I had an email from Aloysius yesterday saying that he had a meeting in Oxford* and wouldn’t be here for silent prayer today, and would I hold the floor down in his absence?** I’ve done this before. I think I told you, months ago, the first time it happened, I asked him for suitable opening and closing reading-out-loud prayers***, which he duly sent me, a print-out of which I carry around in an increasingly frayed state in the little notebook in my back pocket.† And I read them out, turn on my electric candle, set the temple-bell timer app on Astarte, and sit quietly—by myself—in St Margaret’s†† little side chapel. But along with believing in prayer in the standard ritual praise/petition/penitence/doodahdoodah ways I believe in the consequences of ordinary mortal structure and schedule—if you commit to Wednesday afternoon silent prayer, then you have to go on doing it. It matters. Even if you’re the only one and you suspect your curate is humouring you.†††
There were three of us today. My jaw didn’t smack to the floor, but that’s possibly only because I had an armful of blanket in the way.‡ It’s pretty amazing how many more people three is than one, you know?
I still read out Aloysius’ prayers and used the temple-bell app. . . . ‡‡
* * *
* a likely story
** These weren’t quite his words. Aloysius is a polite young British priest.^
^ I have a long-downing hellterror at my feet again. She is being afflicted beyond measure or bearing by the fact that Peter is kneeling on the floor not six feet away, groping in the bottom drawer of the freezer. OH. MERCY. HE’S NOW LAYING LARGE FASCINATING PACKAGES ON THE FLOOR BEHIND HIM. OH. OH. OH.
*** I think I’ve also told you that Llewellyn says all us Street Pastors should trying being a Prayer Pastor some time—which means staying at base and, um, praying. I would like to try PPing; prayer is very grounding and centring. Both of which aspects of mortal life and character I’m a little short of, and, never mind the worshiping God part, is a lot of the lure of contemplative prayer for me—the Wednesday afternoon at St Margaret’s/Saturday evening at the monks’ effect. Prayer Pastoring takes the spiritual strength of prayer (you hope) out into the practical world—or anyway the world rings you up on the Street Pastor mobile and asks you to pray for stuff.
The problem is that as a Prayer Pastor you have to pray out loud. You have to make it up as you go along. I’ve been known to mutter supplicatory phrases under my breath at home^ but PRAY OUT LOUD? USING MY OWN WORDS? ARE YOU KIDDING?
I haven’t volunteered for Prayer Pastor duty yet.^^
^Although a lot of this, sadly, is of the ‘God please send a thunder-bolt to blast this frelling object’ variety.
^^ And I’m denial about the fact that some day someone on the street will ask me to pray for/with them. People do. It’s one of the things they think Street Pastors are for. They don’t want some invisible Prayer Pastor half across the city. They want you. Eeeep.
† The one that on several pairs of my jeans is coming off due to small heavy scrabbly hellterror hind feet. The notebook is getting pretty frayed too.
†† Freezing cold, just by the way. You expect an old church like the abbey to be cold. St Margaret’s is newish and not terribly interesting . . . and freezing cold.
††† Aloysius told me a while back that one of the few legal requirements of being a priest is that you have to pray every day.^ So he can at least multi-task Wednesday afternoon. Except when he’s in Oxford.
^ This is one of those ‘I’m an alien in a foreign culture’+ moments for me, the separation-of-church-and-state American. Priests must pray every day or they’re breaking the law. Jeepers.
+ And I don’t really speak the language.
‡ See: cold.
* * *
‡‡. . . And at this point, Darkness, who has been obviously anxious and uncomfortable all evening, went and stood by the door in a worried and meaningful way.
We’re just back from racing over half Hampshire while he geysers—I don’t know what hurtling has to do with geysering but the latter seems to require the former.
It started raining and I get tired quickly, hurtling late at night. So I brought them home too soon and he threw up magnificently all over the carpet, whereupon I had a meltdown of epic proportions. I also cleaned up the carpet.
I can’t remember if I’ve told you I’ve gone back to my old homeopathic vet again. I will ring him tomorrow, since the latest remedy is clearly not having the desired effect.
And, you know, I’m not sure how long I can go on doing this.
You’ll excuse me if I stop a bit abruptly tonight.^
^ Yo, God, why are you torturing my dogs?
Arrrrrrgh. I am not getting on with sorting out Third House for rental as fast as I should through a combination of factors: gremlins, gremlins, ME, native disorganizational genius, deep personal reluctance imperfectly repressed and gremlins. Did I mention gremlins? Originally I was going to start moving [Peter’s and my] backlist to the storage warehouse last week but Atlas and I got our diaries crossed* and he showed up on Thursday when I was going to the dentist.** ARRRRRGH.
First opportunity for a reschedule was today. I am not sleeping well*** and I have all these CRITTERS to hurtle and Peter and Atlas are detestably early risers so they played pinochle or something till I pantingly arrived, having run the hellterror 6,728 times around the (tiny) kitchen at the cottage, including over the island and across the ceiling† while I mainlined black tea, then locked her back in her crate with her breakfast†† and threw the hellhounds in the back of Wolfgang for ballast. We convoyed to Hrothgar’s Hall††† with Atlas going uphill at about twelve miles an hour with all that backlist dragging him down, and Peter noted lugubriously that it was too far for him to come on his bicycle. !!!!!!!*&^%$£”!!!!!!!! YES, IT IS.
We fell out of our various vehicles and I made a horse’s ass of myself trying to break into . . . I mean, use my honestly-acquired keys and instructions to get us into the flipping warehouse and open the loading gate. I’d still be there‡ if Atlas hadn’t cleared his throat and indicated salient features a couple of times. How does he KNOW? These frelling mechanical people. It’s like being able to do maths in your head or fly by flapping your arms. You’re either born with the gift or you aren’t.
I took hellhounds for a sprint around the perimeter while Atlas and Peter got on with unloading. There were sheep, white-winged doves that made me come all over Emmylou Harris and make a nice change from pigeons, and horses. This may have possibilities: I’ll have to look at the local footpath map. I quite like the idea of going for six copies of THE SUNSHINE ROSE HERO AND THE OUTLAW BLUE PEGASUS CHALICE END and having a nice country hurtle with some critters while I’m at it.‡‡
I looked at the space remaining in the tiny cubicle—the barely-more-than-a-cupboard—after Atlas and Peter had made tidy box-piles against one wall, and thought dark, evil thoughts. Then we all went home for lunch‡‡‡ . . . after which I crept, bent and oppressed with woe,§ back up to Third House and squinted, with the other eye squeezed shut, at the remaining boxes of backlist and 4,341 other people’s books still on shelves. . . .
Bottom line. I haven’t got a prayer of getting all those books in that space.§§ Never mind the odd box of towels§§§ and maybe kitchen china too.#
So Atlas brought the next load, this time of my backlist, along since that’s what he was there for and we weren’t going to burst out of the confines of the cupboard till the third load, and I applied to the Nice Man## who runs Hrothgar’s Hall and . . . of course he’s just rented the last remaining next-size-up cupboard and only has small airplane hangar—sort of helicopter hanger—sized units left. So I am faced with ENTIRELY READJUSTING my plans for only having stuff like backlist that we need to have available in this place and storing the big stuff in the very-slightly-cheaper, but-your-stuff-goes-away-and-you-can’t-get-at-it warehouse.
I’m so happy. Not.
* * *
* A little like pistols at dawn, but not very
** That whole side of my head is still irregularly flaring and snarling and saying DON’T DO THAT AGAIN, OKAY? Whimper. But he’s not done yet.
*** I am still breathing = I am not sleeping well
† The pans hanging from the ceiling rack making a musical noise as she weaves among them like a barrel-racing Quarter horse
†† She is now getting most of her food via kong. http://www.kongcompany.com/en-uk/
This is supposed to help keep her amused. Rather than just chowing down the contents of her bowl faster than the speed of light^ she has to work for her meals. Well, yes, but trust the hellcritter that belongs to me to find an alternative application. Your dog is supposed to chew the thing: Pav mainly throws it around. She does some chewing . . . but mostly she throws it around. Whang. Whang. WHOP. Whang. As musical accompaniments go I prefer the ting-tong of clashing pans.
^ This is totally true, you know. Scientists should investigate the physics of bullie food-inhalation. I’m sure the resulting warp drive would be better than dilithium crystals. We might make it to the stars after all.
††† Big storage facilities are creepy. I’m sure there are some really excellent horror stories about big storage facilities. Don’t bother to tell me: there’s no way I’m going to read any of them.
‡ And the hellterror would be very cross and HUNGRY.
‡‡ ::Urgently looking for reasons not to hate everything about renting Third House::
‡‡‡ Variously. The lunch part did not include the hellhounds. Siiiiiiiigh. Hellterror says, Put me in, coach. I can handle it. I’ll even play with that dumb rubber thing if it makes you happy.
§ Including non-eating hellhounds
§§ Also I think there’s a Pit and the Pendulum vibe and with every box you deposit in the space the walls move a little closer together.
§§§ There’s nothing the hellterror enjoys more than a nice towel shredding, so I can use the back-up
# We don’t need any hellterror help for breakages. Although she did take out the plate glass window of my ex-glass-fronted bookcase about a week ago. I spent hours sweeping, scrubbing and patting the floor for splinters. Also moaning. Moaning goes with this kind of work. The kitchen floor hasn’t been that clean in years.
## He probably needs a name. He will probably appear on these pages again. Also, he has two adorable spaniels. One of them wags her tail in her sleep.
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?
Fiona was here again today—she was here one day last week on the same task—sorting and packing up backlist in the attic at Third House. Last week she was here on a day when the ME had me more or less nailed to some sofa or other with occasional totterings outside to allow hellcritters to stretch their legs and perform certain functions.* Today I was at least upright and mobile–and downstairs gazing despairingly at bookshelves full of other people’s books.
I’m getting Third House ready for rental. Yaay. Not.
I realise it’s not the end of the world. It’s not even not the end of the world as I know it. But it’s the end of a little piece of the world as I want to know it.
I’ve earned my living as a free lance writer for—yeep—nearly thirty years. But I’ve never been a best-seller** and I don’t write frelling fast enough. I managed to buy Third House during an uncharacteristic little flurry of getting out a book a year for about three years. For which I am devoutly grateful. At least I do own it.
But at the moment I can’t afford to own it. I didn’t have enough money to do a really thorough remodel; I went way over budget as it is to get the frelling weight-bearing, which is to say backlist-bearing, floor put in, because of the building regs about weight-bearing floors. And it turned out fine for someone who mainly wants space for lots and lots of books, but it’s not at all laid out for normal people with, you know, kids and families and things.*** So while I’ve been watching the bottom of my bank balance get closer and closer and plainer and plainer† I’ve also been wondering if it was even worth trying to let Third House, with its peculiar floor plan and paucity of bedrooms. Eventually I went round to our nice local realtor . . . and the answer is yes . . . just. By the time I’ve paid to have an assortment of small annoying problems scolded and told to pull their frelling socks up, frelling broadband installed, the (frelling) garden thumped into order†† and all that extra-frelling backlist and a few bits of furniture flung into storage . . . I’ll do very slightly better than break even . . . after about a year to earn back what I put into making it up to rentable standard.††† But I think it’s probably worth it to have someone else paying the shockingly unhilarious council tax on a small not-all-that-old house that happens to be inconveniently located in a quaint village downtown deemed a Conservation Area.
Meanwhile . . . storage will be slightly cheaper if there’s less stuff to store and if I do some of my own packing. Hence staring at my bookshelves and hence Fiona, bless her many, many times with yarn sales of extraordinary splendour and a satnav that is never wrong.
But I’m still not feeling exactly chirpy about the whole thing, so you’ll excuse me if I go to bed early with a good book. One of the ones I brought home with me from Third House. . . sniff. . . . ‡
* * *
* Days when the ME is bad it would be very nice if they were taller. I can rebalance myself delicately with fingers resting on an alert hellhound head. The hellterror, however, is probably roping my ankles together with her lead or using my knees as a rocket-launcher.^ It’s not that she can’t hurl herself six feet into the air after a squirrel, it’s that she can’t maintain it long enough for me to lean on her.
^ I was on the floor this evening being a hellterror-toy and Fiona said, are you aware that your right rear pocket is parting company with your jeans? Yes, I said, that’s because the hellterror sticks her hind feet in that pocket when I’m carrying her under that arm. And a good thing too, what she weighs.+
+ I had occasion to be carrying Chaos a few days ago. He weighs barely more than she does.# It’s just the long trailing legs make it harder to get him over a dog-unfriendly stile.
# Of course she eats, which might have something to do with it.
** Yes, I’ve been on the list a few times. But these things can be both mutable and evanescent. I’ve never been a best-seller like Ninety-Eight Shades of Chartreuse is a best-seller.
*** All three of our current houses together would be about half the floor space of the old house—and about twenty per cent of attics, outbuildings and garden. Granted that was a big house, and bigger than we needed. Still.
† Is it more distressing to have your monster super-global corporate bank jerking you around when you have a lot of money in it, or only a little? Discuss.
†† I hope my future tenants like roses.
†††This is not the wild American back of beyond, but hopelessly over-civilised southern English village society. Rose Manor wouldn’t get a booking in New Arcadia.^
^ But KES is going to make my fortune after all and then I can have Third House back.
‡ And I’m NEVER HAVING OVERNIGHT GUESTS AGAIN. The sofabed at the cottage isn’t going to have room to open any more, after the twelve more boxes of books imported from Third House. . . .
It’s frelling tipping it down out there—no, hurling, smashing it down. Anyone who either lives here or likes following global weather will know that the south UK is in for a hammering tonight. The weather guys are permanently twitchy since the seriously under-predicted storm of ’87 that pretty much took out the south of England* but they’re rolling out ‘worst storm since ’87’ warnings now, although maybe that’s only foolish young reporters who were still in grammar school in ’87.
The storm wasn’t supposed to start till later but I’ve just had an undesirably exciting time driving back from church** where there’s so much water on the roads in some places that you’re effectively fording, with a bow-wave higher than your bonnet/hood and the water showing a deplorable tendency to slash across your windscreen and there’s enough rain there already thank you. And you’re white-knuckling the steering wheel, which wants to sashay with all that water slamming into the wheels, and KEEPING YOUR FOOT DOWN on the ‘go’ pedal because if you get water up your tailpipe you will stall and then you are there till someone with a tow-chain rescues you, which is not a good position to be in at the beginning of a major storm.
So I’m going back to the cottage early and posting what in my case passes for early and short here before I leave because I’m expecting the internet to go belly-up any moment, and probably at the cottage first.*** Very possibly followed by the electricity. I should be able to find torches/flashlights, candles, oil lamps and matches in the dark but I am so not looking forward to trying to convince an assortment of hellcritters that these are the current conditions, and the sooner they get on with things the sooner we can all go back indoors.
I’m supposed to have my voice lesson tomorrow morning. . . .
* * *
When I moved over here in ’91 it was still practically speaking recent because you can’t regrow old gardens and forests that fast. I saw a lot of what it had done in Hampshire and Kent.^ And as the Wiki article tells you, that the meteorologists missed it has become a standard British joke.
^ And am in the process of remembering the storm itself, like I now remember the ’40s well as a result of being married to Peter. The really weird thing is that I remember the American forties.
** Having had a pretty undesirably gusty drive to ring afternoon service at Forza with Wolfgang bucketing over the road like a cold-backed horse.^
^ The ringing wasn’t much better. But for once it WASN’T ME.+ I held my line through most of my feeble repertoire of methods—there were only eight of us at full strength—while not everyone else successfully held theirs. This might be more satisfying but in the first place it’s a lot more fun to ring in a good touch than a bad touch as well as less nerve wracking since there’s always the (in my case dreadfully justified) fear of someone falling off their line dragging you with them. And in the second place you always feel crummy ringing badly for service, especially when it’s something the band ought to be able to ring, which it will be or you wouldn’t be trying to ring it for service. AND IN THE THIRD PLACE while it wasn’t my fault, I’m an erratic enough ringer that things are more likely to go wrong—and less likely to recover—when I’m on a rope. Good ringers can hold their rhythm as well as their line when other parts of the row are falling apart. I can sometimes hold my rhythm on six bells just because I’VE BEEN DOING THIS FOR NEARLY A DECADE and most of that time has been on six bells. On eight bells, forget it. If the person I’m supposed to be passing or dodging with has drifted astray all I can do is go clang and look for my next victim, and hope that I’m not now so far out that we will fail to find each other too. Sigh. One so wants to be on the side of the angels, instead of the side of the bodgers—the side that finds itself using safety pins on its hems because it doesn’t have time to find a needle and thread, the side that finds itself making chocolate apple cake because it discovered after the shops had shut that it’s a little short of both chocolate and flour but it has lots of apples . . . the side that sets out to write a short story and finds itself writing a frelling trilogy. I am a bodger through and through.
+ It wasn’t I, either. This blog tends to be pretty colloquial.
*** I am so tired of living with wiring made of pipe cleaners and chewing gum.