I had what passes in my case for a terrific voice lesson.
AND THE REMOVAL BLOKES GOT IT ALL IN.
These two large dazzling items totally outshine the rest which is a good thing because it was very nearly a disaster of a day.
. . . Starting with not getting to bed early enough last night, partly because I really needed to sing and one song leads to another. . . . Staggered out of bed this morning making hopeless croaking noises like an installation of rusty hinges* and started lubricating with caffeine. Took the poor hellterror for the fastest sprint she was capable of** and locked her up again with an extra kong to comfort her in our absence.***
I took hellhounds-of-the-touchy-digestion for a minimal get-it-over-with scamper around the churchyard. Darkness refused to comply with the purpose of this exercise. Arrrgh.
Hellhounds and I were on the road with twenty-five minutes to spare: five minutes to bolt up to Third House and ask Atlas to clear out drawers and move ill-placed piles of [book] boxes in anticipation of removal-men arrival this afternoon and twenty minutes for hurtling at the far end before my lesson.
Atlas wasn’t there.
I could feel my throat closing.
Well, nothing I could do about it; I couldn’t even ask Peter if he knew anything, since, in the first place, he wouldn’t, because he’s been in Gloucestershire all weekend, and in the second place because he was on a train somewhere and I guarantee his phone had no signal, because that’s the way it goes.
So we thundered on to our next scheduled activity.
Frelling Mauncester was backed up from halfway up the hill into town. Stop go (but not very far) stop go stop go stop go stop go stopgostopgostop. Chiefly stop. It was like this all the way through town.
I could feel my throat closing harder.
We arrived at Nadia’s with THREE MINUTES to spare. I took hellhounds for a three minute scuttle and . . . Darkness continued to fail to comply. ARRRGH.
I was pretty nearly barking by the time I burst through Nadia’s door. . . She did make me do some breathing and loosening up exercises before I sang anything, but my throat said, Ooooh! We’re at Nadia’s! We like it here! —And promptly warmed up a dream.†
WE GOT THROUGH THREE SONGS. THREE. IT’S A RECORD. We usually bog down on the first one because I’m doing so many things wrong, not that Nadia would put it that way, but I would. We may occasionally galumph through bits of more than one—indeed even three—but only because I have a specific technical question†† or they’re folk songs I’m singing at home and want a little general input—or scraping back from the brink. But THREE REAL SONGS? It doesn’t happen. And furthermore the third—Vedrai carino from Don Giovanni—I’d only brought because I wanted to go over the frelling Italian before I started really working on it. We’d had a stab††† at it a while ago and it got set aside, but it’s been on my mind and since I now more or less suddenly have more voice it’s one of the ones I snatched back from oblivion.
Oh, go on, let’s just sing it, said Nadia. So I did. Eeeeep. And she made one or two painless comments and told me to go home and work on it.
Then Un moto de gioja and we spent some time on that one. Here’s an example of why I adore Nadia. There’s a place in the middle of Un moto where you hold a note for a very long time and then come off it again with a wordless twiddle before you start the next verse. I hadn’t even registered that you’re supposed to sing the twiddle—when I started work on this song Nadia had told me to hold the note only as long as was comfortable, but to keep time and come in correctly on the new ‘un moto’. Then I ACCIDENTALLY heard Danielle de Niese singing it and she sings the twiddle. Oh. It ties the two halves together better, the twiddle. I can’t sing it up to proper twiddle speed at the end of a long note—which is the part I can do—and as I hurl myself into the next verse. So I sing it at half speed. Nadia said gravely, if you were preparing this for public performance I think I would take issue with your singing it so slowly, but for your purposes at present it works very well. —She takes you seriously. Even when you’re screwing up Do Re Mi or tackling something like someone with a flint axe trying to produce a knock-off of the Sphinx.
Finally we assailed the nightclub proprietress. This is such a fabulous song. There are no fully satisfactory performances of it on YouTube—that I can find anyway—but here’s the poem: http://wonderingminstrels.blogspot.co.uk/2006/05/song-of-nightclub-proprietress-john.html ‡
It needs Lotte Lenya—who may have died before Dring composed it, in which case I excuse her for having failed to record it—or someone else who can put over age and despair. I don’t say you have to be old (despair optional) because in fairness I would then have to give up singing Voi che sapete, say, which is sung by a teenage boy, or Vedrai carino, which is sung by a bouncy village maiden (to her thick plank of a fiancé). But you have to put old and hagged over. I have a chance of this, with lived experience on my side. But the thing that is Very Exciting is that I can hear me beginning to sound like a mezzo: not just the range‡‡ but the resonance. And this is a very resonant song.
. . . I then took hellhounds for another hustle and FINALLY. A CERTAIN PARTY EXCRETED. We then belted back to Third House and arrived with three minutes to spare . . . and the removal blokes were already there. NEVER MIND. I WASN’T LATE. I let them in, pointed out all the Large Objects that had to go, apologised for lack of pre-clearance . . . and bolted back to the cottage to feed hellcritters‡‡‡ and take the hellterror for another mini-hurtle while hellhounds contemplated their bowls with disfavour. I was on my way out the door to flee back to Third House when the phone rang and it was Removal Men saying they were ready. . . .
I looked at their lorry before they shut the gate and my heart plummeted. There was no way they were going to get that lot in. I had the hellhounds with me again—no one had got any kind of a real hurtle thus far today—and we took off across some countryside§ behind the storage warehouse while Valiant Removal Men wrestled with the standard three dimensions of the space-time continuum and when we returned . . .
THEY HAD GOT IT ALL IN.§§
Oh, and did I mention that tonight was the first night of the Alpha course—?
* * *
* On this day that the Turner Prize is announced, this seems like a perfectly valid idea
** All right, the fastest sprint I was capable of
*** I’m sure, if asked, she would prefer the kong
† Please remember, when I say silly things like this that IT’S ALL RELATIVE. I have made a giant leap forward in the last few weeks but it’s still an 11-hand Shetland pony qualifying for prelim at the county show against the odds, not the branded warmblood insured for a gazillion pounds qualifying for the Olympics, okay?
†† Huh, whuh, um, bleaugh?
††† Way too vivid a metaphor, stab. Or maybe I’m just hallucinating KES.
‡ Baby ’pollies is not a mystery: they’re little bottles of a kind of mineral water popular at the time.
‡‡ I’m still putting in petitions to get my high C back. Lots of mezzos have high Cs.
‡‡‡ ‘Feed’ used loosely, which is to say the hellterror eats and the hellhounds do not.
§ And I managed to cut myself on some barbed wire. Frell. There was a normal gate to get in, and then at the other end one of those horrible temporary gate things that anyone who has spent any time wandering over English agricultural landscape will know to their detriment: several strands of barbed wire stretched between two light posts and held apart horizontally by being nailed to a series of short loose lathes. This contraption is usually held at either end by a loop at ground level where you stick the bottom of your post and then at the top by another loop which you have to shove it under, around the post of the real fence it’s being attached to. These things are a menace anyway, and if you lose your hold they collapse on the ground in a grisly tangle of barbed wire. But in this case . . . the frelling loops were made of barbed wire. WHY? Anyone trying either to open or close the evil thing is going to have to handle the loops. I managed to nick a finger and it bled and bled and bled and bled and bled and bled and bled and bled and bled and it was very boring and there are probably a whole series of predators out there tonight hopefully following my blood spoor. Sorry guys.
§§ Of course I still have ninety-six million books to do something with—I don’t mean Peter’s and my backlist, that’s already in its own storage unit—and a few odds and ends. Maybe a few more than a few.
It was not going to be a good day. I didn’t get enough sleep and have been behaving like it. I managed to catch the edge of the loaded breakfast kong on the edge of Pav’s crate, thus spraying the cottage kitchen with soggy kibble and wet tinned rabbit mince. And then, bolting into the mews for an urgent pee, having been out hurtling and watching hellcritters pee* I unhooked my belt buckle** and with a sudden, sleep-deprived jerk . . . threw it in the loo. Inadvertently. Of course. At least it was Monday morning and right after Peter’s cleaning person had been here: it was a shining clean loo.***
I’ve also had a bad couple of days with the ratblasted ME and the hellhounds are only eating on alternate Thursdays when the moon is full. When the moon is full, the proper sacrifices have been made, their paths have not been crossed by any black cats, hedgehogs, rabid snails or mad gypsy fortunetellers prone to throwing the wrong babies into the fire†, and they have not been put off by the unseemly delight of a hellterror disembowelling a kong.
But Nadia makes everything better.†† I won’t say I had the most brilliant voice lesson I have ever had today—I’m still too post-ME floppy—but I’m having lots more fun, now I have something more nearly resembling a voice to play with.
This is like being a real [music] student
Good golly, miss molly!! And gorblimey *@#&$(%&^ (drat is about all I really fill that in with, but asterisks look more menacing), YOU ARE A REAL STUDENT and have been for a VERY LONG TIME!!!!!
Feh. I forgot you music teachers would be all over me for that remark. It is difficult to take yourself seriously when you have no visible talent at something that there are Joyce DiDonatos out there doing at stratospheric professional level. You can tell yourself you’re doing it because you enjoy it till you’re blue-with-spots in the face and that joy is important and fabulousness is not the only measure . . . but it’s still difficult.
I’m so glad you’ve been having and noticing progress with your voice! And I’m so glad everytime I read something about Nadia’s wonderful talent and helpfulness in getting you to find and use your voice.
A friend recently sent me an article from the NEW YORKER about Joyce DiDonato and I was completely riveted by descriptions both of her teacher and herself giving master classes: so much of what is quoted is exactly what Nadia says. Speaking of a teacher taking her students seriously, whether they’re ever going to do more than torture their dogs with their singing or not. But this is clearly why I am making progress. I have a good teacher. ::Beams::
But, goodness gracious, as Blondviolinist and I have said many times, you are a perfectly wonderful student. If you lived in the States (or I in England) maybe I would badger you into wanting viola lessons . . .
Snork. As a result of this frelling blog I now have several friends who play stringed instruments, and it’s like Oisin and his organ: if I were thirteen and talented I’d be taking organ lessons—and lessons on something with strings, probably either a violin or viola. I like both the size and the tone. The bigger stuff and the stuff you mostly strum or pluck doesn’t appeal to me as much††† although I have the standard romantic crush on harps.
go on You Tube and find a couple of PROFESSIONALS I like singing it and PAY ATTENTION.
And then tell us which ones so we can hear what you’re aiming for!
It came down to a choice between DiDonato and Cecilia Bartoli—and to my own surprise Bartoli wins by a seven-league-boot stride.
Voi che sapete is such a cliché and every mezzo voice student in the known universe has to sing it—I assume because it’s not disastrously difficult technically and because the story line is fairly straightforward. Even though it’s a trouser role, still, teenage [person] in love with every other teenage [person, possibly but not necessarily exclusively of the opposite gender] is a pretty obvious emotional arc that most of us can empathise with. You don’t have to be a frelling philosopher to get into Cherubino.
But the very straightforwardness of it I think is maybe a slight trap for the unwary. Or the ungifted or the clueless—but that shouldn’t include the professionals. And it’s interesting, listening to rafts of professionals. I didn’t hear a bad one, but I heard a lot that didn’t really have the fire in the belly that I would expect a teenage boy singing about love to have. DiDonato is almost too lyrical for me: too put together. The passion is all planed and shiny smooth. Bartoli, who in other repertoire sometimes eats too much scenery for my listening pleasure, gets Voi che sapete dead right for what I’m trying for—HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA—there’s fire in her/his belly and I’m not going to call it roughness, but as if the passion is going to break out occasionally, as she sings her beautiful accurate frelling professional line.
I suppose it’s also that I’m stuck with using what I’ve got: and there are a lot of imperfect voices out there that can put stuff over. I want to put it over. I need role models that suggest a way to do this. Bartoli gives me a little crack of light in the wall of my own . . . erm . . . limited competence.
(And I want to watch those viola lessons! ) . . . Maybe I could disguise myself as a really large stack of sheet music. Or a double bass.
:: falls down laughing :: Listen, you two, you’ve been hectoring me, in your kindly, well meant ways, for a long time now. Come to England, and we’ll meet on a blasted heath somewhere and do something . . . blogworthy‡‡‡.
Indeed, isn’t the Facing Down of Personal Demons exhausting? Reading this post was funny for me, because in my case I sing just fine (not great, by any stretch, but fine), but am lately facing similar issues – of fear about being heard, revealed, about speaking out – but mine are in re: writing. Sigh.
I so hear you. Nadia says over and over and over and over that singing is very revealing, that you have to get used to this. I am, I guess, getting used to it, which is why I’m finally beginning to make a, you know, noise.
Writing is also very, very revealing. But it’s revealing north by northwest: as I’ve said probably with even greater frequency than Nadia reminds her students that singing is revealing, my readers know a lot about me: they just don’t know what they know, because there’s no A equals B about it. Even the blog is consciously and emphatically shaped. But this is a rant for another night. . . .
* * *
* . . . every five feet because that’s the way critters are. I was hoping hellhounds were unusually bad because they’re entire boys, but Pav, an entire girl, is nearly as bad. Siiiiiiigh. I’m an if-it-ain’t-broke-don’t-fix-it person and I don’t whack my critters’ bits out without a reason but going for a walk/hurtle without stopping every five feet for a pee sounds pretty attractive—none of my spayed girls were ever this obsessive.
But watching some critter take yet ANOTHER pee I often think of Calvin having to get up in the night after Hobbes has been evilly whispering sweet nothings in his ear about running water. . . .
** It’s made to come apart in two pieces, and the open-and-close half to detach from the leather strap
*** I do not have a cleaning person, and the loo at the cottage is never what you would want to call shining clean.
† Il Trovatore, okay? I’ve been eyeing her aria again in my mezzo book.
†† As the mother of two small children, she would find this remark amusing.
††† Which is pretty funny, since up to two or three years ago I never really engaged with strings. And then I had a Transformative Experience listening to one of those solo violin Bach things driving somewhere in Wolfgang and was so ravished I actually had to pull over to the side of the road and listen. In hindsight I think this was a kind of practise version for the real Road to Damascus doohickey a year ago September—the Bach conversion was also pretty overwhelming and changed me. Although one of the less usefully wonderful side effects was that pretty much everything I had or have composed or had a stab at composing since then has looked like trash.^ Sigh. I’m having another go at setting a couple of lines from a favourite psalm. . . . Stay, erm, tuned.
^ This is not wholly Bach’s fault. But sitting by the side of the road consciously, attentively listening to genius seems to be where it started.
‡ And probably embarrassing.
I don’t know why I’m quite this tired. It can’t still be the champagne?* It’s probably the Facing Down of Personal Demons which I do find quite extraordinarily tiring. Monday voice lesson but I had a couple of shocks to the system this last week of the sort that don’t get on the blog which made my voice shut up shop and go into hiding . . . it’s been frustrating for the last two and a half years not to have any voice, but I don’t know but what it’s even more frustrating to have uncovered and then unshackled a little of a hitherto-unsuspected voice-like capacity and have it go away**.
I went in to Nadia today saying heeeelp meeeeeeeee . . . and she did. But persuading your voice that it’s safe to come out means confronting whatever made it run away—and I do fear REALLY WELL. Fear is a great closer-down. Drat it. Your body is your instrument, why didn’t I stick to the piano?*** Anyway I came away this afternoon after my lesson relatively well re-hooked-up and re-expanded into the necessary resonant spaces and the only reason I’m grousing on about this is that I have a thrilling new assignment!!!! Regular readers may remember that Nadia forbid me to watch/listen to You Tube for anything I’m working on, because I might unconsciously pick up the way someone else sings it. She knows that I listen a few times when I have just started something new—especially if it isn’t something I already know well from listening to other people singing it—but as soon as I’ve more or less got the tune down and am willing to risk relying on my piano playing [sic] I stop.
I have obediently followed these orders but I have also thought it was pretty funny since I’m not capable of trying to imitate someone’s delivery—just squeezing the notes out of this tight throat and making a little squeaking noise has been my limit. Till recently. Sort of. In the first place, my ‘voice’ is still relative to no voice, not to Janet Baker or Joyce DiDonato. In the second place, I’ve told you about the moving from the 14-hand pony to the 15.3-hand horse and having NO CONTROL. At my best I can just about make a real noise. Doing something with it—you know, that ominous word dynamics—is alligator wrestling. I was going to say it was like teaching the hellterror long down or to sit still while raising her forefeet one after the other to have her harness put on . . . but in fact she’s a lot better at both these things† than I am about wrangling my voice into anything more complicated than trying to stay on pitch. I’m not always successful even that far. But . . . it’s coming. Something is coming.
There is progress being made . . . even during weeks like this one.†† I’m singing Voi Che Sapete all the way through. I’m only semi-mangling the Italian.††† I’m mostly hitting the (right) notes. And Nadia said that this week, give myself a couple of days for bedding myself back in, so to speak, after the deviations of last week, and then go on You Tube and find a couple of PROFESSIONALS I like singing it and PAY ATTENTION.‡
YAAAAAAAAY. This is like being a real student, where you get to study the experts in your field of endeavour.
* * *
* Even if it were, it was still worth it. But I’m just as glad we don’t do that every night. I wonder sometimes, reading about the excesses of the courts of certain monarchs and similar, how did they stand it? I don’t want to be the kind of peon who has to sleep with her chickens to stay warm, has chilblains nine months of the year and is always hungry . . . but I’ll rather be a peon with a duvet and the chickens in another room than one of the Sun King’s or Elizabeth I’s^ courtiers. All those banquets. All that chatting. Dunno what life at Buckingham Palace is like now, but I bet there still aren’t enough green veg.
^ Although she was a famously bad eater, and didn’t drink alcohol because she didn’t want anyone getting the best of her while she was temporarily off her face. Poor woman. There’s always this extraordinary list of her physical ailments and semi-respectful speculation about what was really wrong with her. How about STRESS??
** Like a hellhound going off his food. Again. Snarl.
*** And yes I do know that you do have to communicate something dangerously personal to be effective on any musical instrument^ . . . but it’s WORSE when the body of the instrument is you.
^ Indeed I had exactly the same problem on the piano
† I had one of those STUPID STUPID HOW MANY PUPPIES HAVE YOU HAD IN YOUR LIFE?? moments when I realised that consistently asking Pav for her left foot first made a tremendous difference. I’ve known she was left-handed/pawed for MONTHS.
†† I am hoping that the exhaustion factor of Making a Real Noise when I sing will wear off. I think it’s more Personal Demons again than literal muscular strength or physical stamina. YAAAAAAAAH THEY CAN HEAR ME NOOOOOOOOOO. Do people who were born with glorious resonant open voices that people gladly listen to still have to go through this nonsense? Probably. It’s probably just the aural version of keeping your great novel in a drawer/computer file because you can’t bring yourself to send it to a publisher/bodge it up on amazon.
††† I’ve more or less stopped singing l’alma avvampire instead of avvampar, for example.
‡ Especially to the Italian (ahem), and to what she referred to as the ‘late Baroque tidiness’ of the rhythm, which any of you Mozart fans out there will comprehend at once. Ah, but can you sing it?^
^ No, neither can I.
I’m not sure I can wrest an entire blog entry out of that title, although I can’t resist using it.* It’s probably a bad idea anyway partly because it risks just sounding like bragging, although anyone who has been through the voice-lesson mill knows that the opportunities for true bragging are vanishingly minimal: it’s all, hey, that was less bad than usual. Er. Maybe. I think. As someone who also plays the piano with stunning awfulness there is a serious extra frisson of horror to the it’s your BODY aspect, especially, I suspect, for any of us who struggle with self-worth issues.** At least if you manage to make a nice noise—purely by accident of course—out of a piano or a ukulele or a crumhorn, you can blame the piano (or the ukulele or the crumhorn). If you’re your instrument you have nowhere to hide and nothing to blame.
Which is something Nadia has been saying to me for two and a half years. Aside from the fact that I’m pretty much afraid of everything*** I don’t really know why making any noise is so threatening—why am I taking voice lessons if I don’t want to make a noise—but it’s like every time the personal door opens a little I slam it shut again.
I seem to have wedged it open this time. I hope. One of the disconcerting things is that a lot of what I’m finally doing right enough to be producing a noise is as instinctive, involuntary and generally non-intellectual as not doing it ever used to be. It’s not that I’ve bypassed the ‘breathe from the abdomen/support the breath/lift the top end/get your frelling tongue out of the way’ stage, but when I was mired in it, knowing intellectually that I needed to support the breath and get my frelling tongue out of the way, it was like, yeah? So? When I kept having to stop and readjust—when I spent weeks at a time not really being able to practise at all because I tightened up so fast that my jaws and throat would ache after only a comparatively few minutes—there was certainly no music happening even if I did manage to learn a few tunes. And then there were those wha’? moments, like the day my personal door-shutter fell asleep on the job and I had a lesson when I sang Dido’s Lament like I meant it—or any late night at home, because it occurs to me I think it only happens late at night, when my high B emerges from wherever and sticks around just long enough for me to check on the piano that that’s what it is.†
But, you know, I’m singing. I was so anxious to demonstrate this to Nadia today that of course I made a mess of both Voi che sapete and Un moto di gioja . . . but I got enough right—singing not being like bell ringing—that she could hear I was getting somewhere.
* * *
* Besides I can probably do something with FOOTNOTES.^
^ For example, I have a long-downing hellterror at my feet again. Which means I’m writing this one choppy half-attentive syllable at a time (again). It’s beginning to worry her that I seem to mean this long-down nonsense. First time she gave up relatively soon and went to sleep. But over the days resistance is rising. Yep. Been here, done that, wore out the t shirt in a previous generation. Holly, of the pure-whippet generation, spent a lot of time on long down. It was never really an issue with the hellhounds: they’ve always been good oh-whatever sleepers. Sighthound obstinacy manifests in other ways in the hellhounds. Eating, for example. Or not. The hellterror is not a natural long-downer but she is a mighty trencherwoman.
It’s funny, though, because she is now usually allowed to mill around my feet and hope for fragments of chicken to rain from the sky while I’m putting hellcritter meals together. Often she’s the only one milling, when the hellhounds have better things to do+ than eat, but if all three of them are underfoot she’s amazingly polite for something that is basically all stomach with teeth at one end.
. . . I am now eating lamb chops. Hellterror would like to suggest that she would lie down really well in my lap. Uh huh. And the Pope is not Catholic.
+ ie SLEEP. With their backs to the kitchen. Just in case I had any illusory hopes.
** Last night at St Margaret’s the topic for discussion was around self-worth: what gives us our sense of identity, how do we define our worth? Another way of putting this is, how do we try to duck out of accepting God’s unconditional love? Unworthiness as an avoidance technique. Discuss^.
^ And speaking of St Margaret’s, you have heard me before moaning about the awful ‘modern Christian music’ schlock that we sing at the evening service and how frelling HARD it is to sing because it’s in a funny range—Nadia says it’s mostly designed not to frighten non-singers—and I keep swapping back and forth between chest voice an octave down and head voice an octave up because neither sits comfortably. I’m pretty much resigned to not making a noise—and if you’re going to sing, whatever your personal demons are up to, you want to make a noise—and a few weeks back I pretty well gave up, and shifted over to bellowing in chest voice. Last night, partly because I’d had a good week for singing+, and partly because I was standing next to Aloysius who has a nice strong tenor and was singing harmony I shifted back up into soprano . . . and made a noise.
+ Note that it’s been a sodding ratbag blister of a week in a lot of ways, and SINGING# has been a very welcome bright spot.
# and Street Pastoring
*** Yup. Sunshine got that one from me. Kes is, of course, out of the same dark dusty cupboard.
† Nadia got me up to an A#/Bb today—and I was shutting down out of eeeeep-ness rather than that’s clearly as far as my voice is going to go. I want my high C back. Which would mean a reliable A#, I think, which is a perfectly respectable mezzo range, and in the sort of community choir I’m ever likely to infest, probably first soprano.
Mozart. I need Mozart*.
Nina, Ignatius and I went to a concert tonight. I was looking forward to it, but I was looking forward to it a trifle sulkily because the concert I really wanted to go to was last week, and I can’t now remember if it was the ME, which has been bad lately, or another outbreak of hellhound interiors, but I do remember I didn’t go. Tonight’s was more of a wild card: one of these singer-songwriter bozos with the forty-seven guitars and the flugelhorn.
He sounds like a great guy to have a beer down t’pub with: his inter-song patter is very jolly. The music . . . unh. Well. He belongs to the great tradition of Maudlin Folk and I was ready to run outdoors and find a river to throw myself in during the interval . . . except there was no interval.** By the end I was catatonic and incapable of throwing myself anywhere. Walking back to the car was challenging enough.
Meanwhile I’d had another disconcertingly good voice lesson earlier today.*** I’ve had several weeks in a row of ravening bulltiddly out here in the life space that should be shutting me down—it always used to—but my voice has struck for freedom or something.† NEVER MIND THAT THE MARTIANS/BORG/BODY SNATCHERS/THING/SCUM OF THE UNIVERSE LANDS TOMORROW. LET’S SING.
I did wait till I’d closed the car door and Ignatius and Nina had driven away tonight before I started on Un moto di gioja.††
* * *
* Although let me say that if this blog sounds bittier and more distracted even than usual it may have something to do with attempting to train the hellterror in Long Down while I’m writing (?) it.^ She knows ‘lie down’^^ perfectly well^^^ as part of the whole sit-stand-down-sit-paw-otherpaw-down-stand-down-sit-paw-stand-otherpaw# itinerary##, but that involves food which keeps her focussed. My attempts to teach her go lie down, which, with sit, tend to be my bottom line about life with dogs, has met thus far with utter failure.###
^ No, that’s lie down.
^^ No, that does not include chewing on the towel I have put on the floor next to my chair as a bed-facsimile.+
+ Or the frelling table leg
^^^ No, that does not include chasing your tail even within the confines of said towel.
# We’ve begun rolling over, but we haven’t got past the hellgoddess-helpless-with-laughter stage and since that brings on all the hellterror sense of humour, knowing she’s nailed her audience, we’re not at the moment getting too far.
## Yes, I will allow sitting—quietly—within the confines of the towel—but the look of heartbroken yearning for freedom doesn’t actually work all that well on a face involving a large Roman nose and tiny beady evil eyes.
### Dogs are so different. I think all my previous puppies, once they’ve resigned themselves to having to do things like sit and lie down at all (mostly) on command have been happy to accept their usual bed, crate or otherwise, as the place they Go to Lie Down. Pav settles down (relatively) contentedly in her crate at the times of day/night she knows there’s no point arguing, but during the hours^ when she knows she should be OUT any interruption of the outness is looked upon with extreme disfavour. So we’re trying a different approach.
The goal is so that we can all hang out in my office at the cottage together. I’m EXTREMELY BORED with working downstairs with the laptop—or occasionally the iPad—balanced on top of stacks of books, magazines and packets of critter treats on the kitchen counter.^^ But Pav has to be able to lie down and stay lying down.
^ ‘Hours’ is another of those mutable terms, mostly relating to whether I’m doing anything that can be stretched to include a frelling puppy underfrellingfoot. Frelling puppy often has an opinion about this too.+
+ So do hellhounds: Noooooooooo.
^^ Critter treats are a growth market. Amazing variety of critter treats out there. We’ve tried just about every cereal-free available.+ Hellhounds don’t like any of them and hellterror likes all of them.
+ The hellterror is nearly cereal-free and will be as soon as I finish feeding her some polluted kibble that I bought in error but with a walking roly-poly dustbin about the place couldn’t be bothered to send back. Cereals aren’t brilliant for dogs anyway, even dogs that aren’t allergic to them, and you can’t have accidents with something that isn’t there.
** And it’s really too cold for throwing yourself in rivers.
*** Despite the relentless ignominy of following Nadia’s star baritone which is the usual order of events. I positively like getting there early enough to hear him sing, but when it’s my turn I always have to climb over that little hump of ‘no, no, never mind, I’ll just sit here and keep knitting.’
† It’s also to do with that increasingly weird sense, which I’ve mentioned here before, of it being something like another critter I have to keep fed and hurtled and if I don’t it pines and looks at me sadly.^
^ Within the menagerie concept it and Pav make an interesting contrast. Pav doesn’t do mournful and despondent worth a dead scorpion, but she is very beautiful. My voice, poor stunted unbeautiful thing, does forlorn to make Little Nell look like a stand-up comedian. Although they both tend to hit the ends of their leads when out hurtling.
It’s kind of interesting having enough voice to hit the end of its lead-facsimile. But the rules change when you have something to work with. Hanging a bridle on the back of a chair is just . . . hanging some tack on a piece of furniture. If you put it on a horse however. . . .
I am, as we know, a control freak. This is part of why it’s taken poor Nadia two and a half years to get some relatively usable noise out of me. But I admit that the current uncharacteristic state of lack of control is kind of fun.
†† Frell the neighbours.