December 26, 2013

I said I was going to hang some baubles on Peter



Father Christmas

Father Christmas


I was laughing so hard* I could barely take the shot.**  But one must commit to one’s inspiration.***

It has been sheeting with rain much of the day, in evil sneaky sudden outbursts, but barring mad dimming and  flickering of the lights, the occasional irritated bleep out of some tech item or other and Radio Three taking a nosedive off the air for several hours Monday night we’ve escaped the worst of the weather as well as the worst of the results of the weather.  I had a few top heavy camellias in their pots go over but no walls fell down.  It was sleeting last night so I didn’t make it to midnight mass, sigh–and I’ve managed to wedge so much of the indoor jungle onto windowsills that it only takes about ten minutes to get everything remaining in/out again.  When you have brandy butter to make you don’t want to be spending a lot of time on botanical airlift rescue.

There was turkey and champagne and Brussels sprouts with chestnuts . . . and mince pies with brandy butter.  I seem to have eaten four of these.†  Well, they were small.   And Peter went to bed at nearly midnight and promises to sleep in tomorrow so I don’t have to get down here EARLY.  I don’t think early is an option.

Oh yes and . . . Jesus is born.  For those of us that way inclined, yaaay. ††

* * *

* Which is a great improvement on this time last week.

** Actually I took several.  Once he got up again it was going to be all over.  He’d said originally did I want him standing up or sitting down?  Sitting down, I said, this may take a while.  In case anyone is interested, I’ve tied the star on by looping garden twine through the tag inside the collar of his shirt.  Great stuff, garden twine.  It’s stringing the baubles too.  And yes, I’ve been wondering about the length of those canines for twenty-two years.  Alternative and Little Discussed Origins of ME/CFS.

*** . . . for an easy blog post.

†  The hellterror says, hey, boss, I could help you with that.

††  Also probably the only day of the year I don’t feel silly singing in public.  People who object to the plangent tones of The First Nowell, The Cherry Tree Carol, etc, can just leave town for the day.



Christmas Eve 2013


Peter is BETTER.  He is better enough that (eeep) I’m going back to the cottage as usual tonight*—and there isn’t anyone else staying with Peter any more.  We had three physios here on Monday** including the one who did the assessing last Friday, and he was very impressed with the progress Peter has made.  We’re all impressed—Nina was here again, bless her;  I can’t remember if I’ve said that Georgiana is hors de combat with a particularly nasty virus—but it’s nice to have professional confirmation.  The thing that made me fall down laughing—in a slightly hysterical way, possibly—is that about half the exercises the speech therapist gave him are very similar to the exercises Nadia gives me to make my enunciation clearer.

Meanwhile . . . we have a turkey and a bottle of champagne and I don’t care a lot about the rest of the standard trimmings.  I did come all over wistful when I remembered that I’d forgotten the chestnuts for the Brussels sprouts . . . but my excellent husband, who doesn’t even like chestnuts in his Brussels sprouts, had remembered them several weeks back and laid in supplies.  Yaaay.

Now all I have to do is wrap Peter’s presents.  The one that I’m hoping will be an extravagant success arrived beautifully on time*** and there is enough other little stuff to make a heap.  Peter got Nina to wrap mine!!!!  But I think we’re going to pass on the tree this year.  I may hang a few baubles on Peter.

Happy Christmas, everyone.  I’m planning to check in tomorrow long enough to say, Yep, the champagne is fantastic and oh, Jesus is born.

* * *

* Possibly not quite as usual.  If I think I can still drive that far by then, I’m going to make a bolt for midnight mass.  I got some sleep last night and hardly know how to behave.

** All right, Peter’s better, TIME FOR A CRANKY ATTACK.  Thing one:  people are frelling amazing, not in a good way.  I’ve told you that the mews parking is a jigsaw—also not in a good way.  The old stable courtyard was made for carriages and horses, not cars, and especially not people who are willing to live in tiny little cottages—there are a surprising number of these crammed into the old mews buildings^—but still have two cars.  Everyone has an absolutely set area where they’re allowed to wedge in as many vehicles as they can^^ and while us regulars get used to the drill, ordinary visitors don’t have the opportunity, and the occasional visitor goes off in the screaming meemies and has to be removed blindfolded in a Bath chair, and the abandoned double-width SUV is chainsawed into manageable lengths and hauled away to be transformed into window boxes for corporate high rises.

Anyway.  Yesterday for about an hour we had three cars infesting what was indubitably more than our allotted space—Wolfgang and two therapists’.  And one of Peter’s neighbours knocked on the door to have a meltdown about it.  WTF, you decomposing dog turd?  What’s up with you, you slime from the bottom of the Black Lagoon?  —It’s not as though this person didn’t know about Peter:  the entire courtyard population knows, and probably most of the people in the Big Pink Blot as well, especially the ones who remain glued to their windows in the hopes of something exciting happening like a late-night ambulance.^^^  But Peter—or Peter’s don’t-know-their-place therapists—are not obeying the rules.  It’s a good thing Nina answered the door;  I’d probably have clocked the b*st*rd.  And we can’t afford a lawsuit.#

Thing two is not in the same category of beneath contempt-itude, but it’s still on the list.  I hate UPS.  Most of the private carriers are getting a trifle more civilised about deliveries to residential areas, and if you’re not there they’ll spend the necessary ten seconds to find a neighbour at home to leave your parcel with.  I’m surrounded by people who either don’t work, work from home, or are retired, and any frelling delivery driver who doesn’t leave a parcel with a neighbour hasn’t bothered trying.  And the regular drivers will mostly stretch a point and leave something tucked behind a plant pot or a dustbin because they know someone is always around and we feed each other’s cats (when there are cats) and take in other people’s parcels as appropriate.

Not UPS.  UPS requires you to BE THERE and to SIGN FOR IT.  I don’t care if it’s a packet of chocolate biscuits—or the zero-worth copyedited pages of your last novel##—YOU HAVE TO BE THERE AND YOU HAVE TO SIGN FOR IT.  After my last argybargy with them—which is an ongoing argybargy because Writers House, unfortunately, still uses them—they had the frelling temerity to put a sheet through my door requesting me to indicate my preference for alternative delivery behaviour if I’m not there.  I ticked everything.  Leave it with a neighbour, behind the bins, behind the potted triffid, behind the gate, with some other neighbour, hanging from the railing, with any of the shops on the main street all of which know me, even the ones I don’t frelling use like the beauty parlour, I admit I would prefer not lobbed through glass of the greenhouse, but JUST LEAVE THE FRELLER.

That was about ten days ago.  Today I got home to a pissy little slip from UPS saying they’d try to deliver again on Friday. . . .

^ One of the reasons Peter’s guest room gives me claustrophobia is because of all the ducking under grooms’-garret beams you have to do.  I wonder how many of the old stable staff had brain damage from not ducking often/fast enough.

^^ Although Peter’s neighbours are a fairly conservative group.  The All Stars and the hellpack are probably pushing the envelope;  I think there would be trouble if I started parking a Harley custom chopper in Peter’s space, or a leftover Ben Hur chariot.

^^^ Which makes a change from the sheep, foxes and owls.  Myself I prefer sheep, foxes and owls.

# Although no jury would convict me.  A proper jury, indeed, would help me pelt the getaway car with rotten tomatoes and dead rats.

## Those of us still distressingly addicted to hard copy.

*** And the delivery driver LEFT IT BEHIND THE BINS, THANK YOU VERY MUCH.



We’re having seriously gruesome weather, pummelling rain and gales—hellhounds and I were nearly swept off to Oz or the Land of Green Ginger out hurtling this afternoon*—and I can’t stay on line long enough to edit and post a more-than-six-lines entry.

This is just to tell you that there are no new melodramas in the McKinley-Dickinson ménage.  IT’S ONLY THE WEATHER.

See you tomorrow, I hope.

* * *

* Pav is too low-slung to be in danger.  In this weather you want to be built like a brick.

Medals for gallantry


MY HUSBAND WENT TO THE CAROL SERVICE WITH ME TONIGHT.  HAVE YOU EVER HEARD OF ANYTHING SO FRELLING GALLANT IN YOUR ENTIRE LIFE?  Just as an update:  he did have a stroke less than a week ago.  A stroke.  Less.  Than.  A week ago.  He only got home from hospital the day before yesterday.

You wouldn’t like to go to the carol service tonight? I said, mainly just going through the motions, although . . . one of the things about getting old and frail is not getting isolated, what’s the point of having a quarter-century-younger spouse if she doesn’t stir you with a stick occasionally, we aren’t mad-social-whirl people, and Peter likes Christmas carol services.  It was worth a try.

Okay, said Peter.

Gleep, I said, and went into Adrenaline Overdrive.

We did do a certain amount of tottering, but we shared the honours there:  I could say that he’s so much bigger than I am* that suggesting he lean on me is a perilous proposition, but the truth is I haven’t slept in so long** that ‘which way is up’ is a question I have to keep asking.  Bemusedly.  I also spent the entire service thinking Oh oh oh I shouldn’t have suggested it, I am sure this is too much stress on his system*** and it will put back his recovery and EVERYONE WILL HATE ME.

I did park in the road so no one could block us in, I did get a trifle bossy about how we went up the steps to the door, I was more than happy to let a few of the Christian community door greeters help us, and to demand seats on the aisle of the back row so we could lurch out early, to our unblocked-in car, if necessary.  And we did leave early.  BUT WE WENT.  AND WE SANG.

The thing is that these first few days, Peter can’t be left alone, he’s too vulnerable.  We had the physiotherapist assessor here on Friday afternoon, we’d barely got back here first ourselves—Nina had come for the afternoon too and I was very glad to have someone else listening and asking questions;  I am seriously over the line into Broken Reed territory.  And the assessor (who looks about seventeen) explained that Peter is high risk because it’s not just the obvious effects of the stroke but that Peter hasn’t had time to learn to adapt to his lop-sidedness.  The official physio starts on Monday and long term prognosis is (cautiously) good;  short term . . . well.

I slept at the mews Friday night, and since Peter’s guest room gives me claustrophobia I slept downstairs on what the hellhounds consider to be their sofa and my inability to sleep was much enhanced by the fact of hellhounds wishing to join me.  Dorothea and Swanhilde came overnight last night—and I bolted off to my monks, including a long conversation with Alfrick before the service, about the frelling interface between God and mortal responsibility and feeling God’s presence in those situations where you feel he could just have had something else happen.  And came home feeling a lot calmer . . . but I still didn’t sleep.  Tonight I’m back to the sofa.  And the hellhounds.  And the poor hellterror, who doesn’t understand why hurling herself on Peter is no longer welcome.

And now, I think, is when I really do cut back on the blog.  I don’t yet know how this will manifest itself, but time will tell, as it always does, the ratbag, while it’s wounding your heel and doing you out of itself.



 But don’t you dare stop! Oh my!


I don’t mind cliffhangers because they mean it’s going to keep going.

Yep.  You don’t have to worry about KES.  At the moment I’ve still got a good handful of already-written eps—but she’s still in a big fat heaving mess where I’ve been obliged to leave her.  I will certainly go on.  I want to know what happens.

* * *

* He was 6’2” when he could still stand up straight and his wrists are about the size of a Shire horse’s ankles.

** I am to sleep what the hellhounds are to food.  Siiiiiiiiiiiiiigh.

*** I also feel increasingly sorry for the people in front of us at carol services as, over the years, I get louder, and Peter’s relationship with anything resembling the melody is unique and possibly hostile.  I was gaily singing descants tonight and I’m pretty sure I saw several of the people in front of us flinch.

KES, 110



“My preparations have been hasty and incomplete,” Watermelon Shoulders began again, as if discussing plans for a cocktail party.  The caterers are late, the marquee has a hole in it, and one of the guests is so allergic to nuts the toasted cashews with tamari have been banned.  Given my attitude toward cocktail parties the fact that I’d rather he were discussing plans for one meant I was really out of my comfort zone.  One dead guy or a cocktail party . . . okay, I might go for the dead guy.  But ‘he is only the first’?  No.  The cocktail party wins.  Even someone going off in anaphylactic shock if someone says ‘cashew’ in their hearing, you call an ambulance while (you hope) they’re reaching for their EpiPen.  But the bottom line is that there are no swords involved.

I wiggled my fingers on the sword hilt.

“In greatest part because I believed I had no other choice.  We did not see thee”—

Why did I hear a capital S on ‘see’?

“—till thy hound found thee, and shewed us what we had been too short-sighted to descry.”-

Shooed?  Oh.  Shewed.  Archaic English is alive and well and living in Cold Valley.  The priest at my mother’s Episcopal church, who had always been a trifle volatile, had once nearly come to blows with a visiting academic on the question of the pronunciation of shew.  I couldn’t remember now which of them had been willing to punch someone out over shoe or show although at the time seventh-grade me had thought it was about the most exciting thing that had ever happened in church.

“Thou’rt not what the omen had led us to envisage.”

Also this we he kept referring to.  Who was we?  Another question I wasn’t going to ask.  I wasn’t asking questions.  Also because I was sure the answer would involve more swords.

Wait.  Omen?

I had turned my head to look at him.  He was smiling at me.  It was a surprisingly nice smile.  He was actually kind of gorgeous.  Circumstances had conspired to prevent me from noticing this before.  I felt myself smiling back.  Forget it, MacFarquhar.  He’s at least ten years younger than you are.  Maybe fifteen.  As well as imaginary.  Or something.  Like five of the six rose bushes on the window seat were imaginary.  Like the dead guy and the blood were imaginary.  I hoped if any of the blood was oozing dreadfully near any of the books scattered over the floor that it was particularly imaginary.

Also this young gorgeous smiling guy was carrying a sword.  In the last few minutes I had taken strongly against the presence of swords.  If the dead guy hadn’t had a sword he probably wouldn’t be dead.  I wondered what had happened to his sword.  No I didn’t.  And I wasn’t really holding the hilt of a—one of those things—myself.

I could almost wish something would happen so I didn’t have to hear any more of what Watermelon Shoulders was saying.  I was sure he wasn’t done ruining my day/night/life.  The spiky shadow in the corner of the window seat (the spiky shadow which was definitely also on my list of imaginary) seemed to unbend a limb and refold it around the nearest rose bush.  I rolled the pebble with my left forefinger a little more.  I might have liked to hum an insouciant little tune but that was beyond me.

There was a breathless hush.  I didn’t at all like the waiting quality of it.  Even the snaky air seemed to be coiling and recoiling more slowly.  Nasty waits I have known:  Waiting for your father to tell you that yes he has left you and your mother and no he’s not coming back.  Waiting to hear if you flunked Algebra II and will have to go to summer school.  Waiting to find out if the scuttlebutt is true that your editor (who isn’t answering either her phone calls or her emails) has been fired and your publishing house is planning to renege on all her outstanding contracts, including the one for the first three books of your new series.  Waiting to hear that your own divorce has gone through because you still can’t quite believe it. . . . This particular braced-for-the-worst waiting had one thing going for it though:  Watermelon Shoulders had stopped speaking.

Then he had to go and wreck it.  “Silverheart knows her business,” said Watermelon Shoulders softly, as if he thought he was being reassuring.  “I have not known the wristlet as long, but she comes with a fine pedigree.”

Pedigree?  I thought wildly. You don’t mean CV?  My eyes were stretched so wide the lids hurt, staring at the spiky shadow which, curled round the rose-bush the way it now was, could merely be more rose-bush.  A lot more rose-bush.  Like another one of the climbers on the back porch which ate Chihuahuas and small children.

There was something about the way the spiky shadow had paused—as if it were listening.  Sid had raised her head off the table and was standing stiffly at attention.  Watermelon Shoulders looming at my shoulder went suddenly still in a way I had no trouble at all deciding was bad news. . . .


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