October 26, 2013

KES, 102

 

ONE HUNDRED TWO

While the peppermint tea was steeping I ventured uneasily upstairs.  There was a closet on the ground floor with a toilet, half a sink and an extractor fan in it, but I wanted a real bath.  The bathroom was the size of an archery range and the bathtub was big enough for me and six friends.  You could wash your elephant in that bathtub.  I doubted that hot water was included in the rent.  Were there bathtub inserts, like the water-containing version of the insoles you put in a too-large pair of shoes?  Maybe I should just buy a small wading pool and set it up with a siphon next to the tub.  There was plenty of floor space.

The parlour looked like an explosion in a department store by the time I finally found a usable bath towel.  The ones in the bathroom linen cupboard were so worn they looked like cheesecloth and their original color could have been anything from fuchsia to that bad one out of space.  If it was the latter I was glad it had faded to imperceptible.

Sid found the prospect of a human being having a bath uninteresting, and retreated downstairs again.  The hob’s scrambled eggs had obviously been satisfactory:  the water was hot.  Once I was submerged I had to hold onto the sides of the bath:  my feet didn’t touch the far end.  I sang while I was in the bath too—the acoustics in an empty tiled room the size of a skating rink were not tremendously warm and friendly, but they were better than wondering if I could hear the madwoman in the attic who was only one flight of stairs away from the bathroom.  I put my nightgown on and a huge woolly sweater over it.  The sweater had been providing padding in one of the kitchen boxes.  It had begun life as Gelasio’s but he’d ceded ownership after about fifteen minutes:  purple wasn’t his color.  That was sixteen or seventeen years ago.  I had decided I could claim it as mine.  Even if I did have to roll the sleeves up.

I padded downstairs warm and clean and ready for peppermint tea and chocolate.  (Of course I’d found the chocolate.  That box had been very carefully labelled.)  Sid had made a large messy nest of all the discarded towels and other snuggly things in the middle of the parlour floor.  I was pretty sure she’d done some diving in open boxes on her own initiative.  “You are an evil, wicked dog,” I said.  She opened her one visible eye halfway and gave her tail an absent-minded thump.  All dogs do becoming one with the furniture with admirable conviction but there is nothing more emblematic of perfect, boneless relaxation than a stretched-out sighthound on a bed of her own devising.

I had to steal some of it back to make up our bed in front of Caedmon.  There were groans of protest but Sid followed me into the kitchen to see what I was doing with my spoils.  The bath had sufficiently restored my feet that I managed to finish pumping up the thrice-blasted air mattress (mostly) without too much more whining and snarling.  Then I had to figure out how to create a bedhead/wall equivalent so I could read in bed for a while before I turned the light out—without setting anything on fire, that is, since leaning against Caedmon would probably be ill-advised.  And yes, of course I had to read in bed for a while before I turned the light out.  Silly question.  But this meant there had to be a bedside light as well.  Hmm.

As someone who doesn’t deal well in three dimensions, my eventual construction was rather clever, if I do say so myself, consisting as it did of three of the four forbidding parlour chairs and a layer of book boxes between them and the wall.  I plugged my designated bedside lamp—which I’d found while looking for towels—in with a flourish, and set it on the bedside-table-facsimile chair.  It made a better table than it did a seat.

I had brought my dirty laundry downstairs.  I would tackle the cellar and the washing machine tomorrow but I unloaded the contents of my jeans pockets onto one of the empty shelves.  I paused when I got to the pebble.  What—?  Oh.  Sid’s pebble.  I’d drop it in one of the ruts in the driveway tomorrow too and let it do its infinitesimal best to prevent us from falling into another universe.  Tonight it could spend on the table, out where I could see it, to remind me that it had a purpose.

It was faintly shiny.  Mica or something, I thought vaguely, but this reminded me of other shiny things, and I groped for the bigger, bulgier pockets of my leather jacket, hanging on the back of the one remaining chair, and thrust my hand into the nearest and bulgiest.

Various. Or possibly variable.

 

 

Katinseattle

. . . It’s that communication problem again. . . . I thought the comment about engineering texts was funny. But I did feel dumb about my shock over the empty dish. Of course I knew the hob was there. . . .

It must have been good writing.

YES.  DEFINITELY.  IT WAS DEFINITELY THE GOOD WRITING.  Also may I say you’re reading it in the spirit in which it was intended.  If you give a story its head and let it run away with you, you will be surprised at the things the story wants you to be surprised about.  It doesn’t have to be a big surprised.  Just a little ‘you’re the boss’ surprised.  When you close the book (or the ereader-of-choice case) you think, why was I surprised about that?  Of course the villain was going to tie the hopelessly wet heroine-facsimile to the railroad tracks.  And of course her dishy true love is going to arrive in time and untie her . . . and whap the villain up longside the head while she’s at it, and then order her hopelessly wet girlfriend to take those frelling self-defense classes.  Of course.  You’d have seen it a mile away, if you hadn’t been letting the story have its way with you.  Which is a very nice thing in a reader.  Just by the way.

As for ‘seventy is the new fifty,’ a cousin blithely emailed that to me. A much younger cousin. I growled back at him, via email. I’ve spent seventy years growing up. I’ve left a number of difficulties behind and collected more that I’ll never leave behind. I want to now say, “I’m 70, I can’t/don’t want to/won’t do that anymore.” Don’t tell me now I have to wait another twenty years.

YES.  I COULDN’T AGREE MORE.*  Granted I’m only sixty (-one) but the principle has been manifesting itself in my life for some time.  I’m not crazy about the wrinkles and the horrible squidgy sagging skin—I’m especially not crazy about the skin, but I’ve had awful skin all my life**, why should it change for the better now—and the memory that makes a snapped rubber band look like the much-desired steel trap, and the stealthily accumulating assortment of aches and pains.  But they absolutely beat being young and clueless and having all those frelling mistakes yet to make.  Granted some people make fewer mistakes than others . . . some of us make LOTS AND LOTS MORE than others . . . but everybody makes some.  And I made a few that it’s worth being thirty or forty years older to be thirty or forty years away from.  And a lot of that thirty or forty years has been pretty interesting in its own right.

Nat

When I have ‘What the?’ moments, I just think, why SHOULD I expect to understand everything?

Everything?  I don’t want to understand everything because then I’d be God and I have enough trouble being responsible for three hellcritters.  I wouldn’t like reigning over all of creation at all.  But it would be nice to understand one or two things occasionally.  And I feel the labelling and signposting system could be expanded a good deal.

. . . BTW- are there publishing rules on having the same exact title as another author?

Ah yet another query about my life’s work that I can’t answer.  Generally speaking, however, no.  I imagine that if you named your book Qzhhgorgum because it was about a race of creatures called qzhhgorgum which you invented, you’d have some kind of copyright protection against someone else calling their book Qzhhgorgum:  the Doodah, or possibly even Qzzhhgorgim:  the Semi-Original, as well as the line of merchandise including the fuzzy earmuffs (qzhhgorgum have four ears) in a range of exciting decorator colours and the frying-pans with the specially adapted handles (qzhhgorgum have four fingers and four thumbs) and . . .

. . . Ahem.  But—still generally speaking—you’re going to avoid, if at all possible, having the same title as somebody’s else book for all the obvious sales and marketing reasons.  It happened to me once:  ROSE DAUGHTER started life as ROSE COTTAGE.  And then Mary Stewart came along in the same frelling year and from the same frelling publishing house.  I grant you that ROSE DAUGHTER is a much better title for my book*** than ROSE COTTAGE would have been, but at the time I was not at all happy when my publisher told me I had to change it.

Rachel

. . . I feel I need to stand up for linoleum. It is not anything to do with vinyl, but a wonderful floor covering made from naturally occurring substances. (The lino bit of the name is from linseed oil.)

I actually knew that about linseed oil.  But I didn’t google it first, and would have said if I were asked that it was probably one of those things that originally had linseed oil in it and the name was still being used, like ‘knitting wool’ may in fact be acrylic.  And I wouldn’t have been surprised if the linseed oil part was an urban myth and people who knew better fell down laughing if you said there was a floor covering with linseed oil in it.

 Its trendy new name is marmoleum.

. . . And I did not know it still existed.  I do know that my floor-installers got very huffy when I said lino, and insisted that theirs was the much superior . . . um, vinyl.

 Vinyl is a much easier material to install and is waterproof, but all the eco credentials are with lino.

Yes.  Sadly the vinyl pongs.  I want to believe that you stop smelling it not because human noses aren’t very good but because it stops off-gassing SOON after it fulfils its purpose and becomes a floor.

To find out more, can I recommend the fabulous linoleum museum at Kirkcaldy. (If you are not a lino fan, it also has an amazing collection of Scottish colourist paintings.)

Okay, now I am going to fall down laughing.  A small Scottish museum specialising in . . . lino and the Scottish Colourists.  I wonder if there’s a B&B in the area that takes hellcritters.  Several hellcritters.

Gwyn_sully

But I don’t like eating in a group and I resent being forced to do so…

Ah, my mistake. I misconstrued the problem. Preferring not to eat in groups is totally a different deal than dietary requirements. I can’t say for sure how I would deal with it, since we’ve always been upfront that dinner is part of what we do and I assume that people who don’t like to eat in groups join a group that is a better fit for them. . . .

It’s the Curse of the Talking Fingers thing again I think:  if we’d been speaking face to face we’d’ve had this sorted before we knew there was anything to sort.  I’ve never been a happy social eater but I’ve grown worse about eating in groups as I’ve got older and have less slack for making bad guesses about food—both what’s in it and if I’ll get away with eating it.  And I used to do a lot of cooking ESPECIALLY BAKING and I used to like feeding people, a select few at a time.  Any more, eh, well, putting together one of my gigantic mixing-bowl-ful lunch salads takes a surprising amount of time, even after Peter washes the lettuce.  Before I sound too pathetic, I miss communal food philosophically more than literally:  my life abhors a vacuum at least as passionately as Mother Nature ever did, and time that I might once have filled with baking brownies tends to silt up with other activities.†

There’s another thing to keep in mind:  I’m not at my best and brightest at (usually) mmph o’clock in the morning when I’m writing this thing and I hope none of you are at your best and brightest when you’re reading it and, if I’m lucky, making amusing/interesting/engaged comments on the forum.  It’s a blog.  It’s only a blog.  So we’re all going to misstate ourselves from not being awake yet/enough or because our minds are on the funny noise upstairs/the funny noise from the dog bed/whether or not to ask the cute cop for his phone number/whether or not to ask the cute cop for her phone number/etc.  It happens.  I hope we’ll all live.  Especially me, since odds are overwhelmingly that I screw up the most.

* * *

* Except about the good writing.  I agree even more about the good writing.

** Although if anyone had ever heard of dairy allergies forty-eight years ago I might have been able to miss out both the pizza-faced stage and a lot of by-the-time-I-figured-it-out, lifetime-established digestive mayhem, and focussed on the stunning variety of rogue rashes.  Yes I know I’m oversimplifying.

*** Thank you Peter

† Handbells, perhaps.  It was to laugh, tonight.  Gemma had brought her husband, who claims for some inexplicable reason to want to learn to ring handbells.  There were FIVE of us which was pretty amazing—especially wedged into my tiny cottage sitting-room—and trying to get five people properly rung in takes a while.  Niall finally had to leave in something of a hurry to go be ringing-master at the tower and didn’t have a chance to do his Diary Trick and browbeat all of us into another meeting.  The four of us remaining all sat around chatting^ instead of dutifully going along to tower practise. . . .  hee hee hee hee hee.

^ And eating brownies.  Just by the way.

Blondviolinist

Niall so has your number.

Yep.  I expect the insinuating texts to start up any minute.

I’ve been Nialled

 

The last few weeks . . . months . . . have not been splendid in every way.  You hear about most of the bloggable stuff*;  I assume it will not surprise you that quite a lot of screaming, throwing things and hiding under the bed happens off line and stays off line.  Arrrgh.  I also make periodic attempts to yank my life into something more nearly resembling order** which always involves . . . less.  Less doing stuff.  Less running around.  Less overbooking myself because there seems to be white space in the diary.***  Less signing up for new stuff.†  Less acquiring stuff.††  Less less less less less.†††

Feh.

However.  In the scrum of failing to become organised, things get lost.‡  I’ve barely been ringing handbells all summer.  Initially I had made a laudable attempt to cut back on how much handbell ringing I did, not least because it’s seriously brain-draining and I do need to reserve a few of my easily-tapped-out brains for other purposes:  earning a living, for example.  But cutting back on handbells went a bit wrong.  Colin kept frelling going on frelling holiday‡‡ and then Gemma kept going on holiday‡‡‡ and then, I don’t know, I lost the plot.  I had some ME days, I had various eruptions like Ms OTP, my dogminder quit/fired me, and the Street Pastor training was rather involving.

And then we rang handbells for that wedding on Saturday and I was thinking, eh, handbells, and I looked in my diary and there was a small timid handbells?, with a question mark after in this week’s diary for today.  Thursday is the Colin-and-Niall day:  Colin and Niall who can ring anything, or at least anything I’ve ever heard of.  So on Monday I texted Niall.  And for some reason he thought handbells on Thursday was a good idea.  And—even more amazing—Colin wasn’t on holiday.

I haven’t rung anything but frelling bob minor and some teaching-type methods in yonks and here was my opportunity.  I decided I had three options:  I could brush up on my St Clements, my Kent, or my Cambridge.§  I threw Cambridge out at once.  It’s way the hardest, although it’s also the one I’ve spent the most time trying to learn and I was nearly there when life started happening in a handbell-unfriendly way.  I was a little wistful about Cambridge but I was sure this was the right choice for starting up again.

That left St Clements, which is really only a bob minor variation§§, and Kent, which is kind of the gentle approach to Cambridge.§§§  It was going to be fine.  I half-knew them both already, I just had to drag that half-knowledge out of the shadows#, dust it off, and start sticking it to its other half.

Or halves.  And therein lies my TERRIBLE MISTAKE.  I didn’t look at them together.  I did not look at them in relation to each other—a method is a method;  it doesn’t matter what some other method is—and I therefore didn’t notice that the beginnings of these two methods are as if malignly meant to confuse the living doodah-whatsit out of you.  Can I explain this in a way a non-handbell-ringer will understand?##  Three people ring six bells.  Each row consists of all six bells ringing once each.  Each bell can move only one place from one row of six to the next row of six.  So if in row one you rang in thirds and fourths place, your third-place bell can ONLY ring in either second or fourths next row and your fourth-place bell can ONLY ring in either thirds or fifths.  Or stay in the same place, which is also permitted.

I’m ringing the trebles, the first pair, which are the easiest pair in most ordinary methods because the no.1 bell has the easiest path through the method, so when you start ringing touches where the pattern gets messed up by the conductor’s calls, only your second bell is affected.  The first bell toils on doing what it always does and never mind how explosive the other five may become.

The problem for me was the first frelling leads of Kent and St Clements are like the evil antipathetic twins of each other.  Like that extremely subtle Star Trek The Original episode where these two guys really hate each other because one of them is black down the right side and white down the left and the other one is black down the left side and white down the right.  Kent is a treble-bobbing method which means the treble has a different basic unaffected line through the diagram than St Clements does.  And furthermore bell no.2 in both methods hangs around the front for a long time before it heads out to the back, but in St Clements its location in the row goes: 1-2-1-2-1-2-1-2 and in Kent it goes 1-1-2-2-1-1-2-2-1-1-2-2.

Okay, you have no idea what I’m talking about.  Let me be succinct:  AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAUGH.

By the time Colin and Niall arrived this afternoon I couldn’t ring anything.

But by the end of the afternoon I was ringing little tiny, and perhaps somewhat lumpy, TOUCHES of St Clements.  We even essayed a small bit of spliced, which is where you change frelling METHODS in the middle of a touch, and we did not crash and burn, which is to say I did not crash and burn.

It was fun.

Whereupon Niall got his diary out and said, well, we can ring major [eight bells] tomorrow, because Gemma and Jillian are both available.

I can’t do tomorrow, I said.

Can we meet here again? said Niall, staring at his diary.

I told Gemma at tower practise on Wednesday that I couldn’t do this Friday, I said.

I’ll text her, said Niall.  We start at 5:30, okay?

I thought about it.  When I cut back on my handbells, I said I was going to ring only once a week.  If I rang Thursday, I wasn’t going to ring Friday.  This Friday . . . I was supposed to go to a dog show.  Southdowner is still trying to convince me that it would be fun to take the hellterror to some breed classes.###

But I can’t go because I don’t have a dogminder to cosset hellhounds in my absence.

Okay, I said.  Five-thirty.

Niall smiled.  Evilly.

* * *

* Occasionally there’s so frelling much of it I don’t get around to all of it.

** Not very nearly resembling order.  In fact not nearly at all.  Just slightly resembling order.

*** Very misleading, white space in the diary.

† First Street Pastors duty night in a fortnight.  Eeep.

†† Fewer hellcritters, say.  Oops^.

^ And we’re not even going to discuss bookshelves.

††† More sleep would be nice however.   Which is to say when I manage to be in bed with the lights out and my eyes shut I should be ASLEEP.

‡ Just had an email from Merrilee reminding me of something I’d promised for a fortnight ago.  Something on deadline.  AAAAAAAUGH.  I don’t even remember which catastrophe derailed this, I emailed to her.  I know, she replied.  That’s why I’m here.

‡‡ What did he think it was, summer?  What did he think he was, retired?

‡‡‡ Who did she think she is?  A woman with a big family she wants to spend time with?

§ They’re METHOD NAMES, okay?

§§ You know, like the Hammerklavier Sonata is only a variation of Chopsticks.

§§§ And a partridge in a pear tree is the gentle approach to sending your true love round the twist by day twelve.

# I have a serious word-usage problem any more, with a hellhound named Darkness and a book named SHADOWS.

## Let alone care.

### Probably closely related to the fun of destroying your brain with handbells.

Short Wednesday! Really short!

 

 

I need something more nearly resembling a night off than my usual shortish Wednesday.  So I thought I’d give you someone else’s story.

http://tinycatpants.wordpress.com/2013/10/20/bad-maddy/

Someone tweeted me this a few days ago and I was avoiding work* or something and clicked through to read it.  I really liked it.  Don’t let the typos at the beginning put you off—as they nearly put me off—these things do happen, especially when you’re attempting to perform your proofreading late at night and you just want to hang the freller and go to bed.**

I like the way she’s taken a fairly ordinary things-that-go-bump-in-the-night story arc and made it real through her characters.  I like the way the characters aren’t quite what you’re expecting.  I like the seamlessness with which she makes her characters not quite what you’re expecting***.

There are more stories where this one came from on her web site, and she’s got a book for sale on amazon:  http://www.amazon.com/City-Ghosts-Stories-Betsy-Phillips/dp/145369983X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1382572476&sr=8-1&keywords=Betsy+Phillips+A+City+of+Ghosts

I haven’t bought it yet but the ebook is CHEEEEEEEAP and I’m sure I’ll decide it’s wasteful not to buy it.

. . . And just in case you need a Silly Animal Video:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-south-yorkshire-24622710

Although my informant says it’s gone viral so you may have seen it already.  I do feel that the human in question is a trifle naïve to have put that cat gym next to the door and then be surprised at the result. . . .

* * *

* Never!

** Ask me how I know this.

*** I may also be extra-disposed to like stories with porcelain-faced dolls in them at the moment because I’m reading ALCHEMY OF STONE.

 

It’s nearly 2 a.m. and I still have to write the blog

 

It has not been a good day.  I overslept—which at least has the advantage that I got some sleep—but I was racing around tripping over a puppy very anxious to be helpful trying to catch up with myself and failing, of course, does anyone ever catch up?*, and one of my split-second decisions was to leave the GIGANTIC HOUSE SPIDER perched precariously on a skirting board near the front door—he was too big and he didn’t fit, and was having to extend some of his supernumerary limbs around the corner and grasp the front of the bookcase—and finish throwing the last six animals and twenty-two knapsacks in Wolfgang and get down to the mews before sunset.

Which means he’s still at the cottage.  Somewhere.  Waiting for me.  Unless of course he’s found his beloved and they are experiencing marital bliss . . . somewhere.  You don’t seem to find pairs of spiders so I’m ASSUMING I don’t have to worry about the happy couple(s) once they are.  But it’s now definitively nighttime and by the time we all** get back to the cottage I’ll be tired and . . . I know it looks like a really dumb decision.  But there’s the additional factoid that neither of my spider catchers are actually up to the job of autumn-sized house spiders, the ones that are as big as your hand.  That Godzilla I posted photos of a couple of years ago is still a personal worst, but this time of year there are always several jolly little pony-sized arachnids that, like the cockroaches outside Charlie’s Coffeehouse, you can hear as they clatter across the lino’d*** floor.  Ugggh.  But I wonder what spider-catcher-inventors are thinking about when they design something big and strong enough to tackle a somewhat undernourished daddy-long-legs?  I have never used the box one on anything bigger than my thumbnail because I dislike cutting legs off, even of spiders . . . and I’m probably not going to bother with a spider that small anyway—I’m a sort of mutable arachnophobe—and the box-catcher, while it was sold to me for spiders, is useful for wasps and Other Things That Sting.

I have been put off forever using the bristle-brush catcher, where you plop the business end of this bushy broom thing over your spider and then run the handle down toward it so the bristles close over it, TRAPPING IT SECURELY.  Yes.  Indeed.  An autumn-sized spider says ‘hmm, indoor hedgerow, don’t like it’, bursts through the plastic bristles without breaking a sweat AND RUNS UP THE HANDLE TOWARD MY ARM.  Exit screaming.†  I may have told you this story before.  The memory lingers.

Katinseattle

. . . I thought this early story-arc of the hob was dead obvious. Dead obvious isn’t necessarily bad—see previous response: OF COURSE I’m going to feed a friendly hob—but it’s usually, erm, obvious. You must read too many engineering texts or something and your eye has got out for fiction.

Well, yes, looking back, it was obvious. **defensively** I’d just turned 70 the day before. I was rather shaken by the idea that my extended middle age is over. 70 is undeniably old.

I seem to have left a piece of my brain behind. But, hey, I’m 70; I have an excuse. Right?

I’m sorry!  ::Grovels::  I meant to be teasing you.  —It goes on being a problem, this communication thing, even after 1,000,000,000,000,000 years of evolution from space dust or sea-bottom slime or whatever††, and email and the internet have just super-extended it into eleventy-seven new dimensions.  You get so used to talking with your fingers that you forget how many of the traditional social cues you’re not picking up.

Er . . . happy birthday?  I had a friend commenting when she turned seventy several years ago that everyone was telling her that ‘seventy is the new fifty’.  No it isn’t, she said.  That would make sixty the new forty, and I can vouch that sixty is not forty, new or otherwise.

Nat

. . . Best insomnia cure for Christians: Read Leviticus.

::Shudder::  Not for me.  Leviticus is too full of horrors.  You’re supposed to do what because of what?  Noooooooo.  Not to mention killing all those poor critters and splashing their blood around.†††

Gwyn_sully

I cook for my home group regularly, and we have some people with very restrictive diets. I would always rather know as much as possible as soon as possible (within limits of what they are comfortable telling me, of course). For me, hospitality is a big deal. So if someone does have a limitation and they don’t tell me, I always feel bad that I wasn’t allowed to provide them what I provided everyone else with (or at least the equivalent). It makes my hospitality feel incomplete. I would say I do feel like you would be ministering to me by telling me because it would relieve me of the guilt I would feel for being inconsiderate of someone else’s needs, even if it was unintentional. . . .

Sure.  And I have emailed the organiser.  But I don’t like eating in a group and I resent being forced to do so.  I wouldn’t join a home group that required me to accept the food hospitality of the organizer as part of the regular meetings:  if this Alpha course began every meeting, instead of just the first one, with a group meal, I wouldn’t sign up.  Hospitality, and providing for your guests, is your big deal.  What if one of your guests has a big deal of being able to eat in private without someone’s need to be hospitable looming over them?

Diane in MN

. . . hellhounds are, erm, undesirably reactive to rabbit and venison and they won’t eat any of the other within-my-price-range options.

If you haven’t already tried it, you might look at turkey as an alternative to chicken. The taste is similar but the proteins are different (I was allergic to chicken, but not to turkey), and if it’s a new food they might not be sensitive to it. That’s assuming turkey is as commonplace in your markets as it is here, of course.

Turkey is available over here at Christmas, at £1,000,000,000 per carat.  If there are other turkey options I haven’t found them, although I admit my google-fu is poor.  I’ve had other Americans suggest turkey—and duck, which is nearly as expensive although available most of the year in case anyone wins the lottery—and I’ve tried the dog-food turkey and duck, either 100% or at least grain-free, and hellhounds, of course, won’t touch it.  Fortunately Pav will so all those frelling tins aren’t going to be wasted.

Nickithomas

. . . I adore Bendicks Bittermints, they are not thin and squidgy but thick and solid with a really intense mint hit.

Yes, I remember those.  Before I discovered G&B, and before I was clobbered by the ME, I got through a lot of Bendicks Bittermints which are, as you say, excellent.  But the ME comes with a lorryload of chemical/environmental sensitivities/intolerances as well as the straightforward food issues and I’m pretty paranoid about organic.  And Bendicks, unfortunately, is not organic.  I admit that I wonder what kind of corners G&B may be cutting behind their behemoth corporate front, now they’re no longer independent.  And do things like disguise inferior new product in a superior old product’s packaging.

3rd dragon

Yeah, I’ve been VERY lactose intolerant for about a year now, and the thing that I hate most is how difficult it makes communal food (especially dessert). My church is making efforts to be better about labeling . . . but mostly in the direction of being accommodating to people with gluten sensitivities. . . .

Food allergies and intolerances are so common now—and commonly known about—it amazes me, not in a good way, how slow how many providers of public or communal food, including restaurants, are to respond in any useful way.  One of the things that used to make me crazy when I first moved over here is that any vegetarian option WAS UP TO ITS ARMPITS IN CHEESE.  It’s like the entire country had got stuck in the early Moosewood Cookbook stage.  It’s better now, but it’s still not uncommon to find the one ::trumpet fanfare:: vegetarian option on a restaurant menu to be three kinds of LOCALLY SOURCED!!!! cheese artfully woven through some risotto rice.  And if you’re dairy- tomato/potato/eggplant/etc- and gluten-intolerant HAVE A NICE LIFE.  Somewhere else.  If you can.  Fortunately I do—and can—eat meat‡, or I’d’ve starved to death years ago.

Restaurants are fun, too. Last night, for example, I found myself dragged along to an Italian place. And it’s not that I don’t like Italian food. But ALL ITALIAN FOOD IS BETTER WITH CHEESE. . . . If anyone has suggestions for what Italian food I should be ordering that would still be interesting without cheese or milk, I’m open to ideas.

Okay, I may be able to help here.  Back in the days when I was only lactose intolerant I discovered harlot’s sauce.  Most Italian restaurants have it and I never had a bad one—famous last words I daresay.  I can’t immediately find my recipe since it’s been retired and while I’m used to being dairy-free I still suffer lingering sulkiness about being tomato-free, but this one looks like the right stuff:

http://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/pasta_puttanesca/

* * *

* Don’t answer that

** The thirty-seven animals and ninety-eight knapsacks

*** We’re not supposed to call it lino any more.  Lino is scruffy and low-class.  I think it’s now vinyl.  I have a very nice floor, whatever it calls itself, except for the muddy spider footprints.  The hellcritters and I all wipe our feet carefully.  Yes.

† Pav is extremely fond of the bristle-brush spider-catcher, although not for the use for which it was intended.

†† And the hand of God, but in one of his obscurer moments.  Although on a bad day I think the entire Bible is one long, gruesomely over-extended obscurer moment.

††† Definitely an obscurer moment.

‡ AND LOTS AND LOTS OF (mostly raw) VEGETABLES AND FRUIT.  I’m so Paleo.  I’m probably healthy as **** and will live forever.^

^ Well, if I am healthy as **** it’s nice idea. . . .

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