Fiona and I had a Yarn Adventure today. And about time too: we haven’t seen each other since November. Life: what a ratbag.
Admittedly there is usually a high gremlin count when Fiona and I get together but today they weren’t half trying. We were going to set off at two, which in our case usually means before 2:30, well, maybe, if we’re lucky. Fiona usually texts me as she leaves the house*.
No text. Well, whatever, and we got on with hurtling and then with feeding me**.
Still no text. Prepare to feed critters, since I was going to put it down as I left. Sometimes this intrigues hellhounds sufficiently to stimulate them to eat.
Still no text.
Dither. Feed critters.***
Okay, now I’m worried. I have checked Pooka several times. Nothing.
I’ve hung the laundry and washed all the lunch dishes† which is of course nicer to come home to but WHERE IS FIONA?
Pooka barks, and I make a slightly dish-soapy dive for her. I have the feeling my texts aren’t getting through, says Fiona’s voice. I HAVEN’T HEARD ANYTHING FROM YOU SINCE LAST NIGHT TILL THIS PHONE CALL.
Well, I’ll be there in three minutes, she said. And as she rang off, Pooka chirruped and SEVEN MESSAGES POPPED THROUGH. ARRRRRRRRRRRRGH.
The day improved from there however. Our chosen yarn shop was having a MOVING TO NEW PREMISES sale and . . .
I’ve been wanting FEARLESS KNITTING for yonks but, you know, it persists in being full price. The dark auburn yarn is Debbie Bliss Winter Garden which I have also wanted for yonks but it’s too frelling expensive, and the green and gold down front is Louisa Harding Grace Hand Beaded which etc. And the other stuff is just . . . um . . . shiny? And when a pattern book only costs £2 you only need to like one pattern in it. . . .
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* This text will read ‘I’m running a little late because . . .’ Mind you, if she’s not running late, I’m in deep trouble.^ Today’s non-arriving text however informed me that her car had broken down and she was negotiating to borrow her parents’.
^ The hellhounds would like this. It might mean I didn’t have time to FEED them before I left. The hellterror, of course, would chew her way through the front door and come after me if I tried any such thing but I wouldn’t DARE. Also feeding the hellterror is easy. Open nearest tin, throw contents in general hellterror direction, add a handful of kibble if you’re feeling persnickety, and don’t stand too close or she’ll eat the toes off your shoes. The hellhounds . . . it starts with cutting up the chicken scraps SMALL ENOUGH that Chaos, in particular, who has prehensile lips, can’t just hoover up the chicken, and you need to stir the kibble in really well because any that has not been touched by the magic chicken-stock wand will be instantly rejected as dry and tasteless and beneath delicate hellhound dignity.
Unfortunately for them, however, I had allowed time for the careful creation of appropriate hellhound comestibles. It didn’t work though. They still didn’t eat it.+ That look in Chaos’ eyes says: if you didn’t mix it in so well I’d’ve at least eaten the chicken.
+ Do I have to bother to tell you that the hellterror ate hers? No? I didn’t think so.
** Moans of protest from the hellterror who is, furthermore, sitting on my feet, just to make sure I haven’t forgotten her. YOU JUST ATE BREAKFAST TWO HOURS AGO. YOU ARE NOT STARVING. Also, sitting on my feet is counterproductive. You are heavy. You are obviously getting plenty to eat.^
^ I was out hurtling hellhounds recently.+ People frequently stop us to be goopy over them. Mostly their admirers stick to telling me how beautiful they are, but occasionally someone wants to find it funny that we’re all skinny and leggy. Hellhounds are also now quite grey in the face so we’re all skinny, leggy and old. But some dork came up to us the other day and was in grave danger of rupturing himself over the sheer hilarity of owners who look like their dogs.++ I stared him in the eye. I have a bull terrier at home, I said. I did not mention the ‘mini’ part. He stopped laughing and edged away prudently.
+ In my life I can always say I was out hurtling hellhounds recently. And hellterror.
++ I wondered what his frelling problem is. I have no idea, of course, but he was a big flashy maybe forty-ish dork, and looked a bit like someone who was maybe rolling into midlife crisis and in a mood to be snarky about some post-menopausal hag who is refusing to stay home with her TV and her memories but is out cluttering up the pavement wearing jeans, All Stars and long hair, and walking her dogs like she thinks she still has a purpose in life. I don’t like big flashy forty-ish dorks who think looming over me and being scornful is a fun thing to do.#
# Speaking of testosterone poisoning, yesterday I was creeping up the hill to the mews in Wolfgang, which little journey is another of those absolutes in my life, going at 30 mph which happens to be the speed limit. And I was passed by five motorcycles. FIVE. Streaking past, whing whing whing whing whing. What the what the what the I can’t even. And there is all this bushwa about how cars are supposed to be careful of motorcycles. I don’t know if this is nationwide or just around here, but there are posters all over the landscape saying THINK BIKE. How about if BIKERS think at all? I’ve been a motorcyclist, as long-term readers of this blog know, and it is absolutely true that people driving cars can be amazingly stupid and dangerous about bikers and this is a large part of the reason I stopped driving a bike while I still had all my body parts intact . . . but the frelling majority of the motorcycle accidents around here are caused by male bikers being assholes: yesterday at least I was only going 30. Being passed by some dinglenut on a 60 mph road that is only just two lanes wide with hedgerows on either side . . . going around a curve? Yes. I have.
*** Ecstasy of the Hellterror.
† Except, of course, hellhound bowls, since they haven’t eaten anything.
Peter’s had another fall.
I went to the Easter Vigil at the monks’ last night and it wasn’t over till after eleven—and then they fed us tea and cakes.* So I got home late and it took me forever to wind down** and eventually went to bed late even for me.***
I’d left Peter a note that I wasn’t going to make our 11:30 pick up—since the stroke he walks into town to buy a newspaper, he’s old-fashioned like that, and I appear with Wolfgang and a backseat full of hellcritters at the appointed hour and take all of us down to the mews. My note said that I’d ring him.
I rang him at 11:30, after about half an hour of evolving wakefulness, swearing and caffeine, and said I could be at the pick-up point at 12:30. I’m not coming, he said. What? I said. I’ve had a fall, he said: It’s okay.
IT’S NOT OKAY. WHY DIDN’T YOU ******* RING ME.
I knew you went to bed late last night, he said. I didn’t want to bother you.
AAAAAAAAAAAUGH. WHY DO I TAKE POOKA TO BED WITH ME? WHY DOES SHE LIE ON THE EDGE OF THE BOOKSHELF RIGHT BY THE BED HEAD, RIGHT NEXT TO MY ALARM CLOCK, SO I CAN’T POSSIBLY NOT HEAR HER IF SHE RINGS?† LIKE, IF YOU GET IN TROUBLE AND COULD USE MY HELP?††
It’s okay, said Peter. I’m fine.
Well . . . as falls in the bath when you’re eighty-six years old go, yes, he’s pretty healthy. He still looks like an extra from one of the battle scenes in BRAVEHEART. Meanwhile I was down to sing at St Margaret’s tonight†††, it’s Easter, and—I’ve told you this, haven’t I?—the Master of Music, whom we shall call Mr Bach‡, has decreed that there shall be no more than THREE singers, so if one of us doesn’t show it’s a bit conspicuous. So I viewed my gory husband‡‡ with disfavour‡‡‡ and declared I was going to church as scheduled.
Aloysius had sent us our list of six—six—songs gallantly early in the week, which chiefly gave me time to freak out.§ Also there have been one or two other things going on. And then I got there tonight and after having a brisk lesson in being a roadie (‘plug that in there—and that in there—and that in there’§§) I discovered that what we were performing only bore a genetically modified family resemblance to the YouTube links. Arrrrrgh. Oh, and I’d’ve made a hole in the line up if I’d cancelled? There were only two of us singers. ARRRRRGH.§§§
But there were big handfuls of chocolate eggs on all the little café tables that we gather around at the evening service. Eat up, said Buck. I don’t want any left. Hey, singing in front of an audience burns a lot of calories.# And there was roast chicken when I got home.
* * *
* Banana coconut cake to die for, just by the way. I’m going to ask Alfrick if there’s a recipe.^ There was also hot chocolate for anyone who can deal with dairy. Siiiiiiiigh.
^ Alfrick’s a good cook. Experienced in producing lavish spreads for mobs with varying dietary requirements.
** Christ is risen, you know. The Anglicans raise him Saturday night which is fine with me—I’m not invested in the three days thing, I want the Friday part over as fast as possible—plus driving. That the Saviour lives is exciting enough but driving a car really winds me up.
*** . . . Never mind.
† That is, barks.
†† And it’s worse than that. He fell in the bath. The bath apparatus the NHS physios tried to set up didn’t work with him in this bath, so they took it away again. And he has insisted on going on having his bath in the morning when I’m not here rather than the evening when I am. It was clear I wasn’t going to win this battle and purposeless bloodshed does not appeal, so I let it go. Even knowing it was an accident waiting to happen, it’s not like I could lock the bathtub when I left at night. But . . . he fell in the bath having spent most of half an hour trying to get out of it first. He fell in the bath having spent most of half an hour trying to get out of it with HIS phone within easy reach.
I’m running away from home to join a convent.^
^ Also, the Nightmare of Hellhound Digestion continues.+
+ And by current indications Darkness is planning on dragging me all over Hampshire again later tonight. Joy.
††† I know Easter is supposed to be pretty epic, but . . . it is. And bouncing between St Margaret’s and the monks for the last few days has rendered me even more la-la-la-la than I would be anyway: if you’re going to engage with the Easter story, it’s going to rip you up pretty extensively, and I’m old to be learning graphic new skills.
Generally speaking I find St Margaret’s less embarrassing because it’s less formal. But in the can’t-take-me-anywhere category . . . Good Friday at the monks includes the abbot and some candle-holders and incense-swingers doing an abbreviated Stations of the Cross which finishes with everybody else queuing up to genuflect and kiss the cross that was sequentially unwrapped during the Stations. My turn: I managed the genuflection without killing anyone but I misjudged the bending-forward business and managed to impale my face on the sticky-out bits of the cross. Wounded by God. Good . . . grief. Fortunately the cross was being held by two stalwart young men, possibly in expectation of someone like me, so no damage done. Except to my face, of course.
At least I managed to cross myself a couple of times at more or less the right moment without poking myself in the eye—or in my neighbour’s. I’ve made a few hopeless attempts to find out what the actual system is at a high-Anglican service but since it apparently varies from church to church and priest to priest anything google might be able to teach me would turn out to be wrong. It would also be helpful if the actual order of service books produced BY the monks for their attendees were frelling accurate. And why does everyone else in the congregation seem to know which bits to ignore?
‡ PDQ. I am not a fan of a Master of Music who limits singers to three.
‡‡ Head wounds BLEED. Also he’s on Warfarin. Whimper.
‡‡‡ Georgiana was here this afternoon, and in a family notorious for its bossy women we may be the two bossiest. And Peter stood up to both of us with aplomb and dispatch^ so he probably is okay.
^ Including things like chaining himself to the railing rather than be taken to A&E.
§ Also . . . I rather like one of them. Oh God I am losing my musical integrity.
§§ I think the church’s bass amp is about as old as I am.
§§§ Tonight’s other singer, Janey, who has been singing at St Margaret’s for many years, said, somewhat grimly, in response to my craven desire for sheet music, that learning any given song is of limited usefulness on the night since every leader performs it differently. She picked up the lyric-only sheet of our first song. This one, she said. Aloysius plays it one way. Buck does it another. PDQ does it yet another. Samantha another. Are there any other leaders? They do it differently too.
# And my husband seems to have hidden the GIGANTIC chocolate egg another branch of the family brought us on Saturday. I have to get my ellipsoidal chocolate fix somehow.
## Although the Darkness situation is still outstanding. And I’m trying to decide if I should wake Peter up before I leave and make sure nothing new has swollen or developed bruising and his pupils are still the same size as each other.
I’ve been accepted for training by the Samaritans. http://www.samaritans.org/
It’s a serious commitment in both time and energy: the first training module is ten half-days in six weeks and begins in about a fortnight. Then they start putting you to work. You’re expected to rack up fifty-two duty shifts in a year—so one a week: if you want to take a holiday, you have to squeeze a few more shifts in elsewhere. There’s a second training module later in the year, and a continuing-training requirement of (I think) two half-days a year for as long as you’re a volunteer.
My initial interview process was made just a trifle more interesting by nine days without a car, and as a result I got in under the wire last Friday. I received the email saying ‘you’re in, clear your diary’ on Saturday.
And here’s the official notification: I’m cutting back drastically on the blog. No, really. As of tonight it will NO LONGER BE DAILY. I’m not sure what I’m cutting back to: two days a week, maybe, plus or including KES.*
This has been coming for a while. I know I keep saying I’m cutting back, and then I don’t. There’s an ‘all change’ blog from a year ago January—and in fact I have cut back. But not enough. God** and commuting and three hellcritters take a lot of time.***
But that the blog as I have been insanely pursuing it is no longer tenable has really been written on the wall in six-foot letters of fire since the end of last year. This is really dumb but it’s also dead common: your spouse or partner or child or best friend has a stroke or a heart attack or is badly injured in a traffic accident or something and you go to pieces. Peter had the stroke. I’m knocked for six. I’m not getting on with stuff—EBON, renting Third House—that I have to get on with.† I want to do the Samaritans, and I think I can. The blog is, however, ultimately, dispensable. ††
So. It’s been real, as we used to say when turning on, tuning in and dropping out was cool.††† And the blog has been real, in its smoke and mirrors way. I’m hoping it will go on being real in a slightly streamlined, slightly reset mirrors and resignalled smoke way. ‡
We’ll find out.
Meanwhile . . . see you soon.‡‡ And thanks for all the fish.
* * *
* I still don’t know what happens when I reach the end of Part One. I’ve been assuming I’m going to take a break, and I’m still assuming that, but I don’t know what having fewer Days in the Life to write may do to writing about Kes’.
Also please note I will be HAPPY to continue to post GUEST BLOGS.
** My applying to the Samaritans is God’s fault again, although the Samaritans, as they say on their opening page, are very much not a religious organisation, unlike, for example, the Street Pastors. The funny thing is that it’s joining the SPs that has given me the confidence to try for the Samaritans—although the Samaritans have been on my radar for years. I went through some very rough stuff when I was pretty young and spent some years in therapy, including group therapy, where you learn something of the non-judgemental listening shtick which is the Samaritans’ stock in trade—and how important having someone to talk to is. But one of the Samaritans’ requirements is that you take an all-night shift every two or three months. And I knew I couldn’t do that. Then I went down with ME and volunteering for the Samaritans became as imaginary as anything Tolkien ever came up with. Then I hit menopause and while insomnia is part of my personal package of hormonal horror . . . so is being able to get by on less sleep. Oh. Hmm.
And then I turned Christian and my dormant do-gooder came droolingly, rampantly, havoc-creatingly to life. But I gravitate to the practical side of do-gooding: handing out flipflops and cups of hot soup is practical. But so is listening. You may know that from having been in group therapy. But you find it out all over again on your first pre-interview, pre-training observation night with the Street Pastors.
It wasn’t much over a month ago an ad for the Samaritans in the local paper caught my eye. They were holding an ‘information evening’ for potential volunteers. Yo, McKinley, said the bloke in the tatty blue jeans whom I first met 12/9/12. This.
Oh, and the best thing about the Samaritans? IT HAPPENS INDOORS. YOU SIT IN A NICE WELL-APPOINTED OFFICE ON A COMFY CHAIR WITH A TEAKETTLE AT YOUR IMMEDIATE DISPOSAL. YOU’RE NOT OUT ON A STREET CORNER FREEZING YOUR BUTT OFF OR DISSOLVING IN THE FRELLING DOWNPOUR.
*** I’m also sitting here thinking about how the more I’m managing to put into my singing the more frelling shattered I am after my voice lessons. I’d gone back to Dido’s Lament^ and Nadia said she’d like to hear it. I’ve got like eighty times more voice than I did when I learnt it the first time and—I realise how deafeningly ridiculous this is—the volume I’m now capable of scares me.^^ Siiiiiiiiiiigh.
^ It’s interesting, this business about repertoire. If you’ve gorblimey worked to learn something you don’t want to lose it. You can’t keep too many things on top at once, but you can circulate. On the face of it this is obvious. In practise this is yet one more unexpected skill you have to learn.
^^ Remember, however, I’m still talking about making the walls rattle in Nadia’s mum’s small low-ceilinged dining room. Not the Royal Albert Hall.
† I think I’ve done one doodle from my bottomless backlog in the last four months. Maybe two.
†† Even if there are a lot of hours of my life I’m not going to get back that I spent writing it.
††† Which probably doesn’t actually mean ‘get stoned and stay that way forever’ although my generation in our mad youth sure thought it did.
‡ There’s another aspect to this decision: I’m generating less blog material by the choices I’m making about how I spend my time. There’s an awful [sic] lot about the God thing I don’t feel like trying to explain on a public blog, for example. And while I can at least talk about the weather on Street Pastors nights, there’s an absolute black-out confidentiality requirement with the Samaritans^. You can’t talk to anyone about what happens on a duty shift except another Samaritan.^^
^ Which, as previously observed, takes place indoors. I suppose I could blog about the night I drop the cup of tea on the computer keyboard . . . I’d rather not be given this rich, golden opportunity. . . .
^^ And, just by the way, debriefing at the end of every shift is required. They take care of their own.
‡‡ MY NEW WASHING MACHINE IS ARRIVING ON WEDNESDAY . . . I hope. Let’s say it’s scheduled to arrive on Wednesday.
Once upon a time there was a carrier company. . . . Let’s call it Feebledweeb. It’s been around a long time. I had a lively and robust, not to say ranting, dislike of it over twenty years ago, before I left the States. Before I discovered the true range of global carrier-company incompetence, creative perversity and aggressive unhelpfulness.
Feebledweeb made both of us crazy—although Peter bears crazy better than I do—back at the old house, when we were living out in the sticks of the sticks and there was a lot more hard copy in publishing than there is now. Feebledweeb at the time was, I believe, the only carrier that would pick stuff up in the sticks of the sticks of southern England and deliver it, more or less safely and in one piece, to a Manhattan highrise. And vice versa. Maybe. With a following wind.
They did, however, make their services coughcoughcoughcough as difficult and unservicelike as possible. They toyed with the concept of timed arrivals, and even at that they could never be pinned down to anything more exacting than before noon or after noon. But that was still better than ‘some time in April, and if you’re out, we’re going to reschedule you without telling you for some date which may or may not be at least six months in the future, oh, you have a deadline? You should have thought of that before you took your dogs on that totally gratuitous walk, shouldn’t you? And what do you mean by being so self-indulgent and unprofessional as having dogs that need walking in the first place? We may not reschedule you at all, you’re not our type.’ Which system is what they reverted to. All day, any day, whatever, if you don’t like it you can hitchhike to the coast and swim to Manhattan. But being cruelly imprisoned by a time frame of before or after noon was giving their drivers palpitations and random crying jags and Feebledweeb are totally committed to employee welfare.
And then Peter and I moved into town. And there seems to have been rather a boom in carriers, some of whom are no worse than dire and unreliable. But Feebledweeb, unfortunately, seems still to control the frelling transatlantic routes.
Now it will amaze you to hear this, but I am not the perfect client. I want to believe that I mostly behave myself with Merrilee, but Merrilee’s subrights department has little cause to love me, and it would not stun me with flabbergastery that there’s a doll hanging by the neck in a corner of the subrights department with a pin through her heart and a banner reading ‘Robin McKinley’. I lose things. I don’t remember ever having seen things. When I send things back it turns out I signed the wrong pages, or didn’t sign enough of them*, or I didn’t put the date on when I should have or did put the date on when I shouldn’t. And then New Arcadia’s post office exploded and was removed and rebuilt using reject Lego in the back of the village grocery, you’re no longer allowed to bring your critters with you to keep you amused while you wait in the endless queue**, and I, having been a borderline*** post office user since I moved over here†, became, um, pathological.
Re-enter Feebledweeb. Who will come to my house and fetch my botched, ill-signed documents, and cart them off to a subrights department across the Water, where they will be the cause of screaming and nervous breakdowns—only some of which will be because I screwed up (again).
Recently we’ve been having a nice little extended torment trying to get Feebledweeb to do what it says on the tin/envelope. Subrights and I got all excited—briefly—because according to Feebledweeb’s web site, subrights could include a prepaid return envelope with the documents I’m supposed to deal with in some way other than the way I will deal with them, and I can just pop them in the return envelope and post them in an ordinary post box, and Feebledweeb will take it from there.
Yes, they will. They will deliver it back to me again with large red marks and seals all over it declaring that I am a liar and a cheat and that I haven’t paid them and their dog is going to pee on my shoes††. We gambolled through this amusing cycle, I think, three times.
Okay. The next plan of action is that we are going to revert to the earlier system of their coming to my house to pick up the envelope of mangled documents.
Feebledweeb were supposed to come last Wednesday between ten and two [sic].
Nothing happened. Nobody came between ten and two and there were no postcards through my door when I returned after belated gratuitous critter-hurtling [see above].
Subrights emailed me anxiously that they had spoken to Feebledweeb again and Feebledweeb would now come this Wednesday between ten and two.
Monday I received a phone call from a very pleasant, very fluent young man with a very strong Indian accent, confirming that Feebledweeb was going to be fetching a parcel from me today—Tuesday. Er, I said. Wednesday. Tuesday, said the young man firmly. Okay, I said. Tuesday. What time? Noon to three pm, he said. Fine, I said, in fact, great, and wrote it down.††
Ten minutes later the phone rang again. This time it was a woman with an English accent. Confirming that Feebledweeb is picking up a parcel from you tomorrow, she said. Yes, I said, between noon and three pm. Certainly not! said the woman. You can ring up tomorrow morning at 9 a.m. and they will give you your allocated time slot. But— I said weakly, I have just been talking to someone at your call centre in India . . .
Ring tomorrow at nine, commanded the woman. We never give out advance time slots.‡
I was downstairs and putting my tea water on at eight forty five this morning, I hope you’re impressed. At 8:59 I rang the number the woman had given me. Another woman answered and asked for my tracking number. I gave it to her, watching an unmarked white van backing up the cul de sac and stopping in front of the cottage. We have no record— began the woman, and there was a knock on the door. Excuse me, I said, hope flaring in a sharp uncomfortable way, there is someone at the door.
I threw the door open . . . and there was a man in a Feebledweeb hoodie. YAAAAAAAAAY, I said, and thrust my envelope upon him. I may have said one or two things . . . particularly because this is a guy I know. Several of the regular drivers for the various carriers are regular enough that us (regular) customers say hi when we see them on the street. FEEBLEDWEEB MAKES ME FRELLING NUTS, I may have said. The guy held up his hands (my envelope in one of them), grinning. You are not alone, he said.
He departed. I picked up the phone and discovered . . . the woman had cut me off. Never mind. The package had gone. And she rang back to say that the driver had just confirmed pick up and tracking number and all was well.
Five hours later I received an email from the subrights department saying that they had just got off the phone from Feebledweeb, re-verifying that one of their agents will pick up my envelope tomorrow, Wednesday, some time between ten and two. . . .
* * *
* I start to lose the will to live after about the ninety-third copy. Why does the president of Dormidalump Multimedia Cupcakes and Related Pastry’s wife’s brother’s assistant’s hamster need a copy of the contract anyway? I’m not sure I like the idea of CHALICE being turned into singing apple strudel, even if Merrilee did get a paragraph in there about how they had to use honey. I should have held out for baklava . . . but that still doesn’t explain the hamster.
** It seems to me very sad that Pav may never have the fabulous experience of waiting in an endless post office queue.
*** Borderline as in personality
† THE POSTMISTRESS HATED ME. SHE DID. She also retired some years ago, but THE TRAUMA REMAINS.
†† Note that (a) the payment for this interesting process is coming out of the money that passes through Merrilee’s hands on my behalf and (b) apparently even if they believed they had been paid . . . they would still deliver it back to me again. Because they can’t read. Or because they can’t design forms that are readable.
††† He then asked me where I was from and acknowledged that he was Indian and calling from India. The thing that interests me though is that these overseas call centres have a very bad rep, which is mostly well earned, but allowing for the fact that Feebledweeb is messing him over as well as messing me over, the phone line was clearer than mine to Peter often is and he was intelligent and articulate and able to answer questions . . . off the sheet of bad info they had given him, but hey.
‡ Of course not. OF COURSE NOT.
Okay, let me get the really embarrassing stuff over with immediately.
I enjoyed it. I had FUN. I am planning on putting myself on the official St Margaret’s rota.*
Whew. That was hard. I enjoyed singing Jesus Is My Boyfriend** music [sic]. In public. How totally humiliating is that.
Sunday, which was sunny and fabulous, passed under my own personal cloud of prospective dread. I did do some singing warm up because I wanted some chance at some voice and I tend to shut down to a tiny rasping squeak like a single lonely cicada when I’m nervous. I didn’t warm up exactly brilliantly.*** And when I crept into St Margaret’s I was not encouraged by the sight of Aloysius ALL BY HIMSELF except for the woman who was going to be running the tech deck helping him lay out the cables. He had said in his email that the names on the rota were a bit thin this week. . . .
Fortunately it wasn’t as bad as that. Samantha appeared deus ex machina, saying that she hadn’t been planning to sing that night but she had realised that I was going to be all alone and she couldn’t do that to a new girl. Eeeeep. Thank you. Eeeeeeeeep. And then Sinead, another rota singer, wandered in and said that she couldn’t do her proper rota day and maybe we could use her tonight? YES. PLEASE. HERE, HAVE A MICROPHONE. Hamish, the church office magician, appeared, spun his spurs and strapped on his six-shooter. Er. Bass. But that was all. No drums. No keyboards. No random woodwinds. No vicar—he’s always there.†
We plunged into practise. I was on the near end with Aloysius just at my right shoulder which is very good because not only does his guitar give me the key I’m scrabbling for but he’s a nice strong tenor and I’d already told him he had to sing the melody. The first couple of songs are a bit of a blur. I was holding the mic as if it was going to morph into something with six heads and forty-seven incisors per as soon as I stopped staring at it like it was going to. The Hammered to Death by Fluffy Bunnies song was substantially less diabolical with the new line-up but we had to go through it several times since I had no clue about what it was supposed to sound like—and of course there was no sheet music. And then Aloysius had to get fancy and bolt a couple of songs together so you slide into the second one without a break and then revert to the previous one for a chorus repeat WHAT ARE YOU TRYING TO DO TO US YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO BE ONE OF THE GOOD GUYS.
I don’t really know what happened except that I think I can hear God laughing. My voice woke up. And the last couple of songs I actually kind of like††—especially the one which is in a reasonable range, so many of the Jesus Is My Boyfriend songs lie on my voice like bricks on custard, it’s like the aural version of trying to wear someone else’s prescription glasses, and neither singing up an octave or down an octave works. But here were two I could sing.
And I did. And furthermore . . . and this is where I know I was taken over by an alien personality . . . I started singing free harmony. I do not sing free harmony. I can learn a harmonic line, given the sheet music and about six months, but I cannot just frelling riff off a melody. Whoever she was, Sunday night, using my voice, I hope she visits often. That was serious fun. At the end Sinead gave me a hug and said, I can tell you like that song!
And then the live performance—I mean the service—was pretty much falling off a log. Problem? There was supposed to be a problem?
There are one or two things to mention here. First, St Margaret’s evening service is small and informal. It’s not like anyone was going to be nasty to me even if I screwed up big time. And I don’t exactly guarantee I was pitch perfect even while the self-confident alien babe was singing. Second, most of the Jesus Is My Boyfriend stuff is dead easy, especially if you’re used to beating your brains and ripping your own throat out singing stuff that is significantly beyond you because you take voice lessons and your voice teacher needs something to do, right?††† It should be easy: people who don’t take voice lessons should be able to sing their church’s worship music.‡ And third . . . I was just telling someone who asked me how I ‘learnt’ to do public speaking . . . I didn’t. After my BEAUTY was published they sent me out on the road and I discovered I could do public speaking. It’s like one of those James Bond things: the car develops waterwings or the knapsack is also a rocketblaster. I CAN DO PUBLIC SPEAKING? WHAT? WHERE DID THAT COME FROM? Aside from little questions like whether I can sing or not, apparently singing in public doesn’t make this agonising doubt any more agonising.
How frelling bizarre. I did think it was at least possible that if I didn’t freeze up, singing for purpose—helping to lead the service—would let me like the floppy, soppy music we sing better, and make it feel more like an offering of worship instead of a mortification, ashes and hair shirts optional. And. Yeah. But I wasn’t expecting the harmony—or the high.
* * *
* Unless someone stops me. Noooooo! She’s too loooooooud! She drowns out the keyboard! —Ugly. Mwahahahahahahaha. —slightlyadaptedhellgoddess^
^ I belong to the Love Wins camp, remember, so if you’re asking me, all reigning in all the various hells—ie the nice somewhat confused ones and the really unpleasant ones—is temporary. Which is fine. I’m sure I’ll be ready for a new challenge when my particular corner of hell disintegrates.+
+ There will be chocolate, champagne and critters in heaven, won’t there?#
# Of course there will. And the roses WILL HAVE NO THORNS.
** ::falls down laughing:: Thank you, dhudson. I love this. I’m also glad that it seems to other people that there’s something CREEEEEEEEPY about a lot of this sticky music: I’ve been describing these songs as frelling power ballads only it’s God instead of your boyfriend/girlfriend/groupoffriendswithprivileges. Dhudson’s phrase cuts to the chase.
Although some of the old gospel hymns, which is what I grew up with and are about the only positive memory I have of church as a kid, aren’t exactly faultless in this area. I’ve always loved In the Garden, and it’s one of those I’ve been singing for fifty-odd years and did not have to relearn the lyrics when I started singing while hurtling as a way to shortening the warm-up when I get back to the piano and the Italian art songs etc^, but it’s always struck me as doctrinally a little dubious:
He walks with me, and he talks with me
And he tells me I am his own
And the joy we share as we tarry there
None other has ever known.
^ Also I’m beginning to enjoy the looks on other pedestrians’ faces when I don’t shut up in time and lyrics like ‘On that bright and cloudless morning when the dead in Christ shall rise’+ register on their unsuspecting ears, which in this modern well-zombied culture may rouse an unfortunate secular response.
+ Which I confess I tend to belt out with all the new Nadia-power within me.
*** I also crack a lot when I’m nervous. How many ways is this going to be a disaster.
† Vicars. They take holidays. Who knew?
†† No, no, not like! Oisin will never speak to me again!
††† HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. And for my latest stupid trick I’m learning Victor Herbert’s I want to be a prima donna—aka Art Is Calling to Me—mainly because it’s silly and I’ve always loved it for being silly. It also has a high Bb. The thing, as I told Nadia, that is really irritating is that I have a high Bb . . . when I’m doing the frelling washing up. As soon as I get near the piano it jumps out the window and runs off to Cornwall. Or Canada. I assume this is common, you can remember a note long enough to check it on the piano? Yes that is a high Bb, but try and do it again suuuuucker. . . . . Nadia says, just rewrite it for now. You can put the Bb back in later.
‡ I don’t have a problem with that; my beloved gospel tunes are pretty much the only music on the planet that I can more or less play on the piano with both hands by sight-reading. Easy. Very, very easy music.