March 23, 2015

Shadows is here!

Blurry weekend

 

I had an appointment with Dentist from R’lyeh on Friday*, the second in a fortnight.**  I knew that being pumped full of anaesthesia twice in slightly less than fourteen days was not going to go down well with the ME***  but you want to get it over with, you know?  ‘It’ being death, taxes, anything to do with dentists and being tour guide for the friends of friends of friends who were told to look you up and whose idea of casual chat with a stranger doing them a favour is to complain about women bishops, Obama, and your fashion†/career††choices.

I have therefore spent the weekend in a daze of chemical hangover.†††  That no doubt explains why having made it to church, because Wolfgang knows the way, I was actually inquiring about the job‡ vacancies Buck was haranguing us about.  Because I’m so fuzzy-minded I can’t remember that I already have too much socially engaged yatta yatta stuff to do.  There’s a meeting tomorrow night about this apparently.  Maybe I can forget to go.

* * *

* I now have uniformly smooth grey front teeth rather than furrowed speckly brown ones!  Yaaaay!

** We’ve been bonding over our mutual first ownership of terriers.  A Whole Other Life Form, we concur.  I got distracted by the ‘bull’ thing and the grin, and he has a preteen son who wanted his own dog, not a part share in one of the (several) family dogs, and went for a little manic hairy thing.  The paw marks on the ceiling take some getting used to as does the robust response to the hearing of burglars at inappropriate hours.^

^ ‘Inappropriate’ being a mutable term.  During socially sanctioned inappropriate hours I’m available to suppress the little varmint.  It’s when she wants to disembowel the mailperson at 7 or 8 am that I get a little testy.

*** Which is also why I will not have my teeth whitened, and the grey will stay grey.  There are chemical sensitivities I don’t have to find out all the fascinating details of, and elect not to.^

^ The Appalling Perversities of Bodies.  It’s not enough that my multiple chemical sensitivities are probably one of the sources and maintaining causes of my ME but my frelling metabolism burns through anaesthetic with the speed of an exuberant hellhound after a frisky young rabbit, so the frelling dentist has to keep slugging more into me.  ARRRRRGH.

† ‘You could hire a tailor to replace the [disintegrating] lining of your leather jacket^ and wearing Converse All Stars is very bad for your feet.’^^

^ Yep.  I could.  And I probably will as soon as the lining rots away from the bottom hem, so all the stuff that has fallen through the holes in the pockets and now resides lumpily in the gap between lining and leather starts falling to the ground and being lost forever.

Fortunately my last lot of interesting companions for an afternoon never saw Wolfgang.  Wolfgang would have given them life-threatening palpitations.  I met them at the train station in Mauncester, guided them to the obvious photo ops in the obvious picturesque bits of town, and put them back on the train again.+

+ You know what really rankles though?  That I can never think of anything clever and quelling to say at the time.  I just suck it up like a dope and seethe like anything later on.

^^ I’m really tired of being told that All Stars are bad for my feet.  I’ve been wearing them for forty years+, three to seven miles a day for most of that time and my feet are in pretty good shape thanks awfully.  Some of the rest of me, not so much, true, but I doubt it’s because of lack of cushioning and arch support in my All Stars.  The properly-engineered-shoe argument reminds me of the other one that says that you can’t just walk three to seven miles a day you have to belong to a gym and have a personal trainer create a specific exercise programme for you.  No.  You don’t.  It’s not in the contract.

Now some of my best friends belong to gyms, have personal trainers and don’t wear All Stars because they hurt their feet.  I feel sorry for them about the All Stars++, but it’s all what works for you.+++  I have a hellmob.  We go hurtling together.  It works for us.

+ Yeeeep.

++ Personally I do not wish to envision a life without All Stars.

+++ Although in the absence of gym membership I need to keep ringing tower bells to maintain upper body strength.#  Although lifting the hellterror out of harm’s way on a regular basis counts for something.##

# Over-ringing does serve a purpose.  It also burns calories.  Wild Robert, who is built of toothpicks and super glue, can ring the 1,000,000,000 pound abbey tenor with one hand.  And does occasionally to be annoying.  But rumour has it he doesn’t eat, so he doesn’t need to burn calories, let alone go home and comfort himself with chocolate after he’s screwed up a simple touch of a simple method on a well-behaved modest-sized bell.  SIIIIIIGH.

## Chiefly mental anguish.

†† ‘Have you ever written a REAL book?’

††† I was supposed to ring frelling handbells again yesterday.  I seem to have got myself ambushed into this semi-regular extra Saturday in which Melinda and Niall try to chivvy Spenser and me into ringing quarter peals.  Apparently this is what handbell ringers do.  They don’t just, you know, ring handbells, they get together and rack up stuff they can put on their life list.  Quarters.  Full peals.  Shudder.  I told Spenser and Niall Friday night, during our usual, ordinary, low level, lots of wrong notes just-get-together-and-ring handbell session with Gillian or Gemma, that I had been badly dentalled and wasn’t likely to be up to much the next day.  Spenser said he was chiefly interested in practise and didn’t actually care about quarters, which is how I feel about it, and Niall is an obsessive crazy so never mind what he may or may not have said.  And Melinda, who seems so normal,^ would already have rung one quarter that day^^ and would probably bear the disappointment of not getting a second.

Well my brain kept blanking out and we kept crashing and burning.  As predicted.  Spenser and I had swapped pairs of bells too so I didn’t even have relative familiarity to plug the gaps.  It wasn’t all bad:  both Spenser and I felt we were getting useful practise.

Now as it happens the monks were holding a bingo night for prospective oblates or something and my usual Saturday night contemplative service wasn’t on.  I had told the assembled bell crowd that I didn’t have my usual time constraints and so of course Niall suggested we have one more crash and clang at the frelling quarter after our tea break.  I was already tired and getting stupider with multiple failures. . . .

Yep.  We got it.  And as I wrote to Alfrick later, God once again proves to have a funny sense of humour.

^ She babysits for her grandchildren!  It doesn’t get more normal!

^^ One of the Super Surprise Delight Domineering Demented methods.  The kind of thing where I can’t even read the line, let alone imagine ringing it.

‡ Volunteer.  Things like chair-straightener and crucifix-polisher and cable-winder and tea-and-cake producer.  But these apparently harmless if time-consuming occupations have fancy names like Dapifer and Manciple and one has the suspicion that the moment one had said ‘okay’ the task list would turn out to be seven single-spaced pages of deviant Anglican jargon meant to intimidate and enslave.  Or they’d have more volunteers.

Footnote meltdown* and bell ringing

 

Crabbiton, for better or worse, is becoming a fixture of my Thursday nights.**  And I was thinking tonight, as I made a complete squishy overdone dog’s dinner of a touch of St Simons doubles***, that I’m beginning to remember how much fun bell ringing is, even when you’re being hopeless.†  I’m also beginning to brandish a tiny amount of autonomy.  I have a habit of staying off the bigger bells in any tower however light the ring is overall, where even the big bells aren’t very, because I’m such a jerky ringer.  Bells are a lot bigger than you are, even the little ones, and you have to ring with grace and discretion or they will get the better of you.  You can recover from ringing idiocy by violent yanking to some extent on the littler bells.  The heavier the bell, however, the faster it will embarrass a tactless ringer, and genuinely big bells are only rung by good ringers.  I am not a good ringer.  Crabbiton is a light six but I’ve still been cringing around front.††  Last week I decided it was time to stop being quite such a little old lady.  Okay, so I made another mess of ringing up the six tonight†††, I made a dive for it anyway when Wild Robert called for plain hunt on six.  I’d successfully rung a few touches on the five, and plain hunt does require you to move your bell down to the front and back up again but there’s none of that dreadful dodging business, I should be able to do this for pity’s sake.  And while there was a good deal of Wild Robert saying things like ‘keep the six moving along’, ie go faster, which is hard when you over-pull, which I do, because that’s a bigger bell you’re wrestling with the inertia of, I did stay in place.  And it was weirdly exhilarating, tackling another aspect of my less than fabulous ringing skill,‡ and it made me think about handling, which is a good thing to do.‡‡

So I was chirping cheerfully about this at the pub, about what is essentially relearning stuff I used to know, but in my case, possibly because I’m such a slow learner about most things, relearning is usually a good thing because I learn more the second, or third or fourth or seventeenth, time through.

On the learning of bell ringing however there is only one focus of interest for Niall, and I found myself discussing learning frelling handbells again.  He referred to some pronouncement by one of the stars in the handbell-ringing firmament and I made Rude Noises.  He is a nasty man, I said, after you and Colin dragged me through a couple of quarters of bob minor he kept asking when I was going to ring a peal.  I AM NOT GOING TO RING A PEAL.

There was a silence.

You could ring a peal of bob minor dead easy now, said Niall insinuatingly.  Now you’ve rung a couple of quarters of bob major.

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO.

To be continued.  I fear.

* * *

* It’s because I’m ringing too many handbells.  TOO MANY HANDBELLS.  MY BRAIN CAN’T TAKE THE STRAIN.  AAAAAAAAUGH.

** I drive.  Niall buys the beer at the pub after.  HE FORGOT HIS MONEY TONIGHT.  I HAD TO DRIVE AND BUY THE BEER. ^

^ As I told him however, having first exercised my inner cow by doing shock-horror-flounce, given the amount of driving he’s done in support of my ringing progress+ I probably owe him a few beers.  1,000,000 or so.

+ A few weeks ago, for example, handbells at Gillian’s house, I didn’t know Hampshire had that much back of beyond, and little twisty confusingly-mapped# roads that always have tractors coming at you around blind, one-car-wide corners.  Of course this was for handbells.  If it weren’t for the whips and chains## I could have stayed home.###

# It would almost be worth finally making up my tiny mind~ and buying a satnav~~ to take it out there and watch it weep.  I could be wrong, but I bet it would say TURN AROUND!  TURN AROUND!  GIVE ME STREET LIGHTS AND MOBILE PHONE MASTS!  AAAAAAAAAUGH! 

~ The money Peter gave me to buy one is long gone on books/music/yarn/All Stars/chocolate

~~Niall doesn’t need satnav in pursuit of handbells.  He can smell a handbell ringer two counties over.

## Don’t let that mild-mannered exterior fool you.  Niall is FIERCE in pursuit of handbells.  FIERCE.  Tigers have nothing on Niall when he has his handbell bag out.  And it’s always out.~  I have an American friend coming through next week and I’m going to take her tower ringing.  It’s so, you know, exotic, and she reads the blog.  I told Niall about her since I’m hoping to, ahem, rope him into this adventure and his immediate reaction was, is there time to start her on handbells?

~ There are rumours of mysterious disappearances in his part of town and the sound of handbells and moaning at strange hours.=

= Of course in my part of town there are stories of an elderly woman with wild hair and All Stars carrying a series of large lumpy pink knapsacks and accompanied by a series of furry four-legged creatures of the night whom she cajoles with such phrases as, I don’t care if you are a stomach on four short little legs you may not eat that . . . ewwww . . . whatever it is, and, I don’t care if you’re entire males you do not have to pee every five feet I want to get home before dawn.%

% Preferably.  This doesn’t always happen.  Especially lately with, you know, spring looming and longer days and everything.  Street Pastors and Sams£ are really ruining my ability to get back out of bed in the morning.

£ Although no one’s holding a gun to my head and making me sign up for late shifts.  I have a Dr Strangelove hand.  It . . . must . . . press . . . late shift buttons.

###  Gillian must have a private helicopter pad~.  I can’t believe she drives everywhere.

~ And one doodah of a private income

*** The frelling bobs are the same simple-minded bobs as for plain bob doubles, the frelling method you frelling started with!!  What is my FRELLING PROBLEM!!!!^

^ My frelling problem is that it’s a different basic method, so the bobs are stuck into the course line slightly differently.  Just enough to derail someone like me who doesn’t actually count to five+ very reliably.

+ ‘Doubles’ means five working bells.  ONLY FIVE.  Amazing the amount of mayhem a mere five bells can get up to.  Apparently there are a lot of us numerically challenged ringers who can’t count to five.

† Mind you I’d just successfully called my baby touch of Grandsire doubles and for the second week in a row like I actually knew it or something.^  There are drawbacks to success with Wild Robert around.  Hmm, he said, we’ll have to teach you another touch.

^ Last week everyone just tied up their ropes and wandered away which is what usually happens at the end of a touch.  I WANTED PRAISE.  I WANTED PEOPLE TO TELL ME HOW CLEVER I AM.  I said this to Niall over our beer afterward.  This week there was applause.  Led by Niall.

†† Although I don’t much like Crabbiton’s treble—the littlest bell—either because it’s so little I tend inadvertently to try and spring it out of the tower.  See:  jerky ringer.

††† I GOT MY HAND THROUGH A LOOP OF THE ROPE AND COULDN’T GET IT OUT AGAIN.  You can’t finish ringing up unless you let all your loops out.  So I either had to sort it or undergo the utter humiliation of ringing back down again, extricating myself, and ringing up in Grisly Solitude.  I did get my hand out without ringing down, but I was still late getting up with the other bells.  Arrrrrgh.  Wasn’t I saying something about fun?  What was I saying about fun?

‡ I survived two plain courses of Stedman doubles with two of the other bells going adrift.  This may count more than calling a touch of Grandsire.

‡‡ I was also feeling a little self-conscious because one of the Forza ringers was there and gazed at me as you might say inquiringly, because in theory I belong to the Forza band and haven’t been there I think by now over a year.  Erm, I squeaked, I’ve been ringing here lately because it’s, you know, casual, and, um, low key.  Lots of Grandsire doubles.  Only six bells.  Rather than forty-seven.  Aglovale nodded gravely.  Arrrgh.  Eeep.  I suppose I could turn up at Forza practise some week. . . .

I finally got to a Live at the Met this Saturday*

 

This one:  http://www.metopera.org/opera/la-donna-del-lago-rossini-tickets  [If the link dies at the end of the season:  LA DONNA DEL LAGO by Rossini]

In the first place it was fabulous.  I’m enormously glad I went.  The singing from the four principals was AMAZING.**

In the second place, however, it’s way up there on the silly scale—not quite ERNANI but close.   REALLY SILLY PLOT.  REALLY REALLY SILLY.  REALLYSILLY.  I also felt the translation was more cack-handed than was strictly required.***  We want to know what’s going on, we don’t necessarily want the exquisitely precise rendering of the Italian, which word choice may have more to do with how it sings rather than whether it makes any sense at all as something anyone might ever say, even two hundred years ago in a Walter Scott novel. †

In the third place, it’s all about Joyce Di Donato’s breasts.

I admit I wasn’t expecting this last.  I’m fine with the fact that she has breasts, but I wasn’t expecting them to be Triumphant Before Everything, aka Beware the Bustier.††   I suppose the designer/costumer might be trying to make sure we know that Di Donato is the girl, since her boyfriend is played by another mezzo soprano†††, and the boyfriend is, furthermore, in a kilt, which is perhaps not the best choice for a girl playing a trouser role.  I mean a kilt role.  It turns out that the entire Highland army—you got it that this is Sir Walter Scott, yes?—is in kilts, but you haven’t taken this in yet when Malcolm first strides on stage/screen and starts mooning over Elena.  Even knowing that Malcolm is going to be a mezzo the urge to giggle is powerful when she appears in a kilt.  It took me about four bars into her, um, his, um, her first aria however to become her drooling slave and beyond that I couldn’t care less. ‡

But I get ahead of myself.  The first bloke we see on stage is Juan Diego Florez ‡ in really icky plastic leather.‡‡  He’s the king, who has allowed himself to be distracted from stamping the crap out of the Highland rebels by tales of a mysterious beauty, whom he has disguised himself to get a glimpse of.  I mean, you don’t expect to see your king in plastic leathers, do you?  Elena is picking plastic‡‡‡ heather in another one of production/design’s curious choices for stage business.  She, for some reason, thinks he needs help§ and offers to take him home with her.  That loud bang you just heard was plot credibility exploding.  HONEY.  YOU’RE OUT IN THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE WITH A MAN YOU’VE NEVER MET BEFORE§§ WHO IS, FURTHERMORE, SHOWING SIGNS OF FINDING YOU HOT §§§.  I THINK YOU MIGHT AT LEAST MENTION THAT YOU LIVE WITH YOUR DAD, AND THAT A CHORUS’ WORTH OF HENCHPERSONS IS JUST OVER THAT PAPIER MACHE HILL.  I think.  The operatic geography remains a trifle underexplained.  Because the show is called The Lady of the Lake~ there has to be a lake, which our heroine rows across every day, apparently, to gather plastic heather and have random encounters with gleaming-eyed strangers.  After that, beyond a throwaway reference to taking the current random stranger back to the shore~~ the characters just hop around from set piece to set piece.  Special non-points are awarded for Elena’s cottage, which is a small roof on two walls, like a capital letter ‘E’ stood on its front with the central bar removed, plonked down in the middle of the stage, and through which the henchpersons/chorus eventually swirl, and to give themselves something to do, set up some banqueting tables out back.  Hope it doesn’t rain.~~~

I was regularly distracted from all the nonsense by the sheer glory of the music.  I like Rossini, I like bel canto, and I’m now passionately in love with not one but two mezzos.=  But this is one of those evenings when I came away thinking, It does not have to be this daft.  It does not have to be this daft.  It’s hard to do a lot of acting when you’re a girl in a trouser role dressed in a kilt, the king is mainly required to flounce variously, which is fortunately one of Florez’ skills, the superfluous tenor has nothing to do, poor man, but stomp about looking heroic== and be spurned by his affianced bride, who wants to marry the other mezzo.  But Di Donato is a really effective actress, and watching her creating small shining bits of sense within all the doolally is almost worse than if she’d been a student of the Leontyne Price school.&

Let’s also just take a moment to contemplate the character of the king.  Okay, he falls for Elena big time in that insta-whammy way popular in both opera and Hollywood romcom.  He’s the king.  What is he planning to offer this small-time laird’s daughter, before or after he finds out she’s one of the revolting scum raising arms against him?  I kinda doubt it’s anything her dad would recognise as honourable, even if her dad weren’t a member of the revolting scum.  And this is an era when the male relatives get to dispose of the bodies of the females, you know?  And when the short hero she doesn’t want to marry objects to her clear loathing of him, her dad tries to play it off as virginal modesty.  Uh huh.

But the king is supposed to be a good guy.  Well, I think.  I think he’s supposed to be being a good guy when he leaves the battle to go hunt up Elena and give her a ring that he says, rolling his eyes theatrically, if she shows to the king he will be merciful and give her safe passage to somewhere or other.  Tahiti.  Guam.  But there’s this hilarious exchange between them when he’s trying to go for her again&& and she says No no no!  I’m in love with the other mezzo!  And he replies, in what I feel is not wholly inexplicable bewilderment, Well, why didn’t you discourage my ardour when you took me HOME WITH YOU the other day?  Well, yes.  Although possibly because she’d only set eyes on him half an hour ago and she was wrapped in a sweet naïve mist of Scottish hospitality and concentrating on her rowing.  Oh, and she’s already in love with the mezzo named Malcolm.  But I repeat . . . what exactly is the king of Scotland OFFERING her?  A big fat dowry to cover up the fact that she may be pregnant when he pats her on the . . . head and sends her on her way again?

I’d forgive either the story or the staging a lot if the last scene weren’t quite so determinedly demented.  So, the rebels have been crushed absolutely, the (short) heroic rebel tenor has been conveniently killed, and Elena, with the safe-passage ring&&& has gone up to the palace to try begging for the life of her dad and her beloved.  And she meets the bloke she last saw in plastic leathers now all decked out in white and gilt and she says, oh, hi, I’m here to see the king, um, I have this ring that this random guy gave me . . .  um, you gave me.  You’ll see the king, the random guy says.  Grandly.%  So now we have languours of daftitude while the court all processes in and does galliard-y type things around Florez, who stands there looking like a stuffed prat, while poor Di Donato has to go on and on and on and on and on NOT GETTING IT.  She doesn’t get to get it till one of the courtiers plonks a frelling crown on Florez’ head.

Okay, whatever.  Cue general rejoicing.  The king pardons both dad and Malcolm and is apparently not requiring them to emigrate to Tahiti or Guam, which is very nice of him, and proves that he is supposed to be a good guy.  And if he draws Malcom aside later and mutters something about droit de seigneur, it doesn’t happen till after the curtain comes down.

I’m glad I went!  The music was spectacular and my head is still full of it!%%  I just wish—um—I just wish—um!

. . . And if not writing regular blogs causes me to write three thousand words when I finally get around to it again, even under the extreme provocation of an opera to rant about, I’d better rethink.  Um.  Again.

* * *

* How Christianity Ruins Your Life.  My Saturday evenings are now dedicated to sitting in the dark with monks.  The thing is that I want to sit in the dark with monks, but I miss my Live at the Mets.^  I have not figured this out yet. ^^  There are slowly more live opera broadcasts at your friendly neighbourhood cinemas but the New York City Met is my opera company and they broadcast to the distant punters on Saturday afternoons in New York, which is Saturday evening sitting in the dark with monks time in Hampshire, England.  Also, most cinema web sites are possessed by demons.  For example, apparently the ROH^^^ is streaming a Guillaume Tell which I would love to attend and THEORETICALLY it’s coming to my cinema but my cinema’s web site won’t discuss it.  ARRRRRRGH.  And since it’s a chain, you can’t get a local on the phone—and because something is coming to the chain, that does not mean it is coming to all the individual theatres belonging to that chain.  ARRRRRRRRRGH.

^ Including the prosecco and knitting in the interval.  There’s no reason I couldn’t do prosecco and knitting at home, I just don’t.  Way too self-indulgent somehow.  Because of course I am never self indulgent.  Ever.  About anything.+

+ Choooooooocolate.  Also how many books in the TBR pile(s)?  And we’re not even going to mention yarn. #  Or All Stars. ##

# Or for that matter furry four-legged creatures of the night.~  Some people would consider three of these somewhat self-indulgent.  Personally I just call it dangerously insane.

~ Although the ‘of the night’ part is kind of my fault.  I go to bed late.

## I had to THROW OUT A PAIR OF PINK ONES recently.  I’m still in mourning.  But the amount of water they were letting through the holes in the soles was getting kind of extreme.

^^ I have told Alfrick that they should lay on more silent sitting-in-the-dark contemplative services.  Only one a week seems, you know, careless.  Unprofessional.  For a bunch of monks.

^^^ Royal Opera House.  Which is one of my problems.  The ROH tend to be up-themselves scum-sucking banderglizzards.  When I first moved over here a quarter century ago and was bouncing all over the landscape with JOY at the prospect of two, count  ’em, TWO, world-class opera houses only a little over an hour away+, my heart was quickly won by the English National Opera, which was the other one, both because it was CHEAPER++ and because they hired real human beings who answered phones and personned the front of house if you wandered in off the street and who were nice.  The ROH hired scum-sucking banderglizzards.  And, guys, in today’s economy, including twenty-five years’ ago economy, you can’t afford not to take the money of vulgar Americans who want to buy full-price+++ seats and you should behave accordingly.  Vulgar Americans don’t necessarily think brass-balled rudeness in a British accent is charming.  Some of those memories linger.  Although the memory of going to The Huguenots at the ROH on what I think was my first birthday in England, with Peter in a dinner jacket and me in green velvet, also rather lingers.   I’m not sure what Peter has done with his dinner jacket but I still have the green velvet.

Anyway.  The ROH does beam some of its screenings down here to the one cinema within my driving range, but the ENO does not.  Yet.  I hope they’re planning to cast their webby net wider soon.

+ Especially the way Peter used to thunder up the motorway when he and Wolfgang were a lot younger.

++ And before any ROH supporters tell me, with lashings of dudgeon, that the ROH offers cheap seats too, it didn’t use to.  And I’m only taking it on faith that you can actually hear and/or see anything from the cheap seats.

+++ AAAAAAAUGH

** I admit I didn’t think the supporting-role baritone was quite up to the standard set by the two tenors and two mezzo-sopranos, but that may be the sheer physical facts of a low voice emerging from a human voice box.  Are there coloratura baritones?  I don’t know.

*** But I think I’m losing my grip on the whole translation question as a result of struggling with the Bible.  There are a lot of WHAT? moments about the Bible anyway and groping hastily for some other translation usually only makes it worse.

† What is it with opera composers and Sir Walter Scott?  Surely they could have got their silly from a wider range of sources?

†† That’s bust-ee-ay as in corset, not bust-ee-er as in possessing more bust.

††† And as the off-duty operatic soprano doing the backstage introduction to us nonpresent audience drones finished her plot synopsis by saying:  and so the mezzo gets the mezzo, and tough luck to the two tenors.^

^ Note that this opera has a HAPPY ENDING.  YAAAAAAAAY.   Mind you this happy ending requires the killing-off of the awkward superfluous tenor, but hey.  He starts breathing again in time for the curtain calls.

‡ Her name is Daniela Barcellona.  And it’s just as well she doesn’t have an enormous back catalogue or I’d be taking out a bank loan.

Just for the record, they kiss.  Which I like to think is another blow for irrelevant-detail-blind staging.^  Like the Oscar Wilde play—I can’t even remember which one—I saw in London about twenty years ago where the actor playing the female lead was black:  which I’m afraid is the first time I’d seen historical-drama colour-blind anywhere but Shakespeare.  Yessssss.  But while Wilde plays don’t call for black actors and Malcolm in DONNA DEL LAGO is written for a mezzo,  Di Donato and Barcellona’s duet that the kiss is at the end of is so frelling ravishing you’ve probably forgotten everything but ohmygodohmygodohmygod, and also, Barcellona is TALL, so she can do the male-swagger thing, including the looming protectively over the girl, pretty well.  Better, in fact, than most tenors, who tend to be bandy-legged midgets.  Barcellona towered over both of last night’s tenors.  Just by the way.

^ Maybe Rossini was thinking about gay sex really.  But the story on stage is het.

‡ Who is a SHORT TENOR.  Di Donato, who doesn’t look very tall herself, was in flats.  Florez’ boots had substantial heels on them.  But he is a bloke.

‡‡ Or if it was real leather, the Met needs a new buyer.

‡‡‡ I perceive a pattern.  Not in a good way.

§ HE’S IN PLASTIC LEATHERS. IF HE WERE A GOOD GUY HE’D BE WEARING A KILT. 

§§ WHO IS WEARING PLASTIC LEATHER.

§§§ I know you’re a legendary beauty and all, but the bustier is not really supportive^ of the modest Scottish virgin thing. And while Florez does the overheated Latin^^ lover persona very well the character he’s playing in this case would be forgiven for the thought bubble appearing over his head saying NOBODY TOLD ME THE LEGENDARY BEAUTY IS FAST.

^ hahahahahaha

^^ He looks about as Scottish as Barcellona looks like a bloke.  I can deal with this.  The plastic leathers must go.

~ Um, why?  The Lady of the Lake as an Arthurian trope has been around a long time, and Scott must have known Malory’s Arthur?  Surely?  Or is there some Arthurian resonance in the Scott novel that I’ve forgotten?^  And if Rossini’s librettist cut it out why didn’t they CHANGE THE TITLE?

^ I read shedloads of frelling Scott at various times in my misspent youth, but in my memory, never my best feature, the stories have all mooshed together in one gargantuan wodge of forsoothly, studded with hopelessly wet, floppy heroines.  Don’t Rebecca me.  She only looks good in comparison.

~~ And leaving him there?  What?

~~~ It’s the Scottish Highlands.  IT NEVER RAINS THERE.  NOOOOOOO.

= The tenors are fine.  And I’ve been a fan of Florez for a long time.  But . . . give me one of those mezzos.  Please.^

^ I am of course Giving Up Singing Forever again.  Had a voice lesson today. . . .  No, no, this blog post is already reader-numbingly too long.

== which is harder still when you’re the shortest person on the stage.  Pav is taller than this bloke.

& Stand Like Fence Post, Wave Arms and Sing.  I adored Price and have a lot of her recordings but she was not an actress.

&& Nothing like a little rumpy-pumpy to soothe those battlefield nerves.

&&& I mean, how much can you trust someone wearing plastic leathers?

% Trying not to take a cheap shot here.  But grandly is not Florez’ metier.

%% To the extreme detriment of my own singing.  Sigh.  Why didn’t I take up the xylophone?

Maybe I should just go bell ringing more often

 

Wasn’t I saying something not all that long ago about having been sort of half-planning without thinking about it, because thinking about it would make me sad, to slip unofficially out of bell ringing?  It’s not like I’m good at it or, even if I practised eight hours a day every day as if I were in training for the Olympics or Norma for the Metropolitan Opera, would I get good at it.*  Nobody is going to miss me beyond method bell ringing’s chronic shortage of hands on ropes.**

Okay.  That was then.  Now has gone rogue and bolted in another direction.  I seem to have rung some kind of frelling bells five days out of the last eight.  If you wanted to be cruel you could say I’ve rung bells nine days out of the last twelve.  I wonder if heroin addicts feel like this after they’ve been clean for a while?  The old buzz?  That fluttering feeling*** behind the eyes† or in the base of the throat?††  The sense of being helplessly ensnared by a grinning, many-clawed obsession.  Going har har har har har GOTCHA.  Look on the bright side.  I don’t have to worry about finding a reliable source of clean needles.

I can’t even (entirely) blame Niall†††.  I went to South Desuetude entirely on my own recognisance.  Sonar Fweep was my idea.‡  And I’m sure Old Eden was good for my character as well as my muscular redevelopment, tonight‡‡, after tinkling carelessly on the little light well-mannered bells at Crabbiton for . . . ahem . . . several weeks in a row now.  Ringing at Old Eden is ploughing rough tussocky ground.  Ah yes, plain bearings.  Joy.  Creak.‡‡‡

I’M NOT RINGING ANY BELLS TOMORROW.  OR WEDNESDAY.  Er.  I think I will maintain a tactful silence about Thursday.  And Friday.  And I forget if I’m ringing on Saturday. . . .

* * *

* Any more than singing eight hours a day would make me a Norma.  Sigh.  At the moment I would probably settle for NOT being late for my voice lesson every frinkblasted week.  I was supposed to predict that everyone on my end of Main Street was going to be getting their bathrooms replaced today and there would be epic numbers of OPULENT PERSONAL CARE SPACE REFIT lorries casually half-parked on the margins on BOTH sides of the road so unless you were a very thin bicycle you COULDN’T GET THROUGH?

I am also finally beginning to realise that I have a new(ish) tactical problem.  I think I told you^ that as this horrible winter started dragging itself toward spring I let Aloysius^^ put me back on the singing rota at St Margaret’s.  This means that on my service-singing weeks I’ll have spent the last two or three days of that week frantically cramming for service singing, since that week’s music director won’t have sent out the playlist till Thursday if we’re lucky.  As it happens I was down to sing this week—that is last night—which was a special service and there were going to be LOTS OF PEOPLE THERE^^^ so I was a tiny bit more anxious than usual that I should have SOME clue about the stuff^^^^ we were performing.

This means however that by late Sunday night, when, even on a non-special-service singing Sunday, I’m exhausted and my mind is full of the detritus that results from classical training coming in explosive contact with Jesus Is My Boyfriend, and I’m trying to reengage with the former the results can be a bit bizarre.  Even aberrant.  And my voice lesson is on MONDAY.  I was singing Panis Angelicus^^^^^ better on Wednesday than I was today.  Sigh.

^ ?? One of the things about blogging every day was that I probably had told you things and therefore didn’t have to try to remember if I had.  Remembering comes under the ‘Norma’ and ‘bell ringing’ category of personal excellence, ie Not Going to Happen.

^^ Aloysius is LEAVINGWAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH.  . . . Okay, pulling myself together now.  I know this happens with curates and I even knew it was due to happen to Aloysius soon but . . . WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH.  I may be a grown up as a human being+ but I’m a baby as a Christian and Aloysius has been First Contact++ about a lot of stuff.+++

+ And a grown-up twice Aloysius’ age, as I may have mentioned before because it haunts me.~  At least I’m only seven years older than Alfrick.

~ I told him not long ago that it was hard sometimes learning stuff from children.#  He took this in good part.  I’m trying not to believe that he took this in good part because he’s a priest, and priests are obliged to take cranky remarks from elderly parishioners kindly and tolerantly.  It’s in the small print in the Priest Contract:  Be nice to the grouches God has blessed you with.  You can afford to be nice because you’re a priest and you know God will sort them out later.##

# I suspect it’s even worse for those of us who were precocious in our own youth.  Don’t be precocious.  It will just make you crankier later on.

## ::ducks::

++ You can’t have a father figure half your age, right?

+++ My monks, for example, speaking of Alfrick.  I could still be going ‘oooooh . . . monks . . . . scary’ and driving hastily past the monks’ gate, which has a large sign by the turn-in that says WELCOME, if it weren’t for Aloysius.

^^^ MAJOR EEEK.  Till it occurred to me, hey, the more of them there are the less likely any of them can hear me. +

+ Also we had a drummer last night.  Our usual drummer is actually a good drummer which might be considered regrettable in our usual raggedy-andy line up.  But any drummer will be wildly over-miked so the rest of us can pretty much do anything we like and no one will know.  Maybe I should try singing Bellini.

^^^^ Sic.  I am still not a fan of Modern Christian Worship Music.

^^^^^ Corny?  Sure.  The good kind of corny.

** Or on short leather straps if you happen to ring handbells.  I don’t know anyone who rings methods on handbells, do you?  Especially no one who rings frelling quarter peals on frelling handbells.  Which I may have done for a second time recently.  On one of those nine days out of twelve.  But then I don’t know me.  I don’t want to know me.  Crazy obsessed people make me nervous.

*** Which is not about getting your out-of-practise hands tangled in a bell rope.

† No, that’s your brain going NOOOOOOOOOOOOO.

†† Which is a matching AAAAAAAAAAAUGH trying to get out.

††† I may try.

‡ It was one of Wild Robert’s erratic seminars.  And I needed Niall to drive that far.  There was a motorway involved.

‡‡ Fortunately in terms of mental integrity it was mostly plain hunt for beginners.  Nadia just about killed me today.^  In the nicest possible way of course.  But Monday is not usually my best evening for an optimum bell ringing experience.  And story-in-progress tonight?  After, furthermore, last night’s heroic service sing?  Not a hope.  Might as well write another blog post.

^ Niall is not the ONLY Master of Mwa hahahahaha in my life.

‡‡‡ My shoulders.  Not the bell frames.

Tech rules. Not okay! Not okay!!!

 

It’s bad enough that I have a brain that . . . well, if you put my brain at one end of the Spectrum of Deadly Danger and a berserker regiment in a nasty temper all bearing freshly-sharpened weapons of individual destruction at the other end, and then tried to decide where a peanut butter sandwich on Wonder bread should be placed . . . it would go nearer the berserker regiment end than the my-brain end, all right?  Which this paragraph goes some considerable way toward proving.

So if I forget something important it’s ALWAYS likely that it’s my own stupid disintegrating fault because I am a frelling nincompoop and I drop things constantly* and my brain is made of guacamole.**  Which is to say I DO NOT NEED ANY HELP FROM MY TECHNOLOGY ABOUT SCREWING STUFF UP.

Which of course has no impact on present circumstances whatsoever.  Pooka keeps insisting that she hasn’t been backed up to The Cloud in years***, so much so that pretty much everything I do on her—text, for example—suffers from extreme pop-up-box-itis, something like this:  Hi, are you—BACK ME UP! BACK ME UP! BACK ME UP!—free for the dinosaur safari—BACK ME UP! BACK ME UP! BACK ME UP NOW!—next week?  If we—BACK MEEEEEEE UUUUUUUUUP—book now we get a free slushie and a Tyrannosaurus Rex—AREN’T YOU PAYING ATTENTION?  I NEED TO BE BACKED UP BEFORE THE HELLTERROR EATS YOUR LAPTOP†—hatband—YOU’LL BE SORRRRREEEEEE ABOUT ALL THOSE UPDATED FILE EMAILS YOU FORGOT TO SEND YOURSELF†† IF YOU DON’T BACK ME UP.†††

Interspersed in these merry japes also are sporadic demands for my Apple ID password.  I’m really tired of Apple’s The World Is At Risk By Our Greatness attitude which means they won’t let you reuse a password because WE ALL MIGHT GET HACKED BY PURPLE TENTACLES FROM BETELGEUSE but I would put up with this better if they didn’t periodically decide they don’t like my password and demand I come up with a new one.  I used to think this was just my idiot fingers typing ‘Agamemnon’ when I meant ‘Clytemnestra’ but no.  Apple clearly produces ALGORITHMS demanding new passwords at intervals that sure come across as random to people like me.

A new low in my tech relationships was reached this past week.  One of the things the Sams don’t go out of their way to warn you about when you sign up is that they will be requiring certain admin duties out of you as well as all those hours on telephones.  I had an Admin Duty spell this last week which necessitated the sending of emails to massed ranks of Sams.  I had laboured particularly over one such email, bent over the Aga and a cup of very strong tea with the iPad on my knee, hit ‘send’ and . . . NOTHING HAPPENED.  AAAAAAAAUGH.  The iPad gets lonely if it doesn’t get to keep a few emails all to itself.  And it likes to collect unsent emails.  You the helpless suffering human get the ‘server failure’ notice, the email disappears, the little box at the bottom of your email screen adds one to the ‘unsent’ total . . . but you can’t rescue the email and, I don’t know, resend or anything, because it doesn’t get stashed anywhere sensible like your outbox.  IT’S PROBABLY LURKING IN THE CLOUD.

And did I tell you that the last time I actually managed to hang a blog post, this from the ultralapbooktop, Microsoft in its infinite unwise bad attitude informed me that it wanted to do an update, and it wanted to do it now, but I could postpone if I wanted . . . so I postponed AND IT SHUT ME DOWN ANYWAY WITHOUT WARNING ABOUT TEN MINUTES LATER.  I HAD TIME TO EAT A LOT OF WALLPAPER BEFORE IT TURNED ITSELF BACK ON AGAIN, AND WHEN I CLIMBED BACK INTO THE ADMIN SIDE OF THE BLOG, SNAPPING AND SNARLING, I DISCOVERED THAT ABOUT A TENTH OF THE TEXT HAD LEFT FOR PARTS UNKNOWN TAKING WITH IT MOST OF THE PUNCTUATION AND ALL THE FORMATTING.

I may not have told you.  I was too busy trying to prevent my head from exploding.

Maybe I should just go bell ringing more often. . . .

* * *

* Ask the hellterror.  Fortunately she thinks it’s a game.  —Oooh!, she says, leaping up on her little bedspring legs and punching me enthusiastically in the gut with her forepaws.^  Do that AGAIN!

^ I know.  I am a Bad Owner.  I permit this.  But I think having her pogosticking about the place is amusing.  She does know ‘off’ but she hears it relatively rarely and it doesn’t slow her down much.   When I try to enforce it she looks at me with an expression of ‘I have to long sit before my last PALTRY snack of the evening+ and now THIS?’  Bullies’ faces aren’t built for looking long-suffering but she has a really good try.

+ She does too.  Three to five minutes depending on how patient I’m feeling#.  She’s got her harness and lead off and the gate is open and NOTHING BUT SELF RESTRAINT is preventing her from bolting into her crate and snarfing like crazy.  ::haphazard owner beams with pride::

There really is a lot to be said for food oriented hellcritters.  They are so . . . trainable.  Said training may be a long, bloody, and hoarse-making process but it’s POSSIBLE.  I get bombarded with a variety of Dog Media because I contribute tiny sums to a number of critter charities and they’re always frenziedly updating you as a flimsy disguise for begging for more money, and they frequently offer you clever suggestions for Training Interactions with Your Resident Hellcritter(s).   And they’re ALL frelling based on FOOD REWARDS.  I was particularly offended by one that fell through the mail slot just a day or two ago, since the illustrations included a whippet clearly getting into the whole food-treat thing.  It was a bull terrier with leg extensions and a mask.

# And/or how many knots I’ve got in the laces of my All Stars.  There is a rant to be ranted about the varying LENGTHS of the laces that over the years come with your pretty much standard-shaped All Stars.  Some seasons they’re so frelling long I could tie the hellmob to them and dispense with leads.  Some seasons they’re so dranglefabbing short you have to omit the last two or three pairs of holes to get them tied at all.

** I perceive a theme.^  I didn’t realise I was hungry.  MORE CHOCOLATE.  More chocolate is the answer.  More chocolate usually is the answer.  As the kitchen magnet says, Chocolate is the answer.  What was the question?

^ Also:  guacamole is far less dangerous than peanut butter.  You might want to make a note.

*** Do I want to be backed up to The Cloud?  The thing about little pieces of paper is that you’re pretty sure they’re here somewhere.  Explanations about what The Cloud is or how it works or where anything in it actually is involves the dreaded word ‘algorithms’.  I am allergic to the ‘a’ word.  Just frelling typing it makes my fingertips hurt.^

^ Although that may also have something to do with recent close encounters of an unfortunate kind with hellmob-comestible-chopping implements.

† Ultrabook.  It’s not ultra and it’s not a book.  Grrrrrr.

†† Although anything I’ve actually done on Pooka’s Lilliputian keyboard will be illegible anyway^ so the backing up of gibberish is perhaps more of a matter of principle than practicality.

^ Note that being in a texting relationship with me is not all joy.  Not only can’t I type what I mean to be typing, but I have a sometimes unique McKinley take on acceptable abbreviations.

††† Speaking of the hellterror, texting on Pooka lately is a lot like trying to do anything with a hellterror in my lap.^  HI.  I’M HERE.  I’M IN YOUR LAP.  Yes.  I had noticed.  LET’S PLAY A GAME.  No, let’s not.  You’re supposed to lie there quietly.  That’s the deal about laps.  Lying quietly.  SURE.  I’LL LIE QUIETLY.  LET’S PLAY A LYING QUIETLY GAME.  YOU DON’T MIND IF I PUT MY FOREPAWS ON YOUR SHOULDERS AND LICK YOUR GLASSES, DO YOU?  I’LL DO IT QUIETLY.

^ And anyone who thinks there is perhaps a hellterror bias going on?  Well, yes.  This month it will be a year since the hellhounds went on this drug that more or less holds back the chronic geysering but also stops them eating pretty much altogether.  I don’t know if it destroys their appetite or makes them queasy but the truth is I don’t care.  I’ve been forcefeeding them, oh, 85-100% of the time for a year and you could say our relationship has suffered.  You could say that.  Yes, you could say that with some energy.

Sigh.

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