Several Days Full of (Mostly Metaphorical) Elbows
I realised that one of the effects of that long spell when Wolfgang starting merely because I turned the key in the little hole was not to be relied on, is that hellhounds and I have been getting seriously out of town for hurtles less often. Having a car that doesn’t quite start now and then is very dampening to the hurtling spirit. So I’ve been trying to raise our hinterland level again. Both the breathtakingness of the views and the pleasure of saying hello to specific trees (and fields of alpacas*) seem sharper-edged. But the (*&^%$£”!!!!!! aspects whap you up longside the head harder. Because of all the rain it’s been a fabulous season for nettles. I wish we had an idiot swan maiden in the neighbourhood who wanted to make lots of shirts. They’re chest- and head-high—especially when they have been colonising public footpaths that haven’t been cleared by the council recently. Something about all those pounding feet (or possibly all that dog crap), public footpath nettles tend to be very happy. And aside from the occasional swordstroke when/where you’re least expecting it** you can guarantee you will be surrounded by forests of nettles eight feet high when you hear an ominous noise behind you . . . and discover that the Biggest Tractor in this Universe is bearing down on you at speed, pulling The Biggest Muck Cart in This Universe or Any Other. You and hellhounds climb the bank and stand among the eight foot nettles . . . or, of course, are run down by a muck cart, which is an infamy I would rather avoid. Hellhounds seem to have grown up to be nettle-proof***, even their bellies, which amazes me, but I am not nettle-proof anywhere. My working definition of a Bad Nettle is if it can sting you through your jeans it is a Baaaaaaaad Nettle.† This was a bank of baaaaaaaad nettles. The tractor driver, I am pleased to report, waved a nonchalant hand of thanks as he blasted by, probably assuming that my rictus of agony was a smile of acknowledgement.
Later, having been stymied by a field of GIGANTIC COWS†† we were making our way down yet another barely-passable footpath when . . . we met two Golden Retrievers almost as large as the frelling cows, who wanted to eat us. These things were even on lead, but there was nowhere to GO. The banks, liberally festooned with nettles, were too steep to climb. The woman had the less ravening brute, and she managed to crowd it semi-successfully against the slope. The more ravening brute was the bloke’s problem, and I really thought the dog was going to win. OKAY, SO MAYBE WALKING AROUND TOWN ISN’T SO BORING AS ALL THAT. And there are fewer nettles.†††
Night before last, I’d got to the end of Part One of my latest Secret Knitting Project‡, and was preparing to cast off and go on to Part Two. I lay there in bed at mmph o’clock in the morning, having accomplished hellhound supper and feeling pleasantly aglow with success‡‡, stared at what I had done for a long moment . . . and ripped the freller back to a pile of crinkly yarn. SIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIGH.‡‡‡ And cast on to start over. SIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIGH.
Today I knitted about eight remedial rows sitting in a traffic jam. We don’t have traffic jams that last twenty minutes or half an hour in the back woods of Hampshire. The only movement was people giving up and turning through the gap in the median to go back—which, when I got close enough, I did too. I was on my way to Mauncester to buy tea and stitch holders, tea, because, well, tea, and stitch holders because I suddenly seem to need stitch holders and I’m not going to string them on waste yarn, I’ll never get them off again. When my most-feared knitting site sent me another sale blandishment I thought, oh, stitch holders!, and I’ll just have a look at the sale yarn and . . . and I got to check out and stitch holders were out of stock. I bought the yarn anyway.
But SHADOWS is still going well. Priorities, priorities.
* * *
* Sheep and cattle move around, and while there are fair numbers of horses, they usually go out in smaller groups. But there is one specific field of alpacas beside a footpath we use a lot. They’ve been there several years, there are slowly more of them (it’s a very big field), and if they’re up at our end as we pass by, they always raise their little furry faces and watch us.^
^ No. Third House’s garden is too small. I have other fantasies however.
*** This was not the case in their youth. Darkness was always the stoic one, and Chaos always the drama queen, and once in the first fortnight or so of being able to take them on proper walks, when the bottoms of their feet were no doubt still pretty tender, Chaos managed to run through a little patch of nettles . . . and SPENT THE NIGHT TRYING TO RIP THE BOTTOMS OF HIS FEET OFF. DOGS. WHOSE IDEA WAS DOGS.
† This is why I don’t do shorts much. Nothing to do with being too old. Everything to do with the paramount dangers of hurtling.^
^ Speaking of having delicate, sensitive soles, there is my habit of wearing my All Stars till they literally disintegrate off my feet. If I can no longer tie them on I will reluctantly give them up. But by the time they get to the not-enough-bits-left-to-tie-on stage they will have developed holes in the bottoms. I had never considered this an issue if the ground is dry. Until I found myself walking across a flopped-over phalanx of nettles.
†† I’m not completely with Kes on the subject of the terrifyingness of cows, but I won’t take hellhounds through a field of the creatures. On lead they’re vulnerable and off lead they would discover the joys of chasing stock, and that is the end of the line.
††† There are probably about the same number of problem dogs in town and outside. But there are far fewer prams in the countryside. Where is it written that prams take 100% precedence to everything? I will certainly try to get out of the way of the single pram with the frequently harassed mum trailing two or three only slightly larger sprogs, and the local river path has some pretty narrow bits anyway. But I no longer struggle to get out of the way of two prams rolling abreast and obviously expecting you to turn tail and run, climb a tree, or jump in the river. Or veer out into the road and get run over by a tractor, I mean SUV. Hellhounds and I just stand there, and wait for them to figure it out.
‡ I did tell you I’d fallen off the Secret Knitting Project wagon again? It’s the fault of deciding to knit something really small and EASY for Nadia’s baby. It gives me ideas above my station.
‡‡ HELLHOUND SUPPER RITUAL AAAAAAAAAAAUUUUURRRRRRRGGGGGGHHHHHH. The new Late Hurtle has improved the end of the day/night but the basic structure of The Current Ritual has not evolved. Current ritual involves presenting them with their bowls in their crate, which they refuse. They are then brought out and presented with their bowls again on the kitchen floor, which they again refuse. Now I can put them back in the crate and Darkness eats. Chaos does not. Chaos requires to be taken out of the crate again and put back in the crate again before he will eat. Further it is critical to the correct working-out of the ritual that I don’t hurry any of the stages. ARRRRRRRRRRRGH. To prevent myself from going entirely mad I bring a book or knitting or those 1,000,000 articles I’ve stored up on the iPad (because they don’t take up any room) and DO SOMETHING while I’m waiting to move onto the next stage of the Ritual. Last night I became absorbed in what I was reading and more time went by than usual during the penultimate stage of Chaos lying alone on the kitchen floor refusing to eat. (Darkness, in the crate and full of supper, was fast asleep.) When I finally returned to a sense of my responsibilities and picked up Chaos’ untouched food bowl to put him back in the crate the last time he was clearly FRANTIC WITH HUNGER and COULDN’T IMAGINE WHAT HAD TAKEN ME SO LONG. His food was in the bowl immediately under his nose, you understand. But he had to wait for me to put him back in the crate a second time. . . .
‡‡‡ Which was then an utter pigwalloper to rewind.
Please join the discussion at Robin McKinley's Web Forum.