August 27, 2013

Life and KES



The frelling ME is really ripping a strip off.  OKAY.  I’VE BEEN PUSHING IT.  I’VE STOPPED.*  NOW GO AWAY.**  Note that Kes, my alter ego in many ways, does not have ME, nor is she going to develop it when she reaches the age I was when I did.***


Love, love, love Kes!


I eagerly await every Sunday (normally a day that signifies everything I have failed to get done from the week’s intended list) reading the next installment of Kes.

Oh glory.  The number of days I’ve managed to convince myself were not totally wasted because at least I got a few paragraphs of KES written . . . yes.  I sympathise.  Maybe you need a nice . . . knitting project or something.  See!  The morning/day/week is not a dead loss!  I got six rows/a sleeve/most of the back and I only had to rip out and redo about a third of it done!  . . . Unless you’re another writer in which case I really pity you.

[Excised so I don’t look like a complete fatuous self-absorbed twit.  You can always look up what she said in the forum]

I apologize for my tone, I am much older than . . . I sound like.

Yep.  I get that.  And I should stop wearing All Stars and have a decent haircut.  Guess what?  I’m not going to.


Exiting lurking mode just to chime in on the Kes love


Kes has her own permanent tab on my web browser because I never want to forget to check for a new episode.

Boldface mine.  Love.


Kes is a weekend treat.

 I would like to have the story as a book someday, but then I might be a bit old fashioned.



Still reading Kes, Still loving Kes, even though I want to know about too many of the ends that are trailing invitingly off into the mists.

Mwa ha ha ha ha ha.  Well, of course.  I mean, good.  A story that’s going to go on for a while needs a lot of trailing ends.  Writing a story is a bit like doing a French plait.  It’s a curious sensation doing what amounts to the first draft live however.  I see the trailing ends too and while I know where some of them go . . . some of them I don’t know.  In a story I was writing in the standard way I’d have plaited them all in (or trimmed them off) by the time you saw any of it.  As it is—as KES is—I have to assume the story knows what it’s doing . . . and doesn’t lose me on the way.

Did think about offering a guest blog on the joys having a house conversion done by your feller and his son – yay, gas pipe laid; weep, hot water leaks in hall; fret, son opens hole in floor and steps backwards into it – but most of my attention and energy is soaked up by said situation (and visiting Japanese student)


But much appreciation for daily blog posts

Oh good.  Thank you.


Kes is SUCH a treat. Thank you for giving us the privilege of reading a story that is in process.

As above.  Thank you.  And yes.  It’s a little unnerving.†  But as I said previously about writing KES I’m enjoying the different freedoms and restrictions of doing it this way.  Well.  Mostly enjoying.  Except for those ARRRRGH moments.  But they happen with everything.  Novels.  Hellcritters.  Getting out of bed in the morning.  Failing to get to bed at night.

(It isn’t working as advertising for me, because I have been reading everything you publish on paper since I was twelve or so,


though I just discovered the blog a few months ago.)

Oh good.  My writing on virtual paper.

Also love reading about bell ringing and singing and roses.

 Re-lurking, gratefully.

You’re very welcome.


The wonderful thing about Facebook . . . is that I can set up notifications. So I get a note every time something gets posted on the blog. That note means I don’t miss a Single Episode of KES.


And, er, don’t know if you know, but there seem to be a few folks who comment over there on Fb. Some state they have issues getting into forums generally, but some don’t seem to have quite noticed the forum. I’ve occasionally tried to point it out when someone seems to truly want an answer.

I loathe Facebook.  I got railroaded into doing the blog back six (GAAAAH) years ago when authors were doing blogs and now that (apparently) the fashion has moved on I’m kind of dug in here and except for the little twenty-four-hours-in-a-day problem have kind of figured out what works for me and, fortunately, for a number of you.  I was, somewhat later, railroaded into Facebook and Twitter.  I’ve come round to Twitter, aside from the fact that it is the most COLOSSAL time suck.  Facebook . . . I’ve tried several times to plug into FB since I have a lot of friends who keep track of each other that way.  But I hate the way it keeps trying to take over your life—and the way it keeps getting more demanding and more overwhelming and more frelling complicated.  I gave up a couple of incarnations ago and now don’t touch it with tongs aside from ten seconds every night to post a blog link.†† I wouldn’t do that much except that I don’t want to be rude to the people who follow me that way by dropping it.  I usually glance at the comments that attach to specific blog posts.  There’s at least one more feed of comments which I don’t understand and tend to get boomeranged off in the bullying FB way if I try to read it, so mostly I don’t.  I apologise to anyone who finds the blog forum intimidating but if you want to be sure I see something, you need to join the forum.  I promise nothing about FB.


Kes is my favourite, though I enjoy the rest of the blog too.

Which seems to me as it should be.  If readers weren’t enjoying the rest of the blog there’d be precious little reason to go on writing it, but KES after all is FICTION.  My life is only my life.


I read Kes every weekend too, (and the blog, most days). And I’m waiting very patiently for Forsoothly to ride back in again. Please? (to Forsoothly, not the author, who may or may not have control over his movements.)

Mwa ha hahahahahahaha hahahahahaha.  Note that you’re right, ‘please’ has no effect whatsoever on the author, aside, probably, from a burst of snarling, †† but I can tell you that Mr Forsoothly, Watermelon Shoulders, will return.

* * *

* . . . More or less.  Street Pastor training starts in a fortnight.

** Going bell ringing tonight doesn’t count.  It was Colin’s lot and very low stress level.  Chiefly I practised my autopilot.  Hurtling three hellcritters simultaneously doesn’t count either—not even two days in a row—because of course it’s more efficient to hurtle them together.  Southdowner was here again yesterday.  I had thought, at least briefly, that since she’s ended up with two puppies of her own to show—and Fruitcake just mopped the floor with his competitors on his first public performance—she can leave mine alone.  But Fruitcake’s new ranking seems to have had the opposite effect.  Southdowner keeps looking at Pav and saying, she’s gorgeous.  She’s gorgeous.  You must let me show her.  MUST.  LET.  ME.  SHOW.  HER.^


We had all three off lead yesterday too—hurtling over the countryside.  Pav levitates to a remarkable degree for something that looks like a small rectangular shoebox on little short legs.   We’re rolling into the season of stubble fields, when in years past the hellhounds get off lead a lot, but I’m as freaked as poor Darkness by the increasing Aggressive Off Lead Dog Problem and I’m so busy worrying it kind of wrecks our options.  I’m seriously depressed about it really:  I live in a fantastically beautiful area of the country and one of the reasons you have dogs is to take them for WALKS. Or hurtles, as the case may be.  And I increasingly just don’t dare.  We still get our exercise but it’s not the same.  It sucks.  It totally totally totally SUCKS.

But they were all off yesterday and Pav levitated remarkably successfully, not only going after the hellhounds with a speed that surprised them—they actually had to turn on a fraction of their real speed to stay ahead of her—but somehow wafting over the stubble, and coming home with an unscratched tummy.  I went out with Mavis today and let the hellhounds off again but decided that without Southdowner there doing her Imperturbable Dog Behaviourist/Trainer thing two at large was enough.  Although it wasn’t so much that I thought I’d lose her—hellhound recall is pretty good, and she’ll do what they do—as I didn’t want to worry about her eating any more corpses.  There was a rabbit in a disturbingly advanced state of deadness which the hellhounds were certainly interested in but I can keep them moving and food is not high on their list of special treats anyway^^.  They’re much likelier to roll in it.  Pav however would have got a mouthful if she’d been off lead.

^  She left last night saying, I’ll email you the show dates.  –Oh yes?  How interesting.

^^  I was thinking after I wrote the other night that terriers are a whole different order of being from other dogs—?  So are sighthounds.  Sighthounds are not dogs.  I don’t know what they are, but they’re . . . a different order of being.  An alien life form from a chlorophyll-based fauna that incompletely made the transition to the usual system of eating and digestion on earth.  Ninety-nine point nine percent of standard dog training techniques are based on food rewards.+  Which don’t work with sighthounds.  Who think that the human preoccupation with something they call training is pretty funny anyway.  Bull terriers, on the other hand, say, training?  Is there FOOD involved?  Fine.  Training.  We give you TRAINING.  They think the human preoccupation with something we call training is pretty funny too, but they express it differently.

+ All right, ninety-eight percent.

*** Given that it’s taken sixteen months to tell two and a half days of her story, I’m not going to live long enough to get her to that perilous birthday.

† Sometimes it’s a lot unnerving.

†† Or twenty or eighty, or ten minutes when it or my connection is in a bad mood

††† PLEASE write another Damar book!  PLEASE write a sequel to SUNSHINE!

Circum-training the American West: part 5 – homeward


We had one more pair of park volunteers, from Minneapolis to the Wisconsin Dells, discussing the largely urban Mississippi River Park. But they were less experienced than the others, and had much less striking scenery to show off, so I didn’t pay as much attention.

wisconsinacrosslake           I’m in Minnesota, Wisconsin’s on the other side

I did eavesdrop on my neighbors in the lounge car. Siri and Christy were on their way from Minneapolis to New Orleans, to then turn around and come back — on bicycles! They were planning a ride to investigate and bring attention to local, non-corporate agriculture through America’s heartland, and would stay and help at farms, visit markets, and hold meetings along the way. I have periodically been following their blog. In early August they were in Iowa. As of August 19 they seem to have made  it!


astationassorted stations, Illinois to Texas


Kieren and Dan met me in Chicago and took me out to dinner at their favorite Greek restaurant. Amusingly, one of my fellow passengers, who would be going on with me on the Texas Eagle the next day, was at the same restaurant, out of all the restaurants in all of Chicago!  She recognized me (kind of memorable as the lady with the two walking sticks) and came over to say, “Hi!”

Kieren and Dan then took me home to their third floor in a little old house that is getting surrounded by high-rises – when they moved there they had many sunny windows, but they fear that their last sun is about to be obliterated. I had forgotten the stairs when I asked for the visit, but I slowly negotiated them up and down. After all, I had been going  down and up in the train cars several times a day all weekend!

chicagodowntown Chicago from trackside, and a garden awaiting its summer flowers

Kieren doesn’t garden his backyard as intensively Robin’s cottage*, but the phenomenon of “millions of little green things in pots” seems to be universal

Kieren got me back to the station – I think it’s another Union Station – the next day for the last leg. It was a full train and I had a seatmate, a boy in his twenties, from the start. Having become experienced by this time, I just decamped to the lounge car for most of the trip. That way he had space, and I had space.


springI paid attention to the advancing season, from early to late spring, as the afternoon went  by – pictured are red maple and plum in Minnesota or Wisconsin on May 13, and greenness in southern Illinois on May 14.

archAnd I got several shots of the St. Louis Arch at sunset,

HopeArkansasand one blurry pre-dawn documentation that I had  been through Clinton’s birthplace in Hope, Arkansas.

But I was getting pretty tired by this time, and ready to be home. And after the roughest ride of the whole trip, when the engineer maintained his top allowed speed of 80mph on track in east Texas that wasn’t really up to it (drinking breakfast coffee was almost impossible), we got  back to Dallas, actually early.onderreuniontower                   Texas Eagle under Reunion Tower


I saw more spectacular scenery in 15 days than I have seen in 15 years. But there were longish periods when it was less than rivetting.


screensSo I played with my phone a good deal. (The cars have all been fitted with two outlets at each pair of seats.) Aside from my little game of watching the blue arrow move over the countryside, I played a lot of Spider 2-Suit. And Mah-jong solitaire.

And I knitted. I’m not very good, but I was ambushed by some gorgeous yarn at a fiber show, and I’ve been plodding along turning it into a scarf since last fall.

scarf2&14Maymy scarf on the second day, in west Texas, and the next-to-last, in Illinois – it really is longer!

finishedscarfHaving gotten so far, I decided it really didn’t need to be a six-foot long scarf. Eventually, after I got back, I picked up a row of loops just before the first pattern-row, carefully cut off and ravelled out the first six solid rows, half-twisted the scarf, and grafted the ends. Voila! A möbius cowl as concrete product of my wonderful trip. (Also, I still have the other half of my lovely yarn.)


I kind of jumped into the deep end for my first train trip in maybe thirty years. But I will definitely try it again!

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

* Well, the climate! snow on the ground for months, and 100° sometimes in the summer…



Abigail, from north Texas, is a former teacher, a naturalist, and a chain-mail jewelry maker. She occasionally blogs about natural history (mostly) at, and sells her handicraft at


KES, 93



He briefly looked as startled as I felt.  But then his face cleared and he said, “You must be Kes from cabin seven.  Hi.  I’m Jan.”  He held out his hand, but this was a blunt, broken-fingernailed, ink- and machine-oil-stained hand, not at all like Mr Love-Me’s, and looking at his grin I could see him as Mike’s father.  My face relaxed into a smile in response (Hey!  What do you mean by relaxing!  Deinonychus and unspeakable cosmic horror is waiting for us a mere twenty miles away!).

“Yes.  Maybe Serena told you I’m checking out tonight.”

“She did indeed.”  Jan opened the giant ledger Serena had applied to on my arrival.  There wasn’t a computer screen in sight and the credit-card machine looked humble and subservient.  And old.  A Model T of credit-card machines.

“Er—where is Serena?  She was here five minutes ago.”

“Yep,” said Jan, making a note in the book.  “She’s mad at me so I gave her the night off.”  He looked up at me again, grinned, and went back to his book.  I could immediately see him as a great guy to have a beer with and a totally infuriating boss.  I could also kind of see his shirt as a manifestation of the taste that produced friendly neon campfires.  The plastic mother-of-pearl buttons were particularly eye-catching.

I took the key out of my pocket and laid it on the table.  I would not be sorry not to have a campfire gouging my leg any more, but since I was trading it in for a ring of keys big and heavy enough to use as a spare anchor for a medium-sized yacht I had slightly mixed feelings about the exchange.  At least there wouldn’t be crushed food on the walls.  Unless there was a poltergeist who had liked its solitude.

Then I pulled the bracelet out and laid it next to the key.  It was even more beautiful than I’d thought in the dim light of cabin seven.  Here there was a blast of overhead 100 watt that made it glitter.  I was pretty sure it was real silver—it had what looked like hallmarks stamped on the inside of the cuff—but it was as shiny as if it had just come out of the hands of one of the White House’s butlers.  So it was well cared for and couldn’t have been lost for long.  Bizarrer and bizarrer.  To coin a phrase.  Even more bizarre was my conviction, as I pulled it out, that I suddenly smelled roses:  it was so strong I looked around the office.  Although florists’ roses are notoriously duds in the scent department and I doubted there were any roses blooming in New Iceland this time of year.

And roses didn’t really fit the décor.  I’d been too stunned when I arrived two nights ( . . . two nights) ago to notice much.  There was a big wall unit of veneer-plywood pigeonholes of about the same vintage as the credit card machine.  I knew it was veneer over plywood because the corners were splitting.   I was relieved to see there was nothing visible in the pigeonhole for cabin seven.  The pigeonholes were facing a gigantic map of the area and some racks of flyers for local attractions.  Which meant there must be local attractions.  I probably didn’t want to know.  Giant freshwater squid taxidermy museum.   Possibly sharing the parking lot and really bad café with a theme park based on other unusual animals.  Naked mole rat roller coaster.  Axolotl carousel.  I shook my head.  I had to get back to work before my brain was taken over by the stuff I usually shoved into my fiction.

“I found this in a corner,” I said, turning the bracelet up so the rose gleamed.  The medallion was maybe ceramic;  the rose was a deep velvety red and the white background was slightly opalescent.  The contrast with Jan’s buttons was a little queasy-making.  “The previous tenant must have left it behind, although I can’t imagine why she didn’t turn around, however far away she’d gone, the moment she noticed it was missing.”

Jan looked mildly surprised and then puzzled.  He flipped one page back in the ledger book and shook his head.  “Last person in that cabin was a week ago, Bill Wheatley, he travels in agricultural equipment, one of our regulars.  Nice guy, still calls his wife sweetheart like he means it, but he wouldn’t be buying her anything that looks like that.”  He flipped another page.  “Before that, young couple with three little kids, couldn’t afford a bigger cabin, had ’em in sleeping bags on the floor.  Not theirs either.”  He picked the bracelet up and looked at it.  I was only now noticing the seed pearls around the medallion.  I’d thought they were silver beads.  “Pretty thing.”  And then added, “Almost too pretty.  Take some living up to, I guess.”

I looked at him, startled.  I wasn’t expecting poetic sensibility from Neon Campfire Decorative Squashed Food Man.

He laid it down and then pushed it back across the counter at me.  “You keep it.”


Fun with your critters



Hellterror:  Want a lap.

Hellgoddess:  It’s too hot.

Hellterror:  Want a lap.

Hellgoddess:  It’s too hot and I’m wearing shorts.

Hellhounds:  Zzzzzzzzzzzz.

Hellterror:  Want a lap.

Hellgoddess:  It’s too hot, I’m wearing shorts, if I put you on my lap my legs will break out in large prickly red splotches, and if I put a towel or a sweatshirt over my legs it kind of ruins the shorts part, okay?  Also, dog body temperature is higher than human, which is not attractive in this weather.

Hellterror:  Want a lap.

Hellgoddess:  Why don’t you go play with a nice toy?

Hellterror and hellgoddess engage in staring match.  Hellterror eventually heaves deep sigh of sadness, disillusionment and crushedness and wanders off, channelling Eeyore with every dragging, melancholy step.  Hellgoddess warily goes back to her book.*

Hellhounds:  Zzzzzzzzzzzz.

::Rustling noise::.

Hellterror comes prancing back, bearing her trophy, and settles down on her nice comfy floor-padding blanket at the hellgoddess’ feet to enjoy it.

Hellterror:  Have a shoe.

Hellgoddess briefly presses fingers to forehead.  She lays her book down.**

Hellgoddess:  You aren’t allowed to eat shoes.

Removes shoe, while hellterror looks at her through her eyelashes.  Wags tail.  Hellgoddess puts the sacred All Star back under the bookcase by the front door with its 1,000,001 friends.***

Hellgoddess offers toy that has found favour at other times.  Hellterror accepts it listlessly.

Hellgoddess goes back to her book.  Warily.  Hellterror rests her head on boring toy and contemplates options.

Hellterror trots off purposefully.

Hellhounds:  Zzzzzzzzzzzzz.

Hellterror returns bearing another trophy.  The scene as before.

Hellterror:  Have another shoe.

Hellgoddess doesn’t bother with the finger-pressing this time, although she does heave a deep sigh.  She sighs much more deeply than hellterror because her lungs are bigger.†  Also her lungs are very well developed because of all the hurtling.

Hellgoddess:  You aren’t allowed to eat shoes.

Removes shoe.  Offers a different toy that has found favour at other times.  Hellterror lets off a glare with her evil little varminty eyes that would knock Jericho’s walls down without benefit of trumpet, but the hellgoddess is made of sturdy stuff.

Hellhounds:  Zzzzzzzzzzzzz.

::Different rustling noises::

Hellterror:  Got a sock.

Hellgoddess:  You aren’t allowed to eat socks either.  Or bras, knickers or t-shirts.††

Hellterror:  Want a lap.

Hellgoddess:  ALL RIGHT.  ALL RIGHT.†††

Hellhounds:  Zzzzzzzzzzz.

* * *

* No, the one I was reading.


I’ve been reading some rather good cheezy science fiction.  But I’m not going to tell you what, because I would be fallen on in a body and pummelled to death for disrespect.

If I promise not to pummel you to death will you tell? I could use some good cheezy sci fi, and I’m not attached enough to anyone to get offended at their being put in such a category.

I read that when it came in and thought, okay, how am I going to do this?  Anagram?  Smoke signals?^  But I’m going to do a book rec on it, so all is well except for the part when I admit that as far as I’m concerned a Classic of the Genre is cheezy science fiction, it just happens to be good.  Hey, I write cheezy fantasy, wizards, dragons, enchanted swords, retold fairy tales, the occasional vampire and so on.  It just happens to be—ahem—good.

^ DM?  Please.  Besides, mine is turned off and I don’t want to know how to turn it on.

** Carefully.  I’m near the end and it’s very exciting.

*** There are more upstairs in the bedroom cupboard.  With the yarn.  There are even more in the attic.

† Hellterror is tiny.  Southdowner has been around kind of a lot this week^ because she’s visiting her family on the south coast, and we’ve met both Monster Scone and Super-Monster Fruitcake.  Fruitcake is ENORMOUS.  Fruitcake is probably twice the hellterror’s size.  I like tiny.  Tiny means I can still tuck her under one arm and go shopping.  Tiny is, of course, relative, and twenty-seven pounds starts to weigh kind of a lot after a few minutes, especially if it wriggles, although thanks to all that dedicated holding of baby puppies, it’s actually pretty good about not wriggling.  But southdowner was talking about a semi-non-confrontation she’d had recently with Scone, and had simply picked Scone up out of the target zone while the idiot owner harrumphed about how his dog was friendly and the dog demonstrated body language of a less than friendly sort.  I had one of these semi-non-confrontations today, when I saw a Jack Russell-y type dog get all low-bodied and intent and . . . I picked the hellterror up.  Isn’t yours okay? said this idiot owner, while his dog held its tail out stiff as a frelling poker and its head low and menacing.  Mine is okay.  Oh yeah? I didn’t say, and kept moving.  I’d’ve been staggering pretty quickly if I’d been carrying Scone or Fruitcake.

And, you know, ha ha ha ha ha and everything, but the aggressive off-lead dog problem depresses the frelling frelling out of me.

^ I’ve been getting a few Remedial Hellterror Owner lessons.  Some of this adolescence thing has been worrying me a little.+  If there are any long-time, naively believe they have some clue dog owners out there thinking of branching out into terriers, be aware that terriers are a whole different life form.  All that standard training and response stuff with other dogs?  Doesn’t work with terriers.  Oh.

+Oh my God, have I BROKEN her??

†† Hellterror’s distressing fondness for dirty laundry—that is, the hellgoddess’ dirty laundry—makes me wonder if I should try wearing new toys before I give them to her, to make them more attractive.  The laundry issue is ongoing, since the laundry bags live in a heap among the bevy of dwarf appliances under the stairs at the cottage.  There isn’t any other place for them to be.  And hellterror appears to have learnt to untie drawstring bags.

††† The funny thing is that I did not break out in itchy red splotches.  Either there’s a seasonal thing going on—she’s pretty low to the ground, and she runs through a lot of grass—or I’m adapting to the third dog I live with.  Her body temperature is still too high for August however.

‡ abigailmm

Chaos and Darkness are the most beautiful dogs, period, I have ever seen. If I knew anything about keeping dogs, and if I thought I could physically manage to exercise them, I would look for some of my own.

If you’re serious, it would be worth contacting your local greyhound rescue and asking about middle-aged couch potatoes.  Older dogs are harder to place so they would love to hear from you, and a good rescue will know their dogs pretty well and could suggest one or two of the couch-potato-iest.  It’s a myth that retired greyhounds need huge amounts of exercise.  Individuals vary, but older retired racers mostly have done all that and are looking for the sofa stage of existence and a little regular gentle ambling outdoors and your company indoors is adequate.  You do have to remember that they can hit top speed in a couple of bounds if they choose to, so you have to be ALERT out walking them.  I have mine on extending leads, but they’ve been with me their entire lives which works both ways—I’m used to watching them for rocketing-off symptoms and they know how long their leads are.  If I ever bring a retired greyhound home it will be on a short, non-extending lead for a long time.  Possibly the rest of its life.

My guys are of course not greyhounds, they’re whippet cross deerhound.  And whippets aren’t quite small greyhounds, there are some differences in detail:  personally I find whippets the more beautiful, but there are some 100% eye candy greyhounds out there just longing for an ordinary, non-racing-kennels home.

[Ringing] two funerals and a wedding


Although the wedding isn’t till Saturday I didn’t want to waste an opportunity to rip off a title.*  I haven’t rung a funeral in over a year, I think—not since Gloriana’s**—and then I’ve rung two in a row:  yesterday and today.***  I really don’t like this bit about how as you get older more and more people that you know seem to be popping off around you.  Yesterday’s funeral was at least someone I only knew very vaguely but today’s . . . well.  I’m not sure the whole ‘we’ll see her again in heaven’ thing works all that well in the first instance.†  She’s been terminally ill for months.  It’s not like we didn’t know.  But. . . .

. . . Well.  I’m still tired, although I did get some sleep last night.  Maybe I could get some sleep two nights in a row?  Now there’s an exciting thought.

* * *

* Even if the film is where I developed my profound aversion to Hugh Grant.

** I’ve said before I wish we rang more funerals.  I think people mostly just don’t think of bells for funerals—plus that funerals tend to happen during the working week and it’s hard to put bands together.  Vicky pulled us in today from about six different towers—she and Roger were the only locals.

*** Sometimes I even think there’s hope for me as a ringer.  Two of our eight today don’t ring a lot, so the six of us bell junkies rang a touch of Grandsire doubles while the two normal people had a sit down between slabs of call changes.  I tend not to ring my best for occasions—Sunday service is bad enough, but one-offs like weddings and funerals . . . anguish, anguish . . . and funerals, it’s worse, because weddings are supposed to be happy occasions and can absorb a little screwing up.  It’ll make a good story later that you could hear the conductor yelling at his/her band where you were standing in the receiving line:  DODGE WITH THE FOUR, PASS THE TREBLE AND LEAD!^—and you can hear the ‘YOU MORON’ even if this remains unuttered.  Funerals, even when you’re trying to celebrate rather than mourn, it’s an edgier sort of thing, and it’s harder to laugh if you gerfarkle it—especially if you knew the person you’re ringing for.  But I was the dubious sixth ringing with five good ringers, and when it’s five to one they’ll carry you if need be.  But you know . . . it was pretty good.  It was at least not bad.  And they weren’t carrying me.  And Grandsire doubles, eh, I frelling well ought to be able to ring Grandsire doubles—but ringing is one of those really discouraging skills where you never reach the ‘ah ha—got it’ stage:  there’s always another ignis fatuus sneering at you out there in the bog somewhere.  Learning the frelling method line is only the beginning.^^

^ You’re all going, ha ha ha ha, I don’t know much about bell ringing but I know bells are noisy.  Yes.  Very true.  Which means that a conductor has to bellow like sixty devils+ to be heard over the row.   Now think about a ground floor ring, where the ringers are at street level with the peons, and the bells are making their racket some distance overhead.  It of course depends on your ground floor ring—occasionally they are tucked away from the hurly burly, madding crowd, etc—but generally you ground-floor ringers are depressingly visible++, which means you can’t wear your oldest jeans and your favourite t shirt which says ‘Miskatonic University, Necromancy Department, bringing dead things back to life since 1690’, although I will be wearing All Stars and if they don’t like it they can not ask me to ring there again.  Anyway.  If your conductor loses it when the person on the two goes AWOL yet again and said conductor starts addressing the problem in a possibly over-emphatic manner, especially a conductor who is used to ringing in a tower . . . yeah.  It’ll make a good a good story to tell over the anniversary dinner.  If the conductor is lucky, he’s the hired gun, and will never be seen in those parts again.

+ Most conductors.  There are a few that just make themselves heard.  I have no idea how they manage this.

++ For only about one wedding in three does some intrepid becamera’d person struggle up to the bell tower to take photos.  A ground floor ring, there’ll be at least six cameras firing every wedding.  Maybe twenty-six.  If you’re particularly unlucky, someone will want to pose with the ringers.

^^ Also worth noticing is that all the ghastly struggle of ringing at the abbey becomes suddenly dazzlingly worth it when you find yourself ringing at an easier tower.  Yesterday’s funeral was at the abbey and I was hanging on a bell rope and thinking WHAT IS GOING ON? and I only didn’t go wrong because the touch came round+ soon enough to save me from myself.

+ ie back to rounds, ie finished

† I was sitting there in the congregation thinking, I’m a frelling CHRISTIAN now.  I’m supposed to BELIEVE that I’ll see her again in heaven, and catch up, because as Life Got Complicated (again) I’d let myself fall out of touch.  And all that’s happening is that I’m sitting there thinking, she’s dead.  I’m never going to see her in her garden/walking her dogs/outside the bell tower ready to tell us how much she’d enjoyed the bells again.

It was also a little, ahem, deadly, that the readings and hymns were so well chosen—by her.  Including Lord of the Dance^ which has made me cry pretty much every time I’ve sung it for the last thirty or forty years, and that wonderful Joyce Grenfell poem:

^ Good grief there are a lot of really bad covers of Lord of the Dance out there.  I’m not generally a fan of unmitigated kiddie cathedral choirs, but this version is at least not embarrassing:

Or if you prefer the folkie version:

Good heavens.  And here’s John Langstaff.

I’m so old I remember his Revels when they were starting out, and how amazing and like nothing else they were—that was my living-in-Boston era so I was on the spot.  All of us who loved early music and the rougher end of folk music and where they got mixed up together kind of thing—but there was hardly any of this around, I didn’t and really still don’t quite know what to call it—totally thought we . . . er . . . had died and gone to heaven.  This clip doesn’t anything like do justice to the experience of being in the audience for one of them—my first experience of a Langstaff Revel ended with the players fishing members of the audience out of their chairs to snake, hand in hand, outside and dance on the green.  The hall emptied:  we were all outside, singing and dancing.  It pleases me that people still remember Langstaff.


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