[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.
Have I told you I’ve gone back into therapy because I Am Not Coping with Reality Very Well Right Now?* I went in for an assessment a while ago but it took them some time to find a slot for me.** I’ve seen Metis a few times now and like her—if ‘like’ is quite the word you want to apply to your shrink—and have some hope that she’ll crack me open like whacking off the top of your soft-boiled egg with an egg-spoon.*** But it’s still early days. Yesterday she taught me a relaxation technique. Chiefly it served to demonstrate that I do not relax. Nadia could have told her this. Sigh.†
But weekly therapy meetings are one more thing on the schedule. And in the last fortnight I seem also to have been to three concerts†† and not merely done my standard weekly Sam duty but the frelling occasional-required long overnight duty which reduces you to a little pile of sticky ashes even if you’re healthy††† plus picking up an extra (late, not everyone’s favourite time of day for some reason) duty when someone went down sick at the last minute.‡
And of course there’s still monks. And singing.‡‡ And the hellmob. And the garden, which is booming into early summer. And bell ringing, although tower ringing has taken a hit the last fortnight due to all the other excitements. But handbells . . . it’s Friday. There were handbells.‡‡‡
* * *
* I’m an American, we believe in therapy. And my best friend is a New Yorker and everyone in Manhattan is in therapy, it’s a civic ordinance. You want to live there, you need to sign up with a therapist before you try to find a place to live. Your rental agreement or your mortgage application will have a query on it something like ‘Are you currently actively engaged in seeking self-development by way of a professional relationship with a psychotherapist whose name appears on this year’s list of Persons Licensed to Charge More Than $1000 an Hour which you gladly disburse for the Privilege of Discovering What a Hopeless Dolt You Are?’ You need to be able to fill in the ‘yes’ box. Residents of the Tri-State Area are given a tax rebate for being in therapy, although it doesn’t run to $4000 a month. Hey, what do you want, healthy, well nourished children and a car that runs^ or greater self awareness?^^
^ All the festering DRIVING involved in my proliferating life-enrichment programmes is a pain. It’s worth it but IT IS A PAIN. And while I’m both a careful and a law-abiding driver I do kind of yell a lot. I had a Classic Robin Moment on my way to my last voice lesson. I was late, of course, because I’m always late, and I got stuck behind this moron going thirty-five miles an hour in a SIXTY MILE AN HOUR ZONE. I was not doing my singing voice any good in my description of his heritage and his likely future. Then we hit town—I’ve tried going the back way and all that happens is that I get stuck behind tractors, and that doesn’t do my singing voice or my blood pressure any favours either—and the slow wiggly main road was made even slower and wigglier by the plethora of frelling LORRIES parked on it while they unloaded shoes and sausages and hammers and mattresses into all the frelling shops. So you and your soon to be overheating car are ducking back and forth from one single lane to the other, depending on where the latest lorry is parked and you are getting later and later for your voice lesson and CRANKIER AND CRANKIER. Now, despite my malevolent views of other drivers, I’m quite the—ahem!—Samaritan about letting other drivers in, especially in a situation like this one where we’re all suffering. Well I’d got stuck behind the final lorry and no one was letting me into the other lane. Guess who finally did. Yep. Thirty Five Miles an Hour in a Sixty Mile an Hour Zone Man. I waved gratefully but I hope he doesn’t lip-read.
^^ Note that Metis’ practise does not charge £646 an hour. Trust me, I would not be there.
** It’s a group practise. I imagine them sitting around at their admin meeting and saying, okay, we have an axe murderer, a pathological collector of HP Lovecraft t shirts^, someone who thinks they’re Napoleon/Marie Stopes/Edward Cullen and a writer with writer’s block . . . and a chorus of voices reply eagerly, I’ll take the axe murderer! I’ll take Lovecraft, AT THE MOUNTAINS OF MADNESS is the best novel of the 20th century! I’ll take Marie Stopes! . . . Silence. I am fully booked, says the person remaining. I totally must shampoo the cat, and then sort the contents of the kibble bin by size. Fluffy is so particular. I can’t consider taking on a new client till someone else has been desperate enough to take the wri—I mean, probably not till next year.
*** Personally I scramble my eggs. But Peter does the egg-spoon trick.
† Note to self: Metis and Nadia must never meet.
†† If Jackie Oates http://www.jackieoates.co.uk/live-dates/ comes anywhere near you and/or you have a friend who is willing to do the driving, speaking of driving,^ and unless you are one of these poor sad creatures who doesn’t get good folk music, go. And listen especially closely to the newly arranged and adapted 21st-century lyrics to A Cornish Young Man, which are delicious.
^ Fiona and I found a new yarn shop. I was doing pretty well+ till I made the mistake of checking out the sale bin again. I had thought on the way in that the Yarn Pet percentage might be a little perilous but at that point I had a whole shop to be endangered by and adrenaline was running high. And I then managed (mostly) to resist the breathtakingly gorgeous single-skein small-local-indie-dyers gauntlet, chiefly because I have some self-protective resistance to spending more than a New York City shrink’s hourly rate on a one-off that there isn’t even enough of to make a scarf. A fichu maybe.++
AND THEN I WENT BACK TO THE FRELLING SALE BIN. Alpaca is evil. Especially when it is mixed in big fat fluffy skeins with merino. You can frelling hear it purring when you cradle it in your arms.+++
+ I say nothing about how Fiona was doing
++ If you’re small and flat-chested.
+++ Dogs purr too, you know. At least every dog I’ve ever had purrs when it settles in your lap. Whether it fits in your lap or not.
††† And/or stay up late and don’t do mornings anyway. Although some annoying person^ has pointed out that I do do mornings, I do a lot of mornings, I just do the, you know, little end.
^ I never name names on this blog but this particular person is very annoying about handbells.+
+ What do you mean you can’t ring handbells tomorrow, the next day, the day after that and three times on Madnessday? —GO AWAY. YOU’RE RETIRED. SOME OF US ARE STILL WORKING FOR A LIVING# AND FURTHERMORE MAY POSSIBLY DO OTHER THINGS IN THEIR SPARE [SIC] TIME THAT AREN’T HANDBELLS. ##
# Or at least staring despairingly at an empty computer screen regularly.
## Aren’t . . . handbells? this person murmurs brokenly.
‡ And this potent sacrifice was absolutely worth it for the barrage of brownie points thus accrued. I can probably spill scalding coffee on the director/the fancy new computer/the delicately poised for heightened reactivity electronic fire alarm and no one will say anything.
‡‡ Your Body Is Your Instrument I Wish I Had Taken up the Guitar When I Was a Teenager Like Everyone Else Did. Nadia told me the last time I was beating up Batti Batti O Bel Masetto to skip the allegro, which has all those frelling runs in it AND goes up to a high B. Last time, as I recall, I did leave it alone. This time I was idly leafing through it again when a little light went on and I said, Hey! It’s a B flat! I can (usually) get to B flat! —So, occasionally, late at night^, when my voice is feeling all relaxed^^ and warm and willing I sing the allegro. I can’t frelling sing and play the piano at the same time, but I do have a finger poised to hit that B flat to make sure I’m hitting it, if you follow me. I usually am, in my squeaky un-self-confident and death-defying-not-in-a-good-way way^^^.
And next time through I can’t hit G. I can always hit a friggleblasting doodahing G, give me a flapdoodling BREAK. Yes, I can always hit a G, except right after I’ve hit an A sharp/B flat and my voice says NO WE DON’T DO THAT and shuts down. That’s SHUTS. DOWN. Arrrrrrgh. And then it’s back to Edwardian parlour ballads till it forgives me. ARRRRRRGH.
^ Or in a little morning hour
^^^ Yes I can hear the unglefrakking difference when Nadia manages to persuade me to float down from above a note rather than ramping up at it from underneath like a guerrilla attack on a dangerous enemy. Sigh. Sometimes I’m very flat indeed. Sometimes I just . . . sound like I’m attacking an enemy I’m terrified of.+ SIGH.
+ I also indulge in a concomitant worry that St Margaret’s will decide they’re not that desperate for singers at the evening service.
‡‡‡ And brownies. I had told Niall firmly that if there were no brownies I would remember a prior engagement. What prior engagement? said Niall suspiciously. Well, I forget, I said, there are brownies, right?