I’m supposed to be at a concert. Right now.*
It was Mitsuko Uchida. Possibly my favourite living pianist.** AND THIS IS NOW THE SECOND TIME I’VE HAD TO BAIL ON A BOUGHT-AND-PAID-FOR TICKET TO HEAR HER. The first time was years ago—it may have even appeared in the blog as another very bad day—she was at the South Bank which is just a hop over the pedestrian bridge from Waterloo Station which is where trains from around here check in. And I can’t remember now who fell ill—Peter, me, or some hellhound or other, but somebody did. And I didn’t go. ARRRRRRRRRGH. Also, whimper. Tonight was going to be more or less the high point of my non-opera classical-music season. WHIMPER.
At least I didn’t have a late Sam duty tonight. Well, I wouldn’t have booked one for tonight, because I was going to a concert. However, I do have a Foibles of Transport story for you. I staggered out onto the street at 3 am or so recently, after one of those late Sam duties. You’re kind of on autopilot at that hour even if you are a late bird.*** Now when you turn a car on—I assume this is still true even of modern cars—every red light on the dashboard flames on and glares at you while the car checks itself over for presence of working chipmunks† and absence of cacodemons. And I hauled the brake off, let in the clutch and hit the road . . . because it took me a minute or two to realise THAT ONE OF THE RED LIGHTS HAD NOT TURNED ITSELF OFF BUT WAS IN FACT BLINKING IN A DETERMINED AND OMINOUS MANNER.
I pulled over to the side of the empty, deserted road. I got out my frelling manual. I did at least manage to find the weird little symbol in question, which told me Wolfgang needed coolant. What the frelling doodah is COOLANT? I mean, something that cools, but WHAT? Whatever it was, I didn’t have any in the boot or under the seat, and I was twenty minutes from home and tired. I climbed out of the car and felt Wolfgang’s bonnet. Cold. I managed to unhook the insanely uncooperative latch†† and had a look under the lid. Not that I have a clue what I’m looking at, but I’d probably recognise smoke.††† No smoke.
I thought about it. It was a cold night and a lot of the way home is downhill. I went home at a cautious 40mph and threw the clutch out when I could, and freewheeled, which may or may not have been a good thing, but we got here. And I felt up his bonnet again and he was still cold. So. Yaay. Tentative okayness.
Next morning I rang the garage.‡ And they said, oh, you need antifreeze. ANTIFREEZE? IS COOLANT? DOES NOT FRELLING COMPUTE. Don’t worry about it, said Paxton. Add some water and we’ll sort out the antifreeze the next time you’re in.
So I added water. And yes, I added it in the right place, witness that the little red flashing light went away.‡‡ Wolfgang has a lot to put up with, with me as his owner. Herb Robert in the windscreen wiper bed is only the beginning.
. . . It is now later. And it’s stopped snowing. Siiiiiiiiiigh . . . ‡‡‡
* * *
*Instead I’m mournfully eating broccoli in some really excellent goose stock. The hellmob and I finished the stripped-off meat a little while ago^ but since so far as I know you can reboil stock forever to keep evil bacteria at bay, I’ve been keeping it going. Only about half a serving left, sigh.^^
^ and the hellhounds, having been moved to some slight interest in food containing roast goose, have lapsed back into total apathy.
^^ But that’s okay! I have my first oxtail of the season percolating in the slow cooker! If you have to be a carnivore you might as well embrace it. I don’t really believe in New Year’s resolutions—it seems to me a set up, like the evil concept of ‘will power’, to beat yourself up with about your failure later on—but I have been thinking I am going to make ANOTHER ATTEMPT (a) to talk about other people’s books I have enjoyed more and (b) to use the resource that your forum comments are, by, um, er, like, responding to a few of them?!?!? Good grief, McKinley.
So I’ve been meaning for months now, because it dates back to the last days of trying inadvertently to kill myself by malnutrition, I mean, the last days of being vegan+, to say to whomever it was posted about this, I’ve never had a philosophical problem with meat eating. When I was a kid I ate what I was given++, and by the time I got old enough to think about making choices I’d been hanging out with people who bagged their deer or their moose every year because that was how their families got through the winter. Not everyone can afford enough supermarket food. I’ve tried being vegetarian three times now, for various complicated reasons including I like the airhead buzz it gives me, but it doesn’t suit me. And I’m not going to try it again unless I get an air mail letter from God, and it’s going to have to have bulletproof provenance.
+ People who do well as vegetarians or vegans, that’s great. But if you are really trying to do the meat-free thing and are being careful about your vitamins and your proteins and all that stuff, and you’re not doing well, remember that not everybody is built to live that way, okay? If for example your hair is falling out and your legs barely work any more . . . um. A steak or a large platter of chicken liver may be the answer.#
# And my hair is growing back in. At least somewhat. It has to grow in a little more before I find out how much there is.~ But meanwhile I am in a Permanent Bad Hair day and probably should not be allowed out in public. It is a symptom of how badly St Margaret’s needs singers that they let me on stage without a bag over my head.
~ Fingers crossed. I know I’m old and haggy and it doesn’t really matter, but I would really like to go on having hair. I feel you can be a much more interesting hag with hair.
++ Remember how old I am. Fast food hadn’t really been invented# when I was a kid, although we did have ‘family restaurants’, which by mostly being cheap and nasty were precursors to fast food. Microwaves weren’t even a fairy tale unless there was a tame dragon involved, or a fire witch. I mean, we didn’t invent microwaves, but someone invented a box that cooked food by microwave.##
# although McDonald’s was spreading insidiously like a virus.
## And I still won’t have one in my house. They seem like a spectacularly bad idea to me. I’m old and cranky. I’d consider a tame dragon though.
** Although Joanna MacGregor is close
*** Robins sing all night, you know.^
^ I was talking a friend recently about ways to deal with anxiety. With Turnip and Penis due into the White House any minute now us wet knee-jerk liberals are having palpitations and panic attacks. The conversation had been through hard drugs (no) and meditation and yoga (yes) and I said that something I found weirdly calming, dead easy, and always available is singing. Granted you have to be careful when you’re out in public+ but I find just singing under my breath works better than not. My friend said dubiously, well it’s probably different for you, you’re a trained singer.
::falls down laughing::
Okay, technically, yes, I am. I am a trained singer.
::falls down laughing some more::
+ Especially when you’re suffering from Permanent Bad Hair Day. I sing a lot when I’m out with the hellhounds#, and, you know, hag with hellhounds = nuts. Avoid. Mostly I do manage to keep an eye out and shut up when anyone comes in what is probably earshot. I missed today, and swung round a corner to see a woman I know slightly grinning from ear to ear, who said, Someone’s happy. Well, I wasn’t too bad this morning.## Before the snow started.
# Herself not so much. She needs more supervising. Not to say dominating.~
~ I AM THE HELLGODDESS. AND I FEED YOU. YOU MIGHT WANT TO REMEMBER THAT.
## At least I managed to shoot off to Mass at the abbey this morning since it’s going to be yaktrax only tomorrow morning. But I was still hoping the rough stuff wouldn’t settle in till after the concert. More whimpering.
† I’m not sure what small furry creatures they use over here to run the crucial machinery. Voles?
†† I’m sardonically a bit pleased that even proper garage persons have trouble with Wolfgang’s bonnet latch
††† We had the engine catch fire on the old car once. Belting down the M whatever at 70mph and suddenly there is black smoke billowing asphyxiatingly out of the front of your car. Garage person had failed to put the oil cap back on when they added oil. Oops.
‡ And rang and rang and rang AND RANG AND RANG. I was late to see Alfrick because I couldn’t go anywhere till someone told me what COOLANT is.
‡‡ And we bolted off to see Alfrick. Because I’d wasted so much time ringing the arglebargling garage the hellhounds hadn’t had a proper hurtle so I took them with me and afterward we had a fabulous hurtle in the dark under the biggest moon you ever saw. A snow moon, of course. Sigh.
‡‡‡ I have been nursing a small venal hope that perhaps the concert was cancelled, but apparently not. SIIIIIIIIIIIGH.
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.
Because the title box won’t take colours? WHY? —ed
So I made a ginormous pot of soup. Duh. Now one is not at one’s best coming off a gratuitous insult to one’s body like stomach flu and I haven’t been at my best in some time full stop* but it’s like I couldn’t grasp the concept of vegan broth as being suitable for consideration. Chicken soup and flat ginger ale for queasy stomachs.** If you can’t have that you are lost utterly in a hostile wilderness of deep-fried crullers, Pringles and maraschino cherries. It took several people posting or sending me either vegetable soup recipes or links to vegetable soup recipes for the tiny rattletrap cogs to connect and start clinking around in my brain. Very, very slightly in my defense I fell out of the soup habit with a thud when my freezer died***, although it’s embarrassing to admit that when Georgia and Shea were here a couple of months ago and we were talking about food and cooking and related goals, I said my next ambition was to start making my own vegetable stock.†
Well. So I NOW HAVE A FREEZER. What am I WAITING FOR. So I made a ginormous stock pot of cabbage soup††, saved some for now, put the rest through the blender and put it in the shiny new freezer in useful little 1-cup wodges. I’m so clever. And efficient.††† With a little help from my friends. To whom thanks all.
* * *
* However I am having my first voice lesson in yonks and yonks^ and I’m starting up with the Sam[aritans] too. I am GOING to have a life again. I am.^^
^ I was trying to figure what to take in to Nadia. I’m still singing some of my favourite arias but it’s mostly folk songs. And I realised with some embarrassment that the things I’m most likely not to screw up totally are a handful of hymns to folk-song tunes. I think I’m trying to exorcise all that frelling Jesus Is My Boyfriend music that I not only sing but help lead every Sunday as an anti-crying device. Okay, it does stop me crying, but At What Cost.
^^ Including writing stories. Not only because I need the money. The thing from forty years ago that was derailing me? It’s still derailing me. It’s kind of interesting though. Um.
** Or beef broth and Saltines, or whatever is the folk wisdom in your neck of the woods.^
^ Which is a bizarre phrase. Just by the way. https://www.theguardian.com/notesandqueries/query/0,5753,-22668,00.html%E2%80%8E
*** I live in a world of tiny autonomous under-counter appliances. When my freezer died it did not take my refrigerator with it.^
^ Although there have been some pretty redolent Appliance Follies concerning the Lodge. My little freezer died when I moved it to the Lodge—elderly freezers apparently don’t like being moved, I only need one (tiny) freezer and I’d rather have the space at the cottage for the hellterror’s crate.+ I had to buy a refrigerator and a washing machine for the Lodge anyway so what’s another expensive appliance when you’re running out of money.++ I found a fridge+++ and freezer I liked but the freezer was out of stock at my retailer of choice so I made the fatal error of trying to buy it from idiots who never consulted me about delivery but kept sending me chirpy emails saying, Your freezer is scheduled to be delivered between 5 am and 11 pm next Wednesday, please be there to let them in! ARRRRRRGH. Next Wednesday is not a good day, can we DISCUSS THIS PLEASE? New chirpy email: your freezer is scheduled to be delivered between 4:30 am and 11:34 pm next Friday, please be there to let them in! I eventually frelling cancelled and then hung around till it came back in stock at the retailer with the customer service department which is what I should have done in the first place.++++
And then there was the washing machine chronicle. I had a fancy to have this effectively second washing machine big enough really to take a double duvet, instead of only pretending to be big enough in standard washing machine bumf.+++++ There are a few 10 kg machines around, but when you start trying to buy one it turns out there aren’t, unless you want to spend £15K on a gilt-edged one to match your gilt-edged twelve-burner Aga and your gilt-edged SUV that takes up two and a half parking spaces. Well, maybe there are one or two for the hoi polloi. I tried to buy one of these. One of them turned out to be only 9 kg on closer inspection—truth in advertising, ahem—and then there was the fascinating two-for-one disappearing model. Even customer service couldn’t figure this one out and had to ring me back. Okay, it’s an old one and the new replacement model. And the new replacement model has worse water and electricity ratings than the old one, because people with SUVs were complaining that the programmes take too long. These people probably don’t believe in global warming either. ARRRRRGH.
Oh, and neither model was available.
I think I made some snarling noises. And I think my customer service person was trying not to laugh. Let me see what I can do, she said.
They found me a washing machine. One of the old slow eco-friendlier model. And I haven’t tried a duvet yet but yes, the biggest of the hellmob beds fits.
+ Little did I know that the space situation was about to become acute after my plumbers laid £800 worth of useless pipe through my kitchen. Regular readers will remember this story. Pretty much the entire available floor is now hellmob bedding, although this does make it more comfortable to lie down on when I’m having a bad day. I am of course remarkably furry when I stand up again but Yeti answering the door when it’s someone who wants to sell me something# is quite useful for scaring them off. If I’m having a bad day grunting in a Yeti-like manner, if they don’t scare fast enough, is easy too.
# Including God. I may have said this to you before? I now wear a cross, and I find it disconcerting to be (metaphorically) embraced as a sister by the kinds of Christ merchants that cold call. This usually makes the conversation shorter without any effort on my part because they bustle off to harangue someone less well defended, but occasionally they want to stay and chat about theology and . . . I don’t share much theology with my own congregation~, I do not want to get into sticky points of Scripture with random evangelical strangers at my door.
~ Hums a little tune and bends lower over her knitting
++ Because life is like this, I presently have three would-be buyers supposedly about to make me an offer on Third House. After this particular bit of fatuity is over with# I’m going to take it off the market and let it. Which is another saga.
# Which is to say that I am expecting offers of two shillings sixpence, two shillings eight pence, and one decision to move to the Caribbean. But post-Brexit, I should be grateful that someone is willing to take it off my hands. Um. No.~
~ I will not get into all the interesting stories right now about the real estate market galumphing through the zeitgeist and trampling the slow and unwary under large hairy feet.
+++ Note that the new, CHEAP fridge is much nicer than the way more expensive one I bought for the cottage several years ago because several years ago we were apparently in an anti-under-counter appliance era and this was what I could get. Bosch is overrated: pass it on. Of course I don’t yet know how long the new CHEAP fridge is going to last, and the Bosch is now having its life shortened by hellmob bedding getting jammed up against its fan, motor, dorgligfast and gluppermeyer# which are of course floor level and exposed to the elements, including the 85% ambient fur and lots of well-scrabbled blankets.
# The hellterror has her butt squashed against the gluppermeyer right now. I’ll move her as soon as it starts making protesting noises.
++++ This is John Lewis, by the way, for British readers. I know they screw up too, but I’ve never had them not unscrew up, and they’ve had plenty of opportunity for me to put them on my (lengthy) pond scum list, and they’ve never taken it.
+++++ I’ve been cranky for years, since I’m good at cranky, that I had to buy an 8 kg drum machine when my old 6 died, because apparently they don’t make 6s any more. I’m ONE PERSON. I have an ENTIRE DRAWER of white t shirts because I RUN OUT before I have enough whites to fill a frelling 8 kg drum machine. ARRRRRGH. And to add insult to injury, 8 kg is nothing LIKE big enough to wash a duvet. Sure, you can cram it in, but it comes out in exactly the same folds and creases that you used to wedge it in in the first place and the only thing that’s clean is the soap dispenser. The big proper dog beds won’t fit in either. Most of my mob’s bedding is easy because it’s old blankets. Hairy but easy. But the point of this story is that the cottage’s washing machine is too big for my ordinary purposes and too small for the extraordinary. GOOD SYSTEM, WASHING MACHINE DESIGNERS. MAY ALL YOUR BOTTLES OF WINE BE CORKED.
† I do not know why it is that proprietary stock pretty much always has Weird Crap in it, not, I realise, that the weirdness registers with normal humans. But hydrolized vegetable protein? Are you freaking joking? Even Kallo’s organic stock cubes have sugar in them three times,^ plus maize starch, which is evil.
^ Um, why??
†† Well, standard contents-of-refrigerator stock, you know? What’s in there that needs eating, especially after you’ve lost the plot a bit. Cabbage, onion, carrot, celery, lovely Shiitake mushrooms^, the huge bag of fresh basil I was going to make pesto out of^^, and I forget what all. Garlic. Always garlic. And a big handful of dry herbs for the last ten minutes. The result was, if I do say so myself, rather delicious.
^ The anti-rheumatism diet doesn’t allow ordinary mushrooms but Shiitake are actually GOOD for you.
^^ I am motivated to make [vegan] pesto. And I’m nearly through my last huge jar.
* This was supposed to have gone up last night, of course, and my so-called broadband connection wasn’t having any. ARRRRRGH. Meanwhile it’s going up this late tonight because I had that FIRST VOICE LESSON today^ and it was EXCELLENT. Not, I have to say, in terms of the beauty and accuracy of any noises I was making ::shudder:: but the excellence of being under Nadia’s tutelage again, and the way she starts sorting me out IMMEDIATELY, and sends me away with stuff I can do. This post is already too long, but let me just say in passing . . . as an anti-crying expedient, as previously observed, singing for service works a treat. As a likelihood that stage nerves will make all my shutting-down and stiffening-up habits worse it’s a sure frelling thing. Sigh. —ed
^ But by the time I got home not only was I STARVING+ the hellmob was all TAKE US OUT. TAKE US OUT NOW. WE’RE BORED. WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN.++
+ Singing is a sport. Like marathon running.
++ In the first place every road in the area is torn up for roadworks AND the main road is blocked because of some festering doodah festival so it took nearly twice as long both to get there and get back. In the second place . . . the problem with Nadia’s new studio is that it requires me to drive past our excellent not-quite-local-enough-to-be-dangerous-except-if-I’m-going-to-see-Nadia rose nursery. And I may have stopped and bought a rose.
[THE ASTERISK IN THE TITLE SHOULD BE PINK. BUT THE TITLE BOX APPARENTLY DOESN’T HAVE COLOURS.]
I’ve been having an unusually bad ME day. The ME has been surprisingly well-behaved the last six months*; not that I haven’t had ME days but they haven’t been as severe or as frequent as recent stress/despair/grief levels might predict. Today it decided to slug me with several at once.** Unnnnh. But I had tickets to the live-streaming LA TRAVIATA and Admetus to do the driving*** AND I WAS GOING ANYWAY.†
And we did. And this is a good one.†† If the Royal Opera House reruns it at a Theatre Near You and you have ANY finer musical feelings††† go. I didn’t know any of this cast—and the tenor took a little while to warm up—but they were splendid. Violetta is a gift of a role, if you are a supernaturally dazzling soprano with a timbre richer than 85% dark organic chocolate who can furthermore out-act Ellen Terry‡, because you get such a range with her, from the resplendent but cynical courtesan at the beginning to the fragilely joyous woman in love at the beginning of the second act, just before it all comes crashing down, which is when you see what a real heroine she is, to the final act of loss, resignation, despair and a tiny flame of reunited rejoicing to make it more tragic. But you have to respond to her as magnificent in the scene with the lumpen prig who is her (wet, puerile) lover’s dad or you’ll be frelling overcome by the blazing misogyny of the plot—I don’t mean that Verdi is the bad guy‡‡, but the story he’s telling‡‡‡ is major ARRRRRGH from start to finish.§ You need a Violetta that will make you love her anyway.
I could produce a few caveats about this production. But I won’t. Much. §§ One of the dangers of La Trav is that if the tenor and the baritone are too lifelike you’ll be so busy hating them you won’t thrill properly. In this production the guys are actually sympathetic which is a good trick in the circs but it’s what you want so you can revel. This is a very, very good show. Go see it if you can.
* * *
* It’s February. I can no longer say ‘my husband died last month’. However ‘my husband died just before Christmas’ still presents some faintest echo of how I’m feeling.
** I broke another plate today. That makes five since Peter died, I who do not break things ( . . . very often). With thanks to Gomoto, however, who suggested it, I did manage to replace the irreplaceable one by risking life and sanity on eBay. The only drawback, that’s DRAWBACK, to this is that I had to join frelling eBay which I had thus far AVOIDED—yes, all these years, I have resisted eBay^ but apparently you can’t buy anything unless you join??? Big Brother isn’t just watching you, he has a slave torc around your neck. And I suppose if I ‘desubscribe’ from the welter of emails encouraging me to BUY MORE and to SET UP AS A SELLER I’ll just have to rejoin all over again if I ever break another irreplaceable plate, which on present form I probably will.
^ I hate auctions, for one thing. All that SUSPENSE.+ Just tell me the price and I’ll pay it or I won’t, okay? I also hate having to learn a whole new dadblatted system for some dadblatted web mogul. Blogmom could tell you I have a meltdown every time WordPress has an update and Yet More Weird New Things happen back in the admin when I’m just trying to hang a blog post, you hyperactive creeps, will you LEAVE ME ALONE.
+ I just read a really, really annoying thriller. If I’d realised it was a thriller I probably wouldn’t have bothered, but it got all these FABULOUS REVIEWS and I acknowledge that it is stylishly written, it doesn’t just rudely go for your throat and sink its teeth in, it nibbles tenderly on your ankles a bit first, leaving dainty little lacy patterns. But . . . SO ANNOYING. Nothing and no one is ever what it or he or she seems to be, and several times in succeeding chapters. Now, I hate suspense, all that waiting for which villain is going to leap out of which cupboard and in what order and bearing what weapons and what sordid tales of ancient wrongs or culpable desires, but in this particular case the agonisingly slow revelation of the true story through the endless lies, betrayals and labyrinthine motivations of all the characters stopped winding me up and just made me want it to be over with. I don’t think I followed the last sixty-seven monstrous discoveries anyway so when I finally got to the last shocking plot twist it was like, um, what? Can I go now?
*** Peter was supposed to come too. Whimper. That is, when I’d first brought it up when the tickets came available yonks ago, he’d rolled his eyes at the idea of another La Trav—I’ve told you before that he is not a natural opera lover—but I was planning to have a final assault on his artistic sensibilities/unreasonable obstinacy nearer time.
† Also despite the predictable waterworks at the end when she dies. But lots of people cry at the end of La Trav. Not so many for Beethoven’s Fifth.
†† I’ve seen this production at least twice before, both times live, really live, before cinema streaming. The first time when the production itself was new . . . with Peter. The second time when I went up to London alone on the train to see Renee Fleming . . . which I’m afraid was more notable for spectacularly doing my back in in my unaccustomed high heels than for Renee Fleming whom I found brilliant but cold.^ I’ve never worn high heels since.^^ Just by the way. And rarely have back trouble any more.^^^
^ She makes a great courtesan: not so much the dying heroine you’re going to cry over when she takes the final dive. Which, for me, brings the essential appallingness of the plot into snarling feminist focus and kind of wrecks the cathartic wallow aspect. You want the wallow. That smug middle-class boys are a right pain you can get elsewhere.
^^ I wore my fabulously floral Docs to the funeral and memorial service.
^^^ She says nervously. Since there’s a lot of Hauling of Boxes of Books during a house move.
††† !!!!!! NOT THAT I’M PREJUDICED ABOUT THE ESSENTIAL SUPREMACY OF OPERA OVER ALL OTHER MUSICAL ART FORMS OR ANYTHING.
‡ Or possibly Tessa Gratton. Any of you who don’t follow me on Twitter
Or, since I’m having my usual trouble with links, the original Twitter one opens but this one seems to open better:
‡‡ I very much doubt Verdi was a modern feminist. Ha ha. But he did live with and eventually marry a woman with a background a bit similar to Violetta’s but much better health. And they took stick for it from the lumpen prigs.
‡‡‡ And for anyone who isn’t a regular Days in the Life reader or opera goer^, La Trav tells the story of a high-end Parisian courtesan who is dying of consumption, and knows it. She lets herself fall in love with a callow young twerp who adores her and they retire to the country where they’re busy burning through all her money when his dad shows up to dispose of this trollop who is not merely ruining his son’s life but preventing his virginal daughter from marrying her fiancé because the fiance’s parents will call it off if the son doesn’t throw the whore back in the ditch where he found her and return to polite society. Well, she gives him up, but doesn’t tell him why, and he has a meltdown and insults her publicly at a demi-monde party back in Paris where they met. Last act is her dying, broke^^^ and lonely, rereading the letter from the prig saying that he and his disgusting son, whom he has told the true story of her leaving, are going to come see her now that she’s dying and won’t embarrass them much longer, presumably they aren’t going to tell the sister’s husband’s family about this little departure from the straight and narrow?, although the letter says, oh, take care of yourself, you wonderful woman, you should have a happier future ARRRRRRRRRRGH.# And then she dies in the wet twit’s arms, and the curtain comes down. Before dad and son exchange the look of relief and the ‘well that’s that then. I wonder what’s for supper back home?’
If you’ve got a Violetta worth the diamonds she sold to keep her country villa## you won’t care. You’ll be slurping up all the melodrama with a large shiny spoon. It’s only later when you’re stuffing the wet tissues in your pocket to leave the theatre tidy that your intellect catches up with events and starts wrecking your fun.
^ Do we want to know each other?
^^ Note: ARRRRRRGH.
^^^ It also makes me crazy, every time+, when she tells her faithful maid to divide up her tiny remaining store of money and give half of it to the poor. WHAT IS THE MAID GOING TO LIVE ON AFTER VIOLETTA GOES? I don’t think a glowing rec from a dying penniless prostitute is going to get her a good place right away.
+ Also the doctor saying authoritatively that Violetta only has ‘hours’ to live. Unless of course modern medicine has lost the amazing predictive powers of Italian docs of Verdi’s day.
# That’s an editorial ARRRRRRRRRGH, you understand.
## If they were so enamoured of the rural life why didn’t they just buy a COTTAGE?
§ Although if you’re a modern humour-challenged feminist cow like me, you couldn’t enjoy La Trav nearly so much if you didn’t know it was all going to go horribly wrong. If Violetta had a sudden deathbed recovery and she and the wet went back to their villa^ and the prig and the rest of their family, including the sister’s in-laws, realised that Violetta had a Beautiful Soul whatever her background, and had them over to tea on high days and holidays . . . nooooooo. Ewwwwwwww.
^ or cottage
§§ The last act is a particular ratbag to stage. She’s dying of consumption so she shouldn’t be flitting lightly around the stage, which Violettas usually are. There’s a famous, or possibly infamous, staging where she spends the entire act in bed, which is more realistic, and which makes the last moments of her sudden sense of joy and strength much more dramatic, when she finally does stand up and walk—just before she falls over for the last time—but it also makes the act static and (apparently) directors shy away from this. This particular staging has gruesome blood spatters on her pillows and the maid’s apron—but not on Violetta’s snowy white nightgown—which doesn’t make me think ‘ah yes consumption’ it makes me think ‘the devoted maid wouldn’t allow this NOR would Violetta be carelessly dragging her snowy white nightgown or her long luxuriant locks^ across these besmirched pillows.’ Personally I think they’re missing a trick during the orchestral doodah by not having her notice the stains and react. But hey.
^ Also unlikely in a woman dying of consumption. And while opera companies are getting better about remembering the effects of close-up cameras for cinema transmissions YOU COULD SEE THE JOINS where Violetta’s hair extensions were attached to her real hair which is the sort of thing I find distracting.
* * *
* This should have gone up last night, of course, but the ME got me before I could proofread, especially since that involves, as it so often does, sorting out the footnotes. Which I’m not always successful at even when the ME isn’t eating my brain. Which it still is today although not as badly.
But this gives me the opportunity for a GARDEN UPDATE! I had TWO robins in my garden this morning [sic]!!^ Maybe they’ll finally forgive me the Epic of the Falling-Down Wall and nest in my greenhouse again??! There’s been a determinedly kept-clear nook^^ just waiting for a nest, the last what’s it been, two years? Three? Since the Epic of the Wall.
^ Anyone not acquainted with British robins, they’re very territorial and the only time you see more than one—unless they’re fighting+—is when they’re breeding and raising the next generation.
+ And they aren’t kidding: they’re exacto knives with little round feathered handles
^^ And that’s not easy in my greenhouse
When I started writing this Radio 3 was playing Beethoven’s Fifth. About a week ago a bunch of us handbell ringers sloped off after practise to go hear some fire-breathing orchestra detonate Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. They played some other stuff first—very well too—and I noticed that two of the six double bass players were small, slight women* but mostly I had my head down over my knitting. Knitting is my default these days.** And it was (mostly) okay. Change of air. Change of scenery. Change of people. All good things (mostly). My three companions were chatting away cheerfully about music during the pauses while I went loop-wrap-pull, loop-wrap-pull.***
And then the orchestra went dah dah dah DAAAAAAAH and I . . . lost it. WHAM. Small intimate train wreck. Wept copiously all over my knitting. Swallowed one hand and half a box of tissues in an attempt not to sob cacophonously . Wanted a bag to put over my head so as not to blind everybody else in the theatre with the dazzling redness of my eyes.
I don’t even know why Beethoven’s Fifth. It wasn’t Peter’s favourite or anything. But (several of) Beethoven’s symphonies have been somewhat guilty pleasures for me for most of my life. Beethoven’s symphonies—maybe especially the Fifth—are so . . . obvious. I love, oh, say, Messiaen, but I have to be feeling like a grown-up to listen to him. Small children and dogs like Beethoven’s Fifth.† I first fell under its spell when I was a small child†† And I think what happened is that I found myself staring down the long††† unravelling skein of years during which I have listened many, many times to Beethoven’s Fifth and . . .
I know this is a Stage of Grief. I hope it will be over soon. The grief won’t be over soon—you don’t get over the loss of someone you loved, that’s a no-brainer—but this not being able to go out in public without being frelling likely to make a scene is a colossal bore as well as a vicious circle since the more you don’t go out the more likely you are to melt down when you do . . . and the more likely the depths you will plumb while you’re sitting at home staring at the walls will get depthier.‡
So I do go out. I’m going to see a live-streaming LA TRAVIATA this Thursday. It’ll be great. I can cry when she dies . . . .
This is a Stage of Grief. I know this.
* * *
* I assume they have finger, and possibly arm, extensions to get around the half a mile of those strings.
** It’s certainly my default in public.^ My default at home is mostly a milling hellmob wanting to know when something interesting is going to happen. Now that we’re spending all our time at the cottage^^ which has very limited floor space due both to original square footage and the whole Things in Corners When There Are No Corners and the Rooms Are a Lot Smaller Than They Were Before There Were Bookshelves on All the Walls etc, this question is more urgent than it used to be.
^ WHAT AM I GOING TO DO about that frelling frelling FRELLING Jesus is my totally creepy boyfriend Modern Christian Worship NOISE? I got through church this past Sunday for the first time without suffering comprehensive disintegration followed by bolting for the door and sitting in Wolfgang in the dark till I could frelling drive.+ But it wasn’t a good or a holy uplifting time. GAAAAAAAH. Sermons about the glory and beauty of life are bad enough but the singing . . . . The long view is that I want to get back on the singing rota—St Margaret’s have no standards, fortunately and would be happy to have me back—because even before 16 December++ I’ve found the power ballad to God thing a trifle testing, and up on stage ‘leading’ cough cough cough turns it into a performance and I can flip the ‘performance’ switch+++ and the emotional manipulation factor is thereby dimmed. BUT I need to reach a tipping point of self-control before I risk it. The performance apparatus will stretch, gouge and support only so far. It’s maybe like a hammer to thud a few nails further in. But it won’t abracadabra a frame to clamp you together. ++++
+ I can’t remember now if it was last week or the week before that it was helpfully raining so I could sit in Wolfgang with the wipers going and nobody could see me chewing on the steering wheel.
++ Although I effectively stopped going to church after 7 September. I was at Rivendell on Sunday evenings, like every other evening, and I still can’t get out of bed in the mornings when most people go to church. Well, I can get up, but I can’t get sane and plugged together enough to drive a car, even a very well-mannered# car like Wolfgang before noon. Two or three in the afternoon is preferable.
# which is to say lacking in youthful pizzazz and top end precipitancy
+++ Just so long as there’s at least one guitarist to hide behind
++++ MIXED METAPHOR ALERT. And now I’m going make it worse by telling you how the necessary planks are still holding up bird’s nests back in the forest somewhere. I am trying to tell you I am nowhere near the tipping-back-into-prudence-and-rationality# point.
# Not perhaps that prudence or rationality were strong points before.
^^ Oh, and?, she tosses off lightly, have I mentioned that I’ve bought another house? A . . . you should forgive the term . . . third house? I have spectacular cash flow problems that may result in a failure to buy dog food soon+ BUT I OWN THREE HOUSES.++ Briefly. Poor Third House goes on the market as soon as I can finish getting it cleared out. New House needs a name. Second Third House? Fourth House Minus Two? Daughter of Third House? Seventh Cousin Twice Removed of Third House House? Numerical Confusion I Never Could Count House? Gwendolyn?
+ This will delight the hellhounds of course. The hellterror, not so much.
++ It’s a long story. Next blog post.
*** I’m not going to say clickety-clack because I don’t clickety-clack. I use wooden needles, not metal, and I’m slow so I might as well be silent too.
^ Not that this saves me from, for example, the stitch I dropped and then picked up again incompetently when I was knitting in bed one night and heard . . . the unmistakable sounds of a member of the hellmob downstairs throwing up. There is now a HOLE.+ I will sew it up during the seaming stage which, as we all know with McKinley knitting productions, never happens.++
+ In the knitting. Not the hellmob. Or the kitchen floor. The hellmob are all remarkably resistant to being left in a box by the side of the road. They tend to climb out and follow me home again.
++ Which will be embarrassing in this case because it’s the latest in my attempts at a baby blanket. ONE OF THESE DAYS I’LL ACTUALLY FINISH ONE. Before the kid goes off to uni.#
# All right. Before the kid goes off to uni may be too much to ask. By the time its first baby is born perhaps.~
~ But I still won’t have seamed it up and woven the ends in.
† The hellmob prefer LA TRAVIATA. But they’re okay with Beethoven’s symphonies.
†† And doubtless I was a dog in a previous life.^
^ I know Christianity doesn’t do reincarnation. WE DON’T KNOW EVERYTHING.
††† Long long long. One of the tangential horrors of the current presidential-election follies is that these bozos are my age.^ These scary creeps are my generation. Forty years ago my generation were going to SAVE THE WORLD, especially from the politicians—and the politicians’ policies—of our parents’ generation. Same old same old same old I DON’T NEED ANY ADDITIONAL REASONS TO BE UTTERLY DEPRESSED.
^ Ted Cruz is an infant.
‡ Also you are so unlike the self you used to be or thought you knew, blither blither quackety quack quack, and this current self is so exasperating and unseemly and difficult to manage^ that you, or anyway I, do find myself trying to ‘manage’ it/me like you might manage any other intractable problem. What frelling works? Avoidance? Confrontation? Drugs? Handcuffs and a soundproof dungeon? Chocolate? I haven’t found what works yet.
^ And liable to mood changes so supersonically fast, as you might say breakneck, you give yourself whiplash.+
+ It’s not that there aren’t good minutes#. There are just so many more bad ones.
# Getting sworn in as an ornamental laic doohickey by my monks was a good minute. Actually it was several good minutes in a row. Even if they did occur at EIGHT FORTY FIVE FRELLING O’CLOCK IN THE SUPER-FRELLING MORNING.