99% content-free blog, or, so long as I have footnotes I can apparently witter on alarmingly at the least provocation
I received a parcel in the post yesterday.* It rejoiced in a more than usually generous quantity of instruction stickers scattered artistically over its stolid cardboard exterior. One of them said ‘hold tab firmly and pull to open’. This is only helpful if there’s a tab. There is no tab. There are some vaguely luminescent white stripes in approximately the area where you might have expected a tab, but these are a snare and a delusion. The chimerical and fallacious factor is enhanced by the shiny whiteness of these unprofitable stripes, which produces a slight, bogus, 3D effect. I took my glasses off and peered at the confusing article at a distance of two microns from the end of my nose. My near vision, that is my very very near vision is pretty good.** I thus confirmed to my dissatisfaction that there were no tabs.
Elsewhere on the parcel there is an even more splendidly helpful ILLUSTRATION of pulling the non-existent tab. Apparently you should use two fingers and the thumb. I’ll commit this to memory for the next time I see a tab. This illuminated edification is further (helpfully) described as ‘step one’. There follows another splendidly tutelary illustration to accompany ‘step one’ and its illustration, ‘step two’, which suggests ‘Lift flaps to tear perforations.’ I was busy committing step one to memory at this point and failed to take note of how many fingers, before I gave a roar of frustrated rage and TORE INTO THE SUCKER. The flap-lifting may indeed have been competently possible if there had been a tab to pull, but since there wasn’t, by the time you’ve HACKED INTO THE THING although the perforations do exist, they have slipped, or been savagely rent, into the collateral damage category.***
But my favourite instruction appears under my address for the guidance of the delivery person†: LEAVE UNDER COVER, DO NOT FLY.
Pause for contemplation.
Okay. I will not attempt to cross the Channel in it, which is probably just as well, as it is a rather small box, and the hellmob and myself, plus snacks for those of us who eat, would render it rather crowded. There are also no instructions for the piloting of a small cardboard box. And furthermore the missing tab is probably a critical airflow spoiler, and what if, having soared magnificently over the length of Kent, we hit a nasty head wind/tail wind/ wind wind over the Channel and had to land unexpectedly on the back of a dolphin? The dolphin wouldn’t like it either.††
So I guess I will stay home and enjoy the contents of my parcel. What were they, you ask? Two tiny packets of sewing needles.††† I told you it was a small box.‡
* * *
* This happens kind of a lot. Usually it has YARN or BOOKS inside.
** It’s a good thing my nose isn’t any longer. I’m sure monocular peering would be less efficacious.
*** And, as revealed below^ the contents, by the time I had got there, having forgotten what I was going to find in the stress and anxiety of ersatz tabs and unproductive perforations, was not YARN or BOOKS. Clearly I should stick to YARN or BOOKS.^^
^ IF YOU’RE READING THIS IN THE PROPER ORDER. YOU ARE READING THIS IN THE PROPER ORDER, AREN’T YOU?
^^ Or music. My favourite on-line music shop UNFORTUNATELY will hold your basket for you apparently forever. I have about £1,000,000,000 worth of CDs and a few DVDs waiting for me at present.+ Occasionally I sift out a few and order them.++
+ Yes. I still prefer hard copy. I’m old. You’ll have to forgive me.~
~ And don’t say ‘Netflix’ to me. Until small ignored cul de sacs in forgotten villages of Hampshire get superfast broadband, which as far as I’m concerned is a myth, streaming is not an option.
++ AND LET’S NOT TALK ABOUT SHEET MUSIC.
† Shall I mention that they got my name wrong? I have had periods, in the last twenty-five years, of feeling it’s more trouble than it’s worth to share a name with your husband^, and you might think that if there are x ways of misspelling McKinley and y ways of misspelling Dickinson, there would be x + y ways of misspelling McKinley Dickinson. WRONG. It’s x + y to the 87th power ways.^^ Now, of course, being McKinley Dickinson is part of the old life gone forever, and if I can’t even throw out shopping lists in his handwriting I’m certainly not going to throw out his name.
^ He did offer to take on ‘McKinley’ but I decided one martyr in the family was enough.
^^ There may be a clue here why the larger the corporation, the more drastically screwed up and one-department-doesn’t-talk-to-any-other-department it is. The latest megacorp trying to sue me is BT, but I think I convinced them to cancel the bailiffs. Exciting times. Ugggggh.
†† I did however love the instruction so much that I cut out the address label to use as a bookmark. It is presently gracing my new Sally Melville book on knitting design, which is WILDLY over my head^, speaking of competency levels, but a girl^^ can dream, also, I like Sally Melville.^^^ It is not precisely a new Sally Melville. It is an old, out of print Sally Melville, which I bought on Abebooks, on my way^^^^ to ordering two slender and lovely books about Christian meditation by John Main# which are also out of print. These also arrived yesterday.##
^ like a cardboard box flying toward the white cliffs of Dover
^^ Or an elderly hag
^^^ Whose principles to live by include—maybe I’ve already told you this?—‘If it’s not a place I can knit, it’s probably not a place I want to be.’ YES.
^^^^ don’t ask. ‘On my way’ is perhaps a more symbolic than accurate description of route and method.
# Who was a Benedictine monk, so I’m obliged to be partial. Now he was a Catholic Benedictine and my monks are Anglican, but the welcome thing is commodious and all-embracing.
## Sort of. Instead of the second John Main I received a guidebook to ‘Rhone-Alpes’. Which might be useful if the box or the dolphin got us across the Channel. Although it would be a long walk.
††† And a lot of bubble wrap.
‡ Not that small. It was large enough for a lot of instructions. Now I will plead guilty to being an internet shopping addict^ but in this case New Arcadia, Mauncester and Zigguraton seem all to be out of ordinary sewing needles. And what’s a girl^^ to do when most of her woollens have holes in them because she refuses to use the industrial-strength anti-moth stuff?^^^ Now we can discuss the apparent impossibility of finding tapestry wool or equivalent fine enough to mend 2-ply.# I use cotton embroidery thread because it’s what I can find in enough colours but if you need to put more than three or four stitches in a single hole it shows because of the difference in drape and elasticity. Sigh. With three dogs, two gardens and a bad attitude the lumpiness of my surface covering## doesn’t really matter. But bad darns matter to me.
^ See: YARN SALES. I also keep buying Land’s End WHITE cotton-modal turtleneck jerseys because they are my favourite base layer and no matter how many I buy I run out of clean ones before I have enough to make up a white wash. Arrrrgh. I think they must be running off with the black Aran pullover that lives down the road. Don’t believe his fulsome promises, honey. He will discard you the moment you turn streaky grey with hot sweaty friction.
^^ Or elderly hag. See above.
^^^ Lavender is not useless, and cedar oil works pretty well, but concentrated cedar oil is also a frelling poison, and I don’t want either to breathe it or to have it in contact with my known-overreactive skin. I do spot it around so all my wooden shelves have little round cedar-oil marks on their edges but you have to do this a lot to be effective and I’m always going to do it tomorrow. Like I’m always going to repot all my geraniums. Tomorrow.
# No, untwisting the individual plies of hawser-strength tapestry wool does not work.
## Or coverings since I specialise in layers. See: Land’s End jerseys. I have friends who fall down laughing after they count (say) five layers. All in different colours of course, and pulled up and over and around so all are visible. I like playing with colour.+
+If I were a better knitter I’d be dangerous.
Sorry everyone. I’m just so freaking tired.* It’s been a somewhat action-packed week/ten days/fortnight/century. The good news is that I haven’t knocked Peter over with the car again recently. YAAAAAY. But we’ve had three lots of visitors** and assorted emergencies.*** And Niall and I seem to be teaching more people to ring handbells.
Also, it’s definitively spring. The weather is still jerking us around† but the primroses are flowering like mad—AND MY SNAKESHEAD FRITILLARIES YAAAAAAAAAY—and the early pansies, and the early tulips and there are daffodils and hellebores everywhere as thick as marmalade on toast and it is unmistakably SPRING. So I’m out there frantically potting up little things that keep arriving in the post†† . . . and occasionally I’m also potting up things that I stuck in some perlite because I was REALLY IRRITATED that I or a member of the hellmob or some discourteous frelling typhoon broke off a perfectly good branch of something or other and if I sliced it up in pieces and stuck them in perlite . . . well, they’d die, of course, but at least I’d’ve tried.
Occasionally they live. I now have five abutilon megapotamicum. If they’re happy, they can get to eight foot. The original one—the one that got blown off the kitchen window shelf and snapped off a long limb—is getting on for six foot. It’s a terrific plant—it flowers all year. But FIVE of them??? This is just possibly superfluous to requirements.
And now, if you’ll excuse me again, I have to go sing something: voice lesson tomorrow.††† I’m supposed to be learning Rachmaninoff’s Vocalise . . . but it’s in four sharps, and I don’t like sharps, and it’s all foolhardy lines of unusual intervals—these blasted great composers are so frelling unpredictable—and he keeps flatting and/or double-sharping things that in some cases don’t have a black key there anyway AND YOU HAVE TO KEEP TRACK OF ALL THIS STUFF and . . . my brain hurts.‡ I may be leaning on YouTube a little more than I should be. Was that a chromatic scale when you strip out all the persiflage or wasn’t it? No. It wasn’t. That would be too easy. Quack. Quaver. But possibly the most annoying thing . . . Nadia told me I can just miss out the line with the high C in it—unless it’s a C flat which would make it some kind of B, and I occasionally have a high B—and I was wibbling along with YouTube and not thinking about it . . . okay, maybe the singer I was yodelling with had knocked it down a semi-tone or so but I got to the end and thought . . . wait a minute. I sang that line.
Haven’t been able to do it again of course. Your body is your instrument. Your instrument is a gibbering neurotic nutso. Sigh. . . .
* * *
* I’m reading a nice restful book^ in which our heroine winds up briefly hospitalised and is driven mad by having nothing to read, and when a sympathetic nurse loans her a copy of HELLO! magazine . . . she reads it as a desperate alternative to ripping her sheets into long thin strips and using broken clothes-hangers as knitting needles^^. And I read this with a feeling of cold deep horror and thought again THIS IS WHY MY KNAPSACK WEIGHS MORE THAN A HELLTERROR. It’s my phobia about being trapped somewhere WITH NOTHING TO READ.^^^ And given the number of times Peter has closed his hand in a door—never mind the serious stuff—and we’ve spent several unscheduled hours in A&E/Emergency, I am not being paranoid I am being practical.
^ THE JANUS STONE by Elly Griffiths which is the second in her murder-mystery series about Ruth Galloway who is a forensic archaeologist. And which are fabulous. Ceridwen loaned me the first one and when I read it in about forty-eight hours+ laughed in an evil and knowing manner, and loaned me the second.
+ despite not being able to read it in the bath because it belonged to someone else and IT WOULD NOT BE GOOD IF I DROPPED IT. I have quite a few paperbacks with curly pages . . . and I barely have a knitting magazine that doesn’t have curly pages.
^^ Okay, I made the extreme knitting alternative up, but personally I might have gone for it over HELLO!
^^^ Or knit.+ Granted most knitting weighs considerably less than three paperbacks and a fully charged iPad,++ and I don’t think they’ve started commercial production of ununseptium needles, possibly because they would be a trifle unstable as well as heavy, and my knitting doesn’t need any help in instability, but the Scarf as Big as the Universe sure takes up a lot of space. I keep being tempted to take it OUT of my knapsack and finish it at home where it can have its own room+++ but I know this way madness lies. I would just have the 1,000,000,000th unfinished woolly object lying around somewhere for me to trip over in the middle of the night.
. . . But starting NEW woolly objects is fun. Especially during that early halcyon period before you’ve made any really ghastly errors that you can’t figure out how to fix.
+ I actually went to an AGM recently.# WITH MY KNITTING. THANK YOU, GOD, FOR KNITTING.
# Reasons not to join things: the dreadful possibility of an AGM.
++ Note that I take my charging cable with me everywhere too. Just in case.
+++ Mind you in my house it would be sharing that room with 1,000,000 other yarn projects, 1,000,000,000 books and 1,000,000,000,000 All Stars. Plus assorted miscellaneous items.# But the rooms at the cottage, while small, are all larger than a knapsack.
# The miscellaneous-item problem is worse than usual at the moment because the American government in its wisdom~ decided that I had to re-prove that I live here and have lived here for quite some time and so you find salient documentation of ten-plus years ago, especially less than a year after a major house move when everything that CAN be shoved into the back of an attic HAS been shoved into the back of an attic including gruesome old paperwork. My tribulations began with the question which attic?, but more or less climaxed with insane-even-for-me tottering piles of everything all over my office floor at the cottage. Sigh. Which, the adrenaline of panic having worn off, I have no enthusiasm for sorting out and putting away again.~~
~~ Putting away WHERE? %
% Er. ‘Putting away’?
** NECESSARY HOUSEWORK. NOOOOOOOOO. Failing this activity would certainly be a way of ensuring that people don’t come back, but unfortunately anyone who gets as far as being invited to stay is probably someone I want to come back which leaves me in a terrible predicament. I keep trying to teach the hellhounds to pull the hoover. And the hellterror to mop the floor. Nobody does much about the cobwebs. Or the dust.^
^ Ways to Tell What I Am Really Truly Currently Reading: it’s not dusty.
*** See *, ^^^, +++, # above
† If I put long johns on in the morning^ I will be hot and cranky at 3 pm. But if I don’t put long johns on^^ I will be cold and cranky at . . . 3 am.
^ Oh all right, when I get dressed. There are drawbacks to sleeping in something you can answer the door in, because you can also put your gardening apron and your wellies on and do some gardening—just while your tea steeps, you know. Today this innocent activity led to my realising I was due to ring handbells in an hour while I was still in my nightgown equivalent and hadn’t had breakfast/lunch or hurtled any of the waiting hurtlables in this household.
I was late for handbells. Never mind. This fresh victim is catching on way too quickly and will be ringing Surplice Maximillian while I’m still trying to sort out the details of Basic Stupid. Which I have been for the last . . . decade. Siiiiiigh. And Niall is, I fear, only too accustomed to me being late for handbells. He may have a much-punctured dartboard somewhere with my face on it but . . . he doesn’t let even lumpy, brain-fogged semi-handbellers escape without a struggle. AND HE’S PUT AN AWFUL LOT OF HOURS INTO ME OVER THE LAST DECADE. I think I’m doomed. No, I know I am. But so is he. However as he throws darts at my face I’m sure he murmurs to himself, If I can teach her to ring handbells I CAN TEACH ANYONE.
I’m a good thing, really I am. Really. I set the standard. Ahem. . . .
^^ When I get dressed
†† More, or sometimes less, suitably attired. Hey, what’s wrong with a simple cotton jersey dress with a BLUE HILL MAINE sweatshirt over, a muddy apron and hot pink wellies?
††† Okay, I am now loud. When do I get to the hits the right notes part? I went off and stood in a corner and sang into the wall again tonight at church. I’m assuming God doesn’t mind, but the congregation might.
‡ It’s not just handbells.
We’re having summer. Eh. I hope it goes away soon. I like daylight fine—us old people need our vitamin D—but HOT HOT HOT FRELLING DAZZLING SUNSHINE IS OVERRATED.* And it’s thunderstorm weather so for even those of you (strange) people who like hot-hot-hot-frelling it’s not good hot-hot-hot-frelling, it’s oppressive and headachy. I always get up in the morning [sic] feeling like the slurry in the bottom of your dishwasher but days like today it’s all I can do to play tug-of-war with the hellterror.**
Or by evening be capable of writing a blog post.***
Unnnnnngh. . . . †
* * *
* A certain heroine of a certain book might disagree with me. Although I don’t think even Sunshine wants her tyres—tires—melting into the pavement.
** This is an IMPORTANT PART OF THE MORNING RITUAL. I stagger downstairs in my semi-decomposed state and get my tea and the hellterror’s breakfast^ started. Then I brace myself and let her out of her crate while the hellhounds cower in the back of theirs. She goes out for a pee in the courtyard and then comes indoors and checks all the corners for escaped kibble.^^ And then at some point while I’m peacefully mincing leftovers to make her tinned food a little more exciting^^^ she will trot up purposefully carrying her long yellow rubber toy and if I don’t notice quickly enough she will whack me with it, smartly across the calves.#
Let me just say that any woman who worries about her upper arms## . . . consider purchasing a hellterror, or other square, solid critter with jaws that could chomp for England, and spend serious time playing tug of war with it. It will adore you, and you will have beautifully toned upper arms.
^ Have I mentioned that my local bird population is nuts? I’ve spent all this frelling money on bird feeders and bird food and THEY DON’T EAT IT. By the end of the winter I was tired of dumping out (expensive) mouldy bird food and scrubbing the frelling bird feeders so I . . . stopped. I took the one most prone to morphing its contents into sticky black sludge down altogether—it’s still around here somewhere all cleaned out and innocent-looking—and left the other three up. The wire fat-ball container in the apple tree does have some turnover, but I can’t see it that well from the kitchen window so I’m not absolutely sure it’s not mice, there being a vibrant mouse population in my garden. The suet block and seed feeders sway gently in the airy zephyrs and . . . over the months their fardels have become pretty disgusting-looking but I have other tasks ahead of dealing with superfluous feeders for ungrateful avian passers-by.
About a month ago I noticed that the by now black suet block was . . . diminishing. Eh. It was probably struck by lightning when I wasn’t noticing.
Nope. Birds. They ate the whole thing. Ewwwww. And, furthermore, the day that I noticed it had disappeared entirely there was also a crabby looking bird sitting on top of the feeder, swapping ends occasionally the better to keep watch for whoever was in charge of REPLACEMENT and also occasionally bending down to peer, in a significant manner, into the still offensively empty feeder. Just in case the bungling factotum was nearby and could be brought to awareness of her failings.
I bought a suet block that day. I put it in the feeder.
That was, I think, three suet blocks ago. I assume this is the Hungry Gap—which is always later in the year than I expect it to be—so I’ll be interested to see if the little feathered ratbags have now got into the habit, or if they’ll drop me again as soon as something better comes along.
^^ Since the hellhounds have stopped eating altogether and force-feeding+ is not an exact science++, this tends to be worth her while.
+ Aside from little matters like starving to death or the fact that the hellhounds’ unique internal economy goes haywire if they miss more than one meal, this new drug they’re on has to be given with food.
++ Not when I do it anyway. Siiiiiiiigh.
^^^ Given that it’s ORGANIC the PRICE is quite EXCITING ENOUGH FOR ME.
# Speaking of the somewhat uncontrolled exuberance of youth . . . there’s been a great spreading glob of building work near here since last winter. They were supposed to be finished by the end of March. Anyone with experience of Great Globs of Building Work will not be surprised to hear that they are still not finished. The most annoying thing about this particular glob is that it’s closed off a footpath that everybody in this town uses, including the youff. Now generally speaking teenage anarchy holds no charms for me but occasionally I do enjoy watching it take on self-righteous adult admin.
The glob admin reopened the footpath briefly about a month ago and then—no, no, mustn’t have that!—changed their minds and closed it off again. They closed it off by sticking a big gate panel in the gap in the fence they were now regretting.
Over the first weekend, the local youff knocked it down.
Next weekend, the admin attached it to the gateposts with these little plastic loop things like the builders’ version of the plastic loops that hold price tags on clothing.
The youff cut the loops and knocked the gate down again.
This weekend just past, the admin chained the panel to the posts.
The youff dug out the bottom of the panel and shoved it back far enough that they and, possibly, a cranky old lady and her ebb and flow of hellcritters could get through.
The admin have now lowered and tightened the loops of chain.
## And doesn’t have a change-ringing bell tower available^
^ With my usual caveat that good ringers do not use brute strength. I am not a good ringer. But I have unembarrassing upper arms.
*** Maybe I’ll tell you about my voice lesson tomorrow.
† Fortunately we have a oscillating fan so both Darkness and I can get some churned-up air. Neither Pav nor Chaos seems to mind that much.
Samaritans training was Tuesday this week* so I made it to Aloysius’ Wednesday afternoon silent prayer for the first time since . . . the last time Sams training was on a Tuesday. And Aloysius wasn’t there. Feh. I knew this, and I’d said I’d come hold the floor down in his absence. There were actually a few other people there—slight gleep from yours truly—but I lit the tea-light, read out a bit of psalm and hit my temple-bell timer.**
I’ve found, myself, that it’s not that I’m not praying when I lead/ sing for services, it’s just that I’m praying differently. I’ve always felt that prayer has to be a verb — for me, it’s prayer when I set up the sanctuary . . . it’s prayer when I’m whispering directions to those joining me in front of the congregation. . . . It’s even prayer when I’m singing the Mi Chamocha by rote and trying to figure out who would be moved by the next reading . . . don’t give this one to that person, because it always makes her cry, which is best done if you’re not trying to read aloud . . . it’s just not the Mi Chamocha that I’m, you know, praying. Occasionally, when it’s a solo, and there’s nothing left to coordinate, and everything goes right, I get to lose myself in the actual prayer that I’m actually praying, which is holy in a different way. But it’s all prayer to me…
Thank you for this, and for your previous on the same subject. It’s a mindfulness thing, isn’t it? I think part of what has helped me about the headspace for performing worship is that I got put on the prayer chain at St Margaret’s really quickly*** and floundered rather trying to figure out how to cope with all this praying for people when I was new to praying at all. I’ve told the blog that I ‘sat’ at a [Buddhist] zendo back in Maine during a year I was finding very rough, and the silent mindful daily sitting made a huge difference in my ability to cope. I fell out of the habit of daily mindful sitting when I moved over here but I didn’t forget that that space existed and was accessible. And then hey-presto I became a Christian and . . . gleep. The silent-sitting space is both utterly transformed by the presence of God and also strangely—reassuringly—familiar.
The sitting-space became the prayer-space and having God to orient myself toward makes me feel as if I have an idea where I’m going, even if I don’t always fully arrive. You have to leave your stuff at the door and sometimes I . . . can’t. But I take my prayer-list there—or as close to there as I can get—and I go to Aloysius’ Wednesday afternoon silent prayer when Samaritans’ training doesn’t get in the way, and the high point of my practising-Christian week is half an hour sitting silently in the dark with some monks, Saturday evening, during the ‘Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament’, before night prayer starts. The more often you go to the prayer-space the plainer the track becomes.†
I can gather a few little wisps of prayer-space when I stumble†† up on stage to sing for service. I’m not much of a singer or a musician—I have to work at making what I hope is a half-decent noise—I have to focus. It is, at this point in my dubious development, relatively straightforward to focus on the prayer side rather than the music side. The less kind way of putting it is to say it rates as prayer because intentionality counts. It does not rate as music because intentionality only gets you a pat on the head and a bellow of NEXT from the bloke running the auditions.†††
But . . . where we came in. If you can hold your feeble, wavering, mortal focus on prayer . . . what you’re doing is praying. It’s a bit like deciding to run a marathon when you’re over sixty and have bad knees, but hey.
* * *
* Last night was writing emails and texts. I was expecting this to be shocking and dislocating, like a watercolourist being handed a block of granite and a chisel, but in fact it was a whole lot like . . . writing. In this case, emails and texts. The texting was funny. I’ve told you that I’m older by a good fifteen years than the next-oldest of the trainees, and probably thirty-five years older than the youngest.^ And I’m like, texting, fine, okay, I can do texting, and all these kiddies were saying TEXTING? We have to TEXT as Samaritans? And we’re supposed to understand all those nasty text abbreviations?^^ And I’m going, oh, cool. Txtspk! <3 !^^^ The Samaritans’ text software limits texts to 160 characters, so my fellow trainees were saying, we’re supposed to compose something EMPATHETIC and SUBSTANTIVE in 160 characters?? And I’m saying, oh, it’s like a slightly stretched tweet—you know, Twitter. Sure, I can do that. And they all recoiled as if from a slavering Rottweiler and said, TWITTER? We have nothing to do with Twitter. —Snicker. Us do-gooders are so straight.#
^ How did I get this OLD? I was supposed to just kind of stay forty.
^^ Which we’re allowed to use, cautiously, trying to take our cue from the texter. We get a lot of texts and emails from overseas and from people whose first language is not English and we do have to communicate.
^^^ Which, not very long ago, when, I think it was Jodi, used it, I had to ask her for a translation.
# I’m talking to Merrilee tomorrow night and I will have to remember to tell her, since she’s the one dragged me kicking and screaming into the twenty-first century, including both this blog and Twitter.+
+ I don’t count Facebook, which I don’t use. I post the blog links there and if FB is in a good mood and lets me, I read any comments. But about the seven millionth throw-it-all-up-in-the-air-and-stick-the-bits-to-the-wall-as-they-fall-down-again revision, I mean upgrade, I lost the will to live about all of it.
** And went home with Eleanor after and spent an hour and a half wringing our hands and rending our garments over an incomprehensible political situation that has recently arisen in St Margaret’s. THIS IS WHY I HATE GROUPS. THEY’RE FULL OF CRAZY PEOPLE BY DEFINITION.
*** ref comments about saying ‘yes’ to things you think you can do so you don’t get ploughed under with things you can’t, it being the function of a community, including a religious one, to extract as much practical value out of its members as it can.^ St Margaret’s is thriving in a general society where a lot of churches are struggling, and I’m sure one of the reasons why is the bloodhound look in the eyes of the admin as soon as a fresh victim crosses the threshold. When you sign up to be an official mailing-list member you are doomed.
^ See previous footnote. Sigh.
† More or less. Some frelling day I will be able to sit properly at home. The old Zen-Buddhist, and Zen-Christian, thing is just that every time you’re distracted you bring your mind gently back to your breath, or whatever you’re using as a focus. If I’m sitting with monks I need to bring my mind back, oh, no more often than thirty-seven times a minute. At home alone, relying solely on my own resources . . . it’s like trying to whack a manic fly with a flyswatter. LAND SOMEWHERE YOU DEVILSPAWN SO I CAN NAIL YOU. Sigh.
†† FRELLING CABLES EVERYWHERE. MICROPHONES, KEYBOARDS, GUITARS, BASS GUITARS, DRUMS^. I DON’T THINK THE FLUTE IS ELECTRIC YET BUT I’M SURE IT WILL BE.
^ Or drum accessories. I don’t think the drums themselves are electrified (? Like I have any idea), but there are certainly cables running (perilously) to the drum kit.
††† This is aside from questions of the quality of the actual music we’re attempting to perform.
Once upon a time there was a carrier company. . . . Let’s call it Feebledweeb. It’s been around a long time. I had a lively and robust, not to say ranting, dislike of it over twenty years ago, before I left the States. Before I discovered the true range of global carrier-company incompetence, creative perversity and aggressive unhelpfulness.
Feebledweeb made both of us crazy—although Peter bears crazy better than I do—back at the old house, when we were living out in the sticks of the sticks and there was a lot more hard copy in publishing than there is now. Feebledweeb at the time was, I believe, the only carrier that would pick stuff up in the sticks of the sticks of southern England and deliver it, more or less safely and in one piece, to a Manhattan highrise. And vice versa. Maybe. With a following wind.
They did, however, make their services coughcoughcoughcough as difficult and unservicelike as possible. They toyed with the concept of timed arrivals, and even at that they could never be pinned down to anything more exacting than before noon or after noon. But that was still better than ‘some time in April, and if you’re out, we’re going to reschedule you without telling you for some date which may or may not be at least six months in the future, oh, you have a deadline? You should have thought of that before you took your dogs on that totally gratuitous walk, shouldn’t you? And what do you mean by being so self-indulgent and unprofessional as having dogs that need walking in the first place? We may not reschedule you at all, you’re not our type.’ Which system is what they reverted to. All day, any day, whatever, if you don’t like it you can hitchhike to the coast and swim to Manhattan. But being cruelly imprisoned by a time frame of before or after noon was giving their drivers palpitations and random crying jags and Feebledweeb are totally committed to employee welfare.
And then Peter and I moved into town. And there seems to have been rather a boom in carriers, some of whom are no worse than dire and unreliable. But Feebledweeb, unfortunately, seems still to control the frelling transatlantic routes.
Now it will amaze you to hear this, but I am not the perfect client. I want to believe that I mostly behave myself with Merrilee, but Merrilee’s subrights department has little cause to love me, and it would not stun me with flabbergastery that there’s a doll hanging by the neck in a corner of the subrights department with a pin through her heart and a banner reading ‘Robin McKinley’. I lose things. I don’t remember ever having seen things. When I send things back it turns out I signed the wrong pages, or didn’t sign enough of them*, or I didn’t put the date on when I should have or did put the date on when I shouldn’t. And then New Arcadia’s post office exploded and was removed and rebuilt using reject Lego in the back of the village grocery, you’re no longer allowed to bring your critters with you to keep you amused while you wait in the endless queue**, and I, having been a borderline*** post office user since I moved over here†, became, um, pathological.
Re-enter Feebledweeb. Who will come to my house and fetch my botched, ill-signed documents, and cart them off to a subrights department across the Water, where they will be the cause of screaming and nervous breakdowns—only some of which will be because I screwed up (again).
Recently we’ve been having a nice little extended torment trying to get Feebledweeb to do what it says on the tin/envelope. Subrights and I got all excited—briefly—because according to Feebledweeb’s web site, subrights could include a prepaid return envelope with the documents I’m supposed to deal with in some way other than the way I will deal with them, and I can just pop them in the return envelope and post them in an ordinary post box, and Feebledweeb will take it from there.
Yes, they will. They will deliver it back to me again with large red marks and seals all over it declaring that I am a liar and a cheat and that I haven’t paid them and their dog is going to pee on my shoes††. We gambolled through this amusing cycle, I think, three times.
Okay. The next plan of action is that we are going to revert to the earlier system of their coming to my house to pick up the envelope of mangled documents.
Feebledweeb were supposed to come last Wednesday between ten and two [sic].
Nothing happened. Nobody came between ten and two and there were no postcards through my door when I returned after belated gratuitous critter-hurtling [see above].
Subrights emailed me anxiously that they had spoken to Feebledweeb again and Feebledweeb would now come this Wednesday between ten and two.
Monday I received a phone call from a very pleasant, very fluent young man with a very strong Indian accent, confirming that Feebledweeb was going to be fetching a parcel from me today—Tuesday. Er, I said. Wednesday. Tuesday, said the young man firmly. Okay, I said. Tuesday. What time? Noon to three pm, he said. Fine, I said, in fact, great, and wrote it down.††
Ten minutes later the phone rang again. This time it was a woman with an English accent. Confirming that Feebledweeb is picking up a parcel from you tomorrow, she said. Yes, I said, between noon and three pm. Certainly not! said the woman. You can ring up tomorrow morning at 9 a.m. and they will give you your allocated time slot. But— I said weakly, I have just been talking to someone at your call centre in India . . .
Ring tomorrow at nine, commanded the woman. We never give out advance time slots.‡
I was downstairs and putting my tea water on at eight forty five this morning, I hope you’re impressed. At 8:59 I rang the number the woman had given me. Another woman answered and asked for my tracking number. I gave it to her, watching an unmarked white van backing up the cul de sac and stopping in front of the cottage. We have no record— began the woman, and there was a knock on the door. Excuse me, I said, hope flaring in a sharp uncomfortable way, there is someone at the door.
I threw the door open . . . and there was a man in a Feebledweeb hoodie. YAAAAAAAAAY, I said, and thrust my envelope upon him. I may have said one or two things . . . particularly because this is a guy I know. Several of the regular drivers for the various carriers are regular enough that us (regular) customers say hi when we see them on the street. FEEBLEDWEEB MAKES ME FRELLING NUTS, I may have said. The guy held up his hands (my envelope in one of them), grinning. You are not alone, he said.
He departed. I picked up the phone and discovered . . . the woman had cut me off. Never mind. The package had gone. And she rang back to say that the driver had just confirmed pick up and tracking number and all was well.
Five hours later I received an email from the subrights department saying that they had just got off the phone from Feebledweeb, re-verifying that one of their agents will pick up my envelope tomorrow, Wednesday, some time between ten and two. . . .
* * *
* I start to lose the will to live after about the ninety-third copy. Why does the president of Dormidalump Multimedia Cupcakes and Related Pastry’s wife’s brother’s assistant’s hamster need a copy of the contract anyway? I’m not sure I like the idea of CHALICE being turned into singing apple strudel, even if Merrilee did get a paragraph in there about how they had to use honey. I should have held out for baklava . . . but that still doesn’t explain the hamster.
** It seems to me very sad that Pav may never have the fabulous experience of waiting in an endless post office queue.
*** Borderline as in personality
† THE POSTMISTRESS HATED ME. SHE DID. She also retired some years ago, but THE TRAUMA REMAINS.
†† Note that (a) the payment for this interesting process is coming out of the money that passes through Merrilee’s hands on my behalf and (b) apparently even if they believed they had been paid . . . they would still deliver it back to me again. Because they can’t read. Or because they can’t design forms that are readable.
††† He then asked me where I was from and acknowledged that he was Indian and calling from India. The thing that interests me though is that these overseas call centres have a very bad rep, which is mostly well earned, but allowing for the fact that Feebledweeb is messing him over as well as messing me over, the phone line was clearer than mine to Peter often is and he was intelligent and articulate and able to answer questions . . . off the sheet of bad info they had given him, but hey.
‡ Of course not. OF COURSE NOT.