August 8, 2016

Domestic Dramas

The hellterror broke my favourite bowl today. Her head is on a stake in the back garden.


Actually I’m thinking about tying the stake to the railing at the front of the cottage. If Damien, hairy* four-legged scion of the Black Goat of the Woods, wants to have hysterical barking meltdowns every time I walk in or out of the cottage or the Lodge, I figure let’s give him something to melt down about.

This particular bowl, unlike most of the stuff I’ve been breaking without help lately, is relatively old in my life; I bought it probably pushing forty years ago, on holiday with my oldest and best Maine friend—who died a few years ago, way too long before time.  We were on Prince Edward Island because she was an Anne of Green Gables fanatic, and this was one of those local-artists’-cooperative shops, dripping with highly desirable things.  I bought a bowl.  It is—was—a huge salad bowl, suitable for families of twelve, or for one slightly crazed paleo vegan alkaline raw foodie sort of.**  It will be horribly, horribly missed, and since some of it shattered, I doubt there are enough pieces to epoxy back together, but I will save them and give it a try some decade in the future because I am like that.  Meanwhile what am I supposed to do for a SALAD BOWL?  Alfrick, who as an experienced spiritual director has a great wealth of uplifting suggestions for all occasions of profound anguish, recommends that I engage with the prospect of The Quest for the New Perfect Salad Bowl.  This man knows me too well.

* * *

* He looks like a frelling floor mop. Not that I’m prejudiced or anything.  I have told you that five new barking dogs have moved into my immediate neighbourhood?  But only Damien is hellspawn.

** Ref what a person like this eats when she’s coming off a nasty bout of stomach flu^: your metabolism or your ability to cope or whatever changes when you drastically change your diet.  In hindsight I’ve always been lactose intolerant but I got a lot more lactose intolerant as soon as I went off dairy, although going off dairy was one of the best decisions of my life^^, and I could hear my body going YAAAAAAAAAAAAY while my mind and mouth were going waaaaaaaah ice cream cheese eggnog whipped cream waaaaaaaaah. I’m pretty sure I’ve told the blog that I used to have ice cream blow outs once or twice a year for a while but I had to stop because the hangover the next day, in which my entire physical being seemed to be inflamed, became seriously not worth it.  I’ve been a vegetarian only a little over a year but the very idea of beef broth, for example, one of the post-flu options suggested on the forum, makes me feel extremely queasy, and while I used to be a chicken-soup-for-what-ails you person, I know I couldn’t face it now.  Dead flesh?  ANIMAL FAT? Ewwwwww. And Saltines, I’ve been off wheat for yonks—I even take gluten-free wafers at Communion—and lately comprehensively off all cereal grains.  Saltines would kill me.  I don’t doubt beef broth and Saltines work a treat for the person who posted;  it’s what your body is set up to recognise as food^^^.  I agree with those of you who have said that when you’re ill the rules change.  It’s how they change and what they change to I haven’t figured out yet from the vegan paleo nutter^^^^ view.

^ And yes, it was so brief and so violent I thought about food poisoning too, but in the first place—er—the order of occurrence of certain categories of personal violence followed the stomach-flu pattern rather than the food-poisoning pattern. In the second place I can’t face the idea that it was food poisoning, because that would mean It Happened in My Kitchen, and while generally speaking housework is not my thing, I’m fairly paranoid about kitchen hygiene because my gut is so not a thing of beauty and a joy forever. And in the third place, Alfrick says there is a twenty-four hour stomach bug going around. Ah the many delights of conversation with one’s spiritual advisor.  And the reassurance about the big things he can provide.

^^ Second to moving to England and marrying Peter.  Sigh.  And I’m already frelling failing as a gravekeeper.  That first dark red rose lasted an amazingly long time.  It lasted so long in fact that I didn’t believe it was lasting that long, and had bought a second spike’s worth+ and stuck it in the ground . . . and then the red rose went on and on and on, bless it, and the second spike, which had gone in eight days after the first, lasted approximately ONE day after I took the dark red one out, and this happened to be Saturday, and because I had Cecilia here, I didn’t notice till afternoon, and didn’t make it to the florist’s before they shut.++  So, because, after all, this is Peter, and the next day was Sunday when small town florists do not open for business, I committed the ultimate act of love and cut one of my own roses. Saturday evening it was a big fat happy bright pink rose with a lot of scent, which as most of you will know florists’ roses almost never have, and less than twenty-four hours later it was already over. Arrrrrrrgh.  So tomorrow I will go back to the florist.

+ I have two of those spike-vase things so I can do the swapping more easily. #

# Okay, really I have three. Because I’m like that.  But hey, they’re cheap.


# Admetus thinks I suffer from road rage. I think he’s led a sheltered life.  Cecilia just laughed.~  I was thinking about this.  My girlfriends just laugh.  Maybe it’s a testosterone thing?  A sort of anti testosterone thing with blokes who don’t think a good evening out is to get tanked down t’pub and have a punch-up with whoever is available.

~ Which was noble of her since we barely made her train and we didn’t know at that point that we would. But we did make her train.  Possibly the fates were rewarding her for being noble.

^^^ News flash: the hellterror has decided that lettuce is not food. Shock and dismay of family and friends.  Film at eleven.  She learnt a long time ago that when I’m doing something with a knife and a chopping board there’s food involved, and the way I now frelling eat, doing something at the sink with a salad spinner and a chopping board is most of the time I’m not reading, writing, hurtling, gardening or pretending to sleep.  I NEVER used to let dogs mill around my feet and beg for scraps, but many rules have been changed in the era of non-eating hellhounds, and what you do with one hellcritter you pretty much have to do with all hellcritters, or at least choose your battles and be prepared to be extremely creative about setting up different protocols that the suspicious resident hellmob will actually wear. I never even tried to convince the hellterror that she wasn’t allowed to hope for falling items of an interesting nature.  I am not entirely stupid.  Anyway, the  hellhounds, of course, rarely can be bothered, now that I’m never grappling with anything that smells attractive, but the hellterror is always there, radiating hopefulness.  She likes broad beans.  She likes all green beans, French, runner, whatever.  She likes peas, both sugar snap and the ones you shell.  She likes all the brassicas, as previously mentioned:  she eats them RAW which I mostly can’t quite manage.  She adores carrots.  And she likes apple.  She gets a lot of apple while I’m dealing with things she either scorns—this is a short list, but it now includes all lettuce—or that she can’t have, like avocado, or that I’m not going to let her have, like frelling frelling frelling salmon, which is Terribly Good for You+ but costs not one but several bombs if you buy either wild or responsibly farmed++.  We’ve just had one of our little hellgoddess/hellterror interactions+++ where I drop a bit of apple which frelling bounces and she can’t get at it.  FRANTIC SCRATCHING NOISES.  I extend a bare foot to retrieve the thing and she can’t wait and is frenziedly licking my foot which is not helping the extraction process.  THERE.  VICTORY.

+ So no, I’m not a true vegan either. Life is short, and eating fish makes it simpler when you’re trying to live in a world where no one knows what ‘vegan’ means and if you say ‘vegetarian’ they all go ‘cheese sauce.’  And if you say, no, no cheese sauce they get all worried and say, then how do you get your PROTEIN?  Well I used to get it by chewing up people who annoyed me, but . . .

++ Although the hellmob does receive the lovely greasy scrapings at the bottom of either the tin or the baking dish because . . . because . . . um. Because.  But even the hellhounds may open one eye for salmon scrapings.  That’s ‘may’.

+++ All right, her head is not outdoors on a stake. But it was a near thing. She doesn’t get it about the bowl, but she gets it that she is not my favourite person at the minute and is therefore sleeping Very Determinedly at my feet and next to the Aga in spite of the weather.  The hellhounds are at the far end of the kitchen somewhat sheltered from the Aga by the desk-island, and with a nice cool breeze coming through the cracked-open front door.

^^^^ Yes I eat nuts. I eat lots of nuts.


Oh, cool/hot/awesome/slang of the moment!

This is a really interesting article anyway full of stuff I need to check out but don’t miss the last paragraph.*

And thanks for all the happy chirping noises about last night’s news.**


Is it a bad thing that I already own The Blue Sword as an e-book? I would NEVER knowingly get a pirated copy of anyone’s book. That would be BAD! The e-book that I have looks very professionally done. I’m confused! I’ll have to get another copy (a legit? copy) of the e-book when it comes out.

You’ve probably got one of the ones that were briefly and in the publisher’s mind legitimately available a while ago. When said publisher had it politely pointed out to them that in fact what they were doing wasn’t totally pure and square and holy they were very embarrassed.  They were so embarrassed it’s taking a while to winkle them out from under the bed, convince them that All Is Forgiven, and persuade them that we really want to do it again, just the right way this time, okay?


Well, I’m conflicted. Congratulations for the e-books. But I’ve already bought them in old fashioned, space gobbling, real book style. What excuse do I have to buy an e-reader?

Good heavens. Have you never found yourself standing in an endless queue and wished you’d brought with you that really good book you were reading but it’s large and heavy and you were only going to be gone ten minutes because there are never any queues this time of day?  Or equivalent?  E-editions are pretty much a scam that I’m allowing myself to be gorgleblorged by because of the Library in Your Knapsack thing.  I wouldn’t dream of having keeper books only in e-format.  I just have more editions of stuff I’ll want to read again.

And as Lenni says you don’t have to have a dedicated ereader. I have the Kindle app on my iPad.  If you’re portable-tech-free you have a slightly more epic struggle with your conscience ahead of you but . . . well, I’ve told this story many times before, but I only bought my first computer because the office shop could no longer get parts for my IBM Selectric I typewriter.  I forget why I let myself get gorgleblorged*** by the idea of an iPad† but I use her constantly, however often I want to throw her against the wall for her tantrums about Microsoft.


I can’t wait to be rescued from a long wait somewhere by pulling up a comforting favorite story on my phone.

Yes, exactly. But I am fascinated by you people who read on your phones. My eyes can do it but, dunno, my brain can’t.  It’s like people with little tiny writing.  My hand can do it BUT MY BRAIN CAN’T.  I have big sprawly handwriting.  I guess I must have big sprawly eyes†† too.  I was actually going to buy the next size down of tablet for portability reasons next time but then I thought about the pleasantness of reading double page spreads like a REAL book on the iPad . . . and then I read about the iPad Air which weighs about two butterflies and a feather and I thought, fine, I wasn’t seriously planning to downsize my knapsack anyway.

* * *

* Thank you, Gomoto^, although why one of my American readers was faster off the mark than any of my English ones . . . is one of those little mysteries of the modern global-internet world.

^ Also Rachel on the forum, but her post went up later, and I also don’t know which side of the pond she’s on. Or even which pond.

** One person out in public on Facebook and a few people more privately on email have said that they aren’t buying anything of mine till I produce the second/third/ninety-seventh/final volume of PEGASUS.  It’s not always easy to tell tone of voice from a stranger in print, but I have the impression that these declarations are typed in some dudgeon, possibly high.  What people choose to do with their disposable income is up to them, of course, including whether or not they buy books and if they do buy books whose books they buy.  But just in case this has slipped anyone’s mind . . . I’m not not producing PEG II, III and LXXXIX out of any disturbingly perverse desire to alienate readers.  Um, why would I?  I need to keep eating.^ Also I’m a storyteller by blood and bone;  I don’t exist in my own mind let alone anyone else’s if I’m not telling stories.  I would love to have PEG II already out and PEG III being wept over by final-stage copyeditors^^ and myself be contemplating writing that story about the bottle of sentient champagne.  But I’m not.^^^ I’m not because PEG II is moving approximately as quickly as it’s going to take all those plate tectonics to bring Africa back to West Quoddy Head.  I’m not happy about this.#  But it’s not up to me—rather like producing my books in e-format isn’t up to me.  You can, of course, nag me, about ebooks## or PEG II or LXXXIX, but it won’t produce any results except making me miserable.###  Control freaks seriously don’t like things to be out of their control.  And storytellers hate not telling stories.

^ And buying other people’s books.

^^ Tears of joy, mind you.  Supposing it ends with III, which is to say it better had or I may become a full-time professional practising homeopath after all, not everybody is going to be spectacularly happy in all ways after the climax but this is still a McKinley story and there will be some kind of a big shiny hurrah somewhere near the end.

^^^ Except at my 3 am equivalent which is about when most people are heading off to work, or the local builders are arriving and turning their frelling radios on to the Maudlin Pop Drivel station.+

+ I keep forgetting to check if U2 are trying to break into my iPhone.

# In fact I am wildly, frantically frustrated and crazy over it.  Just by the way.

## Including, inevitably, what goes wrong, because things will go wrong.

### You can’t make a horse win a race even if you’ve bred, fed and trained her perfectly. You can’t make a rosebush cover herself in huge fabulous flowers+ ditto.  And horses are horribly expensive to keep and rose-free rosebushes are mostly pretty ugly.  It goes like that sometimes.

+ Unless you’re a character out of ROSE DAUGHTER

*** Or ‘sandbagged’ if you prefer


^ Yes of course I play several. I might not be so outraged if I played them a little better.

†† And a big sprawly brain. If it were tidier I might be getting on with PEG II quicker.  Sigh.

An attic full of books

THERE’S TOO MUCH GOING ON* including various bits of news** both good and bad that I haven’t entirely got my head around yet*** although when I do some of them will make it onto the blog.

Meanwhile I thought I might at least post some photos of an attic full of book boxes as requested by some strange person on the forum.



This is what greets you at the top of the stairs.   That’s the corner of my old double bed from Maine on the left, hard up against the end wall, pretending to be a Guest Room.  When I get it made up again it will be a very good place for Lying with the Hellmob.  The hellhounds and I had begun to explore this interesting possibility back when Third House was still Third House.  And a double bed is enough bigger than a sofa I may be able to trap the hellterror in place more effectively.

But this is what I mean about lack of impressiveness–although you may be dazzled by my colour sense–you’re looking at nineteen or twenty boxes wedged into that corner, but since you can only see the outside rows it’s a big meh.



You’re now standing with the bed behind you and the yellow filing cabinet to your left, looking down the length of the attic.  This is the long kitchen table, worth £1.79, built out of bits Peter had found in rubbish tips, that when we moved out of the old house I REFUSED TO GIVE UP.  And I was right.  It is perfect as a long skinny attic table.  That’s the notorious dormer window that has produced those interesting ceiling angles, some of which you can see.  And those are avocadoes on the window sill, in case you’re wondering, ripening in the sunlight that blasts in during the day.  If you peer into the murk to the far end of the attic you may just about be able to make out EMPTY SHELVES.  Yes.  I keep putting stuff on them and then taking it off again because how am I supposed to choose?  Although Peter’s 1,000,000,000 bound annuals of PUNCH take up a good deal of the space you can’t see, and my encyclopaedia will go on those shelves too when I find the rest of it.

And that architectural feature in the upper right-hand corner is the boxed-in, so to speak, chimney.  Why it has a sort of hoop skirt built out from it halfway down (or up) I have no idea, but all shelves to pile books and book boxes on are good shelves.



This is the left-hand far corner, so what is beyond the table on the same side of the attic.  And again . . . not so impressive.  But you’re looking at nearly thirty boxes you just can’t see most of them.  What you are seeing at the bottom of the picture in the open box is the limited edition illustrated ROSE DAUGHTER.




This is now behind the chimney.  Peter’s gazillion PUNCHES are immediately to your left;  the corner with the unimpressive thirty boxes is now behind you . . . more or less.  You’re a bit crowded back here.

I am particularly pleased with the table.  It’s one of the few pieces of furniture that came over with me from Maine, with the bed and the blue velvet sofa, and it was for the chop this move;  there was nowhere to put it.  I’m a little nostalgic about the stuff I brought over with me because barring the 1,000,000,000 books there isn’t a lot of it–and I did have to get rid of my baby grand piano.   This table has been sitting at the mews waiting for the axe to fall since like the kitchen table it isn’t worth anything BUT IT’S A PERFECTLY GOOD TABLE.  And then I thought, wait a minute, I can use it a Mediating Structure to make the wrangling of book boxes marginally less appalling.  So it’s shoved up against the back of the chimney and there are and/or will be stacks of two boxes below it and stacks of two boxes on top of it . . . instead of stacks of four boxes of books.  Hurrah.  Yessssss.



The view from above.  Just by the way, don’t get too excited by any labels you may see.  Most of them are wrong.  Well, most of the ones on Peter’s backlist are wrong.  My backlist, on the other hand, is 99% gorgeously and specifically accurate because I have a secret weapon named Fiona.



And, when appropriate, I get books out of their boxes and pile them interestingly in available gaps, available being another of those mutable concepts.  I’ve got a lot of Peter’s piled up on the chimney shelf just out of frame in the long shot of the ex-kitchen table.  And just by another way, I have no idea where SHADOWS is.  I haven’t seen it at all.  I hope it’s hiding somewhere at the cottage.



And because I am hopelessly neurotic, I’ve saved a few empty boxes . . . just in case I need them later.  Yes, that’s a sink on your right.  I have them piled in the loo because there isn’t anywhere else.

* * *

* Well how unusual

** No, no, not the kind you want

*** Although I HAD MY FIRST VOICE LESSON IN FOREVER on Monday YAAAAAAAY.  It wasn’t even as bad as feared^ but I still have a good deal of lost ground to make up.  AND BOTH MY PIANO AND I SOUND DIFFERENT IN THIRD HOUSE’S SITTING ROOM.

^ Although if it had been as bad as feared it would have involved alien abduction and earthquakes and a recount in Scotland that demonstrated that they’d left the UK after all, which leaves quite a lot of room for a voice lesson still to be pretty bad in.



Backlist, addendum



‘Pavlova, drag these boxes of books up the stairs for Mommy, please.’

::falls down laughing:: Now why didn’t I think of that?  She’s got both the legs sprung of extra-supreme-alloy and the jaws of death.*  We could have done it together. It could have been a bonding experience.**

However. It wasn’t.  And at least this means there are no teeth marks on the books. And yes, I finished carrying the last monster boxes upstairs yesterday although I admit I unpacked the three heaviest*** and took them up in armfuls.

ME is a weird disease. I have no idea why I was allowed to heave a hundred book boxes† around without serious repercussions.  Because—so far anyway—there have been no repercussions.††  I am inevitably reasonably fit because of all the frelling hurtling I do although on bad days it tends to be more like dawdling but the ME means that I have to assume I have No Stamina Whatsoever because I frequently don’t, often with diabolical suddenness, especially when we’re a couple of miles from where we left Wolfgang.  You live like this for fourteen years and you start thinking of yourself as rather flimsy. I feel a bit like I’ve had an unexpected body transplant†††.  No doubt the old familiar rickety one will be returned soon.  And then I’ll fall over.

This isn’t the first time the ME has let me cope with something that I REALLY NEED TO COPE WITH‡—moving day itself, for example, when I was a lot thinner on the ground generally than I appear to be at the moment—but it seems to me unlikely that I’m really going to get away with this.  Presumably one day soon, when I’m planting autumn pansies, say, or putting endless dog bedding into the washing machine or taking endless dog bedding out of the washing machine . . . I will suddenly need to sit down for thirty-six hours.  Never mind.  The backlist is in the attic. ‡‡

* * *

* Someone in the forum said, after I posted the photos of Pav on her birthday, that she found the Jaws of Death photo a little anxious-making. I HAD TO WORK REALLY HARD TO GET A JAWS OF DEATH PHOTO AT ALL.  Pav is not naturally a Jaws of Death kind of dog.  She just happens to be a bull terrier and the mythology around them is very jaws-of-death-y.  If you push the lips of any dog back you get pretty much the same view:  short front teeth framed with fangs.  Pav is mouthy—if you play with her you’ll probably find yourself with your hand in her mouth at some point^—but she hasn’t bitten me since she was an infant and hadn’t quite got it that you can’t chew on humans the way you can your littermates.  She was actually easier to get this point across to than the hellhounds had been because she’d been socialised very very very well before she came to me.  She may yet grow out of being mouthy.  Chaos, the eternal puppy, was mouthy for years.

^ I think I’ve also told you she’s a licker and a nibbler. The licking is fine, she’s not at all drooly+, but the nibbling is a little exciting since she favours places where the skin is thin, like necks and the insides of elbows.

+ Except in her water bowl. Ew.  Which I have to change about four times a day.  She has the most extraordinary drinking style.  She’ll stand there going SLURP SLURP SLURP SLURP for, like, minutes, and when she comes away the water level hasn’t gone down at all, there’s just this—ew—churned up FOAM on the top.  Good thing she gets a lot of wet food or she might die of not actually swallowing any of the water that passes through her mouth.

** The hellhounds would have opened one eye, gone, Eh?, and closed the eye again.^ The hellhounds had originally been Rather Interested in the new Alp in the garden . . . PEE ON THAT, GUYS, AND YOU WILL NOT LIVE TO PEE AGAIN.  One of the things about having a proper garden is having your hellmob in it but things can get a little out of control when you’re also in the centre of town.  When we got back from the second and FINAL book box run on Monday I let Pav out of Wolfgang because that’s what you do, you turn off the engine and let the critter(s) out but because of the size of Atlas’ trailer the gate was still open.  Which Pav shot through and disappeared . . . while I was letting the hellhounds out of the house and discouraging their interest in the Alp.  I heard Atlas calling her, thought OH GHASTLY AWFUL END OF THE UNIVERSE TYPE THINGS, ran out into the street and called her . . . and she came.  Noble Pav.

*** One of encyclopaedias, and no I haven’t found the missing box yet^, one of MERLIN DREAMS and one of the illustrated ROSE DAUGHTER. Any one of these three weighed nearly as much as rather-large-box-shaped Wolfgang.

^ It would be encyclopaedias, you know?  If it were one of my gazillion boxes of out of print editions of books I’ve forgotten writing I would never have noticed.  In fact, I may be missing a few boxes of my gazillions of out of print editions of books I’ve forgotten writing and haven’t noticed.

† And I did break a hundred. I’d forgotten about the half dozen I left in Peter’s office, two of which because they were labelled ‘files’ and ‘mss’, and the others because he still has some empty bookshelves in there.  But I didn’t carry these upstairs.

Also if you count the twenty or so boxes of his backlist from Peter’s office and bedroom at the mews that Nina and Ignatius packed and brought over THAT’S EVEN MORE BOXES OF BACKLIST TOWARD A TERRIFYING TOTAL.^

^ I notice that Peter has more copies of his recent books. This may just be the exigencies of publishing but I suspect there may be some malign influence from his second wife.  THEY’RE OFFERING YOU MORE COPIES? TAKE THEM. SOMETHING IS GOING OUT OF PRINT AND THEY’LL LET YOU HAVE 1,000,000,000 COPIES FOR 7P PER? TAKE THEM. Let it be recorded that I have suffered for my sins.

†† Although the arnica will have helped. Arnica the Wonder Drug.

††† I wish they’d given me more hair and fewer wrinkles. Ah well, if they had, it would be harder giving this body back.

‡ I wonder a bit about late-onset ME. I don’t know that many other people who have had it long-term^ but my vague unreliable impression is that the younger you are the bigger and more unpredictable a rat bastard it is.  My first eighteen months of it were entirely horrible but it mostly only knocks me over badly any more when I haven’t been behaving like a person who knows very well she has ME and had better stop with the shot-putting and the mixed martial arts.  And it will usually let me pull myself together if it’s urgent, although it may make me pay and pay and pay and pay and pay for it afterward.

^ I’m also not convinced that people who get over it really had ME, although since I also believe it’s a continuum or a syndrome and not a single disease, they may just be at the far end of the range. That or it’ll be back when they least expect it.  LIE DOWN NOW. BECAUSE I SAID SO.

‡‡ poodleydoo

Pictures? I would love to see pictures of the books. Even books in boxes. I’m just so curious to see what 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 books looks like. You know, in a house, or rather, an attic.

Hmm. I was looking the attic with this request in mind today.  I’m not sure it’s really all that obviously impressive.  I’ve done my BEST to wedge things around the edges—and there’s a chimney in the way—and it’s a long thin attic with peculiar corners, see previous blog on the subject of the ceiling.^  I’ll have a go at photographing the chief ramparts and see if I can make them look amusing.

^ I only hit my head ONCE. Of course now that the dramatic bit is over with I’ll forget to be careful again. Ow.

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.

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