I bought nine roses last week.* AND I PLANTED THE LAST TWO OF THEM TODAY. It’s only been a WEEK.** And I’ve already got ALL OF THEM them in the ground.*** Are you impressed? Trust me, you should be impressed.
So I thought I’d give myself a Slightly Short Blog Day to celebrate.† And maybe I’ll do a little work. Or go to bed early.†† Or something.
* * *
* Hey. I need more roses.
** I can’t remember if I told you this story or not^. I’d ordered from a rose nursery that isn’t impossibly far from here and said I would pick them up. When they rang me that my roses were ready I suggested to Peter that he come too and we’d go on afterward to the big public garden nearby and have a wander. So that’s what we did. Except that by the time we got to the big public garden . . . we were too tired.^^ So we didn’t walk around it. Ho hum. Life in the Slow Lane. But I did get my roses.
^ And the Footnote Labyrinth makes trying to look back and check somewhat challenging.
^^ In my case all that frelling driving was aggravated by a long conversation I had with one of the rose-nursery proprietors about, how surprising, roses. She was full of embarrassing information I should have known.+ I have, for example, never had any luck with the symbiotic fungus stuff that you put in the hole when you plant your rose, and it colonises the roots which then develop like crazy in all directions and your rose is very, very happy. Except it didn’t and it wasn’t. I thought it was another fashionable scam. Nobody told me that root fungi don’t like blood-fish-and-bone which is the traditional rose and general perennial shrub food. You ALWAYS put BFB in the hole you’re planting a rose in. Not when you’re using mycorrhizal fungi. Oh. –So I bought some more of the frelling stuff and have used it. Except I’ve only used about half the packet and it only keeps for about a year and it’s stupidly expensive, you wouldn’t want to waste it nooooooooooo. . . . .
+ Although we did a little mutual howling about people who don’t get it that roses are, you know, living things. I told her a story I know I’ve told you, from when we were still at the old house and opened our garden on the National Gardens Scheme. I had someone at least once every open day saying, your roses are amazing, how do you get your roses to be so amazing? My roses are barely struggling along. And I would say, well, what do you feed them? And they would look at me blankly and say, Feed them? FOR PITY’S SAKE, GUYS. HOW DO YOU THINK ROSES PRODUCE ALL THOSE FLOWERS? MAGIC? How can anyone look at a modern, repeat-flowering rose, frelling bowed down by the weight of its flowers, not least because it’s been overbred for flower production at the expense of everything else like leaves and stems and good health, and not realise it’s going to need a little more help than scratching a hole in the ground and plonking it in?? That’s like buying a racehorse and feeding it straw. GOOD GRIEF.
*** Well. Mostly not in the ground. Not in the All the Plumbing in Hampshire cottage garden. Most of them are in pots. I suspect I have rather good drainage, between the builder’s rubble and all the plumbing in Hampshire, but most roses that aren’t major thugs, in this garden, do better in pots, possibly just because they don’t have to fight off the thugs. But I lost a few this wet winter that I don’t think I should have lost so . . . more pots. A few of the new intake are in pots smaller than they’ll stay in forever . . . but they’ll do for a year or two. Or three. Just keep feeding them.
† Also because I took Peter to the ex-library again today and we battered our way through all the other media and went and hung out in the small dark corner where the books now live. I found a little trove of knitting books . . . and then read one of Peter’s thrillers over tea. During which I absent-mindedly ate a Very Nasty gluten-free pistachio cookie. I think I object to a book so absorbing that you can eat nasty food without noticing till it’s too late. That’s the problem with thrillers: they make you forsake all rationality and keep turning pages.
And then I went bell ringing at Crabbiton for the second week in a row. I haven’t been ringing, I’m too tired, and the idea of facing eighty-six bells and a ringing chamber the size of a ballroom at Forza is too much for me. Crabbiton has six bells, and a pretty laid-back and low-level band, and I found out by accident that Wild Robert has started teaching there pretty regularly again. So I went along last week and made bob minor possible—they generally only have four inside ringers, and bob minor requires five—and so this week they were really glad to see me. It’s a hoot being one of the big kids. Although Felicity had to go and wreck my feeble glow of self-satisfaction by inquiring if I wouldn’t like to make up the number at Madhatterington on Mothering Sunday. Nooooooooooooo.
So . . . after all this febrile self indulgence . . . work would be good.
†† No! No! Not that!
I’m usually late to the party with big books, even big books that interest me; generally speaking I’m ploughing a furrow in some literary field no one’s ever heard of and probably lost besides. But I noticed this book because it’s about netsuke (sort of), and netsuke is/are one of the things I came back from five years in Japan as an American military brat loving—and missing. I can’t even remember where I saw them in Japan*; my memory cuts in with seeing them in American museums and longing to pick them up. They’re tactile. They’re meant to be handled. But museums of necessity keep them locked up in glass cases.
So I clocked the HARE, and I also clocked that it became a Very Big Deal, a best seller, winner of the 2010 Costa Biography Award. When it came out in paperback I bought it. And put it on a shelf. And . . .
It turned up on Audible; I bought it and put it on another shelf. . . .
Two suggestions: Read it.** And don’t read any of the reviews first. I cannot BELIEVE the spoilers reviewers throw out there—I think it may be worse with nonfiction?? Because it’s, you know, facts?*** I think I did read a few of the reviews when the book was new and for once I am proud of my terrible memory because I didn’t remember a single salient story-harming fact.
I loved the beginning, when the young (English) de Waal is given a grant to go to Japan for two years, and while he is there he takes the opportunity to get to know his great-uncle Iggy, raised in Vienna, who now lives in Tokyo—with his impressive collection of netsuke (including the hare of the title). When he dies, the netsuke comes to de Waal, who decides to research its history; it has been in his family for several generations.
Now Pollyanna is tapping her foot at me here, because I want to warn you that I personally found this first section, after the introduction about how de Waal came to have the netsuke, heavy going. The branch of the family it belonged to were very, very, very wealthy Jewish bankers and there is rather a lot of description of clothing and furniture and the way the aesthetes of the family spent their time (and money)†. There’s an uncomfortable thread of anti-Semitism through all of it††; but the Ephrussi clan can afford to ignore it—or to insulate themselves from it.
And then the First World War.
And then the Second World War.
It is with de Waal’s great-uncle’s generation and their parents that the story comes horrifyingly, unbelievably, appallingly to life. I’ve read about the fate of the European Jews before, of course—my father fought in WWII, my best friend is Jewish, I can’t not be interested in that history—but somehow my very lack of empathy with these beyond-the-dreams-of-avarice wealthy people makes their ruin and despair more shocking because ruin and despair I can understand. They’re human at last, human like the rest of us are human, poor things. I cried kind of a lot during these chapters.††† And when Iggy’s sister Elizabeth‡ goes back to Vienna after the war and meets her mother’s Gentile maid, Anna, who by Hitler’s government hadn’t been allowed to go on working for the family she’d been with since she was fourteen . . . I cried most of all.
I recommend it very highly. Slog through the first section, if you find it needs slogging. Keep going. And don’t read the reviews.
* * *
* I thought old people are supposed to remember their childhoods vividly. Hmmph.
** Or listen to it. Michael Maloney does a great job. I tend to listen and reread, listen and reread.
*** Like cheap genre tricks like suspense and empathy have no place in nonfiction????
† De Waal is a very stylish and elegant writer; I’m not sure but what this does him a disservice in this section when everyone is so frelling exquisite. But the grace and refinement totally come into their own later on when he’s describing things that are the antithesis of grace and refinement.
†† Which ironically is the only time the—for me—rather crazy-making preciousness of this section comes alive. With the reminder that all is not perfection in silk and satin and furbelows.
††† Mostly while pruning rose-bushes at one-quarter speed because I was too absorbed in what I was listening to.
‡ Elizabeth, by the way, Edmund’s grandmother, is a heroine to conjure with. He doesn’t make a big issue of her, any more than she made a big issue of herself, but she shines.
I NEED A NIGHT OFF.*
So let’s have a LINKS NIGHT.
First: Peter’s EMMA TUPPER’S DIARY, one of my and many other people’s favourites of Peter’s, HAS BEEN REISSUED.
And here he talks a little about writing it:
Second: Lightspeed (e)magazine has reprinted HELLHOUND in their February issue:
You have to scroll down the left-hand column—it is there, I promise—and while of course all of you have already read it in FIRE—there’s a lot of other good stuff in Lightspeed’s virtual pages, and you might find the McKinley author spotlight amusing. You’ll recognise the voice from this blog. . . .
* * *
* Pav is definitely starting to come back out of pheromone hell and to revert to nice normal manic hellterror status—she brought me a toy this morning for the first time in about ten days—but the hellhounds don’t seem to notice. They still aren’t eating, there’s still way too much moaning and they still dash back from hurtles or into the mews to check that she’s still there. And having pranced through the door like Hackney ponies on the way to the carriage driving finals, once they’ve established that in fact she is still there they go all floppy and pathetic-swain-like and IT MAKES ME CRAZY.^
^ The superfluously bizarre thing is that they are all over me for their sofa time. I thought it at least possible that they would be so committed to guarding the hellterror’s crate against alien invasion+ that they wouldn’t want their sofa time with a mere [menopausal++] hellgoddess. But nooooo. They’re all over me like a cheap suit or Miss Havisham’s wedding veil.+++
+ See previous blog post. You cannot be too careful about these things.
I once bought a 16 yo gelding, not knowing he’d been gelded only 6 months before. After a lifetime as a breeding stallion. (These little secrets sellers keep…) He was quite aware of everything’s ovulation and/or heat. . . .
. . . .”Hi, glorious wonderful female person! Am I not beautiful? Am I not gloriously male? Would you not like a hug?” He was gentlemanly about it . . . But there were no mistaking the source of the interest. Fluttering nostrils, upraised lip, and all. That’s how I found out that he recognized (with a slight difference in the behavior) ovulation separately from menstruation.
If I’d paid attention one of mine# might have told me when I was ovulating since I never knew. One of the things this body had trouble with was the whole female-cycle thing, and I was on the Pill## for way too many years### but I love the idea of Rhythm Method by Stallion.
Do any other male domestic critters do this? Given that there aren’t that many stallions around to begin with a lot of women who’ve worked with them will mention this interesting aspect of the experience. But you don’t hear about it with dogs, for example, and there are LOTS and LOTS of entire male dogs cluttering up the landscape. I had already started menopause when I brought the hellhounds home as puppies and most of my dog life till then had been with girls.
I knew an entire male cat once—who was also a prodigiously, gloriously male creature—who was extra-snuggly when you were menstruating, but I didn’t see him often enough to be sure that this wasn’t him reacting to you being curled up in a little ball of misery, and I was on the Pill when I knew him, so he wouldn’t have had a chance to check me for ovulation.
# I never owned one of these glorious creatures; I just did things like muck out their stalls, hang out with them and—when I was lucky—ride them.
## which back in my fertile days kept you unpregnable by suppressing ovulation. Dunno if they may have figured out other tricky methods since.
### My experience of female-cycle specialists—most of them men—became the strong foundation of my profound loathing for the medical profession.
++ NOT MY FACE. GET OFFA MY FACE.
Pav is still in full bloody streaming heat and I want to run away from home. Except I can’t because Darkness is trying to starve himself to death and my severely chapped hands* and I are the only thing(s) between him and the ultimate whatever.** At that we’re not doing a great job. He’s lost so much weight that he disappears behind his final pair of ribs: there’s just spine and a tail. Chaos is eating badly*** but he does occasionally eat a few mouthfuls that I haven’t had to pry his jaws open and stab down his throat. A few. He’s also pretty awesomely ribby—but Darkness is worse. I have the radio turned up REALLY LOUD which goes a little way toward drowning out the incessant moaning. I do frelling separate them for some hours during the day, usually taking the hellhounds back to the cottage and leaving Pav at the mews. This doesn’t work as well as you might think. There is less moaning, but it doesn’t stop altogether, and there is a lot of pacing and anguish. She’ll be kidnapped by aliens, their agonised looks declare. She’ll run off with a mongrel.† And I feel like a bigamist, trying to satisfy two families. And failing, of course.
I usually have a voice lesson on Mondays. Ordinarily both voice lessons or the prospect of a voice lesson cheers me up but I feel that this week is a good week for Nadia not to have been teaching. In the discouraging annals of Things That Squash My Voice Down Flat the present circumstances rank rather high. Peter and I decided to have an excursion, this Monday afternoon without a voice lesson, but since neither of us is feeling exactly lively and enthusiastic†† we kept thinking smaller and smaller and . . . smaller. . . .
We went to the library. Or what used to be the big regional library and is now the Random Media Centre full of random media.††† And a few books. ‡ And a rather nice café.‡‡ So we hit the cheezy SF&F section first and then I took a detour to the knitting shelf ‡‡‡ on our way to the café. And then we sat and read like a couple of old married folks out on an excursion.§
Of course then I had to go home to the hellpack. . . .
* * *
* My hands now smell permanently of dog food no matter how much I wash them^. This is kind of off-putting when you’re eating chocolate.
^ Ow. Yes, I’ve thought of one-use gloves. But force-feeding is a delicate operation and even latex gloves are clumsy. I suppose if I thought I was going to be doing this the rest of my life I’d learn to use the gloves. But I’m not going to be doing this the rest of my life. Pav is going to come out of season any minute. And hellhounds will revert to being ordinarily crappy eaters rather than pathologically crappy eaters. SIIIIIIIIIIIIIIGH.
** Yes. Critters go to heaven too. I say so.^
^ Although some of them may have quite a lot of repenting to do first.
*** But then Chaos never eats well. He’s secretly convinced that he could live on air, if only I’d let him try it out properly.
† I don’t know if this is because Aroma of Bitch in Season hangs heavy on the air, despite frequent changes of hellterror bedding and mopping of crate and kitchen floor, or whether they’re just, you know, not stupid. I have frequently noticed that dogs are not stupid at just the times when you wish they were.
†† Also there are these, you know, floods. They do get in the way. The uni campus on the outskirts of Zigguraton is impressively under water.
††† And men with beards. HUGE beards. Long thick massive losing-small-animals-your-iPhone-and-the-tickets-to-tonight’s-concert-in type beards. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many gigantic beards in a smallish area before—and they weren’t with each other for the Southern England Beard Festival either. So what is it about beards and random media? Not all geeks have face hair and only one of these guys really looked geeky.
‡ Snarl. It’s a bit of a vicious circle. Us book people are proportionately less likely to hang out at libraries the fewer books the new random media centres contain. But libraries are morphed into random media centres because fewer people seem to be reading books—in hard copy anyway, she adds hastily. Also . . . how many of us Book People suffer from Too High a Percentage of Disposable Income Is Spent on Books-itis, plus Life Is Short and the TBR Pile is Tall? Although in my case what eventually killed off most of my go-to-the-library instinct is that the centralised Hampshire library computer system stank and I got tired of wasting my time.
‡‡ Not only did they have acceptable weedwash—I mean herb tea—THEY HAD SOMETHING I COULD EAT. ^
In case you’re wondering.
‡‡‡ The knitting half a dozen beat up old books quarter-shelf, speaking of snarl. Knitting is popular and fashionable, you not-paying-attention random media people. BUY MORE KNITTING BOOKS.
§ Okay, now here’s the philosophical debate. I brought two of the knitting books home with me. They’re both out of print. One of them only has two patterns I’m interested in; the other one has several, plus some useful-looking general how-to-design-your-own-version stuff. Neither of these books appears on ravelry, and while the author of the book that appeals to me more has a lot of individual patterns from other books available for individual purchase, I don’t see any from this book. I’ve wasted some time on google looking either for a used copy or for non-ravelry knitting sites where this author might also hang out. Nada.
Now I’m a little touchy about copyright, since I myself earn my living thereby^—you can also insert a terse rant here on the subject of secondhand book sales kicking back nothing to living authors^^, so looking for a secondhand copy of the book I liked is just a kind of twitch, rather than any courtesy to the author. But these books are OP and I’ve made a genuine attempt to find the patterns I’m interested in for sale somewhere. Do I now brashly make photocopies? Or not? And if I do am I a bad person? And if I don’t . . . why don’t I? Presumably it’s legal, moral and non-fattening to knit something from a pattern from a library book? Does it remain legal and moral as well as non-fattening only so long as you are doing it directly from the book?
I imagine the answer is that I don’t make copies, because the rights still belong to the author and there’s always a chance she’ll resell them somewhere—or hang them on ravelry or similar. There’s also that feeling that instructions to make something are somehow different in kind to, say, fiction, but that’s probably illusory. Creative rights are still creative rights.^^^
^ And so long as society still uses money, piracy is bad and evil and just because it’s on the internet doesn’t mean it’s free or that you’re not making some creator of something’s life unfairly harder and punching them in the morale they need to maintain to go on creating stuff you want.
^^ Paperback exchange and ‘reading copies’ for a few dollars/pounds, no blame, no harm. But the signed first editions that go for a lot of money? That’s stealing. Full stop.
^^^ Please note that I write the blog last thing anyway and at the moment I’m even more chronically short of sleep than usual. But it does seem to me that on-line knitting sites, chiefly ravelry but there are others, are a game-changer about knitting patterns. Maybe I write to the author(s) on ravelry and ask her/them if any of these patterns are going to be reissued in a new book or possibly hung on ravelry?
MY EMAIL IS DEAD*. AND I WANT MY SERVER’S GUTS ON A PLATE.**
I had an email a few days ago from my host or whatever the arglebargle jerkface, saying that my email was migrating. Quack quack quack or similar. I had no idea that email was of a nomadic bent. And that when this process was complete and it was contentedly nest-building in its new neighbourhood I was going to have to mrffjjjx darblefhha gormblad, being extra-careful with the tuvuprk so that it doesn’t hipplycritz. I leaped back with a cry as if I’d been burnt, and forwarded this dreadful memorandum to Raphael. Who replied laconically that he would come out and reconfigure, and that he’d bring restraints for the tuvuprk , which was prone to bolting.
Migration was supposed to occur on Monday. How was I supposed to know if it’s happened or not? My email continued to behave as normal, which is to say as if possessed by demons, but no better or worse than it ever does.
Raphael came today on the assumption that my email must have moved into its new home by now and was ready for him to hang the pictures on the walls and fix the leaky tap and the sticky door.
Nope. Still migrating. Maybe it has a lot of boxes of books.
So he can’t reconfigure. And therefore he took his departure*** and I went about my (slow†) business
This evening, firing up the laptop for the first time since about an hour after Raphael left . . . MY EMAIL IS DEAD. I sent a suitably outraged text to Raphael who rang me from home, trying not to laugh, but it’s so dead he can’t talk me through a patch.
He’s coming again tomorrow, poor man. The hellterror will be delighted.
* * *
* So is the dishwasher.^ This is a CALAMITY. Peter, while admirably domestic in theory, and goes through the motions beautifully, belongs to that quaint British philosophy which holds that most household chores are performed for their ritual function, in which gesture, posture and the type and quality of your ceremonial objects are the crucial aspects, and hygiene has nothing to do with it.^^ AAAAAAAAAUGH.^^^
^ I mean the electric appliance. Calm down.
^^ Yes. British. Sue me. We have slobs in America—lots of slobs, in fact—but this business of faithfully and energetically applying the dish mop# to no discernable effect is British.
# That’s part of the problem right there. Dish mop?
^^^ Also something previously living has taken its final departure from this mortal coil somewhere rather too nearby and we have the invasion of big fat bluebottle flies at the mews to prove it. Yuck.# The only thing to be said for having them in the middle of winter is that they’re really slow and you can just about whap them out of the air, should you want to, and not bother waiting for them to light somewhere. I HAVE THREE DOGS AND NOT ONE OF THEM IS INTERESTED IN CATCHING FLIES. It’s not a rabbit, say the hellhounds. It’s not a hedgehog. IT’S TOO HIGH UP, says the hellterror, whose pogosticking is not an exact science.##
# Peter, at the far end of the mews, which is very nice for those of us who sing a lot louder than we used to and don’t want to be heard by the neighbours, is slap up against farmland, and the farmer in this case is a slob, speaking of slobs. Peter’s too nice to take her to court. He could.
## I think I’ve told you—? the story of one of Peter’s in laws ringing us up in a panic, many years ago now, while we were still at the old house, because she was having a sudden invasion of bluebottles and was assuming The World Was Ending? I happened to answer the phone. Nah, I said, it’s just that something’s died in your vicinity. If you have any closed-up chimneys or similar—especially if there’s a funny smell—it’s worth trying to find and dispose of it. If not, buy an extra fly swatter and hunker down. It’ll be over pretty soon—a few days, a week. Oh thank you, she said. I knew you’d know.
** Yes, Peter is still alive and breathing and his body parts remain in conformance to the standard arrangement. Although he went to his Wednesday bridge club today and confessed when he came home that he had faded badly by the end. You had a stroke a month ago. Lighten up.^
^ I’m still not in a very good mood. I’m being vouchsafed the honour of giving him a ride home from town tomorrow morning+ because he has to climb up the long hill to my end of town. I’ll get the palanquin dusted off.++
+ Sic. Late morning.
++ Hey. We have four bearers. Two hellhounds, a hellterror, and me. I admit the height differential is tricky#, but we’ll figure something out.
# Not to mention hellterror directional control
*** After a brief frustrating conversation about Android tablets, because the tablet-sized homeopathic software I want is only on Android. Fie.^
^ And while Astarte is a wonderful machine in many ways+, even Raphael has never managed to make her play nicely with PC-based email. Speaking of frelling email.
+ I am presently reading another cheap ebook that I again bought for the author’s name when it appeared in one of the weekly Kindle come-ons and . . . . arrrrrrgh. FOR PITY’S SAKE GET ON WITH IT. It’s alternate history and they want you to know they have DONE THEIR HOMEWORK. If this were hard copy I’d’ve thrown it across the room by now. As it is the skimming swipe-finger is so seductive I may even finish it. If reading one page in five counts as finishing.
† I’m due to go Street Pastoring this Friday and I’m going. ME, are you listening? You can knock me around two more days. Friday night I have plans.