So my pale blue and white floral cotton jeans are in the washing machine. Today I’m wearing a pair of pale khaki light cotton jeans. Why do clothing manufacturers seem to think that small children stop being sticky and dogs stop having muddy feet and we all stop being clumsy just because it’s SUMMER? Pastels are overrated. At least below the waist. I even used a proper mop on the kitchen floor this morning before I let the menagerie out on the theory that at least I won’t get dirty knees from kneeling on it. Until everybody has gone out into the courtyard and tramped what they find there indoors again which is why kneeling on my kitchen floor generally produces dirty knees. I was playing our standard morning maniacal tug of war with the hellterror* AND DISCOVERED A SPOT OF BLOOD ON MY PALE KHAKI LEG. . . . And could find no trace of bloodshed on either the hellterror** or me. So clearly it was just a random drop of blood coalescing out of nothingness by the irresistible attraction of a pair of clean pale khaki trousers. Sigh. Washing machine and spot remover.
Then while I was chopping veg for the hellterror’s breakfast*** I was gazing out the window while the hellterror in question twined around my ankles like a cat, hoping for dropsies. And lo and behold there was daddy robin and two fledglings variously perched on the suet feeder. Daddy robin can just stretch his neck through the squirrel-discouraging wiring to reach the fat-with-dead-bugs slab, yum—I think I’ve told you before that the wire cage is supposed to let small birds through but my resident robin is about half the size of a hellterror. Of course by the time I got the hellterror fed—once you are clearly getting a hellterror meal you had better not stop till this task is completed†—and could fetch my camera the robins had left the feeder and were sprinting about the garden, but I’m glad to see that there was some baby-robin action here this year, and the way they were behaving I suspect the nest is tucked into my jungle somewhere. The parents scorned my greenhouse after all the excitement last year with the wall falling down and the weeks of strange men and barrowfuls of mortar. Enough to put any reproductively-minded robin off I’m sure. Maybe next year. I have a bit of greenhouse shelf permanently sacrificed to the possibility of a bird’s nest.
But the truly tragic photo op miss was a couple of days ago at the mews. Wolfgang and I drove in to discover Peter’s next door neighbours staring fixedly at the brick wall the mews, and Peter’s cottage as number one, is built against and out of, and which is covered in roses. Wolves? I inquired hopefully. No, no, they said, a song thrush is shepherding her just-fledged babies on an excursion.
Sure enough there were three little floppy-fluttery things and mum having a shrieking meltdown. And as I stopped to watch, one of them took waveringly to the air, zigzagged vaguely for a second or two, decided that I had a safe, tree-like look about me . . . and landed on my butt. A baby bird weighs zilch but I felt its wings, and I could feel the faint scrabbling as it got at least one foot in my hip pocket.†† Mum was having a total heart attack in the shrubbery and the neighbours were going off in conniptions. Har de har har. The fledgling got its breath back and decided a spot of mountaineering was in order and started clambering up my back. I bent over because I’m a very nice, cooperative tree. It was a hot day and I was wearing a very thin cotton tee shirt and the tiny claws prickle. Peter heard the commotion and opened the door, Fledgling A launched a dive off my back . . . and Fledgling B, not to be outdone, took to the air in its turn and flew through Peter’s door.
Whereupon we had shrieking mum in the shrubbery and shrieking baby frantically boomeranging around the front hall and trying to cram itself into nonexistent cracks in the stairs. You know how you’re always afraid of hurting them?††† So it took me several tries to get hold of it in a way I thought wouldn’t damage the little idiot—and I remember Penelope, who was a bird ringer in her day, saying that if you get them gently but firmly around the body with their wings trapped and just their heads sticking out, they’ll quiet down. WHY? But this one did just that—teeny heart going so fast it was nearly a buzz—and I’m muttering, Don’t die of shock! Don’t die of shock!, and I put it carefully down on the top of the water butt, which is quite a substantial space if you’re not much bigger than a bumblebee, and mum yelled at it to stop messing about and come home, and it did. The third fledgling had spent all this time staying obediently put in the shrubbery and it’s not going to have any stories to tell its grandchildren.
However nobody whipped out their smartphone and took a picture. But I can at least tell you about it.
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* Speaking of photo ops. I should figure out a miner’s-helmet camera deal so as to get a close-up shot of bull terrier playing tug of war, with the little pointed ears flat back in intensity, the little forehead furrowed in concentration, the little evil eyes gleaming and the jaws of death clamped for glory around the Yellow Rubber Thing. It is an awesome sight.
** Who was of course happy to be rolled around for examination. All rolling and rubbing is good to a hellterror.
*** She gets veg in her meals because it means more food. If I was just giving her wet food and kibble there would be less food. More food is always good, like rolling and rubbing is always good. Rules of life if you’re a hellterror are blissfully simple.
† Hellhounds of course would be saying, mount an expedition to the Antarctic before we get fed? Great. Don’t hurry back.
†† Usefully pre-flattened by hellterror hind feet.
††† I’ve told you about trying to catch an escaped lamb, haven’t I? This was out in the wilderness with no obvious farmer to apply to. I tied the hellhounds up at one end of the fence and started driving it toward them, assuming that it would not want to go that way and I could get hold of it. I did get hold of it—mum on the other side of the fence having an ovine heart attack, which seems to be the fate of mums—but lamb skin is vastly bigger than the lamb, like puppy skin, I was afraid of hurting it . . . and it got away. I did find a farmer to tell however.
. . . moving house. Removal men with rippling muscles and a large lorry are coming 1 August. Yessssssss. Any of you of a praying persuasion please pray it goes no more catastrophically than these things usually do. And more important that Peter finds he positively likes it there at Third House once he’s in. Any of you not of a praying persuasion are nonetheless welcome to dance supplicatorily around bonfires dedicated to minor deities who ease tiresome mortal rites of passage like house moves. I personally prefer Jesus, but I’ll take any good will on offer.
And minions of British Telecom, that delightfully efficient and customer-oriented corporation, are coming the day before to install necessary wiring because, as regular blog readers may recall, BT declares that there are no lines to Third House, that eighty or ninety year old cottage in the centre of town and with a phone jack in the kitchen which you might think BT would find a little embarrassing. HOWEVER we have got round my bootless fury on this topic first by the fact that we’re going to want wireless broadband and the connections for that probably do need to be updated from whenever . . . and second I just caved when the very loud, relentlessly cheerful woman who was brokering the deal rushed past the part about how they’d do all this for free if we bought their broadband. So we’re buying their broadband. And I am a weak, cringing worm. Yes. I just want it over with.
Eleanor finished cleaning Third House’s kitchen today.*
Jonas, who is a builder by trade and can do anything, is plumbing in the dishwasher because all the local plumbers are booked until Christmas 2017.
Atlas is getting on with carving out the Desk Aperture.**
Nina and Ignatius are coming twice this week to do anything someone else hasn’t got to first. They may make a start on clearing the space for my shed. And I may ask Ignatius to put up some shelves, since there is only one of Atlas and he only has two hands. Fie. You’d think someone who works in three dimensions for a living would have at least four.
And the hellhounds ate lunch for the first time in weeks.***
But too much stuff working might go to my head. So the ME gallantly stepped in at this point and slapped me down.† ARRRRRRGH.†† Therefore I think I’ll make one of my hilarious attempts to go to bed early.††† Night night.‡
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* She has been giving me a very hard time about all the things I won’t let her throw away. That’s a perfectly usable jar! Leave it alone! She even thinks I have too many books. Friendships have been lost over comments like these. But not when someone is cleaning your kitchen for free.
** I’m failing to get on with finding somewhere to put all the books thus made homeless. See previous footnote.
*** Don’t get too excited. They didn’t eat dinner.
† Do I really need the ME too? It’s not like the next few weeks are going to be arid with ease and perfection. In the first place I still have 1,000,000 phone calls to make to/about various which will be quite lowering enough when 60% or so produce the equivalent of all the local plumbers being booked till Christmas 2017. I’m reminding myself we already own the house, no one can gazump us, that medieval torture device that has somehow been allowed to live on in the laws of England, Third House is in the same town and only half of us are moving anyway. Hey, my piano is moving! That counts! Also the hellhounds are sure to Faint in Coils which will fail to be edifying. But it could be a lot worse. Hold that thought.
†† It’s The Little Things. My last clean white shirt this morning had a big black spot at the centre of the neckline WHAAAAAAT?? I got the worst of it out with a sponge and wore it anyway. Then I put on my pale blue white floral cotton jeans which are automatically a calamity magnet because of the colour. And I was out in the garden this morning examining something or other while Pav had her morning pee and she galloped up to me and sprang . . . leaving giant muddy footprints all over my pale blue with white flowers jeans ARRRRRRRRGH. There was language. Pav ignored this, of course, because it had nothing to do with her. She usually does jump on me first thing in the morning . . . but this usually happens indoors, I’ve never taught her not to^, and the only reason the garden was muddy is because I’ve been WATERING because we haven’t had any rain in yonks.^^ ARRRRRRRRGH. Well I’m wearing the blotched up jeans anyway too, but everything goes in the washing machine tonight.
^ Theoretically she knows ‘off’. She doesn’t know ‘don’t jump up in the first place you muddy-footed monster’. Usually I find being jumped on by a thrilled-I-exist bull terrier ridiculously charming.
^^ It’s been long enough that a few Souvenir de la Malmaison roses have been unable to contain themselves to wait to go brown and mouldy in the next major downpour and have popped out properly. It only takes a few to make my entire tiny walled garden smell divine.
††† HAHAHAHAHAHAHA. I kill myself, I really do.
‡ It’s too hot to sleep anyway. It’s not hot hot but it’s that kind of hot that sits on your chest like an incubus and won’t let you breathe.
The problem with this not posting every day shtick is that you’re missing so much prime A Day in the Life blog material. Yesterday, for example, when the final exchange with Bozo* was only the beginning. Eleanor, who is manifestly insane, has kept nagging me to let her come help with putting Third House in order. All right! All right! Whatever! If you are so hopelessly short of interesting things to do with your time BY ALL MEANS COME! So while she was hoovering floors and mopping shelves I was trying to force all the books that are coming off the shelves in the Mostly a Staircase Ex-Bedroom which is going to be Peter’s office after we hack out a HOLE IN THE BOOKSHELVES for his desk to go, onto a much shorter wall of mostly-recently-frantically-emptied shelves. This is a seriously arrrgh situation anyway** AND IT GOT A LOT WORSE WHEN ONE OF THE LITTLE BRASS DOOHICKEYS THAT HOLD THE ADJUSTABLE SHELF IN PLACE FELL OUT AND 1,000,000 BOOKS RAINED DOWN AND RAINED AND RAINED ESPECIALLY WHEN THE BOOK-SHAPED CANNONBALLS MANAGED TO TAKE OUT A COUPLE OF OTHER [FULL] SHELVES ON THE WAY DOWN, ONE OF THEM ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE ROOM. And then Eleanor’s hoover, which she had thoughtfully brought, which is just as well since mine is usually full of wood chips***, TURNED ITSELF OFF AND WOULDN’T TURN ON AGAIN. Because its bag was full.†
Nina’s son is moving into his first flat—he’s been sharing a house and apparently furniture is not necessary in this situation.†† But the new flat is empty and Nina asked if any of our moaning about excess furniture might yield a spare table and four chairs? Yes. It certainly would. So Nina and her wholly adorable husband Ignatius††† came down with a van and we played Musical Chairs [sic] for which we jigsawed around at grave danger to life and limb at our storage unit, extracting my old kitchen table from Maine and three of the four chairs that go with it—three because we’d need a forklift and a hoist to get at the fourth—and then a few odds and ends because why not, and drove interestingly in convoy‡ with Wolfgang and me loitering at corners as necessary, arrived at Third House, extruded one chair and the odds and ends, examined the Dishwasher Problem‡‡, proceeded on to the cottage where my old Maine table was swapped in for the bigger heavier Dickinson table which was great when I first moved in to the cottage but has grown mysteriously bigger with every additional critter crate, and then on to the mews where we swapped out two chairs. And then Nina and Ignatius fled, because they still had to get all their loot up to London in time to get the van back to the van-hire.
We’d simply left my new/old table in the middle of what there is of a kitchen floor at the cottage, which isn’t much. Both tables are drop-leaf, but the Dickinson table is rectangular and its leaves only barely clear the floor so when you put one up–and you can only put one up–it’s skating rink sized and grazes the hellhound crate so you absolutely can’t get past it unless you go under.‡‡‡ My table is round, and smaller, and the theory is that the little half-moon leaves will be usable, even in an square inch-age challenged area like the cottage kitchen.
I went back to the cottage with a happy rioting puppy§ and . . .
Had a very, very, VERY bad moment when I discovered that while my little round table is smaller, the curve means it doesn’t quite fit in the space that the straight line and square angled bigger table fitted in AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAUGGGGGH.
. . . No, it’s okay. With a little weaselling the sticky-out curved edge of the table will clear over the hellterror crate so the table will settle back against the wall. WHEEEEEEEEEEEW. And yes, the modest half-moon leaf means I can actually sit at a table to drink my tea if I want to.
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* He hasn’t bothered to answer mine saying ‘please check back through this correspondence’ YOU UGLY RABID MEATLOAF.
** Especially when you started late because a hellhound threw up on the floor just as you were trying to leave and this is not something you’re willing to come back to in its original unaltered state.
*** Atlas is a wonderful human being and he’s a MAN who knows how to USE A HOOVER.^ What he does not know is how to (a) check the bag and (b) change said bag when necessary
^ Penelope says she married Niall for his hoovering. One never tires, she says, even thirty years later, of having a husband who does the hoovering. –In this household neither of us does the hoovering.+
+ Although Peter’s home help will employ a hoover if asked politely. And my floors aren’t as bad as you might think BECAUSE THEY GET CLEANED REGULARLY AFTER DOGS HAVE THROWN UP ON THEM.
† Because Eleanor’s husband had been using it and hadn’t checked the bag.^ She immediately rang him up and ordered him to bring her a new one. And he did. Golly.
^ Niall also changes the hoover bag. It doesn’t get better. Although champagne is close.
†† They sit on the floor a lot?
††† I know he’s been a friend of the extended Dickinson clan since he and Nina were kiddies but they only got together a few years ago and he does the whole troublesome-in-law thing with such grace.
‡ Driving a hired van full of furniture is such fun. Not.
‡‡ Which is that Peter comes with a dishwasher, and Third House doesn’t have the gap or the plumbing behind the gap for same.
‡‡‡ Since I don’t believe in wasting space of course there is stuff under the table. But trying to jimmy something out without putting a leaf up is . . . bruising. And somewhat liable to cause language.
§ You’re going to be two in August. You wouldn’t like to think about starting to grow up, would you?^
^ Conversation with little old lady watching Pav loop the loop: she’s very young, isn’t she? Um. Yes.
I meant to write you a proper blog post tonight but the day has got away from me as days can do.* So I thought I’d finally post The Hellterror’s Morning Ritual. We all had a very itchy patch at the beginning of the spring. The three hellcritters ate holes in their fur, but it only really showed on the hellterror because of black overcoat, beige undercoat and pale pink skin: the hellhounds mostly match: steel-grey Darkness has black skin and fawn-coloured Chaos has pale skin. I had swollen ITCHY red eyes and I might well have chewed my eyelashes off if my face were configured for it. Everybody’s hair has mostly grown in again, but I almost miss the extravagance of the hellterror’s ritual when she really, really, really wants to scratch her back. Lately she’s more interested in whacking me with her long yellow rubber toy till I yield to the inevitable and play with her. But she doesn’t look moth eaten any more.
You have dogs because they make you laugh.
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* This includes that Penelope and I went to a big National Trust garden over Ditherington direction this afternoon and sat in the sun and totally vagued out the way denizens of the British Isles may very well because . . . sunlight!?!^
^ Also because most of Main Street in New Arcadia has been dug up and is in heaps placed for maximum inconvenience plus scaffolding+ and temporary stoplights with boa-constrictor sized cables running everywhere and GETTING ANYWHERE takes about 1,000,000 times longer than usual. In fact, I’m still in a frelling queue.
+ The scaffolding is up near me and isn’t the town unplanners or anything civic. The Big House on the Corner belongs to We Are Wealthier Than God#, You Are Peons and We Don’t Care, and they put scaffolding up at least once a year when buying and selling small countries palls and they want to make their presence felt closer to home. Then they hang workpersons all over the scaffolding in decorative patterns. Who eat sandwiches and chat and sometimes they sit on the planks dangling their feet. And six weeks or six months later they take the scaffolding down again.
# I don’t think God does money, does he/she/they?
There is a God*: hellhounds ate their dinner. For like the first time in a fortnight. Maybe three weeks. I don’t know how much these thrilling new horizons of food prejudice are the new treatment they’re on, how much is the weather—although summer only began about this week**—how much is natural hellhound perversity and how much is the Borg.*** But it is hard on the person poking food down their throats two or three times a day†. I suppose it is too much to hope for that this is a new trend. . . .
Meanwhile. I’ve been singing.†† I’ve had a series of tiny epiphanies this week in a sort of PING-OW-PING-OW ††† cattle-prod pattern. Nadia’s new beginner soprano was ahead of me this week instead of the scary could-have-been-professional-WHY-AM-I-BOTHERING bloke. And she was torturing poor old Caro Mio Ben in a way that made me feel almost nostalgic. But . . . I could hear what Nadia is doing with her. In a way that you can’t hear yourself. I know I’ve been that route‡ but it’s waaaaay different from the inside. I could hear her ‘real’ voice breaking through occasionally‡‡ and I could hear what Nadia keeps telling me about me, that pitch is not the problem, making the sound is the problem, and if/when I make the sound correctly the pitch will be fine.‡‡‡
Last week was not a great week in what I acknowledge has been a too-little-interrupted series of crap weeks, and I was expecting Nadia to have to spend most of my lesson winkling my voice out of hiding. It’s a bit prone to slamming the door shut and hiding under the bed. I’m so used to going to my lesson to be re-set that I don’t always notice what I’m doing at home because it can’t possibly be any good, now can it? Nooooooo.§§ I go through the frelling blasted motions and then take the pieces in to Nadia to do something with. So, for example, I have been failing to notice that recently, even when I’m having a crap week, there’s still enough voice for me to sing with.
I was singing within the first few minutes of warm-up last Monday. SINGING. Nadia didn’t need forceps or anything. And we had a really good bash at Vedrai Carino§§§. And . . . okay, so I’ll never be Joyce DiDonato, but at my age it would be kind of a waste, not to mention that I already have a perfectly good creative career. But . . . I do have a voice. I may never get much beyond singing Jesus Is My Boyfriend for Sunday service at St Margaret’s but . . . I have a voice. I have to stop saying I don’t.
Also . . . my voice got tired before the end of the lesson because it had come roaring out of its silk-lined palanquin with such uncharacteristic dispatch. I came home thinking if I sang more and maybe developed some stamina, and engaged more with what I chose to sing and why I chose it. . . .
PING. To be continued. . . .
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** And my annual anguish about when/if to turn the Aga off.
*** Who mess with our dogs and our rose-bushes as well as our computers to keep us demoralised and malleable. Souvenir de la Malmaison is out there laughing her thorny little socks off because of course Death by Sunlight began after all the rain had wrecked most of her flowers this year as usual. Since she’s now about forty feet tall she’s oppressing all my neighbours too.
† Two bottom lines: they get really ill if they miss more than one meal in a row, as I re-proved recently^, and the new drug has to be given with food.
^ None of us enjoyed the experience
†† Well duh.
††† And another one bell ringing at Crabbiton last night.
I was only the third person to arrive expecting to pull a rope and Felicity was wondering if she should have cancelled practise—it’s June, it’s hot, everyone is at home enjoying the long daylight and either drinking their iced tea or pouring it over their heads to cool off—and Wild Robert wasn’t going to make it. Three more people turned up. Yaay. Crabbiton only has six bells: we’re good to go.
Um. Except for the fact that Felicity and I were the good ringers and . . . um.
The funny thing is . . . we had a good practise. Everyone managed to do something that made them feel they were learning something. In poor Felicity’s case this was mostly the thankless task of holding practise together. In my case . . . she frelling made me frelling call SEVERAL touches of frelling Grandsire doubles.
I used to know a simple-minded touch of Grandsire where if you can count to three twice you’ll do. And then various things happened, including that I started ringing at Forza where there are eighty-seven bells and almost enough good ringers to ring them, and you’d better not even admit that you can (probably) call the notorious beginner’s touch of Grandsire doubles. And then when I recently began ringing at Crabbiton . . . Wild Robert decided it was time I learnt the touch after the beginner’s touch.
I have spectacularly failed to learn this new touch, and in the process—especially since it’s been a while since I tried to call it—I have forgotten the beginner’s touch.
Last night I re-invented it from first principles, with some help from the band.^ It took three tries but . . . we did it. And the teeny-weeny epiphany was: Wild Robert wants me to learn this second touch because it’ll force me to pay attention to where the other bells are, rather than blindly following a simple pattern for my bell. I don’t have enough brain. Counting to three twice is enough, when you’re also ringing a frelling bell.
Except . . . I had to pay some attention to where the other bells were last night, to re-figure out the simple pattern for mine. I didn’t do it well or thoroughly . . . but I did it enough to have a tiny insight into what Wild Robert is on about. And what I’d have to do to call his nasty next touch. PING. OW.
Now I have to decide if I’m going to tell him.
^ YOU CAN’T CALL A BOB THERE.
‡ Including torturing Caro Mio Ben.
‡‡ Note that she has more voice than I did when I began, but, as I was telling someone again recently, everyone has more voice than I did when I began. Nadia, Sorceress. Put her up against Circe and Circe would creep away weeping and get a job as an insurance adjuster.
‡‡‡ This is not to say there aren’t pitch problems out there. I used sometimes to follow a woman with quite a nice voice . . . who couldn’t carry a tune in a basket. I think she has stopped coming.
§ Also just hearing Nadia beginning to open her up is cheering somehow. It makes it more of a process and less . . . sorcery.
§§ I’m also having a meltdown crisis of confidence about the Samaritans as we approach the end of training and the beginning of duty. SIIIIIIIIIGH. I am so predictable.
§§§ Mozart is my man. Although if anyone could find a half-decent edition of Beethoven’s folk song arrangements for solo voice I would be all over it.