November 21, 2016

The Return of Wolfgang

 

This should have gone up last night, of course—one rarely ransoms cars from garages on Sundays—and today got away from me as my days so often do. I should perhaps adopt an acronym:  TSHGULNOC, which sounds a little like something out of HP Lovecraft says just before it eats you. Some day if I ever get my act together Raphael is going to commute me to another internet provider, and we will see if I spend less time waiting for things to load with my fingers in my ears so I can’t hear myself screaming.  Meanwhile:  TSHGULNOC.

 * * *

I have a car! I have a car! YAAAAAAAAAY!

I got home last night after dinner* to a brief laconic phone message from the garage. ‘Give us a ring when you have a minute.’  ARRRRRRRRGH.  Can’t they just tell me??   But I assumed the not telling me, the terseness and the . . . er . . . what’s the noun form of ‘laconic’? . . . the laconia, the laconitry, were not a good omen.

This morning I left** before even a garage is likely to be open, to go to Mass*** and decided just for laughs to take a detour on the way home, I might as well make them look me in the eye when they told me they could probably get to my car in January.†  So I braced myself not to burst into tears and lie down on the floor and drum my heels . . . and first I couldn’t find anyone to ask and I figured they’d seen me coming and were hiding, and then when I did find someone they still wouldn’t meet my eyes but they said (laconically), oh, it’s all done.  You can have it now.

YAAAAAAAAAY.

Apparently what happened—although garage men tend to be Of Few Words††, I may have a better version from Morag when she’s back in the office next week—is that they were failing to locate a new pedal box††† and on closer examination the pedal box breakage was less drastic than feared and they said oh piffle let’s just weld‡ the sucker, and they did.

YAAAAAAAAAAY.

I was so excited that when I arrived home‡‡ I threw the hellhounds in the back seat and we shot off to . . . somewhere. Anywhere.  We had a proper hurtle over the countryside for the first time in yonks, which has less to do with Wolfgang than with my interesting energy levels or lack thereof.  We were already on the road before I thought about where we were going, and I decided on Ditherington where we used to hurtle frequently and haven’t been . . . all this year, I think, which means over a year, because I pretty much stopped superfluous driving after Peter’s second stroke and I was spending all available time wherever he was.  Ditherington looked pretty good and the hellhounds were thrilled.‡‡‡

And then we came home and the hellterror had her own epic hurtle across more dangerously local countryside, which I’m willing to risk on a nice Saturday afternoon because I can pick her up if there are problems.§

I even did a little gardening.§§  Reclaiming a member of the family is very energizing.§§§  YAAAAAAAY.  WOLFGANG.

* * *

* And while I’m celebrating I also want to celebrate that I’ve eaten in restaurants twice this week^ and I’m still alive. There are no fresh bits falling off that I’ve noticed and I haven’t broken out in a scaly rash that makes me look like a diseased turbot.  There is hope.

^ Where the people in the kitchen may be injecting secret cow feta into the crab salad.+

+ I was talking to someone about the somewhat retro manager of a local food bank—have I told you I’m planning to do Pitch a Foodstuff in a Box Every Day for Advent# and then donate box and contents to a food bank?—whose attitude toward the undeserving poor is that if they’re hungry they’ll eat it.## Uh huh.  Tell that to someone with a peanut allergy.  Hey, tell it to someone who’s allergic to cow feta.  She won’t die, but she will rip your face off.

# You will remember that I have been heaping righteous scorn on the designers, the gift-buyers, and the clueless, superficial and self-indulgent recipients of Advent calendars dedicated to beauty products or whisky or hamsters or something? I have had my comeuppance.  There’s a yarn Advent calendar.  No, no, no, no.  It’s okay though.  It’s way too expensive.  And furthermore the yarn is acrylic. BUT I BET YOU COULD MAKE A REALLY CUTE BABY BLANKET FOR CHARITY OUT OF TWENTY-FOUR SQUARES OF ADVENT CALENDAR YARN.~

~ And someone can explain to me why Advent calendars only have twenty four windows when Advent starts some time before that.  This year apparently on 27 November.  Presumably I start my food box on the 27th even though I don’t have any fun till the 1st of December.=

= Although since I’m planning to do readings out of THE ROADS FROM BETHLEHEM https://www.amazon.co.uk/Roads-Bethlehem-Christmas-Literature-Writers/dp/0664221572/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1479600578&sr=8-1&keywords=road+from+bethlehem which Alfrick loaned me his old, well-loved copy of to shut me up about my latest opportunity for outrage, the Shocking Commercialisation of Advent.  What’s next?  Give your sweetheart a dozen chocolate pencils for Punctuation Day? . . . ANYWAY.  Since I’m planning to declaim to the hellmob, the Aga and the indoor jungle I could start that on the 27th too.

## I’m sure there’s a place in the new American cabinet for this moron. Health and human services possibly.  Or education.

** And a word here for St Admetus. He’s been letting me drive his car. The only drawback to this fabulous, beyond-my-wildest-imaginings situation is that Fleur is new.^  You will remember that one of the reasons I want to keep my ancient, beat-up car is that any car that lived with me would become ancient and beat-up pretty fast.  It’s very hard on a person trying to behave in a drastically out of character a manner . . . although in my defence a lot of Wolfgang’s more interesting impairments have to do with inadequately maintained back country roads and I wouldn’t DREAM of taking Fleur anywhere but on flawlessly paved roads, or as frelling flawlessly as the frelling Hampshire county council can provide which isn’t blistering very. But there are one or two other variations like the fact that her brakes are DELICATE.  You speak to them sweetly and for pity’s sake don’t actually step on them.  I did eventually stop throwing myself through the windscreen.^^ . . . Which meant that when I got behind the more robust and jolly Wolfgang’s wheel again I was all WHERE ARE THE BRAAAAAAAAAKES.

The other high point was arriving with Fleur at my late-night shift at the Sams and not being able to pull the frelling ignition key out of the frelling ignition.

^ She’s also shiny and WHITE. Admetus washes his car+.  Fancy.  But anything I come in contact with staggers away from the encounter covered in mud and dog hair.  Although I may be doing the hellmob an injustice.  I think I must produce dog hair too.  Hmmmm.

+ Have I mentioned that Wolfgang now has Herb Robert growing in the crack between the windscreen and the hinge of the bonnet?

^^ Fortunately modern flexi-plast windscreens don’t star on impact very easily.

*** Before I realised the extent to which St Admetus is willing to sacrifice himself on the altar of friendship I’d been telling myself that it was not the end of the world^ if I didn’t make it to Mass^^ this week.^^^  The result is this is now the second week in a row that I’ve gone both to morning Mass and the night contemplative service on Saturday, pant, gasp, whiplash, due to circumstances beyond my control.  God likes her little joke.

^ That would have been 8 November

^^ Jonesing for the Eucharist. Go Jesus.

^^^ I’d been trying to figure out the festering bus schedule. The buses between here and Mauncester in one direction and Opprobrium in the other are pretty reliable.  But if you want to peel off in a funny direction from the main route, like, say, Dreepworth, which is a village of about three, plus some monks well back among the trees+, there are rumours of a local bus but no one knows anything about it.  It is not encouraging that it is further rumoured to stop at the ski lodge and the planetarium.  Dreepworth does not have a ski lodge or a planetarium.

+ And a big sign that says WELCOME. I like that sign.

† Since I was there I thought the least I could do was fill up the petrol tank. You have to release the lock, said the helpful petrol-pump man. RELEASE?  THE LOCK??  We had to get the frelling handbook out to find the frelling petrol-tank release latch ARRRRRRRGH.  Admetus thought this was very funny.^  I had to tell him since the first thing he said was, how did you find the petrol tank release?

^ Hey. I’d written down the mileage and the litres because I knew Admetus is the kind of OCD git . . . I mean, the kind of thoughtful, responsible car owner+ who keeps track of such things.  GIVE ME SOME CREDIT HERE.

+ Yes. Admetus usually reads the blog.

†† I should perhaps specify intelligible words.  Paxton is usually happy to explain exactly what happened in great detail, except that I don’t know any of the words he’s using, since they have to do with cars and I pretty much stop with ‘steering wheel’ and ‘rear view mirror’.

††† Those Fijians really like their pristine showcases.

‡ Welding. You youngsters may not have heard of this interesting ploy.  It’s something you can do to old cars which are still mostly made out of metal.^

^ Except the FENDERS. Which are made out of plastic-coated papier mache and fall off at a TOUCH.  There is a humiliating story about this in the archives somewhere.

‡‡ Admetus having given me a lift back out to Warm Upford to fetch Wolfgang

‡‡‡ Although the reason Ditherington began to fall out of favour in the first place is because the local gamekeeper is/was a ratbag sod. He’s the one responsible, for example, for the line of guns across a public footpath one shooting season which is frankly illegal, and which the hellhounds and I walked straight into because you’re coming out of a copse into a field and you have no warning what you’re getting into unless they’re actually firing which I am glad to say they weren’t.  And I grew very tired of him snapping and snarling for no reason but that he was in a nasty mood and didn’t like old women walking their dogs.  If someone could tell me he now has a job wrestling alligators in Florida, and that the new keeper prefers to sit on a hay bale and knit, I would be very happy.

§ We had an absolutely classic run in with an off lead dog. It was coming down the hill on lead to our right as we carried on straight ahead along the footpath. The idiot woman saw us. I saw her seeing us. And the moment we were out of sight behind the fence she let Throgmorton off the lead and he instantly hared after us, coming around the corner on one leg and a tail. CALL YOUR DOG, I said, scooping up the meanest SOB in the valley.  Throgmorton was about the size of an SUV and I was considering climbing the fence—with an armful of Meanest SOB—when Idiot Woman came panting around the corner and did, in fact, catch her abominable dog.

§§ It started to rain as I was putting on my pink wellies. I heard Peter’s voice in my ear saying It’s not wet rain and went out anyway.

§§§ Really I’m on a roll. I bounced through not one but two social occasions last night—first catching up with Ceridwen and Vidhya and the little frumplet^ and then dinner with Nina and Ignatius. Hey, wouldn’t it be great if I were just getting stronger? Yes. It would be great. ^^

^ Who will soon grow out of the fabulous baby blanket he hasn’t received

^^ Maybe I could even get more than three syllables a day of story-in-progress written. That would be GREAT.

Tragedy

[This was supposed to go up last night, of course. Technology is so not my friend.  And today has been complex.]

Wolfgang died.* Waaaaaaaaaaaah.

And it’s Saturday night, I can’t ring the garage till Monday.** I’m wild-eyed, hair-sticking-out terrified that it’s the kind of serious that means ‘not worth mending in a twenty year old car’. I DON’T WANT A NEW CAR. And that’s aside from my interesting cash flow problem, which is to say lack of flow.  I own three blinging blanging doodah frelling houses, but keeping the hellmob and me fed*** is much more unpleasantly exciting than nourishing and jolly.  I like my excitement in stories. I like food† just to be there.††  NEW CAR???  Not in this reality.  So, okay, after last Tuesday I wouldn’t at all mind being transferred to some other reality. . . .

I finally got some sleep last night.††† I hadn’t had anything even close to resembling sleep since the beginning of the week—I’d had a late Sam shift and then I stayed up watching the returns ohGodohGodohGodohGod when the world as I thought I knew it ended Tuesday night.  It’s very hard to sleep when the world is a suddenly stranger and scarier place—I’d never thought it was exactly safe, but I thought there were some limits—and there’s an evil asshole about to destroy the country of your birth.‡  Friday I even blew off handbells. Shock.  Horror.  I did go, but I fell apart at the tea break and spent the rest of the evening knitting.‡  And scowling.‡‡  Hey, there were four ringers without me, and major (eight) is a lot easier than royal (ten).  I WAS DOING THEM A FAVOUR.  Especially because Niall makes me ring inside.‡‡‡  So maybe it was the handbells that broke me.  Whatever.  I came home and slept.

And so managed to scrape myself out of bed in time to go to morning Mass. I had decided that God was just going to have to forgive me for a week I didn’t make it to morning Mass, if she wanted me at morning Mass she could have made Hillary win.§  The problem with Saturday morning Mass is that I will then turn around and hare back out to the abbey for the Saturday night prayer service with the half hour silent sit beforehand§§.  Twice in a day and it’s like I can begin to discern tatty black robes swishing around my ankles.§§§  But Wolfgang and I toodled home after the night service, and I was feeling as mellow as I ever do, especially since last Tuesday, and I had just backed into our parking space and I was throwing the clutch out to roll forward a few inches so that I could still get at my bins and my garden shed and the clutch pedal shot into the floor and stayed there.

Waaaaaaaaaaaaah.£

* * *

* It has so not been a good week.

** Okay, I could ring the garage.  But no one would answer.

*** Especially since all of us but the bullie have stringent dietary constraints. Pav only requires that she be able to get her mouth around it.  When this proves to be an item of hellgoddess clothing there is domestic drama.

† and books. And yarn

†† The bullie is with me on this. The hellhounds would much prefer food not to be there.

††† Meanwhile I have another half done post, this one about my Realio Trulio Finished Knitting Project^, but the project will stay finished so I can come back to my unfinished blog about it later.^^

^ It’s about as dead boring as a Knitting Project can be but it is finished. Which makes it automatically glorious and fascinating within my knitting life.+

+ I have now reverted to the feltable wool that is going to become a series of grotty little bags, the important one being destined to carry super long knitting needles. Does anyone else have needles that are too long to fit in any standard knitting needle containers?#   I suppose I could just stick them in a vase but most of my vases are full of dried roses from various occasions.##   But between needing a bag pole-vaulting pole length and not being sure how much the thing is going to shrink when I felt it, people keep mistaking the long thin item coiling off my lap for a scarf.  Several scarves.  Several Doctor Who scarves.

There are two reasons I’m back to my felting-in-their-future bags over all the other unfinished knitting projects lying about the place.  The first one is that I really like rectangles. I really, really like rectangles. You know, no shaping, no frelling counting. You just knit.  And knit.  And knit.###

The other reason is that I do a lot of knitting after morning Mass, when you can sit around with a cup of tea and chat with monks and anyone else from the congregation desirous of caffeine and possibly a little time to slot back into normal life.#### And, aside from all the jokes about knitting long johns for monks#####, one of the monks, whom we will call Aloysius, has decided that I never finish anything and demands proof that this is not true.  Uh oh.  So, I figured, felting might disguise some of my inevitable irregularities, if I’m going to have to pass the object in question around to an assembly.  An assembly of jocular monks. I mean, I’m not exactly reliable, even on rectangles.

# No, of course not. Everyone but me knits on circulars. Uggggggh.  SOMEBODY (else) must knit on super-long straights OR THEY WOULDN’T SELL THEM, right?

## Yes. I save empty champagne bottles too~.  And one or three bottles that once contained spectacular reds.  Including my first experience of Vieux Telegraph, which put Peter’s beloved strong, leathery French reds~~ on my, you should forgive the term, radar.  That was on our honeymoon in Cornwall.  Sigh.

~ Some of these are also full of dried roses.

~~ I AM NOT GOING TO TOUCH the whole Rhone/Bordeaux/Burgundy/claret thing. Among other reasons because I don’t understand it.  But Peter could pick out one of these gorgeous items from the brambly, brain-stabbing boscage of a wine list while I sat back contentedly and waited for my glass to be filled.

### Yes. I’m a process knitter.  More finished objects would be nice, but it’s the knitting that’s important.  Although the fact that my finished objects tend to be pathetic may have something to do with my attachment to process.

#### If going to Mass doesn’t rattle your cage, you’re not paying attention.

##### Which would be a VERY GOOD THING in that chapel, but it would be kind of a pity to cover up the orange, yellow, pink, purple, blue, scarlet and lime green wool I’m using. If they’d agree to raise their hemlines an inch or two . . . it doesn’t have to be a lot . . .

^^ With dead boring photos.

‡ [with vast reluctance this rude and ribald footnote concerning a prominent evil asshole has been excised for fear of legal reprisals SIIIIIIIIIIIGH.]

‡‡ Knitting when I’m brain dead could have some impact on why my FOs tend to be pathetic.  I’M A PROCESS KNITTER.  SO WHATEVER.

‡‡ I’m still in black. I could do this for quite a while.  When I was younger and less haggard I wore a lot of black, and I Never Throw Anything Out.  So I still have . . . a lot of black.  I’d forgotten.  I’m quite glad to see some of it.  Perhaps not all at once.

‡‡‡ All right, ringing ‘inside’ is more fun. You know, like walking across Niagara on dental floss is fun.  The first pair (. . . of bells) and the last pair are usually the easiest of any method—‘easiest’ being relative, there is NOTHING ABOUT handbells that is easy, except maybe the sitting down in the warm part, which is the single thing that handbells have over tower bells, which tend to occur in gelid towers—and the inside pairs are the ones that dance the hokey cokey with your brain and leave you with footprints on your grey matter.

§ I have a great idea! Let’s all pray that the electoral college vote to DO AWAY WITH THEMSELVES, AND HILLARY WINS RETROACTIVELY ON THE POPULAR VOTE.

§§ It’s a ratbag that Saturday night tends to be popular for live entertainment. Three of us went to KISS ME KATE last Saturday and it was very, very well done . . . and I’d forgotten how frelling ANNOYING it is because I only remember how great the tunes are.  I should have stayed home and gone to the monks.

§§§ Okay. Black is good.

£ Also, who wants a new car when their old one is kind and thoughtful enough to break down in his own driveway? Aside from . . . £££££££££££

* * *

SUNDAY NIGHT UPDATE: I spent an hour on the phone to the RAC^ this afternoon trying to extricate myself from being the add-on to Peter’s membership, siiiiiiigh, the things that frelling ambush you, I hadn’t wasted a single thought on the likely status of my RAC membership all this year, till last night.  And as so often this year dealing with Corporate Great Britain, the individual human beings were friendly and helpful^^ BUT THE ADMIN IS A NIGHTMARE.  But they eventually beat their data base into submission and sent me a person. The person was about seven feet tall, eight feet wide, covered with tattoos, and looked like he probably juggled blue whales before breakfast. EEEEEEEEEEEEEK.  He was also very nice.  He said ‘broken pedal box’, whatever the doodah that means, but it sounds less threatening than ‘whole new clutch assembly’ which was what I was afraid of, because that was going to be the moment when everyone, beginning with the guys at the Warm Upford garage who have kept Wolfgang on the road the last twenty years, tell me helpfully that it’s not worth it for a twenty year old car.  LET ME GO ON THINKING THAT ‘BROKEN PEDAL BOX’ IS NOT THE END OF THE LINE. And Mr Tattoo DROVE Wolfgang out to Warm Upford with a note from me to stick through the garage office door for Monday morning.  He DROVE Wolfgang without a clutch.  Gibber gibber gibber, I said . . . and then it occurred to me that once in days very, very much gone by, I knew how to drive an elderly, persnickety vehicle without a working clutch.  And the person who taught me this interesting skill—this being about thirty years before internet searches—may be reading this blog.  ::Waves::

Stay tuned. And anyone of a praying persuasion, pray for Warm Upford to say ‘no problem.’  I’ll worry later about the six weeks that it’s going to take to import the last in existence new pedal box for a twenty-year-old Golf from Viti Levu.  I might have to start taking daytime Sam duties, when the buses are running.  No!  No!  Anything but daytime duties!

^ I have no idea what RAC stands for, but they’re the UK Ghostbusters+ of broken-down cars.

+ Who you gonna call?

^^ Um, mostly. I think one of them had had a late Samaritan shift last night and hadn’t had enough sleep.

 

Time, time

 

Yes, two days, um, nights, in a row, posting to the blog.  It won’t last.  But I don’t want to leave that evil asshole on the opening screen of my blog for any longer than necessary:  Twenty-four hours is plenty.  But . . . having just mentioned him, here on what will now become the opening page, does that mean I have to write again tomorrow?  Hmmmm.

Time, time, was one of Peter’s phrases.  I cannot believe how much time time TIME TIIIIIIME it takes just adding one thing back into your weekly schedule.  Um.  Maybe two.  Well, maybe three.  Trying to wake the blog up counts, or counted, till the malnutrition and bronchitis splintered me, and it will count again.*  I wasn’t committed to going to Mass with my monks once a week when I was last having weekly voice lessons and Samaritan shifts either.  If Nadia insists on keeping me in a late-morning slot it makes the juggling act even more extreme because I can’t go to morning Mass and make it to the other end of the frelling country** for a voice lesson and the drive would wreck the fragile post-Mass serenity*** although it might have been interesting to discover what effect chanting penitential rites would have as warm-up to singing Mozart.  However all such questions have been set aside as I croaked through recent weeks.  I need to hustle Nadia now however in the hopes of a lesson or two before Christmas shuts all such trifles and fripperies down†:  I would like to be able to scare people on the other side of a small room with my carol singing, and all stresses, including trivialities like legal suits by the local crown court and bronchitis, make my voice go into hiding-behind-the-parapet-and-squeaking mode.

But how to begin to catch up, or slot back in, with the blog and any readers who haven’t given me up as a lost cause? The daily adventure of the hellmob?  Singing dismal and maudlin folk songs whilst hurtling?  Conversations with Peter?††  KNITTING?†††  Bell ringing?‡  The failure of Third House to sell and the oh-God-details-I-hate-details of trying to prep it to let for a year or two and see where the foaming tides of Brexit may have left us by then?  I think I need to slip into the blogging business again gently.

* * *

* IT CERTAINLY DOES. I’D FORGOTTEN HOW LONG WRITING A POST TAKES.^  Also I may have an ulterior motive.  Mwa hahahahahaha.

^ And I’m out of practise trying to herd footnotes. Which make cats or bell ringers or Sam volunteers+ or hellmobs look like a doddle.

+ Or St Margaret’s band members for the evening service. At least summer is over#, when there were Sundays we were getting by with three. When one of the three is you it’s a lot harder to pretend that strange background keening noise isn’t you singing.

# Aaaaaaaand . . . still no probate.~ Less than a month to the first anniversary of Peter’s death.  Just by the way.~~

~ The latest interesting development from my delightful bank’s closing my private nothing-to-do-with-my-husband account and stealing all my money last May is that some of the direct debits that they killed and then reinstated . . . re-died, to coin a term. Only about a third of them did reinstate, and I’m still struggling to keep up with all the stuff I haven’t had to think about every frelling ratblasted month, because I can’t INAUGURATE ANY NEW DIRECT DEBITS TILL I’M OUT OF PROBATE but I assumed those that had successfully reconnected would STAY reconnected?  Noooooooo.  That would be too simple.

~~ THIS IS ONLY THE FIRST FOOTNOTE AND I’M ALREADY OUT OF CONTROL.

** Anything over five miles is my idea of the other end of the frelling country, and this would be nearly thirty miles. I’m pretty used to the commute to my monks but Nadia has moved to Somerset.  Nearly.  The Somerset that is the opposite direction from my monks, if you follow me, so if I were pelting from monks to Nadia I’d have to squeal back through New Arcadia on the way.  Feh.

*** IF I WEREN’T WIRED OUT OF MY TINY MIND it might not be quite so fragile. Remember that the area court in Greater Footling wanted to sue me for non-payment of council tax?  And that I had sorted this out?  You didn’t think that was the end of it, did you?  No, of course not, you are intelligent grown ups with your own stories to tell about local government.  I then received another letter from the Greater Footling court system thanking me for paying up till 1 October, but that they still want me to pay up to the end of the year or they were going to sue me anyway.  Point one:  all three houses were, as of my at that time most recent conversation with the local council, paid up to 1 September. Greater Footling, for reasons best known to itself, is only suing me for the Lodge.  The local clerk in theory had removed the whole court-case thing because my situation is unusual, and she explained that if you fall behind on your council tax they will demand you pay up to the end of the year. What? Whose bright idea was that?  Most people fall behind because they’re having cash flow problems, not because they’re in probate, their bank is heli-skiing with their money, and all real-world business admin makes them cry.  So you sue someone for more money because they’ve already graphically demonstrated they don’t have enough money?  Is the government trying to make people homeless?  Or oblige them to feed their children out of the dustbins behind Macdonalds?

But perhaps I digress. I have already referred (repeatedly) to the fact that the last two or so months have been prey to a broad spectrum of diversions, and one of the results of this is that I didn’t pay the October house tax instalments on the first of the month like a good little anal-retentive control-freak stooge would.^  Midway through the month when my legs were working better and I was coughing less and I really was going to go tackle the city council AGAIN because I’d had NO paperwork yet and according to the clerks, this being one of the few things that, over the months, everybody I saw agreed on, I should receive individual monthly invoices reminding me in the politest possible way^^ that I was due to open a vein for the benefit of the council office again, and specifying the quantity they planned to tap. . . . Now I repeat that midway through the month I had had NO PAPERWORK concerning my monthly council tax bills.

Then I received three envelopes from the city council on the same day.  Declaring that I was in arrears.  And for the three houses that all come due on the same date, remember the SAME DATE thing, organised to make it easier for me, a bear of very, very little brain?  Yes?  You remember? . . . for these three simultaneously-due houses I received two first reminders and one second reminder. So with the mind-bendiness of the simultaneity situation I can also remark that the paperwork I hadn’t received included the first reminder for the third house.  Except it wasn’t for Third House, it was . . . oh, never mind.

^ My biases may be showing. But what would you rather expend your even-more-than-usually frustratingly limited energy on, friends you don’t see often enough or possibly haven’t seen in years, OR paying your frelling council tax?  Anyone who says, oooh, I’d pay my tax, of course, is banned forever from this blog.  I’d further suggest that I’m going to sneak into your house and hide your chequebook, except that nobody but the elderly hopeless like me uses cheques any more.

^^ HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

† With my voice, voice lessons are unequivocally trifling fripperies

†† I’m becoming pretty shameless about this. The locals can just get used to the scraggy old lady chatting away hard to a rose stuck in the ground in a corner between two sarcophagi.  The hellmob has.

††† I certainly must tell you about THE THING I ACTUALLY FINISHED.

† I’m still all in black. I got up this morning, late, having once again watched the dawn come up before I got to sleep, stared at the clean laundry I haven’t put away yet^, and reached for the black jeans and cardi I’d been wearing yesterday.  I went bell ringing at Crabbiton tonight and the other American eyed me and said, so, are you in mourning?  Yes, I said.  And then we did some wailing and bitching about the evil asshole before we got down to the serious business of trying to weasel out of ringing at Madhatterington on Sunday morning, Madhatterington’s bells being not only possessed by demons but they sound like a train wreck, so the ringers’ agonies aren’t even worthwhile.

^ I usually only bother to put away stuff I don’t wear that often. Something I’m going to wear again in the next day or three, why waste the time?  I only need half the bed to sleep in.

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.

^^^^ Bottom line: YOU DO HAVE TO EAT SOMETHING.

** 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.

§§§§ I can wait! I CAN WAIT! I CAN WAAAAAAAAAIT!

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. https://www.theguardian.com/notesandqueries/query/0,5753,-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.

††† HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

* 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.

 

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