July 16, 2016

Shadows is here!

Something to hurrah about in a cautious, low-key, not-attracting-fate sort of way


I had the best working morning today—you know, story-words on computer screen type working morning—that I’ve had in yonks.*  So I thought I’d write a blog post to celebrate.

A lot of my long silences here are just . . . long silences. One foot after the other days** when getting the hellmob even semi-hurtled is the height of my ambition or capacity.***  But some of it, on evenings when brain function is still just about discernible, is not knowing where to start. I’m still programmed to be doing this every night, I just haven’t the time, the energy, or the morale.  And I don’t do the graceful summary thing.†  I’m missing the wetware interface for graceful summary.  So, ahem and apologies, Footnote Delirium ahoy.

But, you know, a good writing day? This deserves some banner-waving affirmation.  Maybe I’ll even do it again tomorrow.  The story-writing that is.  I’d probably break if I wrote a blog post two nights in a row.

Meanwhile . . . hello and whatever and I hope you’re all well and thriving and reading great books out there in on-line land.

* * *

* I’ve been working for a while now, but an awful lot of days it’s more, um, ‘working’. I have lots of days where I write three words and delete seventeen.  You have too many days like this you have a bigger problem than when you weren’t ‘working’ at all.

** Sometimes no farther than the sofa, where the feet stop one-after-anothering and cross themselves on the armrest, the hellmob pummels the inert human body into some less than satisfactory semblance of comfy rumpled bedding^, and silence reigns. Except for the soggy pop of gloomy human thoughts exploding, and the hellterror snoring.

^ Fortunately they are mostly tolerant of badly-placed knees and ribcages.

*** Also the way I eat now takes AMAZING amounts of preparation. GOOD GRIEF.  Anyone trying to maintain a mostly fresh-organic-fruit-and-veg diet had just better bring her laptop into the kitchen and get it over with because she’s going to be in the kitchen most of the time anyway.  In my case this is even more challenging than for someone who has, bless them grrrrrr, a real kitchen rather than a blip with a few cupboards.  My only half decent countertop is now my desk.  Arrrgh.  It’s quite useful to have a sink full of dirty dishes:  balance your chopping board on top of it and, lo, counterspace. Arrrrgh. And? And? Why has the British Appliance Agglutination decreed that all electric flexes on countertop appliances should be no more than three inches long^ ??!!???  In this kitchen this means that every time I decide to get my juicer^^ out it’s a major schlep of STUFF . . . mostly onto the floor, so it’s a very good thing that the hellterror has decided that stuff on the floor is not automatically interesting, unless, of course, it smells of foooooood. Chaos, who likes to lie near the Aga occasionally, will sometimes lay his head delicately on a well-placed and –balanced pile of books, magazines, rough drafts, notebooks shedding Notes to Self, prayer plans and private, idiosyncratic modernisations of applicable Psalms+++ and business letters I’m trying to forget.  Disturbing a sleeping dog is, of course, not to be thought of, so on these occasions I get a stiff neck, a warped shoulder and a crick in my spine leaning over the sleeping dog to get at the frelling juicer, three inches away from the wall. You’d think the noise of the thing would wake him up and move him on but . . . nooooooooo.

^ ‘eight centimetres’ doesn’t even sound that much longer

^^ Juicing. The faffiest flapdoodling faff of all GOOD FREAKING DOODAH GRIEF.  And the FOOTPRINT of your average juicer?!  Sixteen hellterrors or a small bus.  Unfortunately I’m developing a, you should forgive the term, taste for juicing.  Not only, if you get it right, is a barrowload of fresh raw juice an amazing hit+, but if you got a little carried away at the chance-found organic farmer’s market stall or the offers from your on-line organic grocery delivery gang that week, you can always juice your superfluity.++

+ Especially for those of us who can barely remember what chocolate is any more.# Your taste buds really do change.  A few months AC## and raw carrot-apple-beetroot-sweet-potato### juice is so frelling sweet you’re sure it must be bad for you.

# In case of accidents, I’ve passed my stash on to the monks.

## After Chocolate

### Raw sweet potato. Yes.  Parsnip is supposed to be good too but it was out of season by the time I started getting goofy over juicing.

++ Also there are now worms. Hungry worms.  I’ve been threatening a wormery for a while now, as I’ve probably mentioned here:  I don’t have room for a compost heap, or several compost heaps, since you have to rotate them#, at either the cottage or the Lodge or the cottage plus Lodge, and I’ve always had a veg-trimmings problem, even before I went doolally in the alkaline-paleo-vegan direction, and with juicing I now REALLY have a problem, and our local recycle guys get cranky if there’s too much kitchen detritus among the rich plunder of triffid-lash nettles, evil creeping buttercup and taking-over-the-universe ground elder.##

BUT I’ve been saying, I’ll buy a wormery later. I’ve got enough going on and besides I can’t afford it, I’ve got all these vegetables I have to buy every week plus lorryloads of hellmob food.###

Meanwhile I am mysteriously on the hot list for ringing weddings this summer.  Stay with me here, this is not a non sequitur.  My energy levels, including the number of neurons firing in my brain, at any given day/hour/frozen stalactite of time, are both unpredictable and unreliable, and while I haven’t yet missed a wedding by being too wombly to drive to the tower, there have been weddings when I prayed for the rest of the band to be beginners so no one would expect me to ring methods.####  I made a bristling . . . um, compost heap . . . of a couple of pathetically basic methods at a couple of weddings and was totally ready to fall on my sword, except that ringers who are willing to ring weddings must be in short supply around here at the moment or they wouldn’t be asking me in the first place.

So there was a wedding at Crabbiton##### a few weeks ago. And Wild Robert was running the band.  And I should be used to his taking-no-prisoners habits by now, but IT’S A WEDDING.  Feh.  He drove us through methods I can’t ring recognisably on practise nights and I crawled home that night brainlessly high with my preposterous success###### and too exhausted to be sensible.  So I bought a wormery.  Of course.  As you do.#######  I’ve even rung enough weddings to cover the cost.

Hey. It’s PINK.  No, really.  I might not have bought it if it had been a subdued, business-like colour.  But PINK?  It looks very cute sitting next to the kitchen sink, except for the tripping-over-it, the-kitchen-door-only-opens-halfway part.  I also have no idea whether it’s working or not, except for the fact that it smells nice when I open it to throw in some more apple cores and herb stems and armfuls of post-juicing sludge.

# SIGH for the beautiful, built-by-Atlas wood-framed compost heaps at Third House. SIIIIIIIGH.~

~ Note that Brexit is a catastrophe. Including that the real estate market just hit bottom and frelling splattered.  You may remember I am trying—I wildly and hysterically need—to sell Third House?  But that’s a post for another day.  Preferably when I’m feeling stronger.  Preferably after the time machine unspools us back to the Wednesday before Really, Really Bad Thursday and this time we stay in the EU, thank you very much.  And I’ll think of something else to write a blog post about.=

= No a female Prime Minster is NOT worth it. Especially when she’s another thrice-blasted Tory.%

% I’m also having one of my American moments about the speed at which we acquired a new PM.  I’m sure this must be illegal somehow.  And the Queen is in on it.

## I almost forgive enchanter’s nightshade for being an ineradicable festering-festering ratbag weed for the excellence of its name.

### What I want to know is why, when the hellhounds don’t eat, we seem to get through SO MUCH dog food.  ::Eyes the hellterror::

#### Also, stage fright. If you bollix it up on practise night, eh, it’s practise night.  If you bollix it up for a wedding EVERYONE HATES YOU, except the bride, the groom, and the wedding party, who don’t notice.  But how many frelling weddings have I rung over the years? I still get stage fright. And open ground floor rings are my deepest, bursting-galaxies nightmare, because everyone comes down to your end and leans on the barrier rope and stares at you and PROBABLY TAKES PICTURES.  WITHOUT ASKING, OF COURSE, BECAUSE YOU’RE PART OF THE MULTI-MEDIA ENTERTAINMENT.  Crabbiton is a ground floor ring.

##### See: ground floor ring.  See:  stage fright.

###### Wild Robert is a sorcerer. It’s the only explanation.

#######  In the old days I’d’ve had to wait till the shops opened the next day, by which time I might have reclaimed my common sense, or cast an eye over my bank balance.  On line shopping is also a Borg invention.  Or possibly a critical factor in turning the human population into mush-minded proto-slaves, primed and ready for the return of Cthulhu.

+++ The ranting, miserable-sod ones of course.  ‘Heal me, o God, for my bones are troubled.’

† The WHAT?  What was that word before ‘summary’?  Keep it away from me, I have sensitive skin, I’m sure it would burn.^

^ And, not speaking [of] the e-word, it’s also guaranteed that the day I put on clean jeans will be the day the hellterror and I have the kind of adventure which requires I pick her up and rest her muddy feet on my hip to ensure our best odds for survival.  ARRRRRRGH.  We met two women with five loose dogs—five large loose dogs—on the barely-one-thin-person-wide river path a few days ago, and the women were so profoundly engaged in their conversation that the hellterror and I had pied-pipered their flock of hairy, oversized rats some considerable distance before they even NOTICED. Arrrrrrrrrrgh.#

# And two days ago the hellhounds and I were walking across one of the little rec grounds in town when an idiot woman with a terrier on a lead and a spaniel off lead came through the gate.  Hellhounds and I, a good thirty feet away, paused warily . . . and the gorblimey spaniel came hell-for-leather at us, barking and snarling, and circling closer and closer and closer . . . CALL YOUR [*******] DOG, I said, and Ms Porridge-Brain said something like, oh now, Sweetbuns, that’s not necessary, in this placatory voice, and Sweetbuns of course ignored her entirely, making little rushes and snatches at my dogs and me.

So I kicked the bugger.

Ms Porridge-Brain melted down. I melted down right back at her. He was only protecting me! she yelled in outrage. PROTECTING YOU?  YOU ARE THIRTY FEET AWAY AND HE WAS [*******] THREATENING MY DOGS, I yelled back.  HE IS OFF LEAD AND MINE ARE ON LEAD. The exchange may have deteriorated from that high point of communicatory clarity.  And I’m still angry.

. . . Um. Not a good way to end a blog post.  Um?  La la la la la la la. . . . I’ve just memorised the lyrics to ‘Lord of the Dance’, I could sing . . .

A night to remember.* Or not.

Niall and I went bell ringing tonight.  Tower bells.  One proper substantial bell at a time YAAAAAAY.  Not handbells.  Two horrible little random bells at a time NOT YAAAAAAAY.

Long pause.



One of the things about method ringing on handbells is that it is SO FRELLING INSANELY HERCULEAN AND FORMIDABLE AND DEMANDING** that when you can finally ring something it’s like the most amazing thing that has ever happened to you*** and furthermore since in the process you have completely altered the structure of your brain there’s quite a good chance it will stick.†  Tower bell ringing is a ratbag of epic proportions, but in terms of learning the method line, handbells makes it look easy.

But there are important caveats about that easy.  First caveat:  you have to ring any given method often enough to gouge out a channel in your brain.††  Second caveat:  you have to be able to HANDLE the bell you are ringing ACCURATELY.  Which is the one thing—the ONE THING—that handbells has over tower bells in fatal adversarialness:  handling technique is not much of an issue with handbells.  You just shake the frellers.  Tower bells are mostly bigger than you are—usually quite a lot bigger than you are—and tact and adroitness enter the picture.  More or less.

And then there are mini rings.  Where the bells are buckets or flower-pots or large thimbles that say GREETINGS FROM GRIMSBY and you’re essentially ringing something handbell-sized only with all the style and paraphernalia of tower bell ringing.  I HATE MINI RINGS.  THEY’RE THE WORST OF BOTH WORLDS.  Which is to say I suck at mini rings.†††

It was a mini ring tonight.‡

WHAT IDIOT INVENTED METHOD BELL RINGING ANYWAY.  After this it’s knitting all the way.  Starting NOW.‡‡

* * *

* We’re having a major storm out there with wind and rain and banshees.  Radio 3 has just fallen off the air with a crash and a whine^ and I’m contemplating with disfavour the prospect of getting the hellmob back to the cottage.  I tend to be a trifle top heavy because I’m carrying a knapsack full of misbehaving technology and the hellhounds are not only tall and long-legged but they don’t weigh anything because they don’t eat and will probably take off like kites the minute they’re out the door.  Which will be hard on my shoulders.  Even weightless hellhounds hitting the ends of their leads at speed tends to be painful.^^

^ And is now making intermittent gobbling noises

^^ There is a good deal of hellmob-derived pain around at the moment:  the hellterror is in full bloody [sic] streaming heat, and a good month early.  She wasn’t due even to start inspiring Darkness—who is the more clued in about these matters—to emerge from the backmost recesses of the hellhound bed, which is where he tends to remain when the hellterror is loose about the landscape, to investigate an evolving situation till about now, and never mind having already moved into the dripping [hellterror] and moaning [hellhounds] phase.  ARRRRRRGH.  I DO NOT WANT HER CYCLE GETTING SHORTER.  I CAN STAND IT EVERY NINE MONTHS.  NOT EIGHT MONTHS.  NOT SEVEN MONTHS.  NOT . . .

Meanwhile she’s not in a very good mood either.  Not only won’t I let her play with the hellhounds, and while Darkness tends to disappear into the shadows, torturing Chaos is one of her favourite games+, but she is at present only allowed to hang out in rooms with vinyl floors.  This means, for example, at the cottage she cannot come into the sitting room with me when I enter the Magical Dog Food Grotto to fetch a fresh tin or bag of something,++ nor can she accompany me upstairs to fetch the thing I know I brought downstairs a minute ago but can’t find.  Although this last is a rather desirable state of affairs given hellterror ebullience and the state of my floors as storage space.  Hellhounds negotiate, delicately, the many obstacles to straightforward passage from one room to the next.  Hellterrors spring and ricochet with abandon.  Those little bedspring legs certainly could clear the piles of books, magazines, All Stars, yarn, etc, but what’s the fun in that?  The most interesting effect however was when she knocked twenty hardback copies of SHADOWS downstairs.  Very, very interesting.  Very.

Nobody died.  That’s all you need to know.

+ Second only to hurling herself upon me in gladness and felicity when her paws are muddy and my jeans were clean a minute ago. #

# One of my many failures as a dog owner, as I believe I have told you before, is that it seems to me entirely reasonable that something only about twelve inches tall should want to jump up on you.~

~ Hey, she rolls over beautifully for little pieces of roast chicken.  What do you want, perfection?=

= She is a funny wee thing in a lot of ways.  As Southdowner told me what seems like forty centuries ago—and years before Lavvy got pregnant—you keep bull terriers because they make you laugh.  Bull terriers are also hungry all the time and to a dog, possibly especially a short dog, who is hungry all the time, almost everything looks like food.  Pav has learnt that I have an inexplicable dislike of her ingesting random bits of rubbish we meet out hurtling and we have reached a compromise about this which works reasonably well most of the time.  Something that is positively not edible, like a plastic bottle—she and Chaos share a passion for crunching plastic bottles between their teeth for the noise, but even Pav doesn’t seem to want to eat them—she will, on command [sic], when we stop by a trash bin, ‘drop’.%  If, however, her current prize is deemed edible, she will not drop.%%  But if I have lodged my protest promptly she will graciously not swallow either, but I do have to get down on my knees and frelling hoick it out of her mouth while she stands, unresisting, with the little evil eye twinkling away at me and the thought-balloon over her head clearly reading heh heh heh heh.  When the thus-removed substance is pizza or sandwich-end or similar, no big.  Yuck, but no big.  BUT SOMETIMES.  EW.  WHAT IS THAT?  EW.  EWWWWWWWW.  I swear she prances with several inches more boing per bounce after one of these encounters.

% And her resultant glow of fatuous virtue may last even a second or two.

%% What do I think she is, stupid?

++The Magical Dog Food Grotto contains only sealed containers of bull terrier ultimate desire, but she can tell the stuff’s in there somewhere.

** If there are any method handbell ringers out there reading this and shaking their heads in puzzlement because it is not difficult, I DO NOT WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU.  Indeed if you decide to join the forum so you can remonstrate with me—kindly of course and using words of one syllable as befits the case—I will not only instantly DELETE your comments with menaces and rude gestures but I will tell Blogmom to Ban You Forever^ plus a few years.

^ and your little dog too.

*** Chocolate?  Nope.  Champagne?  Uh-uh.  Perfect love?  Nah.  Hot fabulous lateral-orbitofrontal-cortex-exploding sex?  . . . Um.  Wait a minute.  Let me think.^

^ If I say handbells I will lose all credibility forever.  Such a dilemma.

† Sadly you will probably have to go through the brain-restructure thing with every additional method.  I can now (mostly, sort of) ring both bob minor and bob major AND MY SKULL HAS RUN OUT OF ROOM FOR ANY FURTHER EXPANSION.^  Planning permission for the new conservatory off the existing building will be denied.

^ Cambridge.+ Whimper.  Yorkshire++  Mega whimper.

+ Yes.  This is the name of a method.

++ Yes.  This is too.  Cambridge (minor, on six bells) and Yorkshire (which cannot be rung on fewer than eight bells) represent the PINNACLE of my handbell yearning, and I have about as much chance of attaining either of them as the hellhounds have of achieving weight-bearing lift-off on the walk home tonight and flying me there.#

# Long-time readers of this blog may feel they recall that some years ago I was grappling with Cambridge on handbells with some modest degree of success.  Yes.  Very modest.  I could get through about half a plain course on the front pair of bells.  This is like someone who wants to ride in the Grand National being able to sit in the saddle if the horse isn’t doing anything.

†† Tower bell ringing:  1,000,000,000,000 times, approximately.  This is a lot of hours out of your life.   Handbell ringing:  1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 times, approximately.  Which is even more hours out of your life.  And that’s still only per pair of bells.  You can move around a lot easier from single bell to single bell in the tower^ than you can from pair of bells to pair of bells in handbells.  IT’S LIKE LEARNING A WHOLE FLAMING NEW METHOD, EVERY RATBLASTED PAIR OF HANDBELLS.^^  ARRRRRRRRRRRGH.

^ Barring little circumstantial details like the bell whose rope regularly jumps off its wheel, or the bell that has an interesting relationship with the corner of the church its rope hangs over so that on every backstroke the pew or the misericord or the flying buttress or whatever the doodah that is immediately behind you reaches out and whacks you one.  Keep your mind on your bobs under those conditions.

^^ All these diverse sub-methods do eventually meet up into one grand over-arching meta-method but that’s a lot of zeroes down that very long queue.

††† Niall can ring anything, including mini rings.  I have considered hating Niall, but . . . no.  He makes very good brownies, even if I do have to ring handbells to get any.  Also, I couldn’t hate him tonight, we went in his car.

‡ It wasn’t supposed to be a mini ring, of course, or I’d’ve stayed home.  I’VE BEEN BAITED AND SWITCHED.  I NEED CHOCOLATE.

‡‡ Maybe I’ll even finish this frelling two-years-and-counting scarf by this winter

I have spent all day . . .


. . . doing STUFF.  You know, stuff.  FINALLY got the laundry from three days ago actually hung up to dry.*  Well.  To finish drying.  It’s mostly dry already and golly is it ever wrinkled.**  I fought my way to the countertop in the kitchen next to the Aga where I sit every morning and have my tea, and where the pile of unread magazines gets taller and taller and taller.  I threw out with a sigh of relief all the catalogues saying Great bargain!  Order on line by midnight 31 March! ***  I swept the floor.†  I took delivery of 1,000,000,000 baby plants ARRRRRRGH THIS FRELLING WINTER IS GOING ON FOREVER WE HAD ANOTHER FROST LAST NIGHT THIS IS THE SOUTH OF BLOODY ENGLAND AND IT’S THE FIRST OF BLOODY APRIL.††  I’ve run out of floor space to bring in tiny geraniums and tiny dahlias and tiny begonias and tiny chocolate cosmos every frelling night††† and that’s before today’s influx of petunias.

It’s been a seriously mad ten days or so.  And I haven’t even got started. . . .  Maybe I can get back to the blog tomorrow and continue the fascinating story.  Or maybe Friday.  Or next Gammelfug day.

* * *

* This involved getting the laundry that’s been hanging for about . . . um . . . a week, down off the airer dangling from the bathroom ceiling and . . . gasp of astonishment . . . folded.  Now let’s say I have four—let’s say pink—socks.  These of necessity comprise two pairs.   You are with me so far?  They were bought at the same time from the same shop and are the same brand and the same size.  So tell me why three of them are a pair and the fourth one is clearly odd?

** I have found that the trick with unhung laundry is to get it out of the washing machine and into my open-weave-with-lots-of-holes-where-the-wicker-has-broken basket and stir it up a couple of times a day and it won’t help the wrinkles but I won’t have to rewash it because it’s started to smell a little peculiar.  If you leave wet laundry in the washing machine for three days it will definitely smell peculiar.   Ask me how I know this.

*** I put into another pile, with a guard rail around it, all the envelopes that say, Do this immediately or the world will end and you will die, love, HM Revenue and Customs.^

^ Now I am not a fan of all those government departments on both sides of the Atlantic that steal+ my money but I FRELLING WELL HATE TECHNOLOGY A WHOLE LOT WORSE.

Okay.  I know I’m a screw up but I so have help.

About twice a year I have to import money.  I earn very little in the country I live in so what there is of it accumulates in America and then I haul it in chunks over here.  First obstacle:  my Maine bank wasn’t answering my emails.  UM.  PEOPLE.  YOU HAVE MY MONEY.  They hadn’t told me my contact of the last twenty-five years had retired nor was anyone watching for rogue emails that might be coming in to her asking for little things like international money transfers.  Gibber gibber gibber gibber gibber.  Okay.  Made contact with some new unfortunate who sounds young so maybe she won’t retire for a while.  And after comparatively few failures I got the necessary fax sent and acknowledged.  Then I had to make confirmatory contact by phone.

This has taken something like ten days.  It’s true I should have smelled a rat sooner but I am used to things going wrong and . . . what was happening never occurred to me.  MY IPHONE IS EDITING THE *&^^%$%$£””!!!!!!! NUMBER.

I’m going to say that again.  POOKA, MY IPHONE, IS EDITING PHONE NUMBERS.  Not satisfied with merely destroying three-quarters of my contacts list, we are MOVING ON TO MORE CREATIVE FORMS OF HARASSMENT.

. . . I had had a comprehensive all-tech-wide meltdown a month or so ago when Raphael had to reinstall nearly everything.  One of the many, many things that went wrong was that Outlook ate most of my contacts which I have since been laboriously reinstalling a few at a time, including some of the oldest, like my American bank, which have been on Outlook since before I had a mobile phone.  And apparently in some fabulous Apple update or other that came with the reinstall the iPhone was told to put in the random British zero . . . even when the address is American and the hapless human has put in the country code because she knows she’ll forget.#  The random British zero appears between the country code and the area code and is not at all conspicuous. 

After several days of ‘this number has not been recognised’ and choruses of beeps, clicks and whistles I finally decided I must have punched the number in wrong so I pulled out my paper address book.  No, it was right (still not noticing the villainous zero because the iPhone also controls the spacing).  So I frelling wiped the number and poked it in again thinking there might be one of those invisible tech bug things that was going HA HA HA HA CHOMP off stage.  And this time I finally SAW the sodding phone adding the zero.  AND IT WON’T LET ME DELETE IT.##

At the frelling moment I have my bank’s phone number memorized.  But after the initial fury wears off I’m not GOING to remember to omit the superfluous ratblasting zero . . . and I can’t hit the auto button at all of course.

And presumably this is affecting ALL MY AMERICAN PHONE NUMBERS????  Somehow I haven’t wanted to check.

So meanwhile I finally successfully rang my bank.  AND THE FAX IS NOW TOO OLD AND I HAVE TO START ALL OVER AGAIN. 

It may be very useful that the hellhounds would rather not eat at all, and I’m a postmenopausal woman, I don’t need food . . . Pav is going to be a little distressed, the next fortnight or so, till I finally get my money transferred and can afford to buy food again.  Maybe Peter will throw Pav a crust from time to time.

# Actually I tried it without the country code and it still puts in a zero.  It’s possibly more conspicuous without the country code but that’s not the point.

## I have, of course, emailed Raphael.  I was HOPING he was going to say, oh, yeah, that’s a known glitch, press the zurgle button and tell it to flamboodle the dorkomart and it’ll be fine.  That’s not what he said.  He said, what?

Kill Steve Jobs.  Oh, wait, phooey, that won’t work.

+ If they put more money into organic farming and non-fossil-fuel energy sources and less into weapons development and finding new ways to avoid letting people have their civil rights I would feel a little better about this.

† I should have washed it, but let’s not get carried away.

†† No fooling.

††† Not to mention scraping hellhounds off the ceiling when the eaves at the cottage insist on wailing like women who have lost their demon lovers.^  One salient difference between hellhounds and hellterror:  hellhounds try to wedge themselves under (or over) the front door to get away from the kitchen door that is making that terrible coming-to-get-us^^ noise.  The hellterror trots interestedly straight for the kitchen door and puts her nose to the corner that is causing the row.  She did me a favour, in fact, because it seemed to me, standing up at human height, that the noise was coming from the top corner, not the bottom one, but wedging the top didn’t do much.  But it turns out I can just about stop the ululation with a well-placed dustcloth around the bottom corner  . . . but try closing the door accurately on said well-placed dustcloth with the wind hammering at the other side.  Without involving fingers and even more noise. 

^ This winter is not only endless, the frelling storm winds come from the wrong direction.

^^  http://www.amazon.co.uk/product-reviews/B006X0M06I/ref=acr_search_see_all?ie=UTF8&showViewpoints= 1 + The inspiration for Chuck was the previous generation of course, but the hellhounds’ whippet blood is well to the fore when the eaves are howling.

+ It’s on Kindle.  You can download it and read it right now.

Blurry weekend


I had an appointment with Dentist from R’lyeh on Friday*, the second in a fortnight.**  I knew that being pumped full of anaesthesia twice in slightly less than fourteen days was not going to go down well with the ME***  but you want to get it over with, you know?  ‘It’ being death, taxes, anything to do with dentists and being tour guide for the friends of friends of friends who were told to look you up and whose idea of casual chat with a stranger doing them a favour is to complain about women bishops, Obama, and your fashion†/career††choices.

I have therefore spent the weekend in a daze of chemical hangover.†††  That no doubt explains why having made it to church, because Wolfgang knows the way, I was actually inquiring about the job‡ vacancies Buck was haranguing us about.  Because I’m so fuzzy-minded I can’t remember that I already have too much socially engaged yatta yatta stuff to do.  There’s a meeting tomorrow night about this apparently.  Maybe I can forget to go.

* * *

* I now have uniformly smooth grey front teeth rather than furrowed speckly brown ones!  Yaaaay!

** We’ve been bonding over our mutual first ownership of terriers.  A Whole Other Life Form, we concur.  I got distracted by the ‘bull’ thing and the grin, and he has a preteen son who wanted his own dog, not a part share in one of the (several) family dogs, and went for a little manic hairy thing.  The paw marks on the ceiling take some getting used to as does the robust response to the hearing of burglars at inappropriate hours.^

^ ‘Inappropriate’ being a mutable term.  During socially sanctioned inappropriate hours I’m available to suppress the little varmint.  It’s when she wants to disembowel the mailperson at 7 or 8 am that I get a little testy.

*** Which is also why I will not have my teeth whitened, and the grey will stay grey.  There are chemical sensitivities I don’t have to find out all the fascinating details of, and elect not to.^

^ The Appalling Perversities of Bodies.  It’s not enough that my multiple chemical sensitivities are probably one of the sources and maintaining causes of my ME but my frelling metabolism burns through anaesthetic with the speed of an exuberant hellhound after a frisky young rabbit, so the frelling dentist has to keep slugging more into me.  ARRRRRGH.

† ‘You could hire a tailor to replace the [disintegrating] lining of your leather jacket^ and wearing Converse All Stars is very bad for your feet.’^^

^ Yep.  I could.  And I probably will as soon as the lining rots away from the bottom hem, so all the stuff that has fallen through the holes in the pockets and now resides lumpily in the gap between lining and leather starts falling to the ground and being lost forever.

Fortunately my last lot of interesting companions for an afternoon never saw Wolfgang.  Wolfgang would have given them life-threatening palpitations.  I met them at the train station in Mauncester, guided them to the obvious photo ops in the obvious picturesque bits of town, and put them back on the train again.+

+ You know what really rankles though?  That I can never think of anything clever and quelling to say at the time.  I just suck it up like a dope and seethe like anything later on.

^^ I’m really tired of being told that All Stars are bad for my feet.  I’ve been wearing them for forty years+, three to seven miles a day for most of that time and my feet are in pretty good shape thanks awfully.  Some of the rest of me, not so much, true, but I doubt it’s because of lack of cushioning and arch support in my All Stars.  The properly-engineered-shoe argument reminds me of the other one that says that you can’t just walk three to seven miles a day you have to belong to a gym and have a personal trainer create a specific exercise programme for you.  No.  You don’t.  It’s not in the contract.

Now some of my best friends belong to gyms, have personal trainers and don’t wear All Stars because they hurt their feet.  I feel sorry for them about the All Stars++, but it’s all what works for you.+++  I have a hellmob.  We go hurtling together.  It works for us.

+ Yeeeep.

++ Personally I do not wish to envision a life without All Stars.

+++ Although in the absence of gym membership I need to keep ringing tower bells to maintain upper body strength.#  Although lifting the hellterror out of harm’s way on a regular basis counts for something.##

# Over-ringing does serve a purpose.  It also burns calories.  Wild Robert, who is built of toothpicks and super glue, can ring the 1,000,000,000 pound abbey tenor with one hand.  And does occasionally to be annoying.  But rumour has it he doesn’t eat, so he doesn’t need to burn calories, let alone go home and comfort himself with chocolate after he’s screwed up a simple touch of a simple method on a well-behaved modest-sized bell.  SIIIIIIGH.

## Chiefly mental anguish.

†† ‘Have you ever written a REAL book?’

††† I was supposed to ring frelling handbells again yesterday.  I seem to have got myself ambushed into this semi-regular extra Saturday in which Melinda and Niall try to chivvy Spenser and me into ringing quarter peals.  Apparently this is what handbell ringers do.  They don’t just, you know, ring handbells, they get together and rack up stuff they can put on their life list.  Quarters.  Full peals.  Shudder.  I told Spenser and Niall Friday night, during our usual, ordinary, low level, lots of wrong notes just-get-together-and-ring handbell session with Gillian or Gemma, that I had been badly dentalled and wasn’t likely to be up to much the next day.  Spenser said he was chiefly interested in practise and didn’t actually care about quarters, which is how I feel about it, and Niall is an obsessive crazy so never mind what he may or may not have said.  And Melinda, who seems so normal,^ would already have rung one quarter that day^^ and would probably bear the disappointment of not getting a second.

Well my brain kept blanking out and we kept crashing and burning.  As predicted.  Spenser and I had swapped pairs of bells too so I didn’t even have relative familiarity to plug the gaps.  It wasn’t all bad:  both Spenser and I felt we were getting useful practise.

Now as it happens the monks were holding a bingo night for prospective oblates or something and my usual Saturday night contemplative service wasn’t on.  I had told the assembled bell crowd that I didn’t have my usual time constraints and so of course Niall suggested we have one more crash and clang at the frelling quarter after our tea break.  I was already tired and getting stupider with multiple failures. . . .

Yep.  We got it.  And as I wrote to Alfrick later, God once again proves to have a funny sense of humour.

^ She babysits for her grandchildren!  It doesn’t get more normal!

^^ One of the Super Surprise Delight Domineering Demented methods.  The kind of thing where I can’t even read the line, let alone imagine ringing it.

‡ Volunteer.  Things like chair-straightener and crucifix-polisher and cable-winder and tea-and-cake producer.  But these apparently harmless if time-consuming occupations have fancy names like Dapifer and Manciple and one has the suspicion that the moment one had said ‘okay’ the task list would turn out to be seven single-spaced pages of deviant Anglican jargon meant to intimidate and enslave.  Or they’d have more volunteers.

The horror, the horror


The attic.  Moan.  The attic.  At Third House.  Moooooan.  The attic . . . moan.  August is almost gone and some time in September I have to bring the frelling backlist home from the last storage unit.  All forty-seven gazillion boxes of it.  And you can already hardly edge around* all the boxes of files** and of books*** that won’t fit† either downstairs or at the cottage††  Moan.



A few years ago I needed a plumber for my small bathroom. I warned the man at the other end of the phone line, “It’s a very small space.” He answered cheerfully, “I’ll send a very small plumber.” She was. And she fixed it. But she’s the only one I’ve ever seen.

For some reason, probably because I am still suffering post-house-move brain-blastedness†††, the reference to size makes me think of the stalwart young men who moved my piano, only one of the three of whom looked at all as if he might lift heavy things for a living.  I was also thinking of Plumbers I Have Known folding themselves up into spaces much too small for them . . . and the tendency among folded-up plumbers to demonstrate builder’s crack to an extreme degree.

All three of my piano movers were wearing the kind of low-slung trouserage prone to builder’s-crackage.  And as they all three bent down the first time to examine the basis of the situation I was treated to . . . a vast triple frontage‡ of LURID COLOURED BOXER SHORTS.  I was delighted.  I also nearly burst out laughing.


These blogs are sooooo making me not want to renovate our house, even though it’s desperately needed…

Oh come on.  It’s romantic having to put buckets out for the drips, and to lie snuggled up in bed listening to the mice playing polo in the walls, and to have tadpoles coming in through the kitchen tap (it’s only for a month or two in the spring, after all), and floorboards so aggressively wavy and unpredictable that if you’ve had a beer in the last twenty-four hours you’d better sleep in the barn (under a tarpaulin).  Where’s your sense of ADVENTURE?

Diane in MN

. . . As it’s a good and very efficient furnace, replacing it never came up: a good thing, as a new furnace would have been even spendier. I feel your pain.

Yes.  One of the—or rather the—clinching argument of Shiny New Plumber about replacing my current boiler is that by the time I bought the parts for the old one I’d be halfway to the new one . . . AND the old one is a piece of crap.  Since I only have Shiny New Plumber at all kind of far out on a limb of semi-unknown recommendations—one would rather hire a new plumber because one’s best friend has used him for twenty years and her entire family loves him including the goldfish, whom he replumbed on an emergency basis one Sunday afternoon when the fishtank exploded—I did look up the boiler he’s recommending and it’s number one by about twenty points in the WHICH? rating which is a good sign.  An even better sign will be if he knows how to put it in.  Mind you according to his web site he’s about third generation in a large family of plumbers . . . although he told me he is failing to interest his thirteen-year-old daughter in carrying on the family tradition.

And, speaking of small, and the state of the cottage‡‡, I hope the extra body he brings to assist him is svelte and bendy.   A thirteen-year-old daughter would be perfect.

But I really want my hot water.

Me too, big time, and so I NEVER TALK ABOUT IT because I don’t want to give the hot water heater any ideas, like thinking it’s reached retirement age. And I don’t know where that sentence came from; I never wrote it.

No, no, of course not, if your hot water heater comes round for confirmation I will stoutly deny everything.  My current object has only to last two more baths.  Please God and St Mermaid-of-the-Flowing-Waters.  I’ve had the uneasy sensation that it’s been getting a little whimsical since Shiny New Plumber condemned it.


Hot water is one of the critical components of civilisation, in my opinion.



Oof. At least you got a very nice individual plumber?

Well he’s certainly very jolly‡‡‡.  He also underwrites a seven-year guarantee on the new diamond-encrusted family member, which is popular.


Wait, stuck on the lavender comment. Was the lady referring to her houseplant as her pet, is there really a dog breed nicknamed lavender, or was she referring to the unmentionably enthusiastic “L” word dogs?

Not exactly.  She was having a little trouble with the English language and maybe Labradors are called lavenders in her mother tongue.  I’m not sure if she was doing that thing of using the word that almost sounds right and assuming it would do, or whether her accent was so strong that ‘Labrador’ was coming out ‘lavender’.  Whatever.

Speaking of which, I may have been losing respect for them before reading the blog because everyone around here has them (or chihuahuas or pit bulls, or mixes of all three), but your anecdotes certainly haven’t helped their case.

Labradors are slime.  Except, occasionally, when they aren’t.  There are two entirely different strains of them any more, at least in England:  the proper old working dog style, and there’s a young bitch of this variety who lives around the corner who is a complete sweetie and I’m happy to see her coming, and the modern SUV-shaped ugly stupid monster, owned by ugly stupid people who let it wreck your temper as well as your gentle, bewildered hellhounds’, and to crap all over the churchyard and possibly your driveway.  I FRELLING WELL HATE LABRADORS.  Except, occasionally, when I don’t.  As above.

Chihuahuas are not a plague around here.  Pit bulls are, but pit bulls, or their ilk, are a plague pretty much everywhere.  It’s what gets popular, you know?  Popular is the death knell for anything nice.

And on that cheerful note . . .

 * * *

* Especially not without hitting your head on one of those where-did-that-come-from interesting ceiling angles.

** Including things like the original manuscript of BEAUTY.  Eeeeeep.  Which I rediscover every few years.  I think it gets more startling every time.  Also the original, equally smudgy, cut-and-pasted, liberally white-outed^ SWORD and HERO.  As I recall OUTLAWS is the worst in this regard.  I still have grisly flashbacks of kneeling on the floor in my little house in Maine, cutting up chapters and paragraphs and trying to tape them together again before I forget what I’m doing, and feverishly scrawling cryptic bridges in the margins, hoping I’ll be able to smooth them out later.  Or possibly OUTLAWS was the worst.  I used to burn a lot of mss in my early typewriter days.  Not so much now:  everything becomes second sheets for the printer.^^  Except occasionally when I revert and do my cutting and pasting in hard copy.  Occasionally this is therapeutic.

And then I burn them.  Sometimes.  Sometimes I just scream and tear them up.  And stomp on them.

^ Have you seen that there are typewriter aps for your iPad?  WHYYYYYYY?

^^ It’s surprisingly confusing having your own words on the back of your freshly printed out draft pages.  Even when you know that’s an old story and you’re working on a new story.

*** Books?  Books?  Never say.  I amaze myself.

† My thirty-six million horse books, fiction and nonfiction.  My nineteen million nonfiction critters of the world books, excluding horses, including a lot of guidebooks and wild critter rescue and management books, the majority being North American, including dozens of standard Audubon and Peterson field guides and so on, but by no means exclusively these—the NA collection expanded exponentially when I was figuring out DRAGONHAVEN and some of these are very small press/audience and peculiar.  The Australian critter books go with the general Australian collection—which considering I’ve only ever spent about five weeks there total is pretty impressive.  But Australia is, you know, mad, as well as instantly irresistible.  There’s nothing else anything like it.^  Including all that let’s-evolve-in-interesting-off-the-wall-ways on a huge freaky water-bound continent fauna, and flora to go with ’em.  WHEEEEEEE.  Also the Aboriginal mythology—that is, what the white invaders managed to write down about it—is fascinating.  And then there’s my British guidebook collection.  Siiiiiigh.  I adore guidebooks.  I buy them everywhere I go.^^  And I have the impassable attic to prove it.  AND PETER’S AND MY BACKLIST STILL HAS TO GO UP THERE.

^ Except maybe New Zealand or Tasmania in a distant-cousin way but I haven’t been to either of these.

^^ Sometimes I buy the same one several times.  Mottisfont, for example.  I must have three or four.  Every time the National Trust trots out a new edition—which is to say there are three more paragraphs of the foreword to the foreword to the foreword about what they’ve been doing since the last edition—I buy it again.  Hey, sometimes there are new rose photos.

†† I was hacking through the between-covers verbiage at the cottage today and thinking gloomily of the 1,000,000,000 fresh, new books I have on various wish lists at various on line emporia, and I know I will eventually add far more of these to my shopping basket(s) than I will delete, which does not address the books bought by opening a three-dimensional door, with or without three-dimensional bell, crossing a three-dimensional threshold, and browsing three-dimensional books on 3D shelves and tables, overseen by a very realistic-ly dimensional clerk who may or may not have a clue about books^ but can run a credit card machine.

^ It fascinates me that in the increasingly, or do I mean decreasingly, tiny beleaguered cult world of the high street bookstore, you do get clerks who seem to be there only because the gift shop didn’t have a grunt-level staff opening.

††† Or, even more likely, current attic complete mental breakdown

‡ Or backage, if you prefer

‡‡ You are reading the footnotes in order, aren’t you?

‡‡‡ He also, in the grand British working-man tradition, calls me ‘luv’.  I know I’m supposed to object to this, but it always makes me fall down laughing.  Increasingly so as they get younger and younger as I get older and older.  I know I’m twice his age because he mentioned being thirty-two.^

^ Which means, to have a thirteen-year-old daughter, he started young.

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