August 23, 2016

Life as a 21st century semivegan*

[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.


** 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::

^^ rent

^^^ 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.


Domestic Dramas

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.

* * *

* 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.


# 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.

* * *

* 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.

Life is like that*

It started raining in the five minutes between bringing hellhounds in, taking my raincoat off because it’s HOT and it’s not raining, and furthermore it’s not SUPPOSED to rain, this slender pause including hastily checking that my next organic-grocery delivery is not too deranged, because my deadline was midnight and I tend to get a little carried away about how much I’m going to put through my juicer* this week and probably needed to halve my beet order and quarter my carrot order**, and taking the hellterror out.  I was so not expecting it to be raining we were halfway to the main road before I realised I couldn’t see out of my glasses*** and my hair was sticking to my scalp.  By which time I couldn’t be frelling arsed to go back† so we went on:  the hellterror doesn’t like the rain any more than the hellhounds do, and as soon as nature’s demands were satisfied I’d be dragging her on for a bit of exercise for exercise’s sake while she tried to head for home††.  We were in no danger of drowning.  In an increasingly sodden state we passed under an awning where another damp, un-raincoated figure was addressing himself to his smartphone.  Calling a friend for a lift in bad weather doesn’t work when you’re hurtling your domestic fauna.  Hey, great weather, he said.  It started raining in the five minutes between taking the first dog shift indoors and taking the second shift out, I said.  He grinned (maybe his friend had with the car had said yes.  Maybe he was placating the crazy old lady with too many dogs).  Life is like that, he said.

* * *

*This should have gone up last night but I am having Extreme Computer Problems, to the extent that I really don’t know what to do.  Raphael was just here today, bringing my supposedly-mended ultrabook back and taking away the seriously insane old laptop that I’d been using in its absence and I can still barely make this one do anything.  If this post is not up to standard I can plead extenuating circumstances. –disintegrating ed

* My juicer and I are no longer best friends. When Alcestis first demonstrated hers she gave me beet, apple and carrot juice, and her juicer, which is the same one I then went home and bought^, calmly and elegantly chomped the doodah out of what she put through it, and produced a sparkling cascade of perfect juice. Mine, when presented with a series of hard things like apples and beets and carrots and sweet potatoes^^ has a tendency to buck like a rodeo bronc and spew a thin spray of juice through its not-quite-blast-proof joins. Beet juice STAINS. The bucking also tends to slam it backwards into the row of books which adorn the edge of my one ex-usable countertop, which has become my desk, which is not popular either.  I now wrap the freller in dishtowels and hold on while it’s juicing.   There tends to be language.

^ This was three or so years ago, when Alcestis was still walking and doing things like her own juicing, and I still thought my money problems were no worse than usual.

^^ Yes of course I cut them up. Am cutting them up in smaller and smaller pieces too.

** I’m still experimenting with how much raw cabbage I can hide inside the (raw) beets, the (raw) carrots and the (raw) sweet potatoes. I get a little lip-curly at these shiny fashion-conscious smoothies for health!!!! sites that suggest you slip in two or three raw spinach leaves with your mango, your banana, your pineapple, your yogurt and your half a cup of honey and you’ll never know they’re there! I like raw spinach.  All rational people like raw spinach.^  You want hard core, I suggest raw cabbage.  I, one of whose food groups is broccoli, still prefer it steamed long enough to get rid of the brassica bite. And cabbage . . . I’m not sure how this works out in terms of comparative quantities and proportions^^ but I can make one medium-sized cabbage disappear in a quart of juice—I drink a pint and put the other pint in the refrigerator for the next day.  According to the purists you should juice every day because all the freshiest freshness goes away almost immediately.  I think these people have staff.  I could use a second pair of hands to keep the frelling juicer under control.

^ All right, all right, most rational people.  I say nothing about cooked spinach.#

# And yes, spinach can be cooked in ways that are not slimy and disgusting. But what a waste.

^^ I spent way too much time this afternoon, when I should have been writing MMMPH or MMMMPH or AAAAAAAAUGGGGHHHHH, trying to put together a hellmob food order, now that I have made a thing of beauty# of the canine larder corner and discovered that I’m all out of stuff I thought I had lots of and have tins and bags and bales and boxes of stuff I keep buying because I can’t find it so I think I’ve run out.  Arrrgh.##  I use several different critter-supply sites because I really get off on making myself a drooling psycho hag, and because any faint quiver of interest from the hellhounds in a food or food-related substance and I’m on line researching.  And every site lists its quantities and comparative cost rates differently AND every frelling brand of frelling critter food lists its quantities and comparative cost rates differently I HATE MATHS I HATE MATHS and let’s not even approach the extremely embattled topic of INGREDIENTS LISTS.###  But Pooka was smoking from iPhone calculator overuse, and that’s only the numbers I think I can translate enough to plug them in to see how or if they talk to each other.

# Pink, purple and turquoise plastic beauty. There’s also a rather nice table half buried in there which I keep thinking I should extract and put somewhere it can be admired, instead of ruining its delicate profile by making its legs into a pen for 15-mg bags of kibble, which are, you know, dumpy. But when I say put somewhere, where, exactly, do I mean?, put somewhere.

## Next time: goldfish.

### I don’t want to know how fabulous and wonderful your flaming whatsit dog food is! I want to know WHAT’S IN IT!  I want to know EXACTLY what’s in it!!!  One hellcritter’s hypoallergenic is another hellcritter’s owner getting up three times in the night and it should have been four times! It also pitches me into rabid meltdown mode when I’m looking at an ingredients list and it has fu—fugging CORN SYRUP and/or SALT in it.  WHAT THE FRELLING FRELLING FRELLING FRELL.   Let’s force our dependent critters to develop the same stupid harmful addictions that we’ve given ourselves.  Dogs don’t know from sugar! Don’t freaking TEACH THEM. Also . . . WHY???  Neither the corn syrup nor the salt is going to be a substantial enough part of the treat, since it’s usually treats that are toxic-ified up this way, to make a profit difference to the manufacturer, so WHY???  I get it, kind of, that baby food is often spiced and sweetened and salted up because mums taste it and might think it’s too bland for their precious darlings who are going to grow up to rule the world and need to get a head start on the corporate dining thing, but DOG FOOD?  Okay, I tried Alpo when I was a kid~, but generally speaking we DON’T taste our dog food, do we?  DO WE?  Especially (let’s say) the dried, smoked, salted and sugared . . . um, leftover innards and genitalia of critters whose more-admissible-in-polite-society parts do mostly land on human dinner plates?  ARRRRRRRRRRGH.

~ This could perhaps explain a lot. How many of you out there tried Alpo when you were kids and have grown up Strange?

*** My new glasses, just by the way.  I’ve needed a new prescription since I got the first ‘come in for your eye test and discover you’re turning into an octopus’^ reminder letter last autumn but there were other things going on, and after Peter died my eyes went completely doolally and I didn’t want to buy new glasses and need another new prescription a fortnight later.  Especially not at these prices.  But by this summer I could barely see out of the old ones and there were some Terrifying Moments when I’d ripped my glasses off and laid them down somewhere while I got on with something held immediately under my nose because my close, I mean very close, I mean very very close, vision is still pretty good . . . and then couldn’t find them again.  My glasses, I mean.  And I am definitely in the category of not being able to see well enough to look for my glasses unless I’m already wearing them.  More Interesting Reasons Why I’m Always Late for Almost Everything,^^ Franticly Patting the Floor for Possibly Fallen Spectacles.^^^  However, this being able to see again thing takes some getting used to.  I keep making little jerks at my face every time I get the knitting out or open a book, because of course I need to take my glasses off. Erm.  No, I don’t.  I also keep trying to peer over them when the new, functional close-work strip is at the bottom of the lens, resulting in some very interesting neck-cracking up-and-down comportment.

^ Well, I’ve always had very light-sensitive skin, and lots of stuff gets worse as you get older.

^^ Except Mass with the monks. I may tear in seconds before the priest and server process . . . but I’m there.

^^^ Also, Another Excellent Reason for Having a Small House, although in These Circumstances Not Small Enough.

† Plus a dispiriting replay of the huge tragic eyes from Chaos, who has recently decided that every time I take the hellterror out it’s a personal betrayal. SHE’S LIVED WITH US FOUR YEARS AND YOU ALWAYS GO OUT FIRST.  WHAT IS YOUR PROBLEM.

†† FOOOOOOOOOD.  She only gets fed immediately on return occasionally, but she doesn’t want to make a mistake if it’s one of those days.

Everyday Wickedness


Or, Some Things Don’t Change

I blew off handbells today. Shock.  Horror.  But our usual Friday afternoon handbell madness is occasionally held in Morocco, because one of our regulars lives there, and for her to come here is a very long commute for a couple of hours of somewhat erratic handbells, since we are not all up to Niall’s standard, and occasionally we all go to her instead.  Furthermore she has a big garden full of wildlife and if the handbells are going badly someone can always look out the window and say ‘oh, look, a djinn.’

But the days we drive to Morocco are a long commute for those of us coming from New Arcadia and Mauncester. And I, as I have told you, am beginning to do a little story-work again, but it’s kind of a struggle*, and most of this last week has been a non-event due to obsessing about the interment, the interment, and disintegrating after the interment.  And while I wasn’t looking, the story that was (I thought) unspooling the most steadily got itself into the most spectacular matted mare’s nest** and yesterday I pulled most of it to pieces trying to figure it out, speaking of morale problems.  So when Niall told me handbells were at Jillian’s today I demurred and said I needed to stay home and work.

Well, I did need to stay home and work.  This is not necessarily what happened.  THIS IS NOT WHAT HAPPENED.  What happened is by mid-afternoon I was having difficulty not throwing this ARGLEBARGLEDOODAHBLITZIT object across the room, which is to say my so-called computer***, AND the mare’s nest now resembled a plait of plastic rope that someone has set fire to.  Not only is it not pretty and is incapable of holding anything together it PONGS.

So about the time Niall would have been setting off to Morocco I LEAPED INTO WOLFGANG AND WENT TO MAUNCESTER TO LOOK AT STORAGE SOLUTIONS. Such vice!  Such wickedness!  Where I came in:  some things don’t change.  I used to do exactly this in similar situations back in Maine.  When the pong of melted plastic rope got too much I would leap into Ferdinand and drive to Ellsworth and look at storage solutions, lack of storage having been a guiding principle my entire life.  The lilac-covered cottage in Blue Hill was smaller than this one†, but I had fewer bad habits in those days†† and now that I don’t have Peter’s larger house to spill into (and out of) the corners of, um.  I also had only one dog in Maine.  The hellmob larder situation is extreme AND IS TAKING UP POTENTIAL BOOK SPACE.

I can’t say I solved it, but I did come home with two Very Large Plastic Crates and four small ones.  I did not choose these because they were the cheapest bins available, which they were, but because I could get them in purple, turquoise and pink.

Some things don’t change.

* * *

* It’s always a struggle, it’s been a struggle for approximately sixty-three years^ it’s just sometimes my vorpal blade is shining with a burning flame and going snicker-snack and sometimes it is more of an overripe banana going squish.  I’m glad that—as someone on the forum has I think said—the Story Council seems to have unearthed my address and has started sending me possible projects again^^ but speaking of things that don’t change I’m working on two short things and a long thing, and the short things are (a) a SEQUEL to another short thing and (b) a retelling of a frelling fairy tale which means these are both RIFE WITH PERIL for someone who doesn’t do the short thing all that well, I mean, even rifer with peril, because a sequel means that there’s more there, you know?  Which is how accidents happen.  And retelling fairy tales . . . eh.  My record here speaks for itself.   And the long thing is, well, long.  So the Story Council’s latest hot delivery is THANKS SO MUCH YOU GUYS, a novel that has been lurking in the back of my mind and the bottom of my cough-cough-cough-cough filing system for thirty years.  Yes.  Really.  This is something I started poking at after BEAUTY, and then SWORD snatched me away, saying, yes, yes, you said that Damar was scaring you, we let you write BEAUTY to settle you down, now pay attention.  This other thing has waved to me from the shadows from time to time since then but . . . GO AWAY.  I’M SURE YOU’RE ADORABLE BUT I HAVE ENOUGH GOING ON.^^^

^ My memories of telling myself proto-stories in my crib are comparatively mellow

^^ Although I don’t actually think it’s the Story Council’s fault in this case. I think I’ve been ignoring that slap on the doormat that says INCOMING, unless, of course, it’s a gardening catalogue, a knitting magazine+, or that extra-specially splendid thud that declares A NEW BOOK, because, of course, I need more books, I can’t get up the stairs in either house because of the book boxes++:  that is, I can, because I have long legs and I won’t sue myself, but nobody else can.  However given that my housekeeping skills have never had a lot of profile and have been almost completely dormant for the last eight or nine months, repelling visitors has become an act of charity since the only loo in either house is . . . upstairs.+++

+ I have something hilarious to tell you.  I NEED A NEW KNITTING PROJECT.  I NEED A NEW KNITTING PROJECT. Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha, stop, stop, hahahahaha I can’t stop, HAHAHAHAHAHAHA STOP.  Yes.  Well.  I’m sure I’ve told you that I’ve turned into the Crazy Knitting Lady Super-Extra Model since Peter died because having my head down over a lapful of yarn helps me not cry in public, and knitting through the sermons every week at St Margaret’s has revealed that, because I’m a fidget and sitting still takes effort, knitting furthermore helps me concentrate.#   With the unsurprising outcome that I’m getting through rather a lot of it.  The shortcoming of this system is that I can only do plain, plain, PLAIN knitting because I am a bear of very little brain and if I’m using knitting to suppress the fidgets as well as the tear ducts while I’m paying attention to something else I can’t do anything clever.##

So, yeah, my house is full of unfinished projects###, like the houses of most knitters I know, but I daren’t risk trying to finish any of these because I will bobble them extremely. So I need A NEW (simple minded) KNITTING PROJECT.  Too delicious.  And it’s not even on my forbidden-foods list.####

# Although I have to remember not to wave a needle around for emphasis during the discussion afterward.

## The fact that the strips of that infamous baby blanket are different lengths testifies to just how plain the knitting has to be.  Counting rows?  COUNTING?  You mean, like, MATHS?  Bad idea.  Really, really bad idea.

### Stuffed into an assortment of excellent tote bags emblazoned with slogans like ‘I knit so I don’t kill people’. What a pity it took me so long to discover knitting.

#### It probably should be BUT IT’S NOT.

++ I told you, didn’t I, that Atlas came off his bike about two months ago and broke both wrists?! So the shelf-building has been on hold.  It has begun again, now he’s out of plaster, but the Lodge’s walls are even more skew-whiff than the cottage and it’s more sculpture# than carpentry.  Which takes longer.

# The local what’s-on New Arcadia magazine this month has an ad for a beginners’ sculpture class. NOOOOOOO.  MCKINLEY, IN WHAT TIME?  WITH WHAT ENERGY?  But I keep thinking about it.  Let’s see I could give up . . . um . . . I could give up . . . =

= And it’s worse than that because I’ve started drawing again. In what time and with what energy.  And what result must be considered.  If my writing is too often adding three words and deleting seventeen, my drawing is adding half a syllable and deleting a page.

+++ They breed, you know, book boxes, like clothes-hangers in neglected closets.   Every time I go up to Third House there’s another one in a corner that I’m SURE was clear last time.  Empty wrong-sized plant pots do exactly the same thing.  Arrrgh.

^^^ Unless of course you promise, word of honour and sealed in blood, that I can write you in six weeks and you will be BRILLIANT and sell 1,000,000,000 copies in the first six months.

** Like necklace chains in the jewellery drawer overnight. How do they DO that?  ARRRRRGH.

*** My proper laptop—the ultrabook, laptops are so last decade—is in the frelling shop, because its keyboard went doolally last week.  Okay, so, how many people eat at their computer?  Like, most of us?  And why can’t the idiots in development create a bits-proof keyboard?  Now I’m off all cereal grains I’m not even producing many crumbs.  Although tahini and pine nuts are probably worse.  Anyway.  I’m presently attempting to work on my old, reconditioned laptop—back when laptops were laptops—and apparently it liked being retired because It.  Is.  Not. Cooperating.  So when Raphael brings the ultra back with a shiny fresh porous keyboard, he will take AWAAAAAAAY this pigbutt of a machine and whack it around some.

† The kitchen more nearly resembled a kitchen but the house had no attic. Reasons to move to England:  public footpath system.  Roses.  Attics.


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