Frelling, ratbags and Stedman Triples
IT HAS BEEN AN ABSOLUTE FRELLING FRELLING FRELLING RATBAG OF A DAY. FRELLING.*
It was sunny and gorgeous and around noon positively shirtsleeve weather, which is confusing the summer annuals—most of which are still flowering, and while the fuchsias and begonias are slowing down the snapdragons and geraniums seem to think it’s still August**—and Mortimer Sackler*** is rolling into what I think is her fourth flush. I decided that sanity demanded hellhounds and I have a proper country walk, so we launched ourselves in a brave and forthright manner.
About fifty feet from the last house at the edge of Old Eden, as we set off gallantly along the footpath. . . . I saw a Moron with a Dog. I was not absolutely sure he was a Moron, but the signs were there. Especially the large off lead dog sign. Hellhounds and I veered out into the field. The large dog observed us. The large dog became interested. The large dog began to move in our direction in an interested manner.
Hellhounds and I veered farther out into the field.
The large dog adapted its course accordingly.
The Moron finally noticed and began calling the large dog in feeble and apathetic tones. The large dog, of course, ignored him. The large dog was getting quite close to us by now. It was one of those fashionable Godzillas that was a Labrador a few generations back. Its head was about the size of a V8 engine. Arrrrrgh. I could nearly feel its hot breath on my face. The Moron, having signally failed to get his rotten dog UNDER CONTROL now shouts, He’s very friendly! ARRRRRRGH. His blasted frelling dog is not very friendly: its body language didn’t say I am going to eat you for lunch, but it did say, I am the biggest, meanest SOB in the valley, and I’m going to make sure you acknowledge this fact.
I do not answer the Moron, whereupon the Moron starts shouting in this offended voice, Excuse me? Excuse me? —Excuse you? May I excuse you from living? I shouted back in a voice I did not try too hard to eliminate the fury from, MY DOGS ARE ON LEAD. YOUR DOG IS OFF LEAD.
Oh all right, flounced the Moron, and went so far as to leave the footpath to pursue his wretched dog, and I hope the mud ruined his city shoes. His dog allowed itself to be deflected—he hadn’t caught it by the time we turned through the gap in the hedgerow, but it was having more fun eluding him than it had been chasing us. ARRRRRRRRRGH.
As it happens, on our way home we met up with two friends† who dogsit their daughter’s terrier. They were walking it in Old Eden a few months ago and were attacked by two dogs hanging out unsupervised in their owner’s front garden . . . with the gate left open. The terrier is now so nervous it doesn’t want to go for walks . . . and those two dogs still hang out in that garden with the gate open. Have I mentioned that the police just shrug when you tell them stories like this?
We went home. The washing machine poured water all over the floor of the kitchen. Twice. I wasted ten minutes trying to persuade the frelling hellterror to have her crap in the churchyard†† rather than waiting, with what I can see from behind is increasingly pressing urgency, to get back to Her Spot at the foot of the cottage steps. I failed. And when I finally gave up on the hellterror’s bowel function and we went to the cobbler . . . the cobbler had closed about five minutes before, while we were hanging around POINTLESSLY beside a tombstone.
I got beetroot juice on a favourite sweater. †††
. . . And how badly was bell practise at the abbey going to go tonight? It began with my having to park three towns over and hike because the Christmas Village is going up all over the close and the centre of town and every parking space for miles is occupied either by a chalet or by the car that usually parks where the chalet is. The temperature has also dropped by about seventy-five degrees and I was underdressed. There were ninety-seven or a hundred and twelve of us at practise, and two-thirds of us were at the lower end of ability, so while the comparatively few good ringers rang all night, the rest of us only got put in by ones and twos and spent a very frustrating time standing around a lot.‡
Eventually it was my turn. What would you like to ring? said Scary Man.‡‡ Er um, I said. Bob major? Stedman triples? Stedman triples, said Scary Man. A touch? —My little heart beat faster. I know what’s supposed to happen, I said, I’ve read it up. But I’ve never rung an affected touch and I doubt I can count that high.‡‡‡ Stedman triples! called Scary Man. Albert, will you call a touch?
I did it. I only did it because Scary Man stood at my shoulder and helped me count, but I knew what was happening (except for the counting) and once I escaped the multiplicity of dodges I slotted back into the line again, including seeing which bells I was striking over (the order changes when a call is made), and since ropesight (which is seeing what bells you’re striking over) is probably my worst nightmare at the abbey, this is very good. Yaay me. This is, sadly, undoubtedly beginner’s luck, and next time reality and terrible crashing noises will ensue, but today . . . I will take what I can get. And maybe if I go to bed fast enough nothing else will go wrong. . . .
* * *
* Jack Kornfield, who is a Buddhist, has written a lot of books, most of which I’ve read at one time or another. What I have always liked and been drawn to about a certain style or stream of Buddhism is the awareness of the practical side of life, including that what inevitably happens after a high is that you come down.^ The title of one of his books is AFTER THE ECSTACY, THE LAUNDRY. http://www.jackkornfield.com/books/ Yes. And a real ratbag day includes, speaking of laundry, getting beetroot juice on a favourite sweater. Beetroot juice has been used as a red dye for thousands of frelling years. . . . I do seem to have got it out again, but there was SCREAMING.
^ Making a little hole in the ground and a lot of dust optional.
** Yes, I know. These are all tender perennials, not annuals. But they’re mostly grown as annuals. In my garden the frost will come and they will die. With a hellterror sucking hours out of my anaemic days this winter not to mention a total lack of surface space above puppy-reach level^ it doesn’t look good for the indoor jungle.
^ And she keeps getting TALLER. —You’re a mini, honey. Don’t forget you’re a mini.
† He rings bells. Ninety-five percent of my English acquaintances are bell ringers.^
^ The other five percent are Dickinsons.
†† INSERT STANDARD RANT HERE ABOUT THE MORE-THAN-MORONS THAT LET THEIR DOGS CRAP IN CHURCHYARDS. In this particular case, the churchyard is the only piece of grass in downtown New Arcadia, and if the church admin loses its temper and gets the churchyard closed us with dogs are going to be very unhappy. WHAT DESPICABLE MUTANT TOAD SLIME LETS ITS DOGS CRAP IN CHURCHYARDS???
††† See previous footnote.
‡ And, in some cases, knit.
‡‡ After I fell down laughing hearing someone else refer to Scary Man as Scary Man, someone posted that there were lots of other Scary Men in ringing. Yes, of course. What I hadn’t heard before was it being used as a name, as I use it: Scary Man, rather than a scary man or the scary man, or Blistering tower’s Scary Man.
‡‡‡ There’s a lot of dodging in Stedman anyway: in triples you double dodge on the way up and the way down as well as twice at the back. If the conductor calls a bob while you’re at the back you have to dodge three more times. This is a challenge to my maths skills, especially at the speed that method bells ring.
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