March 2, 2015

Shadows is here!

Tech rules. Not okay! Not okay!!!

 

It’s bad enough that I have a brain that . . . well, if you put my brain at one end of the Spectrum of Deadly Danger and a berserker regiment in a nasty temper all bearing freshly-sharpened weapons of individual destruction at the other end, and then tried to decide where a peanut butter sandwich on Wonder bread should be placed . . . it would go nearer the berserker regiment end than the my-brain end, all right?  Which this paragraph goes some considerable way toward proving.

So if I forget something important it’s ALWAYS likely that it’s my own stupid disintegrating fault because I am a frelling nincompoop and I drop things constantly* and my brain is made of guacamole.**  Which is to say I DO NOT NEED ANY HELP FROM MY TECHNOLOGY ABOUT SCREWING STUFF UP.

Which of course has no impact on present circumstances whatsoever.  Pooka keeps insisting that she hasn’t been backed up to The Cloud in years***, so much so that pretty much everything I do on her—text, for example—suffers from extreme pop-up-box-itis, something like this:  Hi, are you—BACK ME UP! BACK ME UP! BACK ME UP!—free for the dinosaur safari—BACK ME UP! BACK ME UP! BACK ME UP NOW!—next week?  If we—BACK MEEEEEEE UUUUUUUUUP—book now we get a free slushie and a Tyrannosaurus Rex—AREN’T YOU PAYING ATTENTION?  I NEED TO BE BACKED UP BEFORE THE HELLTERROR EATS YOUR LAPTOP†—hatband—YOU’LL BE SORRRRREEEEEE ABOUT ALL THOSE UPDATED FILE EMAILS YOU FORGOT TO SEND YOURSELF†† IF YOU DON’T BACK ME UP.†††

Interspersed in these merry japes also are sporadic demands for my Apple ID password.  I’m really tired of Apple’s The World Is At Risk By Our Greatness attitude which means they won’t let you reuse a password because WE ALL MIGHT GET HACKED BY PURPLE TENTACLES FROM BETELGEUSE but I would put up with this better if they didn’t periodically decide they don’t like my password and demand I come up with a new one.  I used to think this was just my idiot fingers typing ‘Agamemnon’ when I meant ‘Clytemnestra’ but no.  Apple clearly produces ALGORITHMS demanding new passwords at intervals that sure come across as random to people like me.

A new low in my tech relationships was reached this past week.  One of the things the Sams don’t go out of their way to warn you about when you sign up is that they will be requiring certain admin duties out of you as well as all those hours on telephones.  I had an Admin Duty spell this last week which necessitated the sending of emails to massed ranks of Sams.  I had laboured particularly over one such email, bent over the Aga and a cup of very strong tea with the iPad on my knee, hit ‘send’ and . . . NOTHING HAPPENED.  AAAAAAAAUGH.  The iPad gets lonely if it doesn’t get to keep a few emails all to itself.  And it likes to collect unsent emails.  You the helpless suffering human get the ‘server failure’ notice, the email disappears, the little box at the bottom of your email screen adds one to the ‘unsent’ total . . . but you can’t rescue the email and, I don’t know, resend or anything, because it doesn’t get stashed anywhere sensible like your outbox.  IT’S PROBABLY LURKING IN THE CLOUD.

And did I tell you that the last time I actually managed to hang a blog post, this from the ultralapbooktop, Microsoft in its infinite unwise bad attitude informed me that it wanted to do an update, and it wanted to do it now, but I could postpone if I wanted . . . so I postponed AND IT SHUT ME DOWN ANYWAY WITHOUT WARNING ABOUT TEN MINUTES LATER.  I HAD TIME TO EAT A LOT OF WALLPAPER BEFORE IT TURNED ITSELF BACK ON AGAIN, AND WHEN I CLIMBED BACK INTO THE ADMIN SIDE OF THE BLOG, SNAPPING AND SNARLING, I DISCOVERED THAT ABOUT A TENTH OF THE TEXT HAD LEFT FOR PARTS UNKNOWN TAKING WITH IT MOST OF THE PUNCTUATION AND ALL THE FORMATTING.

I may not have told you.  I was too busy trying to prevent my head from exploding.

Maybe I should just go bell ringing more often. . . .

* * *

* Ask the hellterror.  Fortunately she thinks it’s a game.  —Oooh!, she says, leaping up on her little bedspring legs and punching me enthusiastically in the gut with her forepaws.^  Do that AGAIN!

^ I know.  I am a Bad Owner.  I permit this.  But I think having her pogosticking about the place is amusing.  She does know ‘off’ but she hears it relatively rarely and it doesn’t slow her down much.   When I try to enforce it she looks at me with an expression of ‘I have to long sit before my last PALTRY snack of the evening+ and now THIS?’  Bullies’ faces aren’t built for looking long-suffering but she has a really good try.

+ She does too.  Three to five minutes depending on how patient I’m feeling#.  She’s got her harness and lead off and the gate is open and NOTHING BUT SELF RESTRAINT is preventing her from bolting into her crate and snarfing like crazy.  ::haphazard owner beams with pride::

There really is a lot to be said for food oriented hellcritters.  They are so . . . trainable.  Said training may be a long, bloody, and hoarse-making process but it’s POSSIBLE.  I get bombarded with a variety of Dog Media because I contribute tiny sums to a number of critter charities and they’re always frenziedly updating you as a flimsy disguise for begging for more money, and they frequently offer you clever suggestions for Training Interactions with Your Resident Hellcritter(s).   And they’re ALL frelling based on FOOD REWARDS.  I was particularly offended by one that fell through the mail slot just a day or two ago, since the illustrations included a whippet clearly getting into the whole food-treat thing.  It was a bull terrier with leg extensions and a mask.

# And/or how many knots I’ve got in the laces of my All Stars.  There is a rant to be ranted about the varying LENGTHS of the laces that over the years come with your pretty much standard-shaped All Stars.  Some seasons they’re so frelling long I could tie the hellmob to them and dispense with leads.  Some seasons they’re so dranglefabbing short you have to omit the last two or three pairs of holes to get them tied at all.

** I perceive a theme.^  I didn’t realise I was hungry.  MORE CHOCOLATE.  More chocolate is the answer.  More chocolate usually is the answer.  As the kitchen magnet says, Chocolate is the answer.  What was the question?

^ Also:  guacamole is far less dangerous than peanut butter.  You might want to make a note.

*** Do I want to be backed up to The Cloud?  The thing about little pieces of paper is that you’re pretty sure they’re here somewhere.  Explanations about what The Cloud is or how it works or where anything in it actually is involves the dreaded word ‘algorithms’.  I am allergic to the ‘a’ word.  Just frelling typing it makes my fingertips hurt.^

^ Although that may also have something to do with recent close encounters of an unfortunate kind with hellmob-comestible-chopping implements.

† Ultrabook.  It’s not ultra and it’s not a book.  Grrrrrr.

†† Although anything I’ve actually done on Pooka’s Lilliputian keyboard will be illegible anyway^ so the backing up of gibberish is perhaps more of a matter of principle than practicality.

^ Note that being in a texting relationship with me is not all joy.  Not only can’t I type what I mean to be typing, but I have a sometimes unique McKinley take on acceptable abbreviations.

††† Speaking of the hellterror, texting on Pooka lately is a lot like trying to do anything with a hellterror in my lap.^  HI.  I’M HERE.  I’M IN YOUR LAP.  Yes.  I had noticed.  LET’S PLAY A GAME.  No, let’s not.  You’re supposed to lie there quietly.  That’s the deal about laps.  Lying quietly.  SURE.  I’LL LIE QUIETLY.  LET’S PLAY A LYING QUIETLY GAME.  YOU DON’T MIND IF I PUT MY FOREPAWS ON YOUR SHOULDERS AND LICK YOUR GLASSES, DO YOU?  I’LL DO IT QUIETLY.

^ And anyone who thinks there is perhaps a hellterror bias going on?  Well, yes.  This month it will be a year since the hellhounds went on this drug that more or less holds back the chronic geysering but also stops them eating pretty much altogether.  I don’t know if it destroys their appetite or makes them queasy but the truth is I don’t care.  I’ve been forcefeeding them, oh, 85-100% of the time for a year and you could say our relationship has suffered.  You could say that.  Yes, you could say that with some energy.

Sigh.

Crazy Singing Lady

 

. . . NO NO NO NO I CAN’T POSSIBLY START WITH THAT FIRST LINE, SOMETHING MIGHT BE LISTENING. . . .  ::DANCES THE FANDANGO IN A DISTRACTING MANNER::* . . . It’s been a pretty crappy almost everything lately, you can hardly blame me for being paranoid.  So, what I was risking saying was, I’ve had two surprisingly okay, engaged, useful, whatever, voice lessons in a row . . . just in time however for a three-week holiday break during which I will doubtless go to flat, unrhythmic little splinters again.  So the powers of entropy don’t have to be paying attention.  The gremlins can just lie back and giggle.  Throw the occasional brickbat if they feel inspired.  Although I may dare to hope for metaphorical brickbats.**

My attitude = not great.

I managed to whomp the whatsit out of myself with a not-very-metaphorical brickbat just before last week’s voice lesson and I mean whomp.  The gremlins would have been proud of me.  You may recall that this is A New Computer.***  I was rummaging a fortnight ago, in the scary dark interstices of the EVERYTHING folder, where files you haven’t seen since before you had a computer may lurk undetected for centuries, or at least till they make the next gazillion storage media redundant.†   And, lo and behold, I unearthed a couple of the recordings I’d made of voice lessons YEARS ago, or at least I hope it was years.  And I made the very nearly fatal mistake of listening to one of them.††

DEAR GOD IN HEAVEN I KNEW I WAS BAD BUT I HAD NO IDEA I WAS THAT BAD.†††  I also remember that when I played them back at the time I was a little discouraged‡—also I had some other great emotional drama playing out in my life at the time and I’m learning that this always has a Florence-Foster-Jenkins-izing‡‡ effect on my singing—but I don’t think I wanted to find a bridge to jump off of.  I should have wanted to find a bridge to jump off of, or at least to stop singing forever and let Nadia fill my slot with someone she can teach to SING.  AAAAAAAAAAAAUGH.

About the only thing to say for this utterly demoralising experience is that I didn’t consider giving up singing forever.  It’s too late.  I sing for sanity.‡‡‡  But I pretty much went in for my lesson on my hands and knees last week and Nadia, bless her, said I FORBID YOU TO LISTEN TO THAT RECORDING.  EITHER BURY IT IN THE BACK GARDEN OR—RECOMMENDEDDELETE IT.  YOU’RE JUST HURTING YOURSELF LISTENING TO IT NOW.  . . . The real point being she did NOT say, actually, I’ve been meaning to discuss giving your slot to someone I can teach to sing. . . .  She did say that I’ve improved.  WELL I COULD HARDLY HAVE GOT WORSE.

I came out of this at last week’s lesson like a bull terrier going for her supper Kong and SANG.§  It may not have been pretty but it was energetic.  And this is the time of year when you can probably even sing (audibly) on the street without people thinking you’re the Crazy Singing Lady§§ and I’m having my annual frenzy of learning all the rest of the verses to my top favourite 1,000,000 Christmas carols§§§—which I admit is cutting into proper practise time but it does mean I’m singing.#

And . . . (re)learning Christmas carols## this year, I came to In the Bleak Midwinter and . . . hmmm.   It hadn’t really registered with me till I moved over here, but it’s (perhaps) Peter’s favourite and has become one of mine.  But this year, singing it, I thought, this isn’t a carol, this is a song that happens to be about Christmas.  So I’m going to learn it properly—I took it in to Nadia today—and sing it all year.  And become the Crazy Singing Lady who sings carols in midsummer.   If I’m going to become the Florence Foster Jenkins of the 21st century I might as well do it with some flourish and swagger.

* * *

* And me dancing the fandango would be very distracting.^  Not in a good way.

^  Eh.  You need a partner for the fandango.  ::Eyes the hellmob+::  Hellhounds get that ‘oh help and glory she’s not going to shove FOOD at us again is she???  But we just ate last week’ look on their faces, delicately rearrange themselves to face the wall and appear to be deeply preoccupied with going to sleep.  Hellterror throws herself up on her hind legs and starts demonstrating her idea of a fandango, shouting, ME, COACH!  PUT ME IN!  I CAN FANDANGO!  ALL I NEED IS A CARMEN MIRANDA HAT!

+ Or hellhorde, as some enterprising forum poster suggested.

** You probably think gremlins are metaphorical.  NOT IN MY LIFE.

*** The old one is still in a box under Raphael’s desk because he’s going to find time to resuscitate it any minute.^  You know, like maybe March.  2016.  Not that I feel that I’m not getting my contract support hours out of him however:  it’s a good day when I have texted/emailed/screamed-so-they-could-hear-me-in-Dorset him about the ultrabook’s^^ latest little ways fewer than 4,612 times.

^ Yes, since you ask.  There’s still stuff on it that I’m missing.+  And you’re totally up to date with your back ups, your files are flawlessly labelled and you’re all ready for Christmas, right?  GOAWAY.

+ Besides the remnants of my sanity.  Sanity, computers and I are really not an integrated whole.  We’re kind of this universe, the anti-universe, and a third thing nobody’s discovered yet but it makes an even bigger bang. 

^^ I’ve already complained to you about how you can’t say LAPTOP any more?  That’s just so turn of the century.  No, it’s ULTRABOOKS now.  Ewww.  I thought ‘laptops’ was naff, but ultrabooks has that Marketing Genius pong about it.  Go away.+  Go shed your fuzzy, asthma-inducing fashionability on someone else’s carpets.  I just want a computer that will fit in my knapsack.

+ I probably shouldn’t be repeating ‘Go away’ so often three days before Christmas, right?  . . . GO AWAY.~

~ I know.  You saw that coming.  Sorry.  It’s been a hard year.

† So, how about all those cassette tapes and floppy discs?

†† Well, I had a row of knitting to finish.  And then about a skein and a half of rows after that.

††† May I grovel in apology here to the two or three people I’ve taken along to my voice lessons.  In my pathetic defense I took them because I wanted them to meet Nadia and see/hear how totally cool and interesting and exact and responsive she is, and the way she can adjust what she says to what the student can take on.^  It’s true that part of the experience is that they have to hear me sing, but . . . well, I knew I wasn’t good, but . . . GROVELS EXTENSIVELY.  I’LL NEVER DO IT AGAIN.  NEVER EVER.  I PROMISE.

^ I get a lot of horse riding metaphors.

‡ I also remember I blogged about it, but I don’t want to go back and read what I said.

‡‡ One of the things I might have found interesting if I hadn’t been having a nervous breakdown is what Nadia has been telling me for years about what she tactfully calls my ‘tuning’ issues which is to say that I spend most of my time going flat, not because I have no ear^ but from nerves.  No no I can’t possibly do that whatever it is!  FLAT!!!!  And she’s right.  It’s the exposed notes that go flat;  it’s got pretty much nothing to do with pitch.  I’ll go flat on a frelling C if it’s the top note of the bar;  in the next bar I’ll sing an F on pitch if there’s a G above it I can go flat on instead.  Why don’t I stick to knitting?^^

^ I haven’t got much ear but I generally recognise flat when I hear it.  Except when I’m deaf from the throbbing in both ears.

^^ Because I’m also a lousy knitter?  Sigh.  Although until my life placids out a little I’m not even interested in doing anything more exciting than stocking or garter stitch with maybe the odd bit of ribbing for variety.  I knit for tranquillity+.  But then I sing for sanity.++

+  HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

++ Um.  Yes.  And I’d be even less tranquil without my error-liable knitting.  SIGH.

‡‡‡ Yes.  As previous footnote.  Also, for some inexplicable reason, my church likes my singing.  They are even more desperate and/or tone deaf than I realised.

§ Any of you know Brother James’ Air? It is so pretty.

§§ Which they think the rest of the year. Crazy Singing Lady with a Variety of Dogs.

§§§ Every year they come back a little quicker. How long have I been taking voice lessons, and singing increasingly shamelessly on the street?^ By the time I die of extreme old age I’ll probably be quavering my way through all sixteen verses of everything at Christmas.

^ It’s done me serious good the last few months, I think, despite what the neighbours think, because of the adjusting-to-new-sitting-room-with-new-acoustics thing which was a much bigger issue than I’d expected.  Silly me.  Of course it was going to be an issue.  In a little tiny sitting room I can—and do—make the blasted lamps rattle, because I have so little frelling control.  I’m either loud or shut down to a faint creak.  Sigh.

# Singing for sanity.  As I keep saying.  Thank God for singing (if badly) and knitting (if badly).

## There’s also the ever-interesting topic of the way the British keep jerking the tunes around.  An exploration for some other evening.

Another Monday* blah blah blah

 

I’ve fallen into the habit of spending some of Monday evening with Penelope and yarn.**  I usually try and feed the frelling-frelling argling-bargling hellhounds—and the perfect, adorable, food friendly hellterror—before I leave.  One of the things that sometimes works with the [muttermuttermutter] hellhounds is that if you get them STARTED and they think, oh, right, food, it’s not sooo bad . . . they will keep eating.  So I’m always on the lookout for dog-treat type things that might tempt them and are free of all the things they can’t have SIIIIGH.  There’s a relatively recent line of tinned dog food that costs more than fresh frelling caviar*** that they will sometimes open one eye and look at thoughtfully.  And there’s a new flavour of it that I gave them a big chunk of the other day which they ate with what passes in their case for alacrity and enthusiasm.†  So today I chopped more of it up in smallish globs and shoved it into their proper food . . . put the bowls down and turned my back on them since they don’t like being watched . . . but there were terrific gobbling noises proceeding from the hellhound corner and I was weak and permitted myself to be hopeful. . . . Nah.  Chaos had merely done his Prehensile Tongue thing which I’ve noticed before makes a remarkable amount of noise, and precision-instrument extracted every small globule of Consecrated Canine Comestible Flavour of the Month, leaving an interestingly pock-marked bowl like an artist’s rendition of the surface of the moon in . . . dog food.  Darkness had decided that this operation was too much like work, and having opened the one eye and looked thoughtfully at his bowl, closed the eye again without moving.

Sigh.

But the day has been not without its small sheepish victories.  I’ve previously referred to the fact that my singing lessons have not been going splendidly since we started up again after summer break . . . there have been goodish lessons and there have been I’M RUNNING AWAY AND JOINING THE CIRCUS lessons of traumatising disaster, but while I haven’t quite got to the point of thinking I should start investigating another outlet for my frustrated musical non-talent†† I have occasionally wondered if I should be thinking about it.  Meanwhile I keep missing church because I’m too blasted tired to get in Wolfgang again and drive—yo, God, why did you plop someone with ME down a forty-minute commute from the church she’s happy in?  I’m sure I’m supposed to be learning something from this tedious piece of reality but, um, I’m too tired—which means I’ve also been missing service singing.  I was signed up to sing this Sunday—yesterday—and I’ve been in unusually-bad-even-for-recently voice the last fortnight BUT I WANTED TO SING and . . . I think I’ve said this before, the awful Jesus Is My Boyfriend stuff does give me a certain amount of freedom from worrying about Mozart or Handel getting special permission to come back and haunt me, and I can just sing, and offer it as part of my service to the church.  I like to think that God hears it the way it’s supposed to sound, like Handel or Mozart sung by Marilyn Horne or Renee Fleming.

I started out last night sounding like a bowl of rice krispies.  If you’re into breakfast cereal that crackling noise is fine in the morning as Morse code for EAT ME but not so much later on in the day with a microphone in your hand.  But something happened:  God, or team spirit††† or alien mind probe or whatever but . . . I started singing.  Indeed I was making so much noise I decided to dispense with the microphone.‡

And I went in to Nadia today and sang How Beautiful Are the Feet, which is the horse that threw me violently something like two months ago and that I have been afraid to go near.‡‡  And I didn’t sound like Marilyn Horne or Renee Fleming‡‡‡ but it was recognisable.§  So I’m putting off running away and joining the circus for at least another week.

* * *

* NOOOOOOOO IT’S DECEMBER NOOOOOOOOOOOO

** Penelope used to knit . . . and stopped for some unfathomable reason.  I’ve been spending even more than my usual amount of time lately hanging from the chandelier^ and screaming ^^ and have therefore had even greater than usual need to knit as a coping mechanism^^^ and Penelope has got re-interested by relentless exposure.#  We even went to one of my favourite yarn shops the other week so she could squodge what she was buying.  But the best part was that WE TOOK NIALL WITH US.  SO HE COULD DO THE DRIVING.  Hee hee hee hee hee hee.  Hey, he’s retired.  He doesn’t have anything better to do, does he?##  I don’t think he’s going to learn to knit however.  He looked kind of stunned in the yarn shop.  Of course I wasn’t paying that much attention because I was on my knees digging through the sale bins.

^ Although I no longer need a chandelier.  Excess of . . . um, excess . . . has caused me to grow little super-glue pads on the ends of my fingers and toes so I can stick to the ceiling like a very large gecko.  THIS MAKES TYPING AND WALKING ON THE FLOOR VERY INTERESTING.  It’s also hard on the finger joints.  Which I need limber and flexible for knitting.

^^ Those of you who know me off line will be aware that I have reason, and that most of the reason(s) don’t get on the blog.+  I am hoping this is merely a phase and what I used to think of as a life will return.  Meanwhile . . . thank God for knitting.  Even if at this rate—as I was telling some friend or other recently—I may never get past garter-stitch scarves and ditto pullover jumpers, the square kind where the body is two big rectangles and the sleeves are two littler skinnier rectangles and you leave a gap in the sewing-up for your head to poke through.  HEY.  IT’S ALL ABOUT THE YARN.  I’ve been saying this for, um, is it getting to be three years now?  It’s all about the yarn.  Cables?  Pfffft.  Lace?  Are you frelling joking?  On a good day with a following wind I can manage simple increases and decreases.  SIMPLE ONES.  ON A GOOD DAY.  But I buy nice yarn.

+ It is now MONDAY night and my new computer gear HAS STILL NOT ARRIVED.

# She is remarkably calm in the face of a ranting madwoman waving pointy sticks in her face.  She raised four children.  Nothing flaps her.

## Remodelling the kitchen.  It will look really flash when he finishes.  That’s when.

*** But I’m pretty sure Darkness wouldn’t like caviar.  He’s not a big fish person.

† If the hellterror ever approached a meal like that however I’d think she was seriously ill.

†† Triangle?  Washboard?  Plastic kiddie piano, the kind with the keys that don’t work?

††† I know about having one’s little ways and so on^ but sometimes my own blinding ridiculousness amazes me.  Last night the one other singer asked me where I wanted to stand.  In the back, I said.  She looked at me pityingly.  There is no back, she said.  There are only four of us.^^  I know, I said, but we can stand farther back on the stage.

And this does it for me.  I have no idea why.  We’re still face to face with the frelling congregation—there is nothing between us and them—but we stand about a foot farther back than—last night—the keyboardist and the guitarist.  I can look at the back of someone’s head if I want to.^^^

^ !!!!!!

^^ Guitar, keyboard, us.  Plus a bass player and a drummer who somehow or other get not to be on the stage with the rest of us.

^^^ Although since the leader is usually on guitar, you kind of want to be able to see his face to pick up your cues more easily.  And yes, so far as I’m aware, all our guitarists are blokes.  Any female Christian guitarists with a high tolerance for fatally maudlin Christian worship music moving to the south of England, I know a church that needs you.

‡ In kindness to the assembled.  The more my life is kicking me in the head the flatter I sing.  Nadia says this is dead common but . . . I don’t want to be expelled from St Margaret’s, or even the band.

‡‡ Nice horsie.  Nice horsie.

‡‡‡ !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

§ I was, I believe, even occasionally on pitch.

Just a day like any other . . .

 

. . . only more annoying.  Thanksgiving in England.  Feh.  COMPUTERS.  GINORMOUS ERUPTING ARRRRRGH WITH LOTS OF BOILING LAVA.  And maybe a fire-god or two.  And Boadicea—she’s supposed to have flaming red hair, right?—and the scything knives on her chariot.*  What’s the computer version of a red-haired warrior queen with whizzing chopper blades on her war-chariot’s wheels and a really really bad attitude toward her overlords?  I NEED THIS.  WHATEVER IT IS.   I NEED IT BADLY.  I NEED IT NOW.

Peter and I did manage to go out for dinner—I know, we should have been at home slaving over a whole series of hot, speaking of hot, cooking aids, including the wooden spoon you accidentally left in the whatever and which is beginning to give off a pleasant fragrance of charring wood, but—why?  Christmas will be here soon enough.**  Never mind my confusingly American-sounding accent, my passport, and my place of birth:  I’m British.  I find Thanksgiving quaint, and, with my digestion, superfluous.  Another good reason to live in England.  Tick that box.

But we didn’t go out to dinner to celebrate, if in a non-traditional way, because it was Thanksgiving.  We went out to dinner because we were supposed to go out for tea, only I missed.  I got to bed late even for me*** thanks to one of my duty shifts running over time, and when I finally staggered out of bed again I ENTIRELY FORGOT that I was supposed to be ringing Raphael so he could do his Remote Meddling and yank the latest diabolical computer miseries† back into some temporary but functional alignment†† . . . until I’d already had the first necessary injection of caffeine, and had tried to turn a computer on . . . ARRRRRGH.

By the time Raphael had returned from rappelling down the side of the Post Office Tower††† I was too late to go out for tea.  But we went out for dinner.   Which was really better anyway since you don’t usually get champagne at tea time.

* * *

* I could have put Kes in a chariot . . . maybe in book twelve or sixteen or something.

There is a surprising paucity of really satisfactory images of Boadicea, considering she’s one of the few major historical heroines around.   I was looking for one with impressive, you know, gauntlets, which might conceivably be magical bracelets, with or without rose embellishments.  There aren’t any that I can find after poking around in the usual places via Google:

http://www.magnoliabox.com/art/552566/will-you-follow-me-men-c61-ad

Hey, lady, anything you say, if you stop waving that kitchen knife at me.

http://www.magnoliabox.com/art/567252/westminster-bridge-monument-london

Um, how are they steering those horses?  Telepathy?

** I spent one ENTIRE EVENING this week when I could have been, I don’t know, writing a blog post or something, on-line ordering frelling they-deliver pot plants to go to the members of the Dickinson clan it would be the most embarrassing if I forgot entirely (again) . . . I mean, I don’t forget, I just don’t get around to, you know, organising the final dash to the holiday finish line . . .  including having got so far as buying things like calendars and tins of biscuits WHICH WILL HAVE GONE OUT OF DATE by the time I unearth them next year because I didn’t get them WRAPPED AND SENT LAST YEAR.  Anybody want a decorative tin of stale biscuits?  I can occasionally recycle the calendar photos which are often . . . oh, roses or something.  And may I just remark that that venerable British manufacturing icon, Blu Frelling Tack^, is not worth its reputation.  Sure, it’s reusable.  It’s reusable up to and including the 1,000,000,000th time something has fallen off the wall/the back of the refrigerator^^/the side of the cupboard/the edge of the bookshelf, etc, that it was supposedly glomped onto by Blu Tack.  I have other things to do with my time than resticking. ^^^

^ Why not Blue Tack or Blu Tak?   Blu Tack merely looks confused and indecisive. +

+ Hums an old American folk song and does not make any obvious remarks about British politicians.

^^ which is much more attractive covered in calendar cut-out photos of roses

^^^ Laundry, for example.  The INSUFFICIENT advantage of washing hellmob bedding every two or three days is that the critter hair problem is much reduced+.  Well, sort of.  The ambient hair level is definitely lower, as is the amount I claw out of the washing machine after every critter load.  But it means that EVERYTHING I OWN that gets washed in the machine now has some critter hair in it.  Yes, I run a quick cold wash after the mob stuff comes out, but that’s like using a broom to sweep off snow-laden steps that you’ve already tramped up and down several times.  I used to be able to sort of stagger post-critter-washes so the jeans took the worst, and then the sweatshirts and outer layers and finally . . . hmmm.  I’m here to tell you that I haven’t found a clothes brush yet—including those disposable sticky-tape ones and the little pads that are like a cross between velvet and Velcro—that works worth a damn on your underwear.

Meanwhile . . . I began Flea Protocol #7,243,006 today.  SIIIIIIIIGH.  One of the reasons I’m posting less often lately is that I’m frelling reading everything I can get my gnarly hands on about . . . well, about parasites generally, at this point, and about immune system strengtheners and blah blah blah, to give me more ideas about what else to try for fleas.  The fact that there’s a huge amount of controversy and conflict and contradictory PROOF [sic] about what is safe to use is not helping.  Maybe I could just bore the ugly little sods into going somewhere else?  . . . Oh God guys here she comes again.  I just want to suck blood in peace, what is her PROBLEM? We’re so tiny—she’d never have to know we’re here—all 1,000,000,000,000,000,000 of us.  Okay mates we’re gonna hide behind this ear—NO NO SHE’S GOING FOR THE EARS.  One of the advantages of naturally comatose++, plasticine+++ hellhounds is that you can roll them around and rub whatever into their fur, including all their private bits, any way you like.  As long as it doesn’t involve swallowing anything it’s all attention, and it’s all good.  The hellterror is also perfectly happy to be rolled around, but she tends to want to engage with the game WILL YOU HOLD STILL YOU THING.  ARR-ARR-ARR-ARR, says happy engaged hellterror.

+ I still want to know whose brilliant idea it was to design the front-loader part of a front-loading washing machine to accumulate dirty water, critter hair, tiny shreds of unidentifiable gubbins and really unpleasant semi-dissolved yuck, in the un-get-at-able bottom of the door, defended by several heavy, uncooperative folds of rubber tubing.  Which is apparently still standard over here, including the greater European Union, since both my last was and my current washing machine is, German#.  My not-very-new-any-more washing machine gets very mixed reviews from me;   not only is the front-loading door familiar in all the wrong ways,  its filter is emergency only and you must approach it by precision serial usage of several Special Tools and the manual suggests sacrificing a black cockerel at the new moon as well, although advice about how to predict which new moon is the one heralding more-than-the-usual filter anguish does not seem to be included.

# Different brands.  I try to make different mistakes.

++ Except, of course, outdoors, if there is a prospect of SOMETHING TO CHASE.  Although Chaos did manage to slam into a cupboard once back at the mews because he saw a mouse amble across the floor.

+++ Or possibly Fawn, Charcoal and Tri-Colour Tack

*** I bring the hellmob back to the cottage from Third House sequentially, hellhounds first and hellterror second.  I looooove the new system, by the way, because the Last Hurtle of the Day is built in, without recourse to Wolfgang, and can be any length I/we choose, depending on energy levels, the way the day/night has gone thus far, what is going to jump on me from a dark corner in the day to come, and a variety of other factors, lately chiefly the heaviness of the RAIN.^  Wednesday night I was coming back, as mentioned above, um, rather spectacularly late, which is to say, um, dawn, and noodling along not paying attention to anything much while Pav investigated every leaf, shadow and discarded crisp packet . . . and WE SUDDENLY MET ANOTHER WOMAN AND HER DOG.  OOOOOOPS.  The other woman and I looked at each other in amazement.  I never see anyone else out at this hour! she said.  Erm, I said, neither do I—failing to mention that I hadn’t been to bed yet.  She had all the irritating glitter of the early riser about her.

^ Have I mentioned that fleas like warm and wet and that one of the things that haunts me is the possibility that this unprecedented invasion is a front runner of global warming?  And I’m really looking forward to the return of malaria to southern England.  Not.

† The beginning of the week I had no email for nearly two days.  The middle of the week I had no internet for nearly two days.  I’ve been doing a lot of knitting.^

And my new kit—ultrabook and iPad Air—was supposed to be here by the end of this week so Raphael could install it next week AND GUESS WHAT IT’S FRIDAY NIGHT AND I HAVEN’T HEARD ANYTHING.

^ Which I promise or, if you prefer, threaten, will be the topic of a blog post soon.

†† This process is seriously disconcerting.  I turn on the gizmo programme from my end, it goes SHAZZAM!!!, my screen turns midnight-blue and suddenly Raphael, from however many miles away, is invisibly moving my mouse around and opening and shutting my files and my browser(s) and . . . eeeeep.

††† See, there was this peregrine nest dangling over the gruntzenjam ventilator of the main computer scorbovarg, and the operators all cried in one voice, RAPHAEL!^

^ He used a rope to keep up appearances.  An archangel hovering beside the Post Office Tower in central London would definitely cause a traffic jam.

 

 

Aftermath

 

I’m better. That’s the main thing.  I’m not frelling enough better but I’m MUCH BETTER.   And thank you for all the friendly forum messages to this effect.

So first there was the really bad ME day, as I thought, which was my warning, except I didn’t know it. And then there was the memorable forty-eight hours of twelve-hour bouts with minor hiatuses between of throwing up every time I stood up.  This would be an interesting experience anyway but it was made exquisitely more interesting by the fact of a hellmob and no back up plan.

A hellmob, what’s more, who will not crap in their own garden(s).  And only Chaos is willing to pee in the cottage courtyard which is, admittedly, small, and he only pees there because he has recently developed prostate problems and HAS TO PEE WHEN HE HAS TO PEE.  Which is often.  Pav, by the way, is the most supernaturally continent dog I’ve ever even heard of, and this talent is probably worth keeping her entire* through the dramas of fertile season, all questions of beauty and bloodlines aside, even with two entire male hellhounds in the vicinity.  Mind you, this talent often causes me additional anxiety when the circumstances are that she has to pee here and now and the locale does not suit her hellladyship, but I’ve given up arguing with her.  She knows what the command ‘squat’ means and she’ll piddle like three drops while looking at me out of those bright evil little eyes, and then stop when I know she’s got a full tankload on board . . . arrrgh.

Anyway. The whole staying up till three or four a.m. really comes into its own when you have stomach flu and need to get your hellmob out of their garden so they will frelling well crap, because there’s no one around to notice you heaving in the shrubbery.  Sigh.  Let’s not discuss how interesting picking up after them has been for several days, and the dizzy spells that go with not eating.**  We should perhaps also not discuss Peter’s reaction when he found me (still) sleeping on the floor of the dining room Sunday morning.  Lighten up!  If I’d wanted a bed-like object I could have lain on the frelling sofa!  I was sure I was going to be enough better any minute to amble back to the cottage as usual!  And therefore I didn’t want to sleep really! I was just . . . resting in a posture less likely to make my appalling stomach go into another of its cursed paroxysms!

The second forty-eight hours was the beginning to be able to stand upright again phase, or might have been able to stand upright if there were any available calories to provide energy for this surprisingly complicated task.***  Stomach:  We’re fine, we’re fine, stand around all you like if you want to, just don’t bother us with any food. Every other cell in my body:  We’re starving!  We’re STAAAAARVING!  Stomach:  It’s good for your character.  Every other cell in my body: STAAAAAAAAAARVING!  Every other cell in my body won, partly because of the passing out in the shrubbery while tottering after hellcritters post-acute-stage thing.  Whereupon we entered the subset of the second phase, which is the Large Burning Column Occupying Most of Your Body Especially the Stomach Area subphase.†  I’m not quite out of this . . . but that may have as much to do with the last week’s business falling on me as from a height today when I’m finally almost recognisably functional again as it does with the remains of my deplorable lurgi.

Meanwhile, speaking of life catching up with me, I have a Samaritans duty tomorrow††, Street Pastors again Friday, and a meeting with Alfrick on Saturday. From which I hope to come home inspired finally to finish the KES ep that has been dangling around hopefully for a fortnight or more.  Oh, I haven’t wasted all my KES time however:  it may interest some of you that The Story So Far list is finally up to date.

* * *

* Spaying is notoriously hard on a bitch’s bladder control. Most bitches are fine after, but you still don’t want to press it too hard.  Or at least I have always tried not to.  Among other things a clean dog hates losing it indoors.  He/she will be miserable and ashamed.  Which is how I found out Chaos really couldn’t hold it any more.  And the miserable-and-ashamed is why you don’t put your critters in a position where they can’t help it . . . if you can help it.^

^ I have mostly managed to put Boskone out of my mind, and going back to America for the first time in a decade. Not.  And if never going anywhere starts haunting me I can frelling well sign up for that homeopathy course that I’m going to take, I’m just having a little trouble finding time right now.+  Oh, and money.

+ I’m sure there’s a homeopathic answer to this lurgi, but my usual stalwart in these cases had no effect at all and I was not . . . in much shape for hunting for a better match.

** I’ve never particularly bought into the Sensitivity of Your Furry Companions theory. They may lie down beside you on the floor in a friendly and affectionate manner but that’s because you’re on the floor, and if you get up suddenly and abruptly and disturb their slumbers they will look at you reproachfully.  My experience is more that they want what they want and when you aren’t providing it they want to know why. They’re not great on compromise either:  The hellmob don’t crap in the garden and that means they don’t crap in the garden. And, you know, this around the block at 3 am thing?  Where are their hurtles? Also the hellhounds entirely stopped eating the minute I took my eye off the ball/food dish and have probably lost as much weight as I have arrrrrrrrgh. It doesn’t suit any of us.  Haggard is not kind to the late middle aged.^  As an ex-fat person I can say authoritatively, There is such a thing as thin enough. I am that thing, or was last week.  There is also such a thing as being too thin, which is what I am now.  When your frelling belt, required to keep your trousers up^^, gives you frelling pressure sores on your hip bones, you are too thin.^^^  Fortunately you, or anyway I, gain weight lost through illness back pretty fast as soon as I’m eating again, which is still a slightly aggrieved issue.

^ It’s not actually kind to anyone and as an elderly feminist who has been through the whole body image frenzy decade after decade after decade after DECADE, it makes me NUTS that nothing has really changed, including that young women—and, apparently, increasingly, young men—are encouraged, or maybe I mean aggravated or harassed, into thinking that skeletal is attractive. No!  It’s not!  Not unless you’re a straightedge or a picket fence!  It’s just you can get away with it better when you’re young and your skin still has some collagen!+

+ Me?  I’m used to the way I look.  Do I have body image problems?  Sure.  I’m still breathing.#

# And food is only the enemy if your digestion is possessed by demons.

^^Interesting Conversations with Your Stomach:  Me:  Look, you perverse organ, my jeans will fall down.  Stomach:  No!  No!  No belt!  Can’t stand a belt!  No belt!  Me:  It won’t come anywhere near you, you prat, you’re in direct contact with my backbone.

^^^ I suppose I could take a few penknives, keys, small notebooks with writing implements etc out of my jeans pockets for the moment.

*** I was knitting^ while listening to the radio tonight and there was one of these snippet-science programmes that reported earnestly that eating protein is GOOD for you. Here we go again.  Even before I officially had ME I had energy-fluctuation problems and absolutely must have not merely unfashionably high levels of protein but unfashionably high levels of animal protein including red meat.  I’ve been fighting this battle for decades too and vegetarians are fine, some of my best friends^^ etc, but the holier-than-thou brigade of [insert superfood of the week here] and pure thoughts really get up my nose.  The revelation that more than a minimal level of protein is good for you reminds me of the walking is not weight-bearing exercise allegation a decade or three ago.  No, no!  Of course it isn’t!  We didn’t evolve to walk, we evolved to train in gyms on fancy weight-bearing exercise machinery!

^ Contrary to pathetic tweets earlier in the week I actually have done a fair amount of reading and knitting recently.  I can’t remember if I told you that Aloysius loaned me a frelling great brick-like volume which is a commentary on the first four books of the Bible+ and when he was checking up on me earlier in the week he asked how I was getting on with it.  It is too heavy to read lying down.

+ With constant irritating references to the Pentateuch.

^^ Including Sunshine

† I managed to eat something very nearly resembling dinner last night which disappeared into the calorie deficit with indecent haste and I was then hungrier than ever. I usually have fruit both first thing in the morning and last thing at night and I WOULD FRELLING KILL FOR AN APPLE, I am an apple junkie and most of the year eat several a day.  I was staring at the fruit bowl last night with a savage lust and . . . eventually ate a pear, not because one raw tree fruit is likely to be less provoking than another raw tree fruit, but because I’m so deprived if I ate one apple I’d probably eat six, which I’m sure would not be a good idea right now.  But what is it about pears?  You can have totally over rotten, hard tasteless grainy meh and DIVINE all in the same pear.  Nibble carefully.

†† We are not a secret society: hey look, the hot link among south of England Samaritans^ this month:  http://forumpublications.co.uk/hampshire-people/

It seems to me a good interview with a good guy, although I’m seriously, brain-explodingly fried at the interviewer’s suggestion that the deaths of Peaches Geldof and Robin Williams may glamorize addiction and suicide. WHAT? WHAT?  Um.  No.  That would be nooooooooo.

^There are quite a few of us around:

https://www.google.co.uk/maps/search/samaritans+hampshire/@51.3135647,-0.8434543,9z

 

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