May 23, 2015

Shadows is here!

It’s Friday, it must be handbells

 

Have I told you I’ve gone back into therapy because I Am Not Coping with Reality Very Well Right Now?*  I went in for an assessment a while ago but it took them some time to find a slot for me.**  I’ve seen Metis a few times now and like her—if ‘like’ is quite the word you want to apply to your shrink—and have some hope that she’ll crack me open like whacking off the top of your soft-boiled egg with an egg-spoon.***  But it’s still early days.  Yesterday she taught me a relaxation technique.  Chiefly it served to demonstrate that I do not relax.   Nadia could have told her this.  Sigh.†

But weekly therapy meetings are one more thing on the schedule.  And in the last fortnight I seem also to have been to three concerts†† and not merely done my standard weekly Sam duty but the frelling occasional-required long overnight duty which reduces you to a little pile of sticky ashes even if you’re healthy††† plus picking up an extra (late, not everyone’s favourite time of day for some reason) duty when someone went down sick at the last minute.‡

And of course there’s still monks.  And singing.‡‡  And the hellmob.  And the garden, which is booming into early summer.  And bell ringing, although tower ringing has taken a hit the last fortnight due to all the other excitements.  But handbells . . . it’s Friday.  There were handbells.‡‡‡

* * *

* I’m an American, we believe in therapy.  And my best friend is a New Yorker and everyone in Manhattan is in therapy, it’s a civic ordinance.  You want to live there, you need to sign up with a therapist before you try to find a place to live.  Your rental agreement or your mortgage application will have a query on it something like ‘Are you currently actively engaged in seeking self-development by way of a professional relationship with a psychotherapist whose name appears on this year’s list of Persons Licensed to Charge More Than $1000 an Hour which you gladly disburse for the Privilege of Discovering What a Hopeless Dolt You Are?’  You need to be able to fill in the ‘yes’ box.  Residents of the Tri-State Area are given a tax rebate for being in therapy, although it doesn’t run to $4000 a month.  Hey, what do you want, healthy, well nourished children and a car that runs^ or greater self awareness?^^

^ All the festering DRIVING involved in my proliferating life-enrichment programmes is a pain.  It’s worth it but IT IS A PAIN.  And while I’m both a careful and a law-abiding driver I do kind of yell a lot.  I had a Classic Robin Moment on my way to my last voice lesson.  I was late, of course, because I’m always late, and I got stuck behind this moron going thirty-five miles an hour in a SIXTY MILE AN HOUR ZONE.  I was not doing my singing voice any good in my description of his heritage and his likely future.  Then we hit town—I’ve tried going the back way and all that happens is that I get stuck behind tractors, and that doesn’t do my singing voice or my blood pressure any favours either—and the slow wiggly main road was made even slower and wigglier by the plethora of frelling LORRIES parked on it while they unloaded shoes and sausages and hammers and mattresses into all the frelling shops.  So you and your soon to be overheating car are ducking back and forth from one single lane to the other, depending on where the latest lorry is parked and you are getting later and later for your voice lesson and CRANKIER AND CRANKIER.  Now, despite my malevolent views of other drivers, I’m quite the—ahem!—Samaritan about letting other drivers in, especially in a situation like this one where we’re all suffering.  Well I’d got stuck behind the final lorry and no one was letting me into the other lane.  Guess who finally did.  Yep.  Thirty Five Miles an Hour in a Sixty Mile an Hour Zone Man.  I waved gratefully but I hope he doesn’t lip-read.

^^ Note that Metis’ practise does not charge £646 an hour.  Trust me, I would not be there.

** It’s a group practise.  I imagine them sitting around at their admin meeting and saying, okay, we have an axe murderer, a pathological collector of HP Lovecraft t shirts^, someone who thinks they’re Napoleon/Marie Stopes/Edward Cullen and a writer with writer’s block . . . and a chorus of voices reply eagerly, I’ll take the axe murderer!  I’ll take Lovecraft, AT THE MOUNTAINS OF MADNESS is the best novel of the 20th century!  I’ll take Marie Stopes! . . . Silence.  I am fully booked, says the person remaining.  I totally must shampoo the cat, and then sort the contents of the kibble bin by size.  Fluffy is so particular.  I can’t consider taking on a new client till someone else has been desperate enough to take the wri—I mean, probably not till next year.

^ ::whistles::

*** Personally I scramble my eggs.  But Peter does the egg-spoon trick.

† Note to self:  Metis and Nadia must never meet.

†† If Jackie Oates http://www.jackieoates.co.uk/live-dates/ comes anywhere near you and/or you have a friend who is willing to do the driving, speaking of driving,^ and unless you are one of these poor sad creatures who doesn’t get good folk music, go.  And listen especially closely to the newly arranged and adapted 21st-century lyrics to A Cornish Young Man, which are delicious.

^ Fiona and I found a new yarn shop.  I was doing pretty well+ till I made the mistake of checking out the sale bin again.  I had thought on the way in that the Yarn Pet percentage might be a little perilous but at that point I had a whole shop to be endangered by and adrenaline was running high.  And I then managed (mostly) to resist the breathtakingly gorgeous single-skein small-local-indie-dyers gauntlet, chiefly because I have some self-protective resistance to spending more than a New York City shrink’s hourly rate on a one-off that there isn’t even enough of to make a scarf.  A fichu maybe.++

AND THEN I WENT BACK TO THE FRELLING SALE BIN.  Alpaca is evil.  Especially when it is mixed in big fat fluffy skeins with merino.  You can frelling hear it purring when you cradle it in your arms.+++

+ I say nothing about how Fiona was doing

++ If you’re small and flat-chested.

+++ Dogs purr too, you know.  At least every dog I’ve ever had purrs when it settles in your lap.  Whether it fits in your lap or not.

††† And/or stay up late and don’t do mornings anyway.  Although some annoying person^ has pointed out that I do do mornings, I do a lot of mornings, I just do the, you know, little end.

^ I never name names on this blog but this particular person is very annoying about handbells.+

+ What do you mean you can’t ring handbells tomorrow, the next day, the day after that and three times on Madnessday?  —GO AWAY.  YOU’RE RETIRED.  SOME OF US ARE STILL WORKING FOR A LIVING# AND FURTHERMORE MAY POSSIBLY DO OTHER THINGS IN THEIR SPARE [SIC] TIME THAT AREN’T HANDBELLS. ##

# Or at least staring despairingly at an empty computer screen regularly.

## Aren’t . . . handbells? this person murmurs brokenly.

‡ And this potent sacrifice was absolutely worth it for the barrage of brownie points thus accrued.  I can probably spill scalding coffee on the director/the fancy new computer/the delicately poised for heightened reactivity electronic fire alarm and no one will say anything.

‡‡ Your Body Is Your Instrument I Wish I Had Taken up the Guitar When I Was a Teenager Like Everyone Else Did.  Nadia told me the last time I was beating up Batti Batti O Bel Masetto to skip the allegro, which has all those frelling runs in it AND goes up to a high B.  Last time, as I recall, I did leave it alone.  This time I was idly leafing through it again when a little light went on and I said, Hey!  It’s a B flat!  I can (usually) get to B flat!  —So, occasionally, late at night^, when my voice is feeling all relaxed^^ and warm and willing I sing the allegro.  I can’t frelling sing and play the piano at the same time, but I do have a finger poised to hit that B flat to make sure I’m hitting it, if you follow me.  I usually am, in my squeaky un-self-confident and death-defying-not-in-a-good-way way^^^.

And next time through I can’t hit G.  I can always hit a friggleblasting doodahing G, give me a flapdoodling BREAK.  Yes, I can always hit a G, except right after I’ve hit an A sharp/B flat and my voice says NO WE DON’T DO THAT and shuts down.  That’s SHUTS. DOWNArrrrrrgh.  And then it’s back to Edwardian parlour ballads till it forgives me.  ARRRRRRGH.

^ Or in a little morning hour

^^ Sic

^^^ Yes I can hear the unglefrakking difference when Nadia manages to persuade me to float down from above a note rather than ramping up at it from underneath like a guerrilla attack on a dangerous enemy.  Sigh.  Sometimes I’m very flat indeed.  Sometimes I just . . . sound like I’m attacking an enemy I’m terrified of.+  SIGH.

+ I also indulge in a concomitant worry that St Margaret’s will decide they’re not that desperate for singers at the evening service.

‡‡‡ And brownies.  I had told Niall firmly that if there were no brownies I would remember a prior engagement.  What prior engagement? said Niall suspiciously.  Well, I forget, I said, there are brownies, right?

Hi there ::waves::

 

Sorry everyone.  I’m just so freaking tired.*  It’s been a somewhat action-packed week/ten days/fortnight/century.  The good news is that I haven’t knocked Peter over with the car again recently.  YAAAAAY.  But we’ve had three lots of visitors** and assorted emergencies.***  And Niall and I seem to be teaching more people to ring handbells.

Also, it’s definitively spring.  The weather is still jerking us around† but the primroses are flowering like mad—AND MY SNAKESHEAD FRITILLARIES YAAAAAAAAAY—and the early pansies, and the early tulips and there are daffodils and hellebores everywhere as thick as marmalade on toast and it is unmistakably SPRING.  So I’m out there frantically potting up little things that keep arriving in the post†† . . . and occasionally I’m also potting up things that I stuck in some perlite because I was REALLY IRRITATED that I or a member of the hellmob or some discourteous frelling typhoon broke off a perfectly good branch of something or other and if I sliced it up in pieces and stuck them in perlite . . . well, they’d die, of course, but at least I’d’ve tried.

Occasionally they live.  I now have five abutilon megapotamicum.  If they’re happy, they can get to eight foot.  The original one—the one that got blown off the kitchen window shelf and snapped off a long limb—is getting on for six foot.  It’s a terrific plant—it flowers all year.  But FIVE of them???  This is just possibly superfluous to requirements.

And now, if you’ll excuse me again, I have to go sing something:  voice lesson tomorrow.†††  I’m supposed to be learning Rachmaninoff’s Vocalise . . . but it’s in four sharps, and I don’t like sharps, and it’s all foolhardy lines of unusual intervals—these blasted great composers are so frelling unpredictable—and he keeps flatting and/or double-sharping things that in some cases don’t have a black key there anyway AND YOU HAVE TO KEEP TRACK OF ALL THIS STUFF and . . . my brain hurts.‡  I may be leaning on YouTube a little more than I should be.  Was that a chromatic scale when you strip out all the persiflage or wasn’t it?  No.  It wasn’t.  That would be too easy.  Quack.  Quaver.  But possibly the most annoying thing . . . Nadia told me I can just miss out the line with the high C in it—unless it’s a C flat which would make it some kind of B, and I occasionally have a high B—and I was wibbling along with YouTube and not thinking about it . . . okay, maybe the singer I was yodelling with had knocked it down a semi-tone or so but I got to the end and thought . . . wait a minute.  I sang that line.

Haven’t been able to do it again of course.  Your body is your instrument.  Your instrument is a gibbering neurotic nutso.  Sigh. . . .

* * *

* I’m reading a nice restful book^ in which our heroine winds up briefly hospitalised and is driven mad by having nothing to read, and when a sympathetic nurse loans her a copy of HELLO! magazine . . . she reads it as a desperate alternative to ripping her sheets into long thin strips and using broken clothes-hangers as knitting needles^^.  And I read this with a feeling of cold deep horror and thought again THIS IS WHY MY KNAPSACK WEIGHS MORE THAN A HELLTERROR.  It’s my phobia about being trapped somewhere WITH NOTHING TO READ.^^^  And given the number of times Peter has closed his hand in a door—never mind the serious stuff—and we’ve spent several unscheduled hours in A&E/Emergency, I am not being paranoid I am being practical.

^ THE JANUS STONE by Elly Griffiths which is the second in her murder-mystery series about Ruth Galloway who is a forensic archaeologist.  And which are fabulous.   Ceridwen loaned me the first one and when I read it in about forty-eight hours+ laughed in an evil and knowing manner, and loaned me the second.

+ despite not being able to read it in the bath because it belonged to someone else and IT WOULD NOT BE GOOD IF I DROPPED IT.  I have quite a few paperbacks with curly pages . . . and I barely have a knitting magazine that doesn’t have curly pages.

^^ Okay, I made the extreme knitting alternative up, but personally I might have gone for it over HELLO!

^^^ Or knit.+  Granted most knitting weighs considerably less than three paperbacks and a fully charged iPad,++ and I don’t think they’ve started commercial production of ununseptium needles, possibly because they would be a trifle unstable as well as heavy, and my knitting doesn’t need any help in instability, but the Scarf as Big as the Universe sure takes up a lot of space.  I keep being tempted to take it OUT of my knapsack and finish it at home where it can have its own room+++ but I know this way madness lies.  I would just have the 1,000,000,000th unfinished woolly object lying around somewhere for me to trip over in the middle of the night.

. . . But starting NEW woolly objects is fun.  Especially during that early halcyon period before you’ve made any really ghastly errors that you can’t figure out how to fix.

+ I actually went to an AGM recently.#  WITH MY KNITTING.  THANK YOU, GOD, FOR KNITTING.

# Reasons not to join things:  the dreadful possibility of an AGM.

++ Note that I take my charging cable with me everywhere too.  Just in case.

+++ Mind you in my house it would be sharing that room with 1,000,000 other yarn projects, 1,000,000,000 books and 1,000,000,000,000 All Stars.  Plus assorted miscellaneous items.#  But the rooms at the cottage, while small, are all larger than a knapsack.

# The miscellaneous-item problem is worse than usual at the moment because the American government in its wisdom~ decided that I had to re-prove that I live here and have lived here for quite some time and so you find salient documentation of ten-plus years ago, especially less than a year after a major house move when everything that CAN be shoved into the back of an attic HAS been shoved into the back of an attic including gruesome old paperwork.  My tribulations began with the question which attic?, but more or less climaxed with insane-even-for-me tottering piles of everything all over my office floor at the cottage.  Sigh.  Which, the adrenaline of panic having worn off, I have no enthusiasm for sorting out and putting away again.~~

~ ????????????????

~~ Putting away WHERE? %

% Er.  ‘Putting away’?

** NECESSARY HOUSEWORK.  NOOOOOOOOO.  Failing this activity would certainly be a way of ensuring that people don’t come back, but unfortunately anyone who gets as far as being invited to stay is probably someone I want to come back which leaves me in a terrible predicament.  I keep trying to teach the hellhounds to pull the hoover.  And the hellterror to mop the floor.  Nobody does much about the cobwebs.  Or the dust.^

^ Ways to Tell What I Am Really Truly Currently Reading:  it’s not dusty.

*** See *, ^^^, +++, # above

† If I put long johns on in the morning^ I will be hot and cranky at 3 pm.  But if I don’t put long johns on^^ I will be cold and cranky at . . . 3 am.

^ Oh all right, when I get dressed.  There are drawbacks to sleeping in something you can answer the door in, because you can also put your gardening apron and your wellies on and do some gardening—just while your tea steeps, you know.  Today this innocent activity led to my realising I was due to ring handbells in an hour while I was still in my nightgown equivalent and hadn’t had breakfast/lunch or hurtled any of the waiting hurtlables in this household.

I was late for handbells.  Never mind.  This fresh victim is catching on way too quickly and will be ringing Surplice Maximillian while I’m still trying to sort out the details of Basic Stupid.  Which I have been for the last . . . decade.  Siiiiiigh.  And Niall is, I fear, only too accustomed to me being late for handbells.  He may have a much-punctured dartboard somewhere with my face on it but . . . he doesn’t let even lumpy, brain-fogged semi-handbellers escape without a struggle.  AND HE’S PUT AN AWFUL LOT OF HOURS INTO ME OVER THE LAST DECADE.  I think I’m doomed.  No, I know I am.  But so is he.  However as he throws darts at my face I’m sure he murmurs to himself, If I can teach her to ring handbells I CAN TEACH ANYONE.

I’m a good thing, really I am.  Really.  I set the standard.  Ahem. . . .

^^ When I get dressed

†† More, or sometimes less, suitably attired.  Hey, what’s wrong with a simple cotton jersey dress with a BLUE HILL MAINE sweatshirt over, a muddy apron and hot pink wellies?

††† Okay, I am now loud.  When do I get to the hits the right notes part?  I went off and stood in a corner and sang into the wall again tonight at church.  I’m assuming God doesn’t mind, but the congregation might.

‡ It’s not just handbells.

Crazy Singing Lady

 

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

My attitude = not great.

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

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

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

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

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

* * *

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

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

+ Or hellhorde, as some enterprising forum poster suggested.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

^ I get a lot of horse riding metaphors.

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

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

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

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

+  HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Another Monday* blah blah blah

 

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

Sigh.

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

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

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

* * *

* NOOOOOOOO IT’S DECEMBER NOOOOOOOOOOOO

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

^ !!!!!!

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

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

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

‡‡ Nice horsie.  Nice horsie.

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

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

Happy Birthday* to Meeeeeeeeee** rererererererererererere[50 more times]visited . . .

 

Peter has asked me, several times and a little anxiously, over the last few days, if I was up for going out on my birthday.  YES.  I MEAN, I DON’T KNOW IF I’M UP OR NOT BUT I’M GOING.***  NEVER MIND THE FOOD, I WANT MY CHAMPAGNE.

The food was good too.†

And the flowers were excellent.

And the flowers were excellent.

That’s our tablecloth because I thought I wouldn’t shoot off my flash in the face of the lively and interesting family party at the next table and waited till I got home where the crashed-out hellmob don’t care.  But  I recognise our table on my birthday because of the flowers waiting for us.  Peter goes in to the florist’s next door and says ‘pink’.  Since we go to this restaurant every year the florist is probably learning to recognise him.

There is an art to taking selfies and it is not one of my arts.

There is an art to taking selfies and it is not one of my arts.

 

Although, speaking of going to the same restaurant, regular blog readers will probably recognise the mirror frame in the ladies’.  [Oops.  I’ve edited it out.  Next year.]  But they have installed an OBNOXIOUS NEW LIGHTING FIXTURE that is unromantic in the extreme and that my peculiar posture is trying to disguise.

 

Mainly what this looks like is a bad case of over-Vaselined lens.

Mainly what this looks like is a bad case of over-Vaselined lens.

 

She’s sixty-two today, you know.  She might want a lot of Vaseline on the lens.

Is this absolutely too frelling adorable or what?

Is this absolutely too frelling adorable or what?

And my favourite present.  Remember I went to a Spectacular Yarn Fair last March with Nina, who felt she wanted to start knitting again?  SHE MADE ME A RUFFLY SCARF.   She is golden.

. . . Although Peter is giving me a sat nav finally if I can frelling figure out which one to order.  I thought I had it all sorted—this is what I belong to WHICH? for, you go to their site, you are driven mad by the pop ups and the repeated demands to log in which you have already done, you read the reviews and you make an informed choice—and then I promptly fell, as into a large vat of ill-set custard, into a lot of customer reviews saying NO NO NOT THAT ONE.  Whimper.  Maybe I could just have Natty Bumppo on retainer.

Oh, and if you suspect you are seeing a knitting bag in the upper left hand corner of the photo, you are.  It says:  come to the Dark Side, we have yarn.  I think Fiona may have given it to me.  It contains the famous 12 mm needle project that I am advised I need a very large crochet hook or possibly a telephone pole with a hole punched in one end to weave in the ends with.

And, speaking of knitting

And, speaking of knitting

 

Notice knitting needles sticking out of fancy leather going-out-to-dinner bag.††  Ahem.  I’m so used to carrying vast swathes of my life around in my ordinary daily knapsack–which as a result weighs a TON AND THREE QUARTERS and people not eternally preoccupied with the terror of being caught somewhere without enough to read/do tend to make remarks–that when I have to wedge myself for a few hours into a Fancy Going Out to Dinner Bag there are AWFUL DECISIONS TO BE MADE.  In fact I don’t usually take my knitting to restaurants because (a) the light isn’t good enough and (b) I’LL PROBABY SPILL SOMETHING ON IT but the iPad goes as standard and it happens that most of what I’m presently reading is on e- and therefore I had space ordinarily taken up by hard copy AND THE KNITTING WON.  Furthermore I now have this deeply cool little (pink) narrow-beam light that Peter gave me for reading the prayer service in the frelling dark at the monks’, which would work just as well clipped to a napkin in a restaurant as to my collar in an abbey.

And now maybe I’ll knit a few rows and go to bed.  If the bed starts whirling when I turn the light off I will turn the light back on and knit a few more rows.  Garter stitch is great when you’ve had too much champagne.†††

* * *

 * I saw Alfrick last night and told him it was my birthday today.  So I got a happy-birthday email from him saying, Glad to see you last night while you were young.  —There’s nothing like^ a monk for that unique and astonishing degree of professional kindness and sympathy and profound insight into the human condition.  I’ve noticed it often with Alfrick.  BRAAAAAAAAAAAAAGH.

^ Fortunately

** With apologies for another KESless Saturday.  Friday night Street Pastors was . . . stressful.  You know if Hampshire is going to become the latest seething hotbed of excitable youth and popular with the feuding lout faction I’m frelling going to retire.  I didn’t sign on for all this commotion.  I signed on to stroll around passing out hot drinks to the homeless and flipflops to the overly high-heeled.  I can deal with a certain amount of off-the-wallness, both drug- and alcohol-related and/or the results of social-services failures.  I didn’t sign on to get involved in the stuff that the cops are for.  That’s what the cops are for.  Also, of course, I’m still barely frelling walking post-stomach-flu, and this has a certain dispiriting effect.  But yesterday was mostly another lost day, although talking to Alfrick was good in spite of his sense of humour.

*** You come too, like the poem says.  http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/173534

And seems to be staying where I put it, which is an important point.^

^ Champagne is of course noted for its stomach-soothing effects.+

+ What I want to know is if I start drinking only about eight hours after I got up in the cough-cough morning does that make me a LUSH?  Except this early (cough-cough) in the day approach to sin and heinousness does give you extra time at the other end to take your hellmob out for supernumerary hurtles to wear sin, heinousness and 12% alcohol off again.#

# ::pours a second pot of peppermint tea into the internal cauldron::

†† Some clever helpful person is going to say ‘circulars’.  I HATE CIRCULAR NEEDLES.

 ††† Non, je regrette rien.

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