PETER HAS AGREED TO MOVE TO THIRD HOUSE*
* * *
* He said, When I sell the mews we can buy a new car! I said, I don’t want a new car! I’ll just run it into things! I’m dangerous at less than 5 mph!^
^ Hate those frelling pillars at the Mauncester multilevel car park–the ones with the bulges below the driver’s line of vision! HATE!
I think I haven’t been to any of the New York Metropolitan Opera’s live-streaming cinema broadcasts this season, for a variety of reasons, including being fired by my dog minder, but also . . . and I realise how pathetic and lame this sounds . . . because Saturday night is my favourite frelling church service, sitting silently in the dark with monks. Saturday night is the only service all week that has the silent-sitting thing. I’ll try to catch an extra service at the abbey, I hope tomorrow night**, but if I want to sit silently in the dark I’ll have to do it by myself. Whiiiiiiine.
But this run at the Met is probably Joyce DiDonato’s last performance of La Cenerentola, and last night was the broadcast. And Radio 3, which would be airing it only without the eye-candy part, has been advertising it pretty hard. And there are, in fact, limits to my dedication to God (and monks).*** Joyce DiDonato, you know?† Not to mention Juan Diego Florez, who is adorable aside from the high Cs††.
Because I bought my ticket at the last minute I had a choice between being at the extreme end of one of the back rows and thus seeing the screen as if reflected in an unfunhouse mirror . . . or the aisle of the second row and thus needing a neck like a giraffe to tip my head far enough back to see the screen at all. I went for the second row. And brought a large tote bag with two big fat pillows in it—much to the hilarity of the guy behind me in row three†††—and lay down for the show.‡ Worked a treat, thanks.
AND THE OPERA WAS FABULOUS. STAGGERINGLY, GORGEOUSLY, JAW-DROPPINGLY FABULOUS. If they rerun it—which they sometimes do, and I would expect DiDonato’s final go at one of her signature roles would be a good candidate—and you have the FAINTEST interest in opera or classical singing or music—GO. GOGOGOGOGOGOGOGOGO. GO.
And . . . just by the way . . . not that this has anything to do with anything . . . but there are three cute guys in it. This doesn’t happen in opera. You’re lucky if you have one who, compared with a dead fish, comes out slightly ahead. Florez, as previously observed, is darling.‡‡ Dandini is also pretty frelling cute.‡‡‡ And Alidoro . . . ::fans self::§ I mean, gleep.§§
. . . . Anyway. I have now spent over an hour sifting through YouTube clips§§§ because I am so devoted to the welfare of my blog readers, and I HAVE TO GO TO BED. Maybe I’ll get back to CENERENTOLA in a footnote sometime. . . .
* * *
* The etc is chiefly that we went to a National Garden Scheme garden today . . . and took Pav. I’ve been wanting to take her to an open garden but there aren’t that many that allow dogs—fewer than there used to be, I would have said, but maybe it’s just around here, or we want to go to the wrong gardens.^
This one was gorgeous, mellow old stone house on the bank^^ of one of England’s pencil-thick so-called rivers, but winding romantically, with waterfowl and reeds.^^^ The garden then extended back across fields with vistas and benches and the occasional outburst of perennial border. And the weather, which was forecast to be grouchy and streaming by turns, was glorious, bright blue sky and big fat scudding clouds.# I barely saw any of it, since Pav was trying to see, respond, engage, EAT all of it simultaneously and you couldn’t see those little short legs, they were churning so fast. ADVENTURE! WE’RE HAVING AN ADVENTURE! Pantpantpantpantpantpantpant. She did not seem to be sorry to sit in my lap for tea, however, where she was more easily suppressed than if I tried to make her lie down under my chair##, although I did have to keep a sharp eye on the cakes. NO. NOT FOR DOGS. NOT EVEN FOR HELLTERRORS. Cute is not enough. —She was much admired by several aficionados of the breed, however, as well as cringed away from by several people who think they know that all bull terriers are evil biting machines. Sigh. We saw Labs (of frelling course), Goldens, poodles, gazillions of ordinary boring hairy terrier terriers . . . but we were the Supreme Only Bull Terrier present.
^ We used to allow dogs when we opened our garden at the old house. Just by the way. We also offered free plastic bags. Ahem. Today this aspect of the presence of dogs was pretty funny. Pav in the heat of excitement had an unscheduled defecatory moment which—since I always have plastic bags secreted about my person in several places in case I forget and run out in the standard coat pocket location—I recovered. But there wasn’t anything like a bin to deposit the securely wrapped morsel in. I can’t now remember what we did when we had our garden open; did we expect people to carry canine excreta home with them? Surely not. Anyway. No bin. So Pav and I went back to the gate while Peter bought tea+, and inquired there if there was a public bin nearby? The car park this private garden was using for their open day was attached to some public wildlife preserve, you’d frelling expect there’d be a bin.
You’d’ve thought I’d made an improper suggestion++. Both ladies looked alarmed and revolted and the nearer one edged her chair away from Pav doing her I-am-a-lunatic-and-I-have-no-manners shtick but clearly secured by a thick+++, heavy, short lead. No-no-no-no-no, quavered one of them, clutching her twinset to her bosom.
I was tempted to make little dashes at them—like the bully in the playground waving a poor confused harmless snake at the wusses, although I would not describe Pav as poor or confused, or harmless if you’re wearing clean jeans—but I didn’t want to be told to go away before I’d had my tea. So I restrained myself (and Pav).
And took our parcel back to the car. Which was kind of a frelling walk. Next year the owner, whom I heard saying jollily that they’d had a lot of dogs today, should consider both the suitability of the volunteers on the gate and the provision of a small bin with a lid.
+ Including the all-important Cake Selection process
++ Live in a yurt! Buy an armadillo! Get legless on a night you’re wearing stacked stilettos and make the Street Pastors give you a pair of flipflops!
+++ and spectacularly gaudy. So gaudy I had a pair of meek little English men creep up to me and ask softly where I’d bought it. Oh, the States somewhere, I said loudly in my rich American accent. I forget.
So maybe it was the (pink) harness and rainbow-dazzle lead that the ladies on the gate were disturbed by, and the drooling hellterror exhibiting them was incidental.
^^ High enough, I guess, that they did not have water in their cellar this winter.
^^^ Rushes? Tall strappy-leaved edge-of-river plants.
# The best thing of all was how easy it was to find. It looked in the directions like it should be easy. But that doesn’t mean anything.
## HAHAHAHAHAHAHA. But she lies down very well if there’s cheese or chicken involved. And I did have chicken jerky in my pocket in case of emergencies.
** As I wrote to Alfrick, emailing to warn him I wasn’t coming last night, I start jonesing for monks if I go much over a week without a hit.
*** I’m a Street Pastor! I’m about to become a frelling (nonreligious, but God still told me to) Samaritan! Cut me some slack here!
††† And I wager my neck was in better shape than his at the end of the four hours
‡ Leg stowage I admit can be a problem in these situations, but as it happens there was no one in the front row, so I could rest my raised knees against the seat without anyone objecting.
‡‡ In the interviews I’ve heard with him he sounds like a decent human being too. I refuse to find darling people who are clearly major creepazoids.^
^ I’m old. My hormones are under control.+
+ Except for the ones involved in hot flushes. I thought you STOPPED HAVING hot flushes/flashes after a few years. I’m waiting. . . .
§ Hot flush. No, really.
§§ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pr2LBjN7K10 Gah. I have wasted a lot of time trying to find a clip where you can not merely hear but see him. There’s also quite a good one of him singing poor Cherubino off to battle but you don’t get a close up. This one is fairly explicit. He’s the one doing most of the singing, making up to the girl in the grey dress. ::fans self more:: Oh, Dmitri [Hvoroskovsky], you may have a rival.^
^ I’M OLD. MY HORMONES ARE UNDER CONTROL.
§§§ Okay. Some knitting also occurred.
You thought I’d forgotten, didn’t you? Anyone who lives in bluebell country, however, can tell you that it’s pretty difficult to miss bluebell season—if your bluebells are happy they spread enthusiastically. The wood I took most of this year’s photos in was drastically cleared out at one end some few years ago—they were dorking around with pylons and super-cables and things. The bluebells had only started colonising that area and that stopped them flat. But except for a narrow chop-through most of the trees were left standing and the bluebells regrouped and made another sortie . . . and they are now dazzlingly winning. That bluebell wood is a good, I don’t know, my sense of size is about as reliable as my sense of direction, sixty or eighty foot longer than it was twenty years ago.
I know bluebells are generally endangered or at least under pressure by deer, hikers, global warming and the Spanish invader, but as I’ve said before (at least once a year), not around here.* Around here they are ebullient and thriving—and may they remain that way—even if they are total thugs in your garden. One of my rose-beds at the old house was taken over by bluebells. It was a tending-to-be-dry border in strong sunlight, for pity’s sake, a few bluebells couldn’t possibly hurt, they’ll be too busy struggling to survive. You’ll be sorry, said Peter. He was right. I went through and dug out buckets of the wretches** one year and I had bluebells in that bed the next year anyway.
I have bluebells in my garden(s) now. But I guess I’d better be nice to them. Just in case.
* With the possible exception of the Spanish bluebell. But I’m not sure I can decisively tell the one from the other: proper English bluebells bow over farther and farther as their flowers open. A very rounded-over bluebell is definitively English, but a more sticky-up one may still be English if it’s early in its flowering. The Spanish bluebell photos I’ve seen look more like Scilla than like bluebells: proper bluebell flowers are graphically and unmistakably tubular.^ The bluebell woods around here are (a) fairly out in the sticks, to the extent that Hampshire is ever out in the sticks^^ and (b) old, so they have a good chance of being pure; also Spanish bluebells apparently don’t have much smell, and our bluebell woods are nearly eye-wateringly fragrant. Particularly strong this year too, I think, possibly because of all the winter rain.
^^ which to a Maine girl isn’t very
** I couldn’t face hauling the lot up to the ridge, but I couldn’t face putting them all on the compost heap^ or the bonfire either, so I took some away and threw them around in the wild where they had a chance to engulf more woodland. I’ve told you this story, haven’t I? This blog is too old. I’ve told most of my stories at least once.^^ Since it’s illegal to pick wildflowers or dig up bluebells bulbs I was terrified I’d be discovered and someone would leap to the wrong conclusion.
^ Yep. We had bluebells growing in the compost too.
^^ Except KES, of course.
So, all this time I’ve clawed back by no longer writing a blog every night? Has disappeared without trace. Of course.
Today, for example, it has disappeared without trace by my having spent NEARLY TWO HOURS IN DENTIST FROM R’LYEH’S CHAIR OF DREADFUL TORMENT. Owwwwwww.*
Yesterday it disappeared because . . . MAJOR TRUMPET FLOURISH . . .
MY NEW WASHING MACHINE FINALLY ARRIVED.
This wasn’t easy. Even leaving out the amount of time I spent researching** frelling washing machines*** I was so freaked out by the PRICE of the one that was going best to cope with all the hair in this household† that I put off ordering it for most of another fortnight. Peter had grown a bit testy about my usurping his washing machine so I decided in that non-decision way that I hope most people who read this blog have experienced for themselves, that I would merely accumulate dirty laundry because, after all, I was going to buy a washing machine. Fortunately I have a lot of clothes†† although the hellpack is down to pretty much its final lot of bedding.†††
I had a four-hour delivery slot booked for Wednesday morning during which I paced the floor and wondered what I was going to do when the delivery persons Viewed the Situation and said they couldn’t do it. The Winter Table is still up because I’m still fetching recently-arrived-and-potted-up little green things indoors when the temperature starts re-enacting the Pit and the Pendulum. Plus there’s a hellterror crate since the last time any major kitchen appliances were brought in or out. Also, washing machines weigh. My last appliant purchase was the refrigerator—refrigerators weigh nothing. I can lift a refrigerator‡. A washing machine I can barely shove back into its corner when it starts walking across the floor. And they were going to have to wrestle the new marvel up the narrow flight of stairs with the black iron railing from street level to the front door, around the sharp 180 degree bend into the kitchen—and, while they were making that turn, lift it over the puppy gate, which is bolted to the wall.‡‡
They came. They viewed the situation. Their eyes got rather large. They withdrew to the street and muttered between themselves while I wrung my hands and thought dire thoughts about washboards and rocks in rivers.
BUT THEY DID IT.
I tipped them lavishly. They were, to their credit, startled, and I said: what was I going to do when you looked at this kitchen and said that getting large heavy camels through eyes of needles one storey up, over Becher’s Brook and at a 180° angle wasn’t in your job description?
I hope they got together and bought their wives a nice bottle of champagne.‡‡‡
* * *
* I won’t tell you what this thrilling^ experience did to my bank balance. OWWWWWWWWWWWWW.
^ I have told you, haven’t I, that the wonders of scuba diving are Forever Closed to Me on account of the number of hours I have spent in Dentist from R’lyeh’s chair staring at the video loop of tropical fish on the TV screen on the ceiling? I totally support+ the presence of distracting video on a TV screen on the ceiling. And I can forfeit scuba diving. Even though the fish are pretty fabulous. I’m grateful it’s not opera or BUFFY reruns.
+ And I do. See main footnote *
** You have to figure it’s going to be an important member of the family for at least a decade so, especially when it lives in the kitchen of your very small house, which happens also to be the room that (a) you spend the most time in (b) the main beds of your three fur factories^ indwell, which helps to explain (a)^^, you and it had better be good friends. ^^^
^ Note also: fur factories
^^ Remind me to tell you the Pav’s Bed in My Office story. Sigh.
^^^ Peter had Radio 4 on recently when it was a programme on psychological problems and the discussion was about hoarding disorder, which is apparently defined as an inability to throw things away to the point where the accumulation gets in the way of normal function. Hmmmm. One of the things they mention is when you can’t get into your bed because of all the stuff on it? Feh. I can still get in my bed . . . I may have to roll some of the books, knitting magazines and homeopathic journals over a little . . . and it’s true I’m an uncharacteristically quiet sleeper. But I was really thinking about this after I’d cleared off+ the old washing machine and the refrigerator, which was going to have to move to get it out, and had nowhere to put anything.
+ Mostly the stuff on top, which was in layers. But I also stripped off all the kitchen magnets . . . which fill a mixing bowl. A small mixing bowl . . . but still a mixing bowl. Not a cereal bowl or a soup bowl. You could definitely get a batch of muffin batter out of this bowl. I often have.
*** I think I told you I joined WHICH? http://www.which.co.uk/ just so I could read their washing machine reviews? They’ve got this clever hook-the-sucker system where you only have to pay £1 for a month of membership, including a copy of the magazine and free access to their gigantic site—and individual phone support for ‘consumer and finance issues’ which bait really attracted me after my recent scary, infuriating and demoralising banking experiences—and at the end of the month if you forget to cancel they quietly make you a full-price member because, after all, you gave them your credit card number for the £1. Fine. They got me. The magazine is full of interesting stuff. And now I’m researching juicers. ^
^ Everyone see this report? http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/science-news/10735633/Healthy-diet-means-10-portions-of-fruit-and-vegetables-per-day-not-five.html Good luck getting this one over to Person in the Street. But it is one of those Why [mild] ME Is A Good Thing Really moments. I have evolved, over the past sixty-one years, from a few frozen peas and a leaf of iceberg lettuce style reluctant veg eater to a major rabbit+. And in the last fourteen years—since the ME felled me—I am eating ten a day++. It’s a life style, okay? You get used to it. And I like broccoli.+++ I’m more inclined to take this report seriously—ten a day does seem like kind of a lot for someone who doesn’t already have chronic health issues—because they make the point that vegetables are more important. Yes. A large glass of orange juice with your chocolate croissant is not the same as a large bowl of broccoli . . . er, probably not with your chocolate croissant. I’d like to hear a little more about ‘juice is worthless’ however. Out of a carton, maybe. But I’d’ve said there’s pretty good substantiation for the belief that the Juicer Phenomenon is worthwhile. Although it’s another life style. At some point you have to wonder what you’re preserving your life for if you’re spending all your time preserving it.
+ Unfortunately my teeth don’t keep growing. That would solve a lot of problems, if the cavities just grew out and you could gnaw them off. Carrots are a lot cheaper than Dentist from R’lyeh.
++ Except occasionally when I’ve been in the Chair of Dreadful Torment and can’t chew.
† There isn’t nearly as much of mine but mine is LONG. You’d have to line up like fifty-three of Pav’s for an equivalent pilose factor. Pav, however, has plenty to spare.
†† Which is what happens when you like clothes, have been more or less the same size for nearly forty years, and have hoarding disorder.
††† There is less of this than there might be because the hellterror—like the hellhounds before her—used to eat hers When She Was a Puppy, which, of course, now being almost tw‡‡o years old she is not. Cough. Cough. But she did give up eating her bedding somewhere around her first birthday—which is better than can be said for Chaos.
‡ Well. I can lift a dwarf under-the-stairs size refrigerator.
‡‡ Because I was tired of it falling over every time Chaos stood up and put his forepaws on it. Which, being a rather dim sweetheart, he never took advantage of, and Darkness is above that kind of thing. Pav, however . . . it’s a good thing it was bolted in by the time Pav arrived.
‡‡‡ Or, possibly, husbands.
Okay, let me get the really embarrassing stuff over with immediately.
I enjoyed it. I had FUN. I am planning on putting myself on the official St Margaret’s rota.*
Whew. That was hard. I enjoyed singing Jesus Is My Boyfriend** music [sic]. In public. How totally humiliating is that.
Sunday, which was sunny and fabulous, passed under my own personal cloud of prospective dread. I did do some singing warm up because I wanted some chance at some voice and I tend to shut down to a tiny rasping squeak like a single lonely cicada when I’m nervous. I didn’t warm up exactly brilliantly.*** And when I crept into St Margaret’s I was not encouraged by the sight of Aloysius ALL BY HIMSELF except for the woman who was going to be running the tech deck helping him lay out the cables. He had said in his email that the names on the rota were a bit thin this week. . . .
Fortunately it wasn’t as bad as that. Samantha appeared deus ex machina, saying that she hadn’t been planning to sing that night but she had realised that I was going to be all alone and she couldn’t do that to a new girl. Eeeeep. Thank you. Eeeeeeeeep. And then Sinead, another rota singer, wandered in and said that she couldn’t do her proper rota day and maybe we could use her tonight? YES. PLEASE. HERE, HAVE A MICROPHONE. Hamish, the church office magician, appeared, spun his spurs and strapped on his six-shooter. Er. Bass. But that was all. No drums. No keyboards. No random woodwinds. No vicar—he’s always there.†
We plunged into practise. I was on the near end with Aloysius just at my right shoulder which is very good because not only does his guitar give me the key I’m scrabbling for but he’s a nice strong tenor and I’d already told him he had to sing the melody. The first couple of songs are a bit of a blur. I was holding the mic as if it was going to morph into something with six heads and forty-seven incisors per as soon as I stopped staring at it like it was going to. The Hammered to Death by Fluffy Bunnies song was substantially less diabolical with the new line-up but we had to go through it several times since I had no clue about what it was supposed to sound like—and of course there was no sheet music. And then Aloysius had to get fancy and bolt a couple of songs together so you slide into the second one without a break and then revert to the previous one for a chorus repeat WHAT ARE YOU TRYING TO DO TO US YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO BE ONE OF THE GOOD GUYS.
I don’t really know what happened except that I think I can hear God laughing. My voice woke up. And the last couple of songs I actually kind of like††—especially the one which is in a reasonable range, so many of the Jesus Is My Boyfriend songs lie on my voice like bricks on custard, it’s like the aural version of trying to wear someone else’s prescription glasses, and neither singing up an octave or down an octave works. But here were two I could sing.
And I did. And furthermore . . . and this is where I know I was taken over by an alien personality . . . I started singing free harmony. I do not sing free harmony. I can learn a harmonic line, given the sheet music and about six months, but I cannot just frelling riff off a melody. Whoever she was, Sunday night, using my voice, I hope she visits often. That was serious fun. At the end Sinead gave me a hug and said, I can tell you like that song!
And then the live performance—I mean the service—was pretty much falling off a log. Problem? There was supposed to be a problem?
There are one or two things to mention here. First, St Margaret’s evening service is small and informal. It’s not like anyone was going to be nasty to me even if I screwed up big time. And I don’t exactly guarantee I was pitch perfect even while the self-confident alien babe was singing. Second, most of the Jesus Is My Boyfriend stuff is dead easy, especially if you’re used to beating your brains and ripping your own throat out singing stuff that is significantly beyond you because you take voice lessons and your voice teacher needs something to do, right?††† It should be easy: people who don’t take voice lessons should be able to sing their church’s worship music.‡ And third . . . I was just telling someone who asked me how I ‘learnt’ to do public speaking . . . I didn’t. After my BEAUTY was published they sent me out on the road and I discovered I could do public speaking. It’s like one of those James Bond things: the car develops waterwings or the knapsack is also a rocketblaster. I CAN DO PUBLIC SPEAKING? WHAT? WHERE DID THAT COME FROM? Aside from little questions like whether I can sing or not, apparently singing in public doesn’t make this agonising doubt any more agonising.
How frelling bizarre. I did think it was at least possible that if I didn’t freeze up, singing for purpose—helping to lead the service—would let me like the floppy, soppy music we sing better, and make it feel more like an offering of worship instead of a mortification, ashes and hair shirts optional. And. Yeah. But I wasn’t expecting the harmony—or the high.
* * *
* Unless someone stops me. Noooooo! She’s too loooooooud! She drowns out the keyboard! —Ugly. Mwahahahahahahaha. —slightlyadaptedhellgoddess^
^ I belong to the Love Wins camp, remember, so if you’re asking me, all reigning in all the various hells—ie the nice somewhat confused ones and the really unpleasant ones—is temporary. Which is fine. I’m sure I’ll be ready for a new challenge when my particular corner of hell disintegrates.+
+ There will be chocolate, champagne and critters in heaven, won’t there?#
# Of course there will. And the roses WILL HAVE NO THORNS.
** ::falls down laughing:: Thank you, dhudson. I love this. I’m also glad that it seems to other people that there’s something CREEEEEEEEPY about a lot of this sticky music: I’ve been describing these songs as frelling power ballads only it’s God instead of your boyfriend/girlfriend/groupoffriendswithprivileges. Dhudson’s phrase cuts to the chase.
Although some of the old gospel hymns, which is what I grew up with and are about the only positive memory I have of church as a kid, aren’t exactly faultless in this area. I’ve always loved In the Garden, and it’s one of those I’ve been singing for fifty-odd years and did not have to relearn the lyrics when I started singing while hurtling as a way to shortening the warm-up when I get back to the piano and the Italian art songs etc^, but it’s always struck me as doctrinally a little dubious:
He walks with me, and he talks with me
And he tells me I am his own
And the joy we share as we tarry there
None other has ever known.
^ Also I’m beginning to enjoy the looks on other pedestrians’ faces when I don’t shut up in time and lyrics like ‘On that bright and cloudless morning when the dead in Christ shall rise’+ register on their unsuspecting ears, which in this modern well-zombied culture may rouse an unfortunate secular response.
+ Which I confess I tend to belt out with all the new Nadia-power within me.
*** I also crack a lot when I’m nervous. How many ways is this going to be a disaster.
† Vicars. They take holidays. Who knew?
†† No, no, not like! Oisin will never speak to me again!
††† HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. And for my latest stupid trick I’m learning Victor Herbert’s I want to be a prima donna—aka Art Is Calling to Me—mainly because it’s silly and I’ve always loved it for being silly. It also has a high Bb. The thing, as I told Nadia, that is really irritating is that I have a high Bb . . . when I’m doing the frelling washing up. As soon as I get near the piano it jumps out the window and runs off to Cornwall. Or Canada. I assume this is common, you can remember a note long enough to check it on the piano? Yes that is a high Bb, but try and do it again suuuuucker. . . . . Nadia says, just rewrite it for now. You can put the Bb back in later.
‡ I don’t have a problem with that; my beloved gospel tunes are pretty much the only music on the planet that I can more or less play on the piano with both hands by sight-reading. Easy. Very, very easy music.