This should have gone up last night, of course—one rarely ransoms cars from garages on Sundays—and today got away from me as my days so often do. I should perhaps adopt an acronym: TSHGULNOC, which sounds a little like something out of HP Lovecraft says just before it eats you. Some day if I ever get my act together Raphael is going to commute me to another internet provider, and we will see if I spend less time waiting for things to load with my fingers in my ears so I can’t hear myself screaming. Meanwhile: TSHGULNOC.
* * *
I have a car! I have a car! YAAAAAAAAAY!
I got home last night after dinner* to a brief laconic phone message from the garage. ‘Give us a ring when you have a minute.’ ARRRRRRRRGH. Can’t they just tell me?? But I assumed the not telling me, the terseness and the . . . er . . . what’s the noun form of ‘laconic’? . . . the laconia, the laconitry, were not a good omen.
This morning I left** before even a garage is likely to be open, to go to Mass*** and decided just for laughs to take a detour on the way home, I might as well make them look me in the eye when they told me they could probably get to my car in January.† So I braced myself not to burst into tears and lie down on the floor and drum my heels . . . and first I couldn’t find anyone to ask and I figured they’d seen me coming and were hiding, and then when I did find someone they still wouldn’t meet my eyes but they said (laconically), oh, it’s all done. You can have it now.
Apparently what happened—although garage men tend to be Of Few Words††, I may have a better version from Morag when she’s back in the office next week—is that they were failing to locate a new pedal box††† and on closer examination the pedal box breakage was less drastic than feared and they said oh piffle let’s just weld‡ the sucker, and they did.
I was so excited that when I arrived home‡‡ I threw the hellhounds in the back seat and we shot off to . . . somewhere. Anywhere. We had a proper hurtle over the countryside for the first time in yonks, which has less to do with Wolfgang than with my interesting energy levels or lack thereof. We were already on the road before I thought about where we were going, and I decided on Ditherington where we used to hurtle frequently and haven’t been . . . all this year, I think, which means over a year, because I pretty much stopped superfluous driving after Peter’s second stroke and I was spending all available time wherever he was. Ditherington looked pretty good and the hellhounds were thrilled.‡‡‡
And then we came home and the hellterror had her own epic hurtle across more dangerously local countryside, which I’m willing to risk on a nice Saturday afternoon because I can pick her up if there are problems.§
I even did a little gardening.§§ Reclaiming a member of the family is very energizing.§§§ YAAAAAAAY. WOLFGANG.
* * *
* And while I’m celebrating I also want to celebrate that I’ve eaten in restaurants twice this week^ and I’m still alive. There are no fresh bits falling off that I’ve noticed and I haven’t broken out in a scaly rash that makes me look like a diseased turbot. There is hope.
^ Where the people in the kitchen may be injecting secret cow feta into the crab salad.+
+ I was talking to someone about the somewhat retro manager of a local food bank—have I told you I’m planning to do Pitch a Foodstuff in a Box Every Day for Advent# and then donate box and contents to a food bank?—whose attitude toward the undeserving poor is that if they’re hungry they’ll eat it.## Uh huh. Tell that to someone with a peanut allergy. Hey, tell it to someone who’s allergic to cow feta. She won’t die, but she will rip your face off.
# You will remember that I have been heaping righteous scorn on the designers, the gift-buyers, and the clueless, superficial and self-indulgent recipients of Advent calendars dedicated to beauty products or whisky or hamsters or something? I have had my comeuppance. There’s a yarn Advent calendar. No, no, no, no. It’s okay though. It’s way too expensive. And furthermore the yarn is acrylic. BUT I BET YOU COULD MAKE A REALLY CUTE BABY BLANKET FOR CHARITY OUT OF TWENTY-FOUR SQUARES OF ADVENT CALENDAR YARN.~
~ And someone can explain to me why Advent calendars only have twenty four windows when Advent starts some time before that. This year apparently on 27 November. Presumably I start my food box on the 27th even though I don’t have any fun till the 1st of December.=
= Although since I’m planning to do readings out of THE ROADS FROM BETHLEHEM https://www.amazon.co.uk/Roads-Bethlehem-Christmas-Literature-Writers/dp/0664221572/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1479600578&sr=8-1&keywords=road+from+bethlehem which Alfrick loaned me his old, well-loved copy of to shut me up about my latest opportunity for outrage, the Shocking Commercialisation of Advent. What’s next? Give your sweetheart a dozen chocolate pencils for Punctuation Day? . . . ANYWAY. Since I’m planning to declaim to the hellmob, the Aga and the indoor jungle I could start that on the 27th too.
## I’m sure there’s a place in the new American cabinet for this moron. Health and human services possibly. Or education.
** And a word here for St Admetus. He’s been letting me drive his car. The only drawback to this fabulous, beyond-my-wildest-imaginings situation is that Fleur is new.^ You will remember that one of the reasons I want to keep my ancient, beat-up car is that any car that lived with me would become ancient and beat-up pretty fast. It’s very hard on a person trying to behave in a drastically out of character a manner . . . although in my defence a lot of Wolfgang’s more interesting impairments have to do with inadequately maintained back country roads and I wouldn’t DREAM of taking Fleur anywhere but on flawlessly paved roads, or as frelling flawlessly as the frelling Hampshire county council can provide which isn’t blistering very. But there are one or two other variations like the fact that her brakes are DELICATE. You speak to them sweetly and for pity’s sake don’t actually step on them. I did eventually stop throwing myself through the windscreen.^^ . . . Which meant that when I got behind the more robust and jolly Wolfgang’s wheel again I was all WHERE ARE THE BRAAAAAAAAAKES.
The other high point was arriving with Fleur at my late-night shift at the Sams and not being able to pull the frelling ignition key out of the frelling ignition.
^ She’s also shiny and WHITE. Admetus washes his car+. Fancy. But anything I come in contact with staggers away from the encounter covered in mud and dog hair. Although I may be doing the hellmob an injustice. I think I must produce dog hair too. Hmmmm.
+ Have I mentioned that Wolfgang now has Herb Robert growing in the crack between the windscreen and the hinge of the bonnet?
^^ Fortunately modern flexi-plast windscreens don’t star on impact very easily.
*** Before I realised the extent to which St Admetus is willing to sacrifice himself on the altar of friendship I’d been telling myself that it was not the end of the world^ if I didn’t make it to Mass^^ this week.^^^ The result is this is now the second week in a row that I’ve gone both to morning Mass and the night contemplative service on Saturday, pant, gasp, whiplash, due to circumstances beyond my control. God likes her little joke.
^ That would have been 8 November
^^ Jonesing for the Eucharist. Go Jesus.
^^^ I’d been trying to figure out the festering bus schedule. The buses between here and Mauncester in one direction and Opprobrium in the other are pretty reliable. But if you want to peel off in a funny direction from the main route, like, say, Dreepworth, which is a village of about three, plus some monks well back among the trees+, there are rumours of a local bus but no one knows anything about it. It is not encouraging that it is further rumoured to stop at the ski lodge and the planetarium. Dreepworth does not have a ski lodge or a planetarium.
+ And a big sign that says WELCOME. I like that sign.
† Since I was there I thought the least I could do was fill up the petrol tank. You have to release the lock, said the helpful petrol-pump man. RELEASE? THE LOCK?? We had to get the frelling handbook out to find the frelling petrol-tank release latch ARRRRRRRGH. Admetus thought this was very funny.^ I had to tell him since the first thing he said was, how did you find the petrol tank release?
^ Hey. I’d written down the mileage and the litres because I knew Admetus is the kind of OCD git . . . I mean, the kind of thoughtful, responsible car owner+ who keeps track of such things. GIVE ME SOME CREDIT HERE.
+ Yes. Admetus usually reads the blog.
†† I should perhaps specify intelligible words. Paxton is usually happy to explain exactly what happened in great detail, except that I don’t know any of the words he’s using, since they have to do with cars and I pretty much stop with ‘steering wheel’ and ‘rear view mirror’.
††† Those Fijians really like their pristine showcases.
‡ Welding. You youngsters may not have heard of this interesting ploy. It’s something you can do to old cars which are still mostly made out of metal.^
^ Except the FENDERS. Which are made out of plastic-coated papier mache and fall off at a TOUCH. There is a humiliating story about this in the archives somewhere.
‡‡ Admetus having given me a lift back out to Warm Upford to fetch Wolfgang
‡‡‡ Although the reason Ditherington began to fall out of favour in the first place is because the local gamekeeper is/was a ratbag sod. He’s the one responsible, for example, for the line of guns across a public footpath one shooting season which is frankly illegal, and which the hellhounds and I walked straight into because you’re coming out of a copse into a field and you have no warning what you’re getting into unless they’re actually firing which I am glad to say they weren’t. And I grew very tired of him snapping and snarling for no reason but that he was in a nasty mood and didn’t like old women walking their dogs. If someone could tell me he now has a job wrestling alligators in Florida, and that the new keeper prefers to sit on a hay bale and knit, I would be very happy.
§ We had an absolutely classic run in with an off lead dog. It was coming down the hill on lead to our right as we carried on straight ahead along the footpath. The idiot woman saw us. I saw her seeing us. And the moment we were out of sight behind the fence she let Throgmorton off the lead and he instantly hared after us, coming around the corner on one leg and a tail. CALL YOUR DOG, I said, scooping up the meanest SOB in the valley. Throgmorton was about the size of an SUV and I was considering climbing the fence—with an armful of Meanest SOB—when Idiot Woman came panting around the corner and did, in fact, catch her abominable dog.
§§ It started to rain as I was putting on my pink wellies. I heard Peter’s voice in my ear saying It’s not wet rain and went out anyway.
§§§ Really I’m on a roll. I bounced through not one but two social occasions last night—first catching up with Ceridwen and Vidhya and the little frumplet^ and then dinner with Nina and Ignatius. Hey, wouldn’t it be great if I were just getting stronger? Yes. It would be great. ^^
^ Who will soon grow out of the fabulous baby blanket he hasn’t received
^^ Maybe I could even get more than three syllables a day of story-in-progress written. That would be GREAT.
. . . Also, yesterday. I’m now officially even older than I was. This keeps happening. You’re just kind of getting used to being twelve or thirty-five or fifty or a hundred and three and zap you have to get used to being thirteen or thirty-six or fifty-one or a hundred and four. And that’s not good enough either! Fifty two more weeks and you’re fourteen or thirty seven or fifty two or a hundred and five! No wonder human beings are so insecure. Stuff keeps changing. It’s very unsettling.
So yesterday I didn’t ring the garage because I figured if there was any good news they would have rung me and I didn’t want avoidable bad news on my birthday.* But the hellmob and I had a variety of nice walks even if they were perforce in town, I gave myself the day off from hitting myself repeatedly in the head with a brick, I mean, working on story-in-progress, and I had dinner out with a friend.** We had a really lovely relaxing delectable dinner*** and I don’t think I gave our waiter a nervous breakdown with all my searching questions about ingredients.† I even had half a half glass of wine.††
And I came home, hurtled the hellmob for the last time, opened all my presents . . . and fell into a deep funk. This time last year Peter was so frail he stayed in bed and didn’t come to the birthday party in one of Rivendell’s little private function rooms. We took turns ferrying him fizz and dainties. . . .
Life. Birthdays. Crap. But I have several excellent new books to read.†††
* * *
* I rang them today. They’re in negotiations with the old VW parts factory in Viti Levu for the pristine 20-year-old VW Golf pedal box kept in a glass case outside the CEO’s office as a particularly fascinating example of last century’s technology^. They will ring me when they have anything to tell me, like whether I’ll get my car back before the frelling end of the frelling year. At least they’re not saying ‘buy a new car’. Hey! He doesn’t even have two hundred thousand miles on him yet! A diesel VW ought to be worth 200,000 miles!
^ I have no idea why it’s particularly fascinating. I have no idea what a pedal box is.+
+ I mean, why would you keep your pedals in a box? Generally you want them out doing mobile, pedally things.#
# I know, I know. Don’t tell me.
** I think this was the first time I’ve been in a skirt since Peter’s memorial. I’ve almost forgotten how.^
^ Tights. Where do I keep my frelling TIGHTS?
*** I may have knitted between courses
† It seems like a great idea that restaurants post their menus on line these days^ and if you eat like I do you need to check ahead one way or another. It’s easier and less embarrassing to do it via google rather than get into one of those no-win conversations with a phone-answering member of staff who has probably heard of gluten-free and lactose intolerance^^ but by the time you’ve rejected several harmless-sounding possibilities due to the presence of nightshades or cereal grains you can hear the person at the other end of the line wanting to go into another line of work. Immediately. So I read up before I go anywhere and then I get there and . . . they’ve changed the menu. The, one might almost say delicious, irony here is that this is likeliest to happen in the local-seasonal-footprint-conscious restaurants I’m likeliest to opt for. This happened last night. It will probably happen again tomorrow night when I’m having dinner with some other friends at another local-seasonal-patient-with-the-deranged restaurant.
^ especially if you’re some frelling import like me who can’t get her head around the idea that traditional British food means meat, stodge and gravy. There are quite a few old-fashioned pubs in this area who are awarded lots of stars and fulsome acclaim on Trip Advisor where there isn’t a green veg in sight, where the side dishes are all things you can do with potatoes. What seems to me even more bizarre is that you may be likelier to see aloo masala or onion paratha than a plain mixed green salad or, you know, Brussel sprouts or leeks+ or something you or your neighbour might very well have in your garden.++ I know Britain is now Curry Nation but until global warming gets a better grip we still can’t grow turmeric here. And personally I’d prefer to go on importing our turmeric and not grow malaria here either.
+ You know, fresh local seasonal veg. I also prefer to stay away from restaurants whose menus are advertising fresh asparagus in November.
++ It’s not looking good for the five# a day.
# Or seven. The latest seems to be seven. And people are still eating at Macdonalds. Oh but wait, they’re having a bedtime snack of broccoli with their hot milk, right? And getting up in the morning to a ginormous platter of raw spinach salad with their hot caffeine. Come on guys. Vegetables are good. Vegetables are friendly. Vegetables have your best interests at heart.
^^ I haven’t given you the gruesome details of my ‘food poisoning’ the other week, have I? My medical herbalist, whom we will call Gundred, both because she deserves a name and because ‘medical herbalist’ is a daunting phrase, persuaded me that goats’- and sheep-milk products were worth a try. Non-cow dairy would contribute to Building Me Up and it would be a nice boost to variety in my diet. Well I like the yogurt and I like kefir a lot+ but the cheeeeeeeese. . . . . I had no idea I loved/missed cheese this much. AHHHHHHHHHH. Eating cheese again is like the first thing that has made me happy since Peter died.++
So one of my visiting friends and I went to lunch at one of the local pubs who is Used to Me. And lo they had changed their menu—local and seasonal, you know—to include a root-veg salad I could actually eat without asking them to hold half the ingredients and substitute the other half. The salad included feta cheese. I adore feta cheese, I (now) eat it at home regularly (wheeeeeee).
I put my friend back on the train and went home and felt sicker and sicker and sicker and every bone and muscle in my body turned into one big throbbing ache and I had dancing anvils in my head. And I thought WTF, this is my dairy allergy. I tried to think of anything else that might have done this to me, failed—but the dancing anvils were having a somewhat negative effect on my thought processes—and eventually in despair googled feta. Where I was informed that it was, indeed, goats’ and/or sheep cheese, but some evil ratbag Northern Europeans sometimes made it out of cows’ milk. Which is pretty clearly what happened to me.
It’s taken me frelling weeks to recover. Everything hurt and none of the bendy things bent properly, so for example closing my hands on a bell rope or a berserking hellterror who wants that other dog to know that she is the meanest SOB in the valley was both unpleasant and perilous. But when the frelling eczema started I panicked because this was a good two weeks after the incident and I was afraid my body was rejecting the goats and sheep too. Noooooooo. But the eczema has subsided . . . and I’m still eating cheese (and yogurt and kefir).
But my point is I don’t torture waiters for fun. I’m pathological for cause.+++
+ And since I have to make my own it had better be worth it. Although making it is kind of fun. It’s like a school science project. You mix the weird stuff together and then you put the result in a jar and wait to see what happens.
++ The high doesn’t last, of course, but for the few minutes I’m actually eating cheese the world cannot touch me.#
# Barring the hellterror getting the refrigerator door open~ or one of the hellhounds climbing the garden wall. Because they can. I hope they can’t, but I wouldn’t put it past them. Reasons the hellmob are never in the garden unless I’m out there too. Especially now we’re surrounded by little yappy dogs. Arrrrrrrrrgh. Although the ones we share walls with are fine really. Damien is on the other side of the cul de sac. And the hellmob isn’t in the Lodge’s garden without me either. They probably could get over that wall, but eating Damien would probably give them food poisoning.
~ I Live In Fear
+++ As part of Birthday Celebration Week we were going to go to one of the big national gardens that plants for year round interest as they say, not to mention tourist money. But we had thunderstorms and horizontal rain today in unpredictable bursts, so we went to a film instead. I’ve seen three films in the last six months. I hope you’re impressed. Hey, I could do a film review post.# Today’s was ARRIVAL. And never mind what I thought of it—I’ll tell you that in my film review post—it more or less begins with our heroine being told she has ten minutes to pack before the big guy takes her off to a top-secret-clearance military encampment. This is one of twelve top-secret-clearance military encampments all over the world, pitched next to twelve alien spacecraft which have materialised out of nowhere and seem to want the natives to talk to them. Our heroine is a hot shot linguist. But I was thinking, if some big guy knocked on my door and said, I Am Going to Give You the Chance of a Life Time, you have ten minutes to pack, I would say, wait, can you GUARANTEE 100% fresh organic food to a strict schedule, to include barrowloads of dark green leafy things, no cereal grains, no nightshades, a hearty dose of chicken liver every week, ditto oily fish, goats’ and sheep cheese and some funny beverages including green tea, kefir, kombucha and coconut water?## No? Well, nice try. See you round.
It’s a good thing I had lots of adventures when I was younger.
# And while I’m at it, remind me to rant at you about the new ROH staging of NORMA. Snarl.
## And adequate accommodation for three hellcritters.
†† They didn’t have organic fizz so I had to settle for organic red. Never mind. The novelty was shocking enough. And after nine dry months three sips was about my limit. But hey, I wasn’t driving.
††† And a box of vegan organic chocolate. How fabulous is that? Except for the fact that I don’t eat sugar. Drat. Okay. Wait. I figure on the three-sips-of-organic-wine standard these will last till my birthday next year
[This should have gone up last night, of course. This may be the New System. Time is merely a concept, not a reality, right? But I’ve been talking to other people in the area and I Am Not Alone. There are too many of us on line and not enough bandwidth. Why this means the malign minders of supply CLOSE bandwidth after midnight to a thread, a wisp, a spool of spider silk belonging to a microdot sized spider, I have no idea. I realise my technological understanding is . . . ahem . . . is such that calling it ‘understanding’ is a blunder, but they can’t frelling stockpile bandwidth from the wee smalls and bolt it on to the bandwidth during the day, or the evening when everyone rushes home to see if anyone has posted to their Facebook page, can they? CAN THEY? —ed]
. . . with a small refrigerator. Two small refrigerators. Today I took delivery of The Largest Green** Cauliflower I Have Ever Seen in My Life and . . . it wouldn’t fit in either refrigerator, unless I took one of the frelling shelves out which I can’t because I’m short of shelf space already ALL THAT FRELLING VEG TAKES UP AMAZING AMOUNTS OF ROOM. So the green cauliflower the size of a medium-sized asteroid sat in my sink—and sort of drizzled out around the edges, and may have patted a hellhound with a prehensile tendril—till I had time to hack it up and steam it and then crush it into a series of bowls and WEDGE it into the cottage refrigerator. The trials of being veganish.
And it’s not like I had budgeted time for inconvenient vegetables. Let me tell you what a splendid and thrilling few days I have had.*** Now—see footnotes—I am a disorganised twit, but I have kind of a lot going on, including trying to write some saleable fiction before I run out of money†, and when I manage to beat some teeming disaster back to stuff-under-the-table proportions I do tend to stuff it under the table and turn to the next looming vorticose abyss trying to swallow me††, the hellmob, and several small houses.†††
I was [bell] ringing a wedding on Saturday. I’d just got back from hurtling and had about five minutes before I had to leave for the tower. The post had come while the hellhounds and I were out checking the continued viability of a certain rose in the churchyard and I noticed that one of the envelopes was from the local city council. Uh oh. This is one of the abysses I had (I thought) slapped a personhole cover over, after Ordure, Funk and Weltschmerz closed my account and stole all my money for about ten days about three months ago, the repercussions of which are still wrecking my peace‡ of mind and causing a lot of extra work for a disorganised twit who hates all business admin at the best of times. But even I recognise, in my blurry, dragon-biased way‡‡, that the Tax Gods Rule. Which is why I’d been round the local office and made sure that I was caught up on all frelling three frelling houses.
I admit that was two months ago. BUT ONLY TWO MONTHS. So imagine my . . . adrenaline surge when I opened the envelope and discovered I was being SUMMONSED FOR NONPAYMENT OF COUNCIL TAX. They were going to DRAG ME TO COURT AND PROSECUTE me for not having paid any council tax ALL YEAR. Now even I in the outer reaches of synapse-bursting panic could see that this had to be at least partly an administrative error‡‡‡ . . . it’s still a summons and it’s horrible, and it’s also SATURDAY so I can’t do anything about it till Monday.
I staggered off to ring bells. I got through the bell ringing part with all my insides jangling worse than the bells and my blood-pressure headache getting worse with every dong.
I came home and spent the next five hours throwing up out of sheer beastly stress.
Saturday was wonderful. Really a high point.§
Sunday I spent trying to figure out what the flaming doodah I could eat—I know, I’ve been here before, recently, but that was stomach flu. The rules are different.§§
And today I spent 1,000,000 hours on the phone§§§, mostly knitting and nursing another blood-pressure headache while I waited For the Next Customer Service Representative. Monday, you know? The city council woman was polite, laid back, and even a little sympathetic, which was a bonus. I am no longer on the FBI/MI5 top ten wanted list. Yaay. The most interesting thing is that what this woman said BORE VERY LITTLE RESEMBLANCE to what the woman I’d spoken to in June had said, or had led me to believe that she had set up for me for the immediate future involving juggling three houses. And of course neither of them said anything that might lead me to believe that I was going to be prosecuted for non-payment of council tax any time soon. So I’ve given them a lot more money and I BELIEVE I am to be allowed to live. But remember what believing got me last time.
Then I made a few other phone calls—although it was still MONDAY—looking for monsters. I couldn’t find any. I must not have been making the right phone calls.
I can hardly wait to find out what goes wrong next.§§§§
* * *
* I was reading yet another of these Live Green and Free and Absolute and Right and We’re So Pure and Wonderful We Will Make You Sick what-to-eat health sites. There are amazing numbers of these bozos out there and only some of them have a sense of humour. This one’s bias was vegan but finally, foot-draggingly, in this I’m-so-disappointed-in-you headmistress voice, they said And if you feel you must eat a little fish occasionally . . . and I’m sitting here thinking, yet again, HOW do these people live in the world? Somebody, I think in the forum, was talking about this too. I don’t spend a lot of time with Macdonald’s clientele and still I’m a joke in my social circle^. GIVE ME A CUP OF GREEN TEA/ROOIBUS/GINGER AND LEMONGRASS AND SHUT UP, I’LL EAT WHEN I GET HOME.^^ I still like fish but it’s not necessary to happiness and if pure veganism were a little more rampant in the land I might give it up too^^^ since fish have eyes and agency and I assume little proto-thoughts^^^^. There’s a whole whacked out mind/body thing as soon as you start seriously messing with what you eat and if you find yourself at the sharp end of immaculateness while you may be willing to risk the proto-thoughts of green cauliflower^^^^^, your singing teacher’s goldfish are beginning to give you a guilty conscience. But until they start building vegan shtetls for us to hang out in . . . I will probably keep eating fish.
^ I’m not sure about circle. A lumpy trapezoid. Or an irregular nonagon perhaps.
^^ Anyone else out there remember the term ‘crunchy granola’ for health food junkies in Birkenstocks in the 80’s or thereabouts? No earnest seeker after nutritional truth now would eat GRANOLA. CEREAL GRAINS. NOOOOOO. WE DID NOT EVOLVE TO EAT CEREAL GRAINS. And my Birkenstocks are either pink or have rhinestones. I’d have pink and rhinestones if I could find them.
^^^ And then again I might not. The trusty tin of mackerel or tuna is very useful to a disorganised twit who finds herself needing to rush out the door in five minutes and doesn’t have time to produce the healthy green salad with the protein-based dressing, let alone eat the sucker.+ Fresh veg takes an appalling amount of chewing.
+ Vegan shtetls will have vegan corner stores that offer hearty organic vegan snacks for disorganised twits.
^^^ My willingness to continue to eat fish has nothing to do with the fact that the video screen on my dentist’s ceiling always shows underwater sea life, mostly but not exclusively fish. There is NO causative connection in my subconscious between fish and pain which might arouse a (subconscious) desire for vengeance on the piscine world. NO. NONE.
^^^^ Bottom line: YOU DO HAVE TO EAT SOMETHING.
** AKA Romanesco. I love the green ones and find the white ones eh. I’m told there’s no difference but the colour. Okay. I’m very vision-led. I know this. I still think they taste different. So my retinas are wired to my taste buds. I have stranger characteristics.
*** Spoiler alert: ARRRRRRRRRRRGH.
† Oh that old whine again
†† Did I tell you that Damien got out twice, weekend before last, and had a go at me both times? I being so outrageous as to be outdoors at the time(s). His garden now looks like a stage set for Les Miz and every time I have the unjustified temerity to emerge from some door or other I can hear him flinging himself passionately against the barricades whilst barking hysterically. It’s surprising how beleaguered something that weighs about twenty pounds can make you feel. I have to call the dog warden. I keep putting it off.
††† I told you, didn’t I, that I had THREE supposed buyers ready to put in a bid I couldn’t possibly resist and wouldn’t want to, for Third House? And that I was perhaps cynical about this prospect? Yep. Not one of them showed. Meanwhile I have—theoretically—a fourth. I’m not holding my breath. I am getting on with clearing out the sheds^ so I can let^^ the freller. Thank you God for Atlas^^^ and his trailer.
^ We’d done a first cut of most of the obvious stuff months ago. This was the stuff we didn’t know what to do with plus all the little bins and tins and boxes of gubbins that all of us accumulate in some area of our lives or other+: for Peter it was tools and the toolshed. So there are all these labels to collections of enigmatic bits in his handwriting. Whimper.
+ Perhaps in some cases more than one area. ::Whistles::
^^^ Who also could translate some of the labels. This was less useful than you might think since he didn’t want to throw anything out either. ‘Oh, that’s a 1948 glimmigerthinggimerdoodah! Haven’t seen one of those in decades! You can’t throw that out!’
‡ Um, ‘peace’?
‡‡ Popular fantasies include watching a nice fleet of dragons eating HM Revenue & Customs^ in its morbid entirety. Salt, pepper and Worcestershire sauce optional.
^ Remember this is a governmental department that levies custom charges on postage. And you know what overseas postage is like now? If Abebooks doesn’t list it in the UK, forget it.
‡‡‡ I have perhaps mentioned how much I hate business admin of all varieties?
§ And the poor hellmob were downstairs howling to go for a hurtle. I crept down a couple of times and let them out into the garden for any urgencies. They didn’t want the garden, they wanted the hurtles they can usually depend on when I come home from having been AWAY FROM THEM FOR MORE THAN FIVE MINUTES.
§§ I did manage both my second ringing gig Sunday afternoon and singing for service Sunday evening. Because bodies are perverse, I was in what in my unfortunate case passes for good voice which amused me enough to cheer me up a little. Usually your throat says nooooooooo after a lot of unnecessary stomach acid has geysered through it.
§§§ But at least after this I got to sprint off and SEE MY MONK. I was supposed to meet him Saturday evening before the Saturday contemplative night prayer service but since I couldn’t stand up, um. My email telling him I couldn’t make it was probably the tersest of my entire life but at that point focussing my eyes on something like a computer screen WAS A VERY VERY BAD IDEA.
§§§§ I can wait! I CAN WAIT! I CAN WAAAAAAAAAIT!
I got caught talking to Peter for the first time the other day. That I know of, I mean. I’ve been talking to him in the churchyard, of course, since the unnecessarily grand ashes box went into the ground, what, is it three weeks ago now? Even if it’s no more than hey, how’s it going, as some hurtle-shift or other passes at speed because I’m late, as usual, for the next thing, whatever it is, I still take a loop off the main path to say hello and check how the current rose is doing.* So half the town may already be aware that the Dickinson widow chats to her husband, but then, she’s a little loony, maybe it’s being an American?**
But the first time I noticed being caught talking to Peter was a few days ago. When I told this to a friend she said drily, who was more embarrassed? Well, at the time, I would have said the honours were about even *** but by the time I was taking the hellhounds and my red face briskly in the opposite direction I was thinking wait a minute. This is a churchyard. This must happen all the time! People talking to their departed beloveds† in cemeteries!†† Meanwhile I’d better get used to being caught because it’s going to happen again. And again. My friend suggested that part of my discoverers’ shock was just that this was happening immediately off the main, well travelled, path through the churchyard—there’s perhaps an unconscious assumption that people who are going to speak to the dead are going to do it in the tucked-away parts of churchyards. And this churchyard has tucked-away places. I originally thought I’d want to have him in one of those, but I changed my mind.††† I like him where I’m going to walk past him every day. And my friend—who knew Peter—agreed. That’s the path he walked on every day to go buy his newspaper.‡ And he was always interested in what was going on, what people were doing. It’s a good spot.
* * *
* This is supposed to be a CAPTION.
* Some day it will NOT be a rose. Some day. Not today. Not tomorrow. Probably not next week either. Although if our little village florist ever had really fabulous sunflowers the day the current rose needs replacing I might well go for a fabulous sunflower . . . which would probably look very peculiar in the plastic spike-vase . . . eh. The unexpected confusions of looking after a grave. But it’s not like it’s something you think ahead about. What I Will Do If I Ever Have An Important Grave to Look After. We even knew that the statistical probability was very strong that I would be looking after his grave some day. Did we think about it? No.^ Also, you don’t get cut clematis the way you get cut roses—clematis are just not a cut-flower plant. And Peter being a clematis man leaves me free to do my worst. Which means roses. And maybe a sunflower once a year.
^ There is an argument that Peter knew perfectly well that I would buy a spike-vase and put roses in it, and didn’t see the need to say anything.
** The country that has elected Donald Trump as the Republican candidate for the presidency, greater, hair-tearing, teeth-grinding, shrieking proof of national looniness is not possible.
I’m also a fantasy writer of course, but I don’t think most of the locals pay this any attention. My being an American is in your face—or your ear—the minute I say anything. Most of them don’t task me with Trump, however. Maybe they can see the blood in my eye if they unwarily attempt to bring politics into the conversation. Maybe they just realise I must be a liberal, I wear All Stars.
People are funny though.^ There are people I would have expected to phone me occasionally or put a postcard through the door or something, saying ‘thinking of you, hope you’re doing okay’ or thereabouts. I don’t need casseroles^^ and I don’t go to parties^^^ but contact might have been nice. Which in some cases isn’t happening. Oh. Okay. It’s not like I don’t have friends who are keeping a close eye on me^^^^. The cold draught I constantly feel is about absence of Peter, not absence of friends and friendly support.^^^^^ And some people I would not have expected to take an interest, do. Still. Odd.
^ Make a note.
^^ Which would almost certainly be full of things I can’t eat anyway
^^^ Except I am going to one on Wednesday. A cocktail party. A large cocktail party. I have clearly taken leave of my few remaining senses. But it’s being held at the beautiful old country house where we had Peter’s memorial and I want to go back there for the first time since then and get it over with. And it is a beautiful old country house with glorious parkland, and I shall wear All Stars and having had my token glass of . . . mineral water and said hello to at least three people, I shall go for a walk before Wolfgang takes me home.
^^^^ YES I’M EATING. But as I’ve said before, eliminate meat, sugar and alcohol—and butter, my one remaining dairy product—and it suddenly becomes surprisingly difficult not to lose weight. Especially if you were a serious sugar junkie, which I was.+ Aggravated in my case by the fact that I’m an ex-fat person who learnt to deal with the fact that I gain weight easily and had what I thought was an ineradicable addiction to chocolate and other sweet things, including remarkable amounts of sugar in my remarkably strong black tea, AND champagne. So my mindset for the last forty years has been the ‘push yourself away from the table while you’re still hungry I mean NOW’ thing to make room for the sugar and the chocolate and the butter and the champagne, and a cemented-in for additional security mindset is HARD to change after forty years. So I keep having these conversations with myself that go, wait, you’re not going to eat ALL those nuts, are you? Nuts are VERY HIGH CALORIE. —YES. EAT THE NUTS. EAT ALL THE NUTS. YOU CAN FRELLING USE THE CALORIES. Wait, no, no, you aren’t going to eat an entire avocado, are you? YES. I AM. I AM GOING TO EAT AN ENTIRE AVOCADO.
+ And yes, I thought I was going to endure the tortures of the damned, eliminating sugar. I didn’t. I get a little WISTFUL# sometimes but major cravings and all that? Nope. My body I guess was just ready. It’s a lot more of a grown-up than the rest of me.
# You know what I really miss? Being able to treat myself. A hard afternoon sweating through the ‘two for one’ table at Waterstones and I want a sit-down and a cup of tea before I go home. Green tea is now fashionable enough that it’s usually not too difficult finding a tea shop that serves green. But I can’t do the sticky cake any more. And it’s not the cake I miss nearly so much, it’s the treat. If you follow me. At least if I go with someone they can have the sticky cake and the shop needn’t feel it’s wasting its table on me.
^^^^^ WHICH I TOTALLY, ABSOLUTELY, GROVELLINGLY APPRECIATE. This directed at anyone reading this blog who is wondering sadly if I’m ever going to acknowledge their card/letter/email. Yes. You’re on the list. Eight months is nothing, I’m afraid, to a disorganised, ME-riddled loony.+
+ I probably shouldn’t admit this, but speaking of disorganised loonies, yesterday I discovered a little cache of letters I wrote in . . . March. That ahem didn’t get sent ahem. Sigh.
*** I don’t know whether it’s a good or a bad thing that I’ve never seen them before. It’s tourist season and it’s a pretty churchyard. I was adding local colour. And the hellhounds are very decorative. If I want an actual chat I take the hellhounds. Pav isn’t so great at hanging out. Although she has recently taken to hucklebutting like a dervish in the little clear space in front of Peter’s grave, which I hope he is finding entertaining.
† Of whatever kind, variety, relationship or flavour
†† It happens in the graveyard where Miri’s grandfather is buried, in Hellhound.
††† And fortunately the vicar agreed. Thank you, God. Thank you, lovely vicar.
‡ My little cul de sac is kind of around the corner from the churchyard, although it’s a short corner. Third House really is slap on the other side of the churchyard from the centre of town. Have I told you that one of the weirder comments from a potential house buyer was that she really liked the house ‘but it was too near the churchyard’? What? She reads too much Stephen King or something?
Because the title box won’t take colours? WHY? —ed
So I made a ginormous pot of soup. Duh. Now one is not at one’s best coming off a gratuitous insult to one’s body like stomach flu and I haven’t been at my best in some time full stop* but it’s like I couldn’t grasp the concept of vegan broth as being suitable for consideration. Chicken soup and flat ginger ale for queasy stomachs.** If you can’t have that you are lost utterly in a hostile wilderness of deep-fried crullers, Pringles and maraschino cherries. It took several people posting or sending me either vegetable soup recipes or links to vegetable soup recipes for the tiny rattletrap cogs to connect and start clinking around in my brain. Very, very slightly in my defense I fell out of the soup habit with a thud when my freezer died***, although it’s embarrassing to admit that when Georgia and Shea were here a couple of months ago and we were talking about food and cooking and related goals, I said my next ambition was to start making my own vegetable stock.†
Well. So I NOW HAVE A FREEZER. What am I WAITING FOR. So I made a ginormous stock pot of cabbage soup††, saved some for now, put the rest through the blender and put it in the shiny new freezer in useful little 1-cup wodges. I’m so clever. And efficient.††† With a little help from my friends. To whom thanks all.
* * *
* However I am having my first voice lesson in yonks and yonks^ and I’m starting up with the Sam[aritans] too. I am GOING to have a life again. I am.^^
^ I was trying to figure what to take in to Nadia. I’m still singing some of my favourite arias but it’s mostly folk songs. And I realised with some embarrassment that the things I’m most likely not to screw up totally are a handful of hymns to folk-song tunes. I think I’m trying to exorcise all that frelling Jesus Is My Boyfriend music that I not only sing but help lead every Sunday as an anti-crying device. Okay, it does stop me crying, but At What Cost.
^^ Including writing stories. Not only because I need the money. The thing from forty years ago that was derailing me? It’s still derailing me. It’s kind of interesting though. Um.
** Or beef broth and Saltines, or whatever is the folk wisdom in your neck of the woods.^
^ Which is a bizarre phrase. Just by the way. https://www.theguardian.com/notesandqueries/query/0,5753,-22668,00.html%E2%80%8E
*** I live in a world of tiny autonomous under-counter appliances. When my freezer died it did not take my refrigerator with it.^
^ Although there have been some pretty redolent Appliance Follies concerning the Lodge. My little freezer died when I moved it to the Lodge—elderly freezers apparently don’t like being moved, I only need one (tiny) freezer and I’d rather have the space at the cottage for the hellterror’s crate.+ I had to buy a refrigerator and a washing machine for the Lodge anyway so what’s another expensive appliance when you’re running out of money.++ I found a fridge+++ and freezer I liked but the freezer was out of stock at my retailer of choice so I made the fatal error of trying to buy it from idiots who never consulted me about delivery but kept sending me chirpy emails saying, Your freezer is scheduled to be delivered between 5 am and 11 pm next Wednesday, please be there to let them in! ARRRRRRGH. Next Wednesday is not a good day, can we DISCUSS THIS PLEASE? New chirpy email: your freezer is scheduled to be delivered between 4:30 am and 11:34 pm next Friday, please be there to let them in! I eventually frelling cancelled and then hung around till it came back in stock at the retailer with the customer service department which is what I should have done in the first place.++++
And then there was the washing machine chronicle. I had a fancy to have this effectively second washing machine big enough really to take a double duvet, instead of only pretending to be big enough in standard washing machine bumf.+++++ There are a few 10 kg machines around, but when you start trying to buy one it turns out there aren’t, unless you want to spend £15K on a gilt-edged one to match your gilt-edged twelve-burner Aga and your gilt-edged SUV that takes up two and a half parking spaces. Well, maybe there are one or two for the hoi polloi. I tried to buy one of these. One of them turned out to be only 9 kg on closer inspection—truth in advertising, ahem—and then there was the fascinating two-for-one disappearing model. Even customer service couldn’t figure this one out and had to ring me back. Okay, it’s an old one and the new replacement model. And the new replacement model has worse water and electricity ratings than the old one, because people with SUVs were complaining that the programmes take too long. These people probably don’t believe in global warming either. ARRRRRGH.
Oh, and neither model was available.
I think I made some snarling noises. And I think my customer service person was trying not to laugh. Let me see what I can do, she said.
They found me a washing machine. One of the old slow eco-friendlier model. And I haven’t tried a duvet yet but yes, the biggest of the hellmob beds fits.
+ Little did I know that the space situation was about to become acute after my plumbers laid £800 worth of useless pipe through my kitchen. Regular readers will remember this story. Pretty much the entire available floor is now hellmob bedding, although this does make it more comfortable to lie down on when I’m having a bad day. I am of course remarkably furry when I stand up again but Yeti answering the door when it’s someone who wants to sell me something# is quite useful for scaring them off. If I’m having a bad day grunting in a Yeti-like manner, if they don’t scare fast enough, is easy too.
# Including God. I may have said this to you before? I now wear a cross, and I find it disconcerting to be (metaphorically) embraced as a sister by the kinds of Christ merchants that cold call. This usually makes the conversation shorter without any effort on my part because they bustle off to harangue someone less well defended, but occasionally they want to stay and chat about theology and . . . I don’t share much theology with my own congregation~, I do not want to get into sticky points of Scripture with random evangelical strangers at my door.
~ Hums a little tune and bends lower over her knitting
++ Because life is like this, I presently have three would-be buyers supposedly about to make me an offer on Third House. After this particular bit of fatuity is over with# I’m going to take it off the market and let it. Which is another saga.
# Which is to say that I am expecting offers of two shillings sixpence, two shillings eight pence, and one decision to move to the Caribbean. But post-Brexit, I should be grateful that someone is willing to take it off my hands. Um. No.~
~ I will not get into all the interesting stories right now about the real estate market galumphing through the zeitgeist and trampling the slow and unwary under large hairy feet.
+++ Note that the new, CHEAP fridge is much nicer than the way more expensive one I bought for the cottage several years ago because several years ago we were apparently in an anti-under-counter appliance era and this was what I could get. Bosch is overrated: pass it on. Of course I don’t yet know how long the new CHEAP fridge is going to last, and the Bosch is now having its life shortened by hellmob bedding getting jammed up against its fan, motor, dorgligfast and gluppermeyer# which are of course floor level and exposed to the elements, including the 85% ambient fur and lots of well-scrabbled blankets.
# The hellterror has her butt squashed against the gluppermeyer right now. I’ll move her as soon as it starts making protesting noises.
++++ This is John Lewis, by the way, for British readers. I know they screw up too, but I’ve never had them not unscrew up, and they’ve had plenty of opportunity for me to put them on my (lengthy) pond scum list, and they’ve never taken it.
+++++ I’ve been cranky for years, since I’m good at cranky, that I had to buy an 8 kg drum machine when my old 6 died, because apparently they don’t make 6s any more. I’m ONE PERSON. I have an ENTIRE DRAWER of white t shirts because I RUN OUT before I have enough whites to fill a frelling 8 kg drum machine. ARRRRRGH. And to add insult to injury, 8 kg is nothing LIKE big enough to wash a duvet. Sure, you can cram it in, but it comes out in exactly the same folds and creases that you used to wedge it in in the first place and the only thing that’s clean is the soap dispenser. The big proper dog beds won’t fit in either. Most of my mob’s bedding is easy because it’s old blankets. Hairy but easy. But the point of this story is that the cottage’s washing machine is too big for my ordinary purposes and too small for the extraordinary. GOOD SYSTEM, WASHING MACHINE DESIGNERS. MAY ALL YOUR BOTTLES OF WINE BE CORKED.
† I do not know why it is that proprietary stock pretty much always has Weird Crap in it, not, I realise, that the weirdness registers with normal humans. But hydrolized vegetable protein? Are you freaking joking? Even Kallo’s organic stock cubes have sugar in them three times,^ plus maize starch, which is evil.
^ Um, why??
†† Well, standard contents-of-refrigerator stock, you know? What’s in there that needs eating, especially after you’ve lost the plot a bit. Cabbage, onion, carrot, celery, lovely Shiitake mushrooms^, the huge bag of fresh basil I was going to make pesto out of^^, and I forget what all. Garlic. Always garlic. And a big handful of dry herbs for the last ten minutes. The result was, if I do say so myself, rather delicious.
^ The anti-rheumatism diet doesn’t allow ordinary mushrooms but Shiitake are actually GOOD for you.
^^ I am motivated to make [vegan] pesto. And I’m nearly through my last huge jar.
* This was supposed to have gone up last night, of course, and my so-called broadband connection wasn’t having any. ARRRRRGH. Meanwhile it’s going up this late tonight because I had that FIRST VOICE LESSON today^ and it was EXCELLENT. Not, I have to say, in terms of the beauty and accuracy of any noises I was making ::shudder:: but the excellence of being under Nadia’s tutelage again, and the way she starts sorting me out IMMEDIATELY, and sends me away with stuff I can do. This post is already too long, but let me just say in passing . . . as an anti-crying expedient, as previously observed, singing for service works a treat. As a likelihood that stage nerves will make all my shutting-down and stiffening-up habits worse it’s a sure frelling thing. Sigh. —ed
^ But by the time I got home not only was I STARVING+ the hellmob was all TAKE US OUT. TAKE US OUT NOW. WE’RE BORED. WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN.++
+ Singing is a sport. Like marathon running.
++ In the first place every road in the area is torn up for roadworks AND the main road is blocked because of some festering doodah festival so it took nearly twice as long both to get there and get back. In the second place . . . the problem with Nadia’s new studio is that it requires me to drive past our excellent not-quite-local-enough-to-be-dangerous-except-if-I’m-going-to-see-Nadia rose nursery. And I may have stopped and bought a rose.