Let me get this over with.
I won’t be at Boskone next February. I’ve written to the Boskone admin and asked Blogmom to take the sidebar down.
I’m extremely sorry. I don’t like screwing people over and . . . and I wanted to go.
I’ve also known this was coming for a while but I have been trying to pretend not to know it. I’ve been putting off talking to my vet for . . . probably two months, because by two months ago I knew that his Miracle Cure for the hellhounds’ digestion, while it has certainly improved matters for which I am very grateful indeed, it hasn’t been quite the miracle cure we’d been hoping for. One of the possibilities is that the other dogs he’s cured (and admittedly there are only a few of them because it’s kind of a new and experimental as well as last-ditch treatment) are all half the hellhounds’ age or less, and my hellhounds may just have permanent unfixable damage. . . .
Last Friday I finally talked to my vet.
The bottom line is, the hellhounds are a life sentence, of which I’ve already served eight years while trying not to think about it in those terms. A kennels won’t take them and I wouldn’t inflict them on a pet sitter* and my few certifiably deranged-ly doggy friends who could and would cope are all hundreds to thousands of miles away.
And this is just the way it is. Fortunately I’ve turned into something of a homebody in my old age, and while there is a needs-must aspect to it, still, I don’t exactly sit around twiddling my thumbs, do I? And have I mentioned I’m going back to homeopathy college? Speaking of sitting at home not twiddling.** I discovered rather by accident recently that since I dropped out of the face-to-face, classroom, commuting kind of college***, on-line courses have come a long way. I’ve been poking around the corners of this intriguing information the last few weeks, and about a fortnight ago, when I finally made the appointment to talk to my vet, I thought, okay, when the vet tells me what I already know he’s going to tell me, I’ll get serious about college. Because I have so much spare time now that I’m not writing a blog post every night.
Who knows. Maybe I’ll find a cure for the hellhounds. But it won’t be before next February.
* * *
* This aside from the fact that after my interesting acquaintance with a downward spiral of dog minders and my one DISASTROUS even by my standards experience with a national pet sitting company, I wouldn’t be likely to inflict a pet sitter on the hellmob anyway.^
^ Although I could just tell the hellterror that if he/she gets out of line, eat them.
** Except knitting needles, of course.
*** For the given reason of my ME-afflicted energy level not being up to it, but the hellhounds had something to do with it too.
This is the worst the ME has been in years . . . possibly since I first started struggling up off the sofa again occasionally, about eighteen months after I went down with it for the first, spectacular, devastating time fourteen and a half years ago.*
And the furniture lorry arrives at 8 a.m. on Friday morning whether I’m ready or not. Whether I’m upright or not.**
It’s cooled off some, but not enough, and there’s still no rain—and no rain forecast.*** The hellhounds still aren’t eating. At all. I’m surrounded by half-packed boxes and piles of things that have been pulled off shelves or out of cupboards and . . .
. . . I think I need to go lie down again.
* * *
* Which is to say thirteen years ago.^ Enough to make you superstitious.
^ Good thing I’m not likely to see in any more millennia. However you count it—2000 or 2001—it was not a good time for me and I might feel a little, well, superstitious, if I saw a lot of zeroes bearing down on me again. But even Methuselah didn’t quite make a thousand, so I’m assuming I’m safe.
** Last night—26 July—is one of our two big anniversaries: the meeting-Peter-Dickinson-at-the-Bangor-Maine-airport-oh-wow-oops one. We always go out and have a big splashy dinner. Last night we cancelled. I couldn’t have sat up in a chair long enough. I know. Worse things happen. But on the Comprehensive Demoralisation Scale it’s right up there.
*** There may be the odd local thunderstorm on Friday. If we actually have one of the odd local thunderstorms, which will be a first since this no-rain thing began about a month ago, it will certainly be punctiliously restricted to the corridor between the mews’ front door and the back of the lorry, all the rain^ will run straight into the gravel of the courtyard, and everybody’s gardens and potted plants will still be lying there gasping pathetically.
^ Except the rain-god’s special water-grenades which will explode under whatever plastic sheeting careful furniture removal men deploy on such occasions, and will leave irredeemable squiggles on the polished wood of Peter’s few nice old family pieces. May these prove to be runes for the cure of ME.
You may have to wait another day (or two) for how I got to yesterday, including the two days on the sofa in a coma, the vague realisation* Sunday afternoon that I hadn’t actually eaten anything in about forty-eight hours which might be contributing to my extreme lassitude, etc.** The point is yesterday I was better.
It’s been hot this week and muggy with it*** but mostly it eases up and cools off in the evenings which have (mostly) been pretty fabulous in the long summer twilight. So I was attempting to take patient hellhounds† for the first half-decent hurtle they’d had in about six days. In a light-headed moment of madness I decided to take a look in on the rec grounds, where I never take hellhounds any more because of the other people’s dogs problem. Lo and behold, fate appeared to be being unnaturally kind: there was a game on, one of those sports involving men in shorts kicking a ball.†† Hurrah! I thought. That means people will be keeping their dogs on leads to keep them off the (unfenced) playing field.
You see where this is going.
We were skirting the edge of the game, and I was paying more attention to not getting hit by a wild ball than by what might be coming up on us from the outside. While the playing field is flat there’s a bunker type slope off it with a few trees marking the boundary and then a gradual hill in its original contours. So you don’t necessarily see what’s bearing down (or up) on you till it’s much too late for evasive action. Not that it would have done us any good in this case.
I turned around idly in time to see a brown-and-white torpedo, ahem, surging toward us. CALL YOUR DOG! I shouted, thus destroying in three syllables what my cheese-grater, broken glass and drawn-dagger sore throat had begun to recover from.
There was no human in sight.
I’ve seen this dog around town with its people. Joy. It’s local. It’s a half grown Staffie cross, I think, and it’s growing up big. Unless there’s a line of (presumably show) Staffies with longer legs, this one’s got something else in there. Mastodon possibly. It’s not aggressive yet, but give it time. It’s clearly growing up to be a thug. It sailed into the hellhounds with none of that piffling puppy posturing and Chaos, who is ordinarily happy to play with the most bumptious puppy, was . . . well, at first he was only nonplussed. I was more worried about Darkness, who is still pretty fragile†††.
A 12- or 13-year-old girl shambles up and makes a couple of ineffectual grabs at the Young Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man. Eventually, and this is now over a minute since this delightful meeting began, some idiot woman who has finally, I don’t know, got off her mobile phone and noticed her dog (and her daughter) have disappeared?, comes streaking up over the bank. Where has she been? And she proceeds to tell me that I should stand still so she can grab her dog. YOU SHOULDN’T LET IT OFF THE LEAD TILL IT’S OBEDIENT! I shrieked, thus setting convalescence and the possibility of my ever singing again‡ back by six weeks or half a millennium. She realizes, perhaps, that there is no reasoning with me—no, there isn’t—and attempts to concentrate on seizing her miscreant.
The whole episode took probably five minutes. This is a long time when it involves an off-lead dog out to make as much mayhem as its adolescent brain can yet conceive. The only bright spot—aside from the fact that it hasn’t fully grown into its obvious gift for malice—was that Darkness, probably because he was still drugged to the gills, was only unhappy, he wasn’t doing his full protective berserker thing thank you God.‡‡ Chaos, however, was increasingly freaked out, so Young Stay-Puft concentrated on him.
I didn’t think about it at the time—I was too busy trying to hang onto my distressed hellhounds in my own not too steady condition, and with this bloody woman telling me to keep still—but I’ve thought about it too much since. It wasn’t just the torpedo approach or the lack of puppy love-me moves. All the brute’s hair was up and its head was low and its look intent—and it singled out Chaos because he was providing more fun. In six months it’s going to be eating small children.
I despair. And after that adrenaline spike, I’ve been back on the sofa again—you were going to get the first somewhat-post flu bulletin‡‡‡ last night.
And my throat hurts.
* * *
* Very vague: you don’t think well in a coma
** Also, at sixty-one, you don’t have the bounce you did ten or forty years ago. You can just sleep—or coma—off a lot when you’re twenty, and then get up groggily at a strange hour, make a large platter of scrambled eggs, and be fine. At sixty-one you need a little more continuing support.
*** Speaking of producers of lassitude
† Let me also say that the hellpack have been brilliant this week. Granted hellhounds start hating the heat even sooner than I do but they do still like to get outside for a panting, oppressed and put-upon amble, and they’ve only been getting slow groping turns around the block for necessary purposes with me leaning on the trees and stopping at every bench—thank God there are benches both in the churchyard and the wide strip of green alongside the road to the mews.^ And the hellterror, bless her manic little heart, has been amazing. Now, also granted that she is highly self motivated and you can pretty much just let her out of her crate and stand back while she caroms off the walls, but even overseeing her is exhausting when you’re only about .05% of normal. I’m not even sure she got fed as often as usual. But she was always glad to see me and did not take advantage when I tottered outdoors with her—she could have had me over if she’d wanted to—and went cheerfully back into her crate^^ and was quiet for hours without complaint^^^. Like the man said, You can’t always get what you want/ But if you try sometimes well you just might find/ You get what you need.
^ I’ve had three dog minders, each one more disastrous than the last. I really don’t want to start the countdown to catastrophe on a fourth.
^^ suitably bribed
^^^ Except of course when someone came to the front door or the wind through the garden door made a funny noise or the dishwasher went click-clump as it changed cycles or the book you had been pretending to read fell out of your nerveless hands to the floor or she objected to the music on the radio+ or . . . whatever. She’s still a bull terrier. However she is also a bull terrier who shuts up when requested.++
+ She was right about this. It was Harrison Birtwhistle. I managed to assume verticality long enough to turn it off.
++ After only a little grumbling. Unless it’s clearly pirates and I’m just not taking the threat seriously enough.
†† I have no idea. Although there are several men in shorts kicking balls sports, I believe.
††† See: I do not want another week like this one, and, you may have to wait for the details of how I got to yesterday.
‡ I am really missing singing. It’s like missing a body part.
‡‡ Yes. I wish I knew why God doesn’t solve the off-lead dog problem that has very nearly wrecked my pleasure in having dogs. The hellhounds’ little peculiarity about food pales in comparison.
‡‡‡ Trust me there is plenty of material.
. . . insofar as ‘dreading’ is a suitable word for anything that happens on a blog. As I say (regularly) to Blogmom when I’ve screwed up yet again, ‘It’s a blog. Nobody dies.’
Well, nobody dies, but this is the week when you will not get a KES for the foreseeable future. This flaming sore throat is showing no sign whatsoever of folding its tents and silently stealing away. And it’s wearing me down, you know? It’s no worse than it was on Wednesday, it’s just no better, and the rest of me is following it down into the abyssal pit of lethargy* and brainlessness.** And I’m not going to post a KES ep until I’ve had a brain available to look it over with first. As I said last week, the Black Tower interpolations were a late addition, but once one thing has come a bit adrift other things tend to follow. Story-telling entropy. Or A Sound of Thunder.***
And you know one of the worst things about this extremely unpleasant lurgy? Chocolate doesn’t taste good. How am I supposed to comfort myself in my affliction when I am denied chocolate?
* * *
* Hurtling my two shifts of hellpack is interesting in a losing all your money in Las Vegas, your house just fell down or your beloved just ran off with a fireperson^ and what really hurts is that he/she took the dog^^ kind of way. As I staggered after them I was thinking it could be worse. The hellhounds are pretty frelling laid back at the moment possibly because they stopped eating again and there’s a limit to the amount of force feeding I have the morale/energy for, and at the moment I can’t talk to the vet because I can’t talk. But they don’t require miles across rough country as they have been known to do when they were younger, possibly because at present their bellies are starting to stick to their backbones.^^^ And the hellterror . . . on a long extending lead, I can just mosey along while she hucklebutts her little cotton socks off . . . bringing me especially desirable, well-chewed, sticky and drooly sticks and plastic bottles occasionally so I don’t feel left out. Gee. Thanks.
I don’t actually get this sick very often. I was lying on the floor with my head in the hellhound bed# last night listening to this: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b048ngny ## and thinking, I remember lying on the floor with my head in the hellhound bed listening to that bloke read Paradise Lost on Radio Three and that was several years ago. Uggggh. Not nearly long ago enough, if you follow me. I could have gone on not feeling this bloody for any number more years.
^ My mind seems to run on fire for some reason
^^ And dogs. For some reason.
^^^ I know they don’t like the taste of the drug they’re on, because back during some recent era when they were occasionally eating, if one of them missed their drug-laced dinner and the other one didn’t, I was liable to find the one who was facing a rerun of the drugged food trying to eat the drug-free final snack of the other. They need to be on this *&^%$£””!!!!! drug, it’s working, but it hasn’t worked enough yet. I am so frelled.
# I changed their bedding Wednesday night. It’s all nice and clean+ and a good deal softer than the floor.
+ If HAIRY
## This should be Hesperion XXI at the York Early Music Festival. The BBC web site is such a nightmare I never trust it. But if it isn’t, you can look it up on the schedule, Thursday night at 7:30 on Radio Three and it’s fabulous. I think it’s one of those only available for seven days, so get it while it’s there. I’m going to listen to it again.
** I was supposed to go Street Pastoring tonight. Not a chance. Whimper. I keep wondering where I picked up this particular lurgy. See previous entry about the downside of interaction with other human beings. It could have been last Saturday on the street, for example.
*** I’m not a big fan of Wikipedia at the best of times.^ So it’s probably not surprising I feel that the article on ‘the butterfly effect’ might have mentioned the Bradbury story. I know there’s a difference between the beating of butterfly wings creating major weather and the wrong guy getting elected because your big fat boot stepped on one back in the Cretaceous^^ but . . . the butterfly effect article even mentions that it’s a popular trope in SF&F.
^ And that meatloaf at the head having come out as rantingly, pathologically against homeopathy+ means I will stay not a big fan
+ Let me just say that anyone who thinks homeopathy is nonsense hasn’t done their homework=
= Self-prescribing is not ideal–see above about not posting a KES while I have no discernible brain–but I am walking. Sometimes a lurgy just has your name on it. And back in the days when I still believed in standard medicine I got prescribed an awful lot of garbage that did me significant harm. Whatever this is, it’ll go away . . . eventually.
^^ How do we know it wasn’t the microorganisms in the soil? Just because the butterfly is flashier?
You were due to get a blog post tonight and I have stomach flu. As these things go it’s mild* but it’s knocked my energy level over and squashed it flat, because that’s what happens when you have ME and some blasted interfering ‘acute’ comes along and joins the party.
Meanwhile I had my observation duty at the Samaritans last night—and was aware of feeling a little peaky** but that might have been tension level***—and I have my first official duty shift tomorrow. And I’m going. So let’s hope I can sit in a chair and speak in complete sentences, okay? I want to do this. And I don’t want my mentor to have to do it for me because I’m convulsing on the floor. Arrrrrrrgh.†
* * *
* May it stay mild, thank you very much
** I’ve actually been peaky most of this week, the kind of peaky that makes me think ‘oh help the ME is getting worse I’m not going to be able to keep on floundering through as much stuff as I do if this is settling in to be the new system’—also PAIN. Golly. I really do not like pain and it makes me CRANKY^ and at my age it also makes me feel dangerously old. Having the intensification of the ME coalesce into something like stomach flu, which can reasonably be presumed will go away again, is actually a relief.^^
^ I would have been such a bad martyr. I wouldn’t have forgiven anybody.
^^ This is how acutes tend to manifest with me, that the ME gets worse and then as if spits out the acute.+ But of course during the run up I don’t think ‘oh I must be coming down with something’ I think OH WOE MY LIFE IS OVER.
+ Not everyone with ME follows this pattern but it is a common one.
*** There weren’t any ordinary people who just wanted a chat last night—yes the Sams get those although that’s not what they’re for—YEEEEP. The Sams really are the sharp end. Yeeeeeep. I was there mid-shift so I could watch the handover, the point being that there’s always someone available to answer a ringing phone and there’s always a debrief every shift with the admin^, so I had a chance to speak to four duty-shift Sams plus my mentor^^ plus yesterday’s admin head and I was saying yeeeeep and they were all saying sympathetically, well, yes. That’s what we do.
It has come up constantly from the first information evening when you’re still deciding whether to apply or not that the Sams support their people. What the Samaritans do is rough. And you can’t take it home with you or you won’t be able to do the job for long. Hence constant, structured checking from admin and colleagues that you’re okay.
The other crucial aspect of this is the Sams’ rule of ABSOLUTE CONFIDENTIALITY. The only people you’re allowed to discuss Sams’ callers with is other Sams. And I had a little taste of what this is going to mean in practise last night. Intellectually I totally get it and totally agree with it too—that’s what makes the Sams such a great resource. Have something that’s eating holes in you that you either have no one to discuss it with or you just can’t discuss it with friends and family? Ring the Sams. You can tell them anything, they’ll not only listen, it won’t go any farther. Terminally ill and want to talk about death but your family are all in denial? Ring the Sams. Suicidal from the break-up that everyone thinks is your fault because they won’t hear the truth about your ex-partner? Ring the Sams. Your dog died and nobody gets it that it matters? Ring the Sams.
But to engage, to empathise, as a Sam you do have to get alongside whoever you’re talking to. And you also have to put it down again when you put the phone down.
I’ll learn to do this—as I told my mentor I’m reasonably confident about the long term: short term is the yeeeeeep—but the new skill is not being able to talk about it. I’m a girl. When stuff gets to me I find a friend to talk it through with. It’s what girls do. I wrote a couple of emails to friends last night and I probably sounded pretty distracted because what I was chiefly thinking about was what I couldn’t say. ^^^ Grim stuff is undoubtedly more of a burden when you can’t ask a trusted friend to help you lever it off and lay it down.
^ The admin are all practising Sams too. They know what you’re doing, what life on the, ahem, line is.
^^ Whom I like a lot, by the way. I feel in safe hands with her: that she’ll catch me if I screw up but she won’t make me feel like a retarded liver fluke for screwing up.
^^^ It’ll be easier once I’ve made some friends in the Sams. The Street Pastors keep schtum too but since most of what we do happens in public and out on the street the lockdown isn’t as absolute. And I went into the SPs as one of four from St Margaret’s, the other three of whom were already my friends by the time I started doing duty shifts. Clearly I need to send that email to the other five trainees of my Sams intake saying, so what about meeting up for that beer then?
† What you guys really want to be hoping/praying/dancing around bonfires for however is that I’m sufficiently alive and functioning to tweak another chapter of KES and release her to the world Saturday night.