August 23, 2016

Life as a 21st century semivegan*

[This should have gone up last night, of course. This may be the New System.  Time is merely a concept, not a reality, right?  But I’ve been talking to other people in the area and I Am Not Alone.  There are too many of us on line and not enough bandwidth.  Why this means the malign minders of supply CLOSE bandwidth after midnight to a thread, a wisp, a spool of spider silk belonging to a microdot sized spider, I have no idea.   I realise my technological understanding is . . . ahem . . . is such that calling it ‘understanding’ is a blunder, but they can’t frelling stockpile bandwidth from the wee smalls and bolt it on to the bandwidth during the day, or the evening when everyone rushes home to see if anyone has posted to their Facebook page, can they?  CAN THEY?  —ed]

. . . with a small refrigerator. Two small refrigerators.  Today I took delivery of The Largest Green** Cauliflower I Have Ever Seen in My Life and . . . it wouldn’t fit in either refrigerator, unless I took one of the frelling shelves out which I can’t because I’m short of shelf space already ALL THAT FRELLING VEG TAKES UP AMAZING AMOUNTS OF ROOM.  So the green cauliflower the size of a medium-sized asteroid sat in my sink—and sort of drizzled out around the edges, and may have patted a hellhound with a prehensile tendril—till I had time to hack it up and steam it and then crush it into a series of bowls and WEDGE it into the cottage refrigerator.  The trials of being veganish.

And it’s not like I had budgeted time for inconvenient vegetables. Let me tell you what a splendid and thrilling few days I have had.***  Now—see footnotes—I am a disorganised twit, but I have kind of a lot going on, including trying to write some saleable fiction before I run out of money†, and when I manage to beat some teeming disaster back to stuff-under-the-table proportions I do tend to stuff it under the table and turn to the next looming vorticose abyss trying to swallow me††, the hellmob, and several small houses.†††

I was [bell] ringing a wedding on Saturday. I’d just got back from hurtling and had about five minutes before I had to leave for the tower.  The post had come while the hellhounds and I were out checking the continued viability of a certain rose in the churchyard and I noticed that one of the envelopes was from the local city council.  Uh oh.  This is one of the abysses I had (I thought) slapped a personhole cover over, after Ordure, Funk and Weltschmerz closed my account and stole all my money for about ten days about three months ago, the repercussions of which are still wrecking my peace‡ of mind and causing a lot of extra work for a disorganised twit who hates all business admin at the best of times. But even I recognise, in my blurry, dragon-biased way‡‡, that the Tax Gods Rule. Which is why I’d been round the local office and made sure that I was caught up on all frelling three frelling houses.

I admit that was two months ago. BUT ONLY TWO MONTHS.  So imagine my . . . adrenaline surge when I opened the envelope and discovered I was being SUMMONSED FOR NONPAYMENT OF COUNCIL TAX.   They were going to DRAG ME TO COURT AND PROSECUTE me for not having paid any council tax ALL YEAR.  Now even I in the outer reaches of synapse-bursting panic could see that this had to be at least partly an administrative error‡‡‡ . . . it’s still a summons and it’s horrible, and it’s also SATURDAY so I can’t do anything about it till Monday.

I staggered off to ring bells. I got through the bell ringing part with all my insides jangling worse than the bells and my blood-pressure headache getting worse with every dong.

I came home and spent the next five hours throwing up out of sheer beastly stress.

Saturday was wonderful. Really a high point.§

Sunday I spent trying to figure out what the flaming doodah I could eat—I know, I’ve been here before, recently, but that was stomach flu. The rules are different.§§

And today I spent 1,000,000 hours on the phone§§§, mostly knitting and nursing another blood-pressure headache while I waited For the Next Customer Service Representative. Monday, you know?  The city council woman was polite, laid back, and even a little sympathetic, which was a bonus.  I am no longer on the FBI/MI5 top ten wanted list.  Yaay.  The most interesting thing is that what this woman said BORE VERY LITTLE RESEMBLANCE to what the woman I’d spoken to in June had said, or had led me to believe that she had set up for me for the immediate future involving juggling three houses.  And of course neither of them said anything that might lead me to believe that I was going to be prosecuted for non-payment of council tax any time soon.  So I’ve given them a lot more money and I BELIEVE I am to be allowed to live.  But remember what believing got me last time.

Then I made a few other phone calls—although it was still MONDAY—looking for monsters.  I couldn’t find any.  I must not have been making the right phone calls.

I can hardly wait to find out what goes wrong next.§§§§

* * *

* I was reading yet another of these Live Green and Free and Absolute and Right and We’re So Pure and Wonderful We Will Make You Sick what-to-eat health sites. There are amazing numbers of these bozos out there and only some of them have a sense of humour.  This one’s bias was vegan but finally, foot-draggingly, in this I’m-so-disappointed-in-you headmistress voice, they said And if you feel you must eat a little fish occasionally . . . and I’m sitting here thinking, yet again, HOW do these people live in the world? Somebody, I think in the forum, was talking about this too.  I don’t spend a lot of time with Macdonald’s clientele and still I’m a joke in my social circle^.  GIVE ME A CUP OF GREEN TEA/ROOIBUS/GINGER AND LEMONGRASS AND SHUT UP, I’LL EAT WHEN I GET HOME.^^  I still like fish but it’s not necessary to happiness and if pure veganism were a little more rampant in the land I might give it up too^^^ since fish have eyes and agency and I assume little proto-thoughts^^^^.  There’s a whole whacked out mind/body thing as soon as you start seriously messing with what you eat and if you find yourself at the sharp end of immaculateness while you may be willing to risk the proto-thoughts of green cauliflower^^^^^, your singing teacher’s goldfish are beginning to give you a guilty conscience.  But until they start building vegan shtetls for us to hang out in . . . I will probably keep eating fish.

^ I’m not sure about circle. A lumpy trapezoid.  Or an irregular nonagon perhaps.

^^ Anyone else out there remember the term ‘crunchy granola’ for health food junkies in Birkenstocks in the 80’s or thereabouts? No earnest seeker after nutritional truth now would eat GRANOLA.  CEREAL GRAINS. NOOOOOO.  WE DID NOT EVOLVE TO EAT CEREAL GRAINS.  And my Birkenstocks are either pink or have rhinestones.  I’d have pink and rhinestones if I could find them.

^^^ And then again I might not. The trusty tin of mackerel or tuna is very useful to a disorganised twit who finds herself needing to rush out the door in five minutes and doesn’t have time to produce the healthy green salad with the protein-based dressing, let alone eat the sucker.+  Fresh veg takes an appalling amount of chewing.

+ Vegan shtetls will have vegan corner stores that offer hearty organic vegan snacks for disorganised twits.

^^^ My willingness to continue to eat fish has nothing to do with the fact that the video screen on my dentist’s ceiling always shows underwater sea life, mostly but not exclusively fish.  There is NO causative connection in my subconscious between fish and pain which might arouse a (subconscious) desire for vengeance on the piscine world.  NO.  NONE.


** AKA Romanesco. I love the green ones and find the white ones eh.  I’m told there’s no difference but the colour.  Okay.  I’m very vision-led.  I know this.  I still think they taste different.  So my retinas are wired to my taste buds.  I have stranger characteristics.

*** Spoiler alert: ARRRRRRRRRRRGH.

† Oh that old whine again

†† Did I tell you that Damien got out twice, weekend before last, and had a go at me both times?  I being so outrageous as to be outdoors at the time(s).  His garden now looks like a stage set for Les Miz and every time I have the unjustified temerity to emerge from some door or other I can hear him flinging himself passionately against the barricades whilst barking hysterically.  It’s surprising how beleaguered something that weighs about twenty pounds can make you feel.  I have to call the dog warden.  I keep putting it off.

††† I told you, didn’t I, that I had THREE supposed buyers ready to put in a bid I couldn’t possibly resist and wouldn’t want to, for Third House? And that I was perhaps cynical about this prospect?  Yep.  Not one of them showed.  Meanwhile I have—theoretically—a fourth. I’m not holding my breath.  I am getting on with clearing out the sheds^ so I can let^^ the freller.  Thank you God for Atlas^^^ and his trailer.

^ We’d done a first cut of most of the obvious stuff months ago. This was the stuff we didn’t know what to do with plus all the little bins and tins and boxes of gubbins that all of us accumulate in some area of our lives or other+:  for Peter it was tools and the toolshed.  So there are all these labels to collections of enigmatic bits in his handwriting.  Whimper.

+ Perhaps in some cases more than one area.  ::Whistles::

^^ rent

^^^ Who also could translate some of the labels. This was less useful than you might think since he didn’t want to throw anything out either.  ‘Oh, that’s a 1948 glimmigerthinggimerdoodah!  Haven’t seen one of those in decades! You can’t throw that out!’

‡ Um, ‘peace’?

‡‡ Popular fantasies include watching a nice fleet of dragons eating HM Revenue & Customs^ in its morbid entirety. Salt, pepper and Worcestershire sauce optional.

^ Remember this is a governmental department that levies custom charges on postage. And you know what overseas postage is like now?  If Abebooks doesn’t list it in the UK, forget it.

‡‡‡ I have perhaps mentioned how much I hate business admin of all varieties?

§ And the poor hellmob were downstairs howling to go for a hurtle. I crept down a couple of times and let them out into the garden for any urgencies. They didn’t want the garden, they wanted the hurtles they can usually depend on when I come home from having been AWAY FROM THEM FOR MORE THAN FIVE MINUTES.

§§ I did manage both my second ringing gig Sunday afternoon and singing for service Sunday evening. Because bodies are perverse, I was in what in my unfortunate case passes for good voice which amused me enough to cheer me up a little. Usually your throat says nooooooooo after a lot of unnecessary stomach acid has geysered through it.

§§§ But at least after this I got to sprint off and SEE MY MONK. I was supposed to meet him Saturday evening before the Saturday contemplative night prayer service but since I couldn’t stand up, um. My email telling him I couldn’t make it was probably the tersest of my entire life but at that point focussing my eyes on something like a computer screen WAS A VERY VERY BAD IDEA.


Soup etc [PINK *]

Because the title box won’t take colours?  WHY?  —ed

So I made a ginormous pot of soup. Duh. Now one is not at one’s best coming off a gratuitous insult to one’s body like stomach flu and I haven’t been at my best in some time full stop* but it’s like I couldn’t grasp the concept of vegan broth as being suitable for consideration.  Chicken soup and flat ginger ale for queasy stomachs.**  If you can’t have that you are lost utterly in a hostile wilderness of deep-fried crullers, Pringles and maraschino cherries.  It took several people posting or sending me either vegetable soup recipes or links to vegetable soup recipes for the tiny rattletrap cogs to connect and start clinking around in my brain.  Very, very slightly in my defense I fell out of the soup habit with a thud when my freezer died***, although it’s embarrassing to admit that when Georgia and Shea were here a couple of months ago and we were talking about food and cooking and related goals, I said my next ambition was to start making my own vegetable stock.†

Well. So I NOW HAVE A FREEZER.  What am I WAITING FOR.  So I made a ginormous stock pot of cabbage soup††, saved some for now, put the rest through the blender and put it in the shiny new freezer in useful little 1-cup wodges.  I’m so clever. And efficient.†††  With a little help from my friends.  To whom thanks all.

* * *

* However I am having my first voice lesson in yonks and yonks^ and I’m starting up with the Sam[aritans] too. I am GOING to have a life again.  I am.^^

^ I was trying to figure what to take in to Nadia. I’m still singing some of my favourite arias but it’s mostly folk songs.  And I realised with some embarrassment that the things I’m most likely not to screw up totally are a handful of hymns to folk-song tunes.  I think I’m trying to exorcise all that frelling Jesus Is My Boyfriend music that I not only sing but help lead every Sunday as an anti-crying device.  Okay, it does stop me crying, but At What Cost.

^^ Including writing stories. Not only because I need the money.  The thing from forty years ago that was derailing me?  It’s still derailing me.  It’s kind of interesting though.  Um.

** Or beef broth and Saltines, or whatever is the folk wisdom in your neck of the woods.^

^ Which is a bizarre phrase.  Just by the way.,5753,-22668,00.html%E2%80%8E

*** I live in a world of tiny autonomous under-counter appliances. When my freezer died it did not take my refrigerator with it.^

^ Although there have been some pretty redolent Appliance Follies concerning the Lodge. My little freezer died when I moved it to the Lodge—elderly freezers apparently don’t like being moved, I only need one (tiny) freezer and I’d rather have the space at the cottage for the hellterror’s crate.+  I had to buy a refrigerator and a washing machine for the Lodge anyway so what’s another expensive appliance when you’re running out of money.++  I found a fridge+++ and freezer I liked but the freezer was out of stock at my retailer of choice so I made the fatal error of trying to buy it from idiots who never consulted me about delivery but kept sending me chirpy emails saying, Your freezer is scheduled to be delivered between 5 am and 11 pm next Wednesday, please be there to let them in!  ARRRRRRGH.  Next Wednesday is not a good day, can we DISCUSS THIS PLEASE?  New chirpy email:  your freezer is scheduled to be delivered between 4:30 am and 11:34 pm next Friday, please be there to let them in!  I eventually frelling cancelled and then hung around till it came back in stock at the retailer with the customer service department which is what I should have done in the first place.++++

And then there was the washing machine chronicle. I had a fancy to have this effectively second washing machine big enough really to take a double duvet, instead of only pretending to be big enough in standard washing machine bumf.+++++  There are a few 10 kg machines around, but when you start trying to buy one it turns out there aren’t, unless you want to spend £15K on a gilt-edged one to match your gilt-edged twelve-burner Aga and your gilt-edged SUV that takes up two and a half parking spaces.  Well, maybe there are one or two for the hoi polloi.  I tried to buy one of these.  One of them turned out to be only 9 kg on closer inspection—truth in advertising, ahem—and then there was the fascinating two-for-one disappearing model.  Even customer service couldn’t figure this one out and had to ring me back.  Okay, it’s an old one and the new replacement model.  And the new replacement model has worse water and electricity ratings than the old one, because people with SUVs were complaining that the programmes take too long.  These people probably don’t believe in global warming either.  ARRRRRGH.

Oh, and neither model was available.

I think I made some snarling noises. And I think my customer service person was trying not to laugh.  Let me see what I can do, she said.

They found me a washing machine. One of the old slow eco-friendlier model.  And I haven’t tried a duvet yet but yes, the biggest of the hellmob beds fits.

+ Little did I know that the space situation was about to become acute after my plumbers laid £800 worth of useless pipe through my kitchen. Regular readers will remember this story.  Pretty much the entire available floor is now hellmob bedding, although this does make it more comfortable to lie down on when I’m having a bad day.  I am of course remarkably furry when I stand up again but Yeti answering the door when it’s someone who wants to sell me something# is quite useful for scaring them off.  If I’m having a bad day grunting in a Yeti-like manner, if they don’t scare fast enough, is easy too.

# Including God. I may have said this to you before?  I now wear a cross, and I find it disconcerting to be (metaphorically) embraced as a sister by the kinds of Christ merchants that cold call.  This usually makes the conversation shorter without any effort on my part because they bustle off to harangue someone less well defended, but occasionally they want to stay and chat about theology and . . . I don’t share much theology with my own congregation~, I do not want to get into sticky points of Scripture with random evangelical strangers at my door.

~ Hums a little tune and bends lower over her knitting

++ Because life is like this, I presently have three would-be buyers supposedly about to make me an offer on Third House.  After this particular bit of fatuity is over with# I’m going to take it off the market and let it.  Which is another saga.

# Which is to say that I am expecting offers of two shillings sixpence, two shillings eight pence, and one decision to move to the Caribbean.  But post-Brexit, I should be grateful that someone is willing to take it off my hands.  Um.  No.~

~ I will not get into all the interesting stories right now about the real estate market galumphing through the zeitgeist and trampling the slow and unwary under large hairy feet.

+++ Note that the new, CHEAP fridge is much nicer than the way more expensive one I bought for the cottage several years ago because several years ago we were apparently in an anti-under-counter appliance era and this was what I could get. Bosch is overrated:  pass it on.  Of course I don’t yet know how long the new CHEAP fridge is going to last, and the Bosch is now having its life shortened by hellmob bedding getting jammed up against its fan, motor, dorgligfast and gluppermeyer# which are of course floor level and exposed to the elements, including the 85% ambient fur and lots of well-scrabbled blankets.

# The hellterror has her butt squashed against the gluppermeyer right now. I’ll move her as soon as it starts making protesting noises.

++++ This is John Lewis, by the way, for British readers. I know they screw up too, but I’ve never had them not unscrew up, and they’ve had plenty of opportunity for me to put them on my (lengthy) pond scum list, and they’ve never taken it.

+++++ I’ve been cranky for years, since I’m good at cranky, that I had to buy an 8 kg drum machine when my old 6 died, because apparently they don’t make 6s any more.  I’m ONE PERSON.  I have an ENTIRE DRAWER of white t shirts because I RUN OUT before I have enough whites to fill a frelling 8 kg drum machine. ARRRRRGH.  And to add insult to injury, 8 kg is nothing LIKE big enough to wash a duvet.  Sure, you can cram it in, but it comes out in exactly the same folds and creases that you used to wedge it in in the first place and the only thing that’s clean is the soap dispenser.  The big proper dog beds won’t fit in either.  Most of my mob’s bedding is easy because it’s old blankets. Hairy but easy.  But the point of this story is that the cottage’s washing machine is too big for my ordinary purposes and too small for the extraordinary.  GOOD SYSTEM, WASHING MACHINE DESIGNERS.  MAY ALL YOUR BOTTLES OF WINE BE CORKED.

† I do not know why it is that proprietary stock pretty much always has Weird Crap in it, not, I realise, that the weirdness registers with normal humans. But hydrolized vegetable protein?  Are you freaking joking?  Even Kallo’s organic stock cubes have sugar in them three times,^ plus maize starch, which is evil.

^ Um, why??

†† Well, standard contents-of-refrigerator stock, you know? What’s in there that needs eating, especially after you’ve lost the plot a bit.  Cabbage, onion, carrot, celery, lovely Shiitake mushrooms^, the huge bag of fresh basil I was going to make pesto out of^^, and I forget what all.  Garlic.  Always garlic.  And a big handful of dry herbs for the last ten minutes.  The result was, if I do say so myself, rather delicious.

^ The anti-rheumatism diet doesn’t allow ordinary mushrooms but Shiitake are actually GOOD for you.

^^ I am motivated to make [vegan] pesto.  And I’m nearly through my last huge jar.


* This was supposed to have gone up last night, of course, and my so-called broadband connection wasn’t having any. ARRRRRGH.  Meanwhile it’s going up this late tonight because I had that FIRST VOICE LESSON today^ and it was EXCELLENT.  Not, I have to say, in terms of the beauty and accuracy of any noises I was making ::shudder:: but the excellence of being under Nadia’s tutelage again, and the way she starts sorting me out IMMEDIATELY, and sends me away with stuff I can do. This post is already too long, but let me just say in passing . . . as an anti-crying expedient, as previously observed, singing for service works a treat.  As a likelihood that stage nerves will make all my shutting-down and stiffening-up habits worse it’s a sure frelling thing.  Sigh. —ed

^ But by the time I got home not only was I STARVING+ the hellmob was all TAKE US OUT. TAKE US OUT NOW. WE’RE BORED. WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN.++

+ Singing is a sport. Like marathon running.

++ In the first place every road in the area is torn up for roadworks AND the main road is blocked because of some festering doodah festival so it took nearly twice as long both to get there and get back.  In the second place . . . the problem with Nadia’s new studio is that it requires me to drive past our excellent not-quite-local-enough-to-be-dangerous-except-if-I’m-going-to-see-Nadia rose nursery.  And I may have stopped and bought a rose.


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.=


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.

* * *


* 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 . . .

Life in the Real World Take Me Awaaaaaaaaay


Soooo, everyone remember my Niagara Falls leak? The water company—we will call them Sludge & Ganglion—sent me a letter last November, while I was a trifle preoccupied with my dying husband, saying that I had a humdinger of a puncture somewhere in the system and they were proposing to put my water bill up to £1,000,000,000.07 a month, unless of course I wanted to do something about it?  As I say, I was preoccupied, but early in in January, I was at the bank, whom I don’t think I have named in these pages, much as it deserves a name, something like Ordure, Funk & Weltschmerz, anyway, I was at the bank starting to deal with post-death and probate issues.  The woman who was trying to tease out into its component bits of blither and doodah the latest utter festering mess of the sort that Ordure and Funk’s vast groaning technology specialises in, said, Golly, the water company hates you, doesn’t it?  Because, as it turns out, Sludge & Ganglion had gone ahead and started charging me £1,000,000,000.07 without making any further attempt to contact me.  Thus getting our relationship about this matter off to a really great start when I rang up and SCREAMED.

Fast forward through the sixteen engineers and the woman back at base* who (apparently) kept sending orders for engineers to attend me and my leak. When I finally said I HAVE HAD SIX HUNDRED ENGINEERS, COULD WE STOP SOON PLEASE?, she said, you have? I have had no notification.  The next time one comes, she added, would you please tell me?  —thus demonstrating that Sludge & Ganglion’s internal communications are as fabulous as their customer relations.

Anyway. All seven hundred and twelve engineers’ tea leaves and Ouija boards agreed that the leak was my problem, not theirs.**  I have about as much faith in their diagnosis as I do in the latest Elvis sightings in bags of gladioli bulbs with pompadours, but my options are limited.  Whereupon began the epic search for a plumber who would touch the job of re-laying pipes and rerouting my water supply.***

Plumber eventually found, not without stress, misery, and the application to friends and acquaintances who have lived in this area for generations and are related to plumbers, and then weeks and weeks of nagging followed while I tried to convince him that NOW is an excellent time, ahead of the kamikaze S&G leak-mending squad and/or the next monthly bill for £1,000,000,000.07.  At least he answers his emails.  He just doesn’t say what I want to hear.

This past Monday I got a sudden email saying he’d be here Wednesday. Erm, wha’, eh?  I mean, GREAT.  WEDNESDAY.  I’ll tell the woman In Charge of My Case who likes sending engineers, and whom no one tells anything.

Oh, and? I have to clear one entire wall of my kitchen because they’re frelling going to run those new water pipes first up the front of the house† and then indoors along the skirting board.  This beats peeling up my floors by a substantial margin†† but it is still not ideal. And clearing that wall involves the washing machine, the refrigerator, the hellterror’s crate and her in it since I’m certainly not going to have her underfoot with plumbers with soldering irons kneeling at hellterror level AND A SIX FOOT BY THREE FOOT BY TWO FOOT††† TALLBOY CHEST OF DRAWERS, every micron of whose drawers are crammed, as I’m sure you will believe, with stuff.  And the sitting room—and the stairs, and the upstairs hall, and my bedroom and office—are also CRAMMED, with boxes of further stuff from Third House.‡

But never mind the rest of the house.  Calling what my kitchen looks like at present the result of a global cataclysm only hints at the scene.‡‡

So. Wednesday.  Plumbers were TWO AND A HALF HOURS LATE.‡‡‡  You know in this modern world of mobile phones there’s not a huge amount of excuse for not ringing and keeping people waiting for you abreast of the situation????  Plumbers like their mystery I guess.  These plumbers eventually arrived.  Plumbers drilled holes, making moon-crater holes in my plaster which I assume Atlas can mend, laid slender, relatively tactful copper pipes, and made horrible pongs with their soldering.§ Of course they didn’t finish, so they were coming back Thursday to finish the job.

They were only forty-five minutes late on Thursday. Yaay.  They finished all the pipe-laying, pong-making and crater-provoking, and collected respectfully around the meter in the street for the Big Moment, when they turned off the water while they diverted the whatever-the-turkey so the water would now flow through the new, please God leak-free, pipes.

I was indoors, but I heard the sound of the voices in the street change from plumbers going about their plumbing to bemusement and consternation. At which point I clocked that there was a new voice added to the throng, that of my semi-detached neighbour, Phineas.


Work re-begins on Monday. I may have run away to Tashkent by then.  I think the hellmob might enjoy Tashkent.  I’m not up for enjoying anything right now.

* * *

* And the jolly jolly jolly merry go round of the official Sludge & Ganglion robot email sending me a phone number that didn’t work^ thus putting me back at the BOTTOM of the frelling queue again trying make contact with the correct cabal of the customer persecution unit.

^ ‘This phone number is currently out of service. So sorry for any inconvenience’

** Just by the way, if you don’t have house insurance that will cover it, Sludge & Ganglion will provide one free leak mend.  THANK YOU GOD FOR PETER MAKING ME GET COMPREHENSIVE HOUSE INSURANCE THAT COVERS STUFF LIKE PERSONAL MANIFESTATIONS OF NIAGARA FALLS.  The mere idea of letting a gang of S&G’s buffoons loose in my house might cause heart failure in someone who hadn’t given up chocolate and champagne and whose mighty leafy-green-vegetable-fuelled strength is unassailable.^

^ I hope.

*** The leak itself has been declared essentially unfindable, because they would have to drag my house out by the roots and hold it overhead while they fossicked down through the cellar’s worth of builder’s rubble under the ‘ground’ floor of my house which is up a flight of stairs, to actual ground level.  As I have probably said on these literal pages before, if I ever found myself with more money than sense^ I’d hire someone to cut a door-shaped hole in the genuine ground floor outside wall of my house at the foot of the stair, yank out all the builder’s rubble and give me a cellar.^^

^ A lot more money than sense.  Amassment of sense is not a good measure of largeness in my case.

^^ I could keep BACKLIST in my cellar.

† So decorative and beautifying. Also, while it’s lagged—by a large brown plastic hangar that is really eye-woundingly beautiful:  maybe I can grow a Virginia Creeper over the thing, rose bushes have way too many gaps for satisfactory coverage—if the extreme-weather theory about global warming comes to southern England I could be in a lot of disagreeable frozen trouble.

†† Which is what happened to one of my ghoulish informants. AND THE FLOORS HAVE NEVER BEEN THE SAME AGAIN, he finished with relish.

††† And speaking of the criticalness of size, I still don’t have a refrigerator and freezer for the Lodge.  The gaps for these, both little under-counter items, are quite small, or perhaps under-counter appliances have grown since the two-owners-ago remodelled the kitchen, and my choices are limited.  And the ones I want are out of stock. And have I mentioned recently^ that I have people coming to STAY at the Lodge in . . . about a fortnight?  Who may conceivably want to, you know, eat, or at least have somewhere to keep a bottle of milk since I won’t have the nasty stuff in my house.  Although that’s chiefly because I don’t have room. I’m still schlepping up to Third House for my second organic grocery delivery of the week because my little under-counter-sized^^ fridge at the cottage can’t hold an entire week’s worth of mad vegetarian’s dark leafy super-powered greens.  Which use of Third House’s facilities is, I might add, a deeply depressing business, a kind of whoring:  I don’t love you, but I will use you(r refrigerator).  If I had more money than God has angels I would keep Third House, and the lovely new attic with the view down the garden . . . I could rent it while I figure out what I’m doing with my life, no, no, no, we are NOT THINKING ABOUT THIS.

Third House is now officially on the market. The housecleaners came and did the hey-wow-scouring thing last week.  But it’s still not frelling empty, and both the cottage and the Lodge are FULL. Meanwhile on cue the real estate market has died, while everyone worries about whether we’re going to stay in or get out of the EU, and what that will mean to little things like the economy.  And real estate values.  Guys. You do still have to live somewhere.

^ No, because I haven’t mentioned anything recently

^^ It’s not, strictly speaking, under-counter because it is the counter

‡ Including awful awful awful amounts of backlist.  Never mind that I am a collector and a hoarder.  It’s the backlist that makes my life unsupportable. Ha ha ha ha, sway-backed creaking floors anyone.

‡‡ This is one of those occasions when you’re way better off with dogs as live-in companions than humans. This way there’s only I pacing the floors and moaning like an unquiet ghost . . . no, wait, there are no floors available for pacing.  Perching on my kitchen stool above the battle zone, wringing my hands, dorking at the keyboard and moaning like an unquiet ghost.  The hellmob do not care. This is so fabulous I almost care less. I did think the hellterror might object to being exiled into the sitting room, especially since her crate is now kind of Gollum’s cave at the bottom of the Misty Mountains, but she’s all, is there FOOOOOOD?  My crate usually has FOOOOOOOOD.  There’s FOOOOOOOOD?  Then I am cool.  The hellhounds, of course, love everybody, including kneeling plumbers with soldering irons.^

^ I signed up for the 1-2 am slot of the forty-hour Pentecost vigil at St Margaret’s Thursday night. I took the hellhounds with me since I am a little twitchy about being all alone in an open, lit-up church in the middle of the night, but in fact if anyone of dubious provenance wandered in the hellhounds would want to be best friends.  However I was very glad of them when the 2 am vigilante did not show up and—hey, you know, it’s a vigil and it doesn’t count if no one’s there—I stayed on, with sleeping hellhounds—er, heavenhounds—keeping my feet warm WHY ARE CHURCHES ALWAYS SO COLD—I don’t suppose Jesus would have minded if I got down on the floor with them and draped them more comprehensively about my person, but I didn’t.  However I was wondering if Buck would kill me if, when the 3 am person didn’t show up either, I went round to the vicar’s house behind the church and knocked on the door.  Then Buck showed up as the 3 am person.  With a very, very, very large mug of coffee.  And I went home.  Yaay.  Alight with holiness.  Well something kept me awake for the drive.

‡‡‡ Meanwhile I was supposed to be meeting the estate-agent photographer up at Third House, having let the plumbers in to the cottage, but there were as yet no plumbers to let in.  So I rang the estate agent and asked for a favour, that one of them meet the photographer . . . and then I sprinted round the block with the increasingly cross-legged hellmob and arrived home to a phone message that the photographer was going to be late, and when I rang the estate agent who was supposed to be waiting at Third House already, he wasn’t answering his mobile AAAAAAAUGH so I then sprinted up to Third House with hellhounds, who thought we were having a really splendid adventure, AND HE WASN’T THERE.  AAAAAAAAAAAUGH.^

^ I also had a long-previously-booked probate-and-taxes appointment with the accountants that afternoon AND a meeting of the local alternative-practitioners group in the evening, who were going to be talking about homeopathy, and who were allowing unconsecrated members of the public past their august portals for some reason.  But the point is I don’t have days like this.

§ Hellhounds withdrew to the back of their crate and made snorting noises.

§§ And the tallboy will no longer fit in its corner, but has to sit a couple of inches farther into the room. In a room this small containing a tallboy this large this is a pivotal strategic consideration. There was language and maybe a few tears.^

^ And yes, I had to take all the (full) drawers out to move the sucker.

POSTSCRIPT: And as I, perhaps unwisely, have been putting my kitchen back together again since the cataclysm should be over in here and the next area to be sacked and ravaged is my garden, I discover that the new location of the tallboy means that the hellterror’s crate no longer fits where it used to go, and if I push it back so the door opens wide enough that her little square self fits through and I can get my shoulders in to change bedding and sweep . . . the back end jams against the fuse box and the WASHING MACHINE DOOR WILL ONLY OPEN HALF WAY.

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