August 12, 2016

Soup etc [PINK *]

Because the title box won’t take colours?  WHY?  —ed

So I made a ginormous pot of soup. Duh. Now one is not at one’s best coming off a gratuitous insult to one’s body like stomach flu and I haven’t been at my best in some time full stop* but it’s like I couldn’t grasp the concept of vegan broth as being suitable for consideration.  Chicken soup and flat ginger ale for queasy stomachs.**  If you can’t have that you are lost utterly in a hostile wilderness of deep-fried crullers, Pringles and maraschino cherries.  It took several people posting or sending me either vegetable soup recipes or links to vegetable soup recipes for the tiny rattletrap cogs to connect and start clinking around in my brain.  Very, very slightly in my defense I fell out of the soup habit with a thud when my freezer died***, although it’s embarrassing to admit that when Georgia and Shea were here a couple of months ago and we were talking about food and cooking and related goals, I said my next ambition was to start making my own vegetable stock.†

Well. So I NOW HAVE A FREEZER.  What am I WAITING FOR.  So I made a ginormous stock pot of cabbage soup††, saved some for now, put the rest through the blender and put it in the shiny new freezer in useful little 1-cup wodges.  I’m so clever. And efficient.†††  With a little help from my friends.  To whom thanks all.

* * *

* However I am having my first voice lesson in yonks and yonks^ and I’m starting up with the Sam[aritans] too. I am GOING to have a life again.  I am.^^

^ I was trying to figure what to take in to Nadia. I’m still singing some of my favourite arias but it’s mostly folk songs.  And I realised with some embarrassment that the things I’m most likely not to screw up totally are a handful of hymns to folk-song tunes.  I think I’m trying to exorcise all that frelling Jesus Is My Boyfriend music that I not only sing but help lead every Sunday as an anti-crying device.  Okay, it does stop me crying, but At What Cost.

^^ Including writing stories. Not only because I need the money.  The thing from forty years ago that was derailing me?  It’s still derailing me.  It’s kind of interesting though.  Um.

** Or beef broth and Saltines, or whatever is the folk wisdom in your neck of the woods.^

^ Which is a bizarre phrase.  Just by the way.,5753,-22668,00.html%E2%80%8E

*** I live in a world of tiny autonomous under-counter appliances. When my freezer died it did not take my refrigerator with it.^

^ Although there have been some pretty redolent Appliance Follies concerning the Lodge. My little freezer died when I moved it to the Lodge—elderly freezers apparently don’t like being moved, I only need one (tiny) freezer and I’d rather have the space at the cottage for the hellterror’s crate.+  I had to buy a refrigerator and a washing machine for the Lodge anyway so what’s another expensive appliance when you’re running out of money.++  I found a fridge+++ and freezer I liked but the freezer was out of stock at my retailer of choice so I made the fatal error of trying to buy it from idiots who never consulted me about delivery but kept sending me chirpy emails saying, Your freezer is scheduled to be delivered between 5 am and 11 pm next Wednesday, please be there to let them in!  ARRRRRRGH.  Next Wednesday is not a good day, can we DISCUSS THIS PLEASE?  New chirpy email:  your freezer is scheduled to be delivered between 4:30 am and 11:34 pm next Friday, please be there to let them in!  I eventually frelling cancelled and then hung around till it came back in stock at the retailer with the customer service department which is what I should have done in the first place.++++

And then there was the washing machine chronicle. I had a fancy to have this effectively second washing machine big enough really to take a double duvet, instead of only pretending to be big enough in standard washing machine bumf.+++++  There are a few 10 kg machines around, but when you start trying to buy one it turns out there aren’t, unless you want to spend £15K on a gilt-edged one to match your gilt-edged twelve-burner Aga and your gilt-edged SUV that takes up two and a half parking spaces.  Well, maybe there are one or two for the hoi polloi.  I tried to buy one of these.  One of them turned out to be only 9 kg on closer inspection—truth in advertising, ahem—and then there was the fascinating two-for-one disappearing model.  Even customer service couldn’t figure this one out and had to ring me back.  Okay, it’s an old one and the new replacement model.  And the new replacement model has worse water and electricity ratings than the old one, because people with SUVs were complaining that the programmes take too long.  These people probably don’t believe in global warming either.  ARRRRRGH.

Oh, and neither model was available.

I think I made some snarling noises. And I think my customer service person was trying not to laugh.  Let me see what I can do, she said.

They found me a washing machine. One of the old slow eco-friendlier model.  And I haven’t tried a duvet yet but yes, the biggest of the hellmob beds fits.

+ Little did I know that the space situation was about to become acute after my plumbers laid £800 worth of useless pipe through my kitchen. Regular readers will remember this story.  Pretty much the entire available floor is now hellmob bedding, although this does make it more comfortable to lie down on when I’m having a bad day.  I am of course remarkably furry when I stand up again but Yeti answering the door when it’s someone who wants to sell me something# is quite useful for scaring them off.  If I’m having a bad day grunting in a Yeti-like manner, if they don’t scare fast enough, is easy too.

# Including God. I may have said this to you before?  I now wear a cross, and I find it disconcerting to be (metaphorically) embraced as a sister by the kinds of Christ merchants that cold call.  This usually makes the conversation shorter without any effort on my part because they bustle off to harangue someone less well defended, but occasionally they want to stay and chat about theology and . . . I don’t share much theology with my own congregation~, I do not want to get into sticky points of Scripture with random evangelical strangers at my door.

~ Hums a little tune and bends lower over her knitting

++ Because life is like this, I presently have three would-be buyers supposedly about to make me an offer on Third House.  After this particular bit of fatuity is over with# I’m going to take it off the market and let it.  Which is another saga.

# Which is to say that I am expecting offers of two shillings sixpence, two shillings eight pence, and one decision to move to the Caribbean.  But post-Brexit, I should be grateful that someone is willing to take it off my hands.  Um.  No.~

~ I will not get into all the interesting stories right now about the real estate market galumphing through the zeitgeist and trampling the slow and unwary under large hairy feet.

+++ Note that the new, CHEAP fridge is much nicer than the way more expensive one I bought for the cottage several years ago because several years ago we were apparently in an anti-under-counter appliance era and this was what I could get. Bosch is overrated:  pass it on.  Of course I don’t yet know how long the new CHEAP fridge is going to last, and the Bosch is now having its life shortened by hellmob bedding getting jammed up against its fan, motor, dorgligfast and gluppermeyer# which are of course floor level and exposed to the elements, including the 85% ambient fur and lots of well-scrabbled blankets.

# The hellterror has her butt squashed against the gluppermeyer right now. I’ll move her as soon as it starts making protesting noises.

++++ This is John Lewis, by the way, for British readers. I know they screw up too, but I’ve never had them not unscrew up, and they’ve had plenty of opportunity for me to put them on my (lengthy) pond scum list, and they’ve never taken it.

+++++ I’ve been cranky for years, since I’m good at cranky, that I had to buy an 8 kg drum machine when my old 6 died, because apparently they don’t make 6s any more.  I’m ONE PERSON.  I have an ENTIRE DRAWER of white t shirts because I RUN OUT before I have enough whites to fill a frelling 8 kg drum machine. ARRRRRGH.  And to add insult to injury, 8 kg is nothing LIKE big enough to wash a duvet.  Sure, you can cram it in, but it comes out in exactly the same folds and creases that you used to wedge it in in the first place and the only thing that’s clean is the soap dispenser.  The big proper dog beds won’t fit in either.  Most of my mob’s bedding is easy because it’s old blankets. Hairy but easy.  But the point of this story is that the cottage’s washing machine is too big for my ordinary purposes and too small for the extraordinary.  GOOD SYSTEM, WASHING MACHINE DESIGNERS.  MAY ALL YOUR BOTTLES OF WINE BE CORKED.

† I do not know why it is that proprietary stock pretty much always has Weird Crap in it, not, I realise, that the weirdness registers with normal humans. But hydrolized vegetable protein?  Are you freaking joking?  Even Kallo’s organic stock cubes have sugar in them three times,^ plus maize starch, which is evil.

^ Um, why??

†† Well, standard contents-of-refrigerator stock, you know? What’s in there that needs eating, especially after you’ve lost the plot a bit.  Cabbage, onion, carrot, celery, lovely Shiitake mushrooms^, the huge bag of fresh basil I was going to make pesto out of^^, and I forget what all.  Garlic.  Always garlic.  And a big handful of dry herbs for the last ten minutes.  The result was, if I do say so myself, rather delicious.

^ The anti-rheumatism diet doesn’t allow ordinary mushrooms but Shiitake are actually GOOD for you.

^^ I am motivated to make [vegan] pesto.  And I’m nearly through my last huge jar.


* This was supposed to have gone up last night, of course, and my so-called broadband connection wasn’t having any. ARRRRRGH.  Meanwhile it’s going up this late tonight because I had that FIRST VOICE LESSON today^ and it was EXCELLENT.  Not, I have to say, in terms of the beauty and accuracy of any noises I was making ::shudder:: but the excellence of being under Nadia’s tutelage again, and the way she starts sorting me out IMMEDIATELY, and sends me away with stuff I can do. This post is already too long, but let me just say in passing . . . as an anti-crying expedient, as previously observed, singing for service works a treat.  As a likelihood that stage nerves will make all my shutting-down and stiffening-up habits worse it’s a sure frelling thing.  Sigh. —ed

^ But by the time I got home not only was I STARVING+ the hellmob was all TAKE US OUT. TAKE US OUT NOW. WE’RE BORED. WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN.++

+ Singing is a sport. Like marathon running.

++ In the first place every road in the area is torn up for roadworks AND the main road is blocked because of some festering doodah festival so it took nearly twice as long both to get there and get back.  In the second place . . . the problem with Nadia’s new studio is that it requires me to drive past our excellent not-quite-local-enough-to-be-dangerous-except-if-I’m-going-to-see-Nadia rose nursery.  And I may have stopped and bought a rose.


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.


Oh hi blog


The last three days I’ve said TONIGHT I AM GOING TO BLOG.  And then by evening all my atoms have rolled over to the other side of the room again.  This house move business is not just a bear, it’s a large herd of hairy mammoths on the rampage.  Arrrgh.  And then of course, ducking tusks and coughing in the churned up dust and deafened by all the trumpeting, I get distracted by details like I NEED A WASTEBASKET FOR MY UPSTAIRS LOO.  Third House is significantly smaller than the mews so even having unloaded an entire lorry convoy of STUFF* we’re still kind of wedged in, and while technically the attic is my domain, in practise it’s full of STUUUUUUUUUFFFF** so I’ve got a little obsessive about . . . my half-loo, that is an entire toilet but nothing else but a sink, which is MINE, since no sane person is going to climb those stairs and risk permanent head injury from all the low ceiling angles*** when there’s a perfectly good whole bath which, furthermore, you can stand up in ALL of, downstairs.

But there is a problem.  Long-time blog readers may remember that I had Fun with Tiles when I put in the attic—which involved ripping the doodah out of a lot of the one full bathroom due to structural irregularities, so while I was at it I replaced the bath and put in some fancy tiles.  The fancy tiles I chose for the brand-new upstairs loo, while I adore them, happen to be cream, grey, gold and red.  The wastebasket from the half loo at the mews is pink.  Hot pink.  This clearly will not do.  At the moment there’s a blue and lavender wastebasket because one MUST have somewhere to throw used tissues and dental floss† but it gives me the fantods every time I go in there.  Of such things are obsessions made, at least if you’re at the extreme end of the standard human vision bias with lashings of OCD.

You’d think, in three, even small, houses full of rooms with wastebaskets, there would be one, somewhere, that I could swap out.  You’d be wrong.††  They’re all pink (!), rust or green.  And one blue and lavender.  Arrrgh.  You can find anything on line, right?  Again wrong.  You can’t find a non-boring, preferably floral-ish††† red based wastebasket . . . at least not if you don’t want to pay hundreds of pounds.  Did you know you could pay hundreds of pounds on a wastebasket?  Are you going to throw used tissues and dental floss‡ in something you paid HUNDREDS OF POUNDS FOR?  Not me.  But then I’m not going to spend the hundreds of pounds on a functionless wastebasket-shaped objet d’art either.  Where was a frelling Redoute-print plastic bin when I wanted one?‡‡

I was in DESPAIR.  I was wondering if I was going to be forced to buy one of those little basketry bins, which are fine, I guess, but not if what you want is red and decorative and worthy of those tiles. ‡‡‡

And then as a final throw I googled William Morris.  Sigh.  I have an awful lot of cheap knock-off William Morris because for those of us florally-fixated that’s often all there frelling is.§  AND LO.  One of the chief miscreants . . . I mean purveyors of housewares targeted at the people who want the have-nothing-in-your-house-you-do-not-know-to-be-useful-or-believe-to-be-beautiful§§ look without having to work at it or stray out of their comfort zone . . . have brought out a new line:  Morris’ strawberry thief . . . IN RED.§§§  INCLUDING WASTEBASKETS.

It’s on its way.  Maybe now I’ll get some sleep.#

* * *

* Including more books than I can bear to estimate.  Estate-wagon-full after estate-wagon-full after estate-wagon-full I can tell you because most of them got hauled away during those weeks the ME was stopping me driving, and whose silent uncomplaining removal is yet another star in the heavenly crowns of Nina and Ignatius, who are the ones with the estate wagon.

My poor cottage is nonetheless pretty well impassable with stuff . . . including dangerously towering piles of books.^  Sigh.  The kitchen, being the hellpack’s domain, only has books on shelves.  It’s the only room in the house that does.^^  One of these days there’s going to be an almighty roar as all the piles on the stairs domino themselves to the foot . . . and/or one morning [sic] I’m not going to be able to get out of bed when all the piles in the bedroom and the upstairs hall—and the bathroom and the ladder-stair to the attic—get caught in a crosswind, which till the weather turns cold and I start closing windows is unpleasantly likely.

^ Despite all the estate-wagon-fulls.  Nina did tell me that two of the (I think) four Oxfam book shops they were frequenting began to blanch when they saw them coming.

^^ Yes.  Including the bathroom.  And they can’t stay for long since between laundry drying on the overhead airer and a HOT bath in which to fall asleep+ every night it’s pretty steamy in there kind of a lot of the time.

+ Which means I’m getting at least a little sleep.

** And some time before the end of September I have to have it forced back into corners, against walls, in the under-eaves crawl spaces, under the gigantic but conveniently long thin table from the old house’s kitchen^ and my old small-double bed from Maine . . .so I can bring the frelling backlist home^^ after which influx I will probably only be able to get to the top of the attic stairs and stop, and the wastebasket in the then-unapproachable loo will become irrelevant.

^ Which is worth about £2.57 in real-world terms BUT I AM NOT GIVING IT UP.+

+ Hey.  It’s useful in the circs.  Which are of a long low wall.  And if you’re sleeping in the bed, shoved up against one narrow attic end, try not to sit up suddenly.

^^ We cleared out the big storage unit on Moving Day.  But I kept the little unit with the BOXES OF BOOKS in it to give us breathing and manoeuvring space.

*** The one dormer window, while I’m glad to have it, also confuses the issue.  If you’re in a simple triangular attic where the ceiling is a long narrow steeply pitched tunnel you know where you are.  I had to go and get fancy with a nice dormer window.  And a half loo.  Which means you never know when the ceiling is going to leap out and whack you.

† And possibly bloody bandages.  I don’t deal with STRESSSSSSS all that well and at the moment one of the manifestations is that I keep nicking myself when I’m cutting up chicken for the hellhounds possibly due to the prospect, hanging gibbering fantasmagorically in front of me, of their not eating it anyway.   I took a tiny—TINY—slip of skin off the top of my thumb a few nights ago and it bled and bled and bled and BLED AND BLED AND BLED and I thought the cops would probably arrest me because I had clearly murdered someone even if they couldn’t find the body.  I finally ended up with this giant egg-sized lump of every clean, absorbent, discardable bandage-like substance in the house first-aid-taped on the end of my thumb—what Penelope calls a Tom and Jerry bandage, and yes, I looked like a cartoon character who’d just hit her thumb with a hammer.  Fortunately it was my left thumb so I could still type.

†† Or you may be normal and not overly preoccupied with the colour-coding of wastebaskets.

††† Yes, all right, I have roses on the brain, but the tiles are stylised flower-ish.

‡ And hundreds of bloody bandages after you murder that really annoying neighbour.

‡‡  These would be perfect, for example, on the side of a nice small sturdy bathroom-sized bin.

The Royal Horticultural Society has occasional spasms into home decoration.  You can usually get tea towels but everything else is subject to the whim of . . . I don’t know who, but whoever they are, they need counselling.  They were offering (pink) Redoute print ‘teabag tidies’ as they’re generally called a few years ago—which I use to put my large strainer of loose tea in after it’s steeped my morning cuppa to an opaque black—these lasted a season and then ran away and have never been seen again.^  On the very off chance the RHS was currently having a bin spasm I typed ‘wastebasket’ in the search box on the gift shop site.  I promptly received the information that there were no results for ‘wastebasket’ but maybe I’d be interested in ‘russetbarked’?  Snork.^^

^ Fortunately I bought three.

^^ in ‘Broadleaved Evergreens for Temperate Climates’.  Not today, thanks.

§ Don’t speak to me of Cath Kidston.  My everyday knapsack is one of hers—with roses all over it—and I have the denim-blue pullover from a year or two ago with the roses on the front that sold out first go in about TWO SECONDS^ and I got one on reorder fast.

^ Because there are a lot of us pathetic retro types around, which is why Cath Kidston is now worth £1,000,000,000,000 and as multi-gazillion dollar/pound success stories go I like this one better than most, especially the part about how she was repeatedly laughed out of town when she was first trying to sell this girlie vintage-style stuff.

But she doesn’t have wastebaskets.  Of course I checked.

§§ I’ve always liked that believe.  You’re still out there in the cold making up your own minds, guys.

§§§ Totally inauthentic, as well as a total retread, although not recently that I’ve seen.  Never mind.

# Hahahahahahahahahahahaha.  Oh well.

Good stuff. Makes a change.


There is a God*:  hellhounds ate their dinner.  For like the first time in a fortnight.  Maybe three weeks.  I don’t know how much these thrilling new horizons of food prejudice are the new treatment they’re on, how much is the weather—although summer only began about this week**—how much is natural hellhound perversity and how much is the Borg.***  But it is hard on the person poking food down their throats two or three times a day†.  I suppose it is too much to hope for that this is a new trend. . . .

Meanwhile.  I’ve been singing.††  I’ve had a series of tiny epiphanies this week in a sort of PING-OW-PING-OW ††† cattle-prod pattern.  Nadia’s new beginner soprano was ahead of me this week instead of the scary could-have-been-professional-WHY-AM-I-BOTHERING bloke.  And she was torturing poor old Caro Mio Ben in a way that made me feel almost nostalgic.  But . . . I could hear what Nadia is doing with her.  In a way that you can’t hear yourself.  I know I’ve been that route‡ but it’s waaaaay different from the inside.  I could hear her ‘real’ voice breaking through occasionally‡‡ and I could hear what Nadia keeps telling me about me, that pitch is not the problem, making the sound is the problem, and if/when I make the sound correctly the pitch will be fine.‡‡‡


Last week was not a great week in what I acknowledge has been a too-little-interrupted series of crap weeks, and I was expecting Nadia to have to spend most of my lesson winkling my voice out of hiding.  It’s a bit prone to slamming the door shut and hiding under the bed.  I’m so used to going to my lesson to be re-set that I don’t always notice what I’m doing at home because it can’t possibly be any good, now can it?  Nooooooo.§§  I go through the frelling blasted motions and then take the pieces in to Nadia to do something with.  So, for example, I have been failing to notice that recently, even when I’m having a crap week, there’s still enough voice for me to sing with.

I was singing within the first few minutes of warm-up last Monday.  SINGING.  Nadia didn’t need forceps or anything.  And we had a really good bash at Vedrai Carino§§§.  And . . . okay, so I’ll never be Joyce DiDonato, but at my age it would be kind of a waste, not to mention that I already have a perfectly good creative career.  But . . . I do have a voice.  I may never get much beyond singing Jesus Is My Boyfriend for Sunday service at St Margaret’s but . . . I have a voice.  I have to stop saying I don’t.


Also . . . my voice got tired before the end of the lesson because it had come roaring out of its silk-lined palanquin with such uncharacteristic dispatch.  I came home thinking if I sang more and maybe developed some stamina, and engaged more with what I chose to sing and why I chose it. . . .

PING.  To be continued. . . .

* * *

* Hahahahahahaha.

** And my annual anguish about when/if to turn the Aga off.

*** Who mess with our dogs and our rose-bushes as well as our computers to keep us demoralised and malleable.  Souvenir de la Malmaison is out there laughing her thorny little socks off because of course Death by Sunlight began after all the rain had wrecked most of her flowers this year as usual.  Since she’s now about forty feet tall she’s oppressing all my neighbours too.

† Two bottom lines:  they get really ill if they miss more than one meal in a row, as I re-proved recently^, and the new drug has to be given with food.

^ None of us enjoyed the experience

†† Well duh.

††† And another one bell ringing at Crabbiton last night.

I was only the third person to arrive expecting to pull a rope and Felicity was wondering if she should have cancelled practise—it’s June, it’s hot, everyone is at home enjoying the long daylight and either drinking their iced tea or pouring it over their heads to cool off—and Wild Robert wasn’t going to make it.  Three more people turned up.  Yaay.  Crabbiton only has six bells:  we’re good to go.

Um.  Except for the fact that Felicity and I were the good ringers and . . . um.

The funny thing is . . . we had a good practise.  Everyone managed to do something that made them feel they were learning something.  In poor Felicity’s case this was mostly the thankless task of holding practise together.  In my case . . . she frelling made me frelling call SEVERAL touches of frelling Grandsire doubles.

I used to know a simple-minded touch of Grandsire where if you can count to three twice you’ll do.  And then various things happened, including that I started ringing at Forza where there are eighty-seven bells and almost enough good ringers to ring them, and you’d better not even admit that you can (probably) call the notorious beginner’s touch of Grandsire doubles.  And then when I recently began ringing at Crabbiton . . . Wild Robert decided it was time I learnt the touch after the beginner’s touch.

I have spectacularly failed to learn this new touch, and in the process—especially since it’s been a while since I tried to call it—I have forgotten the beginner’s touch.

Last night I re-invented it from first principles, with some help from the band.^  It took three tries but . . . we did it.  And the teeny-weeny epiphany was:  Wild Robert wants me to learn this second touch because it’ll force me to pay attention to where the other bells are, rather than blindly following a simple pattern for my bell.  I don’t have enough brain.  Counting to three twice is enough, when you’re also ringing a frelling bell.

Except . . . I had to pay some attention to where the other bells were last night, to re-figure out the simple pattern for mine.  I didn’t do it well or thoroughly . . . but I did it enough to have a tiny insight into what Wild Robert is on about.  And what I’d have to do to call his nasty next touch.  PING.  OW.

Now I have to decide if I’m going to tell him.


‡ Including torturing Caro Mio Ben.

‡‡ Note that she has more voice than I did when I began, but, as I was telling someone again recently, everyone has more voice than I did when I began.  Nadia, Sorceress.  Put her up against Circe and Circe would creep away weeping and get a job as an insurance adjuster.

‡‡‡ This is not to say there aren’t pitch problems out there.  I used sometimes to follow a woman with quite a nice voice . . . who couldn’t carry a tune in a basket.  I think she has stopped coming.

§ Also just hearing Nadia beginning to open her up is cheering somehow.  It makes it more of a process and less . . . sorcery.

§§ I’m also having a meltdown crisis of confidence about the Samaritans as we approach the end of training and the beginning of duty.  SIIIIIIIIIGH.  I am so predictable.

§§§ Mozart is my man.  Although if anyone could find a half-decent edition of Beethoven’s folk song arrangements for solo voice I would be all over it.

First Roses?!


We have roses.  We’re not supposed to have roses—it’s only the end of frelling April—and we don’t have many, but we do have roses.  And they’re not even the so-called species* roses which are often the early ones, but proper overbred garden roses.  Peter’s is even an Austin for pity’s sake, although she is on the front wall of the mews, and that courtyard is a heat sink, but I’m used to Austins in Hampshire starting up in June.  My two, Sophie’s Perpetual and my beloved Old Blush, AKA (among other things) Parson’s Monthly, are certainly human bred roses, but they are also known for starting early and going on and on.**  But THIS early?***  Never mind . . . I’m not complaining.


William Morris.  Personally I think the original WM would have spasms at the idea of an apricot-pink rose named after him but hey.

William Morris. Personally I think the original WM would have spasms at the idea of an apricot-pink rose named after him but hey.

Sophie's Perpetual.  If she goes on being a healthy and reliable bloomer I'll forgive her but she has a tendency to grow sideways rather than up.

Sophie’s Perpetual. If she goes on being a healthy and reliable bloomer I’ll forgive her but she has a tendency to grow sideways rather than up.


Old Blush.  If you are the last rose of summer in my garden you are CHERISHED.

Old Blush. If you are the last rose of summer in my garden you are CHERISHED.

* Botanical nomenclature makes me lose the will to live really fast.  I acknowledge the need for precision, including that everyone talking about this plant rather than that plant can feel sure they’re all on the same page blah blah blah blah blah blah blah BLAH BLAH BLAH but I don’t want to hear about it.  I have one perfectly practical, working response to plants, in a catalogue, on a web site or at a nursery:  (a) roses = want^;  (b) shiny = want;  (c) meh = don’t want.  I don’t care what you call them^^.  ‘Species’ roses, or ‘species’ most things that have a large cultivated-garden presence, are, for my money, and you purists out there look away now, the ones that haven’t been endlessly messed with by plant breeders and look more or less as they did when some stalwart explorer first found them growing out of a hillside or a cliff top or a river margin or the roof of the local priestess’ temple and brought them home in the hopes of material gain.

^ This being why I have to chain myself to Wolfgang’s steering wheel when we drive past the one semi-local rose nursery:  when you have a small garden you can do a lot of damage in a rose nursery even if you only go there once a year.+

+ Penelope, Harriet and I are planning a field trip that will involve passing that nursery but Harriet is driving.  This is ostensibly because Harriet of the three of us minds driving the least and she has a much nicer cleaner car than Wolfgang.#  But I haven’t told them about the chaining myself to the steering wheel tactic or they might insist on my driving for the entertainment value.##

# People given the choice of firing squad or death by dog hair inhalation will probably choose the firing squad.  Even if I remove the dog beds and sweep out the back seat it’s still a Guinness Book of World Records situation back there.

## Most of my friends have a strange sense of humour, yes.  That’s why we get along, innit?

^^ Except insofar as it pertains to whether or not I can grow the sucker.  If it’s going to get eight foot tall and is frost tender, no, I can’t.+

+ Which is why the one fabulously successful stephanotis floribunda# I once grew in my office at the old house and which was significantly bigger than I am when I had to move it into town, croaked the first winter.  Both of us couldn’t fit in the cottage kitchen at the same time, and I didn’t get it indoors soon enough one night.##

# Botanical nomenclature AAAAAAAUGH.  It’s a lot harder to avoid in England, however.  You Americans can call it Madagascar jasmine, I think.

## I killed another little one this winter I have no idea why.  It had been doing pretty well, I thought, on the kitchen windowsill, and then it suddenly said, bored now, and died.  I’ll probably get another one. . . . ~

~ And I think I haven’t told you about the Hibiscus Forest.  Peter had a very, very, very, very badly neglected hibiscus houseplant that I tried to kind of fatten up for the chop so I could get some cuttings off it before/when I pruned it because I suspected the pruning would kill it.  It did.  I had about eight viable cuttings which to my total astonishment struck= which I therefore had to pot on and figure out what to do with.  First winter they all fit on the same windowsill, no problem.  And then the gardening books always tell you to put your houseplants outdoors for the summer because all indoor plants are ipso facto dying== and this will make them happy and strong to survive another winter on your windowsill.

The hibiscus cuttings hated being outdoors.  I kept trying to find the hibiscus sweet spot and they kept saying, no, this isn’t it, waaaaaaah, we want murky daylight through glass, we want house spiders and dust, we want dog hair.  I lost three of them.  I thought I was going to lose a fourth, but it was still semi-clinging to life by early last autumn when I gave up and brought them indoors long before frost would become an issue.  All five of them have shot up and out over the winter and I’m going to have to pot them on and . . . you know, common-or-garden-variety hibiscus get kind of large.

= Ie grew roots and looked like living.

== Although if you want to get technical about it everything alive is dying.

** I’ve told you before that in a mild winter Old Blush will have a flower out for Christmas.^  I haven’t had Sophie in town long enough, and at the old house she was in a dumb place and shut down flowering with the majority.

^ Mythology states that Thomas Moore’s Last Rose of Summer was an Old Blush.  Mind you, what exactly is going on in that poem is, perhaps fortunately, a trifle obscure.  If he’s really tearing up a rose so it doesn’t have to be alooone, he’s a dipstick with a tendency to vandalism and it’s no wonder he doesn’t have any friends.

*** Apologies to the forum member whom I told quellingly she would not see roses when she was over here the end of April.  I hope there are banks, walls and gazebos of blooming roses wherever you are.

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