September 10, 2014

Shadows is here!

Boilers and blog silence

 

Sigh.  Exactly what I was afraid would happen is happening, once I stopped blogging every day—which is that I’m always going to do it again tomorrow.  Mind you, there are things going on.  Including that I keep frelling collapsing, and if I have any spare energy I should probably give some member(s) of the hellmob or other a better hurtle than they’ve probably had today.  Whereupon I will be too tired to do anything so frivolous as write a blog and furthermore I’ve been knocking myself out for way too much of the last week writing frelling COPY for a big wodge of my backlist that is going to be rereleased soonish, and about which I will give you all the details as soon as there’s a schedule to give you the details of.  BUT TRY TO IMAGINE HOW MUCH I HATE NOT MERELY WRITING COPY FOR MY OWN STUFF, which regular readers of this blog are well aware of, BUT WRITING IT FOR A WHOLE FRELLING STACK OF MY BOOKS.*  No, don’t try to imagine, it would be very bad for you.

But for a further graphic example of things going on, the twice frelling put off** new boiler installation finally happened yesterday.  YAAAAAAY.  Well, sort of, barring the gaping hole in my bank balance that is letting in a frigid blast of hostile air despite the mild September we’re having locally and the war zone the army of two left behind.  WORKMEN.  ARRRRRRGH.***  And where did all the frelling red dirt come from?  What is this, Louisiana/Mississippi/Alabama/Georgia/South Carolina?†  My entire house is sheeted in a thin, less than delightful film of powdery red dirt.††  So charming.  The bathroom was hazy with it Monday night and the excitingly renovated linen cupboard looked like something out of a bad fantasy film:  Evil Witch’s Grotto.  Put the red cellophane over the lens.   I could feel the cloud clinging to my skin as I climbed out of my (hot:  definitely hot) bath last night.  I don’t want to think about the newly-slightly-red-tinted condition of my lungs.  SO CHARMING.

The army of two showed up as promised at 10 am and were not early, so we got off to a good start—which is to say I was not only dressed but I’d had enough caffeine to be able to figure out how to get the front door key out of my pocket and open the door with it—this pleasing punctuality aside from the fact that if they hadn’t shown up as most recently promised I would have had to hunt them down and kill them because I am VERY TIRED of having my entire bathroom in cardboard boxes . . . not only because I can’t find anything but because there’s already no available floor space at the cottage because of the immediate distressing results of moving from a somewhat larger house to a somewhat smaller house, and the first time Joachim cancelled it was already the morning of the day he was supposed to come so I had sensibly already pulled everything out of the cupboard AND PUT IT IN BOXES.  You have no idea what you’ve managed to wedge into a rather small airing cupboard, rather full of boiler and hot water tank, till you have to take it all out and put it in boxes AND PUT THE BOXES SOMEWHERE.†††

Let me make this short, which the day was not.‡  Joachim and adjutant arrived.  They arrived with amazing amounts of kit, which meant I stayed downstairs with the Aga—which they had to turn off, so that was not satisfactory from a keeping-tea-hot perspective—because I couldn’t get into my office with the upstairs hallway JAMMED with screwdrivers‡‡ and winches and a small backhoe, and I didn’t like to decamp to Third House when they kept asking me things like, where is the gas line?, which I could have told them over the phone but not so they could find it without serious excavation‡‡‡, or where is the nearest plumbers’ supply house?  When they didn’t have a spare of something that just broke.  Oh.

They were due to clear off by three in the afternoon.  Four latest.  THEY WERE THERE TILL SIX THIRTY.  But I’m looking on the bright side.  They only destroyed one window screen and a rather good fuchsia, although I’m hoping the latter will recover.  They did attempt to clean up after themselves.§  They were polite.§§  And while the additional space in the airing cupboard may be a bit of a bust there is definitely more space in the attic where the holding tank came out.  And I haven’t seen any bats emerging from the new holes in the ceiling . . . but I’d better get Atlas to patch them before the bat mums come home to the largest pipistrelle nursery in Hampshire next spring.

And I do (still) have hot water.  But I had hot water before.  The crucial moment comes later in the season when I try to turn the central heating on for the first time. . . . §§§

* * *

* Especially old ones where I may actually have to read a bit here and there to make it likelier I get it right.  There’s very little worse than flipping frustratedly through something you yourself wrote because you’re CONVINCED that this or that thing happened and it has to have happened before/after this or that other thing, didn’t it?  DIDN’T IT?  MAYBE IT WAS IN SOME OTHER BOOK NOOOOOOOOO??  Arrrrrrgh.  How to feel really, really stupid without even any recourse to maths.^

That’s aside from the nooooo I didn’t really use that cringe-making metaphor did I?  I didn’t really allow the plot to do that did I? I didn’t really name that character that, did I?^^  Why didn’t I grow up to be a mechanic?^^^

^ Hey, I don’t hate maths like I used to+ but all those clever maths books I like reading in the bath?  I read the story or the set up or the problem or the joke or something and go, oooooh, cool . . . and then I look up the answer in the back of the book.

+ Unless there’s something about money involved in which case I hate it worseMoney is a stupid system.  Let’s find another one.  Which may or may not be maths based.  I vote for not.

^^ That’ll be one of the names the story didn’t give me, that I had to choose.  Brrrrrr.

^^^ Because no one in his, or her, right mind would hire me.  Mercy Thompson would laugh till she did herself an injury.  So would Munch Mancini.

** Due to what sounded like a pretty genuine family emergency and resultant critical shortage of childminders.  Or maybe Joachim just uses hire-a-kid for verisimilitude.

*** Okay, the really good part?  No builder’s cracks.

† I know there’s really RED red dirt in the American South somewhere because I remember being amazed by it.  I just don’t remember where I was at the time.^

^ MAYBE IT WAS IN SOME OTHER BOOK NOOOOOOOOO?

†† Okay, it’s probably brick dust.  That’s not nearly so romantic.

††† The irony is that one of the things he seduced me with is the fact that there would be more ROOM in my small airing cupboard because the new boiler is an on-demand so . . . no tank.  Well.  Sort of more room.  Because of where the new thing is hung and where its dashboard is there’s not hugely more room than there was when there was a tank in there the size of a small nuclear silo.^  The best thing about the new gold-plated^ whatsit is that there is no hideously complex control panel for the end user—the dashboard on the thing itself is for professionals—the frelling wall panel for the shivering householder on my old one was diabolical.  You had like six columns^^^ and you had to choose the right button in each of the six columns to get what you wanted.  The permutations are . . . mathematically intimidating.  And this is one of the few occasions when the right answer is not ‘chocolate’.  THE NEW ONE YOU JUST TURN THE HOT TAP ON OR THE THERMOSTAT UP.  There is NO control panel.  I could almost talk myself into it being worth the money.#

^ You could still run out of hot water if you topped up your cooling bath too often.  Hey, it’s an exciting knitting magazine!  Double sized with pull outs!  I want to finish reading!

^^ At this PRICE?  It better be gold-plated.  I think I was promised diamond encrusted.  Maybe there are diamonds once I get the red dirt cleaned off. +

+ Furthermore it’s STICKY.  It doesn’t come off EASILY.=

= See?  It is clay.  It’s not brick dust.

^^^ Hot, cold, yes, no, left, right, octopus and Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch.

# Although this is one of those Where Did We Go Wrong moments.  The furnaces and hot water of my childhood were like this.  You could go down into the basement and stare at a couple of glass tubes with motor oil or magma or something moving slowly back and forth in them but generally speaking you turned the thing on or off upstairs and it worked and when it didn’t work you called a plumber.  You couldn’t programme it to turn on for seventeen minutes February 3rd, 2044, no, but I do not consider this facility worth the misery at 3 a.m. tonight when you just want a bath.  If one of the six columns had ‘hurtle the hellmob’ as an option I’d reconsider, but I have yet to see a boiler out on the trot with a lead extruding from its input valve.  Yaay retro.  Yaay primitive.  Yaay HOT BATHS ON DEMAND.

‡ And I have to go to bed in order to get up FRESH and SPRINGY and ATHLETIC and ready to go on mashing the attic at Third House.  The backlist comes home next Monday whether I’m ready or not.

‡‡ One of which they left behind.  The shank on it is about three feet long.  I don’t want to know.

‡‡‡ It’s in the greenhouse.  Nuff said.  Where the tap to turn the water into the house off is worse however because I hadn’t thought to clear that cupboard out.  Sigh.

§ I only found half a dozen screws, presumably to keep the screwdriver company.  As well as a lot of adherent red dirt.

§§ Even if Joachim can’t stop calling his elderly female clients ‘darling’.  I think possibly on account of my eruptions on the subject of control panels he thinks I need looking after.

§§§ I don’t want so mild a winter I don’t ever turn it on.  I want the slugs and snails and the black spot and the aphids and the red lily beetle to die.

Important News from the Living in Houses Division

 

I’VE GOT ALL THE BOOKS UP OFF THE COTTAGE’S SITTING ROOM FLOOR.  ALL THE BOOKS.  OFF THE FLOOR. 

Yes, and on shelves, you rude person.  I admit however that I’m rapidly reaching the end of the double shelving that is even possible, having passed the ‘desirable’ stage years ago.*  Now there’s only the rest of the house to deal with.**  And the attic at Third House.  Which is achieving epic status.  Not in a good way.  AND IT’S SEPTEMBER TOMORROW.  I feel the frelling backlist’s hot breath on the back of my neck.  ARRRRRGH.***

IT’S OBVIOUSLY TIME TO RESPOND TO SOME  MORE NICE DISTRACTING FORUM COMMENTS.

Mirkat

One thing I’ve learned from walking shelter dogs this past year is that there are good and bad dogs of EVERY breed. . . . I used to think breed = personality but it’s just not that rigid . . . Our shelter runs to “pit bull types” and chihuahuas; some are good, some are bad. Some chihuahuas are so awesome . . . contrary to my expectation of bulbous headed dumb-as-a-post nervous things . . . and some pit bulls are so delightful, hucklebutting around . . . demanding belly rubs . . . contrary to my expectation of lowered-head stalkers that are always angry. . .

Yep.  Totally.  There are probably even evil whippets† in this world, and bullies with huge soft doe eyes.  One of the first significant dogs of my childhood was a Chihuahua and I’ve never forgotten him however many of the bulbous, hysterical thick-as-a-bricks I’ve encountered since.  There are a couple of sweet long-haired Chihuahuas I meet around here—they’re so TINY.  Staffies in my English experience are almost as schizophrenic as Labradors—I knew very few Staffies/pit bull types in the States.  Around here there are the scary, freaky, stalker with dripping fangs help-I’m-about-to-die type of Staffie and the kindly, mellow, walking-sofa-cushion Staffie.  The latter are very often startlingly submissive, although Southdowner told me and I’ve read it elsewhere since, that they were bred to be very, very, very submissive to humans because they were also bred for dog fighting, and a human needed to be able to break it up without getting bitten.  So you don’t want to make any assumptions if you’ve got dogs with you, although the local good-natured Staffies are fine with the hellhounds (Pav sometimes needs a little muffling, while the Staffie looks on in amusement).  But yeah.  Every time I meet another bulldozer-shovel-headed Lab I remind myself of the adorable whole-body-wag young Lab bitch who lives around the corner.

Judith

to have tadpoles coming in through the kitchen tap (it’s only for a month or two in the spring, after all)

!!! !!!! !!!!! (*speechless with horror*) Are you freaking SERIOUS? Isn’t there a screen on the tap to prevent things like that from coming through? Isn’t the water treated at the water treatment plant to kill things like that? I may never drink tap water again…

Snork.  Oh you sheltered urban types.  If you’re on town water you certainly shouldn’t have tadpoles coming through the tap, no.††  The water treatment plant or whatever should stop the wildlife at the door.  But not everybody is on town water, you know?  And not town water varies.  I have forgotten most of what I knew about it and things will have changed since I last lived in the American boonies.  There are ‘natural’ filtration systems that may be bulked up by your friendly neighbourhood contractor if your water is dubious and/or doesn’t pass its potability tests.  But if, for example, you get your water by a gravity feed from the local lake . . . you may find almost anything small enough to fit through a pipe in your sink occasionally.  I’ve stayed in quite ritzy ‘summer cottages’—those amazing frelling clapboard palaces the wealthy built around northern New England lakes a century or two ago—whose tap water was occasionally piquantly populated.  You put it through cheesecloth and then boil it.  Nobody I ever knew died.  And it gives you something to write postcards home about.

. . . Phooey.  It’s got late again when I wasn’t looking.†††  One of the drawbacks to not blogging every night any more is that I forget to keep an eye on the frelling clock.

* * *

* NO double shelving is desirable.  The amount of DESIRABLE double shelving is NONE.

** Including the rest of the sitting room.  Ahem.  Amazing what you can squeeze/unload in heaps into a small room when you’re motivated.  Ie it’s either going to be a small sitting room or outdoors under a tarpaulin being eaten by rats.  Or Oxfam, of course.  I’m tired of hauling things off to Oxfam.  In more ways than one.  Nina, who, unfortunately, keeps sashaying off to have a life, leaving me to cope, is brilliant about the getting-rid-of shtick.^  These are the boxes to go? she says briskly.  Um, I say, thinking anxiously of that Ace double both of which stories are unreadable but the covers are such irresistible ’50’s kitsch, what is one tiny paperback after all?^^  Or that utterly useless-for-my-purposes book about keeping llamas, which is all about DEFRA# rules and feed additives and NOTHING AT ALL about their personalities, about what they’re like to have around.##  But books on small### domestic camelids are comparatively rare, and this one is about llamas by someone who raises them and maybe if I sort of hold my hands over the book and close my eyes and concentrate I can access the author’s experience. . . . ~

Great, says Nina, and the boxes DISAPPEAR.  I don’t see either her or Ignatius carrying them out to the car or anything, they just DISAPPEAR.^^^  FOREVER.  Eeep.

^ She should have been one of those personal declutter consultants and could have retired in splendour instead of riding a second-hand bicycle to work at a worthy charity.  Although I’m glad she didn’t.  She’s intimidating enough just as a natural talent.

^^ Such thinking culminates in a lot of double shelving.  And possibly tarpaulins.

^^^ I kept all the good Ace Doubles.  Slightly depending on your definition of ‘good’.

# https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/department-for-environment-food-rural-affairs   Not necessarily every farmer’s best friend.

## There’s a small domestic camelid in one of the 4,017 Next Damar Book Queue.  Yes, I’ve already talked to b_twin about this problem.

### Or medium-sized domestic camelids.  Smaller than camels anyway.

~ This Isn’t the Book I Wanted But It Should Have Been also leads to double shelving.  This is a particularly appalling problem in history, I find, because an interesting book of history+ is interesting even if you were looking for household management in the eighteenth century and what has (mysteriously) fallen into your hands is about the development of the dragon motif in Ming porcelain.  What’s worse though is when you find exactly the book you wanted . . . and it’s so turgidly written you know you’ll never read it.++

+ All right, true, an interesting book is an interesting book, full stop.  It’s just I have a harder time laying down off-topic history.

++ I am so not a dedicated academic.

*** The cottage also has an attic which only hasn’t quite reached the terrifying proportions of Third House’s first because it’s smaller^ and second because I’d rather dump things in the sitting room than drag them up that frelling ladder.  And what with the trap door and the (crucial) hand rail the hatch is a good deal smaller than it was when I moved in and trying to get you and what you’re carrying up and through—and without knocking over the forest of geraniums enjoying the sunlight through the Velux window poorly sited by my predecessor at the top of the ladder—at best causes language.

^ Although the configuration is similar.  You can only stand up in the middle and the roof pitches down to about a handsbreadth of the floor.   You can stand up in some of the middle.  There isn’t a loo—there isn’t room for a loo—but there are some interesting cross-beams which serve the purpose of making head-damaging encounters painfully odds-on.

† OR POSSIBLY EVEN HELLHOUNDS THAT EAT.

†† And you don’t actually want a screen on your tap.  Then you just have dead tadpoles in your pipe.  Ewwww.

††† I keep looking at the frelling hellhounds’ frelling food bowls and hoping for a miracle.  Frell.

The horror, the horror

 

The attic.  Moan.  The attic.  At Third House.  Moooooan.  The attic . . . moan.  August is almost gone and some time in September I have to bring the frelling backlist home from the last storage unit.  All forty-seven gazillion boxes of it.  And you can already hardly edge around* all the boxes of files** and of books*** that won’t fit† either downstairs or at the cottage††  Moan.

I NEED DISTRACTION.  I KNOW.  I’LL RESPOND TO A FEW FORUM COMMENTS.

Katinseattle

A few years ago I needed a plumber for my small bathroom. I warned the man at the other end of the phone line, “It’s a very small space.” He answered cheerfully, “I’ll send a very small plumber.” She was. And she fixed it. But she’s the only one I’ve ever seen.

For some reason, probably because I am still suffering post-house-move brain-blastedness†††, the reference to size makes me think of the stalwart young men who moved my piano, only one of the three of whom looked at all as if he might lift heavy things for a living.  I was also thinking of Plumbers I Have Known folding themselves up into spaces much too small for them . . . and the tendency among folded-up plumbers to demonstrate builder’s crack to an extreme degree.

All three of my piano movers were wearing the kind of low-slung trouserage prone to builder’s-crackage.  And as they all three bent down the first time to examine the basis of the situation I was treated to . . . a vast triple frontage‡ of LURID COLOURED BOXER SHORTS.  I was delighted.  I also nearly burst out laughing.

Nat

These blogs are sooooo making me not want to renovate our house, even though it’s desperately needed…

Oh come on.  It’s romantic having to put buckets out for the drips, and to lie snuggled up in bed listening to the mice playing polo in the walls, and to have tadpoles coming in through the kitchen tap (it’s only for a month or two in the spring, after all), and floorboards so aggressively wavy and unpredictable that if you’ve had a beer in the last twenty-four hours you’d better sleep in the barn (under a tarpaulin).  Where’s your sense of ADVENTURE?

Diane in MN

. . . As it’s a good and very efficient furnace, replacing it never came up: a good thing, as a new furnace would have been even spendier. I feel your pain.

Yes.  One of the—or rather the—clinching argument of Shiny New Plumber about replacing my current boiler is that by the time I bought the parts for the old one I’d be halfway to the new one . . . AND the old one is a piece of crap.  Since I only have Shiny New Plumber at all kind of far out on a limb of semi-unknown recommendations—one would rather hire a new plumber because one’s best friend has used him for twenty years and her entire family loves him including the goldfish, whom he replumbed on an emergency basis one Sunday afternoon when the fishtank exploded—I did look up the boiler he’s recommending and it’s number one by about twenty points in the WHICH? rating which is a good sign.  An even better sign will be if he knows how to put it in.  Mind you according to his web site he’s about third generation in a large family of plumbers . . . although he told me he is failing to interest his thirteen-year-old daughter in carrying on the family tradition.

And, speaking of small, and the state of the cottage‡‡, I hope the extra body he brings to assist him is svelte and bendy.   A thirteen-year-old daughter would be perfect.

But I really want my hot water.

Me too, big time, and so I NEVER TALK ABOUT IT because I don’t want to give the hot water heater any ideas, like thinking it’s reached retirement age. And I don’t know where that sentence came from; I never wrote it.

No, no, of course not, if your hot water heater comes round for confirmation I will stoutly deny everything.  My current object has only to last two more baths.  Please God and St Mermaid-of-the-Flowing-Waters.  I’ve had the uneasy sensation that it’s been getting a little whimsical since Shiny New Plumber condemned it.

Shalea

Hot water is one of the critical components of civilisation, in my opinion.

I ENTIRELY CONCUR.

Stardancer

Oof. At least you got a very nice individual plumber?

Well he’s certainly very jolly‡‡‡.  He also underwrites a seven-year guarantee on the new diamond-encrusted family member, which is popular.

Hoonerd

Wait, stuck on the lavender comment. Was the lady referring to her houseplant as her pet, is there really a dog breed nicknamed lavender, or was she referring to the unmentionably enthusiastic “L” word dogs?

Not exactly.  She was having a little trouble with the English language and maybe Labradors are called lavenders in her mother tongue.  I’m not sure if she was doing that thing of using the word that almost sounds right and assuming it would do, or whether her accent was so strong that ‘Labrador’ was coming out ‘lavender’.  Whatever.

Speaking of which, I may have been losing respect for them before reading the blog because everyone around here has them (or chihuahuas or pit bulls, or mixes of all three), but your anecdotes certainly haven’t helped their case.

Labradors are slime.  Except, occasionally, when they aren’t.  There are two entirely different strains of them any more, at least in England:  the proper old working dog style, and there’s a young bitch of this variety who lives around the corner who is a complete sweetie and I’m happy to see her coming, and the modern SUV-shaped ugly stupid monster, owned by ugly stupid people who let it wreck your temper as well as your gentle, bewildered hellhounds’, and to crap all over the churchyard and possibly your driveway.  I FRELLING WELL HATE LABRADORS.  Except, occasionally, when I don’t.  As above.

Chihuahuas are not a plague around here.  Pit bulls are, but pit bulls, or their ilk, are a plague pretty much everywhere.  It’s what gets popular, you know?  Popular is the death knell for anything nice.

And on that cheerful note . . .

 * * *

* Especially not without hitting your head on one of those where-did-that-come-from interesting ceiling angles.

** Including things like the original manuscript of BEAUTY.  Eeeeeep.  Which I rediscover every few years.  I think it gets more startling every time.  Also the original, equally smudgy, cut-and-pasted, liberally white-outed^ SWORD and HERO.  As I recall OUTLAWS is the worst in this regard.  I still have grisly flashbacks of kneeling on the floor in my little house in Maine, cutting up chapters and paragraphs and trying to tape them together again before I forget what I’m doing, and feverishly scrawling cryptic bridges in the margins, hoping I’ll be able to smooth them out later.  Or possibly OUTLAWS was the worst.  I used to burn a lot of mss in my early typewriter days.  Not so much now:  everything becomes second sheets for the printer.^^  Except occasionally when I revert and do my cutting and pasting in hard copy.  Occasionally this is therapeutic.

And then I burn them.  Sometimes.  Sometimes I just scream and tear them up.  And stomp on them.

^ Have you seen that there are typewriter aps for your iPad?  WHYYYYYYY?

^^ It’s surprisingly confusing having your own words on the back of your freshly printed out draft pages.  Even when you know that’s an old story and you’re working on a new story.

*** Books?  Books?  Never say.  I amaze myself.

† My thirty-six million horse books, fiction and nonfiction.  My nineteen million nonfiction critters of the world books, excluding horses, including a lot of guidebooks and wild critter rescue and management books, the majority being North American, including dozens of standard Audubon and Peterson field guides and so on, but by no means exclusively these—the NA collection expanded exponentially when I was figuring out DRAGONHAVEN and some of these are very small press/audience and peculiar.  The Australian critter books go with the general Australian collection—which considering I’ve only ever spent about five weeks there total is pretty impressive.  But Australia is, you know, mad, as well as instantly irresistible.  There’s nothing else anything like it.^  Including all that let’s-evolve-in-interesting-off-the-wall-ways on a huge freaky water-bound continent fauna, and flora to go with ’em.  WHEEEEEEE.  Also the Aboriginal mythology—that is, what the white invaders managed to write down about it—is fascinating.  And then there’s my British guidebook collection.  Siiiiiigh.  I adore guidebooks.  I buy them everywhere I go.^^  And I have the impassable attic to prove it.  AND PETER’S AND MY BACKLIST STILL HAS TO GO UP THERE.

^ Except maybe New Zealand or Tasmania in a distant-cousin way but I haven’t been to either of these.

^^ Sometimes I buy the same one several times.  Mottisfont, for example.  I must have three or four.  Every time the National Trust trots out a new edition—which is to say there are three more paragraphs of the foreword to the foreword to the foreword about what they’ve been doing since the last edition—I buy it again.  Hey, sometimes there are new rose photos.

†† I was hacking through the between-covers verbiage at the cottage today and thinking gloomily of the 1,000,000,000 fresh, new books I have on various wish lists at various on line emporia, and I know I will eventually add far more of these to my shopping basket(s) than I will delete, which does not address the books bought by opening a three-dimensional door, with or without three-dimensional bell, crossing a three-dimensional threshold, and browsing three-dimensional books on 3D shelves and tables, overseen by a very realistic-ly dimensional clerk who may or may not have a clue about books^ but can run a credit card machine.

^ It fascinates me that in the increasingly, or do I mean decreasingly, tiny beleaguered cult world of the high street bookstore, you do get clerks who seem to be there only because the gift shop didn’t have a grunt-level staff opening.

††† Or, even more likely, current attic complete mental breakdown

‡ Or backage, if you prefer

‡‡ You are reading the footnotes in order, aren’t you?

‡‡‡ He also, in the grand British working-man tradition, calls me ‘luv’.  I know I’m supposed to object to this, but it always makes me fall down laughing.  Increasingly so as they get younger and younger as I get older and older.  I know I’m twice his age because he mentioned being thirty-two.^

^ Which means, to have a thirteen-year-old daughter, he started young.

I still sing. Make an, ahem, note

 

I’m just back from church.  Hurrah.  I haven’t been in yonks and yonks.  I’ve thought for the last three Sundays—I think it’s three—that I would make it this week and then I have one of my unscheduled collapses and don’t.*  I felt deeply guilty** a fortnight ago when my name was on the [singing] rota again and Aloysius could have really used some support—St Margaret’s, like most of the rest of the northern hemisphere where people live, gets thin on the ground in August while they’re all on holiday in someone else’s home town.***  So if that shocking failure was a fortnight ago, my name would coming up on the rota again . . . yes.  Hmm.  Buck was leading.  And there was no one else on the list.

. . . Pav, go lie down.†

I looked the music rota up on Thursday and blanched.  Also I’d had no song list so I could look the stuff up on YouTube and complain.  But possibly I had had no song list because I had been a no show for so long they’d drummed me off the rolls.  Which in August when there is an insufficiency of people on stage to hide behind is maybe quite a good thing.

Friday.  Still no song list.  I began the day feeling pretty good in brain and energy terms, so I emailed Buck.  WHERE IS MY SONG LIST [I might come, you never know]?

. . . And then Saturday I had another frelling lying-down day†† ARRRRRRGH . . .

Pav, go lie down.†††

So I got cautiously out of bed today wondering what was going to happen.  One of the things that happened was that I FINALLY had a return email from Buck saying he’d only just got back from holiday to 1,000,000,000 emails and sure, come along tonight and we’ll party.

Um.

So I went early like a good girl and found him practising ALL BY HIMSELF.  Where would you like to be? he said, brandishing a music stand.  In the middle?  On the other side of the stage?  BEHIND YOU, I said clearly.  And you have to sing what I’m supposed to sing.  No messing around with the tune.‡  He gave me his Steady Look, which is never a good sign.  But we gambolled through the music, some of which I knew and some of which I did not know.  One of the ones I did not know has a long embarrassing spell of Woah woah woah where you just sort of emote with your mouth open, torturing innocent variations of the so-called tune in whatever manner seems good to you.  Ad lib.  You know.  Eh.  Gah.  Buck can do that one.

I didn’t know how much voice I was going to have, because I’ve been too feeble lately to do much singing beyond folk songs while hurtling, but since for some reason they refused to turn my microphone off tonight you could certainly hear me.

As it happened it wasn’t as dire as all that.  One of the blokes who plays a keyboard was unwise enough to turn up for the evening service and Buck nailed him.  So in fact we started a few minutes late while Jethro frantically dragged his keyboard out of the cupboard and started plugging things in with his hands going so fast he looked like an octopus with fingers.  Which may explain why, when we got to the woah woah woah and Buck shot off into parts unknown I not only shot after him but soared past—he’s a nice strong tenor with some top end but I’m a soprano.  I win.‡‡

And having been winding up cables that hate me since I first started this singing shtick, tonight I had a lesson from the ex-roadie and ex-member-of-the-band Buck in how to wind up a cable so it doesn’t hate you.  Who knew this was a skill?

Pav, GO LIE DOWN.

Yeah.  I think I’ll do that too.  Preferably in a bed however.  With lots of pillows and books.  Pav will probably prefer a chew toy.

* * *

* I haven’t been to the monks in forever either.  Siiiiiiigh.  If you have ME, don’t join a church frelling MILES from where you live or fall in love with a bunch of monks who are even farther away.  I thought I was finally going to make it to the abbey last Saturday . . . and got an email from Alfrick saying, don’t come if you were planning to, there’s a doodah^ on and night prayer is cancelled.  And then Sunday, possibly from disappointment, I had another lying-down-in-a-daze day, and didn’t make it to church again.

^ This is of course the deep theological usage of the term ‘doodah’.

** Which does not improve the lying-down-in-a-daze experience

*** And the evening service is the little one.  Apparently the earlier services still teem pretty well, even in August.

† Poor Pav’s training has gone totally pear-shaped the last two months or so what with Everything Else Going On and I swore that as soon as things even BEGAN to settle down I’d start doing something more with her again.^   And fabulously amusing as rolling over on command is, the thing that would make a significant difference to both her quality of life and mine is if she would learn to GO LIE DOWN on command, so I have a better alternative when she’s winding herself up to start bouncing off the ceiling than to lock her up in her crate again.  Even bribing her with foooooood gets a little oppressive after a while and I need her to like her crate because she inevitably spends a good deal of time in it.  And I don’t want to make a huge deal of it when she’s just being a bull terrier and put her in her harness and make her Long Down at my feet.  ‘Go lie down’ is just another off button like Southdowner-trained Olivia’s holding is.^^

^ Her walking more or less at heel and sitting and looking up at me when I stop is getting not at all bad except, of course, when I start to think so.  But people who know bullies tend to fall down laughing when they see us doing our somewhat erratic trick+.  I’m usually smiling even without onlookers++.  The little evil eyes do enhance the experience of being stared up at—and the way a bullie’s back legs are built how bullies sit down often provokes hilarity even in the clueless onlooker.

+ Ie successfully.

++ No NOT in surprise.  You rude person.

++ Holding still works fine, by the way.  If she gets too turbo-charged about another dog—and with her personality I am not going to risk her being ruined by too many encounters with stupid people’s off lead ugly citizens the way my poor sweet hellhounds have been ruined—I don’t just pick her up I hold her.

†† Possibly due to the extreme frustrations of Friday, which included, after learning of the third mortgage I was going to have to take out to pay for the new boiler, belting into Mauncester at the last possible minute to pick up our NEW CLEAR GLASS SPLASHBACK^ for the gas hob/stovetop at Third House which Ignatius had already promised to screw in on Saturday . . . AND THEY FRELLING MUFFED THE JOB.  And are going to have to do it all over again.  On their penny, but even so.  Arrrrrrgh.

And then I rang handbells with Niall for the first time in months and it TOTALLY wiped me out.  No measurable trace of brain function after.  I used to be able to ring handbells without having to be rolled home in a wheelbarrow. . . .

^ Ordering same having taken somewhat longer than it might have when I arrived last Friday at 3:55 to find that despite the stated hour of closure as 4:30 the only person still there was locking up as fast as he could turn the key.

Finding someone who could provide a clear glass splashback has been a whole other saga as fashion presently dictates that the only splashbacks any cool up to the minute person would want are brutally glossy things in really harsh grisly in your face colours or the even more in your face polished steel uggggggh.  I get enough of the dentist’s office/torturer’s look at my dentist’s office/torturer’s tea parties, okay?  AND I WANT TO SEE MY TILES.  They’re nice tiles and they cost a lot of money.

††† If you stirred Pav and me together you’d get . . . one very extraordinary looking creature who lay down precisely the right amount in precisely the right circumstances.

‡ Aloysius perfectly well can sing harmony, and often does.  Buck, however, is dangerous.  He gets carried away.

‡‡ I had two people tell me after how lovely my singing harmony was.^  They’re so nice at St Margaret’s.  And they so really need singers they are eager to be encouraging.

^ Wrong. Trust me on this.

And I haven’t even told you the latest BT saga

 

It’s not the actual moving that puts a house move at the top of the stress list:  it’s the everyflippingthing that goes wrong.

I’ve been trying for about five weeks to find a plumber that isn’t booked up till 2020.  The plumbing company that I used satisfactorily for several years has stopped answering their phone.  You get a message saying leave your phone number and we’ll get back to you, and they don’t.  I kept waiting for the real human being to return from the longest lunch in employee history and she never did, so I finally left a message, and that didn’t work either.  Meanwhile I was asking everyone who might have cause to know about local plumbers—other men* driving vans full of tools, for example, or the sector of the market which sells hammers and spanners and garpenscrads to them.  I even asked the nice lady at the estate agent’s who I talked to last autumn about letting Third House.  Hers was, as I recall, booked till 2032.

You can’t get away from plumbers’ vans in this frelling area and they all have emblazoned down their long sides variations on a theme of QUICK FRIENDLY PROFESSIONAL SERVICE.  HERE IS A SELECTION OF PHONE NUMBERS, HOME, MOBILE, THE LOCAL PUB THAT TAKES MESSAGES, AND MY DOG** WHO LOVES TO ANSWER THE PHONE SO MUCH I’VE GIVEN HIM HIS OWN LINE.  I ALSO ACCEPT SMOKE SIGNALS.  Snarl.  Most of these geezers aren’t too fabulous in the social niceties either.  I understand that they don’t like turning down work, but someone should gather them all in a room and teach them to say, clearly and calmly, I’m really sorry, but I’m booked till 2032.  The ‘I’m sorry’ part is important, as is the tone, which should not suggest to the hapless caller that the sound of her voice is similar to the sensation of hot needles being plunged into their ears.***

I am absolutely clueless about things like plumbers and I didn’t want just to start going through the phone book.  Dire things and cowboys proceed from such desperate procedures.  The most recent local independent I asked, on the recommendation of another Bloke Who Should Know, and whose van I see around town all the frelling time, turned out to speak in complete sentences and didn’t seem to hate me for wanting to give him some work.  So I asked him.

He said, uh, yeah, try Blithering Doodah.  They’re a big national company and they’ve got a branch in Mauncester, and they’re pretty good about who they hire, and I know some of the guys.

So I tried Blithering Doodah.†  That was Monday.  And I got this terribly chirpy and efficient sounding young woman who said certainly, we will send you a gas boiler specialist,†† since the purpose of my feverish search for a plumber is that neither Peter’s nor my boiler is working properly, and they could do it . . . Wednesday.  YIKES, I said, or words to that effect, you mean the day after tomorrow?  Certainly, said the young woman.  YES PLEASE, I said.

She then took my details down to my shoe size and the number of dogs in the household.†††  She took the post codes of both houses;  she consulted with her manager if the Gas Boiler Specialist could look at both boilers on the same job;  the manager said he could;  she took careful directions how to find the cottage, in case his SatNav failed, and said firmly that he would come to the cottage first since that was the phone number I was calling from, and we could proceed from there to Third House subsequently.

Fine. Great.  I spent nearly thirty six hours in a daze of success and accomplishment.  Also Peter is looking forward to not having to boil several kettles to take a hot bath.‡

This morning, much too early, the phone rang.  It was Blithering Doodah who wanted to tell me that my slot was no longer one to three this afternoon, but three to six, and I could assume it would be nearer five than four or three.  Golly, I said, he doesn’t mind working late?  No, said this new person, he doesn’t mind.  And then the new person proceeded to take all my details all over again, including the shoe size and the range of domestic fauna, but CONFIRMED that the Gas Boiler Specialist would come to the cottage.  At five o’clock or so.  And the Gas Boiler Specialist would ring me on my mobile about half an hour before he arrived.

You see where this is going.

I spent the morning shovelling a path at the cottage so he could get in.  I was finally taking the patient hellhounds out for a hurtle‡‡ and decided to swing by Third House to water those potted plants.  Peter plays bridge Wednesday afternoons so there wasn’t anyone there.  I’d just let all of us in the door when the hellhounds shot back outside again and there was a whoop of alarm from the courtyard.  Frell.  I followed them hastily and discovered a young man just barely not climbing a tree.‡‡‡

You wanted a plumber to look at your boiler? said the young man.

It was about three-forty-five.  I gaped at him.  You’re not supposed to be here for hours, I said.  And this is the wrong house.  And you were supposed to ring me half an hour before you got here.

This is the only address they gave me, he said.  They didn’t give me a phone number either.

ARRRRRGH.  Well, what a good thing I happened to be here.

Blithering Doodah are pretty good generally, he said.  But their customer service, um.  At least they gave me the right day this time.  They don’t always.

So.  He examined Peter’s boiler.  And there was something wrong with it.  Modified hurrah.  But it’s not like the funny noise your car is making and the mechanic looks at you sidelong and says I don’t hear any funny noises and it’s running fine.  Here’s my bill for two hours of drinking coffee and chatting up the new receptionist.

There is, however, something wrong with Peter’s boiler to the tune of several hundred pounds.  Arrrrgh.

The young man then goes off in his van to meet me at the cottage—my arrival somewhat delayed by the fact that now the hellhounds decide to perform various ablutions, and they do not hurry their ablutions, my hellhounds—spends about thirty seconds looking at my boiler, appears to be repressing snickering and says . . . I’m sorry, but this thing is a piece of rubbish.  You should just get rid of it and buy a new one.

YAMMER YAMMER YAMMER GIBBLE GIBBLE GIBBLE GIBBLE.§

Yeah, he said.  But by the time you buy the parts you’re halfway to a new one anyway . . . and this one never was any good.  An Infinity Dreadnaught will last you forever.

Anyone want to guess what an Infinity Dreadnaught costs?§§

. . . I have to go lie down again.§§§

* * *

* Are there any female plumbers?  Maybe in other countries?  Iceland, which may not be known for fiscal stability but they’ve got the best rating for gender equality in the first world?  Don’t you school-leavers out there know that you will ALWAYS be in work if you’re a plumber?  And if you don’t want to worry about those blocked-loo calls, you can specialise, and then you can charge more too.

** There’s a woman I see occasionally waiting for her ride when I lurch past behind some hellmob division or other.  She is, unusually, an admirer of both my hurtle shifts;  I’ve noticed that generally the lurcher and the bullie admiration societies are non-overlapping sets.  Pav saw her slightly before I did the last time and was already in full assault mode before I got her hauled in.^  But the woman laughed and said she had a dog of her own.  So we’ve become quite friendly in the monosyllabic ‘hi’ ‘hi’ way.  Tonight I was very tired after striving with plumbers and it was the hellhounds that got away from me and started milling about this woman as if she were their presumed lost forever best friend and by the way she was responding maybe she was.  I have ascertained in our minimal conversations that she doesn’t merely have an accent—as I have an accent—but that English of any variety is not her first language.  Tonight I said, you told me you have a dog, what kind is it?  Oh it is a lavender, she said and I instantly translated this as Labrador without even noticing I was doing it, probably because the L-word is always what a dog beginning with ‘L’ is, never a Lithuanian Hound or a Lhasa Apso, and there are more frelling L-words around here than all the other dog breeds combined.  Oh, I said politely, they tend to be very friendly and enthusiastic too.

It wasn’t till I was already striding down the road again at hellhound speed^^ that I was playing the conversation back in my mind and I thought, lavender?

^ Note:  arrrgh.  I am not so doting as to assume that everyone likes being hustled by dogs, even a hellmob as beautiful and charming as mine, and if you possess a bunch of eager hustlers, it behoves you to be quick on the brake button.

^^ They’d had kind of a boring day due to plumbers etc and had some catching up to do on the wind-in-their-fur thing.

*** Maybe they don’t like American accents?  Maybe it’s part of the Secret Plumber Handshake ritual?  ‘And we all hate American accents!’

† I should have realised from the name, right?   Umm . . .

†† See?  Specialist.  I bet he’s never unplugged a loo.

††† None.  Two hellhounds and a hellterror however.

‡ I merely have no central heating.  I won’t care for another couple of months and I may not care then since with the Aga in the centre of this little house and at the foot of the stairs so the heat streams up the hall, I only turn the heating on for short hedonistic self-indulgent bursts.  The last time I tried, in March or thereabouts, nothing happened.  Eh, I’ll worry about it later, I thought.  But it makes me faintly anxious that half my boiler isn’t working—the hot water might follow—and it seems like the responsible grown-up thing to do, to have it mended.

‡‡ Leaving an outraged hellterror hanging from the top of her crate making noises like a jungleful of monkeys.  We go through this every day.  She has Riot Time at the cottage—and if the hellhounds retreat to the back of their crate I shut them in so she can’t get at them—including extensive tummy rubbing, Long Yellow Thing wars and varying individual excitements such as helping me water the potted plants or going upstairs to check if the document I just printed actually did.  And then I shut her up again with her breakfast.^  And try to get out the door with the hellhounds while she’s preoccupied.  This doesn’t stop the protests, but the noise is a bit muffled.

^ Well.  Let’s say first meal of the day.

‡‡‡ Clearly he does not have a lavender at home.

§ Including the fact that it’s only a few years old. I’ve already frelling replaced it once.

§§ And when he rang back to the head office to order the parts for Peter’s boiler—my arglefargling new one is a more complicated process—they had lost my credit card details AGAIN.

§§§ I could live without central heating.  But I really want my hot water.

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