I promised Robin a guest blog on Eva Ibbotson MONTHS ago. (It feels like all my blog posts should start with that sentence!)
The problem with this one (or at least the excuse du jour) was that it was a book review. Which meant, obviously, that I had to re-read the book. I’ve started this process three times now. The first two times, I didn’t have a firm deadline. So I read the book and fell in love with the writing all over again. And then I just HAD to re-read all her other books. And then I didn’t have time to write the blog!*
Third time’s the charm, right? *grins*
Magic Flutes is one of Eva Ibbotson’s five young adult romances, titled after Mozart’s opera of the same name. It tells the story of a most unlikely pair: Tessa, the Princess Theresa-Maria of Pfaffenstein, and Guy Farne, a foundling child abandoned on a wharf at Newcastle upon Tyne.
Tessa is in Vienna, dedicating her life to the glory of opera in the service of the International Opera Company. She works from dawn to midnight for the privilege of learning her trade as the assistant wardrobe mistress. Struggling under a mountain of inherited debt, she has given the order for her old home, Burg Pfaffenstein, to be sold.
Meanwhile, Guy has been sent by the British Government to assist Austria in seeking a loan from the League of Nations. But his visit also has a personal side. Ten years ago, he was cruelly rejected by the snobbish family of his first love, Nerine Hurlingham, for his lack of family and fortune. But now Guy is on the verge of realising all his dreams. For he has become immensely rich in the intervening years, and Nerine has been widowed by the war.
All Guy needs is the perfect setting for the proposal – Burg Pfaffenstein. There is to be a week-long house party at the castle to introduce his fiancée to the Austrian nobility. There will be a ball, a regatta, a banquet, and to crown it all, a performance of the opera at which he and Nerine first set eyes on each other.
And so Guy has secretly engaged the International Opera Company to perform Magic Flutes at Pfaffenstein.
I won’t tell you the rest of the story, because I’d hate to spoil the book for you. But I will say this. This is a beautiful, touching, inspiring book. It fills me with hope and belief and joy.
Go read it!
Next up: The Secret Countess
* I also had trouble because I decided that I loved them all so much that I wanted to review them all. And then I had trouble deciding which book to review first…
I HAVE JUST FRELLING ORDERED A FRELLING [YARN] SWIFT AND A FRELLING FRELLING NOSTEPINNE. Two days ago I didn’t know what a nostepinne was. I think I’ve seen the word somewhere and assumed I was too young/old and that ignorance might not be bliss but was probably better for the blood pressure and the too easily over-stimulated fantasy-writer’s imagination.* And then I brought up the yarn bowl question on Twitter the other night and someone else started talking about her nostepinne and I’m like whoa, are you sure you want to discuss this in public? **
Diane in MN
Does anyone out there have any useful guidelines for when you cut your losses and frog again and when you soldier on
A glance around my house would reveal that I can tolerate a lot of imperfection in some areas, but I HATE visible mistakes in my knitting and will rip (or tink, if I catch any soon enough) back to get rid of them. More than once, if necessary and if the yarn will take it, if I like the project.
I don’t think I’m a perfectionist about anything any more***. Spending a lot of time and effort at something you’re essentially pretty awful at—let’s say bell ringing—will do that to a person.† But I agree about actual errors. Part One of this particular project has only one really gruesome error which I think would disappear when I got to the seaming-up stage, supposing I got that far—and I left it in because I had NO idea what I had done and therefore no idea how to undo it. But especially on something that is, for me, relatively small-gauge, which is to say 4 mm needles [US size 6], and a non-stretchy yarn, which is this cotton-bamboo stuff I’ve made several baby bibs in and I like it but it’s not very forgiving, the—ahem!—slight variability of my stitch-making starts to show up over time and distance. I ripped out my first couple of bibs once each, but they ended up not too embarrassing.†† This New Secret Project is bigger and . . . well. So I’ve got to the end of Part One and put the wretched thing on a stitch holder—it’s getting so that every time I order yarn††† I automatically order another pair or packet of stitch holders‡—rolled it up and put it aside. I’ll think about it later.
Which leaves me with only ::urglemmph:: other unfinished projects and therefore of course I need to start something NEW!!!!
Which is going to be Manos del Doohickey—I’ve left the tag back at the cottage‡‡—and it’s mostly silk with some wool so it’s NOT VERY STRETCHY again, uh-oh‡‡‡, but I want to make myself a LARGE SQUARE (SOMEWHAT) WOOLLY SCARF. Because I’m tired of how difficult it is to find Large Square Wool Scarves. And the reason this is the particular New Project that leaped to mind—despite the small-gauge-unstretchy thing—is because it will be ACRES AND ACRES OF MINDLESS GARTER STITCH YAAAAAAAAAY. I’m always amused at these high-falutin’ knitters on Ravelry going on about how this or that pattern is too boring because there’s too much garter/stockinette/ribbing. I LOVE GARTER/STOCKINETTE/RIBBING. I tend to knit to calm down. I don’t want to have to think! I don’t want to have to memorize a frelling pattern! I don’t want to figure out why my sleeve-shaping decreases look like tiny stairs rather than a nice smooth line like in the frelling photos! I just want to keep looping the yarn around the needles!!!
But first I need to wind these wretched hanks into something I can use. . . .
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* I don’t want to talk to you no more, you empty headed animal food trough wiper. I nostepinne in your general direction. Your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries.
Not all of Monty Python is totally deathless and mesmerising, in my cranky^ opinion, but I would have trampled a few grandmothers to have written that particular piece of dialogue. Although some of my attitude problem may be due to having a few issues with Monty Python. For some reason. I mean, it could have been Sir Rupert. For example.
Minstrel: [singing] Brave Sir Robin ran away…
Sir Robin: *No!*
Minstrel: [singing] bravely ran away away…
Sir Robin: *I didn’t!*
Minstrel: [singing] When danger reared its ugly head, he bravely turned his tail and fled.
Sir Robin: *I never did!*
Minstrel: [singing] Yes, brave Sir Robin turned about, and valiantly, he chickened out.
Sir Robin: *Oh, you liars!*
Minstrel: [singing] Bravely taking to his feet, he beat a very brave retreat. A brave retreat by brave Sir Robin.
^ And easily grossed out. Just by the way.
*** Although I still want my socks to match what I’m wearing, even if nobody but me is going to see them. Or nobody but me, Peter and the hellcritters none of whom care. I care.
† Circumstances are not helpful. Last Wednesday due to the very mixed assortment of ringers who turned up for practise I rang ONCE. ONCE. I got a lot of knitting done. Speaking of knitting. On Sunday afternoon there were eight of us. Which meant we all had to ring all of the time. Which since most of us were the weak end was a trifle challenging for the ringing master and I was somewhat drily amused to note that I was being relied on to hold it together in a way that I would not have been if he’d had any choice. You know I would get to holding-it-together better sooner if I got more practise time in. Sigh.
†† And I finally asked one of the recipients if the thing, you know, WORKED? Because babies keep getting born, in the alarmingly incessant way of babies, and bibs are something I can, apparently, do. Yes, he said. It’s very chewable, and it goes through the washing machine fine.
††† Not that this would be often or anything
‡ And another frelling tape measure. What do I DO with tape measures?!? Is there a Tape Measure Planet like there is an Odd Sock Planet?
‡‡ Oh please. What is Google, chopped liver?
‡‡‡ McKinley, not that we expect you to be relentlessly intelligent or anything, but the two most outstanding unfinished projects^—which is to say well enough started to count as ‘unfinished’, which are First Cardi and First Pullover, are NICE REASONABLY LARGE GAUGE STRETCHY FORGIVING WOOL, you meatloaf, why don’t you go FINISH ONE OF THEM?^^
^ Plus legwarmers. I think I’m on my fifth pair. You know this weather may be my fault. It’s the middle of May, WE MAY HAVE AN OVERNIGHT FROST LATER THIS WEEK+, and I’m knitting legwarmers.
+ And I am not going to dig up my petunias/begonias/gladiolas/dahlias/osteospermums, so I hope they FRELLING COPE. Maybe I could lay some legwarmers over them.
^^ And the current not-given-up-on-yet Secret Project is also mostly wool.
Since Peter never writes me GUEST POSTS any more I decided to steal a link to some of the new things happening over on his shiny new website.
” . . . I opened a file titled “Preface” and found something I’d written when it was decided that some edition of the first volume of our Elemental Spirits series, Water, ought to have a preface. I don’t remember the ins and outs of it, nor why it isn’t in the edition on my bookshelf,* but we seem to have cannibalised our efforts and come up with a composite. You will find the remains of mine, In the Mermaid Tavern: The Sea Witch, in the Short Stories section. . .”
There now. More free fiction. And KES tomorrow night.
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* Because it took 1,000,000 years for your wife to write two short stories for FIRE and Putnams decided to reissue WATER in a matching edition^ and to make it a little more interesting they asked us to write a little ‘new material’. They didn’t want a whole new story or stories–which, with my track record, is just as well^^–just a sort of teasery type of thing. Like a preface. Well, we couldn’t write a preface–the nearest we’ve ever been able to come to collaborating is this alternating short stories business^^^–so we did a very condensed sort of alternating-stories thing. I don’t remember any more and I can’t find our copies of the second edition of WATER which are SOMEWHERE in Third House’s attic, but presumably THE SEA WITCH didn’t make the final cut, probably because I was having trouble not writing more novels and Peter had written about twelve short stories in frustration. Maybe he’ll find a few more in some other file.
^ The original hardback illustration had been done by Trina Schart Hyman. Siiiiiigh. She’d really liked the idea of the ELEMENTALS series, and had done roughs for all four. But the other three were too rough to use and she isn’t around any more to finish them. Sometimes my being hopeless hurts more than other times.
^^ With SUNSHINE, DRAGONHAVEN, CHALICE and THE FRELLING PEGASUS TRILOGY, all of which began life as ELEMENTALS short stories, we could have had FLOWERHAIR AND THE WATER GOBLIN+ and HETTHAR, GELJDRETH AND THE EYE OF NEWT and . . . no, no, no, let’s not go there.
+ May I just say that neither Kes nor I would put up with Dvorak’s version of the story
^^^ And an unfinished novel written in emails between an English boy and an American girl. Guess who let the side down there too. SIIIIIIIGH.
I am very short of sleep.
Last night as I was pulling myself together (later than planned, of course) to take myself and the domestic fauna back to the cottage* I noticed that Darkness was licking his lips a lot. This is not a good sign. But I hadn’t seen him swallow anything suspicious before I got there to take it AWAY from him and I wasn’t expecting trouble.
While I was ferrying paraphernalia from kitchen to front door, he threw up—extensively—all over the mat. GREAT. WONDERFUL. I’M SO GLAD I HAVE DOGS.**
I cleaned up, describing aloud all the other things I could be doing with my life if I didn’t have HELLCRITTERS. Then I let hellhounds out. They have a pee and then jump in Wolfgang. We have our final after-midnight hurtle at the cottage after I’ve hauled all the kit indoors again.
Last night Darkness headed for the courtyard gate . . . and kept going. It’s Bloody Silly o’clock in the morning, right? I can’t just yell at him under all Peter’s neighbours’ bedroom windows. So I sprinted after him, stage-whispering violently. He stopped, looked at me . . . and kept going.
I eventually got hold of him, dragged him reluctantly back to Wolfgang, let go . . . and the frelling mutt took off for the gate again. This time, when he let me catch him again, I didn’t let go. I hauled him back through the front door, fetched his and Chaos’ leads, and hooked him up.*** Then we all took off through the gate. We got to the main road . . .
Geysering ensued. I will spare you the graphic details.
I had, after cleaning up the first eruption indoors, given him his first dose of homeopathic Ars Alb, the classic dietary-indiscretion remedy. Darkness will have eaten the end of someone’s tossed-into-the-hedgerow sandwich† or equivalent, which ARRRRRRGH happens now and again. Depending on how severe the expulsions are, I will keep giving him Ars Alb till I can see him stop worrying. He must feel pretty grisly, but he’s also a clean dog and doesn’t like making messes.††
I was up very late, poking Ars Alb into Darkness. Who eventually relaxed. Whereupon we all went to bed.††† Finally.
This morning Darkness, predictably, had what I call colic, which is cacophonous internal rumblings, and which mean in effect that he’s not going to eat and nothing on this earth is going to make him eat. Aaaaaand if he doesn’t eat, by the end of the first day his coat will already be staring and his ribs sticking out and he won’t eat tomorrow either, and . . . Missing even one meal with these guys is an emergency because their digestion is so crazy.
I pulled out the homeopathic Lycopodium. And started poking that into him, waiting to hear the roaring begin to subside. Which it did, eventually. Whereupon he ate lunch—and dinner—and his ribs are rather more prominent than they should be as a result of missing (or losing, depending on how you want to look at it) two meals, probably only I the paranoid and accountable hellgoddess would notice, and he’s bright and shiny-eyed and, I hope, fine.
Homeopathy works. I don’t proselytise for it because I haven’t figured out a good way to do so, a way that I’m happy with. Although most of my friends could tell you I’m a bit of a bore on the subject, and I’m always encouraging people to buy a homeopathic first-aid kit and learn to use it, homeopathy is a very big, complicated subject, and it starts getting big and complicated fast right after ‘Arnica for bruises’. It’s a fascinating study but it can take over your life, and unless you’re very lucky you will have to do it mostly on your own—even if you go to school (I did), even if you keep going to seminars (I still do, although not many lately), still, when you’re away from specific homeopathy-related gatherings, you’re probably winging it the best you can. If you and your friends, family and critters are lucky in your good health, and you only ever have to deal with bruises and strains and the occasional head cold, you’ll have the slack to work out what pattern of remedies works for which person—because homeopathy is all about choosing an individual remedy for an individual person‡, and six people with eczema or hay fever or flu will need six, or twelve, or eighteen different remedies. In a society accustomed to ‘take two aspirin and call me in the morning’ the individual thing makes it look like it doesn’t work. It does work. But finding and prescribing the right remedy at the right time . . . is very often an epic ratbag.
Homeopathy isn’t for everyone. But it is worthy of respect. From everyone.
I have been f*cked over by the medical establishment so many times and in so many ways I admit I’m not entirely sane on the subject. And therefore my hair-trigger about morons taking pot shots at homeopathy is even hairier than my tendency to go nuclear about things generally. I stay alive by avoiding as much of the controversy as I can. ‡‡ But I do belong to a homeopathic mailing list ‡‡‡ and I am aware of the so-called science-based skeptics waving their jousting sticks at us.
So here’s a link to a letter a scientifically-trained homeopath wrote in response to . . . one of those morons. He knows how to argue. He also knows how to call a moron a moron.
* * *
* Which is like moving house . . . every night.
** It is a ratbag when you have promised God to moderate your language at least somewhat AND IT’S BLOODY SILLY O’CLOCK IN THE MORNING SO YOU CAN’T EVEN SHOUT.
*** Pavlova wasn’t happy either. This is not how late nights are supposed to be organised. She’s a member of the team! And they’re leaving her behind!^ Woe! Woe!
^ And the hellgoddess doesn’t even seem disposed to leave a little food to comfort the exile!
† If I ever catch anyone doing this, I will Kill. Them. It also attracts rats, you know? How many ways can you be stupid?
†† He’d like making them even less if he had to clean them up.
††† This morning they couldn’t WAAAAIT to get out of their crate, and I thought oh, pond scum and warthogs, I stopped the Ars Alb too soon after all and there are horrors in that crate. But there weren’t. But the wind was in the north-west, which makes the eaves yodel like banshees, and apparently up off the end of what human ears can hear the hellhounds are being traumatised by goblin bards. So they spent what remained of this morning (and some of the early afternoon) pressed against the dog-gate by the front door and waiting for the world to end.
‡ Or critter. But it’s illegal in the UK to treat any animal but those that belong to you unless you’re a licensed vet.
‡‡ Also I can’t debate/discuss/deliberate to save my life. I’m like, look, read up on it and make your own mind up, okay? Do your homework and leave me alone. I have a lot of reading to do myself.
‡‡‡ Most of them professional. But a lot of us lay homeopaths are lay homeopaths because we can’t find a professional to treat us. You need a bit of an individual fit with your homeopath too.
Our own Jodi Meadows’ second* book is out today:
And she’s doing signings and appearances, possibly at a bookstore near you**:
And if you keep scrolling down this page there is an amazing list of guest blogs, interviews and so on available Out There by the merest tap of a finger.
Now here’s the HarperTeen page:
. . . where you can apparently read the whole book on line for free?? This does seem to be legit. Maybe it’s in honour of publication day or something, and large dubiously smiling men will knock on your door in a few more days and say, Ahem, a computer at this residence read the entire ASUNDER on line for free, and we feel that the person with the finger on the clicking button will have found this so stimulating an experience that he/she/it/you will volunteer the purchase price to the Jodi’s Ferrets and Yarn Fund.
Anyway. There’s a new book out. By someone we all know. Champagne all around.***
* * *
* Second published book ever and second in a trilogy I might add. Some people are born brave. Apparently.
** Because she is a good girl and wants to make her publisher happy. Hey, I toured when I was her age. Some of us then stop. Some of us figure it out and, believing it sells books, keep on doing it. I respect these people. But you’ll find me in a bell tower.^
^ Tonight, for example, when there was a Tour of the Ancient Building Including A Demonstration of Method Bell Ringing open evening at Forza and it was SOOOOO BOOOOOORING oh my sainted aunt. Maybe there is something to be said for touring. At least during dull moments you’re probably near bookshelves. I got a lot of knitting done tonight. I would rather have been plugged in to Pooka listening to some book being read out loud instead of unavoidably listening to our poor chosen-victim lead ringer giving the same blerg about ringing and the history of ringing for the 1,000,000,000th time to the 1,000,000,000th group of visitors, but I had to be ready to spring to my feet and ring plain frelling hunt for the 1,000,000,000th time. Arrrgh.
*** ‘I drink champagne when I’m happy and when I’m sad. Sometimes I drink it when I’m alone. When I have company I consider it obligatory. I trifle with it if I’m not hungry and drink it when I am. Otherwise, I never touch it—unless I’m thirsty.’
—Madame Bollinger, who was clearly a strong supporter of the family business.