Twelve September Fourteen! Today is the second anniversary of my turning Christian. YAAAAY JESUS.*
How time flies. Or no . . . has it only been two years? Eh. I suppose the Big Transcendent Being figures he/she/it/they have to get their skates on with someone—that is, human**—about to turn sixty which I was, two years ago. I’m having kind of a cruddy ME day today*** so it’s been giving me maybe way too much time to think, in a fuzzy, uh, blah, wha’? sort of way, and whatever it looks like from the front row of the blog, especially with my smoke-and-mirrors routine murking up the view, this last two years has seen GINORMOUS changes in ways I often find quite terrifying, not to mention frelling difficult†. At least when you do something like emigrate it’s easy to say, oh, hey, look, a new country! Even there the important (and scary) stuff tends to go on behind the scenes and underground and in the cupboards with the resident skeletons already rattling around. Gah. Blah. But for an easy example of disconcerting God-driven change . . . I’ve given money to charity pretty much since I got off food stamps††, partly because government and politicians depress the billydoodah out of me and I’m not at all sure voting does matter, but in this world money ALWAYS matters too much. But I would not have expected me, fantasy-writing isolationist short-tempered loner that I am, even with Someone jabbing me with a holy cattle prod, to develop the kind of social conscience that demands practical, hands-on type volunteer work. You never know about people. Even when it’s you.
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* I’m so mature. Also profound and sagacious.
** Flimsy little creatures, humans. I’m looking forward to the bomb- and bullet-proof^ eternal version. I want my collagen back, which would therefore include my chin line, and the rest of my hair, and my hearing . . . and 20/20 vision for the FIRST time in my life, and a SAINTLY digestion that LOVES ice cream^^ . . . and I’m keeping cranky^^^ but it’s going to be the kindly, tolerant version . . . um . . . I admit that my mortal imagination is not quite up to conceptualising this, but I assume it has to do with being allowed to tear computers apart with my bare hands—no money in heaven—but that I’m nice to people.#
^ okay, maybe not the best choice of metaphor
^^ Of course there’s ice cream in heaven. Like there are all those critters that went off and left you behind, frelling GENERATIONS of them, waiting for you. Some of us are going to go down under a seething sea of furry+ bodies. Well, I hope.
+ Scaly, feathery, whatever. It’s all good in heaven.
^^^ And story-telling. One of my definitions of heaven is being able to write what I was frelling built to write without constantly getting in my own way like a marathoner tripping over her own feet arrrrrrrgh.
# I’m going to rupture myself trying to imagine this. Nice to EVERYBODY? ::Robin’s head, trying not to explode:: Well, okay, I suppose there are no jerks, assholes, and people who let their off-lead dogs crap in the churchyard . . . er . . . churchyard equivalents . . . in heaven. ::Proliferation of implications alert:: Actually I’m kind of hoping I won’t have to pick up after my dogs, all 1,000,000,000 of them, in heaven. Maybe we all crap rose petals. . . .
*** NO MYALGIC ENCEPHALOMYELITIS IN HEAVEN. Guaranteed. Jesus says.
† Why can’t I just be perfect and get it over with?
†† Yes. So more of my ranting about the frelled-upness of society and social support is more informed than you realise.
I’m just back from church. Hurrah. I haven’t been in yonks and yonks. I’ve thought for the last three Sundays—I think it’s three—that I would make it this week and then I have one of my unscheduled collapses and don’t.* I felt deeply guilty** a fortnight ago when my name was on the [singing] rota again and Aloysius could have really used some support—St Margaret’s, like most of the rest of the northern hemisphere where people live, gets thin on the ground in August while they’re all on holiday in someone else’s home town.*** So if that shocking failure was a fortnight ago, my name would coming up on the rota again . . . yes. Hmm. Buck was leading. And there was no one else on the list.
. . . Pav, go lie down.†
I looked the music rota up on Thursday and blanched. Also I’d had no song list so I could look the stuff up on YouTube and complain. But possibly I had had no song list because I had been a no show for so long they’d drummed me off the rolls. Which in August when there is an insufficiency of people on stage to hide behind is maybe quite a good thing.
Friday. Still no song list. I began the day feeling pretty good in brain and energy terms, so I emailed Buck. WHERE IS MY SONG LIST [I might come, you never know]?
. . . And then Saturday I had another frelling lying-down day†† ARRRRRRGH . . .
Pav, go lie down.†††
So I got cautiously out of bed today wondering what was going to happen. One of the things that happened was that I FINALLY had a return email from Buck saying he’d only just got back from holiday to 1,000,000,000 emails and sure, come along tonight and we’ll party.
So I went early like a good girl and found him practising ALL BY HIMSELF. Where would you like to be? he said, brandishing a music stand. In the middle? On the other side of the stage? BEHIND YOU, I said clearly. And you have to sing what I’m supposed to sing. No messing around with the tune.‡ He gave me his Steady Look, which is never a good sign. But we gambolled through the music, some of which I knew and some of which I did not know. One of the ones I did not know has a long embarrassing spell of Woah woah woah where you just sort of emote with your mouth open, torturing innocent variations of the so-called tune in whatever manner seems good to you. Ad lib. You know. Eh. Gah. Buck can do that one.
I didn’t know how much voice I was going to have, because I’ve been too feeble lately to do much singing beyond folk songs while hurtling, but since for some reason they refused to turn my microphone off tonight you could certainly hear me.
As it happened it wasn’t as dire as all that. One of the blokes who plays a keyboard was unwise enough to turn up for the evening service and Buck nailed him. So in fact we started a few minutes late while Jethro frantically dragged his keyboard out of the cupboard and started plugging things in with his hands going so fast he looked like an octopus with fingers. Which may explain why, when we got to the woah woah woah and Buck shot off into parts unknown I not only shot after him but soared past—he’s a nice strong tenor with some top end but I’m a soprano. I win.‡‡
And having been winding up cables that hate me since I first started this singing shtick, tonight I had a lesson from the ex-roadie and ex-member-of-the-band Buck in how to wind up a cable so it doesn’t hate you. Who knew this was a skill?
Pav, GO LIE DOWN.
Yeah. I think I’ll do that too. Preferably in a bed however. With lots of pillows and books. Pav will probably prefer a chew toy.
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* I haven’t been to the monks in forever either. Siiiiiiigh. If you have ME, don’t join a church frelling MILES from where you live or fall in love with a bunch of monks who are even farther away. I thought I was finally going to make it to the abbey last Saturday . . . and got an email from Alfrick saying, don’t come if you were planning to, there’s a doodah^ on and night prayer is cancelled. And then Sunday, possibly from disappointment, I had another lying-down-in-a-daze day, and didn’t make it to church again.
^ This is of course the deep theological usage of the term ‘doodah’.
** Which does not improve the lying-down-in-a-daze experience
*** And the evening service is the little one. Apparently the earlier services still teem pretty well, even in August.
† Poor Pav’s training has gone totally pear-shaped the last two months or so what with Everything Else Going On and I swore that as soon as things even BEGAN to settle down I’d start doing something more with her again.^ And fabulously amusing as rolling over on command is, the thing that would make a significant difference to both her quality of life and mine is if she would learn to GO LIE DOWN on command, so I have a better alternative when she’s winding herself up to start bouncing off the ceiling than to lock her up in her crate again. Even bribing her with foooooood gets a little oppressive after a while and I need her to like her crate because she inevitably spends a good deal of time in it. And I don’t want to make a huge deal of it when she’s just being a bull terrier and put her in her harness and make her Long Down at my feet. ‘Go lie down’ is just another off button like Southdowner-trained Olivia’s holding is.^^
^ Her walking more or less at heel and sitting and looking up at me when I stop is getting not at all bad except, of course, when I start to think so. But people who know bullies tend to fall down laughing when they see us doing our somewhat erratic trick+. I’m usually smiling even without onlookers++. The little evil eyes do enhance the experience of being stared up at—and the way a bullie’s back legs are built how bullies sit down often provokes hilarity even in the clueless onlooker.
+ Ie successfully.
++ No NOT in surprise. You rude person.
++ Holding still works fine, by the way. If she gets too turbo-charged about another dog—and with her personality I am not going to risk her being ruined by too many encounters with stupid people’s off lead ugly citizens the way my poor sweet hellhounds have been ruined—I don’t just pick her up I hold her.
†† Possibly due to the extreme frustrations of Friday, which included, after learning of the third mortgage I was going to have to take out to pay for the new boiler, belting into Mauncester at the last possible minute to pick up our NEW CLEAR GLASS SPLASHBACK^ for the gas hob/stovetop at Third House which Ignatius had already promised to screw in on Saturday . . . AND THEY FRELLING MUFFED THE JOB. And are going to have to do it all over again. On their penny, but even so. Arrrrrrgh.
And then I rang handbells with Niall for the first time in months and it TOTALLY wiped me out. No measurable trace of brain function after. I used to be able to ring handbells without having to be rolled home in a wheelbarrow. . . .
^ Ordering same having taken somewhat longer than it might have when I arrived last Friday at 3:55 to find that despite the stated hour of closure as 4:30 the only person still there was locking up as fast as he could turn the key.
Finding someone who could provide a clear glass splashback has been a whole other saga as fashion presently dictates that the only splashbacks any cool up to the minute person would want are brutally glossy things in really harsh grisly in your face colours or the even more in your face polished steel uggggggh. I get enough of the dentist’s office/torturer’s look at my dentist’s office/torturer’s tea parties, okay? AND I WANT TO SEE MY TILES. They’re nice tiles and they cost a lot of money.
††† If you stirred Pav and me together you’d get . . . one very extraordinary looking creature who lay down precisely the right amount in precisely the right circumstances.
‡ Aloysius perfectly well can sing harmony, and often does. Buck, however, is dangerous. He gets carried away.
‡‡ I had two people tell me after how lovely my singing harmony was.^ They’re so nice at St Margaret’s. And they so really need singers they are eager to be encouraging.
^ Wrong. Trust me on this.
Bleagh. I’m frelling ill again/still. I hadn’t really finished getting over the thrice blasted stomach flu—which kept kind of circling back and biting me—and I’ve now got one of those sore throats where you feel like your throat was attacked by a cheese grater and then set fire to. Plus the shakes and shivers that tend to go with. Arrrgh. YOU KNOW THERE’S A DOWN SIDE TO ALL THIS INTERACTION WITH OTHER HUMAN BEINGS NONSENSE.* MORE GERMS.
I made it in to my third Sams duty shift last night, aware that all was not well internally but not having arrived at true graphic cheese-grater stage yet—and also you really don’t want to cancel at the last minute if you possibly can avoid it because last-minute Samaritan substitutes are a good deal rarer and more valuable than hen’s-egg-sized rubies, and just as the Street Pastors can’t go out unless there are at least three of them plus two Prayer Pastors back at base, the Sams office can only stay open if there are two duty Sams.
As it happens it was a very draining shift** but Pythia seemed to think I’d done well, and since she wasn’t shoving notes under my nose I’m willing to believe she did think so.*** Which is a bit of a ‘yaaay’ because however earnest and willing you are you don’t know if you can do it—do it over some of the range of human distress—till you’ve done it.
So apparently I am going to make a Sam. Knitting critter coats for Battersea Dog and Cat Rescue optional. Yaaay. †
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* Saturday night is the traditionally busiest night of the Street Pastors’ weekend, which runs three nights starting with Thursday, although some of the individually scariest stuff can perfectly well happen on non-Saturdays. As a Friday regular I was braced for the foaming hordes—also it’s summer so the weather and assorted festivals encourage the punters onto the streets—and it was sure busy but nothing too hectic. The most melodramatic aspect was the number of bottles and cans left around. WHY ARE PEOPLE SUCH SLOBS.^ There are a variety of views about this among Street Pastor groups and areas. We all pick up glass because of the potential danger if it breaks.^^ After that the edicts get a little less clear. We’re not litter pickers, we’re concerned about safety, so generally speaking we look for anything to do with alcohol. We’ll sully our hands^^^ to dispose of Guinness and Old Speckled Hen cans, but not Pepsi or Innocent Super Smoothie. And we pour out any contents of our hogsheads and firkins before we bin them—which means you want to find a grating on your way to your bin. On the grounds that drunk people will do anything, perhaps especially drunk teenage boys daring each other to greater feats of grossness, I am also one of those who picks up abandoned plastic ‘glasses’ that still have something that looks like beer in them.
Occasionally this may lead to a situation open to misinterpretation. Saturday night for some reason I got my eye in and was seeing cans and bottles that my teammates were walking straight past—usually there’s someone on a team who is struck by greatness this way but it’s never been me before.# I had just ducked aside to pick up a (empty) bottle of Cava and paused on my return to the main road to seize a half-full-of-something plastic glass. I turned around, looking for a grating and/or a bin and saw two gentlemen, rather the worse for wear, staring at me goggle-eyed. The Street Pastors are pretty well known around here and of course a Street Pastor on her beat is wearing logos of dazzling, unmissable blatancy. Can you drink on the job? said one of them in hushed, almost reverent tones. No, I said, trying not to laugh at the looks on their faces. I’m dumping these out. They watched me closely as I found my grating and then my bin . . . but I wonder if they went home thinking that they’d caught me at something and of course I had to pour my illicit beverage out once they’d seen me.
^ These are probably some of the same people that don’t pick up after their dogs. Hellhounds and I walked past a pile of dog crap in the middle of a BUS SHELTER today. How disgusting is that? WHAT IS WRONG WITH PEOPLE.
^^ Each team also carries a flimsy little dustpan and brush for sweeping up broken glass. I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to wield same on Saturday. Glass weighs, you know? And the poor little dustpan goes groan groan groan so you have to keep emptying it . . . so you hope that whoever drops a breakable object does so near a bin.+
+ I was also, on my hands and knees sweeping up glass, lavishly praised by passing coppers. Oh my misspent youth. I’ve become a little old lady who sweeps up broken glass in public places.
^^^ We also carry one-use gloves for anything really revolting.
# I can think of superpowers I would prefer. There’s a woman on my usual team who is so good at it I swear she draws cans and bottles to her, like the birds flocking to St Francis. At least bottles don’t crap on your head.
** Which is fine. It’s what we’re for. And while you-a-Sam may well end a call feeling ‘oh dear oh dear oh dear’ you also get to hope you made a difference . . . after all, this person picked up the phone^ to talk to a Samaritan . . . presumably because they wanted to talk to a friendly, empathetic, non-judgemental person. THAT’S WHAT WE’RE FOR. Make a note.
^ Or fired up their computer/smartphone for an email or a text
*** She has the lurgy also. Possibly we gave it to each other last week.
† Thank you God. Stamina is still an issue, but Pythia says that comes with practise and experience, which seems to me reasonable. If I were sitting quietly and solitarily at my desk and someone said Here. You now have three dogs, each of them seriously insane in its own individual way, and you have to walk them several miles every day as well as feeding, playing with, and generally interacting with them, including Long Yellow Rubber Pull Toy Things and sofas, including when you feel like the ancient compacted rubbish at the bottom of a dustbin-collection lorry, I think I might squeak a bit. It’s all what you’re used to.
. . . moving house. Removal men with rippling muscles and a large lorry are coming 1 August. Yessssssss. Any of you of a praying persuasion please pray it goes no more catastrophically than these things usually do. And more important that Peter finds he positively likes it there at Third House once he’s in. Any of you not of a praying persuasion are nonetheless welcome to dance supplicatorily around bonfires dedicated to minor deities who ease tiresome mortal rites of passage like house moves. I personally prefer Jesus, but I’ll take any good will on offer.
And minions of British Telecom, that delightfully efficient and customer-oriented corporation, are coming the day before to install necessary wiring because, as regular blog readers may recall, BT declares that there are no lines to Third House, that eighty or ninety year old cottage in the centre of town and with a phone jack in the kitchen which you might think BT would find a little embarrassing. HOWEVER we have got round my bootless fury on this topic first by the fact that we’re going to want wireless broadband and the connections for that probably do need to be updated from whenever . . . and second I just caved when the very loud, relentlessly cheerful woman who was brokering the deal rushed past the part about how they’d do all this for free if we bought their broadband. So we’re buying their broadband. And I am a weak, cringing worm. Yes. I just want it over with.
Eleanor finished cleaning Third House’s kitchen today.*
Jonas, who is a builder by trade and can do anything, is plumbing in the dishwasher because all the local plumbers are booked until Christmas 2017.
Atlas is getting on with carving out the Desk Aperture.**
Nina and Ignatius are coming twice this week to do anything someone else hasn’t got to first. They may make a start on clearing the space for my shed. And I may ask Ignatius to put up some shelves, since there is only one of Atlas and he only has two hands. Fie. You’d think someone who works in three dimensions for a living would have at least four.
And the hellhounds ate lunch for the first time in weeks.***
But too much stuff working might go to my head. So the ME gallantly stepped in at this point and slapped me down.† ARRRRRRGH.†† Therefore I think I’ll make one of my hilarious attempts to go to bed early.††† Night night.‡
* * *
* She has been giving me a very hard time about all the things I won’t let her throw away. That’s a perfectly usable jar! Leave it alone! She even thinks I have too many books. Friendships have been lost over comments like these. But not when someone is cleaning your kitchen for free.
** I’m failing to get on with finding somewhere to put all the books thus made homeless. See previous footnote.
*** Don’t get too excited. They didn’t eat dinner.
† Do I really need the ME too? It’s not like the next few weeks are going to be arid with ease and perfection. In the first place I still have 1,000,000 phone calls to make to/about various which will be quite lowering enough when 60% or so produce the equivalent of all the local plumbers being booked till Christmas 2017. I’m reminding myself we already own the house, no one can gazump us, that medieval torture device that has somehow been allowed to live on in the laws of England, Third House is in the same town and only half of us are moving anyway. Hey, my piano is moving! That counts! Also the hellhounds are sure to Faint in Coils which will fail to be edifying. But it could be a lot worse. Hold that thought.
†† It’s The Little Things. My last clean white shirt this morning had a big black spot at the centre of the neckline WHAAAAAAT?? I got the worst of it out with a sponge and wore it anyway. Then I put on my pale blue white floral cotton jeans which are automatically a calamity magnet because of the colour. And I was out in the garden this morning examining something or other while Pav had her morning pee and she galloped up to me and sprang . . . leaving giant muddy footprints all over my pale blue with white flowers jeans ARRRRRRRRGH. There was language. Pav ignored this, of course, because it had nothing to do with her. She usually does jump on me first thing in the morning . . . but this usually happens indoors, I’ve never taught her not to^, and the only reason the garden was muddy is because I’ve been WATERING because we haven’t had any rain in yonks.^^ ARRRRRRRRGH. Well I’m wearing the blotched up jeans anyway too, but everything goes in the washing machine tonight.
^ Theoretically she knows ‘off’. She doesn’t know ‘don’t jump up in the first place you muddy-footed monster’. Usually I find being jumped on by a thrilled-I-exist bull terrier ridiculously charming.
^^ It’s been long enough that a few Souvenir de la Malmaison roses have been unable to contain themselves to wait to go brown and mouldy in the next major downpour and have popped out properly. It only takes a few to make my entire tiny walled garden smell divine.
††† HAHAHAHAHAHAHA. I kill myself, I really do.
‡ It’s too hot to sleep anyway. It’s not hot hot but it’s that kind of hot that sits on your chest like an incubus and won’t let you breathe.
There is a person, let’s say Person A, we will call him Abelard, who is doing a Project. He is canvassing reactions and seeking input from a variety of Other Persons. I am on this list. Recently I received an email from Abelard that was to everyone on the list. I answered. Most of our answers go to him individually—occasionally one escapes and comes to the entire list—and he then posts round ups about what everyone is saying about this or that. I noticed that my input had not been acknowledged. Hmm. Then there’s an email saying that he hasn’t heard from everyone and he’s hoping the rest of us will get in touch. !!!!! So I emailed him again.
Then I emailed asking for acknowledgement that he’s receiving my emails.
So I emailed his boss, Person B, whom we will call Bozo, saying that Abelard was not receiving my recent emails about his Project. Bozo did not deign to reply to me, but he copied me forwarding mine to Abelard. Next round-up email Abelard adds a paragraph saying Robin, I’m not getting your emails.
I forward this back to Bozo and say now what?
There is a pause, and then Bozo emails grandly, well, since you’re not really necessary to this Project why don’t you just let it go?
I stare at this in disbelief for a moment (Bozo and I have had our little differences before—just by the way). Then I write him again. Then I take out all the adjectives and I send what I have written, including a copy of my original email to Abelard, to demonstrate that I might conceivably have something to contribute.
There is another pause AND THEN I RECEIVE ANOTHER EMAIL FROM BOZO SAYING THAT ABELARD IS RUNNING THIS PROJECT AND I SHOULD BE CONTACTING HIM DIRECTLY.
DO I GET TO SAY AT THIS POINT THAT BOZO IS AN INCOMPETENT TWIT?
Then I took my two shifts of hellcritters out and sang like crazy.*
I told you last week that I was going to experiment in turning over a new leaf about my singing—well maybe blow on a new leaf or wave it around a little—or maybe turn over just a new petiole—although I suspect if you turn the petiole over the leaf goes with it. Whatever. But I was going to stop pretending I didn’t have any voice just because I don’t sound like Nadia or Joyce DiDonato, and I was also going to stop pretending that the only time I had any voice was during my voice lessons after Nadia had done her teacher magic and that it all went away again as soon as I was at home and it was just me and the piano and an assortment of beady-eyed hellcritters.** And, since I do have a voice, such as it is, I was going to work on developing singing stamina.
And what better exercise aid than very long folk songs?*** I had another little epiphany about singing folk songs too, and this makes me look like even more of a nincompoop† than the ‘oh woe is me I have no voice’ thing. I’ve taken folk songs in to Nadia off and on right along pretty much from the beginning and she’s even said (repeatedly) ‘find what works for you’ but noooooo I’m not going to let myself get away with it being easy. So I keep trying to find THE EXACTLY PRECISELY RIGHT VERSION of whatever, which I will then learn slavishly . . . but folk songs being the slippery little devils that they are I rarely do find the exactly precisely right version which means that . . . I can’t learn them. No! Not allowed! It must be the ultimate perfect rubber-stamped passed-in-triplicate official THE VERSION!!!!! How pathetic is that. Very, very, very slightly in my defense, the problem often is that I have the version I like and I want to sing in my head and/or my imagination’s ear, from Maddy Prior or Jean Ritchie or someone, and the available sheet music is never it. McKinley. It’s folk music. Make it up. Good grief.
To be continued again. . . .
* * *
* Or, you know, like sanity. Till I felt better. Hey, it works. A good murder ballad. . . .
** At Third House the critter beds will not be slap next to the piano. WILL. NOT.
*** I sang for service again this past Sunday. This clearly counts as vocal press-ups, since over the course of a long evening you’re singing hard for probably an hour and a half. Riordan, who was music leader for the evening service, sent us the playlist Monday evening. Usually I’m whining for it Thursday or so and on at least one occasion we got it Saturday afternoon.^
It’s a mixed blessing however, having it that early. You have so much less excuse for not spending serious time learning the latest rash of driv—I mean, these earnest, committed songs of modern worship. ARRRRRGH. What I have found, however, is that power ballads for God have the same effect on me that power ballads about everything else do—which is to say they depress the crap out of me.^^^ It’s all so moany.
So I maybe didn’t get quite as much practise in as I might have done for having had the playlist all week. But the funny thing was that in the heat of the moment Sunday evening with everyone else singing and twanging and thundering~ . . . it all became quite jolly. Aside from the whole ‘worshipping God’ aspect. At the end of service as I was crawling around on my hands and knees coiling up ENDLESS, Midgard-Serpent-length frelling cables, Buck sauntered past nonchalantly and said, if you get too good at that, you know, we’ll put you on the rota permanently.
In six months I’m going to have a voice like iron.
^ People have lives. Christians too.
^^ I would much rather sing Are you working in the vineyard of the Lord?, which isn’t on YouTube, which is very sad+ or When the roll is called up yonder, of which there are a gazillion versions on YouTube, many of them not fit for much beyond making you a Hindu++, although I rather like this one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oIB0xL-ejQk&index=11&list=PLD747A0359ACA320E But then I have a weakness for the banjo after a misspent childhood listening to the Kingston Trio.+++
+ ‘From the desert wilds of sin/ Are you bringing lost ones in?’ Gospel lyrics don’t mess around.
++ Although if student performances of Voi Che Sapete can’t put me off Mozart—and they can’t—the Singing Goldfish# of Goodgodville shouldn’t shake my faith.
# Glub glub glub glub
+++ YES. I AM THAT OLD.
^^^ I had a friend a million years ago in another life+ who used to call the soft rock radio station his wife favoured ‘suicide music’. This is perhaps a little strong but I know what he meant.++
+ YES. I AM THAT OLD.
++ Although I like this video:
~ Serious drum kit. Golly.
† Not to say an incompetent twit.