May 23, 2015

It’s Friday, it must be handbells


Have I told you I’ve gone back into therapy because I Am Not Coping with Reality Very Well Right Now?*  I went in for an assessment a while ago but it took them some time to find a slot for me.**  I’ve seen Metis a few times now and like her—if ‘like’ is quite the word you want to apply to your shrink—and have some hope that she’ll crack me open like whacking off the top of your soft-boiled egg with an egg-spoon.***  But it’s still early days.  Yesterday she taught me a relaxation technique.  Chiefly it served to demonstrate that I do not relax.   Nadia could have told her this.  Sigh.†

But weekly therapy meetings are one more thing on the schedule.  And in the last fortnight I seem also to have been to three concerts†† and not merely done my standard weekly Sam duty but the frelling occasional-required long overnight duty which reduces you to a little pile of sticky ashes even if you’re healthy††† plus picking up an extra (late, not everyone’s favourite time of day for some reason) duty when someone went down sick at the last minute.‡

And of course there’s still monks.  And singing.‡‡  And the hellmob.  And the garden, which is booming into early summer.  And bell ringing, although tower ringing has taken a hit the last fortnight due to all the other excitements.  But handbells . . . it’s Friday.  There were handbells.‡‡‡

* * *

* I’m an American, we believe in therapy.  And my best friend is a New Yorker and everyone in Manhattan is in therapy, it’s a civic ordinance.  You want to live there, you need to sign up with a therapist before you try to find a place to live.  Your rental agreement or your mortgage application will have a query on it something like ‘Are you currently actively engaged in seeking self-development by way of a professional relationship with a psychotherapist whose name appears on this year’s list of Persons Licensed to Charge More Than $1000 an Hour which you gladly disburse for the Privilege of Discovering What a Hopeless Dolt You Are?’  You need to be able to fill in the ‘yes’ box.  Residents of the Tri-State Area are given a tax rebate for being in therapy, although it doesn’t run to $4000 a month.  Hey, what do you want, healthy, well nourished children and a car that runs^ or greater self awareness?^^

^ All the festering DRIVING involved in my proliferating life-enrichment programmes is a pain.  It’s worth it but IT IS A PAIN.  And while I’m both a careful and a law-abiding driver I do kind of yell a lot.  I had a Classic Robin Moment on my way to my last voice lesson.  I was late, of course, because I’m always late, and I got stuck behind this moron going thirty-five miles an hour in a SIXTY MILE AN HOUR ZONE.  I was not doing my singing voice any good in my description of his heritage and his likely future.  Then we hit town—I’ve tried going the back way and all that happens is that I get stuck behind tractors, and that doesn’t do my singing voice or my blood pressure any favours either—and the slow wiggly main road was made even slower and wigglier by the plethora of frelling LORRIES parked on it while they unloaded shoes and sausages and hammers and mattresses into all the frelling shops.  So you and your soon to be overheating car are ducking back and forth from one single lane to the other, depending on where the latest lorry is parked and you are getting later and later for your voice lesson and CRANKIER AND CRANKIER.  Now, despite my malevolent views of other drivers, I’m quite the—ahem!—Samaritan about letting other drivers in, especially in a situation like this one where we’re all suffering.  Well I’d got stuck behind the final lorry and no one was letting me into the other lane.  Guess who finally did.  Yep.  Thirty Five Miles an Hour in a Sixty Mile an Hour Zone Man.  I waved gratefully but I hope he doesn’t lip-read.

^^ Note that Metis’ practise does not charge £646 an hour.  Trust me, I would not be there.

** It’s a group practise.  I imagine them sitting around at their admin meeting and saying, okay, we have an axe murderer, a pathological collector of HP Lovecraft t shirts^, someone who thinks they’re Napoleon/Marie Stopes/Edward Cullen and a writer with writer’s block . . . and a chorus of voices reply eagerly, I’ll take the axe murderer!  I’ll take Lovecraft, AT THE MOUNTAINS OF MADNESS is the best novel of the 20th century!  I’ll take Marie Stopes! . . . Silence.  I am fully booked, says the person remaining.  I totally must shampoo the cat, and then sort the contents of the kibble bin by size.  Fluffy is so particular.  I can’t consider taking on a new client till someone else has been desperate enough to take the wri—I mean, probably not till next year.

^ ::whistles::

*** Personally I scramble my eggs.  But Peter does the egg-spoon trick.

† Note to self:  Metis and Nadia must never meet.

†† If Jackie Oates comes anywhere near you and/or you have a friend who is willing to do the driving, speaking of driving,^ and unless you are one of these poor sad creatures who doesn’t get good folk music, go.  And listen especially closely to the newly arranged and adapted 21st-century lyrics to A Cornish Young Man, which are delicious.

^ Fiona and I found a new yarn shop.  I was doing pretty well+ till I made the mistake of checking out the sale bin again.  I had thought on the way in that the Yarn Pet percentage might be a little perilous but at that point I had a whole shop to be endangered by and adrenaline was running high.  And I then managed (mostly) to resist the breathtakingly gorgeous single-skein small-local-indie-dyers gauntlet, chiefly because I have some self-protective resistance to spending more than a New York City shrink’s hourly rate on a one-off that there isn’t even enough of to make a scarf.  A fichu maybe.++

AND THEN I WENT BACK TO THE FRELLING SALE BIN.  Alpaca is evil.  Especially when it is mixed in big fat fluffy skeins with merino.  You can frelling hear it purring when you cradle it in your arms.+++

+ I say nothing about how Fiona was doing

++ If you’re small and flat-chested.

+++ Dogs purr too, you know.  At least every dog I’ve ever had purrs when it settles in your lap.  Whether it fits in your lap or not.

††† And/or stay up late and don’t do mornings anyway.  Although some annoying person^ has pointed out that I do do mornings, I do a lot of mornings, I just do the, you know, little end.

^ I never name names on this blog but this particular person is very annoying about handbells.+

+ What do you mean you can’t ring handbells tomorrow, the next day, the day after that and three times on Madnessday?  —GO AWAY.  YOU’RE RETIRED.  SOME OF US ARE STILL WORKING FOR A LIVING# AND FURTHERMORE MAY POSSIBLY DO OTHER THINGS IN THEIR SPARE [SIC] TIME THAT AREN’T HANDBELLS. ##

# Or at least staring despairingly at an empty computer screen regularly.

## Aren’t . . . handbells? this person murmurs brokenly.

‡ And this potent sacrifice was absolutely worth it for the barrage of brownie points thus accrued.  I can probably spill scalding coffee on the director/the fancy new computer/the delicately poised for heightened reactivity electronic fire alarm and no one will say anything.

‡‡ Your Body Is Your Instrument I Wish I Had Taken up the Guitar When I Was a Teenager Like Everyone Else Did.  Nadia told me the last time I was beating up Batti Batti O Bel Masetto to skip the allegro, which has all those frelling runs in it AND goes up to a high B.  Last time, as I recall, I did leave it alone.  This time I was idly leafing through it again when a little light went on and I said, Hey!  It’s a B flat!  I can (usually) get to B flat!  —So, occasionally, late at night^, when my voice is feeling all relaxed^^ and warm and willing I sing the allegro.  I can’t frelling sing and play the piano at the same time, but I do have a finger poised to hit that B flat to make sure I’m hitting it, if you follow me.  I usually am, in my squeaky un-self-confident and death-defying-not-in-a-good-way way^^^.

And next time through I can’t hit G.  I can always hit a friggleblasting doodahing G, give me a flapdoodling BREAK.  Yes, I can always hit a G, except right after I’ve hit an A sharp/B flat and my voice says NO WE DON’T DO THAT and shuts down.  That’s SHUTS. DOWNArrrrrrgh.  And then it’s back to Edwardian parlour ballads till it forgives me.  ARRRRRRGH.

^ Or in a little morning hour

^^ Sic

^^^ Yes I can hear the unglefrakking difference when Nadia manages to persuade me to float down from above a note rather than ramping up at it from underneath like a guerrilla attack on a dangerous enemy.  Sigh.  Sometimes I’m very flat indeed.  Sometimes I just . . . sound like I’m attacking an enemy I’m terrified of.+  SIGH.

+ I also indulge in a concomitant worry that St Margaret’s will decide they’re not that desperate for singers at the evening service.

‡‡‡ And brownies.  I had told Niall firmly that if there were no brownies I would remember a prior engagement.  What prior engagement? said Niall suspiciously.  Well, I forget, I said, there are brownies, right?

The Once and Future Blog*




* * *

I have started and restarted and re-re-re-restarted this blog post any number of times in the last fortnight and become variously distracted and imbroglio’d** and then at blurglemmph o’clock decided (again) that sleep was possibly more crucial than getting it finished.  And in terms of immediate preoccupations late on a Saturday night, like, now, I have another voice lesson on Monday, and it might be quite a good idea if I went to it WITH SOMETHING TO SING, especially since Nadia recently said briskly that I should increase my practise time and never mind that I think that being the Mad Singing Lady out with the hellmob counts.***  A fortnight ago, after this alarming statement, I came home and rootled anxiously through my extraordinary amounts of sheet music, 99.3% of which is pure and unsullied and the remaining .7% is dog-earned, written on, liberally tea†-spotted and only half-learnt.  But:  Mozart.  When in doubt, Mozart.   

Which pertains to some of the following.  The problem is that both verb tenses and footnotes get a trifle provocative . . . not to say hopelessly confusing . . . when written on the run over a period of time.  Even I can become only so disastrously tangential over the course of one evening. . . .

Therefore the following may be even more incomprehensibly non-linear than usual.  I know.  Mind boggling.  I’ll wait if you want to fetch smelling-salts (or Scotch) to have at hand before you make any attempt to engage with this misleadingly text-shaped object.  Good luck.

* * *

* I am reading H IS FOR HAWK^ and T H White is kind of on my mind.

^ So are you, right?  Everyone is reading H IS FOR HAWK.+

+ Which is a very good book.  But since everyone is reading it nobody needs to be told to read it.  Everyone should be reading MS MARVEL which is spectacularly wonderful in so many ways.  Now, everyone may be reading this too and it may just be that I am humiliatingly out of the loop# but even I had heard of H IS FOR HAWK before I made a pact with Hannah that we’d both read it so we could talk about it and I had not heard of MS MARVEL till I tripped over raving, lunatic mention of it on some drooling feminist blog or other and thought oh, okay.  A Muslim kick-ass comic-book heroine?  Yep.  I’m totally there.    

I’ve just been saying to my monk I am so ratblasted TIRED of the gender wars.  And turning Christian has thrown me into a whole seizure of fresh front lines about this since, of course, the origins of Christianity ARE HEAVILY FRELLING PATRIARCHAL and we’re still fighting this battle two thousand years later.  I don’t care what the Ephesian thugs say, or that frellwit Paul##, the head of me is me and not some up-himself bloke. 

But if you’re a woman in a male-biased society you can’t, you know, pass.  You’re a woman all the time.  You’re up against it ALL.  THE.  TIME.  When I was younger I had only two settings about this:  ON.  And OFF.  My younger ON was extremely, um, draining, so I would periodically flip the switch and lapse into a black leather, studs and pink All Stars haze of apparent submissive femininity, and if any testosterone dingdong wanted to assume the wrong thing so long as he kept it to himself I would not endeavour to hand him his balls on a plate.###  Because it was all going to change, you know?  It was going to CHANGE.

This runs parallel to my foolish assumption that by the time I was the age I am now we’d’ve got the available heroines in books thing sorted.~  My generation of writers was going to sort this.  I wasn’t too surprised~~ about the initial deluge of OHMIGOD A HEROINE WHO ISN’T WET AND HOPELESS about Harry in SWORD . . . I’m depressed out of my tiny aging mind that forty years later I’M STILL GETTING THESE LETTERS.  Or emails.  There are more genuine heroines out there . . . but there aren’t enough.  THERE AREN’T ANYTHING LIKE ENOUGH.  And the unconscious—or anyway I hope the doodah it’s unconscious—chauvinism about men’s and women’s writing . . . don’t get me started.~~~

But the point is I didn’t think the gender wars would have come so not far in the last forty-odd years.  I’M BORED.  I’M BORED WITH ALL THE STUPIDITY.  And I’m driven spare by being dropped about two thousand years back in social-equality time . . . WOMEN IN THE MINISTRY SHOULDN’T EVEN BE A PHRASE LET ALONE AN ISSUE.

Oh, and on the unassailable perfection and clarity of Scripture, here concerning the sacrament of marriage?

. . . At least having just had a state-of-the-world tantrum at my monk I was a little bit extra warm.  Afterward I went to the monks’ chapel for the Saturday evening silent contemplation before the prayer service.  It’s the middle of May, it’s shirtsleeve weather, I didn’t bring my blanket, how cold can it be in shirtsleeve weather, I NEARLY FROZE TO DEATH.  Next week I bring the blanket.  And the monk who calls me Blanket Lady may rupture himself laughing. 

# True

## I should add however that I have a curious soft spot for Paul, ranting nincompoop that he often is.  I sure never used to:  he and that toadwart Augustine were two of the flaming angels keeping me out of the holy green room.  But I empathise with the shock of Paul’s conversion experience even if I hadn’t been torturing Christians before I had my own shocking conversion experience.  I see a lot of his more distressing extremes as overcompensation.  I haven’t ever killed anybody so I can overcompensate less. 

### I also had a black boyfriend.  Speaking of passing and not passing.  I could at least jam a fireproof lid over my real attitude and put on a skirt and some pearl-pink lipstick.  If you’re a black man over six feet tall hanging out on the streets of America?  Pass?  Forget it.

A bit like being a Muslim in a Christian-centric society, perhaps.

~ I’m not going to say ANYTHING about the rest of the arts/media.  Film, for example.  ARRRRRRGH.  And the Tate’s summer issue devoted to female artists didn’t do a lot for me either. 

~~ Beyond the—continuing—surprise that strangers read my stories. 

~~~ Looking on the bright side:  the current award-sweeping literary phenomenon, H IS FOR HAWK, is written by a woman.

** Including, but not exclusively, such activities as Twitter, texting, emailing, ordering pink All Stars,^ reading, frantically channelling all that sappy riotous green spring enthusiasm in the garden before the leafage takes over and the hellmob and I can’t get out of either door without a machete, learning more diabolically frelling methods for handbells, Samaritanning, force feeding the blasted hellhounds, plus long bluebell walks and a curious spasm of concerts.  You know how when you book your cultural enrichment programme ahead your diary looks EMPTY?  And then suddenly you find you’re going to fifty-six performances in eight days.  Oops. 


+ And while I was at it I bought a pair of turquoise with red and yellow flowers.  They were on sale, there was a pair in my size, it was meant. 

*** Well, it does count.  It’s just that it counts in terms of coming home all warmed up and ready to practise rather than wasting a lot of time whining about having no voice and what there is of it sounds like a broken buzz saw.  And, unlike singing folk songs and Edwardian parlour ballads to the trees and bluebells, whining is not a good way to warm up. 

† And probably tear-

* * *

If I had any sense I’d break this up into two or even three posts.  There’s enough frelling wordage.  But if I do that I’ll just not get any of it up AGAIN while I try to tidy up the edges.  And fail.  So that when I finally do start posting it’ll be EVEN MORE CONFUSING.*  So don’t read it all at once, okay?  It’ll keep.  So will the Scotch and the smelling salts.

* You wouldn’t want me to WASTE any of it would you?^

^ . . . Don’t answer that.  Please.

* * *

I have rung handbells four times in the last forty eight hours.*  I am brain fried.  I am crazy.** 

But it’s a useful displacement activity.  I also went to an entirely fabulous ‘operatic singing masterclass’ recently enough for my head still to be ringing like an, ahem, bell:  Nadia has mentioned singing masterclasses and festivals and summer schools before that I might be interested in attending as an audience member but they tend to be held in unsuitable places.***  I had all but given up the intriguing fantasy of sitting in the audience at a singing seminar listening to people who can really sing being enlightened and inspired to sing even better and being personally crushed with despair and futility† and swearing to stick to KNITTING hereafter.

Nadia had told me some of the things to listen out for but had also warned me that I wouldn’t necessarily be able to hear either what the tutor heard or what changed for the singer.  It wasn’t going to matter:  it was still going to be a delicious and varied concert by a lot of clever skylarks and nightingales showing off like mad.  But as it happened I did hear.  This was a lot of why it was all so edge-of-seat fascinating.  In a lot of cases I could even guess what the tutor was going choose to work on.

And on balance, and surprisingly, it was more inspiring than it was crushing.  Probably because the stuff that all these talented, fancy people need to work on is still the same stuff that pathetic, talent-free dorks like me also need to work on.  It’s all the same stuff.  We’re all still human beings making music.  Even if they are the shiny dancing racehorses and I’m the three legged Thelwell pony.

* * *

* It’s all Niall’s fault, of course.  How the cross-eyed bindlestiff did I get sucked back into this frelling vortex of HANDBELLS?  And I’m now contributing to the cacophonous plague:  I was talking it up to Vidhya and Ceridwen^ and they were foolish enough to express an interest so Niall and I showed up like a plague of locusts two Saturday mornings bearing handbells and large, toothy grins.^^  Friday evening has been the standard New Arcadia handbell gathering for several years and I used to be a pillar of that community and recently have been becoming more pillar-like again.^^^  Saturday afternoon began as a one off with Niall finding a steady experienced fourth for Spenser and me to ring with, but of course there are no one offs with Niall about handbells. 

Sunday evening was demonic.  Niall knew I was going to church in the afternoon^^^^ and so he said Mwa hahahahahaha, now, as it happens, Titus and I are minus a third ringer tonight and since you’re free. . . .

And so today, Monday, I stayed as far away from all bells and frelling change ringing bell METHODS as possible, right?  Right.  Yes.  Absolutely.  I went tower bell ringing.  At Glaciation.  Haven’t been there in yonks.  It hasn’t got any warmer.  And it took me three tries to get through a frelling single in Stedman doubles SIIIIIIIIIIIGH.^^^^^

^ They’re significantly younger than I am+ and I was probably trying to convince them that getting old doesn’t necessarily mean creeping++ sanity and sobriety+++ and that indeed the pink All Stars are a true reflection of my inner being.++++  Plus bell ringing and singing opera really, really badly.  Really badly.

+ As, mysteriously, increasing numbers of people are

++ you know, like fungus

+++ We were down t’pub at the time.  Just by the way. 

++++ Including the muddy pawprints.  SIIIIIIIGH.  I have a spectacular new pair of REALLY REALLY HOT NEON PINK All Stars# which I was foolishly wearing today hurtling the hellterror by the river and we met an OBVIOUSLY DANGEROUS OTHER DOG## and in tearing her away from her legitimate prey I received major mud activity over most of one leg of pale blue denim and a generous speckly blast worthy of Jackson Pollock over one All Star.  Sigh.### 

# I was down to my VERY LAST PAIR of basic Pepto-Bismol pink. EEEEEEEP.  Had to lay in a couple of spare pairs in case of accidents.~  The problem with this excellent plan is that there are two Basic Pinks presently on offer on line.  So I bought one of each, right?  One of them proves to be the Pepto-Bismol.  The other one is NEON.

~ Invasions of sneaker-eating aliens, etc.  It doesn’t do to be unprepared.

## Clearly a sneaker-eating alien disguised as a harmless terrestrial dog.  Pav is very clued in about these things.

## But the alien slunk away swearing to lead a virtuous life hereafter and convert to donuts. 

^^ It remains to be seen if they’re still speaking to me.

^^^ Possibly caryatid-like.  I identify with that grim stalwart expression of carrying something too large and heavy.  On your head.  Learning frelling bell methods, especially in the geometrically-horrifyingly-enhanced handbell version of said methods, is really very like carrying a large building on your head. 

^^^^ Because I am stupid and have a big mouth.  Usually I go in the evening and it’s a funny thing but Christ wins over handbells.+  But this Sunday afternoon was a special ‘remembrance’ service for friends and family lost in the last year.  I was going for Alcestis and it seemed to me only polite to invite Admetus.  It never occurred to me he’d say ‘yes’.  And when I picked him up HE WAS WEARING A TIE.  I DIDN’T KNOW ADMETUS EVEN OWNED A TIE.  I nearly jumped out of Wolfgang and ran away.

+ Although when the Jesus Is My Boyfriend song selection is at its worst my mind may just drift to Sunday evening handbells.#

# It wasn’t The Little Drummer Boy, you know.  It was The Little Handbell Gang.  I’m not at all sure the baby smiled either.  And it seems to me very likely that Mary said Get these people out of here.    

^^^^^ BUT I DID IT.  It still counts.#

# Edited to add:  I’ve done it since too.  So it still still counts.

** Although I believe these two attributes are frequently found in the same trembling zombie-eyed victim.

*** Most places are unsuitable.  I don’t drive on motorways, I don’t drive for more than about forty-five minutes to get to anywhere at all, and I have a hellhound that needs a pee about every four hours.^  Six on a good day.  I have the impression that the hellmob goes into a state of suspended animation when I leave them all behind:  nothing is going to happen till she gets back.  This is useful in bladder control terms.  If Chaos is keeping a hopeful/suspicious eye on me as I twitch around the house muttering to myself he will need to go out in four hours.

But this is somewhat limiting.  I keep looking at live-opera schedules and homeopathic seminars and sighing heavily.  Because I have so little to keep me busy at home, you know.  But I am not going the dog minder route again ^^.  So I might as well stay home and practise my repertoire.  And continue the tragically hopeless quest for a homeopathic, herbal, behavioural or any other multiply-damned remedy that doesn’t include either barbed chains or hard drugs, that will make the hellhounds eat voluntarily.^^^

^ Bless his pointed little middle-aged prostate but he made it through the masterclass.  They’d frelling printed the frelling tickets wrong:  I thought I was going to have just enough time to, you should forgive the term, hurtle back home and let everyone out during the break, but not a hope.  I tried to convince myself either to miss the first singer after the break or leave before the last but I was too totally riveted by the show.  I told myself that it wouldn’t be the absolute WORST thing that ever happened if I came home to a puddle on the floor.  Or on the wall.+  I leave them locked up in the kitchen at the cottage:  there should be a limit to the amount of damage they can do. 

Anyway I arrived home to dry floors++ but Chaos was very glad to see me. 

+ Ewwwwww.  I can’t remember ever noticing that come-ons for house paint ever mention urine resistant. 

++ And walls.

^^ ::breaks out in a cold sweat of terror::

^^^ Eat? says the hellterror alertly.  FOOOOOOOOD??

† Which is no doubt why I came home and fished out Mozart, since several of the Singers with a Fabulous Future sang Mozart.  Knot those self-flagellation straps.  More knots.  Even more knots.  We will have blood