Wasn’t I saying something not all that long ago about having been sort of half-planning without thinking about it, because thinking about it would make me sad, to slip unofficially out of bell ringing? It’s not like I’m good at it or, even if I practised eight hours a day every day as if I were in training for the Olympics or Norma for the Metropolitan Opera, would I get good at it.* Nobody is going to miss me beyond method bell ringing’s chronic shortage of hands on ropes.**
Okay. That was then. Now has gone rogue and bolted in another direction. I seem to have rung some kind of frelling bells five days out of the last eight. If you wanted to be cruel you could say I’ve rung bells nine days out of the last twelve. I wonder if heroin addicts feel like this after they’ve been clean for a while? The old buzz? That fluttering feeling*** behind the eyes† or in the base of the throat?†† The sense of being helplessly ensnared by a grinning, many-clawed obsession. Going har har har har har GOTCHA. Look on the bright side. I don’t have to worry about finding a reliable source of clean needles.
I can’t even (entirely) blame Niall†††. I went to South Desuetude entirely on my own recognisance. Sonar Fweep was my idea.‡ And I’m sure Old Eden was good for my character as well as my muscular redevelopment, tonight‡‡, after tinkling carelessly on the little light well-mannered bells at Crabbiton for . . . ahem . . . several weeks in a row now. Ringing at Old Eden is ploughing rough tussocky ground. Ah yes, plain bearings. Joy. Creak.‡‡‡
I’M NOT RINGING ANY BELLS TOMORROW. OR WEDNESDAY. Er. I think I will maintain a tactful silence about Thursday. And Friday. And I forget if I’m ringing on Saturday. . . .
* * *
* Any more than singing eight hours a day would make me a Norma. Sigh. At the moment I would probably settle for NOT being late for my voice lesson every frinkblasted week. I was supposed to predict that everyone on my end of Main Street was going to be getting their bathrooms replaced today and there would be epic numbers of OPULENT PERSONAL CARE SPACE REFIT lorries casually half-parked on the margins on BOTH sides of the road so unless you were a very thin bicycle you COULDN’T GET THROUGH?
I am also finally beginning to realise that I have a new(ish) tactical problem. I think I told you^ that as this horrible winter started dragging itself toward spring I let Aloysius^^ put me back on the singing rota at St Margaret’s. This means that on my service-singing weeks I’ll have spent the last two or three days of that week frantically cramming for service singing, since that week’s music director won’t have sent out the playlist till Thursday if we’re lucky. As it happens I was down to sing this week—that is last night—which was a special service and there were going to be LOTS OF PEOPLE THERE^^^ so I was a tiny bit more anxious than usual that I should have SOME clue about the stuff^^^^ we were performing.
This means however that by late Sunday night, when, even on a non-special-service singing Sunday, I’m exhausted and my mind is full of the detritus that results from classical training coming in explosive contact with Jesus Is My Boyfriend, and I’m trying to reengage with the former the results can be a bit bizarre. Even aberrant. And my voice lesson is on MONDAY. I was singing Panis Angelicus^^^^^ better on Wednesday than I was today. Sigh.
^ ?? One of the things about blogging every day was that I probably had told you things and therefore didn’t have to try to remember if I had. Remembering comes under the ‘Norma’ and ‘bell ringing’ category of personal excellence, ie Not Going to Happen.
^^ Aloysius is LEAVING. WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH. . . . Okay, pulling myself together now. I know this happens with curates and I even knew it was due to happen to Aloysius soon but . . . WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH. I may be a grown up as a human being+ but I’m a baby as a Christian and Aloysius has been First Contact++ about a lot of stuff.+++
+ And a grown-up twice Aloysius’ age, as I may have mentioned before because it haunts me.~ At least I’m only seven years older than Alfrick.
~ I told him not long ago that it was hard sometimes learning stuff from children.# He took this in good part. I’m trying not to believe that he took this in good part because he’s a priest, and priests are obliged to take cranky remarks from elderly parishioners kindly and tolerantly. It’s in the small print in the Priest Contract: Be nice to the grouches God has blessed you with. You can afford to be nice because you’re a priest and you know God will sort them out later.##
# I suspect it’s even worse for those of us who were precocious in our own youth. Don’t be precocious. It will just make you crankier later on.
++ You can’t have a father figure half your age, right?
+++ My monks, for example, speaking of Alfrick. I could still be going ‘oooooh . . . monks . . . . scary’ and driving hastily past the monks’ gate, which has a large sign by the turn-in that says WELCOME, if it weren’t for Aloysius.
^^^ MAJOR EEEK. Till it occurred to me, hey, the more of them there are the less likely any of them can hear me. +
+ Also we had a drummer last night. Our usual drummer is actually a good drummer which might be considered regrettable in our usual raggedy-andy line up. But any drummer will be wildly over-miked so the rest of us can pretty much do anything we like and no one will know. Maybe I should try singing Bellini.
^^^^ Sic. I am still not a fan of Modern Christian Worship Music.
^^^^^ Corny? Sure. The good kind of corny.
** Or on short leather straps if you happen to ring handbells. I don’t know anyone who rings methods on handbells, do you? Especially no one who rings frelling quarter peals on frelling handbells. Which I may have done for a second time recently. On one of those nine days out of twelve. But then I don’t know me. I don’t want to know me. Crazy obsessed people make me nervous.
*** Which is not about getting your out-of-practise hands tangled in a bell rope.
† No, that’s your brain going NOOOOOOOOOOOOO.
†† Which is a matching AAAAAAAAAAAUGH trying to get out.
††† I may try.
‡ It was one of Wild Robert’s erratic seminars. And I needed Niall to drive that far. There was a motorway involved.
‡‡ Fortunately in terms of mental integrity it was mostly plain hunt for beginners. Nadia just about killed me today.^ In the nicest possible way of course. But Monday is not usually my best evening for an optimum bell ringing experience. And story-in-progress tonight? After, furthermore, last night’s heroic service sing? Not a hope. Might as well write another blog post.
^ Niall is not the ONLY Master of Mwa hahahahaha in my life.
‡‡‡ My shoulders. Not the bell frames.
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
‡‡ WHY ARE THERE NO ARROW KEYS SO YOU CAN MOVE AROUND MORE PRECISELY THAN THE SCREEN WILL READ YOUR BIG FAT FINGERS? ESPECIALLY WHEN THE PREDICTIVE FACILITY IS CORRECTING YOU IN A MORE THAN USUALLY INFURIATING WAY? WHY ARE THERE NO ARROW KEYS?
‡‡‡ 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.
Today was Alcestis’ 58th birthday.
Would have been. She died a little over a week ago.
Peter and I often go out to dinner either the 3rd or the 26th of whatever month it is*; occasionally both, like this month. January is frequently a sod; serious deluges of champagne are often required in January. Last year, after Peter’s stroke in December, pretty much bathtubs full of the stuff were prescribed and dutifully consumed. And this year. . . . I’d remembered that Alcestis’ birthday was the end of January somewhere; I’d forgotten it was today till Admetus reminded me. Peter and I clinked our glasses tonight and drank to Alcestis. Who is dancing joyfully in the sunlit fields of the Lord . . . which means fuck-all to me right now.
The funeral is on Friday.
That’s the worst, of course. I miss her. Remember I said in the Not a happy new year post to make time for your friends, life is shorter than you think? It’s not like I didn’t know Alcestis’ time and life were running out all last year, but the habit of ‘oh next week is soon enough’ is hard to sodding break. I am so glad now for all of those evenings I spent knitting and chatting with her the last few months; I wouldn’t have not done it for anything, now that it’s all over—now that she’s gone. But it also makes me miss her worse. Because I’d FINALLY got in the habit of going round to see her regularly. And enjoying her company. And remembering why I liked her so much: for her dry humour, her empathy, her astonishing breadth of practical knowledge about the world; if you wanted to know something about pretty much anything, chances were that Alcestis could tell you something you could use and suggest where you might look for more. She’d been a scientist and a science teacher, and teaching came naturally to her, whether it was basic physics or how to pluck a chicken.** And yet months would go by, before she fell ill, when we’d run into each other in town and say ‘oh yes we must get together’ and then go our separate ways for more months. Why are humans so STUPID? Because I’m far from the only person who treats their friends like this. There’s always going to be time. But there isn’t.
So. Sorry for the long blog silence. There’s still a lot of staring blankly into space—and several other WHAAAAAAT? unexpected crises, mostly unsuitable for a family-friendly public blog, but I will mention the evening this past week, having just been knocked sideways by one of said crises, I managed to leave my diary in Mauncester I CANNOT LIIIIIIIVE WITHOUT MY DIARY I can barely remember to breathe without checking in my diary first*** and having phoned to be sure that I had left it where I thought I had, and they said they’d keep it safe for me, I leaped into Wolfgang to drive back to fetch it . . .
. . . and Wolfgang wouldn’t start. AAAAAAAAAAAUGH. I spent most of the next DAY schlepping in to Mauncester on the frelling BUS and hiking to the far end of town TO PICK UP MY DIARY. While Wolfgang was towed off to the garage. I got him back today: hellhounds and I had a very nice walk over hill and under milkwood to Warm Upford to pick him up, with a shiny new starter motor under his bonnet.† And all that stumbling over tussocks gave me an appetite for champagne, duck confit and a big fat chocolate brownie with chocolate sauce tonight at the pub. It was a very good confit, and an excellent brownie. But the brownie wasn’t as good as Alcestis’.
* * *
The news isn’t all bad, if you will permit me to range now into the frivolous. Niall, who can smell weakness, and has his own unique ideas about cheering people up, seems to have inveigled me into RINGING FRELLING HANDBELLS AGAIN. HOW DO I GET INTO THESE THINGS.†† Furthermore I seem to have become a semi-regular fourth with a particular group, Niall, Jillian, who was starting to learn handbells shortly before I more or less stopped, and a gentleman who has not appeared on these virtual pages before, whom we will call Spenser. I’ve rung tower bells with Jillian many times—although she’s a good ringer and I’m not—I only know Spenser by reputation. The fact that he’s not only a good tower bell ringer but also an organist and therefore has developed the Extra Brain Lobes for keeping track of several manuals AND a pedal keyboard or whatever you call them means he is beautifully pre-programmed to learn frelling handbells swiftly and accurately and I will HATE HIM SOON. But right at the moment he and I are about level in the Struggle to Master Bob Major.
I’ve spent most of my handbell career thus far on six bells, mostly ringing bob minor. ‘Plain bob’ is where everyone starts. If you’ve only got three handbell ringers there are a lot of other more complex six-bell methods, but when you first make the step up to major—eight bells, four ringers—you’ll go back to plain bob. This time plain bob major. Counting to eight is hard—which you have to do, every dorgleflamming row, to keep yourself in your place in the pattern. And ‘seven’ has too many syllables in it. OnetwothreefourfivesixSEVENeight. Ruins your rhythm.†††
Jillian at the moment is our weak link. Not her fault, she’s been ringing less time than I have, Spenser is just talented, drat him, and Niall is, well, Niall. Niall conceived of the daring plan to swap Jillian out some day that isn’t our regular meeting so that Spenser and I can have the thrill [sic] of ringing with two good steady ringers and see how far we get. I could see the quarter-peal light going off in Niall’s evil little eyes‡. We were fixed for this past Wednesday, with Melinda as our fourth. Melinda would be one of my favourite ringers—despite her reprehensible excellence on handbells—if I saw more of her; she’s the one got me going to the extra tower practise at Fustian, which stopped happening some time this last year when I haven’t been ringing anyway. After Alcestis died I told Niall I am NOT trying for a quarter peal on Wednesday. Both my stamina and my focus are zero for the present and the immediate future. That’s okay, said Niall in his blandest possible manner.
I should frelling know better by now.
You can see where this is going. We rang a couple of touches and first I and then Spenser—and bless him for not being perfect—crashed and burned. So we started over. No big; we were getting good practise with Melinda there. But then we started to steady down—Melinda is a lovely, equable, consistent, low-tension-transfer ringer.‡‡ Aaaaaaand we didn’t crash and burn. For a few minutes. For a few more minutes. For . . . that ratbag Niall is going for a quarter.
We rang a quarter. Spenser’s and my first quarter of bob major.
And that’s for Alcestis too. Makes a change from glasses of champagne. ‡‡‡
* * *
* Our wedding anniversary is 3 January; our lightning-strike meeting anniversary is 26 July.
** She was also an excellent—and self taught—knitter. She half-blinded herself knitting the Plain Dark Pullovers that are all the Standard British Male will wear, for Admetus. And the sweater I knitted^ about three-quarters of, those last evenings of knit and chat, is hanging on the back of a chair at Third House and every time I see it I catch my breath. I should finish it. I know. At some deep superstitious level I think I’m still hoping if I don’t finish it I’ll get a few more evenings with Alcestis. Sigh.
^ which is for me and is about as far from plain and dark as it is possible to get.
*** Drink champagne, yes. Eat chocolate, yes. Breathing, I may need reminding.
† He now leaps six feet off the ground when you turn the key in the little hole. BRAAAAAAANG. NEXT STOP MARS.
†† A pathetic insufficiency of counter-obstinacy. There is NOTHING ON THE PLANET as persistent as Niall in pursuit of handbell ringers. And he’s such a polite, quiet, gentle person . . . most of the time. Not about handbells. Be glad you don’t live in New Arcadia. He’d get you too.
††† One of the additional reasons I will never graduate to twelve on handbells, aside from the spectacular absence of necessary brain support, is because of having to count a row that has a three-syllable number in it. Seven is bad enough. ELEVEN? Are you frelling JOKING? I can just about manage plain hunt in the tower on twelve, because tower bells go so much slower you have half a chance to squeeze those extra syllables out. Frelling handbells go a frelling lick. Well-rung handbells sound like the louder, more musical version of someone running their thumb over the edges of a pack of cards. That’s how fast it goes.^
^ Not with me however. Handbells rung with me in the group are . . . stately. There are people who won’t ring with me because I’m too slow. Trust me, I don’t want to ring with these people anyway.
‡ If he’s part bull terrier that would explain a lot.
‡‡ There are other handbell ringers I won’t ring with because just being in the same room with them winds me up. But I suspect they feel the same about me.
‡‡‡ Okay, I should finish that sweater.
I haven’t seen much of Niall in quite some time because I haven’t been ringing bells. I’m aware that I miss ringing but there’s been a lot going on including all the major life change stuff and I’m so boring I keep getting tired. We’ve stayed in touch by text* which in Niall’s case is chiefly offers of handbell opportunities which I mostly rebuff although he’s caught me once or twice by being pathetic, when they really really really need a third person or they can’t ring. Sob. But we also occasionally exchange fascinating information like that fresh brownies have just come out of the oven** or that there are mushrooms growing on the dashboard*** since the torrential rain that broke our early autumn drought last week with an unnecessarily extended HURRAH. The seasonal river at the bottom of our hill is now in places pretty much up to the hellterror’s little evil eyes since of course the storm drains are blocked up again because that’s what storm drains do. Ask any local council.
But Penelope has been ill so I’ve been going round their house to see her with Niall in attendance and it’s a lot harder to blow off someone bringing you cups of tea and fresh brownies† on a tray and staring at you with beady, meaningful eyes†† while ‘handbells’ forms in a thought bubble over his head.
Arrrrgh. So last night I had late duty††† which ran over time because that’s what it does, and when I get home I still have me and a hellmob to feed, and the hellmob needs a final relieving hurtle and I need a bath in which I will fall asleep and then not be able to sleep in my bed.‡ So I was staggering around this morning on even less sleep than usual wondering where the teakettle was‡‡ when Pooka chirruped. I just about got her open and on and . . . Niall. Wanting to know if I might come along before Old Eden tower practise tonight to be a steady pair of hands to ring handbells with his new beginner.‡‡‡ No. Next question. I scowled at the screen. Poor earnest hopeful Niall§, wishing for a mere half an hour of my time, and even in my present condition I can (probably) ring plain hunt on handbells, in fact it’s probably one of the few things I am capable of so it would be half an hour of this bleary day that would not be wasted. Think of the next pan of brownies§§.
Okay, I texted back. But I’m too tired for tower bells; it’s been too long and the Old Eden bells are possessed by demons anyway. Thank you, replied Niall politely.
You see where this is going. I successfully rang handbells with Niall’s very nice beginner.§§§ My basic handbell autopilot is still alive and well even if the rest of me is mushroom compost. The tower bell ringers began trickling in and . . . stopped. There were at final count six of us, including the very new beginner and one less new beginner. And Niall and Vicky. And Monty. And me. I stayed. Obviously. I rang. I enjoyed it.#
I MISS MY BELLS. DRAT YOU NIALL. HOW AM I GOING TO FIT TOWER BELLS BACK INTO MY LIFE?
* * *
* Old people. Texting. You youngsters^ may need to avert your eyes.
^ I know there are youngsters who read the blog. They email me sometimes. Hi, I’m sixteen, and your blog makes me laugh. —Oh good. I think.
** Niall retired about a year ago and has learnt to bake. Clearly I should be cultivating this connection.
*** All right I don’t really have mushrooms growing on the dashboard. But I will soon. It’s a little-known fact that commercial mushroom compost is made of compressed dog hair.
† Okay, they’re not really brownies. He thinks they’re brownies, but he’s a bloke. They haven’t got enough chocolate in them. They are totally superlative cake, dense and moist and studded with cranberries and raisins and other redeeming social values and with a faint pleasant haze of chocolate just discernible in the background. THESE ARE NOT BROWNIES. Brownies must be so saturated, so rampant with chocolate that they suck all the light out of their immediate surroundings except for a faint seductive gleam on their enigmatic darkest dark brown almost-black surfaces. Redeeming social values wither and die in the vicinity of true brownies. Penelope however, is no fool. Darling, she says, these are excellent. And has another one.
†† Almost hellterrorish, Niall, staring at you.
††† And anyone who is wondering why I haven’t mentioned the Samaritans by name on the blog in months, it’s because the admin asked me not to. Oh. Ah. I know they are pathological about confidentiality—which is a GOOD THING!!!!—but, um. I may try to renegotiate the absoluteness of the ban some day in future but at the moment, while I’m still a frelling beginner, is not the time. I will however risk mentioning that I’m out of the initial clueless wonder apprenticeship period and into the second, theoretically not quite so clueless^ apprenticeship period and yaaaaay. But the main thing is, yes, I’m certainly continuing with it. I hope that joining is proving to be one of my better ideas—and yes, one of the new time and energy holes in this blog, as I anticipated when I stopped posting every day, is/are my Samaritan duty shifts and various relateds. And if anyone reading this has been wondering if volunteering for the Samaritans is for them—find out where your local is and go along to an information evening. No, it’s not easy work, but yes it is rewarding, and like pretty much every other worthwhile organization in this world, they can always use more bodies.
Shutting up now.
^ I would cross my fingers but that makes it harder to answer the phone.
‡ I swear if I could figure out a way to keep the water effectively hot I’d just sleep in the bath.^ Although as soon as this became official I’m sure the demons would say SHE’S SLEEPING IN THE BATH. RELOCATE. YOU’RE NOT AFRAID OF A LITTLE WATER ARE YOU?
^ No a waterbed is NOT the same thing.
‡‡ On the counter. Where it always is. I have a relationship with my electric kettle and my large bag(s) of loose leaf tea and various necessary accoutrements not unlike my relationship with my glasses. I can’t see anything till I find my glasses, including where I put them. I can’t possibly get a couple of handfuls of those tiny black shreddy things into that ridiculously narrow-mouthed sieve and then accurately pour just-off-boiling water into it and over them . . . till I’ve had my caffeine. I can almost see why tea bags caught on.
‡‡‡ Niall has this hilarious idea that handbells help you learn tower bells. Well, yes, they do, after several years of hard graft and when you’re getting used to the sensation of your brain melting and running out of your ears every time you ring a method. Not so much when you’re in the early not-strangling-yourself-in-your-rope phase, when ‘plain hunt’ sounds like ‘nuclear physics’.
§ You frelling manipulative ratbag
§§§ I hope she stays.
# With two beginners it’s not like we rang anything demanding. And when I folded half an hour early the others were ready to pack it in too: ringing bells possessed by demons nonstop because there are only five or six of you is taxing even if you don’t have ME and a complicated life.
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.