August 31, 2013

KES, 94



I gaped at him.  “Oh, but —”

“If the owner does come back for it—Angelina Jolie was here about six weeks ago, it’ll be hers, right?  Or maybe Catherine Zeta-Jones, she was here the week before that.”  And he grinned his grin again.  “If she comes back for it, I know where you live, don’t I?  Take it.”

I didn’t wear bracelets and I didn’t wear burgundy velvet and I hadn’t worn lace in twenty years and then only when semi-artfully torn first, but my hand was itching to snatch it and stuff it back in my pocket.  I tried to do this casually, like it was no big deal.  “Well—thanks.”

“If you’d found something the pawn shop in Bittern Marsh would take I might’ve tried,” said Jan.  “But Hector runs more toward your grandfather’s medals and your great-grandfather’s watch.  This’d just freak him out.  Okay, you’re done.  We already got your money.  Safe journey.”

“I’m driving Merry, you know,” I said.

“Sure.  It’s the other people on the road have to worry.  You may have to help Gus lift his lawnmower in the back is all.  I told Mike he should have thrown in a ramp in the purchase price.”

Small town life, I thought.  “Okay,” I said.

“Come back and see Serena,” he said.  “Especially when she’s mad at me.”

“Does it happen often?” I said cautiously, torn between lurid curiosity and wondering if the slight reformed-bar-brawler aura might suddenly manifest in his tearing my ass off and handing it back to me.

“Often enough,” he said.  “If I had any sense I’d give her the business and make her pay me a salary.  I’m not a bad plumber and I’m good at nailing things together before they fall over and kill somebody.  But I’ve had no sense over sixty years, it’s late to start now.”  He fixed me with a look.

Uh oh.  This was maybe when the ass-tearing began.

“You write books.

If he had a novel in his bottom drawer that he wanted me to read I was going to burst into tears.  I’d almost rather he punched me.  Last time I got punched by a disgruntled would-be writer he was extremely drunk and would have been relatively easy to dodge if it hadn’t been for malignly-placed furniture.  Con security arrived pretty soon and escorted him off the premises.  However the photo that made the front page of EWBAG because some scum-sucking loser had his phone out at the wrong minute showed me falling over a chair as I dove out of Snidely Whiplash’s way.  I needed six stitches in my chin.  But there had been a novel in a bottom drawer involved.  Usually people take ‘no’ pretty well.  Occasionally you get one who tells you you are a selfish close-minded cow, but physical violence is unusual.  EWBAG—Einstein was Wrong But in a Good Way, EWWBIAGW, usually known as and pronounced Ewbag—for anyone not plugged into the science fiction and fantasy world, used to be the weekly trade paper for all things SF&F.  It’s now a web site slightly larger than God.  Unfortunately there is an archive of all the old paper issues.

Jan probably was motel security and he looked sober.  Nothing more dangerous than a sober reformed bar brawler.  “Er.  Yes,” I said reluctantly.  “But—strictly genre.  Fantasy.  Swords and sorcery.  Vampires.”  Your bildungsroman about a sensitive young man growing up in a small lakeside town and losing his virginity to an evil soul-swallowing celestial-eyed goldfish goddess . . . no, no, wait.  Stop at the sensitive young man growing up in a small lakeside town.  A bildungsroman about a sensitive young man would be wasted on me.  If there’s an evil soul-swallowing celestial-eyed goldfish goddess I might be interested.

“You put real people in your books?”

I blinked.  Okay, this was also in the top ten, with ‘will you read my novel’ and ‘where do you get your ideas’ but I hadn’t been expecting it.  I thought of JoJo and Mr Love-Me.  “No.  Not recognisably anyway.”  I scowled.  “I’m considering putting my ex-husband in one though.  With a stake through his heart.”

The look eased.  He reverted to a good, if possibly slightly risky, person to have a beer with.  I made a mental note that if this ever happened to me, not to ask him any more leading questions.

“When I wasn’t much more than Gus’ age we had a writer fella move up here from the big city.  Said he wanted peace and quiet though you’d never guess it since he spent all his time slouching around downtown, except when he was playing poker in the back room at the Hydrant.  He was here a little over a year.  Then someone figured out that he was sleeping with three of the wives of his poker buddies and he left in kind of a hurry.  When his next book come out, a lot of people saw themselves and they weren’t real happy.  He wasn’t Dan Brown so no one else cared.  But we cared.”

“You?” I said before I could stop myself—and checked hastily for malignly-placed furniture.

“Yeah.  I was the mama’s boy who wouldn’t play poker because I was underage.  That wasn’t why.  Why was because I’ve always sucked at poker.”


One of those days. Oh, another one.



As frequently referred to, I am Not Sleeping Well.*  I got up this morning at what is for me a not-unreasonable hour, had something semi-resembling breakfast, looked at the clock and decided to have a little lie down before I went off to have a cup of tea with Penelope at 11.  I wasn’t going to sleep because I don’t sleep, but I’m so ratblasted tired the idea of doing half an hour’s work was very unattractive.

I woke up at 10:59.  YAAAAAAAAH.

Fortunately Penelope** wasn’t doing anything else this morning and was willing to have me half an hour late.  Also, she’s used to me.

So I got home afterward and looked at the hellcritters and they all looked at me.  They gazed at me speakingly and what they were saying was YOU CALL THAT ONCE AROUND A CHURCHYARD EARLIER A WALK?***  WE WANT A PROPER HURTLE AND WE ARE GOING TO STARE AT YOU UNTIL YOU GIVE US ONE.

I took all three of them out together.  MISTAKE.  This is the thing about hurtling three hellcritters at once:  if anything goes wrong you are stuffed.  My insane and ridiculous plan is that I should eventually be able to give them one hurtle a day together and one separately.†  What chiefly went wrong today is that hellterror was POSSESSED BY DEMONS.  As we’ve been going out together pretty steadily recently I thought we might CONCEIVABLY be, you know, shaking down.  No.  Wrong.  She hucklebutted in about six directions simultaneously, made Darkness cry, and tied all of us up in her frelling lead . . . and this immediately in front of some damned oaf eating his lunch on one of the church benches and trying not to laugh.  The next time I have to play late catch-up with the morning hurtle we will revert to shifts.††

Darkness was so traumatised by the experience of being hucklebutted at that he couldn’t bring himself to eat his lunch.  He just couldn’t touch a morsel.

I think I managed to get a little work in here somewhere before frelling handbells.  Niall innocently asked me if I minded ringing the 5-6 (I’ve mostly been ringing the 3-4 for a long time now)—I should know better than ever to believe Niall when he’s trying for innocent.  The ratbag made me call a touch.†††  Three times.  Just to prove I could.  I don’t know why this was a successful experiment‡ but unfortunately it was and will therefore doubtless be repeated.  During tea break I was also outed by frelling Niall as having gone to New Arcadia practise last Friday‡‡ whereupon Jillian said, ooooh, let’s make her come tonight.

I was weak.  I went.‡‡‡  And all this Forza and Fustian ringing is having an effect.  They had enough fancy visiting ringers tonight to do a bit more than usual and I was dubiously offered a chance to ring Stedman Triples.  I kept my line when some of the better ringers went off theirs.  Nyah nyah nyah.

* * *

And on another subject entirely, do you know that Seamus Heaney died?  A mere lad of 74.  Much too soon.  If you don’t know his work—or even if you do—here’s a place to start.  Never mind the bogus ‘Ten Best Poems’ nonsense:  these do give you a genuine taste of why you’ll want more.

* * *

* CAN’T IMAGINE WHY.  I’m not neurotic or anything.  Or paranoid.  I don’t think that gigantic international financial corporations are pissing on me from a height or anything.

** Those of you with helplessly retentive memories, and I pity you, really I do^, may recall that Penelope got her blog name because she is so often a Bell Widow while Niall is out ringing.  This is not strictly accurate.  In the first place, she makes him stay home in the evening occasionally^^ and in the second place when he goes on a ringing holiday week during which a bunch of the true nutte—I mean, a bunch of the dedicated go en masse to some piece of country with a lot of bell towers in it, spend all day bouncing over bad roads and arguing with their satnavs punctuated by ringing at three or four different towers—so like what I did a fortnight ago, only day after day after day after day—he wants her to go with him.  There’s another one of these interesting opportunities coming up soon and she’s saying Nooooooooooo I want to stay hooooooooome. . . .


^^ I believe she has been known to hide his laptop.  With the bell ringing software on it.

*** Those of us of the male gender who have to pee every five feet had barely got started.

^ You know you could give us cramp in delicate regions by this callous behaviour.

† Superfluous leg stretches and last-turn-around-the-churchyard negotiable.  Which is to say I mostly cravenly leave the hellterror at home for the latter.  The advantage of there being very few other people (and dogs) around at our last-turn time is offset by not being able to see what she’s eating.

†† Despite the NOISE she makes when she’s being left behind after having already waited a monstrously long time.  I am clearly leaving her in the hands of bullie-hating fiends with hot pitchforks and pawscrews.

††† You usually start learning to call from the 5-6 for reasons you really don’t want to hear explained.

^ Yes, I could explain it.  Which is pretty alarming.

‡ My Brain Was Taken Over By One That Works.  Film at eleven.

‡‡ I told you this, didn’t I?  I went specifically to speak to one of the other ringers who’d let me have his seat at the funeral and I’d been too distressed by what we were all there for to remember to thank him properly.

‡‡‡ You know I’d been worrying about not getting enough ringing this month when lots of towers cancel regular practise while everybody’s at the beach or hiking up Everest.^  I rang two funerals and a wedding last week.  I rang three tower practises this week, plus frelling handbells, and I’m ringing another wedding tomorrow.  If I were a less hardened individual I could be getting blisters.

^ You know there’s now a queue?

I suppose roast bank manager would give the hellpack indigestion?



I got a robot letter from my bank today saying OH GEE WE’RE SO SORRY THAT YOU ARE NOT HAPPY WITH OUR SERVICE!!!  WE WILL SO TRY TO WIN YOU BACK!  HERE, HAVE SOME VIRTUAL FLOWERS, A LOT OF SNAKE OIL, AND NOTHING ELSE WHATSOEVER!  You’re expecting substantive action from us?  HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.  We’re a gigantic global corporation!  WE DON’T GIVE HALF A HOT STEAMING TURD ABOUT YOU AND YOUR CRUMMY LITTLE ACCOUNTS!!!*  And we’re leaning back with our feet up anyway because we know that all of us banks are equally greedy, rotten, careless and incompetent,** and therefore it wouldn’t do you any good to move to another bank!  HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.  Thinking about it is putting us into such a good mood . . . here.  Have some more virtual flowers.  And maybe some (virtual) chocolate.  Is there anything else you’d like us to fail to give you?  A Ferrari F40?  An all expenses paid trip to Lhasa, guaranteed snow leopard and yeti sightings?  A perfectly trained, perfectly behaved, blue-blooded, over-championed-pedigree hellterror destined to win at CRUFTS?

Well.  Certainly not the last one.  I wouldn’t know what to do with it.

The hellhounds are not crazy about this single-stream thing with our hellterror.***  What do you mean she’s coming with us?  AGAIN?  She was just loose about the place† a few hours ago.  WE NEED TIME TO RECOVER.  Yesterday I managed to have them all out before supper and I introduced the hellterror to the delights of begging for chicken scraps while I put their meal together.  During the pre-hellterror era I told you that the previous generation of hellwhippets was NOT ALLOWED NEAR the end of the kitchen where food preparation was going on, and were allowed out of their bed only on the word of command when the food bowls went down.††  But hellhounds have been such an uphill struggle about eating at all that when they first showed signs of begging for scraps while I cut up their chicken I was all over this.  Hellterror has been protesting this rank favouritism for eleven months now.  Having her out even worked pretty well:  hellterror fixated nicely on what appeared under her nose and hellhounds are used to their scraps being tossed to them anyway.

Today however hellhounds were not having any of this, feeling that hellterror exposure was way past acceptable limits after they had suffered a brief hurtle with her—may I just add in my defense, a superfluous hurtle—AND THEN SHE WAS ACTUALLY ALLOWED ON THE SOFA AGAIN.   IS NOTHING SACRED.  So they sulked in their bed and I . . . got down on the floor with a handful of kibble and chicken fragments and began running Pav through her repertoire†††, which is, southdowner says, to be expanded to include ‘stand’ because that will make SHOWING her easier.‡

Ah.  Hmm.

* * *

* Actually, I had guessed that already, thanks.^

^One of the things I keep remembering as I continue to fail to get anywhere is that they contacted me originally and I met with a live human being when I had that this-year’s-salary single lump sum in my account.  Which if they’d bothered to check the preceding twenty-one years they’d find is a pattern and I won’t get another lump sum till this one is down to about enough to buy a knitting magazine, but not enough to buy a subscription to a knitting magazine.  Granted the live human being was pretty low level—in keeping with the level of the lump sum—and given the result possibly lower even than that.  But she wasn’t a robot letter coming in most of a month after the event, and a fortnight after the complaint.

** And on the contentious subject of comma use as bandied about on the forum last night:  I write mostly by ear and somewhat by eye.  I don’t agree that using a final comma before ‘and’ in a series is how people talk or that its presence causes less confusion.  I don’t like the way a final comma makes a series sound in my ear and I don’t like the way it clutters up its sentence to my eye.  Except on those occasions when I want that pause because to me punctuation marks are mostly about pause and quality of pause.  I don’t care about rules.  I care about rhythm.  I use punctuation accordingly.  It’s funny I used to work as a copyeditor since (ahem) I am not the ideal subject for copyediting.

*** The mad, marginally trained one.

† Some of you will be aware that something like a fortnight ago I tweeted that the MIRACLE had occurred, the hellterror was asleep in her crate with the door open.  I may have mentioned this here before because it continues to be approximately the ONLY time this has happened—because she rapidly realised she’d rather be asleep at my feet^ or better yet in my lap.  Remember when she OUTGREW my lap?   That didn’t stop us long.  I do have to remove puppy^^ from counter/table/laptop/plate occasionally and sometimes WHEN WE SIMPLY CAN’T GET IT TOGETHER I revert to being one-handed again but we’ve gotten pretty creative and she has a very flexible spine.  And still doesn’t mind dangling even now she’s twice the size she was eleven months ago.  Note that a hellterror snoring into your armpit tickles.^^^

^ And I was fool enough to put a blanket there so she could be comfortable.

^^ Yes, she’s a year old.  And your point would be?

^^^ I still haven’t figured out knitting with a lapful of critter.  When it’s just the hellhounds I can kind of leeeeeean off the sofa so the long trailing bits miss them.  But it’s not an ideal system and is very bad for my output.

†† Holly and Rowan were mostly pretty hellterror-like about food;  Hazel was more hellhound-ish.

††† She’s left-handed.  She gives you her left paw immediately and has to be heavily prompted to give you her right one.  This could be my erratic training protocol but I think it’s Pav.  Horses are strongly handed/hoofed/sided;  the folklore I learnt about this is that it’s to do with which way they’re curled up in the womb.  I don’t know if this is true of dogs as well.  Even though puppies come in batches, presumably it’s still pretty crowded in there and puppy foetuses still curl.

An interesting link for short Wednesday


Well, go on.  Click the freller*.   Ignore the serial comma at the bottom of page nine:  that’s a typo.  I don’t do commas before ‘and’.

* * *

* Unless you follow either me or Penguin Teen on Twitter and already have.^

^ I get extra points for TWO footnotes in a post only about 50 words long.

Plague Vector



You might want to disinfect your computer after you read tonight’s blog.  Clearly I am a Gremlin Plague Vector* and you can’t be too careful.

The day began badly as it so often does by not getting to sleep last night/this morning.  Circumstances probably did assist in conspiring because Fiona and I had some time ago rescheduled to have a Yarn Adventure today—we’d had to cancel during the Extreme Streaming stage a couple of months back and I was not going to cancel again.  Meanwhile however the Bank Bust exploded a fortnight or something ago and I’m getting nowhere fast and meanwhile I’m also getting more and more wound up about it** as I am stonewalled by the bank while letters are still coming in from people who didn’t get paid.***   I should have gone into the bank again this morning and demanded a HUMAN BEING TO TALK TO . . . after I hand delivered my letter of complaint to the branch manager the beginning of last week and was told they didn’t have a branch manager and that my letter would be forwarded to the Complaints Department.

On Friday . . . I got a phone call from someone with a heavy non-English accent who clearly didn’t know a thing but what was in front of him on his computer screen and who asked me a lot of ‘security’ questions that I didn’t want to answer over the phone to—who was this person?  He could be some joker with his ear to the virtual wire for people in bank trouble who are likely not to be thinking too clearly and are only too anxious to be helped.  So, since I wasn’t cooperating, he told me he would send me questions by post next Tuesday.  Which would be today.  Whatever he’s sending me only started on its journey today.†  Which means that absolutely nothing has happened so far except that my bank doesn’t give a sh*t.  Oh yes, and the overseas call centre racket?  My bank has made a great fuss a little while ago about how its customer service departments are all in the UK.  Okay, my guy could have been born in Manchester and be working in London—if there’s a large ethnic population around you presumably you may grow up and retain your parents’ and grandparents’ speech patterns—but that’s not the first thing you think of when someone who sounds like he’s calling from an overseas call centre, complete with semi-subdued racket of other people and other computers in the background, calls you.

It was Bank Holiday Monday yesterday.  Today I should have been first in the queue at my local managerless branch office.  But I didn’t sleep last night and I was staggering around trying to get my eyes unstuck and the hellpack hurtled because Fiona and I were going to make what passes in our case for an early start and not only did I not get to the bank but I broke my favourite jar†† instead of putting freshly roasted mixed nuts, heavy on the cashews and Brazil nuts, in it which is what I meant to be doing, and spent twenty minutes sweeping up broken glass, patting around for the bits I missed, bleeding, and worrying about the bits I had still missed that the hellcritters would find.

What with one thing and another Fiona and I got off about an hour late.  Then things seemed to go right for a while:  we didn’t get lost on the way to the yarn shop and we settled in for the duration and I hadn’t even noticed what time it had got to be till Fiona pointed out the shop was closing in ten minutes.  So I took my really very conservative purchases, or would-be purchases, up to the counter.

While I’m waiting for my financial life to calm down I am only using one credit card.  A brand shiny new one, and attached by direct debit to the new account that is causing all the problems—but which should have all my money in it.  I’m still a little twitchy about having learnt the PIN number on the new card.  But the PIN went through fine.

The card was declined.

Robin goes into grey slightly hallucinatory dissociative shock. †††

We drove home in a somewhat subdued mood.  Over Peter’s roast chicken I tried the card again, on line.‡

It was declined again.

The customer service phone number on the card wasted five minutes of my time jumping me through robot menu hoops before they decided THE OFFICE HAD CLOSED FORTY FIVE MINUTES AGO.

And the hellhounds didn’t eat supper.

I don’t think I’m getting much sleep tonight either.

* * *

* Fiona’s coinage [so to speak].  She was trying to blame it on her.  Gallant but mistaken.

** This might just conceivably have some input to the way the ME is behaving lately.

*** Most of these are automatic about stuff I think I have already dealt with and have either been switched or resubmitted, but every one of them still freaks me out big time and requires another phone call . . . which may or may not be (eventually) answered by a human being I can talk to and who may be able to look my details up and reassure me that the changes have gone through.  But . . . I don’t yet know if what I’ve changed is going to work since most of the regular stuff—utilities and so on—is only presented once a month and it hasn’t been another month yet.  Not to mention the fines I will be liable for for missing a payment.  Which I want the sodding bank to reimburse.

† This is of course assuming he is legit.

†† Thirty or forty years old and from Maine.  It’s not like I’m going to go on line and find a replacement straight off.

††† Fiona offered to put it on her card and we could sort it out later but I was way too freaked out.  Although I admit I’m still thinking about those orphan skeins of Manos del Uruguay and Artesano.  They had ‘cowl’ written all over them.  Two cowls.  One per skein.  Sigh.  And cheap leg warmer yarn on sale. . . .

‡ Ordering small folding scissors.  Why doesn’t every yarn store/yarn site in existence have these as standard equipment?  Tape measure, stitch counter, scissors that don’t stab holes in your project bag.  I found these on a cross stitch site.

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