July 17, 2015

Shadows is here!



Admetus, Peter and I went to the live cinema screening of the National Theatre’s EVERYMAN tonight—yes, the medieval morality play*, yanked into the present day and adorned with bad language and cocaine by Carol Ann Duffy, of whom I am a besotted and drooling fan**, and when I saw this play existed and that, furthermore, the National Theatre was going to live-screen it I WANTED TO GO.***

IT IS WONDERFUL AND AMAZING AND POWERFUL AND TERRIFIC.  GO IF YOU HAVE THE CHANCE.  They do rescreenings for these live things some times . . . check your local listings.

* * *

* Which I read in college.  Hey, it’s shorter than Bunyan’s frelling PILGRIM’S PROGRESS.  Even us English majors have our limits.  Although I read most of Bunyan too.^

^ And I like Spenser, who usually appears on the same class syllabus.  Sue me.

* I admire both her poetry and her politics.  Generally speaking I remember a pressing engagement on the other side of the planet as soon as some arty type starts coming out in political activism like a rash, but there are a few who do it with aplomb, Duffy being one of them.  The fact that she’s hot on women’s and sexual and gender rights AND HAS A SENSE OF HUMOUR WITH IT might have something to do with this.^

^ Also my wet-liberal tendencies are getting larger and meaner and shorter-tempered+ as my Street Pastor and Samaritan duty hours rack up.

+ Frightening.  Yes.

*** There followed several months of frustration.  I cannot BELIEVE the level of meatloafhood in many and possibly most arts and entertainment web sites.  ARRRRRRGH.  I think I only found out about either the play or the live screening because I’m on the NT’s STREET MAIL CATALOGUE LIST.  But you have to buy your tickets from your local cinema, supposing you can find the right local cinema, since the cinema list on the NT site will not match the local cinema’s information when, the NT link being dead or missing, you try your local cinema’s own web site.  This tarantella of frustration is further enhanced by the original performance site—in this case the National Theatre, but it is by no means the only perpetrator of this variety of on line crime—whining continuously in obtrusive pop-up boxes for your location so it can give you a personally tailored web site experience, and, when you cave and give it to them, and it is, let’s say, Hampshire, immediately offering you 1,000,000 cinemas in London.  THANKS EVER SO.  I KNOW IT SOMETIMES LOOKS LIKE THE ENTIRE SOUTH OF ENGLAND IS A LARGE BEDROOM COMMUNITY FOR LONDON BUT SOME OF US REALLY LIVE HERE.^

Meanwhile . . . I could not persuade my local cinema to take my money and give me some seats for EVERYMAN, and since it’s a flapdoodling cinema chain, you can’t get a local human being on the phone—nor is the on-the-ground ticket office open during ordinary town-errand-running day hours—to tell you if it’s coming to your particular local.  The chain’s theatre local to a town 300 miles away is not really what you are after.  ARRRRRRGH.  So the NT web site went on saying it was here, and here went on saying Page Not Found.  So I finally threw up my hands^^ and bought tickets at a theatre in Greater Footling, which isn’t impossibly far from here.^^^  I didn’t find out that yes, indeed, EVERYMAN is coming to the local scion of national cinema glory until we walked in to see the Royal Opera House live screening of GUILLAME TELL~ there a fortnight ago, and saw large flashy posters for EVERYMAN on the walls.  AAAAAARRRRRRRRGH.

BUT THE STORY DOES NOT END HERE.  In the first place, there are two theatres belonging to this other incompetently head-officed and web-sited cinema chain, AND with nearly the same name, ie the Toadstool and the Toadstool Phoenix, both of them not merely in Greater Footling but the same end of Greater Footling and Greater Footling is not exactly a gazillion-citizen megalopolis AND BOTH OF THEM WERE SCREENING EVERYMAN.  Go figure.  Admetus had looked up how to find the Toadstool Phoenix and I had looked up the Toadstool, and there was a certain amount of frantic cross-checking yesterday.

Well we got that sorted and we even successfully arrived at the Toadstool~~.  Now my on line booking was, according to what I printed out to take with me, only a booking and we had to get there HALF AN HOUR EARLY to pick up the tickets.  Fortunately, having wasted time going in several wrong directions, we got there only about a quarter hour early . . . fortunately because the box office was not open.  The ticket machine did not show EVERYMAN.  The androids behind the snacks counter were only programmed to provide snacks.  The whole dranglefabbing complex was pretty comprehensively deserted and since there are 1,000,000 screens at the Toadstool Stepford we might still be there wandering hopelessly down identical corridors except the screen number was on my booking page.  We went there.  We decided we didn’t like the seats I’d booked—who can tell anything from a web schematic—and sat somewhere else.  Since there were only about ten of us perched randomly in a theatre that would probably seat 200 it didn’t matter too astonishingly.  And no one ever checked our booking, or asked for our tickets, or offered us a wet fish or a glass of Prosecco, or anything else.  But there must have been a Stepford minion pressing the button for the show to run, because it did run.  Yaaaaaay.

^ The worst offender in the web site visitor location category however is the frelling New York Metropolitan Opera.  I don’t know what the frelling doodah is going on with the Met Live this year—tickets should be on sale by now—and I can’t find a cinema anywhere around here that admits to screening it, including the one I’ve always used in the past.  But if you click through all the dazzle to the Met Live page on the Met Opera site, and ask it to find you your local cinema, it will ask you for your country and then for your city.  I clicked hopefully on Mauncester, which is even on the Met Live drop down menu of Hampshire cities . . . AND THE CINEMA LIST STARTS OFF IN AUSTRIA.  THEN GERMANY.  THEN . . . Belgium, I think.  I forget.  But you’ve scrolled down several pages before you ever get to the UK at all.  If they’re trying to impress me favourably with the number of cinemas worldwide that screen the Met Live this is not having the desired effect.

^^ There may have been language.

^^^ Especially when Admetus is driving.  Ahem.

~ The now nationally if not internationally notorious new ROH production of GUILLAUME TELL.  Yes, yes, William Tell, but Rossini was an Italian writing for the French opera, okay?  Whatever you call it it’s supposed to be Rossini’s unknown masterpiece, never put on because it’s five hours long and you’re only allowed to write operas longer than four hours if you’re Wagner.+  I was THRILLED when I heard that the ROH was going to do it, and QUADRUPLY THRILLED that they were going to live stream it and live stream it at a cinema close enough for me to drive to.  YAAAAAAAAAAY.  I bought tickets more or less the moment they went on sale and was enormously looking forward to it.  ENORMOUSLY.

The beginning of that week I got a text from Admetus saying, erm, have you seen the reviews for the opening night of GUILLAUME TELL?  I hadn’t.  The hot young director++ in his creative capacity as an enormous flaming asshole had decided that the bad guys’ bad-guy-ness—whatever else you do with it, the story is still basically about a bunch of locals being stomped by an invading army—needed to be heightened, and never mind that Rossini and his text provider actually took quite good care of making the bad guys bad in the libretto—and so staged an extremely graphic rape scene during the chirpy ballet+++ at the beginning of the third act.  A local woman is harassed and molested by a gang of the bad-guy officers . . . and then stripped naked, thrown on the banqueting table and gang raped.  BECAUSE THE AUDIENCE NEEDS TO UNDERSTAND ABOUT THE BRUTALITY OF WAR.

Opening night was booed so thoroughly that (according to reports) you couldn’t hear the music.  Quite a lot of ink, newspaper and virtual, was spilled subsequently (most of which you can still find on line if you’re interested) and I spent rather too much of that week reading reviews and feeling ill.  I almost didn’t go.  I don’t need to understand about the brutality of war, or about the gross inhumanity of man to man or men to woman# and I don’t think the first night reaction was anything about British parochialism, which is one of the things that was elitistly suggested.

They’d toned it down some## by the day of the cinema broadcast . . . but I did go, and that scene still made me feel physically sick and I almost walked out.  The only reason I finally went at all was because the reviews were also universal that it was exquisitely sung AND I WANTED TO FRELLING HEAR IT which is where we came in.  And it was exquisitely sung, and I in fact came home and ordered the CD with the same cast and conductor which gets about twelve stars in the Penguin Guide as well.  But for gratuitous, inappropriate, stupid, pretentious shock value, the rape scene takes some kind of gigantic toxic biscuit.  I’m also happy to say that the controversy did not put bums on seats around here:  I’d never seen the cinema so empty for an opera screening.###

+ I will probably never see Parsifal, partly because I’d be throwing rubbery carrots and small dead animals at the stage by the end of act two, but also because, supposing I hadn’t been ejected yet, I’d have pressure sores by the end of act twelve, or whenever it finally stops.

++ On whose head let there be a positive avalanche of small dead animals in an advanced state of decomposition

+++ French operas of that period apparently HAD to have ballets.  There are a lot of standard rep grand operas that seem suddenly and startlingly to come to a thundering [sic] halt for the ballet.  Good time to sneak out for another glass of Prosecco.  Especially if it’s GUILLAUME TELL under this director.

# Oh, and?  The actress does not—or at any rate did not—get a mention in the credits.  Several of us saw some further symbolism in this.

## After both director and ROH head did the blustery bit about artistic integrity and said they weren’t going to change a thing

### There was a lot of raging stupidity elsewhere in this production.  Why the freedom fighters took their shirts off—rarely a performance plus in a large group of opera singers—to smear themselves in blood and dirt before they went into battle was not clear, and went CLANG in a production that had more or less updated the story to the 20th century.  And there is a scene at the end that I’m surprised was even allowed, when the villagers’ children are stripped down to their underwear and bathed in a series of small tubs dotted across the stage.  Presumably it was to indicate Fresh Young New Beginnings, the bad guys having been against the odds seen off, but it was creepy in the extreme.

~~ Some of our wrong turnings tonight looked very familiar since Fiona and I had made them a while back when we tried to find the Toadstool.  We had of course complicated the issue by stopping at a yarn store first which for some reason Peter and Admetus were not interested in.  Men.  Sigh.


The HandleBards. No, really


If you have a chance to see these dangerous lunatics*, I mean, this exceptionally talented and engaging AND ENERGETIC troupe of young men, do climb into or onto your internal combustion engine vehicle of choice, bring along a large picnic hamper of high-calorie comestibles and, if you’re sensible, a bottle of fizz, and several blankets because this is England after all**, and possibly folding chairs, if you’re ancient and decrepit***, and GO.  The HandleBards are a hoot.




Admetus and I went last night.  I admit I was not instantly overwhelmed with desire to see four men doing the stripped-down bicycle [sic] version of Shakespeare, since it sounds like a dumb-ass idea and I am not a Shakespeare fan, but I watched a few clips on YouTube, as above, and . . . well, I am rather drawn to insanity.  I still can’t get my head around the 2000 miles on a bicycle thing, carrying all your kit, from show to show, plus setting up, doing your play at a hundred million miles an hour of adrenaline-cranked frenzy, striking it all down again, getting some food and sleep and then doing it all over again tomorrow, but then I am ancient and decrepit.†

What we saw last night was Midsummer Night’s Dream††.  Now you go knowing that there are only four of them and they play ALL the parts.  But I still spent the first scene with fathers, lovers, Theseuses and other riffraff milling about not having a clue what was going on, except that some of the people who were supposed to be on stage were being indicated by empty coats on poles which the four, you know, live actors would swirl into and back out of in a hurly-burly of something or other AND AFTER THEY’D CYCLED HALF A GAZILLION MILES EARLIER THAT DAY?  Beulah, peel me a grape.

You do tune in pretty quickly to the mayhem.  They also pad out a few scenes by shanghaiing members of the audience†††  The two additional blokes cavorting in rainbow wings as Peaseblossom and Mustardseed deserve special mention and will probably never live it down.  Since all I had was a blanket to keep me warm I was particularly taken with the armful of borrowed dog, bewildered but good-natured.  The tallest and the shortest of the four principals were also the two with the facial hair . . . and who played Hermia and Helena, so they can get off the dwarf and painted maypole‡ lines.

You also start laughing before the show even starts.  The ‘stage’ is mostly pegged-out bunting, but they do have a proscenium with arch equivalent, which must be their heaviest piece of kit.  From audience-eye view it looks like a lot of long spidery legs with joints for folding up bicycle-pannier-sized‡‡ and a kind of mobile circular rail suspended above the not-much-bigger-than-handkerchief-sized curtain that gives them somewhere to hide not-that-scene’s bits, and behind which some of the split-second costume and character changes occur.  They hang some of the scene-specific background bits on the rail—heraldic looking banners for Theseus, village-amateur props for the rude mechanicals.  Someone pins or drapes that scene’s background to the stretch of rail at that moment behind the curtain . . . but the rail is connected to one of the long-suffering bicycles, and one of the longer-suffering bicyclists pedals the rail around, so the new scene background comes whizzing out from behind the curtain.‡‡‡  Snork.

It may take you a little while, somewhat stunned by the energy level as you will be, also to tune into the fact that these guys are not merely corybantic fruit loops but good at what they do.§  When they decide that 2000 miles on a bicycle carrying the complete works of Shakespeare is a bit excessive§§ I hope they’ll go on to be famous actors. §§§  They’ll deserve it in several more than the usual hard graft and working up from the Bottom ways.  May their tyres never puncture and the weather maintain a little fair patch hovering over them wherever they go.  It was perfect last night.  Only one blanket required.

* * *

* Wrong country?  The UK is a great place for a holiday!  We have Stonehenge!  We have the British Museum!  We have skylarks!  We have lots and lots of rosebushes!  And we have more method ringing bell towers than in the entire rest of the world combined!^

^ Although you’ll probably need to take a rather long holiday to learn how to ring while you’re here.

** And, speaking of England, an umbrella, or possibly a tent

*** Or perhaps might be distracted by wondering what you’re sitting on.  You know, ON.  Even before I lived in town with three dogs I used to be a trifle wary about sitting on bare ground . . . although pre-three-dogs-in-town this was mainly because it was likely to be damp.  A few weeks ago the hellterror and I rounded the corner from the main street into the churchyard and found a large number of serious walkers^ bestrewn about the grassy triangle you come to first.  The same grassy triangle that every dog within miles rushes to with little whimpers of joy on sight—including mine.^^  Not all of whose owners are as pathologically over-supplied with plastic bags and paranoia as I am.  And damp may come from a variety of sources.  I hope when the walkers arose from their respite no one was too . . . unhappy.

^ Not a pair of All Stars in sight and I’m sure denim jeans and cotton socks are anathema.  Proper hiking boots with proper hiking socks turned down at the tops and Nordic walking sticks and proper breathable sport clothing and the whole ninety-seven yards.+  Scary.

+ Or 88.69 metres.

^^ The hellterror on this occasion was bemused.   She was willing to be generous, however, since people usually mean petting+ and furthermore, full length upon the sward they are at her level.

+ There is always someone(s) who goes ewwwww bull terrier VICIOUS FIGHTING DOG it’s in the GENES don’t tell me they can EVER BE TRUSTED they’ll RIP YOUR THROAT OUT in your sleep  but there are fewer of these than I feared when I took delivery of my little shovel-headed# badger-faced bedspring-legged bundle of mania## getting on for three years ago.

# While shovel-headed is the term of endearment I’m accustomed to, the unique bullie profile is more, I feel, trowel-headed:  those wide trowels for planting rather than the narrow ones for weeding.  Or possibly pooper-scooper headed.

##Maybe the HandleBards should get their own bull terrier.

† Even if I do hurtle many miles every day in pursuit of the members of the hellmob.  I have tough, case-hardened feet. But 2000 miles on a BICYCLE SEAT?

†† From our CHAIRS.  Admetus has FOLDING CHAIRS.  Folding chair technology has come a long way since my last attempt, specially imported from Maine with the eighty cartons of books when I arrived on these shores, and which I think died in the shrubbery somewhere at the old house.

††† If you go I recommend you do not go too early nor sit in the front row.

‡ I have always been fond of the painted maypole.  I’d forgotten that the canker-blossom, always a good sound Shakespearean insult, had come from this scene.

‡‡ I’m assuming the spider legs fold, and the bicyclists don’t also have to bolt them together every night.

‡‡‡ If you’re hopelessly confused, watch the proscenium set up in the YouTube clips.  I don’t think you see the rail moving, but you can see the hitched-up bicycle

§ And while the four on show are the only ones who climb on the bicycles the directors and adaptors and whoever else back at base are brilliant at what they do too. The cut down, ridiculousnessed-up version really works.  I was surprised at the amount of physical slapstick and roughhousing:  given the whole bicycle thing I would have thought—even allowing for the fact that this is a young man’s^ game—that they’d need to be a little careful of the bruises.  Nobody is so flawlessly accurate about at-speed contact work that there won’t be any.  But they freely grapple and throw each other around and fall melodramatically to the ground.  I hope they’re taking their vitamins.   And arnica for bruises.

^ I can’t help but hope that one of the personnel changes some day will include an insane young woman willing to engage with the imprudence and balderdash and 2000 miles on a bicycle seat.

§§ There have already been some personnel changes as you will see if you work through all the clips.

§§§ Peter and I went to a very beautiful, very grand garden today—one of the private-gardens-open-to-the-public-for-charity that are so popular over here. It was huge, with wild bits and orchards and meadow and views of the surrounding, and then nearer the (grand) house, clipped-hedge-differentiated ‘rooms’ of glorious flower borders, professionally designed and meticulously kept.^ And it really was beautiful . . . but it was also rather too gorgeous and definitely too relentlessly primped and weeded, although this may just be my guilty conscience about my tiny nettle-infested patch.^^   But . . . the HandleBards are better value.^^^

^ And tea with cake.

^^ Although my roses are fabulous.

^^^ And I don’t know if it’s a venue by venue thing or a head office thing but they could be a lot better advertised.  So look them up and go if they’re anywhere near you, okay?  And pass it on.


A night to remember.* Or not.

Niall and I went bell ringing tonight.  Tower bells.  One proper substantial bell at a time YAAAAAAY.  Not handbells.  Two horrible little random bells at a time NOT YAAAAAAAY.

Long pause.



One of the things about method ringing on handbells is that it is SO FRELLING INSANELY HERCULEAN AND FORMIDABLE AND DEMANDING** that when you can finally ring something it’s like the most amazing thing that has ever happened to you*** and furthermore since in the process you have completely altered the structure of your brain there’s quite a good chance it will stick.†  Tower bell ringing is a ratbag of epic proportions, but in terms of learning the method line, handbells makes it look easy.

But there are important caveats about that easy.  First caveat:  you have to ring any given method often enough to gouge out a channel in your brain.††  Second caveat:  you have to be able to HANDLE the bell you are ringing ACCURATELY.  Which is the one thing—the ONE THING—that handbells has over tower bells in fatal adversarialness:  handling technique is not much of an issue with handbells.  You just shake the frellers.  Tower bells are mostly bigger than you are—usually quite a lot bigger than you are—and tact and adroitness enter the picture.  More or less.

And then there are mini rings.  Where the bells are buckets or flower-pots or large thimbles that say GREETINGS FROM GRIMSBY and you’re essentially ringing something handbell-sized only with all the style and paraphernalia of tower bell ringing.  I HATE MINI RINGS.  THEY’RE THE WORST OF BOTH WORLDS.  Which is to say I suck at mini rings.†††

It was a mini ring tonight.‡

WHAT IDIOT INVENTED METHOD BELL RINGING ANYWAY.  After this it’s knitting all the way.  Starting NOW.‡‡

* * *

* We’re having a major storm out there with wind and rain and banshees.  Radio 3 has just fallen off the air with a crash and a whine^ and I’m contemplating with disfavour the prospect of getting the hellmob back to the cottage.  I tend to be a trifle top heavy because I’m carrying a knapsack full of misbehaving technology and the hellhounds are not only tall and long-legged but they don’t weigh anything because they don’t eat and will probably take off like kites the minute they’re out the door.  Which will be hard on my shoulders.  Even weightless hellhounds hitting the ends of their leads at speed tends to be painful.^^

^ And is now making intermittent gobbling noises

^^ There is a good deal of hellmob-derived pain around at the moment:  the hellterror is in full bloody [sic] streaming heat, and a good month early.  She wasn’t due even to start inspiring Darkness—who is the more clued in about these matters—to emerge from the backmost recesses of the hellhound bed, which is where he tends to remain when the hellterror is loose about the landscape, to investigate an evolving situation till about now, and never mind having already moved into the dripping [hellterror] and moaning [hellhounds] phase.  ARRRRRRGH.  I DO NOT WANT HER CYCLE GETTING SHORTER.  I CAN STAND IT EVERY NINE MONTHS.  NOT EIGHT MONTHS.  NOT SEVEN MONTHS.  NOT . . .

Meanwhile she’s not in a very good mood either.  Not only won’t I let her play with the hellhounds, and while Darkness tends to disappear into the shadows, torturing Chaos is one of her favourite games+, but she is at present only allowed to hang out in rooms with vinyl floors.  This means, for example, at the cottage she cannot come into the sitting room with me when I enter the Magical Dog Food Grotto to fetch a fresh tin or bag of something,++ nor can she accompany me upstairs to fetch the thing I know I brought downstairs a minute ago but can’t find.  Although this last is a rather desirable state of affairs given hellterror ebullience and the state of my floors as storage space.  Hellhounds negotiate, delicately, the many obstacles to straightforward passage from one room to the next.  Hellterrors spring and ricochet with abandon.  Those little bedspring legs certainly could clear the piles of books, magazines, All Stars, yarn, etc, but what’s the fun in that?  The most interesting effect however was when she knocked twenty hardback copies of SHADOWS downstairs.  Very, very interesting.  Very.

Nobody died.  That’s all you need to know.

+ Second only to hurling herself upon me in gladness and felicity when her paws are muddy and my jeans were clean a minute ago. #

# One of my many failures as a dog owner, as I believe I have told you before, is that it seems to me entirely reasonable that something only about twelve inches tall should want to jump up on you.~

~ Hey, she rolls over beautifully for little pieces of roast chicken.  What do you want, perfection?=

= She is a funny wee thing in a lot of ways.  As Southdowner told me what seems like forty centuries ago—and years before Lavvy got pregnant—you keep bull terriers because they make you laugh.  Bull terriers are also hungry all the time and to a dog, possibly especially a short dog, who is hungry all the time, almost everything looks like food.  Pav has learnt that I have an inexplicable dislike of her ingesting random bits of rubbish we meet out hurtling and we have reached a compromise about this which works reasonably well most of the time.  Something that is positively not edible, like a plastic bottle—she and Chaos share a passion for crunching plastic bottles between their teeth for the noise, but even Pav doesn’t seem to want to eat them—she will, on command [sic], when we stop by a trash bin, ‘drop’.%  If, however, her current prize is deemed edible, she will not drop.%%  But if I have lodged my protest promptly she will graciously not swallow either, but I do have to get down on my knees and frelling hoick it out of her mouth while she stands, unresisting, with the little evil eye twinkling away at me and the thought-balloon over her head clearly reading heh heh heh heh.  When the thus-removed substance is pizza or sandwich-end or similar, no big.  Yuck, but no big.  BUT SOMETIMES.  EW.  WHAT IS THAT?  EW.  EWWWWWWWW.  I swear she prances with several inches more boing per bounce after one of these encounters.

% And her resultant glow of fatuous virtue may last even a second or two.

%% What do I think she is, stupid?

++The Magical Dog Food Grotto contains only sealed containers of bull terrier ultimate desire, but she can tell the stuff’s in there somewhere.

** If there are any method handbell ringers out there reading this and shaking their heads in puzzlement because it is not difficult, I DO NOT WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU.  Indeed if you decide to join the forum so you can remonstrate with me—kindly of course and using words of one syllable as befits the case—I will not only instantly DELETE your comments with menaces and rude gestures but I will tell Blogmom to Ban You Forever^ plus a few years.

^ and your little dog too.

*** Chocolate?  Nope.  Champagne?  Uh-uh.  Perfect love?  Nah.  Hot fabulous lateral-orbitofrontal-cortex-exploding sex?  . . . Um.  Wait a minute.  Let me think.^

^ If I say handbells I will lose all credibility forever.  Such a dilemma.

† Sadly you will probably have to go through the brain-restructure thing with every additional method.  I can now (mostly, sort of) ring both bob minor and bob major AND MY SKULL HAS RUN OUT OF ROOM FOR ANY FURTHER EXPANSION.^  Planning permission for the new conservatory off the existing building will be denied.

^ Cambridge.+ Whimper.  Yorkshire++  Mega whimper.

+ Yes.  This is the name of a method.

++ Yes.  This is too.  Cambridge (minor, on six bells) and Yorkshire (which cannot be rung on fewer than eight bells) represent the PINNACLE of my handbell yearning, and I have about as much chance of attaining either of them as the hellhounds have of achieving weight-bearing lift-off on the walk home tonight and flying me there.#

# Long-time readers of this blog may feel they recall that some years ago I was grappling with Cambridge on handbells with some modest degree of success.  Yes.  Very modest.  I could get through about half a plain course on the front pair of bells.  This is like someone who wants to ride in the Grand National being able to sit in the saddle if the horse isn’t doing anything.

†† Tower bell ringing:  1,000,000,000,000 times, approximately.  This is a lot of hours out of your life.   Handbell ringing:  1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 times, approximately.  Which is even more hours out of your life.  And that’s still only per pair of bells.  You can move around a lot easier from single bell to single bell in the tower^ than you can from pair of bells to pair of bells in handbells.  IT’S LIKE LEARNING A WHOLE FLAMING NEW METHOD, EVERY RATBLASTED PAIR OF HANDBELLS.^^  ARRRRRRRRRRRGH.

^ Barring little circumstantial details like the bell whose rope regularly jumps off its wheel, or the bell that has an interesting relationship with the corner of the church its rope hangs over so that on every backstroke the pew or the misericord or the flying buttress or whatever the doodah that is immediately behind you reaches out and whacks you one.  Keep your mind on your bobs under those conditions.

^^ All these diverse sub-methods do eventually meet up into one grand over-arching meta-method but that’s a lot of zeroes down that very long queue.

††† Niall can ring anything, including mini rings.  I have considered hating Niall, but . . . no.  He makes very good brownies, even if I do have to ring handbells to get any.  Also, I couldn’t hate him tonight, we went in his car.

‡ It wasn’t supposed to be a mini ring, of course, or I’d’ve stayed home.  I’VE BEEN BAITED AND SWITCHED.  I NEED CHOCOLATE.

‡‡ Maybe I’ll even finish this frelling two-years-and-counting scarf by this winter

A Day of Lows


Wolfgang and I managed to run over Peter today.

No, no, Peter’s fine*.  JESUS GOD AND ALL THE SAINTS.  I’m a freaking hysterical meltdown mess.  Peter seems to have thought it was FUNNY.  He thinks it’s FUNNY to be married to a CRAZY HOMICIDAL** WIFE.

We’ve had two beautiful spring days in a row.  I’ve been trying to hack out time for frantic gardening:  this is the time of year when I very very briefly believe that maybe THIS year I’m going to have the garden at the cottage in something almost resembling order for more than three seconds the end of April.***  I’m not expecting to attain a very close facsimile of order . . . just, you know, frothy ebullience caused by healthy plants doing what they feel like doing instead of what I had planned for them to do.  This does however require that the plants I planted thrive and the frelling weeds grow less fast than I yank them up.  The back wall is at present a jungle nightmare of last year’s skeletal goose grass, all of which will have seeded and seeded and seeded.

ANYWAY.  Peter and I usually go to the big library on Tuesday afternoon and have a nice cup of tea in the café, usually with two or three or eight books per while we decide what we want to check out and take home with us.  Peter felt that a fancy country garden with a café with outdoor tables was what he wanted today †† . . . and I brought Pav along for her first encounter with Montmorency’s Folly.†††

The last bit of drive is narrow and lumpy.  I wanted to let Peter off as close to the gate as possible, so I’d pulled in pretty hard against the end of the hedge so that other cars heading for the car park could squeeze past me.  He climbed out of Wolfgang and . . .

I know how slowly he moves these days, and I know the way that right foot turns out, and that it’s slower than the left foot.‡  I know these things.  I guess all I can say is that I was worried about getting out of the way before—ahem!—someone ran into us, and that I was preoccupied with cars coming up on my right.  I put Wolfgang into reverse and . . .

There was a colossal thud, and Peter disappeared from view.  AAAAAAAAAUGH.

And some helpful person came rushing over while I was hysterically turning Wolfgang off and slamming on the handbrake.  When I scrambled around to the other side I discovered my husband lying on the ground with his right foot trapped under Wolfgang’s left front wheel.

Not very far.  Peter was saying I’m fine, I’m fine, or words to that effect—I admit my memory is not totally clear on this point—but it was only his shoe, not his foot, that was being lightly crushed.  Now if I’d had any sense whatsoever I’d’ve told him to get his foot OUT of the shoe before I tried to roll forward, but I didn’t, I rushed back to the driver’s side—shaking like an aspen, I might add—while the Helpful Person said, Be careful not to roll backwards!

Ahem.  Do I have to tell you we were on a slight hill so that the moment I took the handbrake off we would roll backwards?  By this time the Helpful Person’s husband had turned up, why didn’t one of these people who wasn’t related to the man on the ground and wasn’t driving the car that had just knocked him over say LET’S GET THE SHOE OFF AND GET HIM OUT OF HARM’S WAY BEFORE WE DO ANYTHING ELSE?

But they didn’t.  And I spent a few seconds taking deep breaths, put Wolfgang into gear and . . . rolled forward perfectly.  Peter said later that the fender had caught him on that weak right leg as I turned the wheel to angle away from the hedge—having not adequately checked first that he was clear—and when he fell his right foot had . . .

I don’t remember much about the garden.  Pav enjoyed herself and thought rolling around on the courtyard gravel outside the café was an adventure, and while she was perhaps a trifle exuberant her only serious breakdown in . . . well, let’s not say manners, let’s say pretence of manners, was when I left her BRIEFLY tied to Peter’s chair to fetch sugar and silverware—Peter having brought me a fresh pot of tea—and you’d have thought I was leaving her in a basket on some convent steps with insufficient provisions.  This has nothing to do with emotional attachment, you realise:  it’s because from her perspective I was going toward a place that smelled more like food than where she was and leaving her behind.  A fine coloratura of protest followed.

I didn’t run over anybody else.  NEXT WEEK WE GO TO THE LIBRARY.

And you may have noticed the title of this post is ‘A Day of Lows’ as in plural?  Yes.  On any other day I would tell you how I spent over an hour on the phone to my American bank and they having confirmed that the wire had been sent, followed up shortly with an email saying it hadn’t, and that I have to do it all over again tomorrow.

* * *

* Believe me if he wasn’t I would not be writing this blog report of the incident.  I would either be in jail or throwing myself off a bridge.^

^ Having first left the hellmob in a series of baskets on the steps of the local . . . um.  We don’t actually have a local convent and I’m not sure how the monks feel about foundlings.+  I think really it’s a good thing I didn’t run over Peter very hard.

+ I do know that Alfrick does not like dogs.#  Which is his only major character flaw now that he’s given up smoking.

# Shocking.  Oh, no, wait, it’s probably the Franciscans who have to be soppy about animals.  I don’t remember if Benedict says anything about critters being your brothers and sisters.~

~ ‘Sister Death’ is pretty well known but apparently Francis also called his various illnesses and disabilities his brothers and sisters, which casts a slight shadow on his attitude toward our animal brethren and sistren.  This also makes the ME my evil twin, but I knew that already.

** Homicidal and incompetent.  Fortunately.

*** We are not facing the reality of the garden at Third House at all.^  Nina recently was saying kindly that she could come round some weekend afternoon and help me get the stuff out of its overgrown pots and into the ground.  Politely failing to point out that some of it has been in its (overgrown) pots for years.  I do usually manage to get the pots-in-waiting stuff fed, which is of course part of the reason some of it is quite so overgrown.  I’m sure garden centres sell their plants in flimsy plastic pots for reasons of price control, but if you have to CUT the plant out of its pot by the time you get round to putting it in the ground, flimsy is good.

^ I still haven’t got the attic any more sorted than ‘can fight way through from stairs to back wall’.+

+ Worse, I keep looking around and wondering if there’s ANY CHANCE I could bash out space for the green horsehair sofa, which is the one remaining oversized piece of furniture at the mews.  We’re supposed to be selling it.  It’s not grand, it’ll only fetch a ‘just about worth it to hire the van’ price, but it’s another of the old Dickinson family pieces and we got it restuffed and recovered as part of the New Wife thing when I first moved over here into the old house, and I am a sentimental cow.  Also I chose the green velvet it is now covered with, and the hellhounds and I have spent many happy hours on it.  Some of the upholstered old family furniture had seen a few more generations than was good for it, and as I recall I blanched and trembled at it in its earlier state.

† It will be worth it, trying to catch up with the wretched stuff^ if it has seeded really enthusiastically in my neighbour-over-the-back-wall’s garden, whose ugly shed roof ruins my view.  The problem with this plan is that the neighbour won’t care.  He’ll just hire another gardener.

^ At least it’s easy to pull up unlike most of the worst perennial weeds.  However because it is, as Peter used to call it, nature’s Velcro, you also come away from a weeding session looking like the Abominable Goose Grass Person and needing frelling hedge trimmers and possibly a flamethrower to get it off you again.  Also, however many huge green garden bags you have satisfyingly tamped full of the stuff, by the time you’ve squashed as many of these as you can fit into Wolfgang to haul off to the dump, and possibly sat down to have a cup of tea, it will all have grown back again.

†† It’s not like we don’t have plenty to read. 

††† Hellhounds have been round the edges of Montmorency’s Folly many, many times, but the rules about dogs inside the garden are discouraging^ and they would be miserable lying in the courtyard while we had our tea.  Pav, on the other hand . . .

^ And with the number of uncontrolled dogs and quantity of unpicked-up crap there is in this country I am not going to argue about this ruling.

‡ You Americans must remember we have right-hand drive in this country, so my passenger is getting out on the left, with his right side nearer the side of the car.

The Quest for Pooka II

Pooka, my (relatively) loyal (as gizmos go) iPhone, is getting ready to check out permanently and go to that big Silicon Valley in the sky where she can play with all the Sinclairs and Altairs in the perfectly atmospherically controlled Elysian Fields equivalent geekily overseen by the demiurge of technology.*  I’m still hoping to get twenty years out of Wolfgang, I guess four or five years is pretty good for a mobile phone.   SIIIIIIIGH.  The first sign of trouble is that she began jumping lines while I was texting which is therefore my own fault for getting sucked into texting in the first place.  ARRRRRGH.  YOU KNOW THE WORLD WAS FULL OF INTEREST AND DELIGHT BEFORE THERE WAS TEXTING.**  But the real moment of shock, horror and brutal recognition of having arrived at the Point of No Return was when I discovered MY BELL RINGING APP WAS FRIED.***

I can no longer remember why I got flummoxed into an iPhone rather than some other mobile phone.  I’m sure there was a good† reason.††  However I want no more steep learning curves in my life††† so if I’m replacing Pooka I’m going to replace her with another iPhone, okay?  Meanwhile because EVERYTHING! has to be BIGGER!! And BRIGHTER!!! and WHIZZIER!!!! and FLASHIER!!!!!! . . . the frelling iPhone 6 has two models:  the just-larger-enough to not squash in the little pink bag that Pooka fits in and hangs around my neck‡ and the frelling ginormous sub-tablet sized. I decided I should actually see these critters before I asked Raphael to order one.  If the slightly-too-large one is TOTALLY IMPOSSIBLE the earlier Pooka-sized edition is still available, it just doesn’t have all the upgradey bits that are probably mostly worth having, and I have a certain resistance to spending several hundred pounds on something that isn’t as good as something that is only slightly more insanely expensive and which latter is also less likely to go seriously passé and customer-support-free before it’s ready for the polished-aluminium Elysian Fields.  And with all this FRELLING TEXTING I’m now doing the tiny iPhone keyboard is driving me NUTS‡‡ and I thought it might just be worth having a look at the keyboard on the Ginormous Sub-Tablet.

Niall, ahem, texted me, asking if I was going ringing at Crabbiton tonight?   I guess, I replied, my fingers a blur of anguish and misspelling, but I’m thinking of going slightly the long way to have a look in at Doorknob and Beastly’s electronics department:  their web site says they have iPhone 6s and there’s a D and B on the Crabbiton side of Mauncester.  Since we’ve started carpooling I offered to pick him up:  he could look at cameras or longswords or something while I was muttering over iPhones.

We arrived at our local Doorknob and Beastly and a nice young man said, oh, we don’t have mobile phones here.‡‡‡  You have to go to the store in Drabness.  Drabness? I said, and laughed hollowly.  Drabness is Super Mall City:  it makes Disney World look like your small local county fair, with the lead-line pony class and the grapefruit-arranging contest.  Also you have to go on the motorway to go to Drabness.  I don’t drive on motorways.§  Never mind, I said.  But we’re going to be early at Crabbiton.

No, no, said Niall, Drabness is like ten minutes on the motorway from here.  We can do it easily.  NO WE CAN’T, I said.  He turned to the nice young man.  The Super Mall City end is this side, isn’t it?  Ten minutes from here?  Fifteen maybe?  Yes, said the nice young man.  It’s just straight down the motorway and you take the Abandon Hope All Ye Who Enter Here exit and it’s right there, it’s dead simple.  NOOOOOOOO, I said, considering falling to my knees and begging for my life.  They discussed the particulars of where, exactly, weaving among Thunder Mountain, the Haunted Mansion, Pirates of the Caribbean and Space Mountain, we were going to find Doorknob and Beastly and then Niall shooed me out of the store saying loudly over my feverish quacking that it would be easy and he could tell me EXACTLY what to do.

We got on the motorway (under Niall’s strict direction).  With me still clucking and cheeping.

And two minutes later we ran into THE BIGGEST TRAFFIC JAM IN THE HISTORY OF BRITISH ROAD HAVOC.  Of course there were no available exits.  That would be so obvious.  Mind you it was almost worth it, sitting there breathing 1,000,000,000,000 internal combustion engines’ combined exhaust and watching all the SUVs play chicken with each other pointlessly swapping lanes, while listening to Niall apologising for getting me into this.  ALMOST.

We did get there.  Eventually.  And I’M the one found Doorknob and Beastly.§§  Just by the way.  And the Ginormous Sub-Tablet iPhone 6’s keyboard is not worth carrying—or figuring out how to carry—around something the size of a frelling DVD box.§§§  And the little one does fit into Pooka’s little pink bag . . . but it won’t, as soon as I get a cover for it.  I’ll worry about that LATER.

We even made it to Crabbiton half an hour before the end of practise.

* * *

* I’m fine with—no, I’m positively looking forward to—going down under a large many-legged wave of furry things when I finally make it through the pearly gates some moment when St Peter is looking the other way.  I’m not sure I’m joyously anticipating greeting all the technology that has gone before.  In which case I probably shouldn’t give it names and genders:  this behaviour probably leads it to believe we’re supposed to be friends.  WELL YES WE ARE.  SUPPOSED TO BE.  FRIENDS.  Arrrrrrrrrgh.

** Too frelling late now:  the genie is not only out of the bottle, she’s turned it into a flower-pot and is growing a fine healthy crop of deadly nightshade.

*** Life was going to be so much simpler if I was just going to kind of sidle away from bell ringing without ever quite giving it up officially.  Like maybe if Niall moved to Zurich and Wild Robert to Ottawa.    These people who have taught you to ring somehow seem to think, okay, you ring.  I know you ring.  SO RING.  WHAT DO YOU MEAN, KNITTING?  OR TIRED AND DEMORALISED?  I SAID RING.

†  ????????

†† Which is probably immortalised on the blog.  I DON’T WANT TO KNOW.

††† I may tell you about . . . um . . . well, maybe not tonight.

‡ I totally do not get the penchant for carrying your iPhone in your pocket.  The little fold-up non-iPhone mobiles, sure, if that’s how you want to frictionize holes in your pockets:  I tend to the Large Wodge of Keys method myself but to each his/her own.  But an iPhone—even a little old one like Pooka—is MUCH TOO LARGE.  I keep reading these reviews that report, bristling with multiple dudgeon from the highest possible of horses, that their iPhones have bent.  Usually I think that modern paraphernalia is criminally tacky and built to disintegrate on contact so you have to buy another one immediately, but in the case of people who keep their iPhones in their pockets I THINK THEY DESERVE BENT IPHONES.  If you have the thing lying next to you on the table or counter or the bookshelf by your bed^ you will not only be aware of it doing its little vibration tango^^ but even turned off it burrs at you.

^ or the back of the loo while you take your bath:  I know, for someone who is still at least 85% Luddite I’m a trifle neuromancer about my iPhone, but if I say if Peter ever actually DOES phone me when he’s had a fall rather than soldiering on alone and bleeding all over the carpet, I want to get that phone call.

^^ And on the top of the loo cistern it positively rattles like a small pink rectangular castanet


‡‡‡ YOUR FRELLING WEB SITE SAYS YOU DO.  It’s a national chain, right?  So you look narrowly at the listings for both your shop and your desired item, looking for any warning about ‘not all outlets have all listed merchandise’ or similar . . . or a phone number for your local shop rather than the random national 800 number that will leave you on hold for half an hour while playing Vivaldi’s the Four Seasons on six kazoos and an eggbeater very loudly in your ear.  I used to like Vivaldi’s the Four Seasons.

§ Highways. The forty-eight lane kind where the slow lane is going 80 mph and the fast lane is in orbit.

§§ It wasn’t even that large. Two acres tops. Okay maybe three.

§§§ Anybody wanting to carry this sucker around in a pocket is going to have to buy a whole new wardrobe. With Kevlar pockets.

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