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’.
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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. ‡‡‡
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* 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?
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* 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.
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.