May 31, 2014

Tired hellterror. Look fast, the effect doesn’t last.

 

Yesterday was a veeeeeeeery bad ME day and while I did go bell ringing at Crabbiton in the evening it was chiefly because the tower captain is a trifle fierce and has extracted promises out of her regulars, including recent vague wandering semi-alive, semi-conscious and semi-skilled dorks like myself, to let her know if we’re not coming.  If I’ve genuinely got something legitimate on, that’s fine, I know it and I can say so.  But on stupid bad-energy days I keep hoping I’ll start to improve any minute* and then the minutes trickle past and trickle past and on a bad day I’m not too plugged in to the whole time thing either and then suddenly it’s HALF AN HOUR TILL BELL PRACTISE AND I DIDN’T TELL FELICITY I’M NOT COMING SO I HAVE TO HURTLE A FEW HELLCRITTERS AROUND THE BLOCK FOR A PEE AND THEN PELT OFF TO PRACTISE.

Today has been better, but hellcritters might be permitted to feel a trifle aggrieved at their summary and abbreviated hurtling yesterday.  Peter wants to go to the farmers’ market on Fridays, so I bring the hellhounds and we have a nice nonstandard hurtle while Peter buys stuff.  That was them.  They were happy to come home and flop.  I then contemplated the hellterror (who was in my lap at the time) and decided she should have an adventure, so I took her out to one of the countryside walks none of us goes on any more because of the Other People’s Dogs problem.  Pav is very nearly the perfect companion for such an excursion—not quite perfect, there is no perfect when the world is full of idiots and their dogs—because she’s a bull terrier the average moron shudders away from her and makes a more concerted grab for his/her manic off-lead danger to society than he/she would for a mere pair of lurchers/longdogs/large whippety things.  No one is afraid of a mild-mannered sighthound.  Anyway.  If the OHMIGOD IT’S A PIT BULL** WE’RE GOING TO DIIIIIIIIE thing doesn’t work, I can pick her up.  We had several occasions of each this afternoon.

We managed to have a good time anyway.  But here’s the amazing thing:  I wore her out.  I WORE OUT a hellterror.  By the time we got back to Wolfgang she was throwing herself belly-down into the long grass by the side of the track and trying to convince me to carry her the last stretch.  No.  You can walk.  You know there’s foooooooood waiting back at the car—she always gets a little handful of kibbly treats to convince her that climbing into her travelling crate is a good thing—oh, right, fooooooood, she said, and deigned to totter the rest of the way after me.

It took her all of lunch and a half hour’s nap to recuperate. . . .

* * *

* This is not quite as daft and irresponsible as it sounds.  As often as I not I start coming out of an ME haze with a surprisingly graphic sense of my energy running back in, like pouring water into a pitcher.  Sometimes it’s more like fog lifting.  Sometimes it happens faster and sometimes slower and sometimes it’s like WHAM and sometimes it’s pretty subtle—it might  occur to me that I could stop playing Triple Town^ and concentrate on something for example.

^ I CANNOT FRELLING BELIEVE I’VE GOT RE-ADDICTED.  The beastly [sic] game is so last year.  Or last two or three years, I mean, ago, I think.  But I was trying to wean myself OFF all the unblessed word games I was playing too much of+.  And I turned the frelling ninja bears off and suddenly, whammo, I’m frelling playing frelling Triple Town again.++

+ Especially the ones with the really dark background colours so you can get eyestrain while you waste your time?  What a great system.#

# Apparently it never occurred to the designers that old people might want to play their finglegartmore games.

++ And doing a lot better for some reason.  It’s not just lack of ninja bears.  Maybe it’s the boomerang result of Wild Robert trying to teach me to call real touches of Grandsire doubles.  I can call the cheating touch, where you just call yourself in and out of the hunt every other lead, and all you have to keep track of is how many calls you’ve made so you yell THAT’S ALL at the right moment.#  Wild Robert, who is a fiend in human disguise##, wants me to learn to keep track of all the bells and where they are in the pattern so I’m calling from awareness rather than a memorised pattern.  I get this###—it’s the difference between real conductors and people who have memorised a few patterns—but that doesn’t mean I can do it.  Triple Town is just a frelling computer game.  Arrrgh.

# Which I never do.  I usually manage to count my calls accurately but then it’s like, Here?  Here?  Do I call an end here?  —No, you call half a lead ago and now we’re ringing an unscheduled plain course while you feel foolish.  CALL NOW BEFORE WE RING FORTY-SEVEN MORE PLAIN COURSES WHILE YOU’RE THINKING ABOUT IT.  Sigh.  I was not snorfleblasting made to be a conductor.

## And I’m sure he keeps his good humour about teaching an endless array of hopeless dorks by setting those of us with victim mentalities impossible challenges because we’re fun to watch.

### I was thinking last night—blearily—that this conducting nightmare is not totally unlike learning the Samaritan mindset—what the trainers call ‘your Samaritan head’.  You can grasp in principle all kinds of things about offering emotional support, no more and no less, and the minute you’re dropped in a role-play to practise what you’ve just so-called learnt, your frelling mind goes frelling blank.  WHAT DO I SAY NOW.  I am going to be very glad to get my first genuine duty shift over with . . . so it is over with and I can stop frelling obsessing about it.~  The thing about conducting a touch of change ringing is that the worst that happens is a really bad noise that the neighbours may complain of and you decide to stay home henceforth and do more knitting, which is quieter and involves fewer rope burns~~.  With the Samaritans . . . you may actually hurt someone’s feelings.  Eh.  Well, no one was holding a gun to my head when I went along to the info evening, and then along to the flushing out the secret Klu Klux Klan members first-cut evening, and then the interview and now the training. . . . And it’s fascinating.  It’s not cheerful—if everyone were cheerful we wouldn’t need Samaritans—but it is fascinating, and clearly worthwhile, and I’ve always been a (cranky) wet knee-jerk liberal and I’m now a (cranky) Christian wet knee-jerk liberal and although the Samaritans is comprehensively and categorically not a religious organization, still, God told me to do it so I can shut up and get on with it.  Yes sir/madam.

~ Which the trainers say is dead common and not to worry about it.  Try not to obsess, but don’t worry about . . . obsessing.

~~ It is very hard to give yourself a rope burn, bell ringing.  Just by the way.

**  Bull terriers are not pit bulls.  Also just by the way.

Ow, continued

 

Last night* did not begin well . . . when I shut Wolfgang’s front passenger-side door on my thumb.

I was very good.  It was urble-mumble o’clock in the morning** so I did not scream to make the welkin ring, although there was some fairly dramatic hissing, and the thirty seconds or so it took to hustle the frelling hellhounds into the car—they dork around and dork around looking for THAT ILLUSORY PERFECT PLACE TO PEE—may have been the longest thirty seconds of my life*** before I could pelt back indoors and fish out the arnica bottle—with, you know, my other wounded hand, the one with the slightly cracked finger.  Meanwhile I don’t suppose my thumb had really blown up like a balloon on an electric bicycle pump but . . . close.†  So last night I took the other half of the bottle of arnica I’d started the night before when I semi-broke my finger.  And last night’s insomnia was made more interesting by my thumb going BANG every hour or so necessitating me to sit up, groggily feel around for the arnica bottle, and take another tiny pill.††  Plus a certain amount of hypericum.†††

And today my thumbnail is turquoise.  I think it’s slowly turning black, the way squashed fingernails do, but it was a positively brilliant turquoise this morning.  New experiences.  I could have done without this one.  This is also the first time since my discovery of the wonders of arnica that I’m going to have a black fingernail anyway.  Sigh.  I hate black nails;  it takes a good six months for one to grow out—on me, anyway.  And it makes you look so hopeless.  No one ever got a black nail saving the universe.  It’s always because you’re a dolt and you shut your finger in a door.  I need more sleep.  I’m not usually quite this self-destructive.

Meanwhile . . . at the moment neither hand works very well.  And except for the fact that it’s my left thumb which is superfluous to requirements on a keyboard, it’s a lot more inconvenient than the middle finger on my other hand.  No opposable thumb.  No grasping.  Also I can’t hit the brake on Chaos’ lead—now that’s dangerous—and Pav is usually on that side too, but I can at least make a wild poke with my right thumb.  But it’s REALLY GREAT TIMING that I have two sub-functioning hands when I’m trying to yank us toward readiness to move house.  Which in this case chiefly means BOOKS.  Lots and lots and lots and lots of books.‡

Ow.  Ow.

* * *

* And by night we mean that time at the end of a long evening which reaches well past both the big and the little hand on the tick-tock^ device sticking straight up, and begins with that fell and doom-laden moment I face the necessity of loading sixteen hellcritters and enough kit for an assault on Everest in January into Wolfgang to make our slow bleary way back to the cottage.  Well, that’s how it feels.

^ I’m sorry, but all the best clocks still go tick-tock.  And have hands.

** Which is late even for me.  Well, I’d been having a long semi-unplanned conversation with an across-the-pond friend earlier, not for lack of trying to create something like an advance strategy.  NONE OF MY TECHNOLOGY WORKS.  NONE.  Am I only suffering from aggravated nostalgia, or am I right in thinking that back in the days when street mail and telephones were your only options, they mostly worked pretty well?  TESS OF THE D’URBERVILLES wouldn’t make you crazy if misdelivered letters were a commonplace.^

^  ANGEL CLARE IS A MOULDY DOG TURD.  Just sayin’.

*** Although the rather fewer seconds between bouncing off the side of a caroming car and watching the ground rushing up toward my motorcycle and me also took a surprisingly long time.  I’ve told you this story, right?  Well, I haven’t told you in at least six months and it’s one of my favourites.  I was lying there in the road and someone who’d pulled over and stopped his car came running up to me yelling, Son, son, are you all right?  And I said, Well, you could get this motorcycle off my leg, and he said, Oh my God it’s a girl—and ran away and was never seen again.  Although he was probably responsible for the deluge of fire trucks and ambulances that began to arrive shortly thereafter.  This was—gleep—over forty years ago.  No one, including William Gibson, was entertaining any fantastic notion of mobile phones yet.  You had to go find a phone booth or one of those EMERGENCY PULL/PRESS HERE boxes.

† I want to know—well, I think I want to know, graphic gore is not my thing—what happens if someone who’s shut a toe or a fingertip in a car door^ doesn’t have a source of cold water or arnica to stop the swelling?  Fingernails don’t stretch.

^ All those jokes about silly-putty steel in modern vehicles are suddenly not funny.  But then one of the reasons some of us like VWs and Volvos and various not-I-think-exclusively-German four-wheeled bombs is the higher percentage of real steel in their composition.  A headlong juggernaut will still take you out but a careening lorry might not.  I think there could be some research done into rubber door mounts however.

†† Plus the two phone calls and two no-you-don’t-have-to-sign-for-it-but-we’re-still-going-to-knock-on-your-door-and-wake-you-up-again deliveries.  In their defense, both deliveries were after nine a.m.  And I sleep in clothing I can answer the door in.^

^ Kes is telling herself that sleeping in chainmail would be really uncomfortable.

††† Hypericum is another really basic homeopathic first aid remedy.  For injury you always start with arnica, but if it needs some help, hypericum is particularly good for nerve-rich bits like fingers and toes and your coccyx.  Also for injuries that stab you repeatedly.  This one echoed very unpleasantly not just through the rest of my hand but up my arm to my shoulder.  BANG.

‡ The Oxfam bookshop is going to ban me.  No!  Not more classics of English literature that no one reads any more!^

^ I’m keeping Dickens and Faulkner.  And Anthony Trollope.  And Hardy.  And George Eliot.  And Elizabeth Bowen.  Some Conrad.  Some Henry James.  And a ridiculous amount of poetry.  Willa Cather is out.  F Scott Fitzgerald—out.  Madame Bovary—out.  Most of the Russians—out.

Another frelling Bank Holiday weekend

 

It rained in torrents the last two days* and then today, when it was supposed to rain in more torrents, it cleared off and was gorgeous—and everything green** and rooty that had sucked up lake-sized draughts promptly shot up another couple of feet.  Atlas mowed Third House’s lawn last Monday and I swear it’s chest-high again.  But I really have to take some new photos because the ones from a fortnight ago that I still haven’t got round to posting are like last century.  Meanwhile I seem to have got a little distracted by footnotes again.***

* * *

* . . . well I think it was approximately two days.  Between being brain-destroyingly short of sleep and going to bed after dawn, the days kind of smush together.

** Not necessarily green green.  If you’re a copper beech you’re deep maroon.^  If you’re a black-leaved dahlia you’re, um, black.  Or anyway a very dark green.

^ Love copper beeches.  LOVE.

The hellhounds had had a good hurtle around Mauncester Friday morning so I took the hellterror with me to Warm Upford in the afternoon to top up Wolfgang’s fuel tank since it’s a frelling Bank Holiday weekend frelling frelling again FRELLING NO VOICE LESSON TOMORROW FRELLING FRELLING FRELLING.  About two miles beyond Warm Upford on the road to Prinkle-on-Weald there’s a huge old estate that’s been mostly turned into a conference centre or similar.  They’ve left the landscape alone, bless them, and various outbuildings and the astonishing old stable block, which is a kind of miniature palace, are still there pursuing new careers.  When we lived at Warm Upford we used to hurtle the previous generation out there pretty often, and back in my running days my two main loops—one five miles, one seven—began there.  Before I lost my nerve and Darkness his temper about off lead dogs I used to take the hellhounds out there occasionally, but I can’t now remember the last time we hurtled there.

Part of the landscape that the conference centre has left alone is the old avenue to the Big House . . . lined with copper beeches.  There are a lot of copper beeches around here, including the one that hangs over Third House’s garden from the churchyard+, but this is the only proper avenue of them that I can think of.  It is dazzling in its splendour—especially this time of year and especially-especially in a good rain year because beeches are shallow rooted—at least it is if you are crazy about copper beeches.  Friday I parked under the tree I used to park under to go running, about halfway down the avenue, and it was like MY OLD FRIENDS!  HOW YA DOING??

Also, the hellterror was beside herself with delight.  I swear there were about eight hellterrors, all of them HURTLING.  Do all short dogs have pogo-stick legs?  BOING.  BOING.  BOING.  She met her first horse—up close, I mean, being ridden past, not at a distance in a field++.  And she did not bark.  I was very proud.+++

+ Mine mine MINE.  Never mind where the roots are.  MINE.

++ She also met her first horse crap.  Horse crap = dog chocolate.  Ewwww.  Sigh.

+++ Today every nincompoop with a dog was out with it.  Bank Holiday Sunday the end of May in glorious weather—hopeless.  But us rain-or-shine regulars are grimly out there too.  The hellterror and I were attempting to walk past a bench upon which were two women with dogs and one dog-free bloke.  The dogs were large.  The women were medium.  The bloke was small.  The dogs had that superior look that often goes with largeness, to which the hellterror took exception.  Well I’m kind of with her there.  Walking past quietly on a loose lead was out of the question, but we could at least walk past in a series of short controlled hops with a minimum of sotto voce comments about the heritage and personal habits of the unnecessarily large dogs.  I was bent over with some fingers hooked through her harness the better to continue the conversation—she does listen, the little evil eye rolls back toward me with that but-they’re-LARGE-and-SMUG-you-can’t-expect-me-to-IGNORE-them look—but she has a somewhat non-existent attention span# so I have to keep reminding her that she did agree to be polite.  And the bloke says, you training him?

In the first place HER HARNESS IS PINK.  I’m aware of the cultural dorkiness that says that all dogs are he like all cats are she.  And, okay, never mind the vagina and the prominent nipples.  HER HARNESS IS PINK.  In the second place WHAT DO YOU THINK, POTATO FACE?  I usually walk all bent over with my hand hooked through my short-legged dog’s harness murmuring sweet nothings in her pointed ears for the entertainment of the teeming Bank Holiday hordes.

# I have to tell you again however our late-night training sessions are a hoot.  There are now several things she does pretty well but our default is that she sits and gives me a paw.  Whenever we start getting tangled up in some dumb thing I’ve failed to explain successfully in hellterror language, we revert to sitting and offering a paw.  Because these sessions involve fooooood the lack of attention span disappears under an avalanche of greed, and she has a full-body offering of paw(s) I find hilarious.  What I really want to video however are my attempts to teach her to roll over.  She is, of course, a total ham—I think this is in the bullie gene map—and if I’m laughing, as far as she’s concerned, she’s doing it right.  Especially if she gets chicken/cheese/apple for it.  But I haven’t got enough hands to run a video camera too.~

~ Especially since I think I may have broken a finger.  I can’t even remember what I was diving for, last night, in my clumsy, sleep-deprived state, but my hand slammed into a chair instead and there was this tiny nasty snapping noise.  Oops.  I took about half a bottle of arnica and I can still type—this is not coming to you via voice-recognition software, no—but the finger has turned kind of a funny colour= and it’s (yelp) rather sore and I don’t think I want to hold even a small video recording device in that hand.  If it gets no worse I’ll just let it sort itself out but there may be a hiatus in bell ringing.  How long does it take a small finger bone that is probably cracked, not broken, to heal?

= Rather copper beech coloured, in fact.

*** I keep telling you I need sleep. I.  NEED.  SLEEP.  Sigh . . .

KES, 132

 

ONE THIRTY TWO

It occurred to me—WHANG THWANG THUD CRUNCH WHACK SMASH GLURP—that I was getting tired.  Tireder.  Even with Silverheart and Glosinda doing all the work it was harder and harder to stay in the saddle.  My thighs wobbled and smacked against the saddle flaps like underdone pancakes hitting the plate.  Splat.  This was desirable in pancakes.  Not in legs.  Also . . . finally a reason to be glad of the divorce.  After half an eon grinding around on a saddle wearing nothing but a cotton nightgown I wasn’t sure the usually-acknowledged-as-crucial love-making body parts were ever going to work again.  Ow.  Blisters.  Ow.  I was pretty certain the twisted strap under my knee had gouged a sufficient hole that that was blood I felt running down that leg.  So it matched the other leg which one of my enemies had had a chop at.  But scar tissue on a knee or a calf was a little less, um, disabling than scar tissue, um. . . .

Enemies.  I had enemies.

Ssssssssslsh

Well, I’d always had enemies—My first-grade teacher because I could already kind of read, and thought her books were boring and stupid.  Pansy Doncaster, who made my life a misery in junior high.  I hoped her husband had left her for someone younger with a bigger bank balance too.  I might even wish her some inconveniently placed blisters.  I definitely wished the regular SF&F reviewer for Bookitydoodah an entire suppurating rash of inconveniently placed blisters. . . .

Claa-aang

Ssssssssslsh

Thud . . . squish.

Monster was tired too.  It wasn’t only that I was turning to vichyssoise that made it harder to stay on him.  He wasn’t bounding and arcing any more, he was lurching and careening.

Ssssssssssslsh

Claa-aang

Did enchanted weaponry ever tire?  I was barely keeping my hand closed around Silverheart’s hilt;  on one of her savage parries soon I was going to drop her.  Would she fly on without me?  Or did her magic require contact with human skin to activate?  Glosinda was pulling my arm as a dead weight;  the hand sticking out the far end flopped like a doll’s.  Both my shoulders hurt like I was being drawn and quartered;  my head hurt even worse.

Ssssssssssslsh . . .

It took me a moment to process the information that there seemed to be a lull—and the moment wasn’t over yet when something slammed into us from one side.  Silverheart darted upward instead of whizzing toward the slammer—which both prevented me from toppling forward on Monster’s neck and turned me slightly in that direction.  I lost a stirrup and had to grab Monster’s mane (again);  fortunately the lull meant that Glosinda let me.  I straightened up wearily and looked over at . . .

Murac.  Of course.  It would be Murac.  But he wasn’t trying to kill me which in the circumstances made him my best friend.  I couldn’t read his expression.  I didn’t want to try.  I rubbed the hand that wasn’t holding a sword over my forehead.  It felt damp and slimy . . . blood.  I looked at my hand dispassionately.  I didn’t think it was mine.  The blood, I mean.  I hoped I recognised the hand.  Then, trying to hold onto dispassionate, I looked back at Murac.

“Next time,” he said—

NEXT TIME?

“. . . donna outpace tha company.”

Next time?” I spat.  I hope I spat.  I hope I didn’t whine.  “What do you mean, next time!”  It wasn’t a question.  I was not asking a question.  “There is no next time about—about —”  I hope I was shouting.  I hope it wasn’t a loud whine.  I still didn’t know how to end the question I wasn’t asking.

“Molovaron is our finest.  Defender’s horse.  Kept tha alive, this hour:  tha should not be ’live, even with Silverheart in tha fist.  Next time, donna ask him to take tha awa’ from tha company, because he will:  he runs like a race-horse, not a war-horse.”

My mouth dropped open.  I hoped my face was too dirty for Murac to see the tears slipping down my cheeks.  Surreptitiously—Murac was on my Silverheart side, not my Glosinda side—I gave Monster’s unhurt shoulder a rub.  Monster sighed, and stretched his neck down—down—till his nose briefly touched the bloody ground.  He raised his head and gave himself a massive shake.  I grabbed his mane (again) and lost a stirrup (again).

When I looked up, Murac was holding what my genre-fantasy-honed mind thought it recognised as a waterskin.  “Drink,” said Murac.  I awkwardly wiped Silverheart on the already-stiff-with-nameless-substances skirt of my shabby nightgown and slid her into her scabbard.  I took the waterskin.  I braced that foot hard against that stirrup to take the weight:  unenchanted waterskins weigh a lot more than enchanted swords.  My arms were like old disintegrating elastic, but I got the mouth of the thing to my mouth.  The water tasted better than Gelasio’s champagne.

“I’ll teach tha, give Molovaron water from saddle,” Murac said.  One of the foot soldiers had brought a leather bucket for Monster, who was drinking greedily.  “Part of his training, drink from waterskin.”

I lowered the waterskin and said firmly,  “No.  No next time.”

Murac was silent so long I had to look up.  He gave his head a tiny shake as he met my eyes.  “Tha’s Defender,” he said.

 

Summer is icumen in, continued*

 

 

I had planned to post more photos today.  Stuff is rioting out**, most of it several weeks early.  I’ve got a sheaf of photos I haven’t posted yet and I should have taken more photos today except I was buying a potting bench.***  Also, it was raining.

But then I got distracted by footnotes. . . . †

* * *

* Rikke posted to the forum about having to look up this reference.  I sometimes have trouble remembering that not everyone is an American Eng lit major^ of a certain age.  I am generally so awful about quotes and references and cultural benchmarks and so on that I assume that if I know it, everyone knows it.  Apologies for apparently wilful obscurity, yesterday, tomorrow, last week, next year, whenever.^^

^ Ie went to an American uni/college and read/studied English literature

^^ Personally I prefer jokes I can understand.

** Including terrifying numbers of dahlias.  And glads.  Gladioli do not survive winter!^  It’s in the contract!  You get used to buying more, and complaining!  Well, they don’t survive winter except when they do, and when they do they tend to reproduce.  Since I frequently put glads into dahlia pots^^ there’s a certain struggle for supremacy going on.  May the best triffid win.

^ The extra-weird thing is that the books and articles all hammer you with the fact that it’s not frost kills things like glad bulbs and dahlia tubers but wet:  they sit in sodden soil and rot.  Excuse me guys.  We’ve just had the wettest winter since the Palaeolithic.  What gives?

^^ They can all fall down together.  Glads will mostly stand up without staking—mostly—but not when an inadequately-staked dahlia crashes over on one.

*** For Third House.  Atlas has pretty well taken over the shed, including the potting table, and I’ve done the throwing-hands-up-in-despair routine about this and declared that I’m leaving the shed to the boys, and will buy a tiny garden storage doodad and a cheap potting table for me which can all go under the minimal overhang in the corridor between Third House and its neighbour.

This gave Fiona and me the excuse to go look at garden sheds on Tuesday instead of attending to business.   I was pretty well incapable of attending to business on Tuesday.^  And we saw some very nice sheds.  Fiona thought I should buy the climbing frame/slide/sandpit for Pav.  Hahahahahaha you’re so funny.  The littlest cheapest shed will do nicely thank you very much, good grief, people apparently get a little carried away with their back-garden empire building.  The shed I have in mind doesn’t even get to call itself a shed, it’s a ‘garden tidy’.  If you’re a shed you have to have windows, a portcullis and a concierge.  No.  And I don’t want the purple Alice house that I can’t stand up in anyway, Fiona, I’m looking at you.

Today however since I had to blaze into Mauncester for a meeting with a bank official^^ I went via the Extra Large Everything for the Domestic Empire Builder store in one of those industrial estates that make you suspect you’ve wandered into an alternate universe^^^.  Their minimal selection of sheds was nasty—I think you’re supposed to build your own:  you’re letting the side down by buying something that someone else has already cut crooked and drilled the holes in the wrong places—but they did have a cheap potting table that looked possible.

Now here is where I began to think I really had wandered into an alternate universe.  The British are polite.~  They’re vaccinated for it when they’re half an hour old.  Of course you get rude ones but then people who’ve had the vaccination get measles too.  The potting table, even in its inelegant flat pack, is large~~ and I’m neither very little nor very old but I’m a whole lot older and skinnier than the half dozen stalwart young men in store uniforms I went past toting the blasted thing to the tills.  I then went back for a bag of the right-sized gravel~~~ which weighed even more than the flabberjabbing table, and went past a different assortment of stalwart young men in store uniforms . . . and not one of them offered aid to my frail grey-haired= self.==  The woman at the till was obviously not having a good day and when she’d rung me up with a lot of slamming and pinging she snarled, would you like help to the car with that?  Er—no thanks, I said, sidling away clutching my gravel.  When I came back for the potting bench she was immersed in making some other hapless customer’s life a little more miserable.  Feh.

^ Smoke and mirrors update:  I’m not telling you how bad it’s been with the hellhounds lately, or how much sleep I’m not getting or how much morale I’ve lost or how a properly tightened harp/violin/guitar string has nothing on me.  Hellhounds are not having a good time either of course.  The decision to stop being a daily blog probably has less to do with the Samaritans+ than about hellhound management.  I finally talked to the vet again today who has recently cured two hopeless cases of digestive mayhem and wants to try the same protocol on my hellhounds—but it’s a little experimental and I have to sign a release form.  Yes.  Whatever.  Pleeeease.  We reached the end of the line a while back.

+ Which continues to be brilliant even if I feel like the stupidest person on the planet at least three times per training evening.#  We’re halfway through the first module.##  Eeeeeep. 

# Which may have something to do with stress levels and lack of sleep, of course, but the truth is that the idea of being able to do something for someone when you can’t do shitfuck for various members of your own family is very appealing.

## At the end of which is when you start taking duty shifts.  There’s a second (required) module in the autumn but it’s not as intensive.

^^ On whom I walked out after twenty minutes+ sitting on an uncomfortable chair in the waiting area slap next to the entrance which must be a total thrill in cold weather with the wind turning your pages for you every time someone comes through the front door.  Tomorrow I go back to my branch office and ask for the frelling customer complaints address again.

+ Also on the wall opposite the door was a digital gizmo (presumably) displaying today’s date.  It read ‘21 May’.  This was not reassuring.

^^^ But then Atlas’ shed kind of makes me feel that way, which is where we came in.

~ Last night one of our Sams trainers, in discussing dealing with our occasional aggressive male client, made reference to ‘the gentle sex’.  I nearly fell out of my chair laughing.  This bloke is probably my age.  I can’t imagine any American under the age of about a hundred and twelve using that phrase.

~~ I had a bad moment when I finally got it out to Wolfgang.  But it went in.  Just.

~~~ The invisible gravel-eating dragon at the cottage is particular about the size of his gravel, and apparently particular invisible gravel-eating dragons are common in this area because it’s hard finding the right size.

= All right, not very grey yet.  But getting there.

== You may be aware that it is one of the laws of the greater universe, not just our small subiverse, that the carts available at Large DIY Stores are made out of tin foil and coat hanger wire and, furthermore, all drive at weird angles so you’re always urgently trying to keep them from ploughing into the two-storey begonia display, and that if you dropped a potting bench flat pack on one, let alone a bag of invisible-dragon fodder, its axles would disintegrate and its wheels explode and the store detective would arrest you for vandalism.

† Also, as mentioned above/below, depending on how you read your footnotes, I’m just a trifle demented from lack of sleep.

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