May 26, 2012



IT IS TOO HOT.*  I didn’t sleep particularly well last night and I woke up when Pooka chirruped at me in that ‘text message incoming’ way, which I will sleep through—if I’m asleep.**  It was a friend telling me that I’d just been mentioned on Radio Four as an author who had used a hedge as something fairies come through.  The things Radio Four thinks of to create programmes around.***  Also, THE DOOR IN THE HEDGE is thirty years old—and sold about thirty copies.  However.  Whoever that person with a deep and surprising interest in obscure fantasy literature is, thank you. 

            Meanwhile, it’s too hot.  We were promised a Cooling Breeze and what we’ve got is a sirocco.  It ripped out the velcroed-on piece of screen in my bedroom window and threw geranium petals gleefully all over the upstairs.†  I daresay I should be grateful it wasn’t the geraniums themselves.  But everything I laboriously watered this morning wants watering again because hot dry violent winds are . . . violently drying.  Various long whippy green things needed tying up NOW before they beat themselves to death and I have a novel to finish in between the handbells and the singing for Oisin.  At the end of the singing for Oisin he said mildly, I think it’s time for Phase Two.  PHASE TWO?  WHAT DOES HE MEAN, PHASE TWO?  Seeing me starting to panic, he hurried on:  you need to face me instead of facing away. 

            Ugh.  Unfortunately he’s got me on this one.  I face away so I’m not flapdoodling overwhelmed both by the fact that he’s the real thing and I’m not and because the piano is so much LOUDER than I am.  I’ve got louder, and while a Steinway baby grand is still a whole lot louder, he doesn’t pound the freller, you know?  But the crucial thing is that I keep going on in my weedy way about making music with.  Making music, if you’re a soloist by neither ability nor personality, is about doing it with someone else.  In a choir there’s a lot of you.  But when it’s a singer and an ‘accompanist’, the accompanist counts, you know?  And of the stuff I sing with/for Oisin, one of my big favourites, and I want to work on it more when I’ve got more to work with,†† is Britten’s arrangement of The Ash Grove, because the accompaniment is so perverse.†††  And . . . I just like doing it with.  Even when I come in wrong.  As I often do.

            Okay.  Face him.  I can do this.  I can.‡ 

* * *

* And I have a non-eating hellhound.  Arrrrrrgh.  Although I think in this case it has more to do with the ingestion of cat crap than it does with undesirably elevated temperature.  This is why I frelling hate cats.  I keep trying to tell myself it’s not the cats, it’s their owners—and the frickfracking law that allows people to dump their cats outdoors and let ’em fend however they like.^  And while, yes, most dogs have disgusting habits and the fact that my hellhounds think cat crap is a delicacy is also not the cats’ fault . . . but I don’t want cat crap ALL OVER MY GARDEN.  Which is where I have it, at Third House.  And so far as I can tell, they have crap rivalries where every neighbourhood cat strains to outdo all the others.  The chosen arena is, as it has ever been, Third House.   When we went up there this evening about six cats leaped for the fence as hellhounds and I came through the gate—the frelling fence trembled.  ARRRRRRGH.^^

            Meanwhile, back on the cottage cul de sac, the hellcat has started targeting me.  When I’m out front, fussing with my pots^^^, he sits in his driveway, stares at me, and howls.  His people are home!  I am not necessary to happiness (and food)!  

^ If I had a two-pound coin for every person who’s told me complacently that they don’t even have a litter box because that’s what outdoors is for, I could buy the Isle of Wight.  

^^ Some forum person said that while if she had to choose, she’d choose cats, but she considers herself a critter person—sure.  Me too.  And, I suspect, most people who come out for any critter at all.  I think it’s that first yes/no that’s the most important—yes I want domestic fauna, yes I want something else in the house that breathes besides my human family+, if any, or no, I don’t.  I come down on the dog side, obviously, but I’m anti-cat because they are effectively vermin in this area.  I’ve told you, haven’t I, that the black cat that used to live on the corner of the cul de sac used to run under Wolfgang’s wheels, as we came home at mmph o’clock in the morning, so often than I had an actual plan for what I was going to do when I ran over it?  ARRRRGH.  Fortunately it moved house with its people—but a few weeks ago, coming home at mmph o’clock, a frelling black cat ran under Wolfgang’s wheels at the other end of town, which is where our nemesis moved, and I thought I KNOW YOU.++ 

+ This does of course also include plant life, even if they’re quieter about it.# 

# Someone tweeted me today that she’d love to have a dog but her significant other says that fish are less messy.  Hmmm.  Okay, you don’t have to sweep every day, but I’d rather sweep every day than clean out a fish tank ever.  It’s not just the enormous faff—and the way filters seem to exist to clog up or misbehave in some manner that involves gallons of water all over the floor and/or hidden invidious leaks that suddenly make the ceiling fall in downstairs—it’s the enigmatic quality of fish.  Other mammals are hard enough to read.  Dogs may wag their tails when they’re happy.  Cats may purr.  Fish?  The clue that a fish is happy is that it’s not dead.  

++ The other end of town is closer to the vet.  But the middle of the night emergency calls may happen pretty much anywhere in Hampshire depending on who’s on duty.  

^^^ And on the subject of the ‘I don’t live here and therefore these people and these people’s property don’t count’ tourist, one of my favourite examples of this behaviour was the day I heard loud voices under my sitting room window and saw one of my rose-bushes lashing back and forth as if it were in the grip of a sirocco, and when I went outdoors to see what the frell was going on . . . discovered some d—— yanking at the bottom of it.  There was an extremely anxious-looking woman with the d——.  I don’t think I managed to say, What the hell do you think you are doing?:  the d—— volunteered brightly, Oh, I’m just taking a cutting.  YOU F—— WHAT? I said.+ 

            He was offended.  He didn’t like my language.  )]#(*&^%£$”!”!!!!!  It’s not just cats, you know.  I hate people worse.  

+ Even aside from questions of courtesy, this is illegal.  Most modern roses—although I admit in this case it was not a modern rose, but I doubt this bloke had said to himself or his anxious companion, oh this is an old rose so it’s okay!—have what is effectively copyright on them.  I can grow the one I bought, but I can’t clone it and give it away.  And he’s stealing.  

** Yes, I sleep with my technology.  But remember Pooka is the phone number for the emergency button Peter wears around his neck.  

*** Although Oliver Rackham’s HISTORY OF THE COUNTRYSIDE is a fabulous book, and has a lot of hedges and hedgerows in it. 

† And speaking of undesirable indoor behaviour, and in answer to a number of people’s inquiries, I have no idea how my bats are doing.  I haven’t seen or heard a whisker of them this year.  And while every night I go back to the cottage and there aren’t any small furry frightened exhausted things with wings smashing themselves into the corners^ is a good night, still, I’d like to know they’re all right.^^  I haven’t made a dedicated effort to be, not merely in the garden, but paying attention to the significant corner of the eaves, some twilight, but when they’re in force you don’t have to be paying attention, and I haven’t seen them ducking and diving around either.  Maybe they’re just late—because of the funny weather.  I had them in April last year, which was early.  They’re supposed to reoccupy their nurseries in May. 

^ Or unfrightened, unexhausted things swooping around my chandelier. 

^^ Speaking of being a critter person. 

†† . . . I live in hope.  I will run to the end of Nadia’s miracles sooner or later, but I hope it’s later. 

††† Mind you, Oisin can provide perverse.  When my voice is in a funny mood, which it is in this heat, we often start with a simple, unBrittened folk song.  Oisin looks at the accompaniment that even I can almost play, and launches into the ad lib Stockhausen version. 


            Chaos threw up the extremely unlovely contents of his stomach and then . . . ate his dinner.

            That fish tank is suddenly looking pretty good.


Roses. And Singing.


I would be very grateful if the dranglefabbing weather gods would (a) STOP SENDING US HARD FRELLING FROSTS and (b) stop ONLY giving us good gardening weather on days I’m rushing around doing other things.  Like today.  Yesterday was a damp grey unfriendly day that felt colder than it was—but I was out there in the afternoon anyway, planting, ahem, roses*, and looking around nervously for places to put the friends of the one, single, solitary climber I ordered yesterday.  There was an evil little wind and just enough rain falling at unpredictable intervals to make you wet if you were out in it** but nothing like enough to do the landscape any good.***

            Roses are, at least, hardy†.  But we’ve had below freezing temperatures the last two nights—and I had started planting gladiolas.  Which are not hardy.  But they’re all (I think) up against house walls so they should be okay.  Arrrrgh.  I’ve got dahlias and begonias and chocolate cosmos all lined up waiting eagerly to go outside.  The ones already in pots I am now schlepping back indoors again at night—and meanwhile Hannah is coming this weekend which means the Winter Table has to come down†† whether I’m ready to lose it or not, because we want to be able to get the dropped leaf on the proper kitchen table up so that two of us can sit at it at the same time.†††  Tea in the sitting-room is fine.  Breakfast, not so much. 

            Today was a glorious day.  It was still cold when I got up so I pottered‡ around drinking tea before I ferried the chocolate cosmos, the dahlias, the begonias, the kalanchoes‡‡ and the geraniums back outdoors again.  Then hellhounds and I had a magnificent hurtle . . . and then there was the usual mad Monday scramble of trying to get some work done and some lunch eaten and some warm-up singing accomplished before my voice lesson. . . . I planted one pansy in the brief gap between taking hellhounds back to the cottage for the dog minder to pick them up for their weekly adventure and leaving for my rendezvous with Nadia.

            I went in there still brooding about how to think about the performance issue, because while from my perspective an awful lot of where music comes from is where writing comes from, stories don’t need to be performed.  The book goes into the reader’s hands and the reader reads it.  Yaay.  Simple.  Music has to be performed, and this usually involves human input in some particular.  I’m a professional writer, and I think the genre/literature, grown-up/kiddie face-off is bogus, so I don’t worry much about what rung of the great ladder of immortality I’m on.‡‡‡  But to me there’s this vast chasm between what for want of better terms we’ll call amateur and professional—not that there aren’t great amateurs and calamitous professionals—and I am nowhere on the great ladder of musical immortality.  Why shouldn’t I not be able to face performing my pathetic little attempts at singing right after Oisin’s been playing an organ sonata that feels like something I should have been listening to and being evolved into a higher form of life by for the last fifty years?  That’s my music, that sonata.  Mine.  My singing, however, is the dandelion at the foot of the giant sequoia.   The lopsided dandelion.

            Nadia gets this patient expression on her face when I go in with stuff like this.§  And the thing that’s really embarrassing is that she instantly dropped me in the teacher place.  She knows that I’ve taught creative writing a bit—not a lot;  little enough that I can forget when it suits me—and never more than a short seminar.  I doubt that I’d be anyone’s Nadia§§ over the long term.  But I do know a few things about being a teacher:  that you cut your student slack for being there and wanting to learn stuff.§§§  That you’re glad to see them there wanting to learn stuff.  That you give them huge credit for trying.  That you look for the good stuff, so you can say, here, this is good, work from here, expand here,# think about what you were doing here, try to find that space again.  You don’t say, you are crap, you don’t know it all yet and you are therefore a lesser mortal, you don’t say, you aren’t good enough.  She said, how would you feel, if you were a teacher, and one of your students came in one day and had a cup of tea and a chat and as she was leaving mentioned that she’d brought a story—but she wasn’t going to let you see it?  Would you be cross?## 

            Oh.  Yeah. 

            Nadia said, You know, Robin, it’s not lack of talent that’s holding you back at the moment.  It’s lack of confidence.


             I sang . . . not too badly.  I’m kind of getting somewhere with the emotional expressiveness thing.  Kind of.  And even I can tell that the quality of the noise I’m making has improved.###  That positive feedback loop that Nadia talks about is definitely there, and getting stronger, which means that practise at home is less frustrating and more fun.

            But . . . well. . . .    

* * *

* I seem to have a few left over from last year.  Ah.  Hmm.  The old I’ll-put-you-here-and-deal-with-you-later flimflam referred to yesterday.  I had a lot more excuse for not getting around to and/or forgetting things when I had two acres and hundreds of roses.  Now my only resort is blaming Menopause Brain.  This year my negligence included the discovery of three roses heeled in in Peter’s garden.  Oops.  

** And to annoy hellhounds, if they were out in it with you 

*** And, speaking of the things that the gods could do IF THEY’D STOP PLAYING POKER AND ATTEND TO BUSINESS: please let those odd little scritchy, flappy noises not be even-earlier-this-year-returning thirsty bats seeking redress from drought.  Atlas is coming tomorrow to look for any holes he might have missed last year.^  And I’d maybe better fire up the extra-large plant saucers I had dotted about the place for any livestock that wants a drink.  More sodblasted things to WATER.  

^ And yes, I have ordered the mosquito netting to drape over my bed.  Just in case.  Except that it isn’t mosquito netting.  It’s the stuff you put over your strawberries to keep the birds off.  I don’t think the bats will care.  It’s the right size, the right mesh, the right price, and it’s sold by a genuine gardening site.  Mosquito netting doesn’t seem to bring out the better class of vendor, although I admit I’m a bit fascinated by the sheik-of-Araby romantic fantasy approach. 

† Even if I agree with Diane in MN that my eyes got a little wide at what Antique Rose Emporium was offering as ‘extra hardy’.  I’m at the wrong house but I’ll have a stroll through my rose book shelves some day soon.  If I didn’t divest myself of them when we moved out of the old house^ I have at least two about rose-gardening in major-bloody-winter areas.  

^ Yes I even got rid of some ROSE books 

†† That which stands over the hellhound crate during the winter, with a green plastic garden sheet over it, to give me somewhere to put the indoor jungle.  When winter gets serious, Atlas and I haul most of it up to the green/summerhouse/shed-with-a-grow-light at Third House.  But winter never really got serious this year, until about a month ago, so there’s been a lot of bringing-stuff-indoors-at-night, taking-it-out-again-next-morning, and swearing,^ the last few weeks. 

^ Gently.  So as not to damage my throat. 

††† I do keep telling you the living space at the cottage is small.  

‡ I should be doing housework.  Fortunately Hannah is not easily shocked.  And she’s known me for over thirty years.^

^ Bats may be a bridge too far.  But we don’t have bats.+

+ Yet.

‡‡  I didn’t discover these till a year or two ago.  But they’re wildly tender. 

‡‡‡ This is aside from Never Writing the Story as Well as the Story Deserves, but I’m not getting into that tonight or none of us will get any sleep. 

§ Have I mentioned (recently) that Nadia isn’t thirty yet?  Gods.  I’m being mentored by a child.  


§§§ I am very very very bad at students who are wasting my time because they don’t want to learn stuff. 

# Not necessarily literally.  Contrary to popular McKinley belief, some short stories should stay short.  

## Might it even hurt your feelings? 

### I’m not ready for the Travelling Tiddybumps Opera Troupe^ tryouts yet however. 

^ Home made brownies at intermission.  It’s why anyone comes.  Not for the singing.

Christmas Eve Eve


I’m not READY.  Hells, I’m not started.  I REALLY must get the Christmas decorations out of the attic at Third House . . . tomorrow.  Must.  Really.  Our nice little plastic tree has one rather serious disadvantage, which is that it’s a ratbag to put together* . . . and after Peter retires snarling** I will have to slam all the ornaments on at extreme speed.***  I ALSO HAVE TO WRAP ALL THE PRESENTS.  Well, all of Peter’s presents.  I withdraw further and further from the whole Christmas thing every year—the official clan and/or people I don’t know very well and/or owe favours to tend to get plants by post† and charity certificates of one sort or another.††  Peter still gets presents.†††  Which means WRAPPING.‡

            I have a novel to write.  In five weeks.‡‡

             . . . .I’m listening to Handel’s MESSIAH on Radio 3.  A while back, and I can’t remember which singing thread, there was a certain amount of giggling on the forum about how doing it yourself makes you more critical of other singers, and I meant to say, but I think I never did, that it also makes you more in awe of other singers.  How do they do that.  Wow.  Golly.  Swoon.  Adore.  Despair. †††  What I do find absolutely true however is that doing it myself, however feebly, engages me in other people’s performances to a degree that is sometimes frelling inconvenient.  It’s beginning to remind me of what a cow I can be about other people’s books—I don’t care if it won the Pulitzer, it’s not good enoughwhich is marginally more understandable in my professional field.  It’s just shameless when I start getting snippy-pernickety about singers.  But . . . this is a very nice MESSIAH, but where is the passion?  ‘He Was Despised’ shouldn’t be beautiful, it should make you cry.§  

* * *

* Peter does this.  But I’m not giving him much running-in time.  

** This is approximately the only time all year that I see Peter snarl. 

*** Fortunately there are rarely speed traps in Peter’s sitting room. 

† Which I’m extremely relieved to report seem mostly to have arrived with a loud simultaneous thump today.  This includes mine.^  One of which is clearly frost damaged and since there hasn’t been any local frost in several days^^ has to have happened en route somewhere.  SIIIIIGH.  The fact that any recipient of a little frill of festively decorated twigs that looks more like a voodoo fetish than a live plant will know that it’s not my fault is very little comfort.  

^ Since they have this system for the orderer to order something for herself by ticking ‘myself’ during check-out, you’d think they could follow this through so that ‘myself’ doesn’t receive a card that says, ‘look inside for a message from the person who gave you this gift!’ and in my case says ‘Happy Christmas, Mrs McKinley Dickinson!’ which begs the question slightly about ‘to’ and ‘from’.  ^^^ 

^^ Except the imaginary kind that gives the indoor jungle something to complain about the nights I don’t bring it in.  At the moment I can’t bring it in, the top of the hellhound crate is covered with not-yet-wrapped Christmas presents.  One them is kind of . . . large.  No frost tonight.  NO FROST TONIGHT.  ARE YOU LISTENING?  —It was tipping it down earlier, creating a bottleneck of wet, cranky, last-minute-shopping people midtown even of little New Arcadia.  Hellhounds and I sat in Wolfgang, listening to the rain drumming on the roof and feeling smug, having returned from our hurtle about forty-five seconds before the heavens opened.+  I am now paying for this complacency, as the frelling weather has cleared off and the temperature is dropping . . . and dropping . . . ++ 

+ I spent that forty-five seconds chatting to Phineas, who encouraged me to let the air out of the tyres of Mr Gormless, should I be so unfortunate as to have contact with his misdeeds again, and whom Phineas apostrophises as not the full shilling.  

++ Speaking of plants, Katinseattle wanted to know about this one from Gemma’s gift:  

^^^ There’s a Schrodinger’s cat opportunity here, although in this instance the cat is permitted to be alive in both its states. 

†† I give driblets and drablets all over the shop including the obvious big guns like Amnesty, Greenpeace, Medecins sans Frontieres, National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children—insert your forty-six favourite charities here.  But I do like to give slightly cheerful things at Christmas, although I realise this is the wrong attitude for celebrating the birthday of someone who was willing to be crucified in the hope it would do the rest of us some good. 

            Admirable intentions don’t always translate into reliable admin, and there are several Big Holy Green Guys I will no longer touch with a barge pole, but for anyone who’s interested, here are a few UK furry-critter organisations that I’ve been subscribing to successfully for years.

What they offer you varies from year to year, but I’ve put in an awful lot of hedgerows.

Lurchers and sighthoundy critters never seem to need sponsoring, or not for long.  At present I sponsor Hamish.  I admit I have just a flicker of doubt about these guys:  your sponsoree never dies, they’re always placed with a private owner and so don’t need sponsoring any more.  Really?

I’ve been doing this so long and they roll over so fast I can’t remember the name of the current half-grown critter.  But the cuteness factor is extreme.  Not only do you receive regular ‘pupdates’ of your own protégé but they send you stuff like the Guide Dog Puppy Calendar every year which is all little fat furry darlings and is a good thing to stare at while you’re waiting for your first cup of tea of the day to turn black. 

              And I’d belonged to the Bat Conservation Trust for years before I realised I had a problem.  I hadn’t noticed you can now adopt bats.  I, of course, don’t need to.^ 

^ Hee hee hee 

††† So do a variety of friends.  But rarely at Christmas.  Or at their birthdays.  When I get around to it.  Sometimes it takes years.  There’s this box in the corner of my bedroom. . . . 

‡ I suppose the next boundary to withdraw over is wrapping . . . but stuff looks so pretty after it’s been wrapped.^  I’m hyperventilating slightly about Peter’s Very Large Present however.  It’s . . . Very Large. 

^ Aside from questions of blog photos. 

‡‡ Only four people showed up for tower practise tonight YAAAAY.  We hardy few barely waited the obligatory quarter-hour before declaring a bust and all rushed downstairs and out into the night.  The other three may have gone to the pub.  I went home to SHADOWS.  Which is still going well, except for the ‘five weeks’ part. 

‡‡‡ Why don’t I take up knitting?^ 

^ I haven’t ripped out the leg warmers lately.  Because I’m cravenly knitting hellhound squares. 

§ Sung in this case by one of my new heroes, Iestyn Davies.  How embarrassing.  But . . .

Doodle update


Fiona was here today, so the first wodge of auction stuff has finally been shipped out.  Everything takes longer than it’s supposed to.  The wodge that was posted today was much smaller than it should have been, for a variety of reasons, chief among them that I’m trying to write a novel in five months, and two of them are already over.  The irony is that one of the reasons the auction finally went live so late is because I was preoccupied with the final throes of this summer’s PEG II crisis—and then I hurled myself into SHADOWS, needing to believe this was a story and I could write it—and now of course I’m slowly doodling my way through all your lovely bell-supportive orders—while continuing with this madness of trying to finish* SHADOWS by the end of January.**  I was telling Fiona that most days I keep thinking I can maybe extrude one more paragraph, one more sentence, and then I will certainly do a stint of doodling . . . and what happens is that I hammer away on story-in-progress to the point of collapse, pirouette through about three doodles, and fall off my chair.***

Roses for ROSE DAUGHTER. Not all the book + doodles are so . . . um . . . um . . . snork.

Also there was a terrible accident with a cup of hot tea about ten days ago which I will leave to your imaginations because it was far too emotionally scarring for me to describe it in all its graphic horror here.  Then Darkness frightened me half to death† with the projectile geysering, and as a result this week my general energy level has resembled an underachieving pancake or a badger-gnawed doormat.

But EVERYTHING takes longer than it’s supposed to.  I wanted to get the first load of books off today, but the auction is finally forcing me to do something I should have done years ago, which is hire a frelling mail box for a return street address that isn’t where I live and that has business-hours staff who will sign for parcels that require a signature.††  The nearest mail-box-hire is in Zigguraton, which is not ideal, but it could be a lot worse.  I examined the web site carefully, and nowhere does it say that they need a blood sample, a retina scan and £400,053.27 collateral.  So I sent Fiona in to do it for me, while I kept doodling.  Which, when she got back again, is how I found out about the extra requirements. ARRRGH.

Fox. With tail. Tails are IMPORTANT.

Fortunately my bank’s local branch office is a full-service agency so I obtained a blood sample and a retina scan from the clerk, and then I wrote ‘£400,053.27’ on a piece of paper and he stamped it††† with the bank’s seal of authorised fiscal reality‡, and I sent Fiona off again.   About half an hour later I received the critical text on Pooka:  SUCCESS!

Sleeping dragon. You don't want to be downwind.

Meanwhile, however, the day was mostly over.  Fiona has printed off the rest of Blogmom’s batched orders and organised as many of them as I’m likely to get through in the next fortnight, when she comes back again for a Special Auction Put-Through Day, which will include an awful lot of book-packaging, and I will keep doodling.  I want to emphasise here that I enjoy the doodling‡‡—including the excuse to doodle—what is turning my eyeballs red and my hair white is the time.  I don’t like making all of you wait, although I am making you wait, and the complicated stuff—the doodle-icious books, the knitting, the musical composition—is at the bottom of the pile.  I’m sorry.  But I am a disorganised scatterbrained‡‡‡ dipstick at best, and I do need to keep eating. . . .

But look at what Fiona brought me:

Hermione the hellbat

Why do I doubt the original pattern called for PINK?

* * *

* Well, ‘finish.’  No way in any of the eleven hells^ am I going to finish finish.  But I’m hoping to have it to the final-frantic-yanking phase by the end of January.

^ According to Damarian cosmology

** If I’d been in any shape to think, I should have slammed the auction into action (Blogmom did keep asking me when I was going to provide her with x or y so she could get on with building the thing) as early as possible.  But although blaming myself for being a purblind git is one of my favourite leisure-time activities, it’s hard to get around the fact that when you’re in the middle of a book crisis, one of the symptoms of its being a crisis is that you can’t think.

*** I should never attempt to pirouette.

† No, three-quarters

†† Curses! snarl the carrier companies.  We’ll have to think of something else!

††† Sucking on his sore finger

‡ Which is at least as reliable as anything else in the in the global financial market these days

‡‡ Although I reserve the right to laugh hysterically at some of the special requests.  More about these in future blog posts.

‡‡‡ —brain?

Tunefulness, various


It’s already the middle of the night and I’ve barely got down to the mews and addressed my broccoli.*  You see, there were handbells.  I know, handbells are supposed to be Thursday but they break out occasionally.  And what with ME and hellhounds and silly people going on holiday** and therefore failing to turn up for standard Thursday handbells I’ve been feeling Handbell Deprived.***  Tonight was Caitlin’s first time at the cottage:  I think she grinned kind of a lot.  Cozy, she said.  She has a big house and a husband and two sons—six and eight years old, I think.  And two cats.  Well, one of the few things I don’t have all over the floor is model train sets.  But we seem to have rung for rather a long time. . . .

            But it had already been a long day at that point.  Fiona was here.  FIONA, AKA WONDERWOMAN, FOUND MY COLOURED INKS.  YAAAY.  Well, guarded and cautious yaaay:  if you people keep telling me what to draw† I will probably start experimenting with colour again at some point, but given that I need to keep the labour-intensiveness a bit down for the immediate future of, I hope, churning out squiggles by the rmmmphfold, I’m not planning on colouring the Bell Fund doodles††, although evolution by tweaking continues.  A bit like running through too many drafts on a novel.

            Okay, it’s time to confront hellhounds with food again.  Whimper. 

* * * 

* And sausages.  I don’t only eat large scary green vegetables.  I only eat them first.  Does anyone else love The Plate Where All the Different Foods Are Touching Each Other as much as I do?

. . . Why is a copy of a simple little cartoon so expensive?   I don’t need museum quality paper and a cubic-zircona-incrusted mat!  I just want something a little larger than a notecard to hang on a wall!^ 

^ I suppose I might buy the t shirt . . . 

** Don’t you know that holidays are bad for you?  You come home and you’ve forgotten where everything is.  The teapot.  The washing machine.^  The secret stash of Green & Black’s.  I had an email from a bell ringing friend a few days ago, freshly home from counting penguins in Antarctica or some such, who told me in hushed and tragic tones that she had nearly messed up her quarter peal of Double Trapezoidal Fungus Supreme, laid on as a special honour for the visiting Resplendent Panjandrumtate,  because her brain was still counting penguins.  See?  Don’t go on holiday.  It’s not worth it. 

^ Where exactly the spice rack sticks out over the washing machine, crouched under the stairs as it, and therefore you, are, so you can not hit your head on it. 

*** I’m also worrying about making handbells happen sufficiently punctually when I have to get hounds hurtled and myself off to the Muddlehamptons Thursday evenings again.^  Niall is, as we know, obsessive, but both Colin and Gemma seem to think there is life beyond handbells.  Although in Colin’s case life beyond handbells usually means ringing a tower peal somewhere. 

 ^ I’m also starting to borrow trouble heavily about singing for the bishop in Constantinople, which is less than three weeks off.  How do I get myself into these things.  Somebody frelling cancel my email account, stuff keeps coming in.+    

             The big anthem is Vaughan Williams’ Let All the World: ++ which we’re supposed to learn in exactly one rehearsal?  What?  Well, two rehearsals, but the second one is on the day:  we turn up a couple of hours before the bishop does, sing violently, and are then presumably sent off for a cup of re-energizing tea till it’s time to panic and go mute which, in my case, after only two rehearsals, is probably a good thing.+++  

+ Like yarn sales.  

++ RidingWestward wrote:  Am I the only one who has been listening to different versions of Silent Worship on Youtube over and over again since I read the blog post last night? 

No.  And I got a head start, since I was home from my voice lesson by 6 pm.   But I hadn’t realised this was what something so unfelicitiously named was.  Also I was confused by the ‘Handel’ part—I vaguely think of it as something by Thomas Moore or someone like that.  I love this song.  But then, I am a sap.

            Of what seems to be available on YouTube—although the maze that is YouTube keeps throwing them up just when you think you’ve found them all—my favourite is one of the first on the list, by Thomas Allen: 

It would be a baritone.  But I sing stuff from Vaughan Williams’ Songs of Travel and Finzi’s Let Garlands Bring, so hey.  Also, I frelling adore Thomas Allen, so my computer may be doing that weird Big-Brother-is-paying-attention thing of bringing up stuff similar or related to stuff I’ve brought up before—which would include a lot of Thomas Allen.~

            Having a baritone for a singing teacher was one of those defences against falling on my sword, that year with Blondel however.   It’s not that I couldn’t tell that he had a deep dark furry Thomas-Allen-y voice and I . . . did not;  it’s just it was easier to bear when it’s like he is in a whole different category than the one I’m failing to be in at all.  Sigh.  There is no such defence with Nadia. ~~  But I don’t think I’ll fall on my sword just yet.  Possibly after the first rehearsal of Let All the World. 

Joseph-ine wrote:  I often think the lower range below middle C is poorly neglected. I too have that sort of voice, and tend to actually prefer singing tenor, because the belly of my voice sits right smack bang in their range. And also because they have some great songs! In the choir I joined this year, I was an alto . . . an alto is a fun part too . . . Unless you are singing right across the break – mine occurs around B flat, B and has to shift to head voice to get to a C, so I found it particularly difficult to sing all the time across this point. Of course it did get easier. However, I got to sing one of the tenor songs at the concert, and I am thinking I should push harder next time to see if they will let me sing that more often! It was fun! 

Blerg.  Well, you people with solo-quality voices are a whole different tiger.  I’m more of a dormouse.  But I entirely agree that lower women’s voices are weirdly neglected.  What is it, unfeminine or something to sing below middle C?  Is this The Last Great Bastion Feminism Must Address?   I’m curious about where your voice breaks though—I’ve got most of an octave I can fudge from either end, from G below to G above middle C;  I break naturally approximately A (below C) going down and D (above C) going up.  I don’t know if any of you other singers out there want to enter this discussion?  But today while I was out with hellhounds I was singing, pitching stuff down, to make myself sing across that break, since Nadia says the only way you stop sounding like you’ve just thrown a piston rod is by doing it a lot.  I think this is part of that lecture on ‘the voice is a muscle and like every other muscle it needs to be exercised’.  Feh.

            I got a lot of practise at the piano today however waiting for hellhounds to eat.~~~ 

~ Including The Vagabond from Songs of Travel.  I recommend supplementary speakers on this one. 

~~ That she’s a genuine soprano and I’m a contralto pretending is not enough.  

~~~ The score so far:  one hit, one miss.  Diana in MN wrote:  Could be they ate (!) something they found while hurtling and picked up parasites. 

I wormed the little ratbags yesterday.  We live in hope.  Somewhat frayed hope. 

+++ Although Nadia is going to bring most of the music—it’s not just the anthem, mind you, it’s a whole frelling service with bags of frelling singing—next week and drag me through some of it.  Oh, you’ll love the Vaughan Williams, she said.  I already do—it’s the end of the Five Mystical Songs, which I adore—when someone else is singing it.  And then there’s the Durufle, the music of which she says I won’t have any trouble with . . . I’ll have trouble with the LatinAAAAAAAAUGH.   What I’m chiefly hoping is that they’ll put me next to someone who knows what she’s doing.  I can follow like anything.  Especially if I’m mute from panic. 

† Remember:  Always Looking for Blog Material

†† Ajlr wrote:  I particularly like the very cheerful (at least, I think that’s what the smiles are about) expressions on the little bat-faces. Presumably they’re looking like that because each time you draw them it means more money has been raised for the renovations? 


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