Wolfgang and I managed to run over Peter today.
No, no, Peter’s fine*. JESUS GOD AND ALL THE SAINTS. I’m a freaking hysterical meltdown mess. Peter seems to have thought it was FUNNY. He thinks it’s FUNNY to be married to a CRAZY HOMICIDAL** WIFE.
We’ve had two beautiful spring days in a row. I’ve been trying to hack out time for frantic gardening: this is the time of year when I very very briefly believe that maybe THIS year I’m going to have the garden at the cottage in something almost resembling order for more than three seconds the end of April.*** I’m not expecting to attain a very close facsimile of order . . . just, you know, frothy ebullience caused by healthy plants doing what they feel like doing instead of what I had planned for them to do. This does however require that the plants I planted thrive and the frelling weeds grow less fast than I yank them up. The back wall is at present a jungle nightmare of last year’s skeletal goose grass, all of which will have seeded and seeded and seeded.†
ANYWAY. Peter and I usually go to the big library on Tuesday afternoon and have a nice cup of tea in the café, usually with two or three or eight books per while we decide what we want to check out and take home with us. Peter felt that a fancy country garden with a café with outdoor tables was what he wanted today †† . . . and I brought Pav along for her first encounter with Montmorency’s Folly.†††
The last bit of drive is narrow and lumpy. I wanted to let Peter off as close to the gate as possible, so I’d pulled in pretty hard against the end of the hedge so that other cars heading for the car park could squeeze past me. He climbed out of Wolfgang and . . .
I know how slowly he moves these days, and I know the way that right foot turns out, and that it’s slower than the left foot.‡ I know these things. I guess all I can say is that I was worried about getting out of the way before—ahem!—someone ran into us, and that I was preoccupied with cars coming up on my right. I put Wolfgang into reverse and . . .
There was a colossal thud, and Peter disappeared from view. AAAAAAAAAUGH.
And some helpful person came rushing over while I was hysterically turning Wolfgang off and slamming on the handbrake. When I scrambled around to the other side I discovered my husband lying on the ground with his right foot trapped under Wolfgang’s left front wheel.
Not very far. Peter was saying I’m fine, I’m fine, or words to that effect—I admit my memory is not totally clear on this point—but it was only his shoe, not his foot, that was being lightly crushed. Now if I’d had any sense whatsoever I’d’ve told him to get his foot OUT of the shoe before I tried to roll forward, but I didn’t, I rushed back to the driver’s side—shaking like an aspen, I might add—while the Helpful Person said, Be careful not to roll backwards!
Ahem. Do I have to tell you we were on a slight hill so that the moment I took the handbrake off we would roll backwards? By this time the Helpful Person’s husband had turned up, why didn’t one of these people who wasn’t related to the man on the ground and wasn’t driving the car that had just knocked him over say LET’S GET THE SHOE OFF AND GET HIM OUT OF HARM’S WAY BEFORE WE DO ANYTHING ELSE?
But they didn’t. And I spent a few seconds taking deep breaths, put Wolfgang into gear and . . . rolled forward perfectly. Peter said later that the fender had caught him on that weak right leg as I turned the wheel to angle away from the hedge—having not adequately checked first that he was clear—and when he fell his right foot had . . .
I don’t remember much about the garden. Pav enjoyed herself and thought rolling around on the courtyard gravel outside the café was an adventure, and while she was perhaps a trifle exuberant her only serious breakdown in . . . well, let’s not say manners, let’s say pretence of manners, was when I left her BRIEFLY tied to Peter’s chair to fetch sugar and silverware—Peter having brought me a fresh pot of tea—and you’d have thought I was leaving her in a basket on some convent steps with insufficient provisions. This has nothing to do with emotional attachment, you realise: it’s because from her perspective I was going toward a place that smelled more like food than where she was and leaving her behind. A fine coloratura of protest followed.
I didn’t run over anybody else. NEXT WEEK WE GO TO THE LIBRARY.
And you may have noticed the title of this post is ‘A Day of Lows’ as in plural? Yes. On any other day I would tell you how I spent over an hour on the phone to my American bank and they having confirmed that the wire had been sent, followed up shortly with an email saying it hadn’t, and that I have to do it all over again tomorrow.
* * *
* Believe me if he wasn’t I would not be writing this blog report of the incident. I would either be in jail or throwing myself off a bridge.^
^ Having first left the hellmob in a series of baskets on the steps of the local . . . um. We don’t actually have a local convent and I’m not sure how the monks feel about foundlings.+ I think really it’s a good thing I didn’t run over Peter very hard.
+ I do know that Alfrick does not like dogs.# Which is his only major character flaw now that he’s given up smoking.
# Shocking. Oh, no, wait, it’s probably the Franciscans who have to be soppy about animals. I don’t remember if Benedict says anything about critters being your brothers and sisters.~
~ ‘Sister Death’ is pretty well known but apparently Francis also called his various illnesses and disabilities his brothers and sisters, which casts a slight shadow on his attitude toward our animal brethren and sistren. This also makes the ME my evil twin, but I knew that already.
** Homicidal and incompetent. Fortunately.
*** We are not facing the reality of the garden at Third House at all.^ Nina recently was saying kindly that she could come round some weekend afternoon and help me get the stuff out of its overgrown pots and into the ground. Politely failing to point out that some of it has been in its (overgrown) pots for years. I do usually manage to get the pots-in-waiting stuff fed, which is of course part of the reason some of it is quite so overgrown. I’m sure garden centres sell their plants in flimsy plastic pots for reasons of price control, but if you have to CUT the plant out of its pot by the time you get round to putting it in the ground, flimsy is good.
^ I still haven’t got the attic any more sorted than ‘can fight way through from stairs to back wall’.+
+ Worse, I keep looking around and wondering if there’s ANY CHANCE I could bash out space for the green horsehair sofa, which is the one remaining oversized piece of furniture at the mews. We’re supposed to be selling it. It’s not grand, it’ll only fetch a ‘just about worth it to hire the van’ price, but it’s another of the old Dickinson family pieces and we got it restuffed and recovered as part of the New Wife thing when I first moved over here into the old house, and I am a sentimental cow. Also I chose the green velvet it is now covered with, and the hellhounds and I have spent many happy hours on it. Some of the upholstered old family furniture had seen a few more generations than was good for it, and as I recall I blanched and trembled at it in its earlier state.
† It will be worth it, trying to catch up with the wretched stuff^ if it has seeded really enthusiastically in my neighbour-over-the-back-wall’s garden, whose ugly shed roof ruins my view. The problem with this plan is that the neighbour won’t care. He’ll just hire another gardener.
^ At least it’s easy to pull up unlike most of the worst perennial weeds. However because it is, as Peter used to call it, nature’s Velcro, you also come away from a weeding session looking like the Abominable Goose Grass Person and needing frelling hedge trimmers and possibly a flamethrower to get it off you again. Also, however many huge green garden bags you have satisfyingly tamped full of the stuff, by the time you’ve squashed as many of these as you can fit into Wolfgang to haul off to the dump, and possibly sat down to have a cup of tea, it will all have grown back again.
†† It’s not like we don’t have plenty to read.
††† Hellhounds have been round the edges of Montmorency’s Folly many, many times, but the rules about dogs inside the garden are discouraging^ and they would be miserable lying in the courtyard while we had our tea. Pav, on the other hand . . .
^ And with the number of uncontrolled dogs and quantity of unpicked-up crap there is in this country I am not going to argue about this ruling.
‡ You Americans must remember we have right-hand drive in this country, so my passenger is getting out on the left, with his right side nearer the side of the car.
I’ve been accepted for training by the Samaritans. http://www.samaritans.org/
It’s a serious commitment in both time and energy: the first training module is ten half-days in six weeks and begins in about a fortnight. Then they start putting you to work. You’re expected to rack up fifty-two duty shifts in a year—so one a week: if you want to take a holiday, you have to squeeze a few more shifts in elsewhere. There’s a second training module later in the year, and a continuing-training requirement of (I think) two half-days a year for as long as you’re a volunteer.
My initial interview process was made just a trifle more interesting by nine days without a car, and as a result I got in under the wire last Friday. I received the email saying ‘you’re in, clear your diary’ on Saturday.
And here’s the official notification: I’m cutting back drastically on the blog. No, really. As of tonight it will NO LONGER BE DAILY. I’m not sure what I’m cutting back to: two days a week, maybe, plus or including KES.*
This has been coming for a while. I know I keep saying I’m cutting back, and then I don’t. There’s an ‘all change’ blog from a year ago January—and in fact I have cut back. But not enough. God** and commuting and three hellcritters take a lot of time.***
But that the blog as I have been insanely pursuing it is no longer tenable has really been written on the wall in six-foot letters of fire since the end of last year. This is really dumb but it’s also dead common: your spouse or partner or child or best friend has a stroke or a heart attack or is badly injured in a traffic accident or something and you go to pieces. Peter had the stroke. I’m knocked for six. I’m not getting on with stuff—EBON, renting Third House—that I have to get on with.† I want to do the Samaritans, and I think I can. The blog is, however, ultimately, dispensable. ††
So. It’s been real, as we used to say when turning on, tuning in and dropping out was cool.††† And the blog has been real, in its smoke and mirrors way. I’m hoping it will go on being real in a slightly streamlined, slightly reset mirrors and resignalled smoke way. ‡
We’ll find out.
Meanwhile . . . see you soon.‡‡ And thanks for all the fish.
* * *
* I still don’t know what happens when I reach the end of Part One. I’ve been assuming I’m going to take a break, and I’m still assuming that, but I don’t know what having fewer Days in the Life to write may do to writing about Kes’.
Also please note I will be HAPPY to continue to post GUEST BLOGS.
** My applying to the Samaritans is God’s fault again, although the Samaritans, as they say on their opening page, are very much not a religious organisation, unlike, for example, the Street Pastors. The funny thing is that it’s joining the SPs that has given me the confidence to try for the Samaritans—although the Samaritans have been on my radar for years. I went through some very rough stuff when I was pretty young and spent some years in therapy, including group therapy, where you learn something of the non-judgemental listening shtick which is the Samaritans’ stock in trade—and how important having someone to talk to is. But one of the Samaritans’ requirements is that you take an all-night shift every two or three months. And I knew I couldn’t do that. Then I went down with ME and volunteering for the Samaritans became as imaginary as anything Tolkien ever came up with. Then I hit menopause and while insomnia is part of my personal package of hormonal horror . . . so is being able to get by on less sleep. Oh. Hmm.
And then I turned Christian and my dormant do-gooder came droolingly, rampantly, havoc-creatingly to life. But I gravitate to the practical side of do-gooding: handing out flipflops and cups of hot soup is practical. But so is listening. You may know that from having been in group therapy. But you find it out all over again on your first pre-interview, pre-training observation night with the Street Pastors.
It wasn’t much over a month ago an ad for the Samaritans in the local paper caught my eye. They were holding an ‘information evening’ for potential volunteers. Yo, McKinley, said the bloke in the tatty blue jeans whom I first met 12/9/12. This.
Oh, and the best thing about the Samaritans? IT HAPPENS INDOORS. YOU SIT IN A NICE WELL-APPOINTED OFFICE ON A COMFY CHAIR WITH A TEAKETTLE AT YOUR IMMEDIATE DISPOSAL. YOU’RE NOT OUT ON A STREET CORNER FREEZING YOUR BUTT OFF OR DISSOLVING IN THE FRELLING DOWNPOUR.
*** I’m also sitting here thinking about how the more I’m managing to put into my singing the more frelling shattered I am after my voice lessons. I’d gone back to Dido’s Lament^ and Nadia said she’d like to hear it. I’ve got like eighty times more voice than I did when I learnt it the first time and—I realise how deafeningly ridiculous this is—the volume I’m now capable of scares me.^^ Siiiiiiiiiiigh.
^ It’s interesting, this business about repertoire. If you’ve gorblimey worked to learn something you don’t want to lose it. You can’t keep too many things on top at once, but you can circulate. On the face of it this is obvious. In practise this is yet one more unexpected skill you have to learn.
^^ Remember, however, I’m still talking about making the walls rattle in Nadia’s mum’s small low-ceilinged dining room. Not the Royal Albert Hall.
† I think I’ve done one doodle from my bottomless backlog in the last four months. Maybe two.
†† Even if there are a lot of hours of my life I’m not going to get back that I spent writing it.
††† Which probably doesn’t actually mean ‘get stoned and stay that way forever’ although my generation in our mad youth sure thought it did.
‡ There’s another aspect to this decision: I’m generating less blog material by the choices I’m making about how I spend my time. There’s an awful [sic] lot about the God thing I don’t feel like trying to explain on a public blog, for example. And while I can at least talk about the weather on Street Pastors nights, there’s an absolute black-out confidentiality requirement with the Samaritans^. You can’t talk to anyone about what happens on a duty shift except another Samaritan.^^
^ Which, as previously observed, takes place indoors. I suppose I could blog about the night I drop the cup of tea on the computer keyboard . . . I’d rather not be given this rich, golden opportunity. . . .
^^ And, just by the way, debriefing at the end of every shift is required. They take care of their own.
‡‡ MY NEW WASHING MACHINE IS ARRIVING ON WEDNESDAY . . . I hope. Let’s say it’s scheduled to arrive on Wednesday.
I can’t remember if I told the blog that I’d been blowing off my mouth to Aloysius six weeks or so ago, after the gratuitous extra-fancy swearing-in of my intake of Street Pastors last January, with the forty-seven bishops and a miracle or two*, and which Aloysius and Alfrick had attended. Given the forty-seven bishops and various other bits of high-churchery I was startled by the music, which was the Modern Christian Whatsit we sing at St Margaret’s and which drives me to despair.**
But I sang it, because singing is better than not singing. And what I noticed—and what I imprudently said to Aloysius—is that while it used to be that when I was in a mob and wanted to feel that I was contributing, I dropped down to chest voice and BELLOWED . . . now, after getting on for three years of Nadia’s elegant mercilessness, I make just as much noise in head voice and I suspect it’s more penetrating.*** And Aloysius responded promptly that if I ever felt like singing with the band† I would be more than welcome.
Hmmmmmm . . .
It had occurred to me some time ago that the only way I could, you know, validly try to have some effect on the music at St Margaret’s evening service is to become one of the people who produce it. So I didn’t laugh like a drain or whap Aloysius up longside the head. Or run away. I said, Ah. Er. What an interesting idea.
And he said, If you want to give it a shot, I suggest you try it the next time I’m in charge.
Okay, I said.
. . . Which was last night. AAAAAAAAAUGH.
Where do I BEGIN? For example . . . they don’t even much have sheet music. It doesn’t actually seem to exist for a lot of this Modern Christian doodah?? It is no longer assumed that makers of music can, and might possibly want to, read the line they’re supposed to be performing? Or possibly take it home and nervously pick it out on the piano first? What? And at St Margaret’s, for example, the regular keyboardist†† doesn’t read music—he plays by frelling ear.††† Buckminster doesn’t read music either—he has a chord sheet, as does the church office guru who I think usually plays bass. There’s a rota, and Samantha, who is a volunteer,‡ organizes folders of music for all the regulars, in whatever form the recipient of the folder prefers—so Aloysius gets sheet music (when it’s available) and Buckminster gets chord sheets. Ugly, I think, just gets a playlist and maybe lyric sheets, although the lyrics are also computer-projected on the walls. Samantha was a trifle startled by my vehemence on the subject of sheet music. . . .
Apparently you only get your playlist a few days before you go on. GORBLIMEY GUYS. THIS IS HARD ON A NEWBIE. Aloysius emailed ours out on Thursday in the form of a title list and some YouTube links . . . and there went any possibility of my practising Italian art songs or German lieder for the rest of the week, while I got a lot of knitting done listening, relistening, and re-re-relistening to YouTube, whilst simultaneously moaning and chewing on the furniture.‡‡ St Margaret’s spends quite a lot of the evening service singing, so there were a lot of YouTube links. Long YouTube links. Fortunately about three of the songs are half familiar from regular evening-service use but the one that I’d never heard before in my in-hindsight-privileged ‡‡‡ life also had the worst performance, the one that made me want to stick my knitting needles through my monitor.§ The lead singer was having oral sex with her microphone, the massed electronic instrumentation was making drooly Technicolor-sunset noises which made me feel I was being hammered to death with fluffy bunnies and there was some escapee from the Swan Lake chorus line gambolling at the front of the stage WHAT IS THIS. ALSO, WHY. —I failed to learn this one. I failed to go on trying to learn this one because I don’t really want to buy a new laptop just now.
But I put my time in on the others. God help me, God, you got me into this. And I’m supposed to trust in him, right? Old habits die hard. Because I am a hopeless wet dweeb I didn’t sleep very well Saturday night because I was going to have to sing from the wrong side of the microphone the next evening. And . . .
TO BE CONTINUED.§§
* * *
* I could have sworn I had, because I remember remarking on the plentifulness of bishops, but I can’t find it in the archive. It’s probably in a footnote somewhere.
** Alfrick, given the setting, hadn’t been expecting it either, and commented drily that it was out of his comfort zone. I thought of the antiphonal chanting—and the little square tail-free notes of the music—at the abbey and tried not to laugh. Or possibly cry.
*** I do not say this is a good thing. I merely make note of it.
† Sic. It’s not a choir; the instrumentalists usually outnumber the singers, and said instrumentalists include the vicar on guitar or bass, the curate on guitar—he’s got more than one guitar, I don’t think I’ve ever seen him play bass, but he has at least once played ukulele—and various admin and ordinary congregation members on electric keyboard, drums and the occasional woodwind.
Sigh . . .
†† Who I’m about to name Ugly, because he doesn’t approve of singers—and we are, furthermore, not singers but mere backing singers—and has declared that there are never to be more than three of us cluttering up the stage. THREE? THREE? That is nowhere near enough bodies to hide among when you’re one of them. I had noticed that there weren’t very many, week to week, but I hadn’t caught on that there were EVER only three. I’m going to start putting peanut butter on the keyboard when I know Ugly is playing. Hmmph.
††† Another reason to LOATHE HIM, just by the way.^
^ No it does not count that he probably doesn’t have a clue how to write a novel. Or that he’s kind to his mother, has adopted six stray dogs and has solar panelling all over his roof.
‡ The kind of volunteer without whom a lot of things like churches and underfunded charities would not be able to function: dedicated, competent, intelligent, and mad.
‡‡ Not the knitting needles. Never the knitting needles. TOOTHMARKS ON MY PRECIOUS ASH AND ROSEWOOD KNITTING NEEDLES? ARE YOU KIDDING?^
^ I might chew on bamboo needles if I were desperate. Fortunately the current project is on ash, because Hey God You’re My Bestest Bud, which I describe below, might have driven me to intemperate behaviour with bamboo.
‡‡‡ Ignorance is bliss.
§ Which would be one way of deciding it was time for a new laptop.
§§ Sorry. I have to go to bed. Raphael is coming tomorrow to discuss why Outlook occasionally decides to send a crucial email to perdition instead of to me^ and various other variations on a theme of technological havoc and I may be looking at a new laptop after all. I need to be well rested for the conflict.
^ Maybe the hellgoddess shtick confuses its tiny solid state unmind?
So. I’ve got some wall photos. Remember the wall?
That’s Phineas’ house you’re looking through the hole at, my semi-detached neighbour. The cottage is hidden behind the greenhouse.
So I wasn’t going to ring bells either yesterday or today. Because I had this book to finish again, in this case dealing with my editor’s queries. This is the stage, I find, where a good 90% of everything you do you throw out. Because the book by this time is pretty much The Book and it doesn’t take kindly to your meddling. I know this going in and therefore morale is not high. Plus there are those delightful moments when your editor—okay, my editor—finds those places where you—I mean I—had a brain spasm and cut out something crucial or inserted a few random phrases while you, I mean I, was under the influence of the Gflytch transmitting station on Venus. And so there’s a little note in the margin saying, um, what is going on here? And you—I mean I—have to do something.
But, you know, my mere career isn’t going to keep me from bell ringing.** But the weather will. Yesterday afternoon I cancelled going to Glaciation that evening because it’s kind of a long way, as I count long ways, and on twisty little back roads, and it was supposed to snow and sleet. Whereupon frelling Niall rang up at about an hour before time, while I was in the throes of chapter divisions***, and started leaning on me to come to the once-a-month practise at Old Eden. ARRRRGH. He knows me too well: my ringing life feels to me chiefly notable for long languishing periods where I don’t actually learn anything either because the practise is too busy and there are too many people that need to get their hands on ropes during the course of the evening, or because the practise isn’t busy enough and can’t provide the band I need—I who only learns by ENDLESS FRELLING GRIND. I therefore really hate the idea of beginners not getting their grinding because there aren’t enough ringers to make a band. So Niall, grinning evilly, picked me up at the mews and brought me in triumph to Old Eden, where Vicky, looking up in surprise, said, Ooh! The cavalry! And while we had eight ringers for six bells . . . only three of us were proper method ringers, Niall and Vicky and me, so yeah, I served a purpose. Oh, and then the weather did not plunge below freezing, the roads stayed dry, and I could have gone to Glaciation after all.
Tonight is the twice-monthly ‘improvers practise’ at Fustian, and I emailed tonight’s ringing master—Bailey and Nestor swap, like Scary Man† and Albert do at the abbey—that I would be there barring sleet. I was there. It did not sleet. And—speaking of grind—they let me ring two plain courses of Cambridge minor which I am going to learn before I die of old age, I am, the problem being the GRIND thing again, how long have I been trying to learn it?? But I don’t get my grind.†† I don’t get my grind, I don’t learn.
There weren’t very many of us tonight, so we were all having a break while Bailey stared thoughtfully at the whiteboard. QP next week, he said.††† Are you here? he said, one by one, to the others assembled. I kept my eyes on the floor, because I’m a visitor. They don’t owe me anything: it’s nice of them to let me come to their practises, but generally speaking you only get invited to ring quarter peals at other towers if you’re good.
A pair of shoes appeared in my field of vision. Robin, are you here next Tuesday? said Bailey.
Eeep, I said. Um. Sure.
Would you like to ring a quarter peal? pursued Bailey.
Um. Sure, I said.
He nodded, and wrote my name on the whiteboard.
WHAT A GOOD THING I’VE FINISHED THE BOOK (AGAIN). Which is to say I don’t think the wretched thing will have been through copyediting by next Tuesday. . . .
* * *
* May I just say I hated the movie. Talk about fear of female power dear loves-both-genders-equally God. A witch who falls in love loses her witchcraft? And the so-called romantic lead decides to take her back WHEN HE FINDS OUT SHE LOST HER POWER WHEN SHE FELL IN LOVE WITH HIM?^ This is my era, okay? It came out in 1958 and I saw it in the late sixties some time when I was a teenager, and was already having trouble with the fact that none of the women on STAR TREK THE ORIGINAL LAUGHFEST ever did anything except show their legs and fall in love, and I had already been marked for life by Walt Disney’s SLEEPING BEAUTY. Why am I a feminist? This is why.
^ Note that I’ve always loathed Jimmy Stewart anyway. It’s a Wonderful Life makes me throw up. Frelling sue me.
** Or singing. I had my voice lesson yesterday and went in moaning first about not singing in the Muddles’ concert and second about how the halfway okay noise I can (sometimes) make singing exercises—which is a lot of why I like exercises, as I used to like Hanon when I was playing the piano regularly—GOES AWAY as soon as I try to sing a song. Nadia was nodding before I got halfway through this latter plaint. Yup, she said. Normal. Get used to it. And it just goes on like this however good you get. Cecilia Bartoli probably feels exactly the same way.
*** I loathe chapters. If it were up to me there would be no chapters, just line breaks and part one and part two etc if necessary. Like I got away with in SUNSHINE but this doesn’t work very often. And since I don’t write in chapters I have to go back and put them in later. Arrrgh.
† I really have to give poor Scary Man a name.
†† Catherine, on the forum, who wrote two guest blogs about her first experience of bell ringing last September has already rung her first quarter peal inside. ARRRRRRGH. Listen, honey, if you ever come to one of my signings, don’t introduce yourself because I will crush you underfoot with extreme prejudice. First quarter peal INSIDE after FOUR MONTHS? Kill me. Kill me now.
And do goad your conductor into posting it. Your first QP is IMPORTANT!
††† The Tuesday system is two ordinary practises for people like me, one gruesome brain-melting practise for people whose idea of ‘improving’ is something you need a magnifying glass just to read the line in the method book because it wiggles so much, and a quarter peal.