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I HAVE A CAR
I. HAVE. A. CAR.
I HAVE A CAR
I! HAVE! A! CAR!
. . . Erm. Wolfgang’s home. It’s been a long nine days.* And, as I write this, it is sheeting out there. I mean, yes, again, but while ground water levels will take months to settle down and there’s still serious water on the road in a few places around here**, we’d not had rain in over a week and I was reduced to watering plant pots yesterday. It rained a little last night, tactfully between the time of the last hurtle and when we had to roll out for the walk*** home, but at the moment we’re back to the End of Days.
Oh yes and Feebledweeb made a third attempt this morning. They will stop now, right?
* * *
* And I’m running out of underwear. Tomorrow I am bringing a lot of dirty laundry to Peter’s about-to-be-very-tired washing machine. I was not looking forward to ferrying dirty or clean but damp laundry back and forth by gigantic knapsack.
Meanwhile I will have a full car going back to the cottage tonight with the nine hundred and eleven apples from this week’s organic grocery delivery yesterday—I get through a lot of apples, and the hellterror is not averse to offering modest assistance—the fifty-six knitting magazines I’m keeping from this month’s haul—I am a knitting magazine junkie, and I read a lot of them on the sofa at the mews—the several additional knapsacks, sweaters, pairs of gloves and socks that have accumulated down here for some reason, and the hundred and twelve books that did not make the Book Rec cut and need to go into the Oxfam Box by the door at the cottage.
** Including one stretch that is incredibly badly semi-marked and on a dark corner, and why no one has taken out the invisible barrier like Grond at the gates of Gondor for simply not being able to see it and possibly for the character flaw of not being local and therefore being unaware of neighbourhood booby traps, I cannot imagine. Fortunately it’s only a little back road—although it’s one of those little back roads that is your only plausible choice from point A to point B—so wild veering into the centre of the road and into the path of oncoming traffic . . . can mostly be accomplished in the absence of oncoming traffic. Even so. I think I tweeted a county headline that the latest guesstimate about repairing Hampshire’s roads after the floods is that the price tag is going to hit £36K. I believe it too: not only are there potholes the size of Zeppelins but a lot of roads are simply narrower than they used to be, aside from invisible barriers protecting deep water, because the shoulders have disintegrated. And what’s left of the road surface is like driving on stucco. I bet tyre- and shocks-manufacturer shareholders are holding champagne parties. I hope the list of urgently-needed mending is comprehensive.
*** Between the frelling thirty-pound knapsack and the fact that there are three of them it is a walk, although the hellterror does a fair amount of hurtling on her own recognizance. Which brings me to a moral dilemma. The hellterror adores the late-night strolls back to the cottage, and is, for her, surprisingly well-mannered.^ The hellhounds slouch along doing passive-aggressive sulking^^ but it’s been a year and a half, guys, get over yourselves. And late at night is the only time it’s worth the risk taking all three out together. I wonder if . . . it’s a pity Wolfgang can’t get himself home and the thirty-pound knapsack, and let the rest of us amble after.
^ I am really really really hoping it’s not all the frelling false pregnancy. Which I keep hoping isn’t happening but—moan—her breasts are slightly swollen, yesterday and today, so it probably is. Only someone who spends a lot of time rubbing her tummy would notice, but I do and I have. She hasn’t started shredding newspapers and hiding under the sofa—she doesn’t really fit under the sofa any more—so maybe she can have the imaginary puppies imaginarily and get on with life?? But it’s been pleasant having an only semi-manic imp of the perverse about the place. I’ve been thinking I need to take her training slightly more seriously . . . no, no, not the walking quietly on heel and the perfect recall: the paw-offering and the playing dead. The useful stuff. The stuff, it must be admitted, that happens on the kitchen floor at the cottage last thing before closing her down for the night and I go upstairs for a nice hot bath and a dropping of reading material in it. This is not, I realise, optimum training timing, but it has two things going for it: (a) it happens at all and (b) I get a good laugh at the end of the day and on bad days this is very welcome.
^^ I am very, very, very tired of sibling rivalry, or whatever the doodah it is. Chaos would rather be friends but Darkness is convinced she’s the antichrist and Chaos, for all his buffoonery and in-your-faceness, when in doubt, defers to Darkness. Night before last Chaos forgot himself so far as to play tug of war with Pav and the stick she was prancing around flourishing. There was much mock-growling and tail-wagging and I was thrilled . . . till Darkness, who had been lagging behind at the very end of his extending lead, suddenly leaped into full sprint and went past me like a cheetah after a gazelle. I realised a third of a second before he bloody well had me over that he wasn’t going to stop, which gave me just enough instinctive time to yell and hit the end of the lead going the other way. You colossal little ratbag. Arrrrrgh.
I love spring.* I never used to but I think that may be because in areas where winters are gruesomely hard, like Maine, spring is kind of disgusting. I keep remembering the smell of March in Maine and the way EVERYTHING needed cleaning, and that was even before it got covered in mud from the snowmelt. It was great that the snow was melting (probably) but sometimes the results seemed like too much trouble.** Some of you Midwesterners may agree/disagree.
We’ve had GENUINE SUNLIGHT the last few days. And I’ve been getting out in the garden.
Little tiny overpotted garden. With verifiable sunlight on the back wall.
Way beyond cute. We must have had it at the old house–it’s common, it grows well around here–but I don’t remember it, or anyway I’m not the one looked after where it grew.*** But my predecessor at the cottage grew a lot of it. I was kind of a scourge to begin with because I didn’t recognise it when it wasn’t in flower, it was mostly growing in inconvenient places, and the foliage dies to nothing later in the season so I’d go to dig up a blank space and discover these tiny little bulby things that had the look of something that maybe ought to be rescued. So eventually I started plonking it in pots. I’ve got at least three different sorts in six or eight little pots, this dark pink, the blue, and a pale pink one . . . which I only just stopped from accidentally obliterating a new little clump of–I think it must regenerate if you leave a scrap in the ground–about a fortnight ago, stuffed it in another pot . . . and, gallant creature, it’s flowering. The bizarre thing is that I took a bunch of it up to Third House a few years ago and it disappeared. Maybe next door’s evil terrier dug it up and ate it.
Primroses are a big favourite with me. I have no idea where this one came from. I was clearing out pots and this one had some clearly primrose leaves growing at one edge so I said, okay, fine, go for it. Cowslips, just by the way, garden primroses’ wild cousins, which are some kind of endangered, are a weed in my garden. Another few weeks I’ll be ankle deep in them.
I love the variety of colour in most hyacinth flowers. That’s not just blue or purple, you know? Speaking of ankle deep, in a week or two I will be knee deep in blooming hyacinths. I keep buying them to force over the winter and then . . . you have these perfectly functional bulbs at the end of your fit of botanical self-indulgence and all they ask is a small corner outdoors and a bit of dirt . . . they’re frost-hardy, they’re tough, and apparently mice would rather eat other things.† And they produce one fat fabulous heavenly smelly flower every spring. Except that this is a very small garden and I’m running out of SPACE. How do you reforce bulbs? I know you can prepare your own by putting them in the fridge for a bit but after having their constitutions screwed up like that, how long do they need in the garden being normal before you can do it again?
I have made reference to my pots-in-pots-in-pots gardening habits. In the back left-hand corner there are at least four levels. And that doesn’t count the fact that there are several pots in levels two and three. The pink plastic bucket by the kitchen door is my compost bucket, although it goes to the town compost maker, not a hot fermenting corner of this garden. As a compost bucket it has no holes in its bottom, so when it rains, it fills up. Found a drowned mouse about a week ago–sorry, but YAAAAAAAAY. Mice are vermin††–just in time to prevent the hellterror from engaging in close acquaintance. She now checks that bucket very very carefully every time I open the door, and if nothing is better on offer she stands by the door and stares at it.
And the little square grey thing in the bottom right-hand corner is my maximum-minimum thermometer. Love. I am not a very comprehensive weather geek but I LOOOOVE having a max/min. They are one of these things that for inexplicable reasons go out of fashion–at just about the time that your last one stops working–and it takes you YEARS to find a replacement. I hope this one lives a long time.
Yesterday three boxes of tubers arrived, two of begonias and one of dahlias. All of these things are frost-tender. I spent a couple of hours in the sunshine yesterday afternoon potting them up–I potted all of them up the day the arrived!!!!!! How utterly fantastic is that–and so of course we had a frost last night. The indoor jungle lives. It would have been so much easier if they’d just still been in three small, tidy cardboard boxes.
And it will probably freeze again tonight. So I’d better get back to the cottage and schlepp a lot of grubby pots indoors again. Feh. Gardening. It’s as mad as critters.
* * *
* Well. When it stops raining I love spring.
** Except for the lilacs. Lilacs are worth it.^
^ Lilacs would GROW. Don’t talk to me about roses, AKA your very expensive annuals if you live in Maine. Lilacs only rioted for a few weeks but by golly they RIOTED. And they required zero care, as I should know, since those were my pre-gardening days, and I took my landscape as a given. I had massive lilac hedges around my little house, but they seemed like just another feature like one bathroom and a long skinny kitchen.
*** Is it a rose? No? Go away and don’t bother me.^
^ Does it grow under roses? No? Go away and don’t bother me. Although in my current garden it perforce grows under roses because there isn’t anywhere else.
† Tulip bulbs, for example. Snarl.
†† They eat tulip bulbs.
Okay, let me get the really embarrassing stuff over with immediately.
I enjoyed it. I had FUN. I am planning on putting myself on the official St Margaret’s rota.*
Whew. That was hard. I enjoyed singing Jesus Is My Boyfriend** music [sic]. In public. How totally humiliating is that.
Sunday, which was sunny and fabulous, passed under my own personal cloud of prospective dread. I did do some singing warm up because I wanted some chance at some voice and I tend to shut down to a tiny rasping squeak like a single lonely cicada when I’m nervous. I didn’t warm up exactly brilliantly.*** And when I crept into St Margaret’s I was not encouraged by the sight of Aloysius ALL BY HIMSELF except for the woman who was going to be running the tech deck helping him lay out the cables. He had said in his email that the names on the rota were a bit thin this week. . . .
Fortunately it wasn’t as bad as that. Samantha appeared deus ex machina, saying that she hadn’t been planning to sing that night but she had realised that I was going to be all alone and she couldn’t do that to a new girl. Eeeeep. Thank you. Eeeeeeeeep. And then Sinead, another rota singer, wandered in and said that she couldn’t do her proper rota day and maybe we could use her tonight? YES. PLEASE. HERE, HAVE A MICROPHONE. Hamish, the church office magician, appeared, spun his spurs and strapped on his six-shooter. Er. Bass. But that was all. No drums. No keyboards. No random woodwinds. No vicar—he’s always there.†
We plunged into practise. I was on the near end with Aloysius just at my right shoulder which is very good because not only does his guitar give me the key I’m scrabbling for but he’s a nice strong tenor and I’d already told him he had to sing the melody. The first couple of songs are a bit of a blur. I was holding the mic as if it was going to morph into something with six heads and forty-seven incisors per as soon as I stopped staring at it like it was going to. The Hammered to Death by Fluffy Bunnies song was substantially less diabolical with the new line-up but we had to go through it several times since I had no clue about what it was supposed to sound like—and of course there was no sheet music. And then Aloysius had to get fancy and bolt a couple of songs together so you slide into the second one without a break and then revert to the previous one for a chorus repeat WHAT ARE YOU TRYING TO DO TO US YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO BE ONE OF THE GOOD GUYS.
I don’t really know what happened except that I think I can hear God laughing. My voice woke up. And the last couple of songs I actually kind of like††—especially the one which is in a reasonable range, so many of the Jesus Is My Boyfriend songs lie on my voice like bricks on custard, it’s like the aural version of trying to wear someone else’s prescription glasses, and neither singing up an octave or down an octave works. But here were two I could sing.
And I did. And furthermore . . . and this is where I know I was taken over by an alien personality . . . I started singing free harmony. I do not sing free harmony. I can learn a harmonic line, given the sheet music and about six months, but I cannot just frelling riff off a melody. Whoever she was, Sunday night, using my voice, I hope she visits often. That was serious fun. At the end Sinead gave me a hug and said, I can tell you like that song!
And then the live performance—I mean the service—was pretty much falling off a log. Problem? There was supposed to be a problem?
There are one or two things to mention here. First, St Margaret’s evening service is small and informal. It’s not like anyone was going to be nasty to me even if I screwed up big time. And I don’t exactly guarantee I was pitch perfect even while the self-confident alien babe was singing. Second, most of the Jesus Is My Boyfriend stuff is dead easy, especially if you’re used to beating your brains and ripping your own throat out singing stuff that is significantly beyond you because you take voice lessons and your voice teacher needs something to do, right?††† It should be easy: people who don’t take voice lessons should be able to sing their church’s worship music.‡ And third . . . I was just telling someone who asked me how I ‘learnt’ to do public speaking . . . I didn’t. After my BEAUTY was published they sent me out on the road and I discovered I could do public speaking. It’s like one of those James Bond things: the car develops waterwings or the knapsack is also a rocketblaster. I CAN DO PUBLIC SPEAKING? WHAT? WHERE DID THAT COME FROM? Aside from little questions like whether I can sing or not, apparently singing in public doesn’t make this agonising doubt any more agonising.
How frelling bizarre. I did think it was at least possible that if I didn’t freeze up, singing for purpose—helping to lead the service—would let me like the floppy, soppy music we sing better, and make it feel more like an offering of worship instead of a mortification, ashes and hair shirts optional. And. Yeah. But I wasn’t expecting the harmony—or the high.
* * *
* Unless someone stops me. Noooooo! She’s too loooooooud! She drowns out the keyboard! —Ugly. Mwahahahahahahaha. —slightlyadaptedhellgoddess^
^ I belong to the Love Wins camp, remember, so if you’re asking me, all reigning in all the various hells—ie the nice somewhat confused ones and the really unpleasant ones—is temporary. Which is fine. I’m sure I’ll be ready for a new challenge when my particular corner of hell disintegrates.+
+ There will be chocolate, champagne and critters in heaven, won’t there?#
# Of course there will. And the roses WILL HAVE NO THORNS.
** ::falls down laughing:: Thank you, dhudson. I love this. I’m also glad that it seems to other people that there’s something CREEEEEEEEPY about a lot of this sticky music: I’ve been describing these songs as frelling power ballads only it’s God instead of your boyfriend/girlfriend/groupoffriendswithprivileges. Dhudson’s phrase cuts to the chase.
Although some of the old gospel hymns, which is what I grew up with and are about the only positive memory I have of church as a kid, aren’t exactly faultless in this area. I’ve always loved In the Garden, and it’s one of those I’ve been singing for fifty-odd years and did not have to relearn the lyrics when I started singing while hurtling as a way to shortening the warm-up when I get back to the piano and the Italian art songs etc^, but it’s always struck me as doctrinally a little dubious:
He walks with me, and he talks with me
And he tells me I am his own
And the joy we share as we tarry there
None other has ever known.
^ Also I’m beginning to enjoy the looks on other pedestrians’ faces when I don’t shut up in time and lyrics like ‘On that bright and cloudless morning when the dead in Christ shall rise’+ register on their unsuspecting ears, which in this modern well-zombied culture may rouse an unfortunate secular response.
+ Which I confess I tend to belt out with all the new Nadia-power within me.
*** I also crack a lot when I’m nervous. How many ways is this going to be a disaster.
† Vicars. They take holidays. Who knew?
†† No, no, not like! Oisin will never speak to me again!
††† HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. And for my latest stupid trick I’m learning Victor Herbert’s I want to be a prima donna—aka Art Is Calling to Me—mainly because it’s silly and I’ve always loved it for being silly. It also has a high Bb. The thing, as I told Nadia, that is really irritating is that I have a high Bb . . . when I’m doing the frelling washing up. As soon as I get near the piano it jumps out the window and runs off to Cornwall. Or Canada. I assume this is common, you can remember a note long enough to check it on the piano? Yes that is a high Bb, but try and do it again suuuuucker. . . . . Nadia says, just rewrite it for now. You can put the Bb back in later.
‡ I don’t have a problem with that; my beloved gospel tunes are pretty much the only music on the planet that I can more or less play on the piano with both hands by sight-reading. Easy. Very, very easy music.
I bought nine roses last week.* AND I PLANTED THE LAST TWO OF THEM TODAY. It’s only been a WEEK.** And I’ve already got ALL OF THEM them in the ground.*** Are you impressed? Trust me, you should be impressed.
So I thought I’d give myself a Slightly Short Blog Day to celebrate.† And maybe I’ll do a little work. Or go to bed early.†† Or something.
* * *
* Hey. I need more roses.
** I can’t remember if I told you this story or not^. I’d ordered from a rose nursery that isn’t impossibly far from here and said I would pick them up. When they rang me that my roses were ready I suggested to Peter that he come too and we’d go on afterward to the big public garden nearby and have a wander. So that’s what we did. Except that by the time we got to the big public garden . . . we were too tired.^^ So we didn’t walk around it. Ho hum. Life in the Slow Lane. But I did get my roses.
^ And the Footnote Labyrinth makes trying to look back and check somewhat challenging.
^^ In my case all that frelling driving was aggravated by a long conversation I had with one of the rose-nursery proprietors about, how surprising, roses. She was full of embarrassing information I should have known.+ I have, for example, never had any luck with the symbiotic fungus stuff that you put in the hole when you plant your rose, and it colonises the roots which then develop like crazy in all directions and your rose is very, very happy. Except it didn’t and it wasn’t. I thought it was another fashionable scam. Nobody told me that root fungi don’t like blood-fish-and-bone which is the traditional rose and general perennial shrub food. You ALWAYS put BFB in the hole you’re planting a rose in. Not when you’re using mycorrhizal fungi. Oh. –So I bought some more of the frelling stuff and have used it. Except I’ve only used about half the packet and it only keeps for about a year and it’s stupidly expensive, you wouldn’t want to waste it nooooooooooo. . . . .
+ Although we did a little mutual howling about people who don’t get it that roses are, you know, living things. I told her a story I know I’ve told you, from when we were still at the old house and opened our garden on the National Gardens Scheme. I had someone at least once every open day saying, your roses are amazing, how do you get your roses to be so amazing? My roses are barely struggling along. And I would say, well, what do you feed them? And they would look at me blankly and say, Feed them? FOR PITY’S SAKE, GUYS. HOW DO YOU THINK ROSES PRODUCE ALL THOSE FLOWERS? MAGIC? How can anyone look at a modern, repeat-flowering rose, frelling bowed down by the weight of its flowers, not least because it’s been overbred for flower production at the expense of everything else like leaves and stems and good health, and not realise it’s going to need a little more help than scratching a hole in the ground and plonking it in?? That’s like buying a racehorse and feeding it straw. GOOD GRIEF.
*** Well. Mostly not in the ground. Not in the All the Plumbing in Hampshire cottage garden. Most of them are in pots. I suspect I have rather good drainage, between the builder’s rubble and all the plumbing in Hampshire, but most roses that aren’t major thugs, in this garden, do better in pots, possibly just because they don’t have to fight off the thugs. But I lost a few this wet winter that I don’t think I should have lost so . . . more pots. A few of the new intake are in pots smaller than they’ll stay in forever . . . but they’ll do for a year or two. Or three. Just keep feeding them.
† Also because I took Peter to the ex-library again today and we battered our way through all the other media and went and hung out in the small dark corner where the books now live. I found a little trove of knitting books . . . and then read one of Peter’s thrillers over tea. During which I absent-mindedly ate a Very Nasty gluten-free pistachio cookie. I think I object to a book so absorbing that you can eat nasty food without noticing till it’s too late. That’s the problem with thrillers: they make you forsake all rationality and keep turning pages.
And then I went bell ringing at Crabbiton for the second week in a row. I haven’t been ringing, I’m too tired, and the idea of facing eighty-six bells and a ringing chamber the size of a ballroom at Forza is too much for me. Crabbiton has six bells, and a pretty laid-back and low-level band, and I found out by accident that Wild Robert has started teaching there pretty regularly again. So I went along last week and made bob minor possible—they generally only have four inside ringers, and bob minor requires five—and so this week they were really glad to see me. It’s a hoot being one of the big kids. Although Felicity had to go and wreck my feeble glow of self-satisfaction by inquiring if I wouldn’t like to make up the number at Madhatterington on Mothering Sunday. Nooooooooooooo.
So . . . after all this febrile self indulgence . . . work would be good.
†† No! No! Not that!
It turns out that I have fewer truly lascivious yarn photos than I hoped; it’s the fault of the frelling light. Outdoor light is fine. Frelling frelling frelling fluorescent light is never fine and while my brain- and finger-numbingly over-specified camera probably has a fluorescent light setting it takes about twenty seconds every time you want to reset anything due to the profligate nature of both the available menus and the items on the menus, and the menus of each individual item, all of them shrouded in impenetrable and unguessable icons which you need to be at home reading the CD on your computer to decipher because of course the paper instructions that you might keep in your knapsack are a feeble pamphlet with a lot of white space that tells you how to insert the battery and turn the thing on and then suggests you read the CD.* So there you are at a fabulous yarn show scowling at the lighting, which is a diabolical, and unpredictable, mixture of fluorescent and outdoor and even if I could find the Nasty Glaring Indoor Light button on my camera it wouldn’t be the right answer either. So, for example, although I took photos of all of these, I can’t show you the amazing knitted layer cake complete with (knitted) candles—knitted lit knitted candles—that a local knitting society had made for their own 35th anniversary. Nor can I show you the astonishing crochet blankets the Natural Dye Studio** had hanging on their walls, or Tilly Flop Designs’*** silly greeting cards or Injabulo’s† gorgeous buttons. Or a number more knitted shawls††, speaking of shawls.
But we’ll do what we can.
This is not a good photo, and the original photo probably wasn’t all that great before they blew it up, framed it and put glass over it. But it’s totally worthwhile because the look on this dog’s face is priceless.†††
I had promised Fiona to fondle every skein of pink, purple or pink-purple yarn I saw. I was quite a while at this booth.
They’re one of the many little indie producers out there. But not only is their yarn seriously smoosh-worthy but they’re nice.
I actually looked at the pattern—being GOH at Boskone might do as a laird-substitute—and fell on the floor laughing. Um. No.
There. You don’t feel cheated or short-changed do you?
* * *
* You might think that there might be a short cut menu for the stuff that ORDINARY people use and adjust the most often, but clearly this camera was not made for ordinary people.
** http://www.thenaturaldyestudio.com/ Hint: they sell the patterns. I already knew I have to learn to crochet some time because there are a lot of crochet roses out there. But I may have to crochet a blanket.
*** http://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/tillyflopdesigns Keep Calm and Finish It for Next Christmas. There was also one at the show I don’t see on her Etsy page, which goes, more or less: I told you I’d have it done for your birthday, but I didn’t tell you which birthday
†† http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/stars-in-the-sky for example. None of these photos BEGINS to do it justice. And I have about as much chance of knitting it as I do the Unnamed Item with Roses from the first Yarn Porn instalment. A girl can drool.
††† I am reminded of Sarahallegra’s Calantha in her bunny ears. Oh, this is http://www.redhoundfordogs.com/ Clearly they are a good place by the high percentage of sighthounds.
. . . I’m leaving you to look up any more web sites. I think the labels on the rest of the photos are legible. Anything you’re dying for that doesn’t have a visible label, post to the forum, I can probably figure it out.