January 1, 2013



H A P P Y   N E W   Y E A R


I should have known that New Year’s Eve at the abbey would be a big deal, but I’m not very intelligent* about cultural ritual type things**, and I didn’t realise.  I can’t even claim clueless Americanness since I’m accustomed (or possibly resigned) to people making a fuss about New Year’s.  And the abbey is gigantic and a national frelling site of historical whatsit and so on*** so, yeah, okay, New Year’s Eve probably would be more than a few hard-core nerds pulling on the bell ropes.

I don’t actually like ringing New Year’s Eve.  Worrying about it makes such a long day.  A hideous threatening quarter peal for Sunday afternoon service ring, for example, is over by 3:30 and you still have half a day for ingesting compensatory chocolate and plotting your new, bell-free life.†  New Year’s Eve . . . you’re lying on the sofa bestrewn with hellhounds and knitting magazines and you can’t even enjoy it.

It was rather ridiculously exciting driving into the abbey close for the first time tonight.  I walk through it frequently but I’ve never taken a car in there—what for?  I’d only have to do a three-point turn and scramble out again.  The application for a parking permit which I still haven’t remembered to put through the office door makes a big fuss about how you must only park in marked bays.  Well, you get in there at 11 pm on New Year’s Eve and it’s dark and very badly lit and covered in taken-down bits of Christmas and—just by the way—this is a medieval close and has adapted to the modern world only somewhat.  I found a tree to park under which didn’t seem to leave Wolfgang blocking anything in particular, and went off to be intimidated by the vicar’s wife’s party.  Yeep.  The vicar was there too, in an ornate frock, and so was the mayor, wearing half a ton of chain††, and a smattering of lords of this and that and the new/old Archbishop of Canterbury’s mother-in-law’s milkmaid’s niece.†††

But the tower was no haven, because half the assembled followed us.  How the ladies in their party frocks and high heels got up those stairs I have no idea, but several of them did.‡  And then they all stood around staring at us.  Frell.  I might as well have rung at Crabbiton, as I have done in years past, where the entire village comes and stares at you (it’s a ground floor ring):  at least there aren’t lords and mayors in chains and the vicar’s frock is plain.  Also, Crabbiton has only six bells.  The possibilities for mayhem are limited.

After some alarming adventures like ringing plain hunt on a hundred and fourteen, the tenor—the almost two tons of the abbey tenor—is pulled off alone to toll twelve, and (theoretically exactly at midnight) the rest of us then pull off in perfect rounds behind the tenor striking that twelfth time.  There were slightly more ringers than there were bells (amazingly)‡‡ and as we were all standing there in silence waiting for it to be time for the tenor to begin I very frelling nearly bottled out.  Steady the Buffs.  I stayed where I was.

And our rounds sounded pretty good.  Celebratory, even.  Better yet, when we descended from our eyrie, they in fact hadn’t locked the close gate—which every night of the year but New Year’s Eve is shut at ten—and Wolfgang was waiting for me under his tree.  And the roads were empty coming home.

* * *

* Stop that laughing

** I said stop that laughing.

*** Which means that every time they need to replace a door-latch or hang a picture they have to ask English Heritage to send a team of conservationists to consult on how or if it’s going to be done.   It’s a good thing English Heritage exists, or there’d be a lot less English heritage around, and big crumbly ancient buildings do need a phenomenal amount of upkeep, but I do sometimes wonder if about half the running costs aren’t about the running but about the arguing.

† It had not been a great day.  I spent the morning thinking up new and unspeakable^ tortures for my printer while it jammed every third page—and once it has jammed it goes on jamming, even after you’ve not only removed the offending page but taken ALL the paper out, shuffled it, put it ALL back in again, reset the tabs that hold it in place, ritually slammed ALL the doors including the one defending the ink cartridges which has NOTHING TO DO with the paper feed, and offered the gods more chocolate.  PAPER JAM, it whines.  BITE ME.  Sometimes it randomly varies this with PAPER TRAY EMPTY.^^   I’ve been working on my editor’s comments on SHADOWS on the computer but there’s a scene at the end where I think I have to take the pages and lay them out on the floor, supposing I can find a large enough piece of floor that can be made to remain hellcritter free.  Siiiiiiigh.  I should have let her send me a print-out.  She offered.  No, no, no, I said, it’s fine I can do it.

And then I decided to take the hellterror to run an errand in Mauncester and the shop in question had closed early half an hour before we got there.  You could put updates on your web site, you know?  That’s what web sites are for.  To tell customers stuff like we’re closing EARLY on New Year’s Eve.

At least I’d brought the hellterror, so we were accruing SOCIALISATION from the experience.  We went back to the car and I looked at the clock and thought . . . I could probably just about get to the monks’ evening prayer.  And I did.  With about twenty seconds to spare.  And going the speed limit, which is always a plus.^^^  But I was the last person in and my footsteps echoed and everyone turned and looked at me.  #

^ But howlable

^^ Bite me anyway.

^^^ Which was a good thing—as is that I wedge the hellterror’s crate carefully in place behind the front seat—when we had a Near Death Experience of a monster semi pulling out in front of us as we were bombing down the highway at 68 mph [speed limit 70].  JESUS CHRIST, I screamed as I stood on noble Wolfgang’s brakes, which is probably what I would have screamed more than three months and a half months ago too, but part of my new covenant with God is that I’m trying to clean up my language.+  I apologised, which is what I usually do on these humiliating occasions, about five seconds later, as the higher functions started coming back on line again, but I was also thinking that while not yelling his name every time you spill your tea is a good idea, really, when you’d urgently like him to intervene before you’re squashed like a bug on the windscreen of some thrice-blasted juggernaut, it’s quite appropriate.

+ And a frelling frelling frelling struggle it is too.  Arrrgh.  I am very grateful for ‘arrrgh’.  And frelling.

# I put a blanket over the hellterror’s crate but really it’s so WARM.  It’s RAINING, but it’s WARM.

†† I wonder if he has special padding sewn into the jacket(s) he’s planning on wearing his professional shackles with?

††† The most interesting part of the occasion was being accidentally included in a conversation between Ulrich and the vicar, about some of the practicalities of keeping the abbey standing.  God?  When they have a minute.  And this isn’t worldliness and Mammon, this is just the truth about something this size with this much going on.

‡ Me?  I was wearing jeans and All Stars.  Clean jeans.  The All Stars were a little muddy.  But the world is a little muddy.

‡‡ And the really fancy ringers, like Albert and Scary Man, stood out, so us hoi polloi could ring.

Yet Another Announcement*


Even I admit this pales in comparison to getting SHADOWS sent in and the decision on who is to be my bull terrier puppy** but it’s still big news to me:   


Last Wednesday week** at practise, and entirely out of nowhere, I had two different people say to me, perhaps not quite in these words, you’re here all the time, why don’t you frelling JOIN?  The first one, Landon, hadn’t realised I’d quit New Arcadia—well I’m not ringing at the abbey Sunday mornings so I might very well be ringing at New Arcadia, except that I’m not.  And I said, I’d love to join, but I’m not really abbey material, and he said on the contrary, you keep showing up, we need ringers, and as you know perfectly well you’re not the only sub-Doohickey Dingdong Frabjous Super-Maximus ringer in the band.  Um, I said.† 

            But only a few minutes later Pardulfo got up on the big tenor box†† to exhort us to vote in the abbey council elections, because bell ringers are under-represented in abbey council deliberations.  All you regular visitors! he said.  You should join.  And then he looked straight at me, and said, You!  You should join!

            Eeep, I said.  Certainly.  Happy to.  Er—how?

            I’ll email you the paperwork, he said.

            And then he didn’t.

            A week went by.  I sighed a lot.  Last Wednesday practise I sidled up to Pardulfo and said, um, you were going to send me the paperwork about joining the band—?

            He looked stricken, and rushed off to consult the tower captain who—I thought, watching, while standing in the middle of that FRELLING GIGANTIC BALLROOM FLOOR and feeling about two inches tall—looked at me and the expression that crossed his face might politely be described as nonplussed. 

            Oh well, I thought.

            He did send me the paperwork the next morning.  But it was all about getting put on the abbey rolls††† and voting in the elections and nothing about being accepted as a tower ringer.  Oh well, I thought again, and, elections being imminent, printed everything out, filled in the forms and posted them that afternoon.  Brooded for a bit, and then emailed my putative future tower captain back, saying that I’d done as instructed, but my real goal was to join the tower, and there must be some further document involved.

            He didn’t answer.

            OH WELL.

            . . . And then over the weekend I discovered the self-addressed stamped envelope you’re supposed to include to receive the postal voting form still on my desk at the cottage.  ARRRRRRRRRRRRGH.  Since I’m trying hard to be a good doobie here, which does NOT come easily, I decided I’d go in today‡ and vote in person.‡‡  Shining with prospective virtue, I turned my computer on this morning . . . and there was an email from the abbey tower captain, welcoming me as a member of the band, and wishing me many happy years ringing with them. 

             So I also went to evensong after voting and stuffed a little money in the ‘retiring collection’‡‡‡ as a thank you. §

             I HAVE A HOME TOWER AGAIN. §§ 

* * *

* These things go in threes, right? 

** http://www.puppytext.com/view25364MAZRGW  With thanks to Peter for finding puppytext.com in a silly-item-round-up in the GUARDIAN of all places. 

*** So two Wednesdays ago 

† They rang Cambridge surprise major on Sunday, and I went to stand by the treble and watch.  The treble does something called treble bobbing for—well, all the surprise methods I know about, it wouldn’t, ahem, surprise me if there were exceptions—and while I can treble to surprise minor (six bells) trebling to major (eight bells) requires that you count higher and dodge more times and seven, as you’re counting your place in the row rhythmically to yourself, has two syllables.  One-two-three-four-five-six-SVN-eight.  I’ve never trebled to surprise major but anywhere but the frelling abbey I might, at this point, have a reasonable shot at it.^  But ring Cambridge major inside, when I can barely limp through a plain course of minor on a very good day?  Forget it.

            Wild Robert, on the three, said, Never mind the treble.  Come stand by me.  

^ Maybe I’ll ask to try it some time at Fustian, if all continues to go well there.    

†† Big tenor bells tend to have big tenor boxes for the ringer to stand on.  He, or she, is less likely to get enmeshed in the 1,000,000,000 miles of rope to go around a big tenor wheel, when the ringer is above floor level.  The abbey’s tenor is humungous, so the box is correspondingly humungous.  

†††  I noticed they want all your details which no doubt means I’m going to be harangued for donations for the rest of my life.  But it takes oceans of money to keep something the size of the abbey not merely open for business, but the walls vertical and the roof nailed on—and yes I think it should be kept alive and running so, fine, whatever. 

‡ And possibly stop at the knitting store for a pair of 7 mm needles.  I used to reject automatically all patterns calling for any needle smaller than 4 mm because I’m still too twitchy a knitter to deal with anything that finger-tanglingly teeny.  But since I have yet to get gauge on anything smaller than one or two or even three needle sizes larger than suggested my attitude has changed.  It is of course possible that now that I’ve FINALLY GOT SHADOWS TURNED IN^ my knitting will LOOSEN UP A LITTLE.^^  

^ Even if I’m still working on it   

^^ Although not, please fate, in the middle of anything I’m knitting right now.  

‡‡ And it’s a good thing I did, since they had no record of me or any of those painstakingly filled-in forms.  By which we learn that however lofty the abbey spiritual attainments, bureaucracy rules there too in its usual bumbling fashion, down here at grub level. 

‡‡‡ Ah, the British.  In America, you go to church, some body passes a plate while you’re still trapped in a pew, and glares at you.  All right, I have attended C of E services where they pass a plate—or, more often, a little bag, the better to disguise how much or how little you’re putting in it—but in this case there was a discreet tray at a tactful distance from the exit from the small enclosed area where the service was held into the vaster territory of the abbey generally and it would have been easy to miss it.  

§ The bell tower, after all, is part of the fabric of this ginormous churchy building that needs to be kept upright and working, and our membership dues are pathetic and, furthermore, some organising body—and I am embarrassingly uncertain whether it’s the C of E admin or the central bell council admin—will pay it for you if you don’t jump in the breach and wave money.  

§§ I have really hated being ‘unattached’ as it’s called.  Makes me feel utterly lost and alone in a hostile universe^.  Bellringing is a team activity.  You need to belong somewhere, even if you ring elsewhere too. 

^ Just like the SWD, although I don’t tell sad stories of the death of kings with my tail much.+ 

+ Note that Kes does not share my allergy to Shakespeare.


Always new dranglefabbing challenges


I rang at a new tower tonight.

            The main problem with the frelling abbey, aside from the fact that it scares me to death and I ring accordingly, is that ringing, especially ringing for the low-level ordinary grind like myself, keeps getting cancelled.  If the United Pipe Fittings Orchestra and All Girl Guttering Ukulele Band aren’t having a concert in the cloisters, then the ringers who actually know what they’re doing and can count to forty-eight while they’re doing it* are ringing a quarter peal of Cantankerous Saturnalia Quadruple Maximus, as they did this past Sunday.**  And I need time on a rope, because I am a SLOW LEARNER and TWITCHY*** with it.

            I think I told you, a few weeks ago, my first Sunday back on the job at the abbey after the August break, when I tied Grandsire Triples in a knot and then broke it, and was having one of my regular attacks of I AM GIVING UP RINGING FOREVER, AND FURTHERMORE I AM DONATING ALL MY ORGANS TO SCIENCE THIS AFTERNOON, one of the women who lives locally and often comes Sunday afternoons when she knows the abbey is short-handed but is a member of the Extremely Scary† and High Level Fustian band, told me that Fustian had extra practises.  For stupid . . . I mean, for less advanced ringers,†† on Tuesdays.  She said, it’s for anyone, you can just come along.  And we ring lots of Grandsire Triples.  Will you be there? I asked, doing my pathetic thing again†††, and she said that she was there most weeks. 

            Open practises are the first and third Tuesdays of the month.  As I recall Fiona and I were up to no good a fortnight ago, but I had written ‘Fustian’ in my diary for tonight . . . and spent all day trying to bottle out.

            I went. 

            I left New Arcadia early so I would have time to get lost and fail to find a parking space and so on and then had no trouble whatsoever so I had to sit in Wolfgang for about ten minutes knitting frantically‡ before I crept out to lurk in the churchyard.  I took a lap around the church itself and it has something like twenty six doors so how am I supposed to guess which one to loiter at?  I chose what I thought was a promising tomb for leaning against (and knitting), where I could keep an eye on both the main door (despite being fairly sure that wherever the ringers entered it would not be the main door) and the door to the actual, you know, tower.

            Naturally it was neither of these.  Furthermore on Tuesdays they ring on the simulator so if you’re hanging around in the churchyard waiting for symptoms of ringing practise to manifest, the sound of the bells going up is not going to be one of them. 

            I might have eventually crept away defeated but fortunately I took another lap around the church and met someone striding purposefully toward the twenty seventh door which is almost frelling invisible in its dark and shadowed niche, and I squeaked, Bell ringing?  And she said yes, yes, right this way.

            It was not too bad.  The first thing was that I was sure the simulator would completely derail me.  Physically you ring as usual, but the real bells in the belfrey are all muffled and the sound you hear in the ringing chamber is off a computer hitched up to go ‘dong’ when the bell ropes are pulled.‡‡  It is disconcerting—but the disconcertingness wears off pretty quickly.  The second thing was that I never do well at new towers because I am an easily panicked twit.  The third thing was . . . what if Melinda was WRONG?

            But Melinda doesn’t seem to have been wrong.  I was greeted with a disarmingly convincing display of cordiality, and asked what I ring:  Grandsire Triples, I said humbly, Melinda said you ring lots of Grandsire Triples.  Certainly, said the ringing master, anything else?  Oh—well, I said, daring greatly, maybe a plain course of Stedman Triples?

            There were also a couple of learners even learnier than me, and you really don’t want to be the least and worst in a tower you’re visiting for the first time, so that was good too.  And the two known-by-me Fustian Scary People went out of their way to say something friendly to me‡‡‡.  I got out of the tricky ‘where do you ring’ question by saying that I was trying to ring at the abbey and finding it an uphill struggle, and everyone rolled their eyes and said, oh, the abbey.  Even one of the Scary People said that the business of ringing in a queue in the middle of a ballroom-sized space (the Fustian ringing chamber is relatively small and the circle of ropes is circular) is not ideal. 

          And not only did I get my Stedman Triples . . . it was a touch, not a plain course.  I was ‘unaffected’—which meant that the other bells changed places while I kept my plain-course line—so I was getting off easy.  But the ‘unaffected’ racket is an old teaching trick to make sure the learner is ringing the line and not just slacking off by learning where she’s going to meet which bell:  which is to say has done her homework properly.   I have done my homework properly.  Yaaaay.

           And everyone said, please come again.§  So I will.

            I am making no predictions about my brilliance at the abbey tomorrow however. 

* * *

* And back down again.  I can usually go up while pathetically ringing plain hunt on too dragonfired many bells.  It’s coming down where I am liable to come unstuck.  NO FRELLING BODY WHO HAS BEEN RINGING AS MANY YEARS AS I HAVE HAS ANY EXCUSE WHATSOEVER FOR EVER COMING UNSTUCK ON PLAIN SODBLASTED HUNT ON ANY NUMBER OF BELLS, UP TO AND INCLUDING 1,000,000,000,000.  ARRRRGH.  

**  One of the women at tonight’s practise had rung in it and told me in an off hand manner, like you might say ‘nice day’ or ‘I like your leg warmers’^ that it was enjoyable.  She would probably enjoy strolling over Niagara Falls on a tightrope.  She would probably enjoy the view and the bracing air.  

^ I am wearing my leg warmers.  They are performing their function.  KNITTING IS USEFUL.  Pass it on.

+ I know, I know.  You sock people have known that forever.  

*** Twitchy is bad on the end of a bell rope. 

† I rang a wedding at Ditherington on Saturday.^  Ditherington doesn’t have its own band any more, so a band ringing a wedding there is always a jumble.  One of the women whom I had not met before learnt at the abbey, and knows Scary Man (who has been there forever) and referred to him as Scary Man.  Not even ‘the scary man’ but Scary Man.  I only didn’t fall down laughing because I didn’t want to stab myself with my knitting needles. 

^ The bride was thirty five minutes late.  Just saying.  Fortunately I had my KNITTING. 

†† I wouldn’t go to a proper Fustian practise unless someone held a gun to my head and I might just tell them to shoot me. 

††† Going ALONE to a NEW TOWER is VERY DAUNTING.  You don’t even have to be pathetic to think so.  Melinda is also a very good ringer and very nice, the kind of person you’d always be more inclined to say ‘yes’ to an invitation to ring if it included her. 

‡ I also realised that I was sweating with terror and therefore removed my leg warmers.  

‡‡ I’m not sure what is happening in the belfry—whether you’re pulling the bells or the simulator.  Next time I’ll ask. 

‡‡‡ Granted there’s going to be some self-selection for niceness at a practise specifically aimed at the lacking and the lousy.^  Still.  There are some seriously grim and intimidating people who feel it is their duty to put in time bringing beginners on, but they aren’t enjoying it and you can see them not enjoying it. 

^ When I was discussing the possibility of going to the extra Fustian practise with some other ringing friends we were sniggering over the names of certain Fustian ringers who would not be there.  And they weren’t. 

§ This is good ringing manners.  But they wouldn’t have had to sound like they meant it.


Bullie bullie bullie continued continued continued



I KNEW IT I KNEW IT I KNEW IT! You loved those puppies far too much to wait all the way until next year. It’s Destiny, or Fate, or just The Way It Had To Be. 


Is there anyone reading the blog who didn’t see this coming? ::grin:: 

Well, hindsight is a wonderful thing.   You do need to remember however that this isn’t a box of kittens/puppies with a FREE TO GOOD HOME label.  There did have to be a puppy available. 

            And then I could be a totally powerless and besotted wuss. 


I KNEW IT! I KNEW that would happen!! (Puts big mark on scoreboard of “Guessing Right” We will ignore all the blank squares.) 

Snork.  Oh, how I know this feeling.  Conversation over the supper table at the old house about fifteen years ago:  Hey, I’ve had a great idea for a short story about a pegasus.  I know it’s going to go, because I know the first line:  Because she was a princess she had a pegasus.  —Well, I did have a good idea for a story about a pegasus.  So I was a little wrong about the ‘short’. 

I knew it because people who complicate their lives continue to complicate their lives (you don’t have to ask me how I know: I’ll tell you. It’s how come I have two unrideable horses and one nearly unrideable mountain bike and managed to fall off a non-moving non-mountain bike in a shop yesterday, almost-nearly taking down a standing display with four bikes hanging off it.) 

And you KNIT.  Don’t forget the KNITTING.  (Knitting is good.  You can knit while resting your bruises on the sofa.)
You were doomed when you first posted about those pups–probably the moment when you first agreed to go see those pups. Ditto knitting, writing, gardening… 

And singing.  Which is your fault.*  And I probably was doomed from meeting Hazel, whom Southdowner brought to that first London signing, um, four years ago?  I think.  I think it was about a year after this blog first rumbled underway.  I’ve spent the last four years hoping that Southdowner would breed Hazel.  Hey, maybe Olivia and Lavvy will inspire her and next year . . . wait a minute.  A litter from Hazel?  My original crush?  NOOOOOOOOO.  I don’t need two bull terriers.  The hellhounds and I, trampled and broken, would have to leave the country.

             But there’s something very attractive about having a complicated life.  Attractive:  you know, like black and fawn dog hair and your pale grey skirt.  Like beet juice and your white t shirt.

Lucky puppy. Lucky hellhounds (though they won’t realize it yet.) 

I have a vision of hellhounds wedged into the gap between the kitchen cupboards and the ceiling, doing the canine equivalent of the bottlebrush tail and the hissing. 


Yaay, vicarious puppy adventures! 

::trembles::  Um.  Yes.  ::trembles more::  This may be the moment when I really do cut back on blog time.  I may declare a Weekly Puppy Photo Post Day. 


They’re ALL so cute! I can’t wait to see which one you get!  

Me too.  The suspense is killing me.  Not to mention making the compilation of long lists of potential names more arduous (and sillier). 

Diane in MN

Sympathetic congratulations.   

Snork.  Yes, how old is Teddy?  Younger than the hellhounds.  You are remembering puppyhood even more acutely than I am.  BUT BULL TERRIERS EAT.  UNLIKE HELLHOUNDS AND (SOME) GREAT DANES.  THIS WILL BE WORTH QUITE A LOT OF MANIA AND MAYHEM.  Unless of course my bullie turns out to be the only bullie who was ever born who doesn’t adore food with a single minded and passionate infatuation.  In which case I will leave the country.  And take up raising snow leopards in the Hindu Kush. 

Hopefully the hellhounds will be used to you coming home smelling like bullie puppies by the time you bring one home, and won’t think their new little sister is a stranger. 

I should stop washing my post-puppy jeans the moment I come through the door and let the hellhounds sleep on them.

I quite like the look in Pavlova’s eye. 

Yes, so do I!  I think Pavlova was the original Big Girl in which case I probably don’t want her or I’ll be joining the hellhounds on the top of the kitchen cabinets, but Olivia says that their personalities keep swapping around in a dizzying way, and I can attest that the size differential has pretty much disappeared.  Although Fruitcake may still be technically the smallest he has the biggest tummy.  The biggest tummy.  Southdowner calls him The Bulge On Legs.  

Horsehair Braider

Do you just go around grinning uncontrollably at the mere thought? Puppy bliss… 

Yes, except for when a bolt of pure terror runs through me and I think I WHAT?  And it’s too late now.  I can’t change my mind.  I’ve already told the BLOG. 


I’m definitely not laughing over here, honest!!!
And when can I come and snuggle puppy?  

ANY TIME.  You can be part of the SOCIALISATION PROCESS.  This is EVEN MORE IMPORTANT IN BULLIES than in most . . . um, normal . . . dogs, because they’re so . . . um.  They would take over the universe if they were not brainwashed from birth to believe that humans are brighter/stronger/know how to open the dog food containers better than they do.  I’ve been wondering if I might take it bell ringing.  I don’t think the hellhounds would have appreciated this much, but their socialisation was also a bit curtailed by the whole digestive thing.  But I keep thinking about Nemo trotting briskly and interestedly through the Birmingham train station—or Hazel, wearing a pink feather boa, looking grandly and calmly around Soho, and accepting the tribute of the passers-by as merely her due. 


I too like the look of Pavlova but it could be that she’s just the most photogenic! I do know that we will all love whichever one it turns out to be. 

Yes, good, thank you, my attitude exactly!  Once it is mine it will be MIIIIINE!!!!  And photoing critters is such a . . . um . . . crap shoot.  When I looked at that photo afterward I thought, oh, wow, lucky with that one!  One of the things that was interesting about this visit is that Southdowner was trying to teach me to recognise what is a good head in a bull terrier puppy—you know they will grow up to have those extraordinary, unique egg-shaped bull terrier heads—and I can see it at once in the white ones, but was totally confused by the colouring on the two tricolours.  It took holding each of them with her head in the crook of my elbow so the little wedge shape showed to begin to see what Southdowner was talking about.  And this photo does that too. 


OOh! Exciting! Since Croissant was the only one we didn’t get a full picture of in that batch, I’m suspecting she may be the one you end up with.  

LOL!  Yes, that thought also occurred to me!  I’m going to look through the photos again and see if I may have overlooked a reasonably good one of Croissant. 

Melissa Mead

What’s the reason for not getting a boy? You seem quite fond of Fruitcake.  

I am fond of Fruitcake.  I slithered into this thinking if I was going to get a bullie, which of course I’m not, I wanted a girl—when I’ve been talking carelessly about a puppy next year I’ve been talking about a girl—despite the complications of mixed genders as described yesterday.  And this litter is three to one, so having a girl left over is a much better bet. 

              But when I met Fruitcake the first time, only because this was a litter from a bitch that Southdowner bred and I was already in love with two of her dogs, and besides, you know, puppeeeeeez, I thought well actually I wouldn’t mind another boy, BUT I’M NOT GETTING A BULL TERRIER PUPPY (at least not this year), THIS IS ALL FANTASY, SO I CAN THINK ANYTHING I LIKE, INCLUDING THAT THE ONE MALE PUPPY HERE IS DARLING.  (But then so are the girls.)  And so long as I could avoid hierarchical difficulties with the hellhounds, why not a third boy?**, and DID I MENTION THIS IS ONLY FANTASY SO I DON’T REALLY HAVE TO THINK ABOUT IT?  Southdowner kept saying firmly that it’s all about socialisation and having a male bullie wouldn’t be a problem with two male hellhounds.  But now that I’m actually on the firing line here for a puppy Southdowner and Olivia have suddenly gone all po-faced and say that bullie boys usually make bullie girls look tame and quiet and that I’d be better off with a girl.  Feh.  As I keep saying, I’ll love whoever I end up with . . . but it would amuse me a lot if all three girls are sold and there is only one leftover . . . boy. 


All I will say – apart from Puppeeeeez! – is, I am not one bit surprised. 

Well I admit I’m not really surprised either.  You know how when you are in the process of making a big decision—or maybe you aren’t like this because you are a sane, mature grown up who, for example, doesn’t knit, and therefore hasn’t developed a yarn stash that needs its own house in only a little over a year—there’s both that sense of NOOOOOOO LIFE IS TOO COMPLICATED ALREADY followed by and all tangled up with the sense of OH NEVER MIND I’VE DECIDED AND THEREFORE I WANT IT NOW.   So.  Yeah.  If there was a puppy available now . . . MINE.  IT’S MINE. 

I hope you, the Hellhounds, and the soon-to-be Hellpuppy, have long and happy years together. 

Thank you!

* * *

* It’s a good time to be surviving a new puppy while Nadia’s on maternity leave 

** Except of course it would be nice to have a full length of tummy to rub again.  Male tummies are unduly short due to complications at the farther end.

Bullie puppy bullie puppy bullie puppy. And a few bells.


Having a terrifying new nightmare* adventure rolling toward me like Boadicea’s spiked chariot . . . I mean, having the immediate** prospect of a delightful bull terrier puppy is obviously good for me. 

             I rang what passes in my case for not at all badly at the abbey this afternoon.***

             AND I FOUND MY LENS CAP.  It’s been missing for months.  I find it the day after my FIRST OFFICIAL VISIT to see MY puppy†?  This is clearly a sign. 

Melissa Mead

Do the boys get along with puppies in their space? 

I have no idea.  But they’re going to have to learn.  They adore puppies met out hurtling, but what they’ll do when they find out this one’s permanent and here may need to be negotiated tactfully.  I’m sure it’ll be okay eventually, I just don’t know how long eventually is going to take.  But to start with the New Member will be crated away from hellhounds, and all meetings will take place under my tyrannical eye. 

skating librarian

I am trying to imagine you taking them all for a hurtle. Can a bullie hurtle? 

Bullies are small square hurtle machines on little short legs that move in a blur.  They don’t have the hellhound capacity to be in Kent before I’ve taken a breath for the recall, but they certainly hurtle.  And I’m trying to imagine taking all of them for a hurtle too.  I asked Southdowner, pathetically, about hurtling three dogs, when the possibility of getting a puppy next year first came up and she said oh, you get used to it.  That’s really helpful, thanks.

            One of the things both Southdowner and Olivia keep trying to impress on me is that bullies have no off switch.  You do not want to wind a bullie up, because it will shortly enter orbit, wearing your roof as a hat.  One of my favourite memories of Southdowner coming here with attendant bullie (not Nemo, whom you met on this blog, another one, Southdowner has several) was watching her trying to get its harness put on before it BURST out of the back of the van.  First there was the frenzied scrabbling and mad barking as Southdowner opened the door, and then there was the rear view of Southdowner with bits of bullie shooting out first one side and then the other.  Ear.  Tail.  Head.  Foot.  Another foot.  Oh, there’s the head again . . .

            Yesterday Southdowner dropped me off at Olivia’s while she went to find a parking space.  Olivia was doing the washing-up and she said, you can go on into the puppy room but ignore Lavvy till she calms down a little.  Yes.  Well.  This was a little like ignoring a heat-seeking missile with your name on it, but I took the point.

            Speaking of Nemo . . . you may remember that the last time I took the train to Birmingham to look at bull terrier puppies I found an exit so obscure nobody, including station staff Southdowner asked for directions, knew it.  This time I was going to make a prodigious effort to come out some, you know, normal exit.  I was just about to get horribly lost again when . . . THERE WAS A BULL TERRIER.  A FAMILIAR BULL TERRIER.  I stopped in my tracks and yelled, Nemo!  Southdowner said smugly, I knew you’d see a bull terrier.  She was right—I would have walked straight past her. 

            But this is also the good side of the maniac outgoingness of the bull terrier.  Nemo wasn’t the least bit fazed by Birmingham frelling train station.  He was a lot less fazed than I was.  Granted he has been very very very well socialised but . . . he also has the personality.  Even very very very well socialised hellhounds would be miserable in a mob like that.  


Congratulations! I’m sure it will be a blast! (As well as the usual hell of puppyhood, with which we are all familiar, of course!)

Yes.  It’s too soon.  It’s only been six years—in, in fact, October—since the hellhounds arrived and I remember it all too clearly.  Noooooooooo. . . . And they were only hellhounds.  This is a bull terrier puppy.  Southdowner’s standard line about bull terriers is that they’re just like dogs, only more so. 

I got a Mastiff pup in April, and he’s the best, quietest, most well-behaved puppy I’ve ever had — housebreaking was a cinch, no separation anxiety, etc. — and I STILL was counting the weeks until those sharp puppy teeth fell out, and I’m STILL counting the months until he’s not a wild and crazy play monster and settles down… Yup — it’s all worth it. 

Well . . . your adolescent probably weighs four or five times what my mini bull terrier will weigh.  The gene pool for mini bullies is still fairly small so (as I understand it) they breed in a few standards to keep the lines strong.  One of Southdowner’s foundation bitches—from whom I believe Lavvy descends—is a standard.  I’ve met her.  She’s old and mellow and a sweetie, but she’s HUGE.  The first bullie I ever met, many years ago, and loved instantly, was also a standard and also HUGE.  They are built like tanks, or bulldozers.  The earth shakes when they gambol, and being bullies, they will gambol. 

            After the whippets died and I went into a Grey Fog of Dogless Despair, and which is why I was determined to do overlapping generations this time although I wasn’t planning on getting the next generation in quite so soon, I had a list of dog breeds or dog types I was considering.  I’ve told you before that I had my hand poised over the phone to ring up the greyhound rescue when I saw the ad in the paper for hellhound puppies††, and sighthounds/lurchers of some ilk were in first place.  But both bullies and Staffies were on my short list, both of them regretfully rejected because I wasn’t going to deal with a fighting breed. I’m thrilled I’m going to indulge the bullie fantasy after all, but I wouldn’t be if I didn’t know Southdowner, didn’t know that she or Olivia will answer questions and back me up if I need it, and hadn’t met several of Southdowner’s mad/charming bullies and have some sense of what they, or at least that branch of bulliedom, are like. 

            I also had thought the hellhounds might be my last puppies because puppies are labour intensive and I’m getting old.  So, right, this makes sense, I’m getting a puppy for my sixtieth birthday of a breed known to be extra labour intensive.  Never mind.  I can still do the rescue greyhound/ couch potato thing later.   


Um. On the subject of “you do not want a male for your first bullie” – have they considered the fact that you have two entire males in your household (have you?)? Not a problem _this_ year, but unless you’re going to get her fixed (which I doubt, given her pedigree)… trouble down the line? 

Please.  I’m nuts, I’m not stupid.  She—supposing my first bullie is a she—will probably board with Southdowner while she’s in season.  No matter what the gender and personality mix I end up with however, hellhounds and bullie will not be left alone together at least till the bullie is past adolescence . . . which on conservative estimate will be two years or so, by which time if it’s a bitch, she’ll have come into season once or twice, and we’ll have the opportunity to find out how hot and come-hither she is, and whether the hellhounds notice, since some dogs and some bitches aren’t big into sex and procreation.  Although this is more a sighthound/lurcher thing and a bullie bitch probably will be swinging her hips and suggesting that they come up and see her some time. †††

            I think the deal is going to be that if I end up with a bitch that either Southdowner or Olivia would like to get a litter out of, I’ll keep her entire—do you say entire with girls?—till this feat is accomplished.  If she’s not worth breeding and she’s a problem when she’s on heat I’ll get her fixed after she’s had a season or two.  My default position is that if it ain’t broke don’t fix it—which is why the hellhounds are entire—so if she has nice tactful seasons she can keep her insides.  I realise this is how accidents happen but . . . well, actually bull terrier is a popular lurcher cross.  I met a quarter-bull three-quarters sighthound when I was casting around for lurchers that was about the most gorgeous animal I’d ever seen.  If he’d had puppies out of a plausible bitch available I’d’ve had one.  Or two.

             More tomorrow.  Yes, it’s true, the only reason I’m getting a puppy is for the blog material.  

* * *

* Friday night I kept dreaming about bull terrier puppies charging around a big sitting room with cream coloured carpeting.  Guess what happened to the cream coloured carpeting.  Last night I simply didn’t sleep.  

** IMMEDIATELY.  AAAAAAUGH.  Although even if I’d had a year’s run at it I’d probably still be melting down three weeks before the event. 

*** Warning:  ringing geekspeak follows.  I’m increasingly short of sleep due to a variety of stresses.  And while I had somewhat recovered myself at practice last Wednesday after ringing like a three-legged goat last Sunday^ I still went in today with a large sense of doom following like a balloon on a string.  And then there were ten or eleven of us^^ and I thought maybe I can just sit out and knit.

            But no, here was Scary Man, saying in a tired and resigned voice, Robin, come ring Grandsire triples.  And I did.  Scary Man did that encouraging/alarming teacher thing of not standing beside me Because I Could Do It Myself.  It was not a thing of beauty, as I usually say of my best ringing efforts, but it wasn’t embarrassing.  My impression is that Scary Man cheered up slightly at this point, gave me the treble for bob major and asked me what else I had been looking at, ie what other method I might like to try.  Blither blither, I said, um, bob triples or bob major?^^^  And he said, Stedman triples?#  Oh, yes please! I said, fool that I am, and I did go wrong, but I had help##, and it still wasn’t dreadful, and he’ll probably let me ring it again.  

^ An intellectually challenged three-legged goat.  

^^ Including a visitor I found on the doorstep.  Unless you’re St Paul’s or York Minster towers are usually pretty friendly . . . and the abbey lets me keep coming, after all.  So I brought him up, indicating which dark mullioned+ path led through the accumulated maze of twelve hundred years of history at which point, feeling a complete fraud, and turned him over at once to Albert.   

            It is perhaps worth noting that he was unusual in that he didn’t have to stop every 300 (vertical) feet, lean on a triforium or a reredos, and gasp.  I almost asked him if he had hellhounds he hurtled regularly. 

+ Well all right maybe not mullioned exactly 

^^^ Any ‘plain bob’ method is the shallow end of whatever follows:  so plain bob doubles is the first method you (usually) learn, five working bells and tenor behind;  bob minor is six working bells and likely the first minor method you learn.  Grandsire triples is usually considered more musical than bob triples and a lot of towers don’t bother teaching you bob triples at all, although Grandsire is harder.  Bob major is eight working bells, and so on.  The point is I was trying not to ask too much. 

# Which is a lot harder.  In theory I can ring a plain course.  In theory.  

## It’s easier to ignore someone going wrong when he’s not going wrong in your vicinity.  

† Whoever s/he is 

†† And I know I’ve told you that.  I really thought I’d told you about how I got Chaos as well as Darkness, but apparently not.  Okay.  I will.   Just not tonight.

††† Olivia says Lavvy really enjoyed getting it on


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