Didn’t get a lot of sleep last night—so what else is new—last night was however aggravated by shooting awake every time a hellcritter sighed or got up to scratch its bed into a more salubrious shape. Siiiiiigh. There have been no further outbreaks today . . . although the night is young* the current digestive miscreant, having eaten his dinner, looks pretty crashed out. . . . That sound you hear is me crossing my fingers till they squeak.
More baby plants showed up in the post today and the Winter Table is full. There hasn’t been a proper frost in town this month I think, but baby plants, having been intensively reared in massive great commercial greenhouses, are fragile little creatures and you can’t just whack them in potting-on pots and plonk them outdoors. You have to ‘harden them off’ as they say which in practise, since my greenhouse is full of stuff and I have no earthly room for a cold frame, means that if we’re having a run of chilly nights I have to bring them indoors every evening and back outdoors again every morning.** Arrrrgh.
So, where was I, in my not-very-good-mood way last night? Aside from the prospect of a lot of moving of plant trays back frelling indoors while trying not to trip over the hellterror***, there had been a certain supernumerary force to my rushing outdoors into the garden yesterday afternoon†, aside from the latest stack of baby-plant-containing cardboard boxes arriving in the post, which, yesterday, was pretty well an avalanche. ††
What is it with people.
I regularly receive requests via email for help with the frelling papers people are writing about me and/or my books.††† The vast, catastrophic, overwhelming majority of them ask me the same blasted questions‡ . . . most of which would be answered far beyond the scope of any seventh or eleventh grader’s term paper requirement‡‡ with only the most cursory glance at my web site, let alone doing a little diving via the ‘search’ facility or the ‘topics’ list on this blog. I’ve ranted this rant to you before—several times in fact—how can all these jokers even arrive at my public email address WITHOUT HAVING NOTICED THE SUGGESTIONS THAT THEY READ THE FAQ FIRST. OR THE GENTLE REMINDER THAT I’M, YOU KNOW, BUSY AND THAT ANSWERING QUESTIONS TAKES TIME. But they do. In their relentless marching regiments they do. Yesterday I received a follow up from someone who clearly thinks that saying please and thank you is enough. Reading the FAQ is not necessary. This person is capable of writing me a sheaf of long, complicated questions and putting a note in their diary to follow up . . . without ever looking at the FAQ. First contact in this case included a plug from the kid’s teacher,‡‡‡ telling me how wonderful the kid is—and this kid may very well be wonderful, but they nonetheless need to learn to do their homework—and how (the teacher continued) my thoughtful informed answers were going to help this student chart their course through college and into their chosen career of professional writer. PLEEEEEEEEEEZ. This follow up, unannotated by the teacher, generously offers to answer any questions I may have. . . . §
Standard caveat begins here: Of course I want people to read my books. I need people to buy my books so the hellpack and I can keep eating. And I love fan mail: I looooove it when some reader takes the time, speaking of time, to tell me that they enjoy my books. A really warm and/or clever and/or funny fan letter (or forum comment or Tweet or dreaded-Facebook post) makes my day, and sometimes my week. But I will never learn not to mind that a lot of people out there don’t recognise me as a human being essentially like themselves with a life—and, furthermore, inevitably limited expertise even in my professional domain—and behave accordingly.§§
Today I got a fresh request for help on a school project. This one addresses me as ‘Mrs McKinley’ so I don’t have to read any farther to know that this person hasn’t made any attempt to do their homework. . . .
* * *
* as I count young. But how can ‘one’ or ‘two’ or even ‘three’ not be young?^
^ Unless you’re a hamster.+
+ And you’re talking in years, not hours. A three-hour-old hamster is young. And one o’clock in the morning is MORNING and last night is dead. So—wait—‘the night is young’ has to start at like two o’clock in the afternoon. . . . Nights are never young . . . Hey, I’ve just invented a philosophy.#
# How did I get into this? And where’s the door?
** Given when I am staggering out of bed lately, they’re going to get distressingly etiolated if the nights don’t warm up soon so that I can leave them outdoors to greet the dawn and all those distasteful hours immediately following.
*** Who is very interested in people rushing back and forth in a purposeful way. Hellhounds know to crush themselves in the back of their crate and not stir till it’s all over.
† Well, I’d been outdoors kind of a lot already: it was such a glorious day I took both critter shifts^ on country walks which was self-indulgent but . . . fun.^^
^ A little old lady said to me yesterday, every time I see you you’re walking a different dog. There are only three, I said, but I mostly walk them in two shifts. Oh, said the little old lady, and I could watch the thought process in her expression: first she accepted the answer to this question that had been puzzling her and then, moving right along, this little old lady being a quick thinker, I could see the woman is mad dawning in her eyes.
^^ And since I won’t leave critters in a car because of the dog-theft problem, it’s also very time consuming.
†† Also aside from the fact that Outlook decided not to let me in yesterday afternoon. No. Won’t. And I don’t like your password any more either. Bite me. —ARRRRRRRRGH.
††† We’re already in trouble: the books are the books, they’re there, you don’t need me, and chances are very good that if you’re going in for literary criticism I’ll think your penetrating insights bear a strong family resemblance to mouldy root vegetables^, and you’ve got no business writing about me at all.^^
^ You know, really mouldy, when they’ve gone all squishy
^^ Yes, I read biographies. Your point would be?
‡ When’s the last time I got a blog post out of an interesting question from someone writing a paper on me? Exactly.^
^ Although the kid who wanted to know what it was like growing up with all those half-siblings made me blink a bit. I wonder who they thought they were writing about?
‡‡ And with luck will so derail under- or post-grad thesis topics that the students will decide to write about something else
‡‡‡ ie an adult with adult responsibilities. Plugs from teachers aren’t that uncommon, but they always depress me more.
§ The fact that this was the first email Outlook let through after Raphael told me how to make it behave was not destined to improve my attitude.
§§ You don’t walk up to a doctor at the supermarket and ask them to diagnose the rash on your leg. You don’t write a letter to a lawyer asking them what their daily schedule is and how and why it makes them a better lawyer. You don’t tell a blacksmith you want to borrow their tools because anyone can shoe a horse if they have the right hammer.
Yes. Feebledweeb came back this morning. There was a postcard through my door about my missing my scheduled pick-up. I’m probably imagining the petulance. I am not imagining, however, the incredibly long, annoying, would-be mollifying robot email from a critter-supply site I have ordered from for the first time because they sell a Critter Fur Bag that is supposed to protect your (possibly new) washing machine from the extremes of critter hair production.* Cosy Paws and Fuzzy Tummies Ltd is using one of the shiny new carrier companies . . . which I’ve already had several emails from informing me that my order is creeping inexorably nearer but they’re not going to tell me how fast or anything . . . I have to be AT HOME to SIGN FOR IT and they will only make TWO attempts to deliver before it’s returned to sender, etc. HOW THE FREAKING ARGLEBLARGING FRELL DO THESE COMPANIES STAY IN BUSINESS? Apparently I’m supposed to be able to track it tomorrow, when it’s (maybe**) due for Delivery Attempt #1 but I don’t even know what that means. If I sign on tonight/tomorrow morning at midnight oh one, will it tell me that the driver is at home having a beer in front of the Late Show?*** Will Astarte chirrup at me at 6 a.m.† when the parcel is loaded into the lorry? Will tracking include a klaxon when the lorry passes the New Arcadia town limits? Arrrrrgh. And the Seriously Irritating Robot letter from the critter-supply site says, ooooooh please be nice to us, we’re trying really hard.†† Sure you are. Change delivery companies. Change to one that when you say ‘LEAVE THE SODBLASTED PACKET BEHIND THE GATE’ they leave it behind the gate and don’t require me to poke a touchscreen with a plastic stylus in a manner that not only looks nothing like my signature, but doesn’t look like anything remotely resembling anyone’s signature.
The garage started work on Wolfgang today. I’m supposed to ring late tomorrow afternoon and see how they’re getting on. The suspense is killing me. I WANT MY MONKS. I WANT MY MONKS. I also have an appointment to talk to Alfrick before service Saturday night. If I started walking Saturday morning I might get there in time, maybe they’d let me sleep in the porch . . . after all I’d have to bring the hellpack, they can’t keep their legs crossed for thirty six hours, we could keep each other warm. . . .
And I’ve probably decided on my new washing machine. ::Gasp:: It’s a Miele. You know what Mieles COST?! But if you ask six random critter owners what washing machine will best stand up to the depredations of critter fur, they will speak in one voice: IF YOU CAN AFFORD IT, GET A MIELE.†††
Um. Ratbags. Well, the hellhounds don’t eat much . . . and I could maybe buy fewer books and less yarn . . . .
And in other techie news: My new phone machine appears to be working.‡ I can call out on it. I can receive calls on it, even if the dargletching ring tone sounds like a drowning pigeon. I can even pick up messages. That’s all I can do. At some point I will have to find out how to erase messages before the sorbligging Message Space fills up. For some reason a number of people, having read the Are you sure it’s not Friday the 13th? blog post, starting with lecuyerv on the forum and for which thank you, have sent me a link to this: http://xkcd.com/1343/ Yes. Exactly.
* * *
But I didn’t buy it here. If I’m going to be rude about the seller I’m not going to hang a link on the blog. But I’ve heard of the site I ordered from, it has a good rep in critter-supply circles, and it had some happy customers reporting on the Fur Bag.
** There is some question about the depot being stolen by deranged djinns. A little-known prediction of Nostradamus.
*** If there have been any djinn sightings?
† The drawbacks of taking your iPad to bed with you. Remember to turn it off? Are you kidding?
†† If we roll over will you rub our tummy? —No. I get enough tummy rubbing demands already.^ Humans have alarm clocks to get them up in the morning. Hellcritters have tummy rubbing. GUYS. I’VE ONLY GOT TWO HANDS. Darkness, who is his generation’s major tummy rubbee, however, does not acknowledge that this creates any sort of common ground with the hellterror. You call that a tummy? he says. At which point Chaos, who isn’t totally committed to tummy rubbing but does not want to be left out of anything, ducks under one of my arms, as I kneel blearily on the kitchen floor rubbing tummies while waiting for the frelling kettle to frelling boil, and knocks me over.
^ Also, I don’t like you.
††† Also, who knew that reading about washing machines could be fun? http://www.whitegoodshelp.co.uk/about-whitegoodshelp-andy-trigg/
Miele is also, siiiiiiiigh, the top of the list by a margin of about seventy-three leagues at WHICH?
Although you have to join. I’ve joined. But nothing on earth will make me read an entire article on George Osborne.^
^ This comment will become obscure+ as soon as they put some other headline on their opening page.
+ I have a strange reluctance to use the word ‘obsolete’. I think it’s very unfriendly of Bosch to stop making parts for a mere twenty-plus-year-old washing machine. I bet Miele is still making parts for twenty-plus-year-old machines.^
^ At these prices, better had.
‡ Mrs Redboots
Um, I’m not quite sure why anybody buys an answering machine in this day and age – can’t you just record your message on 1571, which is what I do? . . . Of course, the huge downside is you have to remember to check the frelling thing, which I never do . . .
Um . . . pathological loathing of BT?^ BT, who, when applied to to turn the landline phone on at Third House declared that there was no cable to the house—the eighty-year-old house in the middle of town with the phone jack in the kitchen—and I would have to pay several hundred pounds to get one installed. BT, who has insisted for nearly a decade that my problem with the upstairs phone at the cottage is to do with the house wiring and it will cost me several hundred pounds if they send an engineer, even though their own frelling linemen, laughing like drains at the state of the cul-de-sac’s common wiring, says that it is BT. Yes, it’s true that my series of cheap, simple-minded previous phone machines were BT, but in the first place they were crap and they never pretended to be anything other than crap and in the second place a phone machine is a discrete thing that sits on your desk/table/electric keyboard/floor, it has a beginning and an ending, it has edges, and for that matter you can smudge it with burning sage if you want to drive the BT demons out. I’m not going to use 1571. It’s too personal.
Oh, and Peter uses 1571. And never remembers to pick up his messages.
^ That postmistress didn’t retire. She went to work for BT.
Let me see, where were we? Well, where was I . . .
I still have a dead car. I rang up the garage this afternoon and most of the parts have arrived . . . but not all of them. Of course. This is how it goes. The flusterdamitter is still en route from Enceladus* and won’t be here till Wednesday. Or Thursday. Whimper.
The hellpack and I stream** up and down main street on foot, pitter patter pitter patter, to and from the mews.*** I am poised to try to rent a car if Peter wants me to . . . but I’m not going to unless he does. The worst of the week is over: I’ve already missed my singing lesson.
And I have a definitively dead washing machine. The repairman’s wife, who is also his secretary and office manager, rang back today to say that the necessary part is obsolete. Sigh. Meanwhile I had had a look on line for washing machines and there aren’t any that say HAS EXTRA-STRENGTH FILTER.† CAN STAND UP TO THREE HAIRY DOGS. I have asked Mrs Repairman to ask her husband if he can recommend one. Meanwhile when I contemplate the likelihood of my carrying large knapsacks of dirty/clean laundry up and down main street in the near future the idea of a rental car starts to look pretty good.
* * *
* They relocated the factory because those cold water jets make cooling all that molten steel^ a snap. Also native labour is cheap.
^ As if they made cars out of steel any more. HAhahahahahahahahaha. But Enceladus’ surface contains substantial deposits of rmmfglorple, which makes really great Car Plastic.
** New Arcadia is mostly not streaming any more, but down by the river there are great chunks of the path missing where the water has undermined it till it collapsed. There’s at least one spot where you have to leap, and for some reason you don’t see as many pushchairs^ on that path as you used to. The river is still really high all along its length and at the most exciting point it’s broken up through actual paving slabs, where an overstressed tributary is joining the main flow and it’s gushing out across the path and torrenting down the little hill built over the confluence. It’s strong enough to wash away small children and unwary dogs, and the hellterror, who is a bit of a delicate flower for a bullie, doesn’t like it much. You might have thought legs that short couldn’t do a decent passage^^, but you’d be wrong. But the look I get nearly burns through denim.
The dog-encounter stories just keep on however, and we’re trapped in town at present. Saw what is possibly the nastiest of our local dogs again a few days ago—off lead of course—this thing is totally known to be dog aggressive. I was out with Pav, fortunately, not the hellhounds, saw dog and murder-worthy owner. No-jury-would-convict-me owner looked at us, glanced around for his vicious off lead brute . . . and then kept on coming! ARRRRRRRRRRGH! —Pav and I crossed the road.
My most recent meltdown, however, was a day or two before that. I’m not the only near relation with dogs at the mews. We’ve had mostly minor encounters with the worst offenders but one of these is a border collie type—it’s either a crossbred or a very badly bred border collie—who is the kind of aggressive-manic that gives border collies a bad name^^^. It’s frequently loose, of course. Arrrrrrgh. The other day Pav and I were coming back from our afternoon hurtle, came through the gate, and there was that criminally idiot owner surrounded by her three dogs, one harmless Lab, one semi-harmless Lab . . . and this border collie. To give her what little credit she’s due, she saw us and did put them all on lead, and they trailed her across the drive and into the big garden that belongs to her father/mother/uncle/halfsister/secondcousintwiceremoved . . . and then she deliberately dropped the leads.
And as Pav and I walked past the wide, entirely open mouth of that garden, the border collie just went for us—trailing its useless lead. I had time to pick Pav up—just. The no-jury-would-convict-me-for-this-one-either is screaming her head off and the dog is, of course, ignoring her. It’s growling and snapping and making little leaps at Pav, who is comfortably folded up chest-high in my arms~ and even allowing for the situation this is a mean looking dog. It ran away as its owner came after it—she didn’t say a word to me of course—and have I mentioned that a lot of what used to be the parkland around the Big Pink Blot has sheep on it?
But we were even more of a draw than the sheep. Once it had lost its owner it came after us again. It was not willing, fortunately, to attack a human, so we strolled the rest of the way back to Peter’s—I’m not quite up to walking briskly clutching thirty pounds of hellterror awkwardly to my chest~~ —with it circling and snarling. . . .
And there’s not a thing I can do about it, not really. The police don’t care. The dog warden has most of southern England to patrol. And the family the idiot is visiting . . . well, let’s simplify the politics of cooperative ownership and say they have seniority. Which I assume is why no one else has ever complained . . . about the dog crap that loose unsupervised dogs tend to leave about the place, for example.
::is beyond words:: ~~~
^^^ I know that Cocker spaniels are supposed to be the top of the bitey dogs list, but I and several generations of my dogs have been nipped by far more border collies. It’s not frelling all herding instinct.
~ There are advantages to the little short legs. She weighs nearly twice what Hazel did, but Hazel was a whippet with legs that went on and on. Upon similar occasions it would have been better if I could have hung her around my neck, but there was never quite time.
~~ The funny thing, if I’d been in a mood to appreciate it, is how laid back Pav was about the whole thing. Maybe because she was already out of reach by the time the marauder arrived? But she peered down with interest and no alarm whatsoever. At least having her relaxed made her easier to hang onto. She can be quite challenging in this regard when she’s in LEMME AT ’EM mode.
~~~ Which is a bad thing in a professional writer.
*** During the day we go down to the mews in shifts—I was bringing Pav down at lunchtime when we met Mr Notorious Evil Ratbag—but we do all go home collectively after midnight. Speaking of challenging, trying to pick up crap when you have not merely three leads to deal with but a heavy knapsack throwing your blasted balance off . . . and last night Pav’s extending-lead spring failed. I’m a little amazed we all got home in one piece. There may have been language.
† Preferably one that does not exist suspended in a reservoir of dirty water two inches from the floor which you have to bail out spoonful by spoonful because you can’t get a container of any size under the frelling hatch.
I have a DEAD CAR.
I have a DEAD WASHING MACHINE.
I am SUPPOSED TO BE STREET PASTORING TONIGHT*, but I can’t, because I have a DEAD CAR. This means I’ve missed TWO MONTHS IN A ROW.**
I probably won’t get Wolfgang back till the end of next week . . . which among other things means I WILL MISS MY VOICE LESSON ON MONDAY.***
I will also MISS MY MONKS TOMORROW NIGHT.†
And the DEAD CAR means I have no way to schlep my dirty laundry to Peter’s washing machine—and New Arcadia is way too small for a Laundromat, aside from the question of how many machines one person with three hairy dogs can blow up in a single application.††
AND I—finally—bought a new phone answering machine†††. Which I spent two hours over this afternoon, trying to figure out how to make the sucker work. I HATE TECHNOLOGY.‡ This object is such a piece of rubbish in so many ways. You have 1,000,000,000,000 frelling menus of obscure acronyms and impenetrable icons . . . and an ‘instruction book’ that fails to instruct. For example: it keeps saying, you press this little arrow till you get the listing you want, and then you hit ‘okay’. IT NEVER TELLS YOU WHERE YOU’RE GOING TO FIND THE OKAY, AND OKAY DOESN’T APPEAR UNTIL YOU’VE DONE SOMETHING RIGHT ALREADY WHICH YOU WON’T HAVE BECAUSE YOU HAVE NO CLUE WHAT YOU’RE LOOKING FOR. Frelling icons are frelling Rorschach blots, every one of them meaning: YOU’RE TOTALLY SCREWED HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.‡‡
I think I finally got the date and time set up‡‡‡ and a basic message recorded . . . although that I am speaking through clenched teeth is pretty obvious. Leave. A. Message. After. The. Beep. I have no idea what most of the superfluous crap on all those menus is . . . but this frzzzzzblggggng thing has only TWO ringtones, both of them nasty. And this thing cost money! It cost real money! I’ve been putting off buying a new phone machine because BT stopped making the cut-rate plastic toy model that I used to use, which was not a total loss because they were SO cruddy they only lasted about a year before disintegrating like one of those cornstarch shopping bags . . . but they were simple. I could use one. Mind you, if you’re asking, I’d say they were overspecified too: all I want is something I can record my voice on, so people ringing me know they’ve got my phone number—among my many, many pet hates is robot-voice answering machines so you have no idea if you’ve reached the right person/number or not—and that will record any messages. I don’t want a phone machine that can make hollandaise sauce and tutor me in Russian and mechanical engineering! I ONLY WANT TO RECORD MESSAGES, PLAY THEM BACK, AND THEN ERASE THEM.
. . . And now I have to shoulder my heavy knapsack§ and hike home . . . with three hellcritters gambolling delightedly in my wake.§§
* * *
* So this entry was supposed to be a stub. It may yet be when a crevasse opens at my feet and the table falls into the centre of the earth, which would be about par for this day’s course. I may or may not catch the laptop before it disappears forever, but my four knitting books from the library, at present lying on the table, will be goners. Even knitting books are out to get me: there is ONE pattern out of all FOUR of them that I can imagine knitting, and this includes two books by a designer I usually like.^
^ There’s also a yarn sale going on on a Web Site Near You where one of the listings is for £17 skeins of luxury yarn . . . at eight pence off the usual price. Be still my heart.
** Last month was The Night of the Tempestuous Tempest, when the cops were telling us to stay home unless we HAD to be out. And I was looking at all the raging torrents that used to be roads and gardens and sitting rooms and so on and thought, staying home, above the flood line, that’s a good idea.
*** I may end up hiring a car—NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO—but not till I’ve talked to the garage again on Monday, which will be too late for my lesson. They’re ordering parts tomorrow, so some of my fate is riding on whether the gloppendorkenflurgetruder^ arrives on Monday.
^ Well, Wolfgang is German.
† Buckminster thinks he can find me a ride to St Margaret’s Sunday evening. He hasn’t said anything about ‘if you promise not to sing’.^
^ I will miss my monks worse. I like their music better.
†† I think I’ve told you that the hellterror is an astonishing producer of loose hair. No wonder she eats so much. Has to keep her strength up for all that intensive fur growing.
††† Delivered by an unusually delightful carrier, who put a postcard through my door after a failed first attempt, saying that they would try again the next day, any time from seven a.m. to six p.m., and upon a third failure the item would be returned to the warehouse and I would be issued a refund. WHAT? How does the seller stay in business with a system like that? And as I’ve said—often—before, any blasted carrier who puts a postcard through my door saying they tried to leave my package with a neighbour is either lying or terminally lazy. My neighbours are all either retired or work from home.
As it happens I was waiting in, and waiting, and waiting, and waiting, for the washing-machine man—the appointment was for ‘after nine’. Well, it was certainly after nine: in fact it was after noon—and I was therefore available at 11:45 when Delivery Attempt #2 happened—and I ran after him and pulled him down and snatched my parcel away from him before he could get back to his truck and lock the doors. . . . I should have let him keep it.
‡ The favour is, of course, mutual.
‡‡ I am reminded of the old joke which I’ve seen somewhere very recently, did someone post it on the forum? Having no car and no washing machine is having an unfortunate suppressive effect on my brain. So, this shrink shows a patient a Rorschach blot and says, what do you see? And the patient says, a man and a woman making love. The shrink shows the patient another blot and the patient says, that’s a man and a man really getting it on. And looking at the third blot the patient says, and that’s two women having a very, very hot time. The shrink says, I see that you are obsessed with sex. The patient says in possibly justifiable outrage, that’s rich, coming from you. You’re the one with all the dirty pictures.
‡‡‡ Which I will have to reset every time there is a power outage, and we have brief, settings-blowing power outages kind of a lot. My old el frelling cheapo phone machine, you put a BATTERY in it and it HELD its settings through power cuts.
§ Having seriously damaged my back and shoulders hauling dog food in the other direction
§§ This is a rant for another day, but I’ve basically given up taking all three of them out together—the Off Lead Dog problem is too severe, and I’m at just too much of a disadvantage with three of my own. The only time I’ll risk it is after midnight, like now. . . .
So there’s this major yarn and stuff to do with it, stuff to do it with and accessories like buttons and ribbons show that is not so far from here I can’t toy with the idea of going to it . . . especially if Fiona was driving.
But this is now the second year that Fiona has declined to go on the flimsy grounds that she had to WORK that weekend.* And I was feeling obstinate and cantankerous. And I happened to mention that there was going to be a fabulous yarn show with lots of STUFF to Nina, who said, oh, that sounds like fun. I’ll come.
Now Nina, once you bash past her British self-deprecation, is good at kind of a lot of stuff; she plays the violin, she cooks, she gardens, she sews, she embroiders, she does long-distance bicycling, and her end of the charity she works for runs very well. But I didn’t know she knitted.
I used to, she said. But a friend has started me crocheting, and I’ve been thinking about picking up knitting again. What I need is a project to inspire me.
So we arranged to meet at the venue, which is one of these Ancient Buildings Repurposed, and half the experience is about going the wrong way through the wrong end of the wrong aggregation of corridors and small crooked well-raftered rooms, and seeing the proud civic collection of sealing-wax stamps and the sepia photos of Prince Edward at the opening of the new railroad in 1887, but failing to find what you were looking for.
Which was a lot like my experience of getting there at all.
There was actual sunlight [sic] that morning [sic] and I set off in a hopeful and positive manner/deeply guilty that I wasn’t staying home and working in the garden**, and about the first third of the way is pretty familiar and the last two-thirds used to be pretty familiar before age, decrepitude and ME set in. I had my Google map print-out taped to the dashboard and just before the stoplight where I was going to have to turn off the modern roads, built for fast-moving fossil-fuel-propelled vehicles, and into the frelling medieval frelling maze . . . they changed the road layout. AAAAAAAAAUGH.***
So I made one of those hasty decisions, the way you do at fifty miles an hour with lorries the size of WWII blockhouses bearing down on you, and shot off toward the centre of town a lot sooner than I meant to and I was now in the wrong end of town† without a clue how to get to the right end. Whimper.
I think I saw the small town-centre Sainsburys six times as the one-way system kept chewing me up and spitting me out and I kept stubbornly turning around and coming back for more pinballing, ka-chung, ka-chung! There was ONE sign for the dratblasted yarn show with one of those ambiguous directional arrows that could have meant anything including finding a flagpole to climb and looking around from the top of it; and one overhead banner stretched from one side of the (narrow medieval) street to the other proclaiming the existence of the yarn show but failing to say anything about where to find it. Some of the surrounding melee was, in fact, on my Google map, but Google does not feel the need to include any street names but the ones immediately relevant to your journey. Haven’t these people ever driven anywhere?†† Have they no sense of the clue, the hint, the landmark, the burning need for the adjacent street sign?†††
By the time I got to a car park somewhere near the centre of town, feeling that if I couldn’t find the yarn show I could at least go to Sainsburys and bury my sorrows in chocolate, which said car park would actually let me in rather than telling me that the apparent gate-like aperture with a clear view of parked cars beyond it was nothing of the kind and I had to enter by another gate-like aperture that a car could not, in fact, approach on account of the cemented-in bollards in the way . . . the car park was full of cars driven by people who had sacrificed virgin black goats to the appropriate gods earlier in the day.
But—! There was a brief lapse in the forces of anarchy and bedlam! THERE WAS A PARKING SPACE!!!! I hurtled into it, had only just bought my ticket and displayed it prominently on the dashboard‡ and was beginning to worry about where, exactly, Ancient Building Repurposed was in relation to Car Park that Will Let Cars In, when Pooka started barking at me‡‡. I knew it was Nina: I was thirty-five minutes late. I’m sorry, I said . . . No, no, said Nina, I’ve only just got here myself; I misread the bus schedule and. . . .
TO BE CONTINUED.
* * *
* She says she’s blocking out that weekend in her diary for next year NOW.^
^ Like all you Americans—at least all you east coast Americans, and there’d better be a few schlepping in from at least the Midwest and the southeast or I’ll feel underappreciated—are blocking out 13-15 February for Boskone next year. There will be a certain irony if Fiona has to go alone next year because I’m in Boston.
** The hellpack would also have preferred this latter option
*** I didn’t even have Fiona’s satnav to abuse.
† I would start seeing sepia photos of Prince Edward at any moment
†† No they were born with a silver computer in their mouths and the only time they venture outside is to go jogging, well wired up to their iPods and wearing dark glasses, or to pick up Chinese food/pizza when the delivery Vespa is broken.
††† Or the not so adjacent. At one point I found myself passing the hospital, which meant that I had gone from the wrong end of town to the right end of town but hadn’t noticed, and instead barrelled on through and out the other side and was now approaching . . . Wales.
‡ Ever had your Pay and Display ticket blow off the dash in the backdraft (presumably) of you closing the car door and be found several hours later in the footwell upon your return? I have. I am very happy to say that the Parking Enforcement Officer didn’t come to my end of the garage that day. Either that, or PEOs are specially trained to see through the dark of footwells to the honestly obtained ticket that may be lying there.
‡‡ Er. New Blog Reader Alert: my iPhone’s name is Pooka, and her default ring tone is a barking dog.