October 31, 2014

Shadows is here!

Modern life


There is a law of the universe that says that any house you move out of always has at least one final carload of stuff left in it.  However many times you’ve been back for The Last Load–and whether or not there’s a new owner tapping his/her foot and holding his/her hand out for the key, which, fortunately, in this case, there is not.  But this is sort of the large economy size of the Sock Planet theorem, about where all those odd socks that ought to be in the bottom of the washing machine but aren’t, go.*  You’d need a galaxy at least for all those The House Is Empty It’s Empty I Tell You nooooooo there is nothing in those cupboards** carloads.  And there wasn’t anything in those cupboards when you frelling doodah frelling CLEARED THEM OUT THE LAST TIME.***

However. I finally went round to the estate agent to discuss getting the mews on the market and I have his recommendation of a Ruby-equivalent† coming in to do the hardcore houseclean before I let him in.

Real world progress. Hey golly wow.  I thought the house move might have been my real-world-engagement allocation for this century.

* * *

* Every time a sock DISAPPEARS^ I go into Sock Fetish^^ Overdrive.^^^ This happened recently^^^^ at the same time that a line of really nice socks went on SALE on a web site I am unfortunately on the email list of.  I don’t have to tell you I bought 1,000,000 of each colour, do I?  What do I do when they arrive?  Under the bed is already full of boxes full of yarn.~

^ I try to remember to check the back of Pav’s crate first. But trophy socks in the back of Pav’s crate are not always socks any more, although she rearranges the stitch patterns less than she used to.  She nestles more now.  This would be more awwwwww if it weren’t for the little evil eye twinkling at you.

^^ It’s not all that surprising I have a sock fetish. If I didn’t, my All Star fetish might get lonely.

^^^ I also have this silly habit of not throwing out the perfectly good twin of the sock that has disimproved into bad macramé.  After all, it’s a perfectly good sock.  So it goes into a tote bag+ with all the other single socks and occasionally I find two that amuse me as a pair . . . but then when they go in the laundry THERE ARE TWO ODD SOCKS. Now, I am not completely lost to logical thought and when there are two of them—especially when I put them together and they are AMUSING—I can probably figure out that it’s not a Sock Planet raid++ this time.


+ Which says something like ‘she is too fond of books and it has addled her brain’ or ‘keep calm and eat chocolate’.

++ Although I’d better check the back of Pav’s crate again. And possibly the hellhounds’.  Chaos is occasionally forced by inner disquietude to steal socks, although he usually steals the clean ones that I’m trying to put on to take hellhounds for a hurtle.  I have tried to explain to him that this is counterproductive but he just does the Dog Cute Head-Cocking Thing to prove that he is listening to me very intently and then steals my socks again the next time he’s feeling interiorly disquieted.  Darkness, who has different neuroses, looks in another direction wearing a long-suffering expression.  I have, however, explained to Chaos with great care that if he steals another Steeleye Span t shirt# he will die.

# Not that I don’t have, you know, several. The collection hasn’t reached the epic All Star proportions yet, but it’s moving in that direction.  Fiona and I went to a Steeleye Span concert recently and Steeleye’s regular merchandise man recognised me. Um . . .

+++ Some of us are more fragile than others.

^^^^ I think. See ^^^.

~ AND FURTHERMORE my tied-for-first-favourite on-line yarn shop is having another flaming dingdong sale. I mean, they do this a lot, which is why they are tied-for-first-favourite and evil drooling demons from the deepest regions of the really nasty end of hell+, but a fair number of these I can pass over, the eyelash and fake fur sale, yuck, the baby and kid stuff, life is too short, you get a bib when you’re born and then you’re on your own, the person-made fibres since I’m mostly a natural-fibre snob unless the colours are really insane or the glitter is really fabulous, anything to do with Kaffe Fassett whose patterns are the knitting and needlework version of eighty-seven bell change-ringing patterns that just looking at the line in the method book makes my head explode, and so on.  There are really quite a few yarn come ons that don’t make me sit up and whine.  Aaaaand then there are the ones that do . . . make me sit up and whine. Well, I ESCAPED a really hazardous offer just last week, for one of the heavier-weight wools so you’d be using bigger, fatter needles, which is good for slow clumsy knitters like me, and I did it by simply letting the time run out.  Of course I had to chain my credit card to a stake in the back garden and take the hellmob for a run for the last three hours but it worked. And then, the fiends in marketing pulled together a Halloween sale this week of a heterogeneous selection of yarns, needles, books and patterns . . . INCLUDING ALL THREE OF THE YARNS THAT HAD BEEN IN MY BASKET LAST WEEK AND THEY HAD SAVED MY BASKET.

The internet is way more dangerous than an alligator-infested swamp. God, give me simple temptations like another puppy++ or a new car+++ or a new computer++++ and simple perils like a herd of stampeding wildebeest or one of the middle treads of the stairs to the first floor of either the cottage or Third House dissolving into a wormhole gateway to another universe# or an alligator and boa-constrictor-infested swamp. Deliver me from the internet.##

+ Not the, you know, frelling end where the hellmob and I hang out.

++ NO.

+++ NO.

++++ Well . . . yes. Which is a rant for another evening.

# It needs to be a middle tread so after you’ve found the first step and you think you can go to sleep while your feet grind up to the top step where you’ll have to pay attention again.  If you don’t fall into an alternate universe.

## You know ‘What would Jesus do?’ Jesus would not have an iPhone. Or a Twitter account.~  Or a bedroom stuffed with tote bags full of yarn and so many more books than bookshelves he can only leap onto the bed from a narrow rift that was once a doorway before it kind of silted up.

~ He might have a blog, I suppose. You know, to tell parables in and so on.=

= And if you’re wondering why my mind seems to be running on the interesting challenges of modern-day Christianity HAVE I MENTIONED THAT MY STREET PASTOR TEAM GOT THE SHORT STRAW FOR THE FIFTH FRIDAY THIS MONTH AND WE’RE OUT TOMORROW NIGHT FOR HALLOWEEN. Eeep.

** Not to mention all the stuff you don’t see any more because it’s been where it is so long.  Oh, that table? . . . TABLE?

*** What?  I haven’t seen that^ in at least fifteen years.  And three house moves.  Speaking of alternate universes.

^ Vase, casserole dish, pair of socks, fossilised panettone+, large swirly marble preserved from childhood, antique doorknob, book that you have since replaced three times, significant-occasion-souvenir empty champagne bottle.++

+ Note date on bottom of package

++ Yes. I collect these too.  You aren’t surprised, are you?

† Although I don’t think there is a giant lethal marauding creature problem at the mews. But Charlie’s doesn’t have dog hair embedded in all the corners and serving as a felt-equivalent under the kitchen lino.

Blocked at every turn


The charity gang that were taking away all our surplus furniture finally came today. Either they’re a very popular charity or their lorries break down a lot.*  Or both, I suppose.  But the situation was made unnecessarily exciting by my penchant for living on cul de sacs.  I’d asked the lorry guys to ring me fifteen minutes before they arrived to give me time to get down to the mews and let them in.  They rang.  Fifteen minutes, they said.  I stuffed the hellhounds in their harnesses, shoved the hellterror’s breakfast, ready made against this moment, into her crate and her after it, not that the shoving of a hellterror toward foooooood is required, and the hellhounds and I bolted up to Third House to fetch Wolfgang . . . and found the end of the cul de sac comprehensively full of large flatbed lorry delivering pallet after pallet after pallet of . . . I don’t know, buildery stuff, with reference to the fact that the row of Tiny But Desirable Cottages that abut the churchyard seem to be in a state of permanent renovation.  The one on the end had barely swept up its last skip’s worth of brick and cement dust when one of the ones in the middle ripped out all its insides and started over.  Arrrgh.

So I spun round the footpath corner toward my driveway and AAAAAAAUGH.  I rushed up to the bloke overseeing the latest pallet swaying earthwards on its giant hoist and said in a frantic voice, I HAVE TO GET MY CAR OUT!!!!  And he looked at me and said, We’ll move, ma’am—perhaps there are advantages to being a little old lady:  blokes don’t like to see us cry—and they did. Mind you, getting something that carries 1,000,000,000 pallets and a giant hoist doesn’t move very fast, and I was a few minutes late . . . but so was the charity lorry.  And we were all somewhat bemused by the labyrinth of scaffolding we had to make our way through because they’re painting the Big Pink Blot again**.

While the two guys from the charity were wrestling furniture that must come out since it certainly went in I prepared to load up Wolfgang, around the hellhounds, for a quick sprint to the dump, since empty houses extrude junk and a corner you perfectly well know was empty the last time you had a sweep (so to speak) through has six boxes and a broken lamp in it this time.  The charity guys eventually solved their problems of practical geometry and went their way two double beds and some miscellaneous doodads the better and the hellhounds and I went ours to the dump . . . where the way was BLOCKED by an even MORE gigantic lorry with an even MORE gigantic hoist, lifting in one of those massive small-country-sized skips that town dumps use.  ARRRRRRRRRGH.  I hadn’t packed Wolfgang at all carefully—for one thing I’m a little cross about the empty-house-extrusion thing—and I didn’t think it was going to matter for long that when I opened the passenger door there would be an avalanche . . . or that the hellterror’s travelling crate is full of superfluous kitchen gear for the dump shop.


Some days you should just stay in bed with a few good books and some knitting.***

* * *

* This may be part of their training programme. They offer apprenticeships to street people to learn money-earning skills.  I think mechanics is one of the choices.  So maybe the trainers sneak into the lorry-fleet garage in dark of night and yank a few wires and drill a few holes and put antifreeze in the petrol tanks to make sure their course will be popular.

** Since it was a four-hour slot I would not have made her wait that long if they’d come at the end instead of the beginning.  But the domestic fauna are not having a good time right now because Pav is in bloody [sic] season so she’s locked up more than usual and the hellhounds . . . have stopped eating again.^  She’s in her second week which is usually when the hellhounds start moaning. I had PLANNED that when the moaning became tedious^^ I’d stash hellhounds in the sitting room or the attic at Third House and leave her to emit hormonal fug in her crate in the dining room,  and probably leave her there overnight since they’re all in the kitchen at the cottage.^^^ But we are also having the absolute worst season for fleas I’ve seen in a quarter century so while I’m frantically trying to get it under control there’s not as much wandering about the house(s) as normal as a kind of despairing attempt at damage control.  I won’t use the standard chemicals, they’re frelling poisonous, they make some dogs sick—ask me how I know this—and they don’t even always frelling work.  If I’m going to fail to eradicate fleas I’d rather do it without toxic side-effects.  Meanwhile the list of ‘natural’ flea extermination methods, thanks to in depth on line research, gets longer and longer and longer and longer and more and more time-consuming and expensive# . . . and we still have fleas.  So the ways in which the indoor wildlife and their hellgoddess are currently not having a good time are many-splendored.  Remind me why I have dogs?##

^ Fifty percent is a good average.  I try not to complain if they eat one and a half of their three meals.  I start losing the will to live (again) when they stop altogether.

^^ This takes about seven minutes.

^^^ If the hellhounds’ sexual appetite rates with their interest level in food this probably explains why I’m getting away with having three entire creatures of two genders in a relatively small space at all.+ But simply putting them in separate rooms stops the moaning++ and while I’m very grateful I’m also surprised since, you know, dogs have a tediously discerning sense of smell and can nail the precise location of that dead hedgehog/rat/squirrel while you’re only just registering ‘ew—dead thing somewhere in the vicinity.’  I’d’ve thought hormonal fug would be fairly penetrating, if you’ll forgive the term.

+ Although Pav is not noticeably more besotted with the hellhounds than she ever is—which is extremely, just by the way—and her interest in FOOOOOOOOD is in no doubt whatsoever.


# The only thing that slows them down from chewing holes in themselves is a neem-oil based salve that costs £20 for a tiny little pot.

## And the NOISE the hellterror makes while she is Slurping Her Inflamed Parts is enough to . . . enough to . . . ARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRGH.

** What’s it going to be this go? Maroon?  Mint green?  Why don’t they just leave it pink?  I think the co-op admin doesn’t have enough to do with its time or its AGMs.

*** KNITTING. ARRRRRRGH. No, I’ll tell you about it some other post. . . . ^

^ But Fiona and I did have a lovely yarn adventure yesterday. And I haven’t told her this yet but if you count the yarn I bought last night off the internet I did spend more money than she did.  The thing is, there’s this line . . . never mind which line . . . that I’m quite fond of for reasons of EXTREME AND LURID COLOUR, and this shop had a lot of it, so I fondled a great deal of it and bought some, but was Juiced Up with Desire for More by this tactile experience+ and, while we were sitting around knitting over supper, my mind would keep reverting to the knowledge that several of the more intense colourways were on sale on one of my deplorably regular yarn sites . . . colourways that were in fact not available in the shop we’d been to.  I hope you can follow my thought (?) processes here.  BECAUSE I had SUPPORTED MY LYS++ I therefore deserved to buy some of what they hadn’t had that was on sale. You get that, right?  Yes.


++ Local Yarn Shop/Store, for those of you unafflicated by the knitting mania

An attic full of books

THERE’S TOO MUCH GOING ON* including various bits of news** both good and bad that I haven’t entirely got my head around yet*** although when I do some of them will make it onto the blog.

Meanwhile I thought I might at least post some photos of an attic full of book boxes as requested by some strange person on the forum.



This is what greets you at the top of the stairs.   That’s the corner of my old double bed from Maine on the left, hard up against the end wall, pretending to be a Guest Room.  When I get it made up again it will be a very good place for Lying with the Hellmob.  The hellhounds and I had begun to explore this interesting possibility back when Third House was still Third House.  And a double bed is enough bigger than a sofa I may be able to trap the hellterror in place more effectively.

But this is what I mean about lack of impressiveness–although you may be dazzled by my colour sense–you’re looking at nineteen or twenty boxes wedged into that corner, but since you can only see the outside rows it’s a big meh.



You’re now standing with the bed behind you and the yellow filing cabinet to your left, looking down the length of the attic.  This is the long kitchen table, worth £1.79, built out of bits Peter had found in rubbish tips, that when we moved out of the old house I REFUSED TO GIVE UP.  And I was right.  It is perfect as a long skinny attic table.  That’s the notorious dormer window that has produced those interesting ceiling angles, some of which you can see.  And those are avocadoes on the window sill, in case you’re wondering, ripening in the sunlight that blasts in during the day.  If you peer into the murk to the far end of the attic you may just about be able to make out EMPTY SHELVES.  Yes.  I keep putting stuff on them and then taking it off again because how am I supposed to choose?  Although Peter’s 1,000,000,000 bound annuals of PUNCH take up a good deal of the space you can’t see, and my encyclopaedia will go on those shelves too when I find the rest of it.

And that architectural feature in the upper right-hand corner is the boxed-in, so to speak, chimney.  Why it has a sort of hoop skirt built out from it halfway down (or up) I have no idea, but all shelves to pile books and book boxes on are good shelves.



This is the left-hand far corner, so what is beyond the table on the same side of the attic.  And again . . . not so impressive.  But you’re looking at nearly thirty boxes you just can’t see most of them.  What you are seeing at the bottom of the picture in the open box is the limited edition illustrated ROSE DAUGHTER.




This is now behind the chimney.  Peter’s gazillion PUNCHES are immediately to your left;  the corner with the unimpressive thirty boxes is now behind you . . . more or less.  You’re a bit crowded back here.

I am particularly pleased with the table.  It’s one of the few pieces of furniture that came over with me from Maine, with the bed and the blue velvet sofa, and it was for the chop this move;  there was nowhere to put it.  I’m a little nostalgic about the stuff I brought over with me because barring the 1,000,000,000 books there isn’t a lot of it–and I did have to get rid of my baby grand piano.   This table has been sitting at the mews waiting for the axe to fall since like the kitchen table it isn’t worth anything BUT IT’S A PERFECTLY GOOD TABLE.  And then I thought, wait a minute, I can use it a Mediating Structure to make the wrangling of book boxes marginally less appalling.  So it’s shoved up against the back of the chimney and there are and/or will be stacks of two boxes below it and stacks of two boxes on top of it . . . instead of stacks of four boxes of books.  Hurrah.  Yessssss.



The view from above.  Just by the way, don’t get too excited by any labels you may see.  Most of them are wrong.  Well, most of the ones on Peter’s backlist are wrong.  My backlist, on the other hand, is 99% gorgeously and specifically accurate because I have a secret weapon named Fiona.



And, when appropriate, I get books out of their boxes and pile them interestingly in available gaps, available being another of those mutable concepts.  I’ve got a lot of Peter’s piled up on the chimney shelf just out of frame in the long shot of the ex-kitchen table.  And just by another way, I have no idea where SHADOWS is.  I haven’t seen it at all.  I hope it’s hiding somewhere at the cottage.



And because I am hopelessly neurotic, I’ve saved a few empty boxes . . . just in case I need them later.  Yes, that’s a sink on your right.  I have them piled in the loo because there isn’t anywhere else.

* * *

* Well how unusual

** No, no, not the kind you want

*** Although I HAD MY FIRST VOICE LESSON IN FOREVER on Monday YAAAAAAAY.  It wasn’t even as bad as feared^ but I still have a good deal of lost ground to make up.  AND BOTH MY PIANO AND I SOUND DIFFERENT IN THIRD HOUSE’S SITTING ROOM.

^ Although if it had been as bad as feared it would have involved alien abduction and earthquakes and a recount in Scotland that demonstrated that they’d left the UK after all, which leaves quite a lot of room for a voice lesson still to be pretty bad in.



Backlist, addendum



‘Pavlova, drag these boxes of books up the stairs for Mommy, please.’

::falls down laughing:: Now why didn’t I think of that?  She’s got both the legs sprung of extra-supreme-alloy and the jaws of death.*  We could have done it together. It could have been a bonding experience.**

However. It wasn’t.  And at least this means there are no teeth marks on the books. And yes, I finished carrying the last monster boxes upstairs yesterday although I admit I unpacked the three heaviest*** and took them up in armfuls.

ME is a weird disease. I have no idea why I was allowed to heave a hundred book boxes† around without serious repercussions.  Because—so far anyway—there have been no repercussions.††  I am inevitably reasonably fit because of all the frelling hurtling I do although on bad days it tends to be more like dawdling but the ME means that I have to assume I have No Stamina Whatsoever because I frequently don’t, often with diabolical suddenness, especially when we’re a couple of miles from where we left Wolfgang.  You live like this for fourteen years and you start thinking of yourself as rather flimsy. I feel a bit like I’ve had an unexpected body transplant†††.  No doubt the old familiar rickety one will be returned soon.  And then I’ll fall over.

This isn’t the first time the ME has let me cope with something that I REALLY NEED TO COPE WITH‡—moving day itself, for example, when I was a lot thinner on the ground generally than I appear to be at the moment—but it seems to me unlikely that I’m really going to get away with this.  Presumably one day soon, when I’m planting autumn pansies, say, or putting endless dog bedding into the washing machine or taking endless dog bedding out of the washing machine . . . I will suddenly need to sit down for thirty-six hours.  Never mind.  The backlist is in the attic. ‡‡

* * *

* Someone in the forum said, after I posted the photos of Pav on her birthday, that she found the Jaws of Death photo a little anxious-making. I HAD TO WORK REALLY HARD TO GET A JAWS OF DEATH PHOTO AT ALL.  Pav is not naturally a Jaws of Death kind of dog.  She just happens to be a bull terrier and the mythology around them is very jaws-of-death-y.  If you push the lips of any dog back you get pretty much the same view:  short front teeth framed with fangs.  Pav is mouthy—if you play with her you’ll probably find yourself with your hand in her mouth at some point^—but she hasn’t bitten me since she was an infant and hadn’t quite got it that you can’t chew on humans the way you can your littermates.  She was actually easier to get this point across to than the hellhounds had been because she’d been socialised very very very well before she came to me.  She may yet grow out of being mouthy.  Chaos, the eternal puppy, was mouthy for years.

^ I think I’ve also told you she’s a licker and a nibbler. The licking is fine, she’s not at all drooly+, but the nibbling is a little exciting since she favours places where the skin is thin, like necks and the insides of elbows.

+ Except in her water bowl. Ew.  Which I have to change about four times a day.  She has the most extraordinary drinking style.  She’ll stand there going SLURP SLURP SLURP SLURP for, like, minutes, and when she comes away the water level hasn’t gone down at all, there’s just this—ew—churned up FOAM on the top.  Good thing she gets a lot of wet food or she might die of not actually swallowing any of the water that passes through her mouth.

** The hellhounds would have opened one eye, gone, Eh?, and closed the eye again.^ The hellhounds had originally been Rather Interested in the new Alp in the garden . . . PEE ON THAT, GUYS, AND YOU WILL NOT LIVE TO PEE AGAIN.  One of the things about having a proper garden is having your hellmob in it but things can get a little out of control when you’re also in the centre of town.  When we got back from the second and FINAL book box run on Monday I let Pav out of Wolfgang because that’s what you do, you turn off the engine and let the critter(s) out but because of the size of Atlas’ trailer the gate was still open.  Which Pav shot through and disappeared . . . while I was letting the hellhounds out of the house and discouraging their interest in the Alp.  I heard Atlas calling her, thought OH GHASTLY AWFUL END OF THE UNIVERSE TYPE THINGS, ran out into the street and called her . . . and she came.  Noble Pav.

*** One of encyclopaedias, and no I haven’t found the missing box yet^, one of MERLIN DREAMS and one of the illustrated ROSE DAUGHTER. Any one of these three weighed nearly as much as rather-large-box-shaped Wolfgang.

^ It would be encyclopaedias, you know?  If it were one of my gazillion boxes of out of print editions of books I’ve forgotten writing I would never have noticed.  In fact, I may be missing a few boxes of my gazillions of out of print editions of books I’ve forgotten writing and haven’t noticed.

† And I did break a hundred. I’d forgotten about the half dozen I left in Peter’s office, two of which because they were labelled ‘files’ and ‘mss’, and the others because he still has some empty bookshelves in there.  But I didn’t carry these upstairs.

Also if you count the twenty or so boxes of his backlist from Peter’s office and bedroom at the mews that Nina and Ignatius packed and brought over THAT’S EVEN MORE BOXES OF BACKLIST TOWARD A TERRIFYING TOTAL.^

^ I notice that Peter has more copies of his recent books. This may just be the exigencies of publishing but I suspect there may be some malign influence from his second wife.  THEY’RE OFFERING YOU MORE COPIES? TAKE THEM. SOMETHING IS GOING OUT OF PRINT AND THEY’LL LET YOU HAVE 1,000,000,000 COPIES FOR 7P PER? TAKE THEM. Let it be recorded that I have suffered for my sins.

†† Although the arnica will have helped. Arnica the Wonder Drug.

††† I wish they’d given me more hair and fewer wrinkles. Ah well, if they had, it would be harder giving this body back.

‡ I wonder a bit about late-onset ME. I don’t know that many other people who have had it long-term^ but my vague unreliable impression is that the younger you are the bigger and more unpredictable a rat bastard it is.  My first eighteen months of it were entirely horrible but it mostly only knocks me over badly any more when I haven’t been behaving like a person who knows very well she has ME and had better stop with the shot-putting and the mixed martial arts.  And it will usually let me pull myself together if it’s urgent, although it may make me pay and pay and pay and pay and pay for it afterward.

^ I’m also not convinced that people who get over it really had ME, although since I also believe it’s a continuum or a syndrome and not a single disease, they may just be at the far end of the range. That or it’ll be back when they least expect it.  LIE DOWN NOW. BECAUSE I SAID SO.

‡‡ poodleydoo

Pictures? I would love to see pictures of the books. Even books in boxes. I’m just so curious to see what 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 books looks like. You know, in a house, or rather, an attic.

Hmm. I was looking the attic with this request in mind today.  I’m not sure it’s really all that obviously impressive.  I’ve done my BEST to wedge things around the edges—and there’s a chimney in the way—and it’s a long thin attic with peculiar corners, see previous blog on the subject of the ceiling.^  I’ll have a go at photographing the chief ramparts and see if I can make them look amusing.

^ I only hit my head ONCE. Of course now that the dramatic bit is over with I’ll forget to be careful again. Ow.

Boilers and blog silence


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

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

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

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

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

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

* * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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