February 23, 2014

KES, 119



Gah.  Well, I suppose if you survived long enough to be a middle-aged mercenary (whatever middle-aged meant here) you were probably ipso facto strong and tough.   And in my willowy urban way and present state of dishabille I probably didn’t weigh that much, even including Silverheart.  I managed to get my right foot over Monster’s back, so when I landed with a thump I was facing in the right direction.  I looked down.  I was still clutching Silverheart and Murac—and Monster—didn’t seem to be bleeding.  I looked up, and ahead.  About half a mile of long, lavishly-maned neck away, Monster’s small fine ears were tipped back in my direction.

And if I moved even a fraction of an inch I would split straight up the middle.  This wasn’t a horse I was trying to get my legs around, this was a two-car garage or a mountain range or a small city.  Monster shifted his weight and I managed not to squeal.  The various indignities attendant upon sitting on a saddle in your nightgown were not helping the situation either.  At least the nightgown skirt was fairly generous.  With my free hand I managed, I hoped surreptitiously, to tuck a fold of it under me.  That left an awful lot of pale bare leg but there was nothing I could do about that.

Gingerly I lifted Silverheart over Monster’s neck and slid her into what was either a scabbard or the Neiman Marcus Super Giant Tent Pole Holder.  My feet found the stirrups.  Although I was cold, sitting on Monster was like sitting on a radiator turned on full blast, and the cool metal of the stirrups was soothing against my sore feet.  My hands found the reins.  They weren’t smooth, factory-die-cut reins, but my fingers recognised them, and when I picked them up I could feel Monster’s mouth on his bit.  Evidently he found this interaction reassuring because his ears relaxed.  I tried to let my legs go limp and my seat soften but since I felt like I was being drawn and quartered from the waist down this was not entirely successful.  But Monster gave me points for trying.  And when he relaxed . . . suddenly my legs slid into a slightly more possible position.  There was a lot more front and back to this saddle than the modern dressage and jumping saddles I was used to so within the limits of the total brain-snapping absurdity of my position I felt almost secure.  Monster and I both sighed.

The scuttling noises had stopped when Silverheart exploded, and when the silence filled up with motion again it had become a more purposeful sound.  There was a lot of rustly something-or-other happening behind me but I didn’t feel like testing my precarious sense of having arrived somewhere by finding out what was next on the to-do list.  Monster wasn’t bothered and therefore neither was I.  For a second or two.   Maybe three.

I was thinking about all those stories you read where the hero gets beaten up by a gang of thugs with tire-irons or the heroine is pushed out of a fourth-story window by the chief villain’s chief minion but it’s okay because she hits the shop awning on the first floor and it breaks her fall.  And they moan for a bit and they may even go home and have a hot bath and a shot or half a bottle of Scotch—or aspirin—and then they’re if not good as new, at least fully functional again, and totally pumped up to go after thugs, minions, villains, whatever.  After recent events I would have wanted to lie down, possibly forever, except that I was so comprehensively sore it wouldn’t have done any good.

By the end of three seconds I was growing increasingly aware that I couldn’t afford to sit here idly thinking because of the appalling directions my mind wanted to run off in.  (It, at least, could still run.)  What, where, when, why, how . . . what if . . .

A horse-nose became visible in my peripheral vision.  I was higher up, sitting on Monster, than I’d been sitting in the driver’s seat of Merry, and I told myself I didn’t really recognise the brown-black head and non-standard-to-my-eyes bridle;  but I still wasn’t surprised when I turned my head and Murac was in the saddle.  Another horse came up on my other side and I could assume that the thud-crunch-rustle noises were more horses and riders forming up.  Behind me.  Behind me.  I wondered who had been riding Monster when I’d seen the others earlier.  Whatever earlier meant.  My adrenals were so tapped out they couldn’t zap me for accepting that this was the troop I’d seen . . . for accepting that any of this was happening at all.  My bruises made me accept that something had, but my mind was still objecting to what.  And what if.

“Gate’s beyond,” said Murac, gesturing.

“Gate,” I said.

“Tha’s Defender,” said Murac.  “Tha stand by Gate.  Tha should not be here;  we’ll get tha back if we can, for all”—he said with what seemed to me ghoulish and unnecessary relish—“will die if tha’s lost this side of Gate.”

How to ruin my day


Merrilee will want to try to make a book out of it at some point

We’ve all mentioned how thrilled we’d be to have this in book form at some point and that touches on another thing I’m really looking forward to. I’m under the impression that you’re ‘writing without a net’ right now; in other words, I’m thinking that we’re getting to see what a first pass through a story looks like. I assume that in the process of turning this into a book, you’ll go through your normal re-read and ‘oh *that’s* why that was important – I’d better add this detail in, in light of that’ process of re-writing and editing. I’m looking to and hoping to see who/what gets emphasized/de-emphasized/deleted/added as part of the process. This is potentially a fascinating sneak peek behind the curtain and I’m really enjoying it.

I don’t even know where to begin to respond to this one.

Do you realise that by calling KES as she appears on the blog a ‘first pass’ and assuming that I’m going to rewrite the whole thing from the beginning when Merrilee and I turn it into a book-like object, you are implying that it, you know, needs it?  Unless you’re Anthony Trollope, first versions of a story are rough.  You rewrite because you have to.  Because the story doesn’t make sense after the villain turns out only to be misunderstood, because the main character doesn’t come into focus till page four hundred and twelve because you were trying to write about an enchanted lemur and it turns out she’s a fruit bat.  Because you fell in love with the word crepuscular and used it forty-seven times in the first chapter and, as anyone who has done any serious writing knows, you can rarely merely swap one word out for another, usually you have to change the phrase or the sentence which then bodges up the paragraph or the scene and you have to rewrite that . . .  because on page two you thought Bathsheba was going to stick David with a hat-pin, steal his second-best armour, and run off to battle to fight at her husband’s side.  Oops.

You rewrite in the hope that you will eventually produce something that you could give strangers to read.

At what point you start soliciting other people’s opinions varies.  I hear terrifying rumours that some writers hang rough drafts on line and invite comments.  I’d become a ditchdigger or a linesperson before I did that—and I don’t think they hire sixty-one-year old women to dig ditches, and retraining to be a linesperson wouldn’t be a good choice since I left my head for heights somewhere back in my thirties.  Before I married Peter—who does now see early drafts of my stories—NOBODY saw ANYTHING till I’d got as close to finished with a story as I could.  Even I acknowledge that you need an outside eye eventually, to tell you the elisions that don’t work because nobody else knows the story as well as you do, and Gibbervig and Sorfrella got up to what together*, or because you so can’t see the forest for the trees any more that while (ahem) you may just be a prone-to-tangents storyteller, the chapter about the history of interspecies harness** really slows the action down.  My current editor prefers to see things a little sooner rather than a little later—although I think this has a lot to do with the fact that I’m almost always laaaaaaate turning stuff in and she wants some reassurance that the story exists and she’s not trying to hold a place on the next list but twelve for a will-o-the-wisp—and I acknowledge her right, as the woman whose butt is on the publishing line on my behalf.  But I don’t like it.

Once I’d got properly into KES I let myself acknowledge that it was a real story—as real as any of the ones that were first read by strangers in paper covers in their entirety—or that existed in their entirety before they were excerpted on line.  I’m writing without a net, yes, because I’m hanging bits of the story for strangers to read before I’ve got to the end of writing it.  But I’m writing it as well as I can as I go.  I rewrite the individual eps before I post them.  What I post is NOT first pass.

Yes.  I’m giving away for free what is just as much work as what I write for money.  But it’s a slightly different kind of work;  different harness—speaking of comparative tack—different pressure points.  I wouldn’t have had the chutzpah to invent a genre-fantasy-writing heroine who gets embroiled in offcuts from her own stories for a book I was expecting Merrilee to pitch to my—or any other—editor.  I’m aware that messing around with the boundaries between reality-reality and book-reality is very popular just now*** but KES is not something I would have risked doing.  Except as a kind-of-joke-but-then-again-not-a-joke on my blog.  And yes, I’m hoping to recoup some of that writing time by turning KES into a book that people will pay money for a copy of, hard or e-.†  But . . .

But I’m not going to rewrite her.  Bottom line:  I can’t.  The story arc is very very very VERY VERY VERY VERY different, doing it in 800-900 words a shot and usually ending with something more or less cliffhangery.  The story is the story:  but KES has let me mould her into 800-900 word chunks, and you—or anyway I, this writer, Robin McKinley—doesn’t get a second chance.  If I tried, I’d wreck her.  I’m not going to try.

I’ll fix errors, when I shuffle her together into one file to send to Merrilee.  And I will scream and hurl myself out windows and so on when I discover the howlers I know are there even if I don’t at present know what they are—and I just hope there aren’t any I can’t fix without tearing up the foundations.  I’ve silently fixed I think three easily-tweaked ones already;  I keep notes—inadequate notes and always of the wrong things—but I mostly don’t reread, except specific snippets (when I can find them) for specific purposes of stumbling accuracy.  I’ll try to swap out the superfluous uses of crepuscular without rewriting any scenes.  But that’s all.  Tidy up—although there will be more of this, and it will be more of a struggle, than I’m going to like.  But I am not going to rewrite.  Not.

And as for a sneak peek behind the curtain—that’s not what you’re getting.  That’s not anything you’ll ever get from me.  There’s a reason I don’t blog much about my writing process.  I’m a privacy fetishist.  And it’s a lot easier to do the smoke and mirrors thing about my life than about my writing.

* * *

* And furthermore when did they have the opportunity to do it?  Didn’t the Siege of Mormormorungal crack up straight into the Battle for the Nineteen Dozyhazes and the Sentient Orchid?  —I’ve never been good at time, in reality or out of it.

** Horse tack was a relatively late invention;  domestic horses were a doddle after dragons and flurdlelumps.  Horses are smaller and more persuadable than dragons, and at least you can sit on a horse;  there’s the whole suspended-cage business with flurdlelumps because of all those legs.

*** Thank you, Jasper Fforde.  He may not have started the trend single-handed, but he’s where I first met it.

† KES does tap into my real writing energy.  The blog doesn’t.  The problem with the blog is time.  I’m a slow writer, even of the blog.  But I don’t come away from the blog thinking MUST HAVE BREAK FROM WRITING STUFF.  The main reason I’ve cut KES back to once a week is because if I spend any more time on her she will cut into . . . well, PEG II, for example.

Not answering your KES questions



sputter sputter sputter… eeep.

Oh dear oh dear oh dear.

That’s the cliffiest cliffhanger yet.  Eeep.

Now this interests me.  This is in response to Kes #15, “Keep it together, tha useless mare”.  I thought the cliffiest cliffhanger was #14, the ep before, “By Elbereth and Luthien the Fair, you shall have neither the Ring nor me”.  Granted my view is a trifle different than readers’.

It is also interesting—to me anyway—that plucking Kes up and plonking her down In Another Part of the Forest when the reader is getting the story only in 800-900 word snatches with looooong gaps between, must produce a much bigger HUH? factor than it would if the reader could turn/fingersweep the page and keep going.  Yes?  Or am I over-interpreting?  I was thinking that you could, not unreasonably, suspect me of cheating.  I’m not—or I don’t think I am—by the somewhat elastic rules of storytelling—and the somewhat differently elastic rules of fantasy storytelling*—it’s allowed, not to tell your readers stuff.  Till you feel like getting around to it.  Till the story insists.


I look forward to Sunday mornings – make a pot of green tea, settle down with my tablet, check Kes’s latest predicament. But these blog posts need to be much longer if they’re to last 2 cups of tea.

I have a great idea!  Only read KES every fortnight!  Then you’ll have an ep per cup!  That works!

So thank you for today’s episode. And thank you for a heroine who is only 10-plus-some years older than me. I read and enjoy YA fantasy but I do occasionally wish for more stories with protagonists who have a little more life experience.

You’re welcome.  And also thank you.  The apparent near take-over of YA in this end of fantasy storytelling does discourage me a trifle sometimes, despite the fact that I have substantially contributed to it.**  Some day I am going to write a story with a kick-ass heroine who is over sixty.  We can still kick ass, you know.  It just hurts more afterward.***


. . . if I were in Kes’s place I’d just get furiously angry. Look, it’s not my fault no one told me to go into heroine training!!!


Furiously angry keeps you moving forward, though, and so is very probably a useful reaction.

Yep.  Adrenaline-rage, which allows slender willowy people to sling large sacks of (wet) compost around.  For example.  It’s a very useful tool and I wouldn’t want to be without it but I possibly overuse it a trifle.  If what you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.  Kes does adrenaline-rage too.  For better and worse.


Three thoughts:

1) Everyone in Kes’s world(s), stop being mean to her already & give her a freaking break!!!

Everyone?  We need a few villains and persons of dubious motives for story tension.

2) Her horse!!!! There’s a horse for her!!!! Yaaayyyy!!!! . . .

Of course there is a horse for her.  There was always going to be a horse for her.  Remember she’s an even-more-blatant-than-usual wish-fulfilment for me.


Well . . . escape is maybe putting it a little strongly.  She side-slipped worlds at a very good moment.  As to why she side-slipped worlds at that moment. . . . ::whistles::


But…where’s Sid? Is this Sid morphed into a horse?

Nope.  Very different personality.

(No, Kes needs Sid as Sid, the faithful hound. This has to be the faithful steed, yhight…Star? Socks? Brownie? Bay..um…Bayeux? Bayberry? Eli?)

Snork.  I like Bayeux.

Horse. Horse is good. Good horse is good. Evil horse…I don’t even want to think about it.

No, no!  Good horse!  Very good horse!  Brave noble patient horse!†   Cheez.  These frelling supple professional-fiction-producing minds.


Yay, the horse. I’m wondering if this is Merry? Otherwise, how will Merry fit into this? or has the story council let that slip out yet?

Hmm.  This might be the moment to warn you all that I’m not a big fan of the parallel worlds thing.  Connected overlapping similar-in-weird-ways containing-confusing-parallels worlds, yes.  Parallel worlds, no.  Nothing—except frelling algebra—is x = y in this world;  why should reason and logic suddenly reign just because we’ve breached a few walls between one messed-up and inconsistent world and a few more of the same?  Although it wouldn’t surprise me if Monster and Merry became very good friends.

Also, I will be very relieved when Sid shows back up in the picture.

Sid’s okay.  Although she may be having her own adventures.  And she has a very important part to play in the coming . . . ::whistles some more:: . . . well, whatever.


Didn’t the kitchen table start making horse-like motions a few episodes ago?

Yup.  But remember what I said about parallel.  Here’s another suggestion for how not to make yourselves crazy trying to figure out how the pieces fit together:  you can dye your hair orange this week and purple next week.  It’s sunny today†† but it will rain tomorrow.†††  A table that stamps its feet today may be a table next week.  And an octopus the week after that.

I too am curious what happened to the big black monster. And everything else.

You’d better also remember that I don’t tie things up neatly or give full, exquisite explanations.  Curiosity is good.  It keeps you awake.  You’ll know more about most things before END OF PART ONE scrolls up on your computer screens.


I’m thinking some hybrid between

[photo of Shire horse—or anyway it should be a Shire and it could be a Shire]


[photo of Andalusian horse—and I know it is an Andalusian because it’s on the Wiki page for Andalusian horse, although I keep wondering if the lad is a midget or the horse is standing on a box, because Andalusians are not huge]

what’s your image of the biggest horse? 

I’ve had an enormous [sic] crush on Andalusians forever.  Talat, although somewhat inspired‡ by an Arab stallion I used to know, is really more an Andalusian.  The only heavy horses I’ve had a chance to know up close and personal are Shires and Clydesdales—and Suffolk Punches to a very limited extent—and Shires win hands down.  I adore Shires.  I know it’s not as easy to get a good cross as to take one Andalusian stallion and put him to one Shire mare‡‡, but it’s like Sid being (probably) Saluki/Deerhound.  Monster is probably Andalusian/Shire.  And they’re each a really excellent cross with only the BEST features of both bloodlines.  Hey.  I write fantasy.

Even if for a newyorker that has never seen a cow any horse in that stressful situation and while not standing properly would look big or bigger.

Ahem.  Kes doesn’t know from cows, true, but she went to horse camp for several years in her teens.  She’s not totally clueless.‡‡‡  We’re going to say it was a good horse camp too, which I realise is pushing the reality connection pretty hard—but Kes does know the basics of how to ride.  Probably not to battle in her nightgown however.


Two of my all-time favorite fantasy novels   featured a cavalry that rode without either bridle or stirrups.

Haven’t even finished reading the episode…had to come say I LOVE that grin at a couple of my favorite fantasy novels too! (Go Aerin & Hari!!)

I’ve known from the beginning that Kes must have read McKinley.  I was going to have to refer to this some time.

I looked back at Monster.

I know I asked for a name, but now I’m hoping there is a chance he gets renamed along the way; although Monster will be an affectionate name before long, I suppose.

Well hmmph.  Personally I think Monster is a very good name for a huge horse, but in fact I think it’s like Sid is also the Phantom.  Give poor Kes some slack here:  she’s a bit pressed.  She’ll name Monster when things quiet down a little.§  No one was trying to kill her when she gave Sid a name.

* * *

* Insert standard rant here about how you do get to make up your own rules, writing fantasy, but then you have to follow them.  No Mr-Spock-reveals-new-skill-after-the-commercial-break.^  Also no all-powerful mages throwing lightning-bolts of awesome power at one another while making mean faces.

^ Spock ex machina, one might almost say.

** When I first told Hannah what I was doing, a year and a half ago, after she stopped laughing, she said, Make her younger.  Merrilee will want to try to make a book out of it at some point^.  It’ll sell better if she’s younger.

I remind myself that at least there are quite a few strong heroines in fantasy around now.  Some of the books they’re in even receive a certain amount of advertising.  EMoon and I can remember when this was not the case.  Especially the advertising part.

^ Great publishing minds think alike

*** Ow!  My foot!

† This is still a McKinley story, after all.

†† Wrong.  No.

††† TRUE.

‡ ‘Inspired’ isn’t quite right;  it’s like as Talat blooms into his own self, it turns out some of Binni’s tack fits.

‡‡ And the stallion would have to stand on a box.  But I’d be afraid to do it the other way around:  she might break.

‡‡‡ Another pet peeve is characters in books who never learn to ride, they just get on a horse and hey presto.  It’s not like that.

§ Unless it turns out he’s already got a—er—Abernathy’s Elegant Mythology by Abernathy’s Hyperborean Mystique out of Plutonium Farms Bethany-by-Night name already.  In which case we’ll have to shorten it.  To Abe.  Or Myth.  Or Pluto.  Or Fred.

Wet photos and dry yarn


I was putting Pav’s harness and lead on for a hurtle late this afternoon while listening to the weather report on the radio.  Dry for the rest of the evening and overnight, said the radio.  Pav and I stepped out the door.  It was raining.

I’ve spent way too much time looking for good Hampshire-flood photos for you.  Is it because flooding, managing or trying to manage the floods and beginning in some cases to clean up after floods which may yet return is still very actively going on that the photo record of all the hoo-ha is such a mess?  You google for ‘Hampshire’ and you get Gloucestershire, Dorset, Somerset and Wales, with a little Kent and Surrey thrown in.  Not that Gloucestershire, Dorset, Somerset, Wales, Kent and Surrey haven’t been flooded too—poor old Somerset is in a bad way—but I wanted to show you Hampshire.  Anyway you can troll through here—or not.  These are all at least 2013-14—I think—although with the occasional disconcerting ‘historical’ flood photo, which may or may not be in Hampshire either.  I found a really good Hampshire flood photo gallery but before I got too happy fortunately I noticed it was from two years ago.  I don’t even remember flooding two years ago.*

Hampshire flood photos 2014

UK weather: Britain braced for more flooding

Scenes from Hampshire village of Emsworth as floods hit

Winchester residents battle against rising flood water

Basingstoke flood photos

Anyway.  It’s already too late for Short Wednesday.  Maybe we’ll have Short Thursday.


. . .  bad weather IS claustrophobic, and inside with three hellcritters, one in heat and a bit too interesting to the others is definitely a major trial.

It was a lot more histrionic than a BIT too interesting.  But she’s now OUT of heat and . . . Chaos doesn’t believe it.  Darkness, while still inspecting her carefully every time she reappears, is reverting to his previous attitude, which is, Bark!  There’s an interloper!  Bark!  Remove her at once!  Bark!  —Siiiiiiiigh.  I was HOPING that there might be some positive long-lasting effect on their relationship as a result of that hideous recent ninety-four year stretch when she was on high spectacular heat and Darkness was her slave . . . but I guess not.  Siiiiiiiigh.  Meanwhile there is an effect on her relationship with Chaos . . . he doesn’t believe she’s off heat and keeps trying to hump her.  Mind you, he’s humping the wrong end and he’s never got his—ahem—tackle out, so it’s not exactly Sex As We Know It Jim but it still must frelling stop.  Arrrrrrrgh.  The slightly funny thing, if I were in a mood to be amused which I am NOT, is that Chaos was a lot less bothered by the whole situation than Darkness was.  Darkness was out of his tiny furry mind.  Chaos was la-la-la-la Chaos, although he was happy to stop eating to keep his brother company.  ARRRRRRRGH.

We convinced our old cat to come in during severe weather and she’s now convinced that–if she’s indoors–someone should be . . .  paying attention to her anytime she’s not dozing. . . . Yowwwwwwl. Yowwwwwwl. Yowwwwwl. One critter is driving me frantic several times a day . . . I cannot even imagine three critters sharing the house with me.

Three critters keep each other company.  This is why I brought two puppies home seven years ago.  This does not always work out perfectly to plan (see:  happy to stop eating to keep his brother company) and introducing a new one to an established hierarchy is always tricky, even if you’re not bringing a girl into a household with two entire males.  But for a human prone to guilt resisting the huge mournful puppy-dog eyes is easier when your single dog is not alooooooooone every time you go out for a cup of tea with a friend.

Diane in MN

There probably is a way to adapt a bigger gauge pattern to a smaller gauge—isn’t there?—but in the first place it would require MATHS and would be beyond me and in the second place . . . I’d run out of yarn.

I do this kind of a lot because I knit tight and I substitute yarn, so getting gauge is not guaranteed for me. The arithmetic doesn’t go beyond multiplication and division, but you can find knitting calculators online that will do it for you. Here‘s a pattern conversion form that should do what you want.

Oh, cool.  Thank you.  I think.**  I like the part about how all you do is fill in the first bit and it does all the rest, but I haven’t finished my swatch yet so I don’t know what unexpected tentacles may lie in wait.  I have found the needles that make the right fabric however:  8 mm, so a whole two (or four, depending on how you’re counting) down from the recommended 10 mm.  Hmmph.  Yarn manufacturers.  They know nothing.***


Deep v neck. Less yarn. Three quarter sleeves! Less yarn! Cropped!

Perhaps a dickey?

Yes, yes!  A dickey!  What a good idea!  There will be enough left over for at least one mitten! 


Deep v neck. Less yarn. Three quarter sleeves! Less yarn! Cropped!

At this point, I’m not sure there’d be much point left to knitting a bulky-weight pullover…

Snork.  It must be hard, living a life of such strict rationality.  Not one of my challenges.


There’s a very good Lion Brand pattern for a top-down raglan-sleeved cardigan, knitted in one piece (the sleeves are knitted downwards later), which is pretty much infinitely adjustable. Cast on enough stitches to go round your neck (high- or low-line), increase at the raglan points till big enough to fit round your chest at armhole level, put sleeve stitches onto holders and join up the gaps, knit downwards till long enough. Put sleeve stitches back on needle and knit till, er, long enough. Add a button band, either knitted separately and sewn on, or picked up along the front edges, if you want buttons.

So you leave yourself a ball, or two, for the sleeves (depending on how long you want them), allow another one for button bands, and you can knit the cardi till you run out of yarn!

Yes, I was thinking I’d look for a top-down for that reason—that, in fact, I need to overcome my circular phobia and learn to love some basic top-down thingy because I am a relatively small narrow person and short waisted with it and I’m pretty sure I could learn to squeeze a basic top-down thingy out of slightly too little yarn, which would be very nice.  Do you have a link for the Lion Brand pattern?  There are a million gazillion Lion Brand patterns and I tend to lose the will to live on their site pretty quickly.  Also so many of their patterns are extra-large and up.  When it’s some ordinary person on Ravelry who has created a pattern and she’s a 48” chest and her pattern is for 46-50” this seems perfectly reasonable.  When it’s a frelling commercial yarn site, even though the patterns are free, it seems to me perverse that when you look at what they mean by ‘small’ it says 44”.  Um.  No.  That’s not small.

Now you’re going to tell me there are pattern converters for this problem too.

. . . Meanwhile.  It’s raining again/still.  What a good thing wool stays warm when it’s wet.

* * *

* I remember five-foot-of-water-in-the-cellar 2000-01 very clearly.

** But I also knit tight and . . . substitute yarn?  You mean there’s some other way to do it?  You mean some people actually USE THE RECOMMENDED YARN?  ::stops to fan herself::^  This comes up with me perhaps more than with better knitters:  for some reason easy patterns tend to assume you’re going to use cheap acrylic or acrylic-mix-but-mostly-acrylic yarn.  Noooooo.^^  You do get fancy yarns that suggest a simple pattern that will leave the effect up to the yarn, but not so much the other way around.  Or maybe I just read the wrong magazines.^^^

^ Although that may just be another frelling hot flush

^^ The hellhound blanket is acrylic but they’re allergic to wool AND I AM NOT GOING TO WASTE MERINO ON CREATURES WHO ROUTINELY CLAW UP THEIR BED TO MAKE IT FLUFFY.

^^^ And so far as I can tell it’s a publishing rule that a knitting book shall not be issued till all its recommended yarns have been discontinued.

*** Nothing in comparison to someone who has been knitting erratically for about three years and hasn’t FINISHED anything but a few leg warmers and some baby bibs.

Rain. How unusual.


Hellhounds and I took a turn by Soggy Bottom today to see how it’s, um, flowing . . . and the personhole covers over the storm drains have been shoved off by the pressure of the water driving up through the inadequate apertures.  It’s almost as good as a play, or it would be if we didn’t live here:  the little round-headed jets of water boiling up through the holes, and this great wave sluicing out through the gap where the personhole cover has lost its place.  Three of these rush together with the naked overflow from the ditch and, well, hurtle down Soggy Bottom toward the raging torrent that used to be a ford over a quiet little Hampshire stream that the locals call a river.  If I’d been in wellies rather than All Stars* I might have been tempted to leave hellhounds dry-footed in Wolfgang and slosh down in that direction and see how far I could get.  The lake by the Gormless Pettifogger is deep enough that the person approaching as Wolfgang and I paddlewheeled through stopped, apparently aghast, at his shoreline . . . and turned around.  Oh, come on, it’s not like you’re driving a Ferrari with zero-point-four inches clearance.**

It rained today.  Of course.  It’s Tuesday.  It rained yesterday.  Of course.  It was Monday.***  It’s going to rain tomorrow.  Of course.  It’s Wednesday.


* * *

* Well I wouldn’t be in wellies rather than All Stars but I used to have a spare pair of (ordinary black^) wellies that lived in the, ahem, boot.  It occurs to me to wonder what I’ve done with them.  Maybe I’ve just forgotten giving them to the itinerant mage in exchange for . . . for . . . well, I certainly didn’t trade them for a rain stopping charm.

^ From the days when you could only get black or child-of-the-earth green wellies

** I saw an SUV—the kind you need a stepladder to get into—turn around at the edge of a large puddle some time recently.  I laughed so much I nearly ran off the road.^

^ She’d probably heard the rumours that giant squid from the centre of the earth were using southern England’s floods to lurk in wait for their favourite snack, SUVs.  No, no!  Relax!  It’s a ridiculous rumour put about by people who don’t have anything better to do than retweet silly urban myt—SLURP.

*** Monday had even less to recommend it than the rain.  I got to Nadia’s and discovered she wasn’t teaching this week either.  ::Sobs::  I wrote it down wrong in my diary;  I knew she wasn’t teaching last Monday, but this Monday I thought if I didn’t hear it meant she was, when it was if I didn’t hear she wasn’t.

Fortunately I had hellhounds with me so throwing myself off a cliff^ wasn’t a good plan because neither of them can drive Wolfgang to get themselves home.^^  So we went to the farm supply shop and bought compost and fertilizer^^^.  I was wearing singing-lesson-day clothes, not going-to-the-farm-store-in-the-rain-day clothes#.  I considered asking one of the stalwart young men to heave the nasty bags around for me but while, generally speaking, I’ve got over the extreme feminism of my youth when asking a bloke for help was SELF BETRAYAL##, I still occasionally get all tough/stupid  virago with bare-able teeth and (metaphorically) bulging muscles.  I slung the frelling bags myself.  And while I managed to keep my cute little cropped cardi safe, my jeans were goners.

And then I destroyed another pair of jeans today, getting the blasted bags up the stairs### to the greenhouse ARRRRRRRGH.  This shouldn’t happen at home.  I have a lovely pair of gardener’s chaps, which snap over your belt and around your legs and heroically repel mud (and thorns).  But in one of the monsoons of the last few months, when the rain was not only coming in sideways but from a funny direction, EVERYTHING IN THE GREENHOUSE GOT SOAKED.  Which I didn’t realise till later.  I’m still unearthing little quagmires in corners arrrrrrgh.  The chaps are still drying out.  I think they’re resuscitate-able.  Please.  I have no idea where I bought them and google is not forthcoming.

^ Which are in short supply in most of south-central England.  At the old house when circumstances conspired I used to threaten to drown myself in the pond, of which we had two, and both Peter and Third House have ponds here.  But somehow drama-queen drowning doesn’t hold the appeal it does when not drowning is a daily goal and preoccupation.+

+ Dentist from R’lyeh has been driven out of his large glamorous multi-storey office by floodwater.  I’m not laughing ::mrmph:: really I’m not ::MRRRMMFFFF::  Being from R’lyeh and all you’d think he’d be fine with a spot of drowning, wouldn’t you?

^^ They like the central heating+ and the soft bed out of the rain.  THE FOOD DOESN’T INTEREST THEM AT ALL.

+ Or the Aga

^^^ Which is to say cow crap.  Organic cow crap.  I prefer it to chicken—which is the other common commercially-available one+—because it smells less.  I admit I don’t know how the plants feel about it.  They’d probably say they were missing an essential element without the pong.  Like dogs adore tripe.  TOO BAD.  I don’t know how long I can go on with Pav’s dried pigs’ ears either.  She doesn’t eat them fast enough.

+ When I had a horse we made our own critter-crap fertilizer and it was lovely.

# I have enough trouble fighting with my wardrobe every morning.  I get dressed once.  I do not change for anything less than serious festivities that include Taittinger’s or the Widow, and not merely Prosecco.

## I don’t entirely fault my young self for this attitude.  Back in the early 1800s or whenever it was I was young, blokes offering, or responding to requests for help tended to do it with a gloss of patronage.+  Men have died for less.  I would know.

+ Not that this doesn’t happen now.  But either it happens less, or I hang out with a better class of bloke than I used to.

### The only young man who lives on my cul de sac is slenderer and more willowy than I am and so far as I can tell he doesn’t do the adrenaline-rage thing that enables slender willowy people to do things they can’t.  I wouldn’t be so unkind as to ask him to help me with large muddy bags of compost and other even less salubrious substances.

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