October 13, 2011

Bells and brainmelt



So, you all think I’ve been bunking off Forzadeldestino, don’t you?  No.  Wrong.  They had a forty-seven bell practise one week and then a concert or some damn thing the other week.  That’s the worst of these ancient monument places:  they’re popular.  I feel that the sound of bells would enhance a concert . . . not with me ringing however.  Sigh.

Today I had no more plausible excuses* and I had furthermore talked Maribel from Stanhope into coming too, so there’d be at least one other middling ringer there if Gemma wasn’t.  So I really had to go.**

The climb up to the bell tower doesn’t get any shorter.  And you do feel like you’re trudging through forty-seven centuries of English history to match the forty-seven bells in the tower.  How many times have they had to replace the (crucial) ropes lining the twisty, claustrophobic little stairwells with the spiral, wedge-shaped treads the long ends of which are about big enough for Tinkerbell to get her feet on?  I don’t know how the blokes with their size-twelves get up and down at all.

And the ringing . . . um.  Well, I wasn’t quite as bad.  Quite.  But I also lowered my expectations and asked for a plain course of Grandsire Triples . . . which I still couldn’t get through without help.  SIIIIIIIIGH.  We also rang plain hunt on nine which is an improvement—from my perspective—on twenty-seven from three weeks ago.  SLOW DOWN! screamed tonight’s ringing master, whom we will call Og, from the treble, when I think I was trying to lead when I should have been in fourth place.  We stumbled through several courses of this and by the end I was actually ringing more or less in the right place.  It’s different on higher numbers.  It is.  My screwing up Grandsire Triples, however, is not being able to see what I’m doing when the other bells are in a line instead of a circle.***  AAAAAAAUGH.  However, they didn’t tell me not to come back this week either, so I have to go again.  There are two things about this:  in the first place, it’s too frelling humiliating that I simply can’t do it.  In the second place . . . I could learn triples here—if I could learn it, which is the big stumbling block—and major and caters and royal and a lot of that stuff I’ve been feeling hopeless and frustrated about for years now.  First I have to be able to cope with those bells in that ringing chamber.  And I have to do it before they tell me not to come back. . . .

But I did have an amazing treat tonight.  The tower captain, whom we will call Ulrich, took me up into the belfry to see the bells.†  Ooooooh.  Their belfry is, of course, mega whopping thumping ginormous colossal, to hold forty-seven bells.  The tenor is the size of a pod of whales.  A large pod of blue whales.   I always say ‘yes’ to invitations to visit belfries†† and they’re usually incredibly cramped and frequently involve contortionist crawling while clinging to solid frames—don’t grab that wheel, it swings†††—and they also tend to be badly lit and full of dead flies.  This one looked like they were going to have the duchess to tea there tomorrow.  And it was so huge you could set up a tea-table in a corner, no problem, with room for the bloke with the gloves, tailcoat, deferential smile and the trolley with the six kinds of cake, four kinds of sandwiches and two kinds of tea.  The staircase to the belfry, however, was even steeper and narrower than the final stair to the ringing chamber.  Before someone gets elected steeplekeeper‡ they must have to measure the freller and make sure they’ll fit.

Feye wrote

I managed to fulfill my previous prediction by blowing not one, but TWO paychecks on this auction.

I love stories like this.  Who needs to eat every day?  (Unless possibly you’re not menopausal.)

Sooooo worth it. 


Especially since I have a sneaking suspicion I not only got myself into the top bidders, but actually WON the item I was drooling over.

Oh good!  (And remember there’s a certain amount of laying-on of extras at top bid price for most items.)  But all of you should realise I am dying of curiosity to know when any of the orders attach to some forum member or other.  This doesn’t necessarily come through on the order forms Blogmom is sending me.  In fact, it usually doesn’t.

Have we successfully saved you from the horrors of selling raffle tickets, or do I need to start dreaming up doodles?

Dreaming up doodles is always good.  Well.  Sort of good.  You are somewhat constrained by the interesting intersection between my sense of humour and my drawing skills.  But I think I’m going to avoid the raffle tickets yes, and thanks.


I am thrilled there are people out there with more money than I’ve got. . . . Good for you! I would have loved to get more stuff but that was not possible, so I am thrilled beyond measure that some of you were able to do these things.

The New Arcadia bells are also thrilled beyond measure.   I’m looking forward to a certain dumb-struckness among the human acolytes, however, when I hand the cheque over.  Vicky asked me a month or so ago for a rough guess about the proceeds from my auction, because she was due to go up against both the bell council and the parish council about how our fund-raising was going.‡‡  I said, cautiously, that I thought it should make £300.  I guess maybe.  Hee hee hee hee hee.

And I have to say, I am really thrilled that Robin is still alive

::falls down laughing::  I hear what you’re saying, but you might conceivably have thought of a more tactful way of putting it. . . .

(it seems a lot of the books I love to read were written long ago by people who have already died)

I do understand the problem.  But I imagine that tea with George Eliot or Rudyard Kipling would not have been a success.  Eliot would have found me bumptious and Kipling would have found me . . . female.  And taller than he was.‡‡‡

and that it is possible to interact with a living author and thank her for her wonderful body of work. Thank you! 

My pleasure.  Usually.§  Thank you.

I can’t wait to see what I get in the way of a doodle in my book!

Oh glory.  You mean you didn’t specify?  Do you realise how dangerous that is?  —And it’s getting dangerouser by the minute.  And by the every-completed-doodle.

And however long that takes, no problem.

Oh good.  I may need a few of you with that attitude by the end, when I’ve run through sixty-seven pens, four hundred and twelve A6 pads, and my eyeballs are frying.

I am thrilled with the prospect of anything at all.

Hey, whatever you’re on, can I have some too?  This thrilled thing looks like fun.

* * *

* And what’s worse, I had another last-minute invitation from Niall to ring handbells with one of his fancy ringers at Frellingham when both their usual third and fourth went down with the lurgy.  Waaaaah.  Although—get real, McKinley—I’m sufficiently super-extra crazed at the minute with cranking out doodles that it may be just as well I couldn’t go.  If I’m going to make an utter gibbering fool of myself, I’d rather do it at Forzadeldestino.^

^ . . . which is a good thing in the circumstances.

** This is all in my head.  Neither Maribel—who does go to Forza practise erratically—nor Gemma needs a security blanket.

*** I overheard one of Forza’s band talking about having gone to an eight-bell tower and how close together all the bell ropes seem, and in this weird little circle.

† No bats in evidence however.

†† Stop that giggling.

††† This is why people are not allowed in belfries when the bells are up, that is, mouth up, balanced precariously on their narrow ends, ready to be pulled off and rung.^  You grab the wheel of an ‘up’ bell injudiciously, and you are about to be a spot on the carpet, or rather the belfry floor.

^ There are exceptions.  But you have to know what you’re doing.

‡ Which is about the physical upkeep of the bells.  I think if there’s anything wrong with the steeple/tower you call in the parish council and say, yo, your problem.

‡‡ It’s the usual thing where nobody is going to give you any money till you prove you’re knocking yourself out to get it yourself.

‡‡‡ About once a year I dream of meeting Kipling.  Not Tolkien or E Nesbit or Edith Wharton or George Eliot or Anthony Trollope or William Morris or James Branch Cabell or Rebecca West.  Rudyard Kipling.

§ Except when Story in Progress is holding you down and stomping the sh*t out of you.  Sigh. . . .

Logistics and tea


To begin with, we have a winner in the random draw for a doodle-icious book.  This was open to anyone who advertised our auction/sale on their own blog, Twitter, Facebook, or megaphone from the top of their bell tower/castle/block of flats/apartment building/London Eye/Empire State Building/Seattle Space Needle/Machu Picchu*.  And our winner is:  danceswithpahis, from our very own forum.   Three cheers for danceswithpahis:  hip, hip, hooray!  Hip, hip, hooray!  THIGH, THIGH, GORBLIMEY!

Now then, speaking of doodles.  The three doodle-icious books in the auction went for rather higher than I was expecting, plus I’ve had another commission from a mad—I mean, a wonderful human being who really really really wants a doodled-up DEERSKIN and is willing to pay rather astonishingly for it.**   I originally said that you’d get another doodle beyond the three-doodle minimum for every $10 increment in the auction, which is still true.  But since I’ve got some slack to hang myself with, I’m going to conflate some of them so I can make a few larger, more interesting doodles as well as some standard, simple doodles.  Um.  Watch out.  I’m growing dangerous with a drawing pen in my hand.

Blogmom has also sent me the first wodge of doodle orders and . . . rrgllmmmph hee hee hee hee.  Some of you have a rather flattering if significantly untrue idea of my skills.  I’ll do my best.  And you’ll probably have some warning because the, ahem, new, original ones I’ll hang here (without attribution) before they’re put in the post.  But just to say . . . what you get may not be quite what you had in mind.  But the New Arcadia bells thank you.

Please remember that it’s only poor Blogmom doing all the admin—and only me doing all the doodling, and only Fiona doing the packing up and hauling off to the post office.   We’re doing the best we can***, but it’s going to take a little while.  Unless Fiona’s day job bites her and we have to reschedule, she’ll be taking what I hope will be the majority of the sale/auction results to the post office on the 25th of this month.   I’ll tell you how I’m doing nearer time.

One last important thing:  orders that haven’t been paid for or have a PayPal payment pending by the 20th of October† will be cancelled.  If we were a company with staff we could both let it run on longer and send you gentle reminders of the deadline.††  But we aren’t.  You’d be amazed at the amount of stuff there is to keep track of in just a little auction.  Okay, I hope you’d be amazed.†††  Having a prompt, no-bones deadline KA-CHUNK is merely a trying-to-keep-things-a-little-under-control‡ measure and you won’t be drummed out of the forum‡‡ or anything if you miss it.‡‡‡

Speaking of things that are taking longer than planned:  Blogmom has generously agreed to put off her Caribbean cruise till the auction/sale is rolled up and put away like Christmas decorations by the middle of January§, but she’s not going to put the new doodle window up till she’s had at least two good nights’ sleep in a row and can remember her own name.  She or I will let you know . . .

* * *

In one of those The Universe is Messing With Your Head conjunctions, today was the day Vicky had ordained that I would help with the teas-for-pensioners at the church hall.  Teas-for-pensioners has been going on off and on for years, mostly depending on there being someone who is willing to organise and run it.  At the moment, Tuesday afternoon tea and cake is being run by the bell ringers and for a ridiculous amount of volunteer effort, including making the cakes, we’re allowed to keep the proceeds.  With five of us slicing, pouring and washing-up . . . I guess we may have made £30.  Okay, £35.  Tops.  In two and a half hours I could have drawn how many doodles—?  Never mind.  It’s one of those community things, and it was pretty amusing, at least to a people-watcher.  The way the hall is set up, the kitchen runs along one side, and there’s a long open counter most of its length, like what you might see in a café, where the waiters hand over their orders and pick up the food.  So when you’re not pouring or washing-up you have a grand view of the proceedings.  Vicky and Roger and a non-ringer were on the wild side, while another non-ringer and I were in the kitchen.  I managed to overhear frustrating pieces of what sounded like several really good feuds, and one of pensioners has a crush on Roger.§§  And I swear Vicky could sell ice floes to a penguin, not that the home-made cakes needed much impetus to fly off the table onto individual plates.

It was still two and a half hours on my feet when I could have been at home at my desk.  So I’d better go draw something, and then sing something and then go to bed.

* * *

* Hey.  We got very good feedback on the Machu Picchu shout out.

** We are not making any more exceptions or taking any more commissions right now.  I’ve got too much to do—and thank you very much!!! for giving me so much to do!—but I need to get on with what there is.  If you find that you simply cannot live without a doodled-up something or other, there will be an opportunity later.  Have some chocolate and be cheerful.

*** And Blogmom deserves a medal.

† There are a few of you still waiting on final totals for postage and insurance.  Don’t worry:  Blogmom knows who you are, and if we need—which, please the gods, we will not—to extend the deadline for you, we will.

†† I would be out in the street if it weren’t for two things:  Direct Debit, which means you can tell your bank ‘pay these people’ and they’ll do it for you automatically, and the fact that things like the city council do send you (fairly) gentle reminders that your council tax is seriously due.

††† I think I hear some hollow laughter.  Clearly a few of you do have some idea.

‡ Cough cough cough cough cough

‡‡ Or blocked on Twitter.  Sigh.

‡‡‡ But you’ll be very very sorry not to have the doodle of Wolfgang repelling the taralian army or Darkness playing the piano while Chaos sings.  Joking!  Just joking!

§ An extremely ill-judged metaphor in this household.

§§ Roger is my age.  And took early retirement.  I can’t retire, but that’s another issue.



THIS IS YOUR LAST DAY.  THIS IS YOUR LAST OPPORTUNITY TO BUY A BOOK OR BID ON SOMETHING IN THE BELL-FUND AUCTION/SALE.*  The doodle option will stay up another week** but everything else shuts down tomorrow at 2 pm Chicago (Blogmom) time.  Step right up, folks, step right up.  The bearded lady and the sword-swallower right this way, just as soon as you give me all your money.   

             I’m uncommonly shattered for some reason.  Maybe it was that invasion of berserker cauliflower last night . . . no, wait, I do know what it was:  both hellhounds ate supper with almost no fuss whatsoever.  What?  Chaos has officially given up supper—he submitted the form a good fortnight ago but he’d filled it out wrong so I got to send it back—and Darkness only eats on the nights that having me pry his jaws open to get a remedy powder in is going to be just toooooo boring.  You can almost see him considering it when I put the bowl of food in front of him.   But I’d barely started my first game of Montezuma 2*** when . . . crunch crunch crunch.  Crunch crunch.  I had to put Pooka down in the middle of a game.†  But the entire experience was such a shock to the system I had to lie down and read for a while.††  And then repelling the attack cauliflower took a while.†††  And then there were the cats.  And then it was dawn.  And then the horrible man‡ across the road went to work.‡‡  The sound his frelling car makes on their gravel driveway is a lot like very large hellhounds eating supper. . . .  Sorry, I’m raving.

               So.  I’ve been doodling.  Some madwoman who wants to spread the joy‡‡‡ asked for a heap of sleeping puppies doodle for DEERSKIN.  Glarg.  I haven’t figured out how I’m going to simplify this into a standard doodle, but here’s a first trial run:

I was looking at Chaos and Darkness puppy photos and thinking Soooooo cute . . . . Soooooo glad it's over.


Someone else wants a spider in the corner of a window for SPINDLE’S END:

From a golden crown let your silk hang down. Er. Or a window frame.

I may have a go at the spider dangling from a sleeve—my doodle-orderer’s other suggestion—one of these days in my copious spare time, and find out if drawing Ikor’s shiny ribbony sleeve is rather satisfying in an OCD sort of way, as I suspect it may be.

              . . . And the medium-large friendly squid wants not to be forgotten.  

The 'Fido' is diamante, you understand. It's just a little small here.


Now go buy something.  Please. 

* * *

* And, guys . . . you’re seriously missing out not having a better run at TULKU, or CHUCK AND DANIELLE, or CLOCK MICE.  I know this is my blog—and my bells—but I’m recommending them.  Highly.  

** I don’t know exactly when this will happen, but when Blogmom has recovered from doing all the making-it-work about the bell fund^ I’ve asked her if she can figure out a way to hang a more-or-less permanent^^ doodle-order window down the side of the blog somewhere.  We’ll worry about what to do with the money if it turns out there is any.  

^ I believe I heard something about ‘Caribbean cruise’. 

^^ Or let’s call it indefinite, which is what my visa to stay in England says.  Very unsettling, ‘indefinite’ rather than ‘permanent’.  I’ll be good, officer!  Really I will!  —Er.  I do get to complain, don’t I? 

*** Sigh.  You were right.  Montezuma 2 is available for iPhone.  Why it didn’t appear instantly and say Buy me! when I asked iTunes for it is one of those little mysteries, like why my audible downloads are so easily led astray by bad companions and are found days later in the wrong part of town with nothing left but a headache and a vague memory of something about Long Island Iced Tea^ and spandex. 

^  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Long_Island_Iced_Tea 

† There doesn’t seem to be a ‘cancel this game, hellhounds are eating’ option.  Oh well, my player rating is always pathetic. 

†† I don’t suppose any of you out there want to recommend an origami book?  I dug out my ancient Dover reprint of beginner origami and ordered the FOR DUMMIES origami but neither of them is the least bit inspiring.  I want something that makes me go ‘ooh’.  I’m, you know, shallow.  

††† It was a vengeance raid.  I ate the emperor a few nights ago.  Very tasty he was too. 

‡ Actually he’s a very nice man.  Except at 7 o’clock in the morning. 

‡‡ Wait a minute.  It’s Saturday.  What was he doing going to work?^

^ Yes, I work seven days a week.  I’m free lance.  It’s the down side to being able to work in your dressing gown and not comb your hair.  And stay up till dawn.

 ‡‡‡ Too late.  I’ve been mad for years.


When There Are No Words There Are Still Doodles


You’ve still got a fortnight left to buy or bid on something!   The New Arcadia Bell Restoration Fund auction/sale is live http://robinmckinleysblog.com/bells/ 

. . . . Bluuuuuuh, continued.  Service ring this morning was interesting.  I was clinging fuzzily to the treble and then Niall called for frelling Cloisters.  It’s not that it’s difficult—it isn’t—but it does require that the treble wake up and pay attention.  Then I came home and drank tea till I was in danger of rattling off my chair. . . . I am going to my voice lesson tomorrow.  I don’t know what I’ll do once I get there, but I am going.  And, gods save both of us, I have an old friend I haven’t seen in over a decade passing through Mauncester on Tuesday.  It would be nice to be speaking in complete sentences.  I suppose I could just shove doodles at her. . . .

            To all of those anxious people posting to the forum and writing me little apologetic emails:    I am not keeping track.  You won’t be drummed out of the forum if you don’t pony up for my bells.  Bidding in the auction and/or buying a doodle or a book is supposed to be fun.  It’s not required.  Sure, I want to raise funds for my bells, but trust me, I know about being short of money.  If your roof fell off last night, you can buy another shingle for the price of a doodle.  I totally understand.  Also, because I am me, I will probably totally screw something up during the auction/sale—there will be opportunity for any screw-ups or falling into technological chasms to be sorted out because there will be me to sort out.  This is the good side of not being amazon, okay?  Don’t worry.

And now . . . how about an opportunity to win a doodled up book?  All you have to do is spread the word.

Tweet it, Facebook it, blog it! Win a doodle-licious book!

Help us publicize Robin McKinley’s Sale and Auction in support of the New Arcadia Bell Restoration Fund!  Tweet it, Facebook it and blog it and you will be entered in a random drawing for a signed and dedicated doodle-licious Robin McKinley book of your choice with five** doodles to be scattered through the text at the author’s discretion. 


Handbell ringer having a Very Bad Day



Tower bell ringer having a Very Bad Day

Please note that this person, while unfortunate, will nonetheless be welcome back next week, because he*** is still following the Tower Bell Ringer’s First Rule which is never let go of the tail end.   

* * *

 * I love it.  Me saying ‘don’t worry.’  hahahahahahahahahahaha  

** Blogmom originally said ten doodles and I said GLEEEEEEP.  Even the auctioned books only start at three.  But you never know, I might be inspired.  

*** I think both these victims of circumstance look rather he-ish.  The main thing is that you can tell by the fact that their shoes have discernable heels on them and are therefore definitively not All Stars that neither of them is me.

It’s alive


Okay, here we go.  Knock yourselves out.  Please.


It runs from NOW till 2 pm Chicago USA time* Sunday, 9 October.**

* * *

* Because Blogmom is running the back end, and that’s her time zone

** Doodles may run longer.  We’ll see how it goes.


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