At least I had previously confirmed with our tower captain that this was going to be the only open door on the way out too so I didn’t instantly rush away to check all the other doors—it’s a big close and there might always be another frelling door down another twisty frelling medieval alley. . . . I may have done a little un-Street-Pastor like snarling. I turned back toward the tower thinking that there were a number of other people who were going to be wanting to get out of the close one way or another and maybe the bishop could bless a door open or maybe we could have The Miracle of the Falling Down Wall* or something.
As I circled back toward the door that was supposed to be open** I saw one of our more volatile senior ringers approaching the shut door. Under other circumstances what was about to happen might have been amusing, but I like the idea of ringing and SPing on New Year’s Eve, and the SP admin are not going to let me do it if I disappear into the bell tower and am never seen again.
And at this point Mr Cock of the Walk materialised, striding around the corner in rooster-coloured day-glo waterproofs. He had the look of a man with a key to a large Saxon-echt door and I, who sometimes knows when to keep a grip, addressed him humbly. Yes, he says, taking up the entire pavement with his swinging I Am the Man gait***, I’m going to open the door.
And now our volatile senior ringer catches sight of him.
. . . Okay, it was pretty funny. Fortunately Mr Man did still open the gate.
And my team were happy to see me again and said they’d listened to the bells and thought of me ringing.†
And, as New Year’s Eves go, it was pretty mellow. Except for the not getting home till nearly 5 a.m. part.
But I hope I’ll do it again. If they let me.††
* * *
PETER UPDATE: We had our appointment with Dr Goodpotions yesterday and HE TOOK PETER OFF THREE DRUGS.††† YAAAAAAAAY. I don’t generally go with Peter to his GP—why would I—only when there’s something extreme going on, you know? When I’m probably feeling a trifle extreme myself. Whereupon I have to remember to be calm and understated‡ because Dr Goodpotions is VERY BRITISH. VERY VERY BRITISH. VERY. I’m an American. I don’t know how to be that British. I don’t have the right glands. I’m missing a crucial blood component. It’s taking me YEARS to learn how not to frighten/repel Dr Goodpotions into not talking to me.
It worked pretty well yesterday though, the attempt at calm and understated. What I wanted to hear was that Dr G had any idea what all these drugs were beyond what it said on the packet—um, I tried not to say it quite like this—and he said that they were all common and familiar and had been around in heavy use for years and their little idiosyncrasies were pretty well documented and not to worry, and furthermore that the particular nasty interaction that had freaked me out was old news and had been discredited. Oh. I’d still rather have the internet available to find out scary things on that may be untrue, but I admit I wasn’t instantly ready to view Medscape through my DISTRUST filter, shiny with use elsewhere on the webz as it is.
And then today Peter and I went to Mauncester for the first time since he fell ill. It was going to be an adventure, and would include how well his stamina is holding up. But I had been late picking him up at the mews and was busy blithering and rescheduling the rest of the day, and we divided up the errands as if everything was normal and I shot off in my designated direction and got about halfway to my first stop and suddenly thought I’ve just cut loose an eighty-six-year-old man who had a stroke less than three weeks ago alone in a large noisy confusing city MCKINLEY HAVE YOU LOST YOUR MIND? Well. Yes. Frequently.
He was fine. I nearly had a nervous breakdown before I found him again.
And on the way home Peter said, you know, it’s the 3rd. Yes, I said, we’ve been thinking about going out to dinner.‡‡ No, he said, I mean it’s the real 3rd, the 3rd of January, the actual wedding-anniversary 3rd.
I’d forgotten.‡‡‡ How embarrassing is that.
So we had to go out to dinner.
Yes. There was champagne.§
* * *
* Theodora and I would have been happy to let them have our falling-down wall experience from last winter, if we’d only known.^ We could have told the Falling Down Wall fairy that its services were going to be vital the coming New Year’s Eve at an abbey close not far away and it should conserve its resources.
^ Despite the loss of photo-blog posts. I would be willing to cede these.
** It was also raining. Just by the way. Heavily.^ I was bad and wicked and put my coat back on.^^
^ This footnote got left behind last night. If you look closely you will observe that the ‡ footnote is missing. Well, this is it.
^^ I also dropped my gloves in another puddle. The wages of sin. Sigh.
*** You can sure see where the term ‘wide boy’ could have come from.
† Also, nobody laughed. God is kind.
††I’ll remember the large black plastic trash bag to cover up my logos next year. Or maybe I could knit a very large Navy blue shawl.
††† He’s still on quite a few. But three fewer.
‡‡ New readers or those with better things to remember: Our two important dates are the 26th of July^ and the 3rd of January. The rest of the year, if we want a random celebration, we tend to choose either a 26th or a 3rd.
^ We’d met before. But this was The Meeting.
‡‡‡ I told you I lose my mind frequently.
§ And we’re both shattered.
Since SP teams are a minimum of three, we were going to have to meet up before I peeled* off to my second commitment.** We gathered at the massive great front of Forza and discovered . . . that the door into the close was locked. The door to the bell tower is off the close. Oh. Hmm.
I tried it two or three times, the way you do, feeling a fool. It went on being locked. Emphatically. I don’t know that Forza’s big outside doors are original—since the first abbey was knocked down by William the Conqueror so his bishops could put up something new and flashy, I doubt it. But they’re built to look like they were salvaged when the rest of the old abbey went under the wrecking ball equivalent in the late eleventh century and rehung in the new build for that quaint traditional look. You kind of expect ‘Aethelstan was here’ to be carved into the lintel.
I noticed a group of bellringers striding purposefully toward us. Er, I said, the door’s locked. We know, said Conall. So are all the other doors.
I think most of the other SPs were trying not to fall into fits of helpless giggles. Eventually there was a rumour that the farthest-away and most inconvenient close door was still open, so five SPs went one way and I hared off after the other bellringers, struggling out of my coat and hat as I went. Sic. We’re not supposed to wear our SP gear, flamboyantly logo’d as it is, anywhere or any time under any conditions but when we’re on the beat with our team being Street Pastors. I knew this, and when the possibility had first come up of ringing and pastoring I’d remembered that I was going to have to have something to drape over my coat, but I’ve been so focussed both on Peter and on the fact that I had not to focus on Peter while I was SPing***, that this little detail had kind of dropped out. Fortunately it was not raining. I turned my coat inside out and . . . it’s a big heavy bulky furry thing, bless it, and it didn’t want to turn inside out and there was no question of my putting it back on that way, so I stumbled along carrying a small Navy-blue polar bear cub in my arms.
The rumour was true and we got in through the Strait of Gibraltar gate, picking up hangers-on as we went, since on New Year’s Eve traditionally a lot of people with more sense the rest of the year† struggle up all those stairs to watch us ring in the new year.
We attempted, with mixed results, to scamper up all those stairs. All. Those. Stairs. I haven’t been up them in a while and they’ve got longer again. And then our first hasty pull-off was somewhat marred by the fact that my bell was frelling locked and wouldn’t.†† Meanwhile more and more people were coming up to watch us so we stood around whistling little tunes with our hands in our pockets pretending that this is all part of the New Year’s Eve tradition while someone belted up that last flight of stairs to the belfry and unlocked my bell.
We did finally ring. And I thought about how sad I’d feel if I were out on the street listening instead of in the bell tower trying to tell myself that I haven’t forgotten everything, and mere rounds on eighty-six or four hundred and twelve bells is no big deal even if you do have to hold up and wait about ten minutes before it’s your turn again while everyone else rings—especially those last few bells which range in size and weight from Thomas the Tank Engine through nuclear submarine to aircraft carrier. Bong. The mayor was there. The bishop was there. The Folies Bergere were there. No no I made that up. Although they might have been. It was a frelling crush. And I’ve told you before the ringing chamber is the size of a ballroom. Two ballrooms.
It was a real crush going back down those stairs again. Anorexic Chihuahuas have been known to have claustrophobia on that final staircase. I’d tried to blitz for the head of the queue and I almost made it. But immediately ahead of me were a family consisting of a tall gentleman in a very long coat whose tails trailed up the stairs behind him a remarkably long way, and ahead of him two frelling women who . . . really I have no idea what they were doing, barring whining. Look, you can SEE what the stairs are like, if you are helpless screaming cows, why didn’t you change your minds and go to a nice ground-level party somewhere? Oh, right, you don’t have minds. I am not joking that the rest of us were standing at the top for a good two or three minutes while Barbie and Midge totally failed to negotiate that admittedly challenging last flight of stairs. And I was failing to channel the Holy Spirit about this situation. FAILING. FAAAAAAAILING.†††
Spilled out onto the street at last. Pelted for the one open door out of the close to attempt to rejoin my team before it was time to go home and . . .
The one open door was shut and locked. Noooooooooooo.‡
TO BE CONTINUED.‡‡
* * *
* Pealed. Ha ha ha.
** Maxine^ kept saying, It is so cool that you are doing both.^^
^ Three of the four of us SPs from St Margaret’s were on the job last night.+ Are we the superbest or what.
+ And Eleanor was at home feeling guilty.
^^ I think I told you there was some administrative stress about this initially, but our overall team leader was fine with it, so I got to do my double act.
*** Also that I had to have suitable-for-sharing food to bring for the break. I have my priorities.
† So far as I know theoretically anyone can come watch us any time we’re ringing. But any time but New Year’s Eve you have to ask a ringer first. And possibly hire a Sherpa.
†† When you’ve got eighty-seven bells you don’t want to haul them up and down^ every time you want to ring, especially when the biggest half-dozen of them weigh in total almost as much as the Isle of Wight. Forza has a fancy locking system that bolts the bells in place, mouth up, ready for ringing. But you do have to unbolt them.
^ Ringing up and down: bells are normally left mouth down because it’s safer. Therefore to do method ringing you have to drag each bell by pulling on the rope so it swings higher and higher till it’s ready to stand upright mouth up on its beam. At which point you’re ready for full-circle ringing.
††† I am still failing. In the first place, why didn’t they wait and let the rest of us get out first? In the second place, there is a perfectly good tiny cul de sac at the bottom of that first stair: having held us all up for probably five minutes total while they minced and tittuped and whatever the galflibbet, why didn’t they draw aside at that point—I’ll let them off the profuse apologizing—and let the rest of us by THEN? But noooooooo. They waddled^ on down. And it’s not like Mr Coat-tails didn’t know there was a press of numbers behind him: he looked over his shoulder several times. Maybe he mistook me for a Street Pastor and thought that I was channelling the Holy Spirit at him. These are not Holy Spirit vibes, honey.
^ This is not a weightist remark. I know plenty of people whose doctors wish they were thinner who are neat and nippy on their feet. Both these bimbos were, in fact, slim and slight.
‡‡ I didn’t mean for it to run to three. Well, I didn’t mean for it to run more than one post, last night. This is sort of the KES/PEGASUS New Year’s Eve post.
Ring in the New Year! Ring it in! Bells are ringing! Ding, Dong, Ding, Dong!
Thought of you . . . as we sang this round last night. . . . We were sitting around a living room, adults and children, some old friends, others newcomers, with three of the kids, now nine and ten, playing their fiddles, two grownups with guitars.
With several strong musicians to keep us on the right track, we sang lots of folk songs and carols, including some from a number of local performers we know, and some written for us to try out by members of the group. . . .
Oh and plenty of brownies . . . studded with dark chocolate chunks and dried cranberries. . . .
This sounds like a totally perfect way to spend your New Year’s Eve. Ringing tower bells and Street Pastoring turns out to be a pretty good way to spend your New Year’s Eve too. I missed the bishop’s party, that the bellringers were invited to, and which had champagne, but us SPs had home-made mini-stollen and sponge cake with cherry jam filling at break* and on the whole I’ll take the stollen and the cake. It’s a lot easier to open a bottle of champagne** than to make your own stollen.***
Which is not to say that nothing went wrong. Heaven forfend, you should forgive the phrase.
We were lucky with the weather though. The monsoon is back and the forecast for last night was dire. It was just starting to rain as we—er—trickled in, and while we were loading up the knapsacks and discovering that we didn’t have any fresh batteries for the torches IT CAME ON TO SHEET. The room we meet in just before we go out† is on the first, which is in this case top, floor, and the sound of the rain was so loud we could barely hear ourselves talking. Matilda and I exchanged glances: we’re both on Walker’s team and Walker’s team is notorious for being rained on.
And then . . . it didn’t exactly clear but it backed off to a damp sullen grizzle with occasional outbursts of temper.†† There were six of us SPs, so we could go out in two teams; the overall team leader, Henry, went with Maxine and Jonas; I was with Matilda and her husband Dominic whom I hadn’t met before. He is fabulous.††† The twice I’ve been out with Matilda I’ve seen her do some lovely things and without apparently thinking about it, while I’m still standing there going, Wha’?‡ But the thing that makes Dominic stand out is the he seems able to get alongside the seriously out of it—the very much worse for wear or the fallen-through-the-social-services-cracks‡‡ ones. We had examples of both last night and Dominic kept up his side of each conversation in a calm, ordinary voice as if he was having a conversation. I had occasion to talk to one of these people myself and it seemed to me I might as well have been reciting the times tables or Chesterton’s Lepanto.‡‡‡
But it was time for our comedy of errors. . . .
TO BE CONTINUED.§
* * *
* Both made by one of our Prayer Pastors. Last night’s was a scratch team, those of us mad enough to be willing to patrol on New Year’s Eve, and we’re all now trying to get reassigned to her team.
** And Forza is always counting its pennies. The champagne mere bellringers are offered is not top flight.^
^ I’m a lot crankier about cheap champagne than I used to be: there are some really just plain good Proseccos and similar out there so there’s no excuse for bad cheap fizz any more.
*** Although if you make your own you can leave out the marzipan. Ahem.
† This is the Donning of the Armour of God bit: we read a few Bible verses and do some praying. And it’s interesting just how effective this is. Now granted there’s been a fairly steep selection process for any of us to have got that far: you have to want to do it and then you have to survive the interview process and the training. So if you’re there weaponing up as a SP you have both faith and a call to be doing this work. But even so. You can feel the atmosphere in the room change. Although I may have been especially aware of it last night because I was coming out of a fortnight pretty single-mindedly devoted to Peter.^
^ Or to worrying about Peter.
†† It was also shockingly warm. This was excellent for several reasons, including that I had not had to bring the tropical jungle indoors again which since of course I’d spent too much time waiting fruitlessly^ for hellhounds to eat I probably couldn’t have done anyway arrrrrrrgh and when I dropped my glove into a puddle, having removed it briefly for some dumb reason^^, I didn’t go into exothermic shock.
There has been local flooding again—and some spectacular tree-uprooting in the wind—but at least it isn’t snow.
^ Also meatlessly and kibblelessly
^^ Probably concerning hot chocolate, lollipops, or pairs of flipflops, see below.
††† She likes him too.
‡ If I can’t give the problem hot chocolate or a lollipop or a pair of flipflops I have no clue. I’m told you do learn.
‡‡ There are a lot of reasons people become homeless, and none of them is about being lazy, stupid or a slob, okay? But some of these people really seriously need social services help which for one reason or another they’re not getting.
‡‡ The gentleman I was attempting to engage might well have liked Lepanto. His own rendition of—something—was dramatic enough that one of the door staff of the late-night whatever we were lurking outside came over to check that Matilda and I were all right, Dominic having his attention on one of our waif’s friends. We were fine. Just at a loss.
§ Hey. Cliffhangers ‘r’ us. Didn’t you know that?
The thing that amuses me is that that flowered paper on the far right appeared three times this birthday: people seem to think they know what I like. They would be right about this.
I was going to post birthday photos yesterday and then frelling Niall and his frelling handbells intervened. To put my tiny triumph into perspective, by the way, tonight at tower practise one of Forza’s good ringers was telling me excitedly that she’d rung her first full peal on twelve bells. In the tower, this is, so she was only ringing one bell, but she was standing up for three and a half hours to do it and it was some infernal surprise method—I don’t think anyone bothers to ring anything but Infernal Surprise on higher numbers of bells—so while I don’t think she rings handbells, and I did tell her about my quarter, it was still like telling someone who’s just earned a place in the Horse of the Year show that you won your walk-trot class at the local gymkhana.
Anyway. I wanted to get my NEW WATCH back from the jewellers before I posted photos: I needed about nineteen links taken out of the massive wristband* but I wanted the blog photo of it ON MY WRIST.
This is however slightly a lesson in ordering things on line. As soon as I discovered that pink gold [plate] and rhinestones were in in wristwatches I stopped looking at anything else. And as soon as I noticed this one had a day dial—I haven’t had a watch that told me the day of the week in decades, and I love having a watch that tells me what day it is: us stay at home free lancers can be seriously pathetic that way**—I knew this was the one. Also I love Roman numerals—Roman numerals and it tells me the day of the week?? And rhinestones? Be still my heart. I’ve never had anything half so fabulous.
And it is fabulous. It also weighs four ounces—a quarter of a frelling pound—and is nearly half an inch thick. I knew the face had to be big from the on line photo of everything that’s on it. I did not know wearing it would feel like having a pendant hellterror dangling from that wrist at all times, or that I couldn’t ring [tower] bells in it because it would hook the rope.*** I feel that someone somewhere along the design line absent-mindedly added a zero on the dimensions; and the giant-sized wristband is perfectly in keeping with the watch. It was originally made perhaps for the Brobdingnag market, where pink and rhinestones did not go over.
But it is definitely fabulous. And yes, those are rhinestones in the face as well as around the border: the border ones only look pink because they’re reflecting the pink gold.
You will now see me coming any time I have my sleeves pushed up.
Oh, and my favourite silly present from a friend:
In case I never find that blank needlework pillow I’m still covered. † This is one of the other things that arrived in that rose paper in the first photo. . . .††
* * *
* This was part of my running-around day yesterday. I also did thrilling things like buy vitamins. And puppy toys. There’s a very high rate of attrition in the puppy toy category.^
^ Ignorant, naïve people say to me, she’s not a puppy any more, she’s a year old! Hollow laughter. Whippets (and perforce whippet crosses) and bull terriers are apparently notorious for being slow maturers, but are there any dogs out there who are actually ADULT at a year old? I’ve never met one. I’m not planning to panic about the lifestyle of the adult bull terrier for at least another nine months.+
+ There is a fifteen-month-old puppy having a swell time with a bit of disintegrating sofa cover right now. She has however earned it: she long downed for AN HOUR with only occasional interventions. I can even get out of my chair to pour myself another cup of peppermint tea without her immediately bouncing to her feet to follow me.# Usually. ##
# Because any excuse will do.
## And having spent 90% of that hour stiff with outrage/misery/disbelief/despair, despite the comfy nest of towels at my feet and the fact that all appearances to the contrary notwithstanding, if obliged by circumstance she is quite a good sleeper . . . upon release she spent ten minutes racketing around the house like an extra-large rhinoceros in a china shop . . . and is now completely crashed out on my lap, which practically speaking is a lot less comfy than the towel nest.
** Handbells are quite a useful way of keeping track of the passage of the days however because of the texts from Niall.
*** If I wear it for ringing handbells my left arm will become twice as large and muscular as my right. I suppose I could swap wrists to a carefully balanced schedule.
† Whoever said I’d have trouble finding one . . . you’re right. WHY? There must be other people out there who’d like to choose their own Words to Live By.
†† Bratsche, I’ll post a photo of my dress TOMORROW.^
^ If I forget, nag me.
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. . . .