April 4, 2014

Shadows is here!

Curses. Foiled again.

 

I was supposed to be going to a concert tonight.  Well, I was supposed to be going to a concert tomorrow night, only I kept forgetting, because Saturday night is Monk Night* and that there might be something else going on doesn’t register unless you nag me relentlessly**.  So by the time I remembered—chiefly because I was going to be seeing the friend who was singing in it and wanted me to come—it had sold out.  Never mind, she said, come to the dress rehearsal.  Which I would probably have enjoyed more anyway because it’s more of the nuts and bolts of putting on a performance***.

It has not been a brilliant day.  I went with Peter when he saw his GP this morning, and the frelling doctor was forty five minutes late without explanation or apology.†  Sound of Robin scraping herself off the walls since Peter likes his doctor and I don’t want to disturb this desirable situation by, for example, putting said doctor through the clinic paper shredder.††   Then Peter and I had our usual Friday foray to the farmers’ market, to which I bring the hellhounds so they were okay, but I got back to the cottage finally and very late to an EXTREMELY CRANKY HELLTERROR who had to be soothed by . . . well, give her a dog biscuit and she’s your slave for life, or at least till the next dog biscuit, but I figured I owed her a good walk.†††

Meanwhile I’d had a text from Niall reminding me that the much-neglected-by-me Friday handbells were occurring tonight at 5:30 as usual . . . I’d already texted him back that I was coming, after which I was going to have to rip off to the concert.   Good thing I don’t write the blog every night any more, I thought, harnessing up hellhounds for their pre-handbell sprint.

. . . And Darkness has the geysers again.  WAAAAAAAAAAAH. ‡

So I stayed home.

And I thought, oh well, I might as well write a blog post.  Sigh.

* * *

* Which is a ratbag on your social life, if any.  But the Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament—which I think I’ve told you before?, is that you stare at the wafers they’re going to use at Mass on Sunday morning, which are suspended in some manner within this golden starburst thing I’m told is called a monstrance^ is kind of booked to happen Saturday night.  Clearly weeks need an eighth day, so you can get your serious acting-out post-work-week over with, or possibly just go to a concert, on that day^^ between Friday and Saturday and be sufficiently clean, upright and awake^^^ for wafer-contemplation on Saturday night.

^ Which I feel is an unfortunate derivation.  Like calling angels vampires because one of the origins+ of ‘vampire’ may refer to spirits of the air.  And why is a rosary either a rose garden or a loop of prayer beads?  I know—garland.  But confusing.

+ disputed, but I think they’re all disputed

^^ Which I feel should be called Loki-day or Misrule-day except the world would probably end.  So maybe we could call it Dead Sheep day or Dwarf Conifer day.

^^^ I will not say no one has ever fallen asleep during the Exposition.  Unless you fall off your chair+ it’s not a big deal in the congregation—all one or two or three of us—because we’re sitting in the dark till the service begins.  The black-garbed chappies up on the dais . . . yeah.  They’re kinda visible if they start to nod.++  But the Benedictine order is heavily into physical, three-dimensional this-world work, and my monks have probably been rescuing kittens from the tops of two-hundred-foot leylandii cypresses and doing the steel-driving man thing alongside soulless steam drills+++ all day and are tired.

+ NO.  I HAVEN’T.  THANKS FOR ASKING.

++ Alfrick never falls asleep.  He’s my hero.

+++ And winning, of course.  Our railroads need a few miracles.

** And even then nothing is guaranteed except that I’ll probably bite your head off.

*** I’m singing again at St Margaret’s on Sunday—AAAAAAAUGH—the nice young man who is leading this week dutifully sent the playlist last night with the video links—AAAAAAAAUGH.  I’d far rather be learning The sun whose rays are all ablaze^ or I Want to Be a Prima Donna^^

^ The Mikado.  You’d’ve remembered in a minute.

^^ On the spectacular perversity of bodies:  my singing practise at home is pretty . . . erratic, both because I’m an erratic kind of person (!) but also because I have an erratic kind of voice, which I gather is pretty standard, it’s just if you’re good and/or professional you learn workarounds.  I will warm up a bit, sing a folk song, warm up a bit more, sing another folk song, lie on the floor and do a few breathing exercises, sing another folk song or an old gospel thumper, sing something I’m actually working on to bring to Nadia . . . do a few more warm ups.  What I sing and how I sing it is entirely based on the noise I’m making:  on a good-noise day I’ll do a lot more than on a bad-and-I-can’t-seem-to-make-it-better-noise day.  Most days are in between:  if I keep doing warm-ups and vowelly exercises and approaching the intractable from different angles I will at least improve.  Probably.  I also try not to get too hung up on what specific notes I’m singing—this is on Nadia’s advice—find a range my voice is happy in and sing there.

But by the end of a good practise I’m singing a high B as part of an exercise pattern without any particular effort—my much-desired-for-silly-reasons high C is clearly there I just haven’t quite had the courage to have a stab at it—somebody tell me why, as soon as I’m trying to sing a song, I can’t even hit a frelling G reliably.  Because my blasted throat closes up and goes no no no no no!  Eeep eeep eeep eeep eeeep!+  I tried to be clever about this the other day, and snaked out a few bars of Prima Donna where you’ve got a G-to-G octave leap, because octave leaps are a gift they’re so nice and obvious, and I use them in exercises all the time.  But my voice wasn’t having any of it.  I know what you’re trying to do, it said, and went squeaky.  ARRRRRRRGH.

Tonight’s concert included a professional soloist singing something that I—theoretically—sing, and I might have found this educational.  I might also have come home and burnt my music books, so maybe it’s just as well I didn’t go.

+ What’s even more irritating is when I’m sharp rather than flat.  Usually it’s flat—which is losing your nerve at a big fence so your horse raps it with his knees and brings a pole down.  Sharp is jumping eight feet over a three-foot fence.  But if I give up and sing along with the piano . . . okay, the note’s true enough but it’s got a frelling edge on it you could slice bread with.  ARRRRRRRRGH.

† I GOT A LOT OF KNITTING DONE.  It’s been a good week for knitting.  I got a lot of knitting done at St Margaret’s AGM equivalent earlier in the week too.  Gah.  Groups of PEOPLE.  DISCUSSING things.  Nooooooooo.  I’m a Street Pastor!  I’m going to be a Samaritan!  My social conscience is FULLY BOOKED UP!  I don’t have to do church-AGM-related things too!

†† No jury would convict me.  My barrister or whoever would be sure to load the jury with people who have WASTED HOURS OF THEIR LIVES IN DOCTORS’ WAITING ROOMS.

†††  She’s crated if she’s left alone, so if she’s been locked up longer than she thinks she should be she tends to emerge like the Blue Angels/Red Arrows at an air show.  WHEEEEEEEEEEEE.

What frelling happens in March?  We’ve had a really bad March, that is, the hellhounds have, and I have because I’m responsible.  The hellterror, I am delighted to say, seems to be maintaining intestinal integrity this year.  I thought we were coming through it. . . . But it all went horribly wrong in March last year . . . what happens in March? 

Return of the Frelling Indoor Jungle

 

What first struck me about Anette’s post is how surprisingly similar to mine where her garden is in the march into spring.  The small skinny trough at the foot of the stairs to the cottage front door, which I recently posted a photo of full of crocuses, is now blindingly yellow with eager, enthusiastic little Tete a tete daffs.*  I have primroses everywhere.**  I have all those Little Blue Things I can’t keep straight.  I have several varieties of lungwort, the pink, the blue, the pink and blue, and the white, with variously interestingly spotted and mottled leaves.  My crocuses and snowdrops are mostly going over and my early iris aren’t out yet at the cottage although they are at Third House.  And I certainly have the little wild violets which while I don’t want to be without them ARE A TOTAL THUG and I get a little hysterical when I find them colonising another of my pots where if radical action is not taken immediately they’ll have crushed whatever I planted in that pot into a victimised corner with its hands over its face crying for mercy.

Spring.  Yes.  Spring.

And then last night we had what Nadia’s mum today told me jovially was the coldest night this winter—except that it’s supposed to be spring—and while yes, this is the south of England, and we’re only talking a few degrees of frost, we’re talking a few degrees of frost when everything has been rioting out in relatively warm sunshine for the last fortnight or so ARRRRRRGH.  And I have a Winter Table full of potted up dahlias and begonia tubers.  ARRRRRRRRGH.

* * *

* They smell good too, although there are other daffs with more scent:  Cheerfulness, for example, or Erlicheer, which are probably my two favourites for fragrance, but they don’t keep on and on the way that trough of Tete a tete does.  Maybe the cursed mice are getting them.  I can’t keep bulbs going at all in the back garden because of the sodblasted mice:  I net a few pots every year and am getting better about remembering to take the gorblimey netting off before it strangles the bulbs trying to come up through it^ and that’s nearly it for spring bulbs.  The local field mice, frustrated of their once rich banquets of tulips, may be indulging their grievance by eating daffs instead, although they’re not supposed to—daffs are one of the bulbs you’re supposed to plant if you have a mouse problem.  Ha ha.  But my garden ought to be jammed full of daffs and it’s not.  The one bulb the local vermin seem pretty reliably not to like is hyacinths and I do keep a few pots of crocuses going by storing the pots in relatively inaccessible areas the mice can’t be bothered to hire a helicopter and a rope ladder to attack.  Mostly I resign myself to replanting crocuses.  Or netting them.  They’re tiny enough they can usually scramble through the netting even if I forget to take it off.  Ahem.

I keep the plastic half barrel by the kitchen door that I use as a waterbutt covered so nothing is tempted to drown itself.  But the pink bucket also by the kitchen door which is my kitchen-waste compost bucket, in the weather we’ve had this winter fills up with rain because since it’s been always raining I haven’t often felt like going outside to empty it into the compost bag that the city council carts away every fortnight and turns into, you know, compost.^^   As a result I have twice found a drowned mouse floating among the apple cores.  I do not mourn—if they stay out of the house I’m grudgingly more or less willing to take a ‘it’s their planet too’ attitude, but they’re still evil bulb-eating marauders—but, yo, dufflebrain, why?  You’ve got an entire garden full of fresh tasty plant life and you’re diving for apple cores and slimy vegetable peelings?  Unfortunately the hellterror discovered the second cadaver at the same moment I did NOOOOOOOOOO —providentially I nailed her before anything irretrievable happened but she now carefully examines that frelling bucket every time she goes into the back garden.

^ It can take hours to cut a lot of half-grown shoots out of heavy plastic small-gauge mouse-proof netting.  You don’t have to ask me how I know this, do you?

^^ I’m more than happy to buy it back as realio-trulio plant-stuff-in-it compost for the privilege of not having to take up the space in my handkerchief-garden for my own compost heap or heaps,+ since to do it right you have to have more than one.  But I do get broody about a wormery occasionally.  You can get quite little ones and, you know, it’s critters.

+ I have THREE compost heaps at Third House.  Which must be appropriate.

** With reference to a conversation about nomenclature on the forum I haven’t a clue about what’s correct.  I think of what I grow as primroses—both the double ones I think I’ve posted photos of^ and the little wild-type ones like in Anette’s photos which also lurk in corners of my garden.^^  The fancy ‘laced’ and all the other exotic-looking ones are, to me, primulas.

Cowslips come out a little later—I have a fabulous rust-red one just beginning to unfurl now. I have no idea where it came from, and I don’t think I knew they existed in any colour but the basic species yellow.  It’s in a pot which I clearly planted, so I must have rescued it from somewhere, recognising the leaves as primrose/cowslip and therefore worthy of rescue—is it a volunteer?  I don’t know.  Gibble.  But when I said that cowslips, theoretically endangered in the wild, are weeds in my garden, and someone told me loftily that weeds are only plants in the wrong place—yes, I know that one, thanks—I was referring to the way they grew, not that I didn’t like them.  I think they’re darling.  I’ve been known to hoick out a few of my surplus, put them and a trowel in a plastic bag, and take some hellcritters for a stroll over suitable countryside and whack them in in a bank somewhere—since they’re endangered in the wild.  This is probably illegal or something and since I know it’s desperately illegal to pluck wildflowers or to dig them up I live in fear of someone catching me at my guerrilla gardening and jumping to the wrong conclusion.  But if I didn’t, um, weed them, I’d have a garden with nothing but cowslips in it.

^ If not I will.

 

Ongoing

 

Yes.  Feebledweeb came back this morning.  There was a postcard through my door about my missing my scheduled pick-up.  I’m probably imagining the petulance.  I am not imagining, however, the incredibly long, annoying, would-be mollifying robot email from a critter-supply site I have ordered from for the first time because they sell a Critter Fur Bag that is supposed to protect your (possibly new) washing machine from the extremes of critter hair production.*   Cosy Paws and Fuzzy Tummies Ltd is using one of the shiny new carrier companies . . . which I’ve already had several emails from informing me that my order is creeping inexorably nearer but they’re not going to tell me how fast or anything . . . I have to be AT HOME to SIGN FOR IT and they will only make TWO attempts to deliver before it’s returned to sender, etc.  HOW THE FREAKING ARGLEBLARGING FRELL DO THESE COMPANIES STAY IN BUSINESS?  Apparently I’m supposed to be able to track it tomorrow, when it’s (maybe**) due for Delivery Attempt #1 but I don’t even know what that means.  If I sign on tonight/tomorrow morning at midnight oh one, will it tell me that the driver is at home having a beer in front of the Late Show?***  Will Astarte chirrup at me at 6 a.m.† when the parcel is loaded into the lorry?  Will tracking include a klaxon when the lorry passes the New Arcadia town limits?  Arrrrrgh.  And the Seriously Irritating Robot letter from the critter-supply site says, ooooooh please be nice to us, we’re trying really hard.††  Sure you are.  Change delivery companies.  Change to one that when you say ‘LEAVE THE SODBLASTED PACKET BEHIND THE GATE’ they leave it behind the gate and don’t require me to poke a touchscreen with a plastic stylus in a manner that not only looks nothing like my signature, but doesn’t look like anything remotely resembling anyone’s signature.

The garage started work on Wolfgang today.  I’m supposed to ring late tomorrow afternoon and see how they’re getting on.  The suspense is killing me.  I WANT MY MONKS.  I WANT MY MONKS.  I also have an appointment to talk to Alfrick before service Saturday night.  If I started walking Saturday morning I might get there in time, maybe they’d let me sleep in the porch . . . after all I’d have to bring the hellpack, they can’t keep their legs crossed for thirty six hours, we could keep each other warm. . . .

And I’ve probably decided on my new washing machine.  ::Gasp::  It’s a Miele.  You know what Mieles COST?!  But if you ask six random critter owners what washing machine will best stand up to the depredations of critter fur, they will speak in one voice:  IF YOU CAN AFFORD IT, GET A MIELE.†††

Um.  Ratbags.  Well, the hellhounds don’t eat much . . . and I could maybe buy fewer books and less yarn . . . .

And in other techie news:  My new phone machine appears to be working.‡  I can call out on it.  I can receive calls on it, even if the dargletching ring tone sounds like a drowning pigeon.  I can even pick up messages.  That’s all I can do.  At some point I will have to find out how to erase messages before the sorbligging Message Space fills up.  For some reason a number of people, having read the Are you sure it’s not Friday the 13th? blog post, starting with lecuyerv on the forum and for which thank you, have sent me a link to this:  http://xkcd.com/1343/   Yes.  Exactly.

* * *

* This:  http://www.washingnet.co.uk/en/animal-hair-filter-bag.html

But I didn’t buy it here.  If I’m going to be rude about the seller I’m not going to hang a link on the blog.  But I’ve heard of the site I ordered from, it has a good rep in critter-supply circles, and it had some happy customers reporting on the Fur Bag.

** There is some question about the depot being stolen by deranged djinns.  A little-known prediction of Nostradamus.

*** If there have been any djinn sightings?

† The drawbacks of taking your iPad to bed with you.  Remember to turn it off?  Are you kidding?

†† If we roll over will you rub our tummy?  —No.  I get enough tummy rubbing demands already.^  Humans have alarm clocks to get them up in the morning.  Hellcritters have tummy rubbing.  GUYS.  I’VE ONLY GOT TWO HANDS.  Darkness, who is his generation’s major tummy rubbee, however, does not acknowledge that this creates any sort of common ground with the hellterror.  You call that a tummy? he says.  At which point Chaos, who isn’t totally committed to tummy rubbing but does not want to be left out of anything, ducks under one of my arms, as I kneel blearily on the kitchen floor rubbing tummies while waiting for the frelling kettle to frelling boil, and knocks me over.

^ Also, I don’t like you.

††† Also, who knew that reading about washing machines could be fun?  http://www.whitegoodshelp.co.uk/about-whitegoodshelp-andy-trigg/

Miele is also, siiiiiiiigh, the top of the list by a margin of about seventy-three leagues at WHICH?

http://www.which.co.uk/

Although you have to join.  I’ve joined.  But nothing on earth will make me read an entire article on George Osborne.^ 

^ This comment will become obscure+ as soon as they put some other headline on their opening page.

+ I have a strange reluctance to use the word ‘obsolete’.  I think it’s very unfriendly of Bosch to stop making parts for a mere twenty-plus-year-old washing machine.  I bet Miele is still making parts for twenty-plus-year-old machines.^

^ At these prices, better had.

‡ Mrs Redboots

Um, I’m not quite sure why anybody buys an answering machine in this day and age – can’t you just record your message on 1571, which is what I do? . . . Of course, the huge downside is you have to remember to check the frelling thing, which I never do . . .

Um . . . pathological loathing of BT?^  BT, who, when applied to to turn the landline phone on at Third House declared that there was no cable to the house—the eighty-year-old house in the middle of town with the phone jack in the kitchen—and I would have to pay several hundred pounds to get one installed.  BT, who has insisted for nearly a decade that my problem with the upstairs phone at the cottage is to do with the house wiring and it will cost me several hundred pounds if they send an engineer, even though their own frelling linemen, laughing like drains at the state of the cul-de-sac’s common wiring, says that it is BT.  Yes, it’s true that my series of cheap, simple-minded previous phone machines were BT, but in the first place they were crap and they never pretended to be anything other than crap and in the second place a phone machine is a discrete thing that sits on your desk/table/electric keyboard/floor, it has a beginning and an ending, it has edges, and for that matter you can smudge it with burning sage if you want to drive the BT demons out.  I’m not going to use 1571.  It’s too personal.

Oh, and Peter uses 1571.  And never remembers to pick up his messages.

^ That postmistress didn’t retire.  She went to work for BT.

Are you sure it’s not Friday the 13th?

 

I have a DEAD CAR.

I have a DEAD WASHING MACHINE.

I am SUPPOSED TO BE STREET PASTORING TONIGHT*, but I can’t, because I have a DEAD CAR.  This means I’ve missed TWO MONTHS IN A ROW.**

I probably won’t get Wolfgang back till the end of next week . . . which among other things means I WILL MISS MY VOICE LESSON ON MONDAY.***

I will also MISS MY MONKS TOMORROW NIGHT.†

And the DEAD CAR means I have no way to schlep my dirty laundry to Peter’s washing machine—and New Arcadia is way too small for a Laundromat, aside from the question of how many machines one person with three hairy dogs can blow up in a single application.††

AND I—finally—bought a new phone answering machine†††.  Which I spent two hours over this afternoon, trying to figure out how to make the sucker work.  I HATE TECHNOLOGY.‡  This object is such a piece of rubbish in so many ways.  You have 1,000,000,000,000 frelling menus of obscure acronyms and impenetrable icons . . . and an ‘instruction book’ that fails to instruct.  For example:  it keeps saying, you press this little arrow till you get the listing you want, and then you hit ‘okay’.  IT NEVER TELLS YOU WHERE YOU’RE GOING TO FIND THE OKAY, AND OKAY DOESN’T APPEAR UNTIL YOU’VE DONE SOMETHING RIGHT ALREADY WHICH YOU WON’T HAVE BECAUSE YOU HAVE NO CLUE WHAT YOU’RE LOOKING FOR.  Frelling icons are frelling Rorschach blots, every one of them meaning:  YOU’RE TOTALLY SCREWED HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.‡‡

I think I finally got the date and time set up‡‡‡ and a basic message recorded . . . although that I am speaking through clenched teeth is pretty obvious.  Leave.  A.  Message.  After.  The.  Beep.   I have no idea what most of the superfluous crap on all those menus is . . . but this frzzzzzblggggng thing has only TWO ringtones, both of them nasty.  And this thing cost money!  It cost real money!  I’ve been putting off buying a new phone machine because BT stopped making the cut-rate plastic toy model that I used to use, which was not a total loss because they were SO cruddy they only lasted about a year before disintegrating like one of those cornstarch shopping bags . . . but they were simple.  I could use one.  Mind you, if you’re asking, I’d say they were overspecified too:  all I want is something I can record my voice on, so people ringing me know they’ve got my phone number—among my many, many pet hates is robot-voice answering machines so you have no idea if you’ve reached the right person/number or not—and that will record any messages.  I don’t want a phone machine that can make hollandaise sauce and tutor me in Russian and mechanical engineering!  I ONLY WANT TO RECORD MESSAGES, PLAY THEM BACK, AND THEN ERASE THEM.

. . . And now I have to shoulder my heavy knapsack§ and hike home . . . with three hellcritters gambolling delightedly in my wake.§§

* * *

* So this entry was supposed to be a stub.  It may yet be when a crevasse opens at my feet and the table falls into the centre of the earth, which would be about par for this day’s course.  I may or may not catch the laptop before it disappears forever, but my four knitting books from the library, at present lying on the table, will be goners.  Even knitting books are out to get me:  there is ONE pattern out of all FOUR of them that I can imagine knitting, and this includes two books by a designer I usually like.^

^ There’s also a yarn sale going on on a Web Site Near You where one of the listings is for £17 skeins of luxury yarn . . . at eight pence off the usual price.  Be still my heart.

** Last month was The Night of the Tempestuous Tempest, when the cops were telling us to stay home unless we HAD to be out.  And I was looking at all the raging torrents that used to be roads and gardens and sitting rooms and so on and thought, staying home, above the flood line, that’s a good idea.

*** I may end up hiring a car—NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO—but not till I’ve talked to the garage again on Monday, which will be too late for my lesson.  They’re ordering parts tomorrow, so some of my fate is riding on whether the gloppendorkenflurgetruder^ arrives on Monday.

^ Well, Wolfgang is German.

† Buckminster thinks he can find me a ride to St Margaret’s Sunday evening.  He hasn’t said anything about ‘if you promise not to sing’.^

^ I will miss my monks worse.  I like their music better.

†† I think I’ve told you that the hellterror is an astonishing producer of loose hair.  No wonder she eats so much.  Has to keep her strength up for all that intensive fur growing.

††† Delivered by an unusually delightful carrier, who put a postcard through my door after a failed first attempt, saying that they would try again the next day, any time from seven a.m. to six p.m., and upon a third failure the item would be returned to the warehouse and I would be issued a refund.  WHAT?  How does the seller stay in business with a system like that?  And as I’ve said—often—before, any blasted carrier who puts a postcard through my door saying they tried to leave my package with a neighbour is either lying or terminally lazy.  My neighbours are all either retired or work from home.

As it happens I was waiting in, and waiting, and waiting, and waiting, for the washing-machine man—the appointment was for ‘after nine’.  Well, it was certainly after nine:  in fact it was after noon—and I was therefore available at 11:45 when Delivery Attempt #2 happened—and I ran after him and pulled him down and snatched my parcel away from him before he could get back to his truck and lock the doors. . . . I should have let him keep it.

‡ The favour is, of course, mutual.

‡‡ I am reminded of the old joke which I’ve seen somewhere very recently, did someone post it on the forum?  Having no car and no washing machine is having an unfortunate suppressive effect on my brain.  So, this shrink shows a patient a Rorschach blot and says, what do you see?  And the patient says, a man and a woman making love.  The shrink shows the patient another blot and the patient says, that’s a man and a man really getting it on.  And looking at the third blot the patient says, and that’s two women having a very, very hot time.  The shrink says, I see that you are obsessed with sex.  The patient says in possibly justifiable outrage, that’s rich, coming from you.  You’re the one with all the dirty pictures.

‡‡‡ Which I will have to reset every time there is a power outage, and we have brief, settings-blowing power outages kind of a lot.  My old el frelling cheapo phone machine, you put a BATTERY in it and it HELD its settings through power cuts.

§ Having seriously damaged my back and shoulders hauling dog food in the other direction

§§ This is a rant for another day, but I’ve basically given up taking all three of them out together—the Off Lead Dog problem is too severe, and I’m at just too much of a disadvantage with three of my own.  The only time I’ll risk it is after midnight, like now. . . .

Conversations about music

 

I am wallowing, as if reclining in a hot bath*, in the forum conversations about music.

Midget

. . . the flute DOES take a colossal amount of air. My woodwind methods teacher maintained that it didn’t really take that much air if you knew how to manage it correctly. Us students listened attentively, agreed that you probably did learn how to manage your air after 40+ years of playing at a professional level on Broadway and with symphonies, and then put our heads between our knees to avoid passing out.

Yes.  I took approximately two flute lessons in my youth because, as a really bad piano student, I was greatly attracted to the idea of a single line of music to have to read, and I think the flute goes on using the standard treble clef?**  Your first two lessons are in treble clef anyway, at least if you’re a known piano drop-out.  I was so hilariously incapable of keeping my fingers on the right little holes–hole covers–buttons–something that the question of air supply didn’t present itself but I had a faint premonition that it eventually would.  Oisin plays the flute.  There was a cotton-wadding-brained scheme at one point that when he bought himself a new flute I’d adopt his old one, and take a few more flute lessons.  In our copious spare time.

But I like the noise a flute makes, it doesn’t have reeds, and all those brass things and strings look waaaaaay too hard.  In my fantasies I still take a few flute lessons eventually.***   I hurtle many, many hellcritters† on a daily basis.  My lungs would probably say nooooooooo, not a flute too, what next, a frelling marathon?

Blondviolinist

(Uh oh. Does the forum’s Pollyanna Principle apply to composers who’ve been dead over one hundred years?)

Not when it’s Wagner.  Stab away.  I have come round to Wagner a fair distance but . . . in the first place I’m one of these wet liberal dweebs who believe that who you are matters, not just how talented you are.  I guess Wagner was a genius—I guess—but he was a redolently nasty piece of work†† and I will never love him, and I will never not somehow resist his music because at some level I think you can hear that however fabulous it is it was written by someone who was, at heart, an evil creep.

Now, please, we will stand back to back to defend ourselves against the ravening pro-Wagner hordes.

Jmeadows

[The beginner flautist] needs to learn to take small, quick breaths, staggered with when the other flutists are taking theirs. (So there’s not a gap in the sound.) She can make breath marks on her sheet music. Even if she doesn’t need a breath in some of those places, she should take it because there will likely be somewhere coming up that she should not inhale.

This is just like singing.  Just like.  Nadia was making me put fresh breath marks on a piece just this Monday, so I would take a breath I didn’t need so I could sing through the place I needed the breath and shouldn’t take it.  I suppose the whole frelling line thing is true across all music?  Sometimes just going thud, thud, thud according to the beat or time signature or what-have-you results in . . . well, in thud-thud-thud.  Music requires a line.  Sometimes taking a breath in what seems like an obvious place—like the end of a phrase—results in the whole thing going flump.

Maybe especially when I’m doing it, of course.  Someone with a high flump tendency can be somewhat ameliorated by being buried in a group however.  ::Looks around nervously::  Three isn’t really a big enough group.  I told Nadia about my thrilling Sunday-evening debut, including that I was audible.  Most of the rota of evening-service backing singers have ordinary-congregation-member voices, not three-years-of-Nadia voices. ††† THANK YOU, I said.  Just doing my job, said Nadia.

Midget

My husband . . . plays the trombone. . . . It . . . helps that he has the longest arms on the planet. I was whining one day about how I had to nearly dislocate my shoulder to get the slide out to 7th position (as far out as you can go without taking the slide off the instrument) and he smirked and said, “You just have to unbend your elbow.” No, that’s what YOU have to do, Mr. Orangutang Arms.

My long-lost twin brother.  At last!  I have found him!  —Maybe I should take trombone lessons.  It would be nice to get some practical use out of the length of these arms that stick inches out of every shirt on the planet except Men’s Extra Large with the Knuckle Chamois for protection from rough ground.  Although I admit that being able to reach the top shelves of a kitchen built of offcuts rescued from the tip by a 6’2” bloke was a bonus.  And Peter’s arms aren’t short.

I never got . . . far in my string workshop classes. I was too busy being appalled that I had to move my fingers AND my arm at the SAME TIME. Nope. Not happening. That’s far too many appendages to coordinate simultaneously.

Yup.  Big problem with the piano, that organization of too many appendages thing.  You mean your fingers have to act INDEPENDENTLY?  Like maybe ALL TEN OF THEM [all right, all eight of them and two thumbs] AT THE SAME TIME?  AND YOUR ARMS MAY BE GOING IN OPPOSITE DIRECTIONS?  AND YOU MAY BE PLAYING TWO DIFFERENT TIME SIGNATURES SIMULTANEOUSLY???  AND YOU MAY BE DOING THIS AT SPEED?

I more or less eventually plumped for voice because the piano is such an abominably solo instrument, and if I’m ever going to do stuff with other people—at least without them running away screaming—I need to be in a group.  But the great thing about the piano is that the noises you make are FIXED.  You have a key, and you whack it, and a little hammer hits a little wire or wires and PLINK you have produced a note, no muss, no fuss, no bother and, barring psychotic piano tuners, no doubt.

The problem with the human voice, similar to the problem with strings and most or all of the brass, is the margin for error in the actual note.  There are days I long for the frelling security of the piano, even a piano that needs tuning.  In some ways singing is worse than trying to organize all those arms and fingers . . . whiiiiiiiiiiine. . . . .

I was also distracted by the thin strands of razor wire that pass for strings slicing my fingertips to bits. Ow ow ow ow ow.

Yes.  I had exactly one guitar lesson, for this reason.‡‡

Glinda

Muscle and physical memory etc. are required for organ, as well… sometimes both feet (and legs, therefore) doing simultaneous different things, as well as both hands and arms… but at least we have keys and pedals and they stay in the same place!

Yes, as above, about the piano only more so.  I can just about do the ten-fingers thing on a good day and a not too demanding piece, some nice little item by Scarlatti or Clementi or one of those late baroque/early classical guys who wrote a lot of stuff for their rather slow students.  I can’t get my head around the idea of DOING IT WITH YOUR FEET TOO.  I watch Oisin skating back and forth on his organ bench while his feet are skipping the light fantastic and have to remember to shut my mouth, which has a tendency to drop open. . . .

Stardancer

Midget

I was too busy being appalled that I had to move my fingers AND my arm   at the SAME TIME.

This is not dissimilar my experience in basic piano class. “Right hand on…C major. Left hand on the…C major…no wait that’s bass clef… Whole note in the left hand, half notes in the right…OH NO I HAVE TO CHANGE WHOLE NOTES!”

Yes.  Different ones with every finger.

I also did the classic (?) thing where I finally learned to read bass clef, and then BOTH of my hands wanted to play in bass clef. It was funny in a seriously discordant kind of way.

Oh, I can do the two clefs thing (she says airily).  It’s doing them together I have a slight problem with.

. . . And now I have to go SING, you know, officially, with the piano keeping score.  Blondviolinist—who is violinknitter on Twitter—tweeted that she now has I Want to Be a Prima Donna [donna, donna, donna, I long to shine upon the stage;  I have the embonpoint to become a queen of song . . . ] stuck in her head.  Yes.  It’s a real earworm.  I was singing it out hurtling earlier.  I do try to be a little circumspect under people’s windows at gleep o’clock in the morning however which would be, you know, now, so I need to get it out of my system.

* * *

* I finally gave up feeling hard done by because I’m pretty well allergic to all known amusing bath supplements, bubbles and oils and so on^, with the realisation that reading in your hot bath is not enhanced by the presence of bubbles.^^  Okay.  Fine.  I will adjust my resentful envy to focus on people who can play the piano with both hands and sing at the same time and people with really long thick hair.^^^  And if you miss the hot-bath-oil smell you can always burn a suitably fragranced candle.  Feh.

^ I Was Betrayed by Crabtree and Evelyn.  I got through a lot of it before my skin said, okay, we’ve had enough of that.  You don’t believe it?  ::RASH::   Ah, the fabulous rashes of my life.  I have been the Incredible Lobster Girl on several occasions and have enjoyed none of them.

^^ Although the damp sticky exploded-bubble marks on the pages would not be a problem if you’re reading your iPad in its little plastic jacket.

^^^There’s a poster in a hairdressers’ window that I hurtle past, dragged by an assortment of critters, that says, Instantly hydrate dry hair by 41%.  It’s been there for months and it makes me crazy.  FORTY-ONE PERCENT?  NOT FORTY-TWO?  OR THIRTY-NINE?  WHAT THE FRELL DOES THIS MEAN?  WHAT DO THEY THINK IT MEANS??

** I’ve just tried to look this up and became embroiled in a whole series of these graphic-heavy sites that furthermore won’t let you out again.  What’s so difficult about telling me what clef a flute uses? 

*** In the fantasies of my fantasies, I take a few violin lessons.  Since that day, what, two or three years ago, when one of those unaccompanied Bach violin things came on the car radio—and I’ve heard them before, you know?  But somehow the heavens opened and the angels sang that day, and I had to pull over to the side of the road and listen.

† Twelve churning little legs several times every day.  That’s a lot.

†† And in my end of the playground, so was Dickens.  So was Tolstoy.

††† There were some nice ones in the scratch choir for the carol service, but none of them come to evening service apparently.

‡ About halfway through rehearsal I realised I was hearing myself through the microphone, not just because I’m very close to my own ears.  And one of my friends—who sits at the back where I usually sit—said afterward, it was really nice to hear you up there.  You could hear me? I said.  Oh yes, she said.

‡‡ I also had two or three bagpipe lessons.  There, your cheeks give out from blowing up the frelling bag all the time.  When you stop your entire face rattles and shakes like a train going over a really bad patch of track.  Rubbuddyrubbuddyrubbuddyrubbuddy.  

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Do not wait to strike till the iron is hot; but make it hot by striking. -- William Butler Yeats