I’ve fallen into the habit of spending some of Monday evening with Penelope and yarn.** I usually try and feed the frelling-frelling argling-bargling hellhounds—and the perfect, adorable, food friendly hellterror—before I leave. One of the things that sometimes works with the [muttermuttermutter] hellhounds is that if you get them STARTED and they think, oh, right, food, it’s not sooo bad . . . they will keep eating. So I’m always on the lookout for dog-treat type things that might tempt them and are free of all the things they can’t have SIIIIGH. There’s a relatively recent line of tinned dog food that costs more than fresh frelling caviar*** that they will sometimes open one eye and look at thoughtfully. And there’s a new flavour of it that I gave them a big chunk of the other day which they ate with what passes in their case for alacrity and enthusiasm.† So today I chopped more of it up in smallish globs and shoved it into their proper food . . . put the bowls down and turned my back on them since they don’t like being watched . . . but there were terrific gobbling noises proceeding from the hellhound corner and I was weak and permitted myself to be hopeful. . . . Nah. Chaos had merely done his Prehensile Tongue thing which I’ve noticed before makes a remarkable amount of noise, and precision-instrument extracted every small globule of Consecrated Canine Comestible Flavour of the Month, leaving an interestingly pock-marked bowl like an artist’s rendition of the surface of the moon in . . . dog food. Darkness had decided that this operation was too much like work, and having opened the one eye and looked thoughtfully at his bowl, closed the eye again without moving.
But the day has been not without its small sheepish victories. I’ve previously referred to the fact that my singing lessons have not been going splendidly since we started up again after summer break . . . there have been goodish lessons and there have been I’M RUNNING AWAY AND JOINING THE CIRCUS lessons of traumatising disaster, but while I haven’t quite got to the point of thinking I should start investigating another outlet for my frustrated musical non-talent†† I have occasionally wondered if I should be thinking about it. Meanwhile I keep missing church because I’m too blasted tired to get in Wolfgang again and drive—yo, God, why did you plop someone with ME down a forty-minute commute from the church she’s happy in? I’m sure I’m supposed to be learning something from this tedious piece of reality but, um, I’m too tired—which means I’ve also been missing service singing. I was signed up to sing this Sunday—yesterday—and I’ve been in unusually-bad-even-for-recently voice the last fortnight BUT I WANTED TO SING and . . . I think I’ve said this before, the awful Jesus Is My Boyfriend stuff does give me a certain amount of freedom from worrying about Mozart or Handel getting special permission to come back and haunt me, and I can just sing, and offer it as part of my service to the church. I like to think that God hears it the way it’s supposed to sound, like Handel or Mozart sung by Marilyn Horne or Renee Fleming.
I started out last night sounding like a bowl of rice krispies. If you’re into breakfast cereal that crackling noise is fine in the morning as Morse code for EAT ME but not so much later on in the day with a microphone in your hand. But something happened: God, or team spirit††† or alien mind probe or whatever but . . . I started singing. Indeed I was making so much noise I decided to dispense with the microphone.‡
And I went in to Nadia today and sang How Beautiful Are the Feet, which is the horse that threw me violently something like two months ago and that I have been afraid to go near.‡‡ And I didn’t sound like Marilyn Horne or Renee Fleming‡‡‡ but it was recognisable.§ So I’m putting off running away and joining the circus for at least another week.
* * *
* NOOOOOOOO IT’S DECEMBER NOOOOOOOOOOOO
** Penelope used to knit . . . and stopped for some unfathomable reason. I’ve been spending even more than my usual amount of time lately hanging from the chandelier^ and screaming ^^ and have therefore had even greater than usual need to knit as a coping mechanism^^^ and Penelope has got re-interested by relentless exposure.# We even went to one of my favourite yarn shops the other week so she could squodge what she was buying. But the best part was that WE TOOK NIALL WITH US. SO HE COULD DO THE DRIVING. Hee hee hee hee hee hee. Hey, he’s retired. He doesn’t have anything better to do, does he?## I don’t think he’s going to learn to knit however. He looked kind of stunned in the yarn shop. Of course I wasn’t paying that much attention because I was on my knees digging through the sale bins.
^ Although I no longer need a chandelier. Excess of . . . um, excess . . . has caused me to grow little super-glue pads on the ends of my fingers and toes so I can stick to the ceiling like a very large gecko. THIS MAKES TYPING AND WALKING ON THE FLOOR VERY INTERESTING. It’s also hard on the finger joints. Which I need limber and flexible for knitting.
^^ Those of you who know me off line will be aware that I have reason, and that most of the reason(s) don’t get on the blog.+ I am hoping this is merely a phase and what I used to think of as a life will return. Meanwhile . . . thank God for knitting. Even if at this rate—as I was telling some friend or other recently—I may never get past garter-stitch scarves and ditto pullover jumpers, the square kind where the body is two big rectangles and the sleeves are two littler skinnier rectangles and you leave a gap in the sewing-up for your head to poke through. HEY. IT’S ALL ABOUT THE YARN. I’ve been saying this for, um, is it getting to be three years now? It’s all about the yarn. Cables? Pfffft. Lace? Are you frelling joking? On a good day with a following wind I can manage simple increases and decreases. SIMPLE ONES. ON A GOOD DAY. But I buy nice yarn.
+ It is now MONDAY night and my new computer gear HAS STILL NOT ARRIVED.
# She is remarkably calm in the face of a ranting madwoman waving pointy sticks in her face. She raised four children. Nothing flaps her.
## Remodelling the kitchen. It will look really flash when he finishes. That’s when.
*** But I’m pretty sure Darkness wouldn’t like caviar. He’s not a big fish person.
† If the hellterror ever approached a meal like that however I’d think she was seriously ill.
†† Triangle? Washboard? Plastic kiddie piano, the kind with the keys that don’t work?
††† I know about having one’s little ways and so on^ but sometimes my own blinding ridiculousness amazes me. Last night the one other singer asked me where I wanted to stand. In the back, I said. She looked at me pityingly. There is no back, she said. There are only four of us.^^ I know, I said, but we can stand farther back on the stage.
And this does it for me. I have no idea why. We’re still face to face with the frelling congregation—there is nothing between us and them—but we stand about a foot farther back than—last night—the keyboardist and the guitarist. I can look at the back of someone’s head if I want to.^^^
^^ Guitar, keyboard, us. Plus a bass player and a drummer who somehow or other get not to be on the stage with the rest of us.
^^^ Although since the leader is usually on guitar, you kind of want to be able to see his face to pick up your cues more easily. And yes, so far as I’m aware, all our guitarists are blokes. Any female Christian guitarists with a high tolerance for fatally maudlin Christian worship music moving to the south of England, I know a church that needs you.
‡ In kindness to the assembled. The more my life is kicking me in the head the flatter I sing. Nadia says this is dead common but . . . I don’t want to be expelled from St Margaret’s, or even the band.
‡‡ Nice horsie. Nice horsie.
§ I was, I believe, even occasionally on pitch.
Sigh. Exactly what I was afraid would happen is happening, once I stopped blogging every day—which is that I’m always going to do it again tomorrow. Mind you, there are things going on. Including that I keep frelling collapsing, and if I have any spare energy I should probably give some member(s) of the hellmob or other a better hurtle than they’ve probably had today. Whereupon I will be too tired to do anything so frivolous as write a blog and furthermore I’ve been knocking myself out for way too much of the last week writing frelling COPY for a big wodge of my backlist that is going to be rereleased soonish, and about which I will give you all the details as soon as there’s a schedule to give you the details of. BUT TRY TO IMAGINE HOW MUCH I HATE NOT MERELY WRITING COPY FOR MY OWN STUFF, which regular readers of this blog are well aware of, BUT WRITING IT FOR A WHOLE FRELLING STACK OF MY BOOKS.* No, don’t try to imagine, it would be very bad for you.
But for a further graphic example of things going on, the twice frelling put off** new boiler installation finally happened yesterday. YAAAAAAY. Well, sort of, barring the gaping hole in my bank balance that is letting in a frigid blast of hostile air despite the mild September we’re having locally and the war zone the army of two left behind. WORKMEN. ARRRRRRGH.*** And where did all the frelling red dirt come from? What is this, Louisiana/Mississippi/Alabama/Georgia/South Carolina?† My entire house is sheeted in a thin, less than delightful film of powdery red dirt.†† So charming. The bathroom was hazy with it Monday night and the excitingly renovated linen cupboard looked like something out of a bad fantasy film: Evil Witch’s Grotto. Put the red cellophane over the lens. I could feel the cloud clinging to my skin as I climbed out of my (hot: definitely hot) bath last night. I don’t want to think about the newly-slightly-red-tinted condition of my lungs. SO CHARMING.
The army of two showed up as promised at 10 am and were not early, so we got off to a good start—which is to say I was not only dressed but I’d had enough caffeine to be able to figure out how to get the front door key out of my pocket and open the door with it—this pleasing punctuality aside from the fact that if they hadn’t shown up as most recently promised I would have had to hunt them down and kill them because I am VERY TIRED of having my entire bathroom in cardboard boxes . . . not only because I can’t find anything but because there’s already no available floor space at the cottage because of the immediate distressing results of moving from a somewhat larger house to a somewhat smaller house, and the first time Joachim cancelled it was already the morning of the day he was supposed to come so I had sensibly already pulled everything out of the cupboard AND PUT IT IN BOXES. You have no idea what you’ve managed to wedge into a rather small airing cupboard, rather full of boiler and hot water tank, till you have to take it all out and put it in boxes AND PUT THE BOXES SOMEWHERE.†††
Let me make this short, which the day was not.‡ Joachim and adjutant arrived. They arrived with amazing amounts of kit, which meant I stayed downstairs with the Aga—which they had to turn off, so that was not satisfactory from a keeping-tea-hot perspective—because I couldn’t get into my office with the upstairs hallway JAMMED with screwdrivers‡‡ and winches and a small backhoe, and I didn’t like to decamp to Third House when they kept asking me things like, where is the gas line?, which I could have told them over the phone but not so they could find it without serious excavation‡‡‡, or where is the nearest plumbers’ supply house? When they didn’t have a spare of something that just broke. Oh.
They were due to clear off by three in the afternoon. Four latest. THEY WERE THERE TILL SIX THIRTY. But I’m looking on the bright side. They only destroyed one window screen and a rather good fuchsia, although I’m hoping the latter will recover. They did attempt to clean up after themselves.§ They were polite.§§ And while the additional space in the airing cupboard may be a bit of a bust there is definitely more space in the attic where the holding tank came out. And I haven’t seen any bats emerging from the new holes in the ceiling . . . but I’d better get Atlas to patch them before the bat mums come home to the largest pipistrelle nursery in Hampshire next spring.
And I do (still) have hot water. But I had hot water before. The crucial moment comes later in the season when I try to turn the central heating on for the first time. . . . §§§
* * *
* Especially old ones where I may actually have to read a bit here and there to make it likelier I get it right. There’s very little worse than flipping frustratedly through something you yourself wrote because you’re CONVINCED that this or that thing happened and it has to have happened before/after this or that other thing, didn’t it? DIDN’T IT? MAYBE IT WAS IN SOME OTHER BOOK NOOOOOOOOO?? Arrrrrrgh. How to feel really, really stupid without even any recourse to maths.^
That’s aside from the nooooo I didn’t really use that cringe-making metaphor did I? I didn’t really allow the plot to do that did I? I didn’t really name that character that, did I?^^ Why didn’t I grow up to be a mechanic?^^^
^ Hey, I don’t hate maths like I used to+ but all those clever maths books I like reading in the bath? I read the story or the set up or the problem or the joke or something and go, oooooh, cool . . . and then I look up the answer in the back of the book.
+ Unless there’s something about money involved in which case I hate it worse. Money is a stupid system. Let’s find another one. Which may or may not be maths based. I vote for not.
^^ That’ll be one of the names the story didn’t give me, that I had to choose. Brrrrrr.
^^^ Because no one in his, or her, right mind would hire me. Mercy Thompson would laugh till she did herself an injury. So would Munch Mancini.
** Due to what sounded like a pretty genuine family emergency and resultant critical shortage of childminders. Or maybe Joachim just uses hire-a-kid for verisimilitude.
*** Okay, the really good part? No builder’s cracks.
† I know there’s really RED red dirt in the American South somewhere because I remember being amazed by it. I just don’t remember where I was at the time.^
^ MAYBE IT WAS IN SOME OTHER BOOK NOOOOOOOOO?
†† Okay, it’s probably brick dust. That’s not nearly so romantic.
††† The irony is that one of the things he seduced me with is the fact that there would be more ROOM in my small airing cupboard because the new boiler is an on-demand so . . . no tank. Well. Sort of more room. Because of where the new thing is hung and where its dashboard is there’s not hugely more room than there was when there was a tank in there the size of a small nuclear silo.^ The best thing about the new gold-plated^ whatsit is that there is no hideously complex control panel for the end user—the dashboard on the thing itself is for professionals—the frelling wall panel for the shivering householder on my old one was diabolical. You had like six columns^^^ and you had to choose the right button in each of the six columns to get what you wanted. The permutations are . . . mathematically intimidating. And this is one of the few occasions when the right answer is not ‘chocolate’. THE NEW ONE YOU JUST TURN THE HOT TAP ON OR THE THERMOSTAT UP. There is NO control panel. I could almost talk myself into it being worth the money.#
^ You could still run out of hot water if you topped up your cooling bath too often. Hey, it’s an exciting knitting magazine! Double sized with pull outs! I want to finish reading!
^^ At this PRICE? It better be gold-plated. I think I was promised diamond encrusted. Maybe there are diamonds once I get the red dirt cleaned off. +
+ Furthermore it’s STICKY. It doesn’t come off EASILY.=
= See? It is clay. It’s not brick dust.
^^^ Hot, cold, yes, no, left, right, octopus and Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch.
# Although this is one of those Where Did We Go Wrong moments. The furnaces and hot water of my childhood were like this. You could go down into the basement and stare at a couple of glass tubes with motor oil or magma or something moving slowly back and forth in them but generally speaking you turned the thing on or off upstairs and it worked and when it didn’t work you called a plumber. You couldn’t programme it to turn on for seventeen minutes February 3rd, 2044, no, but I do not consider this facility worth the misery at 3 a.m. tonight when you just want a bath. If one of the six columns had ‘hurtle the hellmob’ as an option I’d reconsider, but I have yet to see a boiler out on the trot with a lead extruding from its input valve. Yaay retro. Yaay primitive. Yaay HOT BATHS ON DEMAND.
‡ And I have to go to bed in order to get up FRESH and SPRINGY and ATHLETIC and ready to go on mashing the attic at Third House. The backlist comes home next Monday whether I’m ready or not.
‡‡ One of which they left behind. The shank on it is about three feet long. I don’t want to know.
‡‡‡ It’s in the greenhouse. Nuff said. Where the tap to turn the water into the house off is worse however because I hadn’t thought to clear that cupboard out. Sigh.
§ I only found half a dozen screws, presumably to keep the screwdriver company. As well as a lot of adherent red dirt.
§§ Even if Joachim can’t stop calling his elderly female clients ‘darling’. I think possibly on account of my eruptions on the subject of control panels he thinks I need looking after.
§§§ I don’t want so mild a winter I don’t ever turn it on. I want the slugs and snails and the black spot and the aphids and the red lily beetle to die.
It’s not the actual moving that puts a house move at the top of the stress list: it’s the everyflippingthing that goes wrong.
I’ve been trying for about five weeks to find a plumber that isn’t booked up till 2020. The plumbing company that I used satisfactorily for several years has stopped answering their phone. You get a message saying leave your phone number and we’ll get back to you, and they don’t. I kept waiting for the real human being to return from the longest lunch in employee history and she never did, so I finally left a message, and that didn’t work either. Meanwhile I was asking everyone who might have cause to know about local plumbers—other men* driving vans full of tools, for example, or the sector of the market which sells hammers and spanners and garpenscrads to them. I even asked the nice lady at the estate agent’s who I talked to last autumn about letting Third House. Hers was, as I recall, booked till 2032.
You can’t get away from plumbers’ vans in this frelling area and they all have emblazoned down their long sides variations on a theme of QUICK FRIENDLY PROFESSIONAL SERVICE. HERE IS A SELECTION OF PHONE NUMBERS, HOME, MOBILE, THE LOCAL PUB THAT TAKES MESSAGES, AND MY DOG** WHO LOVES TO ANSWER THE PHONE SO MUCH I’VE GIVEN HIM HIS OWN LINE. I ALSO ACCEPT SMOKE SIGNALS. Snarl. Most of these geezers aren’t too fabulous in the social niceties either. I understand that they don’t like turning down work, but someone should gather them all in a room and teach them to say, clearly and calmly, I’m really sorry, but I’m booked till 2032. The ‘I’m sorry’ part is important, as is the tone, which should not suggest to the hapless caller that the sound of her voice is similar to the sensation of hot needles being plunged into their ears.***
I am absolutely clueless about things like plumbers and I didn’t want just to start going through the phone book. Dire things and cowboys proceed from such desperate procedures. The most recent local independent I asked, on the recommendation of another Bloke Who Should Know, and whose van I see around town all the frelling time, turned out to speak in complete sentences and didn’t seem to hate me for wanting to give him some work. So I asked him.
He said, uh, yeah, try Blithering Doodah. They’re a big national company and they’ve got a branch in Mauncester, and they’re pretty good about who they hire, and I know some of the guys.
So I tried Blithering Doodah.† That was Monday. And I got this terribly chirpy and efficient sounding young woman who said certainly, we will send you a gas boiler specialist,†† since the purpose of my feverish search for a plumber is that neither Peter’s nor my boiler is working properly, and they could do it . . . Wednesday. YIKES, I said, or words to that effect, you mean the day after tomorrow? Certainly, said the young woman. YES PLEASE, I said.
She then took my details down to my shoe size and the number of dogs in the household.††† She took the post codes of both houses; she consulted with her manager if the Gas Boiler Specialist could look at both boilers on the same job; the manager said he could; she took careful directions how to find the cottage, in case his SatNav failed, and said firmly that he would come to the cottage first since that was the phone number I was calling from, and we could proceed from there to Third House subsequently.
Fine. Great. I spent nearly thirty six hours in a daze of success and accomplishment. Also Peter is looking forward to not having to boil several kettles to take a hot bath.‡
This morning, much too early, the phone rang. It was Blithering Doodah who wanted to tell me that my slot was no longer one to three this afternoon, but three to six, and I could assume it would be nearer five than four or three. Golly, I said, he doesn’t mind working late? No, said this new person, he doesn’t mind. And then the new person proceeded to take all my details all over again, including the shoe size and the range of domestic fauna, but CONFIRMED that the Gas Boiler Specialist would come to the cottage. At five o’clock or so. And the Gas Boiler Specialist would ring me on my mobile about half an hour before he arrived.
You see where this is going.
I spent the morning shovelling a path at the cottage so he could get in. I was finally taking the patient hellhounds out for a hurtle‡‡ and decided to swing by Third House to water those potted plants. Peter plays bridge Wednesday afternoons so there wasn’t anyone there. I’d just let all of us in the door when the hellhounds shot back outside again and there was a whoop of alarm from the courtyard. Frell. I followed them hastily and discovered a young man just barely not climbing a tree.‡‡‡
You wanted a plumber to look at your boiler? said the young man.
It was about three-forty-five. I gaped at him. You’re not supposed to be here for hours, I said. And this is the wrong house. And you were supposed to ring me half an hour before you got here.
This is the only address they gave me, he said. They didn’t give me a phone number either.
ARRRRRGH. Well, what a good thing I happened to be here.
Blithering Doodah are pretty good generally, he said. But their customer service, um. At least they gave me the right day this time. They don’t always.
So. He examined Peter’s boiler. And there was something wrong with it. Modified hurrah. But it’s not like the funny noise your car is making and the mechanic looks at you sidelong and says I don’t hear any funny noises and it’s running fine. Here’s my bill for two hours of drinking coffee and chatting up the new receptionist.
There is, however, something wrong with Peter’s boiler to the tune of several hundred pounds. Arrrrgh.
The young man then goes off in his van to meet me at the cottage—my arrival somewhat delayed by the fact that now the hellhounds decide to perform various ablutions, and they do not hurry their ablutions, my hellhounds—spends about thirty seconds looking at my boiler, appears to be repressing snickering and says . . . I’m sorry, but this thing is a piece of rubbish. You should just get rid of it and buy a new one.
YAMMER YAMMER YAMMER GIBBLE GIBBLE GIBBLE GIBBLE.§
Yeah, he said. But by the time you buy the parts you’re halfway to a new one anyway . . . and this one never was any good. An Infinity Dreadnaught will last you forever.
Anyone want to guess what an Infinity Dreadnaught costs?§§
. . . I have to go lie down again.§§§
* * *
* Are there any female plumbers? Maybe in other countries? Iceland, which may not be known for fiscal stability but they’ve got the best rating for gender equality in the first world? Don’t you school-leavers out there know that you will ALWAYS be in work if you’re a plumber? And if you don’t want to worry about those blocked-loo calls, you can specialise, and then you can charge more too.
** There’s a woman I see occasionally waiting for her ride when I lurch past behind some hellmob division or other. She is, unusually, an admirer of both my hurtle shifts; I’ve noticed that generally the lurcher and the bullie admiration societies are non-overlapping sets. Pav saw her slightly before I did the last time and was already in full assault mode before I got her hauled in.^ But the woman laughed and said she had a dog of her own. So we’ve become quite friendly in the monosyllabic ‘hi’ ‘hi’ way. Tonight I was very tired after striving with plumbers and it was the hellhounds that got away from me and started milling about this woman as if she were their presumed lost forever best friend and by the way she was responding maybe she was. I have ascertained in our minimal conversations that she doesn’t merely have an accent—as I have an accent—but that English of any variety is not her first language. Tonight I said, you told me you have a dog, what kind is it? Oh it is a lavender, she said and I instantly translated this as Labrador without even noticing I was doing it, probably because the L-word is always what a dog beginning with ‘L’ is, never a Lithuanian Hound or a Lhasa Apso, and there are more frelling L-words around here than all the other dog breeds combined. Oh, I said politely, they tend to be very friendly and enthusiastic too.
It wasn’t till I was already striding down the road again at hellhound speed^^ that I was playing the conversation back in my mind and I thought, lavender?
^ Note: arrrgh. I am not so doting as to assume that everyone likes being hustled by dogs, even a hellmob as beautiful and charming as mine, and if you possess a bunch of eager hustlers, it behoves you to be quick on the brake button.
^^ They’d had kind of a boring day due to plumbers etc and had some catching up to do on the wind-in-their-fur thing.
*** Maybe they don’t like American accents? Maybe it’s part of the Secret Plumber Handshake ritual? ‘And we all hate American accents!’
† I should have realised from the name, right? Umm . . .
†† See? Specialist. I bet he’s never unplugged a loo.
††† None. Two hellhounds and a hellterror however.
‡ I merely have no central heating. I won’t care for another couple of months and I may not care then since with the Aga in the centre of this little house and at the foot of the stairs so the heat streams up the hall, I only turn the heating on for short hedonistic self-indulgent bursts. The last time I tried, in March or thereabouts, nothing happened. Eh, I’ll worry about it later, I thought. But it makes me faintly anxious that half my boiler isn’t working—the hot water might follow—and it seems like the responsible grown-up thing to do, to have it mended.
‡‡ Leaving an outraged hellterror hanging from the top of her crate making noises like a jungleful of monkeys. We go through this every day. She has Riot Time at the cottage—and if the hellhounds retreat to the back of their crate I shut them in so she can’t get at them—including extensive tummy rubbing, Long Yellow Thing wars and varying individual excitements such as helping me water the potted plants or going upstairs to check if the document I just printed actually did. And then I shut her up again with her breakfast.^ And try to get out the door with the hellhounds while she’s preoccupied. This doesn’t stop the protests, but the noise is a bit muffled.
^ Well. Let’s say first meal of the day.
‡‡‡ Clearly he does not have a lavender at home.
§ Including the fact that it’s only a few years old. I’ve already frelling replaced it once.
§§ And when he rang back to the head office to order the parts for Peter’s boiler—my arglefargling new one is a more complicated process—they had lost my credit card details AGAIN.
§§§ I could live without central heating. But I really want my hot water.
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.
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* 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.
It is tragic the amount of fabulous blog material I’ve missed using the last five days or so. For example the BT landline engineer on Thursday had just finished telling me that it couldn’t be done because the wiring was too old, or possibly because it had been plastered over irrecoverably when I hired a small army to create an attic out of a large crawl space, or at least it couldn’t be done till 2017 because they were going to have to rewire Hampshire first,* or at very least it couldn’t be done that day, as scheduled, because they were going to have to import a special lorry with a special hoist which was presently in Belgium, or possibly Tanzania, with which to approach sufficiently reverently the overhead wiring from 1878 which was, of course, made out of string,** and, in 2014, can use all the reverence it can get. So he had just finished telling me this when his phone rang*** and it was his manager saying that his brother had rung from hospital WHERE THEY HAD TAKEN HIS FATHER AND HE SHOULD GO THERE NOW. Oh dear . . .
They sent me another engineer. Which is pretty impressive since this meant he would be working past closing time. And he was a little cranky about this—he says he rarely sees his two-year-old except on weekends—but he was in no way taking it out on me and I have total sympathy with cranky. And he found a hoist in, I don’t know, Berkshire or Essex or Norway or something, and it came*** and HE GOT THIRD HOUSE PLUGGED IN NOT ONLY TO THE TELEPHONE BUT TO WHAT PASSES FOR THE REAL WORLD ANY MORE, FOR THE FIRST TIME IN . . . well, at all, for the internet, but a number of years for the phone, because Third House had stood empty for quite a while before the heirs put it on the market. And then it hung around on the market for another while because it was overpriced and I kept walking past and fretting, having been in to the estate agent and discovered that (a) it was WAAAAAAAY out of any semblance of my price range and (b) in the estate agent’s opinion it was overpriced, and I should bide myself in patience.† And we know how that ended. And then I got my knickers in a twist about the ‘several hundred pounds to lay new phone line’ thing. Oh, and the great deal I was getting from BT? That they’d lay the new line if I’d agree to buy their broadband for two years? Is anyone amazed that it’s not all that good a deal? I get one connection. If I want, you know, extensions, I have to pay for them. I get one connection with one underfrellingpowered router with built in wireless THAT IS SO FEEBLE IT WON’T REACH TO THE OTHER END OF THIS LITTLE HOUSE, LET ALONE INTO THE ATTIC. ARRRRRRRRRRGH. So we have wireless broadband (mostly††) in the sitting room. Peter can’t even get it in his office which is about eight feet away. ARRRRRRRRRRRRGH.
BUT I WANT TO TELL YOU ABOUT MY PIANO.†††
I had asked Oisin and he’d said I should ask our mutual piano tuner about someone to move my darling, and the piano tuner clucked and said there was the less expensive option and the more expensive option and I said this is an old, heavy Steinway upright and I want her treated gently, and he said Sigurd of the Silver Doohickey was the bee’s knees of piano movers pretty much over the entire south of England but they were not cheap. I rang Sigurd and they quoted a price that didn’t seem to me, the owner of an old heavy Steinway upright‡, all that remarkable, so I said yes and, furthermore, since what they do is move pianos and are always galloping back and forth across the south of England they managed to find me a slot for today . . . the first working day after the rest of the furniture went.
I will also at present leave out describing the amount of hauling of little stuff, from the mews to Third House, that has been going on both before and since Friday, and the sordid appallingnesses thus implacably revealed‡‡. TODAY I was at the mews at 2 pm awaiting Cinderella’s coach with the reinforced suspension, the turbo jets and the crane.
This rather mild-mannered van rolled into the courtyard at 2:15. It was bigger than your average White Van Man van but looking at it you didn’t immediately think panzer division, although it did say SIGURD OF THE SILVER DOOHICKEY SPECIALIST PIANO MOVER on all visible surfaces. And three young laconic guys dropped out of it and strolled in a deeply cool manner to the front door. In hindsight I suspect they were waiting to find out if I was going to be a Fainting in Coils type who would need to be managed but my first thirty seconds’ impression was not particularly positive. Whatever. Sigurd is the best, these guys must know what they’re doing.
I started to come round to them when they viewed the situation calmly, and the mews is not exactly set up for the easy moving of old heavy upright pianos, and there had been a fair amount of drama from the gang who had brought her. One of these guys fetched one little skateboardy rolling thing and the other two started edging my darling out of her corner. The one with the most tats—who fetched the skateboard—acknowledged that he was a hired gun and the other two were the Real Piano Movers. They looked so, you know, normal. Until the bigger of the two simply LIFTED one end of my piano a good eighteen frelling inches off the floor so they could start working the skateboard under.‡‡‡ Eeeeeep.
Well, they loaded her up and slid her across the floor and DOWN THE HORRIBLE LITTLE STEEP FRONT STEPS with only a titanium alloy ramp and the two blokes to keep her where she belonged, and the third guy scampering around adding stability where requested. And while the two blokes waited for the third one to lower the tailgate ramp lift thing I said, I know there’s this mythology about heavy upright pianos and everybody thinks theirs is the heaviest, so, tell me, on a scale of upright pianos, where does this one go? And they laughed—a little breathlessly, I’m happy to say—and replied, this model is the heaviest upright Steinway ever built which is to say this is the heaviest upright piano ever built. A lot of full size concert grands weigh less than this piano, they said.
Oh. This probably explains why Sigurd was so careful to ask for model number . . . and why they had the third bloke along today. And I guess the van is the extra super reinforced concrete suspension Cinderella’s carriage.
So we trundled down to Third House and I, fool that I am, assumed that the worst was over, except for the part about how the sitting room would suddenly be Very Full of Piano once she was in. NEVER MIND. Atlas had cut back the clematis montana over the garden gate so you can actually get through without bending double and/or being strangled, and my piano and attendants came through with a flourish and swooped around to get a straight shot at the front door. My hero looked at the door, looked at me and said, you did measure the door, didn’t you?
MEASURE THE DOOR? IT’S A DOOR. LIKE ANY OTHER DOOR . . . I was literally clutching my head at this point.
My hero looked at the door again, shook his head and said, I don’t think it’s going to go through. They didn’t even use the ramp this time, they just kept picking her up over the steps. What do they feed these boys?
AND SHE DIDN’T FIT THROUGH THE DOOR.
They were still so calm. Well, this must happen all the time. Stupid clueless people who assume that one ordinary front door is like another ordinary front door. So they looked at the new situation—calmly—while I tried not to fall down in fits (or coils) and start gnawing on the outdoor furniture which looks very nice on the lawn here, by the way.
We’ll take the door off, said my hero. I think if we just take the bottom off§ we can bring the piano in backwards and swing it around inside.
Which is what happened. It was still a terrifyingly tight squeeze, and while they had her padded with blankets the frelling plastic door frame squealed unnervingly. BUT SHE CAME THROUGH THE DOOR THANK YOU GOD THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU. And they swung her around like doing the do-si-so—the so-called fitted carpet didn’t cooperate with this manoeuvre but along with the screwdriver as standard equipment for removing doors they’re also accustomed to what they call correcting the carpet—stood her up against the wall and . . . the sitting room is a trifle full of piano but it’s not actually as FRELLING SQUASHED LOOKING as I was afraid it would be. And the really great thing? Both the inner sitting room door and the outer door—the one that came off and that they put back on again because they are polite young gentlemen as well as major beefcake—into the garden OPEN ALL THE WAY. With like three-quarters of an inch to spare, both sides. Three quarters of an inch is all we need.
MY PIANO IS HOME.§§
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* Which is probably true. There’s all this bluster about getting Hampshire super-fast broadband and the first swathe happens next year. Uh-huh. We’re in the swathe for 2017. And have I mentioned they’re building houses in this town faster than a hammer can fall on a nail?^ And that the broadband we have is grinding slowly to a dead halt as more and more people sign up? And let’s not even talk about traffic and parking and the way you sometimes can’t get through the centre of town on foot.^^
^Possibly because they don’t use hammers and nails in house-building any more. That’s so two centuries ago.+
+ Also because England deforested itself of suitable house-building trees more centuries ago than that. They may still use hammers and nails in Maine.
^^ Especially not with totally clueless four-legged companions. You’d think the hellhounds would have learnt to look both ways by now. Pav, eh.
** Copper-impregnated galvanized string. They don’t make string like they used to.
*** I’m beginning to forget what life was like before mobile phones. Not in a good way. I still consider Pooka back up not the main event. And maybe in retaliation she decided the end of last week TO BE UNRELIABLE FOR A FEW DAYS.^ So I’m leaving messages all over the landscape DON’T USE MY MOBILE USE MY LANDLINE and . . . I have two messages on my landline, neither of them important, and about twenty seven on Pooka, most of which won’t pick up. What is the MATTER with people?^^
My very best example however of the profound basic demon-possessed infuriatingness of mobile phones happened only this morning. I was out with hellhounds. Chaos had just Assumed the Position to have a crap at the edge of the pedestrian pavement. Mildly embarrassing, with people streaming by, but not a big deal. Not like it hasn’t happened before: we frelling live in the centre of town. I was focussed on him, getting my little black plastic bag out and so on, and glanced over my shoulder to check that Darkness wasn’t doing anything he shouldn’t. AND DISCOVERED THAT HE HAD ASSUMED THE POSITION IMMEDIATELY IN FRONT OF THE DOOR OF THE BARD AND OPHARION.
And Pooka started barking.
And Peter’s favourite bridge partner’s wife walked by, started to say hello and burst out laughing.
Oh, and the person who was ringing? WAS SOMEONE I HAD TOLD TO USE MY LANDLINE. I told her I’d ring her back. That’s fine, she chirruped. I’ve rung her five? six? seven? times over the course of the rest of the day . . . and she’s never at her desk, in her office or on the radar. Possibly because her digital exchange says, ooooh, landline, how retro, and her assistant says, landline? We don’t want to talk to any clumsy vulgar landline, we don’t do string anyway.
^ Or more than a few. We don’t know yet. Raphael remonstrated with her briefly today but he had his hands full trying to bring the frelling BT frelling broadband frelling crap router to heel. Note: he failed.
^^ I’m not going to ask what’s the matter with Pooka. That way madness lies.
*** The driver doesn’t see his kids except on weekends either.
† PATIENCE? YOU’RE KIDDING, RIGHT?
†† I’m not even going to start on this epic. Raphael is coming back later in the week. Maybe then.
††† There were epics on Friday, of course, but our loyal movers—this is now the third or fourth, depending on how you’re counting, time they’ve moved us. We all call each other by name and say ‘hi’ in the street, you know? Small local family firms. Salt of the earth. Adore, adore—were fabulous. As they have always been fabulous.
‡ People go all faint when they see she’s a Steinway.^ As I keep saying, she was cheaper than a lot of mediocre new pianos and who wouldn’t have a Steinway if that’s the choice?? I’ve told you the story of how I bought her, haven’t I? Another of my epics.
^ The logo is usually covered up by my music rack.
‡‡ And that the chief reason I haven’t blogged before today is that I’ve either been racing around like a crazy woman or collapsed in a weepy little puddle of ME on the nearest horizontal surface, floor, ground, hellhound bed, hellhound(s), whatever. The ME is not exactly behaving itself, but I’m getting a certain amount of stuff done . . . and Nina and Ignatius are so golden. I don’t know what we’d be doing without them. They were here a couple of days earlier last week, they were here Friday, they had the temerity to take the weekend off^, were here again today and are coming back tomorrow.
^ Nina, who is clearly insane, booked some holiday to help her dad move and Ignatius has one of these all or nothing jobs and he’s in a mostly nothing phase at the moment.
‡‡‡ Let me say that I am glad to admit that I stopped finding young guys hot some years ago. They’re so . . . you know, young. I like the old beat-up ones that look like we might have stuff in common to, ahem, talk about. But I might make an exception for this chap. He is not that big and he’s not that bulky although you look at him and guess you wouldn’t want to be on the wrong side in a pub brawl . . . but I’ve never liked the ripped gym-bunny look even when I was young. I had a serious case of the hots for my blacksmith, many years ago when I had a horse, because he had major muscles from USE, you know? The definition wasn’t much because he wasn’t doing gazillions of specialist curls but he was strong and I’ve always kind of swooned for strong, especially the easy-going, almost careless, strong-because-it’s-part-of-the-job-description kind of strong. Also, turned out, once I apparently wasn’t going to turn into a Fainting in Coils, today’s hero has a really nice smile. I hope his main squeeze appreciates him.
§ Here’s one of those big fat juicy ironies. I hated the old plastic door and have rarely been as happy as when Atlas finally got around to putting the wooden stable-style door in that I’d bought yonks ago but there’s only one of Atlas and Peter or I keep pulling him off one thing to do something else. But finally . . . YAAAAAAAY. NICE DOOR IMPROVING GARDEN SIDE VIEW OF NICE HOUSE not to mention Aura of Sitting Room Within. But if it had been the nasty old plastic door today the piano would have fit through it. Because of the frame that the old door left behind—and which would have been an expensive ratbag to replace—Atlas had to install the new door slightly, um, in. Thus narrowing the entrance/egress part of the deal. Which I’d never really registered. My bad. Uggggh. Disaster narrowly averted.
§§ And if this blog is a little less coherent than usual, well, forgive me, it’s been a rough week. . . .