July 16, 2016

Shadows is here!

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


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

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

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

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

* * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

## After Chocolate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So I kicked the bugger.

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

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

Life in the Real World Take Me Awaaaaaaaaay


Soooo, everyone remember my Niagara Falls leak? The water company—we will call them Sludge & Ganglion—sent me a letter last November, while I was a trifle preoccupied with my dying husband, saying that I had a humdinger of a puncture somewhere in the system and they were proposing to put my water bill up to £1,000,000,000.07 a month, unless of course I wanted to do something about it?  As I say, I was preoccupied, but early in in January, I was at the bank, whom I don’t think I have named in these pages, much as it deserves a name, something like Ordure, Funk & Weltschmerz, anyway, I was at the bank starting to deal with post-death and probate issues.  The woman who was trying to tease out into its component bits of blither and doodah the latest utter festering mess of the sort that Ordure and Funk’s vast groaning technology specialises in, said, Golly, the water company hates you, doesn’t it?  Because, as it turns out, Sludge & Ganglion had gone ahead and started charging me £1,000,000,000.07 without making any further attempt to contact me.  Thus getting our relationship about this matter off to a really great start when I rang up and SCREAMED.

Fast forward through the sixteen engineers and the woman back at base* who (apparently) kept sending orders for engineers to attend me and my leak. When I finally said I HAVE HAD SIX HUNDRED ENGINEERS, COULD WE STOP SOON PLEASE?, she said, you have? I have had no notification.  The next time one comes, she added, would you please tell me?  —thus demonstrating that Sludge & Ganglion’s internal communications are as fabulous as their customer relations.

Anyway. All seven hundred and twelve engineers’ tea leaves and Ouija boards agreed that the leak was my problem, not theirs.**  I have about as much faith in their diagnosis as I do in the latest Elvis sightings in bags of gladioli bulbs with pompadours, but my options are limited.  Whereupon began the epic search for a plumber who would touch the job of re-laying pipes and rerouting my water supply.***

Plumber eventually found, not without stress, misery, and the application to friends and acquaintances who have lived in this area for generations and are related to plumbers, and then weeks and weeks of nagging followed while I tried to convince him that NOW is an excellent time, ahead of the kamikaze S&G leak-mending squad and/or the next monthly bill for £1,000,000,000.07.  At least he answers his emails.  He just doesn’t say what I want to hear.

This past Monday I got a sudden email saying he’d be here Wednesday. Erm, wha’, eh?  I mean, GREAT.  WEDNESDAY.  I’ll tell the woman In Charge of My Case who likes sending engineers, and whom no one tells anything.

Oh, and? I have to clear one entire wall of my kitchen because they’re frelling going to run those new water pipes first up the front of the house† and then indoors along the skirting board.  This beats peeling up my floors by a substantial margin†† but it is still not ideal. And clearing that wall involves the washing machine, the refrigerator, the hellterror’s crate and her in it since I’m certainly not going to have her underfoot with plumbers with soldering irons kneeling at hellterror level AND A SIX FOOT BY THREE FOOT BY TWO FOOT††† TALLBOY CHEST OF DRAWERS, every micron of whose drawers are crammed, as I’m sure you will believe, with stuff.  And the sitting room—and the stairs, and the upstairs hall, and my bedroom and office—are also CRAMMED, with boxes of further stuff from Third House.‡

But never mind the rest of the house.  Calling what my kitchen looks like at present the result of a global cataclysm only hints at the scene.‡‡

So. Wednesday.  Plumbers were TWO AND A HALF HOURS LATE.‡‡‡  You know in this modern world of mobile phones there’s not a huge amount of excuse for not ringing and keeping people waiting for you abreast of the situation????  Plumbers like their mystery I guess.  These plumbers eventually arrived.  Plumbers drilled holes, making moon-crater holes in my plaster which I assume Atlas can mend, laid slender, relatively tactful copper pipes, and made horrible pongs with their soldering.§ Of course they didn’t finish, so they were coming back Thursday to finish the job.

They were only forty-five minutes late on Thursday. Yaay.  They finished all the pipe-laying, pong-making and crater-provoking, and collected respectfully around the meter in the street for the Big Moment, when they turned off the water while they diverted the whatever-the-turkey so the water would now flow through the new, please God leak-free, pipes.

I was indoors, but I heard the sound of the voices in the street change from plumbers going about their plumbing to bemusement and consternation. At which point I clocked that there was a new voice added to the throng, that of my semi-detached neighbour, Phineas.


Work re-begins on Monday. I may have run away to Tashkent by then.  I think the hellmob might enjoy Tashkent.  I’m not up for enjoying anything right now.

* * *

* And the jolly jolly jolly merry go round of the official Sludge & Ganglion robot email sending me a phone number that didn’t work^ thus putting me back at the BOTTOM of the frelling queue again trying make contact with the correct cabal of the customer persecution unit.

^ ‘This phone number is currently out of service. So sorry for any inconvenience’

** Just by the way, if you don’t have house insurance that will cover it, Sludge & Ganglion will provide one free leak mend.  THANK YOU GOD FOR PETER MAKING ME GET COMPREHENSIVE HOUSE INSURANCE THAT COVERS STUFF LIKE PERSONAL MANIFESTATIONS OF NIAGARA FALLS.  The mere idea of letting a gang of S&G’s buffoons loose in my house might cause heart failure in someone who hadn’t given up chocolate and champagne and whose mighty leafy-green-vegetable-fuelled strength is unassailable.^

^ I hope.

*** The leak itself has been declared essentially unfindable, because they would have to drag my house out by the roots and hold it overhead while they fossicked down through the cellar’s worth of builder’s rubble under the ‘ground’ floor of my house which is up a flight of stairs, to actual ground level.  As I have probably said on these literal pages before, if I ever found myself with more money than sense^ I’d hire someone to cut a door-shaped hole in the genuine ground floor outside wall of my house at the foot of the stair, yank out all the builder’s rubble and give me a cellar.^^

^ A lot more money than sense.  Amassment of sense is not a good measure of largeness in my case.

^^ I could keep BACKLIST in my cellar.

† So decorative and beautifying. Also, while it’s lagged—by a large brown plastic hangar that is really eye-woundingly beautiful:  maybe I can grow a Virginia Creeper over the thing, rose bushes have way too many gaps for satisfactory coverage—if the extreme-weather theory about global warming comes to southern England I could be in a lot of disagreeable frozen trouble.

†† Which is what happened to one of my ghoulish informants. AND THE FLOORS HAVE NEVER BEEN THE SAME AGAIN, he finished with relish.

††† And speaking of the criticalness of size, I still don’t have a refrigerator and freezer for the Lodge.  The gaps for these, both little under-counter items, are quite small, or perhaps under-counter appliances have grown since the two-owners-ago remodelled the kitchen, and my choices are limited.  And the ones I want are out of stock. And have I mentioned recently^ that I have people coming to STAY at the Lodge in . . . about a fortnight?  Who may conceivably want to, you know, eat, or at least have somewhere to keep a bottle of milk since I won’t have the nasty stuff in my house.  Although that’s chiefly because I don’t have room. I’m still schlepping up to Third House for my second organic grocery delivery of the week because my little under-counter-sized^^ fridge at the cottage can’t hold an entire week’s worth of mad vegetarian’s dark leafy super-powered greens.  Which use of Third House’s facilities is, I might add, a deeply depressing business, a kind of whoring:  I don’t love you, but I will use you(r refrigerator).  If I had more money than God has angels I would keep Third House, and the lovely new attic with the view down the garden . . . I could rent it while I figure out what I’m doing with my life, no, no, no, we are NOT THINKING ABOUT THIS.

Third House is now officially on the market. The housecleaners came and did the hey-wow-scouring thing last week.  But it’s still not frelling empty, and both the cottage and the Lodge are FULL. Meanwhile on cue the real estate market has died, while everyone worries about whether we’re going to stay in or get out of the EU, and what that will mean to little things like the economy.  And real estate values.  Guys. You do still have to live somewhere.

^ No, because I haven’t mentioned anything recently

^^ It’s not, strictly speaking, under-counter because it is the counter

‡ Including awful awful awful amounts of backlist.  Never mind that I am a collector and a hoarder.  It’s the backlist that makes my life unsupportable. Ha ha ha ha, sway-backed creaking floors anyone.

‡‡ This is one of those occasions when you’re way better off with dogs as live-in companions than humans. This way there’s only I pacing the floors and moaning like an unquiet ghost . . . no, wait, there are no floors available for pacing.  Perching on my kitchen stool above the battle zone, wringing my hands, dorking at the keyboard and moaning like an unquiet ghost.  The hellmob do not care. This is so fabulous I almost care less. I did think the hellterror might object to being exiled into the sitting room, especially since her crate is now kind of Gollum’s cave at the bottom of the Misty Mountains, but she’s all, is there FOOOOOOD?  My crate usually has FOOOOOOOOD.  There’s FOOOOOOOOD?  Then I am cool.  The hellhounds, of course, love everybody, including kneeling plumbers with soldering irons.^

^ I signed up for the 1-2 am slot of the forty-hour Pentecost vigil at St Margaret’s Thursday night. I took the hellhounds with me since I am a little twitchy about being all alone in an open, lit-up church in the middle of the night, but in fact if anyone of dubious provenance wandered in the hellhounds would want to be best friends.  However I was very glad of them when the 2 am vigilante did not show up and—hey, you know, it’s a vigil and it doesn’t count if no one’s there—I stayed on, with sleeping hellhounds—er, heavenhounds—keeping my feet warm WHY ARE CHURCHES ALWAYS SO COLD—I don’t suppose Jesus would have minded if I got down on the floor with them and draped them more comprehensively about my person, but I didn’t.  However I was wondering if Buck would kill me if, when the 3 am person didn’t show up either, I went round to the vicar’s house behind the church and knocked on the door.  Then Buck showed up as the 3 am person.  With a very, very, very large mug of coffee.  And I went home.  Yaay.  Alight with holiness.  Well something kept me awake for the drive.

‡‡‡ Meanwhile I was supposed to be meeting the estate-agent photographer up at Third House, having let the plumbers in to the cottage, but there were as yet no plumbers to let in.  So I rang the estate agent and asked for a favour, that one of them meet the photographer . . . and then I sprinted round the block with the increasingly cross-legged hellmob and arrived home to a phone message that the photographer was going to be late, and when I rang the estate agent who was supposed to be waiting at Third House already, he wasn’t answering his mobile AAAAAAAUGH so I then sprinted up to Third House with hellhounds, who thought we were having a really splendid adventure, AND HE WASN’T THERE.  AAAAAAAAAAAUGH.^

^ I also had a long-previously-booked probate-and-taxes appointment with the accountants that afternoon AND a meeting of the local alternative-practitioners group in the evening, who were going to be talking about homeopathy, and who were allowing unconsecrated members of the public past their august portals for some reason.  But the point is I don’t have days like this.

§ Hellhounds withdrew to the back of their crate and made snorting noises.

§§ And the tallboy will no longer fit in its corner, but has to sit a couple of inches farther into the room. In a room this small containing a tallboy this large this is a pivotal strategic consideration. There was language and maybe a few tears.^

^ And yes, I had to take all the (full) drawers out to move the sucker.

POSTSCRIPT: And as I, perhaps unwisely, have been putting my kitchen back together again since the cataclysm should be over in here and the next area to be sacked and ravaged is my garden, I discover that the new location of the tallboy means that the hellterror’s crate no longer fits where it used to go, and if I push it back so the door opens wide enough that her little square self fits through and I can get my shoulders in to change bedding and sweep . . . the back end jams against the fuse box and the WASHING MACHINE DOOR WILL ONLY OPEN HALF WAY.



I hate technology.  I really, really, really really hate technology.  I have a 3000-word semi-catch-up post for you . . . which I can’t copy and paste into the blog admin window because the fancy pizzazzy ultrabook had a meltdown about a fortnight ago, ate its mouse and left me with somewhat rudimentary pad and pointer effects which . . . oh, never mind.  I can’t copy and paste, okay?  And I’m still waiting for the replacement mouse because the frelling mouse-replacement site keeps changing its mind about whether it’s in stock and when it can send me one.*

So I’ll email the ratbagging post to myself, pick it up on one of my OLD computers and post it from there.  But not tonight.  ARRRRRRRGH.

  • * * *

*Okay it’s not any old mouse.  It’s pink.

I should have stayed in bed


. . . yesterday.  I’d been Street Pastoring Friday night* so getting out of bed Saturday (ahem) morning (ahem) was a somewhat protracted business.**  I eventually came downstairs*** and was fallen on by the hellmob† who feel that six hours is plenty of time to be without the fascinating, stimulating and all-providing hellgoddess.††

And before I go on with this story I want to make it very clear that I had had an adequate amount of caffeine . . .

I have three eggs for breakfast every morning.†††  I make excellent scrambled eggs‡ and this also means that if I—er—don’t get around to eating for the rest of the day I’m still good to go.‡‡  I have NO IDEA how it happened, except that I must have put the pan carelessly down on the edge of the cooker while I reached for the bowl.  Possibly to do with sleep deprivation.  Even caffeine can only do so much.


I had scrambled eggs—scrambled eggs that had just had their butter stirred into them a moment ago—EVERYWHERE.  I mean EVERYWHERE.  I’m starting to feel hysterical again just remembering.  The eggs that landed on the front of the Aga itself were instantly welded into place because the front of the Aga is HOT, you know?  The fronts of the white cupboards were suddenly a shiny mottled yellow.  I had eggs on my computer, eggs on the piles of books and magazines§ to either side of it, eggs on the glass panes of the cupboards above the counters, eggs on my knitting bag . . . eggs on the FAR SIDE OF THE KITCHEN ISLAND, on the table I can no longer get the leaves up of because there are too many hellcritter crates, and on the glass front of the bookcase that stands next to the table.  There are probably eggs in the geraniums on the windowsills too, but it’s a bit of a jungle in there and if there are eggs they can just stay there.

Meanwhile, back at ground zero . . . my kitchen was built by a cowboy.  I have no idea where my predecessor found him, but I hope she put him back where he can trouble no one any further.  Since I have a cowboy mentality when it comes to housework this is mostly not that big a problem.  I curse the drawer that doesn’t open except when it shoots out and falls to the floor, but mostly I can ignore the fact that it has big gaps at the top and on both sides, and that the handle doesn’t fit flush to the front.  I can also ignore that the cowboy was either drunk or high when he put in the footings for the Aga§§ UNTIL I’M TRYING TO CLEAN SCRAMBLED EGGS OFF EVERY SURFACE IN THE KITCHEN.  A heavy copper pot can cannonball its contents with amazing force.  I had greasy scrambled eggs inside that frelling drawer, having slammed through the cracks;  I had scrambled eggs jammed under the not-flush handle.  I had—and, in fact, still have, since I see no way of getting them out—scrambled eggs puttying up the gaps in the Aga footings . . . I had scrambled eggs inside the oven-shaped space in the Aga that contains the gas feed and the striking mechanism and the spigots because there are vents in the top of the door which the eggs came through.  I had eggs sliding down Jesus’ tummy on the brand-new icon I have hanging on the front of one of those glass-paned cupboards§§§.  I had eggs dripping off the overhead ceiling beam.






I spent two hours cleaning the kitchen.~  And whining.  And then I made myself more scrambled eggs and I ate them.  ~~

* * *

* And I got STOPPED BY THE FUZZ ON THE WAY HOME.  Hee hee hee hee hee.  They must have been bored^—or poor Wolfgang has that look of minor criminal delinquency.  I saw a car pull in behind me and I couldn’t see it was cops but I am happy to say that late at night any car that pulls in behind me is guilty until proven innocent of being cops, and I drive accordingly.  At 4 am after being on your feet strolling the city for six hours you might be forgiven for BEING A LITTLE TIRED.^^  I had about decided this car was not cops since it had followed me all the way through town and out the other side and I hadn’t had any near encounters with trees or anything.  But they still pulled me over, one of them ambled out and asked—politely—if I was lost or if perhaps . . . I had had one or two down t’pub earlier?  No, I said cheerfully, I’ve been Street Pastoring, and I waved the sleeve of my jacket, lying on the seat next to me, at him.  Oh, Street Pastors, he said, carry on.  I spared him pointing out that he’d just spoken to me not an hour before on a street corner . . . but the anonymous thing about a uniform?  The SP logo is like a great big HARMLESS sign and I think cop gaze slides right off us.  Not the other way around, you will note.  But I’m still getting used to chatting amiably with The Man.  Or, occasionally, Woman.

^ I’m happy to say that in this area at 4 am, when the final Chinese/Thai/Indian takeaway/kebab shop/Subway sandwiches has closed after the last club+ has closed, things are pretty quiet.  Except for the occasional random old lady serially hurtling a hellmob.  The cops’ve stopped her too, as you may recall.

+ Yes we have those too.  No, really.  You want vices?  We got vices.  It’s just most of them go to bed pretty early.

^^ I would be useless at shift work—like cops—and with the ME the only reason I can do Street Pastoring at all—or all those late Sam duties—is because I stay up late anyway.  Just not quite this late+ and there’s less walking involved++, although what walking there is on an ordinary McKinley late night includes liberal use of small plastic bags.

+ Um.  Usually

++ Or chatting to people, which is much more tiring.#  I like carrying the knapsack, despite the weight of a full frelling thermos, because then I can concentrate on the hot-drinks service and conversation can be honourably limited to ‘vegetable, chicken and vegetable or hot chocolate?’  Mind you wrestling with thermoses that don’t open, plastic bags of paper cups that have no entry point, packets of soup that won’t tear and the regular dismaying disappearance of all the spoons, it usually takes an entire team to get a hot drink made anyway.  I suspect many of our regular homeless don’t want the drink but they enjoy the show.

# Answering the phones at the Sams is different.  They rang you.  You didn’t wander up to them wearing a silly hat.

** I’ve got the standard post-late-Sam duty system reasonably well banged out but I’m still working on post-SP.  I have two major problems about getting to bed before the morning news on Radio 3^:  the first is this three dog drill.  Pav is totally down on bodily functions.  You take her out, she does the necessary and she can’t wait to get back indoors again BECAUSE THERE WILL BE FOOOOOOOOOD.  Hellhounds . . . Chaos has to crap at least twice^^ every time he sets foot across the threshold and Darkness has to find the PEEEEEEEEEERFECT spot.  He can shuttle around a patch five foot square for five minutes . . . and then CHANGE HIS MIND and be obliged to LOOK ELSEWHERE.  And the pee-marking . . . they may have to pee several times and from several different directions on a single tree, dustbin, bus stop, wall^^^, pole, etc.  Although watching them trying to get it RIGHT with a pole is pretty funny since their aim isn’t all that great, and . . .

And the other thing is that I come back from any late duty STARVING.  And more so after following flaming hellhounds around on their eliminatory QUEST.  And eating is, you know, time consuming, since you’re not going to gag down six brownies and an onion^^^^ at the kitchen sink, are you?  You’re going to want to consider your choices and then sit down and enjoy your selection, and maybe get out a book to read or a little knitting and . . .

^ the sound of which produces an OH FESTERING FESTERING reaction, especially if I’ve fallen asleep in the bath again

^^ I am not merely paying for the makers of biodegradable plastic crap bags to send their children to college, I am also funding their tropical rainforest holidays in Maine and sun and surf holidays in Tibet+.  ARRRRRRGH.

+ Both of these options are EXTRA EXPENSIVE for what you might call the obvious reasons

^^^ Walls come in extents, you realise.  A self-contained extent from a peeing-dog perspective is anywhere from three-quarters of an inch to about two foot.  Sigh.

^^^^  Well I hope you aren’t

*** There may have been moaning

† I am DELIGHTED TO REPORT THAT the hellterror is off heat again YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY.  Although the hellhounds are still checking.  Hellterror is all, you want my butt?  I am delighted you want my butt!  Here is my butt!  HERE IS MY BUTT!  HERE IT IS!  HERE!  ARE YOU ENJOYING MY BUTT?  IT’S A NICE BUTT, ISN’T IT?  MAYBE YOU’D LIKE TO TICKLE MY TUMMY TOO?  OR I COULD JUST MUG YOU.  —Remind me why I have dogs.

†† Getting your dogs on your peculiar schedule is easy.  But all those bright little expectant eyes when you crawl through the door at three or four in the morning is perhaps not the perfect solution.  When are they going to invent a dog-walking robot?

††† All right so it’s not necessarily morning.  It’s the first meal of the day, okay?  Unless you count the nosh at 5 am.

‡ Possibly almost as good as Sunshine’s.  Almost.  After all, she’s a professional.

‡‡ There could be some connection here with why I am often starving at three or four in the morning.  But post-menopausal metabolism, you know?  The frelling eggs are an indulgence.  I could maintain weight on a carrot a week, I swear.  A small carrot.^

I am not thinking about Niall’s brownies.  I am not thinking about Niall’s brownies.  NOT.  +

+ However I am apparently ringing at Old Eden tomorrow night, where ringing up those bells is like running a flag up a flagpole where the pulleys are all frozen and the flag is the approximate size, weight and momentum resistance of the Albert Memorial.  Who needs a gym subscription?

‡‡‡ During which I wrung my hands and did not make a grab for it because it had only JUST come off the hot plate and I employ a heavy copper-clad steel pan because I can use all the upper-body strengthening devices I can get AND it cooks divinely not least for its HEAT RETAINING PROPERTIES.

§ You mean not everybody eats surrounded by books and writing implements of various applications, or keeps current reading material on the kitchen counters?^

^ There would be more on the floor except, you know, hellterror.  No she doesn’t eat paper but she does carom off it.

§§ It’s a reconditioned one so it’s possible that whoever did the reconditioning also supplied the footing. This is not an encouraging thought. Fortunately the Aga herself is a star and I wouldn’t be without her.  Long time readers may recall I’ve said that all my friends fell down laughing when they found out I’d bought a house with an Aga in it since I had clearly bought it for the Aga.  Ahem.  I deny this charge.  Although I admit the presence of an Aga may have been a tipping point.

§§§ A few weeks ago, when the real world was beating me up unusually hard, I met my monk on my way into the chapel on Saturday night and he asked me how I was. I burst into tears. The end of that conversation included Alfrick suggesting I buy myself a suitable icon and start poking my problems into the little cave with the skull in it at the foot of the cross.^

^ First you have to find a reproduction that doesn’t chop the cave off because it’s all for tourists anyway and they won’t care.  Good grief.  Or I should probably say God bless.  I finally found a nice shiny working Catholic repro of an icon.  I don’t recall however that you’re supposed to baptise your new icon in scrambled eggs and I was a little worried that the cheap varnish was going to peel off, but it seems to have taken no harm.+

+ This is a monologue for another night, but having been raised, supposedly, to be a generic Protestant . . . generic Protestants so miss out on the evil-papist [sic] ritual objects like icons and rosaries.  Maybe I’m just unusually mired in earthly matters# and/or old to be this young, but I find the props tremendously helpful and supportive.  We are living in this world with bodies in three mortal dimensions##.  I belong to the school of thought that it’s not all about transcendence.

# two hellhounds with chronic diarrhoea and a hellterror with a fabulous butt can do this to you

## and hellcritters.  I think hellcritter bodies exude an extra dimension or two.  Possibly hellterrors have a special Butt Dimension which could explain a lot.

# Small mercies:  the hellterror had been recrated^ before the excitement.  She did, however, have lovely buttery scrambled eggs for breakfast.  She did not care that they’d spent a few minutes on the floor or were seasoned with tears of rage and despair.

^ For an excess of butt-related activities

~ It’s still speckled yellow.  But it’s less speckled.  .

~~ Today, however, has been better.  We went to a ROSE GARDEN.

A night to remember.* Or not.

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

Long pause.



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

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

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

It was a mini ring tonight.‡

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

* * *

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

^ And is now making intermittent gobbling noises

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

%% What do I think she is, stupid?

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

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

^ and your little dog too.

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

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

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

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

+ Yes.  This is the name of a method.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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