It probably began with the second delivery of parsnips. I love the winter veg season. The first Brussels sprouts of the year are cause for celebration every autumn—I mean this was going on even before my eating habits moved to the lunatic fringe*—and all those orange and yellow squashes and rooty things, mmmmmmmm.** So it’s like, yaaay! Parsnips! I’m also still a little subject to New England holiday habits, even though I bailed on Thanksgiving years ago, and MUST HAVE sweet potatoes and parsnips at Christmas. MUST. HAVE.
And then there’s the way my Jewish-mother gene*** bursts into terrifying life as soon as I’m expecting to feed anyone. Else, I mean, than me, and three variously food-friendly furries. And we were going to be SIX for Boxing Day. SIX.† This is my idea of a GANG. And I’m seriously out of practise. When we were still catering for real gangs back at the old house it was mostly Peter’s show and that was the way it was and if you got in the way you would be mown down.†† As a special treat I was occasionally allowed to cut up the Brussels sprouts or produce a platter of New England sweet potatoes.††† And I think I’m the one who started putting chestnuts in the sprouts.‡
ANYWAY. SIX FOR BOXING DAY LUNCH. And I may have got a little carried away. But it was an accident that I ordered parsnips twice. I already had a wall of parsnips at the back of both my little refrigerators‡‡ from the first delivery and then there was a noise like the approach of the 7th Panzer Division and a shout of INCOMING‡‡‡ and I (foolishly) opened the front door to see what was going on . . . AND WAS IMMEDIATELY BURIED IN PARSNIPS. Ha ha ha, I thought, digging myself out with difficulty, and beginning to weave the excess into fencing panels for when Damien gnaws his way through the current barricades. Ha ha ha, this’ll make a good blog post.
Ha ha ha.
So Christmas Day here was about cooking. And chopping and chopping and chopping AND CHOPPING because I was not only producing Brussels sprouts with chestnuts (of course) but also a broccoli and pine nut salad and roast root veg which is to say PARSNIPS, PARSNIPS, PARSNIPS and two colours of sweet potatoes, how glamorous is that? To give my knife-friction blisters a break I went next door to feed Phineas’ cat. Have I really never given the ex-hellkitten a name? If I have I can’t find it. So let’s call him Smilodon. So I went next door to see if his food dish needing topping up yet, Phineas having left early in the morning.
And I couldn’t get in.
The back door into the conservatory, which is the one I use because that’s where Smiley’s dishes are, is a sticky old so-and-so flaming doohickey doodah general arrrgh. It’s not like I haven’t had trouble with the malingering whatsit before. But it was resisting very robustly. And furthermore seemed to be stuck in the middle which is not the usual modus operandi of a door with a bad attitude. I eventually Became Suspicious and with great difficulty since my genetic modifications are very limited and old fashioned, extruded an eyeball on a stalk so I could see around a corner, and, yes . . . the ghastly object WAS BOLTED ON THE INSIDE.
Great. Hey, Smilodon, feel like going FERAL for the weekend? Pull down a nice mastodon for tea? . . . I didn’t think so.
I spent about twenty minutes wandering around Phineas’ house looking for a way in. When you want someone to have carelessly left a window open DO THEY? They do not. And the door between my garden and his conservatory has been nailed shut since before I moved in. ARRRRRRRGH.
Smiley, meanwhile, is winding around my ankles going MOAN! MOAN! MOAN! HUNGRRRRRRRRY!
I went back and looked at the frelling door again. And then I turned around, since if there were going to be scars I’d rather they were not on my face, took a deep breath . . . and put my foot through one of the glass panes. CRASH.
Having checked that my foot was still fully attached at the ankle (yes), I put my hand carefully through the jagged hole and unbolted the door. And frelling CHASED SMILEY AWAY while I swept up the glass. ARRRRRRRRRRGH. I’ve been feeding Smiley when Phineas is away for how many years? I’ve never had the front door key—I had the kitchen door key when Smiley was a baby—I don’t even know if Phineas has a mobile, let alone its number for emergencies. There have never been any emergencies! If Smiley ever needed a vet, I’d just take him to the vet!§
I left him chomping in an enviably carefree manner at his topped-up dish. Never mind, I thought, stalking back to the cottage. It’ll make a good blog post.
Meanwhile the goose was roasting away like anything, by the sound of the fat streaming into the pan. And you’re supposed to drain off the fat periodically so it doesn’t burn, right? Well, my little Aga oven actually goes back quite a way even though sideways you could barely squeeze in a wicked witch with an apple in her mouth, so I was, after all the ‘biggest oven in Hampshire’ thing about the Lodge’s ridiculous cooker, roasting my Christmas goose at the cottage. And this kitchen was small before I added this laptop and two or three piles of books and papers, yes? I have NO counter space. So when I take things out of the oven, I balance them on one or the other of the Aga burners. Whose lids are slightly . . . domed. Not very. You can, in fact, balance stuff on them. I do it all the time. Not heavy roast goose however, sloshing with fat.
And the pan slid off the burner lid and poured boiling-hot goose fat down my leg.
It’s not a question of having time to react. There wasn’t anything I was going to be able to do before it was too late. So I stood there feeling it torching its way through my jeans leg and thinking (a) how am I going to hurtle the hellmob with only one functioning leg? (b) No, it’ll be all right, I will take handfuls of cantharis§§. (c) eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee
The important background information here is that when I rolled out of bed that morning I got dressed immediately because I needed to start doing stuff. Usually I hang around in my nightgown till the caffeine starts to work. It was INSANELY WARM yesterday and I’d known it was going to be, the night before, so I reminded myself that I was not going to put on my long johns because I would be too hot. But I got dressed on autopilot, and the long johns were donned because it’s frelling December. And I was definitely too hot, because the jeans were heavy denim and the long johns were thick, but I couldn’t be bothered to strip off again and remove them.
So I was in fact appropriately accoutred for pouring boiling hot goose fat down my leg. By the time it hit me it was merely unpleasantly warm, and when I examined the damage later my skin is a little reddish, and a little tenderer than usual.§§§ IT’S FINE, I said at the time, shaking with shock—it had not been a delightful half second, while my life thus far as fully bipedal flashed before my eyes, waiting for the third-degree burns—shoving the pan back on top of the Aga and wedging it there, because I still had half a pan of goose fat to drain off. IT’LL MAKE A GOOD BLOG POST.@
I then successfully drained off the remaining seven buckets of goose fat, and, having distributed these above hellterror reach around the downstairs of the cottage, stood looking at the crispy brown object of my painful exertions. Hmm, I thought, it’s getting very dark. I’d better put some tin foil over it. And you read the title to this post, yes? ALL of the title, not being distracted by the boiling goose fat and the breaking and entering?
I had no tin foil.
How did this happen??? I never use it so I always have it, you know? It’s one of those basic facts of life, water, air, brassicas, hellmob, dusty roll of tin foil in the back of the cupboard. NO. NO TIN FOIL. AAAAAUGH.@@ And it’s Christmas Day, even the hard core shops are closed. Well, Peter had had some. I checked the relevant [sic] drawers at the Lodge. No. No tin foil. Okay, there used to be one of those super-super long rolls of foil@@@—and I have no idea where it came from, we’ve possibly been carrying it around since we left the old house—that lived on the top of the kitchen cupboards at Third House. I remember seeing it still there after I’d moved (nearly) everything else out, because what was I going to do with/where did I have ROOM for a super-super-super long roll of foil?? So I went up there to see if it was perhaps still there . . . no. Of course not. That would be too easy. Meanwhile I was putting the goose back in the oven for fifteen minutes and then taking it out again, again, because I was pretty sure—I thought—maybe—no, I had NO FRELLING IDEA, it probably needed a little more cooking, but I didn’t want that lovely breast skin to burn. Although all this mad temperature variation couldn’t have been doing the quality of its final presentation any good at all. So I have NO FRELLING IDEA how long it finally did take to cook—a lot less than the cough-cough roasting instructions said however. Which is not going to be helpful if I ever do this again.$
ALTOGETHER NOW: IT’S OKAY, IT’LL MAKE A GOOD BLOG POST.
PS: I did eventually find a roll of tin foil, in the bottom of a bag under the sink, full of rubber gloves and washing up liquid, where I was looking for batteries which were also not in the drawer where batteries, if this were a sane, rational world, would be. The goose was long out of the oven by then. And there were no batteries.$$
Oh, and? The goose was pretty good. Really. And I was glad to see everyone. And none of them flinched unduly about the food.
* * *
* The very healthy lunatic fringe, but I’ll spare you any more rants on that subject till the holidays are over. Maybe I’ll try to make you feel even worse about Detox January. I am the hellgoddess, after all, even if my brief has changed radically over the years.
** I even look forward to winter cabbage. This is probably certifiable. My current craze is kale chips. You shred a lot of kale [sic], spread it out on a baking sheet, shake some olive oil and salt over it, and bake till it gets crunchy. It’s greasy! It’s salty! It’s crunchy! And yes, okay, it’s still a brassica, but people who turn pale . . . green at the idea of cabbage have been known to like crunchy kale chips. You can get these commercially—which is how I discovered them—but Large Generic Snack Producers tart things up so they can charge you more money. They’re way better fresh. And the recipe is all over the internet.
*** Hannah, who is Jewish, says that of course I have Jewish blood. All the best people do.
† In fact we were only five, but that’s because I kept forgetting the sixth wasn’t coming. She was supposed to come.
†† But I took over the baking. And anyone who got in my way would be mown down.
††† Add brown sugar. No, more. No, more. Now butter. No, more. No, more. Now the maple syrup. YES. MAPLE SYRUP. MORE. WHAT’S THE MATTER WITH YOU, DON’T YOU UNDERSTAND MORE? I also used to produce very scary eggnog. There was a lot of ‘more’ involved.
‡ One of my Boxing Day guests carefully separated hers out and piled them at the edge of her plate. You can’t win them all.
‡‡ Have I told you that I MANAGED TO JAM THE GOOSE IN THE REFRIGERATOR AT THE LODGE? Are you impressed? I am. Very.
‡‡‡ Hey, I suck at military history, okay? But James Mason was cute and I watched a lot of MASH because you did, although I was never a Hawkeye fan.
§ Well. ‘Just.’ Cats aren’t as cooperative about this as dogs. Not that Chaos can be called cooperative and the hellterror . . . erm. But I’ve taken one or two cats to the vet rolled up in emergency bath towels in the absence of anything more appropriate.
§§ I told you this story years ago: homeopathic cantharis is a brilliant burn remedy.^ I had managed to seize, like firmly, the handle of an iron skillet that was and had been in the oven for some time . . . and heard my flesh SIZZLE. I took a few cantharis . . . and ended up with a painless little red mark.
^ I will remind you however that no remedy is 100%. Like arnica for jet lag—works a treat for about 80% of the people who try it. For the other 20% there are other things to try. There are other things to try for burns too.
§§§ I also decided that with the day I was having I was not going to change my jeans till the goose was out of the oven permanently and as much else as possible was over with.^ This meant that I had an ecstatic hellterror attached to my leg for the rest of the evening^^. When she wasn’t trying to lick holes in the floor or eat the mat that lives in front of the Aga. As I fended her off to scrub the floor—the mat went in the washing machine—you could see the agonised thought bubble: But! But! But! But!
^ In effect five minutes before I had to bolt out the door for late duty at the Sams. Christmas Eve night had involved bolting out the door at another Christmas-prep-no-NOT-all-the-presents-are-wrapped last minute to go to midnight Mass at the monks’.+ Where it was not a heaving, claustrophobia-inducing mob, but I still ran away from tea and hanging out with monks AND A RELATIVELY SMALL BUNCH OF STRANGERS afterward. Sigh.
+ The second old folks’ home did eventually get sung to. And I rang the afternoon Christmas Eve service at Crabbiton. Have I mentioned lately HOW MUCH I HATE GROUND FLOOR RINGS? Which Crabbiton is. And we need a better barricade. We have just a rope across what I think is the narthex, where the bells are, the opposite (long) end from the apse and altar, which only works with people who acknowledge its purpose as a barrier. This does not include toddlers who can go STRAIGHT UNDER the rope and see no reason why they shouldn’t. I was both terrified and angry and am going to discuss with poor Felicity when she gets back from hol.
^^ Since the main strike zone was my thigh I’m afraid I abrogated my obligation as a responsible dog owner because watching her attempt to reach nirvana was too much fun to terminate. Inconvenient, but funny. And I felt I could use a laugh.
@ Also: less goose fat. What am I supposed to DO with 1,000,000,000 litres of goose fat?^
^ ROAST A LOT OF PARSNIPS.
@@ If I’m going to make a habit of Christmas goose, which I might, I’ll have a flat tray already wedged in place on the top of the Aga next year. But I need to REMEMBER that goose cooking instructions are never helpful the way I need helpful. I remember this from when Peter and I were engaging with geese at the old house. Standard instructions keep trying to make it sound like a goose is kind of a big chicken. It isn’t. It cooks differently. That thick fatty skin doesn’t go loose and floppy when it’s done, it locks in place like armour, so wiggling a leg isn’t indicative. And you don’t get clear juice running out of the leg when you stab it the way you do with a chicken, maybe because there’s too much fat in the way. I finally decided this one was done because the leg and breast were no longer feeling thickly padded the way they should do, which suggested that most of the fat was now in a bucket on a chair and the goose was about to crinkle up into goose jerky.
@@@ suitable only to persons roasting boars’ heads in restaurant-sized ovens, maybe I’ll try that next year at the Lodge. Ha ha ha ha ha.
$ I am planning to streamline this process somewhat for next year. Including checking for the presence of tin foil while the shops are still open.
$$ THE UTTERLY NITWITTY THINGS THAT GET TO YOU. I was looking for batteries because I needed a kitchen timer and the one at the Lodge I wanted to use was dead. When I finally managed to pry the back open the old battery had started leaking, which is never a good sign about whether the gizmo in question is recoverable. I fetched a new battery from the cottage and plugged it in and . . . the timer still didn’t work. NOOOOOOOOOOOOO. This is The Kitchen Timer I remember from the old house—the one that was there when I arrived twenty-five years ago, the one with the brain-piercing SHRIEK which while I frequently wanted to stomp it for this, is exactly what you WANT in a kitchen timer and the modern wimpy ones, the ones that murmur politely, ahem, you perhaps wanted to be told when x number of minutes had passed?, which the new ones mostly are, are not nearly as satisfactory. If I could remember to look at a clock when approximately the right amount of time has passed I wouldn’t need a timer, would I? I need a timer that says: YO. YOU. YES YOOOOOOU. OR ELSE. This one is not a beautiful object—it’s what I suspect used to be white plastic, faded to dirty cream, with a black plastic face. It doesn’t look like anything that would have lasted—with its shattering klaxon intact—for a quarter century. But it has. And as a tiny integral background VERY LOUD NOISE it’s part of my old life. The one that’s gone forever. . . . And I had a complete, totally unexpected, frelling MELTDOWN about the fact that the timer that Peter had set 1,000,000,000 times over the last quarter century HAD DIED.^
Turns out I had put the battery in the wrong way around.^^ I put it in the other way around and IT LIVES. I was making myself crazy last night—having brought it back to the cottage for a little bonding—using it timing making a batch of kale chips. Every time it went off CLANG CLANG CLANG BEEP BEEP BEEEEEEEEP I went AAAAAAAUGH THAT WRETCHED THING HAS BEEN MAKING ME CRAZY FOR TWENTY FIVE YEARS . . . thanks, honey. Nuts? Moi? Brazil, cashew, hazel, almond, walnut and Robin.^^^
^ I can’t discard scraps of paper he’s written on either. Grocery list? Keeper. Labels on folders of tax papers that are now old enough I can throw them out? I shred the papers. I save the folders.
^^ Not entirely my fault. Battery beds are almost as maddeningly variable as those blasted button batteries, although the battery itself is an ordinary one.
^^^ Someone on FB told me that her husband developed claustrophobia after their daughter died.+ I’ve now heard from a few other people who’ve had claustrophobia as part of the grieving process. This is a comfort—a cold one, but still a comfort. I’m ‘okay’ with the fact that grief sucks sucks SUCKS and I am not surprised it keeps knocking me over and making me bleed. But I’m still capable of worrying—a little—that my perhaps somewhat eccentric mental balance, cough cough cough, could be genuinely overset. I don’t believe in ‘misery loves company’, I’ve said this before—misery wants to know the world is chirping along without her, so she has something to hope for, that she can rejoin it some day. But misery occasionally is grateful to hear that other people have reacted to misery in similar ways.
+ This is almost more awful than I can grasp. In fact it is more awful than I can grasp. Note that one of the things major trauma does to you is make you aware of the limits of your imagination. We ‘knew’ Peter was due to die before me. It didn’t make it any easier, but it doesn’t feel like the order of the universe has been breached.~ No parent should have to see a child die. I know it happens. I know people it has happened to. It’s still inconceivable.
~ Yes it does. It’s still different. It’s your personal universe.
[This should have gone up last night, of course. This may be the New System. Time is merely a concept, not a reality, right? But I’ve been talking to other people in the area and I Am Not Alone. There are too many of us on line and not enough bandwidth. Why this means the malign minders of supply CLOSE bandwidth after midnight to a thread, a wisp, a spool of spider silk belonging to a microdot sized spider, I have no idea. I realise my technological understanding is . . . ahem . . . is such that calling it ‘understanding’ is a blunder, but they can’t frelling stockpile bandwidth from the wee smalls and bolt it on to the bandwidth during the day, or the evening when everyone rushes home to see if anyone has posted to their Facebook page, can they? CAN THEY? —ed]
. . . with a small refrigerator. Two small refrigerators. Today I took delivery of The Largest Green** Cauliflower I Have Ever Seen in My Life and . . . it wouldn’t fit in either refrigerator, unless I took one of the frelling shelves out which I can’t because I’m short of shelf space already ALL THAT FRELLING VEG TAKES UP AMAZING AMOUNTS OF ROOM. So the green cauliflower the size of a medium-sized asteroid sat in my sink—and sort of drizzled out around the edges, and may have patted a hellhound with a prehensile tendril—till I had time to hack it up and steam it and then crush it into a series of bowls and WEDGE it into the cottage refrigerator. The trials of being veganish.
And it’s not like I had budgeted time for inconvenient vegetables. Let me tell you what a splendid and thrilling few days I have had.*** Now—see footnotes—I am a disorganised twit, but I have kind of a lot going on, including trying to write some saleable fiction before I run out of money†, and when I manage to beat some teeming disaster back to stuff-under-the-table proportions I do tend to stuff it under the table and turn to the next looming vorticose abyss trying to swallow me††, the hellmob, and several small houses.†††
I was [bell] ringing a wedding on Saturday. I’d just got back from hurtling and had about five minutes before I had to leave for the tower. The post had come while the hellhounds and I were out checking the continued viability of a certain rose in the churchyard and I noticed that one of the envelopes was from the local city council. Uh oh. This is one of the abysses I had (I thought) slapped a personhole cover over, after Ordure, Funk and Weltschmerz closed my account and stole all my money for about ten days about three months ago, the repercussions of which are still wrecking my peace‡ of mind and causing a lot of extra work for a disorganised twit who hates all business admin at the best of times. But even I recognise, in my blurry, dragon-biased way‡‡, that the Tax Gods Rule. Which is why I’d been round the local office and made sure that I was caught up on all frelling three frelling houses.
I admit that was two months ago. BUT ONLY TWO MONTHS. So imagine my . . . adrenaline surge when I opened the envelope and discovered I was being SUMMONSED FOR NONPAYMENT OF COUNCIL TAX. They were going to DRAG ME TO COURT AND PROSECUTE me for not having paid any council tax ALL YEAR. Now even I in the outer reaches of synapse-bursting panic could see that this had to be at least partly an administrative error‡‡‡ . . . it’s still a summons and it’s horrible, and it’s also SATURDAY so I can’t do anything about it till Monday.
I staggered off to ring bells. I got through the bell ringing part with all my insides jangling worse than the bells and my blood-pressure headache getting worse with every dong.
I came home and spent the next five hours throwing up out of sheer beastly stress.
Saturday was wonderful. Really a high point.§
Sunday I spent trying to figure out what the flaming doodah I could eat—I know, I’ve been here before, recently, but that was stomach flu. The rules are different.§§
And today I spent 1,000,000 hours on the phone§§§, mostly knitting and nursing another blood-pressure headache while I waited For the Next Customer Service Representative. Monday, you know? The city council woman was polite, laid back, and even a little sympathetic, which was a bonus. I am no longer on the FBI/MI5 top ten wanted list. Yaay. The most interesting thing is that what this woman said BORE VERY LITTLE RESEMBLANCE to what the woman I’d spoken to in June had said, or had led me to believe that she had set up for me for the immediate future involving juggling three houses. And of course neither of them said anything that might lead me to believe that I was going to be prosecuted for non-payment of council tax any time soon. So I’ve given them a lot more money and I BELIEVE I am to be allowed to live. But remember what believing got me last time.
Then I made a few other phone calls—although it was still MONDAY—looking for monsters. I couldn’t find any. I must not have been making the right phone calls.
I can hardly wait to find out what goes wrong next.§§§§
* * *
* I was reading yet another of these Live Green and Free and Absolute and Right and We’re So Pure and Wonderful We Will Make You Sick what-to-eat health sites. There are amazing numbers of these bozos out there and only some of them have a sense of humour. This one’s bias was vegan but finally, foot-draggingly, in this I’m-so-disappointed-in-you headmistress voice, they said And if you feel you must eat a little fish occasionally . . . and I’m sitting here thinking, yet again, HOW do these people live in the world? Somebody, I think in the forum, was talking about this too. I don’t spend a lot of time with Macdonald’s clientele and still I’m a joke in my social circle^. GIVE ME A CUP OF GREEN TEA/ROOIBUS/GINGER AND LEMONGRASS AND SHUT UP, I’LL EAT WHEN I GET HOME.^^ I still like fish but it’s not necessary to happiness and if pure veganism were a little more rampant in the land I might give it up too^^^ since fish have eyes and agency and I assume little proto-thoughts^^^^. There’s a whole whacked out mind/body thing as soon as you start seriously messing with what you eat and if you find yourself at the sharp end of immaculateness while you may be willing to risk the proto-thoughts of green cauliflower^^^^^, your singing teacher’s goldfish are beginning to give you a guilty conscience. But until they start building vegan shtetls for us to hang out in . . . I will probably keep eating fish.
^ I’m not sure about circle. A lumpy trapezoid. Or an irregular nonagon perhaps.
^^ Anyone else out there remember the term ‘crunchy granola’ for health food junkies in Birkenstocks in the 80’s or thereabouts? No earnest seeker after nutritional truth now would eat GRANOLA. CEREAL GRAINS. NOOOOOO. WE DID NOT EVOLVE TO EAT CEREAL GRAINS. And my Birkenstocks are either pink or have rhinestones. I’d have pink and rhinestones if I could find them.
^^^ And then again I might not. The trusty tin of mackerel or tuna is very useful to a disorganised twit who finds herself needing to rush out the door in five minutes and doesn’t have time to produce the healthy green salad with the protein-based dressing, let alone eat the sucker.+ Fresh veg takes an appalling amount of chewing.
+ Vegan shtetls will have vegan corner stores that offer hearty organic vegan snacks for disorganised twits.
^^^ My willingness to continue to eat fish has nothing to do with the fact that the video screen on my dentist’s ceiling always shows underwater sea life, mostly but not exclusively fish. There is NO causative connection in my subconscious between fish and pain which might arouse a (subconscious) desire for vengeance on the piscine world. NO. NONE.
^^^^ Bottom line: YOU DO HAVE TO EAT SOMETHING.
** AKA Romanesco. I love the green ones and find the white ones eh. I’m told there’s no difference but the colour. Okay. I’m very vision-led. I know this. I still think they taste different. So my retinas are wired to my taste buds. I have stranger characteristics.
*** Spoiler alert: ARRRRRRRRRRRGH.
† Oh that old whine again
†† Did I tell you that Damien got out twice, weekend before last, and had a go at me both times? I being so outrageous as to be outdoors at the time(s). His garden now looks like a stage set for Les Miz and every time I have the unjustified temerity to emerge from some door or other I can hear him flinging himself passionately against the barricades whilst barking hysterically. It’s surprising how beleaguered something that weighs about twenty pounds can make you feel. I have to call the dog warden. I keep putting it off.
††† I told you, didn’t I, that I had THREE supposed buyers ready to put in a bid I couldn’t possibly resist and wouldn’t want to, for Third House? And that I was perhaps cynical about this prospect? Yep. Not one of them showed. Meanwhile I have—theoretically—a fourth. I’m not holding my breath. I am getting on with clearing out the sheds^ so I can let^^ the freller. Thank you God for Atlas^^^ and his trailer.
^ We’d done a first cut of most of the obvious stuff months ago. This was the stuff we didn’t know what to do with plus all the little bins and tins and boxes of gubbins that all of us accumulate in some area of our lives or other+: for Peter it was tools and the toolshed. So there are all these labels to collections of enigmatic bits in his handwriting. Whimper.
+ Perhaps in some cases more than one area. ::Whistles::
^^^ Who also could translate some of the labels. This was less useful than you might think since he didn’t want to throw anything out either. ‘Oh, that’s a 1948 glimmigerthinggimerdoodah! Haven’t seen one of those in decades! You can’t throw that out!’
‡ Um, ‘peace’?
‡‡ Popular fantasies include watching a nice fleet of dragons eating HM Revenue & Customs^ in its morbid entirety. Salt, pepper and Worcestershire sauce optional.
^ Remember this is a governmental department that levies custom charges on postage. And you know what overseas postage is like now? If Abebooks doesn’t list it in the UK, forget it.
‡‡‡ I have perhaps mentioned how much I hate business admin of all varieties?
§ And the poor hellmob were downstairs howling to go for a hurtle. I crept down a couple of times and let them out into the garden for any urgencies. They didn’t want the garden, they wanted the hurtles they can usually depend on when I come home from having been AWAY FROM THEM FOR MORE THAN FIVE MINUTES.
§§ I did manage both my second ringing gig Sunday afternoon and singing for service Sunday evening. Because bodies are perverse, I was in what in my unfortunate case passes for good voice which amused me enough to cheer me up a little. Usually your throat says nooooooooo after a lot of unnecessary stomach acid has geysered through it.
§§§ But at least after this I got to sprint off and SEE MY MONK. I was supposed to meet him Saturday evening before the Saturday contemplative night prayer service but since I couldn’t stand up, um. My email telling him I couldn’t make it was probably the tersest of my entire life but at that point focussing my eyes on something like a computer screen WAS A VERY VERY BAD IDEA.
§§§§ I can wait! I CAN WAIT! I CAN WAAAAAAAAAIT!
Or, Some Things Don’t Change
I blew off handbells today. Shock. Horror. But our usual Friday afternoon handbell madness is occasionally held in Morocco, because one of our regulars lives there, and for her to come here is a very long commute for a couple of hours of somewhat erratic handbells, since we are not all up to Niall’s standard, and occasionally we all go to her instead. Furthermore she has a big garden full of wildlife and if the handbells are going badly someone can always look out the window and say ‘oh, look, a djinn.’
But the days we drive to Morocco are a long commute for those of us coming from New Arcadia and Mauncester. And I, as I have told you, am beginning to do a little story-work again, but it’s kind of a struggle*, and most of this last week has been a non-event due to obsessing about the interment, the interment, and disintegrating after the interment. And while I wasn’t looking, the story that was (I thought) unspooling the most steadily got itself into the most spectacular matted mare’s nest** and yesterday I pulled most of it to pieces trying to figure it out, speaking of morale problems. So when Niall told me handbells were at Jillian’s today I demurred and said I needed to stay home and work.
Well, I did need to stay home and work. This is not necessarily what happened. THIS IS NOT WHAT HAPPENED. What happened is by mid-afternoon I was having difficulty not throwing this ARGLEBARGLEDOODAHBLITZIT object across the room, which is to say my so-called computer***, AND the mare’s nest now resembled a plait of plastic rope that someone has set fire to. Not only is it not pretty and is incapable of holding anything together it PONGS.
So about the time Niall would have been setting off to Morocco I LEAPED INTO WOLFGANG AND WENT TO MAUNCESTER TO LOOK AT STORAGE SOLUTIONS. Such vice! Such wickedness! Where I came in: some things don’t change. I used to do exactly this in similar situations back in Maine. When the pong of melted plastic rope got too much I would leap into Ferdinand and drive to Ellsworth and look at storage solutions, lack of storage having been a guiding principle my entire life. The lilac-covered cottage in Blue Hill was smaller than this one†, but I had fewer bad habits in those days†† and now that I don’t have Peter’s larger house to spill into (and out of) the corners of, um. I also had only one dog in Maine. The hellmob larder situation is extreme AND IS TAKING UP POTENTIAL BOOK SPACE.
I can’t say I solved it, but I did come home with two Very Large Plastic Crates and four small ones. I did not choose these because they were the cheapest bins available, which they were, but because I could get them in purple, turquoise and pink.
Some things don’t change.
* * *
* It’s always a struggle, it’s been a struggle for approximately sixty-three years^ it’s just sometimes my vorpal blade is shining with a burning flame and going snicker-snack and sometimes it is more of an overripe banana going squish. I’m glad that—as someone on the forum has I think said—the Story Council seems to have unearthed my address and has started sending me possible projects again^^ but speaking of things that don’t change I’m working on two short things and a long thing, and the short things are (a) a SEQUEL to another short thing and (b) a retelling of a frelling fairy tale which means these are both RIFE WITH PERIL for someone who doesn’t do the short thing all that well, I mean, even rifer with peril, because a sequel means that there’s more there, you know? Which is how accidents happen. And retelling fairy tales . . . eh. My record here speaks for itself. And the long thing is, well, long. So the Story Council’s latest hot delivery is THANKS SO MUCH YOU GUYS, a novel that has been lurking in the back of my mind and the bottom of my cough-cough-cough-cough filing system for thirty years. Yes. Really. This is something I started poking at after BEAUTY, and then SWORD snatched me away, saying, yes, yes, you said that Damar was scaring you, we let you write BEAUTY to settle you down, now pay attention. This other thing has waved to me from the shadows from time to time since then but . . . GO AWAY. I’M SURE YOU’RE ADORABLE BUT I HAVE ENOUGH GOING ON.^^^
^ My memories of telling myself proto-stories in my crib are comparatively mellow
^^ Although I don’t actually think it’s the Story Council’s fault in this case. I think I’ve been ignoring that slap on the doormat that says INCOMING, unless, of course, it’s a gardening catalogue, a knitting magazine+, or that extra-specially splendid thud that declares A NEW BOOK, because, of course, I need more books, I can’t get up the stairs in either house because of the book boxes++: that is, I can, because I have long legs and I won’t sue myself, but nobody else can. However given that my housekeeping skills have never had a lot of profile and have been almost completely dormant for the last eight or nine months, repelling visitors has become an act of charity since the only loo in either house is . . . upstairs.+++
+ I have something hilarious to tell you. I NEED A NEW KNITTING PROJECT. I NEED A NEW KNITTING PROJECT. Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha, stop, stop, hahahahaha I can’t stop, HAHAHAHAHAHAHA STOP. Yes. Well. I’m sure I’ve told you that I’ve turned into the Crazy Knitting Lady Super-Extra Model since Peter died because having my head down over a lapful of yarn helps me not cry in public, and knitting through the sermons every week at St Margaret’s has revealed that, because I’m a fidget and sitting still takes effort, knitting furthermore helps me concentrate.# With the unsurprising outcome that I’m getting through rather a lot of it. The shortcoming of this system is that I can only do plain, plain, PLAIN knitting because I am a bear of very little brain and if I’m using knitting to suppress the fidgets as well as the tear ducts while I’m paying attention to something else I can’t do anything clever.##
So, yeah, my house is full of unfinished projects###, like the houses of most knitters I know, but I daren’t risk trying to finish any of these because I will bobble them extremely. So I need A NEW (simple minded) KNITTING PROJECT. Too delicious. And it’s not even on my forbidden-foods list.####
# Although I have to remember not to wave a needle around for emphasis during the discussion afterward.
## The fact that the strips of that infamous baby blanket are different lengths testifies to just how plain the knitting has to be. Counting rows? COUNTING? You mean, like, MATHS? Bad idea. Really, really bad idea.
### Stuffed into an assortment of excellent tote bags emblazoned with slogans like ‘I knit so I don’t kill people’. What a pity it took me so long to discover knitting.
#### It probably should be BUT IT’S NOT.
++ I told you, didn’t I, that Atlas came off his bike about two months ago and broke both wrists?! So the shelf-building has been on hold. It has begun again, now he’s out of plaster, but the Lodge’s walls are even more skew-whiff than the cottage and it’s more sculpture# than carpentry. Which takes longer.
# The local what’s-on New Arcadia magazine this month has an ad for a beginners’ sculpture class. NOOOOOOO. MCKINLEY, IN WHAT TIME? WITH WHAT ENERGY? But I keep thinking about it. Let’s see I could give up . . . um . . . I could give up . . . =
= And it’s worse than that because I’ve started drawing again. In what time and with what energy. And what result must be considered. If my writing is too often adding three words and deleting seventeen, my drawing is adding half a syllable and deleting a page.
+++ They breed, you know, book boxes, like clothes-hangers in neglected closets. Every time I go up to Third House there’s another one in a corner that I’m SURE was clear last time. Empty wrong-sized plant pots do exactly the same thing. Arrrgh.
^^^ Unless of course you promise, word of honour and sealed in blood, that I can write you in six weeks and you will be BRILLIANT and sell 1,000,000,000 copies in the first six months.
** Like necklace chains in the jewellery drawer overnight. How do they DO that? ARRRRRGH.
*** My proper laptop—the ultrabook, laptops are so last decade—is in the frelling shop, because its keyboard went doolally last week. Okay, so, how many people eat at their computer? Like, most of us? And why can’t the idiots in development create a bits-proof keyboard? Now I’m off all cereal grains I’m not even producing many crumbs. Although tahini and pine nuts are probably worse. Anyway. I’m presently attempting to work on my old, reconditioned laptop—back when laptops were laptops—and apparently it liked being retired because It. Is. Not. Cooperating. So when Raphael brings the ultra back with a shiny fresh porous keyboard, he will take AWAAAAAAAY this pigbutt of a machine and whack it around some.
† The kitchen more nearly resembled a kitchen but the house had no attic. Reasons to move to England: public footpath system. Roses. Attics.
Soooo, everyone remember my Niagara Falls leak? The water company—we will call them Sludge & Ganglion—sent me a letter last November, while I was a trifle preoccupied with my dying husband, saying that I had a humdinger of a puncture somewhere in the system and they were proposing to put my water bill up to £1,000,000,000.07 a month, unless of course I wanted to do something about it? As I say, I was preoccupied, but early in in January, I was at the bank, whom I don’t think I have named in these pages, much as it deserves a name, something like Ordure, Funk & Weltschmerz, anyway, I was at the bank starting to deal with post-death and probate issues. The woman who was trying to tease out into its component bits of blither and doodah the latest utter festering mess of the sort that Ordure and Funk’s vast groaning technology specialises in, said, Golly, the water company hates you, doesn’t it? Because, as it turns out, Sludge & Ganglion had gone ahead and started charging me £1,000,000,000.07 without making any further attempt to contact me. Thus getting our relationship about this matter off to a really great start when I rang up and SCREAMED.
Fast forward through the sixteen engineers and the woman back at base* who (apparently) kept sending orders for engineers to attend me and my leak. When I finally said I HAVE HAD SIX HUNDRED ENGINEERS, COULD WE STOP SOON PLEASE?, she said, you have? I have had no notification. The next time one comes, she added, would you please tell me? —thus demonstrating that Sludge & Ganglion’s internal communications are as fabulous as their customer relations.
Anyway. All seven hundred and twelve engineers’ tea leaves and Ouija boards agreed that the leak was my problem, not theirs.** I have about as much faith in their diagnosis as I do in the latest Elvis sightings in bags of gladioli bulbs with pompadours, but my options are limited. Whereupon began the epic search for a plumber who would touch the job of re-laying pipes and rerouting my water supply.***
Plumber eventually found, not without stress, misery, and the application to friends and acquaintances who have lived in this area for generations and are related to plumbers, and then weeks and weeks of nagging followed while I tried to convince him that NOW is an excellent time, ahead of the kamikaze S&G leak-mending squad and/or the next monthly bill for £1,000,000,000.07. At least he answers his emails. He just doesn’t say what I want to hear.
This past Monday I got a sudden email saying he’d be here Wednesday. Erm, wha’, eh? I mean, GREAT. WEDNESDAY. I’ll tell the woman In Charge of My Case who likes sending engineers, and whom no one tells anything.
Oh, and? I have to clear one entire wall of my kitchen because they’re frelling going to run those new water pipes first up the front of the house† and then indoors along the skirting board. This beats peeling up my floors by a substantial margin†† but it is still not ideal. And clearing that wall involves the washing machine, the refrigerator, the hellterror’s crate and her in it since I’m certainly not going to have her underfoot with plumbers with soldering irons kneeling at hellterror level AND A SIX FOOT BY THREE FOOT BY TWO FOOT††† TALLBOY CHEST OF DRAWERS, every micron of whose drawers are crammed, as I’m sure you will believe, with stuff. And the sitting room—and the stairs, and the upstairs hall, and my bedroom and office—are also CRAMMED, with boxes of further stuff from Third House.‡
But never mind the rest of the house. Calling what my kitchen looks like at present the result of a global cataclysm only hints at the scene.‡‡
So. Wednesday. Plumbers were TWO AND A HALF HOURS LATE.‡‡‡ You know in this modern world of mobile phones there’s not a huge amount of excuse for not ringing and keeping people waiting for you abreast of the situation???? Plumbers like their mystery I guess. These plumbers eventually arrived. Plumbers drilled holes, making moon-crater holes in my plaster which I assume Atlas can mend, laid slender, relatively tactful copper pipes, and made horrible pongs with their soldering.§ Of course they didn’t finish, so they were coming back Thursday to finish the job.
They were only forty-five minutes late on Thursday. Yaay. They finished all the pipe-laying, pong-making and crater-provoking, and collected respectfully around the meter in the street for the Big Moment, when they turned off the water while they diverted the whatever-the-turkey so the water would now flow through the new, please God leak-free, pipes.
I was indoors, but I heard the sound of the voices in the street change from plumbers going about their plumbing to bemusement and consternation. At which point I clocked that there was a new voice added to the throng, that of my semi-detached neighbour, Phineas.
They had turned his water off too. BECAUSE MY METER IS A JOINT METER, WHICH SLUDGE & GANGLION HAD NEGLECTED TO MENTION, PROBABLY BECAUSE THEY ARE EVIL CULPABLE IDIOTS AND HADN’T NOTICED THIS CRUCIAL PIECE OF INFORMATION OR POSSIBLY HADN’T FELT I NEEDED TO KNOW. AND? AND THIS MEANS THAT THE PLUMBERS HAD JUST COMPLETED EIGHT HUNDRED QUID’S WORTH OF WORK, including collateral kitchen wall damage§§, WHICH IS NOW MOST PROBABLY UTTERLY USELESS, AND THEY HAVE TO START ALL OVER AGAIN, WHICH IN THIS CASE MEANS DIGGING UP MY GARDEN, LOOKING FOR THE JOIN WHERE THE WATER SUPPLY SEPARATES.
Work re-begins on Monday. I may have run away to Tashkent by then. I think the hellmob might enjoy Tashkent. I’m not up for enjoying anything right now.
* * *
* And the jolly jolly jolly merry go round of the official Sludge & Ganglion robot email sending me a phone number that didn’t work^ thus putting me back at the BOTTOM of the frelling queue again trying make contact with the correct cabal of the customer persecution unit.
^ ‘This phone number is currently out of service. So sorry for any inconvenience’
** Just by the way, if you don’t have house insurance that will cover it, Sludge & Ganglion will provide one free leak mend. THANK YOU GOD FOR PETER MAKING ME GET COMPREHENSIVE HOUSE INSURANCE THAT COVERS STUFF LIKE PERSONAL MANIFESTATIONS OF NIAGARA FALLS. The mere idea of letting a gang of S&G’s buffoons loose in my house might cause heart failure in someone who hadn’t given up chocolate and champagne and whose mighty leafy-green-vegetable-fuelled strength is unassailable.^
^ I hope.
*** The leak itself has been declared essentially unfindable, because they would have to drag my house out by the roots and hold it overhead while they fossicked down through the cellar’s worth of builder’s rubble under the ‘ground’ floor of my house which is up a flight of stairs, to actual ground level. As I have probably said on these literal pages before, if I ever found myself with more money than sense^ I’d hire someone to cut a door-shaped hole in the genuine ground floor outside wall of my house at the foot of the stair, yank out all the builder’s rubble and give me a cellar.^^
^ A lot more money than sense. Amassment of sense is not a good measure of largeness in my case.
^^ I could keep BACKLIST in my cellar.
† So decorative and beautifying. Also, while it’s lagged—by a large brown plastic hangar that is really eye-woundingly beautiful: maybe I can grow a Virginia Creeper over the thing, rose bushes have way too many gaps for satisfactory coverage—if the extreme-weather theory about global warming comes to southern England I could be in a lot of disagreeable frozen trouble.
†† Which is what happened to one of my ghoulish informants. AND THE FLOORS HAVE NEVER BEEN THE SAME AGAIN, he finished with relish.
††† And speaking of the criticalness of size, I still don’t have a refrigerator and freezer for the Lodge. The gaps for these, both little under-counter items, are quite small, or perhaps under-counter appliances have grown since the two-owners-ago remodelled the kitchen, and my choices are limited. And the ones I want are out of stock. And have I mentioned recently^ that I have people coming to STAY at the Lodge in . . . about a fortnight? Who may conceivably want to, you know, eat, or at least have somewhere to keep a bottle of milk since I won’t have the nasty stuff in my house. Although that’s chiefly because I don’t have room. I’m still schlepping up to Third House for my second organic grocery delivery of the week because my little under-counter-sized^^ fridge at the cottage can’t hold an entire week’s worth of mad vegetarian’s dark leafy super-powered greens. Which use of Third House’s facilities is, I might add, a deeply depressing business, a kind of whoring: I don’t love you, but I will use you(r refrigerator). If I had more money than God has angels I would keep Third House, and the lovely new attic with the view down the garden . . . I could rent it while I figure out what I’m doing with my life, no, no, no, we are NOT THINKING ABOUT THIS.
Third House is now officially on the market. The housecleaners came and did the hey-wow-scouring thing last week. But it’s still not frelling empty, and both the cottage and the Lodge are FULL. Meanwhile on cue the real estate market has died, while everyone worries about whether we’re going to stay in or get out of the EU, and what that will mean to little things like the economy. And real estate values. Guys. You do still have to live somewhere.
^ No, because I haven’t mentioned anything recently
^^ It’s not, strictly speaking, under-counter because it is the counter
‡ Including awful awful awful amounts of backlist. Never mind that I am a collector and a hoarder. It’s the backlist that makes my life unsupportable. Ha ha ha ha, sway-backed creaking floors anyone.
‡‡ This is one of those occasions when you’re way better off with dogs as live-in companions than humans. This way there’s only I pacing the floors and moaning like an unquiet ghost . . . no, wait, there are no floors available for pacing. Perching on my kitchen stool above the battle zone, wringing my hands, dorking at the keyboard and moaning like an unquiet ghost. The hellmob do not care. This is so fabulous I almost care less. I did think the hellterror might object to being exiled into the sitting room, especially since her crate is now kind of Gollum’s cave at the bottom of the Misty Mountains, but she’s all, is there FOOOOOOD? My crate usually has FOOOOOOOOD. There’s FOOOOOOOOD? Then I am cool. The hellhounds, of course, love everybody, including kneeling plumbers with soldering irons.^
^ I signed up for the 1-2 am slot of the forty-hour Pentecost vigil at St Margaret’s Thursday night. I took the hellhounds with me since I am a little twitchy about being all alone in an open, lit-up church in the middle of the night, but in fact if anyone of dubious provenance wandered in the hellhounds would want to be best friends. However I was very glad of them when the 2 am vigilante did not show up and—hey, you know, it’s a vigil and it doesn’t count if no one’s there—I stayed on, with sleeping hellhounds—er, heavenhounds—keeping my feet warm WHY ARE CHURCHES ALWAYS SO COLD—I don’t suppose Jesus would have minded if I got down on the floor with them and draped them more comprehensively about my person, but I didn’t. However I was wondering if Buck would kill me if, when the 3 am person didn’t show up either, I went round to the vicar’s house behind the church and knocked on the door. Then Buck showed up as the 3 am person. With a very, very, very large mug of coffee. And I went home. Yaay. Alight with holiness. Well something kept me awake for the drive.
‡‡‡ Meanwhile I was supposed to be meeting the estate-agent photographer up at Third House, having let the plumbers in to the cottage, but there were as yet no plumbers to let in. So I rang the estate agent and asked for a favour, that one of them meet the photographer . . . and then I sprinted round the block with the increasingly cross-legged hellmob and arrived home to a phone message that the photographer was going to be late, and when I rang the estate agent who was supposed to be waiting at Third House already, he wasn’t answering his mobile AAAAAAAUGH so I then sprinted up to Third House with hellhounds, who thought we were having a really splendid adventure, AND HE WASN’T THERE. AAAAAAAAAAAUGH.^
^ I also had a long-previously-booked probate-and-taxes appointment with the accountants that afternoon AND a meeting of the local alternative-practitioners group in the evening, who were going to be talking about homeopathy, and who were allowing unconsecrated members of the public past their august portals for some reason. But the point is I don’t have days like this.
§ Hellhounds withdrew to the back of their crate and made snorting noises.
§§ And the tallboy will no longer fit in its corner, but has to sit a couple of inches farther into the room. In a room this small containing a tallboy this large this is a pivotal strategic consideration. There was language and maybe a few tears.^
^ And yes, I had to take all the (full) drawers out to move the sucker.
POSTSCRIPT: And as I, perhaps unwisely, have been putting my kitchen back together again since the cataclysm should be over in here and the next area to be sacked and ravaged is my garden, I discover that the new location of the tallboy means that the hellterror’s crate no longer fits where it used to go, and if I push it back so the door opens wide enough that her little square self fits through and I can get my shoulders in to change bedding and sweep . . . the back end jams against the fuse box and the WASHING MACHINE DOOR WILL ONLY OPEN HALF WAY.
. . . yesterday. I’d been Street Pastoring Friday night* so getting out of bed Saturday (ahem) morning (ahem) was a somewhat protracted business.** I eventually came downstairs*** and was fallen on by the hellmob† who feel that six hours is plenty of time to be without the fascinating, stimulating and all-providing hellgoddess.††
And before I go on with this story I want to make it very clear that I had had an adequate amount of caffeine . . .
I have three eggs for breakfast every morning.††† I make excellent scrambled eggs‡ and this also means that if I—er—don’t get around to eating for the rest of the day I’m still good to go.‡‡ I have NO IDEA how it happened, except that I must have put the pan carelessly down on the edge of the cooker while I reached for the bowl. Possibly to do with sleep deprivation. Even caffeine can only do so much.
AND THE BLOODY PAN LEAPED OFF THE COOKER, DID THREE CARTWHEELS MIDAIR‡‡‡ AND PLUNGED TO THE FLOOR WHERE IT FRELLING BOUNCED. Who knew that a heavy copper pan COULD BOUNCE THAT HIGH?
I had scrambled eggs—scrambled eggs that had just had their butter stirred into them a moment ago—EVERYWHERE. I mean EVERYWHERE. I’m starting to feel hysterical again just remembering. The eggs that landed on the front of the Aga itself were instantly welded into place because the front of the Aga is HOT, you know? The fronts of the white cupboards were suddenly a shiny mottled yellow. I had eggs on my computer, eggs on the piles of books and magazines§ to either side of it, eggs on the glass panes of the cupboards above the counters, eggs on my knitting bag . . . eggs on the FAR SIDE OF THE KITCHEN ISLAND, on the table I can no longer get the leaves up of because there are too many hellcritter crates, and on the glass front of the bookcase that stands next to the table. There are probably eggs in the geraniums on the windowsills too, but it’s a bit of a jungle in there and if there are eggs they can just stay there.
Meanwhile, back at ground zero . . . my kitchen was built by a cowboy. I have no idea where my predecessor found him, but I hope she put him back where he can trouble no one any further. Since I have a cowboy mentality when it comes to housework this is mostly not that big a problem. I curse the drawer that doesn’t open except when it shoots out and falls to the floor, but mostly I can ignore the fact that it has big gaps at the top and on both sides, and that the handle doesn’t fit flush to the front. I can also ignore that the cowboy was either drunk or high when he put in the footings for the Aga§§ UNTIL I’M TRYING TO CLEAN SCRAMBLED EGGS OFF EVERY SURFACE IN THE KITCHEN. A heavy copper pot can cannonball its contents with amazing force. I had greasy scrambled eggs inside that frelling drawer, having slammed through the cracks; I had scrambled eggs jammed under the not-flush handle. I had—and, in fact, still have, since I see no way of getting them out—scrambled eggs puttying up the gaps in the Aga footings . . . I had scrambled eggs inside the oven-shaped space in the Aga that contains the gas feed and the striking mechanism and the spigots because there are vents in the top of the door which the eggs came through. I had eggs sliding down Jesus’ tummy on the brand-new icon I have hanging on the front of one of those glass-paned cupboards§§§. I had eggs dripping off the overhead ceiling beam.
I spent two hours cleaning the kitchen.~ And whining. And then I made myself more scrambled eggs and I ate them. ~~
* * *
* And I got STOPPED BY THE FUZZ ON THE WAY HOME. Hee hee hee hee hee. They must have been bored^—or poor Wolfgang has that look of minor criminal delinquency. I saw a car pull in behind me and I couldn’t see it was cops but I am happy to say that late at night any car that pulls in behind me is guilty until proven innocent of being cops, and I drive accordingly. At 4 am after being on your feet strolling the city for six hours you might be forgiven for BEING A LITTLE TIRED.^^ I had about decided this car was not cops since it had followed me all the way through town and out the other side and I hadn’t had any near encounters with trees or anything. But they still pulled me over, one of them ambled out and asked—politely—if I was lost or if perhaps . . . I had had one or two down t’pub earlier? No, I said cheerfully, I’ve been Street Pastoring, and I waved the sleeve of my jacket, lying on the seat next to me, at him. Oh, Street Pastors, he said, carry on. I spared him pointing out that he’d just spoken to me not an hour before on a street corner . . . but the anonymous thing about a uniform? The SP logo is like a great big HARMLESS sign and I think cop gaze slides right off us. Not the other way around, you will note. But I’m still getting used to chatting amiably with The Man. Or, occasionally, Woman.
^ I’m happy to say that in this area at 4 am, when the final Chinese/Thai/Indian takeaway/kebab shop/Subway sandwiches has closed after the last club+ has closed, things are pretty quiet. Except for the occasional random old lady serially hurtling a hellmob. The cops’ve stopped her too, as you may recall.
+ Yes we have those too. No, really. You want vices? We got vices. It’s just most of them go to bed pretty early.
^^ I would be useless at shift work—like cops—and with the ME the only reason I can do Street Pastoring at all—or all those late Sam duties—is because I stay up late anyway. Just not quite this late+ and there’s less walking involved++, although what walking there is on an ordinary McKinley late night includes liberal use of small plastic bags.
+ Um. Usually
++ Or chatting to people, which is much more tiring.# I like carrying the knapsack, despite the weight of a full frelling thermos, because then I can concentrate on the hot-drinks service and conversation can be honourably limited to ‘vegetable, chicken and vegetable or hot chocolate?’ Mind you wrestling with thermoses that don’t open, plastic bags of paper cups that have no entry point, packets of soup that won’t tear and the regular dismaying disappearance of all the spoons, it usually takes an entire team to get a hot drink made anyway. I suspect many of our regular homeless don’t want the drink but they enjoy the show.
# Answering the phones at the Sams is different. They rang you. You didn’t wander up to them wearing a silly hat.
** I’ve got the standard post-late-Sam duty system reasonably well banged out but I’m still working on post-SP. I have two major problems about getting to bed before the morning news on Radio 3^: the first is this three dog drill. Pav is totally down on bodily functions. You take her out, she does the necessary and she can’t wait to get back indoors again BECAUSE THERE WILL BE FOOOOOOOOOD. Hellhounds . . . Chaos has to crap at least twice^^ every time he sets foot across the threshold and Darkness has to find the PEEEEEEEEEERFECT spot. He can shuttle around a patch five foot square for five minutes . . . and then CHANGE HIS MIND and be obliged to LOOK ELSEWHERE. And the pee-marking . . . they may have to pee several times and from several different directions on a single tree, dustbin, bus stop, wall^^^, pole, etc. Although watching them trying to get it RIGHT with a pole is pretty funny since their aim isn’t all that great, and . . .
And the other thing is that I come back from any late duty STARVING. And more so after following flaming hellhounds around on their eliminatory QUEST. And eating is, you know, time consuming, since you’re not going to gag down six brownies and an onion^^^^ at the kitchen sink, are you? You’re going to want to consider your choices and then sit down and enjoy your selection, and maybe get out a book to read or a little knitting and . . .
^ the sound of which produces an OH FESTERING FESTERING reaction, especially if I’ve fallen asleep in the bath again
^^ I am not merely paying for the makers of biodegradable plastic crap bags to send their children to college, I am also funding their tropical rainforest holidays in Maine and sun and surf holidays in Tibet+. ARRRRRRGH.
+ Both of these options are EXTRA EXPENSIVE for what you might call the obvious reasons
^^^ Walls come in extents, you realise. A self-contained extent from a peeing-dog perspective is anywhere from three-quarters of an inch to about two foot. Sigh.
^^^^ Well I hope you aren’t
*** There may have been moaning
† I am DELIGHTED TO REPORT THAT the hellterror is off heat again YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY. Although the hellhounds are still checking. Hellterror is all, you want my butt? I am delighted you want my butt! Here is my butt! HERE IS MY BUTT! HERE IT IS! HERE! ARE YOU ENJOYING MY BUTT? IT’S A NICE BUTT, ISN’T IT? MAYBE YOU’D LIKE TO TICKLE MY TUMMY TOO? OR I COULD JUST MUG YOU. —Remind me why I have dogs.
†† Getting your dogs on your peculiar schedule is easy. But all those bright little expectant eyes when you crawl through the door at three or four in the morning is perhaps not the perfect solution. When are they going to invent a dog-walking robot?
††† All right so it’s not necessarily morning. It’s the first meal of the day, okay? Unless you count the nosh at 5 am.
‡ Possibly almost as good as Sunshine’s. Almost. After all, she’s a professional.
‡‡ There could be some connection here with why I am often starving at three or four in the morning. But post-menopausal metabolism, you know? The frelling eggs are an indulgence. I could maintain weight on a carrot a week, I swear. A small carrot.^
^ I am not thinking about Niall’s brownies. I am not thinking about Niall’s brownies. NOT. +
+ However I am apparently ringing at Old Eden tomorrow night, where ringing up those bells is like running a flag up a flagpole where the pulleys are all frozen and the flag is the approximate size, weight and momentum resistance of the Albert Memorial. Who needs a gym subscription?
‡‡‡ During which I wrung my hands and did not make a grab for it because it had only JUST come off the hot plate and I employ a heavy copper-clad steel pan because I can use all the upper-body strengthening devices I can get AND it cooks divinely not least for its HEAT RETAINING PROPERTIES.
§ You mean not everybody eats surrounded by books and writing implements of various applications, or keeps current reading material on the kitchen counters?^
^ There would be more on the floor except, you know, hellterror. No she doesn’t eat paper but she does carom off it.
§§ It’s a reconditioned one so it’s possible that whoever did the reconditioning also supplied the footing. This is not an encouraging thought. Fortunately the Aga herself is a star and I wouldn’t be without her. Long time readers may recall I’ve said that all my friends fell down laughing when they found out I’d bought a house with an Aga in it since I had clearly bought it for the Aga. Ahem. I deny this charge. Although I admit the presence of an Aga may have been a tipping point.
§§§ A few weeks ago, when the real world was beating me up unusually hard, I met my monk on my way into the chapel on Saturday night and he asked me how I was. I burst into tears. The end of that conversation included Alfrick suggesting I buy myself a suitable icon and start poking my problems into the little cave with the skull in it at the foot of the cross.^
^ First you have to find a reproduction that doesn’t chop the cave off because it’s all for tourists anyway and they won’t care. Good grief. Or I should probably say God bless. I finally found a nice shiny working Catholic repro of an icon. I don’t recall however that you’re supposed to baptise your new icon in scrambled eggs and I was a little worried that the cheap varnish was going to peel off, but it seems to have taken no harm.+
+ This is a monologue for another night, but having been raised, supposedly, to be a generic Protestant . . . generic Protestants so miss out on the evil-papist [sic] ritual objects like icons and rosaries. Maybe I’m just unusually mired in earthly matters# and/or old to be this young, but I find the props tremendously helpful and supportive. We are living in this world with bodies in three mortal dimensions##. I belong to the school of thought that it’s not all about transcendence.
# two hellhounds with chronic diarrhoea and a hellterror with a fabulous butt can do this to you
## and hellcritters. I think hellcritter bodies exude an extra dimension or two. Possibly hellterrors have a special Butt Dimension which could explain a lot.
# Small mercies: the hellterror had been recrated^ before the excitement. She did, however, have lovely buttery scrambled eggs for breakfast. She did not care that they’d spent a few minutes on the floor or were seasoned with tears of rage and despair.
^ For an excess of butt-related activities
~ It’s still speckled yellow. But it’s less speckled. .
~~ Today, however, has been better. We went to a ROSE GARDEN.