So. I’ve got some wall photos. Remember the wall?
That’s Phineas’ house you’re looking through the hole at, my semi-detached neighbour. The cottage is hidden behind the greenhouse.
I am very short of sleep.
Last night as I was pulling myself together (later than planned, of course) to take myself and the domestic fauna back to the cottage* I noticed that Darkness was licking his lips a lot. This is not a good sign. But I hadn’t seen him swallow anything suspicious before I got there to take it AWAY from him and I wasn’t expecting trouble.
While I was ferrying paraphernalia from kitchen to front door, he threw up—extensively—all over the mat. GREAT. WONDERFUL. I’M SO GLAD I HAVE DOGS.**
I cleaned up, describing aloud all the other things I could be doing with my life if I didn’t have HELLCRITTERS. Then I let hellhounds out. They have a pee and then jump in Wolfgang. We have our final after-midnight hurtle at the cottage after I’ve hauled all the kit indoors again.
Last night Darkness headed for the courtyard gate . . . and kept going. It’s Bloody Silly o’clock in the morning, right? I can’t just yell at him under all Peter’s neighbours’ bedroom windows. So I sprinted after him, stage-whispering violently. He stopped, looked at me . . . and kept going.
I eventually got hold of him, dragged him reluctantly back to Wolfgang, let go . . . and the frelling mutt took off for the gate again. This time, when he let me catch him again, I didn’t let go. I hauled him back through the front door, fetched his and Chaos’ leads, and hooked him up.*** Then we all took off through the gate. We got to the main road . . .
Geysering ensued. I will spare you the graphic details.
I had, after cleaning up the first eruption indoors, given him his first dose of homeopathic Ars Alb, the classic dietary-indiscretion remedy. Darkness will have eaten the end of someone’s tossed-into-the-hedgerow sandwich† or equivalent, which ARRRRRRGH happens now and again. Depending on how severe the expulsions are, I will keep giving him Ars Alb till I can see him stop worrying. He must feel pretty grisly, but he’s also a clean dog and doesn’t like making messes.††
I was up very late, poking Ars Alb into Darkness. Who eventually relaxed. Whereupon we all went to bed.††† Finally.
This morning Darkness, predictably, had what I call colic, which is cacophonous internal rumblings, and which mean in effect that he’s not going to eat and nothing on this earth is going to make him eat. Aaaaaand if he doesn’t eat, by the end of the first day his coat will already be staring and his ribs sticking out and he won’t eat tomorrow either, and . . . Missing even one meal with these guys is an emergency because their digestion is so crazy.
I pulled out the homeopathic Lycopodium. And started poking that into him, waiting to hear the roaring begin to subside. Which it did, eventually. Whereupon he ate lunch—and dinner—and his ribs are rather more prominent than they should be as a result of missing (or losing, depending on how you want to look at it) two meals, probably only I the paranoid and accountable hellgoddess would notice, and he’s bright and shiny-eyed and, I hope, fine.
Homeopathy works. I don’t proselytise for it because I haven’t figured out a good way to do so, a way that I’m happy with. Although most of my friends could tell you I’m a bit of a bore on the subject, and I’m always encouraging people to buy a homeopathic first-aid kit and learn to use it, homeopathy is a very big, complicated subject, and it starts getting big and complicated fast right after ‘Arnica for bruises’. It’s a fascinating study but it can take over your life, and unless you’re very lucky you will have to do it mostly on your own—even if you go to school (I did), even if you keep going to seminars (I still do, although not many lately), still, when you’re away from specific homeopathy-related gatherings, you’re probably winging it the best you can. If you and your friends, family and critters are lucky in your good health, and you only ever have to deal with bruises and strains and the occasional head cold, you’ll have the slack to work out what pattern of remedies works for which person—because homeopathy is all about choosing an individual remedy for an individual person‡, and six people with eczema or hay fever or flu will need six, or twelve, or eighteen different remedies. In a society accustomed to ‘take two aspirin and call me in the morning’ the individual thing makes it look like it doesn’t work. It does work. But finding and prescribing the right remedy at the right time . . . is very often an epic ratbag.
Homeopathy isn’t for everyone. But it is worthy of respect. From everyone.
I have been f*cked over by the medical establishment so many times and in so many ways I admit I’m not entirely sane on the subject. And therefore my hair-trigger about morons taking pot shots at homeopathy is even hairier than my tendency to go nuclear about things generally. I stay alive by avoiding as much of the controversy as I can. ‡‡ But I do belong to a homeopathic mailing list ‡‡‡ and I am aware of the so-called science-based skeptics waving their jousting sticks at us.
So here’s a link to a letter a scientifically-trained homeopath wrote in response to . . . one of those morons. He knows how to argue. He also knows how to call a moron a moron.
* * *
* Which is like moving house . . . every night.
** It is a ratbag when you have promised God to moderate your language at least somewhat AND IT’S BLOODY SILLY O’CLOCK IN THE MORNING SO YOU CAN’T EVEN SHOUT.
*** Pavlova wasn’t happy either. This is not how late nights are supposed to be organised. She’s a member of the team! And they’re leaving her behind!^ Woe! Woe!
^ And the hellgoddess doesn’t even seem disposed to leave a little food to comfort the exile!
† If I ever catch anyone doing this, I will Kill. Them. It also attracts rats, you know? How many ways can you be stupid?
†† He’d like making them even less if he had to clean them up.
††† This morning they couldn’t WAAAAIT to get out of their crate, and I thought oh, pond scum and warthogs, I stopped the Ars Alb too soon after all and there are horrors in that crate. But there weren’t. But the wind was in the north-west, which makes the eaves yodel like banshees, and apparently up off the end of what human ears can hear the hellhounds are being traumatised by goblin bards. So they spent what remained of this morning (and some of the early afternoon) pressed against the dog-gate by the front door and waiting for the world to end.
‡ Or critter. But it’s illegal in the UK to treat any animal but those that belong to you unless you’re a licensed vet.
‡‡ Also I can’t debate/discuss/deliberate to save my life. I’m like, look, read up on it and make your own mind up, okay? Do your homework and leave me alone. I have a lot of reading to do myself.
‡‡‡ Most of them professional. But a lot of us lay homeopaths are lay homeopaths because we can’t find a professional to treat us. You need a bit of an individual fit with your homeopath too.
Last night the frell . . . I mean, the adorable clever obedient hellterror and I had just come indoors from our final struggle of the day for the Domination of the Young Canine Large Intestine and there was the most colossal ROAR—and the house shook. I reverted, as one will do, to an earlier and more blizzardy era and thought eeep, I didn’t think we’d had enough snow for it to come off anyone’s roof like that, and I’m glad the hellterror and I weren’t outside when it happened. There are at least three roofs that slope into my garden*: my own, Phineas’, and the mini-cottage at the end of my detached neighbour’s garden. I reopened the kitchen door cautiously and stepped out. I couldn’t see anything unusual in the dark: it just looked like my garden, covered in somewhat patchy and trodden-on snow. I had to go back indoors briskly because Pavlova was terrorising Darkness again.**
By morning*** I’d forgotten about it. Maybe the new proprietors of the Troll and Nightingale had had a visit from some of the old clientele. And then coming back from hellhound hurtle one of my neighbours said gravely, I’m so sorry about your wall.
WALL? I said. WHAT ABOUT MY WALL? WHAT WALL?
You don’t know? he said, his eyes opening wide and getting all shiny.
TELL ME, I said.
He pointed up the half-flight of outside stairs to my greenhouse. That wall, he said. Between you and Theodora. It’s fallen down.
Yes. It has. There is a gigantic hole ripped out between my garden and Theodora’s, taking the back of my greenhouse with it, and crashing into what used to be her lily pond, of about ten foot square of (ancient) brick and flint wall.
And neither of us had noticed. In her case it’s a little niche-y place next to the mini-cottage and not in straight view of any of her windows, and in my case because my windows all look either front or back and this is to the side, and hidden by my extremely enthusiastic little apple tree.
. . . However, Noble Wolfgang, my seventeen-year-old scion of German automotive engineering, started at the first twitch of the key after three days sitting undisturbed in a snowbank. Looking for the positive here. I need some positive. Waaaaaaaaaaaaaah.†
* * *
* Plus the Blight. The Blight is on the top-ten list for the Ugliest Shed in the Universe, and it sticks up over my wall from one of the grand gardens on the main street. I hate rich people. The richer you are, the more selfish and careless of the hoi polloi you also are. I’m sure there are exceptions.^ But none of them live around here. I can pretty much tell what you’re worth by how much of a jerk you are. Grrrrrr. And one of the non-exceptions has a blightingly ugly shed roof that ruins the view from my office window—but it’s at the far end of their garden so they couldn’t care less. ‘Conservation area’ status—the nonsense that prevented me for several years from cutting down a 900 foot Leylandii at Third House that terrorised the neighbourhood every time there was a wind—only counts if the tourists can see it, whatever it is. I’d be curious to know if my predecessor tried to stop them from building the Blight. It was too late when I moved in.
^ Shovelling acres of money into good causes and new opera productions may get you into heaven, but it doesn’t necessarily make you kind and sympathetic to the lower classes. There are some serious disconnect issues among the unnecessarily well-off.
** We walked home again as a quartet last night. And I find there is a down side even to the potentially excellent possibility of being able to hurtle three hellcritters together occasionally, which is that Pavlova clearly feels that she is GAINING GROUND and SHOULDN’T SHE BE A FULL MEMBER OF THE BAND NOW? No. Next question. —Moaning ensues.
*** I’m trying to roll myself forward so that morning has some practical meaning in my life again. If I’m going to try to start ringing Sunday morning service at New Arcadia again (and, very tentatively, I am), and, more importantly, if I’m ever going to make it to Aloysius’ silent prayer group at 8:30 on Saturday morning—and if I’m going to try to make morning Mass at the monks once a week—I need to get up earlier. A lot earlier.
I told you that Aloysius sent me home with an armful of books on Zen and Christianity, or even Zen Christianity. One of the things everyone seems to say on all sides of all available fences is that you need a community. The pure-Zen lot say the same, and I know my experience of sitting at the zendo in Maine supports that. Granted that I started sitting zazen because I was having a very bad stretch of life, but however rosy and pink your personal circumstances, you are going to do better in company.^ Therefore it seems to me that Aloysius should be holding his silent prayer group at least twice a month, which means—if I’m going to go along and be ballast, because while I’m a very new Christian I’ve been sitting off and on for decades, and silent prayer is something I settle into with a grateful sigh of welcome familiarity—getting up not just early enough to go, but to have given hellcritters a token hurtle first. See: being able to hurtle all three together occasionally, like last thing at night and first thing in the morning.
^ I say this with all the teeth-baring resistance of the extreme introvert.
† Inspecting the damage and discussing what the *&^%$£”!!!! we do now with my equally unfortunate neighbour, etc, meant that I missed my voice lesson.
IT HAS BEEN AN ABSOLUTE FRELLING FRELLING FRELLING RATBAG OF A DAY. FRELLING.*
It was sunny and gorgeous and around noon positively shirtsleeve weather, which is confusing the summer annuals—most of which are still flowering, and while the fuchsias and begonias are slowing down the snapdragons and geraniums seem to think it’s still August**—and Mortimer Sackler*** is rolling into what I think is her fourth flush. I decided that sanity demanded hellhounds and I have a proper country walk, so we launched ourselves in a brave and forthright manner.
About fifty feet from the last house at the edge of Old Eden, as we set off gallantly along the footpath. . . . I saw a Moron with a Dog. I was not absolutely sure he was a Moron, but the signs were there. Especially the large off lead dog sign. Hellhounds and I veered out into the field. The large dog observed us. The large dog became interested. The large dog began to move in our direction in an interested manner.
Hellhounds and I veered farther out into the field.
The large dog adapted its course accordingly.
The Moron finally noticed and began calling the large dog in feeble and apathetic tones. The large dog, of course, ignored him. The large dog was getting quite close to us by now. It was one of those fashionable Godzillas that was a Labrador a few generations back. Its head was about the size of a V8 engine. Arrrrrgh. I could nearly feel its hot breath on my face. The Moron, having signally failed to get his rotten dog UNDER CONTROL now shouts, He’s very friendly! ARRRRRRGH. His blasted frelling dog is not very friendly: its body language didn’t say I am going to eat you for lunch, but it did say, I am the biggest, meanest SOB in the valley, and I’m going to make sure you acknowledge this fact.
I do not answer the Moron, whereupon the Moron starts shouting in this offended voice, Excuse me? Excuse me? —Excuse you? May I excuse you from living? I shouted back in a voice I did not try too hard to eliminate the fury from, MY DOGS ARE ON LEAD. YOUR DOG IS OFF LEAD.
Oh all right, flounced the Moron, and went so far as to leave the footpath to pursue his wretched dog, and I hope the mud ruined his city shoes. His dog allowed itself to be deflected—he hadn’t caught it by the time we turned through the gap in the hedgerow, but it was having more fun eluding him than it had been chasing us. ARRRRRRRRRGH.
As it happens, on our way home we met up with two friends† who dogsit their daughter’s terrier. They were walking it in Old Eden a few months ago and were attacked by two dogs hanging out unsupervised in their owner’s front garden . . . with the gate left open. The terrier is now so nervous it doesn’t want to go for walks . . . and those two dogs still hang out in that garden with the gate open. Have I mentioned that the police just shrug when you tell them stories like this?
We went home. The washing machine poured water all over the floor of the kitchen. Twice. I wasted ten minutes trying to persuade the frelling hellterror to have her crap in the churchyard†† rather than waiting, with what I can see from behind is increasingly pressing urgency, to get back to Her Spot at the foot of the cottage steps. I failed. And when I finally gave up on the hellterror’s bowel function and we went to the cobbler . . . the cobbler had closed about five minutes before, while we were hanging around POINTLESSLY beside a tombstone.
I got beetroot juice on a favourite sweater. †††
. . . And how badly was bell practise at the abbey going to go tonight? It began with my having to park three towns over and hike because the Christmas Village is going up all over the close and the centre of town and every parking space for miles is occupied either by a chalet or by the car that usually parks where the chalet is. The temperature has also dropped by about seventy-five degrees and I was underdressed. There were ninety-seven or a hundred and twelve of us at practise, and two-thirds of us were at the lower end of ability, so while the comparatively few good ringers rang all night, the rest of us only got put in by ones and twos and spent a very frustrating time standing around a lot.‡
Eventually it was my turn. What would you like to ring? said Scary Man.‡‡ Er um, I said. Bob major? Stedman triples? Stedman triples, said Scary Man. A touch? —My little heart beat faster. I know what’s supposed to happen, I said, I’ve read it up. But I’ve never rung an affected touch and I doubt I can count that high.‡‡‡ Stedman triples! called Scary Man. Albert, will you call a touch?
I did it. I only did it because Scary Man stood at my shoulder and helped me count, but I knew what was happening (except for the counting) and once I escaped the multiplicity of dodges I slotted back into the line again, including seeing which bells I was striking over (the order changes when a call is made), and since ropesight (which is seeing what bells you’re striking over) is probably my worst nightmare at the abbey, this is very good. Yaay me. This is, sadly, undoubtedly beginner’s luck, and next time reality and terrible crashing noises will ensue, but today . . . I will take what I can get. And maybe if I go to bed fast enough nothing else will go wrong. . . .
* * *
* Jack Kornfield, who is a Buddhist, has written a lot of books, most of which I’ve read at one time or another. What I have always liked and been drawn to about a certain style or stream of Buddhism is the awareness of the practical side of life, including that what inevitably happens after a high is that you come down.^ The title of one of his books is AFTER THE ECSTACY, THE LAUNDRY. http://www.jackkornfield.com/books/ Yes. And a real ratbag day includes, speaking of laundry, getting beetroot juice on a favourite sweater. Beetroot juice has been used as a red dye for thousands of frelling years. . . . I do seem to have got it out again, but there was SCREAMING.
^ Making a little hole in the ground and a lot of dust optional.
** Yes, I know. These are all tender perennials, not annuals. But they’re mostly grown as annuals. In my garden the frost will come and they will die. With a hellterror sucking hours out of my anaemic days this winter not to mention a total lack of surface space above puppy-reach level^ it doesn’t look good for the indoor jungle.
^ And she keeps getting TALLER. —You’re a mini, honey. Don’t forget you’re a mini.
† He rings bells. Ninety-five percent of my English acquaintances are bell ringers.^
^ The other five percent are Dickinsons.
†† INSERT STANDARD RANT HERE ABOUT THE MORE-THAN-MORONS THAT LET THEIR DOGS CRAP IN CHURCHYARDS. In this particular case, the churchyard is the only piece of grass in downtown New Arcadia, and if the church admin loses its temper and gets the churchyard closed us with dogs are going to be very unhappy. WHAT DESPICABLE MUTANT TOAD SLIME LETS ITS DOGS CRAP IN CHURCHYARDS???
††† See previous footnote.
‡ And, in some cases, knit.
‡‡ After I fell down laughing hearing someone else refer to Scary Man as Scary Man, someone posted that there were lots of other Scary Men in ringing. Yes, of course. What I hadn’t heard before was it being used as a name, as I use it: Scary Man, rather than a scary man or the scary man, or Blistering tower’s Scary Man.
‡‡‡ There’s a lot of dodging in Stedman anyway: in triples you double dodge on the way up and the way down as well as twice at the back. If the conductor calls a bob while you’re at the back you have to dodge three more times. This is a challenge to my maths skills, especially at the speed that method bells ring.
We have visitors over the weekend, and they suggested we go out for dinner Friday night. Friday night even in the back woods of Hampshire in October is likely to fill up anywhere anyone would want to eat at, so having ascertained how many of us there were likely to be I attempted to ring up to make a booking. I was hampered in this effort by the fact that the last time we went to our previous favourite local gastropub they were rather a cow about Luke in his wheelchair. I’d made that booking ahead too, and said that one of us was in a wheelchair, and they’d said that was fine. On the night however I had the distinct feeling that we were being viewed as causing trouble. Excuse me? Their preparations consisted of putting a ‘reserved’ tag on a ground-floor table—they hadn’t even removed the superfluous chair. Nor were they particularly gracious about doing it after we arrived. And . . . it’s the sort of pub where the food’s all on a chalkboard and you have to get up from your table and go read it. The chalkboard is up a half flight of stairs. Nobody offered to read it for us. Recollect that I’d made the booking in advance, ALERTING them to the fact of a wheelchair. And nobody could be frelling bothered to write out the menu on a piece of paper? Well I don’t think we can be frelling bothered to go back there.
Peter and I don’t eat out much so we’re out of the loop. Rumour has it that both the Six Legged Pony and the Rugby Scrum have acquired new management and more to the point new cooks, but the improvement would have to be almost unencompassably vast, like the Bowery street vendor I used to buy hot pretzels from when I lived on Staten Island and was coming over on the ferry, taking on the Petrie Court Café and Wine Bar at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and earning a couple of Michelin stars. I’m not really enthusiastic about putting my digestion and our visitors’ digestion* on the line to find out, either. So I thought I’d play it relatively safe and try to get us in at the Bard and Orpharion, where Peter and I used to go occasionally when I still had more than about three calories’ slack in the daily budget.**
We haven’t been there since the advent of Pooka so the phone number is not in my iPhone contacts list. So, you look it up in the phone book, right? It’s a pub. It wants people to come there and buy things to eat and drink. Right? It’ll be in the phone book.
We have three local phone books: the big local, the little local, and the highlights. I couldn’t find it listed in any of them, under pubs, restaurants, restaurants general, public houses, pub food, hotels and inns (it also has bedrooms), menu guide, English food, elephant hire or washing machine repair. Nor was it in the white pages of any of these. Eventually the amount of noise I was making brought Peter to my side, bearing cold compresses***. And he looked for it in all these places† and failed to find it either. ††
Now it’s perfectly true that at least one of my computers is on all the time and that I take both Pooka and Astarte the iPad to bed with me.††† But I object to the idea of looking up a frelling landline phone number on line. But whatever. Okay. And there the Bard was, with a shiny flashy web site with a lot of revolving frelling video sensitively fading in and out GO AWAY YOU’RE IRRITATING ME. The phone number is tucked away almost invisible behind a frond of hyperactive graphic art.
But at least it was there. I pulled Peter’s elderly cheap still-plugged-into-the-wall phone toward me and punched‡ in the numbers. The phone rang. And rang. And rang. And rang. And rang. And rang. And rang. And rang. I’m tired of typing ‘and rang.’ EVENTUALLY there was a click at the other end and a robot voice said, your call cannot be connected at this time.
Followed by dead air. No nonsense like thank you for calling, we apologise for missing your call, please leave a message and we’ll get back to you (which a lot of restaurants do), please ring at the following times, please go hire an elephant and leave us alone. Nope. Nothing.
I went back to the web site, found their email address, and wrote them an email. It was not friendly. It expressed surprise that, given their manifest customer relations and communication skills, they had any customers, and adding that they certainly weren’t going to have me, my husband, and our visitors.
Meanwhile we still don’t have a booking for Friday night.
* * *
* Peter can eat ANYTHING. This has been a source of marital friction, not to say snarling, for almost twenty-one years. At least he knows what good food is and objects to wasting time and money on bad.
** THREE? No, no, not three. Maybe one and a half. Put that carrot stick down.
*** And chains, in case the cold compresses didn’t work.
† I think he added plumbing supplies and house removals^, not necessarily because it was likely to be found in either but because there were lots of pages to look through so it gave us a spurious sense of actively seeking our goal.
^ Which standard British phrase I still love after twenty-one years of seeing it in the phone book. It means house contents movers, you know? But I really want to see them remove a house.
†† He did notice a very good two for one deal on elephant hire with free balloons.
††† I also take my knitting, about forty-three books, and several years of back journal issues, mostly homeopathy and gardening. And occasionally some dogs.
‡ It’s not that old. I bought him an old, reconditioned, They Made Things to Last in Those Days indestructible rotary phone a few years ago because it amused me. It broke.