November 30, 2012

Return to the Muddles

 

I’M SO COLD I COULD DIE.  Frelling frelling.*  The temperature has dropped about 20 degrees in the last twenty hours CLANG!!!!, just in time for me to go to my first sort-of official—NO NO I HAVEN’T PROMISED ANYTHING I’M JUST . . . I’M JUST . . . I’m just coming along to choir practise, okay?  IT DOESN’T MEAN ANYTHING.  St Frideswide is always cold, except occasionally, briefly, in August, when it can become stickily, smotheringly, swelteringly too hot**, weather as something out of an MR James story.  It was cold last week, when I wasn’t there for the full gruesome extent, but got to run away at the break and turn the heater up HIGH in Wolfgang driving home.  Well, I turned the heater up HIIIIIIIGH tonight as well, but I was almost past saving.  COOOOOLD.  COOOOOOOLD.

Unfortunately I had way too good a time.  In spite of the fact that I could no longer turn pages by the end because my fingers were toooooo coooooold even though I was wearing fingerless gloves.*** And the rest of the choir clearly all assumed I was, you know, back.  NOOOOOOOOO.  I HAVEN’T PROMISED ANYTHING.  The frelling treasurer accosted me during the break about membership dues.†  Arrrrrrgh.  And Cindy, who I was sitting next to again, and with whom I shared music and leaned on heavily for any of the soprano lines I don’t know, came up with a really good way of ensuring that I come back next week:  she sent me home with all her music.  I can use Gordon’s if I want to practise anything, she said.  You take it.

I have a grievous problem. ††  My standard excuse for not having to take the Muddles seriously is that they invariably schedule their concerts on Saturdays I’m going to a Live Met Opera relay at the cinema.  This wheeze is working as it should for their Christmas carol concert.  It’s not working for the concert next February.†††  And, furthermore, although I haven’t yet got to the bottom of the ENORMOUS pile of music Cindy gave me, most of it is stuff I like, and some of it is stuff I even know.  I can probably catch up.  Of course you can, said Cindy bracingly.

And I took a bottle of water.  And I sipped it.‡  And I’m not hoarse. And us first sopranos spent a lot of time hitting frelling A, which I historically don’t rely on having available, but it was there tonight.  It was there tonight in a, Problem?  There is a problem?, way.  Next February? it added.  Sure.  I can do next February.  Write it down in the diary.

Well, I have to go back next week, I have all of Cindy’s music. . . .

* * *

* Try saying ‘frelling’ when your teeth are chattering.

** Especially in the ringing chamber, where I gasp out the occasional wedding.

*** I was sitting next to Cindy who was wearing proper gloves with fingers and still turning pages.  Maybe this is a necessary Muddlehampton survival skill.  Maybe I could get her to teach me.  Or at least tell me where she buys her gloves.

† And then started talking about his military service in the ’60s, when they were quartered in leftover WWII Quonset huts which leaked, and how they all developed a blanket-folding technique so they could pull a flap over their heads so the snow falling on their faces didn’t wake them up.  I can’t imagine why this story seemed appropriate tonight.

†† Aside from the two-and-a-half-hours-and-no-loo problem.  Which I solved tonight by the simple expedient of not having had anything to eat or drink since two pears and a mug of tea this morning.  Drastic but effective.  I didn’t mean to skip lunch.  I . . . forgot.

Well, I was running late because I’m always running late.^  And by the time I get two shifts of hellcritters hurtled^^ and fed an amazing amount of time always seems to have passed.  So I went whizzing back to the cottage from the mews thirty seconds before everyone would be showing up for handbells, and had galloped around picking up puppy toys and sweeping up great globs of dog hair—did all the dishes in the sink, started a load of laundry—when it finally occurred to me that people were kind of late.  Found a laconic little message on Pooka—who had managed to turn herself off, which is a whole lot easier than it should be—that handbells were cancelled and maybe they’d forgotten to tell me.  ARRRRRRRRRGH.

At which point I might have gone back to the mews, had lunch, and got on with either Story-in-Progress^^^ or Kes moving in to Rose Manor but . . . I DIDN’T.  The temperature was busy plummeting and I’ve already lost the dahlias and the begonias, snapdragons and chocolate cosmos hate being indoors so much it’s not really worth it, but I was looking at my geraniums. . . .  I spent the afternoon getting a lot of geraniums indoors (and, what the heck, some of the cosmos, osteospermums and fuchsias) and figuring out which windowsills I can wedge how many of them on.  I had left Pavlova at the mews with Peter, where she has a bigger crate with more wire mesh to look out through, but I’d brought the hellhounds, basically because I get twitchy if there isn’t at least one dog underfoot.   Hellhounds have mostly outgrown wanting to help me in the garden#, and they lay around extending long trip-overable limbs and having bits dropped on them.  And the half of the Winter Table not occupied by Pav’s travelling crate and assorted puppy gubbins is now jammed solid with the Indoor Jungle.  And since I usually eat lunch at the mews, I wasn’t thinking about lunch at the cottage.  And I had only just enough time to hurtle my shifts of hellcritters briefly again before I left for choir practice . . . And there was ice on the roads coming home.

^ Yes.  Hellhounds ate supper last night.  Eventually.  Eventually.  I got most of another swatch done.  I’m trying the holding-two-different-yarns-together business, and I decided I wanted it on bigger needles.  And I’m right, I do.

^^ Also a certain amount of unspare time was expended on freaking out today when not thirty seconds after a woman had made slightly too much fuss of Pavlova and said to me, you have greyhounds, don’t you?  And you live on the little cul de sac up that way?—what am I going to say, ‘no’?—Pav and I walked into the pet store and they said, There are dog thieves around again.  Be careful.  All three of yours would be gone in a flash, you know.  FREAK.  OUT.

^^^ No, not EBON.  I can’t face EBON till SHADOWS is definitively off my hands.  This is a mere whim, a bagatelle, a . . . it’s SHORT, okay?  SHORT.

#  Mostly.  Chaos occasionally wants a pansy of his own.

††† So, who’s going to be in Hampshire next February?

‡ And despite being hungry and dehydrated I still came through the front door at the mews and down the hall to the loo kind of rapidly.

Hobgoblins, hellhounds, food and monks.

 

I have a small—although not quite so small any more—hellterror at my feet, or rather under my feet.  Said hellterror is having mad erratic spasms of I CAN’T POSSIBLY LIE STILL.  I CAN’T.  POSSIBLY.  I HAVE BEEN QUIET FOR AT LEAST TWO HOURS WHICH IS A VERY LONG TIME IF YOU’RE A THREE AND A HALF MONTH OLD PUPPY AND FURTHERMORE YOU FED ME WHICH ALWAYS WINDS ME UP.  Hmm.  You mean if I didn’t feed you you would remain nice and calm?  I wonder if there’s a food-replacement injection for puppies.  It would also save on dishwashing.  This is one of those things I wasn’t expecting:  dogs are predators.  They eat and they crash out.  They don’t eat and then go out and chase something else.  Maybe the fact that Pavlova eats several small meals a day rather than one enormous one twice a week means that after one of these tiddlers she wants to go out and chase the rest of it which must have got away.  THAT WAS A MINNOW AND I WANTED A BLUEFIN TUNA.

I should be grateful to her contortions, which are serving to help keep me awake.  I appear to be riding a small sailboat in a towering gale or a wild horse with the wind up its tail.  No, wait, it’s only a hobgoblin in a mood to sour milk.  Listen, kiddo, keep me awake long enough to write a blog and I promise to sit down on the floor and let you play Terminator all over my ass.  I remember when Southdowner and Olivia were warning me about hucklebutting—I think it was Southdowner who said bullies do racing-car turns up the walls—that Pavlova would be tobogganing across the front of the Aga before long.  In the last week or so she’s developed a new routine:  a combined hucklebutt, pogostick and end-swap (another bullie speciality, but my Hazel had the most amazing end swapping I’ve ever seen, at ninety miles an hour across the garden at the old house) done at little-scuttling-legs-a-blur speed—all within the tiny space between the Aga, the sink and the island-counter at the cottage.  It is hilarious.  Last night as she blasted in for her next racing turn . . . she went up and across my CHEST, as I sat leaning against the kitchen sinkI am not joking.  I was falling (the rest of the way) down laughing, but I am not joking.

That was the good part of last night.  I had been PLANNING ON GOING TO BED EARLY, as I count early, because I was determined to get back to the monks today.  Tintinnabulation has almost as many services as Forza has bells, and I keep looking at the schedule and thinking, well, I could go to that one, or that one, or that one.  Or that one.  I could do it today.  And then it’s frelling dark again and I don’t want to try and find non-existent villages with aberrant post codes in the dark.  I came out of Tintinnabulation’s chapel a fortnight ago saying this was the service, or at least the space, of the churches I’ve been to so far that most and most immediately speaks to me and I haven’t been back?  What is wrong with this picture?  All day yesterday I really did keep thinking, I could still go to that service . . . but I never quite did.

Today I was going.  I was going to go to midday prayer, and before you all snicker loudly, yes, I do keep late hours, but recollect that getting going in the morning now demands two shifts of hurtling.

And then last night Chaos went on serious hunger strike.  ARRRRRRRRGH.  This is one of the many wildly infuriating things about the hellhounds:  after something STRANGE has happened—like, say, a kitchen door possessed by hellhound-antipathetic demons—hellhounds don’t say, oh, right, okay, it’s over now, they say:  THAT DOOR HAS FOREVER CHANGED ITS CENTRAL BEING AND WE WILL NEVER TRUST IT AGAIN.  Oh, and no, we’re not going to colonize the Safe Area by the front door as suitable new supper territory.  No.  Absolutely not.  WE’RE JUST GOING TO GIVE UP SUPPER.

How many days has it been since the monsoon?  Two?  Three?  There have been a lot of whites of hellhound eyes at suppertime, but they have eaten.  But last night . . . Chaos decided that the stress was simply TOO MUCH and the clear, the obvious answer was to not eat supper.  Then we could all relax.

Um.  No.*

. . . Two hours later Chaos finally ate his supper.  And once he had started it was like, oh!  Hey!  This is cool, this food thing!  Can I have more?   ARRRRRRRRRRRRRGH.  I had, meanwhile, had a bath, read half a book, cleaned the kitchen windowsill, knitted two inches of pullover, and aged by about twenty years.**

I got up this morning anyway, to go to midday prayer at the monks’ abbey as planned.  I ingested caffeine.  I hurtled hellhounds.  I mini-hurtled the hellterror.  I climbed into Wolfgang and set off across hill, dale and badly marked roads, where whatever you’re looking for is always behind you, and the crossroads look like yarn a puppy has been at, and the central signpost for what you do want could be pointing at any of about six roads

We arrived.  We arrived early.  We arrived early without getting lost.  It must be an omen, right?  I crept down the long silent corridor to the chapel—Aloysius had told me that the chapel is always open, so even if you can’t manage to get yourself (or your hellhounds’ mealtimes) organised to go to a service, you can still pray in that peaceful present space.  And I had brought my knitting:  I could be happy indefinitely.

It occurred to me to look round for the donation box, which I’d missed under stress of generalised yeeep when I was there with Aloysius.  And there it was, bolted to the wall by ironmongery that looked like it had been blessed by the first Archbishop of Canterbury***.  On the top of it was a little pile of Gift Aid envelopes.  Over here, if you’re donating to a charity, if you fill in a Gift Aid slip they get to keep all of it instead of passing a sizable chunk to the government.  I filled out one of the envelopes.

IT WOULDN’T FIT THROUGH THE SLOT IN THE DONATION BOX.

Okay, how silly is this?  It’s like some kind of initiation ritual.  Can You Solve This Puzzle?  No.  I folded the freller up about thirty two times and jammed it into the narrow little slit.  They may have to pry the box off the wall and take it to the new Archbishop of Canterbury for a special unsticking blessing before they can get it out again. . . .

But the service was lovely.

. . . And the hellterror is asleep.

* * *

* The hobgoblin, having

How  I frelling hate frelling WordPress.  When I tried to ‘publish’ this a few minutes ago it crashed and burned with a lot of doolally about a database error.  It then mysteriously self-published . . . having hacked the footnotes off the end.  I am not frelling amused. 

Okay.  Reconstructed from the original Word draft:

. . . having wolfed her meagre portion, was pressed up against the wire of her crate, watching the drama unfold and saying, Put me in, coach!  You want that nasty food to go away?  I can do that for you.

** But part of the business of things not going away with hellhounds and food . . . the fact that it’s two or three days after the all-singing all-dancing door before Chaos got around to refusing to eat anything is a bad sign.  It means he’s escalating.  I suspect, from six years of coping with these bozos, that it also means that he’s frelling forgotten what the initial stimulus was and is now just freaking out because he’s flipped the freaking out switch.  I really really really didn’t want to let this go.  And hey, the pullover looks pretty nice and the book I was reading is fabulous.

*** Augustine.  597.  A long time ago.

KES, 55

FIFTY FIVE

 

Sid now followed me placidly across the rest of the front room, through the open archway, and into a little room with an examining table and a scales that covered most of the rest of the floor.  I stood at one end of the scales, leaned down, tapped it with one hand, and said, “Hup.”  This used to work with the Ghastlies, when they were in the mood.  Sid, of course, went carefully around the scales and stood beside me.

“You get on it and we’ll weigh you,” said Jim, “and then you can try to persuade Sid to join you.”

I dumped my knapsack and the leather jacket, got on the scales and as Jim opened his mouth I said, “I don’t want to know.  I keep finding myself at Eats ordering more food.  Besides, I’m wearing All Stars.  They’re a good ten pounds, right?”

“Absolutely,” said Jim.  “Sequins weigh a lot.  Okay, I’m ready for your skinny dog.”

“Hey, kiddo,” I said to Sid.  “Come on up, the view’s great.”  Sid put her forefeet on the scales and stopped.  I pulled the cheese out of my pocket, bit off a chunk, and held it out toward my dog.  Sid’s ears pricked, and her rear legs joined her forelegs on the scales.

“She needs to hold still long enough for the read out to settle down.”

I held the cheese in front of her nose again.  “Flump.”  She sat.  I gave her the cheese.  She remained sitting, staring at the hand that had had the cheese in it.  I got the cheese out again, bit off another chunk (her eyes watched this performance closely) and gave her that one too.  It was good cheese.  I’d have to buy more, so I got to swallow some.

“Forty-six and a half pounds,” said Jim.  “That’s pathetic.  Phantom, you idiot, you had half the town putting food out for you, why didn’t you eat any of it?”

I heard the phone ring in the office, and Callie answer it.

“She needs to gain twenty-five, thirty pounds,” said Jim, “for her frame.  I wonder who her daddy was?   She’s tall for a Saluki.”

“And it may just be having lived out over the winter and being in bad condition,” I said, “but it seems to me she has too much rough hair for a Saluki too.”  In the grip of Saluki fever when I was a kid, I’d managed to pet a few Salukis at dog shows I’d accompanied my mother to.  They had been creamed and coiffed to a high gloss, of course, but I thought even thirty pounds heavier and well brushed Sid was still going to have more coat than they did.

“Deerhound?” said Jim.

“That’s what I was wondering,” I said.

Jim started to laugh.  “I hope you like a challenge.”

“Deerhounds are very sweet, friendly, affectionate dogs,” I said, with dignity.  I liked Deerhounds too.

“Yes, and about as trainable as a piano,” said Jim.  “Rather like Salukis that way, in fact.”

Callie appeared in the doorway again but this time I didn’t flinch.  She was a friendly smiling woman again instead of a bringer of doom.  “She’s going to be a beautiful dog,” she said to me.  “Don’t mind Jim.  If it’s not a working dog—and preferably over a hundred pounds, four feet tall at the shoulder and drooling—it is a lesser being.”

“Piffle,” said Jim.  “Best dog I ever owned was a Pekinese.”

“The attraction of novelty,” said Callie.  “And the second-smallest dog you’ve ever owned is a Mastiff.  Kes,” she went on, “Bridget rang up from Eats, wanting to know if you’d turned up here okay, so I told her that you had, and that Sid was officially yours.  She said to tell you if you put your head out the window you’d hear cheering.”

I thought of Bridget opening up the (freezing) courtyard and feeding us both scrambled eggs and started feeling all misty-eyed again.  “Well, tell them not to cheer so loud they’ll hear anything at the Friendly Campfire.  Sid is there on false pretenses—but I’m moving out as soon as we get back there, so it should be okay.”

“Jan’s extended family contains about a dozen retired greyhounds and a lot of little stuff,” said Jim.  “Dogs, cats, goldfish, turtles.  Rabbits.  Parakeets.  I forget.  I wouldn’t worry too much.”  We’d climbed back down off the scales and Jim approached us with a syringe.  “Well, sweetheart,” he said, rubbed a bit of Sid’s (matted) shoulder briskly, and stuck the needle in.  Sid looked mildly surprised but no more.

I wrote a disturbingly large check for the meds and fancy vitamins, the prospective bloodwork and the change of details for Sid’s chip number, filled out a new patient form, forgot Rose Manor’s zip code—“Don’t worry,” said Callie, “Cold Valley is enough”—agreed to ring up in a few days and see if the lab results were back yet . . . and prepared to totter out the way we had come.  “Thanks,” I said, and meant it.

“You’re very welcome,” said Callie.

I was as tired as if . . . I’d just got divorced, moved to the other side of the planet and got a dog.  I kept thinking, What if Mrs Tornado had wanted her back?

But she didn’t.  I had a dog.

The Cantique de Yeeep

 

It was . . . not too bad.  The Cantique.  Considering.  Oh, and Gordon had found two more sopranos, but I’m not sure what flavour:  there were enough standard second sopranos that us front row didn’t look too appal—I mean, few, and I was standing between two known second sopranos, so while I could hear the sound thinning out at the top that could be merely be that I was hearing the harmony.  Let’s say that a clear and soulful first-soprano sound was wafting sweetly out over the assembled.  Let’s just say.

Various things went wrong, of course.*  I went to the evening service at St Radegund last night because I was worried about Pavlova keeping her legs crossed** for long enough to sprint several towns over to Aloysius’ church, and while I was there I had the fabulous idea to borrow a hymnal since I know NONE of the standard Anglican hymns and oh-by-the-way we were also going to be singing four of them for the funeral.  In four (or five) part harmony.  Oh.  So I borrowed a hymnal, promising on the earlobe of St Radegund herself*** to bring it back today, got it home and . . . one of the hymns wasn’t in it.  ARRRRGH.  Now even I can usually pick up a straightforward hymn tune in a verse or two but I am singing in the choir, and poor benighted congregation members have been known to listen to the choir for guidance.†  One of hymns has an old traditional folk tune so that’s all right, and the other two aren’t unbearably taxing, although one has a jolly little soprano descant that ascends into the aether and I, acutely conscious of a soprano shortage, gave it a cursory glance, discarded it instantly, and went back to Monsieur Racine.

Of course I had a pillow over my head against the mad gravel-churning of over the road and didn’t hear my alarm.  YAAAAAAAH.  So I had two relays of hellcritters to get out and a sufficiency of caffeine to take on so that my eyes would not merely focus on the music but would have a clue what it was telling me, as well as getting into presentable girl clothes, in rather less time than planned.  The family had specifically requested we not wear black so I was wearing (surprise!) hot pink . . . and the nice little cardi chosen for the occasion turned out to have a moth hole†† AAAAAAAAAUGH, I must have another pink cardi . . . I do, actually, several.  I went screaming††† down the road to St Radegund with at least thirty seconds to spare.

We had a forty-five minute rehearsal before we went on and this was very good for the nerves.  Even if there weren’t enough (first) sopranos there were enough bodies.  We would fill the choir stalls like we meant business.  And the new musical director, who did not make a entirely wonderful first impression on me,‡ was totally a trooper, pulling us together and being caaaaaaaalm, which counts a lot with me.  In my youth I sang once or twice for nervy, high-strung conductors and it was not a joyful experience.  There were two nasty shocks to the system however:  one of the hymns had different lyrics in the order of service than in our hymnals‡‡ . . . and they were expecting us to sing that frelling descant.  I want a lot of friends around me if I’m going to hit an A in public.‡‡‡

But . . . it wasn’t too bad.§  It really wasn’t too bad. §§

The problem is I enjoyed it.§§§  I dropped out of the Muddles because I can’t stand the rehearsals, and the rehearsals haven’t changed.  Siiiiiiiigh.  So I emailed to Gordon tonight saying, I want shorter rehearsals and a loo, but meanwhile, can I come along for a bit till I decide that I can’t deal with it—again?  And he said yes, please do.

There goes Thursday evening (again).  But . . . singing.  I do want to sing in a choir.#

* * *

* Like that I was short of sleep, but then what else is new.  I hardly know what to do with myself on the days I’ve had enough sleep.^  But hellhounds ate supper last night.  Finally.  There was, even for them, an unusual amount of faffing around and further exacting refinement of already complex ritual and general whingeing but Darkness finally unbent sufficiently to essay the contents of his bowl.  I was about to give up on Chaos, who is the bigger drama queen but has the (slightly) less possessed by demons digestion, when he suddenly decided to eat after all.  YAAAAAAY.  Pavlova wanted it to be known that her final snack was inadequate, but she was at least not in the final throes of foodless despair as she had been the night before.

^ I’ve just been reading yet another article that says you should have on average 7 to 9 hours of sleep a night.  HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.  Nice for those of you from that planet.

** Darling Pavlova went from fire-hose runs to . . . nothing.  It was forty two hours between the last blast and the re-establishment of intestinal . . . er . . . solidarity.  I texted Olivia last night:  If she craps in her crate overnight again I’m sending her back to Birmingham.  She didn’t.

And I am zero impressed with the effects of tinned pumpkin on canine digestion.  I am one hundred percent not impressed.  She was on pumpkin while she had the runs—she had been on pumpkin before she had the runs.  She was on pumpkin when she stopped producing anything of a craplike nature, and she is still on pumpkin now while she is clearly constipated.  I’ve bought the stuff, I might as well use it, but I’m not going to repeat the mistake.  Note that pumpkin does not work on all dogs.

*** No, wait, the C of E doesn’t do relics, does it?  From someone with a generic-Protestant background all of the C of E is high church, and if you told me relics I’d believe you.  Although an earlobe isn’t really a good candidate.  It would be a tiny wizened little leathery thing after a few hundred years.  How about St Radegund’s earring?  She was a princess, there must have been earrings.  Of course after she ran away from her fratricidal husband to found a convent she lived, according to Catholic Online, in great austerity.  Well, let’s postulate a Belinda^ who carefully kept the earrings.  I fancy a nice garnet pair.  We have only one however.  The other one is in a closed convent in Yugoslavia, possibly with her hairpins.

^ ‘Thy hand, Belinda;  darkness shades me, on thy bosom let me rest.’  I’m singing Dido, although I imagine poor Belinda tearing her hair and shouting, He’s only a bloke!  He’s NOT WORTH IT!  Pull yourself together!

† I tell myself I can’t be unprofessional when I’m a volunteer amateur.

†† Moths have been a NIGHTMARE this year.  Where are my bug-eating bats when I need them?

††† No, no, not screaming, just doing a few gentle little vocal warm-ups.

‡ Too young and too frelling brash.  I said this to Nadia and she said, oh, the poor little blighter, you come out of uni having learnt your choir-director skills directing other students who have young forgiving voices and probably a fairly open and flexible attitude . . . and suddenly you’re trying to make something of a small amateur choir full of middle-aged characters and you have to figure it out before they fire you.

‡‡  I was thinking, and it seemed like such a good idea to borrow a hymnal.

‡‡‡ And the Gs in Monsieur Racine are G flat.  Piffle.

§ The blokes bungled one of their entries BUT IT WASN’T US SOPRANOS.

§§ And I hit those G flats like a hucklebutting hellterror.  WHAM.  I even managed the descant A, although I doubt it was a beautiful noise.

§§§ It was also a loving and lovely service.  I didn’t know her, but it still made me cry.

# Today to my amazement I still had some voice left to sing for Nadia.  Yes, you’re well sung in today, she said, after the first warm-ups.  It is, of course, her doing that I didn’t strain myself attempting to uphold the honour of too few first sopranos in public.

I even went ringing at Glaciation tonight and lurched through a complete plain course of dradblatted Cambridge minor.  Singing in a choir in public is good for me.

To eat or not to eat. That is the question.

 

Today got off to a very bad start last night.  As so often.  Never make jokes at your hellcritters’ expense.  They’re listening.  They are not amused.

Remember I wrote yesterday about the rogue kitchen door at the cottage?  How, when the wind is in the right/wrong quarter, it sings and does the can-can, and while its high kicks are pretty persuasive it can’t carry a tune?  And the hellhounds feel that kitchen doors should stand quietly and not make a fuss?

The door was a whole chorus line last night.   And we’d had a rather exciting time on our final, mmph-o’clock hurtle, when I thought I might very well get airborne, with two hellhounds as wings.  And the rain, you know.  Lashing.*  The one time I really miss my contact lenses is in heavy rain.

So the kitchen door was singing an inappropriate descant to the Cantique de Jean Racine and laughing diabolically between verses.**  And hellhounds would not eat their supper.  Would.  Not.  Eat.  WOULD.  NOT.  EAT.

ARRRRRRGH.

I’ve told you that while it’s perfectly true that I AM A NEUROTIC CONTROL FREAK, it is also true that if the hellhounds miss a meal they won’t want the next one, possibly through the essential perversity of being hellhounds, but I assume there’s something a little rational going on, like that being hungry makes them queasy, and they are dubious about food at best.  AND SO YOU’RE JUST NEVER GOING TO EAT AGAIN, IS THAT IT, GUYS?  THAT’S THE PLAN?

         ARRRRRRRRRRRGH.

We tried supper in the crate.  We tried supper out of the crate.  The standard out-of-the-crate area is by the Aga and the door, however, so that was obviously not on.  We tried supper wedged up against the puppy gate by the front door, which was the new default position in fear of the homicidal back door.  NOOOOOOO, moaned the hellhounds.  THIS IS NOT A SUPPER AREA.  WE DO NOT EAT SUPPER IN THIS AREA.

Sigh.

We tried supper upstairs in my office in what I usually call their favourite bed, since they’ll rush up there every chance they get.***  BLASPHEMY!  YOU POLLUTE OUR TEMPLE OF PURITY AND PERFECT REST AND PILLOWS OF ACCUMULATED DOG HAIR WITH FOOD?  If you want to eat chocolate at your desk, that’s your business.  WE DO NOT EAT IN OUR FAVOURITE BED.  Pavlova, meanwhile, was trying to eat her crate, because she was DYYYYYYYYYING OF STARVAAAAAAAAATION—you should have thought of that before you ate whatever-it-was that gave you the runs, honeybun.†

Hellhounds didn’t eat last night.  Neither did Pavlova, of course.††  I went to bed screaming and beating my breast about having hellcritters who have to eat and won’t, and hellcritters, well, hellcritter, who LONGS to eat and can’t.

. . . Today hellhounds ate their first meal with no hesitation whatsoever.  So did Pavlova—of course.  Pav is eating today, having got through the night clean.  YAAAAAAAAAY.†††

Maybe this is a good omen for tomorrow???

Any of you out there with intercessionary gods to pray to, please ask for mercy tomorrow sometime soon after half-past twelve, for poor old Jean Racine and his Cantique.

            Whimper.‡

* * *

* This was not stopping the half a dozen young lads in t shirts playing silly-buggers with the orange warning cones we seem to have quite a few of in the main street at the moment.^  Why the cones had not been airlifted to Kansas in that wind I’m not sure, but I guarantee they were not meant for the uses our young men were putting them to.  I just hope the twits got indoors again before their alcoholic glow wore off and they realised they were freezing to death.  And that no orange warning cones were harmed in such a way that is going to come out of the taxpayers’ pocket.

Lively place, the back woods of Hampshire.  You have no idea.

^ Possibly marking blocked storm drains of which there also seem to be a generous plenty.

** Remember the talking skull in King Haggard’s castle in THE LAST UNICORN?  Like that.

*** This was true before the arrival of the hellterror.  Who doesn’t go upstairs.  Yet.  So long as you grab her fast enough.  The usual late-night drill is that the hellhounds get their final short hurtle^ and are sent upstairs while Pavlova and I have a little interaction.  If it’s a nice night we may go out first, but we end up at the foot of the stairs next to the Aga (and the door).  You take your life in your hands, sitting on the floor with an almost-four-months-old hellterror puppy:  they pogostick.  They pogostick at you.  Again, this is standard puppy behaviour, but hellterrors, as in so many things, have an extreme version.^^

The hellhounds will creep halfway down the stairs to watch the goings-on.  Chaos will usually, eventually, come all the way down and permit himself to be pogosticked.  Darkness may get as far as the bottom step, if she’s sufficiently occupied throwing herself at Chaos.  Eventually Chaos will have had enough of the younger generation, and hurtle back upstairs.  Pavlova can’t, actually, get up those stairs, because I’ve been watching closely as she tries, and guessing how many more weeks I have before I have to figure out some puppy-baffling sub-gate that the hellhounds can still get over.  Not many.

But three nights ago in some kind of wild rush of adrenaline she did get about halfway up the stairs, perhaps literally swept along by Chaos—I didn’t see her go, but Chaos was now at the top of the stairs and there was a hellterror puppy stuck halfway and becoming aware that she could go neither forward nor back.  I rescued her, muttering.  But I now grab her collar when silliness is taking place too near the bottom of the stairs.^^^

^ Admiring the antics of the citizenry+ as appropriate.

+ There are appalling numbers of slugs out there.  Just by the way.#

# I mean the slime-trail-leaving, garden-eating variety.

^^ And in the morning while I’m waiting for my tea to steep and am sitting dangerously on the floor if I yawn, she will pogostick so she can put her head in my mouth.  You did use to get a mouthful of tongue with Hazel, the smallest and most limber of the whippets, who also saw an open mouth as an invitation, but this is the first dog I’ve had who tries to get her entire head in.  Maybe there are more advantages to big dogs than I’d considered.  No, no, Pavlova, don’t get any ideas!  You’re a mini!  Maybe I can learn to dislocate my jaw, like a boa constrictor!  Maybe you’ll grow out of pogosticking!+

+ Why do I think this is not a good bet?

^^^ She is presently asleep in her crate, for a wonder, instead of under my foot.  She has her nose in her upturned food bowl and it’s totally Icanhaz too cute.  I don’t dare try to get a photo, though.  There’s a blanket over the top of the crate, for ease of dropping down over the front when she is being a pestilential hellterror and I can’t sit down to Quell her right away, so it’s quite dark in there and I’m not going to use the flash, it might wake her up.

† Try containing a hellterror who thinks she’s starving to death.  She will eat bedding, furniture, small dustbins, leftover birthday flowers, magazines, rolls of paper towels, dishtowels, shoes and raw Brussels sprouts.  Taking her outdoors is a NIGHTMARE.

†† Except for a few chunks out of the side of her crate.

†††Now if only she would crap again at all.

‡ I can’t believe Gordon won’t have found a few extra sopranos for tomorrow . . . I have to believe it, or I won’t get any sleep tonight . . . but I wish we’d had the chirpy email about it. . . .

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