September 30, 2013

Other S-words


The S-word would be sequel*.  Okay, SHADOWS has only been out five days and I’ve already had upwards of twenty queries about whether or not there’s going to be a sequel.  And I was going to write about that interesting question** tonight.  But first I got kind of distracted*** and . . . I.  Am.  So.  Tired.  And I’d hate to miss a good rant on the eminently rant-worthy topic of SEQUELS by being too tired to do it justice.

So tomorrow.  Maybe.  If there’s an invasion of dragons tomorrow I’ll probably want to write about that.

* * *

* Although it could be Street Pastors.  Or Singing.  It’s not.  But it could be.

I’m still so shattered^ from the weekend that pulling myself together to drive to Nadia this afternoon felt like the last equipment check for the final assault on Everest.  I could have used a Sherpa to drive us home after—’us’ since I had hellhounds in the back seat siiiiiiiigh.  I’d had a text from my dog walker during the last tea and rattle-your-brain-back-into-its-socket break Sunday evening at training that Darkness had begun his double-ended geysering act again.  JOOOOOOY.  Mavis has certainly seen various hellcritters merely streaming but I’m not sure she’s ever been witness to the full spectacle before.  Maxine and I had fled precipitously from the seminar hall at the end of Saturday because she has complicated child-care arrangements, and then we fled again Sunday night because I was anxious to get home before anything else happened.  Poor Corey^^ is going to begin to think we don’t love her.^^^

Aside from these little mechanical issues# it was another brilliant weekend for us increasingly-wondering-if-we-can-do-this-at-all trainees.  We had a paramedic talking to us on Saturday about ‘emergency management’ . . . a great deal of which really comes down to knowing when to call for help.  SPs are only there for moral support and lollipops:  if it gets beyond what a listening ear and sympathetic murmur can handle, you need to call for back up.  And sometimes you need to run away, although that’s not likely to be an issue for us in this area.  They’ve got a livelier scene down in Lesser Disconcerting.

Sunday we had a cop going over similar ground from the cop perspective.##  It’s good not only for morale but for that slightly queasy sense of ‘we’re out here doing what’ that the cops really like Street Pastors.  I think I’ve told you already that crime rates plummet where the SPs patrol.###  But we’ve got no legal mandate which means that people will talk—and listen—to us sometimes when they won’t talk to the cops, and sometimes listening is all that is necessary.  Listening and maybe a pair of flipflops for the exceedingly drunk young woman~ who can no longer walk in her insane eight-inch-platform clubbing shoes.~~

And then for my voice lesson today not only did Nadia thump me repeatedly through Fruhlingsglurglezzzzvvch she loaned me this thumping great book of lieder translations so I AM FORCED TO KNOW EXACTLY WHAT I’M SINGING.  And then when we were going to finish off with a few restful minutes in English~~~ HER NEW STUDENT ARRIVED, KNOCKED ON THE DOOR AND CAME IN AND SAT DOWN AND WATCHED/LISTENED INTERESTEDLY.  Do I even need to tell you that I instantly couldn’t sing a note?  At least not the right note.

Next time tell her to frelling wait in the frelling sitting room.


But the hellhounds and I had a very nice amble around Mauncester on the way home.  Hellhounds were delighted about the ‘ambling’ part.  If they’re not off lead and blurring into red shift they like a nice amble and I’m forever HURRYING them past interesting smells.  Today I was happy to lean against a wall occasionally and let them really examine that bollard.=

^ It could be shattered too.  Popular letter, s.

^^ Llewellyn is on holiday this week, the slacking wastrel.

^^^ Actually I wrote her an email explaining the speed of our retreat.

# And Darkness, bless his moral fibre if not his spastic guts, had managed to keep his legs crossed till I got there.

## A very cute cop.  Just by the way.  Too young for me but he’d do nicely for Maxine.  There was a good deal of giggling about this on the way home.

### And if that’s because most of the criminal element is going, Those interfering old biddies are coming this way again!  Haul ass!, that’s just fine.

~ Or cross-dresser although I’d be surprised if we had many of these around here who are identifiable as such.  This is such a conservative area that wearing All Stars is like identifying myself as one of the absinthe-drinking crowd.

~~ Yes we carry lollipops and flipflops as standard.  And bottles of water—and hot chocolate!—and I forget what all else.  Wet wipes and single use gloves . . . but I am very pleased to say that while we pick up whole bottles, for sharps as they’re called, needles and broken glass, we get to call for help.

~~~ Blow Blow Thou Winter Wind by Thomas Arne.  Since you asked.

= When we got home I was slammed into by a frantic hellterror WHO THOUGHT SHE WAS NEVER GOING TO BE TAKEN FOR A HURTLE AGAIN.  SHE WAS GOING TO SPEND THE REST OF HER LIFE IN THIS CRATE.+  It took some extra-strength hurtling to reassure her.

+ Although as long as there were regular deliveries of butter sandwiches she’d probably cope.

** That job as a graveyard shift supermarket shelf restocker is looking really good.

*** See footnote one (*).  Which presumably you already have.

Extraction (of honey) – guest post by AJLR


This year the weather gods have been a lot kinder to us and to the bees and pollinators (of all sorts, though obviously I’m talking about honeybees in this post) than in the past two summers. Our strongest colony managed to produce a respectable surplus and in early August we took off the ‘super’ box in which the bees had been encouraged to store the extra honey. These boxes, which are just over 18 inches to a side and about eight inches deep, contain up to 11 frames of comb that the bees have filled with honey and capped off with lovely pure white wax once the water content of the honey has been reduced to about 18%. Getting to this stage takes the bees a lot of work – making the wax for the comb, uncounted journeys collecting nectar in their honey stomachs, producing the enzyme invertase to mix with the nectar to turn it into honey, fanning to get the water content down in the honey, producing more wax to seal the top of each cell. After all that effort on their part one needs to deal carefully with the extraction of such a valuable and hard-won substance*.

So, one day in the second week of August we saw that there was sufficient honey in this super to be worth extracting. Given that each frame, when full, will hold about 3 lbs of honey, you can see that with nine out of the eleven frames full and capped we could expect about 25lbs of honey from this one box. To be able to remove the box from the hive without a bag full of bees, the day before we had to place a ‘clearer board’ underneath the super so that the bees could come down out of the super into the brood box beneath but could not get back up there again. One then has the open the hive, take off the full super and put it quickly into a big bag that can be closed tightly to prevent the bees getting back in before one can get it into the car. And they will try…



We had previously arranged with our local beekeeping branch to borrow an extractor – something like a giant spin dryer into which one loads the frames of honey so that it can be spun out.  Such equipment can be expensive if you’re a hobbyist/small-scale beekeeper, so it’s very useful belonging to the local branch and having such facilities.

With the full frames, one has to slice carefully down the face of the frame, using either an uncapping knife, or special fork, or whatever is to hand that approximates this (I used a breadknife). The setup is that one places a very clean piece of wood or other strut across a baking tin, in order to rest one end of the frame while one is cutting down it. Then you carefully slice down on both sides/faces of the frame, avoiding cutting too far down into the comb. The idea is just to take off the cappings and let those fall down into the tray beneath. The picture below shows where I was halfway cutting down one frame. The following one is of the cappings from a couple of frames sitting in the tray (my turkey roaster on this occasion) and waiting to be picked up and put in a sieve to allow as much honey as possible to be collected at the end. One definitely needs a steady hand doing this. It is easier if one has one of the heated (electric) uncapping knives but they are bit expensive (as are the custom-made uncapping trays) for someone with as few hives as I have. This worked fine, anyway.






Before starting uncapping one needs to get the extractor set up in a clean area to which one can shut all doors and windows – the smell of the honey will otherwise bring in bees and wasps intent on taking a share. We set up in the kitchen, putting the extractor on a small wooden table. You can see from the picture below that this one will take nine frames, spaced evenly around the drum. Once loaded up (trying to keep the load balanced or the drum will try to ‘walk’ off its stand as it spins) one puts the lid on firmly and slowly starts the spin. The one we’d borrowed is an electric one but there are manual ones as well. The best thing is to start slowly, not going to full speed until the honey is starting to come out. These extractors can be a bit unstable if one isn’t very careful with the loading (or even if one is). My husband and I found ourselves clasping this one lovingly between us as the speed increased, grimly hanging on to stop its self-willed intent to go for a walk with our precious honey!



Still, after about four or five minutes we slowed it down and switched off and peered cautiously down into the bottom of the barrel. There were several inches of liquid gold down there…

(After spining the honey off one removes the frames and puts them back in the super for safety (and cleanliness). Most beekeepers (including us) put such a ‘wet’ super back on the hive for 48 hours so that the bees can lick out any remaining honey and store it elsewhere. If there’s a late flow of nectar on, of course, one can find them trying to fill it up again. My mentor beekeeper lent me one of his patent double floors this year, so that I could try his way of getting the bees to clean out the super without trying to refill it. It worked very well.)

So, there we were with many pounds of liquid honey in the bottom of the extractor. These things come with a ‘honey gate’ at the bottom so that one can just open the gate and let the honey flow out into a honey bucket. This is the stage where one starts filtering if the intent is to bottle the honey from the bucket. There are various sieves one can put under the honey gate on the extractor, of different grades. We have a double sieve with the top layer being 600 microns and the lower layer being 400. The top layer takes out larger bits – little fragments of wax, the occasional bit of bee – while the smaller mesh underneath refines it further. We do also have a 200 micron sieve and the people who exhibit at honey shows go down to 100 microns, but 400 was fine for us. You get a good clear honey with just that type of filter. The first photo below shows the setup with the honey bucket, the second one is where we’ve set the double sieve into the top of the bucket and the honey is running through from the extractor.




After the honey has been run into the bucket one leaves it to stand in a warm place for at least 24 hours, so that any tiny air bubbles come to the surface and disperse. This ‘ripening’ is particularly necessary if one is going to sell the honey after bottling; one wouldn’t want to fill up all the jar and then find the level had gone down after they’d been standing for a while!

And the end result on this occasion was 25 lbs of very nice honey, some of which we’ve kept for ourselves while the rest has gone to family and friends. The bees have since been fed with lots of nice warm sugar syrup which they have happily taken down into the brood box to top up their winter stores. A colony like ours will typically use at least 40 lbs of stores during an English winter so one needs to make sure they have plenty if they’re to come through safely.


Yum. :)


* One never, ever, feeds honey that isn’t their own (or from a hive a few feet away at most) back to a colony. There can be fungal spores or other substances in there which don’t affect humans but can spread diseases among bee species. So, never put out shop-bought honey as a ‘treat’ for bees or other pollinators, you won’t be doing them any sort of a favour. Syrup made with white granulated sugar and water (at the proportion of 1 lb of sugar dissolved into 1 pint of water) is by far the best and safest. And use white sugar because brown or other unrefined sugars will upset their stomachs.

KES, 98


What do you do when your life as you thought you knew it ends without warning?  I thought I’d already been through this, when Gelasio asked for a divorce.  I stood there, staring down the flashlight beam, and trying to think.  I don’t know what I was trying to think about.  Something to make the earth stop whizzing around on its axis in the wrong direction.  Where was Superman when you needed him.  Maybe a local out late for a hack had left this.  It was just horse manure.  Ho hum.  I wouldn’t necessarily have noticed a large pile of steaming fresh horse manure in the middle of the road as we drove out toward Cold Valley, crouched as I was over the wheel and peering eye-strainingly at the road illuminated by Merry’s headlights.  Merry had very good strong headlights.

My hand was starting to shake.  The flashlight beam jiggled sympathetically.

Maybe there was a riding stable nearby.  I could investigate once I got settled in.  Unpacked a few boxes.  Put the milk out for the hob.  I shuddered again.  I didn’t need to be thinking of the hob just now.

Sid, having inspected the horse dung to her satisfaction, had raised her head and was scanning the horizon.  Her eyesight after dark was probably a lot better than mine.  She didn’t look worried.  Presumably that meant that the—company—we had seen were continuing to move away from us.  Which was good as far as it went.  Which I hoped was farther and farther away from us.  Sid wouldn’t be bothered about where that company had come from, and she was telling me they were gone.

It was still hard to turn around—to put my back to—to whatever.  To what was moving away from us—away from us, awaaaaay from us—leaving the occasional pile of horse dung behind as a memento.  The natives wouldn’t even notice.  It was just horse manure.  I turned around.  I trudged the twenty feet back to Merry.  My back was cold, but that was just the wind.  Just the wind.

Sid leaped straight in as soon as I opened Merry’s door and sat down on the passenger side like this was something she’d been doing all her life.  Well, I thought wildly, one day of a less-than-two-year-old dog’s life was a much higher percentage of the whole than one day of an almost-forty-year-old human’s. . . . I buckled her in.  I buckled me in.  I turned the key.  Merry rumbled immediately to life.  Which was something.  That meant we could put more distance between us and . . .

I didn’t miss my road.  Amazingly.  It wasn’t even that I saw it and thought, oh, there’s my road:  my hands just hit the blinker and turned the wheel.  Some of me knew where we were going.  I woke up from whatever daze I’d been in—something about trying to decide if our recent encounter would have been more or less horrifying if there’d been more moonlight.  If there’d been more I might have seen that it wasn’t Murac, it was just some random bunch of SCA-ers out for an evening stroll.  Or I might have seen not only Murac but his great buddy Astur, whom both Flowerhair and I were pretty sure was a bad guy, although a useful sort of person to have on your side in an argument, so long as you were sure he was on your side, and would stay there till the argument was over.

There were lights on in both the other houses on the . . . on my street.  I looked a little wistfully at the house on the corner where, according to Hayley, normal people lived.  Well, if they were too normal they probably wouldn’t like me much.  One of the problems with normal people is that they tend to hold your book jackets against you, especially if they have or have had teenage boys in the family who bought them for the cleavage.  Like Hayley’s brother.

I drove stoically past the Lanchesters, whose curtains, I was extremely glad to observe, were drawn.

I slowed to a near-stop before turning up into Rose Manor’s driveway.  This had nothing to do with exhaustion or terror—no no of course not—it was merely I didn’t want to drive into any of those wormhole ruts and discover ourselves driving across a purple desert under a red sky with two suns, six moons and a rvzzlblug in a pear tree facsimile.

We crept over the ruts in a manner that made me wonder if Merry was articulated in funny places.  That was one more thing I wasn’t going to think about tonight.

We stopped.  I turned the headlights off.  I turned the engine off.

It was very dark.  I couldn’t even see the Lanchesters’ lights through the hedge.

Very very dark.  We sat there, listening to Merry going ping.

We were home.

Maybe I should have asked the hob to turn a light on.

Yaaaaaaaaaah I have to get up eeeeeaaaaaaarly tomorrow morning


Whose idea was this frelling Street Pastors deal?  Oh.  Yeah.  God’s.  I guess I have to put up with it then.*  I am crazily short on sleep, even for me.  Both Maxine—who’s doing the driving—and I left tonight for the Friday evening session wanting to do anything but pay attention to anything remotely important and there were a lot of us trainees dragging in to the church hall looking very Friday-evening-after-a-long-week-ish.  But Corey, who I don’t think believes in ‘tired’, was Fearless Seminar Leader again tonight and she’s so terrific I think all of us woke up again.  Maxine and I did anyway.

But tomorrow is a LONG DAY and STARTS VERY EARLY and we have to drive to Fartledread, which was not on the original training schedule, what a very good thing Maxine has SatNav.  But that doesn’t make Fartledread any closer, and you’ll excuse me if I go to bed.  My mind can whirr relentlessly while the rest of me is disposed comfortably horizontally, with lots of pillows.

* * *

* As blondviolinist said:   Just keep repeating to yourself: “At least this isn’t a church committee. At least this isn’t a church committee. At least….” (Etc.)  If that doesn’t work, try the words “church BUDGET committee,” and suddenly SPs will seem absolutely splendid.

Yep.  What she said.  With knobs on.  I would actually be curious to know some percentages of how many Street Pastors do what—what kind of thing—in their day jobs.  I hate hate HATE committee work anyway—all that sitting around doodling cartoons of each other^ and folding for compromises nobody likes because you’re tired, you’re hungry for something that didn’t come out of a plastic packet, and you’re not going to do any better.  Okay.  I have a bad attitude.  But I also sit indoors at a computer most of the day every frelling day, seven days a week, trying to think creatively.  The LAST thing I want to do in my time away from my computer . . . is sit around some other multiply-blasted table, indoors, and think creatively^^ . . . and with a bunch of other people.  The horror.  The horror.

But if you’re a Christian, uneasily casting about for an outlet for the ‘service’ part of your charter . . . well, if God suddenly says, Yo, do this, you say, Yes sir/madam/Your Sacrednesses, and that’s what you do.  But somewhere between the lightning-bolt from head office and you making a list of all the things you don’t want to do, there’s some wiggle room.^^^  Do fantasy writers want to hand out lollipops and bottles of water to real people rather the worse for their night on the tiles?  Do car mechanics want to relate to spluttering, misfiring people?  Or do Street Pastors mostly sign on to do what they think they already do well?  Do insurance adjustors want to bring a different kind of balance to a different kind of volatile situation?  Do social workers want a chance to empathise with people that doesn’t involve telling them the government won’t find them a house/help them get job training/subsidize child care?

I’ll have to ask.

^ There are some very good drawing programmes for your friendly tablet computer I believe.  I’m still a hard-copy doodler.+

+ Yes I am still grinding through the Bell Fund backlog.  But slowly.

^^ If it’s budgetary, maybe not too creatively

^^^ I know God always knows best.  But the comms system is flawed.

And the winners are…! Guest mini-blog from Blogmom

Carla C.     Sylvia C.     Nancy W.

Thanks to everyone who participated for helping us publicize SHADOWS!

For those of you who pre-ordered from Amazon and are receiving your copies, if you feel inspired to write a review, that would be lovely.

Read a sample! Order from Amazon. Order from Amazon UK.

YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY!  Congratulations Carla, Sylvia and Nancy!   And thank you everyone!  –ed.

Next Page »