Oh, never mind the future of the blog for a minute*, I want to tell you about tower practise at the abbey tonight.
We were kind of a scrappy crowd, with too many of us middling-or-less ringers and not enough of the lofty and resplendent.** I did get to ring a touch of Grandsire Triples, and it was not a great occasion but I held my line when other people were losing theirs, which is always very good practise if you survive. And we rang some plain old plain hunt on lotsa bells which is not exciting*** but is useful for grinding away at learning that too many frelling bells rhythm for us rhythm-challenged.
And that was beginning to look like that was going to be that for me, and I was thinking sullen thoughts about the plain course of bob major I could have rung in but wasn’t asked† when Scary Man called for Cambridge major. Siiiiiiiiigh. Only the lofty and resplendent ring surprise major. And they all seized their ropes, Scary Man taking the treble . . . when they realised they were one short. Oh, we can’t ring it, said Scary Man. There was a brief pause and then he turned round to us: Gemma, Charlotte and me. Unless one of you would like to ring the treble.
Gemma had just rung a practise touch of Stedman Triples†† and Charlotte is being a little cautious about getting to grips with ringing at the abbey. Also, Gemma, who is generally a better ringer than I am†††, hasn’t quite caught on to treble-bobbing, which is what you do on the treble to surprise methods. I, on the other hand, am relatively secure treble-bobbing to minor (six bells) and have been LOOOOOONGING for the chance to treble-bob to major (eight bells). I have never treble-bobbed to major. Never.
I stepped forward and grabbed the rope from Scary Man. Yes, I said.
Well, you see where this is going. I wouldn’t have headed it YAAAAAAAY if I’d bollixed it up or broken a stay or otherwise humiliated myself, and was signing up right now for a bookbinding course.
YES. I DID IT. I TREBLE-BOBBED TO A FULL PLAIN COURSE OF CAMBRIDGE MAJOR. AND FURTHERMORE I DID IT AT THE ABBEY. YAAAAAAAAAAAAY ME.‡
I’m not hopeless. Even at the abbey.‡‡
* * *
* Although in answer to the anxious emails about KES . . . not to worry. I have every intention of going on with it. KES indeed is one of the reasons I feel I can risk messing with the blog’s format. Saner, more intelligent people than I am—Blogmom and my agent for example—repeat that they don’t understand why I keep saying I have to post every night, that if I have the self-discipline to post every night why can’t I expend less self-discipline and post less often? Because I’m an all-or-nothing obsessive, is why. Next question. But KES really wants me to write it. So that’ll help keep me coming back to the blog, however the New System shakes down.
** Marilyn, looking around, said, I think a lot of people made a New Year’s resolution to come to tower practise more often. Including me, she added. —I haven’t seen her there since I started coming regularly some time last spring. But her two daughters are now old and tall enough to start learning to ring—Isolde, the older one, has wanted to learn since she was about two and shorter and lighter than a hellhound—so they may indeed start coming regularly. Aglovale was (kindly and patiently) teaching them tonight and Marilyn was standing at the opposite end of that vast room with her hands over her face saying I can’t watch! I can’t watch! (Which seems to me entirely sensible.) Isolde has inherited her mum’s Maths Brains and will be ringing Spliced Surplus Surplice Maximus by the end of the year, and I will have taken up bookbinding.
*** Except when you screw up and have to fall on your sword again
† Generally speaking if it’s something you’re learning or can’t ring reliably you wait to be asked. You only ‘fill in’ if you know what you’re doing.
†† Yaaaaaaay Gemma
††† She’s rung a quarter of Grandsire caters. TEN bells. Aaaaugh.
‡ Mind you it was not the most perfectly struck plain course of Cambridge you have ever heard. And most of the clanking was me. But I never got lost—I never got yelled at—and while when we’d started Scary Man had said, Be nice to the treble, catch her eye when you’re bobbing with her, almost none of them did: only Scary Man himself and Aglovale. Mostly I was On My Own.
The thing about treble-bobbing is the pattern is minimal: for every two steps you step back one before you go on. You do have to cling to that like mad but that’s all you have to remember. It’s all in the frelling RHYTHM which as I keep saying I have not got. I’m used to the rhythm of six bells, so I can treble-bob to minor. Probably the biggest reason I’m taking AEONS to learn to ring Grandsire triples reliably is because I’m not used to any eight-bell rhythm, either triples with the tenor-behind or major when all eight are working bells. I have stood behind the treble’s shoulder for a lot of surprise major on practise nights at the abbey and I have thought I should be able to do it—as I say, I’ve been longing for a chance to try—but—frelling eight bells.
But I DID IT. I DID IT FIRST GO.^ And even if I screw up next time I’ll know I can do it.
^ Although one other point I need to make in all this unseemly gloating is that this was a good band. I was the weak link. When you’re essentially being shuffled along by all the other bells being in the right place it does make it a lot easier.
‡‡ And Scary Man came round at the end and congratulated Gemma for her touch of Stedman triples and me for my treble-bobbing to major. You never looked like you were in trouble even once, he said to me. ::Beams:: He must be taking sensitivity training. He didn’t even scold me for my ragged striking.
Speaking of Pavlova. There was a slight communication breakdown between the Taker of the Superior Photos and me, but here said photos are at last.
A couple of days ago I met a woman, while Pav and I were out doing our unguided-missile routine masquerading as Walking the Puppy, who claimed to be a huge bull terrier fan. Her daughter has one, she said, and it’s adorable, the whole family loves it. I beamed. Then she said, a bull terrier will never win a beauty contest, of course. I stopped beaming. WHAT? I pulled myself together enough to say, Bull terriers have their own beauty, and she replied oh well yes, in this patronising tone. It would be bad for Pavlova’s thus far excellent social skills for me to break training and encourage her to bite this woman, but I entertained the idea briefly.* Then this woman added, and they’re very stubborn you know. Oh, go away, I didn’t quite say. **
I realise that the bull terrier profile is a controversial topic. But if you’ve got any kind of eye, you can see that this is a paradigmatic example of whatever-it-is. MY PUPPY IS DROP DEAD GORGEOUS. ANYONE WHO DOESN’T AGREE WILL BE BITTEN. I AM THE HELLGODDESS, YOU KNOW. I HAVE DEMONS AT MY DISPOSAL. MANY OF THEM HAVE VERY EXCITING TEETH.
Darkness, somewhere in the background, is expressing outrage that that interloper is on the SOFA.
And yes, those are PINK ROSES on the kitchen table behind us.
You can’t see SAGITTTARIUS RISING and THE LANGUAGE OF MATHEMATICS. There’s also a basic physics book in there somewhere. Yes, it’s significant that KING is on top.
I apologise for the absence of ooooh wookit fuzzy tummy photos. *** I will be careful to correct this oversight in the next batch.
* * *
* I thought longer about biting her myself.
** This conversation occurred before yesterday’s Rain Epic. But the only real head-to-header Pav and I have had so far was the almost-three-hours I stood on her a couple of weeks ago because she was NOT going to settle and I was NOT going to make her (sez she). I’m still worrying about adolescence. Which should start arriving in another six weeks or so. Meanwhile she sits pretty well, lies down sort of, is beginning to comprehend wait and has no truck with walk, as an alternative to mad caroming, whatsoever. She will even–believe it or not–hold a sit for about five seconds with food on the floor in front of her after I let go of her, and waits for the release. I think this is nearly incredible in a FOOOOOOOOOOOOD oriented hellterror puppy. Five seconds is a long time.
*** And it’s true, you can put up with a lot for a fuzzy puppy tummy.
HE WON. HE WOOOOOOOOOON. I don’t have to move to Chiron or Vesta. I wasn’t looking forward to the difficulties of importing chocolate and champagne. Not to mention oxygen. And even if I converted to ebooks, does the signal reach far enough?
So I’m celebrating by taking a couple of nights off.* And I have the perfect excuse to take a couple of nights off because look at the FABULOUS photos Tilda took. COME BACK SOON, TILDA.**
* * *
* And working on SHADOWS, KES and . . . um . . .
** And I’ll try to see a little MORE of her next time. I almost missed her entirely today. The hobgoblin, instead of going about its secret hobgoblin chores silently as demanded by long folkloric tradition, decided to RIOT about half an hour after I got to bed last night. You can’t let a hobgoblin (or a hellterror) believe that rioting will get it attention, so you have to lie there and listen to it. Eventually I turned the light back on and read for a while. Every time I thought the little ratbag had stopped for the night . . . she’d start up again. Reasons to want a large house: so that you can’t hear your frelling puppy shredding her newspaper. ARRRRRRGH. As she finally began to settle I turned the light off again and put a pillow over my head. With the result that I slept through my alarm . . . and Tilda is an early riser and needed to get off promptly for the long drive home and I’m NOT an early riser even when I do hear my alarm. . . .
The good news is that while I expected the hellterror’s crate to be a vision of dread, despair and heavy cleaning, beyond the explosion in a confetti factory aspect, all was well. I almost forgave her. Almost.
SHE’S GOING TO LET ME WORK ON EVENING HYMN!!!!! YAAAAAAAAAAY! SHE’S GOING TO LET ME WORK ON DIDO’S LAMENT! YAAAAAAAAAAAY!!!!!!!
Ahem. First voice lesson today was nowhere near as dire as I was expecting. I was expecting dire. I told you that I’d got all solemn and mature and responsible a month or so ago and decided (solemnly and responsibly) that even if Nadia started up again (and she’d left in the summer saying that she hoped she’d be teaching again before Christmas) with the puppy coming and the pressing need to get on with work* I would not, repeat not, consider starting again till the new year. Uh-huh. That pledge lasted about two-thirds of a second after Nadia’s email offering me a slot arrived.
Meanwhile . . . I have not been behaving responsibly. I can’t remember how much of this got on the blog, but after Nadia went on maternity leave** I had a great hedonistic wallow in unsuitable opera. It’s very hard not to want to sing, however inadequately, music that is engraved on your heart, and if your voice teacher suddenly leaves you on your own with the splendid manifesto, Enjoy your singing!, you may allow yourself to stray into paths of unrighteousness. And singing stuff that’s engraved on your heart means you don’t have to learn the frelling tune first. I don’t have the top end for high soprano, but there’s plenty of mezzo for me to get in trouble with.*** So I sang both Cherubino’s big arias, the totally barking Azucena frothing at the mouth in Stride la vampa which is huge fun, my personal unattainable grail Una voce poco fa which is Rosina saying all you blokes I’m going to win this one, Che Faro of course, and Dido’s Lament. I’d started to look at Dido officially with Blondel, but I couldn’t hold that top ‘G’ yet—and it’s a horribly naked G, even if you can dance on it without strain, like the mere top F in Che Faro still usually scares me into a screech† even though the note itself is no big deal.
Then I calmed down a little and started trying to do what Nadia had suggested, which included a Purcell song, Love quickly is pall’d. Which reminded me of Evening Hymn, which I had worked on with Blondel and decided to look at again because I love love it. And then Stuff Got in The Way and I started singing less and less—except when out hurtling with hellhounds, but even that’s been less than previously since we’re spending way too much time on in-town hurtles to avoid ratbag off-lead dogs—and then I began to notice how much less noise I was making, and how much thinner the noise was without Nadia taking me apart and putting me back together in a new improved schema every week. At which point singing morale went downhill fast and besides I had this novel to finish writing.
But this last week, when I knew I was going to be seeing Nadia again, what came out of the ridiculously tall pile of vocal music beside the piano? Purcell’s Evening Hymn. What the doodah. I knocked some of the dust off a couple of old pieces that had been less unsuccessful than others because I was assuming we were going to have to drop back a few leagues and have a fresh run at this singing thing, but I also took Evening Hymn with me today thinking that I would beg and plead to be allowed to work on it, I’m only doing any of this for fun, you know? So why not work on something I adore, if it’s not going to give Nadia migraines and heartburn? But I tried to prepare myself for the possibility of migraines and heartburn, and having to stick to Love quickly is pall’d, which is a perfectly nice song, but . . .
The first thing that happened†† was that Nadia got me singing again in about ten minutes. How does she DO that??? And she gave me some more warm-ups which is good not only because all warm-up exercises are always good, but because even the ones you like you get bored with eventually†††. And then she asked me what I’d been singing and I said, Er. Um. But when I humbly pulled Evening Hymn out she said, Oh, I love that. Yes, you can sing that.
So we worked on that and it was WONDERFUL. YAAAAAAAAAY. And then she said almost in passing, you can sing Dido too. Why don’t you bring it in next time?
* * *
* And frelling doodles.^ Arrrgh. SHADOWS is effectively done, but I’m still wrestling with a few editorial queries. And then there looms the vast terrifying cliff of PEG II and III. But I didn’t want to write a trilogy. I NEVER WANTED TO WRITE A TRILOGY. Allow me to moan once again that I do not know how these endless-series people do it. I think I must be missing a crucial chromosome.
^ I wonder if I could teach some hellcritter to doodle? Darkness clearly has an artistic soul.
** He’s^ HUGE. He’s only three months old but he looks about ready to start kindergarten.
^ I’m naming him Renfrew. When I choose a blog name I usually look up the meaning and do a quick google against the possibility that some horribly embarrassing person has the name. There don’t seem to be any headline-grabbing politicians, bank managers or porn stars named Renfrew, so that’s all right. But the meanings vary more than usual. As a surname, it’s Scottish. As a first name, it’s Welsh, and it may mean ‘raven woods’ or ‘calm river’. Maybe the ravens like water. Maybe Renfrew will grow up to be confusing and multi-faceted.
*** I am surprised at myself that I have no desire to sing Carmen, even for silly at home with Peter asleep^ and only the hellcritters listening. I adore the opera, it is one of those big fabulous roles that every big fabulous mezzo must sing, and it’s not like I have anything against self-destructive sexuality, I’d sing Violetta like a shot if I had the upper register for it. But Carmen? Nah. Not my girl.
^ Although this is not reliable. I am very grateful that he is a doting husband and thinks I sound nice.
†† No, before that, Nadia’s mum came in with Nadia’s daughter, who wanted to say hello to me. I had no idea I had even registered with Stella, but it’s not unpleasing to have a three-year-old grinning happily at you like you’ve been best friends since birth. And that was before she found out about the small furry hobgoblin in the car.
††† Like puppies and their toys. We all want NEW and SHINY.
* * *
Here are two of my favourite Didos. I recommend you don’t watch either of them: the Baker shows its age pretty badly, and while the sound quality does too, that voice comes through magnificently. And they’ve got Norman up as some kind of galactic goddess and spare me. But again, the voice, the voice.
Janet Baker http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D_50zj7J50U
And my two, possibly eccentric, favourites of Evening Hymn of those easily found on YouTube:
Ian Howell http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e71cc85rKY8
Julie Carlston http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MTh2lJglpLU
Puppies are. The other reason besides that they’re cute that you don’t KILL THEM* is because they make you laugh.** Sometimes the ridiculousness is situational. The hobgoblin and I were out today*** walking† in town so she could meet more people and I clocked that there was a craft fair on in the village hall. Excellent. Cheap Christmas presents. So after she’d had her meagre permitted ten minutes of walking/lurching/hurtling I picked her up and we went to the craft fair.
Where she met even more people. One of them said, what is she?, and I said, English bull terrier†† and he said, I thought that’s what she looked like, but she’s so small. Yes! I said eagerly. SMALL! She’s a MINI! She’s going to STAY SMALL EVEN WHEN SHE GROWS UP! —So clearly I had to buy something at this stall because such perspicacity inevitably must produce artful craft to a very high standard. I had come out without my wallet but I usually have a note or two tucked somewhere about my person . . . the ‘tucked’ part not being an issue except when you’re carrying a puppy. I didn’t want to put her down; she’d get trodden on, and even if she didn’t, she wouldn’t enjoy being ankle-high in a dark forest of giants. So after I’d found several Christmas presents I had to start fishing for cash, shifting Pavlova from arm to arm—it’s a pity she’s going to be too big for this performance soon, because we’ve got the drill down now that I can clamp her between one arm and my side and still have both hands (relatively) free—till the bloke who’d asked what she was said he’d hold her if that was okay with her/me. So I passed her over to her transcendent delight—I am QUEEN! And I WELCOME NEW SLAVES!!—and got my emergency††† money out at which point he had to pass her back because his wife wanted him to check her addition. Then I gave her to him again while I dealt with my change. . . .
It’s all socialisation. It’s all good.
I know that I could just google “hucklebutting” (fantastic name, by the way)—but are there any chances of us getting a video? That would just make my day.
Well this is slightly more probable than it was when you posted this, because I’ve finally found the plug-in thing to recharge the battery on my little video camera.‡ And I’ll have a go. But I don’t think it’s likely to be nearly as funny on video as it is in real life, judging from the hucklebutting videos already out there. The silliness of it doesn’t really come over, it just looks like some dog running around and, so? Part of this is that since most of it is taken from above, human being standing or sitting and aiming down at hucklebutting bullie, you don’t catch the true effect of the preliminary dropping down, so it’s almost more of a high-speed scuttle than a run. But if you get down to bullie level yourself to capture this you will be hucklebutted, which could be painful and will probably not result in high-quality footage. But I’ll give it a try.
It is a great verb, isn’t it? I hope whoever invented it is proud of themselves.
* * *
* I was thinking how much they’re like humans.^ The dog books all tell you to swap puppies’ toys around so they don’t get bored looking at the same ones and having all of them equally available, they’ll get jaded.^^ And if you can afford it you might want to produce an absolutely new toy at intervals.^^^ That’s just like us.^^^^ I have ENOUGH books, yarn and opera recordings. NOOOOOOOO. NEVER ENOUGH. I want the new and the shiny! Just like a three-month-old puppy!
^ Humans as opposed to people because of course dogs+ are people
+ and [insert your sort of critter here]
^^ Precocious things, puppies, already able to generate jadedness at three months.+
+ Some mum of humans is going to say that human pup—I mean babies are just the same. I think there are probably fewer puppies that have to be talked out of taking their favourite toy, the one that used to be a large orange and black plush tiger and now looks like a bag of mouldy oatmeal with mysterious lumpy appendages, to their first day of school.# I admit that I know a lot more about dog babies than I do about human babies.
# And I have never heard of a dog taking a favourite babyhood toy/bag of mouldy oatmeal secretly in the bottom of a suitcase to college.&
& Yes. But Algernon was in pretty good shape.
^^^ Different textures of towels and dustcloths with knots tied in the middle work surprisingly well. I’ve yet to have a puppy demand Tiffany.
^^^^ I’m assuming there are no ascetics reading this blog.+
+ If there are . . . oh dear.
** Most dogs grow out of this to a greater or lesser degree.^ Bull terriers get funnier.
^ Darkness, mostly. Poor thing has the responsibilities of the world on his shoulders. Chaos, not much. As witness the last photo from the other night.
*** After the hellhounds and I had the most tremendous riot over a piece of golden autumnal countryside WITH NO ONE ELSE ON IT except a few rabbits. Which fortunately the hellhounds did not see.
† Well walking is possibly an exaggeration. We proceed in a series of lurches. At this age I mainly want her liking going for ‘walks’ and learning to accept the lead without really noticing that’s what’s happening. This makes for uneven progress.
†† In my continuing quest to help metamorphose the bull terrier’s reputation from savage killer to friendly goofball, I have found that mysteriously the addition of ‘English’ in front of ‘bull terrier’ seems to mean that fewer people back away from you slowly, looking frantically around for a tree to climb. I wouldn’t put it past a bull terrier to learn to climb a tree, but I don’t tell the backers-away this.
††† There are emergencies and emergencies. I also bought some pink buttons for future knitting projects. It is good to be prepared.
‡ I know Pooka has video capability but life is too complicated, not to mention that iPhone video is usually pretty dire. In theory I know how to make the videocam talk to other tech. In theory.