September 1, 2014

Shadows is here!

Important News from the Living in Houses Division



Yes, and on shelves, you rude person.  I admit however that I’m rapidly reaching the end of the double shelving that is even possible, having passed the ‘desirable’ stage years ago.*  Now there’s only the rest of the house to deal with.**  And the attic at Third House.  Which is achieving epic status.  Not in a good way.  AND IT’S SEPTEMBER TOMORROW.  I feel the frelling backlist’s hot breath on the back of my neck.  ARRRRRGH.***



One thing I’ve learned from walking shelter dogs this past year is that there are good and bad dogs of EVERY breed. . . . I used to think breed = personality but it’s just not that rigid . . . Our shelter runs to “pit bull types” and chihuahuas; some are good, some are bad. Some chihuahuas are so awesome . . . contrary to my expectation of bulbous headed dumb-as-a-post nervous things . . . and some pit bulls are so delightful, hucklebutting around . . . demanding belly rubs . . . contrary to my expectation of lowered-head stalkers that are always angry. . .

Yep.  Totally.  There are probably even evil whippets† in this world, and bullies with huge soft doe eyes.  One of the first significant dogs of my childhood was a Chihuahua and I’ve never forgotten him however many of the bulbous, hysterical thick-as-a-bricks I’ve encountered since.  There are a couple of sweet long-haired Chihuahuas I meet around here—they’re so TINY.  Staffies in my English experience are almost as schizophrenic as Labradors—I knew very few Staffies/pit bull types in the States.  Around here there are the scary, freaky, stalker with dripping fangs help-I’m-about-to-die type of Staffie and the kindly, mellow, walking-sofa-cushion Staffie.  The latter are very often startlingly submissive, although Southdowner told me and I’ve read it elsewhere since, that they were bred to be very, very, very submissive to humans because they were also bred for dog fighting, and a human needed to be able to break it up without getting bitten.  So you don’t want to make any assumptions if you’ve got dogs with you, although the local good-natured Staffies are fine with the hellhounds (Pav sometimes needs a little muffling, while the Staffie looks on in amusement).  But yeah.  Every time I meet another bulldozer-shovel-headed Lab I remind myself of the adorable whole-body-wag young Lab bitch who lives around the corner.


to have tadpoles coming in through the kitchen tap (it’s only for a month or two in the spring, after all)

!!! !!!! !!!!! (*speechless with horror*) Are you freaking SERIOUS? Isn’t there a screen on the tap to prevent things like that from coming through? Isn’t the water treated at the water treatment plant to kill things like that? I may never drink tap water again…

Snork.  Oh you sheltered urban types.  If you’re on town water you certainly shouldn’t have tadpoles coming through the tap, no.††  The water treatment plant or whatever should stop the wildlife at the door.  But not everybody is on town water, you know?  And not town water varies.  I have forgotten most of what I knew about it and things will have changed since I last lived in the American boonies.  There are ‘natural’ filtration systems that may be bulked up by your friendly neighbourhood contractor if your water is dubious and/or doesn’t pass its potability tests.  But if, for example, you get your water by a gravity feed from the local lake . . . you may find almost anything small enough to fit through a pipe in your sink occasionally.  I’ve stayed in quite ritzy ‘summer cottages’—those amazing frelling clapboard palaces the wealthy built around northern New England lakes a century or two ago—whose tap water was occasionally piquantly populated.  You put it through cheesecloth and then boil it.  Nobody I ever knew died.  And it gives you something to write postcards home about.

. . . Phooey.  It’s got late again when I wasn’t looking.†††  One of the drawbacks to not blogging every night any more is that I forget to keep an eye on the frelling clock.

* * *

* NO double shelving is desirable.  The amount of DESIRABLE double shelving is NONE.

** Including the rest of the sitting room.  Ahem.  Amazing what you can squeeze/unload in heaps into a small room when you’re motivated.  Ie it’s either going to be a small sitting room or outdoors under a tarpaulin being eaten by rats.  Or Oxfam, of course.  I’m tired of hauling things off to Oxfam.  In more ways than one.  Nina, who, unfortunately, keeps sashaying off to have a life, leaving me to cope, is brilliant about the getting-rid-of shtick.^  These are the boxes to go? she says briskly.  Um, I say, thinking anxiously of that Ace double both of which stories are unreadable but the covers are such irresistible ’50’s kitsch, what is one tiny paperback after all?^^  Or that utterly useless-for-my-purposes book about keeping llamas, which is all about DEFRA# rules and feed additives and NOTHING AT ALL about their personalities, about what they’re like to have around.##  But books on small### domestic camelids are comparatively rare, and this one is about llamas by someone who raises them and maybe if I sort of hold my hands over the book and close my eyes and concentrate I can access the author’s experience. . . . ~

Great, says Nina, and the boxes DISAPPEAR.  I don’t see either her or Ignatius carrying them out to the car or anything, they just DISAPPEAR.^^^  FOREVER.  Eeep.

^ She should have been one of those personal declutter consultants and could have retired in splendour instead of riding a second-hand bicycle to work at a worthy charity.  Although I’m glad she didn’t.  She’s intimidating enough just as a natural talent.

^^ Such thinking culminates in a lot of double shelving.  And possibly tarpaulins.

^^^ I kept all the good Ace Doubles.  Slightly depending on your definition of ‘good’.

#   Not necessarily every farmer’s best friend.

## There’s a small domestic camelid in one of the 4,017 Next Damar Book Queue.  Yes, I’ve already talked to b_twin about this problem.

### Or medium-sized domestic camelids.  Smaller than camels anyway.

~ This Isn’t the Book I Wanted But It Should Have Been also leads to double shelving.  This is a particularly appalling problem in history, I find, because an interesting book of history+ is interesting even if you were looking for household management in the eighteenth century and what has (mysteriously) fallen into your hands is about the development of the dragon motif in Ming porcelain.  What’s worse though is when you find exactly the book you wanted . . . and it’s so turgidly written you know you’ll never read it.++

+ All right, true, an interesting book is an interesting book, full stop.  It’s just I have a harder time laying down off-topic history.

++ I am so not a dedicated academic.

*** The cottage also has an attic which only hasn’t quite reached the terrifying proportions of Third House’s first because it’s smaller^ and second because I’d rather dump things in the sitting room than drag them up that frelling ladder.  And what with the trap door and the (crucial) hand rail the hatch is a good deal smaller than it was when I moved in and trying to get you and what you’re carrying up and through—and without knocking over the forest of geraniums enjoying the sunlight through the Velux window poorly sited by my predecessor at the top of the ladder—at best causes language.

^ Although the configuration is similar.  You can only stand up in the middle and the roof pitches down to about a handsbreadth of the floor.   You can stand up in some of the middle.  There isn’t a loo—there isn’t room for a loo—but there are some interesting cross-beams which serve the purpose of making head-damaging encounters painfully odds-on.


†† And you don’t actually want a screen on your tap.  Then you just have dead tadpoles in your pipe.  Ewwww.

††† I keep looking at the frelling hellhounds’ frelling food bowls and hoping for a miracle.  Frell.

The horror, the horror


The attic.  Moan.  The attic.  At Third House.  Moooooan.  The attic . . . moan.  August is almost gone and some time in September I have to bring the frelling backlist home from the last storage unit.  All forty-seven gazillion boxes of it.  And you can already hardly edge around* all the boxes of files** and of books*** that won’t fit† either downstairs or at the cottage††  Moan.



A few years ago I needed a plumber for my small bathroom. I warned the man at the other end of the phone line, “It’s a very small space.” He answered cheerfully, “I’ll send a very small plumber.” She was. And she fixed it. But she’s the only one I’ve ever seen.

For some reason, probably because I am still suffering post-house-move brain-blastedness†††, the reference to size makes me think of the stalwart young men who moved my piano, only one of the three of whom looked at all as if he might lift heavy things for a living.  I was also thinking of Plumbers I Have Known folding themselves up into spaces much too small for them . . . and the tendency among folded-up plumbers to demonstrate builder’s crack to an extreme degree.

All three of my piano movers were wearing the kind of low-slung trouserage prone to builder’s-crackage.  And as they all three bent down the first time to examine the basis of the situation I was treated to . . . a vast triple frontage‡ of LURID COLOURED BOXER SHORTS.  I was delighted.  I also nearly burst out laughing.


These blogs are sooooo making me not want to renovate our house, even though it’s desperately needed…

Oh come on.  It’s romantic having to put buckets out for the drips, and to lie snuggled up in bed listening to the mice playing polo in the walls, and to have tadpoles coming in through the kitchen tap (it’s only for a month or two in the spring, after all), and floorboards so aggressively wavy and unpredictable that if you’ve had a beer in the last twenty-four hours you’d better sleep in the barn (under a tarpaulin).  Where’s your sense of ADVENTURE?

Diane in MN

. . . As it’s a good and very efficient furnace, replacing it never came up: a good thing, as a new furnace would have been even spendier. I feel your pain.

Yes.  One of the—or rather the—clinching argument of Shiny New Plumber about replacing my current boiler is that by the time I bought the parts for the old one I’d be halfway to the new one . . . AND the old one is a piece of crap.  Since I only have Shiny New Plumber at all kind of far out on a limb of semi-unknown recommendations—one would rather hire a new plumber because one’s best friend has used him for twenty years and her entire family loves him including the goldfish, whom he replumbed on an emergency basis one Sunday afternoon when the fishtank exploded—I did look up the boiler he’s recommending and it’s number one by about twenty points in the WHICH? rating which is a good sign.  An even better sign will be if he knows how to put it in.  Mind you according to his web site he’s about third generation in a large family of plumbers . . . although he told me he is failing to interest his thirteen-year-old daughter in carrying on the family tradition.

And, speaking of small, and the state of the cottage‡‡, I hope the extra body he brings to assist him is svelte and bendy.   A thirteen-year-old daughter would be perfect.

But I really want my hot water.

Me too, big time, and so I NEVER TALK ABOUT IT because I don’t want to give the hot water heater any ideas, like thinking it’s reached retirement age. And I don’t know where that sentence came from; I never wrote it.

No, no, of course not, if your hot water heater comes round for confirmation I will stoutly deny everything.  My current object has only to last two more baths.  Please God and St Mermaid-of-the-Flowing-Waters.  I’ve had the uneasy sensation that it’s been getting a little whimsical since Shiny New Plumber condemned it.


Hot water is one of the critical components of civilisation, in my opinion.



Oof. At least you got a very nice individual plumber?

Well he’s certainly very jolly‡‡‡.  He also underwrites a seven-year guarantee on the new diamond-encrusted family member, which is popular.


Wait, stuck on the lavender comment. Was the lady referring to her houseplant as her pet, is there really a dog breed nicknamed lavender, or was she referring to the unmentionably enthusiastic “L” word dogs?

Not exactly.  She was having a little trouble with the English language and maybe Labradors are called lavenders in her mother tongue.  I’m not sure if she was doing that thing of using the word that almost sounds right and assuming it would do, or whether her accent was so strong that ‘Labrador’ was coming out ‘lavender’.  Whatever.

Speaking of which, I may have been losing respect for them before reading the blog because everyone around here has them (or chihuahuas or pit bulls, or mixes of all three), but your anecdotes certainly haven’t helped their case.

Labradors are slime.  Except, occasionally, when they aren’t.  There are two entirely different strains of them any more, at least in England:  the proper old working dog style, and there’s a young bitch of this variety who lives around the corner who is a complete sweetie and I’m happy to see her coming, and the modern SUV-shaped ugly stupid monster, owned by ugly stupid people who let it wreck your temper as well as your gentle, bewildered hellhounds’, and to crap all over the churchyard and possibly your driveway.  I FRELLING WELL HATE LABRADORS.  Except, occasionally, when I don’t.  As above.

Chihuahuas are not a plague around here.  Pit bulls are, but pit bulls, or their ilk, are a plague pretty much everywhere.  It’s what gets popular, you know?  Popular is the death knell for anything nice.

And on that cheerful note . . .

 * * *

* Especially not without hitting your head on one of those where-did-that-come-from interesting ceiling angles.

** Including things like the original manuscript of BEAUTY.  Eeeeeep.  Which I rediscover every few years.  I think it gets more startling every time.  Also the original, equally smudgy, cut-and-pasted, liberally white-outed^ SWORD and HERO.  As I recall OUTLAWS is the worst in this regard.  I still have grisly flashbacks of kneeling on the floor in my little house in Maine, cutting up chapters and paragraphs and trying to tape them together again before I forget what I’m doing, and feverishly scrawling cryptic bridges in the margins, hoping I’ll be able to smooth them out later.  Or possibly OUTLAWS was the worst.  I used to burn a lot of mss in my early typewriter days.  Not so much now:  everything becomes second sheets for the printer.^^  Except occasionally when I revert and do my cutting and pasting in hard copy.  Occasionally this is therapeutic.

And then I burn them.  Sometimes.  Sometimes I just scream and tear them up.  And stomp on them.

^ Have you seen that there are typewriter aps for your iPad?  WHYYYYYYY?

^^ It’s surprisingly confusing having your own words on the back of your freshly printed out draft pages.  Even when you know that’s an old story and you’re working on a new story.

*** Books?  Books?  Never say.  I amaze myself.

† My thirty-six million horse books, fiction and nonfiction.  My nineteen million nonfiction critters of the world books, excluding horses, including a lot of guidebooks and wild critter rescue and management books, the majority being North American, including dozens of standard Audubon and Peterson field guides and so on, but by no means exclusively these—the NA collection expanded exponentially when I was figuring out DRAGONHAVEN and some of these are very small press/audience and peculiar.  The Australian critter books go with the general Australian collection—which considering I’ve only ever spent about five weeks there total is pretty impressive.  But Australia is, you know, mad, as well as instantly irresistible.  There’s nothing else anything like it.^  Including all that let’s-evolve-in-interesting-off-the-wall-ways on a huge freaky water-bound continent fauna, and flora to go with ’em.  WHEEEEEEE.  Also the Aboriginal mythology—that is, what the white invaders managed to write down about it—is fascinating.  And then there’s my British guidebook collection.  Siiiiiigh.  I adore guidebooks.  I buy them everywhere I go.^^  And I have the impassable attic to prove it.  AND PETER’S AND MY BACKLIST STILL HAS TO GO UP THERE.

^ Except maybe New Zealand or Tasmania in a distant-cousin way but I haven’t been to either of these.

^^ Sometimes I buy the same one several times.  Mottisfont, for example.  I must have three or four.  Every time the National Trust trots out a new edition—which is to say there are three more paragraphs of the foreword to the foreword to the foreword about what they’ve been doing since the last edition—I buy it again.  Hey, sometimes there are new rose photos.

†† I was hacking through the between-covers verbiage at the cottage today and thinking gloomily of the 1,000,000,000 fresh, new books I have on various wish lists at various on line emporia, and I know I will eventually add far more of these to my shopping basket(s) than I will delete, which does not address the books bought by opening a three-dimensional door, with or without three-dimensional bell, crossing a three-dimensional threshold, and browsing three-dimensional books on 3D shelves and tables, overseen by a very realistic-ly dimensional clerk who may or may not have a clue about books^ but can run a credit card machine.

^ It fascinates me that in the increasingly, or do I mean decreasingly, tiny beleaguered cult world of the high street bookstore, you do get clerks who seem to be there only because the gift shop didn’t have a grunt-level staff opening.

††† Or, even more likely, current attic complete mental breakdown

‡ Or backage, if you prefer

‡‡ You are reading the footnotes in order, aren’t you?

‡‡‡ He also, in the grand British working-man tradition, calls me ‘luv’.  I know I’m supposed to object to this, but it always makes me fall down laughing.  Increasingly so as they get younger and younger as I get older and older.  I know I’m twice his age because he mentioned being thirty-two.^

^ Which means, to have a thirteen-year-old daughter, he started young.

Have I really not done a KES-comment post in . . .



. . . forever?  Bad me.  House move, worrying about husband’s health and well-being, Samaritan training, hellhounds giving up eating etc . . . are NO EXCUSE.  And now it’s been so long I can’t find/remember where I left off.  ARRRGH.  Well, if I miss/repeat anything . . . I’LL BLAME YOU.*  YOU SHOULD HAVE SAID, HEY, YOU HAVEN’T DONE A KES COMMENT ROUND UP IN TOO LONG.


Random thoughts: I like Watermelon Shoulders much better than Torpedo Shoulders.

I would guess so do we all.  I do anyway.  I will say that Torpedo Shoulders will prove to be a little more okay than you think.  Like Murac, drat him.  I had no intention of Murac becoming anything like either an important character or almost a hero sort of person.  Or, you know, attractive, other than in a ramshackle sort of way that would appeal to deranged 11-to-15-year-olds.  Arrrrrrgh.  You see here an author hoist by her own petard.  This happens regularly—right, EMoon?—in my case pretty much every frelling story about something or someone**, but it doesn’t usually happen in public.  By the time the story hits print I’m kind of over my crisis about it/him/her/them and can pretend, or at least pretend to pretend or make a good story out of it, that this was the plan all along.***

I’m very glad we had so much time to get to know Kes in the ordinary, everyday world before she got tossed into the Defender role. It’s not that her personality doesn’t come through in the battle & just-before-or-after-battle sequences, but I like knowing that she likes muffins & is fairly good at making friends with good ordinary people. (I’m not sure I’m expressing myself well here.)

Well, you’re expressing well enough for me to agree with you and to say I’m glad that this is how you’re reading what I’m writing.  Yes.  It depends on the story, of course, but in this case Kes needed to be really clearly and emphatically a more or less normal modern woman—okay, a New Yorker and a fantasy writer, not absolutely normal†—for the high fantasy stuff to work the way I wanted it to work.  It’s not like what I’m doing is original—LEST DARKNESS FALL is the book that pops first into my head, and probably a lot of other people’s heads for modern people dropped in ye olde time††, and you could go back another generation or two to THE TIME MACHINE if you wanted to, and there have been gazillions since—and Kes isn’t trying to invent a printing press or alter any courses of history††† or make sweeping political statements in allegorical form‡ she’s just having an adventure.  But for the adventure to go ping whap YIPE in the way I hoped the two worlds have to be vividly incompatible.

At least Flowerhair was still alive. Yes. I was keeping her alive. What—or who—was keeping me alive? Hello?

::giggle:: And suddenly the story gets a bit meta.

This is me having some fun.  There’s a lot in KES, starting with Kes herself as a fantasy writer, that I would NEVER EVER have put in a book that started life as something I was expecting a publisher to pay me for.

. . . SOMEWHERE someone asked me if the colonel of the Falcons might by any chance be Flowerhair.  Have I answered this?  I can’t remember/find answering this.  If I did, this is what I would already have said:  What a great idea.  No.  Rats.  The thing is, Flowerhair has stayed alive partly by keeping a low profile.  I’ve told you, haven’t I, that I’m going to give you the first chapter of the first FLOWERHAIR book, one of these days?  I know what happens‡‡ and I know how she got started on this mercenary thing, and why, and also why she distrusts the formal military.  She’d also hate being in command although privately, as her author’s author, I think she’d be good at it.  She’s put temporary gangs together occasionally to bring off some feat she couldn’t pull alone.  Eh.  Maybe while Kes is resting up after Part One finally comes to an end I’ll mess with Flowerhair a little more.‡‡‡

I’m glad Silverheart seems to be determined to help Kes out both with being Defender & convincing other people that Kes has some small right to inhabit her heroic role.

Well . . . this is also just McKinley’s preoccupation with ordinary people rising to extraordinary occasions.  Kes is a bit more tongue in cheek than, say, Harry, but it’s the same story arc, from  MEEEEEEEP, to . . . Oh, well, if I have to. . . .


Eowyn had never been a satisfactory heroine because of that whole seeking-death-because-of-unrequited-love thing to which I had had a strong ‘spare me’ reaction

But Eowyn faced the ring wraith lord when all around her had fallen and for that I loved her. Besides, there was really only her and Galadriel who could possibly be role models for a 10 year old girl reading LOTR, and Galadriel did a lot of standing around looking stately while doing not a lot, which had no appeal at all. Get out there and DO something woman!  

I agree, except for the fact that it’s not enough.  I went through the tortures of the damned as only an introverted book-mad ten, or, in my case, eleven-year-old girl who WANTS HER OWN ADVENTURES can go through if she’s of a Previous Generation and when she was eleven years old LOTR was what there was, full stop.  Robin McKinley, Elizabeth Moon, Patricia McKillip, Tamora Pierce, Diane Duane, Patricia Wrede etc hadn’t been invented yet.  Eowyn does beg to accompany Aragorn into battle because she’s a shield maiden not a wet nurse, and in fact that scene rings very true to me and it interests me that Tolkien—manifestly not a bloke who gets it about women—could write it.  But he then, as if horrified at his own ability to understand a woman’s desire for action, undermines the flapdoodle out of her for that famous scene with the Nazgul captain:  she doesn’t kill him.  Merry does.  Which is probably why, when my eleven-year-old mind had to have a GIRL in there somewhere, decided that Merry was a girl really.

And Galadriel is a wet.  Just by the way.  The most interesting thing about her is that she’s a bigger deal than her husband, which is another of those oopsies from Tolkien the Bloke.  Hey, pack her off to the Grey Havens before she spreads.  And for utter iconic girlie uselessness I give you Galadriel’s granddaughter . . . Arwen.§



* * *


* Readers are great.  I love my readers.^

^ Mostly.  Except the ones who think they and I are twin souls and/or want me to collaborate with them on their great novel.


Oh, do shut up and write.  —Story.

*** ::muffled gurgling noises::

† All my New York friends are going HEY!

†† Anyone wants to suggest there’s no magic in LEST DARKNESS FALL . . . um.  No overt magic.  But one dorky little guy TOTALLY TOTALLY TOTALLY CHANGES HISTORY I MEAN TOTALLY?  Uh huh.  De Camp just decided not to mention the magic wand.

††† And since 1939 when LEST came out they’ve kind of decided the Dark Ages weren’t all that dark after all.

Uggh.  The Story Council sends me one of those and after I set fire to it I’ll start lobbing plastic bags of dog crap through their windows.

‡‡ I think I know what happens.^

^ Murac.  Grrrrrrrrrrr.

‡‡‡ Mainly I have to get on with PEG II a little more briskly.^

^ Although, speaking of messing around, I’d like to know a little more about Aldetruda.  And Kes, in a bit of wish fulfilment, writes a lot faster than I do and has at least one other serial heroine and some one offs lurking, any of which might make an interesting digression or digressions.

§ And no, I cut Peter Jackson no slack for trying to jazz her up a little.




Samaritans training was Tuesday this week* so I made it to Aloysius’ Wednesday afternoon silent prayer for the first time since . . . the last time Sams training was on a Tuesday.  And Aloysius wasn’t there.  Feh.  I knew this, and I’d said I’d come hold the floor down in his absence.  There were actually a few other people there—slight gleep from yours truly—but I lit the tea-light, read out a bit of psalm and hit my temple-bell timer.**


I’ve found, myself, that it’s not that I’m not praying when I lead/ sing for services, it’s just that I’m praying differently. I’ve always felt that prayer has to be a verb — for me, it’s prayer when I set up the sanctuary . . .  it’s prayer when I’m whispering directions to those joining me in front of the congregation. . . .  It’s even prayer when I’m singing the Mi Chamocha by rote and trying to figure out who would be moved by the next reading . . . don’t give this one to that person, because it always makes her cry, which is best done if you’re not trying to read aloud . . . it’s just not the Mi Chamocha that I’m, you know, praying. Occasionally, when it’s a solo, and there’s nothing left to coordinate, and everything goes right, I get to lose myself in the actual prayer that I’m actually praying, which is holy in a different way. But it’s all prayer to me…

Thank you for this, and for your previous on the same subject.  It’s a mindfulness thing, isn’t it?  I think part of what has helped me about the headspace for performing worship is that I got put on the prayer chain at St Margaret’s really quickly*** and floundered rather trying to figure out how to cope with all this praying for people when I was new to praying at all.  I’ve told the blog that I ‘sat’ at a [Buddhist] zendo back in Maine during a year I was finding very rough, and the silent mindful daily sitting made a huge difference in my ability to cope.  I fell out of the habit of daily mindful sitting when I moved over here but I didn’t forget that that space existed and was accessible.  And then hey-presto I became a Christian and . . . gleep.  The silent-sitting space is both utterly transformed by the presence of God and also strangely—reassuringly—familiar.

The sitting-space became the prayer-space and having God to orient myself toward makes me feel as if I have an idea where I’m going, even if I don’t always fully arrive.  You have to leave your stuff at the door and sometimes I . . . can’t.  But I take my prayer-list there—or as close to there as I can get—and I go to Aloysius’ Wednesday afternoon silent prayer when Samaritans’ training doesn’t get in the way, and the high point of my practising-Christian week is half an hour sitting silently in the dark with some monks, Saturday evening, during the ‘Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament’, before night prayer starts.  The more often you go to the prayer-space the plainer the track becomes.†

I can gather a few little wisps of prayer-space when I stumble†† up on stage to sing for service.  I’m not much of a singer or a musician—I have to work at making what I hope is a half-decent noise—I have to focus.  It is, at this point in my dubious development, relatively straightforward to focus on the prayer side rather than the music side.  The less kind way of putting it is to say it rates as prayer because intentionality counts.  It does not rate as music because intentionality only gets you a pat on the head and a bellow of NEXT from the bloke running the auditions.†††

But . . . where we came in.  If you can hold your feeble, wavering, mortal focus on prayer . . . what you’re doing is praying.  It’s a bit like deciding to run a marathon when you’re over sixty and have bad knees, but hey.

* * *

* Last night was writing emails and texts.  I was expecting this to be shocking and dislocating, like a watercolourist being handed a block of granite and a chisel, but in fact it was a whole lot like . . . writing.  In this case, emails and texts.  The texting was funny.  I’ve told you that I’m older by a good fifteen years than the next-oldest of the trainees, and probably thirty-five years older than the youngest.^  And I’m like, texting, fine, okay, I can do texting, and all these kiddies were saying TEXTING?  We have to TEXT as Samaritans?  And we’re supposed to understand all those nasty text abbreviations?^^  And I’m going, oh, cool.  Txtspk!  <3 !^^^  The Samaritans’ text software limits texts to 160 characters, so my fellow trainees were saying, we’re supposed to compose something EMPATHETIC and SUBSTANTIVE in 160 characters??  And I’m saying, oh, it’s like a slightly stretched tweet—you know, Twitter.  Sure, I can do that.  And they all recoiled as if from a slavering Rottweiler and said, TWITTER?  We have nothing to do with Twitter.  —Snicker.  Us do-gooders are so straight.#

^ How did I get this OLD?  I was supposed to just kind of stay forty.

^^ Which we’re allowed to use, cautiously, trying to take our cue from the texter.  We get a lot of texts and emails from overseas and from people whose first language is not English and we do have to communicate.

^^^ Which, not very long ago, when, I think it was Jodi, used it, I had to ask her for a translation.

# I’m talking to Merrilee tomorrow night and I will have to remember to tell her, since she’s the one dragged me kicking and screaming into the twenty-first century, including both this blog and Twitter.+

+ I don’t count Facebook, which I don’t use.  I post the blog links there and if FB is in a good mood and lets me, I read any comments.  But about the seven millionth throw-it-all-up-in-the-air-and-stick-the-bits-to-the-wall-as-they-fall-down-again revision, I mean upgrade, I lost the will to live about all of it.

** And went home with Eleanor after and spent an hour and a half wringing our hands and rending our garments over an incomprehensible political situation that has recently arisen in St Margaret’s.  THIS IS WHY I HATE GROUPS.  THEY’RE FULL OF CRAZY PEOPLE BY DEFINITION.

*** ref comments about saying ‘yes’ to things you think you can do so you don’t get ploughed under with things you can’t, it being the function of a community, including a religious one, to extract as much practical value out of its members as it can.^  St Margaret’s is thriving in a general society where a lot of churches are struggling, and I’m sure one of the reasons why is the bloodhound look in the eyes of the admin as soon as a fresh victim crosses the threshold.  When you sign up to be an official mailing-list member you are doomed.

^ See previous footnote.  Sigh.

† More or less.  Some frelling day I will be able to sit properly at home.  The old Zen-Buddhist, and Zen-Christian, thing is just that every time you’re distracted you bring your mind gently back to your breath, or whatever you’re using as a focus.  If I’m sitting with monks I need to bring my mind back, oh, no more often than thirty-seven times a minute.  At home alone, relying solely on my own resources . . . it’s like trying to whack a manic fly with a flyswatter.  LAND SOMEWHERE YOU DEVILSPAWN SO I CAN NAIL YOU.  Sigh.


^ Or drum accessories.  I don’t think the drums themselves are electrified (? Like I have any idea), but there are certainly cables running (perilously) to the drum kit.

††† This is aside from questions of the quality of the actual music we’re attempting to perform.


The Incredible Shrinking Living Space


Third House has shrunk.  I should have realised that the shiver in the aether when Peter said ‘okay’ Saturday afternoon was reality contracting.  Oh, and the books on Third House’s shelves have all reproduced.  In fact I think most of them have had litters.  Arrrgh.  I didn’t notice immediately, I was too busy dancing the fandango* and telling Third House we’re finally going to live in it.**

The red-shifted or Dopplered or whatever mystery of physics describes what happens to a house you’re about to start living in*** became dreadfully clear, however, when Fiona† showed up Tuesday morning†† and we tackled the surprising amount of stuff left over from last autumn when I was clearing out toward handing it over to the letting agent.†††  ARRRGH.  Fiona‡ had already agreed to come for a day and make me by her presence GET THE FRELLING FRELL ON WITH IT, when I still thought I was going to be letting it.  But we’ve been haemorrhaging money on storage since last autumn:  get your butt in gear, McKinley.  So I told Fiona that she was to keep repeating:  NEVER MIND. NEVER MIND.   JUST PUT IT IN A BOX AND PICK UP THE NEXT THING.

The angle of approach to the eventual goal has altered, but the merciless bottom line is still that it’s Too Much Stuff and Too Little Space.  But at least it’s our too little space again.

And you know the most amazing thing?  Fiona the B is coming back next Tuesday.‡‡  To do it all over again.  Which includes the fact that doing it all over again is necessary, sigh.  Now if only I could figure out a way to sic her on BT. . .

* * *

* If houses can shrink, I can be two people and dance a fandango

** It’s a nice house.  It should be lived in.  Aside from housing shortages^ I have felt bad for however many years I’ve owned it that I’m/we’re not doing it justice.  At the same time I was pretty discouraged about the prospect of letting it—very sensible, should have done it years ago, but it’s my house.  I want my books on the shelves (and the floor) and my drawing table in the attic.

^ Which I don’t in fact feel very guilty about since one of the many governmental scandals that resurface when there’s nothing newer and hotter to develop migraines over is the number of council houses that stand empty because the local council can’t get its act together to have them set to rights.  This would be less of a scandal if a lot of those local councils didn’t prefer to build new ones . . . which will need repairs shortly.

*** Usually they wait till you start unpacking your 1,000,000,000 boxes, but the situation here is unusual.

† Hereinafter to be known as Fiona the Blessed or possibly Fiona the B.

†† Well . . . um . . . it was still nearly Tuesday morning.  Fiona the B had some silly story about a flat tyre.  I had my usual silly story about non-eating hellhounds and going to bed so wound up I was humming like a gyroscope.

††† Unfortunately the need to do stuff like find out why the toilet tank erratically leaks^ and finally placate the ratblasted TV licensing mob who have suspected me of malfeasance for nearly a decade now^^ and enter into *&^%$£”!”!!!!!!!! negotiations with *&^%$£”!”!!!!!!!! BT^^^ has not evolved in the slightest.

^ and all you DIYers out there, no, it’s not that you just have to difflegag the dorgummer, because if it were the obvious thing(s) Atlas would have done it.

^^ She owns TWO houses and she doesn’t have TV in EITHER of them??  A likely story.

^^^ Jaccairn

Yeah for Peter moving closer! Does this mean you’ll have to resume discussions with BT about the phone line?

Snork.  The things you people remember.  Yes.  BT claims there is no phone line to the house despite the fact that it’s an eighty-year-old cottage in the middle of a several-hundred-year-old village+ and there’s a phone jack in the kitchen.  And that if I want a phone line put in for the first time in eight hundred and fifteen years (approximately) it’s going to cost me a lot of money because they have to start with the Roman aqueduct.++  But Peter has said diffidently that he really does feel he would be happier with a landline . . . and I need my internet.  And even Peter uses email+++.

Pam Adams

I’m sure the hellterror will be happy- another pair of hands to pet her all day long.

???  The hellpack and I are at Peter’s mews more than we’re at the cottage.  We sleep at the cottage# and the hellgoddess imbibes her morning caffeine at the cottage.  Then we schlep down to the mews—pausing to pick Peter up in front of the grocery store because post-stroke he can walk one way into town, not both ways.  I usually try to hurtle critters back to the cottage for a spell in the afternoon to garden, do the laundry, shovel the accumulation of whatever off the stairs, etc.  I AM SO LOOKING FORWARD TO NOT HAVING TO COMMUTE ANY MORE.  As real commutes go it’s piffle, but it’s just far enough that you can’t nip back for something you’ve forgotten, and whatever you want is probably at the other house.  Hence the whole gruesome business of two knapsacks, three hellcritters and Wolfgang, every frelling day, no weekends and no holidays.  And you’ve still brought the wrong coat.


I love it when procrastinating on something big like renting out Third House turns out to be a huge blessing.

Ha.  Indeed.  Although I wish I’d merely procrastinated about turning the CLEAN SHINY EMPTY FULLY MOD-CONNED### HOUSE over to the nice rental agent rather than having stalled at the gee, wasn’t this supposed to have gone into storage/what about ALL OF THESE BLASTED BOOKS? phase.  Not to mention the overflowing toilet cistern.

Mrs Redboots

That sounds better! So does that mean you will sell your place, too, and move into Third House with Peter?

Good golly no.  Third House is LITTLE.  And littler than it was a week ago too, before Peter said ‘okay’, see above.  It only had two bedrooms to begin with and one of them is now mostly staircase on account of the No You Can’t Do What You Want to Do with Your Own House building-reg disaster of putting a weight-bearing floor in the attic for the 1,000,000,000,000,000 boxes of backlist.  Couldn’t one of us have been a chef or a horse trainer or something?  My idea was an attic like at the cottage, which is finished, with a Velux window and a fitted carpet and everything, but you get in and out by something more like a ladder than a stair, and removable.  That would No Longer Be Allowed### Because Building Regulations Have Decreed That a Weight-Bearing Floor Means Living Space and You Can’t Live in Something You Can Only Reach By Ladder.~  As I found out when I hired my architect.  So I now have Living Space I can’t stand up in (it’s still an attic) and a second bedroom that you could maybe get a single bed in.  Maybe.  If you don’t mind rappelling in from the doorway.

Or, if you and the hellhounds are staying put (although the hellhounds will have lots more garden to roam in, which means lots more lovely photos!!!), is it a lot nearer and more convenient?

Yes.  In the first place it’s a BUNGALOW so the only stairs are to the backlist and Peter has staff (that would be me) to fetch and carry.  In the second place it’s across the churchyard from my cottage instead of at the other end of town and in the third place it’s a short level walk to the shops instead of half a mile and a hill.

I am SO LOOKING FORWARD to having that garden again.  I stopped letting the hellpack play there when I decided to let the house so I’d be used to the loss by the time I gave it over to the agent.  But I was really dreading walking past it—and it’s slap on one of the basic hurtles from the cottage, there’s no way I could not go that way some of the time—and seeing other people and, probably, other people’s dogs in it.

We haven’t started using the garden again because I’m a bit preoccupied with getting on with the house.~~


Less stress for everyone, I hope, and YOU GET TO KEEP THIRD HOUSE!


No bothering with renters! You could put the backlist back in the attic! …Well. If it doesn’t immediately fill up with Peter’s things.

The backlist has to go into the attic.  WE ARE GOING TO GET ALL OUR STUFF OUT OF STORAGE.  I was staring at the walls at the cottage this afternoon and thinking, okay, I can put another bookshelf up there.  There’s still a terrifying amount of stuff to deal with, one way or another.  The only reason I haven’t just run away from home and joined the space programme~~~ is because I keep reminding myself that the mews, while it has the most floor space of our three little houses it has the least storage.  It pretty much has no storage aside from some unsatisfactory crawl spaces.  What you see is what there is.  Which is bad enough.

Skating librarian

Great news … It would seem your life will be much less complicated and Peter’s much safer. 

That’s the plan, yes, thanks.

+ Granted that telephones were rare in 1200.

++ Start what with the Roman aqueduct?

+++ And google at least twice a year.

# Theoretically we sleep at the cottage.  We at least assume a recumbent position at the cottage.  The hellpack, by the snoring, sleep pretty well.  Me, not so much.

## Including a frelling landline phone and broadband at a speed not less than that attained by a dead muskrat.

### The attic in the cottage was done up by my predecessor.  I’ve been there a decade (!) and it was a few years old when I bought the cottage.

~ Tell that to Lothlorien’s elves.

~~ But I did buy an extra tray of snapdragons today.

~~~ Aside from there being no space programme to join, and that they don’t take clueless retirement-age-approaching women whose only degrees are BAs in English lit.

‡ the B

‡‡ I’ve told her the cattle prod is optional

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I had writer's block once. It was the worst fifteen minutes of my life. -- Robert Silverberg