April 20, 2014

Shadows is here!

Surviving Easter

 

Peter’s had another fall.

I went to the Easter Vigil at the monks’ last night and it wasn’t over till after eleven—and then they fed us tea and cakes.*  So I got home late and it took me forever to wind down** and eventually went to bed late even for me.***

I’d left Peter a note that I wasn’t going to make our 11:30 pick up—since the stroke he walks into town to buy a newspaper, he’s old-fashioned like that, and I appear with Wolfgang and a backseat full of hellcritters at the appointed hour and take all of us down to the mews.  My note said that I’d ring him.

I rang him at 11:30, after about half an hour of evolving wakefulness, swearing and caffeine, and said I could be at the pick-up point at 12:30.  I’m not coming, he said.  What? I said.  I’ve had a fall, he said:  It’s okay.

IT’S NOT OKAY.  WHY DIDN’T YOU ******* RING ME.

I knew you went to bed late last night, he said.  I didn’t want to bother you.

AAAAAAAAAAAUGH.  WHY DO I TAKE POOKA TO BED WITH ME?  WHY DOES SHE LIE ON THE EDGE OF THE BOOKSHELF RIGHT BY THE BED HEAD, RIGHT NEXT TO MY ALARM CLOCK, SO I CAN’T POSSIBLY NOT HEAR HER IF SHE RINGS?†  LIKE, IF YOU GET IN TROUBLE AND COULD USE MY HELP?††

It’s okay, said Peter.  I’m fine.

Well . . . as falls in the bath when you’re eighty-six years old go, yes, he’s pretty healthy.  He still looks like an extra from one of the battle scenes in BRAVEHEART.  Meanwhile I was down to sing at St Margaret’s tonight†††, it’s Easter, and—I’ve told you this, haven’t I?—the Master of Music, whom we shall call Mr Bach‡, has decreed that there shall be no more than THREE singers, so if one of us doesn’t show it’s a bit conspicuous.  So I viewed my gory husband‡‡ with disfavour‡‡‡ and declared I was going to church as scheduled.

Aloysius had sent us our list of six—six—songs gallantly early in the week, which chiefly gave me time to freak out.§  Also there have been one or two other things going on.  And then I got there tonight and after having a brisk lesson in being a roadie (‘plug that in there—and that in there—and that in there’§§) I discovered that what we were performing only bore a genetically modified family resemblance to the YouTube links.  Arrrrrgh.  Oh, and I’d’ve made a hole in the line up if I’d cancelled?  There were only two of us singers.  ARRRRRGH.§§§

But there were big handfuls of chocolate eggs on all the little café tables that we gather around at the evening service.  Eat up, said Buck.  I don’t want any left.  Hey, singing in front of an audience burns a lot of calories.#  And there was roast chicken when I got home.

Happy Easter.##

* * *

* Banana coconut cake to die for, just by the way.  I’m going to ask Alfrick if there’s a recipe.^  There was also hot chocolate for anyone who can deal with dairy.  Siiiiiiiigh.

^ Alfrick’s a good cook.  Experienced in producing lavish spreads for mobs with varying dietary requirements.

** Christ is risen, you know.  The Anglicans raise him Saturday night which is fine with me—I’m not invested in the three days thing, I want the Friday part over as fast as possible—plus driving.  That the Saviour lives is exciting enough but driving a car really winds me up.

*** . . . Never mind.

† That is, barks.

†† And it’s worse than that.  He fell in the bath.  The bath apparatus the NHS physios tried to set up didn’t work with him in this bath, so they took it away again.  And he has insisted on going on having his bath in the morning when I’m not here rather than the evening when I am.  It was clear I wasn’t going to win this battle and purposeless bloodshed does not appeal, so I let it go.  Even knowing it was an accident waiting to happen, it’s not like I could lock the bathtub when I left at night.  But  . . . he fell in the bath having spent most of half an hour trying to get out of it first.  He fell in the bath having spent most of half an hour trying to get out of it with HIS phone within easy reach.

I’m running away from home to join a convent.^

^ Also, the Nightmare of Hellhound Digestion continues.+

+ And by current indications Darkness is planning on dragging me all over Hampshire again later tonight.  Joy.

††† I know Easter is supposed to be pretty epic, but . . . it is.  And bouncing between St Margaret’s and the monks for the last few days has rendered me even more la-la-la-la than I would be anyway:  if you’re going to engage with the Easter story, it’s going to rip you up pretty extensively, and I’m old to be learning graphic new skills.

Generally speaking I find St Margaret’s less embarrassing because it’s less formal.  But in the can’t-take-me-anywhere category . . . Good Friday at the monks includes the abbot and some candle-holders and incense-swingers doing an abbreviated Stations of the Cross which finishes with everybody else queuing up to genuflect and kiss the cross that was sequentially unwrapped during the Stations.  My turn:  I managed the genuflection without killing anyone but I misjudged the bending-forward business and managed to impale my face on the sticky-out bits of the cross.  Wounded by God.  Good . . . grief.  Fortunately the cross was being held by two stalwart young men, possibly in expectation of someone like me, so no damage done.  Except to my face, of course.

At least I managed to cross myself a couple of times at more or less the right moment without poking myself in the eye—or in my neighbour’s.  I’ve made a few hopeless attempts to find out what the actual system is at a high-Anglican service but since it apparently varies from church to church and priest to priest anything google might be able to teach me would turn out to be wrong.  It would also be helpful if the actual order of service books produced BY the monks for their attendees were frelling accurate.    And why does everyone else in the congregation seem to know which bits to ignore?

‡ PDQ.  I am not a fan of a Master of Music who limits singers to three.

‡‡ Head wounds BLEED.  Also he’s on Warfarin.  Whimper.

‡‡‡ Georgiana was here this afternoon, and in a family notorious for its bossy women we may be the two bossiest.  And Peter stood up to both of us with aplomb and dispatch^ so he probably is okay.

^ Including things like chaining himself to the railing rather than be taken to A&E.

§ Also . . . I rather like one of them.  Oh God I am losing my musical integrity.

§§ I think the church’s bass amp is about as old as I am.

§§§ Tonight’s other singer, Janey, who has been singing at St Margaret’s for many years, said, somewhat grimly, in response to my craven desire for sheet music, that learning any given song is of limited usefulness on the night since every leader performs it differently.  She picked up the lyric-only sheet of our first song.  This one, she said.  Aloysius plays it one way.  Buck does it another.  PDQ does it yet another.  Samantha another.  Are there any other leaders?  They do it differently too.

Oh.

# And my husband seems to have hidden the GIGANTIC chocolate egg another branch of the family brought us on Saturday.  I have to get my ellipsoidal chocolate fix somehow.

## Although the Darkness situation is still outstanding.  And I’m trying to decide if I should wake Peter up before I leave and make sure nothing new has swollen or developed bruising and his pupils are still the same size as each other.

Darkness

 

I had started a post about how much I loved gardens in the spring.

And then Darkness came and stared at me meaningfully.

Darkness has had diarrhoea—again—every day for the last four days.*  It had been the sudden mid-afternoon eruption schedule:  this afternoon’s eruption didn’t happen so I was stupid enough to think that was hopeful—since the hellhounds’ digestion has never made any sense, it’s always just living from one crap to the next.  And then tonight we moved into the multiple-geysering-across-Hampshire-at-the-hurtle stage.

I’m not in a good mood.**

* * *

* After a nightmarish fortnight about a month ago with both the hellhounds streaming constantly . . . what the bleeding doodah happens in March:  it was last March when everything went horribly, horribly wrong . . . I thought we had settled down again.  No.  No.

** Also:  hysterical.  I do need to be able to leave home for more than an hour at a time occasionally.  Samaritans training begins next week, for example.

WHAT???

 

::POLITICAL RANT ALERT::

I know.  I don’t do politics.  Well. . . .

I am, I admit, frequently appallingly clueless about the realities of . . . reality.  I know I’m a wet bleeding-heart knee-jerk la-di-dah liberal but I forget how far from the mainstream that sometimes takes me.  Take gay marriage.

I do know there are still rabid homophobic enclaves out there but that’s what I expect them to be . . . enclaves.*  In the modern First World at least I expect anyone my age and younger to behave in a polite and tolerant way;  if they have private caveats about certain intrinsically harmless and productive subgroups of society they keep this to themselves.  That government tends to be butt-heavy with old fogies is one of those sad facts of reality, but I’m rapidly approaching old-fogey status myself so the obvious stuff should be getting dealt with as there are more old fogies like me in Parliament—or Congress, or the Orwellian farmyard, or what-have-you.  So we finally got civil partnerships here in the UK for gays a few years ago—so they can have insurance and inheritance and hospital-visiting rights and so on just like hets, well duh—can gay marriage be far behind?

I don’t keep track of this kind of controversy—I know, bad me—because it makes me too crazy.  I don’t keep track of all the anti-women stuff still relentlessly going on out there** either, for the same reason.  It makes me feel too small and too helpless and too ANGRY:  human rights are human rights are human rights.  There’s nothing to discuss.***  So I’ll just go on writing my stories about Girls Who Do Things—and keep my head (mostly) down out here in rough and ratbagging reality.

While I was as appalled as everyone else—everyone on the wet-liberal side anyway—about the C of E blocking women bishops again, there was enough general outrage that the church synod what-you-call-it managed to cram a fresh vote through before time, and there’s at least been progress, although there’s a bit too much havering about what they’re doing to keep the paralytic-tradition fogies from mutinying again.  But I remember—as a separation-of-church-and-state American—being fascinated by the suggestion that if the C of E didn’t get its act together promptly about women bishops Parliament would make them.

So.  Gay marriage.  It’s legal in the UK.  Finally.  But the C of E is saying no, no, a thousand times no, I’d rather diiiiiie than say yes.  WHAT?  You can’t just look for a sympathetic priest—even wet liberals like me will acknowledge that tolerance tends to be a continuum—it’s illegal for a C of E vicar to perform a gay marriage?  This is the Church.  Of.  England.  That’s how it works over here.  And Parliament isn’t going to say, ‘Do it and shut up’?  WHAT?

And—and this was my personal snapping point—the frelling Archbishop of Canterbury is saying gay marriage would be ‘catastrophic’ for Christians in other parts of the world because it would leave them vulnerable to violence by anti-gay mob rule?  http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-26894133  WHAT?  Where are you drawing the line, mate?  Or what line or you drawing?  Being a Christian at all in certain parts of the world is still dangerous.  The tradition of violence and martyrdom goes back to the beginning—um, the crucifixion, um?—and ‘don’t ask don’t tell’ has always been a crummy policy.  If the early Christians hadn’t been such arrogant little twerps, insisting on going around shooting their mouths off about Jesus being the Offspring of God, they might have believed what they liked in the privacy of their own homes, as long as they didn’t do it on the street and frighten the horses or piss off the local tyrant.  Not to mention that appeasement of bullies and murderers doesn’t have a great track record for success.†  I hope our Most Reverend Justin is being quoted badly out of context.

It was Aloysius who pointed out to me, in a calm, holy way, that gay marriage is very, very controversial in the C of E—and at the moment the traditionalists are winning.††  And I’m a card-carrying, fee-paying member of this organisation?  Aloysius—who admits to being frustrated by the ban himself—says that we’re supposed to pray for change and love those who disagree with us.

ARRRRRRRRRGH.  Personally I’d rather have a flaming sword.

* * *

^ The Samaritans question you-as-applicant pretty closely about your attitude toward homosexuality but I half-thought they were joking.  In my wet-liberal way I can’t imagine wanting to do something like take shifts on a people-in-emotional-extremis phone line and not sympathise with gays who do have more of a struggle with society and expectations and okay and not-okay than hets do.  Not wholly unlike, to my eye, women have more of a struggle with society etc than men do, or non-white people than white people do.  Etc.  Humanity = ratbag.  Sigh.

** http://everydaysexism.com/  Everyone know this one?  Read it and weep.  I don’t read it very often, because of the weeping thing, and the blood-pressure headaches, and the wondering whether anything ever does get better, or whether it just goes round in endless circles.  The early Christian church had women in positions of power, for example, but it didn’t last.  Here’s a bit more about Laura Bates, Everyday Sexism’s founder:  http://www.independent.co.uk/biography/laura-bates

She’s on Twitter too:  @EverydaySexism

Go for it.  I’m glad someone has the grit.

*** Anyone thinking of writing a counter-diatribe on the forum, please take note.  Also, it’s my blog.

† I want to know why these people think that the presence of Christians is going to turn them homosexual?^  Is it something we put in the water?  There’s a word that’s struggling to surface in my aging and forgetful mind—wait for it—EDUCATION.  You know you can educate people about lots of things.  Like that the existence and maintenance of heterosexuality in the Christian church is actually rather common.

^ Which is of course the worst thing that could possibly happen to you.  Worse than gangrene!  Worse than Sarah Palin for president!

†† Scripture!  Yes, I know!  But we don’t cut people’s hands off for stealing any more, or stone people to death for adultery!  And if you’re asking me, which you probably aren’t, as well as welcoming gay marriage, there are a lot of abused kids out there who are let off honouring their fathers and mothers!

 

 

Rain. How unusual.

 

Hellhounds and I took a turn by Soggy Bottom today to see how it’s, um, flowing . . . and the personhole covers over the storm drains have been shoved off by the pressure of the water driving up through the inadequate apertures.  It’s almost as good as a play, or it would be if we didn’t live here:  the little round-headed jets of water boiling up through the holes, and this great wave sluicing out through the gap where the personhole cover has lost its place.  Three of these rush together with the naked overflow from the ditch and, well, hurtle down Soggy Bottom toward the raging torrent that used to be a ford over a quiet little Hampshire stream that the locals call a river.  If I’d been in wellies rather than All Stars* I might have been tempted to leave hellhounds dry-footed in Wolfgang and slosh down in that direction and see how far I could get.  The lake by the Gormless Pettifogger is deep enough that the person approaching as Wolfgang and I paddlewheeled through stopped, apparently aghast, at his shoreline . . . and turned around.  Oh, come on, it’s not like you’re driving a Ferrari with zero-point-four inches clearance.**

It rained today.  Of course.  It’s Tuesday.  It rained yesterday.  Of course.  It was Monday.***  It’s going to rain tomorrow.  Of course.  It’s Wednesday.

HAVE I MENTIONED RECENTLY HOW TIRED I AM OF RAIN?

* * *

* Well I wouldn’t be in wellies rather than All Stars but I used to have a spare pair of (ordinary black^) wellies that lived in the, ahem, boot.  It occurs to me to wonder what I’ve done with them.  Maybe I’ve just forgotten giving them to the itinerant mage in exchange for . . . for . . . well, I certainly didn’t trade them for a rain stopping charm.

^ From the days when you could only get black or child-of-the-earth green wellies

** I saw an SUV—the kind you need a stepladder to get into—turn around at the edge of a large puddle some time recently.  I laughed so much I nearly ran off the road.^

^ She’d probably heard the rumours that giant squid from the centre of the earth were using southern England’s floods to lurk in wait for their favourite snack, SUVs.  No, no!  Relax!  It’s a ridiculous rumour put about by people who don’t have anything better to do than retweet silly urban myt—SLURP.

*** Monday had even less to recommend it than the rain.  I got to Nadia’s and discovered she wasn’t teaching this week either.  ::Sobs::  I wrote it down wrong in my diary;  I knew she wasn’t teaching last Monday, but this Monday I thought if I didn’t hear it meant she was, when it was if I didn’t hear she wasn’t.

Fortunately I had hellhounds with me so throwing myself off a cliff^ wasn’t a good plan because neither of them can drive Wolfgang to get themselves home.^^  So we went to the farm supply shop and bought compost and fertilizer^^^.  I was wearing singing-lesson-day clothes, not going-to-the-farm-store-in-the-rain-day clothes#.  I considered asking one of the stalwart young men to heave the nasty bags around for me but while, generally speaking, I’ve got over the extreme feminism of my youth when asking a bloke for help was SELF BETRAYAL##, I still occasionally get all tough/stupid  virago with bare-able teeth and (metaphorically) bulging muscles.  I slung the frelling bags myself.  And while I managed to keep my cute little cropped cardi safe, my jeans were goners.

And then I destroyed another pair of jeans today, getting the blasted bags up the stairs### to the greenhouse ARRRRRRRGH.  This shouldn’t happen at home.  I have a lovely pair of gardener’s chaps, which snap over your belt and around your legs and heroically repel mud (and thorns).  But in one of the monsoons of the last few months, when the rain was not only coming in sideways but from a funny direction, EVERYTHING IN THE GREENHOUSE GOT SOAKED.  Which I didn’t realise till later.  I’m still unearthing little quagmires in corners arrrrrrgh.  The chaps are still drying out.  I think they’re resuscitate-able.  Please.  I have no idea where I bought them and google is not forthcoming.

^ Which are in short supply in most of south-central England.  At the old house when circumstances conspired I used to threaten to drown myself in the pond, of which we had two, and both Peter and Third House have ponds here.  But somehow drama-queen drowning doesn’t hold the appeal it does when not drowning is a daily goal and preoccupation.+

+ Dentist from R’lyeh has been driven out of his large glamorous multi-storey office by floodwater.  I’m not laughing ::mrmph:: really I’m not ::MRRRMMFFFF::  Being from R’lyeh and all you’d think he’d be fine with a spot of drowning, wouldn’t you?

^^ They like the central heating+ and the soft bed out of the rain.  THE FOOD DOESN’T INTEREST THEM AT ALL.

+ Or the Aga

^^^ Which is to say cow crap.  Organic cow crap.  I prefer it to chicken—which is the other common commercially-available one+—because it smells less.  I admit I don’t know how the plants feel about it.  They’d probably say they were missing an essential element without the pong.  Like dogs adore tripe.  TOO BAD.  I don’t know how long I can go on with Pav’s dried pigs’ ears either.  She doesn’t eat them fast enough.

+ When I had a horse we made our own critter-crap fertilizer and it was lovely.

# I have enough trouble fighting with my wardrobe every morning.  I get dressed once.  I do not change for anything less than serious festivities that include Taittinger’s or the Widow, and not merely Prosecco.

## I don’t entirely fault my young self for this attitude.  Back in the early 1800s or whenever it was I was young, blokes offering, or responding to requests for help tended to do it with a gloss of patronage.+  Men have died for less.  I would know.

+ Not that this doesn’t happen now.  But either it happens less, or I hang out with a better class of bloke than I used to.

### The only young man who lives on my cul de sac is slenderer and more willowy than I am and so far as I can tell he doesn’t do the adrenaline-rage thing that enables slender willowy people to do things they can’t.  I wouldn’t be so unkind as to ask him to help me with large muddy bags of compost and other even less salubrious substances.

And with the storm winds howling, continued

 

Morale is not high.  I won’t say it’s at an all time low but it is not high.  I am not, as you will have surmised, Street Pastoring tonight;  I’ve been obsessively following Hampshire weather reports all day—those of you who follow me on Twitter will have seen a few RTs on the subject*—and when the wind started up mid-afternoon right on gindlefarbing schedule** I sighed a heavy sigh and emailed Fearless Leader that I was staying home tonight.  I’m being a good responsible citizen, ratblast it, the cops keep tweeting ‘if you don’t HAVE to go anywhere STAY HOME.’***  I don’t even know if there was enough of a team left to go out;  I know we’d lost more than just me.

I’m not quite sure what I have done today besides get wet to the skin† in the company of various (wet) hellcritters and feverishly look for more weather reports.††

And listen to the wind.  I am not looking forward to the last hurtles of the evening.†††  The rain is coming in sideways, in this wind, like spears, and I swear the points have been sharpened.  May we at least continue to have electricity.  And hot water.  And an Aga to dry and re-dry and re-re-re-dry wet critter towels.

I hope we don’t lose any more trees.

* * *

* And anyone who hasn’t seen the photo of the Winchester Cathedral crypt ISN’T PAYING ATTENTION since it’s a big favourite with the media at the moment for a symbol of South England Under Water:  http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-hampshire-26186875 ^

^ Mind you, the cathedral was built on a marsh, so there’s a certain amount of hoisting by own petard going on, as it has gone on for the last thousand years.  Very sturdy marsh, that one.  And surprisingly forgiving of large piles of stone.  Maybe it was less of a marsh in the eleventh century.+

But we in New Arcadia are NOT built on a marsh and we object to all this superfluous water cluttering up the place.  There’s nowhere to put anything down.  Like a dog, for example.

+ The cathedral was also a good deal smaller to begin with.  They kept adding bits on.

** Why can’t the frelling meteorologists be wrong about something you’d LIKE them to be wrong about?  How many times have you got caught in rain/sleet/hail/yeti invasion because the weather report was for clear and mild and since you wanted it to be clear and mild you were a little foolish?  Arrrrrrgh.^

^ Of course over here it’s a major piece of cultural history that the meteorologists—and one TV presenter in particular—missed the Great Storm of 1987, worst in three centuries, and forecast a little wet weather and some wind.  La la la la la.   Hope everyone had their small dogs and children on short leads.

*** Alternating with a tweet saying PLEASE DON’T TAKE CLOSED ROAD SIGNS DOWN THEY’RE THERE FOR A REASON.  Duh.  Good grief.  I will certainly go have a look down a closed footpath^ but in daylight at walking speed you can see before you get into any difficulties, and you also won’t stall out if water gets up your tailpipe.  You may have to carry your short-legged companion through the swirly bits.^^  But take closed road signs down?!  At very least, if you’re going to be a sovereign idiot, put the sign back after you’ve driven through it toward your fate.^^^

^ Although Pav and I had an epic hurtle this morning because we went down to the river and turned the other direction and it never occurred to me we’d be able to keep going. . . .  I now have a pair of yellow All Stars that will take a week to dry out.  At least I remembered the plastic bags over my socks today.  Practise makes perfect.

^^ I do know that currents can be dangerous.  Trust me, I’m timid.

^^^ Oh yes and when you have to ring up to be rescued be sure and mention that you drove through a closed road sign so they can put you at the bottom of their list.

† I have two raincoats and they’re both sheeting wet.

†† Well I’ve done some knitting.  Got some lovely big fat gauge 100% merino wool on insanely cheap sale and then bought a set of 10 mm needles when I discovered that that is approximately the ONLY size I haven’t already got, 10 mm being the recommended needle size for this yarn, and I was already trying to decide whether I was going to make this pullover or that pullover out of it^ since I’d bought this book on sale a little while ago, as I settled down to make my swatch.  I like making swatches.  It doesn’t matter if something goes wrong, it’s just a swatch.  Which is why my swatches never go wrong.  I save going wrong for the pattern.

AND I DON’T LIKE THE FABRIC ON THESE NEEDLES.  THEY’RE TOO BIG.  THE FABRIC IS TOO OPEN AND LUMPY.

So now I get to start over with 9 mm and 8 mm and . . . just by the way . . . with finding a new pattern.  There probably is a way to adapt a bigger gauge pattern to a smaller gauge—isn’t there?—but in the first place it would require MATHS and would be beyond me and in the second place . . . I’d run out of yarn.  SIIIIIIIIIIGH.^^

^ I’m really good at starting projects.

^^ Furthermore I think I have to make a cardigan.+  I was just thinking this morning that my two woolly brown cardigans are the sand end of brown and I need a chestnut end of brown.  This yarn happens to be chestnut.

+ Deep v neck.  Less yarn.  Three quarter sleeves!  Less yarn!  Cropped!

††† I have a cranky hellterror underfoot as I (try to) write this blog.  She’s forgotten our epic hurtle early today and WANTS MORE ACTION.  She couldn’t get back indoors fast enough however when I took her out for eliminatory functions and indoor action is limited.^

^ Especially since she’s still a little too interesting to hellhounds+ so I am forced to stimulate her brain by long down which tends to need fairly regular upkeep.++

+ Who still are not eating enough to keep one-third of a slow elderly hamster alive.

++ No, lie down.  No.  Lie down.  No.  Lie DOWN.#

# She actually is at the moment.  Don’t anyone breathe loudly or make any sudden gestures.

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When I examine myself and my methods of thought, I come to the conclusion that the gift of fantasy has meant more to me than any talent for abstract, positive thinking. -- Albert Einstein