April 8, 2015

Shadows is here!

A Day of Lows

 

Wolfgang and I managed to run over Peter today.

No, no, Peter’s fine*.  JESUS GOD AND ALL THE SAINTS.  I’m a freaking hysterical meltdown mess.  Peter seems to have thought it was FUNNY.  He thinks it’s FUNNY to be married to a CRAZY HOMICIDAL** WIFE.

We’ve had two beautiful spring days in a row.  I’ve been trying to hack out time for frantic gardening:  this is the time of year when I very very briefly believe that maybe THIS year I’m going to have the garden at the cottage in something almost resembling order for more than three seconds the end of April.***  I’m not expecting to attain a very close facsimile of order . . . just, you know, frothy ebullience caused by healthy plants doing what they feel like doing instead of what I had planned for them to do.  This does however require that the plants I planted thrive and the frelling weeds grow less fast than I yank them up.  The back wall is at present a jungle nightmare of last year’s skeletal goose grass, all of which will have seeded and seeded and seeded.

ANYWAY.  Peter and I usually go to the big library on Tuesday afternoon and have a nice cup of tea in the café, usually with two or three or eight books per while we decide what we want to check out and take home with us.  Peter felt that a fancy country garden with a café with outdoor tables was what he wanted today †† . . . and I brought Pav along for her first encounter with Montmorency’s Folly.†††

The last bit of drive is narrow and lumpy.  I wanted to let Peter off as close to the gate as possible, so I’d pulled in pretty hard against the end of the hedge so that other cars heading for the car park could squeeze past me.  He climbed out of Wolfgang and . . .

I know how slowly he moves these days, and I know the way that right foot turns out, and that it’s slower than the left foot.‡  I know these things.  I guess all I can say is that I was worried about getting out of the way before—ahem!—someone ran into us, and that I was preoccupied with cars coming up on my right.  I put Wolfgang into reverse and . . .

There was a colossal thud, and Peter disappeared from view.  AAAAAAAAAUGH.

And some helpful person came rushing over while I was hysterically turning Wolfgang off and slamming on the handbrake.  When I scrambled around to the other side I discovered my husband lying on the ground with his right foot trapped under Wolfgang’s left front wheel.

Not very far.  Peter was saying I’m fine, I’m fine, or words to that effect—I admit my memory is not totally clear on this point—but it was only his shoe, not his foot, that was being lightly crushed.  Now if I’d had any sense whatsoever I’d’ve told him to get his foot OUT of the shoe before I tried to roll forward, but I didn’t, I rushed back to the driver’s side—shaking like an aspen, I might add—while the Helpful Person said, Be careful not to roll backwards!

Ahem.  Do I have to tell you we were on a slight hill so that the moment I took the handbrake off we would roll backwards?  By this time the Helpful Person’s husband had turned up, why didn’t one of these people who wasn’t related to the man on the ground and wasn’t driving the car that had just knocked him over say LET’S GET THE SHOE OFF AND GET HIM OUT OF HARM’S WAY BEFORE WE DO ANYTHING ELSE?

But they didn’t.  And I spent a few seconds taking deep breaths, put Wolfgang into gear and . . . rolled forward perfectly.  Peter said later that the fender had caught him on that weak right leg as I turned the wheel to angle away from the hedge—having not adequately checked first that he was clear—and when he fell his right foot had . . .

I don’t remember much about the garden.  Pav enjoyed herself and thought rolling around on the courtyard gravel outside the café was an adventure, and while she was perhaps a trifle exuberant her only serious breakdown in . . . well, let’s not say manners, let’s say pretence of manners, was when I left her BRIEFLY tied to Peter’s chair to fetch sugar and silverware—Peter having brought me a fresh pot of tea—and you’d have thought I was leaving her in a basket on some convent steps with insufficient provisions.  This has nothing to do with emotional attachment, you realise:  it’s because from her perspective I was going toward a place that smelled more like food than where she was and leaving her behind.  A fine coloratura of protest followed.

I didn’t run over anybody else.  NEXT WEEK WE GO TO THE LIBRARY.

And you may have noticed the title of this post is ‘A Day of Lows’ as in plural?  Yes.  On any other day I would tell you how I spent over an hour on the phone to my American bank and they having confirmed that the wire had been sent, followed up shortly with an email saying it hadn’t, and that I have to do it all over again tomorrow.

* * *

* Believe me if he wasn’t I would not be writing this blog report of the incident.  I would either be in jail or throwing myself off a bridge.^

^ Having first left the hellmob in a series of baskets on the steps of the local . . . um.  We don’t actually have a local convent and I’m not sure how the monks feel about foundlings.+  I think really it’s a good thing I didn’t run over Peter very hard.

+ I do know that Alfrick does not like dogs.#  Which is his only major character flaw now that he’s given up smoking.

# Shocking.  Oh, no, wait, it’s probably the Franciscans who have to be soppy about animals.  I don’t remember if Benedict says anything about critters being your brothers and sisters.~

~ ‘Sister Death’ is pretty well known but apparently Francis also called his various illnesses and disabilities his brothers and sisters, which casts a slight shadow on his attitude toward our animal brethren and sistren.  This also makes the ME my evil twin, but I knew that already.

** Homicidal and incompetent.  Fortunately.

*** We are not facing the reality of the garden at Third House at all.^  Nina recently was saying kindly that she could come round some weekend afternoon and help me get the stuff out of its overgrown pots and into the ground.  Politely failing to point out that some of it has been in its (overgrown) pots for years.  I do usually manage to get the pots-in-waiting stuff fed, which is of course part of the reason some of it is quite so overgrown.  I’m sure garden centres sell their plants in flimsy plastic pots for reasons of price control, but if you have to CUT the plant out of its pot by the time you get round to putting it in the ground, flimsy is good.

^ I still haven’t got the attic any more sorted than ‘can fight way through from stairs to back wall’.+

+ Worse, I keep looking around and wondering if there’s ANY CHANCE I could bash out space for the green horsehair sofa, which is the one remaining oversized piece of furniture at the mews.  We’re supposed to be selling it.  It’s not grand, it’ll only fetch a ‘just about worth it to hire the van’ price, but it’s another of the old Dickinson family pieces and we got it restuffed and recovered as part of the New Wife thing when I first moved over here into the old house, and I am a sentimental cow.  Also I chose the green velvet it is now covered with, and the hellhounds and I have spent many happy hours on it.  Some of the upholstered old family furniture had seen a few more generations than was good for it, and as I recall I blanched and trembled at it in its earlier state.

† It will be worth it, trying to catch up with the wretched stuff^ if it has seeded really enthusiastically in my neighbour-over-the-back-wall’s garden, whose ugly shed roof ruins my view.  The problem with this plan is that the neighbour won’t care.  He’ll just hire another gardener.

^ At least it’s easy to pull up unlike most of the worst perennial weeds.  However because it is, as Peter used to call it, nature’s Velcro, you also come away from a weeding session looking like the Abominable Goose Grass Person and needing frelling hedge trimmers and possibly a flamethrower to get it off you again.  Also, however many huge green garden bags you have satisfyingly tamped full of the stuff, by the time you’ve squashed as many of these as you can fit into Wolfgang to haul off to the dump, and possibly sat down to have a cup of tea, it will all have grown back again.

†† It’s not like we don’t have plenty to read. 

††† Hellhounds have been round the edges of Montmorency’s Folly many, many times, but the rules about dogs inside the garden are discouraging^ and they would be miserable lying in the courtyard while we had our tea.  Pav, on the other hand . . .

^ And with the number of uncontrolled dogs and quantity of unpicked-up crap there is in this country I am not going to argue about this ruling.

‡ You Americans must remember we have right-hand drive in this country, so my passenger is getting out on the left, with his right side nearer the side of the car.

I have spent all day . . .

 

. . . doing STUFF.  You know, stuff.  FINALLY got the laundry from three days ago actually hung up to dry.*  Well.  To finish drying.  It’s mostly dry already and golly is it ever wrinkled.**  I fought my way to the countertop in the kitchen next to the Aga where I sit every morning and have my tea, and where the pile of unread magazines gets taller and taller and taller.  I threw out with a sigh of relief all the catalogues saying Great bargain!  Order on line by midnight 31 March! ***  I swept the floor.†  I took delivery of 1,000,000,000 baby plants ARRRRRRGH THIS FRELLING WINTER IS GOING ON FOREVER WE HAD ANOTHER FROST LAST NIGHT THIS IS THE SOUTH OF BLOODY ENGLAND AND IT’S THE FIRST OF BLOODY APRIL.††  I’ve run out of floor space to bring in tiny geraniums and tiny dahlias and tiny begonias and tiny chocolate cosmos every frelling night††† and that’s before today’s influx of petunias.

It’s been a seriously mad ten days or so.  And I haven’t even got started. . . .  Maybe I can get back to the blog tomorrow and continue the fascinating story.  Or maybe Friday.  Or next Gammelfug day.

* * *

* This involved getting the laundry that’s been hanging for about . . . um . . . a week, down off the airer dangling from the bathroom ceiling and . . . gasp of astonishment . . . folded.  Now let’s say I have four—let’s say pink—socks.  These of necessity comprise two pairs.   You are with me so far?  They were bought at the same time from the same shop and are the same brand and the same size.  So tell me why three of them are a pair and the fourth one is clearly odd?

** I have found that the trick with unhung laundry is to get it out of the washing machine and into my open-weave-with-lots-of-holes-where-the-wicker-has-broken basket and stir it up a couple of times a day and it won’t help the wrinkles but I won’t have to rewash it because it’s started to smell a little peculiar.  If you leave wet laundry in the washing machine for three days it will definitely smell peculiar.   Ask me how I know this.

*** I put into another pile, with a guard rail around it, all the envelopes that say, Do this immediately or the world will end and you will die, love, HM Revenue and Customs.^

^ Now I am not a fan of all those government departments on both sides of the Atlantic that steal+ my money but I FRELLING WELL HATE TECHNOLOGY A WHOLE LOT WORSE.

Okay.  I know I’m a screw up but I so have help.

About twice a year I have to import money.  I earn very little in the country I live in so what there is of it accumulates in America and then I haul it in chunks over here.  First obstacle:  my Maine bank wasn’t answering my emails.  UM.  PEOPLE.  YOU HAVE MY MONEY.  They hadn’t told me my contact of the last twenty-five years had retired nor was anyone watching for rogue emails that might be coming in to her asking for little things like international money transfers.  Gibber gibber gibber gibber gibber.  Okay.  Made contact with some new unfortunate who sounds young so maybe she won’t retire for a while.  And after comparatively few failures I got the necessary fax sent and acknowledged.  Then I had to make confirmatory contact by phone.

This has taken something like ten days.  It’s true I should have smelled a rat sooner but I am used to things going wrong and . . . what was happening never occurred to me.  MY IPHONE IS EDITING THE *&^^%$%$£””!!!!!!! NUMBER.

I’m going to say that again.  POOKA, MY IPHONE, IS EDITING PHONE NUMBERS.  Not satisfied with merely destroying three-quarters of my contacts list, we are MOVING ON TO MORE CREATIVE FORMS OF HARASSMENT.

. . . I had had a comprehensive all-tech-wide meltdown a month or so ago when Raphael had to reinstall nearly everything.  One of the many, many things that went wrong was that Outlook ate most of my contacts which I have since been laboriously reinstalling a few at a time, including some of the oldest, like my American bank, which have been on Outlook since before I had a mobile phone.  And apparently in some fabulous Apple update or other that came with the reinstall the iPhone was told to put in the random British zero . . . even when the address is American and the hapless human has put in the country code because she knows she’ll forget.#  The random British zero appears between the country code and the area code and is not at all conspicuous. 

After several days of ‘this number has not been recognised’ and choruses of beeps, clicks and whistles I finally decided I must have punched the number in wrong so I pulled out my paper address book.  No, it was right (still not noticing the villainous zero because the iPhone also controls the spacing).  So I frelling wiped the number and poked it in again thinking there might be one of those invisible tech bug things that was going HA HA HA HA CHOMP off stage.  And this time I finally SAW the sodding phone adding the zero.  AND IT WON’T LET ME DELETE IT.##

At the frelling moment I have my bank’s phone number memorized.  But after the initial fury wears off I’m not GOING to remember to omit the superfluous ratblasting zero . . . and I can’t hit the auto button at all of course.

And presumably this is affecting ALL MY AMERICAN PHONE NUMBERS????  Somehow I haven’t wanted to check.

So meanwhile I finally successfully rang my bank.  AND THE FAX IS NOW TOO OLD AND I HAVE TO START ALL OVER AGAIN. 

It may be very useful that the hellhounds would rather not eat at all, and I’m a postmenopausal woman, I don’t need food . . . Pav is going to be a little distressed, the next fortnight or so, till I finally get my money transferred and can afford to buy food again.  Maybe Peter will throw Pav a crust from time to time.

# Actually I tried it without the country code and it still puts in a zero.  It’s possibly more conspicuous without the country code but that’s not the point.

## I have, of course, emailed Raphael.  I was HOPING he was going to say, oh, yeah, that’s a known glitch, press the zurgle button and tell it to flamboodle the dorkomart and it’ll be fine.  That’s not what he said.  He said, what?

Kill Steve Jobs.  Oh, wait, phooey, that won’t work.

+ If they put more money into organic farming and non-fossil-fuel energy sources and less into weapons development and finding new ways to avoid letting people have their civil rights I would feel a little better about this.

† I should have washed it, but let’s not get carried away.

†† No fooling.

††† Not to mention scraping hellhounds off the ceiling when the eaves at the cottage insist on wailing like women who have lost their demon lovers.^  One salient difference between hellhounds and hellterror:  hellhounds try to wedge themselves under (or over) the front door to get away from the kitchen door that is making that terrible coming-to-get-us^^ noise.  The hellterror trots interestedly straight for the kitchen door and puts her nose to the corner that is causing the row.  She did me a favour, in fact, because it seemed to me, standing up at human height, that the noise was coming from the top corner, not the bottom one, but wedging the top didn’t do much.  But it turns out I can just about stop the ululation with a well-placed dustcloth around the bottom corner  . . . but try closing the door accurately on said well-placed dustcloth with the wind hammering at the other side.  Without involving fingers and even more noise. 

^ This winter is not only endless, the frelling storm winds come from the wrong direction.

^^  http://www.amazon.co.uk/product-reviews/B006X0M06I/ref=acr_search_see_all?ie=UTF8&showViewpoints= 1 + The inspiration for Chuck was the previous generation of course, but the hellhounds’ whippet blood is well to the fore when the eaves are howling.

+ It’s on Kindle.  You can download it and read it right now.

Tech rules. Not okay! Not okay!!!

 

It’s bad enough that I have a brain that . . . well, if you put my brain at one end of the Spectrum of Deadly Danger and a berserker regiment in a nasty temper all bearing freshly-sharpened weapons of individual destruction at the other end, and then tried to decide where a peanut butter sandwich on Wonder bread should be placed . . . it would go nearer the berserker regiment end than the my-brain end, all right?  Which this paragraph goes some considerable way toward proving.

So if I forget something important it’s ALWAYS likely that it’s my own stupid disintegrating fault because I am a frelling nincompoop and I drop things constantly* and my brain is made of guacamole.**  Which is to say I DO NOT NEED ANY HELP FROM MY TECHNOLOGY ABOUT SCREWING STUFF UP.

Which of course has no impact on present circumstances whatsoever.  Pooka keeps insisting that she hasn’t been backed up to The Cloud in years***, so much so that pretty much everything I do on her—text, for example—suffers from extreme pop-up-box-itis, something like this:  Hi, are you—BACK ME UP! BACK ME UP! BACK ME UP!—free for the dinosaur safari—BACK ME UP! BACK ME UP! BACK ME UP NOW!—next week?  If we—BACK MEEEEEEE UUUUUUUUUP—book now we get a free slushie and a Tyrannosaurus Rex—AREN’T YOU PAYING ATTENTION?  I NEED TO BE BACKED UP BEFORE THE HELLTERROR EATS YOUR LAPTOP†—hatband—YOU’LL BE SORRRRREEEEEE ABOUT ALL THOSE UPDATED FILE EMAILS YOU FORGOT TO SEND YOURSELF†† IF YOU DON’T BACK ME UP.†††

Interspersed in these merry japes also are sporadic demands for my Apple ID password.  I’m really tired of Apple’s The World Is At Risk By Our Greatness attitude which means they won’t let you reuse a password because WE ALL MIGHT GET HACKED BY PURPLE TENTACLES FROM BETELGEUSE but I would put up with this better if they didn’t periodically decide they don’t like my password and demand I come up with a new one.  I used to think this was just my idiot fingers typing ‘Agamemnon’ when I meant ‘Clytemnestra’ but no.  Apple clearly produces ALGORITHMS demanding new passwords at intervals that sure come across as random to people like me.

A new low in my tech relationships was reached this past week.  One of the things the Sams don’t go out of their way to warn you about when you sign up is that they will be requiring certain admin duties out of you as well as all those hours on telephones.  I had an Admin Duty spell this last week which necessitated the sending of emails to massed ranks of Sams.  I had laboured particularly over one such email, bent over the Aga and a cup of very strong tea with the iPad on my knee, hit ‘send’ and . . . NOTHING HAPPENED.  AAAAAAAAUGH.  The iPad gets lonely if it doesn’t get to keep a few emails all to itself.  And it likes to collect unsent emails.  You the helpless suffering human get the ‘server failure’ notice, the email disappears, the little box at the bottom of your email screen adds one to the ‘unsent’ total . . . but you can’t rescue the email and, I don’t know, resend or anything, because it doesn’t get stashed anywhere sensible like your outbox.  IT’S PROBABLY LURKING IN THE CLOUD.

And did I tell you that the last time I actually managed to hang a blog post, this from the ultralapbooktop, Microsoft in its infinite unwise bad attitude informed me that it wanted to do an update, and it wanted to do it now, but I could postpone if I wanted . . . so I postponed AND IT SHUT ME DOWN ANYWAY WITHOUT WARNING ABOUT TEN MINUTES LATER.  I HAD TIME TO EAT A LOT OF WALLPAPER BEFORE IT TURNED ITSELF BACK ON AGAIN, AND WHEN I CLIMBED BACK INTO THE ADMIN SIDE OF THE BLOG, SNAPPING AND SNARLING, I DISCOVERED THAT ABOUT A TENTH OF THE TEXT HAD LEFT FOR PARTS UNKNOWN TAKING WITH IT MOST OF THE PUNCTUATION AND ALL THE FORMATTING.

I may not have told you.  I was too busy trying to prevent my head from exploding.

Maybe I should just go bell ringing more often. . . .

* * *

* Ask the hellterror.  Fortunately she thinks it’s a game.  —Oooh!, she says, leaping up on her little bedspring legs and punching me enthusiastically in the gut with her forepaws.^  Do that AGAIN!

^ I know.  I am a Bad Owner.  I permit this.  But I think having her pogosticking about the place is amusing.  She does know ‘off’ but she hears it relatively rarely and it doesn’t slow her down much.   When I try to enforce it she looks at me with an expression of ‘I have to long sit before my last PALTRY snack of the evening+ and now THIS?’  Bullies’ faces aren’t built for looking long-suffering but she has a really good try.

+ She does too.  Three to five minutes depending on how patient I’m feeling#.  She’s got her harness and lead off and the gate is open and NOTHING BUT SELF RESTRAINT is preventing her from bolting into her crate and snarfing like crazy.  ::haphazard owner beams with pride::

There really is a lot to be said for food oriented hellcritters.  They are so . . . trainable.  Said training may be a long, bloody, and hoarse-making process but it’s POSSIBLE.  I get bombarded with a variety of Dog Media because I contribute tiny sums to a number of critter charities and they’re always frenziedly updating you as a flimsy disguise for begging for more money, and they frequently offer you clever suggestions for Training Interactions with Your Resident Hellcritter(s).   And they’re ALL frelling based on FOOD REWARDS.  I was particularly offended by one that fell through the mail slot just a day or two ago, since the illustrations included a whippet clearly getting into the whole food-treat thing.  It was a bull terrier with leg extensions and a mask.

# And/or how many knots I’ve got in the laces of my All Stars.  There is a rant to be ranted about the varying LENGTHS of the laces that over the years come with your pretty much standard-shaped All Stars.  Some seasons they’re so frelling long I could tie the hellmob to them and dispense with leads.  Some seasons they’re so dranglefabbing short you have to omit the last two or three pairs of holes to get them tied at all.

** I perceive a theme.^  I didn’t realise I was hungry.  MORE CHOCOLATE.  More chocolate is the answer.  More chocolate usually is the answer.  As the kitchen magnet says, Chocolate is the answer.  What was the question?

^ Also:  guacamole is far less dangerous than peanut butter.  You might want to make a note.

*** Do I want to be backed up to The Cloud?  The thing about little pieces of paper is that you’re pretty sure they’re here somewhere.  Explanations about what The Cloud is or how it works or where anything in it actually is involves the dreaded word ‘algorithms’.  I am allergic to the ‘a’ word.  Just frelling typing it makes my fingertips hurt.^

^ Although that may also have something to do with recent close encounters of an unfortunate kind with hellmob-comestible-chopping implements.

† Ultrabook.  It’s not ultra and it’s not a book.  Grrrrrr.

†† Although anything I’ve actually done on Pooka’s Lilliputian keyboard will be illegible anyway^ so the backing up of gibberish is perhaps more of a matter of principle than practicality.

^ Note that being in a texting relationship with me is not all joy.  Not only can’t I type what I mean to be typing, but I have a sometimes unique McKinley take on acceptable abbreviations.

††† Speaking of the hellterror, texting on Pooka lately is a lot like trying to do anything with a hellterror in my lap.^  HI.  I’M HERE.  I’M IN YOUR LAP.  Yes.  I had noticed.  LET’S PLAY A GAME.  No, let’s not.  You’re supposed to lie there quietly.  That’s the deal about laps.  Lying quietly.  SURE.  I’LL LIE QUIETLY.  LET’S PLAY A LYING QUIETLY GAME.  YOU DON’T MIND IF I PUT MY FOREPAWS ON YOUR SHOULDERS AND LICK YOUR GLASSES, DO YOU?  I’LL DO IT QUIETLY.

^ And anyone who thinks there is perhaps a hellterror bias going on?  Well, yes.  This month it will be a year since the hellhounds went on this drug that more or less holds back the chronic geysering but also stops them eating pretty much altogether.  I don’t know if it destroys their appetite or makes them queasy but the truth is I don’t care.  I’ve been forcefeeding them, oh, 85-100% of the time for a year and you could say our relationship has suffered.  You could say that.  Yes, you could say that with some energy.

Sigh.

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.

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