99% content-free blog, or, so long as I have footnotes I can apparently witter on alarmingly at the least provocation
I received a parcel in the post yesterday.* It rejoiced in a more than usually generous quantity of instruction stickers scattered artistically over its stolid cardboard exterior. One of them said ‘hold tab firmly and pull to open’. This is only helpful if there’s a tab. There is no tab. There are some vaguely luminescent white stripes in approximately the area where you might have expected a tab, but these are a snare and a delusion. The chimerical and fallacious factor is enhanced by the shiny whiteness of these unprofitable stripes, which produces a slight, bogus, 3D effect. I took my glasses off and peered at the confusing article at a distance of two microns from the end of my nose. My near vision, that is my very very near vision is pretty good.** I thus confirmed to my dissatisfaction that there were no tabs.
Elsewhere on the parcel there is an even more splendidly helpful ILLUSTRATION of pulling the non-existent tab. Apparently you should use two fingers and the thumb. I’ll commit this to memory for the next time I see a tab. This illuminated edification is further (helpfully) described as ‘step one’. There follows another splendidly tutelary illustration to accompany ‘step one’ and its illustration, ‘step two’, which suggests ‘Lift flaps to tear perforations.’ I was busy committing step one to memory at this point and failed to take note of how many fingers, before I gave a roar of frustrated rage and TORE INTO THE SUCKER. The flap-lifting may indeed have been competently possible if there had been a tab to pull, but since there wasn’t, by the time you’ve HACKED INTO THE THING although the perforations do exist, they have slipped, or been savagely rent, into the collateral damage category.***
But my favourite instruction appears under my address for the guidance of the delivery person†: LEAVE UNDER COVER, DO NOT FLY.
Pause for contemplation.
Okay. I will not attempt to cross the Channel in it, which is probably just as well, as it is a rather small box, and the hellmob and myself, plus snacks for those of us who eat, would render it rather crowded. There are also no instructions for the piloting of a small cardboard box. And furthermore the missing tab is probably a critical airflow spoiler, and what if, having soared magnificently over the length of Kent, we hit a nasty head wind/tail wind/ wind wind over the Channel and had to land unexpectedly on the back of a dolphin? The dolphin wouldn’t like it either.††
So I guess I will stay home and enjoy the contents of my parcel. What were they, you ask? Two tiny packets of sewing needles.††† I told you it was a small box.‡
* * *
* This happens kind of a lot. Usually it has YARN or BOOKS inside.
** It’s a good thing my nose isn’t any longer. I’m sure monocular peering would be less efficacious.
*** And, as revealed below^ the contents, by the time I had got there, having forgotten what I was going to find in the stress and anxiety of ersatz tabs and unproductive perforations, was not YARN or BOOKS. Clearly I should stick to YARN or BOOKS.^^
^ IF YOU’RE READING THIS IN THE PROPER ORDER. YOU ARE READING THIS IN THE PROPER ORDER, AREN’T YOU?
^^ Or music. My favourite on-line music shop UNFORTUNATELY will hold your basket for you apparently forever. I have about £1,000,000,000 worth of CDs and a few DVDs waiting for me at present.+ Occasionally I sift out a few and order them.++
+ Yes. I still prefer hard copy. I’m old. You’ll have to forgive me.~
~ And don’t say ‘Netflix’ to me. Until small ignored cul de sacs in forgotten villages of Hampshire get superfast broadband, which as far as I’m concerned is a myth, streaming is not an option.
++ AND LET’S NOT TALK ABOUT SHEET MUSIC.
† Shall I mention that they got my name wrong? I have had periods, in the last twenty-five years, of feeling it’s more trouble than it’s worth to share a name with your husband^, and you might think that if there are x ways of misspelling McKinley and y ways of misspelling Dickinson, there would be x + y ways of misspelling McKinley Dickinson. WRONG. It’s x + y to the 87th power ways.^^ Now, of course, being McKinley Dickinson is part of the old life gone forever, and if I can’t even throw out shopping lists in his handwriting I’m certainly not going to throw out his name.
^ He did offer to take on ‘McKinley’ but I decided one martyr in the family was enough.
^^ There may be a clue here why the larger the corporation, the more drastically screwed up and one-department-doesn’t-talk-to-any-other-department it is. The latest megacorp trying to sue me is BT, but I think I convinced them to cancel the bailiffs. Exciting times. Ugggggh.
†† I did however love the instruction so much that I cut out the address label to use as a bookmark. It is presently gracing my new Sally Melville book on knitting design, which is WILDLY over my head^, speaking of competency levels, but a girl^^ can dream, also, I like Sally Melville.^^^ It is not precisely a new Sally Melville. It is an old, out of print Sally Melville, which I bought on Abebooks, on my way^^^^ to ordering two slender and lovely books about Christian meditation by John Main# which are also out of print. These also arrived yesterday.##
^ like a cardboard box flying toward the white cliffs of Dover
^^ Or an elderly hag
^^^ Whose principles to live by include—maybe I’ve already told you this?—‘If it’s not a place I can knit, it’s probably not a place I want to be.’ YES.
^^^^ don’t ask. ‘On my way’ is perhaps a more symbolic than accurate description of route and method.
# Who was a Benedictine monk, so I’m obliged to be partial. Now he was a Catholic Benedictine and my monks are Anglican, but the welcome thing is commodious and all-embracing.
## Sort of. Instead of the second John Main I received a guidebook to ‘Rhone-Alpes’. Which might be useful if the box or the dolphin got us across the Channel. Although it would be a long walk.
††† And a lot of bubble wrap.
‡ Not that small. It was large enough for a lot of instructions. Now I will plead guilty to being an internet shopping addict^ but in this case New Arcadia, Mauncester and Zigguraton seem all to be out of ordinary sewing needles. And what’s a girl^^ to do when most of her woollens have holes in them because she refuses to use the industrial-strength anti-moth stuff?^^^ Now we can discuss the apparent impossibility of finding tapestry wool or equivalent fine enough to mend 2-ply.# I use cotton embroidery thread because it’s what I can find in enough colours but if you need to put more than three or four stitches in a single hole it shows because of the difference in drape and elasticity. Sigh. With three dogs, two gardens and a bad attitude the lumpiness of my surface covering## doesn’t really matter. But bad darns matter to me.
^ See: YARN SALES. I also keep buying Land’s End WHITE cotton-modal turtleneck jerseys because they are my favourite base layer and no matter how many I buy I run out of clean ones before I have enough to make up a white wash. Arrrrgh. I think they must be running off with the black Aran pullover that lives down the road. Don’t believe his fulsome promises, honey. He will discard you the moment you turn streaky grey with hot sweaty friction.
^^ Or elderly hag. See above.
^^^ Lavender is not useless, and cedar oil works pretty well, but concentrated cedar oil is also a frelling poison, and I don’t want either to breathe it or to have it in contact with my known-overreactive skin. I do spot it around so all my wooden shelves have little round cedar-oil marks on their edges but you have to do this a lot to be effective and I’m always going to do it tomorrow. Like I’m always going to repot all my geraniums. Tomorrow.
# No, untwisting the individual plies of hawser-strength tapestry wool does not work.
## Or coverings since I specialise in layers. See: Land’s End jerseys. I have friends who fall down laughing after they count (say) five layers. All in different colours of course, and pulled up and over and around so all are visible. I like playing with colour.+
+If I were a better knitter I’d be dangerous.
I rang for the carol service yesterday at Old Eden* and ran away from the evening (carol) service at St Margaret’s.** Today I’d signed up to SING*** at two old-folks’ homes, overslept†, went haring around like . . . someone with a hellhound after her††. . . made it to the first engagement with at least a minute to spare AND DISCOVERED A SIGN ON THE DOOR SAYING THE CAROL SERVICE WAS CANCELLED BECAUSE THE RESIDENTS ALL HAD FLU. ARRRRRRRRRGH. And, you know, no one told me.††† Although poor Buck was very apologetic when I rang up to ask if THE SECOND ONE WAS STILL ON. It was. So I sang.‡ And we’re rescheduled for the first one on Friday, if enough of the denizens are capable of being propped up in chairs by then. Tonight I was sidled up to by one of my fellow singers, who said, You are coming to sing in town on Saturday morning‡‡, aren’t you? Um.
It’s been a gigantically hideous week. Today’s the first day I haven’t felt like pease porridge cold, ninety days old, and rejected by rats in favour of tea leaves and old tyres. I’m not going to give you the gruesome details because it’s too depressing and I prefer not to drag myself back into pease porridge cold mood, but Third House went nova in a particularly local-solar-system-destroying way last Monday and, speaking of solar systems, I am so signing up for that first generational planet-ship to Alpha Centauri, AWAAAAAAAAY FROM HEEEEEEEEERE, assuming they want a few old hags for variety. And then of course there was last Friday. Siiiiiiiiiiiigh. Siiiiiiiiiiiigh. I went to Mass three times last week because I needed all the help I could get, but the most important one was Friday, of course, because Peter’s in the monks’ death book, what-you-call-it, liber mortuorum, something, that won’t be it because I haven’t got a clue, anyway, on the anniversary of death they read out the names at morning Mass, and I was going to be there, see: need all the help I could get.
AND THEN MY ALARM CLOCK EXPLODED THE NIGHT BEFORE ARRRRRRRGH. Well, my 24-hour kitchen timer, which I use for an alarm clock, because it turns out I’m slightly more reliable about deciding when to get up by having to add up the hours. And I was just setting it and it went HICCUP GLEEP BLAAAAAH, did a little palm-of-hand dance and died. And of course I didn’t have the right spare batteries.‡‡‡ Fortunately, and perhaps ironically, as a result of clearing out Third House I have more clocks than I know what to do with and not all of them are at the Lodge. So I had three lined up on my shelf because I had no idea if any of them were the least bit accurate and climbed into bed wondering when any of them would go off. As it happens it didn’t matter because I didn’t sleep, which was a good thing WHEN THE FIRST ONE WENT OFF TWO HOURS EARLY. No, stop laughing, I had set it correctly. It just had its own ideas. And the one that worked beautifully? Peter’s old bedside alarm clock. Whimper.
Life goes on for us the living. One way or another. And tonight, coming home from singing at the old folks’ home, I was even gladder than usual to be fallen on by a hellmob.§
* * *
* Seven blokes and me. Which felt very odd. I think in the upper echelons of bell ringing it’s still more guys than gals—gender-specific nerdism—but at my level of semi-competence I’d’ve said the male-female ratio is relatively level, although it varies from tower to tower. When I was a kid I totally wanted to hang out with the boys because, barring all the frelling sports stuff, they had much more interesting adventures than the girls.^ See any of my rants about reading books about boys because they’re the ones who went out and did things while the girls stayed home and pined beautifully. Nice for some. Arrrrrgh. Anyway. The world has changed somewhat in some of the right directions^^ or maybe I’ve just learnt better ways of finding people to hang out with, but I now feel like an alien species when I’m stranded with a lot of men.^^^ Even nice bell-ringing men.
^ Make up and fashion, for example. Except for a few years in college of way too much eye make up+ I’ve never been able to give a flying figment about what Hannah calls products although the fact that I’m allergic to most of them contributes to the aversion. And having been a skinny tomboy kid I boiled out to serious overweight during most of my adolescence and about halfway through my twenties. This was also back in the days before any manufacturer paid attention to clothing in the larger sizes, you were more or less expected to wear a tent and shut up. Furthermore I was an inconvenient shape: none of that lush, sexy female hips and breasts and thighs thing, I was a beach ball on little toothpick legs. ::Shudder:: So, fashion? I wore a tent and shut up.
+ It was the era, okay? You had to look like you ran into doorways with your face a lot. Plus major eyelashes. I had an unexpected epiphany when I got out of spectacles and into contact lenses and my eyelashes grew about a sixteenth of an inch, which is a lot for eyelashes. I’m now back in glasses and my eyelashes have reverted to stubby.# But they keep the insides of the lenses dust free.
# I wonder if eyelashes can have split ends?
^^ Except for the voting in of presidents and one or two other negligible things. Arrrrrrrrrrrrrgh.
^^^ Although speaking of fashion . . . I know there are men who not only pay attention to what they’re wearing but can bring themselves and their virility+ to wear COLOURS++ but I don’t think any of them are bell ringers.
+ which is a sexual-orientation-bias neutral word, okay?
++ Black, brown, grey and navy blue ARE NOT COLOURS. I wear all of them myself# but ONLY WITH COLOURS.
# I learnt to wear brown because Peter used to keep giving me brown stuff. He eventually learnt about black and pink but he got the ‘sparkle’ part before he got the ‘black and PINK’ part and I’m going to wear it if it’s sparkly, you know?
** Which was PACKED OUT again. I knew—well, I could predict—that it would be—if it was full to the rafters for a mere confirmation with a presiding bishop, what chance a carol service having elbow room to knit in? I suppose I was hoping for the best because there had been two carol services already.^ I don’t know if this is one of weirdnesses of grief or merely advancing age and crankiness but I really am into the genuinely claustrophobic range. Pressure headache, sweaty palms, racing heart, creeping terror. Ugh. Also my usual props were absent. I don’t know if the choir would have had me, they have a few people who can actually sing and may have standards, but I didn’t try to join because I knew I didn’t have time or driving-Wolfgang energy to make it to rehearsals. So I wasn’t singing with the band/choir and not only was the church wedged with bodies—I could have always sat on the floor in the aisle—but it was too dark to knit.
^ No. I wasn’t hoping for the best. I wanted to be able to say I had tried.
*** I still had my knitting in my pocket. There are occasional virtues to having the pocket linings in your ancient black leather jacket shredded out. Means you can get fourteen-inch needles in a six-inch pocket, because the pocket now plunges to the seams. Okay, they stick out a little at the top. Not that much.
† I’ve been having a bad go with insomnia, even for me.
†† Hurtle! Hurtle! We want our HURTLE!!! We don’t CARE about little old people or Christmas carols!
††† Given that I’ve been saying for four years now that I was going to come carolling^ it’s not entirely surprising that I was either not even on the official list or if anyone saw my name there, laughed hollowly and passed on.
^ Hey. It’s not a good time of year. Peter had his first stroke three years ago as well as shaking the dust of this earth off permanently this time last year. The other two years’ absence were probably the ME. That it’s the ME is always a good guess. Sigh. It’s amazing I have any friends left. Three of us, including Fiona, made it to Maddy Prior and her Carnival Band’s regular Christmas show last week, and Fiona said proudly that we’d finally defeated the gremlin, since this was the third+ time we’d tried and the first time we made it. Never tease the ME gremlin. I cancelled seeing the National Theatre’s live-cinema broadcast of NO MAN’S LAND the next night because I could barely stand up.
+ Possibly fourth. I’m holding out for it only being the third.
‡‡ Old people’s homes. Oh dear. I remember, I remember. I was chiefly reminded of how much Peter hated Rivendell. I did wonder if it was such a great idea to sign up for this duty, but I figured I’m singing in the band and it would be okay. It just about was . . . and a few of our audience smiled. And there were mince pies, even if I couldn’t eat any.^ Also I was helpful. Uziel had brought his keyboard but various bits of wiring at the home didn’t work as planned so he had a Heath Robinson arrangement which involved him chasing his footpedal around the floor to the detriment of keeping us on pitch. So I stood in front of it and was jabbed by an ill-mannered extension-cord housing for the duration . . . but it was worth it.
^ It’s funny what nails you. I’ve been off sugar most of a year now and have been fascinated to discover that things like the little inner leaves of cabbages are sweet. CABBAGE? Who knew? Well, you’re not going to know if you’re still putting 1,000,000,000 spoonsful of sugar in your pitch-black morning tea, and while sweet little green leaves are very nice, it’s a fairly stiff price to pay. Most of the time I genuinely don’t notice the price—I like all the brassica family, and I’m wholly converted to green tea—and while there’s certain stuff I miss, I don’t have CRAAAAAAAAAAVINGS, and trust me, I know what cravings are+, so I must be doing something right. But I am shaken every week at the moment, making up the order for one of my organic grocers, by the presence of a particular variety of gooey, teeth-achingly sweet, several-chocolate brownies, that I hadn’t yet figured out how to duplicate at home the celestial heights of the commercial ones, when I Stopped All That. Fortunately they’re seasonal, so they’ll go away again after New Year’s. I can perhaps remind myself at this point that I like COLOUR and cabbages are green.
+ Cravings are chemical, you know? Like my chocolate craving got a whole lot worse with menopause. It’s worth remembering that if you’re having a rough time with one—it also gives you something to research on Google, if you want to. The amount of health stuff out there is dazzling—a lot of it is crap, of course, but I think you kind of learn who to believe or at least to try the advice of, eventually, although developing that kind of instinct or grounding takes a spectacular investment of time. I assume you don’t have to ask me how I know this.
‡‡‡ GLORY GLORY BUT I HATE THE PROLIFERATION OF BUTTON BATTERIES. There are 1,000,000,000,000,000 different kinds and every gizmo you owns that wants them wants a different kind.
§ Pet me!^ Feeeeeeed me!^^ HURTLE me!!!!^^^
Note that writing, or writing at, a blog post over the course of several days plays to my weaknesses, which is to say I keep adding just another little sentence. Just a little sentence. Or footnote. Cough cough. And I am NOT at this point going to try to untangle this unwieldy sucker into two blog posts* or it’ll be another week before I post it, by which time it will be THREE posts long.** –ed.
Pav can count to four.
The hardliners among you, tut-tutting at this shameless anthropomorphising, are welcome to think of another explanation for what I’m about to describe. But as it happens I’ve also been reading Franz de Waal’s ARE WE SMART ENOUGH TO KNOW HOW SMART ANIMALS ARE* and shouting YES! about three times a page so what a good thing I don’t read on public transport.** One of his big points being that we should consider the possibility that we aren’t anthropomorphising, we are acknowledging that animals are clever and adaptable and share more intellect and intellectual skills for problem-solving with us than we’ve previously tended to want to acknowledge, us humans being unchallenged rulers of the known universe and all, and we’re the only animals who feel empathy and use tools and so on, RIGHT? Anyone who agrees with that last can stand in the Naughty Corner with a pointy hat on.***
So I’m going to say that Pav can count to four, and if you don’t like it, it’s a free virtual country, and you can go away and read up on late-breaking news about Avogadro’s number or something equally worthy.† But this tale of canine computational capacity goes like this. . . .
I am turning into such a softie in my old age partly I think just because age tends to motivate you in one direction or another—change, change, change! All change!††—and partly because the current generation of four-foots and I have been increasingly our own little unit as Peter got frailer and frailer and now of course They’re All I Have.††† Also I feel a bit guilty about Pav whose position at the bottom of the hierarchy must be enforced one way or another because as a hellterror she’d run all of us if she could, and the hellhounds wouldn’t put up much of a struggle‡, and the fact that she’s mostly really good about this makes me feel more guilty because . . . because I’m like that. No previous furry generation has ever been allowed to GET UNDER MY FEET when I’m cooking, but when I was first grappling with the hellhounds’ food issues I was so frantic for ANY sign of interest in food that I let them mill around underfoot when I was stripping chicken carcases etc. The hellterror of course took to this activity immediately and has tended to generalise in a way that wouldn’t occur to the hellhounds, and because therefore this also gives her and me a chance of Additional Interaction that doesn’t involve hierarchical issues‡‡, I’ve paid more attention to the dropping-bits-of-food scenario with her.
Mostly what I drop is bits of veg or apple. And because canine guts are shorter than ours because said guts are built in expectation of meat not fibrous stuff that takes more transit time to do the critter any good, I chop these bits up tiny. And to keep it interesting I sprinkle them around the floor rather than just plopping them as a wodge where I’m standing.‡‡‡ And the hellterror races around gobbling them up BECAUSE THEY MIGHT GET AWAY IF SHE DOESN’T EAT THEM FAST ENOUGH.
I started dropping four snippets a while ago for no particular reason except that it was easy and meant I could keep doing what I was doing without thinking about it.§ And it slowly dawned on me that she had learnt to look for four, count ’em, four, snippets. So I started experimenting. I dropped three in a group and the fourth one at a distance. She found all four. I spread all four out§§ and she found all of them. I put the fourth one down silently while she was otherwise occupied. She still found it, because she was looking for it. But if I put a fifth snippet down silently when she’s engaged elsewhere, she does not find it. Because she’s not looking for it.§§§
God help me if I only put or drop three. First she hunts around in increasing disbelief and outrage and then she stalks over to me and plants one heavy forepaw on my foot.@ I have mentioned before how leaden a mere one-quarter of the footage of a thirty-pound dog can be. Intentionality is all. At this point I need to drop that fourth snippet immediately or she will hold out for a brand-new batch of four.
Your beloved and absent-mindedly patronised domestic critters are bright little munchkins. Be careful what you start with them . . .
* * *
* Especially after I already had to print this one out to have half a chance of matching text to footnotes. I do not guarantee that I was successful. Moan.
** Actually this one is already up to three-post length. If you’re counting. But why would you be counting?
* Thank you, Gryphyn, for telling me about it. I’m a huge long-time fan of de Waal^ but I don’t keep up with new releases so it might otherwise have been a while before I discovered it.
^ Peter got me started on him.+ Any of you who have read one or more of Peter’s chimpanzee books++ will understand why Peter found his work fascinating.
++ POISON ORACLE is probably one of my top half dozen Dickinson favourites. I say ‘probably’ because as soon as I started to list them there’d be more.
** I knit. Of course. You knew that. I can’t read, I’d be motion-sick in no time. Especially since I like sitting on the top of double-decker buses, which sway. Another great reason to learn to knit. Something to do when the view from the top of your bus is cement factories and car graveyards. There aren’t a lot of these in Hampshire but there are definitely stretches where you would rather be looking at your hands and that really pretty yarn you feel quite smug about buying on sale.^ Especially now that I’m old, and if I ever frelling got around to it, could get a free Old Person’s bus pass, and then think of all the extra knitting I would get done.^^ I might have a nervous breakdown about the way the official bus schedule has nothing to do with when buses actually arrive or leave but I could probably learn to swing with this.^^^ Possibly in time with the swaying of the bus.
^ THAT’S NOT A DROPPED STITCH. IT’S NOT. TELL ME IT’S NOT A DROPPED STITCH. I TOLD YOU NOT TO TELL ME THAT.+
+ No. I don’t pick up dropped stitches well. I don’t understand why naturally lumpy yarn like Rowan’s Thick ‘n’ Thin isn’t enormously popular. It hides errors so much better than the all-one-size stuff.
^^ When I’m not peering over fences at people’s laundry, dogs, half-finished patios and lumpy tarpaulins over the half-taken-apart motorcycle they’re going to restore this year, this year, really they are, busted basketball hoops and bent jungle gyms. Occasionally there’s a flawless hidden gem of a garden but mostly people’s lives behind impenetrable fences look . . . like mine. Although I know better than to think I’m ever going to learn to do anything constructive with a motorcycle, so minus the motorcycle, although I can do the lumpy tarpaulin, and for the half-finished patio read the still unrehabilitated courtyard after my poor plumbers dug up most of it looking for that leak.+ I don’t do basketball hoops and jungle gyms but I can find substitutes.++ Dogs and laundry, definitely.
+ Did I post a photo of the busted pipe fitting?# Maybe it only looks spectacular to me. It’s just a short bulge of pipe with a tap coming out of the middle. And a large cracked hole through the threads at one end.##
# Yes I could check. I’m not going to. I have no desire to glance back at anything to do with this horrible year.
## I don’t think I told you that my apple tree produced spectacularly this year? I was worried because it’s had Niagara running through its roots for the last thirty years~ and fruit trees are thirsty beggars. We had decent rainfall this year—and I remembered to throw some water on it now and then when the rain stopped—but it won’t have had anything like as much water as it’s had in years past. And not only did it do very well but the apples were larger than usual. Maybe the absence of Niagara made the June drop more effective? I have no idea. Now I’ll worry that the real effects won’t show up till next year. Like I’ve been waiting for the real effects of having the wall fall down and some blasted human mucking about below ground level to lay a new wall right where its roots are, for the last several years. Granted it falling over last autumn counts as an effect but the point is IT’S STILL PRODUCING MAGNIFICENT APPLES. It is a gallant object. And I hope it doesn’t mind that Niagara has moved to North America.
~No I have no idea how old it is, but I believe it was put in early in the previous owner’s tenancy, which would mean getting on thirty years. And while it’s small as trees go it is admirably gnarly, the way aged apple trees should be.
++ A few years ago garden centres started selling these fabulous big plastic buckets in GREAT COLOURS. Turns out the narrow (plastic) handles rot off after about one winter outdoors. I have kind of a lot of these because you can’t frelling move them around without handles but the bucket part is still perfectly good so I can’t possibly throw them out.
^^^ I’m learning perforce at the minute because I keep having reasons I need to go in to Mauncester or Zigguraton AND IT’S CHRISTMAS. IT’S THE FRELLING FRELLING FRELLING CHRISTMAS SEASON WHEN EVERYONE ON THE PLANET PLUS ROCKETLOADS OF TOURISTS FROM THE OUTER REACHES OF THE GALAXY ARE OUT SHOPPING AND STICKING UP THE ROADS AND PAVEMENTS FOR THE PEOPLE WHO LIVE HERE. I keep wondering if the rest of southern England, Great Britain, the world, the solar system, blah blah blah is EMPTY because EVERYONE WANTS TO COME HERE? It must be the Borg again. But why they have it in for a little wodge of Hampshire I have no idea. I have to keep telling Wolfgang it’s not that I don’t love him any more+ it’s that unless he wants to add perching on flagpoles to his list of accomplishments, finding a parking space is more than our lives are worth, and throw in the lives of two hellhounds and a hellterror to the balance, since they wouldn’t want to be left behind if we soar unexpectedly heavenward.++ I had a Samaritan seminar Saturday AFTERNOON. Can you conceive of anything more horrible than a Saturday afternoon in December in the ultimate Christmas shopping hub? AAAAAAAAAUGH. No. Trust me. You can’t. PTSD. I may have to go back into therapy to recover.+++ And the bus station is at one end of town and the Sam seminar was being held at the other end of town. Uphill. Just by the way. And even with my two-ton knapsack as battering ram++++ I had trouble crashing through the frelling ambling crowds.
+ Do I or do I not take him to the monks’ at least twice a week? YES. I DO.
++ I keep telling you Wolfgang is a member of the family. And furthermore he’ll be clean in heaven. Although I’ll probably ask to keep the herb Robert tucked under the edge of the bonnet as a special favour.
+++ Have I mentioned that I’m kind of claustrophobic? You’d never know it, looking at this house, which gives normal people claustrophobia,# but LARGE GROUPS OF PEOPLE? SWEATY BREATHLESS TERROR. Confirmation Sunday recently at St Margaret’s and the bishop came. I’m used to small groups at the evening service and the church was COMPLETELY PACKED OUT. I nearly ran away. I would have run away, except I was singing with the band. I was singing with the band because if I don’t sing with the band I cry. If I hadn’t been singing with the band I could have run away. If I’d started crying I would have run away. How many ways can you mess yourself over and ruin a perfectly good evening.
# I’ve got some bloke, recommended by my accountant, coming on Monday to explain to me slowly and in words of one syllable what I have to do about the mortgage for Third House, which I need to take out to pay back Peter’s estate for the price of the Lodge, which wasn’t supposed to come up because Third House was supposed to sell. Anyway. The bloke has an office in Mauncester but he lives in New Arcadia so he suggested kindly that he could visit the feeble ME-riddled spastic-brained widow at home. There was a long pause on my end of the phone and I could hear him wondering what he’d said wrong. Um, I said finally. I don’t do housework at the best of times, these are not the best of times, and I can just about fit through the door despite press of all the stuff from Third House cluttering up the place. And I’m thin. Also there are three dogs. Three lively enthusiastic dogs. With a sales pitch like that how could he resist. So he’s still coming here. You might want to pray for him.
++++ You wouldn’t think knitting would weigh that much. Even plus an iPad and a book. YES. A BOOK. HARD COPY. I used just to travel everywhere with a book. Now I travel everywhere with an iPad and a book. Of course. Certainly. With a rich and varied choice on my Kindle app. But I’d still rather read a book. And I’m not the only one who does this, am I?
*** But do read the book. Indeed read anything by de Waal. I wish he’d been around when I was a kid and was labelled ‘fanciful’ for thinking that critters were more than furbots with hard-wired instincts instead of motherboards.^ I read Konrad Lorenz, of course, who was a lot better than nothing but . . . well, there are a lot of ‘buts’ around Lorenz but I didn’t know about any of them when I was first reading him. I was just thrilled by someone who took animals seriously without dissecting them first.
^ Not that motherboards were around when I was a kid either.
† I was very cast down when Alex Bello’s new book is fiendishly difficult mathematical puzzles. I might as well be trying to read Sanskrit. Or Japanese, which I would like to be able to read. I blogged about ALEX IN WONDERLAND, didn’t I? Which I loved.^ I’ve got his second one on the bedside table cough cough cough cough^^ but I keep flinching away from it because I mostly still drag and shove myself through the Difficult Bits by a combination of listening and reading text, and Audible, drat them, haven’t recorded ALEX THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS.
^ After a slightly rough beginning. I find, with my old English major’s bias, that popular science style has to be learnt and fitted into for a Tolerable Reading Experience very much like the style of bulging Victorian quadruple-deckers, Dickens and Eliot et all, has to be learnt. I started reading the bulgy Victorians pretty early—they told stories after all and I’m into stories—so I wasn’t so aware of learning to roll with Dickens’ off the wall approach or Eliot’s super-frelling-thoughtful approach+ until I was in school with people who couldn’t stand any of it no way no how. But I grew up knowing that I was hopeless at maths and so discovering popular maths and hard science has come late and . . . alarmingly. The bit that I understood, ie use of the English language, seemed to me either patronising or over-subjective (you’re the AUTHOR. Get OUT OF THE WAY of the STORY you’re telling), and it took me a while to climb over this obstacle. I think in hindsight Bello’s first book is what finally did it for me. You can’t stop me now on pop sci books . . . but for pity’s sake don’t ask me to EXPLAIN any of them or their contents.++
+ Mind you, MIDDLEMARCH is on my top ten list of best books of all time. You still have to settle in for the ride.
++ And I still frelling hate the standard practise of describing what every interviewee is wearing and what the colour of their hair is and whether they have a nice smile. I DON’T CARE. SHOW DON’T TELL. ANYTHING IMPORTANT WILL COME OUT IN THE TELLING. ARRRRRRRRGH.
^^ The ‘bedside table’ being a pile of books which happens to climb up to high-mattress-level on the bed, which is unfortunate during bedsheets-changing attempts since it’s way too high and tottery to stand up without leaning. Against the, you know, bed.
†† And no whining
††† And a little patch of ground in a local churchyard, marked by a rose in a plastic vase.
‡ What? they’d say, opening one eye. Oh, they’d answer themselves, closing the eye again.
‡‡ Although Chaos does come and check suspiciously that I’m not dropping anything interesting, if Pav and I seem to be having too good a time.
‡‡‡ Yes. This means that food prep takes forever and that my endless complaints about needing to wash my frelling kitchen floor every frelling day^ are partly my own fault.^^
^ Which I don’t do, of course. Nobody has died yet.
^^ I mean, having three dogs is my own fault but I could contain their food in bowls.+
+ Sort of. Since the hellhounds tend to flip these over with their noses when they wish to indicate that this is not their day for eating. There is LANGUAGE when they do this.
§ This includes PLOTTING which tends to make me pretty stupid in the real world.^ It’s when the plotting is going badly that we practise lying down, rolling over and offering our paw. She does not seem to want to learn to sit back on her haunches with her forepaws in the air no matter how many times I demonstrate.^^ Hellterrors are such square-ended little buggers this ought to be easier for her than me but hey.
^ I have the scars to prove it.
^^ This is a JOKE, okay? Trust me, she learnt to roll over without my demonstrating. There isn’t room in this kitchen for me to demonstrate rolling over. Especially now with an extra table and a wormery taking up floor space.
§§ MORE frelling floor to wash
§§§ I wonder sometimes about her nose. But then I don’t suppose raw veg and apple smell like much to an apparatus evolved to locate meat.
@ And yet, speaking of comprehension, she knows she only gets two bits if they’re dried liver crumbs^ or Fish4Dogs stars^^ or—her new passion—the rinds off my goats’ and sheep’s cheese
^ http://www.zooplus.co.uk/shop/dogs/dog_treats_chews/soft_treats/thrive/277272 I split one in half. Look at that price.
[This was supposed to go up last night, of course. Technology is so not my friend. And today has been complex.]
Wolfgang died.* Waaaaaaaaaaaah.
And it’s Saturday night, I can’t ring the garage till Monday.** I’m wild-eyed, hair-sticking-out terrified that it’s the kind of serious that means ‘not worth mending in a twenty year old car’. I DON’T WANT A NEW CAR. And that’s aside from my interesting cash flow problem, which is to say lack of flow. I own three blinging blanging doodah frelling houses, but keeping the hellmob and me fed*** is much more unpleasantly exciting than nourishing and jolly. I like my excitement in stories. I like food† just to be there.†† NEW CAR??? Not in this reality. So, okay, after last Tuesday I wouldn’t at all mind being transferred to some other reality. . . .
I finally got some sleep last night.††† I hadn’t had anything even close to resembling sleep since the beginning of the week—I’d had a late Sam shift and then I stayed up watching the returns ohGodohGodohGodohGod when the world as I thought I knew it ended Tuesday night. It’s very hard to sleep when the world is a suddenly stranger and scarier place—I’d never thought it was exactly safe, but I thought there were some limits—and there’s an evil asshole about to destroy the country of your birth.‡ Friday I even blew off handbells. Shock. Horror. I did go, but I fell apart at the tea break and spent the rest of the evening knitting.‡ And scowling.‡‡ Hey, there were four ringers without me, and major (eight) is a lot easier than royal (ten). I WAS DOING THEM A FAVOUR. Especially because Niall makes me ring inside.‡‡‡ So maybe it was the handbells that broke me. Whatever. I came home and slept.
And so managed to scrape myself out of bed in time to go to morning Mass. I had decided that God was just going to have to forgive me for a week I didn’t make it to morning Mass, if she wanted me at morning Mass she could have made Hillary win.§ The problem with Saturday morning Mass is that I will then turn around and hare back out to the abbey for the Saturday night prayer service with the half hour silent sit beforehand§§. Twice in a day and it’s like I can begin to discern tatty black robes swishing around my ankles.§§§ But Wolfgang and I toodled home after the night service, and I was feeling as mellow as I ever do, especially since last Tuesday, and I had just backed into our parking space and I was throwing the clutch out to roll forward a few inches so that I could still get at my bins and my garden shed and the clutch pedal shot into the floor and stayed there.
* * *
* It has so not been a good week.
** Okay, I could ring the garage. But no one would answer.
*** Especially since all of us but the bullie have stringent dietary constraints. Pav only requires that she be able to get her mouth around it. When this proves to be an item of hellgoddess clothing there is domestic drama.
† and books. And yarn
†† The bullie is with me on this. The hellhounds would much prefer food not to be there.
††† Meanwhile I have another half done post, this one about my Realio Trulio Finished Knitting Project^, but the project will stay finished so I can come back to my unfinished blog about it later.^^
^ It’s about as dead boring as a Knitting Project can be but it is finished. Which makes it automatically glorious and fascinating within my knitting life.+
+ I have now reverted to the feltable wool that is going to become a series of grotty little bags, the important one being destined to carry super long knitting needles. Does anyone else have needles that are too long to fit in any standard knitting needle containers?# I suppose I could just stick them in a vase but most of my vases are full of dried roses from various occasions.## But between needing a bag pole-vaulting pole length and not being sure how much the thing is going to shrink when I felt it, people keep mistaking the long thin item coiling off my lap for a scarf. Several scarves. Several Doctor Who scarves.
There are two reasons I’m back to my felting-in-their-future bags over all the other unfinished knitting projects lying about the place. The first one is that I really like rectangles. I really, really like rectangles. You know, no shaping, no frelling counting. You just knit. And knit. And knit.###
The other reason is that I do a lot of knitting after morning Mass, when you can sit around with a cup of tea and chat with monks and anyone else from the congregation desirous of caffeine and possibly a little time to slot back into normal life.#### And, aside from all the jokes about knitting long johns for monks#####, one of the monks, whom we will call Aloysius, has decided that I never finish anything and demands proof that this is not true. Uh oh. So, I figured, felting might disguise some of my inevitable irregularities, if I’m going to have to pass the object in question around to an assembly. An assembly of jocular monks. I mean, I’m not exactly reliable, even on rectangles.
# No, of course not. Everyone but me knits on circulars. Uggggggh. SOMEBODY (else) must knit on super-long straights OR THEY WOULDN’T SELL THEM, right?
## Yes. I save empty champagne bottles too~. And one or three bottles that once contained spectacular reds. Including my first experience of Vieux Telegraph, which put Peter’s beloved strong, leathery French reds~~ on my, you should forgive the term, radar. That was on our honeymoon in Cornwall. Sigh.
~ Some of these are also full of dried roses.
~~ I AM NOT GOING TO TOUCH the whole Rhone/Bordeaux/Burgundy/claret thing. Among other reasons because I don’t understand it. But Peter could pick out one of these gorgeous items from the brambly, brain-stabbing boscage of a wine list while I sat back contentedly and waited for my glass to be filled.
### Yes. I’m a process knitter. More finished objects would be nice, but it’s the knitting that’s important. Although the fact that my finished objects tend to be pathetic may have something to do with my attachment to process.
#### If going to Mass doesn’t rattle your cage, you’re not paying attention.
##### Which would be a VERY GOOD THING in that chapel, but it would be kind of a pity to cover up the orange, yellow, pink, purple, blue, scarlet and lime green wool I’m using. If they’d agree to raise their hemlines an inch or two . . . it doesn’t have to be a lot . . .
^^ With dead boring photos.
‡ [with vast reluctance this rude and ribald footnote concerning a prominent evil asshole has been excised for fear of legal reprisals SIIIIIIIIIIIGH.]
‡‡ Knitting when I’m brain dead could have some impact on why my FOs tend to be pathetic. I’M A PROCESS KNITTER. SO WHATEVER.
‡‡ I’m still in black. I could do this for quite a while. When I was younger and less haggard I wore a lot of black, and I Never Throw Anything Out. So I still have . . . a lot of black. I’d forgotten. I’m quite glad to see some of it. Perhaps not all at once.
‡‡‡ All right, ringing ‘inside’ is more fun. You know, like walking across Niagara on dental floss is fun. The first pair (. . . of bells) and the last pair are usually the easiest of any method—‘easiest’ being relative, there is NOTHING ABOUT handbells that is easy, except maybe the sitting down in the warm part, which is the single thing that handbells have over tower bells, which tend to occur in gelid towers—and the inside pairs are the ones that dance the hokey cokey with your brain and leave you with footprints on your grey matter.
§ I have a great idea! Let’s all pray that the electoral college vote to DO AWAY WITH THEMSELVES, AND HILLARY WINS RETROACTIVELY ON THE POPULAR VOTE.
§§ It’s a ratbag that Saturday night tends to be popular for live entertainment. Three of us went to KISS ME KATE last Saturday and it was very, very well done . . . and I’d forgotten how frelling ANNOYING it is because I only remember how great the tunes are. I should have stayed home and gone to the monks.
§§§ Okay. Black is good.
£ Also, who wants a new car when their old one is kind and thoughtful enough to break down in his own driveway? Aside from . . . £££££££££££
* * *
SUNDAY NIGHT UPDATE: I spent an hour on the phone to the RAC^ this afternoon trying to extricate myself from being the add-on to Peter’s membership, siiiiiiigh, the things that frelling ambush you, I hadn’t wasted a single thought on the likely status of my RAC membership all this year, till last night. And as so often this year dealing with Corporate Great Britain, the individual human beings were friendly and helpful^^ BUT THE ADMIN IS A NIGHTMARE. But they eventually beat their data base into submission and sent me a person. The person was about seven feet tall, eight feet wide, covered with tattoos, and looked like he probably juggled blue whales before breakfast. EEEEEEEEEEEEEK. He was also very nice. He said ‘broken pedal box’, whatever the doodah that means, but it sounds less threatening than ‘whole new clutch assembly’ which was what I was afraid of, because that was going to be the moment when everyone, beginning with the guys at the Warm Upford garage who have kept Wolfgang on the road the last twenty years, tell me helpfully that it’s not worth it for a twenty year old car. LET ME GO ON THINKING THAT ‘BROKEN PEDAL BOX’ IS NOT THE END OF THE LINE. And Mr Tattoo DROVE Wolfgang out to Warm Upford with a note from me to stick through the garage office door for Monday morning. He DROVE Wolfgang without a clutch. Gibber gibber gibber, I said . . . and then it occurred to me that once in days very, very much gone by, I knew how to drive an elderly, persnickety vehicle without a working clutch. And the person who taught me this interesting skill—this being about thirty years before internet searches—may be reading this blog. ::Waves::
Stay tuned. And anyone of a praying persuasion, pray for Warm Upford to say ‘no problem.’ I’ll worry later about the six weeks that it’s going to take to import the last in existence new pedal box for a twenty-year-old Golf from Viti Levu. I might have to start taking daytime Sam duties, when the buses are running. No! No! Anything but daytime duties!
^ I have no idea what RAC stands for, but they’re the UK Ghostbusters+ of broken-down cars.
+ Who you gonna call?
^^ Um, mostly. I think one of them had had a late Samaritan shift last night and hadn’t had enough sleep.
Yes, two days, um, nights, in a row, posting to the blog. It won’t last. But I don’t want to leave that evil asshole on the opening screen of my blog for any longer than necessary: Twenty-four hours is plenty. But . . . having just mentioned him, here on what will now become the opening page, does that mean I have to write again tomorrow? Hmmmm.
Time, time, was one of Peter’s phrases. I cannot believe how much time time TIME TIIIIIIME it takes just adding one thing back into your weekly schedule. Um. Maybe two. Well, maybe three. Trying to wake the blog up counts, or counted, till the malnutrition and bronchitis splintered me, and it will count again.* I wasn’t committed to going to Mass with my monks once a week when I was last having weekly voice lessons and Samaritan shifts either. If Nadia insists on keeping me in a late-morning slot it makes the juggling act even more extreme because I can’t go to morning Mass and make it to the other end of the frelling country** for a voice lesson and the drive would wreck the fragile post-Mass serenity*** although it might have been interesting to discover what effect chanting penitential rites would have as warm-up to singing Mozart. However all such questions have been set aside as I croaked through recent weeks. I need to hustle Nadia now however in the hopes of a lesson or two before Christmas shuts all such trifles and fripperies down†: I would like to be able to scare people on the other side of a small room with my carol singing, and all stresses, including trivialities like legal suits by the local crown court and bronchitis, make my voice go into hiding-behind-the-parapet-and-squeaking mode.
But how to begin to catch up, or slot back in, with the blog and any readers who haven’t given me up as a lost cause? The daily adventure of the hellmob? Singing dismal and maudlin folk songs whilst hurtling? Conversations with Peter?†† KNITTING?††† Bell ringing?‡ The failure of Third House to sell and the oh-God-details-I-hate-details of trying to prep it to let for a year or two and see where the foaming tides of Brexit may have left us by then? I think I need to slip into the blogging business again gently.
* * *
* IT CERTAINLY DOES. I’D FORGOTTEN HOW LONG WRITING A POST TAKES.^ Also I may have an ulterior motive. Mwa hahahahahaha.
^ And I’m out of practise trying to herd footnotes. Which make cats or bell ringers or Sam volunteers+ or hellmobs look like a doddle.
+ Or St Margaret’s band members for the evening service. At least summer is over#, when there were Sundays we were getting by with three. When one of the three is you it’s a lot harder to pretend that strange background keening noise isn’t you singing.
# Aaaaaaaand . . . still no probate.~ Less than a month to the first anniversary of Peter’s death. Just by the way.~~
~ The latest interesting development from my delightful bank’s closing my private nothing-to-do-with-my-husband account and stealing all my money last May is that some of the direct debits that they killed and then reinstated . . . re-died, to coin a term. Only about a third of them did reinstate, and I’m still struggling to keep up with all the stuff I haven’t had to think about every frelling ratblasted month, because I can’t INAUGURATE ANY NEW DIRECT DEBITS TILL I’M OUT OF PROBATE but I assumed those that had successfully reconnected would STAY reconnected? Noooooooo. That would be too simple.
~~ THIS IS ONLY THE FIRST FOOTNOTE AND I’M ALREADY OUT OF CONTROL.
** Anything over five miles is my idea of the other end of the frelling country, and this would be nearly thirty miles. I’m pretty used to the commute to my monks but Nadia has moved to Somerset. Nearly. The Somerset that is the opposite direction from my monks, if you follow me, so if I were pelting from monks to Nadia I’d have to squeal back through New Arcadia on the way. Feh.
*** IF I WEREN’T WIRED OUT OF MY TINY MIND it might not be quite so fragile. Remember that the area court in Greater Footling wanted to sue me for non-payment of council tax? And that I had sorted this out? You didn’t think that was the end of it, did you? No, of course not, you are intelligent grown ups with your own stories to tell about local government. I then received another letter from the Greater Footling court system thanking me for paying up till 1 October, but that they still want me to pay up to the end of the year or they were going to sue me anyway. Point one: all three houses were, as of my at that time most recent conversation with the local council, paid up to 1 September. Greater Footling, for reasons best known to itself, is only suing me for the Lodge. The local clerk in theory had removed the whole court-case thing because my situation is unusual, and she explained that if you fall behind on your council tax they will demand you pay up to the end of the year. What? Whose bright idea was that? Most people fall behind because they’re having cash flow problems, not because they’re in probate, their bank is heli-skiing with their money, and all real-world business admin makes them cry. So you sue someone for more money because they’ve already graphically demonstrated they don’t have enough money? Is the government trying to make people homeless? Or oblige them to feed their children out of the dustbins behind Macdonalds?
But perhaps I digress. I have already referred (repeatedly) to the fact that the last two or so months have been prey to a broad spectrum of diversions, and one of the results of this is that I didn’t pay the October house tax instalments on the first of the month like a good little anal-retentive control-freak stooge would.^ Midway through the month when my legs were working better and I was coughing less and I really was going to go tackle the city council AGAIN because I’d had NO paperwork yet and according to the clerks, this being one of the few things that, over the months, everybody I saw agreed on, I should receive individual monthly invoices reminding me in the politest possible way^^ that I was due to open a vein for the benefit of the council office again, and specifying the quantity they planned to tap. . . . Now I repeat that midway through the month I had had NO PAPERWORK concerning my monthly council tax bills.
Then I received three envelopes from the city council on the same day. Declaring that I was in arrears. And for the three houses that all come due on the same date, remember the SAME DATE thing, organised to make it easier for me, a bear of very, very little brain? Yes? You remember? . . . for these three simultaneously-due houses I received two first reminders and one second reminder. So with the mind-bendiness of the simultaneity situation I can also remark that the paperwork I hadn’t received included the first reminder for the third house. Except it wasn’t for Third House, it was . . . oh, never mind.
^ My biases may be showing. But what would you rather expend your even-more-than-usually frustratingly limited energy on, friends you don’t see often enough or possibly haven’t seen in years, OR paying your frelling council tax? Anyone who says, oooh, I’d pay my tax, of course, is banned forever from this blog. I’d further suggest that I’m going to sneak into your house and hide your chequebook, except that nobody but the elderly hopeless like me uses cheques any more.
† With my voice, voice lessons are unequivocally trifling fripperies
†† I’m becoming pretty shameless about this. The locals can just get used to the scraggy old lady chatting away hard to a rose stuck in the ground in a corner between two sarcophagi. The hellmob has.
††† I certainly must tell you about THE THING I ACTUALLY FINISHED.
† I’m still all in black. I got up this morning, late, having once again watched the dawn come up before I got to sleep, stared at the clean laundry I haven’t put away yet^, and reached for the black jeans and cardi I’d been wearing yesterday. I went bell ringing at Crabbiton tonight and the other American eyed me and said, so, are you in mourning? Yes, I said. And then we did some wailing and bitching about the evil asshole before we got down to the serious business of trying to weasel out of ringing at Madhatterington on Sunday morning, Madhatterington’s bells being not only possessed by demons but they sound like a train wreck, so the ringers’ agonies aren’t even worthwhile.
^ I usually only bother to put away stuff I don’t wear that often. Something I’m going to wear again in the next day or three, why waste the time? I only need half the bed to sleep in.