Furthermore there have been actual sunlight sightings.*
It’s fabulously past mmph o’clock even by my standards . . . or, no, I’m never asleep by a mere mmph o’clock but I’ve posted by now . . . and I’m only just sitting down to my computer rather the worse for wear in the aftermath of a substantial amount of champagne. Mmmmmm. But I do not repine. I do not, either, write a full, not to say fulsome, proper blog post. There are limits.
B_twin is here—and I might have called her Bertwine or Caronwen but SHE HAS PROMISED AT LEAST ONE GUEST POST out of this trip to England and I figure if I [user-] NAME HER she will have NOWHERE TO HIDE. She was originally going to be here several days and we were going to scramble about the countryside having various adventures** but circumstances intervened, including Peter’s stroke and my ME. So we had to pack a lot into today because she’s off again tomorrow, and we did, joined by Ajlr and Southdowner, braving the mud slides, the potholes and the unscheduled fords to stroll, somewhat squishily, around the kind of large old-fashioned National Trust garden with good bones so it even looks ravishing this time of year***, and cream tea after in the café, which reminded me of being a tourist in this country. B_twin and I then went to the abbey for evening prayer, where B_twin attempted to have us ejected by throwing the furniture around, but my monks are very forbearing and I’m sure they merely put her down for extra prayers since she’s obviously in need of having extra prayers said on her behalf. † Home again there was a (noisy) assault on all fronts by my generous selection of hellcritters, and some hurtling was accomplished, and then us two humans, somewhat hairier than we’d been an hour previously, repaired to a local pub to join the others for champagne—oh, and dinner—and additional stimulus was provided by admiring, if admiring is the right word, the interesting paint work in Ajlr’s bedroom, which appears to be a reject movie set for the Pit and the Pendulum. I considered offering her a blanket by the Aga at the cottage, but she’s British—she’d be too polite to accept.
Speaking of blankets, I really really really need to go to bed.††
* * *
* And the hellhounds ate all three meals today without fuss. B_twin . . . don’t go home . . . stay here . . . please
** I was looking forward to the excuse to book tickets to the All New Stonehenge Experience which is apparently not going according to plan but I would still like to see it, but book ahead? It’ll never happen unless I have a visitor as an excuse.
*** Also there were snowdrops. There were winter aconites too but I’m a bit, meh, weeds, about winter aconites. I believe my companions think I’m a snarly old so and so. Well, yes, and your point would be?
†Alfrick came up after, chiefly to give me a hard time about hiding^ behind the forty-seven bishops at the swearing-in ceremony on Sunday—well, if you can’t hide behind forty-seven bishops who can you hide behind?—but I noticed him listening carefully when I introduced my accomplice–er–comrade. It’s easier to pray for someone when you know their name. Rather than ‘person who throws furniture around during evening prayer’.
^ Speaking of hiding. B_twin . . . bishops won’t save you from guest post composition.
†† Right after the bath in the shiny-glistening-visitor-worthy-clean bathtub.
The fifth of November,
The Gunpowder treason and plot;
I know of no reason
Why the Gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot!*
. . . I went bell ringing.
It does amuse me that there were eight native-British Fustian ringers who would rather ring bells than watch any of the gazillion firework parties laid on by every two-dog village in the entire country. New Arcadia has a good one every year—viewable from either Peter’s spare bedroom window or my attic**—and if I’m not doing anything else I will give a cursory glance out of the appropriate window at the end of the show when they throw everything they’ve got left into the sky at once.*** But it’s not important. Bell ringing is important.
I’d spent too much time today rushing around†; Penelope rang up out of the blue this morning, suggesting we get together for a cup of tea†† and since I hadn’t exactly got out of bed early that kind of was the morning and the rest of the day has been an up the down escalator experience. The hellterror has had the semi-squirts††† so that cancelled the training visit to the vet’s waiting room since I don’t want to stuff a dodgy tummy with treats. But that is somewhat counterintuitively a further drain on time because she’s not the slightest fussed by lower intestinal irregularities and still needs hurtling: ten intense minutes doing sit-down-stand-paw-otherpaw are worth at least twenty merely barrelling through the hedgerows.
Having no sense, and also because it was a beautiful day I wanted the excuse to go for a country hurtle, I pursued another fruitless scheme. The Undesirable Repercussions of Running Out of Money, subparagraph seven: by renting your second house with the bigger garden, you no longer have anywhere all three of your hellcritters can riot properly, including room for Darkness to run away. I think it was Southdowner who suggested a riding school‡; so I went out to see Jenny. Remember Jenny, you long-time readers? Who has a yard‡‡ in Ditherington? Who let me ride her fabulous Connie? Before the ME got so erratic (again) that I had to stop. I know I could go back just to hang out and hug a few horses and even though I miss horses more than I miss riding . . . it’s still really too discouraging. So I don’t go.
Well, the riding school/ hellcritter thing isn’t going to work; the footing’s all wrong and the door doesn’t close properly against something the size of a hellterror. The space doesn’t have to be critter proof because even the hellterror has a not-bad recall and they’ll only be there, supposing we ever find a there for them to be, with me in full supervisory mode. But the fencing has to be recognisable as fencing from a hellcritter perspective. And none of Jenny’s fencing is. Rats. But I did get to meet a few of the current yard residents. . . . Siiiiiiiigh.
But we had a lovely hurtle.
And I came home and sang. Mozart is necessary: see previous entry.
I was too tired to go bell-ringing. But what was I going to do, stay home and watch the fireworks? I went. I think I am going to learn to ring Cambridge before it kills me but I admit I’m not sure. And Fustian’s tower secretary came up to me at the end and said that I was invited to the tower Christmas dinner, that he’d send me the info, and did I want to bring my husband?
Whimper. This is really very nice of them; it’s generally only worthwhile regular non-member visitors who are invited to the Christmas dinner, and I’m only taking advantage of their twice a month extra practise for the [extra] stupid. But I wasn’t even planning to go to Forza’s dinner—and a whole evening of being sociable? Two whole evenings if I go to both?‡‡‡ And that eating in public thing? Whimper.
I’m sure it’ll be good for my character. Both dinners. Maybe I’ll just bring some carrots§ in a bag.
* * *
* For any Americans out there who think that the 4th of July is the only legitimate day for fireworks: http://www.potw.org/archive/potw405.html
** If Third House’s future tenants want fireworks, they’ll have to buy a ticket and go.
*** But I’ve never seen a dragon. Let alone one that rips overhead like an express train and bursts over Old Eden. Okay, is anyone else bothered by the express-train-like firework dragon in the first chapter of THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING? I remember noticing it for the first time on my approximately 1008th reading when I was probably about twelve. Shock horror. I’m totally unpersuaded by the theory that this is an aside to the modern reader; personally I think Tolkien screwed up. But he was a notorious control freak—could he possibly have missed it? Can he, his family, friends and other readers and his publisher have missed it? Alternatively, can a meticulous Anglo-Saxon scholar have deliberately stuck a plonking great anachronism in his own story-telling?^ I don’t like either answer.
^ There are at least a couple of others, I think, but my memory is doing its vague and mushy thing again. If they all concern the hobbits, then there is reasonable support for the theory of hobbit society as a satire on English society sharp enough to contain a few anachronisms successfully. I think I remember that the Shire has umbrellas and pocket-watches. But they’re smaller and less obtrusive. Express trains are large and noisy.
† I should be packing boxes at Third House. Don’ wanna. Sigh.
†† What wins, a cup of tea with a friend or packing boxes? Guess.
††† My life with hellcritters. Well, at least it was only semi.
‡ I can no longer keep my Yank/Brit jargon straight. I think I mean riding ring in American. The place, probably with a fence around it, where you do your training/schooling.
‡‡‡ Peter would only go if I put him in chains and hired a forklift. There are some advantages to being 86: you can just say ‘I’m/he’s 86’ and everyone gives you lots of lovely slack.
§ Yes, I eat carrots. Whinny.
Other authors jet around the world, climbing on a new airplane every day and swanning into the Excelsior Suite where they will be tended lovingly by squads of specially trained steward persons*, disembarking at the next flashy new city into the arms of a platoon of swanky minders who will whisk them through security** and on down a swirl of yellow brick road in a Rolls-Royce Ghost to the twenty-star hotel with the gemstone mosaic check-in desk, the extra-large lift containing the cocktail pianist and her baby grand—if you want to keep your twenty stars, live elevator music is a must—and the gold lame shower curtains. Where they*** will rest and freshen up before the day’s performance.
Well, I’m going to be part of the live performance tomorrow too.
It’s that handbell wedding I mentioned on Wednesday.†
And I have to wear a frock.††
That’s the big problem with public handbells: you’re visible. I can’t remember, and while I’m sure it’s on the blog, the archives of this thing are scary and I’m not going to try to look it up, how Niall inveigled me into ringing my first handbell wedding. They don’t happen that often and the memory, especially the post-menopausal memory, fades, so when the next handbell wedding opportunity comes along you think, oh, sure, whatever, I didn’t die last time.
I did know that it was Gemma’s friend’s daughter getting married, and I did know that it was happening at St Colossus. I also knew that this is Gemma’s first wedding with a set of handbells in her hands—and that she hasn’t been doing it as long as I had been when I rang my first, nor was it my best friend’s daughter I was doing it for.††† Gemma, however, while not without nerves, is a much more sanguine personality than I am, and she’ll (probably) be fine. But I am aware that Niall and I exist in this case to support Gemma. . . . And meanwhile the ME is not folding its tents and silently stealing away, it’s doing its big fat toad imitation in the middle of my life.‡
All of this suddenly got very real and dramatic and in my face this afternoon when we met up for the wedding rehearsal. Niall’s usual bells are small, and even when the ME is bad I can usually ring them for a while. But we are frelling swamped in St Colossus, so we’re going to be ringing—or at least we’ll be trying to ring—suitably colossal handbells, approximately as large as Sunshine’s cinnamon rolls‡‡. And they WEIGH. Gorblimey do they weigh. And Gemma’s on the trebles, the littlest pair, because they’re what she knows the best, so I’m on the middle pair, whiiiine. Today we kept swapping off between the big bells, because being familiar with the actual bells you’ll be ringing is a very good idea for something like a wedding when you’re going to be both nervous and distracted—people will come up and stare at you and say things like ‘oooh’ and ‘how long does it take to learn?’ while you’re frelling ringing. . . . Anyway. We swapped off between the big bells so we’d know what they feel like and Niall’s little bells to save my blasted wrists and arms. I’ll push it tomorrow but if I push it today I won’t have anything tomorrow to push with. If we were ringing with Colin we’d do a once-through for what it’s going to sound like in all that space—I think I said on Wednesday that you tend to ring handbells at ye olde quainte littlee countrye churche, and even then the organ wins—and go for a beer. But Gemma’s a bit out of practise . . . and she was kind of realising what it’s going to be like tomorrow. . . .
I have to go to bed early. It’s a morning wedding, WHYYYYYYY?, there ought to be a law against morning weddings. I have to get up early enough not only to sprint my hellcritters, but to figure out what I’m going to wear. Gemma is going to be dressed for going-to-her-best-friend’s-daughter’s wedding and I don’t want to let the girlie side down.
* * *
* Note that I don’t envy this part of the deal at all. Getting on a plane every day is never a good time. Even business/first class isn’t always worth much. As I say on this blog at regular intervals, my last proper tour was for SUNSHINE. I already had ME, so one of the things my publisher agreed to do for me is that any flight longer than x, and I forget what x was, but a few hours, they’d guarantee me business or first class. This doesn’t amount to a lot when ‘first class’ means the first several rows of a cattle-car plane and you get the same legroom and the same food as everyone else although they’ll give you an extra little packet of interestingly multi-coloured snacks, plus the plastic flute of warm prosecco.
** Ha ha. Every time I start feeling guilty about refusing to go anywhere I think of airport security. No way. No frelling, fruitlooping, huzzahing dingleblatting way. And now I’d be fighting the knitting needle battle as well, which as I understand from dispatches from the front, still involves Airline A agreeing that bamboo needles are okay but aluminium are not, Airline B refusing to have bamboo needles either but plastic ends on circulars are permitted, and Airline C being violently allergic to any twiddling with string whatsoever, including cat’s-cradles on your fingers to amuse the children. And you won’t know this till you’ve already checked your bags and are stranded with your carry-on.
*** The authors. You haven’t forgotten this is about authors, have you?
† Ringing handbells for a wedding, okay? Stop interrupting.
†† Authors do not necessarily have to wear frocks, of course, even female authors. But I’m sure I told you I eschewed the pink All Stars and black leather jacket to buy the First and Probably Only Power Suit of My Life for the SUNSHINE tour because I was not getting into vampire chic in any form. Not.
Say. Maybe I’ll wear my power suit tomorrow.
††† Unfortunately I will probably not have the opportunity to ring handbells for Hannah’s daughters’ weddings. Sigh.^
^ I don’t have to remind anyone here that we ring ENGLISH CHANGE-RINGING METHODS not TUNES, do I?
‡ Yes. Mixed metaphors alert. The ME eats your brain.
‡‡ As Big As Your Head, if anyone who reads this blog hasn’t read SUNSHINE.
Last Street Pastors training weekend this weekend. What I hadn’t got around to telling you because THERE’S BEEN SO MUCH GOING ON is that my dog minder quit without warning a few weeks back.*
The first two SP training weekends had long Saturdays and Sundays—longer days than I wanted to leave the hellpack for. Pav is still a puppy and she has to be crated when I’m not there frelling SUPERVISING and being shut up in a crate all day is not the stimulation a manic hellterror needs—and We All Know about the hellhounds’ interesting intestinal challenges. I pulled out the training schedule for weekend three and discovered . . . Sunday ended early. Faint hope dawned. It was not ideal, but this meant I had only one day I absolutely had to make emergency arrangements for. . . .
I’ve told you Southdowner has family on the south coast, which is her excuse for coming through here to check on Pav occasionally.** And so I threw myself upon her mercy.*** Don’t you feel an OVERWHELMING URGE to visit your family the second Saturday in October? And then you could stop on the way and . . .
Southdowner, who I would bet money had no intention or desire to visit her family on the south coast the second Saturday in October, and whom I am planning to recommend for sainthood on the next intake†, said yes.
So that was Saturday sorted. But I thought I’d better check about the short Sunday. So Friday night while we were milling around waiting for everyone to show up, I asked Llewellyn about it. Oh no, he said, it’s only the training that stops early. After that there’s the commissioning service. What with one thing and another, that’ll be about two and a half hours. . . .
TWO AND A HALF HOURS?? THAT MEANS SUNDAY IS GOING TO BE LONGER THAN USUAL.
I fell down in a heap and gnawed on the carpet. Llewellyn looked at me in alarm. Well, if he decided I wasn’t suitable SP material anyway that would solve the problem, wouldn’t it?†† But he didn’t. We’re a small group of trainees this time. He probably didn’t feel he could afford to lose anyone.
Saturday was fine††† although I suspect Southdowner of supplementing Pav’s lunch a little since there was half a bag of dog food missing and Pav’s belly was dragging on the ground when I got home‡. Maxine, who has child minder problems, had also been looking forward to the short Sunday, and we had discussed what to do. The official consensus seemed to be that the commissioning service was first and it was chiefly social milling around and whatevering after‡‡, so we decided we’d do a runner as soon as the Holy Panjandrum had finished the panjandrumming. And I decided that I was going to tweak the hellcritter feeding schedule‡‡‡, grit my teeth, and hope for the best.
So this afternoon I had already grappled myself together and shot out to meet Maxine§ when Pooka chirruped. Text from Maxine: her car had died. She’d already left to fetch me and . . .
Waiting for the AA§§ or Someone Like Him.§§§ Loooooong. Paaaaaauuuuuuusssssse.
. . . her car is really dead. AAAAAAAAAAAUGH. Now what? A flurry of texts later—including to Llewellyn to tell him we were, at best, going to be late—and Eleanor, whom I am also nominating for sainthood, was climbing in her car to fetch Maxine and then pick me up.# Eleanor and her car has been my back-up plan from the beginning of training## and she’d already told me that she and her husband### and the other St Margaret’s Street Pastor, Jonas, were going to come to the commissioning to wave our local banner a little since we were on Lesser Disconcerting’s territory and they outnumbered us better than twice over.~
The hellpack got another hurtle while all this was going down, me stopping under trees in the still-pouring rain to answer and send more texts~~. Corey, bless her, swapped the training sessions so that Maxine and I missed the one that was less applicable to us~~~ and were there for the final ‘street craft’ session.
And then we were commissioned.&
. . . I’m a fully functional, qualified, signed, sealed and delivered Street Pastor, Llewellyn will give me my new team posting next week AND I’M TERRIFIED OUT OF MY TINY MIND.
* * *
* I lost my previous dog minder by using her too little. I appear to have lost this one by using her too much. I’m considering never leaving home for more than four hours at a stretch^ ever again. It seems so much simpler.^^
^ Hellhounds have amazing ability for keeping their legs crossed when they’re not in digestive mayhem mode. It’s just you never know when digestive mayhem mode may return. I don’t know what Pav’s limits are or may eventually become since whatever they are they tend to be subsumed in worrying about hellhounds.
^^ All right, I’ll be gone for six or seven hours once a month SPing. But that is the middle of the night into the small and medium-sized hours, and the hellpack should be willing to sleep through it.
* I’m reasonably sure she doesn’t mind hanging around for knitting, chat, hurtling, monks and/or roast chicken^ but it’s not like I don’t know she comes for Pav.^^
^^ I also think Olivia gets on the phone to Southdowner and starts panicking. All right, all right, first bull terrier, steep learning curve, blah blah blah blah, we’re both still alive, okay? And so are the hellhounds and Peter. And the only scars are from tripping over her.
*** The thing is that both the hellhounds and Pav are . . . a bit of a handful, in their various ways. I’ve had a few, you know, ordinary friends offer to fill in, but I would fear for their sanity if not their lives.
† This Street Pastor gig ought to be good for something.
†† The training has been fascinating. Never mind the going out on the street part. The training has been FASCINATING.
††† The drawback to the fascinatingness of the training is that much of it is, inevitably, about various of the common ways people screw themselves up or are screwed up by others. Maxine reached her nadir of confidence about SPing with the paramedic last weekend. I reached mine Saturday afternoon with the presentation on child sexual abuse. SPs are only out there to provide lollipops and a listening ear, but the more we know about what we are or may be looking at and when to call the professionals the better.
‡ You may recall I’m supposed to be fattening her up so Southdowner can show her. I AM fattening her up. She’s four pounds heavier than I think she ought to be, which is a lot on something that is about the size of a large shoebox on legs.
‡‡ The whatevering included cake but maybe we could snag some on the way out the door.^
^ Note: yes.
‡‡‡ Which chiefly meant feeding Pav an ENORMOUS breakfast, running her around for optimum through-put, and giving her a minimal lunch. Hellhounds, eh, they’re only too happy to miss lunch entirely, and they don’t eat breakfast anyway. Also, Sunday training starts and runs later than Saturday training, which fits in the hellcritters’ cough-cough normal hurtle schedule better.
§ In the pouring rain. At least this means I don’t need to water the garden.
§§ Automobile Association. Not Alcoholics Anonymous.
§§§ Any other Firesign Theatre fans out there?
# Aside from any question of suggesting giving normal people a lift in Wolfgang, who is health-and-safety-alertingly full of dog hair, spare leads, spare harness, spare towels, a bottle of water and a bowl, emergency Pav-retrieving rations and so on, there’s the question of a normal person driving him, since going with Maxine started because I can’t do the commute and the training. Cars have come a long way in the seventeen or eighteen years since he was new.
## This was her offer, mind you, but I do keep reminding her that this is all her fault since it was her presentation at St Margaret’s about the Street Pastors that made me think, Oh! They take old ladies! She keeps trying to shift the blame to God.
### Who, when you ask him if he has any thought of becoming a Street Pastor, blanches violently before he says no.
~ Plus one random trainee from Smite-the-infidel, who has really been putting the miles on his car.
~~ Situations like today . . . I am totally on board with all this frelling modern technology.
~~~ We don’t SP schools—yet—which Lesser Disconcerting does. We will, though, if Jonas has his way.
& It was a pretty much a church service with extra bits in.
. . . and also to Southdowner.* I checked with her today if I could tell the blog about this bizarre serendipity that she was busy turning mrggle years old this time last year while Jesus was gripping me by the back of the neck (rather like Southdowner with a recalcitrant bullie) and saying, You’re MINE now, get used to it.
Oh. Ah. Um?
I should know my friends’ birthdays . . . but I don’t. Some years I’m doing well to remember my own. I’m probably only remembering this shiny new first birthday because it’s shiny and new. But Southdowner tactfully waited quite some time last year—till I climbed down off the ceiling at least—before she mentioned casually that the twelfth of September was her standard birthday, the one she’s been having for quite some time now, decades in fact.** Which is when we decided we should try to have this one together.
The day did not get off to a good start*** however when I opened another robot letter from my bank, this one saying that they are now bouncing cheques on the new account. I went frelling boiling over to the local office† and I think I put out the brand-frelling-new raging fire, but I am not a happy customer. Oh, I almost forgot, there was a second robot letter from my bank saying that investigating my case was taking longer than they anticipated and thanking me for my patience.
Patience my ass. I want the Governor’s head on a plate.††
Also, the adrenaline spike from this latest round of fiscal folly was extreme and the rest of the day has been a trifle hazy.
Still. Southdowner and I had an extremely good lunch at the entirely refurbished, dazzlingly upmarket and, crucially, dog-friendly Troll and Nightingale†††—Southdowner, me, Pav, and Ahab.‡
Note that Ahab really is about twice Pav’s size. Pav is small but intense.
And then we went to the monks’ for evening prayer. It’s only been a year. . . .
* * *
* And also to a litter of Vizsla puppies, born today, that a friend of Southdowner’s has been waiting for.
** On the other hand, she doesn’t need to turn Christian. She already is.
*** And here I’d thought it was getting off to a good start because my back let me get out of bed and stand up, and when I bent over to open hellcritter crate doors I didn’t scream or fall down.
† With some hellhounds. Although they aren’t nearly threatening enough. The wagging tails are a real mystique destroyer.
†† And his testicles in a plastic bag.
††† This was the hard-boy pub I have mentioned in its previous incarnation, complete with exciting street brawls.^ Maybe I should worry a little more about the Street Pastor thing.
^ When it was not dog-friendly. See? Dogs are good.
‡ I can’t remember if Southdowner’s bullies have blog pseudonyms or not and since we’ve just been having another argument about Pav’s weight^ in which Southdowner says that my eyes have been wrecked by looking at too many ribby sighthounds and I say that you couldn’t find a rib on Pav without major excavation apparatus, it AMUSES me to pseudonize one of her bullies with a reference to a great white whale. But Ahab suits him and Moby doesn’t, which probably proves Southdowner’s point, not mine.
^ This argument will be heating up in the next few weeks because I appear to have lost the other argument about showing her and her first live gig is in October. Unless I’ve taken hellhounds, hellterror, all my money out of the bank and put it in a sock and run off to Tahiti+ in the meanwhile.
+ Don’t worry, I will continue to post KES.