Today was Alcestis’ 58th birthday.
Would have been. She died a little over a week ago.
Peter and I often go out to dinner either the 3rd or the 26th of whatever month it is*; occasionally both, like this month. January is frequently a sod; serious deluges of champagne are often required in January. Last year, after Peter’s stroke in December, pretty much bathtubs full of the stuff were prescribed and dutifully consumed. And this year. . . . I’d remembered that Alcestis’ birthday was the end of January somewhere; I’d forgotten it was today till Admetus reminded me. Peter and I clinked our glasses tonight and drank to Alcestis. Who is dancing joyfully in the sunlit fields of the Lord . . . which means fuck-all to me right now.
The funeral is on Friday.
That’s the worst, of course. I miss her. Remember I said in the Not a happy new year post to make time for your friends, life is shorter than you think? It’s not like I didn’t know Alcestis’ time and life were running out all last year, but the habit of ‘oh next week is soon enough’ is hard to sodding break. I am so glad now for all of those evenings I spent knitting and chatting with her the last few months; I wouldn’t have not done it for anything, now that it’s all over—now that she’s gone. But it also makes me miss her worse. Because I’d FINALLY got in the habit of going round to see her regularly. And enjoying her company. And remembering why I liked her so much: for her dry humour, her empathy, her astonishing breadth of practical knowledge about the world; if you wanted to know something about pretty much anything, chances were that Alcestis could tell you something you could use and suggest where you might look for more. She’d been a scientist and a science teacher, and teaching came naturally to her, whether it was basic physics or how to pluck a chicken.** And yet months would go by, before she fell ill, when we’d run into each other in town and say ‘oh yes we must get together’ and then go our separate ways for more months. Why are humans so STUPID? Because I’m far from the only person who treats their friends like this. There’s always going to be time. But there isn’t.
So. Sorry for the long blog silence. There’s still a lot of staring blankly into space—and several other WHAAAAAAT? unexpected crises, mostly unsuitable for a family-friendly public blog, but I will mention the evening this past week, having just been knocked sideways by one of said crises, I managed to leave my diary in Mauncester I CANNOT LIIIIIIIVE WITHOUT MY DIARY I can barely remember to breathe without checking in my diary first*** and having phoned to be sure that I had left it where I thought I had, and they said they’d keep it safe for me, I leaped into Wolfgang to drive back to fetch it . . .
. . . and Wolfgang wouldn’t start. AAAAAAAAAAAUGH. I spent most of the next DAY schlepping in to Mauncester on the frelling BUS and hiking to the far end of town TO PICK UP MY DIARY. While Wolfgang was towed off to the garage. I got him back today: hellhounds and I had a very nice walk over hill and under milkwood to Warm Upford to pick him up, with a shiny new starter motor under his bonnet.† And all that stumbling over tussocks gave me an appetite for champagne, duck confit and a big fat chocolate brownie with chocolate sauce tonight at the pub. It was a very good confit, and an excellent brownie. But the brownie wasn’t as good as Alcestis’.
* * *
The news isn’t all bad, if you will permit me to range now into the frivolous. Niall, who can smell weakness, and has his own unique ideas about cheering people up, seems to have inveigled me into RINGING FRELLING HANDBELLS AGAIN. HOW DO I GET INTO THESE THINGS.†† Furthermore I seem to have become a semi-regular fourth with a particular group, Niall, Jillian, who was starting to learn handbells shortly before I more or less stopped, and a gentleman who has not appeared on these virtual pages before, whom we will call Spenser. I’ve rung tower bells with Jillian many times—although she’s a good ringer and I’m not—I only know Spenser by reputation. The fact that he’s not only a good tower bell ringer but also an organist and therefore has developed the Extra Brain Lobes for keeping track of several manuals AND a pedal keyboard or whatever you call them means he is beautifully pre-programmed to learn frelling handbells swiftly and accurately and I will HATE HIM SOON. But right at the moment he and I are about level in the Struggle to Master Bob Major.
I’ve spent most of my handbell career thus far on six bells, mostly ringing bob minor. ‘Plain bob’ is where everyone starts. If you’ve only got three handbell ringers there are a lot of other more complex six-bell methods, but when you first make the step up to major—eight bells, four ringers—you’ll go back to plain bob. This time plain bob major. Counting to eight is hard—which you have to do, every dorgleflamming row, to keep yourself in your place in the pattern. And ‘seven’ has too many syllables in it. OnetwothreefourfivesixSEVENeight. Ruins your rhythm.†††
Jillian at the moment is our weak link. Not her fault, she’s been ringing less time than I have, Spenser is just talented, drat him, and Niall is, well, Niall. Niall conceived of the daring plan to swap Jillian out some day that isn’t our regular meeting so that Spenser and I can have the thrill [sic] of ringing with two good steady ringers and see how far we get. I could see the quarter-peal light going off in Niall’s evil little eyes‡. We were fixed for this past Wednesday, with Melinda as our fourth. Melinda would be one of my favourite ringers—despite her reprehensible excellence on handbells—if I saw more of her; she’s the one got me going to the extra tower practise at Fustian, which stopped happening some time this last year when I haven’t been ringing anyway. After Alcestis died I told Niall I am NOT trying for a quarter peal on Wednesday. Both my stamina and my focus are zero for the present and the immediate future. That’s okay, said Niall in his blandest possible manner.
I should frelling know better by now.
You can see where this is going. We rang a couple of touches and first I and then Spenser—and bless him for not being perfect—crashed and burned. So we started over. No big; we were getting good practise with Melinda there. But then we started to steady down—Melinda is a lovely, equable, consistent, low-tension-transfer ringer.‡‡ Aaaaaaand we didn’t crash and burn. For a few minutes. For a few more minutes. For . . . that ratbag Niall is going for a quarter.
We rang a quarter. Spenser’s and my first quarter of bob major.
And that’s for Alcestis too. Makes a change from glasses of champagne. ‡‡‡
* * *
* Our wedding anniversary is 3 January; our lightning-strike meeting anniversary is 26 July.
** She was also an excellent—and self taught—knitter. She half-blinded herself knitting the Plain Dark Pullovers that are all the Standard British Male will wear, for Admetus. And the sweater I knitted^ about three-quarters of, those last evenings of knit and chat, is hanging on the back of a chair at Third House and every time I see it I catch my breath. I should finish it. I know. At some deep superstitious level I think I’m still hoping if I don’t finish it I’ll get a few more evenings with Alcestis. Sigh.
^ which is for me and is about as far from plain and dark as it is possible to get.
*** Drink champagne, yes. Eat chocolate, yes. Breathing, I may need reminding.
† He now leaps six feet off the ground when you turn the key in the little hole. BRAAAAAAANG. NEXT STOP MARS.
†† A pathetic insufficiency of counter-obstinacy. There is NOTHING ON THE PLANET as persistent as Niall in pursuit of handbell ringers. And he’s such a polite, quiet, gentle person . . . most of the time. Not about handbells. Be glad you don’t live in New Arcadia. He’d get you too.
††† One of the additional reasons I will never graduate to twelve on handbells, aside from the spectacular absence of necessary brain support, is because of having to count a row that has a three-syllable number in it. Seven is bad enough. ELEVEN? Are you frelling JOKING? I can just about manage plain hunt in the tower on twelve, because tower bells go so much slower you have half a chance to squeeze those extra syllables out. Frelling handbells go a frelling lick. Well-rung handbells sound like the louder, more musical version of someone running their thumb over the edges of a pack of cards. That’s how fast it goes.^
^ Not with me however. Handbells rung with me in the group are . . . stately. There are people who won’t ring with me because I’m too slow. Trust me, I don’t want to ring with these people anyway.
‡ If he’s part bull terrier that would explain a lot.
‡‡ There are other handbell ringers I won’t ring with because just being in the same room with them winds me up. But I suspect they feel the same about me.
‡‡‡ Okay, I should finish that sweater.
The friend I’ve been visiting in hospital?
It won’t be long now.
I hate this. This is a stupid system, this life thing. She’s younger than I am, by the way. And another friend—another good friend—who is also younger than I am—has just been diagnosed with . . . well. Not with blue skies and happy fluffy bunnies.
Life sucks. And then, as we know, you die.
So, that’s been my holidays.* Let’s call her Alcestis—the friend who’s dying—although in the damned myth some god or godling usually comes along at the last minute and saves her, and so far as I know my friend’s Admetus wasn’t in any danger. She’s been ill for a while, and in and out of hospital, but they’ve known for a while they aren’t going to turn this one around, it’s going to get her, and sooner rather than later. And she’s been slipping—also for a while—but the last three weeks or so the slope has suddenly got steeper. Although we knew this was going to happen too.
I’ve been through this before, of course, but it doesn’t get easier, losing people—watching them slide away from you, and you can’t do a bloody thing except sit by their bedside and breathe. Be there, stunned and clueless and disbelieving. Everyone who is trying to comfort you says, oh, being there counts! That is what you can do! I guess. But it’s throwing rose petals in the abyss. Except it’s not even rose petals. It’s dead toads or dandruff or anthrax or something.
Alcestis is in a specialist unit and it’s too far for me to drive, and I’m dependent on Admetus to give me a lift—but he’s a friend too, and they’re neighbours. I blast over there five or ten (or fifteen) minutes later than I said I’d get there, and he does the driving. I like to imagine that having someone in the car with him sometimes—he’s quite the taxi service, is our Admetus, bless him—is maybe a bit comforting, or grounding, or something. I have really NO IDEA how he’s doing. He’s a BRITISH MALE. I assume he’s still eating, although he’s got awfully thin and he wasn’t exactly portly to begin with. The unit Alcestis is in will feed a spouse or one other designated person for the big holidays, and they came round with the New Year’s Day dinner menus today while I was there doing my sitting and breathing thing—and in my case knitting: my knitting is not improving with practise—and I was looking at Admetus looking at the menu and wanted to say to the nurses ‘make sure he eats too, okay?’
It’s a nice place, as far as places where people go to die are ever nice. The nurses are kind and thoughtful and engaged: they’re all over Admetus as he comes in, and a couple of them even recognise me. There’s free tea and coffee (okay, and a donation box), and a big lounge-sitting-room-waiting-room space with comfy chairs and tables and books, and a computer with a selection of all-ages games. They keep Alcestis clean and comfortable. She’s just barely there any more and . . . drifting . . . farther . . . away.
Today the doctor took Admetus aside and said that hopes/plans to be able to send Alcestis home after the holidays, when they’d be up to full staff strength again for the amount of home care she’d need, were, barring miracles, permanently shelved and that . . . the unit is set up for a spouse or partner to spend the night there: he might want to know that. He might want to consider. . . . When we got back to New Arcadia tonight he gave me the domestic fauna care drill and he’ll text me if I need to step in. There was a little austere hilarity at the outrage the capybaras, sugar gliders and wallabies are going to feel at being put abruptly on my schedule rather than Admetus’. He gets up at about 6 a.m. most mornings. I suppose I could go round and feed and do a quick sweep last thing before I go to bed. . . .
They’re rerunning the last night of the Proms on Radio 3 tonight. Last night of the Proms live was mid September, and Alcestis was still alert and walking (slowly) and interested in the world and having opinions about the books she read.
And to everyone who is reading this: make time to get together with your friends, and do stuff, or just hang out, drink tea, loan each other books. Or if geography is against you—and I know a lot about that—talk on the phone, email, text, Skype. Stay in touch.** Time is a whole lot shorter than you think.
Tonight’s glass of champagne is to you, honey, Alcestis, my old friend.
* * *
* Another thing about holidays is the way people go on them leaving their social-welfare charities short-handed. And falling prey to the common philosophy of wretchedness that if you can’t do anything for you and yours maybe you can do some damn thing for a stranger, I’ve picked up a few extra shifts here and there to the extent that I’ve had one or two lectures from older hands about taking care of myself. OH SHUT UP. Okay, yes, I know, and I appreciate the concern and understand why they’re having a word, but I’m at least conscious of what I’m doing and as soon as the holidays are over with I’ll revert to being the volunteer-organisation version of assistant bottle-washer. But whatever your flavour of belief^ or disbelief, the end of year holiday season and all the jolly consumerism, I mean family and friendship and togetherness, tend to magnify anything that’s less than fabulous in your individual life, so social services get a bit strained. The less than fabulous would include me and mine of course. But being a do gooder at least means you have somewhere to put some of the sorrow and frustration.
^ Although just by the way the tendency for Christmas to be presented in Christian churches in all its blue-skies-and-fluffy-bunnies splendour MAKES ME CRAZY. YO. THAT KID YOU’RE WORSHIPPING IS GOING TO DIE HORRIBLY IN THIRTY-THREE YEARS+ AND THERE’S A CRUCIFIX HANGING OVER THE ALTAR, YES, EVEN AT CHRISTMAS, POSSIBLY TO REMIND YOU OF THIS TINY FACTOID?? As one might say, Jesus. There’s a dark despairing edge even at Christmas, a shadow behind the joy. Welcoming this baby should break your heart, and if it doesn’t you’re not paying attention.++
+ Or about four months, depending on how you’re counting. This is only my third Easter coming up and I already want a year off.#
# I think I said that last year. Easter is hard.~
~ And it has nothing to do with fluffy bunnies, chocolate or otherwise.
++ Some of the carols get this right. When I’m experiencing a worse than usual brain failure day, the verse I can never forget is from We Three Kings: Myrrh is mine, its bitter perfume/ breathes a life of gathering gloom/ Sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying/ Sealed in a stone-cold tomb. Elsewhere it refers to King and God and sacrifice. Um, yeah. Stay with it. And Christmases like this one for me, it’s exactly like my monk said: he died also so none of us ever has to suffer alone.
I still think it’s a total fucker of a system. When I get to heaven# I’m going to start a petition.
# And remember we all do, eventually, whatever ‘heaven’ turns out to be and whatever petitioning options there are.
** Which I’m doing a lousy job of with everyone else in my life. Because I’m too sunk in being bad company. Sigh. Do as I say, not as I do, okay?
Okay, I’ve got some stories for you, but no time to tell them. But as a placeholder you might find the email I just wrote to Worthy Charity #74,821,333 mildly entertaining:
Your web designer is a MORON. Please pass on my lack of respect. In the first place, why is a title required? Many people—myself included—prefer not to use one if we’re given the option. Then, if the standard short list of titles your site provides does not apply and one is so foolhardy as to tick ‘other’, one is presented with a drop-down list of epic proportions, offering ever wilder opportunities, Death Star Commander, Harvest Goddess, Sixth Degree of Kevin Bacon . . . and lo and behold tucked away in there is ‘Family’. My sponsorship is a gift to four members of a family, and so with a somewhat wary relief, I ticked ‘family’. BUT A FIRST NAME IS STILL REQUIRED. Um. Xxxx? Ja-Sa-Sa-An? What? This is to a family. There is no single ‘first name.’ And the four of them are going to have to look at whatever inanity I come up with for the duration of the sponsorship. Thanks ever so.
If you’re lucky, your other would-be sponsors are less volatile. I am fed up to here with web sites that have been designed by lobotomised beavers with hangovers. This time of year I do a lot of on line ordering and there are a lot of worthy charities out there, some of whose web sites function more or less straightforwardly. I could have sponsored another [furry critter worth keeping alive and well fed] for half the price of one of your [glorified superwhatsits]: but it wouldn’t [grow up to make the world a better place]. So here I am. Fuming.
R McKinley Dickinson
I’m going to be at the hospital a lot of tomorrow again and then I have somehow allowed myself to get ensorcelled into frelling handbells in the evening. ARRRRGH. I’ve warned Niall I will have No Brain after all that knitting* but he seems to think this is not as relevant as the Body in the Chair with Outstretched Hands Holding Handbells part of it. He may live to regret this. Meanwhile I’m missing deadlines right and left** but if I have the kind of limbo-brain later tomorrow night that is utterly incapable of work*** but could probably splodge out a blog post as an alternative to cruising end-of-year knitting sale sites . . . I’ll give splodging a try.
PS: Thanks for all the nice supportive words, all you readers, both on the forum and in my email inbox. The kindness of strangers–or semi-strangers–is more of a comfort than perhaps most of you guess.
* * *
* Just as an aside, thank God for knitting as a way of not driving the ill person you’re visiting crazy. Also the nurses would probably throw me out after I picked the second chair to pieces. Not that God is my favourite person recently with all the depressing mayhem in my life, but my monk ruthlessly pointed out that the bloke whose birthday we’re celebrating next week suffered^ so that none of us need ever suffer alone AND THERE’S A CYCLICAL NON-LOGIC TO THIS THAT I DON’T LIKE AT ALL but . . . yeah. I have no idea how it works but the thing is that it does work. It doesn’t work ENOUGH. But . . . Jesus and knitting. Okay. Whatever.
^ among other reasons to do with life everlasting where it’s never too cold to sit still and contemplate higher things and eating too much chocolate never makes you fat
** No, nothing to do with EBON, I’m afraid. EBON doesn’t even have a deadline to miss at the moment, sigh. No, things like interviews for Open Road who are trying valiantly to publicise all those shiny new ebooks, and house insurance. HOUSE INSURANCE?? I’M OVERDUE ON THE HOUSE INSURANCE? Fortunately an insurance company that has had you by the short hairs for a number of years tends to come after you pretty robustly. MONEY. WE WANT MONEY. WE WANT YOUR MONEY. WE WANT IT NOOOOOOOW. I put the cheque in the post today. That only leaves 1,000,000,000 deadlines of a moderately life-threatening nature to go.
*** This includes looking at columns of figures with slightly more understanding than if I were staring at the Voynich manuscript, and writing my signature on the bottom of cheques that the bank won’t return as forgeries^.
^ Tear splotches and bloodstains, of course, are majestically ignored. Banks have seen that all before.
We’ve got three or four degrees of frost out there* AND THE FRELLING MONKS HAVEN’T TURNED THE FRELLING HEATING ON IN THEIR FRELLING CHAPEL. I HAVE NEVER BEEN SO COLD IN MY ENTIRE LIFE.** At least when you’re Street Pastoring you can, you know, fidget.*** Although the big problem with SPing in the COOOOOOLD is that you’re supposed to stroll, so you can catch people’s eyes and check for passed-out drunks in alleyways and things. The Street Pastor Amble. It’s a skill. I haven’t got it. When I walk slowly I tend to fall over. My sense of balance—which used to be pretty good; I was one of those people who could run on Maine so-called beaches, springing gazelle-like from rock to rock†—has been programmed for speed since I first waveringly clambered up a coffee-table leg and launched out into the perilous unknown of the living-room floor at the age, I believe, of eleven months. About most things I’m the slowest person on the planet†† but it’s like walking is trying to make up for deficits elsewhere. I WALK FAST. I ONLY KNOW HOW TO WALK FAST. And falling over when you’re a Street Pastor does not look good. I’m working on my amble.
Anyway. Street Pastoring can be very, very, very cold. BUT NOT AS COLD AS SITTING STILL IN A FRELLING CHAPEL WATCHING YOUR BREATH SMOKE AND TRYING TO THINK ABOUT GOD.††† You kind of get distracted by thoughts of When Is This Torture Going to End and It’s Only December. I spent November telling myself that it wasn’t that cold yet‡ and that I’d start bringing a blanket again in December. And then I missed last week because the monks were having a doodah that crude amateur members of the public were not invited to and so tonight . . . well, I brought a blanket, and it’s a good thing or I’d have FRELLING DIED OF EXPOSURE. It was a near thing anyway.‡‡
But I also saw my monk beforehand, and as I said to him as he let me in, just seeing him cheers me up ‡‡‡ so I can’t moan properly. Listen, all you loyal blog readers, a little of why I haven’t posted in yonks-frelling-plus is a little bit the thing about how if I stop posting every night I’ll stop posting altogether, but it’s mostly because my life has taken a violent turn for the absolutely shitty, and I’m not coping too brilliantly. There are days when I’m not coping at all. This blog has always been Days in the Life . . . but that’s been mostly predicated on the idea that I can find something in the daily round that is modestly amusing and can be amped up for public consumption, and the opportunities for funny are sodblasted thin on the barren, meteorite-crater-pocked ground lately. As is my energy level for spin doctoring.
The one contrariety I am admitting to, and which I tweeted about a few days ago, is that THIS IS A NEW COMPUTER. AND DO I HAVE TO BOTHER TELLING YOU THAT IT IS DRIVING ME BANANA NUT TWIST SUPERLATIVE SUPREME BONKERS WITH EXTRA FROSTING. No, I didn’t think I had to tell you that.§ And my old laptop died SPECTACULARLY about twenty-six minutes—okay, maybe it was twenty-six hours, but it was also a Saturday—after I took delivery of this one, holding to its aged and flaming bosom as it crashed burning, a certain amount of stuff that hadn’t been transferred yet, and while in theory YES EVERYTHING IS BACKED UP, um, WHERE??????
And at this interesting juncture I’m going to leave you, because I have to get up what passes in my world for early tomorrow, I have a friend to visit in hospital. . . .
I hope I will post again some time this week. It’ll be a good sign if I do. Prayers, positive thoughts, well-disposed corn dollies or anything else of a spiritually uplifting nature, most welcome. §§
* * *
* ARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRGH. Okay, I’m getting ahead of myself. HOLD THAT ARRRRRRRRRRRGH. Meanwhile, we have three or four degrees of frost out there and any geraniums I missed in the dark are toast.^
^ ARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRGH continued.
** More ARRRRGH. As above.
*** EVEN MORE ARRRRGH. Maybe I’ll go knit, I mean knit, something.
† Well maybe not precisely gazelle like
†† WRITING BOOKS, for example. Whimper.
††† I’m sure I saw ice crystals on the Host we were supposed to be contemplating. I really hope heaven is warm.^
^ Hey. We all get to heaven. It just takes some of us a few more millennia+ than others.++
+ Possibly spent in small rooms with large blackboards writing something like ‘I will not murder people who misuse “lie” and “lay”’ six hundred and forty-seven gazillion times.
++ And I said warm. I didn’t say fiery inferno and demons with pitchforks and nasty laughs.
‡ And it wasn’t. I just don’t sit still any better than I walk slowly. My blood goes gelid and viscous and stops circulating. Both my congenital fidgets and walking speed may merely be the result of having lazy blood that has to be PRODDED to keep circulating.^
^ Don’t I feed you enough VITAMINS? I feed you SHEDLOADS of vitamins. Grrrrr. +
+ I hate taking pills. But supplements are one of the things that got me off the sofa again after the ME stomped me flat, and keep me off the sofa# now. I know supplements are controversial. But I’ve proved their usefulness to my own satisfaction many times by the simple expedient of running out of something occasionally and working backwards when the symptoms the thing I’ve run out of is holding off start coming back. I haven’t found the vitamin or vitamins that will plug the gaps in my memory—although the idea that this is the shiny improved supplement-supported memory is pretty terrifying.
# Mournful looks from hellhounds~
~ Smug look from hellterror, who can fit on my lap in a chair when there isn’t time for a proper sofa.
‡‡ In spite of the two turtlenecks, two wool cardigans, heavy leather jacket, wool gloves, heavy long johns under the 501 Levis, two pairs of socks and wool inserts in my All Stars. COLD. COOOOOOLD.
‡‡‡ Go with it, he said, grinning.
§ All those earlier ARRRRRGHS? Well, for example, the ‘function’ and the ‘control’ key have swapped places. I use flapbloodydoodling control all the time. For example you hit control-i for italic, okay? You hit function-i and NOTHING HAPPENS, except to your blood pressure. For another example, Raphael, in theory, gave me a PINK FONT option in the drop-down menu here in Word. If you start a new document . . . it’s in pink. Which I probably don’t want.^^^ But if you look in the drop-down menu for pink . . . it isn’t there. You have to go frelling dive^ for it in the Colour Hexagram, which is not^^ user-friendly.
^ CONTROL-I NOT FUNCTION-I ARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRGH
^^^ I’m in pink now because I had to copy and paste format-free into a fresh document to get rid of some SODITDOODAHANDTHEHORSEITRODEINON hard line breaks that I have no+ idea about where they came from or anything else, and having just spent about twenty minutes GETTING RID OF AUTO-BULLETING EVERY TIME I WANTED TO INSERT A FOOTNOTE++ I’m feeling a little harassed. +++ I’ve also had to reinstate the shortcuts for my footnote icons and let’s not even APPROACH the interesting time I’m having with IE.
§§ And I apologise about KES. But you don’t want me doing any final tweaking to half-finished eps at the moment, trust me. It would not end well.
I’ve fallen into the habit of spending some of Monday evening with Penelope and yarn.** I usually try and feed the frelling-frelling argling-bargling hellhounds—and the perfect, adorable, food friendly hellterror—before I leave. One of the things that sometimes works with the [muttermuttermutter] hellhounds is that if you get them STARTED and they think, oh, right, food, it’s not sooo bad . . . they will keep eating. So I’m always on the lookout for dog-treat type things that might tempt them and are free of all the things they can’t have SIIIIGH. There’s a relatively recent line of tinned dog food that costs more than fresh frelling caviar*** that they will sometimes open one eye and look at thoughtfully. And there’s a new flavour of it that I gave them a big chunk of the other day which they ate with what passes in their case for alacrity and enthusiasm.† So today I chopped more of it up in smallish globs and shoved it into their proper food . . . put the bowls down and turned my back on them since they don’t like being watched . . . but there were terrific gobbling noises proceeding from the hellhound corner and I was weak and permitted myself to be hopeful. . . . Nah. Chaos had merely done his Prehensile Tongue thing which I’ve noticed before makes a remarkable amount of noise, and precision-instrument extracted every small globule of Consecrated Canine Comestible Flavour of the Month, leaving an interestingly pock-marked bowl like an artist’s rendition of the surface of the moon in . . . dog food. Darkness had decided that this operation was too much like work, and having opened the one eye and looked thoughtfully at his bowl, closed the eye again without moving.
But the day has been not without its small sheepish victories. I’ve previously referred to the fact that my singing lessons have not been going splendidly since we started up again after summer break . . . there have been goodish lessons and there have been I’M RUNNING AWAY AND JOINING THE CIRCUS lessons of traumatising disaster, but while I haven’t quite got to the point of thinking I should start investigating another outlet for my frustrated musical non-talent†† I have occasionally wondered if I should be thinking about it. Meanwhile I keep missing church because I’m too blasted tired to get in Wolfgang again and drive—yo, God, why did you plop someone with ME down a forty-minute commute from the church she’s happy in? I’m sure I’m supposed to be learning something from this tedious piece of reality but, um, I’m too tired—which means I’ve also been missing service singing. I was signed up to sing this Sunday—yesterday—and I’ve been in unusually-bad-even-for-recently voice the last fortnight BUT I WANTED TO SING and . . . I think I’ve said this before, the awful Jesus Is My Boyfriend stuff does give me a certain amount of freedom from worrying about Mozart or Handel getting special permission to come back and haunt me, and I can just sing, and offer it as part of my service to the church. I like to think that God hears it the way it’s supposed to sound, like Handel or Mozart sung by Marilyn Horne or Renee Fleming.
I started out last night sounding like a bowl of rice krispies. If you’re into breakfast cereal that crackling noise is fine in the morning as Morse code for EAT ME but not so much later on in the day with a microphone in your hand. But something happened: God, or team spirit††† or alien mind probe or whatever but . . . I started singing. Indeed I was making so much noise I decided to dispense with the microphone.‡
And I went in to Nadia today and sang How Beautiful Are the Feet, which is the horse that threw me violently something like two months ago and that I have been afraid to go near.‡‡ And I didn’t sound like Marilyn Horne or Renee Fleming‡‡‡ but it was recognisable.§ So I’m putting off running away and joining the circus for at least another week.
* * *
* NOOOOOOOO IT’S DECEMBER NOOOOOOOOOOOO
** Penelope used to knit . . . and stopped for some unfathomable reason. I’ve been spending even more than my usual amount of time lately hanging from the chandelier^ and screaming ^^ and have therefore had even greater than usual need to knit as a coping mechanism^^^ and Penelope has got re-interested by relentless exposure.# We even went to one of my favourite yarn shops the other week so she could squodge what she was buying. But the best part was that WE TOOK NIALL WITH US. SO HE COULD DO THE DRIVING. Hee hee hee hee hee hee. Hey, he’s retired. He doesn’t have anything better to do, does he?## I don’t think he’s going to learn to knit however. He looked kind of stunned in the yarn shop. Of course I wasn’t paying that much attention because I was on my knees digging through the sale bins.
^ Although I no longer need a chandelier. Excess of . . . um, excess . . . has caused me to grow little super-glue pads on the ends of my fingers and toes so I can stick to the ceiling like a very large gecko. THIS MAKES TYPING AND WALKING ON THE FLOOR VERY INTERESTING. It’s also hard on the finger joints. Which I need limber and flexible for knitting.
^^ Those of you who know me off line will be aware that I have reason, and that most of the reason(s) don’t get on the blog.+ I am hoping this is merely a phase and what I used to think of as a life will return. Meanwhile . . . thank God for knitting. Even if at this rate—as I was telling some friend or other recently—I may never get past garter-stitch scarves and ditto pullover jumpers, the square kind where the body is two big rectangles and the sleeves are two littler skinnier rectangles and you leave a gap in the sewing-up for your head to poke through. HEY. IT’S ALL ABOUT THE YARN. I’ve been saying this for, um, is it getting to be three years now? It’s all about the yarn. Cables? Pfffft. Lace? Are you frelling joking? On a good day with a following wind I can manage simple increases and decreases. SIMPLE ONES. ON A GOOD DAY. But I buy nice yarn.
+ It is now MONDAY night and my new computer gear HAS STILL NOT ARRIVED.
# She is remarkably calm in the face of a ranting madwoman waving pointy sticks in her face. She raised four children. Nothing flaps her.
## Remodelling the kitchen. It will look really flash when he finishes. That’s when.
*** But I’m pretty sure Darkness wouldn’t like caviar. He’s not a big fish person.
† If the hellterror ever approached a meal like that however I’d think she was seriously ill.
†† Triangle? Washboard? Plastic kiddie piano, the kind with the keys that don’t work?
††† I know about having one’s little ways and so on^ but sometimes my own blinding ridiculousness amazes me. Last night the one other singer asked me where I wanted to stand. In the back, I said. She looked at me pityingly. There is no back, she said. There are only four of us.^^ I know, I said, but we can stand farther back on the stage.
And this does it for me. I have no idea why. We’re still face to face with the frelling congregation—there is nothing between us and them—but we stand about a foot farther back than—last night—the keyboardist and the guitarist. I can look at the back of someone’s head if I want to.^^^
^^ Guitar, keyboard, us. Plus a bass player and a drummer who somehow or other get not to be on the stage with the rest of us.
^^^ Although since the leader is usually on guitar, you kind of want to be able to see his face to pick up your cues more easily. And yes, so far as I’m aware, all our guitarists are blokes. Any female Christian guitarists with a high tolerance for fatally maudlin Christian worship music moving to the south of England, I know a church that needs you.
‡ In kindness to the assembled. The more my life is kicking me in the head the flatter I sing. Nadia says this is dead common but . . . I don’t want to be expelled from St Margaret’s, or even the band.
‡‡ Nice horsie. Nice horsie.
§ I was, I believe, even occasionally on pitch.