July 29, 2010

Howling, various


 Today has NOT been one of my better days.  Let’s start over.  It’s 3 am and I’m already asleep. 

Blondel had a wedding in London to sing today and it had occurred to me after we’d already made our plan of a second voice lesson Thursday afternoon that, in my experience of weddings, he might be being a little optimistic about timing.    So I had a plan for an alternate afternoon in Mauncester.  What a pity I didn’t use it.  It would have had to have been more successful than the one I lived through.  Blondel was in fact a little late, but more to the point he arrived tired and ruffled—having managed to get lost finding his way back out of some London labyrinth*—so we ran a little later yet while he had a glass of water** and de-ruffled.***

And then . . . oh gods . . . the lesson itself was a disaster.  Dido?  Dido is spinning in her grave.  And Janet Baker probably has an unimaginably ghastly stomachache of metaphysical, not to say necromantic, origin.†  I was then so freaked out by the destruction I was wreaking that when Blondel suggested we try something else I couldn’t get through Fear No More.  I can sing Fear No More.††  But not today.  AAAAAAAUGH.†††

There were two brief moments when I wasn’t looking around for a sword to impale myself on.  One of them was that Blondel has given me a goofy new exercise that I very nearly have to learn like a new song—but it’s amusing.  Kind of a lot of your warm-up exercises are a snore, they’re just excercises for the purpose of waking your voice up and telling it has to work for a living.†††  It’s not a big deal;  I like scales.   But this one’s fun.

The second not-nearly-long-enough moment was . . . Blondel sang Fear No More—upon request, and I suspect he only agreed because he too wanted to end the Hour That Should Not Have Been Born(e) on a better note than any of them thus far—so I’ve finally heard him sing.  OooooohMy.‡  Maybe I should revert to the impaling scenario.  Siiiiiiiigh.

It was now a good deal later than I realised.  And I had handbells at 5 pm.  Well, I was supposed to have handbells at 5 pm.  I rang Penelope and asked her to please tell Niall I was going to be late.  Half past latest, I said.  But I was still in Mauncester at that point.‡‡  And you may have noticed the way they joyfully rip up the roads in high tourist season.‡‡‡  So by the time I got home I had written several sharp letters to the Hampshire County Council in my head and I was flatlining in both energy and morale—and I had to give poor sad patient hellhounds at least a token hurtle before I went off and left them again.  But my presence for handbells wasn’t crucial, because Titus was coming—which was why it was at Niall’s house instead of my cottage, he of the big enough and relatively tidy sitting-room—so he and Colin and Titus could get on with minor (six bells:  three people) while I sat down for five minutes and ate a nectarine.  And I hadn’t looked at the bob major (eight bells:  four people) enough anyway, so—especially after the voice lesson I’d just had—I wasn’t minding the idea of putting off the revelation of my handbell deficiencies a little longer still.

So it was more like 5:45 when I arrived . . . to find Niall and Titus sitting alone in silence.  Because Colin was not there.  Which I should have known, but I’d forgotten, and I hadn’t written it down.  OH.  GODS.  And the only reason they didn’t kill me is because they’re British.  Also, I suppose, because they still wanted to ring handbells.  Which was what we were there for after all.  Some of us sooner than others.  

Handbells, once begun, were relatively successful.  I’ve told you about Titus:  he’s the one had the stroke fifteen or so years back and only has proper use of one hand—so he rings both bells in one hand, and I cannot BEGIN to tell you how confusing this is, not to mention the inevitability of rather a lot of rows that have seven or eight dings in them instead of the statutory six.  But I stayed late enough that we could stop when Titus’ hand started getting tired, by which time people were even smiling at me again.  Although Niall, who has no conscience whatsoever, while I was still in grovelling and whimpering mode, whipped out his diary with an evil gleam in his eye, and booked me in for handbells in Frellingham with one of his demon ringers on a Wednesday they haven’t got a third ringer.  He’s been trying to get me to Frellingham for months, and I keep weaselling out of it, but this has got harder since I don’t have Wednesday Ditherington practise as a permanent shield and defense any more.  GAAAAH.  I think I’m nailed on this one.

And now I have a little dog to finish.  The way this day is going . . . well.  I’ve already decided I want to put my lament through my friend’s door on my way back from my piano lesson tomorrow.§  It won’t be finished, but the friend is, as I’ve said, musical, and if he doesn’t just throw something large and heavy at me the next time he sees me, he might have some editorial input.  Also I want to have made the gesture some time before the new puppy he  brings home in six months or so reaches its second birthday.

Okay.  Onward.  And I’m hoping for upward. 

* * *

* My immediate reaction was, you drove?  When you’ve got a train station in your back garden?  I’ve got the American’s view of the British train system too—it may make you frelling crazy, and it often does, but it exists.  After almost twenty years here I am still blown away by the sheer fact of the public footpath system, and of the national rail network.  Even if the reason I finally broke down and bought my first mobile phone is so that I could make ‘I’m sitting in a train a hundred yards^ outside Waterloo and have been for the last twenty minutes, and I’m going to be late for lunch’ phone calls.  Which I suppose is the answer to why he didn’t take the train.  The day you’re late to perform for a wedding is the day the wedding will run on time. 

^ Or metres, if you prefer 

** Normal people would have a cup of tea or a double scotch.  Singers are always thinking about their throats. 

*** And we compared notes on the weird stuff some people lay on for the euphonious exaltation of their weddings.  I am forced to conclude that the average level of musical education among the general populace is even worse than the boffins say.  

† Okay, Janet Baker does not have a stomachache of unknown origin today, because if she had a stomachache every time some voice student—even the slightly smaller category of voice students who think she walks on water—mangled something she is famous for singing heartbreakingly superbly, she’d be too weak to get out of bed in the morning, and I’d prefer to think she is still enjoying her retirement.  

†† I didn’t say well, okay? 

††† Note to self:  Do not agree to a second voice lesson in a week.  Not even if you’re planning on spending all night at the piano and beating that frelling G into submission (while Peter is safely elsewhere playing bridge).  Clearly the pressure is Too Great for a spindly amateur. 

‡ Think Keystone Kops.  

‡ Golly gosh wowie zowie eeep.  Geezum.  Gazinklebats.  Bryn Terfel had better look to his crown.  Although one of the things about Terfel is the size of his voice.  He could fill Heathrow.  Tear out all those ugly terminals and put in some bleachers.  And Blondel says that his own voice is not that large.  You couldn’t prove it by me:  he was pasting me to the back wall of his studio clearly without trying.  I can see/hear why people keep giving him jobs.  Although I kinda wish he’d been having an off day when he applied for the job he’s going to the end of August. 

‡‡ Sort of the backwards version of the ‘I’m sitting 100 yards outside of Waterloo’ mobile-phone call. 

‡‡‡ This makes some sense in Maine, where the temperature may drop below freezing and snow begin falling any time, you just get to complain if it happens in June.  In southern Hampshire. . . . 

§ My voice lesson today was the little dog’s fault.  I may have spent most of last night at the piano, but quite a bit of it was about a lament for a little dog, not for a queen of Carthage.

Happy 26th and tra la la


I know what the calendar says, but officially it’s the 26th.  I tweeted about this earlier:  we celebrate two anniversaries, our wedding anniversary the third of January*, and the 26th of July, which is the day, now nineteen years ago, that I drove to the Bangor, Maine airport to pick up this skinny, nervy, twitchy**, odd *** English writer wallah whom I knew very slightly, for a harmless tourist weekend and . . . unscheduled things happened.  Peter asked me last week if I’d like to go out to dinner for the 26th, which is what we usually do, and I said oh yes, please, definitely.

            Then I noticed that the 26th fell on a Monday this year.  Wait, no!  Not Monday!  Now that Wednesday Ditherington practise is no more, Monday is semi-sacred second weekly tower practise! †  Peter had already made the booking.  I was as humble as possible when I asked if we could change it to Tuesday.††

            And it is now rather late at night (as it so often is, about 300 words into tonight’s blog entry) and I am, in truth, a trifle the worse for wear.†††   Although a certain amount of this is the calculated fiendishness of restaurants:  they ply you with booze, because that’s where the easy mark-ups are, and half a glass of champagne on an empty stomach and I can’t find the floor with both hands.  Sigh.  You’d think I’d learn to say ‘not till the first course, please’, wouldn’t you?  But you scamper into the restaurant—or you do if you don’t go to restaurants much, and we don’t—in a festive mood, so when they come round waving the wine list and lo!, there is champagne by the glass‡, I lose all self-control ‡‡. . . .

            Would that‡‡‡ I could lose a little more self control in another direction.  I’ve just been having a tweet exchange with EMoon on the subject of practising our singing at home:  neither of us does it well or easily, because we’re too self-conscious.  Arrrgh.  Relax, open the mouth and the throat and the sinuses and let rip:  Um.  No.  Tweet is sadly not a bad description of the kind of noises I make:  a sort of muffled eeeping noise.  Siiiiiiiigh.

            And thus I tell you about today’s voice lesson with mixed emotions.  In the first place I can’t stand it that he’s frelling leaving.§  And soon—the end of August and he’s away for a fortnight between now and then.  In the second place . . . I’d about decided that Dido’s lament was a bridge too far.  Purcell is, in my admittedly limited experience, always harder than he looks—all those lovely long legato lines are full of beartraps and tigerpits of tune and timing—and I’d just about struggled through the early bits of poor Dido’s final moments AND THEN THERE’S THAT FRELLING HIGH G, and . . . nope.  No way.  I must have been mad to think I could do it—blurt it out there all stark and exposed like that.  I’ve been known to hit a G when I’m doing exercises, but then you’re just creeping up the scale while thinking hard about something else.§§  I know the G is there, but . . . it doesn’t come when it’s called.

            So I went in today thinking that I’d rather go on with Finzi’s Fear No More, which is what we worked on last week, and I’ve got just about enough voice a year after we started to begin making some attempts at interpretation, cough cough cough cough.§§§  And Blondel sat down at the piano and masterfully opened Dido and Aeneas and started playing.  What’s an elderly hag to do?  Chiefly what she does in these circumstances is botch things up in a truly amazing manner.#  But Blondel, after a year’s practise, pulls my strings pretty well, and just over the course of the hour Dido began to emerge from the banshees and the scalded cats and . . . I actually hit that damned G.  I was so astonished that I instantly reverted to scalded cats, but the point is . . . it’s there.  It is there, and not only when I’m creeping up on it while thinking of something else.##   Okay, this is a good thing, but . . .

            And furthermore, because I have no sense, I’m having another voice lesson on Thursday###, to spin out the misery a little more, and get me really cranked for our LAST lesson after he gets back from holiday.  It’s going to be a very. . . er . . . a lamentably musical week.  I also still have a little dog to finish.  The little dog is going rather nicely, I think, thank you.  But Peter is playing bridge tomorrow night, and I’m going to stay down at the mews and crouch over the piano and work on a little dog . . . and sing.  I am. 

* * *

* JRR Tolkien’s birthday.  Yes.  And your point is? 

** Have I told you about him giving the beginning of his Library of Congress speech with his chin on the table because he was pulling up his socks? 

*** Also tactless, but that’s another story.  Remind me to tell you about lunch.  

† Very slightly in my defense, Colin only holds practise if he knows in advance he has enough people, and I’d already said I’d come.  On Fridays at New Arcadia^ we just turn up and hope for the best. 

^ Peter would know better than to suggest we go out to dinner on a Friday.  

†† Clearly it serves me right to have rung like a blind water buffalo last night.^ 

^ Blind can be done, although not by me.  But that lack of opposable thumbs is a ratbag.  

††† I might be emphasizing this a little more except it was only a few weeks ago that Alicia and I were forced to drink an entire bottle of champagne almost by ourselves, and I don’t want any of you getting the wrong idea.  I am a sober old frump, I’m afraid, and . . . believe it or not, I do feel a strange responsibility to model Sober Old Frumpness as a positive lifestyle choice.  I want to work tomorrow, whatever tomorrow we’re talking about, Tuesday, Friday or Zingwath^, and July or November or March, which means either dreadful abstemiousness or an awful lot of water before bed.  And the problem with an awful lot of water right before bed. . . . 

^ This is a Gflytch day.  They have eight or nine in a week, which isn’t a week either, but it depends on the planet.  They get around, the Gflytch. 

‡ Peter and I had a simultaneous mutual FAIL moment in the taxi^ on the way over when we realised we both forgot the champagne stopper.  I’d even got the sucker out.  It was lying on my bed next to my keys.  I picked the keys up, and . . . 

^ So I can get lit, right? 

‡‡ Besides, I had something to celebrate.  Never mind anniversaries, the hellhounds ate their dinner, despite the fact that it was earlier than usual and there was clearly something else going on.^ 

^ No, no!  No dog noses on this skirt!  

‡‡‡ She says cagily, wrenching tonight’s topic progression so violently aside that it screams like a hellhound whose tail has just been stepped on.^ 

^ This actually depends on the hellhound.  Darkness shrieks.  Chaos prostrates himself because clearly he was an Evil Dog and left his tail in the wrong place.  

§ Not to mention that several of my nearest and dearest—including Peter, Merrilee and Hannah—have made gentle, indirect, non-hellgoddess-rousing noises about how perhaps, since I’ve had what was supposed to be my year to find out what singing feels like as research for writing songs^, maybe I would take Blondel’s departure as a sign and STOP voice lessons.  ARE YOU CRAZY?  I’M JUST STARTING TO GET INTERESTED.^^ 

^ Do your homework.  Just as I was saying the other night in Ask Robin. 

^^ No!  No!  Not interested!  Interest is deadly!  Interest takes more time! 

§§ Keeping your sinuses open, say.  And your tongue forward.  And your support supportive.  Your body never feels as squashy, eely and lumpy as when you’re trying to organise it for singing. 

§§§ And this is really INTERESTING!!! 

# Have I told you that Blondel’s replacement at the cathedral is asking if Blondel has any students to pass on to him?  And that he’s even younger than Blondel?  Can I bear to take voice lessons from a cherub?  Can a cherub bear to give voice lessons to an elderly, self-conscious hag with a little skinny voice and a G that does not come when called?  What if the cherub is not unflappable?  What if he is mean?  What if he makes me burst into tears?  What if I make him burst into tears? 

## Interest is a terrible, scary, despotic thing. 

### Right before handbells.  Gah.

Deadness and weather


I’m a beyond-dead knackered person.  A beyond knackered dead person?  Whatever.  The weather is not conducive to coherent thought, or even retention of much vocabulary:  it’s that kind of swampy fug that makes you feel like one of those several-thousand-year-old bodies buried in a peat bog.  You may be well preserved for your age but . . .  Could I convince you that my birth language is Gveltch*, and I tend to revert when I’m really tired?  Gehgrug.  Ardangle brak.  Slomag.  Dah.  Fribkizam daldol rakpek, flob in jestru, dangwhammy.  I’ve just told you that anyone who rings bells in this weather deserves to be winkledubbed by the gazortfuls till bragolindon.  So there.  Colin’s crew meets on Mondays, and they have a second tower to keep rung, like we at New Arcadia are responsible for Old Eden, ** so we were ringing at Little Warbling tonight.   Little Warbling is known to be the coldest, dankest, clammiest tower in three counties—and the bells are furthermore rather lightweight, so ringing them doesn’t even warm you up much.  Except tonight.  By the time we’d rung them up, ready to do something with, I was already glad I’d forgotten to change out of my shorts into jeans.  There was no air in that air in that bell tower tonight, and I rang like it.***  I had some company being witless and collision-prone, but the end result was nonetheless not inspiriting.  Sigh.

            I have a better reason for an absence of brain tonight than merely the weather however.  I have, I think, referred to the fact that several crucial planets are apparently laying down the aetherial inter-spheroidal version of rubber in retrograde lately, and I have a whole slew of friends having a variety of really bad times.  As most of you will know, there isn’t usually a lot you can do in these situations, except pester them with emails/phone calls and, if you’re close enough, cups of tea†. 

            One of my musical friends has a much-beloved little dog—who died last week.  It’s not that she wasn’t due to go some time soon;   she was.   She’s been elderly for several years and stopped Going Everywhere with Him about a year ago.  But?  So?  Who is ever expecting it when it happens?  And who, having given his heart to a dog to tear††, is frelling ready for the final good-bye? †††

            So I was possessed by the insane notion of writing a lament for a little dog.  I’m not at all sure this was one of my better ideas, but it’s too late now.‡  I can always lose my nerve and retitle it Hellgoddess Railing at the Universe:  why don’t our standard companion critters last longer, for pity’s sake?  Unless you have a parrot or a boa constrictor you can figure on their checking out every decade and a half or so‡‡, destroying you utterly, and putting you through deciding whether to do it again or not.‡‡‡  So PEG II had a holiday today§ because after a few days of dorking around looking nervously at the ragged beginnings of my mournful little lament and failing to commit, I really wanted to get on with it, one way or another§§.  I’d like to put it through his door§§§ by the end of the week.#  Gulp. 

* * *

 * As spoken by the Gflytch.  Long time blog readers may remember the Gflytch.  They used to appear, scary and scowling, in the shadows of lj.  

** And are occasionally dragged into service at Madhatterington on the grounds that it’s the same benefice or some such.^  I haven’t had an update on Madhatterington in a while, and I’m afraid to ask, because anyone who knows the answer is too likely to reply, Oh, that reminds me, what are you doing Sunday afternoon . . . ? 

^ The Church of England hierarchy is seriously beyond me.  But I like our priest.  He wears that t-shirt that I spent years trying to think of someone to give one to:  Jesus Loves You.  But I’m His Favourite.  –I haven’t quite had the face to ask our priest who gave it to him.  

*** I am trying to remind myself that a year ago getting through Cambridge at all would have been a miracle beyond my grasp, never mind without being shouted at.  One of the frustrating things about being a Not Very Good Ringer is the way everything makes a difference.  If you can ring Cambridge, you can ring Cambridge (or Grandsire, or Stedman, or anything else), right?  Wrong.  Because each bell perforce must start at a different point of the pattern (like a kind of relay race), you will start learning a new method by ringing it always on the same bell, most often the two.  That’s the same number bell, the second bell in the row/circle of six.  Except that when you’re learning, you want literally the same bell.  The exact same bell.  The number two bell is a whole different experience at Little Warbling than it is at New Arcadia or South Desuetude.  I have been hacking at Cambridge long enough now that I have rung it at Little Warbling before . . . but, as I now recall, the last time I tried was kind of a disaster.  Maybe this is reassuring.  I’m improving.  Siiiiiiiiigh.  I just want to be disgustingly brilliant, you know?  Why can’t I be disgustingly brilliant?  I must not have filled the form out right.  I’m sure I ticked the ‘disgustingly brilliant’ box. 

† With or without chocolate bickies.  I realise this comes as a shock, but not everybody turns to chocolate in times of stress. 

†† There is sorrow enough in the natural way

From men and women to fill our day;

And when we are certain of sorrow in store,

Why do we always arrange for more?

Brothers and Sisters, I bid you beware

Of giving your heart to a dog to tear.

 Rudyard Kipling gets it right (again).  Don’t let the sentimental twaddle that has grown up around this poem fool you:   he’s not in a good mood^. 


 ^ And no, you’re right, it’s not Shakespeare.  Be grateful.  

††† Note that any reference to the rainbow bridge will be deleted.  Does.  Not.  Work.  For.  Me.  

‡ Most of my stuff sounds pretty lugubrious anyway, or at least weird.  I wouldn’t tackle an epithalamium.  

‡‡ You may get twice that out of a horse, of course, but that may almost be worse, because it’s still only about one-third of what you’re hoping for yourself. 

‡‡‡ Probably.  Critter people are like that.  Which means that one of the saddest, most demoralising curses of our modern era is the no-pets-allowed at old people’s homes.  

§ Yes, I know, horrors etc, I am an irresponsible cow, etc etc.  Bite me. 

§§ I have bottomless, ardent sympathy for people who find words intimidating when I’m trying to write music.  Sticking notes together is so . . . is so . . . is . . . uh. . . . 

§§§ No, he doesn’t read the blog.

# If Finale hasn’t driven me to running mad with an axe before then.

Another Frantic Friday


The problem with my Friday afternoons with Oisin is the way they’ve evolved.  First there was the Piano Lesson.  Then there was the Piano Lesson with Composing.  Then there was (sigh) various assaults, insults and inroads of ME,* which is when the Cup of Tea with Musical Musings, Laced with Discussions of How We Would Put the World to Rights, developed.  And then Oisin brought home his Amazing Electronic Organ.  I’ve told you about it:  it’s two rather beat-up electric keyboards, two computer screens, two very rough and ready speakers, a lot of mismatched wiring and an assortment of scraggy boxes.  And then he brings his hands down on the keys.  BROOOOOOOOUUUUNG.  He was playing when I arrived today, and I could hear him from the street, which is up a hill and the far side of a hedge from his music room—and the windows were closed.  Fortunately his door is half glass;  he would never have heard me knock.  The organ recital went on longer than usual today partly because we were testing out the playlist for next Friday, when I’m bringing a friend.**

            But the Cup of Tea with Musings is now an established part of the Friday afternoon ritual*** and, you know, solving the world’s problems takes a little while.  Which means that on Fridays, as today, when I also actually have something to show Oisin, most of the afternoon has disappeared by the time he manages to boot me out the door again.  Today I brought him [Piano] Miniature #3:  the miniature Miniature. 

             I like the fact that there are no wasted notes in what you write, said Oisin, and I made a snorking noise†.   That’s mostly total cluelessness, I said.††  Hmm, said Oisin.  I think we should orchestrate it. 

            Orchestrate!  Wheee!  I’d love to orchestrate it.†††

            So I went off in a happy daze of possibilities‡ and fetched up (humming‡‡) at Third House where I slammed a few more patient, hopeful plants into the ground from outgrown pots and tried not to think about how much farther on I was planning to be at Third House‡‡‡ than in fact I am.§    Sigh.

            And then I had to hurtle hounds before I went off to be Ringing Master at tower practise tonight in Niall the Ratbag’s absence.§§  Which was a lot more amusing than it might have been.  There were only six of us—Vicky and Roger, who can ring, Leo and me who can sort of ring, and Cordelia and Mark, who can’t ring.  Much.  It was going to be chaotic and frustrating and stupid, and we were going to bash around making horrible clanging noises for half an hour and call it quits.  No.  Wrong.  When I suggested that we have a whack of call changes for our beginners and go home, Vicky nearly sprang a leak in her turbo-charged rejection of this plan.  She was right.  We arrayed our beginners on treble and tenor and rang plain bob doubles—although this was made possible by Roger shouting a lot§§§, and Vicky made me conduct#–and it was fun.  It was a bit like trying to spin gold out of straw## but hey.  We had practise.  We got our time on a rope in.  Yaay us.

            Now if it would only rain, so I can stop wasting valuable gardening time on watering.### 

* * *

* Entirely useless footnote, because the people who need to see it won’t.  I’m not going to define ‘ME’ every time I use it;  this would drive both regular blog readers and me crazy.  But it’s in the ‘about’ section:  Up there on the left of the opening screen:  about.  The bio section, you know?  Hint:  if you’re reading an unfamiliar blog, and the blogger makes reference to something apparently familiar to herself and her regular readers, try the bio section.  Please don’t pester Blogmom.  It’s not what she’s for.

 ** The next fortnight or so is scaring me to death.  I’ve got something like six people coming through, some for a few hours, some for a few days.^  One or two of them will be forced to ring bells Mwa ha ha ha ha.  And I’d better get some blogs out of it/them.  

^ The Quilt is draped seductively over the sofa at the cottage, poised for compliments.  

*** To the extent that I now usually show up already panting for my cup of tea.  The cup of tea can’t fall out of the ritual or I’d expire pathetically of drought and caffeine withdrawal. 

† Since I was still nursing my cup of tea while Oisin had to do the work.  Well, I couldn’t play it, there’s a bar with triplets against semiquavers/sixteenth notes.  Forget it. 

†† Although it’s also true that I hear music a lot like I ‘hear’ Story.  There’s a live, lithe line to it.  In music it’s usually the tune, although not always.  But it’s a sense of something there, of another note pulling you on from this one. 

††† And after all, it’s short.  

‡ Including a fresh new urge to write organ music.  Some of the stuff Oisin was playing today is by a French bloke named Bonnet who does some lovely deceptively simple pieces that fit the tone of organ music like hot tea fits your favourite mug.^  And I already love Jehan Alain and (well of course) Messiaen.  

^ The first metaphor that occurred to me had to do with a dominatrix and her black leather merry widow, but I decided this was open to misinterpretation.+ 

+ I like black leather. 

‡‡ very quietly 

‡‡‡ And on PEGASUS II 

§ And the six or so people coming through in the next fortnight I am not going to show it to.  Third House?  You think I bought a Third House?  A third house?  Why would I do that?  I may be mad^ but I’m not entirely daft. 

^ I may need more bookshelf and rosebush space

§§I hope it’s raining wherever he and Penelope are.  I hope it’s raining and cold.  

§§§ Roger was tower captain for thirty years at another tower.  He retired to become sane. 

# Hey!  It’s supposed to be Ringing Master’s prerogative to make other people conduct!  

## The neighbours would tell you we failed 

### There is this peony.  The cottage garden had six or eight monster peonies when I moved in, and I managed to give most of ’em away the first summer—peonies are all very well but I needed the space for roses—but I missed one.^  Frell.  I hadn’t seen it flower, so I dug it up and put it in a pot and shoved the pot to the back of whatever, the way I do.  I know about peonies, it’s planted shallowly, but two years came and went and no flowers.  I want flowers, to tell me if it’s worth saving.  I pulled it out of obscurity and put it somewhere I was sure it got lots of sun.  Still no flowers—and it’s taking up valuable sun space.  So I took it up to Third House last year and put it on the patio, which is south facing, and you don’t get any sunnier. 

            No flowers.

            Okay, this year, kiddo, this is your last chance.  It’s either flowers or compost heap.  Got that?

            It produced one flower.  I almost fainted with shock when I noticed a bud a few weeks back.  One bud.  One flower.

            Today when I went up there the bud’s popped and . . . ungleblarg it, it’s really pretty.  Pale pink^^ with an erratic, wandering thread of red, and a million fluffy petals.  Tarnation and cheap whisky.  I suppose I have to keep it now too–I was going to give it away.  But I’ve got kind of used to having it around.  I hope I can persuade it to bloom a bit more lavishly than one flower every five years. 

^ I still have five peonies.  I brought one, was given one, bought one, and I have two of my predecessor’s, the delinquent described, and the early-spring pale-yellow one which is one of my must-have plants.  All but the delinquent flower. 

^^ Yup.  I’m lost



Zo, grahf umgub FRABDABNABBLE arnyagixxit.  Glag.  Juvverund racondil brirt.  WANGLETHORP.  Deprath. 

             It’s been a long day.  Raglsolsby.  Dopperilplunk.  Etc.  Fridays are always extra-long because I’m trying to stuff two extra-curriculars into one day, which is both insane and forbidden.  I do it every week.  I am insane and forbidden.  I like the concept of being forbidden:  I embody forbiddenness.  Hmmm.  I could probably write a story about embodying forbiddenness*. . . .

             Where was I?  Oh yes.  Friday. 

              The morning got off to a bad start when a delivery man managed to take out one of my pots of pansies, and I was as yet insufficiently mobile and caffeinated to remonstrate with him in a manner suitable to his transgression.**  This did not put me into the ideal frame of mind for spending too much time at my desk pre-hurtle dealing with 1,000,000 overdue stupid frelling business-type things all of which I’d had reminder letters/emails of varying degrees of politeness about yesterday.  GO AWAY, WORLD.  YOU’RE REALLY BORING.  

              And I tweeted about this:  when hellhounds and I finally got out, we were climbing over a stile following a public footpath that crossed a field, which path the farmer had kindly cleared*** through the standing crop, a standing crop which is now about waist high, and I saw someone ahead of me ambling down the slope . . . and a strange violent wavelike motion on either side of him in the crop.  Which were his two giganfrellingtic Labradors and a medium-sized spaniel, knocking hell out of the poor bloody farmer’s harvest.  What the frelling gistelflurtz is the matter with people?†  What is going through what passes for this moron’s mind?  ‘Oh, my dogs don’t count?  Oh, it’s only this once?  Oh, but they enjoy it so much?’  What?  How about, ‘oh I don’t give a sh_t and it’s not like they’re going to catch me, and even if they did it would cost them more than it’s worth to take me to court, so you can’t make me give a sh_t, ha ha ha ha ha.’  Jenny told me a while ago that local farmers were starting to put locks on gates—farmers who generally speaking have been kindly disposed to walkers and riders and don’t mind if we stray off posted footpaths as long as we use common sense about where we go and what we do—because a really fun thing to do is take your SUV into a field with a tall crop in it, and play motocross.  People are amazing.  Not in a good way.

             Pause to take a deep breath.††  

             I did in fact get a piano miniature tweaked into Oisin-look-atable condition—I got one and a half in demonstrable shape, although half a miniature is pretty much three notes and a squiggly line.  Never mind.  They’re a good three notes, which is to say they collide with a crash and a scream, which is how I like ’em.†††  But Oisin and I have fallen into the reprehensible habit‡ of sitting around and having a nice cup of tea and agreeing with each other about all the ways the world needs to change.‡‡   This has become sufficiently established that the mere fact that I had some music to show him this time only meant that we tacked it on to the end of the cup of tea . . . which means the rest of the afternoon grew suddenly rather short, and I did want to write one or two more lines of That Dranglefabbing Novel before hound-hurtle and bell practise.  Which is where the subarticulation begins.  I do write words and notes on the same day sometimes, but I rarely write what-passes-in-my-case for significant numbers of both on the same day.  Today was one of those rare days.  Blerg.

             And I still had bell practise.  And there were actually five other inside ringers plus a treble and a tenor available, so we rang Grandsire Triples if you want to call it ringing.  Well, if you want to call it Grandsire Triples.  GAAAAAAH.  The best part was when I said, whoever is standing next to me has to keep an eye on me—since we did not have anyone left over to be a standing-with minder—and everybody shot over to the other side of the ringing circle.  Hee hee.  But I had Felix on my right and Edward on my left, and they shimmied me through like bouncers escorting a troublemaker off the premises, and urginchbletty twag and blingo tam.  Arp.  Zigdab ock.  Etc. . . .   

* * *

 *Arguably Nathaniel Hawthorne already has:  Rappaccini’s Daughter.  Great story.  I’ve recommended it before.  Never mind it’s by the Scarlet Letter/House of Seven Gables guy.^

 ^ I like Scarlet Letter and Seven Gables+.  What was I just saying about insanity?  But the scene where the extremely fey Pearl’s dad goes mental in public is worth being bludgeoned by a few metaphors about Guilt and Purity. 

+ Except the ending, where Hawthorne wants you in absolutely no doubt that Phoebe is going to Devote Her Life to Making Her Husband’s Life Comfy So He Can Get on with Important Male Stuff.     

**. Death by sword-thrust. 

*** Theoretically they’re required by law to keep public footpaths passable, but not all of them do.  You want to be particularly nice to the ones who make the effort. 

† There is good insanity and bad insanity.  This is bad insanity. 

†† As we were heading back to Wolfgang again, at the end of a rapidly replotted hurtle, since I don’t want to mess with off lead Labradors even when they’re not engaged in destroying other people’s property, there was a strange whooping noise which I was only hearing imperfectly because I had my Walkperson’s headphones on, but the strange whooping noise was persistent enough to be intriguing.  Turned out to be a young man leaning nonchalantly on the bumper of his large beat-up Land Rovery object, calling his cows.   Down at the bottom of the hill—the other side of the hill where the Labradors had been cutting crop circles—a large herd of rather irritated-looking cattle were trotting purposefully, having just been prodded through a gate at the far end.  The Land Rovery object^ was parked at an insouciant angle outside another gate that the young whooping man had opened.  The cows, evidently, were going to come trooping up the hill, angle past the not-a-Land-Rover, and pour beautifully through the third gate just beyond.  No cow was going to take it into her head, for example, to duck around the not-a-LR and hightail out for the bright lights of Ditherington, only a different short bit of slope away.  Now there often are cows in the field beyond the third gate, so manifestly they are got in (and out of) it somehow.  But I’m just as glad hellhounds and I were not on the spot to find out how well it worked.  Including the whooping.  As we were passing through, the cows were still trotting hard along the bottom fence, looking like they wanted a manager to complain to. 

^ I mean it wasn’t a Land Rover, but was of that ilk 

††† This insanity theme is going to start making me nervous here in another example or two 

‡ Energy levels have not been high since I got Peter back from hospital.  Also I have a novel that needs writing which is driving me crazy.

^  Damn.  There’s that theme again. 

‡‡ Let’s start with good music programmes in primary schools, and some state funded support for lessons on actual instruments in middle school.  And elective music theory in upper school.   Composition even.  HA HA HA HA HA HA.  I’m raving.  Yes, but composing does astonishing things for your engagement with music.  You may still not have a clue, but you’re now in it up to the neck, and yes, those mermaids are singing, each to each, and to you.

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