Hey guys! This is Ruby, we just got back from London this afternoon. London is amazing! There’s so much to see and do! On Wednesday, our first day there, we went to the British museum. It had some really amazing artifacts to see, from all over the world. After that, we decided to have a look at Covent Garden, and we had a delicious tea at a lovely little restaurant called Paul. After that, my dad, sister, and I (being the insane Sweeney Todd fans that we are) had to go take a walk down Fleet Street. It was nothing special, but it was cool to be there anyway. After that, we had dinner at a total tourist-trap restaurant. Thursday was REALLY busy. First thing, we went to Buckingham palace and saw the Queen’s Gallery. It had amazing paintings and incredible jewels. Next, we travelled next door and visited the Royal Mews. The carriage horses were huge, beautiful Greys* and Cleveland Bays, and the carriages were incredible. Next we walked to Westminster Abbey which was AMAZING. The architecture was incredibly detailed and beautiful, and it was filled with the tombs of past Kings and Queens and other important people. It included the tombs of Elizabeth I, Henry VII, Edward I, and Oliver Cromwell. All people I have learned about in school, and was very pleased to be able to see where they were buried. After Westminster Abbey, my mom went to the Tate Modern, and my dad, sister, and I went on the London Eye. It was SO COOL! The weather on that day was really off and on, raining, pouring, and then turning sunny and beautiful. Luckily, when we went on the Eye, it was beautiful and there was almost no wait at all. The view was amazing, though it was a little scary to look up, because the fluffy clouds floating by made it look like the wheel was tipping over. Then we went to tea at an adorable little tea room called Shipps Tea Rooms. Then we went to a delightful production of The Importance of being Earnest. It was proper British theatre, with funny actors and beautiful sets. The actors really were great. They really captured the essence of their characters magnificently, (and Algernon was really cute!)**. The actor that played Jack was in the recent movie of La Vie En Rose. This morning we went to the Tower of London which was really cool to see, after learning so much about the Tudors in school. Just a few hours ago, we had a very exciting (and painful) experience. Robin, my mom, and I took Chaos and Darkness out for a nice little walk. In the very beginning of the walk, we went through a field of big fluffy sheep and their adorable little lambs. One of the lambs came right up and let us touch him, which rarely happens. All the lambs were bleating at us the whole time. After we passed through the field, we came to another field with a cute white pony in it. We started to pass through the field, and I held out my hand to the pony. He came right up and let me pat his neck. However, I think he must have been hungry or missing someone, because he was very cranky and promptly rushed ahead and began kicking at me. Unfortunately, one of his kicks connected with my leg. The pony wasn’t actually trying to hurt me, so he didn’t put any effort into his kick, but it was very painful nonetheless.*** We went back to the Third House and I rested my leg for the rest of the afternoon. I’m going to have a really nasty bruise. We just had a lovely dinner at the Mews, and are soon going back to the Third House.
*Footnote from Robin, who is a meddlesome old cow: does anyone know if ‘Windsor grey’ is anything remotely resembling a breed? Or is it only an honorary title for grey horses that hang out around the Queen and Buckingham Palace? Which are presumably at least a type?
** Does this mean that the search for cute British guys has finally been successful? Inquiring minds want to know.
*** And I’m sure Hannah’s life passed before her eyes when she heard Ruby cry out and turned around and saw the pony irritably moving away and Ruby all bent over and holding on to her leg. Mine certainly did–I saw it happen. I’d seen the pony’s hindquarters bounce and his legs strike out, but in that split second when It All Goes Pear Shaped I thought–well, I thought two things. I thought, crikey, you shouldn’t have a kicking pony in a field that a footpath runs through, and I thought, but he’s just warning her off, he won’t have connected. Yes, it’s all my fault because I’m both the native guide and the old hand with horses, and I’d seen this one pacing–my guess is his field mate or mates was or were off being ridden, leaving him by himself–and I know Ruby is horse mad, and she’d even asked if she could say hello. I did say be careful, you shouldn’t mess with other people’s animals . . . but I’d also watched her go up to him and seen him prick his ears and let her pat him. At which point I was distracted by Darkness somehow climbing out of his harness, which has never happened before, and while I was grasping frantically at various escaping hellhound limbs I saw the pony move away, Ruby follow, the hindquarters bounce and . . . I suppose I was also thinking that she’d recognise warning signs; she’s been horse-mad several years now, went to residential horse camp last summer and so on and one of the absolute bottom pragmatic lines with horses is that you don’t let yourself be in a position to be kicked ESPECIALLY with a horse you don’t know. . . . But she’s also only twelve, and I’m fifty-five. Ruby’s Memorable First Visit to England. She’ll sure want to come back now.
And remember I’ve told you that while I have a homeopathic first-aid kit in my knapsack, I carry arnica in my pocket? I don’t carry my knapsack on walks but I fished the emergency bottle out of my pocket and gave it to Hannah to start doling out to Ruby while the bewildered hellhounds and I sprinted back for the car. Allow me to put a good word for my hellhounds here. Their afternoon walk was a little on the late side (they remarked) so they came boiling out of the car–we’d driven back out into the country, you will recall, for lambs and bluebells–and the first thing that happened is that I had them cranked in on a no-inches lead for walking through the lamb field. The next field was the pony field . . . and then we quick-marched back to the car and bundled them back in it . . . and I drove a weeping Ruby and a rather pale Hannah back to Third House, where they were going to peel poor Ruby out of her jeans and see what the bruise actually looked like. I went off finally to have another attempt at hellhound walking, and while said hellhounds were obviously hoping something dog oriented was going to happen soon they were perfectly well behaved about it . . . allowing a certain slack for twenty-month-old hellhound ideas of ‘well behaved’. When I got back Hannah had rung their doctor in Manhattan who’d cross-examined Hannah and decided Ruby did not need to go to A&E [accident and emergency: where I did not get my hand x rayed seven months ago and where Peter did get his hand stitched up two months ago] and the arnica was having its effect.
I’d already said I was letting them off bell ringing–sacred home tower bell practise tonight and Cormac was supposed to come take photos, but in fact Cormac–and his camera–and Becki gallantly came along. And Cormac did take pictures, and we’re going to try to load them onto my computer tomorrow so brace yourselves. Hellhound photography is scheduled for tomorrow afternoon, and it’s supposed to be a beautiful day, so supposing Cormac gets his eye in photographing 30 mph dogs–they have a terrier–we should, by tomorrow evening, also have hellhound action photos and maybe a little video. And then I may sit here and torment you for a while . . . or I may just bail on the bell ringing ones. Cormac did tell me, delicately, that he understood that I had to focus when I ring, but that I should perhaps try to look a little less grim. Snork. So then he took some photos of me trying to smile and look like I’m having a good time, which will probably turn out even worse.
But here’s my news:
I RANG A PLAIN COURSE OF STEDMAN TRIPLES
I mean, you know, successfully. I think I’ve only ever rung this at all twice before, and the first time was a complete disaster and the second time we did make it through to the end, but that’s only because Edward was shouting at me every stroke. Sigh. And he just sprang it on me tonight–I barely had time to have a fast glance at the line [pattern] again–and I had Cormac and Becki there flipping watching me, not that they have a clue or anything but they’re there. And I did it! I did it!!!!!! I didn’t have a minder and Edward only yelled at me once!
Which doesn’t mean I’ll ever do it again, or at least not for another six months. Still.
And I hope Ruby gets some sleep tonight. . . .
. . . and I don’t even know what I’m going to write, let alone have it written. The problem with, you know, visitors, is that it seems like kind of a waste not to hang around chatting with them a bit. I also had the Computer Man here for another couple of hours this afternoon . . . and took our visitors to bell ringing practise tonight: Peter’s son and his two children, including the 11-year-old responsible for last night’s joke.*
Peter’s granddaughter–let’s call her Swanhilde–rings at home. I’d like to take some credit/blame for this but her mum rings. I think I get to claim meddling however. I think I dragged Swanhilde off to ringing before her mum had started again, and I think it was Swanhilde who got them both going. Her dad and bro came along tonight too, but didn’t last long**, and then there were only six of us for six bells, including Swanhilde. At which point our ringing master, whom we will call Wild Robert***, got the well-known mad gleam in his eye, and spent the rest of the evening teaching poor Swanhilde to ring treble to Grandsire.† This is a bit like teaching me Stedman when I was still wobbly on plain bob doubles: insane: the poor girl only rings call changes, she hasn’t even learnt plain hunt. Well, I ring Stedman, even though I shouldn’t, and Swanhilde was starting to ring Grandsire under her own recognisance by the end of practise, and we left smiling. I hope she is going to go home–as she announced she was planning to–and tell everyone that she rang Grandsire in Hampshire. And is not going to burst into tears later (Peter’s grandchildren are all rather diabolically polite and she certainly wouldn’t do this in public) and beg her dad not to leave her alone with me again. If I’m allowed to brag about my step granddaughter, by the way, she did brilliantly.
But here’s my news. After everybody else had gone to bed, Peter’s son and I were left discussing the fate of the world and in a lull in the conversation he basically dared me to play the piano. You remember I’m the one who can’t even play for Oisin, because I’m too paralysed with stage fright? Well, it was late at night, and I’d had a glass of wine and I was still exhilarated from watching Swanhilde take†† a giant leap forward in her understanding of ringing†††, and there’s also a kind of resentful sense that this is my piano and I get to play her whether there are other people‡ around or not. So I did. I didn’t do it very well, gods know, nor for very long–but it was late at night, etc–and I did play. Golly, after that, what’s left in the personal challenge box?
Well, current photos on this blog, for example.‡‡ Which prompts me to say, first, that Blogmom has reproved me for howling about New Blog Woes; of course there are going to be a few woes, so? Indeed. I apologise. It’s the One More Thing aspect as much as the woes themselves–I’ve been putting off making the switch to the New Blog knowing there would be a steep learning curve waiting as well as a few glitches, and it’s not like I’m surprised. Also . . . bell ringing and piano playing apart . . . I don’t generally like being forced to spend time learning to do stuff I’m really bad at and anything to do with computers comes in this category. Also I’m still finding my way around my new desktop and have I mentioned that I also have a new laptop because the ancient crumbling one at the mews has been threatening to finish the metamorphosis to garden compost overnight some day soon? This has not been without its alarums and excursions either since the first one they tried to sell me scared me to death and fortunately they let me exchange it for something a little more modest. But it’s like I’ve been set up recently to notice how hopeless I am AND FURTHERMORE I CAN’T RUN MY NEW BLOG. But even before Blogmom’s suggestion that I put a sock in it I wanted to say that one important functional corner has been turned in that last night I went galloping through the comments in just the way that is the chief reason for leaving lj, so hurrah.
. . . And now it’s nearly one o’clock and I have to go to bed. I’m taking myself to a homeopath tomorrow morning because my stress level is off the planet and I don’t like the way the ME keeps coming back . . . which means I have to get up early enough to walk hellhounds before I go.
And because there aren’t enough laughs in this entry, let me offer you two links to supply this deficiency:
Generally I don’t like putting stuff on your mutt, but this makes me hysterical with laughter:
And this is maybe the most amazing action photo I’ve ever seen, although I’d kind of like to know they both survived:
*Peter’s daughter in law has an office job that doesn’t necessarily run parallel with school breaks so she’s at home missing the fun [sic].
** Boys are such wimps. Heh heh heh.
*** All you Diana Wynne Jones fans out there: yes
† Note that Wild Robert doesn’t really believe in breaks. If there’s six of you for six bells, you simply ring for an hour and a half. You can sit down after you go home. One of us tonight has begun to feel her age a bit and so she did sit down . . . whereupon Wild Robert merely rang two bells. Swanhilde said she would also go home and tell everyone that in Hampshire one person rings two bells at a time. Remind me if I ever go to her home tower with her not to mention I’m from Hampshire.
†† Being yanked still counts. As I say, I ring Stedman. Wild Robert may be a trifle unorthodox, but he’s definitely a Force for Good in the ringing community.
††† Swanhilde also takes piano lessons. And writes poetry. But she’s also good at maths. Okay, I’m sorry, but this is too much. Death by being nibbled by tribbles or exile to Betelgeuse. Choose.
‡ Ie with ears
‡‡ And permit me to remind all of you–perhaps a trifle dolefully–who have posted complimentarily about Peter’s and my wedding photo, that’s seventeen years ago. Peter’s hair is white and I’m a hag. I’m just warning you.
I’m so tired my head keeps trying to detach itself from my neck and float gently away . . . possibly to the nearest pillow. Nope, we’re closed, says my brain. I’m staring at the computer screen and trying to remember what a ‘complete sentence’ is, and further—although this is pushing it—how to create one. I am reminded for some reason of Calvin*’s Stupendous Man: S for Stupendous! T for Tiger, ferocity of! U for Underwear, red! P for Power, incredible! E for Excellent physique! N for . . . um . . . something . . . hm, well I’ll come back to that . . . D for Determination! U for . . . wait, how do you spell this? Is it ‘I’??
Yep. I’m there. I’m so tired I bailed on bell practise tonight: this is the once a month practise at the next village over, where hearing the bells going again was going to rouse some local talent. Over a year after the monthly practises began, as supported by people like Niall and yours truly, we have exactly as many locals as we did when we started up: one. The nice lady who has the key, and lets us in. I go unless I’m dead, but the district practise was being held there tonight—there’s a district practise once a month, each at a different tower, and the idea is that it’ll both pull a few really good ringers, so the local band can try stuff it usually can’t, and it’s also a good excuse for the hoi polloi to visit a strange tower under cover of numbers—and I drove over hoping that the place would be heaving, so I could turn tail and crawl home. It was not only heaving, but included two of the really good Scariest Ringers** we have, and I would so not be missed.
I wanted to link you to the Guardian’s terrific photo, a few days ago, of the Whitechapel bell foundry but I can’t find it on line. I’ve just done one of my rapidly-becoming-notorious-time-engulfing-searches . . . you’d think I’d be getting better at it . . . and I can’t find it. Anyone cleverer than me—the Guardian [newspaper] has a photo series called Eyewitness. It has some amazing images. This is one of them. I suppose it could be a copyright issue, but why isn’t there a little listing, for the pathetically obstinate, saying, we can’t run this photo for copyright reasons so stop wasting your time looking?
But here are a few others. Forgive me for the school-project one but I thought it was kind of interesting, and a pretty good summary of the basics. I’ve probably learnt most of my English history out of cramming texts for taking O-levels and A-levels*** for example. Very useful if you like reading obscure biographies and/or folk histories that are so recondite that their authors assume you already know the bigger picture or you wouldn’t know to want to be crouched over here in a corner with their book and your magnifying glass.†
Now about those cats in boxes. There were a lot of reactions to my outburst about the Schrodinger increased sample size:
They’re cats. Cats sit in boxes. It’s not a case of getting them to do it; usually it’s the other thing, pleading with them not to. I have been sorting out my tax receipts. Six boxes, all lined up. The fun two cats can have, bouncing from box to box, curling up on piles of receipts, digging madly to send all the receipts into all the other boxes…
Easy. Put the boxes on the floor, put something snuggly in them, and then firmly tell the cats to stay out of those boxes. My cats regularly cram themselves into cardboard boxes far smaller than their actual bodies, so they look like little furry muffins poofing out at the top.
The Schrodinger picture actually originally appeared on Cute Overload. You can see the entry here:
And someone yelled, Shrodinger! And ran for his/her camera. Ahhhhh. Of course. Duh. I’d assumed that someone had this bright idea first, and set it up to photograph. Not that they’d seized a brilliant opportunity. Thus we see demonstrated that even fantasy authors get all dull and literal-minded at the wrong moments.
*Please don’t destroy my illusions^ of an elite, literate community by telling me that someone out there doesn’t know Calvin and Hobbes.
^ I just typed ‘elusions’. Hmmmm.
** These are the nice variety of Scary Ringer however as opposed to the pigbutt variety. Or I might have felt compelled to stay and demonstrate solidarity.
*** Which are or were national tests you took over here sometime between 14 and 16 years old on specific subjects. How many of ’em you pass counts in stuff like university applications. They’re also just nonsense snob stuff, unfortunately, as tests so often are. If you get a lot of them then you’re a Better Person. Bite me.
† A situation perhaps not wholly unlike writing piano music when you can barely play with both hands at the same time.