There is a law of the universe that says that any house you move out of always has at least one final carload of stuff left in it. However many times you’ve been back for The Last Load–and whether or not there’s a new owner tapping his/her foot and holding his/her hand out for the key, which, fortunately, in this case, there is not. But this is sort of the large economy size of the Sock Planet theorem, about where all those odd socks that ought to be in the bottom of the washing machine but aren’t, go.* You’d need a galaxy at least for all those The House Is Empty It’s Empty I Tell You nooooooo there is nothing in those cupboards** carloads. And there wasn’t anything in those cupboards when you frelling doodah frelling CLEARED THEM OUT THE LAST TIME.***
However. I finally went round to the estate agent to discuss getting the mews on the market and I have his recommendation of a Ruby-equivalent† coming in to do the hardcore houseclean before I let him in.
Real world progress. Hey golly wow. I thought the house move might have been my real-world-engagement allocation for this century.
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* Every time a sock DISAPPEARS^ I go into Sock Fetish^^ Overdrive.^^^ This happened recently^^^^ at the same time that a line of really nice socks went on SALE on a web site I am unfortunately on the email list of. I don’t have to tell you I bought 1,000,000 of each colour, do I? What do I do when they arrive? Under the bed is already full of boxes full of yarn.~
^ I try to remember to check the back of Pav’s crate first. But trophy socks in the back of Pav’s crate are not always socks any more, although she rearranges the stitch patterns less than she used to. She nestles more now. This would be more awwwwww if it weren’t for the little evil eye twinkling at you.
^^ It’s not all that surprising I have a sock fetish. If I didn’t, my All Star fetish might get lonely.
^^^ I also have this silly habit of not throwing out the perfectly good twin of the sock that has disimproved into bad macramé. After all, it’s a perfectly good sock. So it goes into a tote bag+ with all the other single socks and occasionally I find two that amuse me as a pair . . . but then when they go in the laundry THERE ARE TWO ODD SOCKS. Now, I am not completely lost to logical thought and when there are two of them—especially when I put them together and they are AMUSING—I can probably figure out that it’s not a Sock Planet raid++ this time.
BUT SOMETIMES THE SOCKS IN THE TOTE BAG ESCAPE. AND THEN THERE ARE SINGLE ODD SOCKS EVERYWHERE. AAAAAAAAAAAAAUGH. Of such things are nervous breakdowns made.+++
+ Which says something like ‘she is too fond of books and it has addled her brain’ or ‘keep calm and eat chocolate’.
++ Although I’d better check the back of Pav’s crate again. And possibly the hellhounds’. Chaos is occasionally forced by inner disquietude to steal socks, although he usually steals the clean ones that I’m trying to put on to take hellhounds for a hurtle. I have tried to explain to him that this is counterproductive but he just does the Dog Cute Head-Cocking Thing to prove that he is listening to me very intently and then steals my socks again the next time he’s feeling interiorly disquieted. Darkness, who has different neuroses, looks in another direction wearing a long-suffering expression. I have, however, explained to Chaos with great care that if he steals another Steeleye Span t shirt# he will die.
# Not that I don’t have, you know, several. The collection hasn’t reached the epic All Star proportions yet, but it’s moving in that direction. Fiona and I went to a Steeleye Span concert recently and Steeleye’s regular merchandise man recognised me. Um . . .
+++ Some of us are more fragile than others.
^^^^ I think. See ^^^.
~ AND FURTHERMORE my tied-for-first-favourite on-line yarn shop is having another flaming dingdong sale. I mean, they do this a lot, which is why they are tied-for-first-favourite and evil drooling demons from the deepest regions of the really nasty end of hell+, but a fair number of these I can pass over, the eyelash and fake fur sale, yuck, the baby and kid stuff, life is too short, you get a bib when you’re born and then you’re on your own, the person-made fibres since I’m mostly a natural-fibre snob unless the colours are really insane or the glitter is really fabulous, anything to do with Kaffe Fassett whose patterns are the knitting and needlework version of eighty-seven bell change-ringing patterns that just looking at the line in the method book makes my head explode, and so on. There are really quite a few yarn come ons that don’t make me sit up and whine. Aaaaand then there are the ones that do . . . make me sit up and whine. Well, I ESCAPED a really hazardous offer just last week, for one of the heavier-weight wools so you’d be using bigger, fatter needles, which is good for slow clumsy knitters like me, and I did it by simply letting the time run out. Of course I had to chain my credit card to a stake in the back garden and take the hellmob for a run for the last three hours but it worked. And then, the fiends in marketing pulled together a Halloween sale this week of a heterogeneous selection of yarns, needles, books and patterns . . . INCLUDING ALL THREE OF THE YARNS THAT HAD BEEN IN MY BASKET LAST WEEK AND THEY HAD SAVED MY BASKET.
The internet is way more dangerous than an alligator-infested swamp. God, give me simple temptations like another puppy++ or a new car+++ or a new computer++++ and simple perils like a herd of stampeding wildebeest or one of the middle treads of the stairs to the first floor of either the cottage or Third House dissolving into a wormhole gateway to another universe# or an alligator and boa-constrictor-infested swamp. Deliver me from the internet.##
+ Not the, you know, frelling end where the hellmob and I hang out.
++++ Well . . . yes. Which is a rant for another evening.
# It needs to be a middle tread so after you’ve found the first step and you think you can go to sleep while your feet grind up to the top step where you’ll have to pay attention again. If you don’t fall into an alternate universe.
## You know ‘What would Jesus do?’ Jesus would not have an iPhone. Or a Twitter account.~ Or a bedroom stuffed with tote bags full of yarn and so many more books than bookshelves he can only leap onto the bed from a narrow rift that was once a doorway before it kind of silted up.
~ He might have a blog, I suppose. You know, to tell parables in and so on.=
= And if you’re wondering why my mind seems to be running on the interesting challenges of modern-day Christianity HAVE I MENTIONED THAT MY STREET PASTOR TEAM GOT THE SHORT STRAW FOR THE FIFTH FRIDAY THIS MONTH AND WE’RE OUT TOMORROW NIGHT FOR HALLOWEEN. Eeep.
** Not to mention all the stuff you don’t see any more because it’s been where it is so long. Oh, that table? . . . TABLE?
*** What? I haven’t seen that^ in at least fifteen years. And three house moves. Speaking of alternate universes.
^ Vase, casserole dish, pair of socks, fossilised panettone+, large swirly marble preserved from childhood, antique doorknob, book that you have since replaced three times, significant-occasion-souvenir empty champagne bottle.++
+ Note date on bottom of package
++ Yes. I collect these too. You aren’t surprised, are you?
† Although I don’t think there is a giant lethal marauding creature problem at the mews. But Charlie’s doesn’t have dog hair embedded in all the corners and serving as a felt-equivalent under the kitchen lino.
We have enough frelling cling film to plastic wrap England if not the entire United Kingdom. Or possibly the planet. WHY? We hardly ever use cling film, it’s against my frelling ethical eco doodah principles. It must be gremlins. Cleaning out drawers is not my idea of fun at the best of times and at the tail end of a frelling house move it feels like the discovery of a brand-new hitherto unsuspected circle of hell*—and cleaning out cupboards and closets and sheds and garages and attics and crawl spaces and overhead shelves you can’t see into YAAAAAAAAH—for all eternity noooooooo I’m sure I wasn’t that wicked and evil**. Ahem. Anyway in the short term there’s still kind of a lot of this vile business LEFT to do*** AND THE GREMLINS HAVE BEEN SHOVING ROLLS OF CLING FILM IN EVERY AVAILABLE INTERSTICE. And a few that aren’t available. Peter also has a surprising number of pairs of shoes.† And you know that stuff-you-don’t-know-what-to-do-with-so-you-shove-it-in-the-back-of-a-cupboard? Possibly in a box with some of its friends?†† Well, now think about going through all those boxes in all those cupboards for someone else.†††
Yay- piano fits!!!
I’m still having palpitations every time I walk through the sitting room.‡ I measured the garden gate about six times, had Atlas clear off the [clematis] montana jungle [clematis montana are prone to junglifying] and take the latch off the gate so there were no protrusions or attack foliage, even though there was plenty of room. Never so much as thought of the front door.
and who wouldn’t have a Steinway if that’s the choice?? My university campus has just gone all Steinway.
Steinways at a college? Golly. You don’t mean a music school or something? Juilliard has Steinways. My liberal arts college had Yamahas. Major meh. I’m really tired of people telling me what good pianos Yamahas are. I wouldn’t give one house room. And as I’m fond of saying my Steinway cost only a little more than a totally mediocre new piano. Like maybe a boring plywood Yamaha.
Yay! Huzzah for wonderful regular movers, and huzzah again for fabulous piano movers! Being able to play music somewhere makes it ever so much more like home.
I love our regular movers but I hope I never see them again except on the street to say hi to. And when their frelling bill came I had to sit down and take some deep breaths. But did I tell you that the grandfather clock case came apart in their hands? They were worriedly showing me where the wood had cracked and the glue shrivelled up but one of the things about local movers that you know is that you also know they’re careful. I knew the clock had been held together with a large leather strap since we left the big house but the coming to pieces was a little dramatic. And then . . . turns out one of the movers likes to repair old furniture in his spare time. I asked the head guy—who’s the one we’ve known for about twelve years—and he said, yeah, it’s true, and he does beautiful work. So I said thank you very much, take it away, and give us a shout some time when you think you might get around to it. He spent that weekend gluing it back together. It looks fabulous. It looks better than it has in years. No, decades.
And as for being able to play music makes somewhere home . . . there speaks the frelling violinist. My piano tuner is coming next Tuesday. I can’t wait, although in truth I’ve had no time to think about music . . . although if my poor darling didn’t sound like a shoebox mandolin with a few screws and a fuse of unknown provenance rattling around inside I’d probably at least have had the ritual performance of There Is A Tavern in the Town by now.
Diane in MN
I hope the bulk of the tedious hauling and even more tedious unpacking is done and you can all start to relax a bit.
HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. You know you crank yourself up for the actual move, and while you know there will be a long, tiring and frustrating aftermath—which will get longer, more tiring and more frustrating as the adrenaline rush from the adventure, however undesirable, of the startling physical relocation wears off—but you tend to forget the way EVERYTHING GOES WRONG. Doorhandles fall off. You may be able to prevent the local dogs from crapping in your driveway by keeping the gate shut, but the cats could care less.‡‡ You can’t find a wastebasket for your half loo. THERE AREN’T ENOUGH SHELVES.‡‡‡ And British Telecom is possessed by demons.
Raphael did provide us with a booster for the feeble router which did what it was supposed to . . . BUT DEMONS ARE VERY RESOURCEFUL.
And, speaking of endlessly creative and resourceful demons, I have to go to bed. I have to ring BT at eight o’clock tomorrow morning. Unbearable joy.
* * *
* Dante was a bloke. Very unlikely he knew anything about cleaning out kitchen drawers.^
^ Or about cling film. Not much cling film in the late thirteenth century.
** Er . . .
† Says the woman who owns 1,000,000,000 pairs of All Stars and a few flowered Docs^. But Peter isn’t like me.
^ And a pair of plain but blinding pink.
†† Although Peter tends to little jars and plastic containers accommodating three unidentifiable screws, a totally recognisable piece of tool except for having no idea what the tool is or whether the piece of it is CRUCIAL or broken-off and dead, and a fuse or a few batteries of unknown provenance. Arrrgh. I’m the box girl. Also I worry about, you know, running out of things.^ Or that I won’t be able to get that kind I like any more, so I’d better buy several while they’re available.^^ This leads to . . . interesting, sometimes rather bulky, agglomerations. Except for Peter’s UNSPEAKABLY VAST FRELLING TOOL COLLECTION, which is the size of Roumania, my hoards take up more room.
^ Remember that my impressive All Star collection began during that decade when All Stars were only something that old people nostalgic about their distant youth wore. I bought All Stars in my size on sight. The habit lingers. And has, um, spread. The big house was probably bad for my character.
^^ Like the three Redoute rose teabag tidies, right? I WISH I’D BOUGHT MORE.
††† Peter: Where is x?
Me: I don’t know. I probably threw it out.
Peter: Okay, where is y?
Me: I’m pretty sure I threw it out.
Peter: Well, where is z?
Me: I THREW IT OUT.
‡ Although palpitations in the sitting room—where the one lone phone connection is, as well as the piano—could have a variety of causes. Remember I’d decided to stop hating BT because they were laying the new line for free if I agreed to buy broadband from them for two years? I’VE CHANGED MY MIND. We have a saga of epic BT squalor and consummate incompetence spoiling the carpets right now. I think I’ll let it lurch and drool through another confrontation or two before I tell you about it. Besides, at the moment, my blood pressure couldn’t stand it.
‡‡ I slipped the hellhounds at a cat standing in the middle of my driveway saying ‘make me’. Cats never expect the speed of a sighthound and it was so busy running it missed its leap to the top of the fence and cartwheeled over. Backwards. I hope it is now considering the possibility of seeking pastures, and latrines, new.
‡‡‡ And there is no hanging space because this is a British house.^
^ Don’t know enough about Wales or Northern Ireland, but my limited experience of old Scottish houses is of another entirely hanging-closet-free society.
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.#
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* 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.
I’m beginning to feel cursed. You already know about the temporarily comatose Wolfgang and the definitively dead washing machine*. Last night/this morning at five a.m. my smoke alarm decided it needed a new battery. Aaaaaaaugh. So you’re dragged out of a deep, satisfying sleep (!) by this frelling chirping noise . . . and first you have to decide you’re not imagining it because in fact you weren’t really experiencing deep, satisfying sleep because deep, satisfying sleep is not among your skill set. Then, having more or less decided that it is a real noise and not the sound of all your brain cells clicking together like billiard balls, and wondering if you need to wake the hellterror and bring her upstairs so she can find the source of this alleged real noise for you**, and you are in the arduous process of getting out of bed*** because one way or another this must stop, it slowly manifests in your sleep-raddled mind that the only thing in your experience that makes a noise like that is a smoke alarm that wants its zonking battery changed. They programme them to make this decision while you should be asleep, right? I think possibly they programme them to study the household first so as better to ascertain when horizontal bed time most often occurs: if you’re a farmer with cows to milk you might well be awake and on your second cup of coffee by five.
So then you get to stagger around trying to remember where you might have stashed one of those frelling square batteries that almost nothing else uses but you’re pretty sure you do have one because you’ve been here before, although it’s so long ago you don’t remember where you put the spare battery . . . but this is one of those super-frellers that if you try to unplug it so you can deal with it in the morning the BACK UP BATTERY kicks in and there’s no courteous, mild little cheeping, it screams death, dragons, disaster, debacle and defeat and the back up battery itself is one of those horrible tiny round things that you need a Special Tool to open the door of and it doesn’t open and it doesn’t open and it doesn’t open possibly because you have no idea where your Special Tool is and are using a 5p piece and then when you finally do wrench it open the battery leaps out and rolls under the table. Where you have to be sure to retrieve it before the hellterror eats it. But the whole teeny stuck battery-hatch thing is not going to happen at 5 a.m. since neither my fingers nor my eyes are up to that much focussing so we’re back to finding a new square battery for the main event.
Okay. I found it. I reattached the little wires. I shut the barglegleebing plastic battery door. Silence fell.† AT WHICH POINT I DECIDED I WAS GOING TO TURN THE RING ON MY NEW PHONE OFF. So I could, you know, sleep. I used to do this regularly on the old machine: unplug the phone from the machine, the machine silently picks up messages, and the phone doesn’t ring. YOU CAN’T TURN THE RING OFF ON MY NEW PHONE/ANSWERPHONE. Who the freaking double grasking whatsit argle frell figured that one out? THAT YOU CAN’T MAKE YOUR PHONE NOT RING? The ‘base’ unit will allow its ringtone to be turned off. Not the portable. You can turn the volume down—which, just by the way, is about as effective as turning a barking hellterror down—but you can’t turn it off. Eventually I buried the thing under the sofa cushions and (finally) went back to bed. . . .
* * *
* And—just by the way—Pooka continues to refuse to pick up the internet when we’re away from our home wifi. I can have all the little ‘signal’ bars that there’s frelling room for dancing the fandango and singing ‘I feel pretty’ and Safari just sits there saying ‘Nope. And you can’t make me.’ Since Astarte doesn’t have a mobile connection THIS IS VERY IRRITATING. And yes, while it’s true that we’re all overconnected out of our tiny minds, it IS CONVENIENT, while you’re waiting for something to happen, to be able to whip out your tech of choice and check, for example, on the weather. You are (let’s say) a quarter mile from your car and your umbrella is still in the car. Frell frell frell frell frell.^
^ I was at a meeting tonight# and I got there about fifteen minutes early because I’d been worried about the traffic and/or getting lost. So having failed to check the weather I . . . of course . . . got out my knitting. I think everyone else in the room commented##: knitting as nonthreatening topic of conversation among a bunch of strangers waiting for something to happen.
It was the kind of meeting where your fearless leader decides that you should start with something that makes you talk to each other.### So she passed out sheets of paper headed: Find Someone In the Room Who . . . and it’s a list, like, has moved house in the last year, plays a musical instrument, loves Marmite. The first thing on the list was: ‘knits’. Nine pairs of eyes immediately swivelled to focus on my name tag.
# And no I wasn’t rained on on the way back to Wolfgang.
## But no one else got out their knitting. Everybody keeps telling me how popular knitting is. I sure hang out in the wrong crowd.
### NOOOOOOOO. NOT MORE CONVERSATION WITH STRANGERS. “IT’S A BIG SQUARE SCARF” AND “YOU JUST KEEP KNITTING—IT’S ALL ABOUT THE GORGEOUS YARN” IS AS FAR AS I GO.
** There’s no use in asking the hellhounds. They would open one eye, say eh, it’s a noise, and close the eye again.
***. . . while reluctantly deciding that hellterror involvement is a bad idea. She’s very good at finding and pointing things out, it’s just that a crucial element of the pointing-out process is barking at them and while my semi-detached neighbour is a paragon of tolerance and patience I think a hellterror paroxysm at 5 a.m. might be pushing it.
† Except for hellterror snores.
Once upon a time there was a carrier company. . . . Let’s call it Feebledweeb. It’s been around a long time. I had a lively and robust, not to say ranting, dislike of it over twenty years ago, before I left the States. Before I discovered the true range of global carrier-company incompetence, creative perversity and aggressive unhelpfulness.
Feebledweeb made both of us crazy—although Peter bears crazy better than I do—back at the old house, when we were living out in the sticks of the sticks and there was a lot more hard copy in publishing than there is now. Feebledweeb at the time was, I believe, the only carrier that would pick stuff up in the sticks of the sticks of southern England and deliver it, more or less safely and in one piece, to a Manhattan highrise. And vice versa. Maybe. With a following wind.
They did, however, make their services coughcoughcoughcough as difficult and unservicelike as possible. They toyed with the concept of timed arrivals, and even at that they could never be pinned down to anything more exacting than before noon or after noon. But that was still better than ‘some time in April, and if you’re out, we’re going to reschedule you without telling you for some date which may or may not be at least six months in the future, oh, you have a deadline? You should have thought of that before you took your dogs on that totally gratuitous walk, shouldn’t you? And what do you mean by being so self-indulgent and unprofessional as having dogs that need walking in the first place? We may not reschedule you at all, you’re not our type.’ Which system is what they reverted to. All day, any day, whatever, if you don’t like it you can hitchhike to the coast and swim to Manhattan. But being cruelly imprisoned by a time frame of before or after noon was giving their drivers palpitations and random crying jags and Feebledweeb are totally committed to employee welfare.
And then Peter and I moved into town. And there seems to have been rather a boom in carriers, some of whom are no worse than dire and unreliable. But Feebledweeb, unfortunately, seems still to control the frelling transatlantic routes.
Now it will amaze you to hear this, but I am not the perfect client. I want to believe that I mostly behave myself with Merrilee, but Merrilee’s subrights department has little cause to love me, and it would not stun me with flabbergastery that there’s a doll hanging by the neck in a corner of the subrights department with a pin through her heart and a banner reading ‘Robin McKinley’. I lose things. I don’t remember ever having seen things. When I send things back it turns out I signed the wrong pages, or didn’t sign enough of them*, or I didn’t put the date on when I should have or did put the date on when I shouldn’t. And then New Arcadia’s post office exploded and was removed and rebuilt using reject Lego in the back of the village grocery, you’re no longer allowed to bring your critters with you to keep you amused while you wait in the endless queue**, and I, having been a borderline*** post office user since I moved over here†, became, um, pathological.
Re-enter Feebledweeb. Who will come to my house and fetch my botched, ill-signed documents, and cart them off to a subrights department across the Water, where they will be the cause of screaming and nervous breakdowns—only some of which will be because I screwed up (again).
Recently we’ve been having a nice little extended torment trying to get Feebledweeb to do what it says on the tin/envelope. Subrights and I got all excited—briefly—because according to Feebledweeb’s web site, subrights could include a prepaid return envelope with the documents I’m supposed to deal with in some way other than the way I will deal with them, and I can just pop them in the return envelope and post them in an ordinary post box, and Feebledweeb will take it from there.
Yes, they will. They will deliver it back to me again with large red marks and seals all over it declaring that I am a liar and a cheat and that I haven’t paid them and their dog is going to pee on my shoes††. We gambolled through this amusing cycle, I think, three times.
Okay. The next plan of action is that we are going to revert to the earlier system of their coming to my house to pick up the envelope of mangled documents.
Feebledweeb were supposed to come last Wednesday between ten and two [sic].
Nothing happened. Nobody came between ten and two and there were no postcards through my door when I returned after belated gratuitous critter-hurtling [see above].
Subrights emailed me anxiously that they had spoken to Feebledweeb again and Feebledweeb would now come this Wednesday between ten and two.
Monday I received a phone call from a very pleasant, very fluent young man with a very strong Indian accent, confirming that Feebledweeb was going to be fetching a parcel from me today—Tuesday. Er, I said. Wednesday. Tuesday, said the young man firmly. Okay, I said. Tuesday. What time? Noon to three pm, he said. Fine, I said, in fact, great, and wrote it down.††
Ten minutes later the phone rang again. This time it was a woman with an English accent. Confirming that Feebledweeb is picking up a parcel from you tomorrow, she said. Yes, I said, between noon and three pm. Certainly not! said the woman. You can ring up tomorrow morning at 9 a.m. and they will give you your allocated time slot. But— I said weakly, I have just been talking to someone at your call centre in India . . .
Ring tomorrow at nine, commanded the woman. We never give out advance time slots.‡
I was downstairs and putting my tea water on at eight forty five this morning, I hope you’re impressed. At 8:59 I rang the number the woman had given me. Another woman answered and asked for my tracking number. I gave it to her, watching an unmarked white van backing up the cul de sac and stopping in front of the cottage. We have no record— began the woman, and there was a knock on the door. Excuse me, I said, hope flaring in a sharp uncomfortable way, there is someone at the door.
I threw the door open . . . and there was a man in a Feebledweeb hoodie. YAAAAAAAAAY, I said, and thrust my envelope upon him. I may have said one or two things . . . particularly because this is a guy I know. Several of the regular drivers for the various carriers are regular enough that us (regular) customers say hi when we see them on the street. FEEBLEDWEEB MAKES ME FRELLING NUTS, I may have said. The guy held up his hands (my envelope in one of them), grinning. You are not alone, he said.
He departed. I picked up the phone and discovered . . . the woman had cut me off. Never mind. The package had gone. And she rang back to say that the driver had just confirmed pick up and tracking number and all was well.
Five hours later I received an email from the subrights department saying that they had just got off the phone from Feebledweeb, re-verifying that one of their agents will pick up my envelope tomorrow, Wednesday, some time between ten and two. . . .
* * *
* I start to lose the will to live after about the ninety-third copy. Why does the president of Dormidalump Multimedia Cupcakes and Related Pastry’s wife’s brother’s assistant’s hamster need a copy of the contract anyway? I’m not sure I like the idea of CHALICE being turned into singing apple strudel, even if Merrilee did get a paragraph in there about how they had to use honey. I should have held out for baklava . . . but that still doesn’t explain the hamster.
** It seems to me very sad that Pav may never have the fabulous experience of waiting in an endless post office queue.
*** Borderline as in personality
† THE POSTMISTRESS HATED ME. SHE DID. She also retired some years ago, but THE TRAUMA REMAINS.
†† Note that (a) the payment for this interesting process is coming out of the money that passes through Merrilee’s hands on my behalf and (b) apparently even if they believed they had been paid . . . they would still deliver it back to me again. Because they can’t read. Or because they can’t design forms that are readable.
††† He then asked me where I was from and acknowledged that he was Indian and calling from India. The thing that interests me though is that these overseas call centres have a very bad rep, which is mostly well earned, but allowing for the fact that Feebledweeb is messing him over as well as messing me over, the phone line was clearer than mine to Peter often is and he was intelligent and articulate and able to answer questions . . . off the sheet of bad info they had given him, but hey.
‡ Of course not. OF COURSE NOT.