I was running late this morning. Well. So surprising. Not. And I came blasting into the courtyard at the mews about mid-afternoon, didn’t quite spurt gravel into West Sussex as I spun Wolfgang into his corner, flung open the door and . . . almost stepped in a Gigantic Pile of Dog Crap.
I attained orbit a whole lot faster than those slow rockety things from Cape Canaveral ever did. ARRRRRRRGH.
Among other things I get so frelling tired of feeling that I’m permanently bent over in a posture of abject apology for having dogs at all.* And I believe there aren’t any full-time dogs at the mews/Big Pink Blot—which is run as a kind of Grangerford/Shepherdson cooperative—I think dogs may not be allowed in the articles of whatsit. But there’s at least one other regular canine visitor . . . whom I’ve yet to see on a lead . . .
And of course everyone around here gives me the hairy eyeball, because our multi-legged (and hairy) comings and goings are extremely conspicuous. I PICK UP AFTER MY HELLCRITTERS. AND THEY’RE NEVER, EVER OFF LEAD EXCEPT UNDER MY [EXTREMELY HAIRY] EYEBALL IMMEDIATELY OUTSIDE THE FRONT DOOR FOR A PEE BEFORE THEY GET BACK IN THE CAR.
People are slime. Make a note.**
On the other hand I had a rush of blood to the head and had a look at bobs and singles for St Clements minor and Colin and Niall and I had an Amusing Time this evening trying to ring touches of something besides plain bob minor. Of course Colin had to louse this up by splicing in plain courses of plain bob when I’m trying to grapple with the essential horror of ringing any bobs and singles on handbells. I don’t need any additional abominations of random courses, however plain, of some other frelling method. I am meanwhile welded to the St Clements trebles*** till further notice.
Yes. One might ask “Where is Kes going to sleep? Not even Cademon can guard against such antics as these!”
SLEEP? You think anyone is thinking of SLEEP in current circumstances?†
And WHERE is she? Is this really taking place in a house she rents? In the same world as the motel and the truck? Really?
Oh, now, let’s not get all literal here. Is Sunnydale any less Sunnydale just because the hellmouth happens to yawn evilly on a corner near you?
I also wouldn’t count on Merry being . . . normal.
There’s a corpse on the floor and a man speaking High Forsoothly, but I, like Kes, am most immediately concerned about bloodstains on her books.
Yep. Under stress we revert to type. Me too.
Oh wait, why didn’t we see Sid next to the body? Did she move out of the way in time? Last thing from last week was Sid biting the shadowy attacker’s arm, and now our shadowy attacker is bleeding all over the floor, dead.
No, no, no, no. Not to worry. This is a McKinley story, right? Can you possibly imagine that I would let anything dreadful happen to Sid? If I would defy the Story Council to give Kes a dressing-gown if she wasn’t wearing a nightgown, do you really think I’d let them do anything nasty to Sid?
Although this is another example of the weirdness of tiny-chunk serials. You’ll see Sid again this Saturday. I couldn’t get her and the books into last Saturday’s.
Watermelon Shoulders really isn’t terribly good at explaining, is he?
Well, High Forsoothly is very bad for the mental processes. Think of all the drivel Gandalf could spout when he reverted to Ancient Mage mode.
Dear me… poor Kes. If she knows how much blood is in the human body, she’s doubtless well aware of what it means when your sword has a name.
Yep. After all she writes that stuff.
And what a place to stop! “We have need of thee”!? … Can’t wait for Saturday!
Kes, on the other hand, would be very grateful to hide under the bed. If she had a bed to hide under.
Diane in MN
doing a serial in tiny chunks like this
No problem with tiny chunks. Big problem with tiny MEMORY!
Yes. Now try and imagine what it’s like being the author with a tiny memory. No—wait—no—wasn’t it urglfwiddy in ep 4012? Didn’t the attack mushrooms eat Gelasio’s new inamorata? Was Serena’s to-die-for crumble pear, plum, peach or rambutan?
There will probably be quite a lot of tidying-up to be done for the hard-copy version . . .
This is, of course, not the author’s fault. But I am quite looking forward to some future date when Kes will be available in one BIG chunk
. . . toward that BIG chunk we are ALL looking forward to.††
I’ll also just add here that while forum members don’t rank in the millions or anything, if I posted a birthday KES for every forum member who had a birthday . . . I WOULD BE VERY BUSY WRITING KES.
Helpful comment: No matter how many millions of readers you get, you’d still only have 365 KES episodes to write.
Oh, another frelling literalist. In the first place there are weird odds and statistics about people’s birthdays: http://www.theguardian.com/notesandqueries/query/0,5753,-22978,00.html
Never mind the logic of how you get there, twenty-three people doesn’t seem anything like enough to produce two with the same birthday. These odds however were made vivid to me in junior-high chemistry [sic] and there weren’t even quite twenty-three of us in that class—but another girl and I had the same birthday. So what’s the other end of that—how many forum members would we need to produce birthdays EVERY DAY of the year? And if there are more than one birthday person on a given day, will one episode satisfy them? Or if person x got an episode this year, would person y—with the same birthday—expect their episode that day the next year?
I prefer to reject the whole birthday-ep notion unilaterally. It’s so much easier. For me.
1. I am going to start calling someone, anyone, really, “Watermelon Shoulders”, cause it cracks me up.
Assuming that you will apply this to someone whose physique includes large powerful shoulders I hope you will tactfully ascertain in advance if the cognomen will be appreciated in a positive manner.
2. I am not sure whether to be glad or upset that I will never have strange apparitions in my house as I have not one, but two techies.
I’d go for grateful. Kes is not going to be having a good time for a while.
3. I am saying this quietly as to not get hurt, while I love Kes, I just recently reread Pegasus and the ending is a killer and I would really love to read Pegasus II. So please, Robin, please, keep writing both!
Hey. I want to keep eating. I have a desire so overwhelming to read PEG II—and PEG III—in their perfect, finished entirety that your mere readerly longing is comparatively speaking a rose petal drifting in the bottomless ravine.
* * *
* Let alone three dogs, which anyone but Southdowner might find excessive.
** Pav took against someone for the first time in weeks the other day. This jerk has three or four working-hunter type dogs, spaniels.^ Because he is a working-hunter type bloke he is clearly superior to the rest of us with our wispy pet dogs, and while his dogs do obey him, they are always off lead and he clearly doesn’t feel any great need to curtail their fun in terrorising the riff-raff. His big male thug doesn’t like my hellhounds, and they return the sentiment.
I saw this delightful crew coming toward us and I picked Pav up. I don’t need the hassle and she doesn’t need to be intimidated by testosterone-poisoned idiots. The human jerk sauntered up to me and said, in as sneering a tone as humanly possible, Are we frightened? I said in as neutral a tone as possible, There are rather a lot of you.
I think it was probably because he stank of ciggies, and Pav is passionately anti-smoking^^, but it may have been that I didn’t sound as neutral as I wanted to. But she went ballistic, which Jerkface, fortunately, found amusing. He sauntered off . . . and I staggered, with my ballistic bullie, to the nearest bench^^^, where we sat for a long time before she finally morphed back into my Pav and we could continue our hurtle. Meanwhile we’d lost the last of the daylight. I think Parliament might pass a law ordering more daylight in December. Christmas is fine# but I want daylight.
^ In his case this is definitely too many.
^^ Passionately enough I wonder if something happened with a cigarette-stinking human when I wasn’t around.
^^^ This only works if your exploding critter weighs under thirty-five pounds. I’m glad I don’t have to try and Hold a . . . Great Dane, say.
# Sort of. Christmas, for this still-new Christian, starts the countdown to Easter again. I know I got through Easter last year—and I know about the resurrection, thank you—but it still scares the frzzlmp out of me.
*** In the first big fat tier of ordinary methods, the treble only goes straight out to the back and straight down to the front again with none of the jiggy bits that make inside ringing so . . . entertaining. So if you’re ringing the one-two on handbells, the amount of mayhem that bobs and singles can cause is limited because only the two is affected; the one just keeps on truckin’. It’s still bad enough that the two goes doolally, because that changes the relationship between your two bells.
† Granted that the author/recorder’s difficulties with the whole concept of sleep may be muddying the ground here. OH LOOK. AN INARGUABLE REASON NOT TO BE ABLE TO SLEEP. MODIFIED RAPTURE.
†† Well, I hope many of us are looking forward to. Please.^
^ See: keep eating.
I hv hellterror in lap that is 2 say sharing chair WHICH IS NOT BIG ENUF 4 BOTH OF US & I am so uncomfortbl I cld die
* * *
. . . I may be crippled for life. No, I think the blood is beginning to flow in the right direction(s) again. When I’ve thought ahead I’ve brought the piano stool in and set it next to my chair so she has something to spill onto and I get to keep my butt ON THE CHAIR. She’s too small and square to have useful staying-on-chair inertia: if she slides she’s gone. I am long and lanky and quite a bit of me can hang off something like a chair quite securely . . . barring the intense pain this causes. THE THINGS WE DO FOR OUR CRITTERS. I still haven’t got the lying-together-in-a-heap system right; the hellhounds think the sofa is theirs and while I CAN trap her in such a manner that she is prevented from molesting them it’s not like I can lie there enjoying my book while I’m on constant Suppression Alert not to mention crisping slightly under the burning accusatory glare from the two pairs of hellhound eyes.* Arrrrgh. Hellterror laptime at the cottage is even more death defying—for both of us. I’m usually on a stool, a, what’s more tall stool, and she has to cling to me like a young monkey grasping its treetop-swinging mum. She’s fine with this.** Me, not so much.
She is now the size she should remain and likes laps. I’d better figure something out.
I was reading your author website today, Robin, when I was supposed to be doing something else, and I loved the comment about characters in LOTR speaking “High Forsoothly.”
It’s not original I’m afraid. It’s been around quite a while; I can’t remember where I first read/heard it—I assume I already didn’t remember when I was writing that bit and so didn’t identify it there?—although it was in a Tolkien context. But I bagged it instantly and have used it ever since. Kes too. Kes was also crucially shaped by reading LOTR young but the twenty-year difference in Kes’ and my ages*** means that when she got to the end of RETURN OF THE KING she had other options than going back to page one of FELLOWSHIP.† You may have noticed she seems to have read some McKinley.
Although it strains my patience to get the chapters only once a week, I like the opportunity to talk back to the author at the end of each one. I’ve often wanted to do that.
‘Talk back’ used, perhaps, advisedly.†† Although may I just offer my forum a compliment here: thank you all for being so polite.††† Which means I get to enjoy the process too.‡ I hope it’s not just that my mods’ delete fingers are smokin’ hot. But along with merely relishing giving you a hard time—by definition, you know: it’s still all about turning pages, even when the pages are virtual and only happen once a week—I’m fascinated by what all of you pick up and what you don’t, or at least what you don’t feel is worth commenting on.
I have to wonder if Sid will be curious enough to taste the new gooey floor covering… And then how poor Kes will react to that.
Probably not. In the first place Sid is also going to be busy and in the second place . . . not all dogs find the same truly disgusting substances delightful, and sighthounds are even more bonkers than the usual run [sic] of canine peculiarity. This is an occasion where I can’t see that, in this case, Sid licking the floor is going to further the plot . . . and therefore I get to say it doesn’t happen. The Story Council grants me these small decisions now and then to keep me cheerful and writing.
Given that Kes has already seen one face she overtly recognized – I am also wondering how intertwined the current dimensional meld is with her writing. And if they are at all – which is the chicken, and which the egg? Does she think these people and places, therefore they are? Or does she write them because they already exist, and it is the knowledge of them that slips through dimensional cracks into her skull?
Remember that I say (a) there’s a crack in my skull where the stories come through (b) the stories exist, I don’t make them up, I only write them down, and never well enough and (c) . . . I am often in the position of trying to write them down by being there, wherever there is, frantically waving my notebook and pen‡‡ in the air and saying Wait! Wait for me!, and . . . that where I am (wherever it is) is very, very vivid.
Don’t forget the Hob! I’m sure his dinner counts for something!
Can’t wait for her horse to show up.
I CAN’T IMAGINE WHY I HAVE ALL THESE HORSE CRAZIES ON MY BLOG. I CAN’T IMAGINE.
Speaking of names, I’m expecting that we’ll finally find out Mr. W.Shoulder’s ????
Yes. But not next Saturday. Or even the Saturday after that. Or . . .
I’m still asking Santa-Robin for an additional episode at Christmas…I’ve been a good girl, I promise
I’ll think about it. I promise NOTHING.
*gnash gnash gnash*
Why, thank you.
WHERE DO I EVEN BEGIN TO COMMENT ON THAT?!
Wherever you like.
Okay, well, at the beginning, I suppose.
Sounds like a plan.
I bet Kes is glad she doesn’t sleep in the altogether – a nightgown is bad enough in this situation, but stark raving naked would be so much worse.
In such an extremity if the Story Council didn’t allow me to throw her a dressing-gown I would have done it anyway.
. . . I love how Kes is so focused on the sheer quantity of blood, like any normal person would be, but so significantly unlike most unwitting hero/ines in 95.8% of fiction.
Thank you. Certainly there are too many supposedly ordinary characters who are not freaked out by—er—calamitous events. Or so I as reader feel. This is what I was talking about last night: secrets to writing plausible fiction, including fantasy fiction: how would you feel if, etc. Stop and frelling THINK about it. As someone who’s been writing stories for over half a century (eeeeeep) I do this automatically—but I also sometimes STOP and try and make sure I’m paying enough attention to the ordinary-person-in-extraordinary-situation aspect.
The blood almost becomes a featured character in this little episode . . .
Not letting the reader forget about it, pulling one further into that sense of actually being there . . .
Oh good. That’s the idea.
. . . Same with the way Kes’s mind keeps jumping around to random inconsequentials (floor cleaning, security deposit, HA).
Which is often what you do when you’re freaked out by something, isn’t it? Well, it’s often what I do. HELP. I’M OUT OF CONTROL. And so you/I scrabble for little bits of things to have opinions about. ‡‡‡
. . . I can’t stand not knowing who the “we” is WS keeps mentioning. Do we get to meet them in the next ep? Do we, do we, huh? Do we, huh, huh?
NEXT ep? No way. Take a few deep breaths and make yourself some nice hot chocolate.
I’m guessing Kes’s dinner plans for the following day are shot now, huh?
Shot? Not at all. Why would they be? In the first place, tomorrow night is a long way away§ and in the second place . . . um . . . Hayley has already been surprising, hasn’t she?
* * *
* On rare occasions I do find them all three in the hellhound bed—either here or at the cottage—but she usually gets too excited at her own (nearly) unprecedented success and they roll their eyes and turf her out.^
^ Which reminds me of the New Dog Bed photo essay I keep meaning to organise. . . .
** Most dogs, in my experience, are more than happy to put their paws on your shoulders or even around your neck, probably the better to lick your face, but in whatever friendly companionable manner. I’m not used to a dog, especially something whose legs are only about three inches long, who without prompting puts her forelegs around your body and hugs you.^
^ Although she’s probably destroying the thighs of your jeans with her hind legs at the same time. This is not fear, mind you, this is, Hey! We’re having FUN! I think I told you, my first official Street Pastor night, I realised that the clean jeans I had put on just before coming out, the clean dog-hair-muddy-pawprints-and-dog-food-fleck-free jeans, were pretty tatty. I apologised to Fearless Leader and said I’d do better next time. Next time, which is to say last Friday, I discovered I HAVEN’T GOT any tough denim jeans that aren’t tatty any more. I have some lightweight ones . . . but the ones that will withstand a hard (cold) night on the town or a hellterror all look like they’ve done more hellterror-withstanding than is good for them.
*** Which is going to keep stretching alarmingly in real time. I was approaching my sixtieth birthday when I started KES and while she still is approaching her fortieth birthday I’ve turned sixty-one. Once I’ve got her settled I hope I can SKIP FORWARD a bit. I have plans for her fortieth birthday and I don’t want to die of extreme old age before she’s paid her second month’s rent on Rose Manor.
† Or THE HOBBIT, but I don’t think I’ve read that as many as half the number of times I’ve read LOTR. ^
^ That’s still quite a few.
†† YOU DID WHAT? SHE’S WHAT? IT’S WHAT? Blondviolinist covered this well.
††† . . . mostly.
‡ . . . MOSTLY.
‡‡ Or, lately, possibly iPad. Although if I’m going to go wandering multi-dimensionally I should buy a second battery in case the local power source is incompatible.
‡‡‡ Not, perhaps, wholly unlike a hellterror scrabbling to stay in a lap.
§ Especially in terms of likely number of eps. Gah.
(And now I have only about a thousand questions, some of which are from earlier but are more pressing now that someone has tried to KILL Kes & Sid in their own (brand new) home. For starters, why on earth is Kes a target?
Some of us have a gift for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. And what she does for a living has perhaps a slight focusing-the-sun’s-rays-through-a-magnifying-glass effect. Since I don’t think I’d react well to dead guys in the front hall either, I’m happy to say that the influence my career has had on my life has been a trifle more subtle.*
And why NOW, when she’s moved to a new place?
She was married to a Tech Master. Tech has a dampening effect on guys with swords from other dimensions. Now she’s OUT THERE ALL BY HERSELF.**
If she’d stayed in NYC, would mysterious armed men have broken into the penthouse?
Probably not. All that tech would have confused them. They would have burst through their dimensional gateway and found themselves chasing reindeer in Lapland.
If any of you have a sudden influx of guys with swords you might want to ask Blogmom what she’d charge you to camp in her back garden for a few weeks till they’re all safely misdirected to Lapland. Those reindeer can really take care of themselves.
And who’s Bossy Voice and how did he manage to show up in the nick of time?)
Well you’ve now read the next instalment so you know who Bossy Voice is . . . sort of. Hee hee hee hee hee.
—I can’t wait to find out who the owner of the “strangely familiar voice” is! I suspect that the person has already appeared to Kes in Normal Townsperson incarnation and I’m very curious.
—OK, I had just assumed it was Mr. Watermelon Shoulders from parts 49-50?
—Watermelon Shoulders was my guess as well, but I’d like proof. Plus, him being WS doesn’t rule out him also being Caedmon or something/someone else as well, right?
Nope. It doesn’t. Hee hee hee hee, con’t.
[Forgive me, copying from the forum and pasting into Word is fraught with translation difficulties. Those descending box things for people to carry on a conversation don’t transfer AT ALL and trying to attach who said what to whom is a freller. You can always go look it up, right? I’m just giving you the context for me to hang an unhelpful, hellgoddessy comment on.]
Well, Ron Driscoll’s got to enter back into this story one way or the other… although I can’t necessarily picture him switching into ‘ye olde speake’ just because we’ve morphed realities…
::grovels and throws dust over her head:: Speaking of other dimensions, I’m afraid poor Ron has got lost in one. When I started KES I was planning on taking it less seriously than it has decided to take me*** and asked Black Bear before I ever got properly going with it if she’d play with me and do her gamesmaster thing to spur me on. And then KES ran away with me.†
I’m still hoping Ron might have a look-in during the post-immediate-climactic mop-up, so to speak, in a you-don’t-think-this-is-over-do-you louring and suggestive manner. Black Bear and I have discussed the possibility of parallel KES stories for the future which makes the best sense to me—like Peter and me finally getting at least two of our joint elemental spirits books out by the simple expedient of writing separate stories.†† But it’ll mostly depend on Black Bear’s patience. I’m not . . . a wonderful person to work with. Sigh.
BUT I WANT TO MEET RON’S DOG.
Pre-emptive “create your own” comment in preparation for tomorrow’s forum outage. †††
Dramatic consequence of reading post:________
A. I can’t breathe!!!
B. How am I supposed to sleep tonight???
C. My heart nearly stopped!!! I’m going to need a pacemaker!!!
A. You evil woman, you!!!
B. Why do you TORTURE us like this!!!!!
C. Evil, horrible hellgoddess!!!
Delighted response to ________’s action, or sympathy for the same character’s predicament.
C. The hob
D. Mr. Watermelon Shoulders
A. Can’t you PRETTY PLEASE post another episode tomorrow?
B. Where’s my time machine???
C. How are we supposed to wait a WHOLE WEEK after that cliffhanger???
This had me so falling down laughing you’ll have to forgive me (again) for hanging it in its scintillating entirety out here on the blog. I do have an excuse, because I know that some of my friends who only read the blog to keep an eye on me never penetrate into the depths of the forum and it would be a pity if they—and any of the rest of you—missed it.
I’ll also just add here that while forum members don’t rank in the millions or anything, if I posted a birthday KES for every forum member who had a birthday . . . I WOULD BE VERY BUSY WRITING KES.‡
|Pre-emptive “create your own” comment in preparation for tomorrow’s forum outage.
‘It can be seen that with this prose the forum member ‘Blondviolinist’ has made a significant and insightful contribution to the forum reading experience, adding to the dynamic expressivity created by forum members engaged with the weekly posting of KES’
‘And causing the top of the hellgoddess’ head to disengage with the rest of her skull just long enough for her to recall in VIVID DETAIL why she bailed on the academic life the moment she escaped her undergrad college with her BA in her teeth and plunged into a sordid life of genre fiction.’
“Lady Kestrel.” Sounds suitably heroic, doesn’t it?
Yes. Poor Kes.
But will all that blood just disappear at dawn the way things just appeared after dark?
No. Next question.
. . . is anyone else tempted to pour five quarts of viscous fluid onto the floor to see how much it is?
I thought about it, then thought about how much I don’t want to clean that. Should have been a visual aid in middle school science class though. Imagine the angry notes parents could have sent!
All of this. I was just thinking about it again yesterday when I bled about a pint all over the landscape from a glancing blow with a tiny pointy wire end near the cuticle of my left forefinger. BLOOD. Really a very little lot of it is a lot lot. Also, in quantity, it pongs.‡‡ And if you’ve ever cleaned up after critter birth, I know it’s not the same stuff‡‡‡, and it’s full of smelly hormones, but it contains blood, and it’s thick and icky and slithery and . . . and that’s even in a good cause, you know? Birth.
I’m feeling really anxious about Kes’s books, too. I want to help her move them out of the way.
YES. THIS. Although this is also an example of the occasional weirdness of doing a serial in tiny chunks like this.§ This ep originally did not have Kes worrying about her books—worrying about her books originally came in the next ep. But I realised that all you book fetishists out there would be freaked out—I would be freaked out in your position: it would be the first thing I thought of—so I figured I’d better register the question immediately. As to what happens, well . . .
Well, if you’ve ever accidentally dropped an entire gallon of milk on the floor…. (Not that I would ever have done such a thing, and a gallon is one quart too few.)
I thought about that, but milk doesn’t coagulate, and I’m enough of a nerd that I would want the fluid to have that feature.
Yes. Viscous. Your word for it the first time. The meniscus, if that’s still what you call it on blood, is a lot more, um, turgid. And the thought of it—this thick wave of the stuff much taller than thin milk can achieve—spreading out and spreading out till it starts getting all crusty at the edges. . . . ewwwwwww. . . . .
Loved Watermelon Shoulders wiping his sword on the dead guy (he would, of course)
Oh good. That’s what I thought. And an awful lot of successful fiction writing (say I, dangerously giving away trade secrets) is declaring, okay, you’re an ordinary person in this situation, WHAT ARE YOU THINKING AND FEELING? And doing. And if you’re a swordsperson with a bloody sword, especially if you’re a polite swordsperson in someone’s house, you need to (a) wipe your sword (b) wipe it on something the householder won’t mind you wiping it on. But I yield to your greater knowledge of hand to hand combat. So I’m glad you think so too.
and knowing the name of Kes’s sword…though if he knows her, why wouldn’t he?
Well, you’re never sure about these cross-dimensional bozos. They often have surprising lapses in their info.
Am thinking “Would I be worrying about the blood getting on my books…or my air mattress and blankets? Because bloodstained books are one thing, but sleeping under bloodstained blankets–not that Kes is going to sleep anytime soon, I can tell (I think I can tell. Maybe)–is not going to be pleasant for her at all.
Unless the floor lists in the wrong direction—and I will put in a special petition that it doesn’t—the bedding is okay. The dead guy is in the front hall, not the kitchen, and Caedmon’s niche is off the kitchen.
But you’re right that sleep isn’t coming up in Kes’ schedule any time soon. . . .
* * *
* Mostly. So far. There’s still time for everything to go dimensionally skew-whiff. And most of my friends thought Peter had kidnapped me.
** Except for Sid.
*** There’s going to be a dead guy and a large yucky pool of blood, okay? And Kes has a sword with a name. Are you taking notes carefully? Are we making ourselves clear?
† I have a very long history of failing to collaborate. Peter could tell you about the last twenty-two years. But I can remember starting to illustrate [sic] the story a friend wrote about a mare and her foal when we were both nine, and my deciding that the story would go better like this and my friend taking exception.
I just didn’t think, to begin with, that KES was quite, um, real and therefore at such high risk of my Anti-Collaboration Gremlin.
†† Even if some of them have had the distressing habit of morphing into novels, trilogies, etc.
††† WHICH DIDN’T HAPPEN BECAUSE BLOGMOM IS A STAR. HIP, HIP, HOOOORAY. HIP, HIP, HOOOORAY. HIP, HIP, HOOOOOOOOORAY!!!!!!!!
‡ Hey. Stop that. You do want me to finish PEGS II and III, don’t you? And hellcritters would pine if we never went hurtling any more.
‡‡ Aside from other bodily functions that may occur involuntarily as a result of sudden death.
‡‡‡ Does human blood smell any better or worse than other mammalian sanguineous fluid? Discuss.
§ And no I’m NOT going to make them any longer. See previous footnote †††.
I had what passes in my case for a terrific voice lesson.
AND THE REMOVAL BLOKES GOT IT ALL IN.
These two large dazzling items totally outshine the rest which is a good thing because it was very nearly a disaster of a day.
. . . Starting with not getting to bed early enough last night, partly because I really needed to sing and one song leads to another. . . . Staggered out of bed this morning making hopeless croaking noises like an installation of rusty hinges* and started lubricating with caffeine. Took the poor hellterror for the fastest sprint she was capable of** and locked her up again with an extra kong to comfort her in our absence.***
I took hellhounds-of-the-touchy-digestion for a minimal get-it-over-with scamper around the churchyard. Darkness refused to comply with the purpose of this exercise. Arrrgh.
Hellhounds and I were on the road with twenty-five minutes to spare: five minutes to bolt up to Third House and ask Atlas to clear out drawers and move ill-placed piles of [book] boxes in anticipation of removal-men arrival this afternoon and twenty minutes for hurtling at the far end before my lesson.
Atlas wasn’t there.
I could feel my throat closing.
Well, nothing I could do about it; I couldn’t even ask Peter if he knew anything, since, in the first place, he wouldn’t, because he’s been in Gloucestershire all weekend, and in the second place because he was on a train somewhere and I guarantee his phone had no signal, because that’s the way it goes.
So we thundered on to our next scheduled activity.
Frelling Mauncester was backed up from halfway up the hill into town. Stop go (but not very far) stop go stop go stop go stop go stopgostopgostop. Chiefly stop. It was like this all the way through town.
I could feel my throat closing harder.
We arrived at Nadia’s with THREE MINUTES to spare. I took hellhounds for a three minute scuttle and . . . Darkness continued to fail to comply. ARRRGH.
I was pretty nearly barking by the time I burst through Nadia’s door. . . She did make me do some breathing and loosening up exercises before I sang anything, but my throat said, Ooooh! We’re at Nadia’s! We like it here! —And promptly warmed up a dream.†
WE GOT THROUGH THREE SONGS. THREE. IT’S A RECORD. We usually bog down on the first one because I’m doing so many things wrong, not that Nadia would put it that way, but I would. We may occasionally galumph through bits of more than one—indeed even three—but only because I have a specific technical question†† or they’re folk songs I’m singing at home and want a little general input—or scraping back from the brink. But THREE REAL SONGS? It doesn’t happen. And furthermore the third—Vedrai carino from Don Giovanni—I’d only brought because I wanted to go over the frelling Italian before I started really working on it. We’d had a stab††† at it a while ago and it got set aside, but it’s been on my mind and since I now more or less suddenly have more voice it’s one of the ones I snatched back from oblivion.
Oh, go on, let’s just sing it, said Nadia. So I did. Eeeeep. And she made one or two painless comments and told me to go home and work on it.
Then Un moto de gioja and we spent some time on that one. Here’s an example of why I adore Nadia. There’s a place in the middle of Un moto where you hold a note for a very long time and then come off it again with a wordless twiddle before you start the next verse. I hadn’t even registered that you’re supposed to sing the twiddle—when I started work on this song Nadia had told me to hold the note only as long as was comfortable, but to keep time and come in correctly on the new ‘un moto’. Then I ACCIDENTALLY heard Danielle de Niese singing it and she sings the twiddle. Oh. It ties the two halves together better, the twiddle. I can’t sing it up to proper twiddle speed at the end of a long note—which is the part I can do—and as I hurl myself into the next verse. So I sing it at half speed. Nadia said gravely, if you were preparing this for public performance I think I would take issue with your singing it so slowly, but for your purposes at present it works very well. —She takes you seriously. Even when you’re screwing up Do Re Mi or tackling something like someone with a flint axe trying to produce a knock-off of the Sphinx.
Finally we assailed the nightclub proprietress. This is such a fabulous song. There are no fully satisfactory performances of it on YouTube—that I can find anyway—but here’s the poem: http://wonderingminstrels.blogspot.co.uk/2006/05/song-of-nightclub-proprietress-john.html ‡
It needs Lotte Lenya—who may have died before Dring composed it, in which case I excuse her for having failed to record it—or someone else who can put over age and despair. I don’t say you have to be old (despair optional) because in fairness I would then have to give up singing Voi che sapete, say, which is sung by a teenage boy, or Vedrai carino, which is sung by a bouncy village maiden (to her thick plank of a fiancé). But you have to put old and hagged over. I have a chance of this, with lived experience on my side. But the thing that is Very Exciting is that I can hear me beginning to sound like a mezzo: not just the range‡‡ but the resonance. And this is a very resonant song.
. . . I then took hellhounds for another hustle and FINALLY. A CERTAIN PARTY EXCRETED. We then belted back to Third House and arrived with three minutes to spare . . . and the removal blokes were already there. NEVER MIND. I WASN’T LATE. I let them in, pointed out all the Large Objects that had to go, apologised for lack of pre-clearance . . . and bolted back to the cottage to feed hellcritters‡‡‡ and take the hellterror for another mini-hurtle while hellhounds contemplated their bowls with disfavour. I was on my way out the door to flee back to Third House when the phone rang and it was Removal Men saying they were ready. . . .
I looked at their lorry before they shut the gate and my heart plummeted. There was no way they were going to get that lot in. I had the hellhounds with me again—no one had got any kind of a real hurtle thus far today—and we took off across some countryside§ behind the storage warehouse while Valiant Removal Men wrestled with the standard three dimensions of the space-time continuum and when we returned . . .
THEY HAD GOT IT ALL IN.§§
Oh, and did I mention that tonight was the first night of the Alpha course—?
* * *
* On this day that the Turner Prize is announced, this seems like a perfectly valid idea
** All right, the fastest sprint I was capable of
*** I’m sure, if asked, she would prefer the kong
† Please remember, when I say silly things like this that IT’S ALL RELATIVE. I have made a giant leap forward in the last few weeks but it’s still an 11-hand Shetland pony qualifying for prelim at the county show against the odds, not the branded warmblood insured for a gazillion pounds qualifying for the Olympics, okay?
†† Huh, whuh, um, bleaugh?
††† Way too vivid a metaphor, stab. Or maybe I’m just hallucinating KES.
‡ Baby ’pollies is not a mystery: they’re little bottles of a kind of mineral water popular at the time.
‡‡ I’m still putting in petitions to get my high C back. Lots of mezzos have high Cs.
‡‡‡ ‘Feed’ used loosely, which is to say the hellterror eats and the hellhounds do not.
§ And I managed to cut myself on some barbed wire. Frell. There was a normal gate to get in, and then at the other end one of those horrible temporary gate things that anyone who has spent any time wandering over English agricultural landscape will know to their detriment: several strands of barbed wire stretched between two light posts and held apart horizontally by being nailed to a series of short loose lathes. This contraption is usually held at either end by a loop at ground level where you stick the bottom of your post and then at the top by another loop which you have to shove it under, around the post of the real fence it’s being attached to. These things are a menace anyway, and if you lose your hold they collapse on the ground in a grisly tangle of barbed wire. But in this case . . . the frelling loops were made of barbed wire. WHY? Anyone trying either to open or close the evil thing is going to have to handle the loops. I managed to nick a finger and it bled and bled and bled and bled and bled and bled and bled and bled and bled and it was very boring and there are probably a whole series of predators out there tonight hopefully following my blood spoor. Sorry guys.
§§ Of course I still have ninety-six million books to do something with—I don’t mean Peter’s and my backlist, that’s already in its own storage unit—and a few odds and ends. Maybe a few more than a few.
YAAAAAAAH. I got to bed at . . . a little short of 7 am Friday night/Saturday morning.* The rest of the weekend is a bit of a blur. I’ve kind of lost track of when daylight happens, it is so easy to mislay this time of year.** Meanwhile I’ve been playing phone tag with my removal man about getting the big stuff from Third House that Atlas and I can’t shift in his trailer up to the storage warehouse place; I missed Mr Removal Man on Friday and assumed that was it till Monday, but I got a phone message from him today that I picked up on my way out the door to go to church, arrrgh arrrgh arrrgh arrrgh arrrgh . . . phoned him as requested when I got home again*** AND HE WANTS TO COME TOMORROW AFTERNOON. I HAVE A FRELLING VOICE LESSON MONDAY AFTERNOON. EXCEPT TOMORROW I’M HAVING IT EARLY. VERY EARLY.† AND THEN I HAVE TO COME HOME AND DEAL WITH REMOVAL MEN?††
I need to sing††† and then go to bed. Fast.
* * *
* It was a slightly odd night out on the street.^ I would have put it down to the fact that it was only my second official night and I still don’t have a clue, but several of the others on the team, including Fearless Leader, mentioned it, that there was a restless unease in the (cold) air that was unusual. I was home by four a.m. but the adrenaline aftermath was bad; the only two at all really tricky incidents were near the end of our watch, and I was actually engaged in one of them—yeeeeeeeep—and came out of it having done the right thing but jangling. And . . . it’s going to take me a while to get used to seeing real live very drunk and/or drugged up people doing the kinds of things real live very drunk and/or drugged up people do, both the hostile and the happy, and also the mere absolutely absolutely legless. It happens on TV. It doesn’t happen, you know, here. Oh yes it does.
^ Although my HEATED WAISTCOAT worked brilliantly, I only turned it on after the break. Ah yes, the break, during which the weather apparently yanks the rug out from under the temperature which, obviously, plunges dramatically, like a keystone kop engaging with a banana skin. So when you come outside again, full of hot tea and a warm glow of self-satisfaction+, it’s like walking into the Yukon in January. I noticed this last time. I think we must snap a trip wire or something and the ice gods all leap to their feet and shout NOW!, and then bang their icicles of office together in solidarity before dashing out to do their worst.
Anyway. I didn’t turn my waistcoat on till after the break when I figured I’d need it worse and it did brilliantly. Except that it was so brilliant that I had it turned up only a third of the way . . . and it was dead in three hours. It’s supposed to last up to six hours depending on how high you set it, and it only lasted for three at one third power?? I may ask the seller a polite question.
I have a set of neoprene toe-socks—they only cover the front half of your foot, which is clever, because your feet don’t sweat that way—that were sent to me by a very nice person++ and I decided to use them Friday night. Another couple of degrees in the wrong direction and I’m changing over to the heated socks, but they worked a treat this time—while I was moving, tramping those mean streets and trying to look like I had the faintest idea what I was doing.+++ What’s interesting is that they don’t work a FILBERT sitting still in the monks’ chapel.++++ Next Saturday night prayer with the monks: heated socks.
+ I’m doing WHAT? And it’s WHAT time of night/morning?
++ You Know Who You Are
+++ Although I’ve now heard my more experienced colleagues answer that—er—diabolical question, Street Pastors? What are you?, often enough that I’m beginning to stop hyperventilating about what I’ll say# the first time someone asks me this in a way I can’t hastily pass on to one of said more experienced colleagues. One of our first training lectures had us trying to come up with an answer and . . . none of us covered ourselves with glory.
I haven’t entirely stopped hyperventilating. But I’m hyperventilating less. But there is also the first time I’m going to have to PRAY ALOUD to worry about. Noooooooooooooo. Usually you can give prayer requests to the Prayer Pastors back at base, it’s what they’re for. But occasionally someone you’ve been talking to asks you to pray for/with them, right there. Right now. Eeeeeep. I’m still in the early hyperventilating stage about praying out loud. I tell myself that I don’t radiate the kind of centredness and authority that would inspire anyone to ask me to pray over them. Reasons Not to Acquire Authority. I wouldn’t mind a little centredness though.
++++ The monks’ chapel is sooooooo cooooooold. By the time I’ve sat there an hour, muffled up in my heavy winter kit and a blanket, in contemplation,# when the abbot finally does his rapping thing and we’re all supposed to climb to our feet . . . I can’t. Although trying to find my way out of my excellent, steadfast blanket does not assist this awkward process.
# Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, I’m so cold, Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, I’m so cold. . . .
** Three weeks till the shortest day and then we start climbing back OUT of this pit.
*** And note that Peter is away till tomorrow afternoon so I’m having to do things like steam my own broccoli and cut up my own carrots.^
^ And Pav’s. Very fond of a nice carrot, is Pav.
† Way too frelling early. Just by the way. For someone who doesn’t expect to speak in complete sentences till after noon. Let alone frelling Italian complete sentences. The things one does just because one’s voice teacher is now a slave to the school schedule.
†† Hellcritters aren’t going to like it either. Hellhounds, who are in the 90 mile an hour couch potato category after all, are somewhat placated by Rides in the Car with the Hellgoddess but Pav eventually gets bored with yet another kong and wants to climb the walls and practise her trapeze artist routines for a while.
††† I’ve been having a fabulous time with the [Song of the] Nightclub Proprietress this week. Who is at least in English. For better or worse.