3 January 2017*
It’s our twenty-fifth wedding anniversary. Even if only one of us is here to celebrate it.
But I didn’t want you to think that I have been totally unvisited by the Christmas Spirit. Indeed there was an unexpected assault of Christmas Spirit a day or two before Christmas. We each reeled back from the encounter stunned. I think the Spirit was misled by the presence of Christmas trees. Yes.
I think this is your first glimpse of the Lodge? Downstairs it’s a long skinny essentially-one-room, the sitting room, which this is, the narrow end facing the street, and a long skinny added-on-as-civilisation-entered-the-mod-con-era kitchen at the back end, behind me as I take this photo. I have yet to convince the hellmob that this apparent raceway has not been appended to our regular habitation for the specific purpose of providing them with an indoor exercise arena. The hellhounds can be suppressed after a minute or two.** The hellterror, not so much but I’m working on it.*** Yes, that’s my piano, murkily in the background. Draped with tinsel.† These are actually the Boxing Day presents for other people, but still, you know, PRESENTS.†† MANIFESTATION OF CHRISTMAS SPIRIT.
And these are MY presents at the cottage. Which if the truth be known I still haven’t opened.††† See: Sigh. I’m thinking maybe on the 7th, when the memorial service anniversary is over with too.
At least the shortest frelling day is PAST for another year. Daylight is GOOD. I’m looking forward to MORE of it. ‡
* * *
* Yes. This should have gone up last night. You’re getting used to this dorky new system, aren’t you? I hope?
* Breathing counts as celebrating^, right? Plus another few kilos of Brussels sprouts?^^
^ Well okay I celebrated. I bought yarn at one of the gazillion on line New Year’s sales that are happening right now. I need yarn, of course. Like I need more books. But it’s PRETTY.+ And I spent less money on new yarn than it would have cost Peter and me to go out for a nice dinner, especially an especially-nice dinner ON OUR TWENTY FIFTH WEDDING ANNIVERSARY.
+ That’s what yarn is for, right? To be PRETTY? Oh . . . knitting. That too.#
# Stash Beyond Life Expectancy. Ahem.
^^ I have a hellterror at my feet in a daze of bliss. SHE WAS PERMITTED TO LICK THE GOOSE PLATTER.+ I thought she might die of joy.++ She’s asleep now, dreaming, no doubt, of this indescribable peak experience and wondering if it will ever happen again. Well, yes, next year, God willin’ and the crick don’t rise.
+ The really interesting part of the operation was cramming all the frelling bones in my slow cooker. Someone on the forum said she wants to try spatchcocking a goose. Good luck honey. Let us know how that goes. I was wrestling the already cooked and stripped carcase and thinking THIS BLOODY BIRD HAS BONES LIKE A RHINOCEROS WHAT HAPPENED TO THE SLENDER HOLLOW BONES OF BIRDS SO THEY CAN FRELLING FLY? Okay this is a big fat bred-for-the-table domestic goose and maybe it waddled. Maybe there are mini kitchen chainsaws for spatchcocking large fowl. In a tasteful assortment of decorator colours and a free pack of cocktail sticks with every purchase. I’m sure Jamie Oliver can spatchcock a goose. Daniel Craig can spatchcock a condor. With a cocktail stick.
I did eventually attain a sort of splintery origami and got the bones crammed into the crock pot. This should be very intense stock. Meanwhile the bowl of goose scraps looks pretty fine. Goose. Mmmmm.
++ Darkness was upstairs crashed out on the only (relatively) clear space of floor in my office, but Chaos was about six inches away in the hellhound crate and so far as I know he didn’t even blink. Any normal dog would, first, recognise the sounds of a plate being put on the floor in dog reach and, second, if he was of two minds whether it was worth investigating, would have further recognised the tiny broken moans of inexpressible ecstasy the hellterror was making.#
# Would she have objected to sharing the bounty? I doubt it. I’ve told you she’s surprisingly good at maintaining her assigned space at the bottom of the hierarchy and I’ve discovered this year, and while I wouldn’t trust her without my evil eye upon her, when the hellhounds are having a No We’re Not Eating This Week spell she will leave their untouched food alone. I find this nothing short of miraculous.~ But if Chaos had come to join in the goose-platter fun what she would have done is gone into hyperdrive to nail all the good bits before Chaos, in his mild, ambling manner, finished getting his head around the situation.~~
~ Mind you there is a lot of yearning. She will also, when it gets to be Too Much, go stand by the bar stool that is my desk chair in the kitchen, under which is where, when by some arcane magic the hellhounds have deigned to eat after all, I put their bowls because this is where and ONLY where she is allowed to slurp out the crumbs.@ We arrived at this compromise after some nerve racking experimentation. She feels that the state of ‘crumbs’ begins at about two-thirds of a full bowl. THEY’VE HAD THEIR CHANCE. IT MUST BE HER TURN. Um. No. To give her credit, she took my strictures about this in good part. She was pretty sure it was too good to be true. . . . But for a stomach on legs she does very well.
@ There are always crumbs with the hellhounds.
~~However. The latest development in inter-critter relations and hazards to hellgoddess sanity is that Chaos has developed a taste for cheese rind. I’ve been saving these from the beginning because I knew the hellterror would totally get off on cheese rind (yes). But I’ve told you that Chaos occasionally checks that I’m not dropping anything too interesting on the floor for the hellterror.@ So a few days ago I tried him on a bit of cheese rind. You could see the synapses fire and the eyes focus. Yes. So now when Chaos gets under my feet—and just by the way THERE IS NOT ENOUGH ROOM for both a hellhound and a hellterror to mill around me in the chopping-board corner between the sink and the Aga—I have the interesting challenge of trying to provide cheese rind for both participants.@@ That is, each participant. I know, I know, I could frelling train her to sit and wait—because she does both sit and wait, as when I’m putting food in her crate, the drooling and the trembling are her permissible artistic augmentations to this scenario—but that takes it to a whole new frelling level, and meanwhile Chaos would lose interest and there would be language. So at the moment—remember that Pav can count to four?—I sprinkle hers at a tiny distance and make the fourth one just a little harder to find and while SHE’S LOOKING FOR THAT FOURTH SCRAP SHE KNOWS THERE IS A FOURTH SCRAP, I formally offer Chaos his single, larger scrap which he accepts and chews thoughtfully. When I get it right, he swallows just as Pav races back round the counter-corner and slams into my leg.
REMIND ME WHY I HAVE DOGS.
Because they make me fun to watch.
@ He just wasn’t in the MOOD for a goose platter. He hadn’t eaten his supper, of course, but when I went to bed—the hellterror safely crated for the night—he was busy extracting the tiny shreds of goose buried among the kibble and tinned food.= Darkness usually goes along with the schmooze of human-food scraps mixed in with the dog food although you can see him doing the canine equivalent of eye-rolling. Not Chaos. Prehensile lips, that dog.
= Yes I know the old dog-training chestnut that you only leave the food down half an hour and if the dog doesn’t eat it you pick it up again and it thus learns that it must eat when you say so. And I reply to this: HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. Whoever this joker was, he never dealt with sighthounds.
@@ With reference to how inconvenient critter intelligence can be, I’m waiting for her to figure out that I stop dropping apple, carrot and broccoli stem and start dropping cheese rind if Chaos is there too. I can imagine the conversation:
Pav: Pssst. She’s chopping stuff. If we go hang out we can get cheese rind.
Chaos: I’m sleeping.
Pav: No you’re not. Cheese rind. You LIKE cheese rind.
Chaos: Mmmm . . . zzzzzzzzzzz.
Pav: CHEEEEEEEEESE RIIIIIIIIIIIND.
Chaos: [Does the hellhound opening one eye thing] Hmmm?
Pav: CHEEEEEEEEEESE RIIIIIIIIIIIIIIND.
Chaos: Oh. Oh. Yeah. Okay. [Floats to feet because, since he doesn’t eat, he doesn’t weigh anything, and drifts after earthbound hellterror toward resigned hellgoddess]
** And yes, you are also glimpsing a tangled riot of dog bedding blankets at the foot of all those boxes of backlist.
*** The additional complexity of the situation is provided by the fact that Damien lives next door and the hellmob tend to give voice when they are freaking out, and I don’t want to add to the already sulphuric fires about critter vocalese at the Lodge. At the cottage, while racing back and forth from kitchen and sitting room does occur with the occasional hunting cry^, I allow one or two audible manifestations of having a good time before I tell them to shut up. I can afford to allow a little brief indulgence at the cottage, where the only next-door critter in residence is Smiley, who doesn’t take my mob seriously.^^
^ It’s a huge red mark against any hunting dog, including sighthounds, that they bark on track of quarry. Just by the way.
^^ and I’m CAREFUL to keep it that way.
† One of the things about going from a Very Large House to a series of ever-smaller houses is that you have PLENTY OF THINGS LIKE TINSEL FROM WHEN YOU HAD 1,000,000 OF HALLS TO FESTOON.^ I am busy promising myself^^ that when I take the trees down again^^^ I will sort through the 1,000,000,000 boxes of Christmas decorations that I still seem to have although I SWEAR I had a good clear out at the mews. I. SWEAR.
^ I had a bad moment winding tinsel up the stair uprights however. I have a short stretch of open stair railings at the cottage—and we had them at the mews, not really at Third House—but not since the old house has the stair been centrally located, and the railings at the cottage are pretty much invisible under a heavy infestation of knitting project bags. Winding tinsel up the balusters at the Lodge I had one of those flashbacks. . . .
^^ Ha hahahahahahaha
^^^ February? May?
†† And the worst? The absolutely, unbelievably WORST? Signing the gift cards ‘love, Robin’. Just Robin. Robin, all by herself.
††† Friends who delivered gifts in person, I opened these, sure. Because the friends were there. Also one or two utterly mysterious parcels in the post. Some of these ‘deliver to another address’ web sites need to work on their gift card supply programme.
‡ I could do without this winter weather. Or I could do with a town council that takes its responsibilities seriously. You know, like gritting the frelling ROADS? I made the mistake of coming home from morning Mass by the back way last week—and this was past ten-thirty, for pity’s sake, because I’d stuck around after to pester monks—and was fishtailing all over the flipping doodah road. And I didn’t make it to Mass at all yesterday because my cul de sac was black ice and getting the hellmob hurtled was quite challenging enough, Wolfgang stayed in his stall. So to speak. And while the furries and I are out slithering^ I keep seeing sand trucks speeding by with large signs attached to their rear ends declaring SPREADING. I have yet to see them doing anything but ripping about the landscape promulgating misinformation.
So far the main roads are not too awful. I have a lot of late shifts at the Sams to get to and from safely, thank you. And while Wolfgang is a noble fellow, they don’t make yaktrax for tyres. And snow tyres in southern England should be overdoing it. I hope.
^ This weather makes it harder to convince them that the Lodge is not their private gym.
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