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.
The attic. Moan. The attic. At Third House. Moooooan. The attic . . . moan. August is almost gone and some time in September I have to bring the frelling backlist home from the last storage unit. All forty-seven gazillion boxes of it. And you can already hardly edge around* all the boxes of files** and of books*** that won’t fit† either downstairs or at the cottage†† Moan.
I NEED DISTRACTION. I KNOW. I’LL RESPOND TO A FEW FORUM COMMENTS.
A few years ago I needed a plumber for my small bathroom. I warned the man at the other end of the phone line, “It’s a very small space.” He answered cheerfully, “I’ll send a very small plumber.” She was. And she fixed it. But she’s the only one I’ve ever seen.
For some reason, probably because I am still suffering post-house-move brain-blastedness†††, the reference to size makes me think of the stalwart young men who moved my piano, only one of the three of whom looked at all as if he might lift heavy things for a living. I was also thinking of Plumbers I Have Known folding themselves up into spaces much too small for them . . . and the tendency among folded-up plumbers to demonstrate builder’s crack to an extreme degree.
All three of my piano movers were wearing the kind of low-slung trouserage prone to builder’s-crackage. And as they all three bent down the first time to examine the basis of the situation I was treated to . . . a vast triple frontage‡ of LURID COLOURED BOXER SHORTS. I was delighted. I also nearly burst out laughing.
These blogs are sooooo making me not want to renovate our house, even though it’s desperately needed…
Oh come on. It’s romantic having to put buckets out for the drips, and to lie snuggled up in bed listening to the mice playing polo in the walls, and to have tadpoles coming in through the kitchen tap (it’s only for a month or two in the spring, after all), and floorboards so aggressively wavy and unpredictable that if you’ve had a beer in the last twenty-four hours you’d better sleep in the barn (under a tarpaulin). Where’s your sense of ADVENTURE?
Diane in MN
. . . As it’s a good and very efficient furnace, replacing it never came up: a good thing, as a new furnace would have been even spendier. I feel your pain.
Yes. One of the—or rather the—clinching argument of Shiny New Plumber about replacing my current boiler is that by the time I bought the parts for the old one I’d be halfway to the new one . . . AND the old one is a piece of crap. Since I only have Shiny New Plumber at all kind of far out on a limb of semi-unknown recommendations—one would rather hire a new plumber because one’s best friend has used him for twenty years and her entire family loves him including the goldfish, whom he replumbed on an emergency basis one Sunday afternoon when the fishtank exploded—I did look up the boiler he’s recommending and it’s number one by about twenty points in the WHICH? rating which is a good sign. An even better sign will be if he knows how to put it in. Mind you according to his web site he’s about third generation in a large family of plumbers . . . although he told me he is failing to interest his thirteen-year-old daughter in carrying on the family tradition.
And, speaking of small, and the state of the cottage‡‡, I hope the extra body he brings to assist him is svelte and bendy. A thirteen-year-old daughter would be perfect.
But I really want my hot water.
Me too, big time, and so I NEVER TALK ABOUT IT because I don’t want to give the hot water heater any ideas, like thinking it’s reached retirement age. And I don’t know where that sentence came from; I never wrote it.
No, no, of course not, if your hot water heater comes round for confirmation I will stoutly deny everything. My current object has only to last two more baths. Please God and St Mermaid-of-the-Flowing-Waters. I’ve had the uneasy sensation that it’s been getting a little whimsical since Shiny New Plumber condemned it.
Hot water is one of the critical components of civilisation, in my opinion.
I ENTIRELY CONCUR.
Oof. At least you got a very nice individual plumber?
Well he’s certainly very jolly‡‡‡. He also underwrites a seven-year guarantee on the new diamond-encrusted family member, which is popular.
Wait, stuck on the lavender comment. Was the lady referring to her houseplant as her pet, is there really a dog breed nicknamed lavender, or was she referring to the unmentionably enthusiastic “L” word dogs?
Not exactly. She was having a little trouble with the English language and maybe Labradors are called lavenders in her mother tongue. I’m not sure if she was doing that thing of using the word that almost sounds right and assuming it would do, or whether her accent was so strong that ‘Labrador’ was coming out ‘lavender’. Whatever.
Speaking of which, I may have been losing respect for them before reading the blog because everyone around here has them (or chihuahuas or pit bulls, or mixes of all three), but your anecdotes certainly haven’t helped their case.
Labradors are slime. Except, occasionally, when they aren’t. There are two entirely different strains of them any more, at least in England: the proper old working dog style, and there’s a young bitch of this variety who lives around the corner who is a complete sweetie and I’m happy to see her coming, and the modern SUV-shaped ugly stupid monster, owned by ugly stupid people who let it wreck your temper as well as your gentle, bewildered hellhounds’, and to crap all over the churchyard and possibly your driveway. I FRELLING WELL HATE LABRADORS. Except, occasionally, when I don’t. As above.
Chihuahuas are not a plague around here. Pit bulls are, but pit bulls, or their ilk, are a plague pretty much everywhere. It’s what gets popular, you know? Popular is the death knell for anything nice.
And on that cheerful note . . .
* * *
* Especially not without hitting your head on one of those where-did-that-come-from interesting ceiling angles.
** Including things like the original manuscript of BEAUTY. Eeeeeep. Which I rediscover every few years. I think it gets more startling every time. Also the original, equally smudgy, cut-and-pasted, liberally white-outed^ SWORD and HERO. As I recall OUTLAWS is the worst in this regard. I still have grisly flashbacks of kneeling on the floor in my little house in Maine, cutting up chapters and paragraphs and trying to tape them together again before I forget what I’m doing, and feverishly scrawling cryptic bridges in the margins, hoping I’ll be able to smooth them out later. Or possibly OUTLAWS was the worst. I used to burn a lot of mss in my early typewriter days. Not so much now: everything becomes second sheets for the printer.^^ Except occasionally when I revert and do my cutting and pasting in hard copy. Occasionally this is therapeutic.
And then I burn them. Sometimes. Sometimes I just scream and tear them up. And stomp on them.
^ Have you seen that there are typewriter aps for your iPad? WHYYYYYYY?
^^ It’s surprisingly confusing having your own words on the back of your freshly printed out draft pages. Even when you know that’s an old story and you’re working on a new story.
*** Books? Books? Never say. I amaze myself.
† My thirty-six million horse books, fiction and nonfiction. My nineteen million nonfiction critters of the world books, excluding horses, including a lot of guidebooks and wild critter rescue and management books, the majority being North American, including dozens of standard Audubon and Peterson field guides and so on, but by no means exclusively these—the NA collection expanded exponentially when I was figuring out DRAGONHAVEN and some of these are very small press/audience and peculiar. The Australian critter books go with the general Australian collection—which considering I’ve only ever spent about five weeks there total is pretty impressive. But Australia is, you know, mad, as well as instantly irresistible. There’s nothing else anything like it.^ Including all that let’s-evolve-in-interesting-off-the-wall-ways on a huge freaky water-bound continent fauna, and flora to go with ’em. WHEEEEEEE. Also the Aboriginal mythology—that is, what the white invaders managed to write down about it—is fascinating. And then there’s my British guidebook collection. Siiiiiigh. I adore guidebooks. I buy them everywhere I go.^^ And I have the impassable attic to prove it. AND PETER’S AND MY BACKLIST STILL HAS TO GO UP THERE.
^ Except maybe New Zealand or Tasmania in a distant-cousin way but I haven’t been to either of these.
^^ Sometimes I buy the same one several times. Mottisfont, for example. I must have three or four. Every time the National Trust trots out a new edition—which is to say there are three more paragraphs of the foreword to the foreword to the foreword about what they’ve been doing since the last edition—I buy it again. Hey, sometimes there are new rose photos.
†† I was hacking through the between-covers verbiage at the cottage today and thinking gloomily of the 1,000,000,000 fresh, new books I have on various wish lists at various on line emporia, and I know I will eventually add far more of these to my shopping basket(s) than I will delete, which does not address the books bought by opening a three-dimensional door, with or without three-dimensional bell, crossing a three-dimensional threshold, and browsing three-dimensional books on 3D shelves and tables, overseen by a very realistic-ly dimensional clerk who may or may not have a clue about books^ but can run a credit card machine.
^ It fascinates me that in the increasingly, or do I mean decreasingly, tiny beleaguered cult world of the high street bookstore, you do get clerks who seem to be there only because the gift shop didn’t have a grunt-level staff opening.
††† Or, even more likely, current attic complete mental breakdown
‡ Or backage, if you prefer
‡‡ You are reading the footnotes in order, aren’t you?
‡‡‡ He also, in the grand British working-man tradition, calls me ‘luv’. I know I’m supposed to object to this, but it always makes me fall down laughing. Increasingly so as they get younger and younger as I get older and older. I know I’m twice his age because he mentioned being thirty-two.^
^ Which means, to have a thirteen-year-old daughter, he started young.
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.
* * *
* 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.
You may have to wait another day (or two) for how I got to yesterday, including the two days on the sofa in a coma, the vague realisation* Sunday afternoon that I hadn’t actually eaten anything in about forty-eight hours which might be contributing to my extreme lassitude, etc.** The point is yesterday I was better.
It’s been hot this week and muggy with it*** but mostly it eases up and cools off in the evenings which have (mostly) been pretty fabulous in the long summer twilight. So I was attempting to take patient hellhounds† for the first half-decent hurtle they’d had in about six days. In a light-headed moment of madness I decided to take a look in on the rec grounds, where I never take hellhounds any more because of the other people’s dogs problem. Lo and behold, fate appeared to be being unnaturally kind: there was a game on, one of those sports involving men in shorts kicking a ball.†† Hurrah! I thought. That means people will be keeping their dogs on leads to keep them off the (unfenced) playing field.
You see where this is going.
We were skirting the edge of the game, and I was paying more attention to not getting hit by a wild ball than by what might be coming up on us from the outside. While the playing field is flat there’s a bunker type slope off it with a few trees marking the boundary and then a gradual hill in its original contours. So you don’t necessarily see what’s bearing down (or up) on you till it’s much too late for evasive action. Not that it would have done us any good in this case.
I turned around idly in time to see a brown-and-white torpedo, ahem, surging toward us. CALL YOUR DOG! I shouted, thus destroying in three syllables what my cheese-grater, broken glass and drawn-dagger sore throat had begun to recover from.
There was no human in sight.
I’ve seen this dog around town with its people. Joy. It’s local. It’s a half grown Staffie cross, I think, and it’s growing up big. Unless there’s a line of (presumably show) Staffies with longer legs, this one’s got something else in there. Mastodon possibly. It’s not aggressive yet, but give it time. It’s clearly growing up to be a thug. It sailed into the hellhounds with none of that piffling puppy posturing and Chaos, who is ordinarily happy to play with the most bumptious puppy, was . . . well, at first he was only nonplussed. I was more worried about Darkness, who is still pretty fragile†††.
A 12- or 13-year-old girl shambles up and makes a couple of ineffectual grabs at the Young Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man. Eventually, and this is now over a minute since this delightful meeting began, some idiot woman who has finally, I don’t know, got off her mobile phone and noticed her dog (and her daughter) have disappeared?, comes streaking up over the bank. Where has she been? And she proceeds to tell me that I should stand still so she can grab her dog. YOU SHOULDN’T LET IT OFF THE LEAD TILL IT’S OBEDIENT! I shrieked, thus setting convalescence and the possibility of my ever singing again‡ back by six weeks or half a millennium. She realizes, perhaps, that there is no reasoning with me—no, there isn’t—and attempts to concentrate on seizing her miscreant.
The whole episode took probably five minutes. This is a long time when it involves an off-lead dog out to make as much mayhem as its adolescent brain can yet conceive. The only bright spot—aside from the fact that it hasn’t fully grown into its obvious gift for malice—was that Darkness, probably because he was still drugged to the gills, was only unhappy, he wasn’t doing his full protective berserker thing thank you God.‡‡ Chaos, however, was increasingly freaked out, so Young Stay-Puft concentrated on him.
I didn’t think about it at the time—I was too busy trying to hang onto my distressed hellhounds in my own not too steady condition, and with this bloody woman telling me to keep still—but I’ve thought about it too much since. It wasn’t just the torpedo approach or the lack of puppy love-me moves. All the brute’s hair was up and its head was low and its look intent—and it singled out Chaos because he was providing more fun. In six months it’s going to be eating small children.
I despair. And after that adrenaline spike, I’ve been back on the sofa again—you were going to get the first somewhat-post flu bulletin‡‡‡ last night.
And my throat hurts.
* * *
* Very vague: you don’t think well in a coma
** Also, at sixty-one, you don’t have the bounce you did ten or forty years ago. You can just sleep—or coma—off a lot when you’re twenty, and then get up groggily at a strange hour, make a large platter of scrambled eggs, and be fine. At sixty-one you need a little more continuing support.
*** Speaking of producers of lassitude
† Let me also say that the hellpack have been brilliant this week. Granted hellhounds start hating the heat even sooner than I do but they do still like to get outside for a panting, oppressed and put-upon amble, and they’ve only been getting slow groping turns around the block for necessary purposes with me leaning on the trees and stopping at every bench—thank God there are benches both in the churchyard and the wide strip of green alongside the road to the mews.^ And the hellterror, bless her manic little heart, has been amazing. Now, also granted that she is highly self motivated and you can pretty much just let her out of her crate and stand back while she caroms off the walls, but even overseeing her is exhausting when you’re only about .05% of normal. I’m not even sure she got fed as often as usual. But she was always glad to see me and did not take advantage when I tottered outdoors with her—she could have had me over if she’d wanted to—and went cheerfully back into her crate^^ and was quiet for hours without complaint^^^. Like the man said, You can’t always get what you want/ But if you try sometimes well you just might find/ You get what you need.
^ I’ve had three dog minders, each one more disastrous than the last. I really don’t want to start the countdown to catastrophe on a fourth.
^^ suitably bribed
^^^ Except of course when someone came to the front door or the wind through the garden door made a funny noise or the dishwasher went click-clump as it changed cycles or the book you had been pretending to read fell out of your nerveless hands to the floor or she objected to the music on the radio+ or . . . whatever. She’s still a bull terrier. However she is also a bull terrier who shuts up when requested.++
+ She was right about this. It was Harrison Birtwhistle. I managed to assume verticality long enough to turn it off.
++ After only a little grumbling. Unless it’s clearly pirates and I’m just not taking the threat seriously enough.
†† I have no idea. Although there are several men in shorts kicking balls sports, I believe.
††† See: I do not want another week like this one, and, you may have to wait for the details of how I got to yesterday.
‡ I am really missing singing. It’s like missing a body part.
‡‡ Yes. I wish I knew why God doesn’t solve the off-lead dog problem that has very nearly wrecked my pleasure in having dogs. The hellhounds’ little peculiarity about food pales in comparison.
‡‡‡ Trust me there is plenty of material.