May 12, 2010

Bluebell Wood


 To my considerable bemusement I’ve had two or three requests for bluebell photos.*  Maybe the photos look better if you’re not surrounded by the real thing.  Although it’s a funny thing about bluebells:  even though they’re almost overwhelmingly magical in person, even I feel the Must.  Go.  There.  of bluebell photos.  Even these not-very-satisfactory photos, because bluebell photos are never satisfactory, do have that effect—well, on me anyway, and at least two or three of my blog readers, I guess.  You know that that world is enchanted—the world with flowering bluebells in it—and in the photos it’s the whole world.  When you’re walking through a bluebell wood you’re sadly aware that you’re going to have to come back out again into the world of internal combustion engines and aggressive off lead dogs and hung parliaments**.  A photo of a bluebell wood is a little window to Middle earth. 

Bluebells also smell, however, and it’s somehow a wild smell, much wilder than, say, wild hedgerow roses, and it stays wild even when you have bluebells trying to take over your garden, which is what bluebells do in a garden, they’re the flowering bulb version of blackbirds.  But the fragrance is some recompense for the inevitable reentry of/to engines, nasty dogs and parliaments.   


* * *

 * Remember:  It’ll go up permanently on the opening page soon, but until then I’ll keep reminding you.^ 

^ And while I’m hanging around at askrobin, let’s answer another question.

 Was it your intent for the Queen from ‘Spindle’s End’ to seem like she came from Ossin’s country in ‘Deerskin’ in what seems to be direct lineage to Deerskin’s friend Lilac (if she isn’t Deerskin’s friend Lilac) or possibly even Deerskin herself.

 Yes.  No. Yes, Rosie’s mum in Spindle’s End is from Ossin’s country, but no she’s not directly related to Lissar or Lilac.

 In your defense of Pollyanna, [ ] you mentioned, that you strongly disliked a book, that it did not work for you. What are your personal criteria for dismissing a book as trash? Bad prose? Weak female characters? Can a book be written with one or the other and still be considered a success ­or at least worth reading? 

First I want to differentiate between good trash and bad trash.  Good trash is fun enjoyable stuff that doesn’t shake you out of your comfort zone, or maybe only a little, in a tingly, giddy sort of way.  Am I being insulting?  I hope not.  I love good trash.  Georgette Heyer wrote the epitome of superb trash.  She’s not the only one, but she’s safely dead so I don’t have to worry about insulting her.

            Bad trash . . . bad trash is junk food for the mind and the heart.  You may think it tastes good on the way down—and if you’re on a steady diet of it you won’t notice the icky chemical aftertaste—but it’ll fur up your arteries and make you stupid. 

            In this particular case it was another of these frelling supernatural romances.  I was reading it because it’s one of the ones that come up when people are discussing the post-TWILIGHT boom of YA supernatural romance.  It features another wet, useless heroine, another hundreds-of-years-old supernatural boyfriend+ who Loves Only Her for No Discernable Reason, an almost total lack of plot, a short list of tics and mannerisms instead of a writing style and endless bulldiddly about whether to Go All the Way or not.  

            Bad prose is unfortunate, and generally speaking, there being so many books out there and I am such a slow reader, I won’t bother with a book that isn’t written with story-specific grace and aplomb—Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury and Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time are both written with great story-specific grace and aplomb, for example, even if it’s not what Jane Austen or Jorge Luis Borges would use.  And if I threw out every book with weak female characters I’d have to throw out pretty well all of, for example, Charles Dickens and Raymond Chandler, both of whom I cherish.  But both of them had other virtues—style to burn, for example, especially in Chandler’s case, and an imagination so vivid it pretty well boils off the page at you in Dickens’. 

            They were also humans, which is to say men, of their times.++  I’m really not going to put up with wet, useless heroines in books written today, and the post-TWILIGHT+++ frenzy for boyfriends who totally take care of you so you can go on being wet and useless MAKES ME CRAAAAAZY.  And so does the coy crap about sex.  Arrrgh.

 P.S.: I was wondering something else: Where does the name ‚Pollyanna come from? It’s definitely a character in a book I should have read ­ but which book and by whom? 

Ahem.  Google and Wikipedia are your friends.

 + I adore Buffy, and with every other gloppy fanatic one of my favourite eps is the one where Angel shows up at the prom, but she is the Slayer, which a lot of the rippers-off who have come after seem to forget.

 ++ And Dickens had quite a scintillating line in tortured anti-heroines.  He just couldn’t do good women without plunging hip-deep into sentimental tosh.

 +++ And yes, TWILIGHT is pretty much the only current book I’ve been willing to say I don’t like—and I mean seriously don’t like—and that Bella and Edward’s relationship is psychotic.   TWILIGHT is trying to chain feminism in the cellar again, with a gag in her mouth and a bag over her head.   No.  I won’t go.

 ** Gah.  Get on with it, guys, we do need a government.

Girls Who Do Things

Obviously this is a part of the previous/following post.  But the more times I enter the wondermark drawing*, the better my chance to win. 

So as someone who has built her entire career on writing stories about Girls Who Get Off Their Behinds, Stop Wringing Their Slender Hands, Get Out of that Skirt and Do Stuff, clearly this is the wondermark that must sit at my elbow**, and it was very thoughtful of a friend of mine to give me a signed copy of this particular strip for my birthday: ***

 * * *

* You are paying attention, aren’t you?

** And whisper to me, yes you are too old for spandex

***Yes, you’ve seen it before.  So?  Great literature is worth rereading.^

^ Modesty forbids. . . .

A Shameless Attempt at a Free Book 

Life has been a little complex lately* or I’d have had a hack at it sooner.  Do we all know and revere David Malki?  We do?  Then please note, all you bloggers and librarians, that you still have one more day to get your entries in.** 

I think this is the strip that 4,236,002 people sent me the link to to get me started, I having confessed I did not know David Malki and the wonder that is wondermark:  *** 

And this one is a great comfort when I have been receiving more than the usual number of emails telling me that I write wickedness and lies/puerile bilge and piffle/that SUNSHINE has to have a sequel because that is clearly not an ending when the pages run out of the first one: †  †† 

And last but not least, on the dangers of treating books carelessly which, of course, no one here would do: ††† 

* * *

* Peter is brilliant^ . . . except that I’ve got stomach flu^^ and Peter has instantly gone into Caretaker Mode.  I’m fine!  I mean, I’m not fine, but I’m fine!  I can make my own cups of tea!^^^  I can complain!  I can also lie on the sofa with hellhounds without prompting!  Watch me!  No, don’t watch me, go have a nice lie down yourself, like you’re supposed to!! 

^ Actually he’s not brilliant.  He and his face have utterly failed in the task of turning refulgent blue and scintillating purple and coruscating yellow in response to nasal surgery.  I mean, come on, what’s the point+ of having your sinuses reconfigured if you can’t even scare small children for a week or so afterward?  Not to mention appear to give your wife some excuse for having a complete nervous breakdown as a result of supporting you through your terrifying ordeal.++ 

+ Or, if you prefer, the edge 

++ Trying to remember Reese Witherspoon’s name for the Guardian crossword Wednesday night at the hospital nearly killed me.  Reese Witherspoon.  Give me a break.  I could do June Carter Cash. 

^^ Or something with symptoms congruent with a case of stomach flu.  There is more reason just now than the sheer incredible beastliness of the weather+ for going on brief sprints with hellhounds.  Gah.  Weariness of body, mind and spirit.  I didn’t make it to service ring this morning.  So it’s serious.++ 

+ The Aral Sea has dried up?  All the water has fallen on Hampshire.  If we made a very long bucket brigade we could return it. 

++ The only bright spot is that approximately the only things that don’t upset my stomach at the moment are strong black tea~, champagne and chocolate.~~  This is nearly as big a favourite as the bibliophibian.  I visit it regularly.  I drink a lot of tea.  Do not drink your tea as you hit that link.  I’m warning you. 



**  No, wait.  Rats.  More entries.  Less chance of my winning.  Never mind, guys.  Forget I said anything.  Go study quantum physics or something.  You don’t really want to enter the drawing. 

*** Yes.  I have the t shirt.  If I’d been thinking ahead I’d be wearing it so I could make my annoyingly alert and healthy husband take a photo.  If it weren’t for the sleet and the howling gale and so on and the fact that even crouched over the electric fire chafing hellhounds all over my body I’m still cold.  Maybe next year Malki can come out with wondermark Shetland pullovers. 

† It’s going to be in neon letters of fire or letters of neon fire or something big and flashy at the end of PEGASUS that no!  Yes!  This one really ISN’T finished!  I know!  I’m working on it!  It’s not a sequel, it’s just the rest of the story!  Give me a minute/month/year!  And I’ll bet you Taittingers to cold, stewed Lipton’s that I still get accusatory mail about it. 

†† Although I don’t have a cool chair that goes up and down.  Mine only goes sideways when I kick it in a rage of creative insurrection. 

††† Okay, just one more:

Hey, I totally understand.

Other people’s blogs


So I tottered out of the bell tower this morning* and while watching Peter buy the Observer** noticed a headline in the Sunday Times:  THE 100 BEST BLOGS IN THE WORLD.  I was weak and silly and a headline writer’s patsy.  I bought it.   

The Guardian did the 50 best blogs a few months ago and I was entirely nonplussed:  my hazy recollection now was that by the descriptions in the article 49 and a half of them were hard nonfiction and the half was one of those train-wreck tell-alls.  I’m not sure I went to have a look at any of them.  Okay, I thought, the net world is a big place, there is a corner for hellhounds and roses and bells and books and pianos and horses and . . .  fortunately it’s a large corner.  But today I decided that if I wasn’t made of sterner stuff then I ought to be and I was going to go so far as to read a few of these recommendeds and then I would blog about it.  It is profoundly ridiculous that I write a blog but rarely ever look at anyone else’s***:  I might be missing good blog topics.  As I understand it that’s what everyone else does:  you read each other’s and then talk about it.  Right.  Okay.  Hat on straight†, feet flat on floor††. . . .

The first thing that happened is that the first address listed gets you This Webpage Cannot Be Found.   This may be a peculiarity of my computer, of course–or of Sunday evening:  although it reproduces itself nicely I admit it’s still Sunday evening–but when I finally got there via Google there was more address than the Times gave you: 

This first category is called ‘world affairs’ and normblog is described as ‘an indispensable window on the world’.  Hmm.  Okay, here’s a clip:

The question here is: why are we so interested in anniversaries? And although no direct answer is given to it, this is offered as one of the effects of that interest:

[A]nniversaries are to be praised because they constitute a historical review system allowing us to think about just a few things at any given time rather than trying to think about everything all of the time.

Review system, maybe; but allowing us to think about just a few things at a time I don’t buy. We’re both allowed and able to be selective anyway, without the aid of anniversaries. You don’t celebrate your child’s birthday so as not to have to think about your other children. So why? . . . It’s a way of organizing what would otherwise be chaotic.

It’s what?  Okay, this is a sober, serious, thought-provoking world affairs blog and I write fantasy and think the way my hellhounds sleep on their backs is the ultimate in hilarity.  I accept that I’m missing the point.  I would have said anniversaries are an officially sanctioned excuse to have some fun.  You know, fun?  I know the economy has just crashed and burned so the excursion to the Fat Duck††† may need to be put off, but you can still buy a balloon and go for a walk in the park.  And presents?  You know, presents?  You need to be really focused to buy presents for no reason.  Anniversaries are a reason.  And I never knew a parent who stopped thinking about one kid because another one was having a birthday.  And one of the nice things about anniversaries–or three day weekends commemorating some national anniversary–is that they don’t have to be organized:  they’re just lying there!  You can pick them up or not just as you choose.

However, if he gets more people to listen to Emmylou Harris then he is a good thing, even by my somewhat off-centre criteria: 

Although he is wrong wrong wrong about Red Dirt Girl being less than her best, it is a brilliant album and I wrote about half of SUNSHINE to it. 

Next we have 

. . .described as ‘A superb way into the mind of America.’  Oh?  Ah.  Well, I haven’t lived in America in almost twenty years.  Things change.  Also, being the sort of evil cow who nonetheless hates confrontation, the author photo puts me right off, being a Wanna-Make-Something-of-It?-stare author photo.  If this were a book, I’d quickly and nervously lay it down again.

But I do like the conceit of posting TH Huxley on Valentine’s Day, and the remark:  ‘Those who would have us live “according to nature” invariably have a stupid view of nature’  is my idea of dead on.  

 Next on the list is

 ‘ . . . The assumption is that you are on the journey with Sullivan, that you read him every day, as indeed millions do.’  Okay.  Textbytes.  We can do textbytes.

This of course immediately caught my eye:

For The Love Of Dogs

Heather Havrilesky hates both animal lovers and people who hate animal lovers. She talks about the latter:

I don’t think there’s anyone I hate more than people who can’t shut up about how deeply sick and wrong it is to love your dog and call her stupid names and treat her with the respect and kindness and around-the-clock fawning and admiration to which she’s clearly entitled. I have a big problem with people who want to hold court on how bad it is for a dog to be invited onto the bed or the couch and squeezed and kissed and anthropomorphized. “Dogs were meant to roam around in the wilderness,” they remind us, “ripping little animals apart all day long! Dogs weren’t meant to lounge about on the furniture, wimpering for more Snausages!”

I’m for the boring middle. It’s impossible not to give a beagle the couch and to treat them as almost human. But once you realize they actually like the security of knowing their place in the pack, you find it easier to enforce some simple boundaries.

 Hmm.  This does not seem to me a particularly informative or soul-sounding gloss, but then the hellhounds and I are more or less attached at the hip and this is Critters 101 when I’ve got two or three PhDs on the subject. 

Havrilesky’s article certainly made me laugh‡ in happy recognition.‡‡  I’d have her over for coffee:  I bet she has blogworthy words to say about owners of four-legged aggressive off lead threats to society and friendly hellhounds.  I feel she’s a little underinformed about the ripping apart of small mammals, however:  squirrels bite.  They’re vicious little sods.  If you want your Natural Dog to have a joyous hunting experience, you don’t want to start it on either squirrels or rats:  stick to rabbits.  Preferably very old or very young rabbits, that can’t kick very hard.‡‡‡   

Money, Things, And Experiences

Renee Grinnell summarizes a new study:

According to a new San Francisco State University study…money can lead to greater happiness for the person possessing it and those around them, if it is used to buy experiences, not possessions.

According to SFU’s February 7 press release, the study by Ryan Howell, an assistant professor of psychology at SFU, “demonstrates that experiential purchases, such as a meal out or theater tickets, result in increased well-being because they satisfy higher order needs, specifically the need for social connectedness and vitality – a feeling of being alive.”


If you see the point of money as freedom, it works. As soon as it becomes anything else, it doesn’t. And possessions are not freedom. In many ways, they can be its opposite.

 Er.  Um.  ‘In many ways they can be its opposite’?  Well.  Yes.  True.  But I’ve been that kind of free once or twice in my life, and I belong to the the ‘freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose’ philosophy.  Also, you separate me from my books, my piano–even my computers, especially the one with Finale on it–and my All Stars§ at your peril

Although the original study looks pretty interesting, and this blog is supposed to flag stuff for you.  Yes, this is one of the sneaky virtues of bell ringing:  you get all this exercise, mental, physical and social, and furthermore it’s (ahem) free 

‘a good stop for witty and non-PC politics’ 

Okay.  I give up.  I don’t know anything about Obama’s stimulus package except that the price tag scares the bejeezus out of me:  being a taxpayer and all I take it personally.  I’m a little depressed that the knives are already out–the guy’s been in office what, three weeks?–but I suppose they would be, for an $800 gazillion anything§§ even if we have documentary proof that he walks on water and heals scrofula at a touch.§§§ 

I’m now losing the will to live.¤  I am just not a political animal.¤¤    My favourite item in this blog is an ad at the top which states:  ‘The Ony [sic] Real Obama Watch.  Exclusively Here, the Same Watch Barack Obama Wears for $325.’  My brain, deprived of more digestible material¤¤¤, is fascinated that the ad-buyer thinks that people who follow closely argued discussions on the horrifying quandary that is the Middle East are also going to fall for a Barack Obama watch.  Hmm.  Maybe this is how they’re planning to fund the stimulus bill? 

‘A feisty, left-leaning American news and comment blog . . .’  Oooh.  Hors d’oeuvres page.  Good for us butterfly minds. 

“This book is born of annoyance: a great bewilderment over the myth that continues to surround the presidency of Ronald Reagan. It gives voice to a vast swath of psychically disenfranchised Americans, millions of them, lumped most thickly in the urban areas on either coast, who never understood Reagan’s appeal.”

 Yes.  That would be me. 

Oh, what a relief:  frivolity 

I suppose this falls under the general heading “Be Careful What You Wish For.”

    There are a whole lot of folks who once looked forward to the day when women would become equal participants in the work force with men. . . .

    What they didn’t predict was that women might finally reach the goal of equality less because they scaled the heights than because men slipped downward. But here we are.

  In the winter of our economic discontent, women now hold more than 49 percent of jobs on the nation’s payrolls. If we cross the 50 percent line-hold the applause-it will be because men are losing their jobs even faster than women. . . . The other dubious part of this “equality” for families is that even if women fill half of the payroll jobs, they don’t bring home half the paychecks. They still earn only 78 cents for every male dollar. In two-worker households, husbands earn close to two-thirds of the income and usually hold the job with health insurance.

    So women’s work has been more stable but less profitable. And don’t forget that the recession is still on. Women may yet catch up (or catch down) with men’s job losses. They are especially vulnerable to cutbacks in state and local government, where they work in disproportionate numbers.

. . . Sigh.   

And last under the ‘world affairs’ category we have: 

‘An extraordinary blog maintained by the staff of the British Embassy in Harare.  It must be unique in the annals of British diplomacy–embassy officials saying what they really think . . .’

 Well, it’s getting late, and I’ve spent way too much time looking at other people’s blogs which is why I don’t, and horizontality (and hellhounds) are beginning to call me in a voice that will not be denied.  So I must have missed the extraordinary entries:  the ones I looked at read like rather gentle newspaper columns.  But as long as I’m complaining, pardon me, but this is supposed to be the 100 best blogs in the world.  And under ‘world affairs’ we have . . . a total American-British lockdown.  I realise that the Times is selling to a British, English-speaking audience, but . . . 

I am, being Old and No Fun, going to skip the ‘Celebrities’ and ‘Style’ categories but I’ll have a go tomorrow or next Mumbleday at ‘Words’ and ‘Comic Relief’.  Then I have to try and remember to buy Blogs Part Two next Sunday.  And since I don’t read other people’s blogs I can blithely ignore the fact that all around me hot, happening, cutting edge blogs are writing muscular, grappling-hook commentary on the Times’ list.  Never mind, I’ll make myself a nice cup of tea and read a, you know, book

* * *

  * Having clung cravenly to the treble for Grandsire, was driven inside for Stedman which I rang perfectly competently and then fluffed bob minor, arrrrrrgh 

** I swear this ritual exists to give us something to complain about.  I would have thought we could find other things to complain about even if we didn’t buy a Sunday paper, but I daresay–old hardcopy fuddyduddies that we are–we’d miss it if we stopped. 

*** That would be the bells, books, hellhounds, roses, piano, etc.  Hey, I got out into the garden today.  I mean for longer than it takes to move a few pots of flowering trees. 

† I don’t wear a hat 

†† . . . and I usually type with at least one leg folded under me.  Factoids about Robin McKinley, #15:  cannot sit in a chair as the chair was intended for sitting in


And they recommend you stay here:

‡ Although it also made me feel old, tired and . . . uh, British.  Golly.  And I thought I get bent out of shape about stuff.

‡‡ But I couldn’t get her talking dog to play for me!  Drat and ratbags!  Note to self:  must learn little video-clip thingy on digital camera, so I can record Darkness and Chaos backchat.  Take us ooooooooout! 

‡‡‡ If you do click through, you’ll discover the original article is on  I really have to learn to cruise  I’m just afraid I’ll never be heard of again. 

§ Do hellhounds count as a possession?  Do I count as a possession?  Who owns, the goddess or the devotee?  I know I pay the bills^ but we are seeking a higher truth here. 

^ don’t I know it 

§§ I just googled for the exact figure and the first Google page of just the headlines quotes four different figures.  This is not reassuring. 

§§§ Which so far as I know we do not have 

¤  But speaking of author photos, here’s a really scary author photo.  

¤¤  And the White House dog search goes on:   Very first advise anyone gives anyone about choosing a puppy is don’t choose a puppy mill puppy. . . . 

¤¤¤ Reading a serious political blog is for me akin to eating a cheese sandwich:  major personal cataclysm follows

Black and White

I was desultorily clearing off the top of my desk today* and unexpectedly turned up a page I’d torn out of TIME magazine a few weeks ago, that I was going to use as part of my Obama Run around the inauguration.  The page disappeared that weekend, of course, and I couldn’t remember enough about it to try and find the link–indeed I thought I’d pulled it out of THE WEEK and as Maren calmly and intelligently** pointed out to me a few weeks ago about something else, you don’t want to be looking for something in THE WEEK’s on line archive but in the archive of the periodical they reprinted it from.  Oh.  Duh.  Yes.  So I was obviously damned in this instance.

            But no.  It was in TIME.  And here’s the link.,8599,1856583,00.html

 And this is the bit I particularly wanted to say yessssss about: 

‘. . . The point is not just that Obama will bring globalism to America; in his name, his face and his issues, he’ll bring America back to the globe.

You could, in fact, say it is the questions that he draws from his experience that are as important as any answers he may come up with. How to make a peace between the black and the white inside him (or inside our cities and our country)? How to do right by our relatives in Africa without dishonoring the grandparents from Kansas who raised us? How to bring the modest Muslim school in Java together with Harvard Law School? The questions Obama has been thinking about all his life are the very ones that dominate the world today. . . .’

Here is the thing that I hope for the most in an Obama presidency–not a grand turnaround for the economy, not a cure for cancer, not a cheap and globally responsible alternative to fossil fuels . . . there are a lot of miracles to choose from.  What I want is what I personally would see as the greatest miracle of all:  that he can, on account of both who and what he is, a man of mixed race and heritage, pull us all together a bit more:  Americans and British, Iraqis and Afghans, Israelis and Palestinians, Indians and Pakistanis, North and South Koreans, Patagonians and New Guineans, Tuvaluns and Liechtensteiners.  Because we’re all people first, and when the ozone, the polar ice, and the rainforests go, we’ll all go together.

          This is what worries me about the focus on ‘the first African-American president’:   it’s not that he’s not half black, of course he is, it’s that he’s also half white–or half something other than black, if you prefer.  He’s BOTH.  He is MORE THAN ONE THING.  He belongs to more than one tribe.  And you, me, Obama, the world, we can all be BOTH.  We can all be more than one thing, belong to more than one tribe.  In fact we should.

            I have a major thing about what I call ‘Othering’.  I’ve talked about it before in the far less dramatic terms of being a professional writer, some of whose readers more or less, or consciously or unconsciously, or worshipfully or hostilely, Other her:  make her something Other than what they are themselves, merely because she has written a book or books that the readers respond to in some way they find disturbing or inspiring.  I don’t like being Othered.  You can admire (or despise) someone without losing sight of the fact that they’re human just like you.  Excessive admiration makes me twitchy . . . and you wouldn’t believe some of the things that people who haven’t liked one or another of my books give themselves permission to say or write to me.  If they got it that I was a person just like them they wouldn’t do it.  They couldn’t.

            I’m neither a politician nor a philosopher, and it’s late*** and I’m tired†, but I wanted to show you the TIME article before I lose it again.  So pardon the plodding lack of a subtle development of my theme.  An awful lot of what goes wrong among human beings is that we think in terms of us and them.  We are apparently hardwired to do this:  and we badly need to short this system out permanently.  When all people of colour–or almost anyone who isn’t a WASP††–claim Obama as their own I sooo don’t want it to become another us and them situation–even if everyone-who-isn’t-a-WASP has been waiting a very, very long time for this moment and can hardly be faulted for wanting to revel in it.  And I understand us and them, although mine tends to run along gender lines:  did I want Hillary to be president partly just because she was a woman?  ††† You bet I did.  I’m frelling sick to frelling death of the gender wars:  of the particular imbalances and abuses of that Us and Them.  But I also know that the only way forward for men and women, just as for black, white, brown, yellow, red, chartreuse and plaid, is together.  And, you know, acknowledging who we all are:  different but the same.

            And no, I haven’t read DREAMS FROM MY FATHER yet. But it’s on the pile.‡

 PS:  Aren’t they ever going to get that dog?  What’s the hold up

* * *

* Actually ‘desultorily’ is highly inaccurate.  Clearing off the top of my desk requires a flak suit and serious back up:   I put the spiked collars on the hellhounds, and the face plates with the horns.   And then they get these little pelvic numbers like chastity belts, to balance the weight of the horns.  It’s all pretty complicated, which is why I don’t clear off the top of my desk very often. 

** These librarians, you know.  I bet she knows how to change a flat tyre, build a bookcase that doesn’t explode^, and create a distillery out of bits of lifeboat when she’s washed up on the shore of a barren island in the middle of the salty ocean.  And make fishhooks out of the paperclips she happens to have in her pocket. 

^ I know I’ve referred to McKinley’s Exploding Bookcase before.  I seem to do explosions.  I’ve mentioned McKinley’s Exploding Chocolate Cake too.

*** as usual 

† Aggravated in this case by the fact that there was a knock on the door this morning at eight–I had gone to bed at mmmphrty . . . uh . . . I wasn’t planning on getting up till nine or so–and it was my builder

†† There’s never been an overtly Jewish president either, although I believe there are quite a few semi-secret Jewish bloodlines that have put their feet up on the desk in the Oval Office.  And old people like me will remember the furore over John Kennedy being Catholic.  

††† Please note crucial presence of adverb partly in this sentence.

‡ Peter got it first.

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