Rain. What a concept. You may have heard of it. Water falls from the sky. No, really. Water. Falls from the sky. Makes you and the landscape wet and everything. This would be brilliant in hot weather, like, you know, now. Rain is a very popular myth in many societies. Some communities try to attract rain by certain signs and rituals. The raincoat, for example. A raincoat is a coat made of a waterproof material. Depending on what culture you are from you either believe that leaving your waterproof ritual object at home will encourage the rain spirits to piss all over you when you’re on your way to a first date with a hot prospect and your waterproof ritual object is old and tatty because who has the spare cash to spend useless* items?**, or, that if you want rain you should go outdoors flaunting your waterproof ritual object, waving your arms, dancing, and singing a little rain song.*** Now, lean in closer and listen to me carefully. I know a lot of you are not going to believe me, but would I lie to you?% We had rain here for several hours a few days ago. We all ran outdoors and stared upward%%, wondering what this extraordinary manifestation was . . .
It’s hot again. Mid-80s today. (Just about or just under 30 C.) It’s going to be hotter tomorrow. And if you look at the long-range forecast, more of the same for at least another fortnight. Nor any of that mythological wet stuff anywhere.
I AM SO HOT. AND SO SICK OF WATERING. MY POOR GARDEN, who can’t even come indoors and pretend to cool off in front of the fan. And yes, we did have several hours of the water falling from the sky thing, and it was nice steady moderate rain which is what you want when the ground is somewhat more rock-like than mere rock and getting on toward resembling titanium . . . but it didn’t last anything like long enough to do anything very productive like water all the gasping things with roots in the titanium soil. It actually did do my garden some good, but that’s because I’m out there frelling watering every day and the ground hasn’t forgotten what water is, and will take a drink if it’s offered. Elsewhere, even though it was nice moderate rain, we had wild run-off because the titanium says I rule here, begone you wet stuff, so you’re looking at the crops dying in the fields next to the road while you’ve got a bow-wave on your car in one of the standard flood spots because the storm drains are all full of dust.
So my dahlias are blooming . . . but the veg I want to eat are running frantically to seed in the farmers’ fields, trying to reproduce before they die. And . . .
All right. I’m not writing an op-ed piece for the GUARDIAN. Stopping now. %%%
So, personal bottom line. I hate heat.$ And it’s hot.$$
I’ve decided to move to Inverness. It’s COOOOOOLER, real estate prices are a lot cheaper than the frelling south of England, and I believe there are bells there.$$$
* * *
* Useless is, of course, in the eye of the beholder. My house(s) is/are crammed with items the general public would consider useless, but they all perform the critical function of keeping me amused. William Morris, who, I believe, was not celebrated for his sense of humour^, didn’t get his famous dictum quite right. It should read: Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, believe to be beautiful, or that keeps you amused. And if it’s a competition between useful and amusing and there’s only space for one of them, lose the useful.
^ On the evidence of his fiction, he wouldn’t know a sense of humour if it bit him on the leg.+
+ Clearly no one ever tried the experiment of tying a piece of chicken to his leg in the immediate vicinity of a bull terrier. Bull terriers have an excellent sense of humour and I know one who would have comprehended this situation instantly.
** These cultures belong to the philosophy that we live in a hostile universe.
*** These bizarre cultures believe that we live in a friendly universe, and that God didn’t make a lot of really stupid promises about self-definition and non-interference when she set the whole show up arrrrgh. Just by the way, the friendly-universe cultures never last long so no one has had a chance to study whether their approach to attracting rain works any better than leaving ritual waterproof objects at home, cursing, cancelling the marquee for the wedding reception to spend more money on flowers and food because it has never rained in the memory of anyone’s grandparents, etc. Even friendly-universe cultures must get a few things right.
% I only lie by omission. And I rejoice to make proper nouns improper. Which is to say aliases.
%% Some of us got rain on our glasses, which kind of defeated the purpose, but in extraordinary times for which one has no common usages, one may behave disadvantageously.
%%% Speaking of dahlias in drought: Dahlias wilt amazingly fast. Not really surprising, they’re effectively annuals—that is they start from scratch every year—and they produce great big plants and lots and lots of flowers. But golly don’t they drink. Roses on the other hand are mostly pretty tough despite their reputation, even first-year ones that don’t have much infrastructure yet. Their flowers may shrink a little, but they still flower, and if the drought is too severe^ they start losing their leaves, but they will probably survive. They may even forgive you.^^ The little green thing that fascinates me is the snapdragon: grow a bought-at-garden-centre one in a pot and it takes more water per tiny snap-bud than anything and is the first frelling thing to wilt when wilting is on the schedule—but volunteer snapdragons grow in cracks in the pavement and furthermore they spread—and they’re all from seed thrown around by bought snapdragons in pots. My predecessor was, as readers of the old blog may remember, a proper gardener, and proper gardeners don’t go in for coarse, loud, vulgar things like roses and dahlias and snapdragons, and there were no snapdragons growing in the pavement when I moved in.^^^ I have frelling walls of volunteer snapdragons now, and it’s a little tricky climbing the steps to the front door of the cottage because there are so many tiny determined snapdragons growing out of invisible crevices in the brick. This is also my excuse for not sweeping my front stairs. The Lodge, at present, is volunteer-snapdragon-free. This will change.
^ Which it isn’t, in this garden, so the madams among them are busy clutching their smelling-salts and having the screaming abdabs because they can afford to.
^^ Although dahlias have their moments. This spring when I was having a Good Season and was going to produce a garden this year for the first time since Peter died, I discovered, at the bottom of some noisome heap in my greenhouse-shed, to my horror, a box of dahlia tubers from last year that had never been planted. Nooooooooo. And, furthermore, although the tubers themselves were shrivelled pathetically—you know what dried mushrooms look like? Yeah—but more or less intact, the labels had all been eaten by mice or slugs or something so I have no idea what they are. I plonked all four of them in pots, knowing they were all dead . . . and two of them decided to live+ although they got off to a very slow start. They’re even going to flower soon and I can’t wait to start guessing what the jolly doodah they are, I don’t remember ordering anything that looks like that?!?
+ Medals for gallantry follow
^^^ If she still has friends here and comes to visit, which I know she did at the beginning, and still comes round her old house to have a look, she’s been having the screaming abdabs herself. The front steps are particularly gaudy this year. I had a good spring, as I said . . . and now I have LOTS AND LOTS AND LOTS of mostly-still-madly-flowering petunias, sweet peas, dahlias, cosmos, pansies, geraniums . . . all which need watering.
$ And watering. Watering is boring. I haven’t done any gardening in months.
$$ And just keeping up with the important events in the life of McKinley, I had a slight recurrence of housefly hell. Only about fifty of them this time, but that was way more than enough. I dutifully killed as many as possible. If this is a geometric de-progression I should barely notice the next assault. We live in hope.
$$$ I haven’t rung tower bells in months because in that seven-to-nine-thirty-ish slot I’m watering and risking taking the hellpair out in the evening sun.^ Handbells however are happening at least erratically. I don’t think I told you about my latest accidental quarter peal—weeks ago now. Niall is responsible, of course. I’d agreed to ring at all only because he was short of pairs of hands—people go on holiday this time of year: I hope they’re going somewhere cool—so it was just Niall, Fairhold^^ and me. I’d frelling studied Oxford as assigned, but I asked if we could begin by ringing plain bob minor to rub a little of the rust off my handbell-ringing cogs. And so we started off . . . to ring a few courses of plain bob. I’ve told you that a plain course of a method usually doesn’t last that long? So to keep it going your conductor calls. Calls mix the order of the bells up in certain acceptable-to-the-whole-ghastly-perverse-and-insane-bell-method-system^^^ ways, and mean that you can keep ringing without stopping. Which is supposed to be a good thing. If your conductor keeps calling, and none of the ringers makes any destabilising mistakes, and if, furthermore, your conductor is an evil sneaky so-and-so wretch, rather than calling a mere touch, he may be calling what is hilariously known as a composition, with the result being that you could end up with a quarter peal on/in your hands, thirty-five minutes or something later.^^^^
Niall kept calling.
I’m pretty stupid, even though I should know better with Niall, and I’m also extra stupid in this heat, which is why I’m mostly NOT RINGING HANDBELLS, which make my brain hurt even when it’s cool, and we were maybe as much as fifteen minutes into the freller before I thought: DOODAH DOODAH FRELLING, HE’S GOING FOR A QUARTER.
We got our quarter. And I was shattered for the rest of the evening.
But Niall’s depravity doesn’t stop there. I also rang a public gig recently because Niall had some frelling fairy tale about needing a local band. Which of course explains why Fairhold, who lives in, like, Dorset, was one of the other ringers. You’d think I’d learn.
^ Chaos is not enjoying the heat either. I got worried enough about him I rang the vet who said cheerfully, oh yes! In weather like this old dogs are dropping dead all over the place [graphic details omitted]! I responded: THANKS SO MUCH. THANKS. SO MUCH.
^^ According to my dramatis personae list you haven’t met Fairhold before, which is deeply remiss of me. And I’m going to name him Fairhold DESPITE the fact that it seems only to exist in one of my name-your-baby books and nowhere else, but I am too tickled at the idea of calling a handbell ringer Fairhold I’m not going to give it up. Our Fairhold is a very good handbell ringer, and, crucially, easy to have around,+ which unfortunately is important to me. There are yonks and yonks of ringers I won’t ring with because they aren’t.++
+ Despite having got that stricken look, the first time in the cottage’s sitting room, and commenting in a suppressed sort of voice that he’d never seen so many books outside a library. The whole house is like that, I replied breezily. And truthfully.
++ And no, it wouldn’t surprise me at all if many of them say the same about me, and although generally speaking I try to avoid outright confrontation, the zigzags of pissed-off energy spiking around me may give the game away slightly.#
# Slightly in my defense, I’m not a good ringer, and am easily put off by frellingness in fellow ringers.
^^^ No. I have never figured out why I like method ringing.
^^^^ There are also full peals. These will never happen to me. Can’t remember if I told you, Niall managed to talk me into trying for a full peal once . . . and the conductor stopped us halfway saying I rang too slowly. This is one of those conductors who can think, you should forgive the term since we were sitting down, on his feet, and he did something to his composition so we ended up with a recordable half peal. Gah. Even Niall hasn’t been nagging me to try again.