There is a God*: hellhounds ate their dinner. For like the first time in a fortnight. Maybe three weeks. I don’t know how much these thrilling new horizons of food prejudice are the new treatment they’re on, how much is the weather—although summer only began about this week**—how much is natural hellhound perversity and how much is the Borg.*** But it is hard on the person poking food down their throats two or three times a day†. I suppose it is too much to hope for that this is a new trend. . . .
Meanwhile. I’ve been singing.†† I’ve had a series of tiny epiphanies this week in a sort of PING-OW-PING-OW ††† cattle-prod pattern. Nadia’s new beginner soprano was ahead of me this week instead of the scary could-have-been-professional-WHY-AM-I-BOTHERING bloke. And she was torturing poor old Caro Mio Ben in a way that made me feel almost nostalgic. But . . . I could hear what Nadia is doing with her. In a way that you can’t hear yourself. I know I’ve been that route‡ but it’s waaaaay different from the inside. I could hear her ‘real’ voice breaking through occasionally‡‡ and I could hear what Nadia keeps telling me about me, that pitch is not the problem, making the sound is the problem, and if/when I make the sound correctly the pitch will be fine.‡‡‡
Last week was not a great week in what I acknowledge has been a too-little-interrupted series of crap weeks, and I was expecting Nadia to have to spend most of my lesson winkling my voice out of hiding. It’s a bit prone to slamming the door shut and hiding under the bed. I’m so used to going to my lesson to be re-set that I don’t always notice what I’m doing at home because it can’t possibly be any good, now can it? Nooooooo.§§ I go through the frelling blasted motions and then take the pieces in to Nadia to do something with. So, for example, I have been failing to notice that recently, even when I’m having a crap week, there’s still enough voice for me to sing with.
I was singing within the first few minutes of warm-up last Monday. SINGING. Nadia didn’t need forceps or anything. And we had a really good bash at Vedrai Carino§§§. And . . . okay, so I’ll never be Joyce DiDonato, but at my age it would be kind of a waste, not to mention that I already have a perfectly good creative career. But . . . I do have a voice. I may never get much beyond singing Jesus Is My Boyfriend for Sunday service at St Margaret’s but . . . I have a voice. I have to stop saying I don’t.
Also . . . my voice got tired before the end of the lesson because it had come roaring out of its silk-lined palanquin with such uncharacteristic dispatch. I came home thinking if I sang more and maybe developed some stamina, and engaged more with what I chose to sing and why I chose it. . . .
PING. To be continued. . . .
* * *
** And my annual anguish about when/if to turn the Aga off.
*** Who mess with our dogs and our rose-bushes as well as our computers to keep us demoralised and malleable. Souvenir de la Malmaison is out there laughing her thorny little socks off because of course Death by Sunlight began after all the rain had wrecked most of her flowers this year as usual. Since she’s now about forty feet tall she’s oppressing all my neighbours too.
† Two bottom lines: they get really ill if they miss more than one meal in a row, as I re-proved recently^, and the new drug has to be given with food.
^ None of us enjoyed the experience
†† Well duh.
††† And another one bell ringing at Crabbiton last night.
I was only the third person to arrive expecting to pull a rope and Felicity was wondering if she should have cancelled practise—it’s June, it’s hot, everyone is at home enjoying the long daylight and either drinking their iced tea or pouring it over their heads to cool off—and Wild Robert wasn’t going to make it. Three more people turned up. Yaay. Crabbiton only has six bells: we’re good to go.
Um. Except for the fact that Felicity and I were the good ringers and . . . um.
The funny thing is . . . we had a good practise. Everyone managed to do something that made them feel they were learning something. In poor Felicity’s case this was mostly the thankless task of holding practise together. In my case . . . she frelling made me frelling call SEVERAL touches of frelling Grandsire doubles.
I used to know a simple-minded touch of Grandsire where if you can count to three twice you’ll do. And then various things happened, including that I started ringing at Forza where there are eighty-seven bells and almost enough good ringers to ring them, and you’d better not even admit that you can (probably) call the notorious beginner’s touch of Grandsire doubles. And then when I recently began ringing at Crabbiton . . . Wild Robert decided it was time I learnt the touch after the beginner’s touch.
I have spectacularly failed to learn this new touch, and in the process—especially since it’s been a while since I tried to call it—I have forgotten the beginner’s touch.
Last night I re-invented it from first principles, with some help from the band.^ It took three tries but . . . we did it. And the teeny-weeny epiphany was: Wild Robert wants me to learn this second touch because it’ll force me to pay attention to where the other bells are, rather than blindly following a simple pattern for my bell. I don’t have enough brain. Counting to three twice is enough, when you’re also ringing a frelling bell.
Except . . . I had to pay some attention to where the other bells were last night, to re-figure out the simple pattern for mine. I didn’t do it well or thoroughly . . . but I did it enough to have a tiny insight into what Wild Robert is on about. And what I’d have to do to call his nasty next touch. PING. OW.
Now I have to decide if I’m going to tell him.
^ YOU CAN’T CALL A BOB THERE.
‡ Including torturing Caro Mio Ben.
‡‡ Note that she has more voice than I did when I began, but, as I was telling someone again recently, everyone has more voice than I did when I began. Nadia, Sorceress. Put her up against Circe and Circe would creep away weeping and get a job as an insurance adjuster.
‡‡‡ This is not to say there aren’t pitch problems out there. I used sometimes to follow a woman with quite a nice voice . . . who couldn’t carry a tune in a basket. I think she has stopped coming.
§ Also just hearing Nadia beginning to open her up is cheering somehow. It makes it more of a process and less . . . sorcery.
§§ I’m also having a meltdown crisis of confidence about the Samaritans as we approach the end of training and the beginning of duty. SIIIIIIIIIGH. I am so predictable.
§§§ Mozart is my man. Although if anyone could find a half-decent edition of Beethoven’s folk song arrangements for solo voice I would be all over it.
Jonas Kaufman, AKA world’s most fabulous male singer*, was interviewed on Radio Three this past Saturday afternoon**—early enough Saturday afternoon that I was still kind of staggering around groping for more caffeine and tripping over the hellterror, who gets very excited by the prospect of . . . everything.*** And I was listening to him and thinking [sic] approximately three things: (1) He sounds nice.† (2) He sounds a lot like Nadia talking about singing. (3) WHY AM I BOTHERING? If he’s a Ferrari I’m a junkheap bicycle with bent steering and a tyre missing. SIGH.
I sang for service again last night. I think I’ve told you I’m singing approximately fortnightly because they are mysteriously short of singers††. Horrible confession time. It’s fun. Even more horrible confession time: it’s chiefly fun because of the team thing, I who loathe groups and feel that the perfect social assemblage is two hellhounds, a hellterror and a laptop.††† I realised the fun thing with particular acuteness last night because we were attempting a song that nobody knew, but Buck, who was leading, had decided we should. So we were all somewhat equaller than usual, although not that much because Buck and Aloysius more or less know what they’re doing and the rest of us say ‘yes boss’ and try not to look stuffed. But learning something as a group—learning something that needs a group to do it—is, you know, bonding.‡ I suppose God gets a look-in here somewhere too.‡‡
It is interesting, how far I’ve come. Nadia teases me about the sleep she lost, when I was first taking lessons from her, wondering how she was ever going to open me up out of a faint squeaking noise.‡‡‡ Due to various traumas today was my first lesson in three weeks and I’ve been missing her—the thing I go to her for even more than knocking the weevils out of my repertoire§ is to reset my voice. The longer I’m left un-reset the less voice I have as the old habits relentlessly shut me down again.
Except . . . not so much. I was certainly glad of my resetting today§§—we also had a little weevil-elimination from THE SUN WHOSE RAYS ARE ALL ABLAZE—but I’d had enough voice to leave a singe mark on the back of Buck’s shirt yesterday evening. I’m learning more music because every note isn’t a life or death struggle against entropy.
Singing is, you know . . . it’s fun.
* * *
* http://www.jonaskaufmann.com/en/ Note that I’m not the only person who thinks so. The thing about Kaufman is the dark edge: I adore Juan Diego Florez ^ http://www.juandiegoflorez.com/ for example but he doesn’t scare me. Kaufman in full transcendent roar is scary.
^ We’re sticking to tenors here. If we let baritones in+ we’ll be here all night.++ And when did opera singers get cute? I never wanted to go home with Pavarotti.+++ When I was still young enough to go hang around stage doors they were never cute. Unfair.
+ Dmitri Hvorostovsky http://hvorostovsky.com/ for example.
++ Um. It’s already morning. Just by the way.
+++ Note: ewww.
** http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b04571zt I really hate the BBC web site, it is such a mess. If you don’t know exactly where to find something in the schedule you’re gerfarkled. I idiotically, because I so should know better, just now started by putting ‘Jonas Kaufman’ in the search window and . . . got one hit, to a review of some CD he was in quite a while ago. You need to download your podcasts fast while they’re still unearthable on the recent schedule. Because I am a dedicated, not to say pathological, listener to Radio Three I use the wretched BBC site a lot and have I think three times filled out one of those PLEASE TELL US HOW WE’RE DOING questionnaires in which I give them relentlessly one star for everything and fill the ‘other’ options with detailed complaints. . . . And for some reason nothing ever changes.
*** Hellhounds open one eye and say Wake us up if the world ends. Well, wake us up if the world ends if there’s going to be anything good to chase. Demons, sprites, fifty-foot mutant rabbits, etc.
† It’s not enough that he’s cute, he has to be NICE?
†† Any Fool Can Sing. As witnessed by the fact that I’ve received a few compliments on my singing. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. I think this is known as ‘be nice to her so she’ll keep coming and filling up a gap on stage’. Although Buck turning on me—I was immediately behind^ him last night—and saying, you’re really loud, may not exactly construe as a compliment.
^ repeat behind. Behind is good. Farther away from the FRONT is GOOD. Also, it turns out, good is the awful spotlights that frelling BLIND YOU. It means you can’t really see the congregation.
††† Peter is in bed asleep as are all sensible people at this hour.
‡ I’m trying to decide why it seems so different in kind from bell ringing, which is also a necessarily team thing.^ Maybe because music is simultaneous rather than serial? And by being simultaneous rather than serial there’s slightly more room to go wrong without anyone hating you? Well, at least in an informal service in a small-town church. There isn’t a losing-the-quarter equivalent in informal small-town service singing, I don’t think. If you make a horrible clashing noise you stop and start again at the beginning of the verse. Nobody dies or goes home mad. And nothing that happens on stage at St Margaret’s is ANYTHING like as intimidating as the frelling ringing chamber at Forza. Which I have to start cranking myself up to face again as soon as Wednesday night Samaritan training is over—and as of this week we’re more than halfway.
^ And which I blame for getting me softened up on the subject of team activities.
‡‡ Pretty much every musical friend I have warned me that singing for service may make it less about worship and more about performance. I am very likely missing something but this doesn’t seem to be what is happening. It may have to do with the fact that This Voice is as new as my Christianity is. Newer. It’s like oh, gee, thanks, God, I like being audible when I sing^, here, have some back. ^^
^ So long as I am remotely on pitch
^^ I’ve started thinking about writing my own Jesus Is My Boyfriend power ballad.+ Or maybe just setting a few lines of a psalm.
+ I still think most Modern Christian Worship Music sucks rabid wolverines. Maybe it’s just that holding a microphone makes me care.
‡‡‡ Remember that we’re talking about something growing from the size of a bacterium to the size of a small, undernourished Chihuahua. Very impressive in context^ but I will still never make Mastiff size or, to put it another way, I will never sing with Jonas Kaufman.
^ Yaaaaaaay Nadia
§ When I’ve been performing something in an especially weevilly way I tell Nadia that at least it proves I’m not slavishly listening to the pros on YouTube. Speaking of pros: Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau singing Schubert lieder: AAAAAAAAUGH. WHY AM I BOTHERING?^
^ For fun?
§§ Nadia can briefly raise me from undernourished Chihuahua to mini bull terrier. If I ever made it to whippet x deerhound I’d start going to auditions.
Yesterday was a veeeeeeeery bad ME day and while I did go bell ringing at Crabbiton in the evening it was chiefly because the tower captain is a trifle fierce and has extracted promises out of her regulars, including recent vague wandering semi-alive, semi-conscious and semi-skilled dorks like myself, to let her know if we’re not coming. If I’ve genuinely got something legitimate on, that’s fine, I know it and I can say so. But on stupid bad-energy days I keep hoping I’ll start to improve any minute* and then the minutes trickle past and trickle past and on a bad day I’m not too plugged in to the whole time thing either and then suddenly it’s HALF AN HOUR TILL BELL PRACTISE AND I DIDN’T TELL FELICITY I’M NOT COMING SO I HAVE TO HURTLE A FEW HELLCRITTERS AROUND THE BLOCK FOR A PEE AND THEN PELT OFF TO PRACTISE.
Today has been better, but hellcritters might be permitted to feel a trifle aggrieved at their summary and abbreviated hurtling yesterday. Peter wants to go to the farmers’ market on Fridays, so I bring the hellhounds and we have a nice nonstandard hurtle while Peter buys stuff. That was them. They were happy to come home and flop. I then contemplated the hellterror (who was in my lap at the time) and decided she should have an adventure, so I took her out to one of the countryside walks none of us goes on any more because of the Other People’s Dogs problem. Pav is very nearly the perfect companion for such an excursion—not quite perfect, there is no perfect when the world is full of idiots and their dogs—because she’s a bull terrier the average moron shudders away from her and makes a more concerted grab for his/her manic off-lead danger to society than he/she would for a mere pair of lurchers/longdogs/large whippety things. No one is afraid of a mild-mannered sighthound. Anyway. If the OHMIGOD IT’S A PIT BULL** WE’RE GOING TO DIIIIIIIIE thing doesn’t work, I can pick her up. We had several occasions of each this afternoon.
We managed to have a good time anyway. But here’s the amazing thing: I wore her out. I WORE OUT a hellterror. By the time we got back to Wolfgang she was throwing herself belly-down into the long grass by the side of the track and trying to convince me to carry her the last stretch. No. You can walk. You know there’s foooooooood waiting back at the car—she always gets a little handful of kibbly treats to convince her that climbing into her travelling crate is a good thing—oh, right, fooooooood, she said, and deigned to totter the rest of the way after me.
It took her all of lunch and a half hour’s nap to recuperate. . . .
* * *
* This is not quite as daft and irresponsible as it sounds. As often as I not I start coming out of an ME haze with a surprisingly graphic sense of my energy running back in, like pouring water into a pitcher. Sometimes it’s more like fog lifting. Sometimes it happens faster and sometimes slower and sometimes it’s like WHAM and sometimes it’s pretty subtle—it might occur to me that I could stop playing Triple Town^ and concentrate on something for example.
^ I CANNOT FRELLING BELIEVE I’VE GOT RE-ADDICTED. The beastly [sic] game is so last year. Or last two or three years, I mean, ago, I think. But I was trying to wean myself OFF all the unblessed word games I was playing too much of+. And I turned the frelling ninja bears off and suddenly, whammo, I’m frelling playing frelling Triple Town again.++
+ Especially the ones with the really dark background colours so you can get eyestrain while you waste your time? What a great system.#
# Apparently it never occurred to the designers that old people might want to play their finglegartmore games.
++ And doing a lot better for some reason. It’s not just lack of ninja bears. Maybe it’s the boomerang result of Wild Robert trying to teach me to call real touches of Grandsire doubles. I can call the cheating touch, where you just call yourself in and out of the hunt every other lead, and all you have to keep track of is how many calls you’ve made so you yell THAT’S ALL at the right moment.# Wild Robert, who is a fiend in human disguise##, wants me to learn to keep track of all the bells and where they are in the pattern so I’m calling from awareness rather than a memorised pattern. I get this###—it’s the difference between real conductors and people who have memorised a few patterns—but that doesn’t mean I can do it. Triple Town is just a frelling computer game. Arrrgh.
# Which I never do. I usually manage to count my calls accurately but then it’s like, Here? Here? Do I call an end here? —No, you call half a lead ago and now we’re ringing an unscheduled plain course while you feel foolish. CALL NOW BEFORE WE RING FORTY-SEVEN MORE PLAIN COURSES WHILE YOU’RE THINKING ABOUT IT. Sigh. I was not snorfleblasting made to be a conductor.
## And I’m sure he keeps his good humour about teaching an endless array of hopeless dorks by setting those of us with victim mentalities impossible challenges because we’re fun to watch.
### I was thinking last night—blearily—that this conducting nightmare is not totally unlike learning the Samaritan mindset—what the trainers call ‘your Samaritan head’. You can grasp in principle all kinds of things about offering emotional support, no more and no less, and the minute you’re dropped in a role-play to practise what you’ve just so-called learnt, your frelling mind goes frelling blank. WHAT DO I SAY NOW. I am going to be very glad to get my first genuine duty shift over with . . . so it is over with and I can stop frelling obsessing about it.~ The thing about conducting a touch of change ringing is that the worst that happens is a really bad noise that the neighbours may complain of and you decide to stay home henceforth and do more knitting, which is quieter and involves fewer rope burns~~. With the Samaritans . . . you may actually hurt someone’s feelings. Eh. Well, no one was holding a gun to my head when I went along to the info evening, and then along to the flushing out the secret Klu Klux Klan members first-cut evening, and then the interview and now the training. . . . And it’s fascinating. It’s not cheerful—if everyone were cheerful we wouldn’t need Samaritans—but it is fascinating, and clearly worthwhile, and I’ve always been a (cranky) wet knee-jerk liberal and I’m now a (cranky) Christian wet knee-jerk liberal and although the Samaritans is comprehensively and categorically not a religious organization, still, God told me to do it so I can shut up and get on with it. Yes sir/madam.
~ Which the trainers say is dead common and not to worry about it. Try not to obsess, but don’t worry about . . . obsessing.
~~ It is very hard to give yourself a rope burn, bell ringing. Just by the way.
** Bull terriers are not pit bulls. Also just by the way.
IT’S BEEN AN EXTREMELY ARRRGH MAKING DAY. Starting, as so often, last night. The Samaritans training is brilliant* but EXHAUSTING and, furthermore, I come home so wound up I can’t sleep.** So I got to bed very late,*** got up very late, and was still staggering around wondering why the teapot was in the washing machine and where the on switch for the kettle was, when Pooka started barking. Nooooooo I’m not articulate yet, I tried to say, and failed on ‘articulate’. URK, I said. GLORP. Raphael, who is used to me, said, I have the new frabzle orbling for your printer and I’m in the area, I could drop it round if it’s convenient. Bromgle? I said. Glid? Okay.
. . . While you’re here, I said, letting him in twenty minutes and a major upload of caffeine later, would you mind looking at—?
AN HOUR AND A HALF AFTER THAT†, I am now really far behind, and I was planning on a lightning raid to the garden centre to buy snapdragons before they run out of PINK, and Peter had been swept off to visit distant family for the day by Georgiana who has the stamina of a marathon runner for driving†† so I have to wash my own lettuce for lunch, and the first thing that happens is that I open the refrigerator door at the mews and Peter’s box of eggs, he having been in a hurry that morning and perhaps not putting it back quite scrupulously enough, LEAPS OFF THE SHELF IN THE DOOR AND SPLATTERS ALL OVER THE FLOOR AT MY FEET.†††
Also the hellhounds aren’t eating again.
I didn’t make it to the garden centre.
And I remembered at the last minute that I’d promised to ring bells at Crabbiton again tonight. I’ve slightly inadvertently made myself a regular. I’m pretty demoralised about life in general‡, Forza is intimidating, I’m not up for intimidating, the Sams’ usual training evening is also tower practise night and I’m not going to risk ringing Sunday service when I’m not coming to practise. But I don’t want to lose all that grimly acquired mediocre semi-skill either. . . . I think I’ve told you that Wild Robert has started teaching at Crabbiton again. So I’ve been going along.
So tonight on the one hand it was AAAAAAAAUGH because I was looking forward to a nice quiet evening at home with my husband and on the other hand it was, oh! Wild Robert! A man who can create a stimulating practise out of nothing, as he did last week when there were only four of us and one of us couldn’t ring much, is worth some loyalty, or some getting out of your chair when you don’t want to. As I should remember from my still-nostalgically-recalled regular practise nights at Ditherington, till the tower captain and the only local who ever came, pulled the plug. Also, about tonight, I’d promised.
Wild Robert, who is an evil, eyebrow-wiggling ratbag as well as an inspired teacher, made me call a touch of Grandsire, not the relatively easy one where all you have to do is remember the little bit of the overall pattern that you’re comfortingly limited to, but a proper touch where calls dislocate you distressingly too—and I haven’t even called one of the simple ones in years. My first attempt tonight was a total disaster. T. O. T. A. L. Made worse by the fact that only Wild Robert, the tower captain and I can actually ring Grandsire touches, so some of the other people were questing off in interesting directions and had to be hauled back to order by Wild Robert who was also having to unstick me from the brambles and briars about every half lead.
Over the course of the evening I improved. Somewhat. But it was such fun. I used to love bell ringing. . . .
* * *
* And, something I thought I would never say, in part because I’m not in the habit of putting myself in the way of such experiences, I have learnt to love role playing. I HATE ROLE PLAYING.^ I’m so distracted by how unutterably stupid and phony and useless it is that I absolutely don’t learn anything and I feel unutterably stupid and phony and useless and CRANKY with it, that kind of cranky that makes you feel you don’t fit in your own skin any more, which furthermore has probably broken out into spots of angst and frustration. Arrrrgh.
In somebody or other’s defense, possibly mine, Samaritans role playing is a lot closer to reality than most of the situations where this mutant device is employed. You’re pretending to be a Samaritan phone volunteer and one of the real Samaritans^^ pretends to be a caller. All the trainers have been Samaritan listening volunteers for yonks . . . and I’m also rather intrigued by the apparent strong streak of dramatic flair thus revealed in the Samaritans community. Granted that when you’re in the hot seat you’re a trifle preoccupied with GLEEP WHAT DO I SAY NOW but we split up in teams so we get to listen as well as (fail to) perform and I’m telling you the trainers are convincing. They’re working from a script, but since they have to adapt to what the sweating trainees say, they have to be good at thinking on their feet.^^^
But adapting to what someone on the other end of a phone line is saying is, of course, what Samaritans are good at.# In our introductory evening the presenter said that the listening skills you learn by being a Samaritan do bleed into the rest of your life and if you’re not careful you’ll find yourself being a very popular person for unloading on. Ha. I plan to leave my nice, warm, empathetic## self in the cupboard under the stairs at the Samaritans and pick up my cranky cudgel on my way out the door.
^ I don’t remember what I said about the role playing in the Street Pastors training, but it won’t have been friendly.
^^ I should perhaps say real Samaritan organization volunteers to avoid confusion.
^^^ Although we’re sitting down. Ahem.
# Supposed to be good at. I’m not amazingly fabulous but I think I’ll make the grade.
## One of the Samaritans’ big deals is empathy. Sympathy suggests emotional involvement, which is devoutly to be avoided; empathy is getting alongside someone, seeing their situation from their point of view—which is what we’re trying to do, so we can offer emotional support.
** The worst thing is that WE’RE HALFWAY THROUGH THE FIRST MODULE. By the end of this month we’ll have our mentors—each new listening^ volunteer has a mentor for the first few duty shifts—and by the end of June we’ll be, you know, live. EEEEEEEEEEEEP. Remind me why I thought this was a good idea?
^ Which is what it’s called, although it includes email and texting and the occasional streetmail letter.
*** I like the long evenings, this time of year, but I could really do without the early dawns.
† So there’s this app that won’t load. He ended up downloading the latest update of the frelling OS to persuade it that Astarte is a happy home for apps, which instantly made every other app say ME ME I HAVE AN UPDATE TOO I WANT MY UPDATE. A lot of them don’t bother to ask politely first either, they just instantly go into catch-up mode. I hate opening an app that I can more or less use and discovering they’ve made it new and shiny and thrilling and utterly unfamiliar. Life is short. I don’t want to waste a lot of it learning New and Shiny. The now-successfully-downloaded app had better be WORTH IT.
†† What with to and from her home as well as the trip itself she must have been behind the wheel seven hours. I couldn’t drive that far before I had ME.
††† I should have let the hellterror deal with it. She wanted to. I thought the eggshells might disagree with her.
‡ We have the head of the local branch of a five-star national home help company, as recommended by Peter’s doctor, coming for a chat and an assessment tomorrow. Siiiiiiiiiigh.
I bought nine roses last week.* AND I PLANTED THE LAST TWO OF THEM TODAY. It’s only been a WEEK.** And I’ve already got ALL OF THEM them in the ground.*** Are you impressed? Trust me, you should be impressed.
So I thought I’d give myself a Slightly Short Blog Day to celebrate.† And maybe I’ll do a little work. Or go to bed early.†† Or something.
* * *
* Hey. I need more roses.
** I can’t remember if I told you this story or not^. I’d ordered from a rose nursery that isn’t impossibly far from here and said I would pick them up. When they rang me that my roses were ready I suggested to Peter that he come too and we’d go on afterward to the big public garden nearby and have a wander. So that’s what we did. Except that by the time we got to the big public garden . . . we were too tired.^^ So we didn’t walk around it. Ho hum. Life in the Slow Lane. But I did get my roses.
^ And the Footnote Labyrinth makes trying to look back and check somewhat challenging.
^^ In my case all that frelling driving was aggravated by a long conversation I had with one of the rose-nursery proprietors about, how surprising, roses. She was full of embarrassing information I should have known.+ I have, for example, never had any luck with the symbiotic fungus stuff that you put in the hole when you plant your rose, and it colonises the roots which then develop like crazy in all directions and your rose is very, very happy. Except it didn’t and it wasn’t. I thought it was another fashionable scam. Nobody told me that root fungi don’t like blood-fish-and-bone which is the traditional rose and general perennial shrub food. You ALWAYS put BFB in the hole you’re planting a rose in. Not when you’re using mycorrhizal fungi. Oh. –So I bought some more of the frelling stuff and have used it. Except I’ve only used about half the packet and it only keeps for about a year and it’s stupidly expensive, you wouldn’t want to waste it nooooooooooo. . . . .
+ Although we did a little mutual howling about people who don’t get it that roses are, you know, living things. I told her a story I know I’ve told you, from when we were still at the old house and opened our garden on the National Gardens Scheme. I had someone at least once every open day saying, your roses are amazing, how do you get your roses to be so amazing? My roses are barely struggling along. And I would say, well, what do you feed them? And they would look at me blankly and say, Feed them? FOR PITY’S SAKE, GUYS. HOW DO YOU THINK ROSES PRODUCE ALL THOSE FLOWERS? MAGIC? How can anyone look at a modern, repeat-flowering rose, frelling bowed down by the weight of its flowers, not least because it’s been overbred for flower production at the expense of everything else like leaves and stems and good health, and not realise it’s going to need a little more help than scratching a hole in the ground and plonking it in?? That’s like buying a racehorse and feeding it straw. GOOD GRIEF.
*** Well. Mostly not in the ground. Not in the All the Plumbing in Hampshire cottage garden. Most of them are in pots. I suspect I have rather good drainage, between the builder’s rubble and all the plumbing in Hampshire, but most roses that aren’t major thugs, in this garden, do better in pots, possibly just because they don’t have to fight off the thugs. But I lost a few this wet winter that I don’t think I should have lost so . . . more pots. A few of the new intake are in pots smaller than they’ll stay in forever . . . but they’ll do for a year or two. Or three. Just keep feeding them.
† Also because I took Peter to the ex-library again today and we battered our way through all the other media and went and hung out in the small dark corner where the books now live. I found a little trove of knitting books . . . and then read one of Peter’s thrillers over tea. During which I absent-mindedly ate a Very Nasty gluten-free pistachio cookie. I think I object to a book so absorbing that you can eat nasty food without noticing till it’s too late. That’s the problem with thrillers: they make you forsake all rationality and keep turning pages.
And then I went bell ringing at Crabbiton for the second week in a row. I haven’t been ringing, I’m too tired, and the idea of facing eighty-six bells and a ringing chamber the size of a ballroom at Forza is too much for me. Crabbiton has six bells, and a pretty laid-back and low-level band, and I found out by accident that Wild Robert has started teaching there pretty regularly again. So I went along last week and made bob minor possible—they generally only have four inside ringers, and bob minor requires five—and so this week they were really glad to see me. It’s a hoot being one of the big kids. Although Felicity had to go and wreck my feeble glow of self-satisfaction by inquiring if I wouldn’t like to make up the number at Madhatterington on Mothering Sunday. Nooooooooooooo.
So . . . after all this febrile self indulgence . . . work would be good.
†† No! No! Not that!