I’m supposed to be at a concert. Right now.*
It was Mitsuko Uchida. Possibly my favourite living pianist.** AND THIS IS NOW THE SECOND TIME I’VE HAD TO BAIL ON A BOUGHT-AND-PAID-FOR TICKET TO HEAR HER. The first time was years ago—it may have even appeared in the blog as another very bad day—she was at the South Bank which is just a hop over the pedestrian bridge from Waterloo Station which is where trains from around here check in. And I can’t remember now who fell ill—Peter, me, or some hellhound or other, but somebody did. And I didn’t go. ARRRRRRRRRGH. Also, whimper. Tonight was going to be more or less the high point of my non-opera classical-music season. WHIMPER.
At least I didn’t have a late Sam duty tonight. Well, I wouldn’t have booked one for tonight, because I was going to a concert. However, I do have a Foibles of Transport story for you. I staggered out onto the street at 3 am or so recently, after one of those late Sam duties. You’re kind of on autopilot at that hour even if you are a late bird.*** Now when you turn a car on—I assume this is still true even of modern cars—every red light on the dashboard flames on and glares at you while the car checks itself over for presence of working chipmunks† and absence of cacodemons. And I hauled the brake off, let in the clutch and hit the road . . . because it took me a minute or two to realise THAT ONE OF THE RED LIGHTS HAD NOT TURNED ITSELF OFF BUT WAS IN FACT BLINKING IN A DETERMINED AND OMINOUS MANNER.
I pulled over to the side of the empty, deserted road. I got out my frelling manual. I did at least manage to find the weird little symbol in question, which told me Wolfgang needed coolant. What the frelling doodah is COOLANT? I mean, something that cools, but WHAT? Whatever it was, I didn’t have any in the boot or under the seat, and I was twenty minutes from home and tired. I climbed out of the car and felt Wolfgang’s bonnet. Cold. I managed to unhook the insanely uncooperative latch†† and had a look under the lid. Not that I have a clue what I’m looking at, but I’d probably recognise smoke.††† No smoke.
I thought about it. It was a cold night and a lot of the way home is downhill. I went home at a cautious 40mph and threw the clutch out when I could, and freewheeled, which may or may not have been a good thing, but we got here. And I felt up his bonnet again and he was still cold. So. Yaay. Tentative okayness.
Next morning I rang the garage.‡ And they said, oh, you need antifreeze. ANTIFREEZE? IS COOLANT? DOES NOT FRELLING COMPUTE. Don’t worry about it, said Paxton. Add some water and we’ll sort out the antifreeze the next time you’re in.
So I added water. And yes, I added it in the right place, witness that the little red flashing light went away.‡‡ Wolfgang has a lot to put up with, with me as his owner. Herb Robert in the windscreen wiper bed is only the beginning.
. . . It is now later. And it’s stopped snowing. Siiiiiiiiiigh . . . ‡‡‡
* * *
*Instead I’m mournfully eating broccoli in some really excellent goose stock. The hellmob and I finished the stripped-off meat a little while ago^ but since so far as I know you can reboil stock forever to keep evil bacteria at bay, I’ve been keeping it going. Only about half a serving left, sigh.^^
^ and the hellhounds, having been moved to some slight interest in food containing roast goose, have lapsed back into total apathy.
^^ But that’s okay! I have my first oxtail of the season percolating in the slow cooker! If you have to be a carnivore you might as well embrace it. I don’t really believe in New Year’s resolutions—it seems to me a set up, like the evil concept of ‘will power’, to beat yourself up with about your failure later on—but I have been thinking I am going to make ANOTHER ATTEMPT (a) to talk about other people’s books I have enjoyed more and (b) to use the resource that your forum comments are, by, um, er, like, responding to a few of them?!?!? Good grief, McKinley.
So I’ve been meaning for months now, because it dates back to the last days of trying inadvertently to kill myself by malnutrition, I mean, the last days of being vegan+, to say to whomever it was posted about this, I’ve never had a philosophical problem with meat eating. When I was a kid I ate what I was given++, and by the time I got old enough to think about making choices I’d been hanging out with people who bagged their deer or their moose every year because that was how their families got through the winter. Not everyone can afford enough supermarket food. I’ve tried being vegetarian three times now, for various complicated reasons including I like the airhead buzz it gives me, but it doesn’t suit me. And I’m not going to try it again unless I get an air mail letter from God, and it’s going to have to have bulletproof provenance.
+ People who do well as vegetarians or vegans, that’s great. But if you are really trying to do the meat-free thing and are being careful about your vitamins and your proteins and all that stuff, and you’re not doing well, remember that not everybody is built to live that way, okay? If for example your hair is falling out and your legs barely work any more . . . um. A steak or a large platter of chicken liver may be the answer.#
# And my hair is growing back in. At least somewhat. It has to grow in a little more before I find out how much there is.~ But meanwhile I am in a Permanent Bad Hair day and probably should not be allowed out in public. It is a symptom of how badly St Margaret’s needs singers that they let me on stage without a bag over my head.
~ Fingers crossed. I know I’m old and haggy and it doesn’t really matter, but I would really like to go on having hair. I feel you can be a much more interesting hag with hair.
++ Remember how old I am. Fast food hadn’t really been invented# when I was a kid, although we did have ‘family restaurants’, which by mostly being cheap and nasty were precursors to fast food. Microwaves weren’t even a fairy tale unless there was a tame dragon involved, or a fire witch. I mean, we didn’t invent microwaves, but someone invented a box that cooked food by microwave.##
# although McDonald’s was spreading insidiously like a virus.
## And I still won’t have one in my house. They seem like a spectacularly bad idea to me. I’m old and cranky. I’d consider a tame dragon though.
** Although Joanna MacGregor is close
*** Robins sing all night, you know.^
^ I was talking a friend recently about ways to deal with anxiety. With Turnip and Penis due into the White House any minute now us wet knee-jerk liberals are having palpitations and panic attacks. The conversation had been through hard drugs (no) and meditation and yoga (yes) and I said that something I found weirdly calming, dead easy, and always available is singing. Granted you have to be careful when you’re out in public+ but I find just singing under my breath works better than not. My friend said dubiously, well it’s probably different for you, you’re a trained singer.
::falls down laughing::
Okay, technically, yes, I am. I am a trained singer.
::falls down laughing some more::
+ Especially when you’re suffering from Permanent Bad Hair Day. I sing a lot when I’m out with the hellhounds#, and, you know, hag with hellhounds = nuts. Avoid. Mostly I do manage to keep an eye out and shut up when anyone comes in what is probably earshot. I missed today, and swung round a corner to see a woman I know slightly grinning from ear to ear, who said, Someone’s happy. Well, I wasn’t too bad this morning.## Before the snow started.
# Herself not so much. She needs more supervising. Not to say dominating.~
~ I AM THE HELLGODDESS. AND I FEED YOU. YOU MIGHT WANT TO REMEMBER THAT.
## At least I managed to shoot off to Mass at the abbey this morning since it’s going to be yaktrax only tomorrow morning. But I was still hoping the rough stuff wouldn’t settle in till after the concert. More whimpering.
† I’m not sure what small furry creatures they use over here to run the crucial machinery. Voles?
†† I’m sardonically a bit pleased that even proper garage persons have trouble with Wolfgang’s bonnet latch
††† We had the engine catch fire on the old car once. Belting down the M whatever at 70mph and suddenly there is black smoke billowing asphyxiatingly out of the front of your car. Garage person had failed to put the oil cap back on when they added oil. Oops.
‡ And rang and rang and rang AND RANG AND RANG. I was late to see Alfrick because I couldn’t go anywhere till someone told me what COOLANT is.
‡‡ And we bolted off to see Alfrick. Because I’d wasted so much time ringing the arglebargling garage the hellhounds hadn’t had a proper hurtle so I took them with me and afterward we had a fabulous hurtle in the dark under the biggest moon you ever saw. A snow moon, of course. Sigh.
‡‡‡ I have been nursing a small venal hope that perhaps the concert was cancelled, but apparently not. SIIIIIIIIIIIGH.
[This was supposed to go up last night, of course. Technology is so not my friend. And today has been complex.]
Wolfgang died.* Waaaaaaaaaaaah.
And it’s Saturday night, I can’t ring the garage till Monday.** I’m wild-eyed, hair-sticking-out terrified that it’s the kind of serious that means ‘not worth mending in a twenty year old car’. I DON’T WANT A NEW CAR. And that’s aside from my interesting cash flow problem, which is to say lack of flow. I own three blinging blanging doodah frelling houses, but keeping the hellmob and me fed*** is much more unpleasantly exciting than nourishing and jolly. I like my excitement in stories. I like food† just to be there.†† NEW CAR??? Not in this reality. So, okay, after last Tuesday I wouldn’t at all mind being transferred to some other reality. . . .
I finally got some sleep last night.††† I hadn’t had anything even close to resembling sleep since the beginning of the week—I’d had a late Sam shift and then I stayed up watching the returns ohGodohGodohGodohGod when the world as I thought I knew it ended Tuesday night. It’s very hard to sleep when the world is a suddenly stranger and scarier place—I’d never thought it was exactly safe, but I thought there were some limits—and there’s an evil asshole about to destroy the country of your birth.‡ Friday I even blew off handbells. Shock. Horror. I did go, but I fell apart at the tea break and spent the rest of the evening knitting.‡ And scowling.‡‡ Hey, there were four ringers without me, and major (eight) is a lot easier than royal (ten). I WAS DOING THEM A FAVOUR. Especially because Niall makes me ring inside.‡‡‡ So maybe it was the handbells that broke me. Whatever. I came home and slept.
And so managed to scrape myself out of bed in time to go to morning Mass. I had decided that God was just going to have to forgive me for a week I didn’t make it to morning Mass, if she wanted me at morning Mass she could have made Hillary win.§ The problem with Saturday morning Mass is that I will then turn around and hare back out to the abbey for the Saturday night prayer service with the half hour silent sit beforehand§§. Twice in a day and it’s like I can begin to discern tatty black robes swishing around my ankles.§§§ But Wolfgang and I toodled home after the night service, and I was feeling as mellow as I ever do, especially since last Tuesday, and I had just backed into our parking space and I was throwing the clutch out to roll forward a few inches so that I could still get at my bins and my garden shed and the clutch pedal shot into the floor and stayed there.
* * *
* It has so not been a good week.
** Okay, I could ring the garage. But no one would answer.
*** Especially since all of us but the bullie have stringent dietary constraints. Pav only requires that she be able to get her mouth around it. When this proves to be an item of hellgoddess clothing there is domestic drama.
† and books. And yarn
†† The bullie is with me on this. The hellhounds would much prefer food not to be there.
††† Meanwhile I have another half done post, this one about my Realio Trulio Finished Knitting Project^, but the project will stay finished so I can come back to my unfinished blog about it later.^^
^ It’s about as dead boring as a Knitting Project can be but it is finished. Which makes it automatically glorious and fascinating within my knitting life.+
+ I have now reverted to the feltable wool that is going to become a series of grotty little bags, the important one being destined to carry super long knitting needles. Does anyone else have needles that are too long to fit in any standard knitting needle containers?# I suppose I could just stick them in a vase but most of my vases are full of dried roses from various occasions.## But between needing a bag pole-vaulting pole length and not being sure how much the thing is going to shrink when I felt it, people keep mistaking the long thin item coiling off my lap for a scarf. Several scarves. Several Doctor Who scarves.
There are two reasons I’m back to my felting-in-their-future bags over all the other unfinished knitting projects lying about the place. The first one is that I really like rectangles. I really, really like rectangles. You know, no shaping, no frelling counting. You just knit. And knit. And knit.###
The other reason is that I do a lot of knitting after morning Mass, when you can sit around with a cup of tea and chat with monks and anyone else from the congregation desirous of caffeine and possibly a little time to slot back into normal life.#### And, aside from all the jokes about knitting long johns for monks#####, one of the monks, whom we will call Aloysius, has decided that I never finish anything and demands proof that this is not true. Uh oh. So, I figured, felting might disguise some of my inevitable irregularities, if I’m going to have to pass the object in question around to an assembly. An assembly of jocular monks. I mean, I’m not exactly reliable, even on rectangles.
# No, of course not. Everyone but me knits on circulars. Uggggggh. SOMEBODY (else) must knit on super-long straights OR THEY WOULDN’T SELL THEM, right?
## Yes. I save empty champagne bottles too~. And one or three bottles that once contained spectacular reds. Including my first experience of Vieux Telegraph, which put Peter’s beloved strong, leathery French reds~~ on my, you should forgive the term, radar. That was on our honeymoon in Cornwall. Sigh.
~ Some of these are also full of dried roses.
~~ I AM NOT GOING TO TOUCH the whole Rhone/Bordeaux/Burgundy/claret thing. Among other reasons because I don’t understand it. But Peter could pick out one of these gorgeous items from the brambly, brain-stabbing boscage of a wine list while I sat back contentedly and waited for my glass to be filled.
### Yes. I’m a process knitter. More finished objects would be nice, but it’s the knitting that’s important. Although the fact that my finished objects tend to be pathetic may have something to do with my attachment to process.
#### If going to Mass doesn’t rattle your cage, you’re not paying attention.
##### Which would be a VERY GOOD THING in that chapel, but it would be kind of a pity to cover up the orange, yellow, pink, purple, blue, scarlet and lime green wool I’m using. If they’d agree to raise their hemlines an inch or two . . . it doesn’t have to be a lot . . .
^^ With dead boring photos.
‡ [with vast reluctance this rude and ribald footnote concerning a prominent evil asshole has been excised for fear of legal reprisals SIIIIIIIIIIIGH.]
‡‡ Knitting when I’m brain dead could have some impact on why my FOs tend to be pathetic. I’M A PROCESS KNITTER. SO WHATEVER.
‡‡ I’m still in black. I could do this for quite a while. When I was younger and less haggard I wore a lot of black, and I Never Throw Anything Out. So I still have . . . a lot of black. I’d forgotten. I’m quite glad to see some of it. Perhaps not all at once.
‡‡‡ All right, ringing ‘inside’ is more fun. You know, like walking across Niagara on dental floss is fun. The first pair (. . . of bells) and the last pair are usually the easiest of any method—‘easiest’ being relative, there is NOTHING ABOUT handbells that is easy, except maybe the sitting down in the warm part, which is the single thing that handbells have over tower bells, which tend to occur in gelid towers—and the inside pairs are the ones that dance the hokey cokey with your brain and leave you with footprints on your grey matter.
§ I have a great idea! Let’s all pray that the electoral college vote to DO AWAY WITH THEMSELVES, AND HILLARY WINS RETROACTIVELY ON THE POPULAR VOTE.
§§ It’s a ratbag that Saturday night tends to be popular for live entertainment. Three of us went to KISS ME KATE last Saturday and it was very, very well done . . . and I’d forgotten how frelling ANNOYING it is because I only remember how great the tunes are. I should have stayed home and gone to the monks.
§§§ Okay. Black is good.
£ Also, who wants a new car when their old one is kind and thoughtful enough to break down in his own driveway? Aside from . . . £££££££££££
* * *
SUNDAY NIGHT UPDATE: I spent an hour on the phone to the RAC^ this afternoon trying to extricate myself from being the add-on to Peter’s membership, siiiiiiigh, the things that frelling ambush you, I hadn’t wasted a single thought on the likely status of my RAC membership all this year, till last night. And as so often this year dealing with Corporate Great Britain, the individual human beings were friendly and helpful^^ BUT THE ADMIN IS A NIGHTMARE. But they eventually beat their data base into submission and sent me a person. The person was about seven feet tall, eight feet wide, covered with tattoos, and looked like he probably juggled blue whales before breakfast. EEEEEEEEEEEEEK. He was also very nice. He said ‘broken pedal box’, whatever the doodah that means, but it sounds less threatening than ‘whole new clutch assembly’ which was what I was afraid of, because that was going to be the moment when everyone, beginning with the guys at the Warm Upford garage who have kept Wolfgang on the road the last twenty years, tell me helpfully that it’s not worth it for a twenty year old car. LET ME GO ON THINKING THAT ‘BROKEN PEDAL BOX’ IS NOT THE END OF THE LINE. And Mr Tattoo DROVE Wolfgang out to Warm Upford with a note from me to stick through the garage office door for Monday morning. He DROVE Wolfgang without a clutch. Gibber gibber gibber, I said . . . and then it occurred to me that once in days very, very much gone by, I knew how to drive an elderly, persnickety vehicle without a working clutch. And the person who taught me this interesting skill—this being about thirty years before internet searches—may be reading this blog. ::Waves::
Stay tuned. And anyone of a praying persuasion, pray for Warm Upford to say ‘no problem.’ I’ll worry later about the six weeks that it’s going to take to import the last in existence new pedal box for a twenty-year-old Golf from Viti Levu. I might have to start taking daytime Sam duties, when the buses are running. No! No! Anything but daytime duties!
^ I have no idea what RAC stands for, but they’re the UK Ghostbusters+ of broken-down cars.
+ Who you gonna call?
^^ Um, mostly. I think one of them had had a late Samaritan shift last night and hadn’t had enough sleep.
[This should have gone up last night, of course. This may be the New System. Time is merely a concept, not a reality, right? But I’ve been talking to other people in the area and I Am Not Alone. There are too many of us on line and not enough bandwidth. Why this means the malign minders of supply CLOSE bandwidth after midnight to a thread, a wisp, a spool of spider silk belonging to a microdot sized spider, I have no idea. I realise my technological understanding is . . . ahem . . . is such that calling it ‘understanding’ is a blunder, but they can’t frelling stockpile bandwidth from the wee smalls and bolt it on to the bandwidth during the day, or the evening when everyone rushes home to see if anyone has posted to their Facebook page, can they? CAN THEY? —ed]
. . . with a small refrigerator. Two small refrigerators. Today I took delivery of The Largest Green** Cauliflower I Have Ever Seen in My Life and . . . it wouldn’t fit in either refrigerator, unless I took one of the frelling shelves out which I can’t because I’m short of shelf space already ALL THAT FRELLING VEG TAKES UP AMAZING AMOUNTS OF ROOM. So the green cauliflower the size of a medium-sized asteroid sat in my sink—and sort of drizzled out around the edges, and may have patted a hellhound with a prehensile tendril—till I had time to hack it up and steam it and then crush it into a series of bowls and WEDGE it into the cottage refrigerator. The trials of being veganish.
And it’s not like I had budgeted time for inconvenient vegetables. Let me tell you what a splendid and thrilling few days I have had.*** Now—see footnotes—I am a disorganised twit, but I have kind of a lot going on, including trying to write some saleable fiction before I run out of money†, and when I manage to beat some teeming disaster back to stuff-under-the-table proportions I do tend to stuff it under the table and turn to the next looming vorticose abyss trying to swallow me††, the hellmob, and several small houses.†††
I was [bell] ringing a wedding on Saturday. I’d just got back from hurtling and had about five minutes before I had to leave for the tower. The post had come while the hellhounds and I were out checking the continued viability of a certain rose in the churchyard and I noticed that one of the envelopes was from the local city council. Uh oh. This is one of the abysses I had (I thought) slapped a personhole cover over, after Ordure, Funk and Weltschmerz closed my account and stole all my money for about ten days about three months ago, the repercussions of which are still wrecking my peace‡ of mind and causing a lot of extra work for a disorganised twit who hates all business admin at the best of times. But even I recognise, in my blurry, dragon-biased way‡‡, that the Tax Gods Rule. Which is why I’d been round the local office and made sure that I was caught up on all frelling three frelling houses.
I admit that was two months ago. BUT ONLY TWO MONTHS. So imagine my . . . adrenaline surge when I opened the envelope and discovered I was being SUMMONSED FOR NONPAYMENT OF COUNCIL TAX. They were going to DRAG ME TO COURT AND PROSECUTE me for not having paid any council tax ALL YEAR. Now even I in the outer reaches of synapse-bursting panic could see that this had to be at least partly an administrative error‡‡‡ . . . it’s still a summons and it’s horrible, and it’s also SATURDAY so I can’t do anything about it till Monday.
I staggered off to ring bells. I got through the bell ringing part with all my insides jangling worse than the bells and my blood-pressure headache getting worse with every dong.
I came home and spent the next five hours throwing up out of sheer beastly stress.
Saturday was wonderful. Really a high point.§
Sunday I spent trying to figure out what the flaming doodah I could eat—I know, I’ve been here before, recently, but that was stomach flu. The rules are different.§§
And today I spent 1,000,000 hours on the phone§§§, mostly knitting and nursing another blood-pressure headache while I waited For the Next Customer Service Representative. Monday, you know? The city council woman was polite, laid back, and even a little sympathetic, which was a bonus. I am no longer on the FBI/MI5 top ten wanted list. Yaay. The most interesting thing is that what this woman said BORE VERY LITTLE RESEMBLANCE to what the woman I’d spoken to in June had said, or had led me to believe that she had set up for me for the immediate future involving juggling three houses. And of course neither of them said anything that might lead me to believe that I was going to be prosecuted for non-payment of council tax any time soon. So I’ve given them a lot more money and I BELIEVE I am to be allowed to live. But remember what believing got me last time.
Then I made a few other phone calls—although it was still MONDAY—looking for monsters. I couldn’t find any. I must not have been making the right phone calls.
I can hardly wait to find out what goes wrong next.§§§§
* * *
* I was reading yet another of these Live Green and Free and Absolute and Right and We’re So Pure and Wonderful We Will Make You Sick what-to-eat health sites. There are amazing numbers of these bozos out there and only some of them have a sense of humour. This one’s bias was vegan but finally, foot-draggingly, in this I’m-so-disappointed-in-you headmistress voice, they said And if you feel you must eat a little fish occasionally . . . and I’m sitting here thinking, yet again, HOW do these people live in the world? Somebody, I think in the forum, was talking about this too. I don’t spend a lot of time with Macdonald’s clientele and still I’m a joke in my social circle^. GIVE ME A CUP OF GREEN TEA/ROOIBUS/GINGER AND LEMONGRASS AND SHUT UP, I’LL EAT WHEN I GET HOME.^^ I still like fish but it’s not necessary to happiness and if pure veganism were a little more rampant in the land I might give it up too^^^ since fish have eyes and agency and I assume little proto-thoughts^^^^. There’s a whole whacked out mind/body thing as soon as you start seriously messing with what you eat and if you find yourself at the sharp end of immaculateness while you may be willing to risk the proto-thoughts of green cauliflower^^^^^, your singing teacher’s goldfish are beginning to give you a guilty conscience. But until they start building vegan shtetls for us to hang out in . . . I will probably keep eating fish.
^ I’m not sure about circle. A lumpy trapezoid. Or an irregular nonagon perhaps.
^^ Anyone else out there remember the term ‘crunchy granola’ for health food junkies in Birkenstocks in the 80’s or thereabouts? No earnest seeker after nutritional truth now would eat GRANOLA. CEREAL GRAINS. NOOOOOO. WE DID NOT EVOLVE TO EAT CEREAL GRAINS. And my Birkenstocks are either pink or have rhinestones. I’d have pink and rhinestones if I could find them.
^^^ And then again I might not. The trusty tin of mackerel or tuna is very useful to a disorganised twit who finds herself needing to rush out the door in five minutes and doesn’t have time to produce the healthy green salad with the protein-based dressing, let alone eat the sucker.+ Fresh veg takes an appalling amount of chewing.
+ Vegan shtetls will have vegan corner stores that offer hearty organic vegan snacks for disorganised twits.
^^^ My willingness to continue to eat fish has nothing to do with the fact that the video screen on my dentist’s ceiling always shows underwater sea life, mostly but not exclusively fish. There is NO causative connection in my subconscious between fish and pain which might arouse a (subconscious) desire for vengeance on the piscine world. NO. NONE.
^^^^ Bottom line: YOU DO HAVE TO EAT SOMETHING.
** AKA Romanesco. I love the green ones and find the white ones eh. I’m told there’s no difference but the colour. Okay. I’m very vision-led. I know this. I still think they taste different. So my retinas are wired to my taste buds. I have stranger characteristics.
*** Spoiler alert: ARRRRRRRRRRRGH.
† Oh that old whine again
†† Did I tell you that Damien got out twice, weekend before last, and had a go at me both times? I being so outrageous as to be outdoors at the time(s). His garden now looks like a stage set for Les Miz and every time I have the unjustified temerity to emerge from some door or other I can hear him flinging himself passionately against the barricades whilst barking hysterically. It’s surprising how beleaguered something that weighs about twenty pounds can make you feel. I have to call the dog warden. I keep putting it off.
††† I told you, didn’t I, that I had THREE supposed buyers ready to put in a bid I couldn’t possibly resist and wouldn’t want to, for Third House? And that I was perhaps cynical about this prospect? Yep. Not one of them showed. Meanwhile I have—theoretically—a fourth. I’m not holding my breath. I am getting on with clearing out the sheds^ so I can let^^ the freller. Thank you God for Atlas^^^ and his trailer.
^ We’d done a first cut of most of the obvious stuff months ago. This was the stuff we didn’t know what to do with plus all the little bins and tins and boxes of gubbins that all of us accumulate in some area of our lives or other+: for Peter it was tools and the toolshed. So there are all these labels to collections of enigmatic bits in his handwriting. Whimper.
+ Perhaps in some cases more than one area. ::Whistles::
^^^ Who also could translate some of the labels. This was less useful than you might think since he didn’t want to throw anything out either. ‘Oh, that’s a 1948 glimmigerthinggimerdoodah! Haven’t seen one of those in decades! You can’t throw that out!’
‡ Um, ‘peace’?
‡‡ Popular fantasies include watching a nice fleet of dragons eating HM Revenue & Customs^ in its morbid entirety. Salt, pepper and Worcestershire sauce optional.
^ Remember this is a governmental department that levies custom charges on postage. And you know what overseas postage is like now? If Abebooks doesn’t list it in the UK, forget it.
‡‡‡ I have perhaps mentioned how much I hate business admin of all varieties?
§ And the poor hellmob were downstairs howling to go for a hurtle. I crept down a couple of times and let them out into the garden for any urgencies. They didn’t want the garden, they wanted the hurtles they can usually depend on when I come home from having been AWAY FROM THEM FOR MORE THAN FIVE MINUTES.
§§ I did manage both my second ringing gig Sunday afternoon and singing for service Sunday evening. Because bodies are perverse, I was in what in my unfortunate case passes for good voice which amused me enough to cheer me up a little. Usually your throat says nooooooooo after a lot of unnecessary stomach acid has geysered through it.
§§§ But at least after this I got to sprint off and SEE MY MONK. I was supposed to meet him Saturday evening before the Saturday contemplative night prayer service but since I couldn’t stand up, um. My email telling him I couldn’t make it was probably the tersest of my entire life but at that point focussing my eyes on something like a computer screen WAS A VERY VERY BAD IDEA.
§§§§ I can wait! I CAN WAIT! I CAN WAAAAAAAAAIT!
The hellterror broke my favourite bowl today. Her head is on a stake in the back garden.
Actually I’m thinking about tying the stake to the railing at the front of the cottage. If Damien, hairy* four-legged scion of the Black Goat of the Woods, wants to have hysterical barking meltdowns every time I walk in or out of the cottage or the Lodge, I figure let’s give him something to melt down about.
This particular bowl, unlike most of the stuff I’ve been breaking without help lately, is relatively old in my life; I bought it probably pushing forty years ago, on holiday with my oldest and best Maine friend—who died a few years ago, way too long before time. We were on Prince Edward Island because she was an Anne of Green Gables fanatic, and this was one of those local-artists’-cooperative shops, dripping with highly desirable things. I bought a bowl. It is—was—a huge salad bowl, suitable for families of twelve, or for one slightly crazed paleo vegan alkaline raw foodie sort of.** It will be horribly, horribly missed, and since some of it shattered, I doubt there are enough pieces to epoxy back together, but I will save them and give it a try some decade in the future because I am like that. Meanwhile what am I supposed to do for a SALAD BOWL? Alfrick, who as an experienced spiritual director has a great wealth of uplifting suggestions for all occasions of profound anguish, recommends that I engage with the prospect of The Quest for the New Perfect Salad Bowl. This man knows me too well.
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* He looks like a frelling floor mop. Not that I’m prejudiced or anything. I have told you that five new barking dogs have moved into my immediate neighbourhood? But only Damien is hellspawn.
** Ref what a person like this eats when she’s coming off a nasty bout of stomach flu^: your metabolism or your ability to cope or whatever changes when you drastically change your diet. In hindsight I’ve always been lactose intolerant but I got a lot more lactose intolerant as soon as I went off dairy, although going off dairy was one of the best decisions of my life^^, and I could hear my body going YAAAAAAAAAAAAY while my mind and mouth were going waaaaaaaah ice cream cheese eggnog whipped cream waaaaaaaaah. I’m pretty sure I’ve told the blog that I used to have ice cream blow outs once or twice a year for a while but I had to stop because the hangover the next day, in which my entire physical being seemed to be inflamed, became seriously not worth it. I’ve been a vegetarian only a little over a year but the very idea of beef broth, for example, one of the post-flu options suggested on the forum, makes me feel extremely queasy, and while I used to be a chicken-soup-for-what-ails you person, I know I couldn’t face it now. Dead flesh? ANIMAL FAT? Ewwwwww. And Saltines, I’ve been off wheat for yonks—I even take gluten-free wafers at Communion—and lately comprehensively off all cereal grains. Saltines would kill me. I don’t doubt beef broth and Saltines work a treat for the person who posted; it’s what your body is set up to recognise as food^^^. I agree with those of you who have said that when you’re ill the rules change. It’s how they change and what they change to I haven’t figured out yet from the vegan paleo nutter^^^^ view.
^ And yes, it was so brief and so violent I thought about food poisoning too, but in the first place—er—the order of occurrence of certain categories of personal violence followed the stomach-flu pattern rather than the food-poisoning pattern. In the second place I can’t face the idea that it was food poisoning, because that would mean It Happened in My Kitchen, and while generally speaking housework is not my thing, I’m fairly paranoid about kitchen hygiene because my gut is so not a thing of beauty and a joy forever. And in the third place, Alfrick says there is a twenty-four hour stomach bug going around. Ah the many delights of conversation with one’s spiritual advisor. And the reassurance about the big things he can provide.
^^ Second to moving to England and marrying Peter. Sigh. And I’m already frelling failing as a gravekeeper. That first dark red rose lasted an amazingly long time. It lasted so long in fact that I didn’t believe it was lasting that long, and had bought a second spike’s worth+ and stuck it in the ground . . . and then the red rose went on and on and on, bless it, and the second spike, which had gone in eight days after the first, lasted approximately ONE day after I took the dark red one out, and this happened to be Saturday, and because I had Cecilia here, I didn’t notice till afternoon, and didn’t make it to the florist’s before they shut.++ So, because, after all, this is Peter, and the next day was Sunday when small town florists do not open for business, I committed the ultimate act of love and cut one of my own roses. Saturday evening it was a big fat happy bright pink rose with a lot of scent, which as most of you will know florists’ roses almost never have, and less than twenty-four hours later it was already over. Arrrrrrrgh. So tomorrow I will go back to the florist.
+ I have two of those spike-vase things so I can do the swapping more easily. #
# Okay, really I have three. Because I’m like that. But hey, they’re cheap.
++ I might have just about made it except WE GOT STUCK BEHIND SOMEONE GOING NINETEEN MILES AN HOUR FROM THE EDGE OF NEW ARCADIA TO FIFTY FEET FROM THE TRAIN STATION. ARRRRRRRRRRRRGH. YES, THERE WAS LANGUAGE. THERE WAS QUITE A LOT OF LANGUAGE. #
# Admetus thinks I suffer from road rage. I think he’s led a sheltered life. Cecilia just laughed.~ I was thinking about this. My girlfriends just laugh. Maybe it’s a testosterone thing? A sort of anti testosterone thing with blokes who don’t think a good evening out is to get tanked down t’pub and have a punch-up with whoever is available.
~ Which was noble of her since we barely made her train and we didn’t know at that point that we would. But we did make her train. Possibly the fates were rewarding her for being noble.
^^^ News flash: the hellterror has decided that lettuce is not food. Shock and dismay of family and friends. Film at eleven. She learnt a long time ago that when I’m doing something with a knife and a chopping board there’s food involved, and the way I now frelling eat, doing something at the sink with a salad spinner and a chopping board is most of the time I’m not reading, writing, hurtling, gardening or pretending to sleep. I NEVER used to let dogs mill around my feet and beg for scraps, but many rules have been changed in the era of non-eating hellhounds, and what you do with one hellcritter you pretty much have to do with all hellcritters, or at least choose your battles and be prepared to be extremely creative about setting up different protocols that the suspicious resident hellmob will actually wear. I never even tried to convince the hellterror that she wasn’t allowed to hope for falling items of an interesting nature. I am not entirely stupid. Anyway, the hellhounds, of course, rarely can be bothered, now that I’m never grappling with anything that smells attractive, but the hellterror is always there, radiating hopefulness. She likes broad beans. She likes all green beans, French, runner, whatever. She likes peas, both sugar snap and the ones you shell. She likes all the brassicas, as previously mentioned: she eats them RAW which I mostly can’t quite manage. She adores carrots. And she likes apple. She gets a lot of apple while I’m dealing with things she either scorns—this is a short list, but it now includes all lettuce—or that she can’t have, like avocado, or that I’m not going to let her have, like frelling frelling frelling salmon, which is Terribly Good for You+ but costs not one but several bombs if you buy either wild or responsibly farmed++. We’ve just had one of our little hellgoddess/hellterror interactions+++ where I drop a bit of apple which frelling bounces and she can’t get at it. FRANTIC SCRATCHING NOISES. I extend a bare foot to retrieve the thing and she can’t wait and is frenziedly licking my foot which is not helping the extraction process. THERE. VICTORY.
+ So no, I’m not a true vegan either. Life is short, and eating fish makes it simpler when you’re trying to live in a world where no one knows what ‘vegan’ means and if you say ‘vegetarian’ they all go ‘cheese sauce.’ And if you say, no, no cheese sauce they get all worried and say, then how do you get your PROTEIN? Well I used to get it by chewing up people who annoyed me, but . . .
++ Although the hellmob does receive the lovely greasy scrapings at the bottom of either the tin or the baking dish because . . . because . . . um. Because. But even the hellhounds may open one eye for salmon scrapings. That’s ‘may’.
+++ All right, her head is not outdoors on a stake. But it was a near thing. She doesn’t get it about the bowl, but she gets it that she is not my favourite person at the minute and is therefore sleeping Very Determinedly at my feet and next to the Aga in spite of the weather. The hellhounds are at the far end of the kitchen somewhat sheltered from the Aga by the desk-island, and with a nice cool breeze coming through the cracked-open front door.
^^^^ Yes I eat nuts. I eat lots of nuts.
Here’s a question for you: if you have become a sort of vegan-paleo-alkaline-raw-foodie person, what the jolly doodah do you eat coming off a savage bout of stomach flu? And I mean savage. It only lasted about six hours, thank you God, but I was a double-ended geysering hellhound in all ways except fur, long pointy nose and long tail for the duration. I was certainly walking on all fours because I couldn’t stand up: the world spun quite amazingly, and my heart was going about four hundred beats a minute. Throwing up always makes my heart race* but it usually slows down again. In this case it went on trying to shake me off the bed.
I crept downstairs at one point because there was quite a lot of moaning going on: the urgency had come upon me very suddenly and I hadn’t got the hellmob out for any more than a bit of grass on the street corner—my garden has no grass, except the stuff that flies over the wall and colonises my potted plants, and dogs need grass. Ask any dog. But I’d been going about indoors briskly doing stuff because I had a friend coming today, Saturday, I am describing the scene from yesterday, Friday, and, okay, I could have done some housework earlier in the week but . . . well, in the first place I didn’t, because I don’t, and in the second place since the floor needs sweeping/hoovering again approximately the minute I unplug the blasted hoover and jam it back into its current corner** because my resident fur factories are never off line, there’s not a lot of point of trying to do it ahead of time. I’ll just have to do it again. Which is inefficient, right? There were still fresh fur eddies in the draft from the door this morning when I brought my friend home Sigh.
And then, you know, there’s all that other stupid stuff that housework consists of.*** And I’d been hoping to get back out into the garden again—did I tell you I have hauled two entire Wolfgang loads of garden detritus off to the dump? Chiefly consisting of nettles, but other weeds and some rose-prunings did appear.† This is only the beginning. And, erm, it’s already frelling August.†† I was going to get my garden sorted this summer.††† And I had a friend coming! I didn’t want to lock the kitchen door and hide the key and say offhandedly, oh, you don’t want to go out there! ANYWAY. I crept downstairs at one point when the moaning was reaching something of a pitch, opened the garden door, left it open, which I never do unless I’m there to supervise,‡ and crawled back upstairs again.
Well, I didn’t get out into the garden. I also missed my appointment with my estate agent to discuss the Letting of Third House. I missed Friday afternoon handbells. When I could finally stand upright again I just about managed to do a quick stiff-brush thing on the stairs, which, due to a little backlist-box problem, won’t really accommodate a hoover at present. And I hurtled the mob. Not nearly well enough, according to the mob, but I told them they were lucky to get out at all. And I had COOKED green beans for supper and they stayed down. Yaay.
And it was great to see my friend today. This is someone I haven’t seen in years because we’ve both been having adventures—not all of hers have been desirable either—but she’s the kind of friend you just pick up with again like you saw each other last week. I even ate lunch successfully. And took her for a hike over gorgeous late summer Hampshire countryside without falling down.‡‡ And drove her back to the train where we promised not to lose touch again. But I’m way too brain dead to work tonight, so I thought I’d write a blog.
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* Things You Would Be Very Happy Not to Know About Yourself
** I have still not found the perfect storage space for a hoover, which is an awkward, bulky object, in this house with no storage AND covered in bookshelves on all the walls and piles of books in front of all the bookshelves. There’s the attic, of course, but if it disappears into the attic I really WILL never use it again. Haul it up and down my narrow little rail-free ladder stairs and back up again? Never happen.
*** As I have often said before, I don’t hate housework^, I hate the time it takes.
^ Except hoovering. I HATE hoovering. I’d rather be on my knees with a Patented Pet Hair Remover and a stiff brush. Which is indeed what I usually do.
† Note that you can still be stung by a nettle that has been frelling dead for a frelling week, lying on the ground waiting to be bagged up. I assume I don’t have to tell you how I know this. Also, nettles hide. As I say, most of eight gigantic bags of green stuff were nettles.^ I TOOK OUT A LOT OF NETTLES.^^ But the minute I go back indoors again and look out my kitchen window THERE ARE NETTLES. I just blitzed that area! I exclaim in outrage. No. You didn’t. Hahahahahahahaha, say the nettles.^^^
^ Although the last bag or two contained quite a lot of this small variegated-leaf tree put in by my predecessor, so it is no doubt rare and admirable and I don’t appreciate it properly. Phineas, my poor neighbour, came hesitantly up to me about a week ago and explained humbly that this thing had colonised the roof of his conservatory to the extent that he was beginning to worry about said roof maintaining its present desirable state of leakproofness, not to mention that my tree was shutting out the sunlight to the dismay of the huge planters of geraniums that live in the conservatory. Oops. Now it’s true that my garden has become even more of a jungle the last year or two but slightly in my defence in this case this is a very enthusiastic tree+ and since it was growing forward over its end of my garden in a very liberal manner and I can’t actually see over the wall to Phineas’ conservatory roof I had no idea that it was doing exactly the same in the other direction. Arrgh. I’ve hacked it back some, but more is necessary, and first you have to get THROUGH the stuff on my side to reach the stuff on the other side, which involves being poked in the eye, clawed, strangled, hair-yanked, and the delightful experience of repeated disgorgings of scratchy leaves down the back of the neck. ARRRRGH.
+ It must be part nettle
^^ And I have the scars to show for it. According to some of the Birkenstocks-and-beards natural medicine sites, nettle stings are good for rheumatism like bee stings are. I’m allergic to bee stings, so that’s out. I’ve been on the anti-rheumatism diet for about twelve years because it works, but I was thinking, if I keep a corner of my (tiny) garden sacred to nettles, if I went and rolled in these occasionally could I eat a tomato? Sigh. It would have to be a very good tomato.
^ The really bizarre thing is that I’m kind of fond of nettles. All part of my yen for self-torture I suppose. But a lot of weeds just make me snarl: creeping buttercup. SNARL. Ground elder. SNARL. And Japanese anemone. EXTRA SNARL. You gardeners are about to tell me that Japanese anemones are lovely, graceful and entirely desirable garden plants. No they’re not. They’re frelling takeover frelling thugs. THEY’RE WEEDS. Like frelling crocosmia, another so-called desirable garden plant. Rip out where seen. I don’t actually want a lot of nettles around—they, you know, sting, and they aren’t exactly beautiful—but maybe I’m just remembering that the presence of nettles means you have a nice healthy garden, that they’re good for butterflies, that you can eat nettles+, or that as an herbal tincture they’re useful for a lot of what ails you. But whatever. I kind of like them. This doesn’t stop me tearing them out. And getting stung spectacularly because when they’re cross, and pulling them up does tend to make them cross, they will sting you through your clothing.++
+ You can eat ground elder too but I’d rather not. Nettles are pretty reasonable, and I positively like nettle tea.
++ Reasons to be glad you’re wearing glasses instead of contacts: being lashed across the face by the eight-foot nettle you didn’t notice when you were pulling up some little ones at the eight-footer’s ankles. Owwww. Also, nettles across the scalp? Um, if it’s good for rheumatism, will it make your hair grow?
†† How did that happen? May was last week.
††† I think I say this every summer. This summer, however, I’m here all the time. On the other hand, this summer, I’m spending a lot more time lying on the floor in a state of ME stasis than usual. There’s just about enough floor space left in the kitchen for me to lie down on it, if I contort a little. The problem with lying on the sofa is that the hellmob expects to join me, and there are days when I can’t face being lain on by a hellmob with twenty-four or forty-eight elbows attached. If I lie on my bed, as previously observed, there will be moaning, but if I lie on the kitchen floor, it’s like, oh, hi, and we can all kind of curl up together. The hellterror is especially pleased because generally speaking she is expected to keep her attentions to herself since she is very . . . attentive. But remind me to tell you about my shrinking kitchen floor.
‡ The creativity of dogs, when presented with a garden, is much undervalued. Especially by the owner of said garden. Who furthermore will be cleaning up the kitchen floor of uningestables experimentally ingested.
‡‡ Granted I’m perfectly capable of falling down without any help from stomach flu aftermath totteriness.