February 3, 2015

Shadows is here!

Nice Things*

HERO won the Newbery thirty years ago.  Thirty.  How scary is that.

Anyway some silly person thought it might be amusing to interview me on the subject.  Fortunately they sent me a list of questions which enabled me to choose questions I could, you know, answer.  The Tor list a few weeks ago was way too full of pop-culture questions I couldn’t answer;  this one was full of state-of-the-YA-book-world questions and I HAVE NO CLUE.  I read what I read when I read it, because I saw it on the library shelf, because another unsteady crag of books at the cottage overbalanced and cannoned across the room and I had an ‘oooh, shiny’ reaction, because someone recommended it/sent me a copy, because the Kindle ebook was too cheap to ignore.  At the moment I’m reading a Barbara Hambly I seem to have missed (cannoning crag), catching up on the Dana Stabenows that have come out since I wandered away from murder mysteries about a decade ago (you have to pass through the mystery section at the library to get to the F&SF section), OUTPOST which is a post-apocalyptic thriller by new writer Adam Baker (I DON’T READ POST-APOCALYPTIC THRILLERS but I picked it up off the library shelf and liked the first few pages—especially that a male thriller writer should start his first novel writing sympathetically about a fat woman) and QUIET by Susan Cain, The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking** (cheap Kindle, but I was going to read it anyway)***.  I’ve just finished SCULPTOR by Scott McCloud (amazing graphic novel, an early copy arrived unsolicited in the post, THANK YOU First Second Books) and have started THE HOMEOPATHIC TREATMENT OF DEPRESSION, ANXIETY, BIPOLAR DISORDER AND OTHER MENTAL AND EMOTIONAL PROBLEMS by two homeopaths I’ve been reading for years, and am about halfway through HOMEOPATHY FOR TODAY’S WORLD by another homeopath I’ve been reading for years.   Not a YA in sight.  Not this week.  Ask me next week.  I’m trying to remember the last YA I read—Jacqueline Wilson’s MY SISTER JODIE, possibly, but she’s not even YA:  she’s kids.  She’s real stuff, real life for kids, and I love her for it. †

Anyway.  Don’t ask me about any state of any book world, because I won’t know.  But here’s an interview with me on the subject of winning a Newbery and, you know, writing stories and stuff.

http://www.sfsignal.com/archives/2015/01/guest-interview-open-road-media-chats-with-robin-mckinley-about-her-career-and-winning-the-newbery-award-for-the-hero-and-the-crown †††

 * * *

* Alcestis’ funeral went off very well, I think.  The speakers knew what they were doing, and Alcestis had an interesting life and so no struggling for material was necessary.  There were even some good laughs.  There were photos of her all over the walls which I couldn’t bear to look at—Admetus has promised me a private showing some time—and the day was clear and lovely and not too cold, and the track down to the tree she’d chosen to be buried under was not too muddy.  She’d said she’d chosen it for the view, and it has a good view:  but I couldn’t stop thinking about the fact that everything about the funeral was to her plans and instructions;  I could hear her saying that she’d chosen that tree and this view.

There was a Land Rover to take anyone who didn’t want to struggle with the footing—and the hill—and that included Peter.  The car followed us down to the gravesite, but preceded us going back up again, which meant I went frelling HARING up the blasted hill so Peter didn’t have to sit around in the empty café wondering if I’d fallen into a ravine or something.  I should have just gone in the car too.

** I ranked 18 out of 20 again on the standard introvert test:  the only questions I have to answer ‘no’ to are, do my friends find me self-effacing and laid back? HAHAHAHAHAHAHA and, would I rather die than do public speaking?  No.  It’s not that big a deal.  Which I’ve told you before always makes me feel like someone else is living in my body with me.  This personality should not be able to do public speaking but it/we can.

*** It’s even better than I’d hoped.  The problem with the current fashion in popular science is that certain of the tropes MAKE ME NUTS, like the way everyone the author interviews has to have their clothing and their twinkling eyes described.  Cut to the chase.  I usually object to the author writing him/herself into the story constantly too but in this case it works a treat because Cain is writing as an introvert in an extrovert-preferring world.  I was reading an article in TIME recently^ about the internet-fueled explosion of grass-roots sharing, bartering, selling.  One of the fastest growers in this market is car pooling and the author remarks blandly and cluelessly that of course commuting in company is preferable because driving by yourself is SO BORING.  There speaks the unthinking extrovert.  Driving is bad enough without having to make frelling conversation.

^ Mind you the magazine could be anything up to years old.  Speaking of unsteady crags of reading material.

† Um . . . actually I do remember the last YA I read.  It’s by a VERY FAMOUS WRITER and I HATED IT.  IT WAS BLISTERINGLY FRELLING TERRIBLE AND I HAVE NO IDEA WHY IT WAS EVEN PUBLISHED AND I WILL NEVER READ ANOTHER BOOK BY THIS INCOMPETENT CREEP OF AN AUTHOR EVER AGAIN.

†† And there’s also this, which several more people have sent me links to since Open Road first pointed it out:

http://time.com/3650304/writers-favorite-ya-books/

And it’s lovely, and I know I’m being a black hole of negativity but . . . she read it when she was eight?  I know precocious preteens read it all over the map and that’s great, the sooner and oftener girls growing up get told that girls do things too^ the better, but EIGHT?  She was precocious even as precocious goes.  And this fills me with dread and trembling for a whole fresh onslaught of angry eight year olds and their teachers, parents and librarians telling me that HERO is too hard for children.  Well yes, it is.  It’s not for children.  I got entire classrooms of kids writing me letters of protest when HERO’s Newbery was new:  the Newbery does say children’s literature.  I hope maybe that people reading the TIME article will go, oh, wow, well, she grew up to be a writer, so she was probably a precocious reader, and the headline does say YA novels . . . Listen, everyone, it’s really depressing getting bashed for something you wrote for any reason^^, but it’s extra depressing when you think, guys, if you’d only waited a few years. . . .

^  I’ve said this a gazillion times on the blog, but when I was a Young Writer Starting Out I assumed my generation of writers would have totally solved the Active Protagonist Gender Bias.  This hasn’t happened.  There are still a lot of frelling wet girls out there, including in books written recently.  So we still need heroines that do their own dragon-whacking.  Aerin has plenty of company . . . but not enough company.  Okay, you following generations of writers.  Get with the programme.^

^ Although I’m preaching to the converted on this blog.  Fans of Elsie Dinsmore or Samuel Richardson’s Clarissa are not subscribers.

^^ Except sheer jerkitude.  ‘I didn’t finish your stupid book because I wanted to read endless mushy romance when they stand around staring into each other’s eyes for chapters and chapters and the dragon was REALLY BORING!’ +

+ You’d be surprised.  Except for the ‘mushy’ this is nearly word for word.

††† The bio is about forty years out of date.  I will ask them to let me bring it up to 2015.^  And I don’t put commas before ‘too’.  That’s a copyeditor following house style.

^ YAAAAY.  They did.  Thank you!

 

 

 

 

26 January 2015

Today was Alcestis’ 58th birthday.

Would have been.  She died a little over a week ago.

Peter and I often go out to dinner either the 3rd or the 26th of whatever month it is*;  occasionally both, like this month.  January is frequently a sod;  serious deluges of champagne are often required in January.  Last year, after Peter’s stroke in December, pretty much bathtubs full of the stuff were prescribed and dutifully consumed.  And this year. . . . I’d remembered that Alcestis’ birthday was the end of January somewhere;  I’d forgotten it was today till Admetus reminded me.   Peter and I clinked our glasses tonight and drank to Alcestis.  Who is dancing joyfully in the sunlit fields of the Lord . . . which means fuck-all to me right now.

The funeral is on Friday.

That’s the worst, of course.  I miss her.  Remember I said in the Not a happy new year post to make time for your friends, life is shorter than you think?  It’s not like I didn’t know Alcestis’ time and life were running out all last year, but the habit of ‘oh next week is soon enough’ is hard to sodding break.  I am so glad now for all of those evenings I spent knitting and chatting with her the last few months;  I wouldn’t have not done it for anything, now that it’s all over—now that she’s gone.  But it also makes me miss her worse.  Because I’d FINALLY got in the habit of going round to see her regularly.  And enjoying her company.  And remembering why I liked her so much:  for her dry humour, her empathy, her astonishing breadth of practical knowledge about the world;  if you wanted to know something about pretty much anything, chances were that Alcestis could tell you something you could use and suggest where you might look for more.  She’d been a scientist and a science teacher, and teaching came naturally to her, whether it was basic physics or how to pluck a chicken.**  And yet months would go by, before she fell ill, when we’d run into each other in town and say ‘oh yes we must get together’ and then go our separate ways for more months.  Why are humans so STUPID?  Because I’m far from the only person who treats their friends like this.  There’s always going to be time.  But there isn’t.

So.  Sorry for the long blog silence.  There’s still a lot of staring blankly into space—and several other WHAAAAAAT? unexpected crises, mostly unsuitable for a family-friendly public blog, but I will mention the evening this past week, having just been knocked sideways by one of said crises, I managed to leave my diary in Mauncester I CANNOT LIIIIIIIVE WITHOUT MY DIARY I can barely remember to breathe without checking in my diary first*** and having phoned to be sure that I had left it where I thought I had, and they said they’d keep it safe for me, I leaped into Wolfgang to drive back to fetch it . . .

. . . and Wolfgang wouldn’t start.  AAAAAAAAAAAUGH.  I spent most of the next DAY schlepping in to Mauncester on the frelling BUS and hiking to the far end of town TO PICK UP MY DIARY.  While Wolfgang was towed off to the garage.  I got him back today:  hellhounds and I had a very nice walk over hill and under milkwood to Warm Upford to pick him up, with a shiny new starter motor under his bonnet.†  And all that stumbling over tussocks gave me an appetite for champagne, duck confit and a big fat chocolate brownie with chocolate sauce tonight at the pub.  It was a very good confit, and an excellent brownie.  But the brownie wasn’t as good as Alcestis’.

* * *

The news isn’t all bad, if you will permit me to range now into the frivolous.  Niall, who can smell weakness, and has his own unique ideas about cheering people up, seems to have inveigled me into RINGING FRELLING HANDBELLS AGAIN.  HOW DO I GET INTO THESE THINGS.††  Furthermore I seem to have become a semi-regular fourth with a particular group, Niall, Jillian, who was starting to learn handbells shortly before I more or less stopped, and a gentleman who has not appeared on these virtual pages before, whom we will call Spenser.  I’ve rung tower bells with Jillian many times—although she’s a good ringer and I’m not—I only know Spenser by reputation.  The fact that he’s not only a good tower bell ringer but also an organist and therefore has developed the Extra Brain Lobes for keeping track of several manuals AND a pedal keyboard or whatever you call them means he is beautifully pre-programmed to learn frelling handbells swiftly and accurately and I will HATE HIM SOON.  But right at the moment he and I are about level in the Struggle to Master Bob Major.

I’ve spent most of my handbell career thus far on six bells, mostly ringing bob minor.  ‘Plain bob’ is where everyone starts.  If you’ve only got three handbell ringers there are a lot of other more complex six-bell methods, but when you first make the step up to major—eight bells, four ringers—you’ll go back to plain bob.  This time plain bob major.  Counting to eight is hard—which you have to do, every dorgleflamming row, to keep yourself in your place in the pattern.  And ‘seven’ has too many syllables in it.  OnetwothreefourfivesixSEVENeight.  Ruins your rhythm.†††

Jillian at the moment is our weak link.  Not her fault, she’s been ringing less time than I have, Spenser is just talented, drat him, and Niall is, well, Niall.  Niall conceived of the daring plan to swap Jillian out some day that isn’t our regular meeting so that Spenser and I can have the thrill [sic] of ringing with two good steady ringers and see how far we get.  I could see the quarter-peal light going off in Niall’s evil little eyes‡.  We were fixed for this past Wednesday, with Melinda as our fourth.  Melinda would be one of my favourite ringers—despite her reprehensible excellence on handbells—if I saw more of her;  she’s the one got me going to the extra tower practise at Fustian, which stopped happening some time this last year when I haven’t been ringing anyway.  After Alcestis died I told Niall I am NOT trying for a quarter peal on Wednesday.  Both my stamina and my focus are zero for the present and the immediate future.  That’s okay, said Niall in his blandest possible manner.

I should frelling know better by now.

You can see where this is going.  We rang a couple of touches and first I and then Spenser—and bless him for not being perfect—crashed and burned.  So we started over.  No big;  we were getting good practise with Melinda there.  But then we started to steady down—Melinda is a lovely, equable, consistent, low-tension-transfer ringer.‡‡  Aaaaaaand we didn’t crash and burn.  For a few minutes.  For a few more minutes.  For . . . that ratbag Niall is going for a quarter.

We rang a quarter.  Spenser’s and my first quarter of bob major.

And that’s for Alcestis too.  Makes a change from glasses of champagne.  ‡‡‡

* * *

* Our wedding anniversary is 3 January;  our lightning-strike meeting anniversary is 26 July.

** She was also an excellent—and self taught—knitter.  She half-blinded herself knitting the Plain Dark Pullovers that are all the Standard British Male will wear, for Admetus.  And the sweater I knitted^ about three-quarters of, those last evenings of knit and chat, is hanging on the back of a chair at Third House and every time I see it I catch my breath.  I should finish it.  I know.  At some deep superstitious level I think I’m still hoping if I don’t finish it I’ll get a few more evenings with Alcestis.  Sigh.

^ which is for me and is about as far from plain and dark as it is possible to get.

*** Drink champagne, yes.  Eat chocolate, yes.  Breathing, I may need reminding.

† He now leaps six feet off the ground when you turn the key in the little hole.  BRAAAAAAANG.  NEXT STOP MARS.

†† A pathetic insufficiency of counter-obstinacy.  There is NOTHING ON THE PLANET as persistent as Niall in pursuit of handbell ringers.  And he’s such a polite, quiet, gentle person . . . most of the time.  Not about handbells.  Be glad you don’t live in New Arcadia.  He’d get you too.

††† One of the additional reasons I will never graduate to twelve on handbells, aside from the spectacular absence of necessary brain support, is because of having to count a row that has a three-syllable number in it.  Seven is bad enough.  ELEVEN?  Are you frelling JOKING?  I can just about manage plain hunt in the tower on twelve, because tower bells go so much slower you have half a chance to squeeze those extra syllables out.  Frelling handbells go a frelling lick.  Well-rung handbells sound like the louder, more musical version of someone running their thumb over the edges of a pack of cards.  That’s how fast it goes.^

^ Not with me however.  Handbells rung with me in the group are . . . stately.  There are people who won’t ring with me because I’m too slow.  Trust me, I don’t want to ring with these people anyway.

‡  If he’s part bull terrier that would explain a lot.

‡‡ There are other handbell ringers I won’t ring with because just being in the same room with them winds me up.  But I suspect they feel the same about me.

‡‡‡ Okay, I should finish that sweater.

Not a happy new year

 

The friend I’ve been visiting in hospital?

She’s dying.

It won’t be long now.

I hate this.  This is a stupid system, this life thing.  She’s younger than I am, by the way.  And another friend—another good friend—who is also younger than I am—has just been diagnosed with . . . well.  Not with blue skies and happy fluffy bunnies.

Life sucks.  And then, as we know, you die.

So, that’s been my holidays.*  Let’s call her Alcestis—the friend who’s dying—although in the damned myth some god or godling usually comes along at the last minute and saves her, and so far as I know my friend’s Admetus wasn’t in any danger.  She’s been ill for a while, and in and out of hospital, but they’ve known for a while they aren’t going to turn this one around, it’s going to get her, and sooner rather than later.  And she’s been slipping—also for a while—but the last three weeks or so the slope has suddenly got steeper.  Although we knew this was going to happen too.

I’ve been through this before, of course, but it doesn’t get easier, losing people—watching them slide away from you, and you can’t do a bloody thing except sit by their bedside and breathe.  Be there, stunned and clueless and disbelieving.  Everyone who is trying to comfort you says, oh, being there counts!  That is what you can do!  I guess.  But it’s throwing rose petals in the abyss.  Except it’s not even rose petals.  It’s dead toads or dandruff or anthrax or something.

Alcestis is in a specialist unit and it’s too far for me to drive, and I’m dependent on Admetus to give me a lift—but he’s a friend too, and they’re neighbours.  I blast over there five or ten (or fifteen) minutes later than I said I’d get there, and he does the driving.   I like to imagine that having someone in the car with him sometimes—he’s quite the taxi service, is our Admetus, bless him—is maybe a bit comforting, or grounding, or something.  I have really NO IDEA how he’s doing.  He’s a BRITISH MALE.  I assume he’s still eating, although he’s got awfully thin and he wasn’t exactly portly to begin with.  The unit Alcestis is in will feed a spouse or one other designated person for the big holidays, and they came round with the New Year’s Day dinner menus today while I was there doing my sitting and breathing thing—and in my case knitting:  my knitting is not improving with practise—and I was looking at Admetus looking at the menu and wanted to say to the nurses ‘make sure he eats too, okay?’

It’s a nice place, as far as places where people go to die are ever nice.  The nurses are kind and thoughtful and engaged:  they’re all over Admetus as he comes in, and a couple of them even recognise me.  There’s free tea and coffee (okay, and a donation box), and a big lounge-sitting-room-waiting-room space with comfy chairs and tables and books, and a computer with a selection of all-ages games.  They keep Alcestis clean and comfortable.  She’s just barely there any more and . . . drifting . . . farther . . . away.

Today the doctor took Admetus aside and said that hopes/plans to be able to send Alcestis home after the holidays, when they’d be up to full staff strength again for the amount of home care she’d need, were, barring miracles, permanently shelved and that . . . the unit is set up for a spouse or partner to spend the night there:  he might want to know that.  He might want to consider. . . . When we got back to New Arcadia tonight he gave me the domestic fauna care drill and he’ll text me if I need to step in.  There was a little austere hilarity at the outrage the capybaras, sugar gliders and wallabies are going to feel at being put abruptly on my schedule rather than Admetus’.  He gets up at about 6 a.m. most mornings.  I suppose I could go round and feed and do a quick sweep last thing before I go to bed. . . .

They’re rerunning the last night of the Proms on Radio 3 tonight.  Last night of the Proms live was mid September, and Alcestis was still alert and walking (slowly) and interested in the world and having opinions about the books she read.

And to everyone who is reading this:  make time to get together with your friends, and do stuff, or just hang out, drink tea, loan each other books.  Or if geography is against you—and I know a lot about that—talk on the phone, email, text, Skype.   Stay in touch.**  Time is a whole lot shorter than you think.

Tonight’s glass of champagne is to you, honey, Alcestis, my old friend.

 

* * *

* Another thing about holidays is the way people go on them leaving their social-welfare charities short-handed.  And falling prey to the common philosophy of wretchedness that if you can’t do anything for you and yours maybe you can do some damn thing for a stranger, I’ve picked up a few extra shifts here and there to the extent that I’ve had one or two lectures from older hands about taking care of myself.  OH SHUT UP.  Okay, yes, I know, and I appreciate the concern and understand why they’re having a word, but I’m at least conscious of what I’m doing and as soon as the holidays are over with I’ll revert to being the volunteer-organisation version of assistant bottle-washer.  But whatever your flavour of belief^ or disbelief, the end of year holiday season and all the jolly consumerism, I mean family and friendship and togetherness, tend to magnify anything that’s less than fabulous in your individual life, so social services get a bit strained.  The less than fabulous would include me and mine of course.  But being a do gooder at least means you have somewhere to put some of the sorrow and frustration.

^ Although just by the way the tendency for Christmas to be presented in Christian churches in all its blue-skies-and-fluffy-bunnies splendour MAKES ME CRAZY.  YO.  THAT KID YOU’RE WORSHIPPING IS GOING TO DIE HORRIBLY IN THIRTY-THREE YEARS+ AND THERE’S A CRUCIFIX HANGING OVER THE ALTAR, YES, EVEN AT CHRISTMAS, POSSIBLY TO REMIND YOU OF THIS TINY FACTOID??  As one might say, Jesus.  There’s a dark despairing edge even at Christmas, a shadow behind the joy.  Welcoming this baby should break your heart, and if it doesn’t you’re not paying attention.++

+ Or about four months, depending on how you’re counting.  This is only my third Easter coming up and I already want a year off.#

# I think I said that last year.  Easter is hard.~

~ And it has nothing to do with fluffy bunnies, chocolate or otherwise.

++ Some of the carols get this right.  When I’m experiencing a worse than usual brain failure day, the verse I can never forget is from We Three Kings:  Myrrh is mine, its bitter perfume/ breathes a life of gathering gloom/  Sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying/ Sealed in a stone-cold tomb.  Elsewhere it refers to King and God and sacrifice.  Um, yeah.  Stay with it.   And Christmases like this one for me, it’s exactly like my monk said:  he died also so none of us ever has to suffer alone.

I still think it’s a total fucker of a system.  When I get to heaven# I’m going to start a petition.

# And remember we all do, eventually, whatever ‘heaven’ turns out to be and whatever petitioning options there are.

** Which I’m doing a lousy job of with everyone else in my life.  Because I’m too sunk in being bad company.  Sigh.  Do as I say, not as I do, okay?

 

 

Crazy Singing Lady

 

. . . NO NO NO NO I CAN’T POSSIBLY START WITH THAT FIRST LINE, SOMETHING MIGHT BE LISTENING. . . .  ::DANCES THE FANDANGO IN A DISTRACTING MANNER::* . . . It’s been a pretty crappy almost everything lately, you can hardly blame me for being paranoid.  So, what I was risking saying was, I’ve had two surprisingly okay, engaged, useful, whatever, voice lessons in a row . . . just in time however for a three-week holiday break during which I will doubtless go to flat, unrhythmic little splinters again.  So the powers of entropy don’t have to be paying attention.  The gremlins can just lie back and giggle.  Throw the occasional brickbat if they feel inspired.  Although I may dare to hope for metaphorical brickbats.**

My attitude = not great.

I managed to whomp the whatsit out of myself with a not-very-metaphorical brickbat just before last week’s voice lesson and I mean whomp.  The gremlins would have been proud of me.  You may recall that this is A New Computer.***  I was rummaging a fortnight ago, in the scary dark interstices of the EVERYTHING folder, where files you haven’t seen since before you had a computer may lurk undetected for centuries, or at least till they make the next gazillion storage media redundant.†   And, lo and behold, I unearthed a couple of the recordings I’d made of voice lessons YEARS ago, or at least I hope it was years.  And I made the very nearly fatal mistake of listening to one of them.††

DEAR GOD IN HEAVEN I KNEW I WAS BAD BUT I HAD NO IDEA I WAS THAT BAD.†††  I also remember that when I played them back at the time I was a little discouraged‡—also I had some other great emotional drama playing out in my life at the time and I’m learning that this always has a Florence-Foster-Jenkins-izing‡‡ effect on my singing—but I don’t think I wanted to find a bridge to jump off of.  I should have wanted to find a bridge to jump off of, or at least to stop singing forever and let Nadia fill my slot with someone she can teach to SING.  AAAAAAAAAAAAUGH.

About the only thing to say for this utterly demoralising experience is that I didn’t consider giving up singing forever.  It’s too late.  I sing for sanity.‡‡‡  But I pretty much went in for my lesson on my hands and knees last week and Nadia, bless her, said I FORBID YOU TO LISTEN TO THAT RECORDING.  EITHER BURY IT IN THE BACK GARDEN OR—RECOMMENDEDDELETE IT.  YOU’RE JUST HURTING YOURSELF LISTENING TO IT NOW.  . . . The real point being she did NOT say, actually, I’ve been meaning to discuss giving your slot to someone I can teach to sing. . . .  She did say that I’ve improved.  WELL I COULD HARDLY HAVE GOT WORSE.

I came out of this at last week’s lesson like a bull terrier going for her supper Kong and SANG.§  It may not have been pretty but it was energetic.  And this is the time of year when you can probably even sing (audibly) on the street without people thinking you’re the Crazy Singing Lady§§ and I’m having my annual frenzy of learning all the rest of the verses to my top favourite 1,000,000 Christmas carols§§§—which I admit is cutting into proper practise time but it does mean I’m singing.#

And . . . (re)learning Christmas carols## this year, I came to In the Bleak Midwinter and . . . hmmm.   It hadn’t really registered with me till I moved over here, but it’s (perhaps) Peter’s favourite and has become one of mine.  But this year, singing it, I thought, this isn’t a carol, this is a song that happens to be about Christmas.  So I’m going to learn it properly—I took it in to Nadia today—and sing it all year.  And become the Crazy Singing Lady who sings carols in midsummer.   If I’m going to become the Florence Foster Jenkins of the 21st century I might as well do it with some flourish and swagger.

* * *

* And me dancing the fandango would be very distracting.^  Not in a good way.

^  Eh.  You need a partner for the fandango.  ::Eyes the hellmob+::  Hellhounds get that ‘oh help and glory she’s not going to shove FOOD at us again is she???  But we just ate last week’ look on their faces, delicately rearrange themselves to face the wall and appear to be deeply preoccupied with going to sleep.  Hellterror throws herself up on her hind legs and starts demonstrating her idea of a fandango, shouting, ME, COACH!  PUT ME IN!  I CAN FANDANGO!  ALL I NEED IS A CARMEN MIRANDA HAT!

+ Or hellhorde, as some enterprising forum poster suggested.

** You probably think gremlins are metaphorical.  NOT IN MY LIFE.

*** The old one is still in a box under Raphael’s desk because he’s going to find time to resuscitate it any minute.^  You know, like maybe March.  2016.  Not that I feel that I’m not getting my contract support hours out of him however:  it’s a good day when I have texted/emailed/screamed-so-they-could-hear-me-in-Dorset him about the ultrabook’s^^ latest little ways fewer than 4,612 times.

^ Yes, since you ask.  There’s still stuff on it that I’m missing.+  And you’re totally up to date with your back ups, your files are flawlessly labelled and you’re all ready for Christmas, right?  GOAWAY.

+ Besides the remnants of my sanity.  Sanity, computers and I are really not an integrated whole.  We’re kind of this universe, the anti-universe, and a third thing nobody’s discovered yet but it makes an even bigger bang. 

^^ I’ve already complained to you about how you can’t say LAPTOP any more?  That’s just so turn of the century.  No, it’s ULTRABOOKS now.  Ewww.  I thought ‘laptops’ was naff, but ultrabooks has that Marketing Genius pong about it.  Go away.+  Go shed your fuzzy, asthma-inducing fashionability on someone else’s carpets.  I just want a computer that will fit in my knapsack.

+ I probably shouldn’t be repeating ‘Go away’ so often three days before Christmas, right?  . . . GO AWAY.~

~ I know.  You saw that coming.  Sorry.  It’s been a hard year.

† So, how about all those cassette tapes and floppy discs?

†† Well, I had a row of knitting to finish.  And then about a skein and a half of rows after that.

††† May I grovel in apology here to the two or three people I’ve taken along to my voice lessons.  In my pathetic defense I took them because I wanted them to meet Nadia and see/hear how totally cool and interesting and exact and responsive she is, and the way she can adjust what she says to what the student can take on.^  It’s true that part of the experience is that they have to hear me sing, but . . . well, I knew I wasn’t good, but . . . GROVELS EXTENSIVELY.  I’LL NEVER DO IT AGAIN.  NEVER EVER.  I PROMISE.

^ I get a lot of horse riding metaphors.

‡ I also remember I blogged about it, but I don’t want to go back and read what I said.

‡‡ One of the things I might have found interesting if I hadn’t been having a nervous breakdown is what Nadia has been telling me for years about what she tactfully calls my ‘tuning’ issues which is to say that I spend most of my time going flat, not because I have no ear^ but from nerves.  No no I can’t possibly do that whatever it is!  FLAT!!!!  And she’s right.  It’s the exposed notes that go flat;  it’s got pretty much nothing to do with pitch.  I’ll go flat on a frelling C if it’s the top note of the bar;  in the next bar I’ll sing an F on pitch if there’s a G above it I can go flat on instead.  Why don’t I stick to knitting?^^

^ I haven’t got much ear but I generally recognise flat when I hear it.  Except when I’m deaf from the throbbing in both ears.

^^ Because I’m also a lousy knitter?  Sigh.  Although until my life placids out a little I’m not even interested in doing anything more exciting than stocking or garter stitch with maybe the odd bit of ribbing for variety.  I knit for tranquillity+.  But then I sing for sanity.++

+  HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

++ Um.  Yes.  And I’d be even less tranquil without my error-liable knitting.  SIGH.

‡‡‡ Yes.  As previous footnote.  Also, for some inexplicable reason, my church likes my singing.  They are even more desperate and/or tone deaf than I realised.

§ Any of you know Brother James’ Air? It is so pretty.

§§ Which they think the rest of the year. Crazy Singing Lady with a Variety of Dogs.

§§§ Every year they come back a little quicker. How long have I been taking voice lessons, and singing increasingly shamelessly on the street?^ By the time I die of extreme old age I’ll probably be quavering my way through all sixteen verses of everything at Christmas.

^ It’s done me serious good the last few months, I think, despite what the neighbours think, because of the adjusting-to-new-sitting-room-with-new-acoustics thing which was a much bigger issue than I’d expected.  Silly me.  Of course it was going to be an issue.  In a little tiny sitting room I can—and do—make the blasted lamps rattle, because I have so little frelling control.  I’m either loud or shut down to a faint creak.  Sigh.

# Singing for sanity.  As I keep saying.  Thank God for singing (if badly) and knitting (if badly).

## There’s also the ever-interesting topic of the way the British keep jerking the tunes around.  An exploration for some other evening.

It’s only another placeholder

 

Okay, I’ve got some stories for you, but no time to tell them.  But as a placeholder you might find the email I just wrote to Worthy Charity #74,821,333 mildly entertaining:

Your web designer is a MORON.  Please pass on my lack of respect.  In the first place, why is a title required?  Many people—myself included—prefer not to use one if we’re given the option.  Then, if the standard short list of titles your site provides does not apply and one is so foolhardy as to tick ‘other’, one is presented with a drop-down list of epic proportions, offering ever wilder opportunities, Death Star Commander, Harvest Goddess, Sixth Degree of Kevin Bacon . . . and lo and behold tucked away in there is ‘Family’.  My sponsorship is a gift to four members of a family, and so with a somewhat wary relief, I ticked ‘family’.  BUT A FIRST NAME IS STILL REQUIRED.  Um.  Xxxx?  Ja-Sa-Sa-An?  What?  This is to a family.  There is no single ‘first name.’  And the four of them are going to have to look at whatever inanity I come up with for the duration of the sponsorship.  Thanks ever so. 

If you’re lucky, your other would-be sponsors are less volatile.  I am fed up to here with web sites that have been designed by lobotomised beavers with hangovers.  This time of year I do a lot of on line ordering and there are a lot of worthy charities out there, some of whose web sites function more or less straightforwardly.  I could have sponsored another [furry critter worth keeping alive and well fed] for half the price of one of your [glorified superwhatsits]:  but it wouldn’t [grow up to make the world a better place].  So here I am.  Fuming.

R McKinley Dickinson

I’m going to be at the hospital a lot of tomorrow again and then I have somehow allowed myself to get ensorcelled into frelling handbells in the evening.  ARRRRGH.  I’ve warned Niall I will have No Brain after all that knitting* but he seems to think this is not as relevant as the Body in the Chair with Outstretched Hands Holding Handbells part of it.  He may live to regret this.  Meanwhile I’m missing deadlines right and left** but if I have the kind of limbo-brain later tomorrow night that is utterly incapable of work*** but could probably splodge out a blog post as an alternative to cruising end-of-year knitting sale sites . . . I’ll give splodging a try.

PS:  Thanks for all the nice supportive words, all you readers, both on the forum and in my email inbox.  The kindness of strangers–or semi-strangers–is more of a comfort than perhaps most of you guess.

 * * *

* Just as an aside, thank God for knitting as a way of not driving the ill person you’re visiting crazy.  Also the nurses would probably throw me out after I picked the second chair to pieces.  Not that God is my favourite person recently with all the depressing mayhem in my life, but my monk ruthlessly pointed out that the bloke whose birthday we’re celebrating next week suffered^  so that none of us need ever suffer alone AND THERE’S A CYCLICAL NON-LOGIC TO THIS THAT I DON’T LIKE AT ALL but . . . yeah.  I have no idea how it works but the thing is that it does work.  It doesn’t work ENOUGH.  But . . . Jesus and knitting.  Okay.  Whatever.

^ among other reasons to do with life everlasting where it’s never too cold to sit still and contemplate higher things and eating too much chocolate never makes you fat

** No, nothing to do with EBON, I’m afraid.  EBON doesn’t even have a deadline to miss at the moment, sigh.  No, things like interviews for Open Road who are trying valiantly to publicise all those shiny new ebooks, and house insurance.  HOUSE INSURANCE??  I’M OVERDUE ON THE HOUSE INSURANCE?  Fortunately an insurance company that has had you by the short hairs for a number of years tends to come after you pretty robustly.  MONEY.  WE WANT MONEY.  WE WANT YOUR MONEY.  WE WANT IT NOOOOOOOW.  I put the cheque in the post today.  That only leaves 1,000,000,000 deadlines of a moderately life-threatening nature to go.

*** This includes looking at columns of figures with slightly more understanding than if I were staring at the Voynich manuscript, and writing my signature on the bottom of cheques that the bank won’t return as forgeries^. 

^ Tear splotches and bloodstains, of course, are majestically ignored.  Banks have seen that all before.

 

Next Page »