So it’s twenty and a half years ago. Peter and I have decided to get married.* All the important stuff has already been decided, like that I’m going to emigrate.** But that means we have to get married: the fiancée’s visa only lasts for six months. That’s not a problem: we’re both old-fashioned: we want to get married, and I’m the kind of old-fashioned that furthermore wants a proper ring to go with the deal. Hey. I like jewellery.
I’d originally assumed we’d find one suitably old and hoary and glamorous and possibly mad in an antique shop somewhere for an engagement ring; wedding rings to be practical need to be plain and could be dealt with separately when we knew what the flashy one looked like. We spent some time in this pursuit*** but we were finding nothing nearly unique and fabulous enough, I had to finish DEERSKIN and we wanted to get on with the moving and the new life and so on.
I can’t now remember who recommended this jewellery designer to us. But we went to see him and explained we wanted something definitively Maine for me to wear in England. He suggested Maine tourmalines—I think I didn’t know about Maine tourmalines at that point—and we eventually agreed that he’d design and make not only an engagement ring with the tourmalines, but wedding rings that would all fit together as part of the same design. Peter felt this was mostly my show† and I did try to tell the bloke the sort of thing I liked: flowing lines, mainly, swirly or woven or floral. Maybe sort of art nouveau. I liked the stuff in his shop. And I liked the idea of the Maine designer working with the Maine tourmalines.
We went back to see the stones when they arrived. I don’t know if the designer bloke asked for triangular, or if that was what he could get. Okay. This would make it unusual. And pink and green are excellent.
We never saw any designs. We saw the rings themselves when they’d already been cast (if cast is what I mean) and although they weren’t finished yet it wasn’t like we could go backward and say, uh, no, I meant Charles Rennie Macintosh, not Cecil Balmond.†† The wedding rings had these little hooks in the middle like the two ends of a twist tie bent together—and with the squared-off ends sticking out up and down your finger. Can you say CATCHES THE FRELL ON EVERYTHING? My tourmaline engagement ring fit down over the top ensnaring bend of my wedding ring, but that still left the sharp bottom edge to cause havoc and mayhem. They were certainly . . . different. But they were not sensible, and while many of the details of that whole era of the beginning of my life with Peter are blurry with exhilaration and terror, I do remember Peter telling the bloke that he works with his hands a lot, he spends hours every day in the garden, doing carpentry and cooking and he needs a ring that won’t get in the way.
The man smiled and nodded. These creative types. They’re so in their own little world.†††
But part of the swoop and breathtakingness of a runaway romance like ours is that you do kind of want it to glide as far as it can before it founders on some ineluctable aspect of ratbagging reality. The wife in the attic. The outstanding warrant. The gerbil fetish. The chocolate addiction . . . And I don’t think the designer bloke was cheating us in any overt way: I think we paid an honest amount for his time and his materials. He just didn’t listen.
Almost the first thing we did after the wedding was over was . . . run to the nearest ordinary jeweller and buy two utterly plain smooth gold rings and wear them. The barbed designer versions came out for fancy occasions and the rest of the time lived in my jewellery drawer. Sigh. This had not been the plan . . . and while the plain gold ones worked fine as wedding rings‡ I was rather wistful about my Maine tourmalines wasting their glory in a drawer.
I think it was around our tenth anniversary that Peter said, for our twentieth, we’ll have the tourmalines reset.
So that’s what we did. And this time we went to a jeweller we’ve been going to for . . . twenty years. He listens. He made my fabulous silver whippet belt buckle.‡‡ And we saw designs. We saw several designs. I wanted my new ring to look like it fit next to the plaited-gold-with-tiny-diamond-chips ring that was my fiftieth birthday present‡‡‡ and which I now wear as my wedding ring. And it does, doesn’t it?
This time it worked.
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* And our friends and family are all going, what? Well, it was a somewhat precipitate decision. We’d known each other maybe sixty hours in total.^
^ I’ve told you how we met, haven’t I? I was on a Literary Tour of England and he was one of the speakers.
** Somebody had to. Peter originally suggested we divide our time, but I knew—and I’m sure I was right—we’d both hate it. And Peter had lived in this area of Hampshire over forty years at that point, had four kids, the first two grandchildren, three brothers and their families, eight first cousins and . . . I had a whippet, and a background as a peripatetic military brat.
*** This was the occasion of one of our most important Bonding Moments. THELMA AND LOUISE had been bigger than god, Spacelab and Boris Yeltzin for months, and it was playing at a theatre in Portland, Maine, where we’d gone to cruise antique jewellery shops. I’ve told you this too, haven’t I? We walked out. We walked right after the dumb one spends the night with Brad Pitt the robber on the lam AND THE MONEY IN THE FRELLING DRAWER while the smart (!!?!??) one goes off to have a deep, sensitive evening with her supportive boyfriend.
† He’s got a much better eye for jewellery than he thinks he does—see: silver whippet belt buckle, below—but it’s true that this was my Big Symbolic Thing about leaving Maine to live in England with him.
†† http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-14027083 Okay, I don’t know what Balmond was doing twenty years ago. Designing engagement rings, possibly.
††† I do wonder if Designer Bloke already had this idea in his mind and he wanted to use it, whether the triangular stones inspired it, or what. But he sure wasn’t too interested in the interface with his clients.
‡ Anybody aware of the standard behaviour about such things of English gentlemen of Peter’s vintage will be gobsmacked that Peter wears a wedding ring at all. Well. Yes. I don’t think it ever occurred to me that he wouldn’t—I wanted us both to wear them—and that’s what happened. It wasn’t till later that I realised that Peter was humouring me about this too.^
^ I tell myself that if I have to choose I’d rather he wore a wedding ring than remembered to shut the door behind him.+ I perhaps tell myself this rather often. But romance over practicality? Sure. Why do I have sixty rose-bushes in a garden the size of a large ping-pong table?
+ This includes refrigerator doors. Just by the way.
‡‡ I hope I’ve told you this story. I told Peter I wanted something significant and wearable for my fortieth birthday.
‡‡‡ Also bought in Maine. Hmm. My sixtieth is next year . . .
They sang COLD HAILY WINDY NIGHT. Steeleye Span, that is. Tonight. At the concert Fiona got me by the hair, forced** me into her car as I moaned feebly: I have to work! I have to work!***, and made me come to with her.† I could be happy just looking at Maddy Prior’s clothing. ††
I had brought my leg warmers. That is, I brought a remarkably-crinkly-at-one-end skein of bitchy, tantrum-prone††† yarn, a pair of needles‡, and an increasingly battered-looking pattern, including the crib sheet Fiona wrote out for me MONTHS ago. We had allowed lots of time to get lost in which we then didn’t need‡‡ so I had a good half hour to get started again.‡‡‡ Aaaaugh. Counting. Aaaaaugh. And Fiona would keep trying to talk to me. What do you think this is, a social occasion? Just because she can knit an incredibly frelling complicated frelling sock pattern on forty-seven double-ended needles and look around at the crowd and chat to her neighbour, who is laboriously going, one, two, three, purl, one, two, three, knit, DOESN’T MEAN EVERYONE CAN.
And just by the way, some of what Peter Knight does on that fiddle isn’t possible.§
At the end Fiona said, so, are you glad you came? There must be more Steeleye sheet music out there, I said, having had trouble not joining Rick Kemp for COLD HAILY.§§ I even asked Maddy herself about sheet music on the way out and she looked puzzled and suggested I write to Park Records. §§§
And then we went back out to the car park, got in Fiona’s car and drove merrily away in the wrong direction because she had decided we didn’t need the satnav. . . .
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* It was a near thing. Blogmom had sent along a last sale/auction order file which I had assumed was a few final sweepings-up, no big deal, and hadn’t even bothered to open it—Fiona could do it when she came. AND THEN IT TURNED OUT TO BE GINORMOUS. Gaaaaaah. WAAAAAAAAH. I knew I was not, in fact, going to get everything out before Christmas^ but I did think we were totally heading downhill for the final assault. No. Wrong. So the first thing Fiona had to do, having been obliged to reveal the awful truth, was prevent me from murdering myself messily in an assortment of creative and unpleasant ways.
^ Once again, grovelling apologies. There Is Too Much Going On. And I really do have to finish SHADOWS before I can no longer afford to keep the hellhounds in a manner to which they have become accustomed.
** I would make three of Fiona. Well, two and a half anyway. But she’s very persuasive. Especially when she shakes out a length of yarn in this sort of garrotte and clamps sharpened knitting needles between her teeth.
*** And I have an opera tomorrow. COGNITIVE DISSONANCE ALERT.^
^ I would like to say I’m going to a Metallica concert the night after that, but . . . no. And the truth is I don’t think I have the—er—mettle to go to a heavy metal concert any more. I don’t know what the audience at a Metallica concert is like these days, but back in my misspent youth+ I went to several fairly scary concerts where I was glad that my companion was a six and a half foot bloke, who, while soft-spoken and mild-mannered, looked like Mess With Me and Die.
+ Remember that I misspent most of my youth in my thirties, so we’re talking about the eighties.
† You realise it’s Friday. Sacred Home Tower Bell Practise. Only Steeleye Span could drag me away from my responsibilities.^
^ . . . But make me an offer. A stroll across the Kalahari? Sunbathing in Antarctica? A new diving bell attempt to reach the bottom of the Marianas Trench? Sure. After all, Niall left me to cope last Friday.
†† I am forcibly reminded, pretty much every time I go to a concert—or, for that matter, watch a clip on YouTube—that the one great thing about performing is the costumes. It’s pretty much the only thing I miss about being a travelling, live-appearance author: the opportunity to dress up. ^ And Maddy’s clothes are prime. I was thinking about this tonight—while I sang along to All Around My Hat^^—that this is the one flaw in my choir-joining plan^^^: choir members don’t get to dress up. I like a long black velvet skirt as well as the next woman but Maddy’s flounced blue satin is waaaay to be preferred. Unfortunately being a soloist involves . . . soloing. I don’t see a way around this. Unless that’s in a chapter in CHAOS I haven’t got to/figured out yet.
^ As demonstrated at Forbidden Planet a few months ago.
^^ Maddy came to the front of the stage, thrust her microphone in our direction+ and dared us to be louder than Margate.
+ Literally. Fiona and I were in the front row.~
~ Fiona orders the tickets. I just go where I’m told. Chiefly into the passenger seat of her car.
^^^ Supposing my incredibly tiresome throat stops being a frail heroine and lets me return to two-and-a-half-hour practises with the Muddlehamptons.
††† Yes I am thinking about simply buying a couple more skeins of hellhound-blanket yarn^ and using that. Wait . . . did I just say BUY MORE YARN?^^
^ The pink option, of course.
^^ I was reading Yarn Harlot the other night+ about stash, one of her favourite topics, and how the fact that you have more yarn than an infinity of monkeys could knit into bobble hats while waiting for that other batch of monkeys to produce King Lear++ doesn’t necessarily mean you have anything to knit with. Yes. Her ratiocinations on this subject will not be mine, but in my case all my nice yarn is Waiting for Me to Learn What I’m Doing. I can’t just carelessly pluck a couple of skeins out of some tote bag and start on leg warmers. Horrors.
+ In the bath, of course. Paperback editions of Yarn Harlot are ideal for the task.
++ Macbeth would do. And it’s shorter.
‡ Yes in the right size. Please.
‡‡ We will come to the topic of the drive home again in a minute.
‡‡‡ The lights went down mid-row, of course. Oh, now I’m in trouble, I said, and the woman on my other side . . . laughed. So during the interval I said to her, do you knit? I used to, she said. I keep thinking I should start again. Don’t let me put you off, I said. I’m a beginner, and this yarn is possessed by demons. We parted amicably at the end: next time bring your knitting, I said.
Postscript: I knitted five rows. And then I ripped them all out again. Sigh. However, it more nearly resembled ribbing than my previous efforts. It just wasn’t ribbing.
§ This is clearly stated in chapter mrrmngph of CHAOS.^
^ I’m reading/listening to it AGAIN, okay? This is challenging stuff for someone whose idea of higher maths is a touch of St Clements minor on handbells.
§§ He may be a great bassist. He is not a great singer. I admit that my crossover tendencies may not always stand me in good stead when judging folk singers, but I mostly feel that to be a lead singer of anything you either have to sound great, like Maddy^, or at least have a characterful voice, like Dick Gaughan—or Tom Waits or Leonard Cohen.
^ Although she’s still singing when a classical singer would have had to give up.
§§§ http://www.parkrecords.com/ In case you’re interested. I mean, yes, I could figure out the tunes, and most of the lyrics are on line somewhere, but what am I going to give Oisin? . . . Had I but world enough and time, I might write my own accompaniments, of course, but they would be a little non-standard.
An annually dreaded moment happened today: the arrival of the new David Austin Rose Catalogue. It’s not like I don’t have both his and Peter Beales’ sites favourited*, and it’s not like they’re not both places I go when I’m cross/tired/cranky/frustrated/procrastinating. ** But there’s something about a shiny new paper catalogue. . . .
This particular rose, the lead-off for this year’s introductions, is called ‘William and Catherine’ (Catherine??). Snork. I may have to give it/her/them a go anyway. Austin is claiming that it/her/them is ‘extremely healthy’ which would be a first in a repeating white rose.
I grow St Swithun (on the left) and Tess of the d’Urbervilles (on the right). I do not yet grow Teasing Georgia or Snow Goose (in the middle). Yet.
I grow Mortimer Sackler–that’s the flowering pink triffid on the right–in a pot by the front door of the cottage. Apparently I will be in trouble soon. I have noticed she’s a little more exuberant than I was entirely planning for. Oh, I also grow Scepter’d Isle–middle on the left–and Wedgewood, bottom left. And clearly I have to add Maid Marion–top left. I missed her last year somehow. One of the nice things about keeping a list–of, say, roses to be acquired–on your iPhone is that it keeps looking short even when it . . . isn’t.
. . . . But this also brings me nicely to what I’ve been meaning to blog about for several days and things keep intervening.
There are two high-ticket items in the auction. One of them is the personally tailored masterwork by that hitherto little-known composer, Robin McKinley.*** The other one is the limited-edition ROSE DAUGHTER illustrated by Anne Bachelier.
And before you freak out because you’re not high-end gallery-art collector types—with which I sympathise: keeping oneself in reading books† tends to be quite enough—I wanted to flash a few of the illustrations at you. I think those are all the plates on the CFM site, but I think they look a little bland lined up in rows like that, if you don’t know Bachelier’s work and don’t know that ‘bland’ is approximately the last word applicable. They’re much more fabulous in situ in the book. Bachelier is not to everyone’s taste—but then neither am I, and neither is anyone whose work is genuine and individual—but I adore this book. As an explicit rendering of my ROSE DAUGHTER, no, it’s not, but if you’re asking me it’s not supposed to be. What it is is a magnificent dreamscape of Beauty and the Beast with my ROSE as a jumping-off place—or a jumping on place, where she can bring her vision back and tie the red thread of story to it so all may follow.
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** Now joined by Etsy http://www.etsy.com/ and Ravelry http://www.ravelry.com/ , both of which wave cheerfully and say, hi, hellgoddess!, when I go there. Well, ‘Robin’ was already taken when I needed a username. A username I could remember.
*** But four of you are going to club together and commission me to write something for French horn, bodhran and two mezzo-sopranos, right? Fine. Just don’t make me learn to orchestrate.
† And yarn.^
^ A friend has just been yanking my chain about my knitting needle collection. Feh. I’ll do a knitting-needle post some night and you’ll all just crumble away with admiration.+
+ You non-knitters . . . I don’t know . . . you’ll have to go bowling that night or something.
Okay, I knew I was pushing it. WordPress has eaten one of the photos and added its caption to the previous photo. ‘More random gorgeousness’ was another photo. But it’s late and I’m tired and I’m not going to try to re-insert the missing photo, and WordFrellingPress won’t let me cut the superfluous text. At least the formatting is back (I hope): it disappeared the first time I hit the ‘publish’ button.
Okay, we’re good to go. The Silly Signing Clothing Contest begins now.* Ajlr is going to post a thread—or rather, probably already has done by the time I get tonight’s entry up—in the forum for you to post links to photos and photos themselves**, and she also, because she is a Wonderful Human Being, is going to give you a little how-to about photos and links and things, which most of you won’t need but anyone like me will need, with assistant flourishes and a heavenly choir singing alleluia.*** On Facebook you can post photo links under tonight’s entry only: having entries in as few places as possible will make tallying up at the end easier. On Twitter you can post photo links to #sillypeg.
Most of this I’ve told you already, tonight is merely the Official Launch. We’re having a contest for another signed copy of the new UK edition of PEGASUS†. To enter you must post a photo of the lurid and eccentric clothing you might have worn to the PEGASUS signing at the Forbidden Planet next Thursday if you were so fortunate as to be in London on that date††. The drawing will be random so it’s not like you have to come up with something that’s better than everyone else’s, but please try to stay within the spirit of the thing, which is also to say that as Hellgoddess I reserve the right to throw out any entries involving navy-blue pin-striped suits†††. The spirit of the thing also includes that this a family-friendly blog overseen by a fierce headmistressy type named Pollyanna and you need to stay polite.‡
And since this whole schemozzle began with Ajlr intemperately referring to a pink catsuit and my responding even more intemperately that I’d wear my black leather mini if she’d wear her catsuit, I would prefer the photo of the clothing to have the person entering the contest wearing said clothing. If you are in the clothes in the photo you get your name in the drawing twice. If you have merely laid them out empty in an alluring manner and taken a photo of them that way, you get your name in the drawing once. Hey, I have to suffer: I am wearing the mini, even though Ajlr has reneged on the catsuit.‡‡
Someone asked how many times you can enter: I think I’ll say three times. Because if you’re wearing all three sets of clothing—and note that there can be no overlap between entries, I don’t care how great the black velvet cape looks with everything—that’ll give you six chances and I think any more would be bad for your mental health.
Okay? Okay. I (or Ajlr) will answer questions as they arise.‡‡‡ You have till midnight Wednesday GMT to get your photos in. And please . . . have fun. That feather boa you haven’t thought of in twenty years?§ Go for it.
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* Anybody who has just clicked onto this blog for the very first time has just clicked away again. Fast.
** Friendly reminder! 100K limit on photo size!
*** My mind is running on heavenly choirs because we’re just back from a faaaaaabulous choir concert. I told you that Ravenel not only tortu—directs the Muddlehamptons but is himself in a fancy local choir? The—er—Seraphim. I have, to my shame, not paid a great deal of attention to local music, despite there being an assortment of cathedrals within concert-going range, and cathedrals do tend to attract wandering heavenly choirs and music festivals. The Seraphim give two or three concerts a year, I think. I am putting myself on the mailing list.
This one was a part of a music festival. So the first thing that happened was trying to negotiate the temporary, festival-only web site to buy tickets. I came out the other end of this scarring process with a print-outable page that says, two seats for the Seraphim concert 2 July 2011, paid for, kaCHING!,^ bring this page with you. So I did. And when we got there—having parked in the car park helpfully signed CAR PARK FOR ST AURELIA we had to walk eight leagues through troll^^ country because the gate into the close was locked—and I handed my piece of print-out to the nice young woman at the door, she looked at it for a minute and said, Where’s your ticket?
It went on like this for a while. Fortunately we were early—because I was worried about things like the car park^^^ and the lack of proper tickets. We became close personal friends with the fellow who discovered (eventually) that we did have tickets, although they weren’t being held anywhere that anybody had thought of looking. He started telling us everything else that had gone wrong: the double bookings of both the hall and the Crusaders’ Garden where we went for the interval#, the tickets that hadn’t been sent or had been sent to the wrong venue . . . oh yes, and the locked gate, so that people in their party clothes had to walk eight miles through troll country (and cowpats). He was a tall, easy-going bloke with a good line of dry humour, and I didn’t take his tux too seriously, because ushers often wear tuxes. He was one of the singers. I can’t imagine much I’d less want to be doing right before a major concert than deal with frelled-up members of the public, even innocent frelled-up members of the public.
But the music. . . . ooooooooh. Except for some hooting from the organ at the very end and some eccentric strings for the Baroque stuff it was all a cappella and . . . well, I have a serious weakness for this kind of music and there just isn’t anything better. There were pieces by modern composers (nothing too threatening) and pieces from back as far as Monteverdi. Most of them were sacred, but after the interval there was a little burst of settings of folk songs including The Turtle Dove by Vaughan Williams and I was sitting there thinking##, how can he stand it? Listening to us when he’s singing it with the Seraphim? In fact it’s that the Muddlehamptons are singing it in their summer concert that is the most powerful risk factor for my losing my mind and joining in. I can’t decide if hearing the Seraphim do it makes me more or less likely to go ahead and lose my mind. I tracked Ravenel down during the interval to tell him how fabulous the Seraphim are. I also told him that I should have come to choir practise on Thursday, that we walked out of THE CHERRY ORCHARD—and he laughed and reminded me that I should have a go at the Muddlehampton concert anyway. . . .
^ Hands up how many people actually remember tills that go kaCHING!
^^ Also nettle, cowpat and ankle-breaking-hollow country
^^^ I’ve hurtled two generations of hellhounds around St Aurelia, but I’ve never been to a concert there
# As I was leaving the cottage I noticed that my little windowsill weather forecaster was saying rain. I was wearing a silk skirt and carrying a suede bag. Better hadn’t, I said. It didn’t.
## Sitting there thinking and knitting. The lights stayed up for the whole thing so . . . I kept knitting. Not having anticipated this I almost ran out of yarn. Brrrr. Next time I’ll take a spare skein. I should perhaps add that we were sitting near the back—there was a row of real chairs with, like, seat cushions among the pews, which Peter made for in a not-to-be-deflected manner. I’m not sure I’ll knit through a concert where I’m close enough for the performers to see me. Even performers who don’t look at the audience—I’m one of them, I should know—might find knitting a trifle eye-catching.
† Do not forget the crossword puzzle from last Saturday which is still open for entries.
†† And no, there’s nothing stopping you from entering even if you are coming.
††† Unless of course you’ve done something involving studs, leather, glue and spray paint to the dreadful object.
‡ Since these are, however, photos, dress swords will be permitted, since if you take it off to whap somebody you’ll only make a hole in your computer screen.
‡‡ Also remember that while I will be wearing the frelling mini in public and will thus have to be viewable from a variety of cruel angles, you only need to take a photo of your best side. If the side away from the camera is festooned with safety pins or features a zipper that wouldn’t close if the finishing of PEG II depended on it . . . it doesn’t matter.
‡‡‡ For example, Didn’t you say you’d post a photo of the mini and the new UK ed of PEG tonight? Answer: yes. I did. Now/again I’m saying tomorrow.
§ Ah. Hmmm. I don’t think I’ve seen my boas since we moved house.
Gods, dragons, pegasi, and anything else you want to throw in, I love homeopathy. I was going to tell you this story tonight anyway, it having happened late last night, and then today as it happens there’s been another outburst of bleating from the so-called quackbuster gang about what dangerous lunatic rubbish homeopathy is. Siiiiiiigh. I’m not a good debater; I get angry too quickly. Listen: Homeopathy works. It doesn’t work for everybody or everything—but then nothing does, most emphatically including standard doctor medicine. And sometimes, when you manage to take exactly the right homeopathic remedy at exactly the right time, the effect could very well pass for magic. Last night was one of those times.
I tweeted yesterday about the morning hurtle being through clouds of grass pollen as we swished through the edge of a long field. If I’d known, we’d’ve gone some other way, but by the time I realised, I figured we might as well keep going as go back. Hellhounds, who were meeting it at face level, prudently dropped behind me, so I was swathing through it. My black jeans were straw-yellow with it by the time we reached the road, and there was a fair amount of it on my shirt front—and of course it had gusted freely into my face. All three of us were sneezing.
Hellhounds had pretty much stopped sneezing by the time we got home (I had brushed them off before I let them in the car). I had not. I think I’ve told you that one of the clear gains of menopause is that my beyond-description-life-destroying hay fever is about 98.5% gone. I don’t like the wrinkles, the falling chin line and the weird flesh, but I’ll take it all like a shot over wondering if I am going to live through another summer. When I was first living in England twenty years ago . . . well. Gruesome. Hay fever doctor drugs make me sick or crazy. But I started eating local honey* and I still had hay fever, but it dropped down to stupid-nuisance level.
Fortunately menopause has mostly finished the job, because menopause has also bestowed upon me the unwelcome gift of Zero Metabolism. Zero Metabolism means that thinking about lettuce makes me gain weight.** One of the things that got subtracted from my daily intake was the local honey. Which, most of the time, is okay. But my elderly hormone-deprived ME-distracted*** immune system will still react to extreme provocation. I spent most of yesterday sneezing and grumbling and watering at the eyes, but it didn’t get really grisly till I went back to the cottage and tried to go to bed. YOWZAH. I felt like hell, I couldn’t breathe, my ears, my head and my throat hurt, and while there was no visible rash, I was savagely itchy. But my eyes were the worst: the lids were so swollen they only opened about halfway, and when I looked in the mirror—AAAAAAUGH—both the lids and the whites were bright red. Fiery red. Which is how they felt. And haemorrhaging tears.
I have no good excuse for not having hit the homeopathy hours before. But I’d learnt to be stoic decades before I discovered homeopathy—the occasions I do myself serious damage now tend to be when I’m so busy being stoical I forget to take the arnica right away. So yesterday I was close to the life-threatening edge before I finally remembered . . . well, in this case, allium. It was looking at my red eyes in the mirror that did it: if hay fever is making you miserable but the worst thing is your eyes, the first thing to try is allium cepa.†
I tottered over to the chest of drawers where I keep my remedies and fished out the allium. Homeopathic remedy bottles are little, and the labels on them littler still, and I could barely read. But I found what I was looking for, tipped a little white pill into the bottle cap and then into my mouth†† . . . and it began working instantly. Contact with mucous membrane and it starts the business. My eyes stopped burning. I stopped sneezing. My head cleared. I could breathe. I stopped itching. I could open my eyes more than halfway. When I opened the kitchen door to let hellhounds out the last time a few minutes later, I was fine. I slept—slept!—with the window open. I’ve been fine today, although it’s been drizzly, so you can argue that it’s damped pollen and other evil floating substances down.
Homeopathy works. Placebo effect? Eh. Sure, sometimes. You get the placebo effect with doctor drugs too, sometimes. But homeopathy works on babies and animals—and I think the argument that your dog or your child gets better because it wants to please you is just silly. And I’ve dosed myself—and not got the desired reaction; I was already figuring out what I was going to try next, last night, while I was unscrewing the lid on the allium. I’m a rotten debater, as I said, and I’m not interested in arguing—homeopathy works. There.
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* And if anyone either wants to try this or has tried it and thinks it doesn’t work . . . in my experience it has to be really, really local. ‘Hampshire’ honey isn’t good enough. It has to be within about five miles of where you live. I used to get my therapeutic honey from our next-door neighbour at the old house, and honeycomb to chew as well. You also have to eat it faithfully, beginning several months before your hay fever season starts. If you’re careless and keep missing days, it doesn’t do much–and you need a good-sized, calorie-laden blob, not just a thin scrape. I’m sure this is another of those things that doesn’t work for everybody, but it worked amazingly for me. And you don’t have worse hay fever than mine used to be, and live. It’s one of the reasons I ended up back in Maine; I couldn’t take the summers farther south—although it’s also part of the reason I liked Manhattan in August. Less pollen there^ than in Maine’s brief, ferocious summer. Lush southern England was walking into Smaug’s lair without a Ring or a sword.
^ But stay away from the 843 acres of Central Park.
** Menopause may have got hay fever right but it got chocolate wrong. My chocolate craving is waay worse now than it ever used to be. I’ve always loved chocolate and I’ve always had a serious sweet tooth, but I only morphed into a ‘just hand me the chocolate and nobody gets hurt’ megabitch with menopause. This is an interesting situation with Zero Metabolism. But I’ve been thin for nearly forty years, and I’m not giving up without a struggle. Not to mention my ridiculously flimsy, non-weight-carrying knees, which are a cheap Gflytchian knock off, and not made out of real human bone and sinew at all.
*** It would be interesting to know what input the ME has had on my no-longer hyper-reactivity to a very long list of allergens.
† One of the reasons, I think, that there’s so much bad press about homeopathy is that it is such an individually-tailored system. That’s its strength, but also its weakness from a public-relations viewpoint: you can rarely prescribe for anything, even a lot of minor things, without knowing rather a lot about your patient, or trying several remedies before you find the right one, or both. This makes it look haphazard or inadequate, when—say I—it is exactly the opposite. But think of how vastly complicated and unique each individual human being is: you’ve got to get every symptom, every clue, every trait in the right place, or the jigsaw doesn’t fit together. Even arnica, which has probably converted more people to homeopathy than every other remedy combined, doesn’t work for everybody. And allium cepa works for most hay fever sufferers whose burning, tearing eyes are their worst symptom. But it doesn’t work for everybody.
†† You don’t touch the pills if you can help it. You tip one into the bottle cap, toss it into your mouth, tuck the pill under your tongue and let it dissolve.