dogs and Bells


Yesterday and today we’ve had several more interesting encounters with other dogs and hellhounds have not reacted so they haven’t morphed into little paranoia machines at least—at least not yet.  Siiiiiigh.  People are insane.  The real wonder is that most dogs aren’t more insane.  One of the more interesting encounters was with another of these frelling gigantic black Labrador things—I don’t know what the hell they really are, what they’ve been crossing proper Labs with to get these monsters, but I hate them.  You do still meet nice old-fashioned Labs—it’s a bit like Alsatians.  There are the old-fashioned kind that are probably nice and the hot new huge streamlined kind which probably aren’t.  Gigantic Labs are bad news. 

            We saw this one at the far end of a long corridor of footpath.  I cranked hellhounds in and we stopped, which some owners recognise as a request to put that damn dog on a lead.*  In this case, okay, she did.  But as she came abreast of us she said pityingly, oh, aren’t yours good with other dogs? —while hers was standing on his hind legs and clawing the air.  Bloody thing is as tall as I am, and she could only hang onto it because she had it in one of those hackamore things that shut off its breathing.  FrgggfffffrrrrrrGAAAAAAAAH PEOPLE.  Granted I think it was more or less friendly in that cartoon way where the thing knocks you down and stands on your chest while it smothers you with licking . . . but LIFE IS NOT A CARTOON.  Make a note.**   

            Meanwhile . . . I did drag myself in to the abbey this afternoon.  Waaaaaaaah.  I so didn’t want to.  I didn’t tell you just how bad it was on Friday.  But utterly humiliating doesn’t cover it.  I had said to Albert on the way out that I was sorry, I seemed to have left my brain behind, and he was completely calm and said, oh, everyone has a bad night occasionally . . . which is a little like saying oh, everyone goes mad with an axe occasionally and destroys major international art works and maybe knocks out the power grid for a medium-sized town or two.  BAD.  IT WAS REALLY BAD.    

            Okay, here’s an example:  I couldn’t ring rounds.  I’ve told you the abbey has sixty-seven bells, and while at New Arcadia we might ring the front six or the back six, still, that’s all the permutations there are, since the middle sound funny by themselves.  (Change ringing bells are still tuned by fairly standard western musical notation to sound nice together.)  At the abbey there’s the front six, the light eight (which are not, in fact, the front eight bells, just to add to the confusion), the middle ten, the back forty-six (which are in fact the back forty-six but by then you’re too confused to appreciate this) and the second-sub-thoracic twelve which varies depending on if the moon is waxing or waning and whether a black cat crossed the path of the ringing master on his way to the tower.  We were ringing rounds on some weird permutation or other of thirty-six, which means you have to hold up for a noticeable space of time till it’s your turn to ring again because thirty-six is a lot of bells.  Holding your frelling bell in place is another of those distinct skills—pull it too high and it sets itself back upside down on its frame and you’ll waste precious time jerking it off again;  don’t pull it high enough and it comes down on you (starts swinging back again and therefore sounds too soon).  And I COULD NOT GET THE GAP RIGHT between my bell and the one in front of me so we were going Dong dong dong dong . . . dong dong dong dong, the . . . being me failing to be able to hold my bell in the right place:  I wasn’t quite setting it, but I couldn’t get it to stay just below the balance ARRRRRRRRGH.  I’d never rung this particular thirty-six before.  I didn’t know I was going to have trouble ringing this particular fifth bell after this particular fourth bell.  And the thing is . . . I have no idea which two bells those were in the grand scheme BECAUSE THERE ARE SO MANY BELLS.  And if we were ringing on fewer than thirty-six my slight handling problem probably would not show.  ARRRRRRRRRGH.

            Anyway.  Friday was bad.  Friday was baaaaaaaad.  I crawled out of there genuinely wondering if someone, possibly the Nice Man, would tell me (nicely) that it really wasn’t working out, and maybe I should take up boules or Bingo OR AT LEAST STAY AWAY FROM THE ABBEY,*** if I had the extremely poor judgment to show up again.  It wasn’t so much getting back on the horse that threw you, today, as my characteristic obstinacy:  Come on, it said, stop whining, we’re going to the abbey this afternoon, you know that, don’t you?  We’re going to the abbey this afternoon.  Whiiiiiiiiine, I said.  I went up the gazillion and a half stairs like the firing squad was waiting at the top.  I crept into the ringing chamber and sat down on the chair nearest the door, crouching over my knapsack, hoping no one would notice, I could just stay here in the shadows and knit for an hour. . . .

            They were really nice to me.  Albert, the Nice Man, applied the crowbar to get me out of my seat and said he was glad to see me and all these other lies . . . but the one thing that made it half true is that with me we were eight ringers, so we could ring stuff on eight—you don’t ring on seven, so without me they’d’ve been ringing on six.  Six for service in an abbey with ninety-two bells is not good.  Eight is acceptable.  Albert called for Grandsire Triples and I shied violently and said, I’ll take the treble (which is the easy bell), and Scary Man—Scary Man!  Who, while a really good teacher and minder who seems to know where you are before you do is not exactly notorious for patience and kindness to the mentally afflicted and the physically inept—said no, no, I’ll take the treble, you ring the two and I’ll shout at you.  —Trust me, this counts as kindness.  And that’s what we did.  We rang some other stuff and I was not totally hopeless on the treble, but the two touches of Grandsire Triples Scary Man took the treble and I took the two, and he kept me in line.  And I didn’t ring as well—cough cough well—as I have done occasionally on a good night, but the second touch was better than the first so I was at least going in the right direction again, dear frelling gods.†

           The other thing about going today is that us abbey ringers, both the real ones and the grim hangers-on like me, are on holiday for August.  This was my last chance of the summer either to finish falling on my sword . . . or decide not to fall on my sword.  I left saying, See you in September, and both Scary Man and Nice Man said, See you in September!, as if this was normal. . . . 

* * *

*Although after our experience the other day with the quarterwit who let his dog attack mine by not bothering to hit the brake on the extending lead I have less faith in dogs on leads any more either. 

** Although sometimes it is.  I was wearing my Australian Wildflowers t shirt yesterday when a little group of people asked me for some local directions.  I’m walking dogs, I’m a likely candidate for local knowledge.  I told them what they wanted to know and as I was walking away I heard one of them say to another, she’s not English.  No, said another of the group, she’s Australian.  —I love this.  I totally do not sound Australian.  They could just be clueless, but I prefer to think they took in my t shirt without realising, took in my accent with another part of their subconscious brains . . . and made a not quite logical deduction.  

*** I was reminded there is a further drawback to ringing at the abbey when I was at Curlyewe last time and heard one of the ringers there asking Niall where his home tower is.  At the moment I haven’t got a home tower, so I can say that.  But if the abbey does take me on . . . I will have to admit I’m an abbey ringer.  And there is cachet to this, cachet I don’t deserve and frankly don’t want.  I’m a middling mediocre ringer at my best.  I ring at the abbey because it’s what there is in this area, having bailed on New Arcadia.  Maybe I could make something up . . . I’m good at making stuff up. . . . 

† I said to Nice Man that my tendency to take three steps forward and two point nine nine nine steps back was discouraging, and he said that he’s been ringing thirty years and he can remember entire seasons when he was taking three steps forward and four or five steps back.  He is a Nice Man.

KES, 30



I looked at my inbox again.  I could see six emails from my agent, four from Flowerhair’s editor and two from Aldetruda’s among the ninety million emails from people wanting to sell me life insurance, cashmere pashminas, solar panels, pyramid healing, scuba diving holidays in Mauritius (that one sounded pretty good, especially right now), museum memberships and climbing frames for my roses.  What?  Gossip apparently doesn’t travel nearly as fast as an on-line purveyor can smell a potential new client and hit the ‘send’ button.  I needed a bed worse than my roses needed climbing frames.  I needed a bed, sixteen blankets, a flannel nightgown and bed socks.  And possibly a warm dog.  Besides, you didn’t buy climbing frames for roses, did you?  That was what the pillars holding up your porch roof were for, right?  I had a bad feeling that gardening might turn out to be complicated.  And expensive.  Maybe I could start with a nice basic gardening book to read in bed, with the sixteen blankets and the warm dog.  It would tell me that you too could have a fabulous garden with an acre of roses like the Brooklyn Botanic with only a $3.49 trowel and a lot of green twine.  And Gus to mow the lawn.


I also needed a car.  The jelly doughnut had distracted me.  Or possibly the thought of Norah storming up here, with her red hair, her scarlet lipstick, her skintight red leather trousers, and her attitude.   

I pulled out my phone and punched in the number at the bottom of Gus’ mom’s note.

“Yo,” said her voice.

“Hi,” I said.  “Car.”

“Kes?” she said.  “I’m pretty sure I was careful not to specify car.  I’m pretty sure I said vehicle.

“You’re scaring me.”

“It’s a very nice vehicle,” she said.  “It runs.  And there are no skulls on it anywhere.  Relax.”

“I’ve forgotten how to relax,” I said.  “I think I left relaxing back in the city.”

“Manhattan, home of the easy-going and chilled out.” 

 “Ha ha.  Where is this vehicle?”

“Jan took the liberty of bringing it along,” said Serena.  “It’s parked outside number seven, trying not to be intimidated by your van.  Where are you?”

“I’m at Eats,” I began, and she laughed.  “I’ll be there in a very few minutes,”  I added, wiping sugar off my fingers. 

“I’m in the office,” she said.  “I’ll look out for you.”

I stuffed my laptop, not without a guilty sense of relief, back in my knapsack, dropped a few dollars on the table—and gave the tea cosy a surreptitious pat.  “So soon?” said Bridget, reappearing to collect everything back on the tray again.  “Don’t you need a pastrami on rye to hold that jelly doughnut down?  Or a bowl of chili?”

“No,” I said.  “I need a job that burns 4000 calories a day.  Anyone digging a road through wilderness with pickaxes around here?”

“I don’t think so,” said Bridget, “but they’re doing some kind of major conservation deal on the shorefront at the far end of the lake.  I think it involves cement blocks and heavy lifting.  They might be hiring.”

“Thanks,” I said.  Getting into my knapsack was never pretty, but it would improve as soon as I had a house and could leave stuff there.    

As I walked back down Bradbury I looked around for trotting shadows, but there weren’t any—of course.  She was crashed out under the kitchen table in her own home, having borne the being yelled at for jumping the fence again, because the food was good.  Well, I hoped the food was good.  My mother had a patented rant on proprietary dog food.  The Silent Wonder Dog—who was still entirely unknown having nothing to do with low-ish trotting shadows—would be given real food.  I’d have to learn to cook.  (I had specialities—like Death by Brownie—but I wouldn’t say I knew how to cook.)  Surely boiling chicken carcasses wasn’t a difficult skill.

Serena was coming out of the office door as I crossed the street.  “Anyone would think you were worried about my reaction,” I said.

“Worried?” she said.  “I wouldn’t miss the look on your face for anything.”

I looked uneasily toward cabin number seven.  Whatever was there was behind the van and disguised by afternoon tree shadows.  I thought the skull’s jaw looked even more dislocated than it had when I left this morning, and its burning eyes more frantic.  Get me out of here, it was screaming (silently), where there are crickets and cows and they park me next to a . . .

“So, did you find a house?”

I could see my rose-bush on the cabin porch.  I was sure it had unfurled several new leaves since this morning.  Rose-bushes were perhaps not unduly distressed by rogue vehicles.  “What?  Oh.  Yeah.  In Cold Valley.  It’s too big and it’s pretty ramshackle but it’s kind of—charming.”

Serena nodded.  “Yeah.  I got Mrs Jenning’s house cheap because she hadn’t remodelled since her husband died thirty years before.  And the old zinc sink is still in the kitchen because I like it.”

“There’s a gigantic solid-fuel stove in the kitchen at this place that must have been there when Washington crossed the Potomac—”

But at that moment we were close enough to see past the van to my new vehicle.


Not a good day


I had one of those I Am Giving It Up Forever experiences on the end of a bell rope tonight.  Ringing in honour of the opening day ceremonies for the frelling Olympics.  It’s beside the point that I’m not interested in the Olympics*:  when you ring for an occasion you’re supposed to ring well.  It’s respectful.  I’m not a Christian either but I ring the best I can for Sunday service.  And that’s every week—if you blow it this week there’s always next week and the week after that.  I hate ringing badly for weddings because they’re one-offs.  You don’t get to do it again next week.**   And how many times are we going to have the Olympics in London?***

            Maybe I’ll take up bowling.†  Or boules.  Or Bingo.  Think of how much more time I’d have for knitting if I didn’t waste so much time in bell towers.††

            It’s still too hot.†††  It was supposed to cool off today but cooling off has not been wildly apparent.  In naïve expectation of cooling-off I wore long trousers to hurtle hounds so we had a bit more choice about where we could go than with me in bare legs and I almost died.‡  And air con is not standard over here.‡‡  But it was 87° and 87% humidity yesterday when I putting my knitting in my cough-cough evening bag‡‡‡ and it was still in the low eighties today.  I realise this will make people from Texas or even NYC snicker, but to us Hampshire wimps it’s hot.§ 

            And of course it was the heat and not all the rich food that meant I didn’t sleep too well last night.  I wasn’t particularly looking forward to All the Bells in Frelling England at 8:12 this morning but I have no idea whether there were any audible bells or not . . . because of the jackhammer that started at approximately 8:05 and went on continuously for half an hour.§§ 

* * *

* Although I love this:  

In a garden by the river

I don’t know whether it’s visible in this photo or not, but those are tyres.  Ordinary tyres off a car.  Hee hee hee hee hee. 

** It’s perfectly true that most people don’t know what they’re listening to, listening to method bell ringing, and this is what old experienced ringers always say when someone like me (who is nonetheless way too old and experienced to make as total a hash of it as I did tonight) moans about failing to make a joyful noise.   But I insist that you don’t have to know anything about change ringing to recognise BANG CRASH CLANG CRUNCH when you hear it.^ 

^  Because, I suppose, I bemuse easily, I googled ‘chiming bells vs method bell ringing’.  The first link below was number three in the list.  The second was tucked within the first link, which is www.cccbr.org.uk, the Central Council of Church Bell Ringers.  I went there and typed ‘chiming’ in the search box.  The Learning Curve is a terrific series anyway.  It’s worth going on subscribing to THE RINGING WORLD for when the name-calling on the letters page starts getting kind of depressing. 

http://www.cb1.com/~john/ringing/glossary.html   You do have to scroll down to ‘chiming’.  


Oh, and this is also on the opening page of the cccbr site, top of the list in the left hand column:  http://cccbr.org.uk/bellrestoration/pubs/a-glossary-of-bellringing-terms.pdf

*** I mean, thank the gods we won’t have it again in my lifetime.^  But the point about one-offs and respectfulness remains.  

^ We’d already done it in 1908 and 1948, we didn’t need to do it again in 2012.  Let someone else have a chance.  

† I’ve bowled a little.  I’m no good at that either. 

††  Unfortunately hanging around in bell towers tends to be good for my knitting—especially ringing somewhere like the abbey^ where I sit out a lot listening to the big boys and girls ringing things like Stedman caters^^.  A modest touch of something like Stedman caters which involves nine working bells takes a long time to work through its permutations.  I got several yarn rows done.^^^ 

            Then they rang Cambridge Major and I stood behind the treble, because I can treble bob on six (minor), I should be able to pick it up on eight (major).#   Why is it so much easier to watch someone else ringing something than to do it yourself?  Siiiiiiiiiiiiiiiigh. 

^ Where they probably passed a total ban on McKinley the minute I fled down those dangerous stairs a few hours ago.  When I show up on Sunday afternoon there will be a force field that doesn’t let me through.  I hope they are merciful enough to put it at the bottom of all those stairs rather than the top. 

^^ Again.  Show offs. 

^^^ Short rows however.  I’m about three quarters of the way through the Right Front and most of the way through Shaping Armhole.+  Yes.  I should do a knitting blog.  But it requires a certain amount of organisation, and organisation and I are not good friends.  

+ This is not the best shaped armhole that has ever existed.  I keep forgetting to tick off how many rows I’ve done.  I’m going to have to measure it against the finished armholes of the back.  Surreptitiously.  Of course I know what I’m doing.  I can see whether the armhole looks like an armhole.  Um . . . 

# ‘Treble bob’ is the name of the line that the treble follows through surprise methods.^ 

^ I don’t know enough about frelling surprise to know how many exceptions there are.  There are exceptions to everything in ringing, so presumably there are exceptions to treble bobbing to surprise methods too. 

††† And the ME is biting my ass big time.  GO.  AWAY.  This was undoubtedly a contributing factor in the bell tower tonight, but, so?  If I’m going to ring I have to be able to ring. 

‡ And we met the dog that chased us back into town the other day.  Joy.  And . . . Chaos and Darkness did their little united front guard Rottweiler confronting burglar thing again and . . . I’m not totally happy about it.  I mean, the stupid dog backed off—his veering into the hedgerow every time he got too close the other day proves he’s a coward, which is good—and not getting bitten is good for all of us—but I really don’t want my sweet hellhounds turning into a pair of tuned-out defensive-aggressive maniacs.  If they haven’t already:  if I haven’t just witnessed the moment that they did.  But I missed the other day, when Darkness went after the duckling:  what happens when I miss some day during a face off with another dog?  Darkness has been worrying about other dogs from the beginning—and unfortunately when Chaos learns something he tends to retain it.^  He may have just learnt that making other dogs back off is satisfying. 

^ Except when it has to do with picking his feet up to have his harness put on.  

‡‡ We didn’t have air conditioning in the fancy restaurant last night.  I knew this, so I was wearing shoes I could take off under the table and a skirt with design holes in it to encourage air flow.  Unfortunately I was also wearing the shirt I’d been wearing all day—it was a perfectly nice shirt chosen that morning to look fine with a going out to dinner skirt—but I didn’t notice till I got to the restaurant that it had lunch on it.  Arrrrrgh.  Oh well, indoors, dimly lit, flickering candles . . . Peter claims not to have noticed . . . but then he is a gentleman. . . . ^ 

^ He is also . . . untidy.  I am forever snatching articles of clothing away from him and screaming PUT THIS THROUGH THE WASH.  

‡‡‡ My real evening bags^ have developed a whole new life as Mobile Knitting Units however. 

^ Not only I but various friends have a weakness for sparkly things found at Oxfam.  

§ I also disenjoy watering the garden.  It takes huge amounts of time, struggling with taps and water butts and heavy cans full of water is tiring and awkward and the whole business is boring.  And I haven’t figured out a way to knit while I’m doing it either. 

§§ This has never happened before in the seven or eight years I’ve lived at the cottage.  We have jackhammers and chainsaws occasionally, but they’re not that early and they don’t go on uninterrupted that long.  And it happens for the first time the morning of All the Bells in England?  I think someone may be even less a fan of Martin Creed than I am.

We Are Twenty-One Today



 I may have reached a new low tonight.  Or a new something.

           It is our TWENTY FIRST ANNIVERSARY* and we went out to dinner at our single remaining favourite local(ish) Fancy Restaurant.**  And it was excellent.  I managed to have both chicken liver pate and foie gras—both champagne and Supreme Overwhelming Sticky Toffee Pudding in a Glass—the latter to go with the chocolate slice.  I generally have a second glass of champagne on these (fortunately for my liver) infrequent outings, partly because . . . because . . . well, because it’s champagne, but partly because there are very very few dessert wines that will actually hold their own against chocolate with attitude, and why waste my alcohol budget (the cough-syrup end of dessert wines tend also to be super fortified)?  This one held powerfully.  Yurp.  Fortunately I have no intention of being anywhere to ring any bells at 8:12 tomorrow morning.*** 

           Peter and I rarely discuss the future of the world when we go out to dinner.†  We tend to do crosswords.  Tonight we did the Times Literary Supplement Summer Acrostic which Peter had thoughtfully provided.  You know how this works?  You have clues you have to fill in, and once you’ve got the clues you write in the letters as directed into the acrostic box.  As the box fills up with letters you can start back guessing to the clues you may have missed.  And in this version, the acrostic quotation author’s name appears in the left-hand column of the clue grid.  Uh oh, said Peter . . . 


. . . the first two letters of the author’s name are ‘LM’.  LM Montgomery! I shouted . . . and so it was.  Now warning to anyone (still) planning to do the TLS summer acrostic, there are at least two egregious errors, which seems to me a bit rough, but we’re so clever, which is to say Peter is so clever, he got about 80% of the clues††, and we did it anyway.  Whereupon I asked if I could have the page out of Peter’s (new) TLS because my idea of souvenirs of important occasions is peculiar.  And he said, just let me have a look at the other side of the page . . . which he then proceeded to read.

            So I got out my knitting.  Of course I had brought my knitting to the fancy restaurant for dinner with my husband on our twenty-first anniversary.††† 

* * *

* Of the famous-to-regular-readers-of-the-blog beginning of a weekend in Maine when I went to the airport to pick up this odd fellow I slightly knew, Peter Dickinson, because we kept running into each other at book conventions and had a developed a vague sort-of friendship.  The weekend was going to be interesting because he was an interesting character^ but it wasn’t going to be a big deal.  Oops.^^ 

!!!!!!!! I again hesitate to attempt to delineate any of this since Peter reads the blog.  But to your average American, Peter was/is a total walking manifestation of someone you thought only existed in Anthony Trollope.  Starting with the BBC historical drama accent.  +

+ He has as much trouble with voice recognition software on the robot answering programmes on frelling every corporate, service or sales phone line out there as I do, although he dangles from a different branch of the accent tree.  Someone needs to build more of a tall spreading two-hundred-year-old oak unit as opposed to the stunted bonsai minichip presently enabled.  Grrrrr. 

^^ Our wedding anniversary is the beginning of January.  

** Back in the days when we got out more we were better at poking around in odd corners for interesting places to eat.  But I am less and less willing to spend that much money and time on a less than fabulous meal when we’d do it better at home, it would be organic at home, and I could read/work on story in progress/write a blog entry/cruise Ravelry’s new patterns^ over dinner.  I should say something here about How Terrible It Is to Get Old and Boring, but that’s not how it feels from the inside.  It feels from the inside like discarding the non-crucial as the future gets shorter.  I admit, however, that when our other favourite restaurant changed hands and was demoted, and our list of favourite restaurants became one restaurant long^^ I felt a trifle cul de sac-ish.  Not enough to do anything about it however.^^^ 

^ A recent addition to the list of ways I soak up hours so I don’t have time to have a life. 

^^ and one or two unfancy pubs 

^^^ Going out to dinner also really cuts into your bridge-playing and bell-ringing evenings. 

*** Some poor innocent person posted to the blog asking if I knew about Martin Creed’s All the Bells in England.  http://festival.london2012.com/events/9000961496  Yes.  It has only been this huge contentious topic in the method-bell-ringing world for months.  I’m not a fan.  I’m a first cousin to the Grinch who stole Christmas, okay?  I think it’s a dumb idea.^  And I saw an interview with Martin Creed when this ‘art work’ was first announced in which he came off as entirely up himself, but in his defense he may just interview badly or had just found out his wife had run off with the plumber two minutes before the interviewer arrived. 

            I’m also just a tiny bit discouraged that a regular forum poster and therefore I would imagine regular blog reader had to ask what the difference between chiming and method bell ringing is.  Siiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiigh.  B_twin_1, thank you very much, posted an answer, but to anyone else out there who doesn’t read the forum and lets the whole bell thing pass them by as a faint breeze, START SKIMMING NOW, chiming is just wagging either the bell or the clapper hard enough that the one makes contact with the other and makes a noise.  Hard enough but no harder—and on a mouth down bell, with the clapper hanging loose.  For method bell ringing you start by ringing the bells all the way up, by yanking on the rope as they swing higher^^.  This does start with chiming but ends with the bells mouth up on a frame specially built to hold them—which is why you can’t method ring with any old bunch of bells—and the clapper lying against one side of its bell or the other.^^^  Method ringing is full circle ringing:  each bell swings 360° with every stroke,# beginning and ending mouth up.    

            And it’s the order of the strokes among a band of bells that makes method ringing beguiling, but I really don’t expect anyone who doesn’t do it to understand the difference between Grandsire and Stedman and Deedledeedledumpling Surprise.  But I’d appreciate it if you’d make ‘oooh’ noises when I tell you, okay?  Thanks. 

^ But then I’m not a fan of the Olympics either.  Grinch, Grinch, Grinch.  

^^ Yes.  This is a fairly exacting skill in itself, since method-ringing bells tend to range in weight between several hundred and lots of hundred pounds.  The biggest change-ringing bell in the world, at Liverpool Cathedral, is over 9000 pounds (82 long hundredweight.  Feel free to redo the arithmetic).  Biggest bell I’ve ever rung is pushing 2000 pounds, and that is . . . plenty big enough for me. 

^^^I will spare you the discussion of bells that go up ‘wrong’ which is to say the clapper ends up leaning against the wrong side.  Yes, it matters. 

# Okay, I am also sparing you the exceptions to this rule.  Some circles are a little short for reasons either of relative bell size or style of ringing. 

† Although some sotto voce discussion of persons at neighbouring tables is usually entered into.  We were next to a family where you could so absolutely see they were related to each other.  And behind Peter’s back there was a couple where the bloke was really hoping to get laid tonight.    

†† But my handwriting is better.  You can read the boxes I filled in. 

††† And yes.  I got the page.  It is here beside me adding to the clutter on my desk.


Next Page »