I work at the Antique Rose Emporium in San Antonio, and Madame Alfred is one of my absolutely favorite roses. (: If people are looking for a fragrant climber, I always lead them to her, as long as they have the room. I put her on my parents’ front fence, and she blooms a treat.
The Antique Rose Emporium! Squeeeeee!
The very last year I was in Maine, I . . . planted stuff. In a clearly prescient sort of way. Gardening had never really occurred to me, except as something that other people did.* I’ve said this (often) before: gardening in Maine, while other people certainly did do it, looked way too much like hard work. Gardening in Maine is the Xena Warrior Princess end, with evil gods and zombie unicorns and person-swallowing landscape and so on and I’m much more the Gabrielle before she started going to the gym end. If there are any zombie unicorns around I am definitely looking for somewhere to hide.
But I had a silly fit, and, that last summer, went around digging holes and putting things in them. Including three roses. Which actually, you know, grew, and produced flowers—I mean, roses, yipe. I have no idea where this might ultimately have led: my little lilac-enshrouded house was heavily shaded by not only the two ginormous lilac hedges but several boulders as tall as the house in the back, and a huge, gorgeous old maple tree in the front. I never was going to have a lot of opportunity to grow roses there—which is just as well, because the joke is that roses are annuals in Maine, and I’m pretty sure my three didn’t survive their first winter. But I might have learnt about the roses that will survive serious winter, and how to help them do it.
Instead I fell in love with an Englishman and moved to England and his two-acre garden where he spent hours every day eeeeeeeeep.** And after I got my breath back I started putting roses in left, right and centre, and learning the hard way about growing the beggars. To do this rigorously*** involved ordering catalogues—this was before the web began infiltrating us hoi polloi: I didn’t have a computer yet† let alone an internet connection—from every rose seller I could get the address of. This included several in the States. I don’t remember if The Antique Rose Emporium’s was one of the ones I had to draft in an enabling American friend to lay my hands on—quite reasonably a lot of plant sellers won’t send catalogues overseas when they won’t ship their plants overseas—but the whole ‘rose rustlers’ thing was very attractive††, and little old country cemeteries in England sometimes have drifts of ancient roses with great gnarly stems as big around as trees.
The Antique Rose Emporium is pretty much the only American rose nursery I pay attention to any more. If I want an American perspective on a rose, I look it up there first. And if I didn’t already have Mme Alfred, on the say-so of Emporium personnel, I’d be looking her up for details of her English performance record.
I originally bought her, back at the old house, by accident. Well, I was very young in terms of rose-growing, and Peter was no help, him and his frelling herbaceous borders.††† I think I’d actually ordered something else, and this thing arrived with a label saying ‘Mme Alfred Carriere’ and I thought, oh, fie, and heeled her in in a blank-ish spot, because I didn’t know what to do with her and I had a lot of other roses to plant, and I’d look her up and figure out what to do with her later. Only I never quite got around to it. And she rioted, as she will do, and took over a large swatch of that end of what had been the vegetable garden before my first rose-beds went in. I probably somewhere have photos of her pouncing over the trellis that several more modest climbers were dutifully scaling from the other side, and engaging Dortmund in mortal combat. Dortmund was another of my errors—I made a lot of errors—a single, cherry-red rose, white at the base of the petals, and not at all my sort of thing, except that I loved her. As I loved Mme Alfred. And her big double creamy flowers looked fabulous tumbling among Dortmund’s dazzling single red.
I totally had to have Mme Alfred even in my handkerchief-sized garden at the cottage.††† I put her in my first year there and her tallest stems started reaching above my neighbour’s two-storey-plus-attic roof a couple of years ago—and since I’m looking out my first-floor‡‡ office window, this is not a trick of perspective.‡‡‡ When she’s in flower I get gusts of her perfume through my office window. Yes. She’s one of the best.
Oh . . . and guess what I was doing today? Ordering roses. Remember I said I needed another climber? Just one climber . . . ?
* * *
* When I shared a house on Staten Island for a while, one of my housemates was a zealous, not to say fanatical, gardener. That back yard makes my tiny garden at the cottage look large in comparison but by golly it was INTENSIVELY PLANTED. It was impressive but somewhat intimidating—you could barely squeeze out the back door without being attacked by a radish.^ I felt I wouldn’t have the authority to boss so much plant life around and I was sure it knew it. I felt no impulse to try for myself.^^ And mostly I used the front door.
^ Or a banana-sized slug. Ewwww.
^^ Being assaulted by the occasional house plant was enough. I’ve had house plants catapulting off window sills most of my life.
** Speaking of zealous.
*** Is there another way? says the woman who is now waiting for her book on Japanese particles to arrive.
† shock horror
†† Even if the Emporium’s ‘our story’ about Mermaid as a rose that will withstand ‘droughts and blue northerns’ and thrive in the wilderness makes me feel like I’m living on another planet. I lose Mermaid. Repeatedly. She’s one of the crankiest madams ever to grace these mostly verdant shores. And I’m not the only one who thinks so: she has a bit of a rep around here. And then there are her thorns: which are long, curved and prehensile, the better to make you bleed. She’s very beautiful though. So we all keep frelling buying her when she conks out on us again.
††† The English cottage garden style has roses. Peter did have roses. He just didn’t have enough.
‡ I don’t have Dortmund now: she’s one of these great stiff angular things, about eight foot square.^ I do keep thinking about putting her in at Third House, but Third House’s garden is still small, it’s just bigger than the cottage’s.
^ She also has almost no scent. And you have to draw some lines somewhere. Sigh.
‡‡ Second floor in American English
‡‡‡ Although as I’ve said elsewhere, it’s surprising how many rather too large roses you can wedge into a rather too small garden if you’re stubborn enough. And don’t mind the sight of your own blood too much.
I SHOULD BE CLIMBING INTO A HOT BATH* RIGHT THIS MINUTE. Barring a few good pages of SHADOWS it’s been a stupid day. I was out this morning bashing on with some I-should-have-done-this-last-autumn tidying of the cottage garden and noticing with dismay that this last really cold spell has taken out a good deal of stuff I wouldn’t have expected to lose—including at least one species-type rose that I wouldn’t have thought could be killed by mere weather. I’ll cut her back hard a little later in the year and see if she comes back. But I was reminded that I have never quite got my spring plant orders in and decided, in breaks for SHADOWS-related thought to flow back into numb brain channels like getting up and stamping around when your leg has gone to sleep from sitting on it for too long**, to try and finish these off. I find I have to do my plant-ordering in as few giant clumps (so to speak) as possible, so I can at least half-remember what I’ve already ordered and where, without endlessly having to look it all up again. Of the five web sites I tried to order from . . . one of them ate my order. One of them refused to accept my order, demanding further credit-card identification numbers that don’t exist. One of them crashed off the air halfway through the check-out process—and my order had disappeared when I yanked it out of the darkness again. One of them has a bizarre system of postage that was going to charge me more for shipping than the order was worth. (Um. No.) I managed to order from one. . . . And it’s pretty much the least crucial. Of course.
So I thought I’d leave you with a couple of BELLRINGING links. The first one is via Ajlr and CathyR and you’ll have to forgive the roundaboutness of it, Facebook and I are not the best of friends, and I can’t figure out how to do it more efficiently.
. . . Although the first photo reminds me, there’s a newspaper article I pulled out a while back that I was going to complain about because it’s some idiot celebrity claiming that she used to like to ring bells when she was a kid, because the danger of it appealed to her: you know you can get DRAGGED UP TO THE CEILING AND BREAK YOUR NECK. You’re a lot likelier to be hit by a meteor simultaneously with being killed by a terrorist*** than dragged to the ceiling of a ringing chamber and breaking your neck. Has anyone ever broken their neck this way? If the stay breaks and the bell tips off its balance point backwards, yes, if you’re holding the rope, it will pull you off your feet and you will find yourself on your way to the ceiling. I should know, I’ve done this (once).† And you know what? You let go of the rope.
Southdowner sent me this one:
YES. WHAT HE SAID. ALL OF IT. And he’s still left a few things out: the odd struck bell, for example, which doesn’t sound at the point in the rhythm of pulling that you’d expect it to. Which you then have to adjust to by ringing one or the other stroke (since bells are generally not evenly odd struck on both strokes: that would be way too easy) either sooner or later, so the bong SOUNDS in the right place in the row. Bells are highly individual: it is not that unlikely that a good ringer will be unconsciously adjusting very slightly FOR EVERY STROKE because every bell in the tower is very slightly odd struck. This is the sort of thing that makes us mediocre ringers cry in our beer. (Beer is very important in bell ringing. See previous link.)
And then there’s weather. Quite well-mannered bells may become possessed by demons in very wet or very cold conditions, and the ones that are less than well-mannered to begin with may become . . . indescribable in inclement weather.
But you get the idea.
Now I have to go take my bath. I was supposed to go to bed early tonight because I seem to have agreed to ring handbells tomorrow evening and I need to get my stint of SHADOWS in first. And maybe a little Japanese. And maybe even a little entanglement.††
* * *
* With a good book. Hey, did you know that in Japanese, the word for book, ‘hon’, is the same word as for real, genuine: ‘hon’. It’s the same kanji too—the same not-Roman-alphabet character. Or at least it looks like it. Japanese is bung full of traps for the unwary, both because any other language(s) than the one(s) you know is and because this one has such a different cultural base—plus that you’d be expected to learn 1945 characters [sic] if you wanted to read the newspaper. Fortunately I don’t. But the characters, except for the brain-blasting aspect, are fabulously cool. I’m beginning to feel about Japanese the way I feel about Oisin and the pipe organ: if I were thirteen and talented I’d be learning both.^
But ‘hon’ of course makes me think both of ‘hon’ as in The Hon Mrs Peter Dickinson and ‘hon’ as in short for ‘honey’. I can totally call favourite books ‘hon’ as I pull them off the shelf, and ‘honourable’ is always good, except when it’s a bogus title you have no, ahem, genuine claim to. But here’s one of those what? things about another culture’s approach to language. I’ve seen/heard it in several books/web sites/podcasts now that you mostly try to avoid both ‘iie’, no, and ‘anata’, you, because these are both too direct for the Japanese concept of politeness. But ‘anata’ also means honey, sweetheart. So you call your beloved something that is too blunt for either strangers or friends—and which parallel behaviour here in the West, where we use ‘you’ freely, you’d probably get punched out by an offended beloved for. Wowzah. Who needs aliens and feys when pure human nature can come up with such delicious variables?
^ I was thirteen when we left Japan and I’ve never been back. It is strange in a lot of ways to be cough-cough studying Japanese almost fifty years later, even at this slippery superficial level, the stuff it throws up about who I was when I was a kid, and how much I’ve changed, or haven’t. One of the things that hits me hardest is that I genuinely believed (which might be hon shinjimashita but I wouldn’t count on it) I was too stupid to learn Japanese and therefore let most of it flow past me without trying to catch it. Sigh. Being a kid is rough.
** I’ve told you before that I’m almost incapable of sitting in a chair the way you’re supposed to sit in a chair, with your butt on the seat and your feet on the floor. I tend to sit on an assortment of pillows . . . and an assortment of my own limbs. Which periodically go OW OW OW OW OW. I have no idea how I survived all those years in school. It’s possible that one of the reasons I found education more trying than educational was the effort it took to sit straight on all those chairs.
*** Some of you will remember the ‘women past 40 are more likely to be killed by terrorists than get married’ study: http://www.salon.com/2006/05/24/newsweek_marriage/
It took a surprising time to get debunked however, while all of us late-30s single women were looking at each other, raising our eyebrows, and muttering about fish and bicycles.^
† Yes, it’s like knitting and riding. You have to break a stay . . . but in the ringing world you’re only supposed to break a stay ONCE. Once is PLENTY. Stays are expensive and a major ratbag to replace. Not that pulling out a lot of rows of knitting is something you want to do often. . . .^
. . . AND IT WASN’T MY FAULT when I had my little ride to the ceiling. I was still a beginner, and someone else’s beginner had been hammering that bell, and had cracked the stay.
^ When I told Fiona I’d had to rip out eight rows she heartlessly said ‘Be glad it wasn’t twenty’.
†† http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quantum_entanglement Speaking of OW OW OW OW OW.
Okay, that’s not your average mixture. Let’s have the good news first:
YAAAAAAAAAAAY. It’s alive!
* * *
. . . We are now, I fear, about to plunge down a steep slope. I was feeling a little odd last night but in my current state of whatever it’s always easy to put oddness down to a surfeit of quantum physics.* Unfortunately not so in this case. I nearly didn’t get out of bed this morning, except that there are hellhounds. And SHADOWS. Which is still due the end of the month. I can’t frelling believe I’m ILL again. I was ill in October, for pity’s sake**. I’m not sure yet whether this is merely (!!!!) a sick cold or whether it’s going to insist on the full panoply of flu. At the moment the jury is still out. But I feel like stale death on toast. AND CRANKY.
So I got out of bed at about . . . noon. I barely fell down at all. There are hardly any bruises from caroming off the four-poster on the way to the bathroom, which had mysteriously moved to a new location overnight.
I got dressed. I don’t guarantee that my tee shirt is on the right way around (who cares? It’s covered up by six woolly jumpers) but I got the shoes on the right feet.*** I hurtled hounds. Yes. I did.† Twice.††
And I worked on SHADOWS. I did.
. . . And this is as much blog entry as I can hold myself together for.††† Good night. May you sleep better than I’m likely to.
* * *
* Brief, according to my present state of non-brain, update on ABSOLUTELY SMALL: It’s all maths. I don’t know how even a crazed mathematician/physicist can have had the effrontery to look Average Reader in the face in the introduction and claim that understanding quantum mechanics does not require mathematics. You are so lying, Professor Award-Winning Scientist Bloke. It’s all maths.^
What is true is something else he said in the introduction however: that in most physics books the author says something like, blah blah blah blah, and here are the equations to prove it. And you’re supposed to read the equations. What’s different about ABSOLUTELY SMALL is that he then tells you the equations over in words. The equations are still there. You still have to deal with equations. They may not look like a lot of equations to Mr/Ms Science Brain but they are totally equations. But once he gets away from those poor cats waiting trembling in boxes for the Killing Look, he explains stuff pretty well.^^
If you’re up for it . . . it’s pretty fascinating. It’s so insane. It’s so not Newtonian.^^^ I also just love that most of it you can’t know exactly. HA HA HA HA ALL YOU CREEPY OVERBEARING SCIENCE BRAINS WHEN I WAS IN HIGH SCHOOL. HA HA HA HA HA. Granted I still don’t get it, but I’m a lot happier with the concept of a world that cannot be known/measured exactly—can’t be nailed down. This sounds a lot more plausible to me—more like my experience of the daily life this book is supposed to let me fit quantum theory into. ^^^^ And as he says, approximate doesn’t mean wrong: it means . . . approximate.
Anyway. It’s fascinating. But it’s probably not a book you want to strain to your bosom when you stagger off to lie on the sofa with hellhounds and minister to your brain-destroying illness.
^ Now that I’m committed, which is to say I’ve bought the thing, twice, audio and hard copy,+ I notice with a jaundiced eye that the three encomiums on the back cover about how This Is The Book We’ve Been Waiting for to Explain Quantum Mechanics in Daily Life are all by hard liners. There are two scientists and a lawyer. I’m sure he’s a very hard-line lawyer. And probably the author’s best friend since childhood. I want a hat check girl/boy or a brewer or ballroom dancing coach to tell me it changed their concept of life.
+ I cannot believe that anyone would survive the experience by audio only. If audio helps you focus, as it does help me, then the audio is worthwhile, and audible’s reader gets a medal. But you’re still going to have to have the hard copy. For the equations. If it takes the reader too long to say one of the frellers, you’ll have forgotten the beginning by the time he gets to the end. Lambda squared of the hypotenuse of the lobotomy . . . um. . . .
^^ I do wish he’d stay away from real-world examples. Even I know that a baseball is not a free particle, even when it’s left the field and is busy arcing over the stands. Speaking of the physics of gliding, however, is anyone playing Tiny Wings? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x6pT_2E5xI0 I don’t know what I think of the game, but I love the graphics.
^^^ I have a new theory about why Newton was such an ugly piece of work as a human being. It’s because in his secret heart he knew he was wrong.
^^^^ Look at human nature. Look at hellhound nature.
** I think it was October. Autumn anyway. A few months ago. And my stupid throat hasn’t recovered from the last assault which is why the Muddlehamptons are forgetting my name. ARRRRRRRGH. And here I am again with an inflamed throat, a throbbing head, and that interesting kind of fever that makes you feel like you’re made of boiling aluminium. I RARELY GET THESE MALADIES. RARELY. Except lately ARRRRRRRRRGH.
*** One right foot. One left foot.
† I also deserve a medal. But so do they. At the ripe old age of five and a half, although generally speaking the advent of maturity is a little thin on the ground, they are very good about waiting till I get my crap together, even when I seem to be having unreasonably more trouble than usual with said crap, and of hurtling slowly, with pauses, once we get outside. I know the location of every public dustbin in this town . . . I also know the location of every bench, not that kerbs won’t do in a pinch. They probably just think I’m having a bad ME day. Multi-application hellhound training.
†† And the dog minder is going to take them out tomorrow. Another medal.
††† I told an American friend that what I really needed, Peter having made some excellent turkey stock for the bodily nutrition side, was someone to tell me Really Bad American Jokes. So she’s taken it upon herself to send me Really Bad American Jokes all day at intervals—for the support of my suffering soul. Here’s my favourite:
It’s the old west, and a newcomer to town sees there’s a big crowd gathered in the town square. So he spots the local newspaperman, and asks him what’s going on.
”It’s a hanging,” says the newsman. “They’re hanging Brown Paper Pete today.”
“Brown Paper Pete? Why do they call him that?” asks the visitor.
“Because he always wears brown paper pants, a brown paper shirt, a brown paper hat, and carries a brown paper satchel,” says the newsman.
“Wow,” says the visitor, “What are they hanging him for?”
She’s just sent me this one, but she says that I’m sick enough to worry her if I think these are funny.
Guy walks into a bar, sits down and orders a beer. While he’s drinking, he hears a tiny voice say, “Hey mister! I like your tie!” He looks around, but doesn’t see anybody. A few minutes later, the same tiny voice says, “Hey mister! Nice shirt!” Again, he looks around, but there’s no one around except him and the bartender. A little while later, the voice says, “Hey mister! You look like you’ve lost some weight!” So the guy calls the bartender over and asks him what’s going on. The bartender says, “Oh, that’s the peanuts. They’re complimentary.”
So it’s twenty and a half years ago. Peter and I have decided to get married.* All the important stuff has already been decided, like that I’m going to emigrate.** But that means we have to get married: the fiancée’s visa only lasts for six months. That’s not a problem: we’re both old-fashioned: we want to get married, and I’m the kind of old-fashioned that furthermore wants a proper ring to go with the deal. Hey. I like jewellery.
I’d originally assumed we’d find one suitably old and hoary and glamorous and possibly mad in an antique shop somewhere for an engagement ring; wedding rings to be practical need to be plain and could be dealt with separately when we knew what the flashy one looked like. We spent some time in this pursuit*** but we were finding nothing nearly unique and fabulous enough, I had to finish DEERSKIN and we wanted to get on with the moving and the new life and so on.
I can’t now remember who recommended this jewellery designer to us. But we went to see him and explained we wanted something definitively Maine for me to wear in England. He suggested Maine tourmalines—I think I didn’t know about Maine tourmalines at that point—and we eventually agreed that he’d design and make not only an engagement ring with the tourmalines, but wedding rings that would all fit together as part of the same design. Peter felt this was mostly my show† and I did try to tell the bloke the sort of thing I liked: flowing lines, mainly, swirly or woven or floral. Maybe sort of art nouveau. I liked the stuff in his shop. And I liked the idea of the Maine designer working with the Maine tourmalines.
We went back to see the stones when they arrived. I don’t know if the designer bloke asked for triangular, or if that was what he could get. Okay. This would make it unusual. And pink and green are excellent.
We never saw any designs. We saw the rings themselves when they’d already been cast (if cast is what I mean) and although they weren’t finished yet it wasn’t like we could go backward and say, uh, no, I meant Charles Rennie Macintosh, not Cecil Balmond.†† The wedding rings had these little hooks in the middle like the two ends of a twist tie bent together—and with the squared-off ends sticking out up and down your finger. Can you say CATCHES THE FRELL ON EVERYTHING? My tourmaline engagement ring fit down over the top ensnaring bend of my wedding ring, but that still left the sharp bottom edge to cause havoc and mayhem. They were certainly . . . different. But they were not sensible, and while many of the details of that whole era of the beginning of my life with Peter are blurry with exhilaration and terror, I do remember Peter telling the bloke that he works with his hands a lot, he spends hours every day in the garden, doing carpentry and cooking and he needs a ring that won’t get in the way.
The man smiled and nodded. These creative types. They’re so in their own little world.†††
But part of the swoop and breathtakingness of a runaway romance like ours is that you do kind of want it to glide as far as it can before it founders on some ineluctable aspect of ratbagging reality. The wife in the attic. The outstanding warrant. The gerbil fetish. The chocolate addiction . . . And I don’t think the designer bloke was cheating us in any overt way: I think we paid an honest amount for his time and his materials. He just didn’t listen.
Almost the first thing we did after the wedding was over was . . . run to the nearest ordinary jeweller and buy two utterly plain smooth gold rings and wear them. The barbed designer versions came out for fancy occasions and the rest of the time lived in my jewellery drawer. Sigh. This had not been the plan . . . and while the plain gold ones worked fine as wedding rings‡ I was rather wistful about my Maine tourmalines wasting their glory in a drawer.
I think it was around our tenth anniversary that Peter said, for our twentieth, we’ll have the tourmalines reset.
So that’s what we did. And this time we went to a jeweller we’ve been going to for . . . twenty years. He listens. He made my fabulous silver whippet belt buckle.‡‡ And we saw designs. We saw several designs. I wanted my new ring to look like it fit next to the plaited-gold-with-tiny-diamond-chips ring that was my fiftieth birthday present‡‡‡ and which I now wear as my wedding ring. And it does, doesn’t it?
This time it worked.
* * *
* And our friends and family are all going, what? Well, it was a somewhat precipitate decision. We’d known each other maybe sixty hours in total.^
^ I’ve told you how we met, haven’t I? I was on a Literary Tour of England and he was one of the speakers.
** Somebody had to. Peter originally suggested we divide our time, but I knew—and I’m sure I was right—we’d both hate it. And Peter had lived in this area of Hampshire over forty years at that point, had four kids, the first two grandchildren, three brothers and their families, eight first cousins and . . . I had a whippet, and a background as a peripatetic military brat.
*** This was the occasion of one of our most important Bonding Moments. THELMA AND LOUISE had been bigger than god, Spacelab and Boris Yeltzin for months, and it was playing at a theatre in Portland, Maine, where we’d gone to cruise antique jewellery shops. I’ve told you this too, haven’t I? We walked out. We walked right after the dumb one spends the night with Brad Pitt the robber on the lam AND THE MONEY IN THE FRELLING DRAWER while the smart (!!?!??) one goes off to have a deep, sensitive evening with her supportive boyfriend.
† He’s got a much better eye for jewellery than he thinks he does—see: silver whippet belt buckle, below—but it’s true that this was my Big Symbolic Thing about leaving Maine to live in England with him.
†† http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-14027083 Okay, I don’t know what Balmond was doing twenty years ago. Designing engagement rings, possibly.
††† I do wonder if Designer Bloke already had this idea in his mind and he wanted to use it, whether the triangular stones inspired it, or what. But he sure wasn’t too interested in the interface with his clients.
‡ Anybody aware of the standard behaviour about such things of English gentlemen of Peter’s vintage will be gobsmacked that Peter wears a wedding ring at all. Well. Yes. I don’t think it ever occurred to me that he wouldn’t—I wanted us both to wear them—and that’s what happened. It wasn’t till later that I realised that Peter was humouring me about this too.^
^ I tell myself that if I have to choose I’d rather he wore a wedding ring than remembered to shut the door behind him.+ I perhaps tell myself this rather often. But romance over practicality? Sure. Why do I have sixty rose-bushes in a garden the size of a large ping-pong table?
+ This includes refrigerator doors. Just by the way.
‡‡ I hope I’ve told you this story. I told Peter I wanted something significant and wearable for my fortieth birthday.
‡‡‡ Also bought in Maine. Hmm. My sixtieth is next year . . .
Fortunately the food was good. Also the company. And Peter liked his presents. He’s polite that way.
I had a typical Lying Awake Worrying About Unscheduled Plot Developments* night/morning last night/this morning so when the alarm went off I took the pillow over my head away** long enough to shout YOU MUST BE JOKING! and turn it off again, and woke up again at nearly noon to the sound of the postperson banging on the front door. EEEEEAAAAAAUUUUUUGGGGH. He might be bringing Christmas presents.*** I’m getting pretty good at making a single† fluid dive for both dressing gown and front door keys on my way downstairs.
Yes. Christmas presents. And strange look from postperson, but I’m used to that.
Then followed long and bitter argument with my wardrobe. I may have referred previously to the fact that I like clothes and that while the omnipresence of mud and hellhound hair does constrain me in certain directions I am not going to allow it to turn me into an indeterminate-colour-listless-baggy-sweatshirt woman. At the same time, I am also lazy†† and one epic battle a day is sufficient. Today was Peter’s birthday and I wanted a party frock equivalent that I could put on now and wear through till evening.
You know the ‘This is the TOTAL GARMENT! It does anything! It goes anywhere! You can wear it as a dress or over jeans! You can impress the stockholders or—er—hurtle hellhounds!’ advertising line. Like hell you can. In the first place, if you’re going to wear it over jeans you probably need it in a bigger size. This was one of my catalogue sale specials and I did order a bigger size, since there is no way I am ever going to wear this, you know, seriously, but . . . well, it would fit great if it were a dress, I was twenty years younger, and knew how to sashay. But it’s purple and it has great silly flowers blasting all over one shoulder. So there began a long wrangle about how to make the wretched thing drape properly. I was going to wear it. I had decided I was going to wear it. I was in a mood to wear it.†††
At about this point I remembered I hadn’t wrapped the presents yet. And hellhounds were prostrating themselves all over the floor in attitudes of despair and manifest neglect. ARRRRRRGH.
So, anyway. Moving right along. Presents.
The big rectangular sunflower one is a new mobile phone. It’s the same size as the standard non-iPhone-style credit-card or undernourished After-Eight mint mini mobile, which is what Peter has now because he doesn’t want anything that calls attention to itself‡ . . . except that this new one flips open and is twice the size of an undernourished After-Eight mint. The point is that it was advertised as having big buttons!!!!, and while they aren’t anything like as big as they looked in the catalogue and/or on line‡‡, still, they’re better than twice as big as the ones Peter has been refusing to learn to use. ‡‡‡ Er . . . how do we set it up? said Peter. We ask Georgiana and Saxon when they get here, I said firmly.
Then the food . . .§
Unfortunately Georgiana and Saxon, techno wizards that they are, had left again§§ by the time I found out I couldn’t turn the TV on. GAAAAAAH. I mean, it turns on, but it doesn’t do anything else. I’m trying to remember when I last asked it to do anything but hold up our matching set of Mythopoeic Society lions. Months. Generally speaking, evenings, I’m working. Or singing. Or even . . . reading. I don’t think I’ve engaged the TV in an active manner since we had our cable pulled out because we never watch TV any more. Which was months ago. Peter, who used to watch cricket, snooker, and American football§§§ occasionally, seems to have forgotten it exists. Siiiiiigh. Birthday parties. They’re bad for you. If the food had been less great I wouldn’t have been lying on the sofa in a stupor, trying to watch TV. The hellhounds were very happy however. Although I’m pretty sure they will consider this a precedent, and tomorrow after dinner. . . .
* * *
* I haven’t got time for unexpected plot developments! It’s due in six weeks! It’s really simple! Mongo saves the universe! The End!
** Although Mr Early Riser Man with the crunchy gravel and the three-foot-wide tyres one narrow cul-de-sac width^ from my bedroom window seems to have got himself reassigned to some office that starts later.
^ And I mean narrow. We have a little memorial cairn at the top of the hill to all the drivers who drove up here by mistake and didn’t get out alive.
*** Love the proliferation of web sites saying, order by 11:59 pm 24 December and we’ll get it to you by Christmas! —Although we recommend you plan to open said presents rather late in the day, our enchanted reindeer do get tired. . . .
† One might almost say parabolic.
†† And always running late.
††† I was in a mood all right.
‡ Like by ringing. I understand this.
‡‡ I think they have another line in women’s party frocks.
‡‡‡ The cottage and Pooka are speed-dialed into his phone book. What else does he need?
§ Niall said to me yesterday, I owe you a thank-you. You do? I said, trying frantically to remember if I might have agreed to any superfluous bell ringing that hadn’t got into my diary.^ Yes, he said. You told Penelope about that caterer you liked, and we had our anniversary dinner at home the other evening. It was really excellent. Oh good, I said, trying to slow my heart rate and unplug the adrenaline booster.
^ I don’t have TIIIIIIIIIIME.
§§ An admirably working new mobile phone sparkling in their wake. They also added their mobile numbers to Peter’s phone book.
§§§ No, I have no idea why I married him