Last night I turned the Aga back on*, closed the kitchen and attic windows for the first time in months and ate my first apples of the season off my little tree**. I also wore gloves to take hellhounds for their last hurtle at glurp o’clock in the morning. And it was dark tonight at eight o’clock. Trying to get everybody hurtled at least occasionally in daylight is going to be more challenging this year, since the dream of a regular three-way hurtle isn’t looking too good.***
Good-bye summer, I guess. But I’d like to keep my dahlias till November, okay?
* * *
* It’s been off long enough that I’d got used to being able to put stuff on it. What with the bowls of fruit, small decorative jars of (decanted) dog food, caddies of (also decanted) bird food^, piles of magazines and knitting there is no counter, you know, space, and I have to decide what to put my computer on.^^ At least I managed to remember to take the plug-in single electric burner off the top of one of the Aga burner lids. I forgot last time and the little rubber pads on the ends of the legs of the electric burner melted.
^ I need yet another new bird feeder. I have two of those squirrel-repelling cage ones, the theory being that the mesh is big enough only to let small birds through. I discovered, by the simple expedient of doing the washing-up while the assault on Everest was being performed in my back garden, that the mesh is too small to let the (fat) resident robin through.+
+ The size differential among British robins is pretty extreme. Of the breeding pair a year ago who raised two broods in my greenhouse# one was nearly twice the size of the other one and easily differentiated even when there was only one visible. And it’s the bigger one that did most of the nest sitting and who disappeared as soon as the babies were half fledged, leaving the other to finish the job—which ought to mean she was mum. But according to on line the male robin is slightly bigger. Well, on line isn’t always correct, and maybe this robin has the short-man-likes-big-women complex.
# I have my fingers crossed for next year. This year my greenhouse was full of the results of a fallen-down wall which is to say first a shortage of walls and shelves to put nests on and second a Strange Man wielding wall-building materials and a trowel.
^^ Fruit is a bad choice: too knobbly.+
+ I am so looking forward to the hellterror being old enough to learn ‘go lie down [and stay there for more than ten seconds]’ so that I can START USING MY OFFICE AGAIN. At the moment it’s just a bridge too far. I can’t exactly work with her underfoot in the cottage kitchen but certain things are possible.# And she has to spend enough time in her crate: hellhounds and I don’t have to go upstairs. Hellhounds flee occasionally## but I stay in the kitchen, providing her with a Focus for Existence, and balancing my computer on tall piles of mostly magazines. It’s not a bad thing to have the computer higher than usual if I end up with a hellterror in my lap, which I mostly do. This wouldn’t work at all at a desk, by the way. My knees against the cupboard door and her butt tucked under the edge of the counter is what keeps her in position and I can still type.
# Chiefly fishing her out of the hellhound crate for the 1,000,000,000,000th time this hour.
## Although Chaos usually creeps down again and crouches on the stairs peering through the railing and waiting for me to notice and open the gate. Then he quickly plasters his cranky-uncle expression on and bolts for the hellhound crate.
** Not so little really. I’m still saying it has to get through its first winter after the wall fell down and was rebuilt around it before I stop worrying about the state of its roots, but the fact that it is producing lovely apples despite the gaspingly dry summer is a good sign. I have been watering it—and I don’t usually water anything that is both well-established and in the ground since I have way way WAAAAAAY too many dratblasted pots to keep up with—but even a middling-sized apple tree is still a tree.
*** All five of us went to see Tabitha today. Tabitha lives on the edge of one of the suburbs of Mauncester, with farmland starting at the end of her drive. I hurtle while Peter is getting thumped.^ And the hellterror so loooooongs to be One of Us I can’t quite give up on the three-way hurtle idea^^. So we all three/four went up the road and then turned to come back across the stubble fields. I had a pocket full of kibble and half an insane plan to try and let them all off lead again.
Only the field was full of frelling game birds. Even aside from the fact that they’ve no doubt been raised for shooting and the local keeper would not be pleased to have them exploded off the territory by havoc-running dogs, I’m not going to slip hellcritters when there’s wildlife in view. Hellhounds are used to this unreasonableness from the hellgoddess. Hellterror is used to nothing. I thought (a) the frelling birds would fly when they realised that slowly ambling group behind them was going to keep coming and (b) that the FRELLING HELLTERROR would eventually give up when the birds didn’t fly but the hellgoddess didn’t let go either.
Wrong on both counts. I think the blasted birds were enjoying the show. They kept looking back over their shoulders, clacking, and then going back to winnowing through the stubble. ARRRRRRRRGH. Fortunately I am the arthritic sixty-year-old skinny white girl version of Watermelon Shoulders and she didn’t have a chance.^^^ But by the time we got back to the car I was ready to give her away. I remind myself that I spent YEARS threatening to leave hellhounds in a box by the side of the road with a sign saying FREE HELLHOUNDS.
^ Peter then falls asleep on Tabitha’s sofa while I get thumped. When we get home again I fall asleep on Peter’s sofa. It’s the Tabitha Effect and is why I try to book on days I am not ringing bells in the evening.
^^ As well that three-way would be saving me a little time and wear. I am NOT THINKING about the possibility that—chiefly thanks to other people’s dogs#—it will never be really safe or practical to harness the troika.
# I believe I said recently that I had mostly sorted out the neighbour’s terrier crapping in the drive at Third House by keeping the gate shut? Next time I went up there . . . there was a fresh pile of dog crap immediately outside the gate. Very funny. Very, very, very funny.
^^^ Fortunately she was in her shiny new padded harness after she ate her pink one. Ten minutes unsupervised in the car and one of the crucial connecting straps was hanging by a shred. This happened Saturday afternoon, of course, so I spent a day and a half threading the long lead through the bits of the harness that were still harness so that when the shred gave way I would still have a hellterror on the end of the lead.
The new padded harness is very flash. And sturdy. But it’s only red. Sigh.
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