I bought nine roses last week.* AND I PLANTED THE LAST TWO OF THEM TODAY. It’s only been a WEEK.** And I’ve already got ALL OF THEM them in the ground.*** Are you impressed? Trust me, you should be impressed.
So I thought I’d give myself a Slightly Short Blog Day to celebrate.† And maybe I’ll do a little work. Or go to bed early.†† Or something.
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* Hey. I need more roses.
** I can’t remember if I told you this story or not^. I’d ordered from a rose nursery that isn’t impossibly far from here and said I would pick them up. When they rang me that my roses were ready I suggested to Peter that he come too and we’d go on afterward to the big public garden nearby and have a wander. So that’s what we did. Except that by the time we got to the big public garden . . . we were too tired.^^ So we didn’t walk around it. Ho hum. Life in the Slow Lane. But I did get my roses.
^ And the Footnote Labyrinth makes trying to look back and check somewhat challenging.
^^ In my case all that frelling driving was aggravated by a long conversation I had with one of the rose-nursery proprietors about, how surprising, roses. She was full of embarrassing information I should have known.+ I have, for example, never had any luck with the symbiotic fungus stuff that you put in the hole when you plant your rose, and it colonises the roots which then develop like crazy in all directions and your rose is very, very happy. Except it didn’t and it wasn’t. I thought it was another fashionable scam. Nobody told me that root fungi don’t like blood-fish-and-bone which is the traditional rose and general perennial shrub food. You ALWAYS put BFB in the hole you’re planting a rose in. Not when you’re using mycorrhizal fungi. Oh. –So I bought some more of the frelling stuff and have used it. Except I’ve only used about half the packet and it only keeps for about a year and it’s stupidly expensive, you wouldn’t want to waste it nooooooooooo. . . . .
+ Although we did a little mutual howling about people who don’t get it that roses are, you know, living things. I told her a story I know I’ve told you, from when we were still at the old house and opened our garden on the National Gardens Scheme. I had someone at least once every open day saying, your roses are amazing, how do you get your roses to be so amazing? My roses are barely struggling along. And I would say, well, what do you feed them? And they would look at me blankly and say, Feed them? FOR PITY’S SAKE, GUYS. HOW DO YOU THINK ROSES PRODUCE ALL THOSE FLOWERS? MAGIC? How can anyone look at a modern, repeat-flowering rose, frelling bowed down by the weight of its flowers, not least because it’s been overbred for flower production at the expense of everything else like leaves and stems and good health, and not realise it’s going to need a little more help than scratching a hole in the ground and plonking it in?? That’s like buying a racehorse and feeding it straw. GOOD GRIEF.
*** Well. Mostly not in the ground. Not in the All the Plumbing in Hampshire cottage garden. Most of them are in pots. I suspect I have rather good drainage, between the builder’s rubble and all the plumbing in Hampshire, but most roses that aren’t major thugs, in this garden, do better in pots, possibly just because they don’t have to fight off the thugs. But I lost a few this wet winter that I don’t think I should have lost so . . . more pots. A few of the new intake are in pots smaller than they’ll stay in forever . . . but they’ll do for a year or two. Or three. Just keep feeding them.
† Also because I took Peter to the ex-library again today and we battered our way through all the other media and went and hung out in the small dark corner where the books now live. I found a little trove of knitting books . . . and then read one of Peter’s thrillers over tea. During which I absent-mindedly ate a Very Nasty gluten-free pistachio cookie. I think I object to a book so absorbing that you can eat nasty food without noticing till it’s too late. That’s the problem with thrillers: they make you forsake all rationality and keep turning pages.
And then I went bell ringing at Crabbiton for the second week in a row. I haven’t been ringing, I’m too tired, and the idea of facing eighty-six bells and a ringing chamber the size of a ballroom at Forza is too much for me. Crabbiton has six bells, and a pretty laid-back and low-level band, and I found out by accident that Wild Robert has started teaching there pretty regularly again. So I went along last week and made bob minor possible—they generally only have four inside ringers, and bob minor requires five—and so this week they were really glad to see me. It’s a hoot being one of the big kids. Although Felicity had to go and wreck my feeble glow of self-satisfaction by inquiring if I wouldn’t like to make up the number at Madhatterington on Mothering Sunday. Nooooooooooooo.
So . . . after all this febrile self indulgence . . . work would be good.
†† No! No! Not that!
SUNLIGHT!* WE HAD SUNLIGHT TODAY!!** I admit there have been random sightings lately, including this weekend, but today it was SUNNY when I crawled out of bed, it was SUNNY when I let Pav out in the little back courtyard to relieve any overnight build-up of pressure***, it was SUNNY when I ran outdoors with my camera because of course it would rain later, it was SUNNY when I hurtled first one and then the other shift and it was SUNNY when I went out yea verily a third time to buy a newspaper. I admit it did start raining just as I’d got my gardening kit on and had my hand on the kitchen door to go outside . . . but I went anyway. I just spent longer in the greenhouse (muttering) than I’d planned.
Have I mentioned how much WordPress hates me? Even with Blogmom’s templates to take the risk out I STILL can’t hang photos. Okay, late breaking caption: This particular clump of double whites are trying to take over the universe. Go for it. –And I have no idea where the italic came from.
And WHY did THIS caption become DETACHED from its photo?? No, no, don’t tell me, I’m not strong enough, it’s been a long winter.
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* Crocuses will only open in sunlight. So if you think you’re hallucinating . . . check your crocuses.
** I was so demented with joy and daylight that I moved a bumblebee by PICKING HER UP IN MY FINGERS. I’ve seen one or two recently and am glad they haven’t all drowned. But this one was snuggled up between the kitchen doorframe and the sill and the hellpack would get her if I didn’t tread on her and I was thinking that she was probably liking the warmth of the house so without thinking at all I picked her up and put her behind the plant pots on the kitchen window shelf. It didn’t occur to me what I was doing till she started buzzing. EEEEEP. I may have put her down somewhat hastily. But she was slow and sleepy with winter and it’s easy to be STUPID because bumblebees are, you know, fuzzy and cute.
*** She is now old enough to have the control to decide not to relieve pressure till she goes on her first hurtle later. Yaay. I don’t know if this is the tiny size of the space available or what; the hellhounds stopped using the back garden too, except when things were very bad, although it took them longer, being boys, about two years. But this is the first time I’ve had dogs with a small enclosed garden and don’t know if this is common behaviour or not. But it’s very nice not to have a patio latrine that needs disinfecting, especially with spring and summer and sitting-outdoors thoughts in prospect. Not that I’m very good at sitting outdoors but the thought counts for something.
I took the hellhounds to Mauncester with us this morning* because the only errands I needed to run were to hellhound-friendly shops where they are much admired**. I won’t say we had a good hurtle. We had, by hellhound standards, a fabulous dawdle. There are clearly too many dogs in Mauncester and EVERY FRELLING BRICK IS WORTHY OF INTENSE CANINE SCRUTINY. EVERY SAPLING, EVERY GATEPOST, EVERY DUST MOTE. ARRRRRRGH. I WANT A HURTLE. I’d settle for, you know, a walk.
Anyway. We got home to the mews finally to a hellterror hanging from the ceiling of her crate*** like a square furry Dracula so, since the hellhounds were sated, I hurtled her back to the cottage because I wanted to get the indoor jungle outdoors for a few hours.† It’s the hellhounds who usually go back to the cottage with me, both because the Off Lead Dog problem is least diabolical if you stick to the middle of town†† and also because hellhounds will GO LIE DOWN when so instructed and not follow me around and attempt to HELP when I’m trying to do things like ferry the indoor jungle outside, repot the frelling dahlia that is insisting on growing and start another load of washing. Here, take this geranium and put it on the second step, okay? And could you bring me a fresh bag of Perlite please? AND STOP STEALING SOCKS.
It seemed unkind, she was so relishing being part of the action†††, to lock her up so I could mop the frelling cottage floor before we returned to the mews for lunch. So I have that to look forward to as soon as I post here and go back to the cottage. IT COULD JUST STOP RAINING SO MY BACK GARDEN AND THE ENTIRE SOUTH OF ENGLAND IS NOT A MUD BATH. . . . And is inevitably (and squishily) tracked across a lot of kitchen floors.
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* Morning! Yes, morning! You know, that thing that happens before noon and after the wee hours and, um, dawn, which this time of year happens even later than I want to stay up for.^ I admit there wasn’t a lot of morning left by the time I picked Peter up BUT IT WAS STILL MORNING.
^ Except after a Street Pastors night when I’m not sure but what dawn serves to remind me that the ordinary world is still there. Maxine and I were talking about this last night while the long-timers were out of earshot: here we are about to go descend on some innocent congregation and hold a Street Pastors pep rally+ and we’re still really both in the Early Gobsmacked stage. We’re what? We’re doing what? If you stop to think/worry about it, all it is, practically speaking, is handing out lollipops and flipflops and hot chocolate—okay, and listening—but it is another world where we’re doing it++ and by putting on your logo—your God-armour—you’re kind of taking leave of this world before you enter that other one.+++ You need new skills—new ways to connect—and neither Maxine nor I really feel we’re getting much of a grip on this. On New Year’s Eve she was watching Jonas engage with our target group the way I was watching Dominic—she was in one team and I was in the other—and thinking how does he do that?! But Jonas and Dom have been doing this for three years and Maxine and I have been doing it for three months.#
+ Give me an S! Give me a T! —Pompoms optional and it’s been a lot of years since I did the splits.
++ ‘The nighttime economy’
+++ Of course all us practising Christians move serenely and gracefully through the ordinary world in perfect awareness of God at all times. Of course. There is never any bad language or any screaming or any dirty dishes in the sink. And all our tulips are planted by the end of November. This is why I turned Christian, you know? Because I wanted to get all my tulips in by the end of November. Ahem.
#Although the fact that I immediately manifested an entirely alien ability to catch strangers’ eyes, smile and say hello proves that the Holy Spirit has a foot in my door. This made Maxine laugh, but then she has a normal job and deals with the public and has colleagues and so on.
** And no one says anything to me about the number of ribs on dramatic show. In some cases because these are fellow sighthound people and they know. As I was moaning to one woman (who has a Labrador/spaniel cross and a pointer puppy but her sister has skinny greyhounds) if the hellhounds were working lurchers in hard condition the ribs wouldn’t matter. Pet dogs just look malnourished with their ribs sticking out.^
^ Note that they have eaten dinner. We say nothing of supper to come. Or what kind of a mood I’ll be in by the time I go to bed.+
+ SERENE of course. PERFECTLY BALANCED in my awareness of God.~
*** She totally has prehensile paws. I’ve told you about her putting her forelegs around your waist to hug you. The current ritual is that last thing at night before I put her finally in her crate with more fooooooood she has a lap for as much time as I think I can get away with for random reading. The moment I put my book down in preparation for putting her down, she sits up, wraps her forelegs around my neck . . . and chews my face off. This tickles something crazy. She makes ridiculous noises while she is performing this liturgy and it is a good idea if I’ve got my earrings and my glasses off first.
† Hard frost last night, and the January sun has no strength to it so it takes forever to warm up in the morning. In the MOOOOOORNING.
†† It’s not undiabolical, it’s just least.
††† BOING BOING BOING
I think the frelling rain last night left bruises—hellcritters certainly wanted me to think so—but other than that we got off pretty lightly around here. I have some seriously unhappy dahlias and a kamikaze geranium but I did NOT lose any of those huge unmovable pots I’ve got braced up in a foolhardy manner at the top of the outside half-flight to the greenhouse and the bins. I took the little pots down off their various walls and posts and wedged them all in up there between bins, water-butt and house walls (mine and Theodora’s) and they’re all fine . . . so long as I move them back again before someone stumbles up there expecting to be able to walk on the ground. Me, pre-caffeine, for example.* I also, very late last night, got out of bed and padded downstairs and out into the screaming gale in my nightgown to unhook the frelling hanging basket from the front of the house. It and I both came dripping indoors again.**
We do have some trees down and as hellhounds and I were sprinting off toward Nadia at 10:15 this morning there were several tailbacks where the road was down to a single lane: the heroic road-clearers with their electric vorpal blades had been out since dawn, but they were still at the clear-one-lane-and-get-on-to-next-total-blockage stage. Tonight the wind is still frisking around rather—making early compost out of all those autumn leaves—and the electricity is also still bleeping off and on, much to the consternation of our older technology***, and the internet did say hahahahahaha you must be joking for a while last night at the cottage. But according to the meteorologists (if you believe meteorologists) the worst is over.
I made it to Nadia’s. It has not been a good week, for singing or anything else—some of this will be brought out of the shadows, dusted down, its hands examined for stickiness, and introduced on the blog†—and I went in clutching my music with no great hopes of anything. But I . . . sang again. This is almost becoming a habit. Golly. I do feel I need to keep reminding you that we are talking relative here. On an absolute scale where Beverly Sills is a ten and the East Water Vole Debating Society’s surprise performance of CATS in which Old Deuteronomy is played by a Dalmatian dog named Spot is a one, I am somewhere between .0025 and .003, depending on the kind of day I’m having.
This is nonetheless significantly up from being an ungradeable tinny wailing from the void. I was trying to explain to Nadia that having any voice at all is disconcerting and in a weird way it feels like starting all over again because I have no control over it. Yes, she said immediately, it’s like when you change up from the 14 hand New Forest pony to the 15.3 thoroughbred. Yes. That is very like—even if it’s a thoroughbred you got cheap because nobody else wants it. It’s still 15.3 . . . which is a lot bigger than your pony . . . and it wants to work. Which brings me to the next thing I was trying to explain to Nadia: I now sort-of have a voice, which I have attained by ridiculous struggle, but here it is. And there is apparently responsibility involved. How more-than-ridiculous is that. It’s like a dog is for life and not just for Christmas: if I don’t give my voice regular exercise and attention it sits in a corner looking at me with large sad forlorn eyes. MCKINLEY. GET A GRIP.††
I still frelling go to frelling pieces as soon as I have to sing an actual song. Let’s just stay with exercises where I have a prayer of remembering everything. THERE’S TOO MUCH TO REMEMBER WHEN YOU’RE TRYING TO SING A REAL SONG. And I don’t mean memorizing the lyrics, although when I do—usually inadvertently, from pounding through the poor thing so often bits of it helplessly adhere—that actually helps because it’s one less thing to have to remember consciously†††. Meanwhile you’re trying to negotiate the jungle full of things with teeth of maintaining air space and support, keeping your huge fat tongue out of the way, melody, dynamics, meaning, emotional commitment and expressiveness, twiddly bits and so on. . . .
I’m presently rather madly floundering among not one, not two but three Mozart arias, all in Italian. Well, I love Mozart, I can just about sing Italian‡, and the prospect of my ever singing Verdi even as an amateur doofus are not at all good.‡‡ And then Nadia told me I had done very well with my first German song‡ AND SHE GAVE ME A NEW ONE TO LEARN.
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I hope none of you are at your best and brightest when you’re reading it and, if I’m lucky, making amusing/interesting/engaged comments on the forum.
Oh yes. I read this blog as part of my morning routine during the work week. Aka prior to caffeine ingestion. . . .
You can READ before caffeine?!? You can make your EYES FOCUS and your BRAIN TRANSLATE THOSE SQUIGGLES BEFORE CAFFEINE? I’m so impressed.
** I would probably have risked it for myself but I was having visions of a freak tornado throwing it through some neighbour’s window.
*** I AM SO GRATEFUL FOR SELF-SETTING CLOCKS. Especially when frelling Daylight Savings Time has just begun/ended less than twenty-four hours before a major power-chopping storm.
† And some of it won’t.
†† The development of some kind of singing capacity is not unlike my struggles on the end of a bell-rope. When I was a young ringing thing groping through trebling to bob doubles . . . progressing in time to the horror the horror of ringing bob doubles inside . . . the idea of ringing Stedman was beyond my capability to imagine. And that was just Stedman doubles. Stedman triples was something that only happened among superhumans.
Well. No. I ring Stedman triples. I don’t ring it very frelling well, I’d better be on the one or, if it’s a only plain course, maybe the two and I’m totally dependent on the rest of the band being SUPERB to get through a touch at all. But I do ring it. This was inconceivable to me nine years ago.
You wouldn’t want to hear me singing Voi che sapete—or Dido’s Lament or Linden Lea. But I am singing them.
††† Which is just great till I suddenly REALISE I’m singing the lyric from memory and then panic. And forget, of course. This happens regularly with Nadia. Sigh.
‡ It sure beats singing in English: all those consonants. All those diphthongs. But I haven’t given up on Linden Lea. Or The Roadside Fire or Finzi’s Fear No More. I am a sap.
‡‡ Maybe Azucena. Siiiiiiiigh. Stride la vampa is even in my Big Cheezy Book of Mezzo Opera Arias. With Voi che sapete and Dido’s Lament.
‡‡‡ Mind you it’s taken something like six months. Maybe more. I thought I never would get my head around those frelling words. And then quite suddenly it started becoming possible. I still sound about as German as a chipmunk sounds like Brigitte Fassbaender . . . but I sound a lot more German than I did six months ago, and I don’t just keep breaking down spewing gggrrrrmmmmvvvvzzzzzgrzldblgggg any more.
Last night I turned the Aga back on*, closed the kitchen and attic windows for the first time in months and ate my first apples of the season off my little tree**. I also wore gloves to take hellhounds for their last hurtle at glurp o’clock in the morning. And it was dark tonight at eight o’clock. Trying to get everybody hurtled at least occasionally in daylight is going to be more challenging this year, since the dream of a regular three-way hurtle isn’t looking too good.***
Good-bye summer, I guess. But I’d like to keep my dahlias till November, okay?
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* It’s been off long enough that I’d got used to being able to put stuff on it. What with the bowls of fruit, small decorative jars of (decanted) dog food, caddies of (also decanted) bird food^, piles of magazines and knitting there is no counter, you know, space, and I have to decide what to put my computer on.^^ At least I managed to remember to take the plug-in single electric burner off the top of one of the Aga burner lids. I forgot last time and the little rubber pads on the ends of the legs of the electric burner melted.
^ I need yet another new bird feeder. I have two of those squirrel-repelling cage ones, the theory being that the mesh is big enough only to let small birds through. I discovered, by the simple expedient of doing the washing-up while the assault on Everest was being performed in my back garden, that the mesh is too small to let the (fat) resident robin through.+
+ The size differential among British robins is pretty extreme. Of the breeding pair a year ago who raised two broods in my greenhouse# one was nearly twice the size of the other one and easily differentiated even when there was only one visible. And it’s the bigger one that did most of the nest sitting and who disappeared as soon as the babies were half fledged, leaving the other to finish the job—which ought to mean she was mum. But according to on line the male robin is slightly bigger. Well, on line isn’t always correct, and maybe this robin has the short-man-likes-big-women complex.
# I have my fingers crossed for next year. This year my greenhouse was full of the results of a fallen-down wall which is to say first a shortage of walls and shelves to put nests on and second a Strange Man wielding wall-building materials and a trowel.
^^ Fruit is a bad choice: too knobbly.+
+ I am so looking forward to the hellterror being old enough to learn ‘go lie down [and stay there for more than ten seconds]’ so that I can START USING MY OFFICE AGAIN. At the moment it’s just a bridge too far. I can’t exactly work with her underfoot in the cottage kitchen but certain things are possible.# And she has to spend enough time in her crate: hellhounds and I don’t have to go upstairs. Hellhounds flee occasionally## but I stay in the kitchen, providing her with a Focus for Existence, and balancing my computer on tall piles of mostly magazines. It’s not a bad thing to have the computer higher than usual if I end up with a hellterror in my lap, which I mostly do. This wouldn’t work at all at a desk, by the way. My knees against the cupboard door and her butt tucked under the edge of the counter is what keeps her in position and I can still type.
# Chiefly fishing her out of the hellhound crate for the 1,000,000,000,000th time this hour.
## Although Chaos usually creeps down again and crouches on the stairs peering through the railing and waiting for me to notice and open the gate. Then he quickly plasters his cranky-uncle expression on and bolts for the hellhound crate.
** Not so little really. I’m still saying it has to get through its first winter after the wall fell down and was rebuilt around it before I stop worrying about the state of its roots, but the fact that it is producing lovely apples despite the gaspingly dry summer is a good sign. I have been watering it—and I don’t usually water anything that is both well-established and in the ground since I have way way WAAAAAAY too many dratblasted pots to keep up with—but even a middling-sized apple tree is still a tree.
*** All five of us went to see Tabitha today. Tabitha lives on the edge of one of the suburbs of Mauncester, with farmland starting at the end of her drive. I hurtle while Peter is getting thumped.^ And the hellterror so loooooongs to be One of Us I can’t quite give up on the three-way hurtle idea^^. So we all three/four went up the road and then turned to come back across the stubble fields. I had a pocket full of kibble and half an insane plan to try and let them all off lead again.
Only the field was full of frelling game birds. Even aside from the fact that they’ve no doubt been raised for shooting and the local keeper would not be pleased to have them exploded off the territory by havoc-running dogs, I’m not going to slip hellcritters when there’s wildlife in view. Hellhounds are used to this unreasonableness from the hellgoddess. Hellterror is used to nothing. I thought (a) the frelling birds would fly when they realised that slowly ambling group behind them was going to keep coming and (b) that the FRELLING HELLTERROR would eventually give up when the birds didn’t fly but the hellgoddess didn’t let go either.
Wrong on both counts. I think the blasted birds were enjoying the show. They kept looking back over their shoulders, clacking, and then going back to winnowing through the stubble. ARRRRRRRRGH. Fortunately I am the arthritic sixty-year-old skinny white girl version of Watermelon Shoulders and she didn’t have a chance.^^^ But by the time we got back to the car I was ready to give her away. I remind myself that I spent YEARS threatening to leave hellhounds in a box by the side of the road with a sign saying FREE HELLHOUNDS.
^ Peter then falls asleep on Tabitha’s sofa while I get thumped. When we get home again I fall asleep on Peter’s sofa. It’s the Tabitha Effect and is why I try to book on days I am not ringing bells in the evening.
^^ As well that three-way would be saving me a little time and wear. I am NOT THINKING about the possibility that—chiefly thanks to other people’s dogs#—it will never be really safe or practical to harness the troika.
# I believe I said recently that I had mostly sorted out the neighbour’s terrier crapping in the drive at Third House by keeping the gate shut? Next time I went up there . . . there was a fresh pile of dog crap immediately outside the gate. Very funny. Very, very, very funny.
^^^ Fortunately she was in her shiny new padded harness after she ate her pink one. Ten minutes unsupervised in the car and one of the crucial connecting straps was hanging by a shred. This happened Saturday afternoon, of course, so I spent a day and a half threading the long lead through the bits of the harness that were still harness so that when the shred gave way I would still have a hellterror on the end of the lead.
The new padded harness is very flash. And sturdy. But it’s only red. Sigh.