Have I told you that Colin is another MGB owner?* My poor darling hasn’t been out of the garage in about four years, and for at least the last three years I’ve been trying to screw myself, the ambiguous nature of ‘screw’ as a verb here is painfully embraced, to sell her. I’ve got the name of Colin’s MG specialist garage owner off him at least twice but keep bottling out of ringing up and saying ‘please take the last remnants of my mad youth away, polish her up and sell her to a good home.’ Colin has been listening to me whine about this now for—probably three years. Last Monday he said, do you want me to mention your MG to Mr Wartsila-Sulzer? Yes please, I said. —I have no shame.
Today when he showed up for handbells he said, Can I have a look at the MG? Because when Mr W-S says, what does it look like, I’d like to be able to say something more comprehensive than ‘Robin says it’s covered with dust’.
So I took him up to the garage where my MG is, indeed, covered with dust. And he looked her over and as he did so his eyes got brighter and brighter and he went um, ha, hmm, and then he said, Why don’t you just get it sorted and keep it? This is a really nice car.
Why not? he said, reasonably, although the mad MGB-owner glint in his eye was conspicuous.
Because the hellhounds won’t fit in the back seat! I said. I never quite got around to creating—or rather, hiring Atlas to create—a dog containment field for the last generation, but it was possible. These guys . . . not.
You don’t always take the dogs with you, Colin said, still reasonable and still glinty-eyed.
The problem is . . . he’s right. I don’t. And then he started in on how cheap they are to run** and how much fun they are to drive and and and and and . . . and Niall, drat him, was no help whatsoever since he was fielding another on-duty phone call which took FOREVER and I was thinking . . . I bought my little cream-coloured darling originally to go bell ringing in. When I first started ringing twelve years ago. Which is when Peter started playing bridge seriously again because I started being out kind of a lot of evenings. Whereupon we needed a second car. YAAAAAAAAY. My excuse at last. So I rushed into—New Arcadia, as it happens, to an old-car garage that no longer exists, and their eyes lit up and they said, no, we haven’t got a classic B at the moment but we’d be more than happy to find one for you, and they did.
See, I used to have to drive to go bell ringing. And then I moved to New Arcadia where I was two garden walls over from the bell tower and . . .
And now . . . um . . . ***
Robin, please explain how bells at the Abbey are part of the Olympic opening ceremony, as I can hardly imagine they can be heard in London, no matter how many there are.
SNORK. Sorry, but . . . SNORK. I guess I haven’t made it plain just how much of a frenzy the Olympics have plunged our rather small island into†—and how any conceivable manifestation of celebration is embosomed. Just as there were towers up and down the country ringing like dervishes as the torch galloped hither and thither, there are towers up and down the country ringing as a local greeting and acknowledgement of the opening day ceremonies in London. Sox Episcopi raised the money to have a village barbecue—which is entirely free. Usually all those village fete things exist as a way to raise money for some worthy project or other—the food may be donated, but the eaters pony up. But the teeny weeny local council decided they wanted to have a party for the Olympics . . . and so they are.†† If they don’t get rained out. Sigh.††† But there’s a lot of this going on. I have no idea who the dewy-eyed idealist is at the abbey who decided we should ring for it. Ours not to question why. And I’m saying ‘yes’ any time the abbey wants ringers. I have my own agenda.
As I was driving in—as I was, in fact, belting 70 mph down the motorway—there was something tickling my wrist. I glanced down and there was a GIGANTIC FRELLING SPIDER WALKING UP MY ARM.
Don’t stop there, please! What did you do with the spider? Did you just let it walk up your arm until you got to the abbey?
AAAAAAAAAUGH. No. I think I probably screamed. I then blew it off violently and it disappeared into the darkness of the passenger footwell. The only problem with this is that this meant that it was still somewhere IN THE CAR. I haven’t seen it since . . . but I am still thinking about it.
This wouldn’t happen in a MGB roadster with the top down.
* * *
* His is blue. I’m sorry, but the only acceptable colours for MGBs are red, cream^ and British Racing Green. I’ve never told him this.
^ What the description of mine calls ‘Old English White’
** Which is, perhaps surprisingly, ridiculously true. They’re too old and too, you know, modest^, to attract much official attention. You don’t pay any tax on them. Insurance is cheap. They even get decent mileage.
^ They were never front runners in any shape or form. I’ve always said they were sports cars for poor people. They are, of course, a cult. Those of us who love them would rather have a B than a 1962 Ferrari.+
+ Although I admit I’ve always secretly wanted an MGA. Too, that is, not instead of. But the thing about the Bs is that they aren’t so old they are a whole other country for those of us who aren’t serious dedicated car people. As kind of are.
*** We’re still running on NOOOOOOOOO. If I got her sorted and kept her, that means I have two cars, since Peter doesn’t drive any more, which is well beyond absurd^ for someone who works from home. And has hellhounds who wouldn’t fit in the back seat. But . . .
And where I’ve come up with this ‘remnants of my mad youth’ I have no idea since I was forty-eight when I bought her. I suppose some people’s mad youth hangs on more tenaciously than others, but . . .
^ And conspicuously consumptive, even if a B is a cheap thrill.
But the amount of tax money our precious government has shovelled into this tumefied spectacle makes me sadder.
Hee! I see you have gone native in this fair kingdom of ours.
When you’re paying taxes^ you do start feeling rather personal about how the money is spent.
Agree with you about being thoroughly demoralised about the Olympics however. I was quite pleased (since I don’t live in London) when I first heard we’d got the games.
I nearly lost a (n American) friend who asked me why I didn’t want the Olympics to come here. YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH.
But all the administrative shambles, security theatre,
I can’t even . . . as the saying goes. It seems to me we could solve current unemployment in about forty-five minutes. Sign up the 2 million (or so) jobless to be Olympic security personnel. Two large squawking birds with one cream pie. And maybe we could put G4 Security out of business. Hmm. Although that would mess up our perfect unemployment solution. No, it would be worth it.
strong-arming of Olympic-themed trademarks (which other people have been using for decades) by corporate sponsors,
Some of this is so extreme it’s funny—since I have no intention of going.^^ You have heard, I assume, about how you are not allowed to consume x comestibles unless they bear the logo of y Olympic corporate monopoly? In some cases you may remove your choice of brand comestible from its native packaging and bring it to the Olympic grounds in a Plain Brown Wrapper. Snork.
celebrity torch-hogging (at the expense of ordinary people – some of whom had been promised a turn with the torch and were then turfed off so some irrelevant ‘celeb’ could carry it instead),
I did want to put in a word here for some local councils, including ours, who really did hand it round to ordinary people. We had some very ordinary people who were so life-enhancingly excited that I felt positively curmudgeonly. For about thirty seconds.
and the waste of money have totally soured me on the whole deal. I am clinging onto a tiny shred of hope that once the sports actually start it might get interesting again, but for now I am sick to the back teeth with it all.
I’m interested in the Jamaican eventer and the British dressage team. And that’s pretty much it.
I’ve done my little tap-dance about having been to the Tokyo Olympics as a kid, haven’t I? My father was in the US Navy and he was stationed in Tokyo, and his posting at the time was such that he was able to nail some good tickets. He and my mother went to more than I did, but I did go to the opening ceremonies ( . . . and the show jumping). And it was amazing. Some of this no doubt was being a kid. But some of it was just that the whole corporate sponsorship—or the security—thing wasn’t quite the monster fifty years ago that it is now.
^ Especially at a rate that your upbringing declares is communist
^^ And there are a surprising number of me—and, I assume, you—around: there are tickets to pretty much everything still available, including the opening and the closing ceremonies.
†† This is another of those things that makes me feel like a curmudgeon. For thirty seconds.
It seems we may get a bit of ‘normal’ summer soon, if the Met Office is right about the Jet Stream finally shifting north a bit and so also shunting further north all these low-pressure systems that have been hitting us. I certainly hope so – I’m distinctly damp and mouldy round the edges myself at the moment.
I’LL BELIEVE IT WHEN I SEE IT. ::wringing out hair, All Stars, hellhounds::
Previous generations’ alcopops. Feh.
Oh I say, that’s not quite fair. One can have Pimm’s that isn’t unduly sweet, it just depends what you mix it with. I used to enjoy the No 3 as well as the No 1 (which is good made with soda water and with borage flowers and cucumber chunks in it).
CUCUMBER CHUNKS? IN A DRINK? Ewwwww. To each her own. Although I think I may have (a) been exposed to the Wrong Sort of Pimm’s when I was still a tourist^ and (b) shot out of my depraved early experiments with rum and coke^^ and Scotch and ginger ale^^^ with a Bad Attitude.#
Have you read last week’s ‘The Ringing World’, with the front page article about the mania…er, devoted handbell ringers who have completed long lengths of Minor, Major, Royal and Maximus in one day? I thought this was a lovely way of putting it: “This would need over 18 hours of ringing: a fairly full day.” I am not sure that humans who can do that are really of the same species as the rest of us.
I as you might say failed to read it. I ring handbells. I don’t want to know. I don’t even want to know that Niall and Colin are going to be ringing a full peal of bob major with a couple of other loonies next Thursday . . . which is just fine with me, Peter and I are going out for our anniversary dinner. Our relationship is twenty-one on the 26th of July and old enough to vote. It will not be voting for David Cameron.
^ Possibly because I was a tourist.
^^ This is the only time and occasion in my life I did drink coke, mind you.
^^^ GODS. The things one does when one is culpably young and even more culpably stupid. This was before I discovered single malt, however.
# And I do like my cider somewhat warmer and furrier than extra-dry. But . . .
The frelling Olympic torch has been dodging around Hampshire today, although I think it and its frelling cohort** are sleeping in Salisbury tonight. But a lot of local towers are ringing its passage up and down the country. Today this included the Forzadeldestino Abbey.
They’d been sweeping out the corners and under the carpet for volunteer ringers because it was the middle of the afternoon in the middle of the week and most people are at work.*** So I put my name down. First hurdle: parking. I frequently miss the practical convenience of ringing at New Arcadia: parking is not an issue when you live a two-minute sprint from your tower. I drove in today over an hour early, ready to circle like a piranha or park in Dorset and sprint really hard. †
And then the torch was late. Of course. First we had the Group Photo(s) of the Olympic Torch Team, standing atmospherically surrounded by bell ropes in our ringing chamber, and then we had the phoning to variously placed external spies†† asking if anyone had seen anything yet. The abbey’s ringing chamber is way way way too large to sustain anything resembling claustrophobia††† but it’s true there are no windows, at least not any you can either get to or peer out of.‡
Finally, about forty minutes after we were due to start, there was a sighting in southern Oxfordshire of a milk float emblazoned with the Olympic logo so we stood to our bells. There were twelve of us, which, with forty-nine bells‡‡, is fewer than desirable, but it’s enough to make a loud bewildering noise and most people outside are not going to say, hey, doesn’t the abbey have forty-nine bells? I only hear twelve. But there were exactly twelve of us which, in the first place, means that I wasn’t being a pathetic wannabe by showing up‡‡‡, and in the second place it meant we all had to ring all the time. Which turned out to be thirty-five minutes without a break. EEEEEEEEEEEEEP. All we rang was plain hunt§ and call changes, although the call changes were a bit of a revelation to me as I didn’t think you could ring call changes at the abbey because of the AMBIENT NOISE. You have forty-nine—er—twelve bells going in a ringing chamber notorious for peculiar acoustics and hearing the conductor saying anything is challenging.§§
But we did it. Which is to say everyone else sailed gallantly through and by minute twenty-three or so I, who am still intimidated to mind-disintegrating terror by ringing at the sodding abbey at all, was thinking, okay, how much longer can I go on without screaming and/or falling over.§§§
I will however draw a veil of discretion over tonight’s practise, which was not one of my finest moments. I was tired, okay? Thirty-five minutes of extreme trepidation is very draining.
But the torch was rung.#
* * *
* With all due respect to John Betjeman. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Betjeman
And, more to the point, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Summoned_by_Bells It should not be ALLOWED that you can write an autobiography^ called SUMMONED BY BELLS if it’s not going to have a lot of CHANGE RINGING in it.^^
^ In or out of verse
^^ Me? Blind fanatical prejudice? What are you talking about?
** There are like eighty-three support vehicles, cars, vans, buses, trucks, milk floats, pony traps and palanquins, and a regiment of human staff, drivers, navigators^, press release writers, media interface specialists, security personnel, osteopaths, foot-rubbers and tea ladies. Plus several dozen long-legged actors in fashionable brand-name running gear wearing their best earnest uplifting expressions, a crate of Olympic-style torch replicas and a hell of a lot of matches.^^
^ aka satnav disputers
^^ Me? Blind fanatical prejudice? What are you talking about?+
+ ALMOST EVERYTHING ABOUT THE OLYMPICS IS SO BOGUS~. I’m trying to decide which is more bogus, the Olympics or the royal family. It’s a tough call.
~ Chiefly excepting a lot of blood and sweat from a lot of the athletes. Which makes me sad. But the amount of tax money our precious government has shovelled into this tumefied spectacle makes me sadder.
*** And some of the ones that aren’t . . . wait for it . . . are out in the street, waiting to see the torch go by.
† And then found a spot at my very first secret-local-knowledge place. And had to go to the yarn store , which is in the right part of town, to kill some time.^
^ I didn’t buy anything! Really! But I had a great fondle.
†† I’m told that before there were mobile phones there were walkie-talkies. What the ringers did before walkie-talkies to find out when they should start ringing for special events I have no idea.
††† Although if you’re thus inclined, I do not recommend the final stair.
‡ Nor can you hear, for example, rain drumming on the roof. The weather is often a shock when you descend from your campanological hideaway and re-enter the world.
forty-nine bells and two accidentals
Um…is that literal? I have a bell-ringing (change-ringing and handbells) friend . . . and we were talking about you and the abbey and how many bells it had. Also I can’t visualize the room – I’ve seen bell-ringing chambers, so I can get the general atmosphere, but my visualization go from dots-on-a-football-field (either kind of football) to five feet of space behind (since you say it’s large – as opposed to some I’ve visited where it’s more like five inches…).
The abbey has a formidable number of bells, certainly, but I think Robin was trying to convey a picture of the seeming over-abundance of bells at the abbey compared to ‘normal’ church towers.
Hee hee hee. I’d like to insist on the forty-nine but . . . no. Ajlr is right. And I haven’t been in either Hereford or York Minster so I don’t know, and photos are often misleading, but the abbey ringing chamber looks bigger by some margin than either of the photos Ajlr posted links to. The abbey ringing chamber really is ridiculously large, even if I’m exaggerating a trifle about number of bells. I tell myself it’s better than ringing chambers where you have to breathe shallowly and keep your elbows pinned to your sides at all times (which gives you a very funny stroke) so as not to whack into your neighbours, but . . .
‡‡‡ I was also the only non-member of the abbey band present. They have to know by now I’m trying to cultivate them.
§ I cannot count that high.^ Periodically I’d find myself thinking, nine? Eleven? What?, and ringing by the pattern, which, in plain hunt you can do. Fortunately. And which consideration for the feeble among our number was no doubt also in our conductor’s mind.
^ You’re supposed to count your places as you ring (methods). So if you’re ringing on eleven (if the twelfth is the tenor-behind, as here, you don’t count it because it’s always last) you have to count your way through whichever method, up to eleven every row.+ Counting your places is one of the ways you learn to prevent yourself from going wrong. Well, that’s the theory.
+ Unless, for example, you’re ringing the treble to little bob royal, as I did tonight, where the treble only goes to fourth place every row and then back down to lead again, although there are ten working bells involved. Are you confused yet? Good.
§§ When you’re ringing a method you only have to hear him/her when he yells bob! Or, single!, which are those mix-up-the-frelling-line-further jollinesses in ringing.^ For call changes the conductor has to call every change in order, and you have to hear which bell he’s calling to do what because you never know when it might be you.
^ Or when he yells FOUR! DODGE WITH THE SIX AND GO DOWN TO LEAD! THREE! CLOSER AT BACKSTROKE! FIVE! A PINT OF BEST BITTER AND A DOUBLE ORDER OF CHIPS!
§§§ The answer is, thirty-five minutes, on a good day, when all I’m ringing is plain hunt and call changes. With twelve bells.
# Barely, as it turns out. The torch came by the abbey, finally, at about minute thirty-one, we found out later. But it had been sashaying around the town for a while by then so fine, whatever, we rang the freller.
I’m better. No, really. This time I really am better.
I had thought I went to bed last night at least a little more cheerful, even if I still couldn’t breathe and I think my back hurts quite so relentlessly and godsblattingly as much because of sleeping sitting up as because flu always makes me ache in places that the rest of the time I mostly forget are places, although the forgetting part does not in fact include my back, which has been a ratbag since I started falling off horses at the age of eleven. Anyway. I ache like fury, in both remembered and forgotten places, and the only reason to look forward to going to bed is to keep reading, since sleeping is an issue like global warming or the destruction of rainforest or the Republican nomination for president is an issue, and therefore if I was somehow feeling a little more cheerful this must be a good sign.
I got out of bed first try this morning.* I was, furthermore, hungry. How great is that. My stomach has been convinced that we have been involved in a highly unpleasant storm at sea the last week or so, involving much pitching and yawing, and has behaved accordingly. Calm seas today.** I got dressed. I had a cup of tea. I had an apple. I had . . .
. . . I wasn’t hungry any more. Oh. Well. Okay. Hellhounds and I went for a hurtle. We’ve been going out for about the right amount of time, the last few days, but somewhat less than the right amount of mileage. Today we were hitting nearer the mark. Yaay.***
Went down to the mews for lunch. I’m HUNGRY. And . . . I won’t eat anything. What. The. Frell. It’s like I woke up in the body of a hellhound or something.† Fed hellhounds. Even they are eating. Me . . . nah. Food. Nasty. OH COME ON. I’M OLD, I HAVE ME, I’M JUST GETTING OVER FLU, I NEED FOOD. I NEED PROTEIN.
Come any nearer with that olive/frond of dill/blameless scrambled egg and I will grow violent. Why yes, thank you, I would like another cup of very strong black tea.††
So I was thinking, okay, what do you do when you have some stupid little cow who’s been sick for so long she’s forgotten how to eat? What might not only tempt her but provide something nearly enough resembling nutritional value as might draw her further back toward sanity . . . and protein? How about . . .
Even with my history of telling you to judge your own ingredients and your own batter, this one is a bit mad. I’ve got notes all over the margins of wildly varying quantities. Note that both grated carrots and honey can have SPECTACULARLY variable water content. If your batter is runny, stop. Do not bake. Add flour or oatmeal. You want the batter sticky. These are drop cookies. They should behave like drop cookies.
2-3 c flour. Half wholewheat/meal is good
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
pinch to ¼ tsp salt
½ tsp cinnamon (I round it up pretty generously)
¼ tsp nutmeg
¼ tsp cloves
2-3 c quick oatmeal
1 c raisins (I like golden in this recipe)
1 c chopped nuts (I recommend pecans)
½ c soft butter
1 c grated (raw) carrots
½ to 1 c honey, depending on how sweet you want it, including how sweet your carrots are. No, really. Taste your batter.
2 eggs, beaten frothy
Mix the dry stuff together: I’d start with 2 c flour and 2 c oatmeal. I don’t think I ever start with the full cup of honey; I usually start around the scant ¾ c level. Now beat the honey into the butter. Usually I’m a little carefree about the whole ‘soft’ butter thing, but if you want to beat it into honey your life will be a lot easier if it’s genuinely soft. Then beat in the eggs. Then the carrots. Now beat in the flour mixture gradually, as your arm or your electric whizzer can stand the strain. (If you’re using electric, you want it on slow enough it doesn’t pulverize your raisins and nuts. Ask me how I know this. I think food processors are a mixed blessing and I’ve mostly gone back to the wooden spoon technique, but then I don’t bake a lot any more.) If the texture is right, taste. If you need to drizzle another ¼ c of honey into the batter, it’s not rocket science, just do it, and beat it in, maybe with a few more flakes of oatmeal. If it’s too runny . . . well, you’re going to need more honey too because of the more flour/oatmeal you’re going to be adding, and if you’re adding more than a sprinkly handful you’ll probably want to cast in a little extra cinnamon.††† Practical Physics in Your Kitchen. You just want instructions, right? Sorry.
Drop in biggish globs on greased cookie sheets. 350° F, about 15 minutes.
* * *
I wish to note for the record that I ate a large piece of fish for supper. I’m sure strength is pouring back into my valiant cells. Feh.
* * *
* There was some whimpering and clutching of bedposts, but we can’t have everything.
** I might even try putting my belt back on. This would be a good thing, since I’ve been eating so little the last few days my jeans are showing some alarming signs of falling off.
*** Mind you, I still can’t breathe, and I am terrifying on the phone.
† I thought I was having more trouble typing than usual . . .
†† How many hours before I can start on the cider?
††† Or you can shout, Wrangledabnag it!, and then pack the whole sloppy mess into a big baking dish. I think 13 x 9 will do it—I know I have done this but I didn’t bother to write down what size pan I used. It’ll probably take kind of forever to cook and be a trifle fragile. But it’ll taste just fine.
So after a (splendid) weekend of too much champagne and too little sleep and my usual over-effusive Monday, today of course I stayed home and applied myself strictly to work. Of course. Totally. Except for the mmph-mumble hours in the garden. . . .
And there’s going to be a vile, putrescent THRICE BLASTED FROST tonight. Atlas, bless him, who was here today working in Peter’s garden, rang Peter when he got home and had listened to the local weather report—Peter listens in the morning, and I play musical weather apps on Pooka, none of which is worth the 69p or £1.23 I paid for it, but watching a series of them being clueless helps to focus the slowly-waking morning mind. Atlas tends to be right: he lives on a farm, he’s a farmer’s son-in-law, and he knows how to do that sniffing-the-air thing about coming weather. If he agrees with the forecasters, you pay attention. Anyway. I was back in the cottage garden, out of earshot of either Pooka* or the landline** when Peter was trying to call me, contemplating saying the hell with it and planting my sweet peas, which are busy climbing out of the little plastic nets they arrived in, because potting on all those sweet peas is way too daunting a prospect.*** Providentially I was distracted by the six or a dozen little vases of things on various window sills that have grown roots and are wondering what happens now—I have this bad habit of putting prunings in water, just in case they’ll decide to grow roots: a surprising number of your average house plants will—and speaking of plants climbing out of what they’re in, I think some of my geranium cuttings have learned to abseil: there’s got to be GROUND around here somewhere.
So I was out in the cough-cough-cough potting shed† mixing compost and vermiculite and putting great fuzzy-rooted cuttings†† in small pots till dark.††† And dark is about two hours later than it was a fortnight ago‡. So IT’S SUDDENLY EIGHT O’CLOCK, and I race indoors to slam hellhounds into their harnesses‡‡, discover a phone message from Peter about a frost, howl in a singing-voice-threatening way, furiously put down a plastic sheet in the sitting room since the Winter Indoor-Jungle Table has been put away for the year, and start ferrying stuff through. . . .
We’d better have a frost tonight.
* * *
* For someone who is theoretically attached at the hip to her iPhone, I’m out of range far too often. Most of my friends with iPhones who live in jeans like me keep theirs in a pocket, but noooooooo. Maybe I just wear the wrong jeans.
** This is less surprising since the landline only actually rings when it’s in the mood. Poor Cormac rang the cottage three times before the landline deigned to let us know someone was trying to make contact. Hannah was beginning to worry: Cormac said he’d call around now. . . .
*** I’m saving my potting-on stamina for the 1,000,000,000 dahlia cuttings I always find I’ve ordered. One of the many conundrums of the gardener’s life is ordering early, before the things you particularly want have sold out, but which means you do your spring ordering while winter is clamped over the landscape like a giant iron hand, you’re convinced everything in your garden is dead and you need cheering up, or ordering late, when the mere presence of more daylight is beginning to cheer you up, enhanced by the fact that all kinds of dead things are producing small green (or occasionally red or purple) bumps and nodules^, and you are at least slightly less likely to order enough stuff to overfill Sissinghurst^^. But your nurseries will have run out of several of your absolute favourites without which your summer will be ruined, AND what you do successfully requisition will mostly arrive so late you will have gone to the garden centre and bought too much stuff there because you couldn’t wait any longer. On the whole I do better with choice A but it’s not a perfect system.
^ I’ve got a few gosh golly WOW ::cartwheels of joy:: surprises coming up . . . but I’m afraid to mention them officially for fear such acknowledgment and acceptance will promptly make them die after all.+
+ This probably also goes for mentioning that my snake’s-head fritillaries are coming into bloom. But I’m mentioning it anyway because if I don’t tell you something I will explode. They are slightly fussy, but we grew them at the old house, but I had been having disastrous luck with them for years at the cottage when Ajlr mentioned that the insanely evil red lily beetle also eats fritillaries . . . which I then realised was my problem too. But while I have conclusive evidence that both the weather gods and the unexpectedly-living-plants gods read imprudent blogs, I’m hoping that the insanely evil red lily beetle god does not.
† Which is to say the all-purposes gardening shed, overflowing with pots, pot saucers, trays, tools, buckets of various sizes and materials, bags of compost and fertilizer and boxes and bottles of intensive plant food, my tiny barbeque and attendant charcoal, plastic sheets and fleece, etc etc etc etc ETC ETC ETC . . . and a robin’s nest. I was really excited when I saw that—I haven’t had a nest since the blog’s first year, and have barely had a robin. I know he’s around—there’s always one robin in a garden: they like gardens and they’re territorial—but the blackbirds have become such thugs that he’s kept a low profile. Sadly the nest seems to have been rejected, and I haven’t seen the happy couple in a while . . . but one robin is very much in evidence. I also spent time I might have been spending planting sweet peas hoicking out frelling mats of crocosmia and lily-of-the-valley^ around Queenie and Souvenir de la Malmaison and I had a small feathered opportunist at my elbow. I was reminded that when you’re outdoors the whirr of small flapping wings is quite pleasant.
^ Which are WEEDS in my garden. Bullying invasive WEEDS.
†† I also had one of my moments of hilarity and decided to do the full soft-wood cuttings nonsense from an obstinate house plant that has refused to die, the gallant thing, but needed serious pruning when I repotted it. Sometimes obstinate plants can be very obstinate and what the hell. It’s only a pot, a plastic bag and some vermiculite. To give it any chance at all, I used hormone rooting powder. This is a story about egregiously bad design. The pot of rooting powder—which was simply on the shelf in the store, it’s not like I did a customer comparison^ or anything—is wider than it is tall, possibly to make the whole show short enough to fit on an average shelf, since it has a dibber^^ built into the cap like a slightly distrait unicorn’s horn. It also has a child-proof cap which is too wide to get your hand around to squeeze. And I have big hands with long fingers. I had to use the sticky-jar opener^^^ to get the frelling thing open. The end of the dibber is also the lid, right? Which means it’s also . . . never mind it’s too wide to get a proper grip on, you don’t need a proper grip to make holes in compost. But because the lid is so frelling vast you’re busy destroying your previous hole, or knocking over your sad confused cutting, while you’re trying to make the next hole. . . .
^ I save that colossal time-suck for things like electric blankets. I think I mentioned that mine died a few days ago. I was hoping the frosty nights were over for the year.
^^ Or dibble. A long pointy thing that makes holes in the ground/compost for you to put seeds or cuttings in.
^^^ I have the vicious-with-teeth variety, none of these wussy rubber rings.
††† Muttering to myself, as I have been doing for seven years now, about getting the frelling shed wired. Which would be dangerous for a lot of reasons, none of them to do with electrocution.^
^ What do you mean it’s midnight and neither I nor the hellhounds have had dinner yet?+
+ Nor written the blog?#
# If hellhounds would like to try, they are welcome.
‡ One genuine, one fraudulent.
‡‡ There have been little faces at the kitchen door increasingly often for the last hour or two. . . .
I’ve been singing. I’ve been singing with Hannah and Peter in the same room. It does happen occasionally that I sing when Peter’s around—especially on Mondays when I have to warm up before I go to my lesson, and can’t afford to get too precious about circumstances—but I do not sing for other people.* I’m not sure if I should be embarrassed or not that it was kind of fun—especially the part with them shouting out suggestions.** I want to say something rude here about neither of them being musical*** but Hannah . . . for pity’s sake, Hannah goes to Broadway musicals. It’s not like she doesn’t know what proper singing voices sound like.† Hannah is a very good friend.
And, more to the point . . . she’s here. I left you last night in a Perils of Pauline situation, with our heroine(s) suspended on the brink of being Lost Forever in Darkest Hampshire. Or possibly not even Hampshire. Outer Mongolia. Aberdeen. Saturn.†† I was just driving back to the cottage in despair††† yesterday when Pooka started barking at me again. I managed not to run off the road—or more to the point did not run into either of the brick-and-flint walls that claustrophobically enclose the single lane of my steep little cul de sac—and further contrived to press ‘answer’ before the call was swallowed up by the entropic maw of the voice-mail system from which none escape unscathed, and . . . it was Hannah. The driver has decided maybe it isn’t the Egg and Custard, she said in Old High Manhattan Laconic, maybe it’s the Toast and Marmite. Or the Daffodil and Schnapps. Or the Militant Stepdaughter . . . More emphatic male quacking in the background. Here, you talk to him, she said.
But where is it, I said. Whatever its name is. There is no Caerphilly Road in Mauncester.
Yes there is, he said promptly. It runs north-south through the Doggleburies.
What? I said. The only road that runs north-south is the Hindu Kush Turnpike.
After a good deal of witty repartee on the order of “You mean Banded Dogglebury or Sod-all Dogglebury?” and “The giant chalk boulder that looks like the anti-matter Darth Vader is in Gerrymandering, it’s not in the Doggleburies at all,” the driver, who by this time I had decided had no business behind the wheel of a car that contained my best friend, capitulated and said, “I’ll meet you at the Ultimate Fishmonger.” “Great,” I said. “I can find the Ultimate Fishmonger, because it exists in this universe.” In fact he didn’t meet me—he dropped Hannah and ran, possibly in some fear of heavy reprisals from a local who knows all the pubs in Mauncester‡ But at least Hannah was there.
. . . And it’s been another beautiful day today and Hannah and I went to a National Gardens Scheme‡‡ garden as the sort of thing one does on a beautiful Sunday afternoon in spring in England, and were swarmed by daffodils and crown imperial fritilleries and alpaca, and suppressed our giggles at the extreme High Tory-ness of the owners‡‡‡ and I bought a plant.§
We also had two gorgeous hurtles with hellhounds over hill and dale and blowing white blossom in the hedgerows and blue, blue sky and general gloriousness and joy and the sap rising in the trees and the human morale . . . and bloody Chaos is celebrating the change of season by not eating.
* * *
* Although I have made a rod for my own back, in that April’s Visitor^ is here over a Monday and I’m taking her with me to my voice lesson.^^
^ I can’t remember what her blog name is, and since my dramatis personae file isn’t in any kind of alphabetical order and it’s gotten rather long over the years I can’t find it. I could always name her again. . . .
^^ She’s the kind of friend who makes it sound like she means it when she says, Yes! I’d love to! But then I specialise in insane friends. Regular readers of this blog may have some idea why.
** Stop laughing. Folk songs. I sing a lot of traditional folk songs. I can do a handful of the obvious ones on request. Supposing I’m singing with you in the room, which is not likely.
*** I can say something rude here about Peter not being musical. Peter is aggressively non-musical, although not, in fact as aggressively non-musical as he likes to pretend. Still. If you are going to take singing lessons and are pathological about singing in front of another human being because you genuinely don’t have much voice but (chiefly) because you are intensely neurotic, Peter is a very good person to be married to. Sometimes fate is kind. It was not on my list of husband requirements twenty years ago that he had to be able to put up with my singing.
† . . . At this point I might, as an opera snob, say something about Broadway musical voices . . . but I’m not going to.
†† Are there pubs on Saturn? Discuss.
††† And wondering how long it would take Wolfgang to start again once I’d turned him off. Since our little erratic fault thingy is continuing. Yes, I should be ringing up the mechanic and having a little discussion about the connection between the starter motor and the thing it starts, but I’ve fallen into the abyssal pit of ‘I’ll do it as soon as I get SHADOWS turned in’. The post-SHADOWS agenda is getting a trifle long. Headed, as it is, by doodles.
‡ By name! Only by name!
‡‡‡ Hannah got nailed as an American, but I escaped by mumbling. An immigrant with no gift for accents quickly develops an instinct for when mumbling is appropriate.
§ Surprise. You’re surprised, right?^
^ I’m waiting impatiently for my new roses. . . . You know, seven years ago when I moved in to the cottage, I’ve told you this, right?, the previous tenant was a terribly proper gardener and the garden was full of terribly proper and high-brow plants. And everyone said, oh, you’re going to rip everything out and plant roses, aren’t you? And I got very huffy and said certainly not, I am only going to pull out the boring things, I like lots of plants that aren’t roses . . . But seven years later I’m aware that pretty much every time anything dies I replace it with roses. . . .+
+ No, it was not a rose I bought today, it was a lychnis. It’s pink though.