January 11, 2017

99% content-free blog, or, so long as I have footnotes I can apparently witter on alarmingly at the least provocation


I received a parcel in the post yesterday.* It rejoiced in a more than usually generous quantity of instruction stickers scattered artistically over its stolid cardboard exterior.  One of them said ‘hold tab firmly and pull to open’.  This is only helpful if there’s a tab.  There is no tab.  There are some vaguely luminescent white stripes in approximately the area where you might have expected a tab, but these are a snare and a delusion.  The chimerical and fallacious factor is enhanced by the shiny whiteness of these unprofitable stripes, which produces a slight, bogus, 3D effect.   I took my glasses off and peered at the confusing article at a distance of two microns from the end of my nose.  My near vision, that is my very very near vision is pretty good.**  I thus confirmed to my dissatisfaction that there were no tabs.

Elsewhere on the parcel there is an even more splendidly helpful ILLUSTRATION of pulling the non-existent tab. Apparently you should use two fingers and the thumb.  I’ll commit this to memory for the next time I see a tab.  This illuminated edification is further (helpfully) described as ‘step one’.  There follows another splendidly tutelary illustration to accompany ‘step one’ and its illustration, ‘step two’, which suggests ‘Lift flaps to tear perforations.’  I was busy committing step one to memory at this point and failed to take note of how many fingers, before I gave a roar of frustrated rage and TORE INTO THE SUCKER.  The flap-lifting may indeed have been competently possible if there had been a tab to pull, but since there wasn’t, by the time you’ve HACKED INTO THE THING although the perforations do exist, they have slipped, or been savagely rent, into the collateral damage category.***

But my favourite instruction appears under my address for the guidance of the delivery person†: LEAVE UNDER COVER, DO NOT FLY.

Pause for contemplation.

Okay.  I will not attempt to cross the Channel in it, which is probably just as well, as it is a rather small box, and the hellmob and myself, plus snacks for those of us who eat, would render it rather crowded.  There are also no instructions for the piloting of a small cardboard box.  And furthermore the missing tab is probably a critical airflow spoiler, and what if, having soared magnificently over the length of Kent, we hit a nasty head wind/tail wind/ wind wind over the Channel and had to land unexpectedly on the back of a dolphin?  The dolphin wouldn’t like it either.††

So I guess I will stay home and enjoy the contents of my parcel. What were they, you ask?  Two tiny packets of sewing needles.†††  I told you it was a small box.‡

* * *

* This happens kind of a lot. Usually it has YARN or BOOKS inside.

** It’s a good thing my nose isn’t any longer. I’m sure monocular peering would be less efficacious.

*** And, as revealed below^ the contents, by the time I had got there, having forgotten what I was going to find in the stress and anxiety of ersatz tabs and unproductive perforations, was not YARN or BOOKS. Clearly I should stick to YARN or BOOKS.^^


^^ Or music. My favourite on-line music shop UNFORTUNATELY will hold your basket for you apparently forever.  I have about £1,000,000,000 worth of CDs and a few DVDs waiting for me at present.+  Occasionally I sift out a few and order them.++

+ Yes. I still prefer hard copy.  I’m old.  You’ll have to forgive me.~

~ And don’t say ‘Netflix’ to me. Until small ignored cul de sacs in forgotten villages of Hampshire get superfast broadband, which as far as I’m concerned is a myth, streaming is not an option.


† Shall I mention that they got my name wrong? I have had periods, in the last twenty-five years, of feeling it’s more trouble than it’s worth to share a name with your husband^, and you might think that if there are x ways of misspelling McKinley and y ways of misspelling Dickinson, there would be x + y ways of misspelling McKinley Dickinson.  WRONG.  It’s x + y to the 87th power ways.^^   Now, of course, being McKinley Dickinson is part of the old life gone forever, and if I can’t even throw out shopping lists in his handwriting I’m certainly not going to throw out his name.

^ He did offer to take on ‘McKinley’ but I decided one martyr in the family was enough.

^^ There may be a clue here why the larger the corporation, the more drastically screwed up and one-department-doesn’t-talk-to-any-other-department it is. The latest megacorp trying to sue me is BT, but I think I convinced them to cancel the bailiffs.  Exciting times. Ugggggh.

†† I did however love the instruction so much that I cut out the address label to use as a bookmark. It is presently gracing my new Sally Melville book on knitting design, which is WILDLY over my head^, speaking of competency levels, but a girl^^ can dream, also, I like Sally Melville.^^^  It is not precisely a new Sally Melville.  It is an old, out of print Sally Melville, which I bought on Abebooks, on my way^^^^ to ordering two slender and lovely books about Christian meditation by John Main# which are also out of print.  These also arrived yesterday.##

^ like a cardboard box flying toward the white cliffs of Dover

^^ Or an elderly hag

^^^ Whose principles to live by include—maybe I’ve already told you this?—‘If it’s not a place I can knit, it’s probably not a place I want to be.’ YES.

^^^^ don’t ask. ‘On my way’ is perhaps a more symbolic than accurate description of route and method.

# Who was a Benedictine monk, so I’m obliged to be partial. Now he was a Catholic Benedictine and my monks are Anglican, but the welcome thing is commodious and all-embracing.

## Sort of. Instead of the second John Main I received a guidebook to ‘Rhone-Alpes’.  Which might be useful if the box or the dolphin got us across the Channel.  Although it would be a long walk.

††† And a lot of bubble wrap.

‡ Not that small.  It was large enough for a lot of instructions.  Now I will plead guilty to being an internet shopping addict^ but in this case New Arcadia, Mauncester and Zigguraton seem all to be out of ordinary sewing needles.  And what’s a girl^^ to do when most of her woollens have holes in them because she refuses to use the industrial-strength anti-moth stuff?^^^  Now we can discuss the apparent impossibility of finding tapestry wool or equivalent fine enough to mend 2-ply.#  I use cotton embroidery thread because it’s what I can find in enough colours but if you need to put more than three or four stitches in a single hole it shows because of the difference in drape and elasticity.  Sigh.  With three dogs, two gardens and a bad attitude the lumpiness of my surface covering## doesn’t really matter.  But bad darns matter to me.

^ See: YARN SALES.  I also keep buying Land’s End WHITE cotton-modal turtleneck jerseys because they are my favourite base layer and no matter how many I buy I run out of clean ones before I have enough to make up a white wash.  Arrrrgh.  I think they must be running off with the black Aran pullover that lives down the road.  Don’t believe his fulsome promises, honey. He will discard you the moment you turn streaky grey with hot sweaty friction.

^^ Or elderly hag. See above.

^^^ Lavender is not useless, and cedar oil works pretty well, but concentrated cedar oil is also a frelling poison, and I don’t want either to breathe it or to have it in contact with my known-overreactive skin. I do spot it around so all my wooden shelves have little round cedar-oil marks on their edges but you have to do this a lot to be effective and I’m always going to do it tomorrow.  Like I’m always going to repot all my geraniums.  Tomorrow.

# No, untwisting the individual plies of hawser-strength tapestry wool does not work.

## Or coverings since I specialise in layers. See:  Land’s End jerseys.  I have friends who fall down laughing after they count (say) five layers.  All in different colours of course, and pulled up and over and around so all are visible.  I like playing with colour.+

+If I were a better knitter I’d be dangerous.




[This was supposed to go up last night, of course. Technology is so not my friend.  And today has been complex.]

Wolfgang died.* Waaaaaaaaaaaah.

And it’s Saturday night, I can’t ring the garage till Monday.** I’m wild-eyed, hair-sticking-out terrified that it’s the kind of serious that means ‘not worth mending in a twenty year old car’. I DON’T WANT A NEW CAR. And that’s aside from my interesting cash flow problem, which is to say lack of flow.  I own three blinging blanging doodah frelling houses, but keeping the hellmob and me fed*** is much more unpleasantly exciting than nourishing and jolly.  I like my excitement in stories. I like food† just to be there.††  NEW CAR???  Not in this reality.  So, okay, after last Tuesday I wouldn’t at all mind being transferred to some other reality. . . .

I finally got some sleep last night.††† I hadn’t had anything even close to resembling sleep since the beginning of the week—I’d had a late Sam shift and then I stayed up watching the returns ohGodohGodohGodohGod when the world as I thought I knew it ended Tuesday night.  It’s very hard to sleep when the world is a suddenly stranger and scarier place—I’d never thought it was exactly safe, but I thought there were some limits—and there’s an evil asshole about to destroy the country of your birth.‡  Friday I even blew off handbells. Shock.  Horror.  I did go, but I fell apart at the tea break and spent the rest of the evening knitting.‡  And scowling.‡‡  Hey, there were four ringers without me, and major (eight) is a lot easier than royal (ten).  I WAS DOING THEM A FAVOUR.  Especially because Niall makes me ring inside.‡‡‡  So maybe it was the handbells that broke me.  Whatever.  I came home and slept.

And so managed to scrape myself out of bed in time to go to morning Mass. I had decided that God was just going to have to forgive me for a week I didn’t make it to morning Mass, if she wanted me at morning Mass she could have made Hillary win.§  The problem with Saturday morning Mass is that I will then turn around and hare back out to the abbey for the Saturday night prayer service with the half hour silent sit beforehand§§.  Twice in a day and it’s like I can begin to discern tatty black robes swishing around my ankles.§§§  But Wolfgang and I toodled home after the night service, and I was feeling as mellow as I ever do, especially since last Tuesday, and I had just backed into our parking space and I was throwing the clutch out to roll forward a few inches so that I could still get at my bins and my garden shed and the clutch pedal shot into the floor and stayed there.


* * *

* It has so not been a good week.

** Okay, I could ring the garage.  But no one would answer.

*** Especially since all of us but the bullie have stringent dietary constraints. Pav only requires that she be able to get her mouth around it.  When this proves to be an item of hellgoddess clothing there is domestic drama.

† and books. And yarn

†† The bullie is with me on this. The hellhounds would much prefer food not to be there.

††† Meanwhile I have another half done post, this one about my Realio Trulio Finished Knitting Project^, but the project will stay finished so I can come back to my unfinished blog about it later.^^

^ It’s about as dead boring as a Knitting Project can be but it is finished. Which makes it automatically glorious and fascinating within my knitting life.+

+ I have now reverted to the feltable wool that is going to become a series of grotty little bags, the important one being destined to carry super long knitting needles. Does anyone else have needles that are too long to fit in any standard knitting needle containers?#   I suppose I could just stick them in a vase but most of my vases are full of dried roses from various occasions.##   But between needing a bag pole-vaulting pole length and not being sure how much the thing is going to shrink when I felt it, people keep mistaking the long thin item coiling off my lap for a scarf.  Several scarves.  Several Doctor Who scarves.

There are two reasons I’m back to my felting-in-their-future bags over all the other unfinished knitting projects lying about the place.  The first one is that I really like rectangles. I really, really like rectangles. You know, no shaping, no frelling counting. You just knit.  And knit.  And knit.###

The other reason is that I do a lot of knitting after morning Mass, when you can sit around with a cup of tea and chat with monks and anyone else from the congregation desirous of caffeine and possibly a little time to slot back into normal life.#### And, aside from all the jokes about knitting long johns for monks#####, one of the monks, whom we will call Aloysius, has decided that I never finish anything and demands proof that this is not true.  Uh oh.  So, I figured, felting might disguise some of my inevitable irregularities, if I’m going to have to pass the object in question around to an assembly.  An assembly of jocular monks. I mean, I’m not exactly reliable, even on rectangles.

# No, of course not. Everyone but me knits on circulars. Uggggggh.  SOMEBODY (else) must knit on super-long straights OR THEY WOULDN’T SELL THEM, right?

## Yes. I save empty champagne bottles too~.  And one or three bottles that once contained spectacular reds.  Including my first experience of Vieux Telegraph, which put Peter’s beloved strong, leathery French reds~~ on my, you should forgive the term, radar.  That was on our honeymoon in Cornwall.  Sigh.

~ Some of these are also full of dried roses.

~~ I AM NOT GOING TO TOUCH the whole Rhone/Bordeaux/Burgundy/claret thing. Among other reasons because I don’t understand it.  But Peter could pick out one of these gorgeous items from the brambly, brain-stabbing boscage of a wine list while I sat back contentedly and waited for my glass to be filled.

### Yes. I’m a process knitter.  More finished objects would be nice, but it’s the knitting that’s important.  Although the fact that my finished objects tend to be pathetic may have something to do with my attachment to process.

#### If going to Mass doesn’t rattle your cage, you’re not paying attention.

##### Which would be a VERY GOOD THING in that chapel, but it would be kind of a pity to cover up the orange, yellow, pink, purple, blue, scarlet and lime green wool I’m using. If they’d agree to raise their hemlines an inch or two . . . it doesn’t have to be a lot . . .

^^ With dead boring photos.

‡ [with vast reluctance this rude and ribald footnote concerning a prominent evil asshole has been excised for fear of legal reprisals SIIIIIIIIIIIGH.]

‡‡ Knitting when I’m brain dead could have some impact on why my FOs tend to be pathetic.  I’M A PROCESS KNITTER.  SO WHATEVER.

‡‡ I’m still in black. I could do this for quite a while.  When I was younger and less haggard I wore a lot of black, and I Never Throw Anything Out.  So I still have . . . a lot of black.  I’d forgotten.  I’m quite glad to see some of it.  Perhaps not all at once.

‡‡‡ All right, ringing ‘inside’ is more fun. You know, like walking across Niagara on dental floss is fun.  The first pair (. . . of bells) and the last pair are usually the easiest of any method—‘easiest’ being relative, there is NOTHING ABOUT handbells that is easy, except maybe the sitting down in the warm part, which is the single thing that handbells have over tower bells, which tend to occur in gelid towers—and the inside pairs are the ones that dance the hokey cokey with your brain and leave you with footprints on your grey matter.

§ I have a great idea! Let’s all pray that the electoral college vote to DO AWAY WITH THEMSELVES, AND HILLARY WINS RETROACTIVELY ON THE POPULAR VOTE.

§§ It’s a ratbag that Saturday night tends to be popular for live entertainment. Three of us went to KISS ME KATE last Saturday and it was very, very well done . . . and I’d forgotten how frelling ANNOYING it is because I only remember how great the tunes are.  I should have stayed home and gone to the monks.

§§§ Okay. Black is good.

£ Also, who wants a new car when their old one is kind and thoughtful enough to break down in his own driveway? Aside from . . . £££££££££££

* * *

SUNDAY NIGHT UPDATE: I spent an hour on the phone to the RAC^ this afternoon trying to extricate myself from being the add-on to Peter’s membership, siiiiiiigh, the things that frelling ambush you, I hadn’t wasted a single thought on the likely status of my RAC membership all this year, till last night.  And as so often this year dealing with Corporate Great Britain, the individual human beings were friendly and helpful^^ BUT THE ADMIN IS A NIGHTMARE.  But they eventually beat their data base into submission and sent me a person. The person was about seven feet tall, eight feet wide, covered with tattoos, and looked like he probably juggled blue whales before breakfast. EEEEEEEEEEEEEK.  He was also very nice.  He said ‘broken pedal box’, whatever the doodah that means, but it sounds less threatening than ‘whole new clutch assembly’ which was what I was afraid of, because that was going to be the moment when everyone, beginning with the guys at the Warm Upford garage who have kept Wolfgang on the road the last twenty years, tell me helpfully that it’s not worth it for a twenty year old car.  LET ME GO ON THINKING THAT ‘BROKEN PEDAL BOX’ IS NOT THE END OF THE LINE. And Mr Tattoo DROVE Wolfgang out to Warm Upford with a note from me to stick through the garage office door for Monday morning.  He DROVE Wolfgang without a clutch.  Gibber gibber gibber, I said . . . and then it occurred to me that once in days very, very much gone by, I knew how to drive an elderly, persnickety vehicle without a working clutch.  And the person who taught me this interesting skill—this being about thirty years before internet searches—may be reading this blog.  ::Waves::

Stay tuned. And anyone of a praying persuasion, pray for Warm Upford to say ‘no problem.’  I’ll worry later about the six weeks that it’s going to take to import the last in existence new pedal box for a twenty-year-old Golf from Viti Levu.  I might have to start taking daytime Sam duties, when the buses are running.  No!  No!  Anything but daytime duties!

^ I have no idea what RAC stands for, but they’re the UK Ghostbusters+ of broken-down cars.

+ Who you gonna call?

^^ Um, mostly. I think one of them had had a late Samaritan shift last night and hadn’t had enough sleep.


Time, time


Yes, two days, um, nights, in a row, posting to the blog.  It won’t last.  But I don’t want to leave that evil asshole on the opening screen of my blog for any longer than necessary:  Twenty-four hours is plenty.  But . . . having just mentioned him, here on what will now become the opening page, does that mean I have to write again tomorrow?  Hmmmm.

Time, time, was one of Peter’s phrases.  I cannot believe how much time time TIME TIIIIIIME it takes just adding one thing back into your weekly schedule.  Um.  Maybe two.  Well, maybe three.  Trying to wake the blog up counts, or counted, till the malnutrition and bronchitis splintered me, and it will count again.*  I wasn’t committed to going to Mass with my monks once a week when I was last having weekly voice lessons and Samaritan shifts either.  If Nadia insists on keeping me in a late-morning slot it makes the juggling act even more extreme because I can’t go to morning Mass and make it to the other end of the frelling country** for a voice lesson and the drive would wreck the fragile post-Mass serenity*** although it might have been interesting to discover what effect chanting penitential rites would have as warm-up to singing Mozart.  However all such questions have been set aside as I croaked through recent weeks.  I need to hustle Nadia now however in the hopes of a lesson or two before Christmas shuts all such trifles and fripperies down†:  I would like to be able to scare people on the other side of a small room with my carol singing, and all stresses, including trivialities like legal suits by the local crown court and bronchitis, make my voice go into hiding-behind-the-parapet-and-squeaking mode.

But how to begin to catch up, or slot back in, with the blog and any readers who haven’t given me up as a lost cause? The daily adventure of the hellmob?  Singing dismal and maudlin folk songs whilst hurtling?  Conversations with Peter?††  KNITTING?†††  Bell ringing?‡  The failure of Third House to sell and the oh-God-details-I-hate-details of trying to prep it to let for a year or two and see where the foaming tides of Brexit may have left us by then?  I think I need to slip into the blogging business again gently.

* * *

* IT CERTAINLY DOES. I’D FORGOTTEN HOW LONG WRITING A POST TAKES.^  Also I may have an ulterior motive.  Mwa hahahahahaha.

^ And I’m out of practise trying to herd footnotes. Which make cats or bell ringers or Sam volunteers+ or hellmobs look like a doddle.

+ Or St Margaret’s band members for the evening service. At least summer is over#, when there were Sundays we were getting by with three. When one of the three is you it’s a lot harder to pretend that strange background keening noise isn’t you singing.

# Aaaaaaaand . . . still no probate.~ Less than a month to the first anniversary of Peter’s death.  Just by the way.~~

~ The latest interesting development from my delightful bank’s closing my private nothing-to-do-with-my-husband account and stealing all my money last May is that some of the direct debits that they killed and then reinstated . . . re-died, to coin a term. Only about a third of them did reinstate, and I’m still struggling to keep up with all the stuff I haven’t had to think about every frelling ratblasted month, because I can’t INAUGURATE ANY NEW DIRECT DEBITS TILL I’M OUT OF PROBATE but I assumed those that had successfully reconnected would STAY reconnected?  Noooooooo.  That would be too simple.


** Anything over five miles is my idea of the other end of the frelling country, and this would be nearly thirty miles. I’m pretty used to the commute to my monks but Nadia has moved to Somerset.  Nearly.  The Somerset that is the opposite direction from my monks, if you follow me, so if I were pelting from monks to Nadia I’d have to squeal back through New Arcadia on the way.  Feh.

*** IF I WEREN’T WIRED OUT OF MY TINY MIND it might not be quite so fragile. Remember that the area court in Greater Footling wanted to sue me for non-payment of council tax?  And that I had sorted this out?  You didn’t think that was the end of it, did you?  No, of course not, you are intelligent grown ups with your own stories to tell about local government.  I then received another letter from the Greater Footling court system thanking me for paying up till 1 October, but that they still want me to pay up to the end of the year or they were going to sue me anyway.  Point one:  all three houses were, as of my at that time most recent conversation with the local council, paid up to 1 September. Greater Footling, for reasons best known to itself, is only suing me for the Lodge.  The local clerk in theory had removed the whole court-case thing because my situation is unusual, and she explained that if you fall behind on your council tax they will demand you pay up to the end of the year. What? Whose bright idea was that?  Most people fall behind because they’re having cash flow problems, not because they’re in probate, their bank is heli-skiing with their money, and all real-world business admin makes them cry.  So you sue someone for more money because they’ve already graphically demonstrated they don’t have enough money?  Is the government trying to make people homeless?  Or oblige them to feed their children out of the dustbins behind Macdonalds?

But perhaps I digress. I have already referred (repeatedly) to the fact that the last two or so months have been prey to a broad spectrum of diversions, and one of the results of this is that I didn’t pay the October house tax instalments on the first of the month like a good little anal-retentive control-freak stooge would.^  Midway through the month when my legs were working better and I was coughing less and I really was going to go tackle the city council AGAIN because I’d had NO paperwork yet and according to the clerks, this being one of the few things that, over the months, everybody I saw agreed on, I should receive individual monthly invoices reminding me in the politest possible way^^ that I was due to open a vein for the benefit of the council office again, and specifying the quantity they planned to tap. . . . Now I repeat that midway through the month I had had NO PAPERWORK concerning my monthly council tax bills.

Then I received three envelopes from the city council on the same day.  Declaring that I was in arrears.  And for the three houses that all come due on the same date, remember the SAME DATE thing, organised to make it easier for me, a bear of very, very little brain?  Yes?  You remember? . . . for these three simultaneously-due houses I received two first reminders and one second reminder. So with the mind-bendiness of the simultaneity situation I can also remark that the paperwork I hadn’t received included the first reminder for the third house.  Except it wasn’t for Third House, it was . . . oh, never mind.

^ My biases may be showing. But what would you rather expend your even-more-than-usually frustratingly limited energy on, friends you don’t see often enough or possibly haven’t seen in years, OR paying your frelling council tax?  Anyone who says, oooh, I’d pay my tax, of course, is banned forever from this blog.  I’d further suggest that I’m going to sneak into your house and hide your chequebook, except that nobody but the elderly hopeless like me uses cheques any more.


† With my voice, voice lessons are unequivocally trifling fripperies

†† I’m becoming pretty shameless about this. The locals can just get used to the scraggy old lady chatting away hard to a rose stuck in the ground in a corner between two sarcophagi.  The hellmob has.

††† I certainly must tell you about THE THING I ACTUALLY FINISHED.

† I’m still all in black. I got up this morning, late, having once again watched the dawn come up before I got to sleep, stared at the clean laundry I haven’t put away yet^, and reached for the black jeans and cardi I’d been wearing yesterday.  I went bell ringing at Crabbiton tonight and the other American eyed me and said, so, are you in mourning?  Yes, I said.  And then we did some wailing and bitching about the evil asshole before we got down to the serious business of trying to weasel out of ringing at Madhatterington on Sunday morning, Madhatterington’s bells being not only possessed by demons but they sound like a train wreck, so the ringers’ agonies aren’t even worthwhile.

^ I usually only bother to put away stuff I don’t wear that often. Something I’m going to wear again in the next day or three, why waste the time?  I only need half the bed to sleep in.

Life as a 21st century semivegan*

[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.


** 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::

^^ rent

^^^ 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.


Domestic Dramas

The hellterror broke my favourite bowl today. Her head is on a stake in the back garden.


Actually I’m thinking about tying the stake to the railing at the front of the cottage. If Damien, hairy* four-legged scion of the Black Goat of the Woods, wants to have hysterical barking meltdowns every time I walk in or out of the cottage or the Lodge, I figure let’s give him something to melt down about.

This particular bowl, unlike most of the stuff I’ve been breaking without help lately, is relatively old in my life; I bought it probably pushing forty years ago, on holiday with my oldest and best Maine friend—who died a few years ago, way too long before time.  We were on Prince Edward Island because she was an Anne of Green Gables fanatic, and this was one of those local-artists’-cooperative shops, dripping with highly desirable things.  I bought a bowl.  It is—was—a huge salad bowl, suitable for families of twelve, or for one slightly crazed paleo vegan alkaline raw foodie sort of.**  It will be horribly, horribly missed, and since some of it shattered, I doubt there are enough pieces to epoxy back together, but I will save them and give it a try some decade in the future because I am like that.  Meanwhile what am I supposed to do for a SALAD BOWL?  Alfrick, who as an experienced spiritual director has a great wealth of uplifting suggestions for all occasions of profound anguish, recommends that I engage with the prospect of The Quest for the New Perfect Salad Bowl.  This man knows me too well.

* * *

* He looks like a frelling floor mop. Not that I’m prejudiced or anything.  I have told you that five new barking dogs have moved into my immediate neighbourhood?  But only Damien is hellspawn.

** Ref what a person like this eats when she’s coming off a nasty bout of stomach flu^: your metabolism or your ability to cope or whatever changes when you drastically change your diet.  In hindsight I’ve always been lactose intolerant but I got a lot more lactose intolerant as soon as I went off dairy, although going off dairy was one of the best decisions of my life^^, and I could hear my body going YAAAAAAAAAAAAY while my mind and mouth were going waaaaaaaah ice cream cheese eggnog whipped cream waaaaaaaaah. I’m pretty sure I’ve told the blog that I used to have ice cream blow outs once or twice a year for a while but I had to stop because the hangover the next day, in which my entire physical being seemed to be inflamed, became seriously not worth it.  I’ve been a vegetarian only a little over a year but the very idea of beef broth, for example, one of the post-flu options suggested on the forum, makes me feel extremely queasy, and while I used to be a chicken-soup-for-what-ails you person, I know I couldn’t face it now.  Dead flesh?  ANIMAL FAT? Ewwwwww. And Saltines, I’ve been off wheat for yonks—I even take gluten-free wafers at Communion—and lately comprehensively off all cereal grains.  Saltines would kill me.  I don’t doubt beef broth and Saltines work a treat for the person who posted;  it’s what your body is set up to recognise as food^^^.  I agree with those of you who have said that when you’re ill the rules change.  It’s how they change and what they change to I haven’t figured out yet from the vegan paleo nutter^^^^ view.

^ And yes, it was so brief and so violent I thought about food poisoning too, but in the first place—er—the order of occurrence of certain categories of personal violence followed the stomach-flu pattern rather than the food-poisoning pattern. In the second place I can’t face the idea that it was food poisoning, because that would mean It Happened in My Kitchen, and while generally speaking housework is not my thing, I’m fairly paranoid about kitchen hygiene because my gut is so not a thing of beauty and a joy forever. And in the third place, Alfrick says there is a twenty-four hour stomach bug going around. Ah the many delights of conversation with one’s spiritual advisor.  And the reassurance about the big things he can provide.

^^ Second to moving to England and marrying Peter.  Sigh.  And I’m already frelling failing as a gravekeeper.  That first dark red rose lasted an amazingly long time.  It lasted so long in fact that I didn’t believe it was lasting that long, and had bought a second spike’s worth+ and stuck it in the ground . . . and then the red rose went on and on and on, bless it, and the second spike, which had gone in eight days after the first, lasted approximately ONE day after I took the dark red one out, and this happened to be Saturday, and because I had Cecilia here, I didn’t notice till afternoon, and didn’t make it to the florist’s before they shut.++  So, because, after all, this is Peter, and the next day was Sunday when small town florists do not open for business, I committed the ultimate act of love and cut one of my own roses. Saturday evening it was a big fat happy bright pink rose with a lot of scent, which as most of you will know florists’ roses almost never have, and less than twenty-four hours later it was already over. Arrrrrrrgh.  So tomorrow I will go back to the florist.

+ I have two of those spike-vase things so I can do the swapping more easily. #

# Okay, really I have three. Because I’m like that.  But hey, they’re cheap.


# Admetus thinks I suffer from road rage. I think he’s led a sheltered life.  Cecilia just laughed.~  I was thinking about this.  My girlfriends just laugh.  Maybe it’s a testosterone thing?  A sort of anti testosterone thing with blokes who don’t think a good evening out is to get tanked down t’pub and have a punch-up with whoever is available.

~ Which was noble of her since we barely made her train and we didn’t know at that point that we would. But we did make her train.  Possibly the fates were rewarding her for being noble.

^^^ News flash: the hellterror has decided that lettuce is not food. Shock and dismay of family and friends.  Film at eleven.  She learnt a long time ago that when I’m doing something with a knife and a chopping board there’s food involved, and the way I now frelling eat, doing something at the sink with a salad spinner and a chopping board is most of the time I’m not reading, writing, hurtling, gardening or pretending to sleep.  I NEVER used to let dogs mill around my feet and beg for scraps, but many rules have been changed in the era of non-eating hellhounds, and what you do with one hellcritter you pretty much have to do with all hellcritters, or at least choose your battles and be prepared to be extremely creative about setting up different protocols that the suspicious resident hellmob will actually wear. I never even tried to convince the hellterror that she wasn’t allowed to hope for falling items of an interesting nature.  I am not entirely stupid.  Anyway, the  hellhounds, of course, rarely can be bothered, now that I’m never grappling with anything that smells attractive, but the hellterror is always there, radiating hopefulness.  She likes broad beans.  She likes all green beans, French, runner, whatever.  She likes peas, both sugar snap and the ones you shell.  She likes all the brassicas, as previously mentioned:  she eats them RAW which I mostly can’t quite manage.  She adores carrots.  And she likes apple.  She gets a lot of apple while I’m dealing with things she either scorns—this is a short list, but it now includes all lettuce—or that she can’t have, like avocado, or that I’m not going to let her have, like frelling frelling frelling salmon, which is Terribly Good for You+ but costs not one but several bombs if you buy either wild or responsibly farmed++.  We’ve just had one of our little hellgoddess/hellterror interactions+++ where I drop a bit of apple which frelling bounces and she can’t get at it.  FRANTIC SCRATCHING NOISES.  I extend a bare foot to retrieve the thing and she can’t wait and is frenziedly licking my foot which is not helping the extraction process.  THERE.  VICTORY.

+ So no, I’m not a true vegan either. Life is short, and eating fish makes it simpler when you’re trying to live in a world where no one knows what ‘vegan’ means and if you say ‘vegetarian’ they all go ‘cheese sauce.’  And if you say, no, no cheese sauce they get all worried and say, then how do you get your PROTEIN?  Well I used to get it by chewing up people who annoyed me, but . . .

++ Although the hellmob does receive the lovely greasy scrapings at the bottom of either the tin or the baking dish because . . . because . . . um. Because.  But even the hellhounds may open one eye for salmon scrapings.  That’s ‘may’.

+++ All right, her head is not outdoors on a stake. But it was a near thing. She doesn’t get it about the bowl, but she gets it that she is not my favourite person at the minute and is therefore sleeping Very Determinedly at my feet and next to the Aga in spite of the weather.  The hellhounds are at the far end of the kitchen somewhat sheltered from the Aga by the desk-island, and with a nice cool breeze coming through the cracked-open front door.

^^^^ Yes I eat nuts. I eat lots of nuts.


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