November 29, 2014

Just a day like any other . . .

 

. . . only more annoying.  Thanksgiving in England.  Feh.  COMPUTERS.  GINORMOUS ERUPTING ARRRRRGH WITH LOTS OF BOILING LAVA.  And maybe a fire-god or two.  And Boadicea—she’s supposed to have flaming red hair, right?—and the scything knives on her chariot.*  What’s the computer version of a red-haired warrior queen with whizzing chopper blades on her war-chariot’s wheels and a really really bad attitude toward her overlords?  I NEED THIS.  WHATEVER IT IS.   I NEED IT BADLY.  I NEED IT NOW.

Peter and I did manage to go out for dinner—I know, we should have been at home slaving over a whole series of hot, speaking of hot, cooking aids, including the wooden spoon you accidentally left in the whatever and which is beginning to give off a pleasant fragrance of charring wood, but—why?  Christmas will be here soon enough.**  Never mind my confusingly American-sounding accent, my passport, and my place of birth:  I’m British.  I find Thanksgiving quaint, and, with my digestion, superfluous.  Another good reason to live in England.  Tick that box.

But we didn’t go out to dinner to celebrate, if in a non-traditional way, because it was Thanksgiving.  We went out to dinner because we were supposed to go out for tea, only I missed.  I got to bed late even for me*** thanks to one of my duty shifts running over time, and when I finally staggered out of bed again I ENTIRELY FORGOT that I was supposed to be ringing Raphael so he could do his Remote Meddling and yank the latest diabolical computer miseries† back into some temporary but functional alignment†† . . . until I’d already had the first necessary injection of caffeine, and had tried to turn a computer on . . . ARRRRRGH.

By the time Raphael had returned from rappelling down the side of the Post Office Tower††† I was too late to go out for tea.  But we went out for dinner.   Which was really better anyway since you don’t usually get champagne at tea time.

* * *

* I could have put Kes in a chariot . . . maybe in book twelve or sixteen or something.

There is a surprising paucity of really satisfactory images of Boadicea, considering she’s one of the few major historical heroines around.   I was looking for one with impressive, you know, gauntlets, which might conceivably be magical bracelets, with or without rose embellishments.  There aren’t any that I can find after poking around in the usual places via Google:

http://www.magnoliabox.com/art/552566/will-you-follow-me-men-c61-ad

Hey, lady, anything you say, if you stop waving that kitchen knife at me.

http://www.magnoliabox.com/art/567252/westminster-bridge-monument-london

Um, how are they steering those horses?  Telepathy?

** I spent one ENTIRE EVENING this week when I could have been, I don’t know, writing a blog post or something, on-line ordering frelling they-deliver pot plants to go to the members of the Dickinson clan it would be the most embarrassing if I forgot entirely (again) . . . I mean, I don’t forget, I just don’t get around to, you know, organising the final dash to the holiday finish line . . .  including having got so far as buying things like calendars and tins of biscuits WHICH WILL HAVE GONE OUT OF DATE by the time I unearth them next year because I didn’t get them WRAPPED AND SENT LAST YEAR.  Anybody want a decorative tin of stale biscuits?  I can occasionally recycle the calendar photos which are often . . . oh, roses or something.  And may I just remark that that venerable British manufacturing icon, Blu Frelling Tack^, is not worth its reputation.  Sure, it’s reusable.  It’s reusable up to and including the 1,000,000,000th time something has fallen off the wall/the back of the refrigerator^^/the side of the cupboard/the edge of the bookshelf, etc, that it was supposedly glomped onto by Blu Tack.  I have other things to do with my time than resticking. ^^^

^ Why not Blue Tack or Blu Tak?   Blu Tack merely looks confused and indecisive. +

+ Hums an old American folk song and does not make any obvious remarks about British politicians.

^^ which is much more attractive covered in calendar cut-out photos of roses

^^^ Laundry, for example.  The INSUFFICIENT advantage of washing hellmob bedding every two or three days is that the critter hair problem is much reduced+.  Well, sort of.  The ambient hair level is definitely lower, as is the amount I claw out of the washing machine after every critter load.  But it means that EVERYTHING I OWN that gets washed in the machine now has some critter hair in it.  Yes, I run a quick cold wash after the mob stuff comes out, but that’s like using a broom to sweep off snow-laden steps that you’ve already tramped up and down several times.  I used to be able to sort of stagger post-critter-washes so the jeans took the worst, and then the sweatshirts and outer layers and finally . . . hmmm.  I’m here to tell you that I haven’t found a clothes brush yet—including those disposable sticky-tape ones and the little pads that are like a cross between velvet and Velcro—that works worth a damn on your underwear.

Meanwhile . . . I began Flea Protocol #7,243,006 today.  SIIIIIIIIGH.  One of the reasons I’m posting less often lately is that I’m frelling reading everything I can get my gnarly hands on about . . . well, about parasites generally, at this point, and about immune system strengtheners and blah blah blah, to give me more ideas about what else to try for fleas.  The fact that there’s a huge amount of controversy and conflict and contradictory PROOF [sic] about what is safe to use is not helping.  Maybe I could just bore the ugly little sods into going somewhere else?  . . . Oh God guys here she comes again.  I just want to suck blood in peace, what is her PROBLEM? We’re so tiny—she’d never have to know we’re here—all 1,000,000,000,000,000,000 of us.  Okay mates we’re gonna hide behind this ear—NO NO SHE’S GOING FOR THE EARS.  One of the advantages of naturally comatose++, plasticine+++ hellhounds is that you can roll them around and rub whatever into their fur, including all their private bits, any way you like.  As long as it doesn’t involve swallowing anything it’s all attention, and it’s all good.  The hellterror is also perfectly happy to be rolled around, but she tends to want to engage with the game WILL YOU HOLD STILL YOU THING.  ARR-ARR-ARR-ARR, says happy engaged hellterror.

+ I still want to know whose brilliant idea it was to design the front-loader part of a front-loading washing machine to accumulate dirty water, critter hair, tiny shreds of unidentifiable gubbins and really unpleasant semi-dissolved yuck, in the un-get-at-able bottom of the door, defended by several heavy, uncooperative folds of rubber tubing.  Which is apparently still standard over here, including the greater European Union, since both my last was and my current washing machine is, German#.  My not-very-new-any-more washing machine gets very mixed reviews from me;   not only is the front-loading door familiar in all the wrong ways,  its filter is emergency only and you must approach it by precision serial usage of several Special Tools and the manual suggests sacrificing a black cockerel at the new moon as well, although advice about how to predict which new moon is the one heralding more-than-the-usual filter anguish does not seem to be included.

# Different brands.  I try to make different mistakes.

++ Except, of course, outdoors, if there is a prospect of SOMETHING TO CHASE.  Although Chaos did manage to slam into a cupboard once back at the mews because he saw a mouse amble across the floor.

+++ Or possibly Fawn, Charcoal and Tri-Colour Tack

*** I bring the hellmob back to the cottage from Third House sequentially, hellhounds first and hellterror second.  I looooove the new system, by the way, because the Last Hurtle of the Day is built in, without recourse to Wolfgang, and can be any length I/we choose, depending on energy levels, the way the day/night has gone thus far, what is going to jump on me from a dark corner in the day to come, and a variety of other factors, lately chiefly the heaviness of the RAIN.^  Wednesday night I was coming back, as mentioned above, um, rather spectacularly late, which is to say, um, dawn, and noodling along not paying attention to anything much while Pav investigated every leaf, shadow and discarded crisp packet . . . and WE SUDDENLY MET ANOTHER WOMAN AND HER DOG.  OOOOOOPS.  The other woman and I looked at each other in amazement.  I never see anyone else out at this hour! she said.  Erm, I said, neither do I—failing to mention that I hadn’t been to bed yet.  She had all the irritating glitter of the early riser about her.

^ Have I mentioned that fleas like warm and wet and that one of the things that haunts me is the possibility that this unprecedented invasion is a front runner of global warming?  And I’m really looking forward to the return of malaria to southern England.  Not.

† The beginning of the week I had no email for nearly two days.  The middle of the week I had no internet for nearly two days.  I’ve been doing a lot of knitting.^

And my new kit—ultrabook and iPad Air—was supposed to be here by the end of this week so Raphael could install it next week AND GUESS WHAT IT’S FRIDAY NIGHT AND I HAVEN’T HEARD ANYTHING.

^ Which I promise or, if you prefer, threaten, will be the topic of a blog post soon.

†† This process is seriously disconcerting.  I turn on the gizmo programme from my end, it goes SHAZZAM!!!, my screen turns midnight-blue and suddenly Raphael, from however many miles away, is invisibly moving my mouse around and opening and shutting my files and my browser(s) and . . . eeeeep.

††† See, there was this peregrine nest dangling over the gruntzenjam ventilator of the main computer scorbovarg, and the operators all cried in one voice, RAPHAEL!^

^ He used a rope to keep up appearances.  An archangel hovering beside the Post Office Tower in central London would definitely cause a traffic jam.

 

 

KES, 146

ONE FORTY SIX

 

“But we need her!” cried the big man with the bloody sword.  “I—we—cannot hold without her!”  The tall, scruffy, scrawny black dog beside him sat down, pointed her nose at the ceiling and howled.  “Indeed we are not holding!” continued the man.  He rubbed his hand over his face;  the palm came away wet.  Dispassionately he looked at the smears of blood and sweat.  He scraped his hand down his filthy leather cuisse.  He was so tired he could barely raise his sword;  he who had held the way single-handed against the enemy at Dree for near to two hours. “This is not my world and I am weak here;  perilously weak.  Were it not for my two doughty companions this portal would be broken ere now;  broken past even your mending, Lady, till she could not come back.”

“You are not to such an awful pass yet,” said the Lady, not without sympathy;  but he thought she sounded grim and tired.  But all sounds grim and tired to me at this ill time, for grim and tired are what I myself am.

The dog beside him lifted her head again and howled.

I wish to howl too, he thought, but I may not, for it is not seemly.  Aloud he said:  “No, Lady, we are not, or ye and I could not thus speak.  But we who stand before ye”—and he was aware of a splintering, bobbing shadow somewhere behind him and the dog, making gestures, he guessed, not respectful of the Lady.  A little louder he went on:  “We do not hold;  we only deflect—a little.  There are things that should not be here, that have slipped by me—us—because there are too many of them and too few of us.”  And because the air in this place lies like lead upon my chest, and my eyes blur and tear, and my thoughts move slowly, and my arm slower yet.  “I fail, Lady.  I am failing thee.”

The Lady’s laughter was harsh and startling.  “You are nothing like failing, you great dolt.  Your strength and courage amaze me still, for all that I have known you so long.  No one else could hold this way;  I did not know if you could either—or if I were signing your death warrant by giving you charge to try.  I would send you aid if I could—I would send you her if I could—but I cannot.  I know that by cause of our strait there are things let loose in this world that should not be here;  we must hope that they will not thrive, like a water snake in a desert, or a bird of the tropics in a blizzard.”

She stood up, away from her desk, still holding the pen she had been writing with, restlessly drawing its speckled feather through her fingers.  The long elegant dog sleeping at her feet had been hidden by her skirts;  it looked up as she moved away.  The black dog at his side stiffened.  He looked down in surprise;  he would not have expected a dog of this world to be able to see into the Lady’s.  The seeing was hard enough for him, and he’d been trained to it, as he had been trained to ride and to use his sword.  “Tis only Topaz,” he said to the slender black head.  Topaz, as the Lady’s sighthound, could see anywhere the Lady saw;  she glanced at him at the sound of her name and her gaze was immediately caught by the bony, bedraggled sighthound beside him.  The two exchanged a long enigmatic look as the Lady turned back to him.

“We have had a few pieces of good fortune in this dire turmoil.  Murac is not the disaster I expected;  I could not believe the stones when they chose him—or,” she added drily, “that he did not run away when the fire and water and earth were brought to him.  But he did not.  And he now serves her voluntarily;  and unfortunately I think we have need of his—acumen.”

Guile, he thought, scowling.  Murac!  Deceit.  Dishonesty.  Dishonor. 

“And when she took her necessary wound, twas the Falcons at the Tower.”

He looked up at that, distracted from thoughts of the vile Murac.  “The Falcons?” he said, and he heard the unexpected hope in his voice.

“Indeed,” said the Lady.

“Is—” he began, not sure how to continue.

“She is,” said the Lady.  “But she believes no one has recognised her—recognised what she is.  Her colonel certainly has her eye on her, but only because she is a superb soldier, and rides that mad little mare of hers like a centaur.”

He found himself smiling.  The Lady smiled back.  “This moment is soon over,” she said.  “But our situation is desperate—not hopeless.  And your hob is welcome to be as rude to me as he wishes, so long as he stands by you and the path you guard.  He shall have a bowl of dragon milk at the end, if he desires, if I am still Lady at the completion of this affair, and can ask so hazardous a favour.

“And Sid . . .” she paused.  “Sid, my dear love, my darling, we are counting on you.  Our victory—or our defeat—depends, finally, on you.”

Pub day

 

Those ebooks you’ve been waiting for?  Today’s the day. . . . * 

Robin McKinley Ebooks

YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY.**  ::Confetti::  Fireworks?  Sure.  Why not.  Also fireworks.  And champagne.  Definitely champagne.

And if you forget, splendid Blogmom has put a permanent link in the right sidebar. ***

* * *

* Not that I want to lower the level from high exquisite thought-provoking literature that provides deep and astonishing insights into the paradoxical mind and authentic heart of humanity^ or anything like that but WE FINALLY HAVE A DISHWASHER AGAIN.  That is, the kind with a door in the front and a mains plug in the rear and lots of SHELVES in between and you PUT YOUR DIRTY DISHES in it and CLOSE THE DOOR and TURN IT ON . . . and go back to your book or your knitting or your piano^^ with a happy sigh.  I AM SO TIRED OF WASHING DISHES BY HAND.  Especially the part about redoing all the ones that Peter thinks he’s already washed.  Arrrrrrrgh.

^ Plus dragons, vampires, sighthounds, rosebushes etc.

^^ Also FINALLY I had a voice lesson today+ THAT WAS NOT A DISASTER.  This is the first non-disaster since the house move, I think, and the gruesomely long summer break during which I FORGOT EVERYTHING I HAD ONCE KNOWN and found myself incapable of relearning any of it in a strange new sitting room++ which was way too SMALL so I was making TOO MUCH NOISE. +++

+ Yes.  It’s usually on Monday only Nadia’s car broke.

++ Except it wasn’t strange!  It wasn’t new!  It is lovely friendly Third House and I am a MORON!#

# This is not news, of course.  Especially when applied to singing, knitting, bell ringing, etc.

^^^ I’m still making too much noise but I’m getting used to making too much noise.#

# Eeep.

**  Also YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY. ^

^ I’m not sure how you go about wrapping ebooks and putting them under the Christmas tree, but please try.

*** YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY BLOGMOM.

Happy Birthday* to Meeeeeeeeee** rererererererererererere[50 more times]visited . . .

 

Peter has asked me, several times and a little anxiously, over the last few days, if I was up for going out on my birthday.  YES.  I MEAN, I DON’T KNOW IF I’M UP OR NOT BUT I’M GOING.***  NEVER MIND THE FOOD, I WANT MY CHAMPAGNE.

The food was good too.†

And the flowers were excellent.

And the flowers were excellent.

That’s our tablecloth because I thought I wouldn’t shoot off my flash in the face of the lively and interesting family party at the next table and waited till I got home where the crashed-out hellmob don’t care.  But  I recognise our table on my birthday because of the flowers waiting for us.  Peter goes in to the florist’s next door and says ‘pink’.  Since we go to this restaurant every year the florist is probably learning to recognise him.

There is an art to taking selfies and it is not one of my arts.

There is an art to taking selfies and it is not one of my arts.

 

Although, speaking of going to the same restaurant, regular blog readers will probably recognise the mirror frame in the ladies’.  [Oops.  I’ve edited it out.  Next year.]  But they have installed an OBNOXIOUS NEW LIGHTING FIXTURE that is unromantic in the extreme and that my peculiar posture is trying to disguise.

 

Mainly what this looks like is a bad case of over-Vaselined lens.

Mainly what this looks like is a bad case of over-Vaselined lens.

 

She’s sixty-two today, you know.  She might want a lot of Vaseline on the lens.

Is this absolutely too frelling adorable or what?

Is this absolutely too frelling adorable or what?

And my favourite present.  Remember I went to a Spectacular Yarn Fair last March with Nina, who felt she wanted to start knitting again?  SHE MADE ME A RUFFLY SCARF.   She is golden.

. . . Although Peter is giving me a sat nav finally if I can frelling figure out which one to order.  I thought I had it all sorted—this is what I belong to WHICH? for, you go to their site, you are driven mad by the pop ups and the repeated demands to log in which you have already done, you read the reviews and you make an informed choice—and then I promptly fell, as into a large vat of ill-set custard, into a lot of customer reviews saying NO NO NOT THAT ONE.  Whimper.  Maybe I could just have Natty Bumppo on retainer.

Oh, and if you suspect you are seeing a knitting bag in the upper left hand corner of the photo, you are.  It says:  come to the Dark Side, we have yarn.  I think Fiona may have given it to me.  It contains the famous 12 mm needle project that I am advised I need a very large crochet hook or possibly a telephone pole with a hole punched in one end to weave in the ends with.

And, speaking of knitting

And, speaking of knitting

 

Notice knitting needles sticking out of fancy leather going-out-to-dinner bag.††  Ahem.  I’m so used to carrying vast swathes of my life around in my ordinary daily knapsack–which as a result weighs a TON AND THREE QUARTERS and people not eternally preoccupied with the terror of being caught somewhere without enough to read/do tend to make remarks–that when I have to wedge myself for a few hours into a Fancy Going Out to Dinner Bag there are AWFUL DECISIONS TO BE MADE.  In fact I don’t usually take my knitting to restaurants because (a) the light isn’t good enough and (b) I’LL PROBABY SPILL SOMETHING ON IT but the iPad goes as standard and it happens that most of what I’m presently reading is on e- and therefore I had space ordinarily taken up by hard copy AND THE KNITTING WON.  Furthermore I now have this deeply cool little (pink) narrow-beam light that Peter gave me for reading the prayer service in the frelling dark at the monks’, which would work just as well clipped to a napkin in a restaurant as to my collar in an abbey.

And now maybe I’ll knit a few rows and go to bed.  If the bed starts whirling when I turn the light off I will turn the light back on and knit a few more rows.  Garter stitch is great when you’ve had too much champagne.†††

* * *

 * I saw Alfrick last night and told him it was my birthday today.  So I got a happy-birthday email from him saying, Glad to see you last night while you were young.  —There’s nothing like^ a monk for that unique and astonishing degree of professional kindness and sympathy and profound insight into the human condition.  I’ve noticed it often with Alfrick.  BRAAAAAAAAAAAAAGH.

^ Fortunately

** With apologies for another KESless Saturday.  Friday night Street Pastors was . . . stressful.  You know if Hampshire is going to become the latest seething hotbed of excitable youth and popular with the feuding lout faction I’m frelling going to retire.  I didn’t sign on for all this commotion.  I signed on to stroll around passing out hot drinks to the homeless and flipflops to the overly high-heeled.  I can deal with a certain amount of off-the-wallness, both drug- and alcohol-related and/or the results of social-services failures.  I didn’t sign on to get involved in the stuff that the cops are for.  That’s what the cops are for.  Also, of course, I’m still barely frelling walking post-stomach-flu, and this has a certain dispiriting effect.  But yesterday was mostly another lost day, although talking to Alfrick was good in spite of his sense of humour.

*** You come too, like the poem says.  http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/173534

And seems to be staying where I put it, which is an important point.^

^ Champagne is of course noted for its stomach-soothing effects.+

+ What I want to know is if I start drinking only about eight hours after I got up in the cough-cough morning does that make me a LUSH?  Except this early (cough-cough) in the day approach to sin and heinousness does give you extra time at the other end to take your hellmob out for supernumerary hurtles to wear sin, heinousness and 12% alcohol off again.#

# ::pours a second pot of peppermint tea into the internal cauldron::

†† Some clever helpful person is going to say ‘circulars’.  I HATE CIRCULAR NEEDLES.

 ††† Non, je regrette rien.

The View from Here

 

I ate an apple this morning.  In fact I ate two.And I am still alive.  ::Beams::  Of course everything was downhill from there but the apples were fabulous . . .

I was thinking . . . it’s not all stomach flu, or the Samaritans, that my blogging has dropped so precipitously.  Some of it is what I had been saying for six and a half years or whatever it was by then, that if I stopped doing it every day I would stop doing it.  Although some of it certainly is the added time-and-energy demand of the Samaritans.**

But some of it is just the way my life is going.  At the moment there’s a lot less good public blog material than there was a couple of years ago.  I don’t want to wrestle with my involuntary two-year-old faith in public:  God is love and the world is a mess, whatever.  Why does accepting God as love immediately throw THE WORLD IS A MESS into unbearably sharp relief?  Discuss.  No, don’t.  And theology scares the living doodah out of me.  WHAT?  I was comforted recently by reading or hearing some frelling scholar saying that in the Middle Ages no one would have bothered debating the existence of God, and if you’d tried they’d look at you in bewilderment:  theirs was a practical faith and they just got on with it.  And when it’s all too much, which it usually is, I just get on with it too, here in the twenty-first century, although that plan is not without its drawbacks.  I went round to the estate agent’s today, the fellow who is (we hope) selling the mews for us, because he has a long list of councils, bodies, boards and free lance gardeners, haulers-away and electricians, whom he’s going to sic onto me, and those of you who know me know I do not do mornings, which councils, bodies, boards etc, are often regrettably fond of, and I wanted to emphasise that my passing references to being a late riser were particularly apropos these next two mornings because I had a late duty with the Sams followed by an all-nighter with the Street Pastors.  I knew he had already categorised me as peculiar*** but I could now see him staring at me as if I had six heads.

Sigh.

And then . . . well, for example, I have a recently-disabled friend whom I spend the evening with about once a week, to give both her and her regular carers a break.  I could make a very funny story of our experience this week when the latest piece of shiny!  New!  Expensive!  NHS kit got jammed in the frelling doorway because it was TOO WIDE TO FIT THROUGH.  The little squeezy lever didn’t squeeze it far enough.†  My friend lives in an ordinary, non-adapted house with, you know, ordinary sized doors.  Doesn’t the NHS, like, I mean, how obvious . . . um, measure the average apertures their home-care assistance machinery is going to have to NEGOTIATE WITH??  We went through some of this after Peter’s stroke too, but . . . GAH.  But while I’m the one that gouged some paint off the doorframe, the choice being gouge the sodding frame or call an ambulance and she voted for architectural damage, it’s still essentially not my story to tell.

I’ve told you before about the Samaritans’ pathological confidentiality, so there it’s like, telephone?  There are telephones in the Sams’ front office?  REALLY?  ::Drums fingers and looks clueless::  And I could have got a lot of stories, not very many of them funny although all of them redolent of human nature, out of the Street Pastors’ David Lynch Halloween.††  Or out of most SP shifts.  But while I know there are a lot of properly published and money-for-their-authors-earning memoirs out there about social-service work both professional and charitable most of my SP duties don’t feel like my stories to tell either.

Eh well.  I’m going to have to work on learning to recommend books or something.  I’ve got a pile of ‘must put these on the blog’ books about hip high at this point, leaning against the grandmother clock in the sitting room at the cottage.  I should also answer more forum comments.

Maybe I should just concentrate on KES.

* * *

* But not six.  But they were big ones.

** And there’s still that homeopathy course to wedge in somewhere.^  Blasted Darkness managed to put his back/neck/shoulders out again.  Arnica didn’t work, but rhus tox did.  I should do some reading up on frelling stomach flu to have a short list of plausible suspects if the subject comes up again WHICH IT’S NOT GOING TO OF COURSE.

^ I keep averting my attention from Japanese language lessons.  Sigh.

*** I have no idea why!  None whatsoever!

† Like trying to thread super-chunky-monster yarn into an ordinary tapestry needle.  HAHAHAHAHAHAHA.  Fluffy 12-mm size yarn won’t even fit through the big diamond-shaped wire opening of a needle threader, you know?  Now what?  Weave in the ends with my fingers?  Cut off the carefully preserved long frelling yarn tails and sew the ends in place?

†† Did I even tell you that the two people who had had possibly the worst Halloween night of anyone on the planet actually tracking Saturday night’s Street Pastors team down to thank them/us/SPs?  That was pretty frelling nice.

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