September 30, 2012

Ground floor ringing


CHEEZUM FRELLING ARRGH HOW I HATE GROUND FLOOR RINGS.  If East Persnickety had been a ground floor ring, I would never have started to learn to ring the first time—well no, I would probably have survived the first weeks of handling lessons and groping my way through rounds, because there’s that early rush when you’re learning anything new where it’s all cool.  And then little wisps of reality start getting up your nose and making you sneeze.  My first Sunday service at a ground floor ring I would have taken one look at the AUDIENCE and run away.*  If New Arcadia had been a ground floor ring I wouldn’t have tried to learn to ring again.  If the (frelling) abbey were a ground floor ring I would be learning crochet sooner than anticipated because I had so much more time since I stopped ringing. 

            It does vary from tower to tower.  Glaciation is a ground floor ring, as is Triggilum, but they’re each in a little nub off the back end of their respective churches, with doors between the ringers and the congregation.  But this is still not really enough of a variation, because ground floor ringing chambers with doors tend also to be where the choir puts its robes on and the tea ladies make the tea, both of which occupations require a lot of bustling and flapping, which IS SERIOUSLY UNSAFE AROUND LIVE BELL ROPES, let alone live bell rope pullers.**   Colin, who never loses his rag about anything, and who likes to put on being cranky occasionally to amuse the assembled at bell practise, has been known to be positively uncivil to people carrying trays bearing tall tea urns and tottering piles of cups through the rope circle while having jolly conversations over their shoulders with their colleagues similarly burdened.  ARRRRRRRGH.  The Glaciation ringing chamber is, at least, a reasonable size.  At Triggilum, as I know to my cost in grey hair and stomach lining integrity, when someone comes barging through the doors, there isn’t ROOM for them to do anything but BLUNDER INTO A RINGER.  And furthermore the bells at Triggilum, heavy, elderly, on plain bearings and rarely rung, are mean. 

            Anyway.  I got a phone-call from Felicity early this week asking if I could ring a wedding at Crabbiton on Saturday.  I ring at Crabbiton practises often enough*** that the tower feels familiar, and while I’m certainly aware that it’s a ground floor ring I don’t really think about it.

            I should. 

            It was a popular wedding—daughter, indeed, of the ex-tower-captain.  The church was totally packed out.  I came in by the little secret door tucked into the side of the church and debouching into the ringing circle.  AND THERE WERE ALL THESE PEOPLEAAAAAAAAAUGH.

            Furthermore, of course the ceremony was running late, so, having reeled back with a muffled scream of dismay, I returned outdoors to cower trembling† in a corner of the churchyard and knit frantically while I got more and more anxious about the trial to come.  Now, I admit, this particular ground floor ring, while open to the rest of the church, is at least at the back.  They’re not all STARING AT YOU.  Except they are, of course, because we start to ring as soon as the joyful couple have begun progressing toward the exit, and most of the crowd are more than happy to stay for the floor show while they wait for the bottleneck at the door to ease.  Bell ringing does look fairly peculiar, so some of the people idly watching will find themselves getting intrigued and will then amble toward the ringers.††  Then they start getting their cameras out.†††

            And the worst of it is . . . over the phone to Felicity yesterday when she rang to confirm, I absent-mindedly let her talk me into ringing for the harvest festival tomorrow.‡  And I thought we were the floor show today.  Tomorrow will be much, much worse. 

* * *

* I wonder if the invitation to that first traumatic official service ring is delayed in ground floor towers for fear of just this reaction? 

** Although I’m sure I’ve told you about Most Harrowing Ground Floor Ring Experience when I was ringing another of these frelling weddings at a church where for REASONS THAT REMAIN UTTERLY OPAQUE the circle of ropes was in the crossing, you know where the short arm of the church crosses the long arm of the church?   And we were ringing both before and after the service.  So you’re standing there RINGING while people are streaming through the rope circle, with the ropes flying, the way ropes will do, especially as this was (to add insult to injury) a long draught situation^, AND THEN SOME MUM CAME MOSEYING THROUGH WITH HER BABY IN A PUSHCHAIR.

            Nobody died.  But I’m still having nightmares.^^ 

^ Which just means the ropes are unusually long and the ceiling is unusually far away.  The belfry is probably at least one more floor above that first ceiling, but rope-draught is usually counted from the hands of the ringers to the first rope-holes.  Most long-draught towers have rope guides, which are extra little holes for the ropes to go through in some kind of structure below the too-far-away ceiling.  But not all of them.  Twitchy ringers like me REALLY HATE long-draught towers with no rope guides and long-draught ropes are common in ground floor rings on account of the basics of church architecture, which is another reason to hate ground floor rings.  But a long draught ground floor rope circle in the church crossing . . . 

^^ There was also a church I rang at on an outing once.  I don’t remember where it was and I never want to go back there.  And it was empty, it was just us ringers-on-an-outing.  But the circle of ropes was up on the fripplehagging dais behind the altar.  Whose appalling idea of a joke was that?  Whoever it was, they really hated bell ringers.  There is no way in glory that I would ring service standing behind the altar IN DIRECT LINE OF SIGHT OF THE ENTIRE CONGREGATION.  One wants to believe that most of them are reading their Bibles or composing themselves for (or after) the service BUT EVEN SO.  

*** Including last Wednesday, when Wild Robert had one of his monthly manias there.  There were six of us for the six bells.  And we rang Cambridge pretty well all evening.  One and a half of us knew what we were doing.  I knew maybe a quarter of what I was doing, as measured by whether I can hold my line against . . . the other three and a quarter of us going wrong.  It was an interesting evening. 

† Also . . . it’s cold.  It’s, you know, autumn. 

†† At Crabbiton, at least, there’s a come-no-farther rope that Felicity snaps across the front of the circle, so they can’t come frolic among us, with or without tea urns.  Or, in the case of wedding parties, dangerous headgear. 

††† Also, I have no sense.  I like bright colours.  Today I am wearing purple and turquoise.  All I was thinking, when I was thinking about the fact that Crabbiton is a ground floor ring, is that I don’t want to be wearing jeans that I’ve just been pulling out uncooperative^ frelling plants in.  Felicity was a member of the wedding party, so she at least was seriously dressed up.  The other four—including Wild Robert in black—were all demure to near-invisibility.  And then there was me.  In purple and turquoise.  Bright turquoise.  Feh.  I’ll show in the frelling photos.  Who is that woman with her face all screwed up like she’s being tortured? 

^ Uncooperative = dead 

‡ The basic problem is that I believe that BELLS EXIST TO BE RUNG.  If there’s an event where there should be rung bells, the bells should ring.  So I’m kind of a patsy for people trolling around for one-off events.


The Day After. No Armour Needed. Or a Flamethrower or anything. Yet.


Shortly after I posted last night’s blog, the nuraddin* inbox pinged.  Uh-oh, I thought, here we go.

But no.  A WONDERFUL HUMAN BEING was writing to me.  She’d just read the blog and thought I needed cheering up.  She goes on in a highly salubrious manner about my books, and she seems also to be saying that she likes this blog because it isn’t all about writery things.  But the second to last sentence made me laugh and laugh: 

Thank you for existing and writing and generally refraining from giving up on your more annoying readers and moving to Mars.** We appreciate it, and you.

Thank you, Ms EG.*** 


Another arrrrrgh here. A lot of self-publishers seem to think that libraries will be overjoyed to receive their brilliant work, but this is not in fact the case. If there are no reputable reviews of it and no other patrons have requested it, we probably don’t want it. Never mind the space it (and all the other unsolicited self-published books) would take up on the shelf–it also has to be cataloged (time-intensive for books that are not already in the national cooperative cataloging system) and processed, which costs actual money in work hours and materials. 

This too.  And worth giving some air/blog space to reminding people of.  I was last night a trifle fixated on the prospect of our young entrepreneur collating writing advice from me, JK Rowling, Stephen King, William Shakespeare, Agatha Christie, and Dr Seuss†, which your average library might very well be interested in.  But it will probably not clutch to its bosom with glad cries How to Write Good by the local poker club and tea-leaf-reading society.  Despite the inclusion of muffin recipes and hints on how to start your car in really cold weather. 

But really the bottom line is that librarians have no sense of the rightness of things and the true order of the universe. ††  They’re very like (um, do I need to say professional?) writers that way. 

* * *  

* For those of you who have never been moved to contact me directly, nuraddin is the email address that you EVENTUALLY make your way to from either web site or blog, having first passed a great many warnings saying things like BEFORE YOU ASK ME WHERE I GET MY IDEAS, PLEASE READ MY FRELLING FAQ.  But you would be amazed at the number of people who STILL ask me where I get my ideas.^  Or similar.  Or if I have any writing tips just for them because they’re stuck on the story they’re writing . . . ::bangs head against wall::  THAT’S WHY WRITERS ALL HAVE WEB SITES AND FAQs THESE DAYS, YOU KNOW.^^  Anyway.

 ^ Or possibly you wouldn’t.  In which case, there, there, I sympathise.  

^^ And before we had web sites, we had FAQs printed up on pieces of paper with a few nice design features and possibly a photocopied signature, which our publishers would (probably) automatically send out for us if we asked them to.++  I wonder what the difference in investment is between creating FAQ sheets, printing them off, and paying postage on them, and creating frelling web sites.  Publishers’ frelling web sites, mind you.  I don’t get a penny of help running my blog or web site.  Merrilee says this is a good thing because it’s therefore fully under my control, and my publisher can’t force me to think up inventive new ways of answering hoary old questions like Where Do I Get My Ideas+, because publishers tend to like you to stick to the subject which is being a writer and I’m not very good at sticking to that subject.  As you may have noticed.  But when I’m a YEAR LATE TURNING A BOOK IN AND THEREFORE A YEAR LATE GETTING PAID, the idea of a little benign direction—you know, whips, chains, hot pokers, publicity assistants—doesn’t seem so bad, if there were FISCAL CONTRIBUTIONS INVOLVED. 

+ Schenectady is the standard answer, but it’s worth checking under the dog on your lap or in the dusty gap behind the books piled beside your bed, where the spare pair of glasses you haven’t seen in several months have fallen and the vitamin pills you tend to drop land because you’ve forgotten again and already put your hand cream on.  

++ They would also pre-read your mail, if you asked them to.  You never had to see the crazy abusive ones.  Unfortunately as street mail fell off and email took over, this excellent system began to break down.  I no longer know what the standard policy about writer street mail is at any of my publishers, but I can tell you that sod’s law guarantees that the crazy abusive one will get through somehow. 

** Although probably not Mars.  It would be a struggle growing rosebushes and I think the oxygen tanks would chafe the hellhounds’ skin.^  However Oisin and I were today discussing our respective requirements for the isolated uninhabited internet-free islands we are each going to move to some time in the possibly not too distant future.^^ 

^  Bullies are tough. 

^^ When I arrived he was playing the piano.  Show off.+  WHO IS THIS COMPOSER, he said.  NOOOOOOOOO, I said.  I can’t do anybody but Mozart.  And maybe Beethoven.++ 

+ These frelling piano teachers. 

++ It was Rachmaninoff.  Give me a BREAK.  It was Rachmaninoff PRELUDES.  Oh, sure, I knew that.  And for my next trick I will sing the Queen of the Night Der Holle Rache aria.  Yes, that aria.

 ***And you’re a lot more tolerant of the ending of PEGASUS than I would be.  That it’s taking me LOOOOOOOOONGER than it should to get the sequel written is one thing, but I would totally hunt down the writer of an ending like PEG’s and kill her if she declared she wasn’t going to write a sequel.  I know that I and Certain of My Readers disagree about the ending of SUNSHINE. . . . But PEGASUS?   Jiminy toads and beetles.  It needs a sequel.  It totally needs a sequel. 

† If I wrote THE DRAGON AND THE SWORD then maybe Shakespeare, Christie and Seuss are available for writing tips.

†† As well as having no sense of humour.  Also just like writers.


It’s an arrrrrrgh day.*


Okay, I don’t rant about readers very often.  No matter how many times I start off by saying THE VAST—THE VAST, VASTVASTVAST—MAJORITY, that’s MAJORITY, did you get it that I said MAJORITY? OF PEOPLE WHO WRITE TO ME ABOUT MY BOOKS ARE COMPLIMENTARY AND I AM GLAD TO HEAR FROM THEM,** on the comparatively rare occasions when I do allow my inner vicious cow to express herself I can pretty well guarantee I will, shortly thereafter, receive one or more emails from outraged members of the public*** telling me that I am toxic pond slime, and conceited, and arrogant, and that I don’t deserve to have ANY readers, and that they will tell all their friends not to read me, and occasionally, on a roll, they start telling me that I have no idea what their life is like† and it’s all downhill from there††. 

            I do not enjoy reading these emails††† and I have to read enough of each of them to know to delete it, you know?  But sometimes my inner vicious cow just cannot be silenced.  Yesterday I received an email from a teenager doing an Important Project.  She is an Aspiring Writer and she has decided that, for her Important Project, she is going to collect a lot of writing advice from fabulous published writers, create a book-shaped object out of this, and dispense copies to all the libraries in her area.‡

            She addresses me, one of her chosen fabulous published writers, thus:  For years I was reluctant to read your novel, The Dragon and The Sword, solely because my mom recommended.‡‡


            So, which one do we think she is referring to?  Or has she conflated SWORD and HERO and is fondly remembering a story where a tall/middling blond/redhead from the Homeland/North rides a chestnut/grey to glory involving dragons/monsters/distant relatives‡‡‡? 

            If you’re going to write to somebody, like maybe an author, like maybe a stranger you’re asking a favour, for pity’s sake DO YOUR HOMEWORK FIRST.

            A few hours after this unlovely email arrived, another one pinged into my inbox from the same person.  Oh, I thought, she’s noticed, and she’s writing an embarrassed apology.§  Not at all.  She was sending me an extra question that was left out of the earlier version of her questionnaire,§§  to wit, would I be willing to teach a class in a writing seminar day at her school? 

             Do I get to hope she means via Skype?§§§           

* * *

* It did not end well when three of the four of us rushed to the exit after the first act, cheeping with boredom, frustration, and the kind of embarrassment you feel at a good professional troupe wasting their time on tosh, tonight at the theatre. 

            We all came home during intermission, the fourth of our party having said, oh, well, I didn’t think it was that bad.  I had fed hellhounds—and they, for a wonder, had eaten—really early, before we left.  I now have a hellhound who is convinced he never had supper.  I guess it makes a change from . . . Food?  You mean . . . food?  We’re supposed to . . . eat this stuff?^  

^ Southdowner says that I have to feed Pavlova first.  That bullies do like their food, but that the megrims of hellhounds might conceivably put even a bull terrier off.  

** Although . . . siiiiiiiiiiigh . . . wouldn’t you think someone writing to an author would be REALLY REALLY REALLY CAREFUL with stuff like grammar and spelling?  Okay, looking up grammar^ can sometimes be a ratbag, but spelling?  It takes a fraction of  a fraction of a second to look something up from pretty much ANY computer programme that produces words any more, and if I see ‘definately’ once more I may run mad with an axe.  —Which the faithful Microsoft Word just automatically corrected for me (and is now objecting with a red line to my de-correction) so apparently there are a lot of people out there not using Microsoft Word or who have turned the auto-spell thing off.  Turn it back on.  Please.   

^ Between you and me.  Not I.  ME.  Between you and me.  Between is a PREPOSITION.  Your pronoun needs to be in the OBJECTIVE.  Please generalise this to with her and me, from him and me, etc.  

*** They’re not even necessarily readers of my books.  This is the thing that really boggles me.  It’s tedious and discouraging enough to get yelled at for being a Loathsome Human Being by someone who claims they used to like my books.  It’s really disconcerting to get yelled at by someone who says ‘and now I’m never ever going to read ANY of your books.’  Huh?  Are there specifiable search protocols out there for finding stuff that will piss you off when you need to yell at someone?^ 

^ Where do I . . . no, no, my computer(s) supply as much yelling-at opportunity as I need. 

† Okay, that’s true 

†† Rolling, you know. 

††† At least they’re rarely street mail any more.  I swear hate mail off-gases nuclear meltdown or car exhaust or something.  

‡ Just by the way, if there’s a book-shaped object to be made out of professional writers’ words, there’s usually, you know, contracts, and, conceivably, money, involved in the transaction.  I haven’t got a problem with donating to a charity^ but I think I might feel a little twitchy about this project if other details weren’t ploughing it under.  It could be a perfectly genuine error of concept on her part, but aren’t teenagers doing Important Projects usually assigned adult mentors with a clue? 

^ Aside from the fact that I’ve never produced a piece of writing to order that a charity would want.  See:  Peter’s EARTH AND AIR, since I can’t write short stories. 

‡‡ Sic, by the way.  There is no ‘it’.  This is probably an acceptable typo—it’s always hard to proofread your own stuff, and we’re going on the assumption that she doesn’t have an adult mentor with a clue who might proofread with her—still. 

‡‡‡ Okay, there is some cause for confusion.  There is a war, a blue sword, and marrying the king in both of them.^ 

^ Unless she’s talking about DRAGONHAVEN.  In which case it gets really interesting.  

§ Not that this will actually do her any good.  I haven’t got time to—or the least interest in—writing a lot more drivel about The Writing Process.  That’s what my website FAQ is for.  I haven’t updated it in years—bad me—but the writing stuff doesn’t need updating. 

§§ Which she sent as an attachment.  Does anyone open attachments from strangers any more?  Not me babe.  And this is something I would have thought Today’s Teenager, on Facebook from birth, who may have forgotten how to sign her name on a piece of paper with a pen^ but who can text faster than Super(wo)man can leap a tall building in a single bound, wouldn’t have needed an adult mentor to tell her not to do. 

^ Pen?  You mean like that thing I need to buy before my BULL TERRIER PUPPY comes home in about ten days? 

§§§  She’s a year off graduating.  She’s old enough to have some idea of money and that, you know, travelling costs an amount of it.  Never mind professional fees.  And she’s writing from America and it’s a one-clicker to find out I live in England.

KES, 45



I stood up slowly.  She watched me but didn’t move.  I walked round the end of the bed toward the back of the room, where the fruits of my visit to the mall sat in their plastic bags.  I groped till I found a can of tuna and a loaf of bread.  I retrieved the plastic basket, poured the last few drops of water out, tore up some bread, dumped the tuna over (fortunately it had a pull-tab like a beer can), and set it beside Sid.  She’d raised her head and was watching me.  There was definitely some lip-licking action. 

            She stood up and snorfed the lot in about a second and a half.  “Oh,” I said.  I had a second tin of tuna and three quarters of a loaf of bread left, so I did it again.  This also disappeared.  “Oh dear,” I said.  “Are you going to turn out to be the canine version of a sixteen-year-old boy?”

            She licked the bottom of the plastic basket lovingly, and lay down again.  When she sighed this time it sounded like a happy, contented sigh.  I used soap on the basket and put more water down for her.  She was lying on her side and her eyes were closed.  They blinked open when I set the water down, and the tail came up and down in a totally committed wag.  

            “Okay,” I said.  “I want to take a bath, and it’s too cold to leave the door open.  You’re staying, right?” 

              The tail thumped again, and the eyes shut.

               I closed the door.

                Don’t do this at home.  I could have fed her outdoors, if I was deranged enough to feed an unknown, just-met stray dog at all.  I didn’t even know if she was housebroken, let alone if she had psychotic breaks when she went around destroying furniture and ripping people’s throats out.  Plus fleas and ringworm.

                I had my bath.  Maybe the sound of gentle canine snores had its effect, because I fell asleep in the bath.  When I woke up because the water was getting cold she was still stretched out on the carpet between the door and the bed.  There was kind of a lot of her.  It wasn’t very wide but the legs went on and on.  I dried my wizened, water-pruney self off and put on a clean t shirt and pants from the plastic bag my rose-bush had thoughtfully brought to my attention.  Had it only been last night?  Yeep.  Then reluctantly I put my clothes back on, and opened the door.  Ugh.  It was still winter in New Iceland.

                Sid was awake and looking at me over her shoulder.  “Come on,” I said.  “You have to go out first if you’re going to spend the night in here.  I’m not entirely mad, only about ninety percent.”  She wagged her tail but didn’t move.  I walked back to her and knelt down beside her.  She liked this.  She wagged her tail again and tried to roll over on her back, which, with her long narrow body and peaked spine, was not easy.  She managed.  Assuming I was being invited, I rubbed her tummy.  Definitely a girl.   A very, very skinny girl.

                  When she flopped over on her side again I said.  “Okay.  You still have to go out.  I promise to let you back in again.  Ninety percent.  Mad.”  While she was thinking about it I rummaged among my shopping till I found a roll of small plastic bags.  I opened the box and stuffed a few in my pocket.

                  “Come on,” I said.  “Dragging you is not in the plan.”

                  She heaved herself to her feet and trotted outdoors.  I had a brief awful sinking of the heart when she lined out across the lot—she’d had her way with me, which was to say dinner, and was now moving on.  No.  She just liked the look of that particular tree.  I followed her and picked up what she left.  When I had bought that roll of small plastic bags the imminent arrival of Silent Wonder Dog and the inevitable responsibilities involved with same had been the last thing on my mind.  Pet store.  And vet. 

                   She finished her business and trotted immediately back to cabin seven.  I was pleased that no curtains twitched at any of the other cabins’ lighted windows. 

                   Sid trotted straight up the steps of cabin seven and waited expectantly at the door.   I left a small plastic bag with a knot holding it closed between Merry and the porch.  I opened the cabin door and Sid went straight in.  She collapsed.  I closed and locked the door.  I looked at the dog on the floor and shook my head. 

                   I got out of my clothes and into bed.  I set the alarm.  Gods help me I was moving tomorrow.  I was moving into my new house.  Tomorrow.  It was still relatively early.  I had been going to check my email tonight.  I wavered.  No.  I was moving tomorrow.  And I now had pet store and vet on the urgent list too.  And I was exhausted.  Email could wait.  I turned the light off.  I lay down.

                    There was a faint whispery noise, and then a gentle new weight on the bed.  It paused, either for a reaction or while it viewed the territory, and then delicately stepped over me to settle down on the other side of the queen-sized bed I was tactfully taking up less than half of.  It sighed.

                   Fleas.  Ringworm.  Psychotic breaks.

                   I fell asleep.

The Most Beautiful Puppy, continued 2 



Chocolate Pavlova. 

This had actually crossed my mind.  Surprisingly.  Bag the berries, I figure, the pavlova I have in mind is layers of chocolate and vanilla meringue stuck together with whipped cream and melted chocolate drizzled lavishly over the top.  Non standard?  A pavlova must have berries?  Bite me, one might say. 

And Pavlova the bull terrier puppy is the right colour for my pavlova. 

Melissa Mead

Chaos, Darkness, and Mayhem? (May for short.) 

SNORK.  I like ‘May’.  It sounds so . . . innocent. 


Are you really sure that naming a dog “Mayhem” is a good idea???? Seems like it would be asking for trouble…! 

For the moment she will remain Pavlova on the blog.  If she earns Mayhem . . . 


Havoc is always a good choice. 

. . . or Havoc in a year or so we may have a Renaming Ceremony.  But Darkness and Chaos are the names I use that they don’t know—their call names, the names they know mean COME HERE NOW OR YOU ARE IN DEEP, DEEP TROUBLE, are perfectly honest polite plausible names suitable for screaming across half Hampshire, and they were a good year old before all the other things I called them to relieve my feelings settled down to Darkness and Chaos.  But they EARNED Darkness and Chaos.


*thunk* ::dies of cute:: 

Yes.  It’s now two days ago so when Southdowner just now sent me the photos she took on Sunday I’m all DIES.  OF.  CUTE. 


She is so precious!!! 


(If you don’t know Barsotti, he is seriously worth a cruise.  He totally gets it about dogs. 

Diane in MN

Are you really sure that naming a dog “Mayhem” is a good idea???? Seems like it would be asking for trouble…!

NAMING CALLS. When it comes to dogs, this isn’t superstition, it’s for real. 

Absolutely.  I’d say for critters generally—or for anything you call, including spirits from the vasty deep and so on.  I’m pushing it labelling my guys the hellhounds since ‘mostly whippet with a little deerhound’ doesn’t really roll off the tongue.  But they are the hellhounds to me.  And my personality was wrecked long before I came out as the hellgoddess. 

Congratulations on your beautiful puppy girl! I agree with kateinseattle that she has a measuring eye, but that’s okay. Means there’s a brain in there.

 It’s also a soft eye.  Lavvy has soft eyes—just before she kangaroo-leaps and head-butts you and you thud back into the wall with a small anguished cry.  She’s still a bull terrier.  Pavlova is still going to grow up to be a bull terrier.

Southdowner gets quite cranky about people declaring that bull terriers are stupid.  She says they’re as trainable as any dog, you just have to mean it more.  She still thinks I’m unprepared for the reality of a bull terrier, and I daresay I am . . . but I also think she underestimates hellhounds.

There have been moments these last few weeks when I’ve thought Olivia and Southdowner were trying to talk me out of getting my first bull terrier.

For anyone who doesn’t know, this is a characteristic of good breeders, especially with people who are new to their breed. 

I think I knew that, but had forgotten, not having faced a new breed in a while.  And Southdowner is my friend.  When someone you believe has your best interests at heart appears to be trying very hard to talk you out of something, you start to worry.

But she still doesn’t have the name she’s going to have to learn to answer to. But now that I know who I’m naming . . .

Just a suggestion–don’t make it anything that rhymes with “no”. I speak from experience . . . 

SNORK.  Well, since I didn’t get Fruitcake, ‘Cyrano’ is no longer at issue.  If I ever did have a male bull terrier. . . . Well, I could call him ‘Sir’ for short.  That should be safe.  


Olivia also knew that I had an early crush on Fruitcake but I was not going to be allowed to have a boy for my first bull terrier.

First …. ??!! 

SNORK.  I acknowledge your point, but if you are faced with two intent, anxious women determined to save you from yourself as gently as possible, they do say things like ‘first’ to comfort you about the limitations of now. 


PUPPY. Awwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww.

That covers it nicely. 


She is beautiful! I love her markings; her blaze is so charming and the little tan spots on her eyebrows will, I believe, make her seem even more expressive and emotive. 

She is the BEST.  She is the BEST.  I just had an email from Olivia saying that they are all four stunners, and I wrote back politely agreeing but . . . mine is the best.

When is she coming to live with you for good?? 

Weekend after next.  EEEEEEEEEEEP.  I both want her NOW, right NOW, I’m wasting TIME*, and I also . . . kind of wish I were still on the list for next year’s puppies.**

There is a further tactical problem.  The only way to get a second crate into my kitchen at the cottage is to take the table out.  I was saying this to someone by email last night—I’d stopped at the big pet-warehouse place yesterday to view my options, on my way in to the abbey—oh well, I don’t entertain much, and I usually eat breakfast sitting on a stool next to the Aga which is keeping my teapot warm.  But even if I do take the table out . . . WHERE DO I PUT IT EVEN TEMPORARILY?  We may have to have handbell evenings at Third House till she’s old enough for a sleeping-only sized crate, which I think will fit in the kitchen, although one of the chairs will have to go somewhere else permanently.  But while she still needs somewhere to pee overnight I HAVE A PROBLEM.*** 

I also have faith that the hellhounds will accept her into the pack sooner rather than later. My experience with sighthounds has shown them to be unfailingly kind and sweet to babies of any species.

I’m sure they’ll all three be fine eventually.  I admit I’m faintly anxious about how long eventually may take.  And yes, hellhounds adore puppies met out on the landscape.  This business about having one follow them home is not quite so immediately recognised as a Good Thing. 


Congratulations on a truly gorgeous puppy (especially now that her ears are up… eaaaaarrrrrsssss…). I thought she was the prettiest from the very first pictures you posted, actually. 

Ah yes, the ears.  The thing that is worrying me about Pavlova’s ears is that bullie ears come up the whole way—like an Alsatian’s.  The tips don’t flop over like a hellhound’s, and as Pavlova’s are still doing at present.  But the smaller the eventual dog the sooner the ears stand up straight . . . and Fruitcake and Croissant’s ears are standing up straight now

            Well, she is the prettiest. . . .   


I can now say that I was hoping it would be Pavlova. 

Hindsight is a wonderful thing.  I actually thought Pavlova was the prettiest of the girls too—but she was also the original Big Girl, the biggest puppy at birth† and the puppy that had to be on the top of every heap going.  It wasn’t relevant at first because I wasn’t on the list for this litter, but I went ahead and had a crush on Fruitcake because he was the runt,†† and because even as a fantasy I didn’t want a thug.  Pavlova didn’t start manifesting her milder side till comparatively recently, I think—and Scone is now way out front as the puppy who will grow up to be the Bullie That Wins Crufts/Ate Schenectady—meanwhile Pavlova seems to have morphed into the tolerant, laid back one.  Ready to roll with a clueless human. 


Scone. These are NOT soft eyes.


Yay!! Congratulations!! She’s absolutely adorable. Hope Chaos and Darkness regain their composure soon. I am looking forward to lots and lots of puppy pics.

I’m sure that can be arranged.  


The Most Beautiful Puppy. Also most adorable. Etc.

I was going to hang more tonight but I am trashed.†††

That’s a good leap on Darkness’s part, to get over a waist-high door. 

Well, he thought I needed rescuing.  He may have a point. . . . 

* * *

* I’m finishing frelling SHADOWS.  And frelling doodling.  

** But not really.  MINE.  MINE. 


*** There is a further Interesting Development which is that everybody involved in this transaction is presently in a vehicularly challenged state.  I can never drive far because of the frelling ME.  Olivia’s dog-transport car had some bits fall off recently and apparently the particular brand of green garden twine she has used on previous occasions has discontinued production.  Poor Southdowner broke down on the way home Sunday night and had an EPIC adventure of nearly six hours of waiting around by the side of the road while (a) the RAC decided they couldn’t fix the van and (b) the taxi to take her and the puppies home was delayed on its way back from Warsaw. 

            I really do not want to bring Pavlova home in a carrier on the train.  Really.  Do not.  Want. ^ 

^ She’d probably think it was a thrilling adventure.  Bullies are like that.+  I would be a nervous wreck. 

+ I keep thinking of Nemo trotting cheerfully through the crowds at the Birmingham train station.  

† See:  ears 

†† Relatively.  And it didn’t last.  

††† Stress levels are a TRIFLE HIGH.

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