Darkness made it through the night* without further incident** and today (thus far) has been normal.*** Life with hellhounds: a dizzying head trip with gruesome outbreaks of reality. Fortunately my hellhounds are cute. Warm and furry does me in every time, especially if there are wagging tails involved.
But I was on the phone to my vet at what passes in my case for an extremely early hour this morning.† And, wonder of wonders he was not only there—he has a nasty habit of volunteering to do marsupial field surgery in Venezuela or chiroptera rehabilitation in Romania—but he took my call. And I certainly had stuff to tell him.†
I breathed a huge sigh of relief and cautious optimism †† when I hung up, and took my assortment of hellcritters on brisk brief hurtles because Raphael was coming to scold Astarte and tell her to stop jerking me around and losing or refusing to recognise my email . . . and of course she behaved faultlessly the moment his authoritative tread was heard BUT . . .
I’ve been moaning about my current printer for months if not years. There are days when I can’t get it to print at all . . . and at this point it’s become one of the things that is making PEG II such a struggle. But I can’t frelling afford a new printer. Raphael had mentioned the new printer again when he booked to come out here and he just happened to have the one he was recommending in the boot of his car when he arrived. Ha ha ha I’ve heard that one before.
Oh, I said. Is it wireless?
It’s better than wireless, he said. It’s on nice stable cable, but [blah blah blah, something to do with the wireless picking up the signal from any given computer—and including Astarte, who I haven’t been able to print from at all without the idiot faff of sending myself an email attachment—and translating it to the printer]. So as far as I’m concerned it’s wireless: I don’t have to plug anything in I just HIT THE PRINTER BUTTON.
AND BETTER YET, IT PRINTS.
Of course I don’t know how long this blessed state of affairs will last††† but . . . maybe long enough to get PEGs II and III done. Please. . . .
* * *
* How poetic, if you don’t know what I’m talking about
** Unless there’s a crack-to-the-next-universe, like the ruts in Kes’ driveway, in the bottom of the hellhound crate which they are careful to use in extremis. On the whole I doubt this. Although it might explain the occasional apparent disappearance of old dog blankets.
*** And he’s just had dinner and is curled up and crashed out, so we have crossed our fingers and are typing with great difficulty.
† It takes me a good hour of caffeine and deep breathing to be sufficiently re-engaged with modern life to be able to find a phone number and then punch it into some machine which includes telephony in its repertoire. I usually try to get dressed before I do anything drastic like use a phone, since modern phones all have eight hundred and ninety-five options . . . and that’s just the preloaded ringtones. I remember when making a phone call involved a phone or address book made of paper and a low-key lump of plastic that only made telephone calls. Gone are the days etc. Levi’s frelling button flies—the problem being that I like the jeans—are a big fat nuisance when you’re trying to have a quick pee in a hedgerow but doing them up first time in the morning is a useful station on the way to contemporary functionality.^ I don’t try to put any jewellery on^^ till much later: all those horrible little clasps.^^^
^ It fascinates me, these people who allegedly reach for their iPhone or equivalent before they get out of bed. Presumably this means they can, even in an unawake, precaffeinated state, turn the thing on, since there can’t be a lot of point to grappling with it if you’re not turning it on.+ The ridiculous truth is that Pooka usually does sit on a shelf by my bed (except when I forget) but if Peter ever did ring me in an emergency I’d be all is-this-a-dagger-which-I-see-before-me-the-handle-toward-my-hand-come-let-me-clutch-thee-I-have-thee-not-and-yet-I-see-thee-still.++
+ Okay, good luck charm maybe? I’ve always thought rabbits’ feet totally ewwww and creepy. A nice shiny piece of tech is to be preferred.
++ That was all one word. Microsoft believes hyphens are sacred.
^^ And I’m a jewellery kind of girl, although I stopped wearing long ropey things that hellcritters can get their legs through years ago.
^^^ It’s nice to think that all those people who lived before the internet was invented didn’t have it all their own way.
† The problem with homeopathy for animals is that they don’t talk, and homeopathy depends on the sufferer’s individual experience of what is wrong with them which means that the homeopath needs to know what that is. I’ve told you this before: if three people come to a homeopath with ‘flu’ involving aches and pains and fever but one of them says that the worst is the headache, and one says the worst is the nausea and one says the worst is the sore throat, they’ll get three different remedies. Although my hellhounds’ digestion is the presenting problem, ‘unpredictable outbreaks of double-ended geysering’ is of limited diagnostic usefulness^ and what Aethelstan was interested in is the ‘mentals’ in response to the first remedy, which were basically that Chaos got gloomy and lugubrious and Darkness got chirpy and cheerful, which is pretty much the opposite of their normal selves.
So that’s the hellhounds sorted with two fresh remedies.^^ Whereupon we came to the hellterror, and I told him depressedly about the disastrous show, and that Olivia had suggested that I might want to look for a behaviourist within my reach in the south of England. And he said mildly, I don’t think you have a problem dog and I don’t think you need a behaviourist at this point. I think you have a year-old puppy, a terrier, and an ordinary pet dog that had never seen anything like a big dog show before. Aethelstan is a terrier person himself, so he has more of a clue than most of the other people I’ve spoken to about what happened. You mean I’m not a bad person? That would be wonderful. I told him what I was doing off the long list of suggestions Southdowner made for giving Pav a wider experience of the world and he said he thought that sounded fine—while agreeing that we do need to address what he tactfully calls the ‘residual fear’ from her more important meltdown at the local vets’ last spring when she was so ill and miserable. So she’s got a new remedy too . . . and I feel so much better about the whole situation I may venture on the perilous course of testing her long down at the dog-friendly pub soon.
^ There are pages and pages and PAGES of diarrhoea remedies in any homeopathic textbook.
^^ I wish.
†† I don’t think we’re at the end of any roads or anything, but at least I feel we’re moving again.
††† Or how I’m going to pay for it.
Tabitha—my Bowen-massage lady—seems to have mauled us worse than usual today. Peter and I were both blundering around this evening saying I’m shattered . . . . bluuuuuuh . . . I’m shattered. Bluuuuuuuh.*
So I had this idea I’d respond to some forum comments. . . .
Have I mentioned lately that I HATE MY PRINTER? I hate my printer. Hate. Hate.
. . . I *so understand*. For several hours yesterday I was TRYING to get our new office computer to “see” the new . . . printer. After *eventually* succeeding… it printed gibberish. . . . That’s when I discovered that, in all likelihood, there ARE no compatible drivers… AARRGGGGHHHH
And . . . I re-discovered this gem from The Oatmeal . . .
Why I Believe Printers Were Sent From Hell To Make Us Miserable
Anyone who hasn’t read this should immediately remedy this error. If you’ve been having a BAD TECHNOLOGY DAY read it twice. I wasn’t having a bad technology day till a few minutes ago possibly because I haven’t been near a computer till a few minutes ago since this morning. But my laptop immediately engaged with this distressing situation and after the first few copy-and-pastes from the forum to give me something to hang a post on in the absence of any brain activity . . . when I clicked back to the forum again there was an error message. There has been an ERROR on this page, it declared. Do you want to continue to jambledubfred the garbonzoleach? Yes. No. Clicking on yes . . . nothing happened. Clicking on no . . . nothing happened. Trying to close the window made it flash smartly and go DING!, and no, it did not close. Refreshing the page produced exactly the same non-result.
I saved your comments. I closed everything down. IE struggled furiously, like a rabbit in a lurcher’s mouth or possibly an old-fashioned vampire impaled on an old-fashioned stake, before that cool Buffy before-the-watershed TV-friendly splintering into ash thing, but eventually inertia** overcame it and it disappeared up its own . . . fundament. Squish.
I turned everything on again. —GARGLE ARGLE BARGLE DARGLE. The last time Raphael was here he re-installed Skype, which doesn’t like the laptop, AND NOW IT WON’T NOT LAUNCH*** WHEN I TURN THIS DRANGLEFLAMPING COMPUTER ON.† Raphael told me exactly what to do to make it stop and . . . I GET AN ERROR MESSAGE SAYING CHIZTOGMALIFRY DOGGLE DOODAH RATCHET, TOUCH THAT MENU AND DIE. Raphael is coming again on Thursday. For this among other things.
Tonight’s interesting IE error message has disappeared. That’s the good thing. But every web address now goes on for about a mile and a half. It should be, for example, robinmckinleysblog.com, not robinmckinleysblog.com/?ezekielGRINCH!!Vladgormenghast~2.45qh ZORGliarliarpantsonfire+/-stupidbloodyfrelling=ARRRRRGH/?#094gx2% . . . Maybe the laptop is just jealous that the printer is getting too much attention?
Oh, and further to yesterday’s fascinating tale . . . my new chequebook arrived with the wrong name printed on the cheques. They’ve got it right on the frelling address . . . BUT THEY’VE GOT IT WRONG ON THE CHEQUES. This makes those transferring-bank-details phone calls even more stomachache-inducing.†† And is the name the same on the new account, Mrs Dickinson? Er—yes—er—well, it will be. What’s that you are saying, Mrs Dickinson? NOTHING. NOTHING. YES, IT’S THE SAME NAME.†††
Let me leave you with something that the fabulous gryphyn found for our delectation and delight.
Hee hee hee hee hee hee hee. . . .
* * *
* Which is probably why I fell down and rolled over for the Battersea Dogs and Cats Home http://www.battersea.org.uk/ begging person when he knocked on my door and started telling me how much it costs to save critters. I KNOW. I ALREADY GIVE MONEY TO THE DOGS TRUST. http://www.dogstrust.org.uk/ Well, now I give money to the Battersea lot too. He totally had me^ as soon as he asked me if any of the hellpack are rescues. Um . . . no . . . I am a bad person. Fine, he says, sign here.
^ Possibly also because I was out in the garden frelling watering and hating that almost as much as PRINTERS. I have barely done any GARDENING in weeks because I’m wasting so much time WAAAAAAATERING.+ So I’m busy feeling guilty about all my neglected plants too.
+ Someone, I think on the forum, suggested getting one of those leaky-hose watering systems installed. Not unless SHADOWS is a major best-seller. Even the low-tech# versions cost kind of a lot.## And I’d still be watering all the stuff in front by hand. And complaining.
# That evil word again
## Do it MYSELF? You’re joking, right? I, who can’t weed without sticking the trowel in my hand at least once, and who can’t water without pouring water all over my feet?
** And screaming
*** with its ever-so-charming sound effects
† I have no idea if it works. Skype? Me? Are you kidding? But it’s one of those things your publisher thinks you should have, like having a flu jab every winter just in case, which I don’t either. Have. A flu jab.
†† Note that Credit Card Diabolus in Musica’s queue is still twenty minutes long today. Have I mentioned that my other credit card answered the phone in ten seconds, after a negligible battering by a robot voice? I have written Diabolus an email. They haven’t answered. Surprise. I am warming up to write a letter to the charity Diabolus is fronting, or maybe it’s the other way around. You want my .00000000002 pence worth every time I buy something? THEN DO SOMETHING ABOUT YOUR BANK.
††† Well, it’s the same person. It’s the same negligible income.
It’s been a beautiful day here. Outdoors. I’ve spent far too much of it indoors. What is this cruel thing known as earning a living? And why do I have to do it? There are days for high adventure and doughty hero(in)es and wicked magicians and allies that fly* and there are days for chucking it all in and rushing out into the garden and vying valiantly with the ground elder and the enchanter’s frelling nightshade [sic] and the thrice blasted comfrey which is taking over the universe although the two-and-a-half-times blasted Japanese anemones are giving it a run for its money. There’s also an Evil nineteen-times-blasted Vine which I’ve forgotten the name of which is trying to do a Sleeping-Beauty’s-castle trick only without the thorns, and I’m forever having to hack it back before it swallows a hellhound** or blocks the door. THANK YOU, MY PREDECESSOR, YOU TWIT. THANK YOU SO MUCH. The ground elder and the enchanter’s nightshade—and the goose grass, and the willow herb, and the multiply-blasted wild yellow poppies and that ooooh-little-me? black-leaved violet which may be the worst thug of the lot, and the nettles, and the docks, and the spurge, and the scarlet pimpernel which is orange, and the groundsel, and the speedwell, and the land cress, and half a billion other bleeping volunteers—they’re all life or bad husbandry or the bad husbandry of your neighbours.*** The known ratbags† that someone actually PLANTED you’re all WHHHYYYYYYYYYYY?
The day did not get off to a calm, well-organised start when having found myself still awake well after dawn I reset the alarm . . . and only by good luck woke up for no reason three minutes before Computer Angel Raphael arrived. I had managed to stare disbelievingly at the clock, put my glasses on, stare disbelievingly some more, scream, scramble into one of the little cotton dresses that I wear instead of a dressing gown in hot weather, hastily sweep the floor†† and put the water on for tea when there was the knock on the door . . . and violent eruptions from critter crates. I like a quiet beginning to the day, so I usually let Pav out for a few minutes to carom around the kitchen before I lock her up again with her breakfast and let the hellhounds out . . . but you can’t expect anyone to stay all silent and lying down when THERE IS AN EXCITING KNOCK ON THE DOOR. So in fairness I let everyone out and . . . mayhem.††† Fortunately Raphael has three small children. Mayhem is his natural condition.
And then I had to WORK. I had to WRITE SENTENCES. With the sun streaming down and the temperature beautifully cool-warm or warm-cool—we even had a little rain last night. Not a lot, but enough to let me bunk off WATERING and actually do some, you know, gardening. I could have written more sentences. But it’s going to get hot again and I’ll want to hide indoors and have somebody else’s high adventures.
There are good years and bad years in a garden. This is probably one of my better years with the cottage garden: to the extent that I have a plan, I want a miniature version of the big messy crowded romantic garden that we had at the old house. There are glimpses of that this year‡ so long as you (a) squint‡‡ and (b) on no account leave the courtyard and penetrate into the surrounding jungle. You’d be surprised at how much jungle you can manage, or rather, not manage, in a space about the size of Merry’s truck bed. Granted Merry is a large pick-up truck, but this is not large in gardening terms.
I have some photos for you but first I have to tidy them up a little.
* * *
* and enchanted rose-bushes and hobs
** I think the hellterror would give as good as she got. Hellhounds are too polite.
*** I’ve been threatening to stab to death with his own hand fork my neighbour over the facing wall for as long as I’ve lived here not only because of the staggering ugliness of the garden shed roof that pokes up above my wall and frells my view, but for the ground elder that races under his piece of wall to attack me. Only he died recently. Hmmm. Maybe one of his other neighbours. . . .
† All right, I like Japanese anemones. But I’d plant them in pots.
†† Three critters = sweep floor three times a day. I don’t, of course, but I should.
††† Pav has jolted forward one of those developmental stages, the way little growing-up things do. She (mostly) sits on demand. She (mostly) does not pull on the end of her lead. And she (mostly) listens to me. I know, I know, not a bull terrier trait, but I’ve said before she’s a mutant.^ Usually when I’ve got her tucked under one arm I’m wearing jeans and she can do her whirring propeller legs trick and no harm done. This morning in a little cotton frock was a different manner. Shortly before I bled to death I fetched her out from under my arm, turned her over and said Stop. That. And she did the little forepaws by the face thing like someone raising their hands over their head because the bad guy has pulled a gun on them, and her face was all distressed, What? What? But I’m a bull terrier. Oh . . . sob . . . I am a poor downtrodden misunderstood creature . . . all right. And she stopped (mostly). Now if only I could persuade her not to run through her entire electrifying range of noises while she’s waiting for her next meal.
^ The builder who thinks she’s too docile for a bull terrier would agree
‡ In the ‘if fate hands you lemons, make lemonade’ department, if you’re nailed at home due to streaming or possibly-streaming hellcritters . . . you could spend more time in your garden.
‡‡ Late afternoon is a good time to let people out into the courtyard because the sun will be right in their eyes.
This is not going to be my most organised blog post.
I had my first meeting with my new SPIRITUAL DIRECTOR today. Scary.
And, from the sublime to the ridiculous, I’ve just wasted over an hour wrestling with frelling frelling FRELLING Microsoft Outlook, which has (apparently) decided it’s not speaking to America. Eh, what do you want with those colonials? it says, shuffling its component crapware. —YOU’RE AN AMERICAN PROGRAMME, I reply. YOU’RE A CRUMMY AMERICAN PROGRAMME BUT YOU’RE AN AMERICAN PROGRAMME. PROGRAM. WHATEVER.
Your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries, it responds. America is not on the menu today. Go away.*
ARRRRRRRRGH. I don’t even know how long it would have taken me to notice except that I was supposed to talk to Hannah tonight after I got home from my FIRST MEETING WITH MY NEW SPIRITUAL DIRECTOR. I’d hurtled a startlingly wide variety of hellcritters—the tireder I am, the more of them there are, I’ve noticed this often—and was creating critter dinner. Hannah emailed to check we were still on** and I emailed back that we were . . . and then it was fifteen minutes past when she should have rung and she hadn’t, so I emailed her again, and five minutes after that I received another email from her saying that evidently I wasn’t there*** and we’d have to reschedule . . . whereupon I frantically phoned her while discovering, phone tucked into my shoulder to leave my hands free, that my emails to her were still sitting in my outbox. With every other email to America I’ve written in the last twenty-four hours. ARRRRRRRRRRGH. And none of them will open so I could, perhaps, paste them in new windows or send them by GM-enhanced pigeon post or telepathy or something because Outlook won’t let me open them, claiming that it has ALREADY BEGUN SENDING THEM. In some cases twenty-three hours ago.
And here I thought it was trying to be a good day. The temperature has dropped enough for all of us to throw open all our windows and start as it were feverishly fanning since it’s supposed to get hot again almost immediately—and a little of that rain would be nice†—but at least the idea of putting on long trousers to go to my first meeting with my spiritual director didn’t make me cry.
So I’ve been at this Christianity lark for ten months now. The first eight months or so were all about the run up to Lent and Easter—Christmas is fine, Christmas is all jolly, except for the long shadow of events to come—Easter, I was worried about Easter. But I got through that and . . . gleep. It’s like looking up from picking your way down a very narrow stony path with a chasm on one side and dragons on the other and realising that it’s not just dragons and bottomless ravines but you’re lost in a universe-sized jungle AND YOU HAVE NO IDEA WHERE YOU’RE GOING. Where does the narrow stony path go? Is that where you want to go? Is there a beautiful sunset and a cup of tea at the end of it or a larger dragon?
The monks have a little box tucked into a corner of one of their web site pages saying that they offer spiritual direction and to get in touch if you are interested. I read this to mean if you’re another monk or a monk-novice or a priest or a serious plugged-in type Christian but Aloysius said that no, they took ordinary clueless kittle-cattle as well.†† Oh. And he encouraged me to contact them—write to the abbot, he said.
I wrote—emailed—the abbot. And he emailed by return frelling electron saying that he was about to be gone for a fortnight but to contact the prior.
Ah. The prior. Yes. Hmm.
I’m afraid of the prior. When Aloysius took me to the abbey for the first time last autumn to prove that the monks were friendly and that the public was welcome, the prior was having a rant about some piece of the world that did not work properly. I listened to him and thought yes, totally, you’re right and . . . is there possibly a small dark hole I could crawl into before your fiery eye falls on me?
You can see where this is going, right? Ultimately the abbot decided that the correct spiritual director for me is . . . the prior.
I’ve been sort of terrifiedly looking forward to today. But he didn’t singe me or anything. I’m exhausted but . . . more than a little inspired. So I guess it is a good day. But Outlook is still a rabid rotting ratbag.
* * *
* Ithilien wrote
Give me SHADOWS and go away.
I didn’t say that! Although I could have thought it rather loudly…
Very loudly! Very, very loudly! Not that I MINDED! If you do it right your books are MUCH more interesting than you are!
For the record, SHADOWS is even more fabulous than all previous snippets led me to believe. Y’all should totally go and pre-order it now.
^ Note that she’s safely in Greenland. I can’t hold a gun to her head or anything.+
+ Although it may be true that I’m holding her grandmother’s opal and peacock feather brooch hostage. Never mind how I acquired it.
** Which is my opportunity to pull myself together and say, oh! Yes! Of course! as if I was expecting it. If I don’t talk to Hannah for more than a week I start feeling flimsy and as if I have pieces missing, but I am notorious even to myself for writing things dutifully in my diary and then forgetting to look at my diary.
*** Ie I hadn’t looked at my diary again
† Mrs Redboots
You either sleep very soundly or are in the wrong part of the UK! It was absolutely sheeting down in the middle of the night here in the Capital, quite literally a solid wall of water! And lots and lots of lovely thunder, and I think there was lightning, too – funny how it penetrates closed eyelids – but I was trying to go to sleep, having been rudely awakened by rain beating in on me so I had to sit up and close the windows.
We haven’t had a spot of rain. A speckle, a mote, an atom. Stop selfishly keeping it all up there in London.
† This may not have been his exact phrase.
In this case, Peter’s.
That riot in the centre and left is all one rose, you know. The bigger, more intensely coloured but rather overshadowed roses on the right are James Galway and William Morris.
Some annual events are really eventful. Treasure Trove in bloom is one of them. Also, speaking of house-eaters.
We actually see her better here than we did at the old house. At the old house she was busy raging through the treetops, forty or fifty feet up. She did drop a few stems downward so we could appreciate what we were missing, but mostly you had to stand under the original tree where her trunk, which was a clump of stems easily as big around as my thigh and of a toughness that would not have disgraced teak or ironwood, soared out of the mere earth, and look up. She’s usually described as ‘thirty foot’. Sure. For the first year or two. Peter was afraid she’d take over the universe with only a small end-of-mews cottage and garden shed to overwhelm but I was all PUT HER IN! PUT HER IN!!! I bought her–I’m the rose buyer in this family–and THRUST her upon him. Well, it was his idea. I was only abetting.
I say all this every year, right? Eh. Some stories are worth retelling. If you’re not a rose person, what are you doing on this blog? –Fantasy novels? What?*
It was taken with the same camera on the same memory card as all the others. BUT NOOOOOOOOO. THIS ONE IS POSSESSED BY DEMONS. Okay, let’s see what fascinations await when I try to load the next one. The screen will go black except for a fiery ring and a mysterious voice that is not coming from the speakers will intone: One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them . . . Or it will be a photo of the B&B from someone’s holiday in Blackpool. There will not be a neon campfire in the window.
I personally think Morris would be spinning in his grave if he knew that they named an orange ‘old fashioned’ rose after him. I like orange in begonias, dahlias, gazanias, osteospermums, cardigans and topaz rings. I find it varyingly problematical in roses. And a rose bred to look old and ORANGE is like Queen Victoria in Jimmy Choos. NOOOOOOOOO.**
This is Westerland. You get a burning intense ORANGE bud . . .
She also smells fabulous, repeats well and is spectacularly tough. I’m surprised she’s not more popular. Relatively trouble-free roses are not thick on the ground (ha ha ha ha ha). Maybe it’s something to do with the colour. . . . But I always loathed ‘Just Joey’ which for years kept being voted ‘Britain’s favourite rose’. Whyyyyyyy? The flowers are stupidly big–too big–and floppy and shapeless, and a creepy orangey-bilious-jaundiced-Caucasian-flesh colour on a revoltingly feeble bush that keeps falling over every time it produces one of its unpleasant blooms. UGGGH. Sue me, I’m American.
Love love love.
Although she is the pink end of orange.*** I’m going to make my usual caveat about colour varying with that year’s weather and what you’ve been feeding her and where you and she live. Westerland can be a lot more in your face OOOOOORANGE, and Rachel can be more orange than pink.
I’ll post photos of my (orange) Ghislaine de Feligonde as soon as she’s out a little more. . . .
* * *
* There’s a joke here somewhere about retelling fairy tales, but I haven’t got it quite worked out.
** I should explain that Galway and Morris are artefacts of Peter’s predecessor. Even if you like orange old-fashioned roses, the strong pink Galway is a perverse pairing. Maybe the photos looked different in the catalogue. As they so often do.
*** Did someone say PINK?