January 31, 2014

A few semi-glad tidings and some other stuff

 

Joy.  Not only are we having the wettest January since records began* but the month has decided to go out roaring like a lion** and tomorrow, according to the local doomsayers, is going to be a big fat drooling ratbag with fangs, high winds and thunder.  And Peter and I will be heading for the farmer’s market just as it’s working itself up to landscape-trashing mode.***

The stroke unit appointment today was nonthreatening but a bit anticlimactic—at least after we (a) found a parking space and (b) found the correct frelling building.  I’d allowed approximately twice the time we should need and very little of that is to do with the fact that Peter walks slower than he used to—most of it is to do with the whole assailing-Tartarus aspect of any close encounter with that labyrinthine epic of a hospital.  Gah.  They’ve managed to change the road lay-out—again—for the approach to the main car park.  I don’t even understand how they can keep doing this, which they do, I think some of the more peculiar outbuildings must be plastic or papier mache or something and periodically the largest, hulkingest members of staff on duty go out in the dead of night—having forethoughtfully prepared a small distracting emergency at the other end of the conurbation—and move them around.

Then, of course, because the car park facilities are wholly inadequate, we couldn’t find an empty spot.  Adrenaline spike.  Peter would miss his appointment and it would be all my fault and the prime minister would sign an anti-Robin sanction forcing me to give up my secret yarn of mass destruction stash.

We found a parking space.  Then we had to find the right building, and while we’ve been to the Reignac-sur-Indre wing before, when they move the rubber buildings around of course they screw up your landmark system as well.†  The hospital is generously bestrewn with signposts, but they rarely tell you what you want to know:  Tiger pits this way.  Overflow car park, guaranteed full, that way.  Exobiology unit this way:  warning possible contamination issues.  Finally we found one for Reignac-sur-Indre.  Or rather we found two:  the external route and the internal route.  What?  I don’t want to have to make frelling decisions.  Just tell me how to get there.  I opted for the external route.  Mistake, of course.  It was probably twice as long.†† When we finally arrived I was confounded by the lift.  Fortunately Peter pointed to a button I hadn’t noticed and said, try that one.

We were on time.  Just.

Peter’s stroke doc is a ridiculously young Scot who does the jolly upbeat routine rather well.  And he didn’t have a magic wand††† (oh well) but he did emphasize that the road back from a stroke is long but—if you’re lucky—pretty open-ended.  He also had Peter’s scans up on his computer and when I asked he ran through them, explaining what we were looking at and that was fascinating.  Much rather not be in the position for this kind of fascinating, but . . .

We went back to the car park the short way.  And while it’s too late for me to go to bed early††† I could go to bed no later than usual and maybe shave a few minutes off 11 a.m. tomorrow . . . maybe.

* * *

* http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2014/jan/30/england-wettest-january-records-began

** That’s March, you know, the lion thing, although the entire set up seems to me bogus.  Or at least personally I would say that lamb-like is not a description I would usually apply to any part of March.

*** We could go earlier, Peter said hopefully.  Eleven a.m. is early, I replied.^

^ Hey.  Not only does the caffeine need time to work+ I have an assortment of critters to hurtle.

+ I’ve tried getting dressed first.  It’s pretty funny in a why-can’t-humans-be-covered-in-fur-like-most-mammals way.   Although in terms of necessary clothing there’s also the several-times-daily melodrama of getting the hellpack’s harnesses on, which is at least as diabolical as trying to find two matching socks from the unsorted heap of clean laundry on the bed#, and which mere caffeine is not really sufficient defense.  The hellhounds’ either play cat’s-cradle with each other in ways only comprehensible to life forms more flexible than thick stolid humans or they have a rich, complex sex life that thick stolid humans can only dream of.##  The hellterror’s harness, marooned in solitude, has instead developed a speciality of always being too small when I try to snap it around her chest.  Once it is snapped . . . it fits fine.  But getting the two bits of the buckle within closing distance of each other?  I’d suspect her of holding her breath, like a horse that doesn’t like the girth tightened, but she’s too busy snorkelling for kibble bits, which requires a good deal of huffing and grunting.

# Or two matching All Stars from the heap under the shelves by the front door.~

~ All right, they don’t have to match.  But they have to relate to each other in an interesting way.

## Straps.  Strap guards.  D-rings.  Buckles.  Oooooh.

† Also, they repaint them.  The buildings.  When they move them around.  So you look ahead and think, wasn’t there a green shed somewhere about there—?  Yes.  There was.  It’s now yellow, and behind you.

†† Peter would miss his appointment and it would be all my fault and . . .

††† What he did have was two medical students sitting in, both women and both non-Anglo which is very pleasing in a world where a good deal less than my lifetime ago^ any doc that wasn’t white and a bloke was exotic if not downright bizarre.  You did see the occasional white woman but I think I was a twenty-something in Manhattan before I saw either a black woman or a Middle Easterner of either gender any higher up in the medical hierarchy than nurse.

But the really interesting thing is that one of them today was taking her notes with a ballpoint pen on lined notebook paper.  (The other one had an iPad, but its cover was not pink.)  I was fascinated by this, and said something to her.  Oh yes, she said, of course she has and uses a computer, but for note taking she still prefers paper.

Golly.  Hard copy is not dead, even at the individual level.

^ Let me just insert here that the medical students were RIDICULOUSLY YOUNG.  I’m sure they’re too young to be in medical school.

†† Two hours on the phone to Hannah may have something to do with this.

Florence Foster Jenkins lives

 

Stephanie

Interested to hear how the recording went.

AAAAAAAAAUGH.  AAAAAAAAAAAUGH.  Anybody not know who Florence Foster Jenkins is?*  If you are so fortunate, allow me to ruin your evening/ morning/ afternoon/ life.  Go google her and come back.  I can wait.

You now know everything you need to know about my singing.**  ::Bangs head against wall::***  Nadia did warn me last week, when I took the recording doohickey in for the first time, that recent events were audibly weighing on my voice and if I was going to record and listen to the recording, to try not to be discouraged. . . . †

AAAAAAAAAAAUGH.

Nadia has also said that contrary to apparent reality, tuning is not my problem and that it’ll come right when the rest of it comes right—like not cranking your horse’s head in to get him/her on the bit.  Concentrate on getting your seat and legs right and the front end will sort itself out.  So my musical seat and legs equivalent still need a lot of work.††

When I wrote the blog entry for last night I hadn’t played this week’s lesson back yet.  I had listened to last week’s recording before this week’s lesson and had more or less managed to absorb the punishing truth, which is that I sang more flat notes than accurate ones but that was last week.  This week I went in prepared to lighten up a little††† so that my voice wouldn’t keep breaking its fingernails trying to hoick itself up over the edge of the right note.

Well.  I may have thought I was prepared.  HOW DOES NADIA STAND IT?  WHY DON’T I JUST TAKE UP KNITTING? ‡

Blondviolinist

Speaking of erratic leaps forward… they don’t really happen for everyone who slogs, you know.

I imagined it.  I take it all back.‡‡

The teacher has to be good

That I have in full measure.  Have I mentioned lately that Nadia walks on water?‡‡‡

& the student has to be honestly trying to change things, not just putting in hours . . .

Dunno.  We may have a slight semantic difference in the definition of slog.  Slog as in dragging aggrieved hellhounds through hip-deep mud, well, no, this does not improve with practise.§  Slog as in loyally doing your grindlefarbing vocal ratblasted exercises and learning, so you thought, the notes to your new song . . . yeah.  I think that catches up with you eventually.  Sometimes it’s more catchy and sometimes it’s more eventually. . . .

Although thank you for being supportive.

I’ve met plenty of—well, let’s call them musicians for lack of a better term—who’ve been stuck in the same place for years. They’ve essentially hit a musical wall, either through bad teaching, no teaching, or pig-headedly not listening to advice.

Yes, like bell ringers who don’t want to learn anything past call changes, or maybe trebling.  They’re not going to learn methods and you can’t make them.§§

That you’re getting More Voice (and I’d lay money that people besides you & Nadia can hear the difference)

Yep.  They can, poor things.  I’m LOUDER.  I’m seriously louder.  I’m not loud like Nadia or Joyce DiDonato is loud but I’m loud compared to the average congregation member at the annual carol service.  Siiiiiiigh.

is credit both to Nadia’s excellent teaching and to your own engagement with the process.

Oh, engagement, schmengagement.  Yes, I love singing, but then . . . so did Florence Foster Jenkins.  The thing that I was leading up to last night—before I heard this week’s lesson playback§§§—is that I’ve been formally invited to join the ‘band’ for the evening service at St Margaret’s.  You know, singing.

AAAAAAAAAAAAUGH.

* * *

* I’ve mentioned her here before but you may not have been paying attention.

** Except I haven’t learnt the notorious Queen of the Night aria yet.^

^ Ha ha ha.

*** This will doubtless have an enormous positive effect on my singing.  Doubtless.

† Of course it’s possible that Little Recording Doohickey is possessed by demons.  Most of my tech is.^

^ Everyone’s favourite trick at the minute—that is desktop, laptop and iPad—is suddenly to go, This page cannot be displayed because you are not connected to the internet WHEN I’M CONNECTED JUST FINE ON THE OTHER OPEN TABS.

†† I was never much of a rider either.  Siiiiiiiiiiigh.

††† I’d brought a crowbar, you know.

‡ Oh . . . right.  And I don’t show any great talent for knitting, either.

‡‡ The leap forward anyway.  Possibly not the erratic.

‡‡‡ Which with the weather we’ve been having is a very useful skill.

§ Neither does the hellgoddess’ temper.

§§ This is a somewhat controversial and contentious subject in the ringing world.  I think if you enjoy ringing call changes, especially if your tower is short handed, which most towers are these days, and you don’t want to break your brain and insomniacify your nights with learning methods, you shouldn’t have to.  But at the same time I can’t imagine not wanting to go on, to try for the next level, and most of the people I’ve known—a limited group I admit—who have stopped with call changes have Other Issues, including being taught wrong.  Either wrong in an absolute sense or wrong for them.  The problem with difficult skills is that there’s also more than one way of learning them and bell ringing is volunteer and most towers are lucky to have anyone even relatively able and willing to take on the frequently discouraging and onerous^ task of teaching at all.  There’s also a controversial and contentious conversation going on about teaching ringing teachers and setting up some kind of system whereby a teacher has to pass some kind of competence standard . . . and if you’re asking me, it’s going to end in tears.

^ Because of the spectacular attrition rate.  Bringing a beginner on is a colossal investment of time and effort from the entire band, especially the teacher, and then they go and quit, usually at whatever point where it realio trulio dawns on them that ringing is a DIFFICULT SKILL and is going to require BRAIN and COMMITMENT.  I don’t blame people for deciding they’d rather stay home and shampoo the cat, but I wish they’d figure this out a little earlier in the training process.

§§§ All right, yes, I did sound better this week.  BUT I’M STILL HORRIBLY FLAT.  What I do notice, and I can’t decide if this is hopeful or even more frustrating, is that every now and then when I hit a note more or less like true and full . . . it’s not bad.  And it’s spectacularly not the thin sour noise I was making several years ago.  If all my notes sounded like that, which they do not, I could get into that goodish choir.  But I was saying last night that my new voice doesn’t feel old, it feels young?  My relationship with what I’m trying to sing is a whole lot like watching a newborn foal try to get up on those four spindly things stuck on the corners of its tiny squished-together body.  Now, this one goes here . . . WHOOPS.  Um.  Well, this one goes here . . . WHOOPS.  And so on.  I always used to think that whatever my shortcomings I could carry a tune, and . . . apparently I can’t any more.  And this feels like the result of having more voice.  Nadia even said as much—not on the subject of carrying a tune;  she’s tactful like that—that it’s like when you shift up from the 13 hand pony you actually outgrew a couple of years ago and you’re on a 15.3 hand thoroughbred and . . . WHOOPS.

Maybe I’ll figure it out.  Whimper.

On making singing-like noises.

 

Back before Christmas—back before Peter’s stroke*—I had taken one of those erratic Leaps Forward in my voice lessons that anyone who keeps slogging at anything will eventually take, even if it’s perceptible only to the slogger and her teacher.**  I must have blogged about this before.  And I thought, in one of those vague self-improvement spasms that afflict most of us, that I should find that little recording doohickey that Peter gave me for my birthday years ago . . . I think to enhance my piano-lesson experience (hahahahahaha) rather than my voice-lesson experience (HAHAHAHAHAHAHA) . . . and employ the freller.  I did manage to take it along to Nadia once or twice quite a while ago—I think before she went on maternity leave for Renfrew—but playback, despite the advantage of being able to hear EXACTLY what Nadia had said, was so depressing that I gave it up.

And then Peter did have his stroke, and my focus, concentration and energy levels have gone a bit phut generally.  Although I’m certainly singing I’m singing for sanity as much as for any sense of working toward that distant mythic goal of finding and being accepted by a nice-ish choir.***  Only in the process of trying to clear out some of the accumulation around the piano at the mews so that I can shoehorn a little more of the overflow from Third House† there instead . . . I discovered the little recording doohickey.  And I got Raphael to remind me how to USE IT, since it is yet another of these flapdoodling overspecified pieces of ooh-shiny tech . . . all I want is an on and off switch.  And a method of getting batteries in and out that does not involve a mini-screwdriver whose shaft is the approximate diameter of a hummingbird’s tongue.  Gaaah.

. . . And at this point I am going to start what may be a horrifying new tradition, and declare TO BE CONTINUED††.  We went to Tabitha again this afternoon and my brains feel pummelled.  Also, this compromising with Peter about the time at which things happen—things like when I pick him up after the daily shopping excursion, since in fact he’s only comfortable walking one way—is a ratbag.  If you figure that he’s getting out of his bed when I’m getting into mine you’d only be a couple of hours out and he likes to do his shopping in the morning. . . .

* * *

* We have the follow-up appointment with the stroke unit at the hospital on Thursday.  Any of you so inclined, all prayers, positive thoughts and finger-and-other-limb-crossings gratefully received.  I’m trying to remind myself they are not going to wave a magic wand and they do not have a schedule sheet that says ‘by the end of February you will . . .’ and ‘by the beginning of May you will not . . .’.  Still.  I would like it to be somewhat more informative and possibly even comforting than merely the poor old weary beleaguered NHS ticking another box on its paperwork.

** I’ve told you, haven’t I, that with the new school semester, and Stella, Nadia’s daughter, in primary school, we’ve had our lesson times and order shaken up?  And Boris—the baritone who could have been professional—IS after me?  After that meltdown I had and everything??  Nooooooooo.  When the doorbell rang last week I started trying to climb behind the piano^ but when Nadia came back from letting the invader in, she said it’s okay, it’s only Boris’ wife, Boris is sitting in the car practising his German.  This week when the doorbell rang and I started trying to climb behind the piano^^ Nadia said no, no, Boris isn’t coming this week, it’s only Myrtle . . . who is another of Nadia’s, ahem, mature beginners, and who makes a little squeaking noise when she sings, like I used to.  Although I was thinking as I (relatively speaking) made the windows rattle (it’s a small house with low ceilings) with my Sebben Crudele^^^ that hearing me isn’t necessarily doing Myrtle any good, nor giving her hope for her future, since I’m kind of the aural version of the large clumsy ungulate in the vintage knick-knack shop.  I KNOW THAT NOTE IS AROUND HERE SOMEWHERE.  HERE, THAT’LL DO, WHAP.  I realise that you can’t start doing something with your voice till you have a voice to do it with but still. . . . I was thinking, as I ricocheted off the walls this week at home that at my age I should be worrying that I’m going to develop a little old lady quaver before I get all that far with letting what voice I have out of durance vile—and of course I do worry about this because I worry about everything—but my own experience of my voice is not that it is old and frail and tottering toward ultimate retirement and (possibly) resentful of being prodded out of the shadows . . . but young, like it’s been in suspended animation all these years, and clueless and has NO IDEA what it’s capable of or even what it’s for.  There must be someone else out there who started taking voice lessons late?  What was/is it like for you?  —And in this case I specifically mean voice lessons, since the whole your-body-is-your-instrument thing is a crucial part of the weirdness.

^ Which is against the wall, the unhelpful thing

^^ This week I brought a crowbar

^^^ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cj64UzeprI4

Sigh.  I don’t sound like this at all.

I don’t sound anything like this either:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Hlk8EDA02M

All you other mezzos out there will know these are absolute standards of the student repertoire and EVERYONE SINGS THEM.  Including, probably, a lot of people who have hung their recitals on YouTube who shouldn’t’ve.  I lost my taste for student recitals some while ago.

*** That’s not a slap at the Muddles.  I’d still be a member if I could stand either the length of their rehearsals or the funny air in their choice of practise venue.

† Remember Third House?  Speaking of sagging energy levels and loss of focus.  Sigh.

†† It’s not a real cliff hanger.   I’m just talking about singing.  There are no swords or banners with a strange device.

Procreation. Stop it before it spreads.

 

THE FRELLING FRELLING FRELLING HELLTERROR IS IN SEASON.  IN JANUARY.*  WHAT THE.  THE.  THE. . . . FRELL. NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO.  I assumed, fool and inexperienced entire-bitch owner that I am, that when she missed out the autumn I was, in the first place, safe till spring, and in the second place, possibly going to be lucky and she’d be a one-annual-heat bitch.  I’m very strongly of the if-it-ain’t-broke-don’t-fix-it philosophy, and aside from questions of whether or not I’m going to try to breed her** if she doesn’t make the hellhounds crazy she will probably keep her bits.  If she doesn’t make me crazy.  Which is presently being reassessed.

We have here the Incredible Hulk-ette.  I swear she’s bigger (and greener) than she was last week.  There’s noticeably more noise*** including her seeing off a much-wider-than-usual selection of invisible monsters in her crate—and her telling everyone in Hampshire, when we go for our hurtles, that she is not interested, that her swollen rear end has a mind of its own and she does not share its manifest desire for immediate copulation and to keep your distance, whoever you are.  I believe this is the stage described as ‘will not stand for the dog’.

Honeybun, I have no intention of letting you stand for any dogs, now or next week.  The hellhounds, at present, are saying, oh, gah, this again, and putting their heads under the blanket.  But it’s still early days.  Waaaaaaaaaaah. . . . 

* * *

* That is, in the northern hemisphere.  It’s probably a perfectly good month to get your livestock preggers in the south.

** Which I am putting off absolutely for at least another year.

*** It’s always welcome to have your resident goblin barking her head off when the neighbours have the poor judgement to be holding their conversation under your kitchen window.  Especially at, oh, 8 a.m. or so.  At the moment hormonal sensitivity seems to be extending her aversive range to the entire length of the cul de sac which is not short enough.  Plus her hearing is much too acute.  If a beetle farts in the hedgerow I DON’T WANT TO KNOW ABOUT IT.^

^ Wildlife.  Feh.  Did I tell you that the local Pet Shop Proprietors say that birdseed take up is bad all over Hampshire?  So it’s not just me.  I did eventually get Birdseed Feeder #2, now so clean it hurts,+ put back together again, despite the manufacturers’ best efforts against, my success mainly due to a misspent youth playing those horrible hand-held tilt games where you’re trying to get the coloured ball to fall through the right coloured hole.  I performed this feat of dexterity with the frelling microscopic screws that hold the base on and whose sub-microscopic holes are unattainable by super-microscopic human fingers.  I got the nasty little frellers out with a miniature screwdriver whose business end is about the size of a hummingbird’s tongue, but getting them in again?  Through the squirrel-repelling hard wire cage?  Whose base is a crosspiece perfectly sited to prevent you getting a finger through (let alone two, since you probably need two fingers to HOLD a microscopic screw)?  AND THE BIRDS CAN’T BE BOTHERED TO EAT MY BIRDSEED?  Fine.  You guys all need to fly to Tahiti next winter.  I’m sure I can create a few tall thin planters out of these ex-birdfeeders.

The fat balls are disappearing at a rate however.  I hope it’s my penguin-sized robin (who is too robust to get through the squirrel cage wire) who is consuming these.++

Further in wildlife news:  We haven’t seen the frelling churchyard hedgehog in a while +++ but a few nights ago hellhounds and I came around the corner onto the main street again and . . . saw a fox loping lazily away ahead of us.  I think foxes are dangerous vermin and while this town, plonked down in farmland as it is, is doubtless swarming with foxes in the vicinity I prefer to avoid close encounters.  Therefore imagine the adrenaline spike when we’d rounded that same corner two nights later and . . . there’s a break in the terrace row of little old houses where the let’s-make-it-obvious-we’re-fabulously-wealthy owners of the big house on the corner have installed ye Gate of Gates at the back~ thus creating a niche.  Hellhounds’ heads came up and they careened round the wall into the niche before I, it’s very late even by my standards and my reflexes are not too good right now anyway, hit the brakes on their leads and apocalypse by the sound of it ensued.  I thought it was the fox, and that the vet bills were going to be really expensive.  I had done my hellgoddess in a panic trick and thrown myself against the ends of their now-fully-extended leads and began dragging them away from whatever was happening, like fishermen winching waterlogged nets up onto the shore where they can get at them.  I was amazed that, as hellhounds emerged, backwards and mostly on their hind legs, no one seemed to be bleeding.

Nothing else emerged.  I waited a couple of seconds, got hellhounds on very short lead—the kind of very short lead I can hold them on—and we walked past the niche.

And there was Phineas’ marmalade ex-hellkitten, sitting at the very back of the niche against the closed Gate and his tail curled around his feet, looking utterly unbothered.  Cats are masters of the Happened?  Did anything happen?  No, I didn’t notice anything happen, nonchalance, but I assume my winching had taken effect at an opportune juncture.  Although I would have sworn there was more noise than two hellhounds, even two excited hellhounds, could have made.  Speaking of noise.

+ And therefore badly out of the cottage décor.

++ One of the items B_Twin brought from Australia are . . . wait for it . . . peppermint chocolate frogs.  I’m sitting here eating peppermint chocolate frogs.  I want you to know I find it very disturbing to bite the heads off frogs, even chocolate ones.#

# No of course I’m not going to eat them tail first.  I want them to die a swift, clean death.

+++ I hope it’s just hibernating and hasn’t drowned.  The sky pitched it down again yesterday and we’re back to standing water in all directions.

~ With the glittering high-tech dashboard set into the wall which keeps going wrong so the Gate of Gates often stands helplessly open and any riffraff could wander in.  Hee hee hee hee hee.

PORKOPOLIS; or, A Visit to the Guggenham *

Guest Post by Diane_in_MN

Local attractions are, of course, frequently ignored by locals until some outside stimulus calls them to mind.  In my case, the outside stimulus was a visit from a good friend last September.  She would be staying for a few days, and while life in my house is not entirely boring and predictable, it’s boring and predictable enough that I like to line up a few interesting things to do.  We have gone to the Stereotypical Used Book Store. **  We have dressed up (so as not to look like tourists) and gone to the local Renaissance Faire, a good option but not if one’s friend isn’t staying over a weekend.  Poking around the little shops in a not-entirely-touristy little town is also good, but that’s just one afternoon.  And then I found the SPAM® Museum.#

We have lived in Minnesota for twenty years or so, and while I knew that Austin, Minnesota is the home of Hormel Foods, maker of SPAM®, the SPAM® Museum was a new one on me.  In fairness to myself, it only opened in its current state about ten years ago, so it missed being included in Minnesota: Off the Beaten Path, the guidebook I bought before we moved here.***   I myself have only encountered SPAM® in a school cafeteria—where it was not a popular feature—but a whole museum devoted to a canned meat product could hardly be passed up.  Besides, the web site said that the exhibits include a Monty Python tribute.

We really wanted to see the Monty Python tribute.

So on a nice sunny day, my husband, GF and I abandoned the dogs and headed out to Austin and the SPAM® Museum.

We arrived early in the afternoon and found a spot in the gated but free parking lot, which had more cars in it than you might expect.  The museum building is a handsome brick structure, trimmed in SPAM® blue and yellow, and as we walked up to the door, we passed a bronze sculpture honoring the ones who make SPAM® possible—namely, pork on the hoof.^

SpamEntryCollage2

As we picked up our Official Tour Guides inside the museum—admission is free, too—we saw the impressive Great Wall of SPAM® over the entry doors.

SpamWall

The SPAMbassador (that’s what they call them, really) who greeted us told us that photos were not only allowed , they were encouraged, and to prove it offered us disposable cameras in case we’d forgotten our own.  She also told us that the Great Wall is made up of almost 3,400 SPAM® cans—empty or full, she didn’t say—and directed us to the SPAM® theater, where we could see an informative video on the history of SPAM®.

SpamTheater

You can’t see this from my photo, but the theater is shaped like a can of SPAM®.  (And by now, this shouldn’t come as a surprise.)

We emerged from the theater into a replica of an early twentieth-century grocery that gave us some information about the founders of the Hormel meat-packing company.  Hormel packaged the first canned hams, so the 1937 debut of a chopped-and-pressed seasoned pork shoulder product—i.e., SPAM®^^—was probably a logical next step.  The rest of the museum is devoted to SPAM® exhibits.  A graphic map of the United States highlights where all that pork shoulder, not to mention the bacon and ham that Hormel also produces, comes from.  A global map illustrates SPAM®’s world-wide reach.^^^  I liked the display of SPAM® advertising through the decades, and was particularly charmed by this one

SpamAd

from 1938 or so.  I suspect that anyone employing a live-in maid or cook during the Great Depression wouldn’t have been frying up a slice of SPAM® on the maid’s night out.

We had learned, from the helpful educational video, that SPAM® is now made in twelve varieties, including one made out of turkey instead of pork+, and SPAMbassadors in the museum proper had samples available for tasting.  (My husband, the carnivore in our family, tried a few, and thought the teriyaki version wasn’t bad.)  In the best modern style, the museum offered several interactive exhibits, including one where the user can make a can of SPAM®, but by the time we got to that point, GF and I were ready for the Monty Python exhibit, and it did not disappoint.

The Monty Python exhibit is the last one in the museum, and the Official Tour Guide describes it as “the funniest SPAM® brand moment in the history of television.”  Who could argue?  The exhibit gave us the Green Midget Café, with a highlighted menu, and a Viking.  (And how could I have forgotten the Vikings?)  Pushing the helpful interactive button ran the Monty Python SPAM® skit.

SpamPythonCollage2

We watched it three times before moving, still laughing, into the essential museum exit area, the gift shop.

The gift shop may not contain “every SPAM® item imaginable,” as the Tour Guide suggests, but it gives it a good shot.

SpamShop2

GF has friends in Hawaii, where SPAM® is so popular that Honolulu holds the SPAM® Jam festival every year, and did a fair amount of Christmas shopping amongst the assorted bric-a-brac.  I considered a few tee shirts,

SpamShirtCollage2

but since my tee shirt drawer is already full of Great Dane shirts, I somewhat regretfully passed them by.

I didn’t see any sign that Hormel has embraced the use of their product’s name for junk e-mail, but aside from that, the company deserves a good sport prize for not taking themselves or SPAM® too seriously.  The SPAM® Museum turned out to be a lot of fun, and the next time I have visitors (well, visitors in SUMMER), it will probably be on my list of things to do.

**************************************

*  I wish I could take credit for these names, but they came right off the museum’s web site.

**  Old house, narrow stairs, literally sagging floors, double-filled shelves, piles of stuff next to the shelves, the whole shebang.  Pictures and knickknacks, too.

***  This excellent book did inform me about the Kensington Runestone, the Western Minnesota Steam Threshers Reunion, and the World’s Largest Ball of Twine.   We haven’t visited them.  It’s the dogs’ fault.

^  There’s a farmer with these hogs, but clearly it’s the porkers who are the real stars of this show.

^^  The name is a contraction of SPiced hAM, as we were informed in the educational video.

^^^  I had just recently heard a story on National Public Radio about the great popularity of SPAM® in South Korea, especially as a necessary ingredient in a dish called, no kidding, Army stew.  Apparently a can of SPAM® is a nice hostess gift in many parts of the world.

+  I have been told that Minnesota has more turkey farms than any other state.  I guess turkey SPAM® should be a no-brainer.  There is, as yet, no vegetarian version of SPAM® even though you can hardly go five miles without encountering soybeans in the Upper Midwest.

# May I just say . . . love.  –ed.

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