I had another of my Stupid Bad Nights last night, which is to say that I got back to the cottage at a not-unreasonable hour as time goes with me and then got involved . . . in what I was reading* and in finding a certain item of tricolour wildlife absurdly charming and being reluctant to lock her up in her crate for the night when she’s being what passes in her case for good.** So I got to bed stupidly late . . . and woke up stupidly early and plunged instantly into worry mode which is not only splendidly useful but SO ENJOYABLE.
So by the time I was staggering around with my eyes one-quarter open waiting for my extra-super diabolically*** dingdong† blaaaaaaaack tea to steep, turned my phone back on and checked for any missed texts telling me I would have won £1,000,000,000 if I’d responded by x o’clock which is now two hours ago, I already knew that I was going to be too tired to drive to Fustian tonight, let alone ring bells when I got there, let alone drive home again after. I was due to have a relentlessly dashing-around day anyway, including a lot of driving, and it’s well within possibility that even if I were having a good day I wouldn’t have made it to Fustian tonight.
But I was in Ignoble Victim mode when I turned Pooka back on and while I did not find any YOU JUST MISSED £1,000,000,000 messages for which I am very grateful because they would not have improved my mood, I did find a text from Niall: was I available for handbells this evening?
The correct answer is NO. But I was in Ignoble Victim mode. And Niall is local. I texted back: I’m tired and I have no brain. What did you have in mind?
Niall replied: It’s only Caitlin and me. Maybe Colin. Nothing too arduous.
I answered: If you need the third so you can ring, okay. But if Colin shows up I may go home early.
Niall said: We need you! Thanks!
I reiterated: Remember: I have no brain.
I then had my high-speed day.††
Hellhounds ate dinner so I proceeded to Niall’s in a slightly better mood than earlier.††† Caitlin was late, so Niall and Penelope and I sat around talking about opera and chickens, and by the time Caitlin arrived I was feeling positively relaxed. No more intelligent, but definitely more relaxed.
I picked up my bells. Shall we start with bob minor? said Niall, all innocent.
The first touch disintegrated fairly quickly. Not a big deal. We started again. This one went on. And on. We were ringing a lick and I’ve never learnt to be fast and since I spend most of my handbell time any more ringing for beginners to bounce off of I’m way too accustomed to ringing slowly. I made a lot of dinky stumbles, any one of which could have blown the whole shebang if the other two hadn’t held fast, but I was TIRED and I had NO BRAIN. I had TOLD Niall I had NO BRAIN.
Fifteen or so minutes in to this touch of bob minor I thought, that ratbag. That ratbag. He’s trying for a frelling quarter.
Two leads from the end Caitlin stumbled badly. We had an entire lead of CLANG. CRUNCH.‡ At this point I did not want to lose the thing and by golly I held my line while Niall performed a rescue operation on Caitlin.
Caitlin found her line again.
We got the blasted quarter.
I had to crawl to the sofa for a cup of sustaining rooibos tea and a slab of Penelope’s admirable banana cake.
And I am going to bed. Now.‡‡
* * *
* Get away from me with that YA dystopian^ frelling novel, I don’t care how good it is. But someone frelling sends you a copy and it sits on your shelf looking hopeful and . . . It’s always an interesting reading experience when you’re about equal parts irritated and absorbed. This one is the beginning of a frelling series, so get away from me with that dangblatting YA dystopian novel several times.
^ I didn’t like dystopias even before they got fashionable. And no, I don’t think any of my alt-mod novels count. Sunshine’s, Jake’s and Maggie’s worlds are merely each screwed up in ways directly relating to the structure of that world. Sunshine’s has Others, Jake’s has dragons and Maggie’s has cobeys. They all have corrupt and/or clueless politicians and major thugs and losers in important decision-making positions. Which would make them a lot like ours as well as each other’s.
** This is somewhat more enforceable when she’s in your lap, but I think I have told you that I tend to sit on a stool in the kitchen next to the Aga at the cottage, and the only way to keep her in place is to wedge her up against the kitchen counter and you still need at least one arm for support. This limits your choice of reading material to things that lie flat and/or don’t need a lot of management.^ Last night’s tome was of the doorstop persuasion so the hellterror had to amuse herself by nesting in the dirty laundry and bouncing off the new, Perspex-refronted bookcase by the door.
^ Your critter-free hand up, how many of you out there bought ereaders because you live in a lap-based critter household?
*** Well, I am the hellgoddess.^
^ Yes. Turning Christian does complicate matters.
† As in, this’ll kill any old mere witch.
†† The high speed was not, strictly speaking, entirely mine. Wolfgang needed petrol so hellhounds and I drove out to Warm Upford and on the way back had the most colossal off-lead hurtle across some empty sheep fields.
††† After lunch, for example, which was not eaten, except by the hellterror, who would have been happy to make all those other bowls empty too, but I have a strange dislike of the idea of needing to tie a roller skate around her middle to carry her tummy.
‡ If kongs were made of metal, this is what the hellterror eating would sound like.
‡‡ Well . . . I do have an adorable hellterror in my lap at the minute. . . .
I’m a little . . . slow today. I almost never drink alcohol any more which means that when I do, um, the earth moves. So to speak. And I had three glasses of champagne last night: my LIMIT is two. Well it wasn’t my fault. Peter barely drinks any more either, so we asked for one glass of champagne and one empty glass, in which we would decant a few mouthfuls so that he could toast me*. They brought us two glasses of champagne and then made Peter’s complimentary when we explained they’d made a mistake. Well I couldn’t waste it, could I? The problem being that it was already there, and later on, when they came around and asked me if I wanted a second glass . . . the answer had to be yes, didn’t it?
This is why taxis were invented. It’s also why we only go out seriously about twice a year.
I realised the enormity of my peril tottering out to the taxi, which involves stairs down from the restaurant door.** So hellhounds got a rather brisker and more elaborate final hurtle than usual and I drank a double potful of peppermint tea. And I don’t have anything tacky and vulgar like a headache today but I am . . . a little slow. Although I nearly survived a touch of Stedman Triples on the two this afternoon. <geekspeak alert> I assumed we’d ring a plain course since I am even less safe on the two than the treble, and then frelling Frelling called a bob and I got through it and someone else went wrong. Fine, I thought, it’s Sunday service, if we try again this time it will be a plain course. NO. WRONG. And I got through two frelling affected bobs this time before . . . I came unglued making the bob and forgot to go in slow. RATBAGS. I ALMOST DID IT. But even almost, when you’re talking about a touch of Stedman Triples for service and especially the day after your birthday when you’re feeling a little slow . . . is worth celebrating.
Or that’s my version.
* * *
* Only toasts in champagne really count. Even a good red wine is not an acceptable substitute^. Anything but champagne is like ringing a false quarter [peal]^^. Even if the method was flawlessly called and struck for the entire duration it doesn’t count and you don’t get to send it in to be published in THE RINGING WORLD.
^ Peter’s thing is big fat leathery Rhone wines, and when I still drank enough ever to be willing to waste a few alcoholic tokens on anything that wasn’t champagne I liked it too.
^^ You can ring a false peal but that doesn’t bear thinking about. A quarter is only forty five minutes or thereabouts which I think is quite long enough AND I WANT IT TO COUNT. A peal is three hours, frequently plus,+ and three-plus hours of intense concentration, not to mention the standing up and yanking on a rope part, and it doesn’t COUNT? I would totally take up bungie jumping after a disaster like that.
+ I’ve said this before: I don’t plan ever to attempt to ring a full peal: I haven’t got the stamina. Fortunately I don’t even want to. It’s funny though, one woman’s manifestation of madness is another woman’s achievement and satisfaction. I imagine there are a lot of peal ringers out there who would consider Street Pastoring a completely bonkers way of ruining your circadian rhythm.#
# The perils, speaking of perils, of being a Christian. I’ve also told you that at St Margaret’s evening service, communion is passed around. The priest starts the basket and the goblet at one end of the front row, and then that person turns and offers it to the next person, and so on. But you break the bread for and offer the goblet to your neighbour, and you say a few words—these tend to vary but I think everyone says something—as you do it. I don’t actually like this system; communion is SERIOUS~ and I want a professional in charge, not us kittle cattle. But the saying of a few words as you pass the wine is somewhat dependent on the bread having NOT instantly adhered to the roof of your mouth with a superglue-like tenacity.
Tonight it barnacled on like it was going for the Olympic gold in attachment.
Fortunately you’re not expected to mumble your words very loudly and of course I have a funny accent.
~ Although at least us Anglicans don’t have to believe in transubstantiation. Brrrrrrrr.
~~ Although there may be something in the trans-something theory because I have noticed that all bread used for the Eucharist takes on an uncanny genius for cleaving valiantly to the roof of your mouth—the Wonder bread squares of my generic Protestant childhood, the standard tasteless church wafers and the somewhat variable productions of St Margaret’s. I’m sure there’s an important theological point here.
** Aggravated by the ninety-seven yards of skirt on my dress and the fact that my lady shoes did, in fact, have teeny-weeny heels, although everything has heels if you wear All Stars all the rest of your life.
The dress with the extreme skirt is my favourite dress in the universe and I haven’t worn it in two years because . . . the moths got it. I won’t use standard laboratory-made toxic chemicals for anything if I can help it, partly for green reasons, partly because of the ME, and cedar oil does work against moths but you have to keep topping it up, and there are no balls in my life that I don’t take my eye off some time, and this includes the generously reapplying cedar oil to the animal fibres in the cottage attic ball. It’s still my favourite dress, however, even with moth holes, and I finally thought FRELL it, it’s pretty dim in the restaurant and if we pay the bill who cares if the old dame’s dress had moth holes? Very Ms. Havisham. So I wore it. And I was thinking, next time, Doc Martens and then it becomes a look, especially with my getting-on-toward-disintegration black leather jacket. I’ll have a thoughtful stare at my All Stars shelves but I think for this purpose I need proper stomping boots. I have some flowered Docs that I think might do the trick. . . .
My usual flippant remark ‘nobody died’ as a summing-up of my standard type of semi-adventure doesn’t really work well here, because while so far as I know nobody in our bailiwick did die, still, intervention in potentially life-threatening situations is one of the things we’re for. And we did have two medical emergencies and two ambulances Friday night—one per team, as it happens. There were six of us, which meant two teams—plus two Prayer Pastors who remain back at base but stay in touch by phone and pray for people and situations and perform a practical grounding or centring function for us street operatives.*
My new fearless leader whom we will call . . . Walker** put me on his team so he could keep an eye on me, not surprisingly. I didn’t, er, put my foot in it too badly, I think. Or at least I haven’t had the email telling me not to come back . . . but then maybe it’s another of those non-arriving emails. Or maybe I’ll get it tomorrow when Llewellyn gets back to the office. . . .
MCKINLEY. STOP IT.
I think it went okay. It was certainly extremely interesting—not always in the best way but then if everything was all happy and jolly there wouldn’t be Street Pastors in the first place. It was very striking during our training that all the presenters kept referring to the nightttime economy—not in the money sense but the social-structure sense. And Walker referred to ‘our community’. In the briefing before we went out there was a run-down of all the ongoing stories and what the ‘regulars’ are up to—the homeless, the ne’er-do-wells and the troublemakers, which make up a Venn diagram and are not the same thing—anything the cops want us to be aware of, anything previous teams want us to know has been going on recently. A lot of it went straight past me but that team thing was very strong*** as was the sense that here was a world, which is to say an economy, that ordinary daylight working tax-paying (relatively) sober folk have no idea of. It was a bit of a fantasy-novel moment—although we didn’t see any dragons.
We could have used a (friendly) dragon—it was SO COLD. SO. COLD. It was even colder when we went back out after our break. I am so ordering a battery-heated waistcoat before the next duty night.† And all these CHILDREN†† go clubbing, coatless of course, coats are totally uncool,††† in within-a-degree-of-freezing-according-to-my-kitchen-thermometer weather in sleeveless and in some cases backless frocks which are so short they barely cover . . . well. In some cases they don’t.‡ The boys are nearly as bad in their meagre t shirts. It makes us oldies even colder just looking at them. At least it wasn’t raining. It would have been sleet, how cold it was: I’m not sure what I’m going to do if some winter duty night it comes on to sleet: driving home at 4 am is challenging enough without any help from the weather.
I got home at about 4:30 and had to feed and hurtle confused hellcritters. I went to bed at about six, and got up at half-past noon. . . .
* * *
* They also get a cup of tea any time they want one. We have to wait till break.
** Hee hee hee hee hee
*** I’VE PUT MYSELF IN ANOTHER FRELLING TEAM SITUATION. WHAT THE FRELL, MCKINLEY?? ISN’T REGULARLY MAKING A FOOL OF YOURSELF BELL RINGING ENOUGH? I rang twice today, it being Remembrance Sunday and extra services being laid on in churches with bells in them.
I didn’t ring at Forza last Sunday because they cancelled afternoon service ring without updating their frelling web site—I think I had a nice restrained grumble about this last week—and then I didn’t go to tower practise on Wednesday after Pav and I on our evening hurtle had another run in with an aggressive dog, this one the size of a 50’s Cadillac, and Pav did her staring-it-down trick while I imploded in a massive surge of adrenaline and felt so ill and trembly after I didn’t think I was safe to drive.^ So it’s been over a week since I rang—tried to ring those golblarging bells and I made a serious city-centre-in-rush-hour snarl^^ of poor old Grandsire Triples. GT is usually the first triples method you learn and in theory I should have learnt it and moved on but the problem is that anything I don’t ring I lose and since I’m supposed to know it already I don’t ring it on practise nights. Which I missed the last one of anyway. As well as not ringing last Sunday which means the bells are all out to get me again. I tell myself that when I’ve been ringing them as long as I’ve been ringing the triple-blasted demon-possessed bells at Old Eden^^^ they will no longer be able to gang up on me like that after a mere week and a half away. However there were no swords for me to fall on so I had to ring Stedman Triples which is like after screwing up on Twinkle Twinkle Little Star being asked to ring Rachmaninoff’s Third Piano Concerto with the Berlin Philharmonic. I was even on the wrong frelling bell—Gemma and I always fight over the treble for Stedman and I lost# so I was on the two. Good ringers invariably sneer delicately and say that it shouldn’t matter which bell. Well, it shouldn’t, but it does, and I don’t CARE how well you know the ratblasted line on a page in a method book. The perverse thing is that I got through the Stedman ##. So I didn’t have to race out of the tower and look for a sword to fall on.
^ Speaking of occasions when ‘nobody died’ is appropriate.
^^ In several senses of the term
^^^ Which was my extra ring today. It was pretty funny really. We had six ringers for six bells but we were a motley crew so we were each on the bell most appropriate for our skill level. Niall and Vicky were on the back two which are heavy enough to be vicious when they’re in a snit, and the five likes to fall down on you just when you begin to relax because it seems to be in a good mood (ask me how I know this), and I was on the three which is a sod but not tremendously heavy: bell ringing is never about brute strength, but the heavier a ratbag bell is the better a ringer you have to be to cope, the two and the four which are relatively polite were rung by our two beginners, and our semi-invalid who is still ringing because she’s an amazingly gallant old thing was on the treble, which is pretty small anyway and has reasonably good manners. Hey, the bells got rung. That’s the main thing.
# This is PARTICULARLY UNFAIR because she’s a much steadier, less, ahem, hysterical ringer than I am.
## In spite of someone else going adrift.
† Supposing that ‘don’t come back’ email continues not to arrive.
†† And I am so old.
††† Also, I’m told, most clubs have nowhere to put coats. Oh.
‡ This is a genuine management issue and one of the reasons if at all possible they send you out in mixed-gender teams. If you have a scantily-clad drunk-on-her-rear female to deal with—the women of the team do the hands-on dealing. Which can then become a different sort of problem, if the drunk is large and the team members are small—which is exactly what happened to our other team on Friday.
The fifth of November,
The Gunpowder treason and plot;
I know of no reason
Why the Gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot!*
. . . I went bell ringing.
It does amuse me that there were eight native-British Fustian ringers who would rather ring bells than watch any of the gazillion firework parties laid on by every two-dog village in the entire country. New Arcadia has a good one every year—viewable from either Peter’s spare bedroom window or my attic**—and if I’m not doing anything else I will give a cursory glance out of the appropriate window at the end of the show when they throw everything they’ve got left into the sky at once.*** But it’s not important. Bell ringing is important.
I’d spent too much time today rushing around†; Penelope rang up out of the blue this morning, suggesting we get together for a cup of tea†† and since I hadn’t exactly got out of bed early that kind of was the morning and the rest of the day has been an up the down escalator experience. The hellterror has had the semi-squirts††† so that cancelled the training visit to the vet’s waiting room since I don’t want to stuff a dodgy tummy with treats. But that is somewhat counterintuitively a further drain on time because she’s not the slightest fussed by lower intestinal irregularities and still needs hurtling: ten intense minutes doing sit-down-stand-paw-otherpaw are worth at least twenty merely barrelling through the hedgerows.
Having no sense, and also because it was a beautiful day I wanted the excuse to go for a country hurtle, I pursued another fruitless scheme. The Undesirable Repercussions of Running Out of Money, subparagraph seven: by renting your second house with the bigger garden, you no longer have anywhere all three of your hellcritters can riot properly, including room for Darkness to run away. I think it was Southdowner who suggested a riding school‡; so I went out to see Jenny. Remember Jenny, you long-time readers? Who has a yard‡‡ in Ditherington? Who let me ride her fabulous Connie? Before the ME got so erratic (again) that I had to stop. I know I could go back just to hang out and hug a few horses and even though I miss horses more than I miss riding . . . it’s still really too discouraging. So I don’t go.
Well, the riding school/ hellcritter thing isn’t going to work; the footing’s all wrong and the door doesn’t close properly against something the size of a hellterror. The space doesn’t have to be critter proof because even the hellterror has a not-bad recall and they’ll only be there, supposing we ever find a there for them to be, with me in full supervisory mode. But the fencing has to be recognisable as fencing from a hellcritter perspective. And none of Jenny’s fencing is. Rats. But I did get to meet a few of the current yard residents. . . . Siiiiiiiigh.
But we had a lovely hurtle.
And I came home and sang. Mozart is necessary: see previous entry.
I was too tired to go bell-ringing. But what was I going to do, stay home and watch the fireworks? I went. I think I am going to learn to ring Cambridge before it kills me but I admit I’m not sure. And Fustian’s tower secretary came up to me at the end and said that I was invited to the tower Christmas dinner, that he’d send me the info, and did I want to bring my husband?
Whimper. This is really very nice of them; it’s generally only worthwhile regular non-member visitors who are invited to the Christmas dinner, and I’m only taking advantage of their twice a month extra practise for the [extra] stupid. But I wasn’t even planning to go to Forza’s dinner—and a whole evening of being sociable? Two whole evenings if I go to both?‡‡‡ And that eating in public thing? Whimper.
I’m sure it’ll be good for my character. Both dinners. Maybe I’ll just bring some carrots§ in a bag.
* * *
* For any Americans out there who think that the 4th of July is the only legitimate day for fireworks: http://www.potw.org/archive/potw405.html
** If Third House’s future tenants want fireworks, they’ll have to buy a ticket and go.
*** But I’ve never seen a dragon. Let alone one that rips overhead like an express train and bursts over Old Eden. Okay, is anyone else bothered by the express-train-like firework dragon in the first chapter of THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING? I remember noticing it for the first time on my approximately 1008th reading when I was probably about twelve. Shock horror. I’m totally unpersuaded by the theory that this is an aside to the modern reader; personally I think Tolkien screwed up. But he was a notorious control freak—could he possibly have missed it? Can he, his family, friends and other readers and his publisher have missed it? Alternatively, can a meticulous Anglo-Saxon scholar have deliberately stuck a plonking great anachronism in his own story-telling?^ I don’t like either answer.
^ There are at least a couple of others, I think, but my memory is doing its vague and mushy thing again. If they all concern the hobbits, then there is reasonable support for the theory of hobbit society as a satire on English society sharp enough to contain a few anachronisms successfully. I think I remember that the Shire has umbrellas and pocket-watches. But they’re smaller and less obtrusive. Express trains are large and noisy.
† I should be packing boxes at Third House. Don’ wanna. Sigh.
†† What wins, a cup of tea with a friend or packing boxes? Guess.
††† My life with hellcritters. Well, at least it was only semi.
‡ I can no longer keep my Yank/Brit jargon straight. I think I mean riding ring in American. The place, probably with a fence around it, where you do your training/schooling.
‡‡‡ Peter would only go if I put him in chains and hired a forklift. There are some advantages to being 86: you can just say ‘I’m/he’s 86’ and everyone gives you lots of lovely slack.
§ Yes, I eat carrots. Whinny.
I’m so glad it’s short Wednesday, I’m so tired I am in grave danger of falling off my chair.*
Also, I am in shock. Which is very tiring.
***MY BANK APOLOGISED.***
FURTHER TRUMPET FLOURISHES. IN FACT AN ENTIRE CONCERTO, INVOLVING SEVERAL ORGANS WITH FIFTY THOUSAND PIPES EACH AND A FEW OF THOSE HUGE JAPANESE TAIKO DRUMS THAT FEEL LIKE YOU’RE BEING PUNCHED IN THE CHEST WHEN SOMEONE THUMPS THEM.
It’s taken my bank nearly four months and they’ve still got both my name and my address wrong BUT NEVER MIND. THEY APOLOGISED. They’ve REFUNDED the substantial number and £££ of fines they charged me and have sent me copies of all the letters they wrote to all the people whose cheques bounced—including scary, credit-rating-ruining people like my credit card companies—saying it was THEIR FAULT. NOT MINE. THEIRS. THE BANK’S. THE BANK’S FAULT.
Good news. I can USE some good news.*** And I can continue to contemplate the goodness of this news tomorrow during the three and a half hours I am due to be in dentist from R’lyeh’s torture . . . I mean, chair. † I think you had better expect tomorrow night’s blog to be short too.††
* * *
* It was a bell-ringing night, one of those nights when there were only six of us so all of us had to ring all evening. You know retired people may still have some BRAIN left by the end of the day. . . .
Also my beloved Celtic-knotwork-pattern-cover cushion is going—has gone—to pieces. There is no security in this insecure world where things wear out. I am sure I am much unsteadier in my chair in the mews kitchen with my chair cushion in SHREDS,^ whether or not I just spent an hour and a half on the end of a bell-rope.^^ And I’m totally failing to get my head around replacing it. There are gazillions of cushions out there.
^ It disintegrated all by itself, with no help from hellterrors whatsoever.
^^ One of the other ringers, whom I would have said I had never met before, stared at me for a minute and said, I know you. I rang a wedding with you at Ditherington last year. You’re the knitter.
** Pity they can’t make an itsy-bitsy further error, move the decimal place over six or seven or eight places to the right and make me wealthy.^ Then I could not only keep Third House I could build a conservatory off the sitting-room.^^ I suppose, having noticed one error, they might notice this one too. No, wait . . . I pointed their previous error out. I had to point it out. Hmm.
^ And for those helpful people telling me if I’d only write this or that book/sequel I’d immediately become wealthy . . . in the first place *&^%$£”!!!!!! and the frelling horse you frelling rode in on. In theory this blog nonsense—and the Twitter nonsense, and the Facebook nonsense, and the public email address nonsense—is so that public people can have some direct contact with their private readers/fans/supporters. And vice versa. Which seems to me to be mostly a good idea: we’re all human beings first and last. But shouldn’t there be some FAINT responsibility in that vice versa-ing, for paying attention? Which is to say HOW MANY RATBLASTED TIMES DO I HAVE TO SAY I ONLY WRITE WHAT I AM GIVEN TO WRITE? I’D BE ON SUNSHINE SEVENTEEN AND DAMAR THIRTY-TWO BY NOW IF I COULD.
And in the second place . . . SUNSHINE and Damar didn’t make me wealthy the first time. There’s no reason to think that a second or a third or twenty-seventh book would do any better. Remember that for every GAME OF THRONES there are 1,000,000,000 series that only did well enough to bully the poor sweating author to keep trying.
. . . an autographed book sale? I’m sure that the hell-hounds and -terror would cooperate to place ‘official’ pawprints.
Sure. The minute I finish the last frelling doodle from the now-ancient-history Bell Fund. Siiiiiiigh. . . .
^^ Have I mentioned that one of the knock-on effects of letting Third House is that I won’t have the little summerhouse as a greenhouse this winter? I have therefore, with Atlas’ aid, brought the grow-light to the cottage and hung it from one of the big ceiling beams in the already-small sitting room, and in cold weather we will have to have handbells at Niall’s because my sitting room will be full of PLANTS.
*** There are way too many alligators in my immediate vicinity. As the saying goes.
† On Halloween.
†† And apropos of nothing at all, any of you folk on this side of the Atlantic have experience with Lovefilm vs. Netflix?