May 10, 2015

Shadows is here!

The Once and Future Blog*




* * *

I have started and restarted and re-re-re-restarted this blog post any number of times in the last fortnight and become variously distracted and imbroglio’d** and then at blurglemmph o’clock decided (again) that sleep was possibly more crucial than getting it finished.  And in terms of immediate preoccupations late on a Saturday night, like, now, I have another voice lesson on Monday, and it might be quite a good idea if I went to it WITH SOMETHING TO SING, especially since Nadia recently said briskly that I should increase my practise time and never mind that I think that being the Mad Singing Lady out with the hellmob counts.***  A fortnight ago, after this alarming statement, I came home and rootled anxiously through my extraordinary amounts of sheet music, 99.3% of which is pure and unsullied and the remaining .7% is dog-earned, written on, liberally tea†-spotted and only half-learnt.  But:  Mozart.  When in doubt, Mozart.   

Which pertains to some of the following.  The problem is that both verb tenses and footnotes get a trifle provocative . . . not to say hopelessly confusing . . . when written on the run over a period of time.  Even I can become only so disastrously tangential over the course of one evening. . . .

Therefore the following may be even more incomprehensibly non-linear than usual.  I know.  Mind boggling.  I’ll wait if you want to fetch smelling-salts (or Scotch) to have at hand before you make any attempt to engage with this misleadingly text-shaped object.  Good luck.

* * *

* I am reading H IS FOR HAWK^ and T H White is kind of on my mind.

^ So are you, right?  Everyone is reading H IS FOR HAWK.+

+ Which is a very good book.  But since everyone is reading it nobody needs to be told to read it.  Everyone should be reading MS MARVEL which is spectacularly wonderful in so many ways.  Now, everyone may be reading this too and it may just be that I am humiliatingly out of the loop# but even I had heard of H IS FOR HAWK before I made a pact with Hannah that we’d both read it so we could talk about it and I had not heard of MS MARVEL till I tripped over raving, lunatic mention of it on some drooling feminist blog or other and thought oh, okay.  A Muslim kick-ass comic-book heroine?  Yep.  I’m totally there.    

I’ve just been saying to my monk I am so ratblasted TIRED of the gender wars.  And turning Christian has thrown me into a whole seizure of fresh front lines about this since, of course, the origins of Christianity ARE HEAVILY FRELLING PATRIARCHAL and we’re still fighting this battle two thousand years later.  I don’t care what the Ephesian thugs say, or that frellwit Paul##, the head of me is me and not some up-himself bloke. 

But if you’re a woman in a male-biased society you can’t, you know, pass.  You’re a woman all the time.  You’re up against it ALL.  THE.  TIME.  When I was younger I had only two settings about this:  ON.  And OFF.  My younger ON was extremely, um, draining, so I would periodically flip the switch and lapse into a black leather, studs and pink All Stars haze of apparent submissive femininity, and if any testosterone dingdong wanted to assume the wrong thing so long as he kept it to himself I would not endeavour to hand him his balls on a plate.###  Because it was all going to change, you know?  It was going to CHANGE.

This runs parallel to my foolish assumption that by the time I was the age I am now we’d’ve got the available heroines in books thing sorted.~  My generation of writers was going to sort this.  I wasn’t too surprised~~ about the initial deluge of OHMIGOD A HEROINE WHO ISN’T WET AND HOPELESS about Harry in SWORD . . . I’m depressed out of my tiny aging mind that forty years later I’M STILL GETTING THESE LETTERS.  Or emails.  There are more genuine heroines out there . . . but there aren’t enough.  THERE AREN’T ANYTHING LIKE ENOUGH.  And the unconscious—or anyway I hope the doodah it’s unconscious—chauvinism about men’s and women’s writing . . . don’t get me started.~~~

But the point is I didn’t think the gender wars would have come so not far in the last forty-odd years.  I’M BORED.  I’M BORED WITH ALL THE STUPIDITY.  And I’m driven spare by being dropped about two thousand years back in social-equality time . . . WOMEN IN THE MINISTRY SHOULDN’T EVEN BE A PHRASE LET ALONE AN ISSUE.

Oh, and on the unassailable perfection and clarity of Scripture, here concerning the sacrament of marriage?

. . . At least having just had a state-of-the-world tantrum at my monk I was a little bit extra warm.  Afterward I went to the monks’ chapel for the Saturday evening silent contemplation before the prayer service.  It’s the middle of May, it’s shirtsleeve weather, I didn’t bring my blanket, how cold can it be in shirtsleeve weather, I NEARLY FROZE TO DEATH.  Next week I bring the blanket.  And the monk who calls me Blanket Lady may rupture himself laughing. 

# True

## I should add however that I have a curious soft spot for Paul, ranting nincompoop that he often is.  I sure never used to:  he and that toadwart Augustine were two of the flaming angels keeping me out of the holy green room.  But I empathise with the shock of Paul’s conversion experience even if I hadn’t been torturing Christians before I had my own shocking conversion experience.  I see a lot of his more distressing extremes as overcompensation.  I haven’t ever killed anybody so I can overcompensate less. 

### I also had a black boyfriend.  Speaking of passing and not passing.  I could at least jam a fireproof lid over my real attitude and put on a skirt and some pearl-pink lipstick.  If you’re a black man over six feet tall hanging out on the streets of America?  Pass?  Forget it.

A bit like being a Muslim in a Christian-centric society, perhaps.

~ I’m not going to say ANYTHING about the rest of the arts/media.  Film, for example.  ARRRRRRGH.  And the Tate’s summer issue devoted to female artists didn’t do a lot for me either. 

~~ Beyond the—continuing—surprise that strangers read my stories. 

~~~ Looking on the bright side:  the current award-sweeping literary phenomenon, H IS FOR HAWK, is written by a woman.

** Including, but not exclusively, such activities as Twitter, texting, emailing, ordering pink All Stars,^ reading, frantically channelling all that sappy riotous green spring enthusiasm in the garden before the leafage takes over and the hellmob and I can’t get out of either door without a machete, learning more diabolically frelling methods for handbells, Samaritanning, force feeding the blasted hellhounds, plus long bluebell walks and a curious spasm of concerts.  You know how when you book your cultural enrichment programme ahead your diary looks EMPTY?  And then suddenly you find you’re going to fifty-six performances in eight days.  Oops. 


+ And while I was at it I bought a pair of turquoise with red and yellow flowers.  They were on sale, there was a pair in my size, it was meant. 

*** Well, it does count.  It’s just that it counts in terms of coming home all warmed up and ready to practise rather than wasting a lot of time whining about having no voice and what there is of it sounds like a broken buzz saw.  And, unlike singing folk songs and Edwardian parlour ballads to the trees and bluebells, whining is not a good way to warm up. 

† And probably tear-

* * *

If I had any sense I’d break this up into two or even three posts.  There’s enough frelling wordage.  But if I do that I’ll just not get any of it up AGAIN while I try to tidy up the edges.  And fail.  So that when I finally do start posting it’ll be EVEN MORE CONFUSING.*  So don’t read it all at once, okay?  It’ll keep.  So will the Scotch and the smelling salts.

* You wouldn’t want me to WASTE any of it would you?^

^ . . . Don’t answer that.  Please.

* * *

I have rung handbells four times in the last forty eight hours.*  I am brain fried.  I am crazy.** 

But it’s a useful displacement activity.  I also went to an entirely fabulous ‘operatic singing masterclass’ recently enough for my head still to be ringing like an, ahem, bell:  Nadia has mentioned singing masterclasses and festivals and summer schools before that I might be interested in attending as an audience member but they tend to be held in unsuitable places.***  I had all but given up the intriguing fantasy of sitting in the audience at a singing seminar listening to people who can really sing being enlightened and inspired to sing even better and being personally crushed with despair and futility† and swearing to stick to KNITTING hereafter.

Nadia had told me some of the things to listen out for but had also warned me that I wouldn’t necessarily be able to hear either what the tutor heard or what changed for the singer.  It wasn’t going to matter:  it was still going to be a delicious and varied concert by a lot of clever skylarks and nightingales showing off like mad.  But as it happened I did hear.  This was a lot of why it was all so edge-of-seat fascinating.  In a lot of cases I could even guess what the tutor was going choose to work on.

And on balance, and surprisingly, it was more inspiring than it was crushing.  Probably because the stuff that all these talented, fancy people need to work on is still the same stuff that pathetic, talent-free dorks like me also need to work on.  It’s all the same stuff.  We’re all still human beings making music.  Even if they are the shiny dancing racehorses and I’m the three legged Thelwell pony.

* * *

* It’s all Niall’s fault, of course.  How the cross-eyed bindlestiff did I get sucked back into this frelling vortex of HANDBELLS?  And I’m now contributing to the cacophonous plague:  I was talking it up to Vidhya and Ceridwen^ and they were foolish enough to express an interest so Niall and I showed up like a plague of locusts two Saturday mornings bearing handbells and large, toothy grins.^^  Friday evening has been the standard New Arcadia handbell gathering for several years and I used to be a pillar of that community and recently have been becoming more pillar-like again.^^^  Saturday afternoon began as a one off with Niall finding a steady experienced fourth for Spenser and me to ring with, but of course there are no one offs with Niall about handbells. 

Sunday evening was demonic.  Niall knew I was going to church in the afternoon^^^^ and so he said Mwa hahahahahaha, now, as it happens, Titus and I are minus a third ringer tonight and since you’re free. . . .

And so today, Monday, I stayed as far away from all bells and frelling change ringing bell METHODS as possible, right?  Right.  Yes.  Absolutely.  I went tower bell ringing.  At Glaciation.  Haven’t been there in yonks.  It hasn’t got any warmer.  And it took me three tries to get through a frelling single in Stedman doubles SIIIIIIIIIIIGH.^^^^^

^ They’re significantly younger than I am+ and I was probably trying to convince them that getting old doesn’t necessarily mean creeping++ sanity and sobriety+++ and that indeed the pink All Stars are a true reflection of my inner being.++++  Plus bell ringing and singing opera really, really badly.  Really badly.

+ As, mysteriously, increasing numbers of people are

++ you know, like fungus

+++ We were down t’pub at the time.  Just by the way. 

++++ Including the muddy pawprints.  SIIIIIIIGH.  I have a spectacular new pair of REALLY REALLY HOT NEON PINK All Stars# which I was foolishly wearing today hurtling the hellterror by the river and we met an OBVIOUSLY DANGEROUS OTHER DOG## and in tearing her away from her legitimate prey I received major mud activity over most of one leg of pale blue denim and a generous speckly blast worthy of Jackson Pollock over one All Star.  Sigh.### 

# I was down to my VERY LAST PAIR of basic Pepto-Bismol pink. EEEEEEEP.  Had to lay in a couple of spare pairs in case of accidents.~  The problem with this excellent plan is that there are two Basic Pinks presently on offer on line.  So I bought one of each, right?  One of them proves to be the Pepto-Bismol.  The other one is NEON.

~ Invasions of sneaker-eating aliens, etc.  It doesn’t do to be unprepared.

## Clearly a sneaker-eating alien disguised as a harmless terrestrial dog.  Pav is very clued in about these things.

## But the alien slunk away swearing to lead a virtuous life hereafter and convert to donuts. 

^^ It remains to be seen if they’re still speaking to me.

^^^ Possibly caryatid-like.  I identify with that grim stalwart expression of carrying something too large and heavy.  On your head.  Learning frelling bell methods, especially in the geometrically-horrifyingly-enhanced handbell version of said methods, is really very like carrying a large building on your head. 

^^^^ Because I am stupid and have a big mouth.  Usually I go in the evening and it’s a funny thing but Christ wins over handbells.+  But this Sunday afternoon was a special ‘remembrance’ service for friends and family lost in the last year.  I was going for Alcestis and it seemed to me only polite to invite Admetus.  It never occurred to me he’d say ‘yes’.  And when I picked him up HE WAS WEARING A TIE.  I DIDN’T KNOW ADMETUS EVEN OWNED A TIE.  I nearly jumped out of Wolfgang and ran away.

+ Although when the Jesus Is My Boyfriend song selection is at its worst my mind may just drift to Sunday evening handbells.#

# It wasn’t The Little Drummer Boy, you know.  It was The Little Handbell Gang.  I’m not at all sure the baby smiled either.  And it seems to me very likely that Mary said Get these people out of here.    

^^^^^ BUT I DID IT.  It still counts.#

# Edited to add:  I’ve done it since too.  So it still still counts.

** Although I believe these two attributes are frequently found in the same trembling zombie-eyed victim.

*** Most places are unsuitable.  I don’t drive on motorways, I don’t drive for more than about forty-five minutes to get to anywhere at all, and I have a hellhound that needs a pee about every four hours.^  Six on a good day.  I have the impression that the hellmob goes into a state of suspended animation when I leave them all behind:  nothing is going to happen till she gets back.  This is useful in bladder control terms.  If Chaos is keeping a hopeful/suspicious eye on me as I twitch around the house muttering to myself he will need to go out in four hours.

But this is somewhat limiting.  I keep looking at live-opera schedules and homeopathic seminars and sighing heavily.  Because I have so little to keep me busy at home, you know.  But I am not going the dog minder route again ^^.  So I might as well stay home and practise my repertoire.  And continue the tragically hopeless quest for a homeopathic, herbal, behavioural or any other multiply-damned remedy that doesn’t include either barbed chains or hard drugs, that will make the hellhounds eat voluntarily.^^^

^ Bless his pointed little middle-aged prostate but he made it through the masterclass.  They’d frelling printed the frelling tickets wrong:  I thought I was going to have just enough time to, you should forgive the term, hurtle back home and let everyone out during the break, but not a hope.  I tried to convince myself either to miss the first singer after the break or leave before the last but I was too totally riveted by the show.  I told myself that it wouldn’t be the absolute WORST thing that ever happened if I came home to a puddle on the floor.  Or on the wall.+  I leave them locked up in the kitchen at the cottage:  there should be a limit to the amount of damage they can do. 

Anyway I arrived home to dry floors++ but Chaos was very glad to see me. 

+ Ewwwwww.  I can’t remember ever noticing that come-ons for house paint ever mention urine resistant. 

++ And walls.

^^ ::breaks out in a cold sweat of terror::

^^^ Eat? says the hellterror alertly.  FOOOOOOOOD??

† Which is no doubt why I came home and fished out Mozart, since several of the Singers with a Fabulous Future sang Mozart.  Knot those self-flagellation straps.  More knots.  Even more knots.  We will have blood

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.

^^ 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.


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.


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:

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

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.



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