April 2, 2015

Shadows is here!

I have spent all day . . .

 

. . . doing STUFF.  You know, stuff.  FINALLY got the laundry from three days ago actually hung up to dry.*  Well.  To finish drying.  It’s mostly dry already and golly is it ever wrinkled.**  I fought my way to the countertop in the kitchen next to the Aga where I sit every morning and have my tea, and where the pile of unread magazines gets taller and taller and taller.  I threw out with a sigh of relief all the catalogues saying Great bargain!  Order on line by midnight 31 March! ***  I swept the floor.†  I took delivery of 1,000,000,000 baby plants ARRRRRRGH THIS FRELLING WINTER IS GOING ON FOREVER WE HAD ANOTHER FROST LAST NIGHT THIS IS THE SOUTH OF BLOODY ENGLAND AND IT’S THE FIRST OF BLOODY APRIL.††  I’ve run out of floor space to bring in tiny geraniums and tiny dahlias and tiny begonias and tiny chocolate cosmos every frelling night††† and that’s before today’s influx of petunias.

It’s been a seriously mad ten days or so.  And I haven’t even got started. . . .  Maybe I can get back to the blog tomorrow and continue the fascinating story.  Or maybe Friday.  Or next Gammelfug day.

* * *

* This involved getting the laundry that’s been hanging for about . . . um . . . a week, down off the airer dangling from the bathroom ceiling and . . . gasp of astonishment . . . folded.  Now let’s say I have four—let’s say pink—socks.  These of necessity comprise two pairs.   You are with me so far?  They were bought at the same time from the same shop and are the same brand and the same size.  So tell me why three of them are a pair and the fourth one is clearly odd?

** I have found that the trick with unhung laundry is to get it out of the washing machine and into my open-weave-with-lots-of-holes-where-the-wicker-has-broken basket and stir it up a couple of times a day and it won’t help the wrinkles but I won’t have to rewash it because it’s started to smell a little peculiar.  If you leave wet laundry in the washing machine for three days it will definitely smell peculiar.   Ask me how I know this.

*** I put into another pile, with a guard rail around it, all the envelopes that say, Do this immediately or the world will end and you will die, love, HM Revenue and Customs.^

^ Now I am not a fan of all those government departments on both sides of the Atlantic that steal+ my money but I FRELLING WELL HATE TECHNOLOGY A WHOLE LOT WORSE.

Okay.  I know I’m a screw up but I so have help.

About twice a year I have to import money.  I earn very little in the country I live in so what there is of it accumulates in America and then I haul it in chunks over here.  First obstacle:  my Maine bank wasn’t answering my emails.  UM.  PEOPLE.  YOU HAVE MY MONEY.  They hadn’t told me my contact of the last twenty-five years had retired nor was anyone watching for rogue emails that might be coming in to her asking for little things like international money transfers.  Gibber gibber gibber gibber gibber.  Okay.  Made contact with some new unfortunate who sounds young so maybe she won’t retire for a while.  And after comparatively few failures I got the necessary fax sent and acknowledged.  Then I had to make confirmatory contact by phone.

This has taken something like ten days.  It’s true I should have smelled a rat sooner but I am used to things going wrong and . . . what was happening never occurred to me.  MY IPHONE IS EDITING THE *&^^%$%$£””!!!!!!! NUMBER.

I’m going to say that again.  POOKA, MY IPHONE, IS EDITING PHONE NUMBERS.  Not satisfied with merely destroying three-quarters of my contacts list, we are MOVING ON TO MORE CREATIVE FORMS OF HARASSMENT.

. . . I had had a comprehensive all-tech-wide meltdown a month or so ago when Raphael had to reinstall nearly everything.  One of the many, many things that went wrong was that Outlook ate most of my contacts which I have since been laboriously reinstalling a few at a time, including some of the oldest, like my American bank, which have been on Outlook since before I had a mobile phone.  And apparently in some fabulous Apple update or other that came with the reinstall the iPhone was told to put in the random British zero . . . even when the address is American and the hapless human has put in the country code because she knows she’ll forget.#  The random British zero appears between the country code and the area code and is not at all conspicuous. 

After several days of ‘this number has not been recognised’ and choruses of beeps, clicks and whistles I finally decided I must have punched the number in wrong so I pulled out my paper address book.  No, it was right (still not noticing the villainous zero because the iPhone also controls the spacing).  So I frelling wiped the number and poked it in again thinking there might be one of those invisible tech bug things that was going HA HA HA HA CHOMP off stage.  And this time I finally SAW the sodding phone adding the zero.  AND IT WON’T LET ME DELETE IT.##

At the frelling moment I have my bank’s phone number memorized.  But after the initial fury wears off I’m not GOING to remember to omit the superfluous ratblasting zero . . . and I can’t hit the auto button at all of course.

And presumably this is affecting ALL MY AMERICAN PHONE NUMBERS????  Somehow I haven’t wanted to check.

So meanwhile I finally successfully rang my bank.  AND THE FAX IS NOW TOO OLD AND I HAVE TO START ALL OVER AGAIN. 

It may be very useful that the hellhounds would rather not eat at all, and I’m a postmenopausal woman, I don’t need food . . . Pav is going to be a little distressed, the next fortnight or so, till I finally get my money transferred and can afford to buy food again.  Maybe Peter will throw Pav a crust from time to time.

# Actually I tried it without the country code and it still puts in a zero.  It’s possibly more conspicuous without the country code but that’s not the point.

## I have, of course, emailed Raphael.  I was HOPING he was going to say, oh, yeah, that’s a known glitch, press the zurgle button and tell it to flamboodle the dorkomart and it’ll be fine.  That’s not what he said.  He said, what?

Kill Steve Jobs.  Oh, wait, phooey, that won’t work.

+ If they put more money into organic farming and non-fossil-fuel energy sources and less into weapons development and finding new ways to avoid letting people have their civil rights I would feel a little better about this.

† I should have washed it, but let’s not get carried away.

†† No fooling.

††† Not to mention scraping hellhounds off the ceiling when the eaves at the cottage insist on wailing like women who have lost their demon lovers.^  One salient difference between hellhounds and hellterror:  hellhounds try to wedge themselves under (or over) the front door to get away from the kitchen door that is making that terrible coming-to-get-us^^ noise.  The hellterror trots interestedly straight for the kitchen door and puts her nose to the corner that is causing the row.  She did me a favour, in fact, because it seemed to me, standing up at human height, that the noise was coming from the top corner, not the bottom one, but wedging the top didn’t do much.  But it turns out I can just about stop the ululation with a well-placed dustcloth around the bottom corner  . . . but try closing the door accurately on said well-placed dustcloth with the wind hammering at the other side.  Without involving fingers and even more noise. 

^ This winter is not only endless, the frelling storm winds come from the wrong direction.

^^  http://www.amazon.co.uk/product-reviews/B006X0M06I/ref=acr_search_see_all?ie=UTF8&showViewpoints= 1 + The inspiration for Chuck was the previous generation of course, but the hellhounds’ whippet blood is well to the fore when the eaves are howling.

+ It’s on Kindle.  You can download it and read it right now.

Footnote meltdown* and bell ringing

 

Crabbiton, for better or worse, is becoming a fixture of my Thursday nights.**  And I was thinking tonight, as I made a complete squishy overdone dog’s dinner of a touch of St Simons doubles***, that I’m beginning to remember how much fun bell ringing is, even when you’re being hopeless.†  I’m also beginning to brandish a tiny amount of autonomy.  I have a habit of staying off the bigger bells in any tower however light the ring is overall, where even the big bells aren’t very, because I’m such a jerky ringer.  Bells are a lot bigger than you are, even the little ones, and you have to ring with grace and discretion or they will get the better of you.  You can recover from ringing idiocy by violent yanking to some extent on the littler bells.  The heavier the bell, however, the faster it will embarrass a tactless ringer, and genuinely big bells are only rung by good ringers.  I am not a good ringer.  Crabbiton is a light six but I’ve still been cringing around front.††  Last week I decided it was time to stop being quite such a little old lady.  Okay, so I made another mess of ringing up the six tonight†††, I made a dive for it anyway when Wild Robert called for plain hunt on six.  I’d successfully rung a few touches on the five, and plain hunt does require you to move your bell down to the front and back up again but there’s none of that dreadful dodging business, I should be able to do this for pity’s sake.  And while there was a good deal of Wild Robert saying things like ‘keep the six moving along’, ie go faster, which is hard when you over-pull, which I do, because that’s a bigger bell you’re wrestling with the inertia of, I did stay in place.  And it was weirdly exhilarating, tackling another aspect of my less than fabulous ringing skill,‡ and it made me think about handling, which is a good thing to do.‡‡

So I was chirping cheerfully about this at the pub, about what is essentially relearning stuff I used to know, but in my case, possibly because I’m such a slow learner about most things, relearning is usually a good thing because I learn more the second, or third or fourth or seventeenth, time through.

On the learning of bell ringing however there is only one focus of interest for Niall, and I found myself discussing learning frelling handbells again.  He referred to some pronouncement by one of the stars in the handbell-ringing firmament and I made Rude Noises.  He is a nasty man, I said, after you and Colin dragged me through a couple of quarters of bob minor he kept asking when I was going to ring a peal.  I AM NOT GOING TO RING A PEAL.

There was a silence.

You could ring a peal of bob minor dead easy now, said Niall insinuatingly.  Now you’ve rung a couple of quarters of bob major.

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO.

To be continued.  I fear.

* * *

* It’s because I’m ringing too many handbells.  TOO MANY HANDBELLS.  MY BRAIN CAN’T TAKE THE STRAIN.  AAAAAAAAUGH.

** I drive.  Niall buys the beer at the pub after.  HE FORGOT HIS MONEY TONIGHT.  I HAD TO DRIVE AND BUY THE BEER. ^

^ As I told him however, having first exercised my inner cow by doing shock-horror-flounce, given the amount of driving he’s done in support of my ringing progress+ I probably owe him a few beers.  1,000,000 or so.

+ A few weeks ago, for example, handbells at Gillian’s house, I didn’t know Hampshire had that much back of beyond, and little twisty confusingly-mapped# roads that always have tractors coming at you around blind, one-car-wide corners.  Of course this was for handbells.  If it weren’t for the whips and chains## I could have stayed home.###

# It would almost be worth finally making up my tiny mind~ and buying a satnav~~ to take it out there and watch it weep.  I could be wrong, but I bet it would say TURN AROUND!  TURN AROUND!  GIVE ME STREET LIGHTS AND MOBILE PHONE MASTS!  AAAAAAAAAUGH! 

~ The money Peter gave me to buy one is long gone on books/music/yarn/All Stars/chocolate

~~Niall doesn’t need satnav in pursuit of handbells.  He can smell a handbell ringer two counties over.

## Don’t let that mild-mannered exterior fool you.  Niall is FIERCE in pursuit of handbells.  FIERCE.  Tigers have nothing on Niall when he has his handbell bag out.  And it’s always out.~  I have an American friend coming through next week and I’m going to take her tower ringing.  It’s so, you know, exotic, and she reads the blog.  I told Niall about her since I’m hoping to, ahem, rope him into this adventure and his immediate reaction was, is there time to start her on handbells?

~ There are rumours of mysterious disappearances in his part of town and the sound of handbells and moaning at strange hours.=

= Of course in my part of town there are stories of an elderly woman with wild hair and All Stars carrying a series of large lumpy pink knapsacks and accompanied by a series of furry four-legged creatures of the night whom she cajoles with such phrases as, I don’t care if you are a stomach on four short little legs you may not eat that . . . ewwww . . . whatever it is, and, I don’t care if you’re entire males you do not have to pee every five feet I want to get home before dawn.%

% Preferably.  This doesn’t always happen.  Especially lately with, you know, spring looming and longer days and everything.  Street Pastors and Sams£ are really ruining my ability to get back out of bed in the morning.

£ Although no one’s holding a gun to my head and making me sign up for late shifts.  I have a Dr Strangelove hand.  It . . . must . . . press . . . late shift buttons.

###  Gillian must have a private helicopter pad~.  I can’t believe she drives everywhere.

~ And one doodah of a private income

*** The frelling bobs are the same simple-minded bobs as for plain bob doubles, the frelling method you frelling started with!!  What is my FRELLING PROBLEM!!!!^

^ My frelling problem is that it’s a different basic method, so the bobs are stuck into the course line slightly differently.  Just enough to derail someone like me who doesn’t actually count to five+ very reliably.

+ ‘Doubles’ means five working bells.  ONLY FIVE.  Amazing the amount of mayhem a mere five bells can get up to.  Apparently there are a lot of us numerically challenged ringers who can’t count to five.

† Mind you I’d just successfully called my baby touch of Grandsire doubles and for the second week in a row like I actually knew it or something.^  There are drawbacks to success with Wild Robert around.  Hmm, he said, we’ll have to teach you another touch.

^ Last week everyone just tied up their ropes and wandered away which is what usually happens at the end of a touch.  I WANTED PRAISE.  I WANTED PEOPLE TO TELL ME HOW CLEVER I AM.  I said this to Niall over our beer afterward.  This week there was applause.  Led by Niall.

†† Although I don’t much like Crabbiton’s treble—the littlest bell—either because it’s so little I tend inadvertently to try and spring it out of the tower.  See:  jerky ringer.

††† I GOT MY HAND THROUGH A LOOP OF THE ROPE AND COULDN’T GET IT OUT AGAIN.  You can’t finish ringing up unless you let all your loops out.  So I either had to sort it or undergo the utter humiliation of ringing back down again, extricating myself, and ringing up in Grisly Solitude.  I did get my hand out without ringing down, but I was still late getting up with the other bells.  Arrrrrgh.  Wasn’t I saying something about fun?  What was I saying about fun?

‡ I survived two plain courses of Stedman doubles with two of the other bells going adrift.  This may count more than calling a touch of Grandsire.

‡‡ I was also feeling a little self-conscious because one of the Forza ringers was there and gazed at me as you might say inquiringly, because in theory I belong to the Forza band and haven’t been there I think by now over a year.  Erm, I squeaked, I’ve been ringing here lately because it’s, you know, casual, and, um, low key.  Lots of Grandsire doubles.  Only six bells.  Rather than forty-seven.  Aglovale nodded gravely.  Arrrgh.  Eeep.  I suppose I could turn up at Forza practise some week. . . .

Tech rules. Not okay! Not okay!!!

 

It’s bad enough that I have a brain that . . . well, if you put my brain at one end of the Spectrum of Deadly Danger and a berserker regiment in a nasty temper all bearing freshly-sharpened weapons of individual destruction at the other end, and then tried to decide where a peanut butter sandwich on Wonder bread should be placed . . . it would go nearer the berserker regiment end than the my-brain end, all right?  Which this paragraph goes some considerable way toward proving.

So if I forget something important it’s ALWAYS likely that it’s my own stupid disintegrating fault because I am a frelling nincompoop and I drop things constantly* and my brain is made of guacamole.**  Which is to say I DO NOT NEED ANY HELP FROM MY TECHNOLOGY ABOUT SCREWING STUFF UP.

Which of course has no impact on present circumstances whatsoever.  Pooka keeps insisting that she hasn’t been backed up to The Cloud in years***, so much so that pretty much everything I do on her—text, for example—suffers from extreme pop-up-box-itis, something like this:  Hi, are you—BACK ME UP! BACK ME UP! BACK ME UP!—free for the dinosaur safari—BACK ME UP! BACK ME UP! BACK ME UP NOW!—next week?  If we—BACK MEEEEEEE UUUUUUUUUP—book now we get a free slushie and a Tyrannosaurus Rex—AREN’T YOU PAYING ATTENTION?  I NEED TO BE BACKED UP BEFORE THE HELLTERROR EATS YOUR LAPTOP†—hatband—YOU’LL BE SORRRRREEEEEE ABOUT ALL THOSE UPDATED FILE EMAILS YOU FORGOT TO SEND YOURSELF†† IF YOU DON’T BACK ME UP.†††

Interspersed in these merry japes also are sporadic demands for my Apple ID password.  I’m really tired of Apple’s The World Is At Risk By Our Greatness attitude which means they won’t let you reuse a password because WE ALL MIGHT GET HACKED BY PURPLE TENTACLES FROM BETELGEUSE but I would put up with this better if they didn’t periodically decide they don’t like my password and demand I come up with a new one.  I used to think this was just my idiot fingers typing ‘Agamemnon’ when I meant ‘Clytemnestra’ but no.  Apple clearly produces ALGORITHMS demanding new passwords at intervals that sure come across as random to people like me.

A new low in my tech relationships was reached this past week.  One of the things the Sams don’t go out of their way to warn you about when you sign up is that they will be requiring certain admin duties out of you as well as all those hours on telephones.  I had an Admin Duty spell this last week which necessitated the sending of emails to massed ranks of Sams.  I had laboured particularly over one such email, bent over the Aga and a cup of very strong tea with the iPad on my knee, hit ‘send’ and . . . NOTHING HAPPENED.  AAAAAAAAUGH.  The iPad gets lonely if it doesn’t get to keep a few emails all to itself.  And it likes to collect unsent emails.  You the helpless suffering human get the ‘server failure’ notice, the email disappears, the little box at the bottom of your email screen adds one to the ‘unsent’ total . . . but you can’t rescue the email and, I don’t know, resend or anything, because it doesn’t get stashed anywhere sensible like your outbox.  IT’S PROBABLY LURKING IN THE CLOUD.

And did I tell you that the last time I actually managed to hang a blog post, this from the ultralapbooktop, Microsoft in its infinite unwise bad attitude informed me that it wanted to do an update, and it wanted to do it now, but I could postpone if I wanted . . . so I postponed AND IT SHUT ME DOWN ANYWAY WITHOUT WARNING ABOUT TEN MINUTES LATER.  I HAD TIME TO EAT A LOT OF WALLPAPER BEFORE IT TURNED ITSELF BACK ON AGAIN, AND WHEN I CLIMBED BACK INTO THE ADMIN SIDE OF THE BLOG, SNAPPING AND SNARLING, I DISCOVERED THAT ABOUT A TENTH OF THE TEXT HAD LEFT FOR PARTS UNKNOWN TAKING WITH IT MOST OF THE PUNCTUATION AND ALL THE FORMATTING.

I may not have told you.  I was too busy trying to prevent my head from exploding.

Maybe I should just go bell ringing more often. . . .

* * *

* Ask the hellterror.  Fortunately she thinks it’s a game.  —Oooh!, she says, leaping up on her little bedspring legs and punching me enthusiastically in the gut with her forepaws.^  Do that AGAIN!

^ I know.  I am a Bad Owner.  I permit this.  But I think having her pogosticking about the place is amusing.  She does know ‘off’ but she hears it relatively rarely and it doesn’t slow her down much.   When I try to enforce it she looks at me with an expression of ‘I have to long sit before my last PALTRY snack of the evening+ and now THIS?’  Bullies’ faces aren’t built for looking long-suffering but she has a really good try.

+ She does too.  Three to five minutes depending on how patient I’m feeling#.  She’s got her harness and lead off and the gate is open and NOTHING BUT SELF RESTRAINT is preventing her from bolting into her crate and snarfing like crazy.  ::haphazard owner beams with pride::

There really is a lot to be said for food oriented hellcritters.  They are so . . . trainable.  Said training may be a long, bloody, and hoarse-making process but it’s POSSIBLE.  I get bombarded with a variety of Dog Media because I contribute tiny sums to a number of critter charities and they’re always frenziedly updating you as a flimsy disguise for begging for more money, and they frequently offer you clever suggestions for Training Interactions with Your Resident Hellcritter(s).   And they’re ALL frelling based on FOOD REWARDS.  I was particularly offended by one that fell through the mail slot just a day or two ago, since the illustrations included a whippet clearly getting into the whole food-treat thing.  It was a bull terrier with leg extensions and a mask.

# And/or how many knots I’ve got in the laces of my All Stars.  There is a rant to be ranted about the varying LENGTHS of the laces that over the years come with your pretty much standard-shaped All Stars.  Some seasons they’re so frelling long I could tie the hellmob to them and dispense with leads.  Some seasons they’re so dranglefabbing short you have to omit the last two or three pairs of holes to get them tied at all.

** I perceive a theme.^  I didn’t realise I was hungry.  MORE CHOCOLATE.  More chocolate is the answer.  More chocolate usually is the answer.  As the kitchen magnet says, Chocolate is the answer.  What was the question?

^ Also:  guacamole is far less dangerous than peanut butter.  You might want to make a note.

*** Do I want to be backed up to The Cloud?  The thing about little pieces of paper is that you’re pretty sure they’re here somewhere.  Explanations about what The Cloud is or how it works or where anything in it actually is involves the dreaded word ‘algorithms’.  I am allergic to the ‘a’ word.  Just frelling typing it makes my fingertips hurt.^

^ Although that may also have something to do with recent close encounters of an unfortunate kind with hellmob-comestible-chopping implements.

† Ultrabook.  It’s not ultra and it’s not a book.  Grrrrrr.

†† Although anything I’ve actually done on Pooka’s Lilliputian keyboard will be illegible anyway^ so the backing up of gibberish is perhaps more of a matter of principle than practicality.

^ Note that being in a texting relationship with me is not all joy.  Not only can’t I type what I mean to be typing, but I have a sometimes unique McKinley take on acceptable abbreviations.

††† Speaking of the hellterror, texting on Pooka lately is a lot like trying to do anything with a hellterror in my lap.^  HI.  I’M HERE.  I’M IN YOUR LAP.  Yes.  I had noticed.  LET’S PLAY A GAME.  No, let’s not.  You’re supposed to lie there quietly.  That’s the deal about laps.  Lying quietly.  SURE.  I’LL LIE QUIETLY.  LET’S PLAY A LYING QUIETLY GAME.  YOU DON’T MIND IF I PUT MY FOREPAWS ON YOUR SHOULDERS AND LICK YOUR GLASSES, DO YOU?  I’LL DO IT QUIETLY.

^ And anyone who thinks there is perhaps a hellterror bias going on?  Well, yes.  This month it will be a year since the hellhounds went on this drug that more or less holds back the chronic geysering but also stops them eating pretty much altogether.  I don’t know if it destroys their appetite or makes them queasy but the truth is I don’t care.  I’ve been forcefeeding them, oh, 85-100% of the time for a year and you could say our relationship has suffered.  You could say that.  Yes, you could say that with some energy.

Sigh.

Just a day like any other . . .

 

. . . only more annoying.  Thanksgiving in England.  Feh.  COMPUTERS.  GINORMOUS ERUPTING ARRRRRGH WITH LOTS OF BOILING LAVA.  And maybe a fire-god or two.  And Boadicea—she’s supposed to have flaming red hair, right?—and the scything knives on her chariot.*  What’s the computer version of a red-haired warrior queen with whizzing chopper blades on her war-chariot’s wheels and a really really bad attitude toward her overlords?  I NEED THIS.  WHATEVER IT IS.   I NEED IT BADLY.  I NEED IT NOW.

Peter and I did manage to go out for dinner—I know, we should have been at home slaving over a whole series of hot, speaking of hot, cooking aids, including the wooden spoon you accidentally left in the whatever and which is beginning to give off a pleasant fragrance of charring wood, but—why?  Christmas will be here soon enough.**  Never mind my confusingly American-sounding accent, my passport, and my place of birth:  I’m British.  I find Thanksgiving quaint, and, with my digestion, superfluous.  Another good reason to live in England.  Tick that box.

But we didn’t go out to dinner to celebrate, if in a non-traditional way, because it was Thanksgiving.  We went out to dinner because we were supposed to go out for tea, only I missed.  I got to bed late even for me*** thanks to one of my duty shifts running over time, and when I finally staggered out of bed again I ENTIRELY FORGOT that I was supposed to be ringing Raphael so he could do his Remote Meddling and yank the latest diabolical computer miseries† back into some temporary but functional alignment†† . . . until I’d already had the first necessary injection of caffeine, and had tried to turn a computer on . . . ARRRRRGH.

By the time Raphael had returned from rappelling down the side of the Post Office Tower††† I was too late to go out for tea.  But we went out for dinner.   Which was really better anyway since you don’t usually get champagne at tea time.

* * *

* I could have put Kes in a chariot . . . maybe in book twelve or sixteen or something.

There is a surprising paucity of really satisfactory images of Boadicea, considering she’s one of the few major historical heroines around.   I was looking for one with impressive, you know, gauntlets, which might conceivably be magical bracelets, with or without rose embellishments.  There aren’t any that I can find after poking around in the usual places via Google:

http://www.magnoliabox.com/art/552566/will-you-follow-me-men-c61-ad

Hey, lady, anything you say, if you stop waving that kitchen knife at me.

http://www.magnoliabox.com/art/567252/westminster-bridge-monument-london

Um, how are they steering those horses?  Telepathy?

** I spent one ENTIRE EVENING this week when I could have been, I don’t know, writing a blog post or something, on-line ordering frelling they-deliver pot plants to go to the members of the Dickinson clan it would be the most embarrassing if I forgot entirely (again) . . . I mean, I don’t forget, I just don’t get around to, you know, organising the final dash to the holiday finish line . . .  including having got so far as buying things like calendars and tins of biscuits WHICH WILL HAVE GONE OUT OF DATE by the time I unearth them next year because I didn’t get them WRAPPED AND SENT LAST YEAR.  Anybody want a decorative tin of stale biscuits?  I can occasionally recycle the calendar photos which are often . . . oh, roses or something.  And may I just remark that that venerable British manufacturing icon, Blu Frelling Tack^, is not worth its reputation.  Sure, it’s reusable.  It’s reusable up to and including the 1,000,000,000th time something has fallen off the wall/the back of the refrigerator^^/the side of the cupboard/the edge of the bookshelf, etc, that it was supposedly glomped onto by Blu Tack.  I have other things to do with my time than resticking. ^^^

^ Why not Blue Tack or Blu Tak?   Blu Tack merely looks confused and indecisive. +

+ Hums an old American folk song and does not make any obvious remarks about British politicians.

^^ which is much more attractive covered in calendar cut-out photos of roses

^^^ Laundry, for example.  The INSUFFICIENT advantage of washing hellmob bedding every two or three days is that the critter hair problem is much reduced+.  Well, sort of.  The ambient hair level is definitely lower, as is the amount I claw out of the washing machine after every critter load.  But it means that EVERYTHING I OWN that gets washed in the machine now has some critter hair in it.  Yes, I run a quick cold wash after the mob stuff comes out, but that’s like using a broom to sweep off snow-laden steps that you’ve already tramped up and down several times.  I used to be able to sort of stagger post-critter-washes so the jeans took the worst, and then the sweatshirts and outer layers and finally . . . hmmm.  I’m here to tell you that I haven’t found a clothes brush yet—including those disposable sticky-tape ones and the little pads that are like a cross between velvet and Velcro—that works worth a damn on your underwear.

Meanwhile . . . I began Flea Protocol #7,243,006 today.  SIIIIIIIIGH.  One of the reasons I’m posting less often lately is that I’m frelling reading everything I can get my gnarly hands on about . . . well, about parasites generally, at this point, and about immune system strengtheners and blah blah blah, to give me more ideas about what else to try for fleas.  The fact that there’s a huge amount of controversy and conflict and contradictory PROOF [sic] about what is safe to use is not helping.  Maybe I could just bore the ugly little sods into going somewhere else?  . . . Oh God guys here she comes again.  I just want to suck blood in peace, what is her PROBLEM? We’re so tiny—she’d never have to know we’re here—all 1,000,000,000,000,000,000 of us.  Okay mates we’re gonna hide behind this ear—NO NO SHE’S GOING FOR THE EARS.  One of the advantages of naturally comatose++, plasticine+++ hellhounds is that you can roll them around and rub whatever into their fur, including all their private bits, any way you like.  As long as it doesn’t involve swallowing anything it’s all attention, and it’s all good.  The hellterror is also perfectly happy to be rolled around, but she tends to want to engage with the game WILL YOU HOLD STILL YOU THING.  ARR-ARR-ARR-ARR, says happy engaged hellterror.

+ I still want to know whose brilliant idea it was to design the front-loader part of a front-loading washing machine to accumulate dirty water, critter hair, tiny shreds of unidentifiable gubbins and really unpleasant semi-dissolved yuck, in the un-get-at-able bottom of the door, defended by several heavy, uncooperative folds of rubber tubing.  Which is apparently still standard over here, including the greater European Union, since both my last was and my current washing machine is, German#.  My not-very-new-any-more washing machine gets very mixed reviews from me;   not only is the front-loading door familiar in all the wrong ways,  its filter is emergency only and you must approach it by precision serial usage of several Special Tools and the manual suggests sacrificing a black cockerel at the new moon as well, although advice about how to predict which new moon is the one heralding more-than-the-usual filter anguish does not seem to be included.

# Different brands.  I try to make different mistakes.

++ Except, of course, outdoors, if there is a prospect of SOMETHING TO CHASE.  Although Chaos did manage to slam into a cupboard once back at the mews because he saw a mouse amble across the floor.

+++ Or possibly Fawn, Charcoal and Tri-Colour Tack

*** I bring the hellmob back to the cottage from Third House sequentially, hellhounds first and hellterror second.  I looooove the new system, by the way, because the Last Hurtle of the Day is built in, without recourse to Wolfgang, and can be any length I/we choose, depending on energy levels, the way the day/night has gone thus far, what is going to jump on me from a dark corner in the day to come, and a variety of other factors, lately chiefly the heaviness of the RAIN.^  Wednesday night I was coming back, as mentioned above, um, rather spectacularly late, which is to say, um, dawn, and noodling along not paying attention to anything much while Pav investigated every leaf, shadow and discarded crisp packet . . . and WE SUDDENLY MET ANOTHER WOMAN AND HER DOG.  OOOOOOPS.  The other woman and I looked at each other in amazement.  I never see anyone else out at this hour! she said.  Erm, I said, neither do I—failing to mention that I hadn’t been to bed yet.  She had all the irritating glitter of the early riser about her.

^ Have I mentioned that fleas like warm and wet and that one of the things that haunts me is the possibility that this unprecedented invasion is a front runner of global warming?  And I’m really looking forward to the return of malaria to southern England.  Not.

† The beginning of the week I had no email for nearly two days.  The middle of the week I had no internet for nearly two days.  I’ve been doing a lot of knitting.^

And my new kit—ultrabook and iPad Air—was supposed to be here by the end of this week so Raphael could install it next week AND GUESS WHAT IT’S FRIDAY NIGHT AND I HAVEN’T HEARD ANYTHING.

^ Which I promise or, if you prefer, threaten, will be the topic of a blog post soon.

†† This process is seriously disconcerting.  I turn on the gizmo programme from my end, it goes SHAZZAM!!!, my screen turns midnight-blue and suddenly Raphael, from however many miles away, is invisibly moving my mouse around and opening and shutting my files and my browser(s) and . . . eeeeep.

††† See, there was this peregrine nest dangling over the gruntzenjam ventilator of the main computer scorbovarg, and the operators all cried in one voice, RAPHAEL!^

^ He used a rope to keep up appearances.  An archangel hovering beside the Post Office Tower in central London would definitely cause a traffic jam.

 

 

Blocked at every turn

 

The charity gang that were taking away all our surplus furniture finally came today. Either they’re a very popular charity or their lorries break down a lot.*  Or both, I suppose.  But the situation was made unnecessarily exciting by my penchant for living on cul de sacs.  I’d asked the lorry guys to ring me fifteen minutes before they arrived to give me time to get down to the mews and let them in.  They rang.  Fifteen minutes, they said.  I stuffed the hellhounds in their harnesses, shoved the hellterror’s breakfast, ready made against this moment, into her crate and her after it, not that the shoving of a hellterror toward foooooood is required, and the hellhounds and I bolted up to Third House to fetch Wolfgang . . . and found the end of the cul de sac comprehensively full of large flatbed lorry delivering pallet after pallet after pallet of . . . I don’t know, buildery stuff, with reference to the fact that the row of Tiny But Desirable Cottages that abut the churchyard seem to be in a state of permanent renovation.  The one on the end had barely swept up its last skip’s worth of brick and cement dust when one of the ones in the middle ripped out all its insides and started over.  Arrrgh.

So I spun round the footpath corner toward my driveway and AAAAAAAUGH.  I rushed up to the bloke overseeing the latest pallet swaying earthwards on its giant hoist and said in a frantic voice, I HAVE TO GET MY CAR OUT!!!!  And he looked at me and said, We’ll move, ma’am—perhaps there are advantages to being a little old lady:  blokes don’t like to see us cry—and they did. Mind you, getting something that carries 1,000,000,000 pallets and a giant hoist doesn’t move very fast, and I was a few minutes late . . . but so was the charity lorry.  And we were all somewhat bemused by the labyrinth of scaffolding we had to make our way through because they’re painting the Big Pink Blot again**.

While the two guys from the charity were wrestling furniture that must come out since it certainly went in I prepared to load up Wolfgang, around the hellhounds, for a quick sprint to the dump, since empty houses extrude junk and a corner you perfectly well know was empty the last time you had a sweep (so to speak) through has six boxes and a broken lamp in it this time.  The charity guys eventually solved their problems of practical geometry and went their way two double beds and some miscellaneous doodads the better and the hellhounds and I went ours to the dump . . . where the way was BLOCKED by an even MORE gigantic lorry with an even MORE gigantic hoist, lifting in one of those massive small-country-sized skips that town dumps use.  ARRRRRRRRRGH.  I hadn’t packed Wolfgang at all carefully—for one thing I’m a little cross about the empty-house-extrusion thing—and I didn’t think it was going to matter for long that when I opened the passenger door there would be an avalanche . . . or that the hellterror’s travelling crate is full of superfluous kitchen gear for the dump shop.

So in this cranky and unalleviated state we went back to the cottage long enough to . . . NO WE DIDN’T. BECAUSE THERE WAS ANOTHER FRELLING LORRY UNLOADING MORE BUILDERY STUFF FOR ANOTHER RENOVATION PROJECT THAT IS GOING ON FOREVER ON THE COTTAGE CUL DE SAC AND SAID LORRY AND ITS LOAD WERE ENTIRELY BLOCKING THE WAY.

Some days you should just stay in bed with a few good books and some knitting.***

* * *

* This may be part of their training programme. They offer apprenticeships to street people to learn money-earning skills.  I think mechanics is one of the choices.  So maybe the trainers sneak into the lorry-fleet garage in dark of night and yank a few wires and drill a few holes and put antifreeze in the petrol tanks to make sure their course will be popular.

** Since it was a four-hour slot I would not have made her wait that long if they’d come at the end instead of the beginning.  But the domestic fauna are not having a good time right now because Pav is in bloody [sic] season so she’s locked up more than usual and the hellhounds . . . have stopped eating again.^  She’s in her second week which is usually when the hellhounds start moaning. I had PLANNED that when the moaning became tedious^^ I’d stash hellhounds in the sitting room or the attic at Third House and leave her to emit hormonal fug in her crate in the dining room,  and probably leave her there overnight since they’re all in the kitchen at the cottage.^^^ But we are also having the absolute worst season for fleas I’ve seen in a quarter century so while I’m frantically trying to get it under control there’s not as much wandering about the house(s) as normal as a kind of despairing attempt at damage control.  I won’t use the standard chemicals, they’re frelling poisonous, they make some dogs sick—ask me how I know this—and they don’t even always frelling work.  If I’m going to fail to eradicate fleas I’d rather do it without toxic side-effects.  Meanwhile the list of ‘natural’ flea extermination methods, thanks to in depth on line research, gets longer and longer and longer and longer and more and more time-consuming and expensive# . . . and we still have fleas.  So the ways in which the indoor wildlife and their hellgoddess are currently not having a good time are many-splendored.  Remind me why I have dogs?##

^ Fifty percent is a good average.  I try not to complain if they eat one and a half of their three meals.  I start losing the will to live (again) when they stop altogether.

^^ This takes about seven minutes.

^^^ If the hellhounds’ sexual appetite rates with their interest level in food this probably explains why I’m getting away with having three entire creatures of two genders in a relatively small space at all.+ But simply putting them in separate rooms stops the moaning++ and while I’m very grateful I’m also surprised since, you know, dogs have a tediously discerning sense of smell and can nail the precise location of that dead hedgehog/rat/squirrel while you’re only just registering ‘ew—dead thing somewhere in the vicinity.’  I’d’ve thought hormonal fug would be fairly penetrating, if you’ll forgive the term.

+ Although Pav is not noticeably more besotted with the hellhounds than she ever is—which is extremely, just by the way—and her interest in FOOOOOOOOD is in no doubt whatsoever.

++Mostly.

# The only thing that slows them down from chewing holes in themselves is a neem-oil based salve that costs £20 for a tiny little pot.

## And the NOISE the hellterror makes while she is Slurping Her Inflamed Parts is enough to . . . enough to . . . ARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRGH.

** What’s it going to be this go? Maroon?  Mint green?  Why don’t they just leave it pink?  I think the co-op admin doesn’t have enough to do with its time or its AGMs.

*** KNITTING. ARRRRRRGH. No, I’ll tell you about it some other post. . . . ^

^ But Fiona and I did have a lovely yarn adventure yesterday. And I haven’t told her this yet but if you count the yarn I bought last night off the internet I did spend more money than she did.  The thing is, there’s this line . . . never mind which line . . . that I’m quite fond of for reasons of EXTREME AND LURID COLOUR, and this shop had a lot of it, so I fondled a great deal of it and bought some, but was Juiced Up with Desire for More by this tactile experience+ and, while we were sitting around knitting over supper, my mind would keep reverting to the knowledge that several of the more intense colourways were on sale on one of my deplorably regular yarn sites . . . colourways that were in fact not available in the shop we’d been to.  I hope you can follow my thought (?) processes here.  BECAUSE I had SUPPORTED MY LYS++ I therefore deserved to buy some of what they hadn’t had that was on sale. You get that, right?  Yes.

+ LIKE I NEED MORE YARN.  LIKE I FRELLING NEED MORE YARN.

++ Local Yarn Shop/Store, for those of you unafflicated by the knitting mania

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