November 10, 2016

I can’t . . .

 

I can’t believe he won. I ABSOLUTELY CANNOT BELIEVE THAT DONALD TRUMP IS AMERICA’S NEXT PRESIDENT.

I can’t believe he won.  I can’t believe he won.  I can’t believe he won.  I can’t BELIEVE he won.  I can’t believe he won.  I can’t believe he won.  I can’t believe he won.  I can’t believe he won.  I can’t believe he won.  I can’t believe he won.  I can’t believe he won.  I can’t believe he won.  I can’t believe he won.  I cannot, cannot, cannot, cannot, cannot cannot cannot cannotcannotcannot cannot believe he won.

I can’t believe it.

I can’t believe it.

I can’t believe it.

I went to bed at about 5 am stunned and staggered and wretched with what was obviously happening in America, watching the states turn red and the little lines crawling toward ‘win’, Hillary’s much too slowly and Donald’s much too fast. When I finally got up again very late in the morning I did not race to my computer or turn on the radio because I didn’t want to hear it.  As long as I didn’t know it officially maybe it hadn’t happened.  But I had a day’s appointments to confirm and when I turned Pooka on and hit the text button, the condolences and expressions of horror and despair scrolled well past what I could read on the opening screen.

I can’t believe he won. I can’t believe it. I’m wearing all black for the death of my country.  My ex-country.  I don’t want to be an American any more.  If Brexit throws me out of England I’m moving to Australia.  I want to lose this accent.  I don’t want to sound like an American.  I don’t want to be identifiable as a member of the country that voted Donald Trump into the White House, even if I’m not one of the guilty.  I remember the heady rush after Obama was voted in the first time—that after cringing through the George Dubya era as an American in England it was okay to be an American—it was something to be proud of, being an American, where we’d just voted in an intelligent man with principles and ideals and oh-by-the-way his dad was a black Kenyan and his wife could punch her own weight as a career woman and his partner.

I can’t believe Donald Trump got anywhere near the Republican nomination, let alone the presidency.  I kept waiting for someone to pull it together to push back.

I’m an on-line GUARDIAN subscriber, and I hope there are enough of us to keep the GUARDIAN going. This arrived in our inboxes today from Katherine Viner, the editor-in-chief:

It was a terrible night for women, for Muslims, for Hispanic Americans, for people who believe climate change is a real and present danger, for people who believe women have a right to abortion, for men and women who object to sexual harassment of the most brutal and obvious kind, for disabled people, for black people, for Jewish people, for gay people, for progressives, for liberals, for people who believe Barack Obama was born in the USA, for a free and independent media working in the public interest.

There’s no doubt that the election of Donald Trump as US president is one of the biggest events of our lifetimes, and like the outcome of the Brexit referendum, could be one of the most important stories in the history of the Guardian. Our [people] in the US and around the world have been working round-the-clock to bring you the fastest updates, engaged reporting and video, deep analysis and thoughtful commentary. We will redouble these efforts in the coming weeks and months. We want to understand why America voted for Donald Trump, and hold him to account for his words and actions.

What she said.

However. With caveats.  There will be no forum thread for this post.  I don’t want to talk about it.  I wouldn’t expect there to be a lot of Trump voters reading this blog but if there are any I don’t want to know. I don’t want to know. Please do not, as has happened before when I’ve explicitly said that I don’t want to discuss something, rush to explain, because if only I’d listen to you . . . I’m not going to listen to any excuses for voting for Donald Trump.  Full stop.  If you email me I’ll delete you.  I’ll be reading TIME magazine and the GUARDIAN—yes, I’m a wet liberal, so what else is new?—for all they can tell me about the potential global catastrophe that is Donald Trump in the White House, but I want my information at barge-pole-length distance, with journalists doing the dirty work.

And of all the possible reasons for ending a long blog silence, this has got to be one of the worst. But I couldn’t not say that I’m utterly, utterly, utterly shaken and shocked and appalled.  And to say to all you other Hillary-ites out there, oh, God, I’m so sorry. Hands across the water, tears of blood, etc.  Hannah and I have been texting all day—I mean all day, starting at 2 am GMT.

Knitting has become such a refuge for me—even if, when things feel painfully worse than usual, like now, I keep having flashbacks to knitting at Peter’s bedside. And [insert banner-waving here] I finished something for one of these Christmas charities that give hand-made stuff to poor kiddies.  And so today—when I’m not texting Hannah again—I keep defaulting helplessly to um, wait, what can I KNIT to make it better?  Then my mind goes blank and I look wistfully at my empty, twitching hands.  However the hellmob is always happy to go for another hurtle, and since I sing a lot of mournful songs anyway I’m not sure they notice that I’m sounding even more dirge-like than normal today.

I have a half-done post from . . . yonks and eras ago. Before—oh, let’s see—visitors, bronchitis, visitors, food poisoning and visitors.  And how when what there is left of my hair post-menopause started falling out in handfuls, my fingernails were breaking past the quick, and my legs went all funny, that I realised that possibly I had taken the detox thing too far.  And?  I’m no longer a vegetarian.  Sigh.  I should have recognised the warning signs—I’ve crashed and burned as a semi-vegan twice before;  third time is not the charm—but it’s so easy to blame everything on the ME.  As a slavering carnivore my energy levels are picking up again nicely, thank you.  My fingernails need cutting again and my hair is starting to grow back in, although whether it grows back in enough remains to be seen.  And as I’ve said several times during this gruesome and miserable year, I have no intention of giving the blog up, I’m just having a few interim motivational problems.

I can’t believe he won.

Talking to my husband

Maybe they thought I was talking to the rose.

                                                                                                                Maybe they thought I was talking to the rose.*

I got caught talking to Peter for the first time the other day. That I know of, I mean.  I’ve been talking to him in the churchyard, of course, since the unnecessarily grand ashes box went into the ground, what, is it three weeks ago now?  Even if it’s no more than hey, how’s it going, as some hurtle-shift or other passes at speed because I’m late, as usual, for the next thing, whatever it is, I still take a loop off the main path to say hello and check how the current rose is doing.*  So half the town may already be aware that the Dickinson widow chats to her husband, but then, she’s a little loony, maybe it’s being an American?**

But the first time I noticed being caught talking to Peter was a few days ago.  When I told this to a friend she said drily, who was more embarrassed?  Well, at the time, I would have said the honours were about even *** but by the time I was taking the hellhounds and my red face briskly in the opposite direction I was thinking wait a minute.  This is a churchyard. This must happen all the time!  People talking to their departed beloveds† in cemeteries!††  Meanwhile I’d better get used to being caught because it’s going to happen again.  And again.  My friend suggested that part of my discoverers’ shock was just that this was happening immediately off the main, well travelled, path through the churchyard—there’s perhaps an unconscious assumption that people who are going to speak to the dead are going to do it in the tucked-away parts of churchyards.  And this churchyard has tucked-away places.  I originally thought I’d want to have him in one of those, but I changed my mind.†††  I like him where I’m going to walk past him every day.  And my friend—who knew Peter—agreed.  That’s the path he walked on every day to go buy his newspaper.‡  And he was always interested in what was going on, what people were doing.  It’s a good spot.

Sigh.

* * *

* This is supposed to be a CAPTION.

* Some day it will NOT be a rose. Some day.  Not today.  Not tomorrow.  Probably not next week either.  Although if our little village florist ever had really fabulous sunflowers the day the current rose needs replacing I might well go for a fabulous sunflower . . . which would probably look very peculiar in the plastic spike-vase . . . eh.  The unexpected confusions of looking after a grave.  But it’s not like it’s something you think ahead about.  What I Will Do If I Ever Have An Important Grave to Look After.  We even knew that the statistical probability was very strong that I would be looking after his grave some day.  Did we think about it?  No.^  Also, you don’t get cut clematis the way you get cut roses—clematis are just not a cut-flower plant.  And Peter being a clematis man leaves me free to do my worst.  Which means roses.  And maybe a sunflower once a year.

^ There is an argument that Peter knew perfectly well that I would buy a spike-vase and put roses in it, and didn’t see the need to say anything.

** The country that has elected Donald Trump as the Republican candidate for the presidency, greater, hair-tearing, teeth-grinding, shrieking proof of national looniness is not possible.

I’m also a fantasy writer of course, but I don’t think most of the locals pay this any attention. My being an American is in your face—or your ear—the minute I say anything.  Most of them don’t task me with Trump, however.  Maybe they can see the blood in my eye if they unwarily attempt to bring politics into the conversation.  Maybe they just realise I must be a liberal, I wear All Stars.

People are funny though.^ There are people I would have expected to phone me occasionally or put a postcard through the door or something, saying ‘thinking of you, hope you’re doing okay’ or thereabouts.  I don’t need casseroles^^ and I don’t go to parties^^^ but contact might have been nice.  Which in some cases isn’t happening.  Oh.  Okay.  It’s not like I don’t have friends who are keeping a close eye on me^^^^.  The cold draught I constantly feel is about absence of Peter, not absence of friends and friendly support.^^^^^  And some people I would not have expected to take an interest, do.  Still.  Odd.

^ Make a note.

^^ Which would almost certainly be full of things I can’t eat anyway

^^^ Except I am going to one on Wednesday. A cocktail party. A large cocktail party.  I have clearly taken leave of my few remaining senses.  But it’s being held at the beautiful old country house where we had Peter’s memorial and I want to go back there for the first time since then and get it over with.  And it is a beautiful old country house with glorious parkland, and I shall wear All Stars and having had my token glass of . . . mineral water and said hello to at least three people, I shall go for a walk before Wolfgang takes me home.

^^^^ YES I’M EATING. But as I’ve said before, eliminate meat, sugar and alcohol—and butter, my one remaining dairy product—and it suddenly becomes surprisingly difficult not to lose weight.  Especially if you were a serious sugar junkie, which I was.+  Aggravated in my case by the fact that I’m an ex-fat person who learnt to deal with the fact that I gain weight easily and had what I thought was an ineradicable addiction to chocolate and other sweet things, including remarkable amounts of sugar in my remarkably strong black tea, AND champagne.  So my mindset for the last forty years has been the ‘push yourself away from the table while you’re still hungry I mean NOW’ thing to make room for the sugar and the chocolate and the butter and the champagne, and a cemented-in for additional security mindset is HARD to change after forty years.  So I keep having these conversations with myself that go, wait, you’re not going to eat ALL those nuts, are you?  Nuts are VERY HIGH CALORIE.  —YES. EAT THE NUTS.  EAT ALL THE NUTS.  YOU CAN FRELLING USE THE CALORIES.  Wait, no, no, you aren’t going to eat an entire avocado, are you?  YES.  I AM.  I AM GOING TO EAT AN ENTIRE AVOCADO.

+ And yes, I thought I was going to endure the tortures of the damned, eliminating sugar. I didn’t.  I get a little WISTFUL# sometimes but major cravings and all that?  Nope.  My body I guess was just ready.  It’s a lot more of a grown-up than the rest of me.

# You know what I really miss? Being able to treat myself.  A hard afternoon sweating through the ‘two for one’ table at Waterstones and I want a sit-down and a cup of tea before I go home.  Green tea is now fashionable enough that it’s usually not too difficult finding a tea shop that serves green.  But I can’t do the sticky cake any more.  And it’s not the cake I miss nearly so much, it’s the treat. If you follow me.  At least if I go with someone they can have the sticky cake and the shop needn’t feel it’s wasting its table on me.

^^^^^ WHICH I TOTALLY, ABSOLUTELY, GROVELLINGLY APPRECIATE.  This directed at anyone reading this blog who is wondering sadly if I’m ever going to acknowledge their card/letter/email.  Yes.  You’re on the list.   Eight months is nothing, I’m afraid, to a disorganised, ME-riddled loony.+

+ I probably shouldn’t admit this, but speaking of disorganised loonies, yesterday I discovered a little cache of letters I wrote in . . . March.  That ahem didn’t get sent ahem.  Sigh.

*** I don’t know whether it’s a good or a bad thing that I’ve never seen them before. It’s tourist season and it’s a pretty churchyard.  I was adding local colour. And the hellhounds are very decorative.  If I want an actual chat I take the hellhounds.  Pav isn’t so great at hanging out.  Although she has recently taken to hucklebutting like a dervish in the little clear space in front of Peter’s grave, which I hope he is finding entertaining.

† Of whatever kind, variety, relationship or flavour

†† It happens in the graveyard where Miri’s grandfather is buried, in Hellhound.

††† And fortunately the vicar agreed.  Thank you, God.  Thank you, lovely vicar.

‡ My little cul de sac is kind of around the corner from the churchyard, although it’s a short corner. Third House really is slap on the other side of the churchyard from the centre of town.  Have I told you that one of the weirder comments from a potential house buyer was that she really liked the house ‘but it was too near the churchyard’? What? She reads too much Stephen King or something?

Today

P1070093

 

Not counting poor Third House I now have three gardens:  the four-burner Aga size behind the cottage, the hall cupboard large enough for one unlined raincoat and a pair of All Stars if you pile one on top of the other size behind the Lodge, and a ragged grassy square about the size of the palm of my hand* in a corner between two ancient, falling-down sarcophagi in the churchyard twenty seconds from my front door.   Since Peter was a clematis man I’m eyeing  the sarcophagi and wondering if anyone would mind if I planted a clematis next to the gravestone–there will be a gravestone eventually–and tossed it over them as it got going.  One each possibly.  I’m afraid to ask what the rules about churchyard planting are since I’m sure I won’t like them.

I do have photos from yesterday but I think they may be maudlin.  If I decide they aren’t maudlin I’ll think about posting them next 26 July.  This one is probably maudlin too but I’m incapable of believing that a photo of a red rose is ever inappropriate**.   Something I didn’t tell you yesterday because I was already too deranged is that I threw my wedding bouquet in the bottom of the hole before the box went in.***  My bouquet was the one a-little-bit sad thing about our wedding:  we left for London almost immediately after the registrar finished declaring us husband and wife so I only had it about two hours;  we’d only picked it up on our way to the registrar’s office.  But I knew I wanted to dry it so I could keep it, so I hung it upside-down in the kitchen before we left, and it was toast by the time we got back.†   It’s been sitting in a particular china pitcher for the last twenty four and a half years but I knew I wanted to bury it with him.††  Although that empty pitcher is now very eye-catching.

I wanted to say one more thing about all of this.  I’m not mythologizing–much.  I’m telling you the truth–my truth–about death and grief the way I have always tried to tell you the truth about anything I write here:  but all public blog truths are consciously selective truths and I’m a professional writer.  Peter was not a perfect human being and you already know with knobs on that I’m not a perfect human being.  In some very important ways we were a gloriously, life-enhancingly, ridiculously well-matched couple.  In some other very important ways we didn’t get on at all.  Everyone is a control freak about something, and our control freakeries did not integrate well.  And I’m stubborn, but I have nothing on Peter;  I keep remembering that I called him ‘monolithic’ in my memorial piece.  Yes.  I’m (ahem) volatile and (ahem) reactive, not to say overreactive, um, yes, let’s say overreactive, and Peter was a proper British gentleman who reverted to type under stress.  As I grieve I am not remembering a halcyon, glittering marriage with twinkling stars and fluffy bunnies–NO BUNNIES–with twinkling stars and dancing centaurs with rhinestone-studded hooves††† that went on and on in days full of unbroken golden sunlight‡ and the smell of roses, even in January.  And the last two years were grim.  But we loved each other and we did our best.  And I miss him horribly.

* * *

* I have big hands.

** Or a pink rose, or a white rose, or . . .

*** I’d been expecting some little cardboard number, just something to transport the ashes to the ground where they could become one with tree roots and earthworms, but it was this disturbingly classy wooden box with a plaque with his name on it.  Eeep.  It looks like the kind of thing you keep on the mantelpiece to discourage visitors.  If ash receptacles were discussed when we were first arranging the funeral, including indecorous details like the practical disposal of a dead body, I completely spaced on it, but I’m doing a lot of that.  We got the British-made woven-willow coffin right, and the flowers, and that’s what counts to me.

† We had dinner at a blisteringly grand restaurant in Knightsbridge that doesn’t seem to exist any more and I kept looking across the table and thinking, you mean I get to keep him?, spent the night at the Ritz, yah hoo whammy^, spent another night in London to go to the opera^^ and then drove to Cornwall for the rest of our honeymoon.  I’ve told you this story, right?  Peter said, so, where would you like to go for the honeymoon?  France?  Italy?  Japan?  Er, I said.  Cornwall?

^ They give you a bottle of complementary champagne if you say you’ve just got married.^  I still have the bottle.  You’re not surprised, I hope.

^ I assume they check?  Otherwise this system seems to me rife with possibility of misuse by the champagne-loving crowd who can afford the Ritz’s prices.  Spend £1,000,000,000 on a room and get a £50 bottle of champagne FREE!

^^ Turandot, because that’s what was on, not because I wanted to see Turandot, the plot of which makes me chew the wallpaper particularly hard.  I’m reasonably sure I’ve done a Turandot rant on these pages.  But, you know, opera, on your honeymoon.  Yessssssss.  Hey, it wasn’t me!  Peter suggested it!  Because he was lovely and adorable and kind and thoughtful when he wasn’t being totally frelling impossible.

†† Note that dried flowers as they get older and frailer, because I didn’t treat these with anything that would make them last, become increasingly undustable, and removing sticky cobwebs?  Forget it.

††† You may have guessed I didn’t get enough sleep last night.

‡ This was happening in England after all.

Twenty-six July Twenty Sixteen********************************

 

Today is the twenty-fifth anniversary of the famous day when I picked up that slightly-known-by-me, undeniably mad but equally undeniably fabulously talented British writer Peter Dickinson, at the Bangor, Maine airport, for a weekend of playing tour guide to someone who’d never been to Maine before. I was usually pretty good at this, and Maine is very show-off-able, nearly all year long,* but Peter was a somewhat daunting prospect.  In the first place he was PETER!  DICKINSON! and in the second place . . . I knew Peter well enough—anyone who ever met him for thirty seconds knew him this well—to know that he would need to be kept amused. Long afternoons relaxing in a lawn chair getting through the home-made iced tea and chocolate-chip cookies was not going to appeal.*  Mind you, he was totally capable of amusing himself, but this could also be disconcerting.  I’m pretty sure I’ve told you that when I presented him with lunch that first day, he looked at the two or three kinds of bread, bowl of fruit, salad, and assorted cheeses, spreads and nut butters, with total dread and dismay and said, That’s not lunch!  Where are the shops?  I’ll go buy something. ***  But have I told you—and forgive me if I have—the first words out of his mouth when he came through my front door for the first time, and I had opened my tiny hall closet† to hang up his coat, he peered into it and said, would you like me to build you a shelf?  And I could do better than those coat hooks.

That was twenty-five years ago today.

Today was his interment.

I can’t remember how much of this I’ve told you already, and if I look back at this year’s blog posts it’ll just make me cry. I’ve cried enough today.  You will remember that he died just before Christmas, and the memorial service was early January.  Those of the family likely to want to be there for the interment agreed that there was no hurry, that waiting for better weather was a good idea.  I’d originally wanted it in April, when spring is clearly here and the bluebells are out, but I couldn’t find a date that enough of us could come—‘us’ being chiefly Peter’s four kids and his retired-dean-of-Salisbury brother, who would also do the saying-a-few-words thing—and then I kind of lost heart.  As I’ve told you both morale and energy have been in short supply since the middle of last December.  May was passing and people were away in June and . . . I suddenly thought of our twenty-fifth anniversary.  We used to celebrate both the 26th of July and the 3rd of January, which was our wedding day, but I think if anything we took the 26th of July more seriously because it was so utterly improbable that what happened did happen, and I’ve been living in England twenty-five years the end of this October and answer (sometimes) to ‘Mrs Dickinson’.  I blinked a few times and thought yes. It’s going to be the 26th of July.  And I hope people can come, but if they can’t, the interment is still going to be the 26th of July.  I’m the widow.  I’m pulling rank.

As it turns out it was a good date for nearly everybody. Butterfly-netting the local vicar was a little more demanding because of the way vicars work twenty-six hours a day and rarely answer phone calls.  I finally had the critical meeting with the gravedigger yesterday, but at least it happened, and there was a suitable small square hole for a little box of ashes waiting for us today at noon.††

I’ve been obsessing about today increasingly for about the last fortnight and yesterday afternoon decided that I was going to make myself even more entirely crazy and go to early Mass this morning because I needed that sense of the presence of God that the abbey chapel gives me either like a warm eiderdown or a heavy blow to the head, I’ve never quite decided which.††† What a gift somewhere that offers daily Mass is:  you have an inconveniently timed crisis?  It’s okay.  Go to Mass.  It’s the spiritual version of kissing and making it better:  it doesn’t really, but it does too, somehow.  And there’s that wonderful sense of leaning on someone, or Someone, who’s bigger and stronger than you are.  Your own griefs and responsibilities don’t go away, but you do get to lean.‡

I’d also decided that if I was going to wedge this in, and still get home in time to eat something‡‡ and hurtle the mob I was going to have to go in my party duds.  Which today included sparkly bracelets to the elbows (nearly), a pink cashmere cardigan, the flowered Docs and the Liberty’s rhinestone belt I wore to the memorial service and my old black denim mini.  Yes, I’m sixty-four‡‡‡, and I wore my forty-year-old denim mini.  This occasional reversion to wild youth§ is getting more and more embarrassing, of course—it became officially embarrassing when I turned fifty which is now a long time ago—AND I DON’T CARE.  Peter liked me in my minis§§, and it’s not like I do this often. And 400-denier black tights cover a multitude of the sins of age.  But I am not thinking about what the group of little old conservatively dressed people at the abbey on retreat§§§ must have made of this vision in their midst, especially when it sat up front and cried like a river in spring flood through the entire service.  Gah.#

So. Well.  The little box was lowered into the little hole.##  Our local vicar did us proud, entirely without prompting or input from me###, and had put together not only a thoughtful brief ceremony, but printed out programmes with a photostat of Peter’s CITY OF GOLD on the front.  And Peter’s brother said a few words too which made me cry harder.~

We all retired to the Questing Beast for lunch~~ which put off the awful moment of coming home to . . . loneliness. With the interment it’s really, really all over, somehow.  And I bunged the hellhounds~~~ into the back of Wolfgang and we went off to Warm Upford:  I’m not sure if this was misty, romantic remembering or self-torture, but we walked from Montmorency’s Folly to the ridge behind the old house and through the meme field from Peter’s poem—and also, I didn’t think about this until we were already out of the car and hurtling, but we were recreating backwards most of the walk Peter took me on thirty years ago when I visited him and his first wife, which was the proximate cause of his visiting me in Maine five years later.

The hellhounds and I had a lovely walk. Late summer in the glorious Hampshire countryside.=

Sigh.

And then we came home again and I took the hellterror on a long hurtle== by the river, remembering that Peter had brought me through New Arcadia from Heathrow===, on our way to what was soon to be my home too, after our life-exploding weekend in Maine, when I came over for a week to see what I was getting into. . . .

Sigh. Sigh.  Sigh. . . .

Maybe I should go to bed.

* * *

************************************ NOTE THAT THIS WOULD HAVE GONE UP OVER AN HOUR AGO IF MY SO CALLED COMPUTER HADN’T GONE INTO FREE FALL.

* Winter is usually fine, if you have four wheel drive and good nerves, but barring March, when everything that has been frozen for the last four or five months melts, and it is not a pretty sight.  Or smell.  And black fly season. Black fly season is . . . worse than whatever you’re thinking.  Zombies and vampires are so overdone.  One of these horror writers needs to do something with black flies.  Stephen King even lives in Maine.^

^ Although he may have done black flies and I missed it. I’ve only read a few of his books—out of Maine-author solidarity, although I doubt he’s ever heard of me—because they ARE TOO SCARY.  And gross.  I don’t do gross either.+

+ SUNSHINE’s climax isn’t even close. The only reason it looks yucky is because most people come to it having read BEAUTY or SPINDLE or . . . pretty much anything else I’ve written.

** Aside from the fact that this was not going to appeal to me either. Nor did I have any lawn chairs.  Nor any lawn.  And my quarter-acre^ was overshadowed almost entirely by the magnificent old maple tree in the front yard and several house-high boulders in the back.  And lilac hedges down either side.

^ Which is a TINY plot in Maine and a HUGE garden in southern England. Granted we had two acres at the old house, but here at the cottage my garden is about the size of a four-burner Aga, and the garden at the Lodge is about the size of my hall cupboard in Maine.  See below.  Or above, depending on how you’re coping with the footnotes.

*** I married him anyway.

† Well, it was a tiny front hall. Two of us standing in it was kind of a feet-and-elbow fest.  Now add a cavorting whippet.

†† Yes of course I went round—with hellhounds—last night and checked.  I walk through that churchyard two, four, six times a day anyway, because it’s the nearest pleasant bit of grass for the hellmob.  We’ll be walking through the churchyard to visit Peter just like we used to . . . like we used to . . . no I’m still not cried out yet.

††† Both St Margaret’s and St Radegund’s, here in New Arcadia, where Peter is now buried, have the presence of God too, but God is, for me, especially vivid and almost tactile at the abbey chapel.  I don’t feel thumped in either St Margaret’s or St Radegund’s.

‡ Someone who is better at prayer than I am can of course get the same effect at home. I do pray at home^ and I am aware of God listening, but it’s a lot easier at church, where the church-space supports your tiny personal prayer-space.

^ Duh

‡‡ I can’t face more than tea and apples when I first lurch out of bed in the morning. The next thing on the menu these days is a Green Drink.  I will spare you the ghastly details.  It’s Very Healthy, and it’s another of those things that as your taste buds change you actually want to drink.  Which is kind of frightening.  I AM NOT GWYNETH PALTROW. NOT.

‡‡‡ Some of you will remember I start calling myself the age I will turn in November the summer before, so by the time I get to my birthday I’m used to it.

§ Some of you will also remember the black leather mini at Forbidden Planet a few years ago.

§§ Yes, his vision had been deteriorating for a while. And your point would be?

§§§ I say ‘little old’ but they’re probably frelling my age, they’re just doing it with more dignity. Dignity is overrated. And I brought my little cropped black leather jacket^ to drape over my knees. I am not lost to all propriety.  Just most of it.

^ Which is about the same vintage as the skirt. Ah, those were the days.  I’m so glad they’re over.

# Some of this was sheer relief and gratitude that I got there. On the way, arriving at the turn-off from the main road AND THE ROAD WAS CLOSED. NOOOOOOOOOOO. I NEED TO GET TO MASS AT THE ABBEY! I TOTALLY NEED TO!  Fortunately Wolfgang reminded me that we know another way^.  We weren’t even late, although we may have been slightly out of breath.

^ There were a few ‘diversion’ signs but they were mostly invisible in the hedgerows, badly placed behind other signs or missing at crucial intersections. More mild entertainment than, you know, directions for an alternate route.

## And had all that deluge earlier cried me out or anything?  OF COURSE NOT.  I am pleased to say however, that one other of our company at the interment, whom I will not embarrass by naming, is also a weeper, so at least I didn’t have to do the whole soggy thing alone.

### Our local vicar is a sweetie. I feel a bit guilty for belonging to another church five miles away—which is a confounded nuisance on bad-ME days as well—but this is a political decision, and nothing against the vicar here.

~ These began: ‘Here we return these ashes to the quiet earth from which they came.  They were formed of star dust and spun for a few short days into a life that dreamed and sang, that loved and wept, and died. . . .’  They’re all writers in this family.

~~ Where there was almost nothing I could eat, of course, but that’s why I needed to eat some of my Funny Food beforehand. And they did have green tea and lettuce.

~~~ Thank you, God, for the hellmob. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

= Full of excellent smells, the hellhounds wish me to point out.

== I anticipate being decaying vegetable matter^ tomorrow. Never mind.

^ Oh, the wormery? Seems to be working fine.  I guess.  Still rather enigmatic.  But it does add that touch of pink to my kitchen décor.  One thing however:  the bumf that comes with assures you that the worms can’t get out.  Wrong.  Not many+ and not often, but every two or three days I come downstairs to find a confused worm dawdling across the kitchen floor, or, more likely, under one of the dirt-catcher mats THAT ARE SUPPOSED TO KEEP THE FLOOR CLEAN HA HA HA HA HA HA, which I am learning to check, while I’m waiting for my (green) tea to steep.  I think most people keep their wormeries in the garden or this interesting situation would be More Generally Known.

+ Unless they’re congregating under the washing machine, the refrigerator, or one of the hellmob crates, in which case I don’t want to know.

=== Where he had lost the car in the multi-storey car park . . .

Something to hurrah about in a cautious, low-key, not-attracting-fate sort of way

 

I had the best working morning today—you know, story-words on computer screen type working morning—that I’ve had in yonks.*  So I thought I’d write a blog post to celebrate.

A lot of my long silences here are just . . . long silences. One foot after the other days** when getting the hellmob even semi-hurtled is the height of my ambition or capacity.***  But some of it, on evenings when brain function is still just about discernible, is not knowing where to start. I’m still programmed to be doing this every night, I just haven’t the time, the energy, or the morale.  And I don’t do the graceful summary thing.†  I’m missing the wetware interface for graceful summary.  So, ahem and apologies, Footnote Delirium ahoy.

But, you know, a good writing day? This deserves some banner-waving affirmation.  Maybe I’ll even do it again tomorrow.  The story-writing that is.  I’d probably break if I wrote a blog post two nights in a row.

Meanwhile . . . hello and whatever and I hope you’re all well and thriving and reading great books out there in on-line land.

* * *

* I’ve been working for a while now, but an awful lot of days it’s more, um, ‘working’. I have lots of days where I write three words and delete seventeen.  You have too many days like this you have a bigger problem than when you weren’t ‘working’ at all.

** Sometimes no farther than the sofa, where the feet stop one-after-anothering and cross themselves on the armrest, the hellmob pummels the inert human body into some less than satisfactory semblance of comfy rumpled bedding^, and silence reigns. Except for the soggy pop of gloomy human thoughts exploding, and the hellterror snoring.

^ Fortunately they are mostly tolerant of badly-placed knees and ribcages.

*** Also the way I eat now takes AMAZING amounts of preparation. GOOD GRIEF.  Anyone trying to maintain a mostly fresh-organic-fruit-and-veg diet had just better bring her laptop into the kitchen and get it over with because she’s going to be in the kitchen most of the time anyway.  In my case this is even more challenging than for someone who has, bless them grrrrrr, a real kitchen rather than a blip with a few cupboards.  My only half decent countertop is now my desk.  Arrrgh.  It’s quite useful to have a sink full of dirty dishes:  balance your chopping board on top of it and, lo, counterspace. Arrrrgh. And? And? Why has the British Appliance Agglutination decreed that all electric flexes on countertop appliances should be no more than three inches long^ ??!!???  In this kitchen this means that every time I decide to get my juicer^^ out it’s a major schlep of STUFF . . . mostly onto the floor, so it’s a very good thing that the hellterror has decided that stuff on the floor is not automatically interesting, unless, of course, it smells of foooooood. Chaos, who likes to lie near the Aga occasionally, will sometimes lay his head delicately on a well-placed and –balanced pile of books, magazines, rough drafts, notebooks shedding Notes to Self, prayer plans and private, idiosyncratic modernisations of applicable Psalms+++ and business letters I’m trying to forget.  Disturbing a sleeping dog is, of course, not to be thought of, so on these occasions I get a stiff neck, a warped shoulder and a crick in my spine leaning over the sleeping dog to get at the frelling juicer, three inches away from the wall. You’d think the noise of the thing would wake him up and move him on but . . . nooooooooo.

^ ‘eight centimetres’ doesn’t even sound that much longer

^^ Juicing. The faffiest flapdoodling faff of all GOOD FREAKING DOODAH GRIEF.  And the FOOTPRINT of your average juicer?!  Sixteen hellterrors or a small bus.  Unfortunately I’m developing a, you should forgive the term, taste for juicing.  Not only, if you get it right, is a barrowload of fresh raw juice an amazing hit+, but if you got a little carried away at the chance-found organic farmer’s market stall or the offers from your on-line organic grocery delivery gang that week, you can always juice your superfluity.++

+ Especially for those of us who can barely remember what chocolate is any more.# Your taste buds really do change.  A few months AC## and raw carrot-apple-beetroot-sweet-potato### juice is so frelling sweet you’re sure it must be bad for you.

# In case of accidents, I’ve passed my stash on to the monks.

## After Chocolate

### Raw sweet potato. Yes.  Parsnip is supposed to be good too but it was out of season by the time I started getting goofy over juicing.

++ Also there are now worms. Hungry worms.  I’ve been threatening a wormery for a while now, as I’ve probably mentioned here:  I don’t have room for a compost heap, or several compost heaps, since you have to rotate them#, at either the cottage or the Lodge or the cottage plus Lodge, and I’ve always had a veg-trimmings problem, even before I went doolally in the alkaline-paleo-vegan direction, and with juicing I now REALLY have a problem, and our local recycle guys get cranky if there’s too much kitchen detritus among the rich plunder of triffid-lash nettles, evil creeping buttercup and taking-over-the-universe ground elder.##

BUT I’ve been saying, I’ll buy a wormery later. I’ve got enough going on and besides I can’t afford it, I’ve got all these vegetables I have to buy every week plus lorryloads of hellmob food.###

Meanwhile I am mysteriously on the hot list for ringing weddings this summer.  Stay with me here, this is not a non sequitur.  My energy levels, including the number of neurons firing in my brain, at any given day/hour/frozen stalactite of time, are both unpredictable and unreliable, and while I haven’t yet missed a wedding by being too wombly to drive to the tower, there have been weddings when I prayed for the rest of the band to be beginners so no one would expect me to ring methods.####  I made a bristling . . . um, compost heap . . . of a couple of pathetically basic methods at a couple of weddings and was totally ready to fall on my sword, except that ringers who are willing to ring weddings must be in short supply around here at the moment or they wouldn’t be asking me in the first place.

So there was a wedding at Crabbiton##### a few weeks ago. And Wild Robert was running the band.  And I should be used to his taking-no-prisoners habits by now, but IT’S A WEDDING.  Feh.  He drove us through methods I can’t ring recognisably on practise nights and I crawled home that night brainlessly high with my preposterous success###### and too exhausted to be sensible.  So I bought a wormery.  Of course.  As you do.#######  I’ve even rung enough weddings to cover the cost.

Hey. It’s PINK.  No, really.  I might not have bought it if it had been a subdued, business-like colour.  But PINK?  It looks very cute sitting next to the kitchen sink, except for the tripping-over-it, the-kitchen-door-only-opens-halfway part.  I also have no idea whether it’s working or not, except for the fact that it smells nice when I open it to throw in some more apple cores and herb stems and armfuls of post-juicing sludge.

# SIGH for the beautiful, built-by-Atlas wood-framed compost heaps at Third House. SIIIIIIIGH.~

~ Note that Brexit is a catastrophe. Including that the real estate market just hit bottom and frelling splattered.  You may remember I am trying—I wildly and hysterically need—to sell Third House?  But that’s a post for another day.  Preferably when I’m feeling stronger.  Preferably after the time machine unspools us back to the Wednesday before Really, Really Bad Thursday and this time we stay in the EU, thank you very much.  And I’ll think of something else to write a blog post about.=

= No a female Prime Minster is NOT worth it. Especially when she’s another thrice-blasted Tory.%

% I’m also having one of my American moments about the speed at which we acquired a new PM.  I’m sure this must be illegal somehow.  And the Queen is in on it.

## I almost forgive enchanter’s nightshade for being an ineradicable festering-festering ratbag weed for the excellence of its name.

### What I want to know is why, when the hellhounds don’t eat, we seem to get through SO MUCH dog food.  ::Eyes the hellterror::

#### Also, stage fright. If you bollix it up on practise night, eh, it’s practise night.  If you bollix it up for a wedding EVERYONE HATES YOU, except the bride, the groom, and the wedding party, who don’t notice.  But how many frelling weddings have I rung over the years? I still get stage fright. And open ground floor rings are my deepest, bursting-galaxies nightmare, because everyone comes down to your end and leans on the barrier rope and stares at you and PROBABLY TAKES PICTURES.  WITHOUT ASKING, OF COURSE, BECAUSE YOU’RE PART OF THE MULTI-MEDIA ENTERTAINMENT.  Crabbiton is a ground floor ring.

##### See: ground floor ring.  See:  stage fright.

###### Wild Robert is a sorcerer. It’s the only explanation.

#######  In the old days I’d’ve had to wait till the shops opened the next day, by which time I might have reclaimed my common sense, or cast an eye over my bank balance.  On line shopping is also a Borg invention.  Or possibly a critical factor in turning the human population into mush-minded proto-slaves, primed and ready for the return of Cthulhu.

+++ The ranting, miserable-sod ones of course.  ‘Heal me, o God, for my bones are troubled.’

† The WHAT?  What was that word before ‘summary’?  Keep it away from me, I have sensitive skin, I’m sure it would burn.^

^ And, not speaking [of] the e-word, it’s also guaranteed that the day I put on clean jeans will be the day the hellterror and I have the kind of adventure which requires I pick her up and rest her muddy feet on my hip to ensure our best odds for survival.  ARRRRRRGH.  We met two women with five loose dogs—five large loose dogs—on the barely-one-thin-person-wide river path a few days ago, and the women were so profoundly engaged in their conversation that the hellterror and I had pied-pipered their flock of hairy, oversized rats some considerable distance before they even NOTICED. Arrrrrrrrrrgh.#

# And two days ago the hellhounds and I were walking across one of the little rec grounds in town when an idiot woman with a terrier on a lead and a spaniel off lead came through the gate.  Hellhounds and I, a good thirty feet away, paused warily . . . and the gorblimey spaniel came hell-for-leather at us, barking and snarling, and circling closer and closer and closer . . . CALL YOUR [*******] DOG, I said, and Ms Porridge-Brain said something like, oh now, Sweetbuns, that’s not necessary, in this placatory voice, and Sweetbuns of course ignored her entirely, making little rushes and snatches at my dogs and me.

So I kicked the bugger.

Ms Porridge-Brain melted down. I melted down right back at her. He was only protecting me! she yelled in outrage. PROTECTING YOU?  YOU ARE THIRTY FEET AWAY AND HE WAS [*******] THREATENING MY DOGS, I yelled back.  HE IS OFF LEAD AND MINE ARE ON LEAD. The exchange may have deteriorated from that high point of communicatory clarity.  And I’m still angry.

. . . Um. Not a good way to end a blog post.  Um?  La la la la la la la. . . . I’ve just memorised the lyrics to ‘Lord of the Dance’, I could sing . . .

Next Page »