* * *
WE INTERRUPT THIS WAS-WORKING-JUST-FINE-THANK-YOU-MICROSOFT-YOU-PIECE-OF-**** BLOG POST TO ANNOUNCE THAT I’VE JUST SPENT ABOUT HALF AN HOUR TRYING TO FIND OUT WHY MY IDIOT COMPUTER WENT PING ON ME AND NOW EVERYTHING IS RED AND UNDERLINED AND IN SOME KIND OF EDITING (?) MODE THAT I CAN NEITHER FIND NOR TURN OFF. AND IT’S THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT OF COURSE SO IT’S NOT LIKE I CAN RING UP AN ARCHANGEL AND SCREAM. I EVENTUALLY COPIED AND PASTED ‘TEXT ONLY’ INTO A NEW DOCUMENT WHICH APPEARS TO HAVE SOLVED THE IMMEDIATE ISSUE . . . BUT I HAVE TO PUT ALL THE BOLD AND ITALIC BACK IN, DON’T I? AS WELL AS REVIVE THE LINKS. I ALSO HAVE TO GO TO BED. SO THE FOLLOWING MAY END A LITTLE ABRUPTLY.
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Why are the cutest, the very CUTEST, the DIES FROM CUTE/GORGEOUS* knitting needle cases/rolls/organizers ALL FOR SHORT NEEDLES? CRUMMY LITTLE DPNs AND FRELLING CIRCULARS?** AND CROCHET HOOKS. CROCHET HOOKS!
Ahem. I’ve been wasting time on Etsy.*** Generally speaking I avoid Etsy† but . . . one of the frelling knitting frelling sites I’m on the (frelling) email list of had a TWENTY PERCENT OFF EVERYTHING sale for the bank holiday. Twenty percent. Off EVERYTHING. Now I pay attention to twenty percent. I will look at fifteen percent . . . but twenty percent, I’m doomed. And so . . . I was doomed.
I’ve been eyeing up Rowan Big Wool for a while because everybody seems to love it and I’m a bit of a wannabe Rowan junkie although their magazines make me crazy, all those undernourished tragic Pre-Raphaelite-haired women†† wearing clothes that I don’t even understand how to look at let alone be able to read the blasted pattern and make the things. But then there was this: http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/heartbeat-3 †††
I want to make this. Well, I want to try to make this. I wasted an INSANE amount of time this weekend, The Weekend of Twenty Percent Off, trying to decide what colours to (try to) do it in. The other thing is . . . needles. GIGANTIC frelling needles. 12 mm and 15 mm needles.‡ They look like police truncheons. The little needle case I bought long, long ago ‡‡ is, ahem, full, and the addition of police truncheons is not a viable storage option. Hence Etsy. . . .
To be continued.
* * *
* Of course I want a dies-from-cute/gorgeous knitting needle case. I could keep them in a plastic bag if I were a plastic bag sort of girl. I’m not. I’m amazed you’d even ask.
** Which all look like garrottes to me, okay? Cooperate, you yarn, or I’ll garrotte you. And DPNs just scare the grrzmph out of me. I subscribe to way too many knitting magazines, and the bottom end of these give you FREE GIFTS!!! every issue.^ Cheezy plastic DPNs and ditto crochet hooks that weren’t broken out of their mould properly so they have little catchy rough places that I’m sure will contribute to the crocheting experience significantly, are popular. They are not improving my attitude toward these outliers of knitting at all.
^ Just by the way the modern coinage ‘free gift’ makes me NUTS. Here, have a gift with strings and caveats. Have an unfree gift. WHAT? Of course ‘free gifts’ that come as part of the PURCHASE of a magazine or a box of cereal or whatever the flapdoodle aren’t free by definition. So what ‘free gift’ is, is the double negative that makes the positive, or in this case the double positive that makes the negative . . . all right, all right, it’s late and I’m mushy-brained. Still. I think there may be a principle here.
Enter at your own risk. It’s the biggest indie-stall craft market in the universe. It will eat your days, your brain, and your credit card. You will also, slightly depending on what category you’re browsing, be caught up short by . . . amazing things that people have (apparently) made and are (apparently) expecting other people to buy. You know, as in spend money on. Amazing. There are a few of these even in the relatively harmless knitting supplies area.
Which brings me to Regretsy, a site honouring—if you want to call it ‘honouring’ which you probably don’t—all that people should not have hung out there in public with a price tag. However I am not going to give you a link to Regretsy—you can look it up—in the first place because the general tenor is RUDE and the opening page is . . . well, it’s not family friendly, and in the second place because she seems to have shut it down? The archive is still there—and jaw-droppingly fabulous reading it is too if you’re into that sort of thing. I find I start feeling as if I’ve eaten too much cheap chocolate too quickly but still . . . wow. You can look her up too—April Winchell—who has a web site that is a sort of very large Regretsy-style collection of the bad, the awful, and the seriously squicky, whose boundaries know no, uh, bounds. You want people being jerkfaces? Go there. She’s very funny. But . . . rude. You were warned.
However, on the subject of the successful deployment of rude, one of the shops on Etsy is http://www.etsy.com/shop/beanforest
which I discovered because FOR SOME REASON people kept sending me a link to this button:
Which I still haven’t ordered because every time I try I find myself running up a tab of about thirty quids’ worth of kitchen magnets (of course I want them as kitchen magnets) and . . . no.^ For example, upon further investigation of the deep luxuriant richness on offer, this one makes me fall off my chair laughing:
. . . Okay. I’ll behave now. Probably. But speaking of FOOTNOTES which I OFTEN AM like NOW^^, several people have sent me a link to a recent xkcd post: http://xkcd.com/1208/ Be sure to do the mouseover thing.
^ My refrigerator isn’t large enough.
^^ I’m sure it’s all very meta-whatsit to be talking about footnotes in footnotes.
† For all the reasons detailed in footnote *** above.
†† Most of the Brotherhood however would be appalled at the starved-teenager look.
††† Is anyone else getting a little cranky about the months’-old THIS JUST IN!!! opening page on Ravelry trumpteting three million users? Fine. They have three million users. I’m impressed. But I was impressed a long time ago and I think they might take the ‘just’ out.
‡ Heartbeat only requires 10 mm, but http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/may-2
is 15 mm. I thought I might finally try a hat. Especially a hat with none of this circular nonsense.
‡‡ Two years, I think? It was two years ago this past winter that Fiona tied me to my chair and showed me how to knit and purl and cast on and off while I begged for mercy, wasn’t it?
It’s the fourth of frelling April in southern frelling England and IT’S SNOWING. It’s been snowing off and on all freaking day, and all three of my hellcritters have been unusually possessed by demons* as, I want to believe, the result of the cold, and not because their essential anarchic nature is emerging at last.** I took the hellhounds out to Warm Upford because Wolfgang’s tank needed filling again*** and while we weren’t going to waste a country walk, we weren’t exactly ambling along enjoying the beauties of nature and tender green burgeoning spring either.† The snow isn’t lying, exactly: it’s a twinkly suspended fog, and sometimes it’ll be icing-sugar on the ground for a while, and then it sort of goes away, since melting doesn’t seem the really pertinent verb in the circumstances. There will be black ice on the roads tonight.††
And to make it perfect, this fourth of April in southern England when it’s SNOWING? I received a big box of baby plants today. My lurgy is a lot better—although I was barking like a hellcritter after only a half hour’s conversation with Hannah tonight—but I’m still a little slower even than usual getting out of bed in the morning with all this crud in my sinuses weighing me down. I heard the courier van backing up the cul de sac BEEP BEEP BEEP and heard when he stopped outside my cottage, but he didn’t come to the door so I thought, excellent, since the only thing he could have been bringing me was baby plants—and turned over and went back to sleep.††† So the baby plants he’d brought me had also been sitting in the FROZEN COLD FOR SEVERAL HOURS before the Wall Man, who comes and scowls at the irremediable Wall Situation occasionally, to prove, I suppose, that he still cares, said, when I was out chasing the hellterror round the little kitchen-door courtyard, Did you get your package? WHAT PACKAGE? WHY DIDN’T THE DRIVER PUT A CARD THROUGH THE MAIL SLOT? WHY DIDN’T HE DELIVER THEM TO JAMAICA, WHERE IT’S WARM? Whiiiiiiiine.
* * *
* Since some level of demon-possession is to be expected in hellcritters
** Note that it is harder to trap a roly-poly hellterror between your legs than it is one with a waist and hipbones. I was trying to have a, you know, conversation with another obsessed dog person^ and Pav was all, Me! Me! Me! I’M here! Dorcas was saying that the chief function of pet dogs was to make you laugh and Pav has certainly got that cornered.
If Southdowner is reading this I know she’ll take me to task, but I’m not sure there’s a practical difference between your dog ‘knows it’s been bad’, which human-style thinking dog trainers come down on you like a ton of anvils for, and ‘knows what it’s been doing is going to piss you off’—which is real life, however you want to frame it. Darkness, who’s the one with the what-I-would-call a conscience will sometimes flag having misbehaved when I wouldn’t have noticed, by creeping grovelling up to me.^^
Just like I’m not sure it matters if your dog thinks in the human terms of winding you up when it does things that wind you up. It, or in this case she, is looking over her shoulder as she does them and displaying that fabulous hellterror sproingy bounding thing which I suppose is common to all dogs and particularly all puppies, but it looks more like nanny-nanny-boo-boo on a hellterror than it does on a hellhound. I’m pretty sure Pav has figured out that I (mostly) won’t mess with her if she just picks things up and carries them around, it’s not till the jaws start grinding that—out on a hurtle—I crank her in and attempt to remove the undesirable item. And I swear she looks over her shoulder at me when she starts chewing not because she ‘knows’ this will ‘wind me up’ but because life isn’t sufficiently exciting at this moment in time and this is a way to make me ENGAGE. Arrrrgh. Slightly adapting something Southdowner has told me I’ve started carrying a pocketful of loose treats on our hurtles and if she ‘drops’ the item without fuss—which means among other things that I have a hand free to pluck the blasted treat out of my pocket—she gets a treat. I swear professional dog trainers have at least four arms, not to mention lightning reflexes. One way or another however it means that Pav and I share high quality relationship-enhancing time on our hurtles.
^ Although her obsession runs to spaniels
^^ Chaos will come and grovel randomly just because I’m the hellgoddess. This has its practical applications, however, as today, when I let them off lead for the first time in a while because first Chaos’ leg and then Darkness’ back has been an issue and unless the footing is good I’m just not going to risk it. So we had several weeks of frustration exploding into motion. They usually make a gigantic circle around me, which is preferable but unenforceable; today they just frelling lit out. YIIIIIIIIIIIIII. I went pelting after them, trying to pretend that’s what I wanted to be doing and I was still totally in control . . . and they were still just about visible on the horizon when they finally stopped to check back with me. HEY GUYS, I said, somewhat breathlessly, slowing instantly to a nonchalant walk. HOW’S IT GOING? And Chaos, bless his crazy little neurons, came lolloping back to me at half speed, which is still somewhat faster than mortal, and then took off again after Darkness, but now they shifted into giant circle mode, and my blood pressure and intimations-of-disaster levels dropped accordingly. Note, however, that no one had better be lame tomorrow. Including me.
*** Life was simpler when my home tower was a short pedestrian sprint away and I hadn’t discovered monks yet.
† Fortunately I saw the brown hare before the hellhounds did, drat the creature. Brown hares are confident in their belief that they are the fastest land mammal in Britain^ and behave accordingly, which is to say they’re cavalier little beggars and they may be the fastest wild land mammal in Britain but a careering sighthound can catch one—and before it was made illegal, not infrequently did—and I don’t want to see this historic feat re-enacted, including the ‘yanking Robin’s arms out of their shoulder sockets’ part. And if one of them ever decided to mosey carelessly into a field I’ve just let the hellhounds off-lead in . . .
†† I’d been planning to go to the monks’ tonight but they’ve probably got snowdrifts. You probably need an ice axe to get into their car park.
It is brutal out there. Even the hellterror was willing to scamper back to the house early, although it’s always difficult to tell with the hellterror, since she knows when I put her back in her crate she gets a handful of FOOOOOOOOD which salves the wounded (hyperactive) spirit. I went to the Maundy Thursday [Anglican] Mass at the monks tonight** and I took my sitting-still-in-the-cold blanket because I went early, as usual, for a little silent contemplation before the service began. I was expecting there to be a proper congregation today but I wasn’t expecting the jugglers and the dancing elephant.*** The lights were already on when I arrived and monks in an assortment of party frocks were rushing around setting up. I wrapped myself in my blanket and prepared to practise focussing despite distractions—it takes a lot of concentration to ignore a dancing elephant—but even by the time the service started I was thinking, I don’t believe the heat is on at all. I know they don’t have a lot of money, maybe they turn their central heating off on the Ides of March and if that means frost on the soup and hypothermia in the congregation, so be it. During the standing-up bits I was hoping we could sit down again—and I could rewrap my blanket—before my knees started audibly knocking together. †
It also went on rather a while. This would have been fine—and Easter is the biggest event in the Christian year, bigger than Christmas, so you’re expecting services to be a little extra elaborate††—if it weren’t for the creeping frostbite. I should have brought a bigger blanket. I should have brought a duvet. I should have brought a self-heating dog.
And then at the end the monks get various things up on poles and platters and march firmly down the aisle and out of the chapel—chanting all the while—and we get up and follow them. Good thing someone has been here before and knows the drill. It’s not like the monks’ web site has any useful information like what happens during service.
So we all troop out of the church and into the DARK and the FREEEEEEEZING COLD and I wrap my blanket around my shoulders, praying for a miraculous sirocco, and we file into a tiny little chapel away from the main block of the abbey. I don’t think the monks’ abbey is all that old, but this hidey-hole looks like something the desert fathers might have used (speaking of siroccos). Perhaps it is, and was brought, stone by stone, from Egypt in Early Gleep A.D. The monks set up the bits of whatever they’d brought and then left us there. Not having realised there was going to be Silent Contemplation built into this service, I’d been attempting to be pious for about two hours at that point and when various other cravens starting creeping out . . . I crept out too. And went home to feed hellcritters and reassure my husband I hadn’t taken holy orders. And to warm up.
And this is only the beginning. I’ll go back for service tomorrow—I’m pretty freaked out about Good/Black Friday: I know he rose and everything, but they still killed him and he still died—and then Saturday night there’s a vigil. I might sign on for the vigil if I had the faintest clue what it entailed. . . . ††
* * *
* And apparently this bloody weather is going to last another three weeks. Mid April and HARD FROST every night?!?!? Even in Maine by mid-April you can expect some nights to stay above freezing. I finally potted up my sweet peas today, poor things, they’ve been living on the edge the last ten days or so—or off the edge, when the cardboard box they arrived in disintegrated at an inopportune moment and I had sweet pea seedlings all over the floor.^ Unlabelled sweet pea seedlings: the plastic cell-packs are labelled, not the plant plugs, which all look alike. Arrrrrgh. I originally assumed that this weather would go away within a day or two, so I took the lid off but left the seedlings, in their teetery plastic trays, in the nice stable flat-bottomed box. I hadn’t realised how much run off there had been from watering them till the cardboard bottom fell out. ARRRRRRGH. Anyway it’s really been too cold to put greenhouse-raised tender seedlings outdoors even during the day and the sweet peas have spent a good deal of time in the kitchen sink, to no one’s satisfaction. Or propped up against the kitchen door, which is at least glass—the sink doesn’t get a lot of sunlight—with a towel against boreal drafts and my wellies holding the teetery plastic packaging upright to further general dissatisfaction.^^ I am grateful that I decided to cut my losses early—the only things I can reliably get through the winter indoors are geraniums, with an honourable mention for begonias^^^—so I left most things where they were,# jammed my windowsills, and had a relatively cope-with-able commuting indoor/outdoor jungle this year. It’s about to become not cope-with-able however, since it now includes a large tray full of dazed sweet pea seedlings## . . . and another box of tender plants arrived today.
I’m trying to tell myself that nurseries need the space they’re freeing up by sending you your plants at the scheduled time, however undesirable that schedule has become. What I’m really thinking is you morons. Most of us don’t have greenhouses## and we don’t want to see this stuff till we can start hardening it off to live outdoors.
^ Fortunately the hellterror was in her crate.
^^ Including putting them back in the sink any time the hellterror is loose.
^^^And a dishonourable mention to so-called hardy fuchsias. I lose ’em every dratblasted winter+ so this winter, ha ha ha ha ha, I decided to bring a couple of ’em indoors. They’re doing great. Hey. Guys. You’re supposed to be hardy. You’re supposed to live outdoors over the winter. That’s live.
+ Don’t talk to me about drainage or I will become violent
# And by some bizarre miracle a few snapdragons are still hanging on. I doubt they’ll survive another three weeks of this however SIIIIIIIGH.
## Which spent SEVERAL HOURS OUTDOORS today during a BREAK IN THE CLOUDS THAT WAS ALMOST SUNLIGHT. On the shelf under the kitchen window—speaking of life on the edge—which should be almost warm, with the Aga throwing heat at the glass from the other side.
### Greenhouses you could actually grow stuff in, anyway. Mine gets almost no sunlight. It’s a sort of glass-paned tool shed. Makes you wonder what was on my predecessor’s mind when she sited it there.
** I might add that the day did not get off to a good start when I was woken up three times by parcel-delivery people demanding signatures for parcels that did not need signing for.^ Each time this happened I reset my alarm because I seriously need some sleep, with the result that I didn’t get up till nearly . . . um . . . late. I was wakened a fourth time by the hellterror taking noisy exception to some other dog barking in the neighbourhood. Moan.
^ Including first-pass page proofs for SHADOWS. Ugggggggh. That parcel is even marked DOES NOT NEED SIGNATURE. We have been here before . . .
*** Or the Spanish Inquisition, but then nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition.
† At least I didn’t—or anyway I think I didn’t—mess up taking communion tonight. Arrrrgh. It’s all very well as Aloysius says that Anglicanism is big and comprehensive enough^ that there’s a niche somewhere for almost everyone, but this also means that the way service is run may differ spectacularly from one church to the next—and I don’t know what the frell I’m doing anyway. So you get the run-down in a brisk, no-nonsense, nothing-to-be-afraid-of way from some long-time Anglican friend and then you go to the monks and yaaaaaaah.^^
^ Except about women bishops
^^ I was talking to Gemma about this. Gemma is Catholic. She says that one of the things she likes about Catholicism is that Mass is said the same everywhere. You don’t have to worry about it. You can pitch up in England or France or Outer Mongolia, and if it’s Catholic Mass, you’ll know where you are and what’s going on.
†† Possibly including jugglers and dancing elephants
††† It’s too late to ask the monks: they’re being silent till Easter, and Aloysius doesn’t know.
H A P P Y N E W Y E A R
I should have known that New Year’s Eve at the abbey would be a big deal, but I’m not very intelligent* about cultural ritual type things**, and I didn’t realise. I can’t even claim clueless Americanness since I’m accustomed (or possibly resigned) to people making a fuss about New Year’s. And the abbey is gigantic and a national frelling site of historical whatsit and so on*** so, yeah, okay, New Year’s Eve probably would be more than a few hard-core nerds pulling on the bell ropes.
I don’t actually like ringing New Year’s Eve. Worrying about it makes such a long day. A hideous threatening quarter peal for Sunday afternoon service ring, for example, is over by 3:30 and you still have half a day for ingesting compensatory chocolate and plotting your new, bell-free life.† New Year’s Eve . . . you’re lying on the sofa bestrewn with hellhounds and knitting magazines and you can’t even enjoy it.
It was rather ridiculously exciting driving into the abbey close for the first time tonight. I walk through it frequently but I’ve never taken a car in there—what for? I’d only have to do a three-point turn and scramble out again. The application for a parking permit which I still haven’t remembered to put through the office door makes a big fuss about how you must only park in marked bays. Well, you get in there at 11 pm on New Year’s Eve and it’s dark and very badly lit and covered in taken-down bits of Christmas and—just by the way—this is a medieval close and has adapted to the modern world only somewhat. I found a tree to park under which didn’t seem to leave Wolfgang blocking anything in particular, and went off to be intimidated by the vicar’s wife’s party. Yeep. The vicar was there too, in an ornate frock, and so was the mayor, wearing half a ton of chain††, and a smattering of lords of this and that and the new/old Archbishop of Canterbury’s mother-in-law’s milkmaid’s niece.†††
But the tower was no haven, because half the assembled followed us. How the ladies in their party frocks and high heels got up those stairs I have no idea, but several of them did.‡ And then they all stood around staring at us. Frell. I might as well have rung at Crabbiton, as I have done in years past, where the entire village comes and stares at you (it’s a ground floor ring): at least there aren’t lords and mayors in chains and the vicar’s frock is plain. Also, Crabbiton has only six bells. The possibilities for mayhem are limited.
After some alarming adventures like ringing plain hunt on a hundred and fourteen, the tenor—the almost two tons of the abbey tenor—is pulled off alone to toll twelve, and (theoretically exactly at midnight) the rest of us then pull off in perfect rounds behind the tenor striking that twelfth time. There were slightly more ringers than there were bells (amazingly)‡‡ and as we were all standing there in silence waiting for it to be time for the tenor to begin I very frelling nearly bottled out. Steady the Buffs. I stayed where I was.
And our rounds sounded pretty good. Celebratory, even. Better yet, when we descended from our eyrie, they in fact hadn’t locked the close gate—which every night of the year but New Year’s Eve is shut at ten—and Wolfgang was waiting for me under his tree. And the roads were empty coming home.
* * *
* Stop that laughing
** I said stop that laughing.
*** Which means that every time they need to replace a door-latch or hang a picture they have to ask English Heritage to send a team of conservationists to consult on how or if it’s going to be done. It’s a good thing English Heritage exists, or there’d be a lot less English heritage around, and big crumbly ancient buildings do need a phenomenal amount of upkeep, but I do sometimes wonder if about half the running costs aren’t about the running but about the arguing.
† It had not been a great day. I spent the morning thinking up new and unspeakable^ tortures for my printer while it jammed every third page—and once it has jammed it goes on jamming, even after you’ve not only removed the offending page but taken ALL the paper out, shuffled it, put it ALL back in again, reset the tabs that hold it in place, ritually slammed ALL the doors including the one defending the ink cartridges which has NOTHING TO DO with the paper feed, and offered the gods more chocolate. PAPER JAM, it whines. BITE ME. Sometimes it randomly varies this with PAPER TRAY EMPTY.^^ I’ve been working on my editor’s comments on SHADOWS on the computer but there’s a scene at the end where I think I have to take the pages and lay them out on the floor, supposing I can find a large enough piece of floor that can be made to remain hellcritter free. Siiiiiiigh. I should have let her send me a print-out. She offered. No, no, no, I said, it’s fine I can do it.
And then I decided to take the hellterror to run an errand in Mauncester and the shop in question had closed early half an hour before we got there. You could put updates on your web site, you know? That’s what web sites are for. To tell customers stuff like we’re closing EARLY on New Year’s Eve.
At least I’d brought the hellterror, so we were accruing SOCIALISATION from the experience. We went back to the car and I looked at the clock and thought . . . I could probably just about get to the monks’ evening prayer. And I did. With about twenty seconds to spare. And going the speed limit, which is always a plus.^^^ But I was the last person in and my footsteps echoed and everyone turned and looked at me. #
^ But howlable
^^ Bite me anyway.
^^^ Which was a good thing—as is that I wedge the hellterror’s crate carefully in place behind the front seat—when we had a Near Death Experience of a monster semi pulling out in front of us as we were bombing down the highway at 68 mph [speed limit 70]. JESUS CHRIST, I screamed as I stood on noble Wolfgang’s brakes, which is probably what I would have screamed more than three months and a half months ago too, but part of my new covenant with God is that I’m trying to clean up my language.+ I apologised, which is what I usually do on these humiliating occasions, about five seconds later, as the higher functions started coming back on line again, but I was also thinking that while not yelling his name every time you spill your tea is a good idea, really, when you’d urgently like him to intervene before you’re squashed like a bug on the windscreen of some thrice-blasted juggernaut, it’s quite appropriate.
+ And a frelling frelling frelling struggle it is too. Arrrgh. I am very grateful for ‘arrrgh’. And frelling.
# I put a blanket over the hellterror’s crate but really it’s so WARM. It’s RAINING, but it’s WARM.
†† I wonder if he has special padding sewn into the jacket(s) he’s planning on wearing his professional shackles with?
††† The most interesting part of the occasion was being accidentally included in a conversation between Ulrich and the vicar, about some of the practicalities of keeping the abbey standing. God? When they have a minute. And this isn’t worldliness and Mammon, this is just the truth about something this size with this much going on.
‡ Me? I was wearing jeans and All Stars. Clean jeans. The All Stars were a little muddy. But the world is a little muddy.
‡‡ And the really fancy ringers, like Albert and Scary Man, stood out, so us hoi polloi could ring.
It was still dark when I got up this morning. Well, dark-ish. Granted it stays dark later (and gets dark earlier) this time of year AND that it was a drizzly, grizzly, dank, overcast day—typical November in fact: but I like being a Scorpio—still. It was dark when I got up. Pavlova was like, oh, hey, MORE PLAY TIME* but the hellhounds were all, are you kidding?** Go away. I poured a certain amount of caffeine into the machinery, creaked, misfired, caught, moaned, and went outdoors to fumble uphill to Wolfgang.***
I was so terrified of being late picking up Aloysius that I left FABULOUS AMOUNTS OF TIME to get lost in. And then finding his house was as easy as Google maps said, which is not a given in my experience. So I was there about fifteen minutes early. You feel very conspicuous sitting at the end of a curate’s driveway at 8:30 on a Saturday morning.
As the minutes ticked by, and I tried not to catch the eye of any of the early joggers and newspaper-buyers and so on as they wended their legitimate ways through the little estate, I started to grow increasingly nervous about the lack of any signs of life in the house I was parked in front of. Maybe this wasn’t the right address. The development his house is in is one of these that has several lobes, and once you’ve passed the entrance and been told to go this way rather than that way . . . you’re kind of on your own. The individual courts are not marked. So you’re sitting there looking at this clearly dark, sleeping house six and a half minutes before you’re supposed to be picking up your native guide to deepest elsewhere and thinking, maybe you misread the signposts. Maybe this isn’t Borogove Crescent. Maybe this is Bandersnatch Close!
With five minutes to go, I crept up the walkway and tremblingly pressed the bell. A sudden uprush of bustling noises and the door was thrown open and a small person in a dressing gown beamed at me and said, “He’s just finishing getting dressed! He’ll be with you in a moment!” and I, relieved, thought, ah, what it is to be a pastor’s wife: smiling at importunate strangers who want your husband at 8:30 on a Saturday morning.
Tintinnabulation Abbey is beyond the back of beyond, and I have no idea how I’m going to find it again, barring rent-an-angel. You drive through several decreasingly tiny villages—I’m sure there was a border crossing involved—and then eventually you declare yourself in the hands of God, turn left into a forest, and . . . there it is. With electricity and central heating and everything.†
And monks. Wibble, as someone said on the forum recently. I am very grateful to have had Aloysius’ shadow to hide in, because despite the large sign saying VISITORS WELCOME and Aloysius’ conviction that services are open to the public it was pretty intimidating. No, make that VERY intimidating.
But the chapel holds grace the way a bowl holds roses, or that’s how it felt to me, even freaking out as I was about the monks. I think I told you that Aloysius had suggested I try Tintinnabulation because they have a silent-prayer service each week and, he said, the services generally have a nice sense of space to them. Yes.
The ridiculous thing is that of the churches I’ve tried so far—and barring my abbey they’ve all been recommended by some or other Christian friend, so I’m only going to the ones with a good reputation—this has been the first one that I’ve known pretty well immediately that I want to go back to. This finding a church thing is supposed to be about finding a community. Monks? I don’t think so.††
As promised, Aloysius took me round to the refectory after the service, for tea and monkish chat. Most of the latter went straight over my head††† but I did come away with a very sharp, vivid impression of the monks who hung out to drink hot liquids in the company of the hoi polloi. In one word: cranky. And I was thinking, hmmm, Christians so seriously committed they’ve gone the religious community route . . . cranky? Maybe there is a place for me somewhere in the monolithic C of E. Cranky I can do.
* * *
* We have another new game. This one is called . . . Whirlygig puppy. One of the silliest things Nemo did when Southdowner brought him here was lie down in a field when we were all out hurtling, forelegs stretched out in front of him and back legs stretched out bonelessly, or anyway hiplessly, behind him. Toy dog position: toy dog limbs are attached differently. And then he refused to get up. So Southdowner dragged him about halfway across the field (he was in a harness, not a collar, and furthermore this is clearly a vaudeville act). While I was falling down in helpless laughter—and hellhounds were looking on in consternation^—Southdowner said that this is a standard bullie silliness, and that when I had a bullie, because of course, I would have a bullie some day, he/she would do this too.
It took about a week for Pavlova to start lying like that, like a beanbag dog, and at first I worried about dragging her (playing tug indoors), she didn’t really weigh enough to provide stability and I was afraid of giving her carpet burn. But she is now a VAST CHUNK of fourteen pounds—she weighs a stone!—and belly-glides over the carpet as slickly as Dorothy Hamill^^ on the ice. This means we can start working on our routine. Whirlygig puppy. But our fabulous new move involves a quick flick of my wrist and gives Pavlova the impetus for a rollover. We’re still totally failing to learn ‘down’—the theory is that you get the ‘sit’ established and then lower the treat till the puppy has to lie down to get it. Uh huh. Anyway. Maybe we should just go straight to rolling over, which she clearly has a gift for.
^ I’m not sure if the consternation was for me or for Nemo. I can just about understand a bitch finding this a funny double act, but I would have thought a male dog would find that tiny clods and small splintery bits might get rammed up sensitive organs.
^^ Yes I’m that old.
** Also frelling Chaos is lame. He did something to himself that day we met the off lead Labrador/Godzilla cross, limped for a bit and seemed to get over it. I didn’t take it seriously because he’s a wuss—Darkness is the stoic one—but over the next couple of days it got worse. Last two days now we go out at dog walking speed—you know how SLOWLY a dog WALKS? They trot everywhere—so I can make the wretched animal put that leg down. After ten minutes or so the soreness (apparently) eases off and then he wants to run. Arrrrgh.
*** Who started better than I did. But he’s only seventeen.
† I forgot to check for free wifi.
†† I was also reassured by how many women—saints, bishops, nuns and ordinary members of the public—were mentioned during the service and, even better, one of their staff spiritual directors is a woman in a dog collar.
††† I have told Aloysius that my conversion was the whap up longside the head variety and I have no clue, and the only experience I ever had was in generic Protestant back in the States when I was a kiddie. He was clearly trying not to laugh when he said it was not surprising if I found the Church of England a little confusing.