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.



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