Last night at St Margaret’s the vicar, fresh from a ‘retreat’ with his Leadership Group, attempted to light a fire under the rest of us—possibly slouched down in our seats praying for the strength to keep our eyes open*—about what one thing we were going to start doing this week to deepen our relationship with God, make the world a better place, or generally become a bigger, gobblier holier-than-thou turkey. And in our groups people were talking soberly about being more organised** about time for prayer and volunteer work and this or that course they have been meaning to go on*** and when it was my turn I said, Go to bed earlier. So I don’t hit the floor already in a panic of lateness the next morning. It’s a whole lot harder to do the contemplative prayer routine when the monkey mind is gibbering like a whole treeful of monkeys.
I got to bed early enough last night to be talking in nearly complete sentences by the time Atlas showed up to finish nailing the shelf up in my greenhouse this morning. And I totally have to go to bed early tonight because Fiona and I are going to have a YARN ADVENTURE tomorrow.†
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* Fortunately I’d caught a ride with Minnie. Even Wolfgang might have found it a bit challenging keeping me on the road by yesterday evening: I’d had a rotten night for sleep even for me, worrying. It wasn’t all bad: I finished another book for the Book Recs list.^
^ I kind of wasted that last hundred pages of LOCKWOOD by reading it in the bath, with all the lights and the radio on, hellhounds snorting in their sleep round the corner in my office and the hellterror moaning about injustice downstairs+. It would have been much more effective if I’d been reading it Saturday night tucked up in bed with everything turned off but the bedside light and the demented robin singing to the streetlight outdoors.
+ As soon as ‘go lie down’ conveys meaning, the hellterror will be allowed upstairs. It will be a while. It will be a much longer while before she’s allowed upstairs while I’m in the bath and at a disadvantage. It is interesting, however, watching the Development of Relationship. Puppies are adorable, as we all know, so we don’t kill them, and you have to hope that you develop a relationship before they stop being murder-resistingly adorable. Ahem. I’m also not so hot on the formal training thing—I can get away with this (mostly) because I’m home all the time and can encourage or mercilessly crush certain behaviours. An awful lot of relationship is just being there. And sometimes you get a break you not only didn’t earn, you had no idea what you were going to do if the problem didn’t just magically disappear. I had no idea how I was going to oblige hellhounds—hellpuppies at the time—to LIE DOWN in their box in the car. When we’d had the three whippets# both of us were still driving, and Peter drove and I Suppressed, till they got the idea. Hellhounds just . . . lay down. It was never an issue. I have no idea. Thank You God.
Hellterror is either going to learn not to gnaw the short strap that attaches her to the seatbelt or I will buy a few short lengths of chain. I’m not, perhaps foolishly, anticipating a huge problem about this. She’s not actually a big chewer, although she likes her thighbone of mammoth.##
But she is still the possessor of hellterror jaws. And when you need to get something away from a puppy you generally need to do it fast, and unless you are carrying desiccated liver in your mouth, which I am NOT,### you don’t have time for fancy swapping routines, or let’s be blunt, I don’t have the coordination.% So I was getting bitten and IT HURT. Not to mention being bad for hellgoddess/hellterror relations. Speaking of relationship.
Well, I did get a bit cleverer about tactics for getting stuff away from her, and, when there’s time, she is ALWAYS open to a bribe—and once she’s learnt that bribery is a possibility, she will often meet you halfway. But I realised recently that she seems to have decided that I’m allowed to take stuff away from her. There is sometimes a trifle of resistance. And she can stab you with a look out of those little beady eyes that would bore through cement. But if I am wearisomely DETERMINED to get something away from her . . . she lets me.
THANK YOU GOD.%%
# Which were, all three together, small enough to fit in the box. That was sixty-maybe-slightly-plus pounds of dog. Two hellhounds are eighty-definitely-plus pounds of dog. Even if the hellterror were a model of decorum~ there isn’t room for her in the box.
~ And not in season
## All those fancy expensive guaranteed-your-dog-will-LOVE-them Kong toys? She spurns them.
### All other things being equal, which they are not, I need my mouth immediately available for yelling, which I suppose is not a show-dog-handler’s first priority.
% I’m frantically fishing in the wrong pocket anyway
%% It’s probably connected that she’s a surprisingly tactful accepter of treats from your bare hand. You can give her a tiny fragment of kibble and she nails the kibble but not your fingers. I hadn’t thought about this till I was giving her infinitesimal scraps of chicken the other night, having misjudged the amount of chicken available—all three hellcritters get a bit of neat chicken as dessert—and despite the significantly higher frenzy level for chicken as opposed to mere kibble—she was snatching the chicken without nicking my fingers.
I wonder if all that screaming when she play-bit me when she was tiny has an effect here? It was a different situation with the hellhounds—they mostly taught each other how hard (not) to bite, and sighthounds are bred to bring things down, not to mangle them, as a fighting dog is (presumably) encouraged to do. I also don’t have a problem with a dog mouthing me so long as there’s no pressure behind it, so all my hellcritters are somewhat accustomed to having bits of me casually in their mouths.
** ::weeps:: I was so standing behind the door when they passed out organizational skills.
*** Minnie’s taking one on teaching Sunday School to the tinies
† God created everything. Therefore he created yarn.
Wall wall WALL WAAAAAAAAAAALL!!!!!! WAAAAAAAAAAAAAALLLL!! WALLWALLWALLWALLWALLWALLWALL!
WALLITTY WALL WALL WALL WALL WALL.
::happy dance:: Happy happy happy happy, happy happy DANCE!
. . . Er. Well. In its small but in-my-face way, the wall story has been rather TRAUMATIC. Now . . . I’ve already had the other piece of that wall rebuilt by Atlas, I think the first year I was here; opposite that now entirely replaced wall is Phineas’ house, the third wall of my garden is my house and the fourth wall . . . I hope that wall stays up because I’m pretty sure those neighbours and I would have difficulty seeing eye to eye about things. Ahem. Life in a small town. It’s wonderful. Here’s to walls. YAAAAAAAAY. WAAAAAAAAAAALL.
Hellcritters and I took a fast sprint to a local(ish) garden centre this afternoon. The point about taking critters along, aside from giving them a change of scenery, is that they FILL UP THE BACK SEAT so there’s a limit to the damage I can do.** Also we went late, so I didn’t have a lot of time to look around before the shop closed. I needed compost: my little all-the-plumbing-in-Hampshire garden is putting Westland’s frelling shareholders’ children through university, I buy so much frelling compost for all my pots. And while I was there I was going to look for snapdragons.*** Which means going into the plant area. Noooooooo . . .
I did very well. I bought three trays of snapdragons . . . rather too many little diascias† because they come in such good colours, a few pulsatillas†† which is another of those can’t-kill plants that keep dying on me, a pansy or two, a couple of hanging-basket liners and . . . a King Edward flowering currant.††† Which will grow seven or eight foot before it’s done. Arrrgh. It’s just . . . well, I have no self-control.‡ And we had a flowering currant at the old house which I loved, and it’s been on my list of Things to Replace for . . . eight years. And it called my name, okay? How are you supposed to walk away from something that knows your name?‡‡
And I got home and realised I should have bought more compost.
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*Which is to say before Souvenir de la Malmaison went in. Generally speaking you worry about your plants when someone is stomping over their beds and digging ditches through their roots and filling those ditches up with cement and so on.^ In Souvenir’s case you worry about anyone loose in her vicinity, however well defended with spades and scaffolding.
^ I would be very sorry to lose Golden Spires+ and Brother Cadfael++ but at least I could replace them. I’m holding my breath about my apple tree. Not only is it some kind of old—I’ve been here eight years and it was already stooped and wrinkly when I arrived—but I have no idea what sort it is, so I couldn’t replace it, and it produces fantastic apples. It’s leafing out now. So far so good.
** Actually there isn’t. This wretched garden centre delivers locally.
*** Individual colour snapdragons. Major pet peeve: mixed trays of bedding plants so you have no idea what you’re getting till they flower. So you plant a mixed tray of snapdragons/busy lizzies/begonias/bedding dahlias/whatever under your old-fashioned lavender-pink roses and they come out scarlet and orange. THANKS EVER SO.
‡ However I flatter myself I’m not a complete fool. http://www.manufactum.co.uk/terracotta-tile-clematis-root-protector-p1443402/
What. The. Frell. I’m supposed to spend twenty-three quid on a broken pot? I have DOZENS of broken pots sitting around waiting to be recreated as further-broken-up bits in the bottoms of other pots.^ If I wanted to do it that way I could erect an Eiffel Tower of terra cotta pieces. Furthermore, what a waste of opportunity: most of my clematis have clusters of littler pots of things like geraniums and pinks protecting their roots from sunlight. When there is sunlight, of course. Feh. Oh, and burying terra cotta in the ground? That is so doomed. ‘Frost resistant’. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.
^ I know, they’ve proved it at least annually for the last several decades that shards in the bottoms of pots do not improve drainage. Well, yes and no. They do prevent the drainage holes from getting blocked. They also weigh the pot down: most pots flare from the base. Tall thin pots do well to have a nice stabilising layer of stones or pottery pieces in the bottom. And when you’re potting on I’d much rather untangle overexuberant roots from loose shards than from impacted soil—plus you have a smaller rootball to transfer. I still put something in the bottoms of pots before I put the soil in.
‡‡ And there’s always Third House. Third House’s garden has several Largest _____ You’ve Ever Seen which began life with me at the cottage.
Having the ME come roaring back in the wake of the flu is perversely proving to be rather good for my poor neglected garden—because I’ve essentially cancelled everything and am staying home and . . . sitting around is not my best thing even when I feel fairly deathlike I’M NOT DEAD YET so in this shockingly spring like weather with the SUNLIGHT and all the accoutrements like gentle breezes and bumblebees, I’ve been going outdoors and poking things with a trowel. Although this is the time of year that I usually do try to make an effort to establish some kind of . . . well, let’s not get carried away and call it order, but some kind of rough beating back of the jungle* outdoors, while I’ve got last autumn’s disgraceful plant over-orders relentlessly arriving in the post in instalments what feels like every day.** But spring is also when, as you clear off/out the AMAZING amounts of rubbish you haven’t dealt with since . . . oh, August or so***, you get to see what’s alive† and what isn’t . . . as well as look for where the doodah you’re going to PUT all the stuff arriving in the post. ††
Two more boxes of plants in the post today, one of them petunias, siiiiiigh . . . we’re supposed to have more frelling frost over the weekend. My sweet peas, having rejoiced at finally getting outdoors and off the Winter Table over the hellhound crate in the kitchen, are now starting to get cranky again: sweet peas don’t like their roots messed with and they’re starting to punch through the pressed whatever-it-is-not-peat plant pots that you plant as is, and the roots grow through it and the pot disintegrates (more or less). An old experienced (professional) gardener I often see out walking his dogs says plant ’em out now, they’ll be fine. Ummmmmm . . .
The second box . . . is wider than it is high. It is, however, vividly and generously labelled THIS WAY UP with helpful arrows on all four surfaces suitable for this direction. And when I opened it . . . the single plant within is lying on its side because it is TALLER than it is WIDE and this is the ONLY WAY this particular plant would FIT in this particular box. Said plant is a pitcher plant, so it is planted in what amounts to a small piece of marsh which of course has poured all over the bottom floor of the This Way Up box. ARRRRRRRRRRGH. Nursery mailroom FAIL.
I didn’t get the petunias potted on today which is maybe just as well if the touch of FROST TONIGHT††† is true since a small tray is easier to wedge indoors than a large tray‡ but I would have got all the new roses planted . . . if I hadn’t bought two more yesterday when I was buying a BIRTHDAY PRESENT for a FRIEND. Thus do thoughtful gestures screw you up and make extra work. ‡‡
PS: Staying at home is also good for my knitting.
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* Souvenir de la Malmaison, I’m looking at you. Actually there’s a whole dangerous little gauntlet right there. Souvenir is the worst, but Little Rambler who is not little is rioting on the other side of the path and Agnes, who as a rugosa should probably be categorised as a dangerous weapon anyway, has eight-foot stems looking for trouble just beyond Little Rambler. Abandon Hope All Ye Who Are Dumb Enough to Try to Enter Here. I’ve also decided that I don’t mind the bleeding freely nearly as much as I mind having one of the three Evil Sisters grab me by the hair. BEHAVE OR I’LL PRUNE YOU.
** The mornings I’ve had a bad night and haven’t lumbered out of bed yet are inevitably the mornings when one of the new, young, timid or letter-rule-toeing pains in the ass postpersons can’t just leave the frelling box(es) but has to KNOCK ON THE DOOR AND GET ME TO ANSWER IT.
*** It’s very good for wildlife NOT to have a tidy garden. You’re supposed to leave all the brush and dead stuff standing, okay? I am very wildlife oriented.
† CLEMATIS FLAMMULA. YAAAAAAAAY. http://apps.rhs.org.uk/plantselector/plant?plantid=4415
She keeps dying on me. Now that this one has survived a winter I’m afraid to pot her on. . . .
†† Furthermore I have frelling Alicia visiting on Monday. I could have said no. I could at least not have offered her Third House to stay overnight in. Sadly I would quite like to see her. What’s the matter with me? She is not only a gardener with a proper functioning greenhouse^ but she’s lately done all kinds of extensive and exquisite remodelling on her house and . . . um . . . ^^
^ Continuing AAAAAAAAUGH on this subject. Although I hear a rumour that Atlas is over his flu so he can perhaps have shovelled out the worst Monday before she gets here. Not that even at its best my greenhouse could fairly be described as functioning.
^^ Note that Alicia reads the blog. Hi Alicia! ::waves::
††† We had a hailstorm yesterday which took out one of my baby cosmos and ripped off a few geranium stems—but they’ll regrow, and I think the cosmos is toast. WHO WANTS TO BE A GARDENER. Fool.
‡ Although the Winter Table, which exists to support the indoor jungle on chilly overnights, is presently covered with rose photos mostly cut out of old calendars . . . remember the new refrigerator? Remember that my Dwarf Appliances thrust themselves in an unsightly manner into the centre of the room? Well, the back of my new refrigerator needs decorating.
‡‡ Like offering friends with better control of their lives and environments a place to stay overnight.
I seem to be very tired.* And I cancelled my voice lesson because I have that half-laryngitis when you croak like a frog except when your voice disappears entirely for a word or two.** I didn’t even go ringing tonight. I must be ill. Well, yes. But the main thing is that SHADOWS has taken one of those semi-predictable lurches on the conveyor-belt of the publishing process when it, I don’t know, gets caught in the gap between Conveyor Belt #1 and Conveyor Belt #2 or the Conveyor Belt Technician missed her grab or something, and suddenly THINGS ARE HAPPENING.
TELL THINGS TO STOP HAPPENING. I AM A POOR SAD SICK WEARY THING.
Since I didn’t have a singing lesson to go to and since staying at home brooding about THINGS HAPPENING would probably only make my head explode and because a little gentle distraction is often a good way to make the brain produce useful suggestions rather than bloodshot gibberish, Wolfgang and I went off to buy compost*** and to check out the pet warehouse for a car harness for the hellterror.† And while I was there I cruised the food since I now have a dog that eats††, although I was particularly looking at the snacky, treaty, bribey type things and . . . WTF, you dog-food industry, and you dog owners supporting the dog-food industry, WHY do so many treats have SUGAR or other sweeteners in them?? Yes. I read labels. I know it’s impossible to keep your kid off sweets once he/she gets old enough to hang out with his/her friends, but your DOG? Your dog is under YOUR control. It doesn’t have much opportunity to develop non-standard bad habits, like a sweet tooth, unless you let it. Frelling frelling frell frell frell. Well. We’re still good with the plaited fish skin and the venison jerky.
My mentor/trainer of blessed memory used to think I was a TOTAL wuss and despaired of me ever training anything because I wouldn’t tuck dried liver (or some other dog appropriate treat) into the corner of my mouth and either spit it directly at the dog or at least eliminate several seconds of reaching-into-pocket-getting-treat. An advantage of having the treats in your mouth is that the dogs will REALLY REALLY look at you since food occasionally falls from your face.
I realise this is supposed to be disgusting and several other people on the forum have responded as such but . . . this makes me laugh and laugh. Yes, that would certainly make the hellterror look at me.††† No, the disgustingness doesn’t bother me all that much, but the HYGIENE does. Most dog food has FOR ANIMAL USE ONLY stamped all over it, dogs are perfectly happy eating . . . well, never mind . . . and in catering to this floor-licking species I doubt that there’s a lot of exacting enforcement of sanitation in the average dog food factory. And you’re supposed to put this stuff in YOUR mouth? What is stopping YOUR saliva from saying, oh, hey, LIVER, and briskly attacking it in a digestive sort of way? —Aside from the drool factor. Not that your hellterror is going to care in the least about being spat on, at least if it’s liver flavoured spit . . . sorry. I can see my faithful readers deleting the blog addy in frenzied numbers . . . or frenziedly, in numbers . . . whatever. And I’m allergic to venison, and Pav is slightly more partial to dried venison than she is to ANYTHING I allow her to find edible, which is approximately everything I don’t take away from her before she swallows it.
Speaking of treats however has anyone tried dried sweet potato? Sounded like a great idea. But in practise, at the point that it gets really really really gooey, it starts sticking to the roof of your hellterror’s mouth. We had a supernaturally delightful half hour a day or two ago with her in my lap so I could claw the blasted sweet potato OFF the roof of her mouth again every thirty seconds or so. She didn’t want to give it up, mind, and it seemed unfair to take it away from her, when she was clearly having such a good time, including all this jolly interaction with the hellgoddess. Ew. I think desiccated liver would be preferable.
I still haven’t found an answer to THINGS HAPPENING. And I think I’m too tired‡ to try to figure out the car harness tonight.
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* Also, never mind Margaret Thatcher. Annette Funicello died.^
One of the things I find interesting is that she kept the Funicello. Did no one ever lean on her to change it to Fulham or Fulbright? This is the era when Margarita Carmen Cansino became Rita Hayworth and Bernard Schwartz Tony Curtis.^^
^ And you all know Roger Ebert died? Nooooooo. I haven’t been keeping up with this—the main thing is he’s dead, and we don’t get him back+—but hadn’t he written that long, funny, poignant, typically-Roger essay about his ‘leave of presence’ literally a day before he died? How does that work?
+ Although this is a situation where Christianity does offer a Band-Aid. I can think of him getting his face back and being able to talk to people again.
^^ Although Marion Morrison may have changed his for other reasons than ethnicity.
** Sometimes this is a blessing, depending on the word.
*** I have roses to plant. Fancy.
† She only still fits in her travelling crate because she thinks she does, rather the way she still fits on my lap. Although she’s delighted to get in the crate^ because there is (almost) always FOOOOOOOD in the back of it, but some day she’s going to stretch injudiciously and the seams are going to pop, like the Incredible Hulk emerging from Bruce Banner^^. But a bigger crate won’t fit on the back seat next to the hellhounds, even if the three of them got on famously there is NO room even for an undersized Yorkie in the hellhound box, and I have a strange aversion to filling the ENTIRE CAR with canine containment units, since the new bigger hellterror crate would have to go in the boot.
^ Which just by the way is a total piece of crap and I will be GLAD to find a way to dispense with its services. It’s one of these where there are pegs that fit into holes which hold the door grate in place, and there are teeny-tiny handles that you open or close so you can open or close the door. THE FRELLING PEGS ARE TOO FRELLING SHORT SO THE DOOR IS ALWAYS FALLING OUT. Why the hellterror has not figured this out and made my life a misery/forced me to bungie-cord the door to keep her in I have no idea, except possibly that she is fond of the crate because of fooooood thing and as long as she stays in this Place of Snacks there might be more.
^^ And speaking of things I don’t keep up with, what does happen about clothing when Banner hulks out? Does Brucie wear spandex under everything, just in case?
†† Sigh. Hellhound eating is a major issue—again—at present, and Pav is proving the perfect Sucker Up of Remains. Nothing edible goes to waste with a hellterror available.
††† And the hellhounds look away.
‡ I also had a long conversation with Theodora and her daughter about the wall, and I had Pav with me, in their beautiful, tidy sitting room with the fragile objets d’art scattered around. Since she’s much better about dangling than she is about sitting still when she has her feet on the floor, I had her tucked under an arm. Under one arm, over my hip, and holding her rear feet with my other hand behind my back, since my coat didn’t have pockets in the right places for her to put her feet in. She followed the conversation with great attention and courtesy—I think some of why she’s so good at dangling is she likes being taller. At ankle level EVERYTHING IS GOING ON WAY OVER HER HEAD—but I’m not sure my right arm will recover. I’m afraid to weigh her again, I might lose my nerve.
So. We finally have some SPRING WEATHER. You know, sunlight. Remember SUNLIGHT [you other British* people]? Yes. Also, it’s warm enough to need only one woolly layer under your coat and longjohns are optional.** And my sweet pea seedlings aren’t dead yet although they’re a little paler than desirable, since I don’t get up early and it’s still too cold to put them out even after I become capable of carrying a tray of plants outdoors (probably) without dropping them.
. . . And it’s the WEEKEND. Which most people would find a DESIRABLE TIME to have some spring weather. But WALL MEN DO NOT WORK ON WEEKENDS.
I cannot WAIT to have a greenhouse again. Under my guardianship the greenhouse has always looked as if someone fought a duel to the death in it recently*** but I could find stuff. I was out there today, trying to pot stuff on and snarling because I can’t find anything. I’m also worrying about my robins. Where are they nesting, this brutally cold year? † I hope they’ve found a greenhouse that less resembles Waterloo Station at rush hour.
It’s a nice modest travelling sized cement mixer. It reminds me of the stepping-stone moulds I bought at/for the old house, in the implementation of which a modest travelling sized cement mixer would have been a necessary adjunct. It’s probably just as well I never tangled with a cement mixer.
* Okay, okay. British resident people. Happy?
** Less optional now the sun has been down for a while. I still have the evening double hurtle to look forward to, I’m wearing mine.
*** Everyone lost. But the rubble remains. Rather like having your wall fall down.
† Some little fluffy feathery thing was trying to get in through the kitchen window this morning while I was sitting close to the Aga to eat breakfast. It kept coming back, clinging to one or another of the wooden pane frames, and staring inside. Was it hoping its reflection was a potential romantic attachment? Or did it just want to sit by the Aga too?