I had what passes in my case for a terrific voice lesson.
AND THE REMOVAL BLOKES GOT IT ALL IN.
These two large dazzling items totally outshine the rest which is a good thing because it was very nearly a disaster of a day.
. . . Starting with not getting to bed early enough last night, partly because I really needed to sing and one song leads to another. . . . Staggered out of bed this morning making hopeless croaking noises like an installation of rusty hinges* and started lubricating with caffeine. Took the poor hellterror for the fastest sprint she was capable of** and locked her up again with an extra kong to comfort her in our absence.***
I took hellhounds-of-the-touchy-digestion for a minimal get-it-over-with scamper around the churchyard. Darkness refused to comply with the purpose of this exercise. Arrrgh.
Hellhounds and I were on the road with twenty-five minutes to spare: five minutes to bolt up to Third House and ask Atlas to clear out drawers and move ill-placed piles of [book] boxes in anticipation of removal-men arrival this afternoon and twenty minutes for hurtling at the far end before my lesson.
Atlas wasn’t there.
I could feel my throat closing.
Well, nothing I could do about it; I couldn’t even ask Peter if he knew anything, since, in the first place, he wouldn’t, because he’s been in Gloucestershire all weekend, and in the second place because he was on a train somewhere and I guarantee his phone had no signal, because that’s the way it goes.
So we thundered on to our next scheduled activity.
Frelling Mauncester was backed up from halfway up the hill into town. Stop go (but not very far) stop go stop go stop go stop go stopgostopgostop. Chiefly stop. It was like this all the way through town.
I could feel my throat closing harder.
We arrived at Nadia’s with THREE MINUTES to spare. I took hellhounds for a three minute scuttle and . . . Darkness continued to fail to comply. ARRRGH.
I was pretty nearly barking by the time I burst through Nadia’s door. . . She did make me do some breathing and loosening up exercises before I sang anything, but my throat said, Ooooh! We’re at Nadia’s! We like it here! —And promptly warmed up a dream.†
WE GOT THROUGH THREE SONGS. THREE. IT’S A RECORD. We usually bog down on the first one because I’m doing so many things wrong, not that Nadia would put it that way, but I would. We may occasionally galumph through bits of more than one—indeed even three—but only because I have a specific technical question†† or they’re folk songs I’m singing at home and want a little general input—or scraping back from the brink. But THREE REAL SONGS? It doesn’t happen. And furthermore the third—Vedrai carino from Don Giovanni—I’d only brought because I wanted to go over the frelling Italian before I started really working on it. We’d had a stab††† at it a while ago and it got set aside, but it’s been on my mind and since I now more or less suddenly have more voice it’s one of the ones I snatched back from oblivion.
Oh, go on, let’s just sing it, said Nadia. So I did. Eeeeep. And she made one or two painless comments and told me to go home and work on it.
Then Un moto de gioja and we spent some time on that one. Here’s an example of why I adore Nadia. There’s a place in the middle of Un moto where you hold a note for a very long time and then come off it again with a wordless twiddle before you start the next verse. I hadn’t even registered that you’re supposed to sing the twiddle—when I started work on this song Nadia had told me to hold the note only as long as was comfortable, but to keep time and come in correctly on the new ‘un moto’. Then I ACCIDENTALLY heard Danielle de Niese singing it and she sings the twiddle. Oh. It ties the two halves together better, the twiddle. I can’t sing it up to proper twiddle speed at the end of a long note—which is the part I can do—and as I hurl myself into the next verse. So I sing it at half speed. Nadia said gravely, if you were preparing this for public performance I think I would take issue with your singing it so slowly, but for your purposes at present it works very well. —She takes you seriously. Even when you’re screwing up Do Re Mi or tackling something like someone with a flint axe trying to produce a knock-off of the Sphinx.
Finally we assailed the nightclub proprietress. This is such a fabulous song. There are no fully satisfactory performances of it on YouTube—that I can find anyway—but here’s the poem: http://wonderingminstrels.blogspot.co.uk/2006/05/song-of-nightclub-proprietress-john.html ‡
It needs Lotte Lenya—who may have died before Dring composed it, in which case I excuse her for having failed to record it—or someone else who can put over age and despair. I don’t say you have to be old (despair optional) because in fairness I would then have to give up singing Voi che sapete, say, which is sung by a teenage boy, or Vedrai carino, which is sung by a bouncy village maiden (to her thick plank of a fiancé). But you have to put old and hagged over. I have a chance of this, with lived experience on my side. But the thing that is Very Exciting is that I can hear me beginning to sound like a mezzo: not just the range‡‡ but the resonance. And this is a very resonant song.
. . . I then took hellhounds for another hustle and FINALLY. A CERTAIN PARTY EXCRETED. We then belted back to Third House and arrived with three minutes to spare . . . and the removal blokes were already there. NEVER MIND. I WASN’T LATE. I let them in, pointed out all the Large Objects that had to go, apologised for lack of pre-clearance . . . and bolted back to the cottage to feed hellcritters‡‡‡ and take the hellterror for another mini-hurtle while hellhounds contemplated their bowls with disfavour. I was on my way out the door to flee back to Third House when the phone rang and it was Removal Men saying they were ready. . . .
I looked at their lorry before they shut the gate and my heart plummeted. There was no way they were going to get that lot in. I had the hellhounds with me again—no one had got any kind of a real hurtle thus far today—and we took off across some countryside§ behind the storage warehouse while Valiant Removal Men wrestled with the standard three dimensions of the space-time continuum and when we returned . . .
THEY HAD GOT IT ALL IN.§§
Oh, and did I mention that tonight was the first night of the Alpha course—?
* * *
* On this day that the Turner Prize is announced, this seems like a perfectly valid idea
** All right, the fastest sprint I was capable of
*** I’m sure, if asked, she would prefer the kong
† Please remember, when I say silly things like this that IT’S ALL RELATIVE. I have made a giant leap forward in the last few weeks but it’s still an 11-hand Shetland pony qualifying for prelim at the county show against the odds, not the branded warmblood insured for a gazillion pounds qualifying for the Olympics, okay?
†† Huh, whuh, um, bleaugh?
††† Way too vivid a metaphor, stab. Or maybe I’m just hallucinating KES.
‡ Baby ’pollies is not a mystery: they’re little bottles of a kind of mineral water popular at the time.
‡‡ I’m still putting in petitions to get my high C back. Lots of mezzos have high Cs.
‡‡‡ ‘Feed’ used loosely, which is to say the hellterror eats and the hellhounds do not.
§ And I managed to cut myself on some barbed wire. Frell. There was a normal gate to get in, and then at the other end one of those horrible temporary gate things that anyone who has spent any time wandering over English agricultural landscape will know to their detriment: several strands of barbed wire stretched between two light posts and held apart horizontally by being nailed to a series of short loose lathes. This contraption is usually held at either end by a loop at ground level where you stick the bottom of your post and then at the top by another loop which you have to shove it under, around the post of the real fence it’s being attached to. These things are a menace anyway, and if you lose your hold they collapse on the ground in a grisly tangle of barbed wire. But in this case . . . the frelling loops were made of barbed wire. WHY? Anyone trying either to open or close the evil thing is going to have to handle the loops. I managed to nick a finger and it bled and bled and bled and bled and bled and bled and bled and bled and bled and it was very boring and there are probably a whole series of predators out there tonight hopefully following my blood spoor. Sorry guys.
§§ Of course I still have ninety-six million books to do something with—I don’t mean Peter’s and my backlist, that’s already in its own storage unit—and a few odds and ends. Maybe a few more than a few.
Last Street Pastors training weekend this weekend. What I hadn’t got around to telling you because THERE’S BEEN SO MUCH GOING ON is that my dog minder quit without warning a few weeks back.*
The first two SP training weekends had long Saturdays and Sundays—longer days than I wanted to leave the hellpack for. Pav is still a puppy and she has to be crated when I’m not there frelling SUPERVISING and being shut up in a crate all day is not the stimulation a manic hellterror needs—and We All Know about the hellhounds’ interesting intestinal challenges. I pulled out the training schedule for weekend three and discovered . . . Sunday ended early. Faint hope dawned. It was not ideal, but this meant I had only one day I absolutely had to make emergency arrangements for. . . .
I’ve told you Southdowner has family on the south coast, which is her excuse for coming through here to check on Pav occasionally.** And so I threw myself upon her mercy.*** Don’t you feel an OVERWHELMING URGE to visit your family the second Saturday in October? And then you could stop on the way and . . .
Southdowner, who I would bet money had no intention or desire to visit her family on the south coast the second Saturday in October, and whom I am planning to recommend for sainthood on the next intake†, said yes.
So that was Saturday sorted. But I thought I’d better check about the short Sunday. So Friday night while we were milling around waiting for everyone to show up, I asked Llewellyn about it. Oh no, he said, it’s only the training that stops early. After that there’s the commissioning service. What with one thing and another, that’ll be about two and a half hours. . . .
TWO AND A HALF HOURS?? THAT MEANS SUNDAY IS GOING TO BE LONGER THAN USUAL.
I fell down in a heap and gnawed on the carpet. Llewellyn looked at me in alarm. Well, if he decided I wasn’t suitable SP material anyway that would solve the problem, wouldn’t it?†† But he didn’t. We’re a small group of trainees this time. He probably didn’t feel he could afford to lose anyone.
Saturday was fine††† although I suspect Southdowner of supplementing Pav’s lunch a little since there was half a bag of dog food missing and Pav’s belly was dragging on the ground when I got home‡. Maxine, who has child minder problems, had also been looking forward to the short Sunday, and we had discussed what to do. The official consensus seemed to be that the commissioning service was first and it was chiefly social milling around and whatevering after‡‡, so we decided we’d do a runner as soon as the Holy Panjandrum had finished the panjandrumming. And I decided that I was going to tweak the hellcritter feeding schedule‡‡‡, grit my teeth, and hope for the best.
So this afternoon I had already grappled myself together and shot out to meet Maxine§ when Pooka chirruped. Text from Maxine: her car had died. She’d already left to fetch me and . . .
Waiting for the AA§§ or Someone Like Him.§§§ Loooooong. Paaaaaauuuuuuusssssse.
. . . her car is really dead. AAAAAAAAAAAUGH. Now what? A flurry of texts later—including to Llewellyn to tell him we were, at best, going to be late—and Eleanor, whom I am also nominating for sainthood, was climbing in her car to fetch Maxine and then pick me up.# Eleanor and her car has been my back-up plan from the beginning of training## and she’d already told me that she and her husband### and the other St Margaret’s Street Pastor, Jonas, were going to come to the commissioning to wave our local banner a little since we were on Lesser Disconcerting’s territory and they outnumbered us better than twice over.~
The hellpack got another hurtle while all this was going down, me stopping under trees in the still-pouring rain to answer and send more texts~~. Corey, bless her, swapped the training sessions so that Maxine and I missed the one that was less applicable to us~~~ and were there for the final ‘street craft’ session.
And then we were commissioned.&
. . . I’m a fully functional, qualified, signed, sealed and delivered Street Pastor, Llewellyn will give me my new team posting next week AND I’M TERRIFIED OUT OF MY TINY MIND.
* * *
* I lost my previous dog minder by using her too little. I appear to have lost this one by using her too much. I’m considering never leaving home for more than four hours at a stretch^ ever again. It seems so much simpler.^^
^ Hellhounds have amazing ability for keeping their legs crossed when they’re not in digestive mayhem mode. It’s just you never know when digestive mayhem mode may return. I don’t know what Pav’s limits are or may eventually become since whatever they are they tend to be subsumed in worrying about hellhounds.
^^ All right, I’ll be gone for six or seven hours once a month SPing. But that is the middle of the night into the small and medium-sized hours, and the hellpack should be willing to sleep through it.
* I’m reasonably sure she doesn’t mind hanging around for knitting, chat, hurtling, monks and/or roast chicken^ but it’s not like I don’t know she comes for Pav.^^
^^ I also think Olivia gets on the phone to Southdowner and starts panicking. All right, all right, first bull terrier, steep learning curve, blah blah blah blah, we’re both still alive, okay? And so are the hellhounds and Peter. And the only scars are from tripping over her.
*** The thing is that both the hellhounds and Pav are . . . a bit of a handful, in their various ways. I’ve had a few, you know, ordinary friends offer to fill in, but I would fear for their sanity if not their lives.
† This Street Pastor gig ought to be good for something.
†† The training has been fascinating. Never mind the going out on the street part. The training has been FASCINATING.
††† The drawback to the fascinatingness of the training is that much of it is, inevitably, about various of the common ways people screw themselves up or are screwed up by others. Maxine reached her nadir of confidence about SPing with the paramedic last weekend. I reached mine Saturday afternoon with the presentation on child sexual abuse. SPs are only out there to provide lollipops and a listening ear, but the more we know about what we are or may be looking at and when to call the professionals the better.
‡ You may recall I’m supposed to be fattening her up so Southdowner can show her. I AM fattening her up. She’s four pounds heavier than I think she ought to be, which is a lot on something that is about the size of a large shoebox on legs.
‡‡ The whatevering included cake but maybe we could snag some on the way out the door.^
^ Note: yes.
‡‡‡ Which chiefly meant feeding Pav an ENORMOUS breakfast, running her around for optimum through-put, and giving her a minimal lunch. Hellhounds, eh, they’re only too happy to miss lunch entirely, and they don’t eat breakfast anyway. Also, Sunday training starts and runs later than Saturday training, which fits in the hellcritters’ cough-cough normal hurtle schedule better.
§ In the pouring rain. At least this means I don’t need to water the garden.
§§ Automobile Association. Not Alcoholics Anonymous.
§§§ Any other Firesign Theatre fans out there?
# Aside from any question of suggesting giving normal people a lift in Wolfgang, who is health-and-safety-alertingly full of dog hair, spare leads, spare harness, spare towels, a bottle of water and a bowl, emergency Pav-retrieving rations and so on, there’s the question of a normal person driving him, since going with Maxine started because I can’t do the commute and the training. Cars have come a long way in the seventeen or eighteen years since he was new.
## This was her offer, mind you, but I do keep reminding her that this is all her fault since it was her presentation at St Margaret’s about the Street Pastors that made me think, Oh! They take old ladies! She keeps trying to shift the blame to God.
### Who, when you ask him if he has any thought of becoming a Street Pastor, blanches violently before he says no.
~ Plus one random trainee from Smite-the-infidel, who has really been putting the miles on his car.
~~ Situations like today . . . I am totally on board with all this frelling modern technology.
~~~ We don’t SP schools—yet—which Lesser Disconcerting does. We will, though, if Jonas has his way.
& It was a pretty much a church service with extra bits in.
It broke ninety—degrees Fahrenheit—here today. I haven’t checked to see if my max/min thermometer has boiled its little brains out. I’ve now got four bird feeders out there** and the most popular one is one of the suet blocks. Blerg. Who wants to eat suet IN THIS WEATHER? I like heavy greasy food as well as the next person BUT NOT IN THIS WEATHER.
The Washing Machine Man came again today, despite my having inadvertently stood him up on Monday, because he is a kind, sympathetic, wonderful human being who understands that other human beings are sometimes thicker than bricks ESPECIALLY IN THIS WEATHER.*** And HE FIXED IT!!!!! YAAAAAAAAY! I was so sure he was going to tell me that it had lived long and prospered, and now deserves a decent burial.† I’m not in the mood, either emotionally or financially, to buy a new washing machine.
The only blight to all this is that he came later than expected, and time had got away from me rather. Hellhounds and I were already at Third House†† and I was sorting books to go to Oxfam and of course taking some of the ones in the ‘go’ pile back out again and you know you have to read a few pages to confirm and justify your decision . . . or not . . . and . . .
It’s been a day. It’s been a hot day. But I held my line through Grandsire Triples and Bob Major tonight while some other poor schmuck was losing hers.††† And it’s still cooling off enough at night for a little catch-up hurtling, although this means my evenings are running even later than they do anyway and it’s starting to get hot again long before I’m ready to get out of bed next morning AND DO MORE WATERING.‡ Meteorologists by definition are all talking through their wellies, but the forecast is that this is going to go on for weeks. . . . I wonder if Antarctica is all booked up and if they take dogs.
* * *
* All of you lovely and charming and fabulous and adorable people on the forum who are posting guest blog suggestions . . . YES! YES! YES! —Next question. Also, generally speaking, travelogue ones are always good. Either it’s exotic, which is cool, or if it isn’t, then it’s entertaining to the locals to see what some frelling clueless tourist has to say or has chosen to take photos of. When I was over here as a tourist a million years ago I took photos of the phone booths and the Royal Mail vans.
** They breed. Like coat hangers and odd socks. And it’s worse than that because I’ve actually replaced one. I bought a sturdy, good-quality one that is A TOTAL DROOLING RATBAG to clean, and it needs cleaning kind of often because it’s so badly designed. Including HOW HARD IT IS TO CLEAN. So I have this moderately expensive useless piece of rubbish which, since I was at that point inexperienced in bird feeders I bought on the hype, and recently I bought a cheap-tosh bird feeder at the farm-supply shop BECAUSE IT ALL UNSCREWS INTO ITS COMPONENT PARTS WITH NO FUSS. Arrrrrgh.
*** I was talking to Hannah tonight and she says it was 101°F today in Manhattan! A hundred and one! What is this, Death Valley East? 101 is not reasonable.
† This is Third House’s washing machine^, which was already of a certain age when Vicky offered it to anyone who would haul it away because she had inherited a new one. You know it’s old because it offers a sixty-degree temperature option. Modern washers have gone all holy and ecological and I don’t think ordinary domestic ones ever offer more than 40° any more?
^ And the friends who are arriving this weekend with suitcases full of dirty laundry are going to be very happy.
†† Hellterror was at the cottage, snarking in her crate. As she bears down on her first year birthday she is unmistakably showing signs of responsibility and righteousness . . . but not very many and they don’t string together well.
††† She has an excuse: she’s been laid up with a bell-rope-antipathetic injury. Usually she rings better than I do. Sigh.
‡ I’ve got visitors coming this weekend, right? I’M GOING TO HAVE TO RUN A VACUUM CLEANER. Is there anything HOTTER on this planet, barring nuclear meltdown, than a FRELLING VACUUM CLEANER? —Maybe they could stay at a nice B&B.
It is much too hot. Much too hot. The hellhounds agree.* Hellhounds say, Fie! Thou insultest us with food? We spurn both thee and it.**
Sigh. It’s not enough to be hot*** and cranky and stupid, I have to worry extra about the frelling hellhounds.†
I’m starting this post way too late—it’s well past midnight.†† Our visitors took us out to dinner and then I went back with them to Third House so I could hear Percival sing. Gah. Why am I BOTHERING with voice lessons? He offered not to sing Linden Lea because I’m singing it for Nadia right now . . . but I love Linden Lea: of course I want to hear someone who can sing sing it.††† The rooms in Third House are rather small. He just about pins your hair back even when he’s not trying to project. SIIIIIIIIIGH.
So why am I bothering? Because I love singing. Sue me. But every time the hellhounds Produce Another Inappropriate Behaviour‡ my dingleblatting throat closes up again or further, so during a week that has included heat, geysering and non-eating—plus, this week, an insane pollen count which has given me a fairly insane headache and a sore throat that keeps moving around like it’s looking for something—I can go through my exercises all I like, singing is not happening. I half-tried to cancel my lesson today: I emailed Nadia yesterday saying that I had a sore throat, no voice and a nasty attitude, and that if she’d like the end of the afternoon off—I’m her last student—she could cancel me. Well, she didn’t. So, secretly glad, I got there early enough to sit in a patch of shade with my knitting‡‡ and listen to her almost-pro-baritone-who-decided-to-be-a-doctor-instead and thinking, okay, I’m bothering because Nadia has two kiddies she’s going to have to put through college and she needs the money.‡‡‡
It was a surprisingly good lesson, after all of that.§ Mainly it’s teacher magic—my wretched throat was so startled it forgot to cough. But as will not amaze regular readers I have a little problem with relaxation and Nadia finally leaped to her feet muttering, I have a book . . . and brought back something with gruesome anatomical pictures of people’s noise-making apparatus. I should know a lot more of this than I do; I studied anatomy in homeopathy college and have a fabulous, if extremely lurid, anatomy book of my very own. But I mostly didn’t get above the thyroid, and while I know what vocal folds and the larynx look like, the tongue was a revelation. I know, theoretically, it’s bigger than you think it is, but it’s HUGE. It fills that whole vast area of your lower jaw. There’s a lot of it to relax. Or not, as the case may be. But I feel quite inspired about having another important tool I can deploy at home: relax that blasted tongue. Now.§§
Percival finished tonight by singing Drink to Me Only with Thine Eyes which tickled me extremely, since it’s one of my oldest favouritest favourites—and I wouldn’t have thought anyone under the age of ninety would be learning it voluntarily. I came home singing it, probably to the dismay of the neighbours.§§§ And I’m presently listening to a CD by The Choir of New College Oxford, called Early One Morning and of the twenty songs on it I sing seventeen of them (including Early One Morning§§§) and not singing Sumer is Icumen in doesn’t really count because I only know it as a round which means you need someone to sing it with. But. Hey. I may not sound like much but I’m developing repertoire.
* * *
* The hellterror says, Hot, schmot, where’s my next meal?
** Hellterror says, Risk of food wastage? Not to worry. I can handle it.^
^ There’s probably a superhero(ine) possibility here. I just have to figure out how to package it. Supereater Dog! doesn’t have the vibrancy somehow. But consider how convenient a critter that will eat ANYTHING will be the next time your army/group of adventurers is trapped on the wrong side of a mountain range in bad weather. Barring a tame horla, a picked troop of hellterrors will totally do the job.^
^ Think how differently the second book of THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING would have turned out if they had had some hellterrors with them.
*** I am well aware that what the south of England is withstanding doesn’t even register with anyone who is living in, say, New Mexico or Texas . . . but it counts as hot here. It’s just as well that seventeen-year-old Wolfgang doesn’t have aircon, or hellcritters and I would be spending a lot of time driving nowhere in particular.
† Superfluously-frelling Chaos had one of those nights when the hellgoddess didn’t get any sleep, Saturday. I’ve got another phone call in to the Detox Man. I assume Chaos is manifesting another layer that needs clearing. I am looking forward to bedrock.
†† Eh. It’s too hot to sleep. I’m not missing anything.
††† Singing The Roadside Fire doesn’t stop me listening to Bryn Terfel sing it.^ Singing Dido’s Lament doesn’t stop me listening to Janet Baker and 1,000,000 superb mezzos singing it.
^ Percival says he’s going to learn it, he just hasn’t got round to it yet. It’s on the list.
‡ Chaos has actually eaten dinner. Having rejected lunch unilaterally. Darkness, being as one with his brother on the subject of lunch, hasn’t eaten dinner either, and I’m starting to breathe rather hard, since the bottom line with these guys has always been if they stop eating they don’t start again. They consider hunger a character flaw and they weary of humouring me on this topic.
‡‡ I’ve decided that knitting wool in tragic heat is good for morale. It reminds you that it will get cold again.
‡‡‡ Although I think she has a waiting list. And maybe the next person on it sounds like Percival. . . . No, I’m not going there.
§ It’s also surprisingly encouraging to hear a really good singer make mistakes. Hey. They make mistakes. You don’t hear the professionals on the concert platform doing anything but the final shiny performance.
§§ Yeah, that’ll work. Uh-huh. Sure.
§§§ Including Linden Lea. Not Drink to Me Only however.
. . . the scheduled programme continuing our discussion of life, art, performance and Good Enough* . . .
. . . to moan.
I’ve only—pretty much just this minute—got the copyedited SHADOWS back to my editor’s assistant’s (virtual) desk. It’s in the contract that your copyeditor will be from another planet and imperfectly drilled in earth mores.** This one was, in fact, better behaved than most. I thought I was getting off easily*** until . . .
Part of the problem is that trying to produce anything but the plainest of plain text on a computer makes my brain flurg into bread pudding. I can’t deal with electronic notes in the margins.† So my editor’s ever-patient assistant printed out a hard copy and sent me that. †† It took me a while to realise that those little faded grey streaky things are actually what significant house-style††† changes look like when electronic marginalia is forced onto paper.
My style is not house style. AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAUGH. . . .
I took Wolfgang in for his yearly legal-requirement MOT test on Monday.
He failed. He’s seventeen years old, it takes a little while for the parts to come in. I got him back today‡ . . . just in time to howl out to Ditherington this evening to return my sheet music from the concert I didn’t sing in with the Muddles, which if the librarian doesn’t return all of he can’t check out the music for the next concert . . . which, yes, I am going to try to sing in.
All of this would pass as fairly standard Life Stuff. However. Remember The Wall?
Somewhat against my better judgement—but it’s always easy to be wise in hindsight—I was talked into agreeing to the fellow who started work on Monday. He’s built dozens of brick-and-flint walls. Hundreds. Millions. He knows EVERYTHING about building brick-and-flint walls.
He poured in a lot of concrete on Monday and covered it up to set or jell or coagulate or whatever cement does. He was going to start again on Wednesday. I heard a lot of talking going on Wednesday morning, but then hellcritters and I set out on our double commute to get all of us down to the mews without benefit of Wolfgang.
That evening my neighbour rang me to say THE WALL BUILDER HAD QUIT. HE’D DONE ONE DAY AND HE’D QUIT.‡‡
My neighbour now wants to go with some other frelling friend of a friend of a colleague’s cousin’s small-appliance repairperson’s mongoose. I want to hire someone we know something about. She and I had nearly half an hour on the phone tonight, talking at total cross purposes, because she wants her way and I want mine. She’s already booked this joker to come talk to us tomorrow. He’s very nice! she said to me. You’ll like him! Whether I like him or not is beside the point.
I am very tired. . . . ‡‡‡
* * *
* I meant ‘good enough’ as a positive thing. I apply it positively. I make myself crazy—you may have noticed—I wind myself up, I force myself to fail by setting the bar too high.^ Good enough means I can achieve something and recognise it as achievement and not some flavour of failure. I personally feel it gives me room to have both good and bad days: on the good days it’s a springboard and on the bad days it’s a support.
My affection for this approach may partly be my age again. I remember when the concept of good enough hit the media and the self-help racks. I was raised to believe that anything less than A-plus, 100%, a gold medal and a Hollywood Walk of Fame star^^ was not good enough and that sackcloth and ashes and a life of social exile and sixth-rate chocolate were the only alternative. Good enough was not only a HUGE relief but it also meant you could try stuff without ruining your reputation (if any).
And possibly your grade-point average, depending on the school. This is one of the things that even at the age of seventeen or twenty and going or going back to college, and I was not a subtle thinker at seventeen or twenty, made me kind of nuts. Here you are attending full-time an Institution of Higher Learning and . . . you only dare take stuff you’re reasonably sure you can get good marks in, because education isn’t really the goal here, having a good-looking transcript is. This was in one of the eras when a liberal-arts degree was about as useful as a rubber pogo stick^^^ so you didn’t want to smash the poor flimsy thing up any further by taking risky classes. I’m not sure what quantum physics looked like in the early 1970s but I totally wouldn’t have dared. I did however weaken my poor sad BA by taking music, which I did not get wonderful grades in. Fortunately I subsequently found a way to escape my doom of sackcloth and ashes and the sixth-rate chocolate. . . . Social exile? Eh.
But Good Enough came along before I had permanently crippled myself by the weight of the chip on my shoulder.
^ Yo, I’m a Shetland pony, not an Irish hunter.
^^ If they can give stars for walking on the moon, I’m not too fussed about how they define ‘entertainment industry’.
^^^ Although I’m not sure even a proper steel and titanium pogo stick can be classified as useful
** It’s either that or the questions that have no connection with reality as you understand it are some kind of plant, seeking to discover if you have dangerous hidden personality traits that might lead you to go suddenly mad with a banana frappe at a crowded shopping mall.
*** Aside from an extreme case of Not Able to Focus on These Words any more
† My editor handles this just fine, and she’s nearly as old as I am. I tell myself she does a lot more of it than I do. She’s, you know, an editor.
†† I think I told you about the FedEx man not delivering it when there was no one home despite the fact that it said PAPER and MANUSCRIPT and ZERO VALUE and PLEASE LEAVE and NO SIGNATURE REQUIRED all over it.
††† Ie Chicago Manual of Style or whatever. Grammar and punctuation and all are somewhat mutable and publishing houses usually have a standard way of doing things, although the choices Teacosy Press makes may be somewhat different from those of Zombie Revolution Books. Aside from their contrasting approaches to acquisition.
‡ I am VERY GRATEFUL to the weather gods for giving us two non-sequential good days for walking. Hellhounds and I enjoyed the walk back from and out to Warm Upford very much. Something went right.^
^ But the question is, will there be four of us shepherding Wolfgang to and from his MOT next February? SHE’S BEEN HERE FOUR MONTHS. DON’T YOU THINK WE COULD ALL START TO GET ALONG?
‡‡ He’s decided he can’t do it for what he claimed on his estimate. Is this spectacular incompetence or a spectacularly crude attempt to jack the price up?
‡‡‡ And I haven’t even told you how copying seven pages of Zerlina’s Vedrai, carino^ took ten minutes because every page jammed. Some of them several times. Feeding pages in one at a time didn’t work. Fanning them between each page didn’t work. A whole new trayful didn’t work. I. HATE. MY. PRINTER.
^ If I like it, or anyway Nadia likes me singing it, I’ll buy the book. I worry about copyright even when the bloke’s been dead hundreds of years.