The thing that amuses me is that that flowered paper on the far right appeared three times this birthday: people seem to think they know what I like. They would be right about this.
I was going to post birthday photos yesterday and then frelling Niall and his frelling handbells intervened. To put my tiny triumph into perspective, by the way, tonight at tower practise one of Forza’s good ringers was telling me excitedly that she’d rung her first full peal on twelve bells. In the tower, this is, so she was only ringing one bell, but she was standing up for three and a half hours to do it and it was some infernal surprise method—I don’t think anyone bothers to ring anything but Infernal Surprise on higher numbers of bells—so while I don’t think she rings handbells, and I did tell her about my quarter, it was still like telling someone who’s just earned a place in the Horse of the Year show that you won your walk-trot class at the local gymkhana.
Anyway. I wanted to get my NEW WATCH back from the jewellers before I posted photos: I needed about nineteen links taken out of the massive wristband* but I wanted the blog photo of it ON MY WRIST.
This is however slightly a lesson in ordering things on line. As soon as I discovered that pink gold [plate] and rhinestones were in in wristwatches I stopped looking at anything else. And as soon as I noticed this one had a day dial—I haven’t had a watch that told me the day of the week in decades, and I love having a watch that tells me what day it is: us stay at home free lancers can be seriously pathetic that way**—I knew this was the one. Also I love Roman numerals—Roman numerals and it tells me the day of the week?? And rhinestones? Be still my heart. I’ve never had anything half so fabulous.
And it is fabulous. It also weighs four ounces—a quarter of a frelling pound—and is nearly half an inch thick. I knew the face had to be big from the on line photo of everything that’s on it. I did not know wearing it would feel like having a pendant hellterror dangling from that wrist at all times, or that I couldn’t ring [tower] bells in it because it would hook the rope.*** I feel that someone somewhere along the design line absent-mindedly added a zero on the dimensions; and the giant-sized wristband is perfectly in keeping with the watch. It was originally made perhaps for the Brobdingnag market, where pink and rhinestones did not go over.
But it is definitely fabulous. And yes, those are rhinestones in the face as well as around the border: the border ones only look pink because they’re reflecting the pink gold.
You will now see me coming any time I have my sleeves pushed up.
Oh, and my favourite silly present from a friend:
In case I never find that blank needlework pillow I’m still covered. † This is one of the other things that arrived in that rose paper in the first photo. . . .††
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* This was part of my running-around day yesterday. I also did thrilling things like buy vitamins. And puppy toys. There’s a very high rate of attrition in the puppy toy category.^
^ Ignorant, naïve people say to me, she’s not a puppy any more, she’s a year old! Hollow laughter. Whippets (and perforce whippet crosses) and bull terriers are apparently notorious for being slow maturers, but are there any dogs out there who are actually ADULT at a year old? I’ve never met one. I’m not planning to panic about the lifestyle of the adult bull terrier for at least another nine months.+
+ There is a fifteen-month-old puppy having a swell time with a bit of disintegrating sofa cover right now. She has however earned it: she long downed for AN HOUR with only occasional interventions. I can even get out of my chair to pour myself another cup of peppermint tea without her immediately bouncing to her feet to follow me.# Usually. ##
# Because any excuse will do.
## And having spent 90% of that hour stiff with outrage/misery/disbelief/despair, despite the comfy nest of towels at my feet and the fact that all appearances to the contrary notwithstanding, if obliged by circumstance she is quite a good sleeper . . . upon release she spent ten minutes racketing around the house like an extra-large rhinoceros in a china shop . . . and is now completely crashed out on my lap, which practically speaking is a lot less comfy than the towel nest.
** Handbells are quite a useful way of keeping track of the passage of the days however because of the texts from Niall.
*** If I wear it for ringing handbells my left arm will become twice as large and muscular as my right. I suppose I could swap wrists to a carefully balanced schedule.
† Whoever said I’d have trouble finding one . . . you’re right. WHY? There must be other people out there who’d like to choose their own Words to Live By.
†† Bratsche, I’ll post a photo of my dress TOMORROW.^
^ If I forget, nag me.
I’m a little . . . slow today. I almost never drink alcohol any more which means that when I do, um, the earth moves. So to speak. And I had three glasses of champagne last night: my LIMIT is two. Well it wasn’t my fault. Peter barely drinks any more either, so we asked for one glass of champagne and one empty glass, in which we would decant a few mouthfuls so that he could toast me*. They brought us two glasses of champagne and then made Peter’s complimentary when we explained they’d made a mistake. Well I couldn’t waste it, could I? The problem being that it was already there, and later on, when they came around and asked me if I wanted a second glass . . . the answer had to be yes, didn’t it?
This is why taxis were invented. It’s also why we only go out seriously about twice a year.
I realised the enormity of my peril tottering out to the taxi, which involves stairs down from the restaurant door.** So hellhounds got a rather brisker and more elaborate final hurtle than usual and I drank a double potful of peppermint tea. And I don’t have anything tacky and vulgar like a headache today but I am . . . a little slow. Although I nearly survived a touch of Stedman Triples on the two this afternoon. <geekspeak alert> I assumed we’d ring a plain course since I am even less safe on the two than the treble, and then frelling Frelling called a bob and I got through it and someone else went wrong. Fine, I thought, it’s Sunday service, if we try again this time it will be a plain course. NO. WRONG. And I got through two frelling affected bobs this time before . . . I came unglued making the bob and forgot to go in slow. RATBAGS. I ALMOST DID IT. But even almost, when you’re talking about a touch of Stedman Triples for service and especially the day after your birthday when you’re feeling a little slow . . . is worth celebrating.
Or that’s my version.
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* Only toasts in champagne really count. Even a good red wine is not an acceptable substitute^. Anything but champagne is like ringing a false quarter [peal]^^. Even if the method was flawlessly called and struck for the entire duration it doesn’t count and you don’t get to send it in to be published in THE RINGING WORLD.
^ Peter’s thing is big fat leathery Rhone wines, and when I still drank enough ever to be willing to waste a few alcoholic tokens on anything that wasn’t champagne I liked it too.
^^ You can ring a false peal but that doesn’t bear thinking about. A quarter is only forty five minutes or thereabouts which I think is quite long enough AND I WANT IT TO COUNT. A peal is three hours, frequently plus,+ and three-plus hours of intense concentration, not to mention the standing up and yanking on a rope part, and it doesn’t COUNT? I would totally take up bungie jumping after a disaster like that.
+ I’ve said this before: I don’t plan ever to attempt to ring a full peal: I haven’t got the stamina. Fortunately I don’t even want to. It’s funny though, one woman’s manifestation of madness is another woman’s achievement and satisfaction. I imagine there are a lot of peal ringers out there who would consider Street Pastoring a completely bonkers way of ruining your circadian rhythm.#
# The perils, speaking of perils, of being a Christian. I’ve also told you that at St Margaret’s evening service, communion is passed around. The priest starts the basket and the goblet at one end of the front row, and then that person turns and offers it to the next person, and so on. But you break the bread for and offer the goblet to your neighbour, and you say a few words—these tend to vary but I think everyone says something—as you do it. I don’t actually like this system; communion is SERIOUS~ and I want a professional in charge, not us kittle cattle. But the saying of a few words as you pass the wine is somewhat dependent on the bread having NOT instantly adhered to the roof of your mouth with a superglue-like tenacity.
Tonight it barnacled on like it was going for the Olympic gold in attachment.
Fortunately you’re not expected to mumble your words very loudly and of course I have a funny accent.
~ Although at least us Anglicans don’t have to believe in transubstantiation. Brrrrrrrr.
~~ Although there may be something in the trans-something theory because I have noticed that all bread used for the Eucharist takes on an uncanny genius for cleaving valiantly to the roof of your mouth—the Wonder bread squares of my generic Protestant childhood, the standard tasteless church wafers and the somewhat variable productions of St Margaret’s. I’m sure there’s an important theological point here.
** Aggravated by the ninety-seven yards of skirt on my dress and the fact that my lady shoes did, in fact, have teeny-weeny heels, although everything has heels if you wear All Stars all the rest of your life.
The dress with the extreme skirt is my favourite dress in the universe and I haven’t worn it in two years because . . . the moths got it. I won’t use standard laboratory-made toxic chemicals for anything if I can help it, partly for green reasons, partly because of the ME, and cedar oil does work against moths but you have to keep topping it up, and there are no balls in my life that I don’t take my eye off some time, and this includes the generously reapplying cedar oil to the animal fibres in the cottage attic ball. It’s still my favourite dress, however, even with moth holes, and I finally thought FRELL it, it’s pretty dim in the restaurant and if we pay the bill who cares if the old dame’s dress had moth holes? Very Ms. Havisham. So I wore it. And I was thinking, next time, Doc Martens and then it becomes a look, especially with my getting-on-toward-disintegration black leather jacket. I’ll have a thoughtful stare at my All Stars shelves but I think for this purpose I need proper stomping boots. I have some flowered Docs that I think might do the trick. . . .
I’m not sure I can wrest an entire blog entry out of that title, although I can’t resist using it.* It’s probably a bad idea anyway partly because it risks just sounding like bragging, although anyone who has been through the voice-lesson mill knows that the opportunities for true bragging are vanishingly minimal: it’s all, hey, that was less bad than usual. Er. Maybe. I think. As someone who also plays the piano with stunning awfulness there is a serious extra frisson of horror to the it’s your BODY aspect, especially, I suspect, for any of us who struggle with self-worth issues.** At least if you manage to make a nice noise—purely by accident of course—out of a piano or a ukulele or a crumhorn, you can blame the piano (or the ukulele or the crumhorn). If you’re your instrument you have nowhere to hide and nothing to blame.
Which is something Nadia has been saying to me for two and a half years. Aside from the fact that I’m pretty much afraid of everything*** I don’t really know why making any noise is so threatening—why am I taking voice lessons if I don’t want to make a noise—but it’s like every time the personal door opens a little I slam it shut again.
I seem to have wedged it open this time. I hope. One of the disconcerting things is that a lot of what I’m finally doing right enough to be producing a noise is as instinctive, involuntary and generally non-intellectual as not doing it ever used to be. It’s not that I’ve bypassed the ‘breathe from the abdomen/support the breath/lift the top end/get your frelling tongue out of the way’ stage, but when I was mired in it, knowing intellectually that I needed to support the breath and get my frelling tongue out of the way, it was like, yeah? So? When I kept having to stop and readjust—when I spent weeks at a time not really being able to practise at all because I tightened up so fast that my jaws and throat would ache after only a comparatively few minutes—there was certainly no music happening even if I did manage to learn a few tunes. And then there were those wha’? moments, like the day my personal door-shutter fell asleep on the job and I had a lesson when I sang Dido’s Lament like I meant it—or any late night at home, because it occurs to me I think it only happens late at night, when my high B emerges from wherever and sticks around just long enough for me to check on the piano that that’s what it is.†
But, you know, I’m singing. I was so anxious to demonstrate this to Nadia today that of course I made a mess of both Voi che sapete and Un moto di gioja . . . but I got enough right—singing not being like bell ringing—that she could hear I was getting somewhere.
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* Besides I can probably do something with FOOTNOTES.^
^ For example, I have a long-downing hellterror at my feet again. Which means I’m writing this one choppy half-attentive syllable at a time (again). It’s beginning to worry her that I seem to mean this long-down nonsense. First time she gave up relatively soon and went to sleep. But over the days resistance is rising. Yep. Been here, done that, wore out the t shirt in a previous generation. Holly, of the pure-whippet generation, spent a lot of time on long down. It was never really an issue with the hellhounds: they’ve always been good oh-whatever sleepers. Sighthound obstinacy manifests in other ways in the hellhounds. Eating, for example. Or not. The hellterror is not a natural long-downer but she is a mighty trencherwoman.
It’s funny, though, because she is now usually allowed to mill around my feet and hope for fragments of chicken to rain from the sky while I’m putting hellcritter meals together. Often she’s the only one milling, when the hellhounds have better things to do+ than eat, but if all three of them are underfoot she’s amazingly polite for something that is basically all stomach with teeth at one end.
. . . I am now eating lamb chops. Hellterror would like to suggest that she would lie down really well in my lap. Uh huh. And the Pope is not Catholic.
+ ie SLEEP. With their backs to the kitchen. Just in case I had any illusory hopes.
** Last night at St Margaret’s the topic for discussion was around self-worth: what gives us our sense of identity, how do we define our worth? Another way of putting this is, how do we try to duck out of accepting God’s unconditional love? Unworthiness as an avoidance technique. Discuss^.
^ And speaking of St Margaret’s, you have heard me before moaning about the awful ‘modern Christian music’ schlock that we sing at the evening service and how frelling HARD it is to sing because it’s in a funny range—Nadia says it’s mostly designed not to frighten non-singers—and I keep swapping back and forth between chest voice an octave down and head voice an octave up because neither sits comfortably. I’m pretty much resigned to not making a noise—and if you’re going to sing, whatever your personal demons are up to, you want to make a noise—and a few weeks back I pretty well gave up, and shifted over to bellowing in chest voice. Last night, partly because I’d had a good week for singing+, and partly because I was standing next to Aloysius who has a nice strong tenor and was singing harmony I shifted back up into soprano . . . and made a noise.
+ Note that it’s been a sodding ratbag blister of a week in a lot of ways, and SINGING# has been a very welcome bright spot.
# and Street Pastoring
*** Yup. Sunshine got that one from me. Kes is, of course, out of the same dark dusty cupboard.
† Nadia got me up to an A#/Bb today—and I was shutting down out of eeeeep-ness rather than that’s clearly as far as my voice is going to go. I want my high C back. Which would mean a reliable A#, I think, which is a perfectly respectable mezzo range, and in the sort of community choir I’m ever likely to infest, probably first soprano.
The ME, dazzling ratbag that it is, decided to give me a few hours last night off. This is one of its favourite tricks—I’ll feel my energy reservoirs, empty as the hob’s bowl, suddenly and without warning beginning to refill—a sort of counter leak, with energy seeping in, as if some kind of risky, unreliable guerrilla rescue. I got all excited—as one does—and did a bunch of stupid, low-level stuff like folding laundry that I have not been getting round to* because I’m genuinely tired by the last few weeks AND because you, or anyway I, do not want to do anything too demanding when I’m hoping** to SLEEP soon. However, by the time the laundry was folded, all the houseplants watered, the trove of puppy toys hoicked out from under the kitchen cupboard*** and various other domestic chores too embarrassing to admit were accomplished, it was well after mmph o’clock and I was still much too buzzed to sleep. . . .
STUPID STUPID STUPID STUPID
. . . which is either the system, or how I’m feeling, on two hours’ sleep† and a lot of gaudy hallucinations, or both. Probably both.
Monday is, however, my voice lesson, and very little can get between me and Nadia. Also . . . considering the boiling-crap level of life generally it’s been a surprisingly not-bad week for singing. One of the most frustrating things about being, well, terrible, with very little voice to begin with and what there is of it tied up in barbed wire so any movement causes a thin desperate squealing, is that it takes so much frelling effort to unwind enough of the barbed wire to make some kind of singing-facsimile possible that you’re tired, cranky and demoralised before you’ve got past your frelling warm-up exercises. I do keep reminding myself how much more voice I have now than I did two years ago when I started with Nadia†† but it’s like the difference between a molecule and a mitochondrion—yes, in terms of percentage, huge, but no one without a microscope is going to notice.
I’ve got round the hideousness of beginning warm-up by singing folk songs††† but there have still been days/nights when F looks like too great an effort—I admit rarely any more—but beyond F there is G and then A . . . or the occasional whapped-by-an-angel frelling B.‡ And I never know. Some nights are still hideous.
But this week, despite all, it hasn’t been too bad. I start off with enough noise to do something with, and practising a new song is less like bending wrought iron with my bare hands than sometimes. And this week the new song was Voi, che sapete which I ought to know instantly since I’ve been playing Marriage of Figaro about five times a week for the last forty years . . . but as many of you out there know, performing something is always a tiny bit more demanding than listening to someone else performing it. I went in today nervous because I had a new song, still . . . it was a familiar new song, and I’ve mostly been able to sing it this week.
I think my bottom-line set point has moved up a fraction. This is the second week in a row that we haven’t had to spend half the lesson winkling my voice out of hiding, so we got going on a song sooner than usual. And I was way more out there than usual—I’m not sure what to call it because it’s not just volume; I’m capable of being (relatively) loud in that small room; this was something beyond that. This was . . . my voice trying to become itself, to be, you know, distinctive, as I said last week. I can hear this. And, if you want to know, it’s frelling scary, being out there, even if only Nadia can hear me. It has fresh drawbacks too: there is a much greater graphic reality to the fact that I’m not Marilyn Horne or Janet Baker or Joyce DiDonato. I don’t know how to explain it: it’s better and worse at the same time . . . but it’s a bit exciting. And while I’ve spent the last two and a half years being a good little dweeb about not listening to Real Singers on YouTube I’ve also thought it’s kind of a joke because I’m not capable of trying to sound like someone who knows what she’s doing . . . I’m starting to stumble over the line where I might. I might try to do one thing rather than another. It’s about to become significant, down here at mitochondrial level, that I learn to find my own distinctive way rather than pick up someone else’s. Maybe.
What’s the next level after mitochondrion? Golgi apparatus?
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* Sorting and then putting the laundry into the washing machine and turning it on was challenge enough
** Against both history and reason
*** To the great joy of the puppy. I must remember to ask Atlas to plug the frelling gap the toys disappear through, which of course was created by the puppy in question doing her ricocheting trick. Southdowner had warned me about the hucklebutting and the high-speed end-swapping. She hadn’t warned me that a bull terrier, being made of case-hardened steel as they all are, is perfectly happy to do this through or in spite of trees, furniture, you (ow),^ other dogs^^, etc.
^ I have a new theory that bullies are dogs for young people.
^^ Darkness runs away. Chaos, however, does this folding-his-legs-under-him-and-floating trick like a kind of furry, fawn-coloured Yoda till she caroms past him.
† I got up when I heard Pooka ringing—despite the fact that she was turned off. If you are so not asleep that you can hear the faint burring noise a turned-off iPhone makes when it rings, you might as well get up.
†† Two and a half, minus maternity leave, I think.
††† And old gospel thumpers. I’ve told you before that one of the sillier bennies of this conversion shtick is the excuse to sing When the Roll Is Called Up Yonder and Shall We Gather at the River etc at top volume, doing the washing-up, behind Wolfgang’s steering wheel, and frequently when out hurtling hellcritters. This also has to make up, however, for the tosh we sing at St Margaret’s. I’ve pretty much given up singing. I drop down into unreconstructed chest voice and bellow. I have a few musical friends, including Nadia herself, who say that they keep themselves from going mad under such circumstances by singing harmony, but I’m mostly not steady enough for this—yet. It’s on the list. I’m still half-plotting suggesting to Buckminster we have an occasional real hymn-singing evening—but Eleanor says I’d have to be ready to go through with it, which means run the freller, because Buckminster would say ‘yes’ instantly because he likes his congregation to feel involved. Eleanor says she’d help. Hmmm.^
^ Yes. Think of the blog material.
‡ Eh. I should have a piece with a high B in it to sing when it’s visiting. Might encourage it to stay, or at least come back oftener. It’s always such a shock when it drops in it’s like whoa what do I do now. And then I don’t do anything and it decides it’s not appreciated and goes away again.
I almost never drink any more and I am sloshed. But in a good way.
I mean, the glasses are dewy. It’s not just the photo is out of focus. (You try taking a shot one-handed with your overspecified so-called point and shoot with the too many buttons while you’re clinking a champagne glass with the other. Hand, I mean, not camera. But the manual focus button takes a seventh or a ninety-sixth extra-jointed finger and the autofocus invariably chooses the wrong thing.)
What else? Who cares about what else? Oh, all right, chicken liver pate and duck leg confit. There was a little spinach hiding under the duck leg but as someone who spends most of her life 80% rabbit and eating mixing bowls full of raw salad every day nights like tonight are depraved. After such debauchery what’s next? Orgies?
There’s a time for lady shoes and there’s a time for celebratory All Stars.
Well so what’s a woman in major bliss-blast from her first hit of REAL champagne in yonks and yonks to do, especially when she has a gently smiling, enabling husband with a credit card sitting on the other side of the table? (Who doesn’t actually like champagne all that well, had half a glass to be companionable and moved on to red wine.) The wait staff whisked the first bottle away in a tidy and attentive manner and when we left and I was inebriated enough not to care I asked the nice young man who had been our chief server if he could by any chance FIND THE FIRST BOTTLE so I could take it home? Peter had already tipped him, he didn’t lose anything by grinning so hard his face was distinctly beginning to crack at the ears . . . but he produced the desired empty. I think it probably wasn’t hard to find, I doubt that your average village pub has a whole lot of call for baby Moets. So three cheers that they have them at all.
I need to go to bed. I need sleep. I will then need lots of caffeine tomorrow morning: Street Pastors Training Weekend #2 begins.
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* Peter had the vanilla ice cream. Also, this is the token footnote so I don’t get complaints.