March 9, 2012

A Visceral Response to International Women’s Day


Well, I’m celebrating International Women’s Day by . . . coming down with a stomach virus.  JOY. *  And here I had thought as I sat at choir practise tonight that my disturbing queasiness was merely the result of trying to sing frelling John Rutter’s frelling The Owl and the Pussycat.**

            There is, however, a certain artistic symmetry to the situation.  Is anyone else . . . hmmm . . . unwowed by the concept of an International Women’s Day?  Like women are some kind of special interest fringe group that needs to have a day named after us and dedicated to us to bring us to global attention?  Because no one will notice us and our bizarre, incomprehensible needs and wants otherwise?  What is the matter with this world?  


I wonder how many times Clara Schumann thought “I should have listened to my father”.

She didn’t compose anything after the age of 36, but she continued touring and teaching as long as she was able to, and is credited with both changing the repertoire for concert pianists and for developing modern piano technique. Not a bad record for someone who had to be married to a mentally ill man…. 

Her father was still a bullying hysterical control freak, even if it turned out he had a point about Schumann.  Apparently greed came into it as well:  he kept her concert earnings while she still belonged to him.  She was well out of his clutches by pretty much any means.  (I’ve got the standard Clara bio at home on my TBR shelf.  I want to know, among other things, about Clara’s mum, who, understandably, divorced her creep of a husband–but why did she leave her daughter behind?)  What I keep thinking about is that she went from the hands of one smothering madman to another:  very rough karma for a woman with fantastic talent.  (And we’ll omit comment about that total little tick Brahms altogether.)  If Robert (a) hadn’t wrecked his hand and (b) had stayed sane, I wonder how much of a career Clara would have had in any shape or form?  I don’t deny Robert’s fantastic talent—but he got to use his.  Clara had eight kids to raise, and a husband writing sweet endearments in their joint diary about how music was all very well but what he wanted his wife for was to be a wife. 

            I grant the injustice isn’t all in one direction:  it’s very nice and all that the bloke gets to engage with what’s in him to put into service—but he also has to because he’s got his useless wife and all their useless kids to support.  It’s such a stupid system.

            And yes, Clara revolutionised piano playing and had a career as a concert pianist into her 70s.  But perhaps because I’m a producer rather than performer myself, I can’t forget that she ‘lost confidence’ in her composing and, as you say, composed no more after the age of 36.  Have you heard what she wrote as a teenager, for pity’s sake?  Sure, people burn out young sometimes.  But I don’t think that was the problem here.  What-ifs are futile but yes, I mourn for the music that Clara didn’t write. 

             And now, if you’ll forgive me, I think I’ll go lie down. . . . † 

* * *

* And I caught it by email.  Unfair!  It wasn’t even an attachment!  But I missed a set-up-in-advance^ phone call a couple of days ago when I got an email from the friend in question saying that she had stomach flu and we’d have to reschedule. And here I sympathised, having NO IDEA she had coughed on her monitor and touched her keyboard with unsterilized fingers when she wrote to me.  So much for my internet security programme.  

^ Because the five hours’ time difference with east coast America is a ratbag, because my so-called schedule has no grounding in reality, because I never know where I’m going to be even if I think I know what I’m doing, and because I’m not going to hold a long international call on Pooka’s+ speakerphone++ out in the middle of a field.+++  

+ This aside from questions about iPhone battery life, the answers to which are ugly. 

++ Because I don’t care what the dubiously-funded tests say about safety, I am not going to clamp my mobile phone to my skull for long periods of time. 

+++ And no knitting available. 

** One of his Five Childhood Lyrics.  I believe I was complaining about Sing a Song of Sixpence last week.  Sixpence is a doddle compared to O&P.  Because I am a poor sad ailing thing with minimal brain for blog-writing or teeth-brushing and to-bed-going I have just wasted a silly amount of time listening to as many O&Ps on YouTube that I can find . . . with disappointing results.  The soprano-destroyer is the descant over the basses singing . . . Said the piggy ‘I will’. . . . when our line suddenly develops frantic wedding-march-itis for two bars, and then does it again a phrase later.  FRELL. FRELLFRELLFRELLFRELLFRELL.  And Griselda wasn’t there tonight.  It was a bloodbath.  But I can’t find a performance that does it justice—my impression is that this is through a combination of poor miking and the fact that the music is winning and the sopranos are losing.  If you listen very closely you can just about hear soprano-self-immolation^ going on in this one:

I will take it to Nadia on Monday.  It has a wholly gratuitous top A, but that’s not the problem.^^  The problem is the tuneRemind me why I wanted to sing in a choir. ^^^

^ Someone on Facebook a few nights ago—whenever I last used the word—said she enjoyed my blog for the vocabulary, and cited ‘immolation’.  Oh dear.  I consider that basic idiom, like hellhound, frelling and ARRRRRRGH. 

^^ At home, most nights, I have a B.  It wasn’t all that long ago that I only had a G at home.  After a glass of champagne.+ 

+ Champagne.  That’s what this stomach needs.  Yes.   

^^^ Because it’s too late to learn the violin, or some other your-body-is-not-your-instrument suitable for playing in groups. 

† But do have a cruise through these, some of which made me laugh out loud.  Which was kind of a mistake.  I merely highlight one that has bearing on the current topic.



So, about this auction.

            New Arcadia’s bells need £10,000* worth of restoration work.  We’ve raised about £1800** so far.

            We need money.  We need a lot more money.  We have a couple of small grants coming, and at least one more promised;  and a few ideas about how to squeeze some more change out of the locals;  and one promise of a splashy charity do.***  But we need money.  This is not polishing-up-the-brasswork restoration:  this is crucial, necessary keeping the bells ringing work.  We’re ringing on borrowed time now. 

            So Days in the Life is having an auction. 

            I’ve been meaning to get this auction off the ground for . . . um . . . months.  But it takes, you know, DECISIONS, as well as the sheer frelling nuisance of finding copies of books I want to have in it.†  As well as the courage to fess up to the sillier items.

            So here is a rough guide to most of what’s going to be in it—there will be a surprise or two in the finished list—so you can sharpen your expectations and your bank balances†† and then I have to get the photos and the list together to send to Blogmom, and she’s going to create the actual machinery to do the thing. 

 * * *

First a few of Peter’s books.  These are all OP in these editions and the sad truth is that most of them are OP generally, although you can (mostly) find them on Abebooks and so on.  All books—mine and Peter’s—will be signed.  Of course.

UK hardback of THE ROPEMAKER and its sequel ANGEL ISLE, as one item.  This is Peter’s, ahem, epic fantasy.  (ROPEMAKER is dedicated to MEEEEEEEEEE.)

American hardback of CHUCK AND DANIELLE, which is about a whippet who is scared of everything.  It’s based on our smallest whippet—AKA wimpet—of the previous generation of hellish sighthounds.  It’s adorable.  Trust me. 

UK hardback of TULKU, which might be my favourite of Peter’s books.  Might.  But it is the one I’d just read and been totally bowled over by when I met him for the first time.  ::Swoon:: 

THE KIN, the big gorgeous American hardback single-volume edition of the four short books.  The introduction begins:  ‘It is Africa, about two hundred thousand years ago.’  And the numbers of homo sapiens sapiens are increasing, and they need to find more places to live.  (And between chapters of the adventure there are the Oldtales, which are the stories the Kin tell each other about where they came from and why things happen the way they do.) 

The UK hardback of TIME AND THE CLOCKMICE ETCETERA.  Possibly Peter’s most criminally underknown, undersold and neglected book.  (Grrrrr.)  Illustrated by Emma Chichester-Clark and funny and clever and charming and very Peter, and Emma’s illustrations are perfect.   Lovelovelovelove.

 The UK Paper Tiger reprint of THE FLIGHT OF DRAGONS.  A cult book and, as is almost the definition of cult books, drifts frustratingly in and out of print.  Illustrated by Wayne Anderson.

 * * *

And now mine.  These are all American editions;  most of them didn’t have British eds: 

One hardback of THE DOOR IN THE HEDGE and one original paperback ed of the same.  That first paperback cover—black, with some of the Twelve Dancing Princesses’ boats visible on their way to the ominous-looking castle in the middle of the lake—is still my favourite of its incarnations. 

One hardback of IMAGINARY LANDS and again one paperback of the same.  (The paperback’s cover art is by Thomas Canty, for any collectors out there.)  This was the anthology I edited and I enjoyed the writing-letters-to-authors part but I am a rotten businesswoman.  It’s probably just as well it never earned out.  I’d’ve had to figure out how to pay everyone royalties.  (It contains a story by Peter Dickinson.  It also won the World Fantasy Award for best anthology that year, and I’m pretty sure James Blaylock won for best short story.) 

One each of my two picture books, MY FATHER IS IN THE NAVY and ROWAN.  While my father was in the Navy, the story is not autobiographical.  ROWAN, as I’m fond of saying, is the only true piece of autobiography I’ve ever written†††.  Except for the fact that it all happened when I was in my thirties and not when I was a little girl, it’s exactly how I bought my first whippet, Rowan.  

A pre-Newbery first edition, first printing of THE HERO AND THE CROWN.  (If you want an ordinary hardback reading copy of HERO, it’s still in print.)  

And a first edition, first printing of the original hardback of SUNSHINE.  With the dark-red background and the chandelier, and the embossed gold type.  Still my favourite art.  

* * *

A few non-auction, simply-for-sale items:  Peter will donate to the bell fund any money from sales of THE WEIR, his book of poetry, made during the course of the auction.  The limited edition hardback is £40 [US$63.33];  the paperback is £8 [US$12.66]. 

I have a small hoard of the original, long version of the ROSE DAUGHTER afterword;  Greenwillow printed them off as booklets with the hardback cover art.  The text is still on my website, but I’ll sell a few copies of the booklet if anyone would like them. 

I’m also thinking that for anyone who would like to contribute to my and New Arcadia’s continued campanological happiness but doesn’t really have the disposable cash to get into bidding for a book, I’ll offer a small cartoon of a bell, and best wishes from the bells and the signature of the famous author/hellgoddess/artist manqué Robin McKinley.  I’ll draw one of these and post a photo . . . when I get around to posting photos . . . so you can see what absurdity I’m talking about.  But I can draw/write as many of these as anyone wants.

* * * 

And, speaking of silly things . . . it gets sillier from here on.  If this were Peter, he’d be writing snippets of poetry.  But it’s not.  I can’t write poetry to order—except bad haiku, which is going to be a contest some day, but not today—but I can draw, if you’re not too exacting about the definition of draw.  I think I’ve told you that I thought the non-writing art form I’d get back into some day was drawing, not music.‡   So I’m thinking I might offer slightly—very slightly—illustrated copies of, say, one each DRAGONHAVEN, CHALICE and PEGASUS, which usefully feature a critter each suitable for mad rendering.  These would, I can assure you, be unique.  

Now we’re into the territory of stuff that I’m going to put discouraging bottom bid limits on because I’m half hoping no one will bid.  First:  a more elaborate sketch of a critter or critters, and while I will to a limited extent Take a Request from whoever pays the top bid, if you’re going to be too hard on me I’ll revert to the hellhounds.  So, offered for your bidding:  one cartoon of hellhounds/sundry critters. 

Second:  knitting.  One square/potholder/faceflannel/washcloth with a ROSE in bas relief.  What-you-call-it in knitting. 

One square/potholder/faceflannel/washcloth with a PAWPRINT in it as above.  I’ve downloaded patterns for both these from Ravelry, and I’ll post links when I put the photos up.  The only remaining question is if I can follow simple directions without stabbing myself to death with my own needles.

And. third, the ultimate silliness:  I’ll write you a piece of music.  Details somewhat negotiable.  I’ll write you a canon or fugue starting with your name, for example—again, somewhat depending on how strict you are about your musical definitions—or I’ll set a couple of lines of poetry, or if you play an instrument I might conceivably have a teeny tiny clue about, I’ll write something for you and it.  The bottom bid limit on this one is going to be extreme, because it would be a lot of work—even though I’d enjoy the flapdoodle out of having the excuse.  But there’s nothing stopping several of you getting together and . . .

 * * *

* Call it $16,000 American. 

** About $2850 American. 

*** Which we are going to be expected to sell tickets to.  We’ve already had one pep talk, not to say exhortation, from Vicky about this.  Since I can think of few things I could be worse at than hustling ticket sales, I suspect that everybody on my Christmas list is going to get charity revue tickets.  You don’t want to know me this year. 

† You may remember that Fiona was a heroine in this arena last time she was here. 

†† We’re probably doing this by PayPal as the least harrowing for me.  

††† . . . as fiction.  The blog doesn’t count here.  

‡ Life’s a freller.  We knew that.

The Story thus Far


No, no!  The other story!*

The one on the rose needle is TWENTY TWO rows long because I got INTENSE during a phone call again. So I shunted it off onto a not-in-use needle. Fiona is also going to teach me to UNKNIT next time. I had a look at the problem myself and thought . . . nooooooo.

            Okay.  It’s true.  I like knitting.  I just . . . like it.  I like picking up my needles when my frelling computer is taking forever to load—or when I’ve just been put on hold.  Arrrrgh.  Even with knitting I hate being put on hold.  Four years ago, or whatever horrifying number it has become, when I was beginning to gear up for starting a blog, I remember a publishing friend, Miranda, who knits, sending me to Yarn Harlot’s blog as an example of a blog with a Strong Voice (I having been bleating about not really getting it about blogging**) and I was flipping through and laughing somewhat nervously—since I did not knit—but I was briefly paralysed by an entry that began, as I recall ‘I don’t know what other people do when they’re put on hold’ next to a photo of some hideously complex and adorable knitted object.  And I thought, I hate being on hold.  Hmmmmm.

            But I didn’t get any farther with that thought.  Well, I hadn’t started the blog yet.  I hadn’t cracked under the strain of all those knitters out there.  I hadn’t foolishly asked a Crazed Yarn Fiend to be one of my mods.***  I hadn’t met Fiona.  I admit that once I had met Fiona, I noticed—one could hardly not notice—that there tended to be a lot of knitting where Fiona was.  But I didn’t really register this.

The Mobile Knitting Unit. Manifestly made for the task. It's an evening bag. Someone gave it to me because it has ROSES on it. I have used it like maybe once. It is now a crucial addition to my complex daily multi-house commute.

            How times change. 

 * * * 

* PEG II is positively pouring, streaming, cascading on at the moment, although this lovely if spectacularly draining phase won’t last.  More’s the pity, mostly.  If it kept on like this I might even make my original deadline, about which I’ve been making rude noises since last summer . . . but which would probably also kill me, about which see yesterday’s entry on the counterproductivity of offing me.  So when it tapers off to a steady trickle all will be well and I will not be crumbling to a few little bits of water-smoothed bone, and will probably live to write ALBION.^  Today was one of the important scenes I haven’t been able to get on with because of that little plot difficulty I referred to.  I thought  I knew what happened . . . and wow, was I wrong.  Well, the result was the same, but getting there was like . . . uh, pegasus rather than pogo stick.  Or the world ending in fire rather than ice.  Drat.  What do I do with all these parkas?

            And then I had to close down and go ring handbells.  Handbells?!  What the freaking frell are handbells and why am I supposed to care?  Poor Fernanda was suffering an anaesthesia hangover and I was still out there in la-la-la land^^ so we got off to a somewhat uncertain start^^^ but plain bob major was eventually had by all.

The grey one is the first item produced by the Mobile Knitting Unit. Although I had to rip out the first half dozen rows during another intense phone conversation. I need to do something about my phone technique.

            For my next trick I have to decide if I’m going to bring some stuff to sing with me when I go to take a cup of tea off Oisin tomorrow.  I told you Nadia told me to keep working on Che Faro but to prepare a folk song too, for variety?#  I’ve been vacillating between The Miller of Dee and The Minstrel Boy, but I’m probably better off with The Minstrel Boy, which is not only a full step lower, but less manic.##   And if the plug’s been pulled out of the writing wellspring, I can risk composing again.  That’s actually been there when the story-writing wasn’t, but I’m still new to composing and I’m not quite sure what goes on in the murky depths of my subconscious and I didn’t want to disturb the creative end that pays the bills.  But there’s a little piano piece that keeps bursting out a bar at a time if Oisin isn’t there when I arrive—in which case I rush to his piano and pull out my sheet of manuscript paper—and did I tell you I’d started to write a piece for bass-baritone and organ with soprano accompaniment?  Equal time, you know:  sopranos get all the fancy stuff.  It was originally for bass and organ only but I began to worry that you wouldn’t be able to hear it, except through the bottoms of your feet.  I could always do two versions. . . .

 ^ Which I’m looking forward to.  Even if ONE OF THE DAMAR NOVELS is the one making the most noise at the moment.  No, no, this is normal for me—the stronger and wilder story-in-progress is, the more I need some other story prancing around like a hellhound with a stick and saying Play with me!  Play with me!  Which is also one of the supernumerary blecch-nesses of dead zones like the last couple of months:  the other stories that I know are out there mostly stay out there.  Even if I manage to engage with one, it doesn’t really mean it.  It would rather go back to the story-bed and curl up and go to sleep.


^^ Or Balsinland.  Note that none of my three Brits knew what ‘space cadet’ meant.  Is it a significant cultural marker that Americans say ‘space cadet’ and Brits say ‘away with the fairies’?

^^^ No, no, no, you hold the little leather strap and shake the bell

# I told a friend this and she said, Oh?  This Land Is Your Land?  Buffalo Gals?  No, I said quellingly.  Beethoven.  Haydn.  Vaughan Williams.  Britten.  Get some couth, woman.


## I keep forgetting to show you the shoes I wore to my first voice lesson.  I wanted to omen^ this as well as I was able to. 

 ^ Well it should be a verb.  Clearly.

 ** Hey.  It was a long time ago, okay?

*** And I was too naïve to realise that all of blondviolinist’s chirping about Bach was a ploy.  That really it was all about knitting.

A Double Arrgh Day


No, triple arrgh. 

But first. 16 November is retreating fast into the twilight of history.  And I know at least one person is going to come after me with a harpoon if I don’t tell you what was in those fancy parcels.  Allow me a digression first however.*  I’ve been doing the daily blog thing now for three and a bit years.  I’m mostly used to the weirdness of yakking away about my life on line and in public and I haven’t (yet) woken up sweating at 3 am and thought Why did I tell them that?**  But every now and then the extremeness of the weird clonks me one.  It was one of those clonk moments when I realised that while I will blither on about my presents, because blithering is what I do, there’s no need to explain any of them, because regular readers will recognise them all instantly as familiar manifestations of McKinley’s personality.***  Starting with the posy of white roses sitting beside my computer.†

            And moving on briskly to the revelation of contents.  The only thing even faintly in need of elucidation is ASHES TO DUST . . . but it’s a book, isn’t it?†† 

            For the rest, eh.  The one Peter called a mistake is the pink one.  Is the man mad? But, he said feebly, you already have a pink jumper.  What does that have to do with anything? I replied. 

            The black cardigan with the banner of flowers thrown diagonally across its front is one of the divineliest pretty things I have ever seen.   When Peter said he needed something to give me for my birthday I handed him the catalogue immediately.  This one, I said.  I’ve wasted a lot of digital whatever trying to get a good close-up of it;  the flowers are embroidered, so they’re tactile as well as . . . pink.  But the black background is that really shiny pima yarn which reflects like anything so my photos keep coming out with a grey haze over them.†††  This one isn’t too bad.

            And then . . . Stephen Sondheim.  I’ve been mooning tragically over the complete score to SWEENEY TODD for years, for no good reason.  Complete scores are grotesquely expensive but I could have afforded one. ‡   I think I thought it would be cheek in an odd sort of way:  I like to include, say, Messiaen and Benjamin Britten in my composing influences, but that’s manifestly absurd and therefore harmless.  Sondheim, for better or worse, is pretty much hands-on literally an influence, and getting my hands on a Sondheim score would be too much like taking myself seriously.  But Sondheim turned 80 this year and is all over the place being feted and celebed‡‡—and has published FINISHING THE HAT‡‡‡, which has the delightfully explanatory subtitle:  Collected lyrics (1954-1981), with attendant Comments, Principles, Heresies, Grudges, Whines and Anecdotes.§  For that I would want to read it even if I didn’t want to read it.§§  Peter asked me if I’d like HAT for my birthday and I said yes, and then I inhaled sharply and added:  WouldyouliketobuymethecompletescoretoSWEENEYTODDtoo?

            Which has had totally the expected effect§§§ of making me pull out some of my Finale [music software] files and start making terrible noises.#  Which brings me to my triple-arrgh day.

Arrgh No. 1:  Frelling Niall rang me this morning## and somehow managed to convince me to ring handbells tomorrow morning with Titus.  Arrrrrgh.  He’s pumping this ‘all my regular ringers are in Lapland chasing reindeer/ Somalia chasing gerenuk’ pretty dranglefabbing hard.  He could have got Theophrastus together with Titus, it seems to me.  Hmmph.  Anyway.  He is a bad man and I have no will power (which was the gist of my reply).  This will be the third time I’ve rung handbells this week.

Arrgh No. 2:  We were suddenly, unexpectedly, and somewhat dismayingly awash with good ringers tonight at tower practise . . . and it’s been months since I had a chance to ring Grandsire Triples and I totally frelled the freller.  Totally.  Frelled.  Kill me now.  Arrrrrgh.  The second try was slightly better.  A little.  I also screwed up calling my siimple-minded touch of bob doubles.  ARRRRRRRGH.  But I was probably a little distracted tonight, because . . .

Arrgh No. 3:  I took one of my longer and knottier terrible noises, washed, brushed and revised to make it more fearful, to Oisin today and he screamed a lot as he tried to play it.###   He then fixed me with a large, glittering, Ancient-Mariner sort of eye~ and said, This needs to be orchestrated, you know.  No!  I didn’t know!  I don’t know anything of the kind!  OrchestratedAAAAAAARRGH. 

* * *

* You will allow me a digression, won’t you?    

** That ‘waking up at 3 am’ is an oxymoron is beside the point. 

*** And how weird is it to be hanging photos of your birthday presents on line at all? 

† Well, why not white?  We’ll get to something pink soon enough. 

†† I used to read armsful of murder mysteries;  not so much any more.^  But I like the ordinary-people-rising-to-extraordinary-circumstances thing, right?  I’ve been talking about it in various of the recent spate of interviews.  Which to my eye all mysteries are, pretty much by definition, even police procedurals (which I like, especially when the crack detective is a single mum with three kids or similar).  And this book has had some very flashy reviews.  We’ll see.

^ A digression for another evening.  

††† Okay, a four arrgh day 

‡ If I simply didn’t buy any books for a few months I’d recoup.

‡‡ Should that be ‘celebbed’ do you think?

‡‡‡ Which is a line from his SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE, George being George Seurat, the Impressionist painter.  I will leave you to draw your own conclusions.  Or you can read about it here:

§ Another big gloppy Sondheim fan reviews it here: 

§§ And here’s an eyecatcher from a first browse.  He’s talking about the song Anyone Can Whistle, which includes the lyric:  What’s hard is simple,/ What’s natural comes hard./ Maybe you could show me/How to let go,/ Lower my guard . . . and he writes: ‘ . . . musical-theater rhapsodists have appropriated it as my personal statement. . . . To believe that “Anyone Can Whistle” is my credo is to believe that I’m the prototypical Repressed Intellectual and that explains everything about me.  Perhaps being tagged with a cliché shouldn’t bother me, but it does, and to my chagrin I realize it means that I care more about how I’m perceived than I wish I did. . . .’  Yep.  I know about this.  And he gets a lot of points in my account-book for saying so. 

§§§ No, not practising my Angela Lansbury as Mrs Lovett imitation in the mirror 

# Almost as terrible as my Angela Lansbury imitation 

## Almost late enough.  I wasn’t very asleep. 

### I only do it to annoy because I know it teases.  Actually, I don’t, but I do enjoy the screaming. 

~ Unhand me, greybeard loon!

Frelled Out of My Own Mouth


I tweeted this a few hours ago:    

I AM SO FRELLED. (I’m just back from piano lesson w Oisin. & we made a DEAL. It was HIS idea. I cld hv said NOOOO. If I had any SENSE. . .)

           It’s all the Computer Men’s fault really.*  I’ve got all expansive and unbalanced by having Finale back.**   It makes me foolish.  It makes me feel as if I’m musical.  It makes me not notice tiger pits till I’ve already fallen into them.  Quite early on in the conversation this afternoon Oisin asked if I’d managed to get hold of the Cherub.***  Yes! I said, all bouncing and gleeful.  Yes!  Yes!  He sounds nice!  He sounds much more sensible and clued-in to things like elderly talent-free women who have strange ideas of fun than any grotesquely over-talented twelve-and-half-year-old ought to!  —I was busy setting up my laptop on one of the slightly-less-teetering piles of sheet music† on the corner of Oisin’s Steinway as I said this.  

          In all truth I haven’t got very far in splatting Vague Noodly Piano Thing onto Gotterdammerung, but that’s partly because I’ve managed to forget a lot of Finale’s little ways in the several weeks since I’ve been able to use it.  The Only Thing Worse Than Finale Is Having No Finale.  Sigh.  I had, with great pain and difficulty, managed to switch myself about three-quarters back to manuscript paper again††—and it’s not like I never use it:  I pretty much always start on manuscript paper so I don’t have to know before I begin what key and time signature I’m in, which Finale demands as part of the votive sacrifice to deliver the supplicant to the manuscript-paper screen.  And now here I am, staring at the blindingly annoying Finale opening screen††† with a little flutter of expectation again.  The flutter is trying to remind me that I will spend at least two-thirds of my time using my composing software trying to find what I need in the help files, and screaming. . . .

            Anyway.  I had a bit of Vague Noodly to show Oisin today:  enough to demonstrate I’m trying.‡  It always makes such a difference to hear a live person play something:  this live person anyway. ‡‡  So when he asked how much of it I thought was down on paper/screen I said with self-astonishing firmness, about a third.  If you’d asked me that question before I heard Oisin play it I would have said:  Unh.  Some. 

            Excellent, said Oisin.  Then I won’t ask you any questions now.  But I’ll have lots of questions when you bring me the rest.‡‡‡

            Still thinking about this ominous ‘lots of questions’ thing I follow Oisin into the kitchen for the ritual cup of Friday-afternoon tea.  And am immediately distracted by the box of Octopus and Chandelier libretti sitting on the counter.   Ooh.  Shiny.  I admit to having very mixed feelings about the Octopus and the Chandelier:  I’m sure the experience is going to be very good for my character.  And . . . think of the blog material.  I should have a shoo-in post every (rehearsal) Sunday for four months.  This is not to be scorned.  However there is still this little Singing in Public impediment to my perfect enjoyment:  the footlights may occasionally reach even to the back row of the chorus, don’t you think?  It worries me.  And I am going to sing.  I am not going to do the old moving-lips-no-sound-comes-out ruse.  Well.  Not deliberately.

            This concatenation of concepts probably explains why I was insane enough, when Oisin said, I’ll make you a deal:  you sing for me and I’ll write you a blog entry, I said you’re on.  You’re what?  He’s what?§  I WHAT?

            I’m trying to tell myself this is a good thing.  I spent most of my year with Blondel whining about how if I weren’t such a coward I’d take advantage of having an experienced professional accompanist available every Friday afternoon for something besides cups of tea.  Gah.  And I’m still whining about it.  It’s a good thing I’ve had my hand forced.  It is.  But if you don’t hear from me next Friday, it’s because I’ve run away to Goa. 

            PS:  Niall made it to tower practise tonight.  Therefore I’m letting him live.           

* * *

* Archangels are very untrustworthy on this corporeal plane.  They have secret super-righteous agendas concerning the perfectibility of the human animal which any mortal knows is tosh.  But it can be very uncomfortable to be caught in some piece of heavenly apparatus.^  OW.  LEGGO.  DOESN’T FIT.  

^ I love the idea that angels and computers have a connection.  But then I have a sick, twisted sense of humour.  

** Gotterdammerung is, at present, working so beautifully I hardly know where to put my crankiness.^  She opens.  She closes.  She moves briskly from one programme to another.  She does not hang.  She does not crash.  She does not produce pop up boxes describing anatomically impossible events and berating me for failing to have my cheezfammers aligned with my gortamflurds.  Don’t I know that there are always compatibility problems with Cheezfammer 2.1 and the entire Gortamflurd empire?  There is, of course, a bug fix for Cheezfammer 2.1, but your internet security Rottweiler-wolverine programme will have kittens if you try to download it. 

            At the moment Gotterdammerung even has Outlook cowed^^, but this happy condition probably can’t last. 

^ Don’t worry.  I’m sure I’ll find something. 

^^ Or possibly axolotled. 

*** Note that Oisin actually calls him the Cherub.  Poor Cherub.  I’m going to have to find a fierce manly name for him.  Attila.  Vlad.  Cuchulainn. 

† I’m always delighted when Oisin’s phone rings while I’m there.  I immediately start rootling shamelessly in the nearest pile.

†† Oisin sniggered when I said this.  I could see he was trying not to.  But he did. 

††† I don’t care who he is.  He’s not Mozart.  Why don’t we get to choose our opening screen shot?  At Finale’s prices, we ought to get a free butler with every order, to bring us cups of freshly made hot tea while we slave over our virtual manuscript paper, discovering that we guessed wrong about the time signature and the home key.  The butler could carry a hip flask as standard. 

‡ I’m now in a quandary about Ring a Ring of Roses.  I couldn’t cope with four voices (SATB) and organ stark and alone on paper, so I had this dazzling flash of creative imprudence and started writing it for four voices and percussion.  Whack, thwap, thud.  I may have told you that, did I?   But now . . . here is Finale again.  I could do two different versions.  The dull thud version and the trying-to-make-my-organist-piano-teacher-crazy version.  Like Verdi reusing one of the best bits of Otello in his staggeringly fabulous Requiem.  Well, maybe not quite like that. 

‡‡ He phrases by ear.  How does he do that??  But it means that what has been blundering around in my skull looking for the exit and whimpering, suddenly looks all solid and purposeful and sounds like its existence has meaning and a future.  

‡‡‡ Is this a good thing or a bad thing for your music teacher to say to you?  No, no, don’t tell me, I don’t want to know.

§ He immediately started caveatting at me that he wouldn’t necessarily write me a guest blog immediately.  Ah, but there he’s on my ground.  I’ll get him. 

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