Bluebells, like everything else this cold nasty year, are late.** I’ve been out stomping through the critical bit of countryside several times in the last three weeks or so and about ten days ago I thought, okay, next week is touchdown or lift-off or whatever. Of bluebells. And then various things intervened and I thought, if I miss the bluebells this year I am going to be CRANKY. Not to mention the small passionate sub-coterie of bluebell-adoring blog readers who would never forgive me.
And then I thought, wait! Rima is coming! I will MAKE HER WALK THROUGH A BLUEBELL WOOD WITH ME! It’s the sort of thing you should do with your American visitors, if they come at the right time of year.
So today we walked through a bluebell wood. Or two. And it was great, except for my camera battery going dead on me. It started flashing red about two-thirds of the way through our walk so I was agonising over every frelling shot, waiting for it to go BYE BYE. SPLAT. HAHAHAHAHAHA. –ARRRRGH. However Rima took a lot of photos too, and will send them to me when she gets home. RIGHT, RIMA?*** So if I missed anything fabulous I’ll post Rima’s version later.****
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A fortnight or so ago a New Friend sidled up to me at St Margaret’s and said that she’d bought a ticket for a charity concert—so she wouldn’t chicken out of going at the last minute, I know that one, on the day you’re too comfortable on the sofa with hellhounds or similar—but she wondered if she could bamboozle me into buying a ticket and coming too? It was a worthy cause and we could hang out. We’ve made half-hearted attempts to hang out previously but they’ve never come off because we never nail one down by saying THIS place and THIS time and putting it in the diary, you know? Modern life. Who has time for spontaneity?*
So despite a qualm or two about the concert itself I said yes. You can put up with a lot in congenial company. And she and I were finally getting somewhere, you know?
And then last week at St Margaret’s when I told her I’d got one of the few remaining tickets** she looked all doleful and woebegone and said she hadn’t rung me because it hadn’t been confirmed yet but for Inarguable Personal Reasons it looked like she wasn’t going to be able to go after all. . . .
Oh. Feh. So I’m now stuck with a ticket to a concert I was only looking forward to because I was going to see her.
But I had the frelling reservation and, at this point, a close personal relationship with the venue’s box office, who had hired a uniformed guard with two Alsatians and a Darth Vader clone to protect my investment till I arrived IN PERSON and offered my palm print as proof I was the correct individual to cede the ticket to, so I’d better go. I went.
Fortunately I took my knitting.
IT WAS UNBELIEVABLY DIRE. UNBELIEVABLY. DIRE. The concert. It was. AAAAAAAAUGH. Words fail. Words need to fail or I will be banned from WordPress for the rest of my life.*** The one minor stroke of good fortune was that I’d arrived early enough it was worth getting my knitting out immediately so it was already on my lap when these jokers got up on stage and started prancing about doing whatever the frell they thought they were doing ARRRRRRRRRRRGH. After the first . . . incident . . . I firmly picked my knitting up again and got QUITE A FEW ROWS done by the time it was over. I swear I would have run away screaming† if I hadn’t had my knitting. . . .
Which leads me to the next thing. I’ve been torturing myself, and some harmless hanks of yarn, trying to make another gift. Me and my frelling Secret Projects. GIVE IT UP, MCKINLEY. I’ve already frogged this one once. This second time it looks a lot better than it did the first time but it’s still what you might call . . . clearly hand made. Does anyone out there have any useful guidelines for when you cut your losses and frog again and when you soldier on on the grounds that your friend will appreciate the effort you’ve gone to even if SHE BURIES THE FINAL OBJECT IN THE BACK GARDEN IN CASE IT’S CONTAGIOUS?
Siiiiiiiigh. . . .
I also got distracted on Etsy the Evil†† from my (relatively) honest quest for a needle roll††† into yarn bowls. And I made the perilous decision to ask Twitter if any of the twitterverse’s knitters use yarn bowls. Am I just being flimflammed by a pretty face? Hand-thrown pottery bowls are very pretty. Or do they help with what I have dubbed the invisible-kitten problem with your wodge of working yarn? In the rush of helpful answers—including plastic bags, yarn cozies [sic], and teapots—I suddenly had a FABULOUS IDEA.
Was this totally sitting on a shelf waiting to be a yarn bowl through the long years of no longer being required for blanc-mange or what? Stay tuned.
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* Hey, I finished the day’s stint early/it’s raining and I don’t feel like gardening/if I hear my neighbour’s extra-loud telephone bell go one more time^ I shall run mad with an axe, want to grab a cup of tea somewhere? No, sorry, I can’t, I’m working a double shift today/it’s raining so I’m sorting out the garage^^/I have to sort out the garage because I need to hide a body fast.^^^
^ They need fewer friends
^^ No friend of mine would ever use that excuse
^^^ Ah. Okay. Need help?+
+ I found a drowned mouse in a bucket today. Ewwwwwwww. I have no truck with the ‘mice are cute’ brigade and am perfectly happy to trap the suckers, using the fastest, lethalest traps available, but drowning in a bucket is a slow, crummy way to die and made me sad.
** And my email, possessed by demons as it is, failed to accept the confirmatory email from the venue so I’m all AM I GOING OR NOT. WHAT DO I HAVE TO DO HERE, CONSULT AN ASTROLOGER?
*** Banned—? From WordPress? Um . . . actually . . .
† Most of the people who preach at St Margaret’s I like and find not merely worth listening to but interesting. But there is one . . . I have been trying to decide if it is worth establishing a habit of knitting during the sermons so that the next time this joker stands up I won’t have to gnaw my knuckles till they bleed so as not to run away screaming.^
^ I realise that a Supreme Being needs a sense of humour, but I feel perhaps we might review some of said humour’s minor manifestations? People who have been at this Christian thing a long time keep telling me that God likes engaging with his mortal children on their level. Okay. So let’s discuss the practical jokes.
†† You know I have been complaining about the mess and confusion of Etsy’s so-called search function and have finally realised . . . it’s all a careful plan to entice you in deeper and deeper.
††† The design I like best is only in a bunch of dumb fabrics. ARRRRRGH. Also I object to spending more than £11,872.33 (most of this is the overseas shipping cost from America) for a needle roll. So this is still an open question.
Southdowner was here yesterday. I got an email from her Saturday afternoon saying, YEEEEE-HA. BANK HOLIDAY MONDAY. I could come down tomorrow? —I looked nervously at Pav. You’re not perfect! I said. And it’s all my fault because I’m a BAD OWNER! She wagged her tail. All stimuli lead to tail-wagging in a hellterror.* Also, I added, you’re still TOO THIN according to breed fashion!** She wagged her tail harder. You could see the thought balloon though: FEEEEEEED MEEEEEEEEEE.
Still. It would be nice to see Southdowner. Especially because—hee hee hee hee hee—have I told you she’s ended up with TWO of Pav’s siblings? Hee hee hee hee hee hee hee. Nothing on earth, of course, was going to persuade her to have even ONE because she already has ninety-seven dogs and a small house. But first there was Fruitcake, who has turned out to be rather a stunner***, and Olivia was dithering about him, she’d actually turned down two buyers because she is derang—I mean, because she felt they were going to treat him as an artefact or a Breed Standard Winning Machine instead of a dog. So she still had him, but she didn’t really want to keep an entire dog with an entire bitch . . . at which point Southdowner said she’d have him. I wasn’t there, so I can’t categorically state there was a gleam in her eye, but I bet there was. Southdowner herself has said that the family she’s bred for three generations, and of which Lavvy, Olivia’s bitch, is one, has mostly produced gorgeous girls and reasonably nice boys. There’s been at least one world-beater boy, but most of the world-beaters have been girls. I suspect Southdowner has had her eye on Fruitcake for a long time and Olivia has been pretending she didn’t know it.
So far so . . . almost reasonable. Hey, Southdowner is a bullie breeder, of course she’s going to be interested in a gorgeous scion of her own family. But then Scone, who was recognised as The Handful and Too Clever By Half when the final cut was made and Pav came to me, and who had gone to experienced bullie owners, nonetheless proved to be too much for them. Whereupon poor Olivia teetered on the brink of meltdown because one of HER PRECIOUS PUPPIES was not having the happy life she deserved—but Olivia herself has a full time job and is not a dog behaviourist and . . .
. . . Southdowner said she’d have her.
And Scone is darling. Of course. I’ve seen her twice since Southdowner took her and I can’t see anything wrong with her. She’s just your average mad frantic bullie. But from where I’m standing I’m delighted Southdowner has half of Pav’s litter—and there are plans afoot† for all of us to meet up with Croissant in London. . . .
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* Some stimuli, especially those including fooooooood, lead to other predictable behaviours, screaming, hanging from the rafters, etc, but the beginning of all hellterror activity is tail wagging.
** And slightly under what even I prefer thanks to what I assume was an unobserved snack of something noxious on our FOUR WAY HURTLE at Warm Upford on Saturday afternoon. Well, I needed petrol^ and it was a BEAUTIFUL DAY and . . . who was I going to leave behind? So we all went. And we all lived and I don’t even have rope/lead burns. But it would have been more fun if I hadn’t spent all of it scanning the horizon for other people’s loose dogs. Anyway. Pav was on short rations for about a day and a half after something disagreed with her^^ and was therefore a trifle tucked up even by my standards.^^^ All that tail-wagging takes a lot of energy.
^ Even the pet shop owner thinks I need a new car. Isn’t that moss growing on the roof? she said. WHAT DOES THAT HAVE TO DO WITH IT? WOLFGANG FRELLING LIVES OUT. HE FRELLING LIVES OUT, UNDER A TREE. OF COURSE HE’S GOT MOSS GROWING ON HIS ROOF, BECAUSE I DON’T WASH IT OFF.+ What is the matter with people? He RUNS. The bottom line is that he RUNS. We’ve had two bad, expensive moments with Wolfgang, one several years ago when we put eight hundred frelling quid into the steering at which point the end had better not have been nigh and, fortunately, wasn’t, and then a year or so ago when they finally figured out what was causing the extremely unnerving and demoralising not-starting thing, which was after all the drama relatively cheap to put right. The expensive part was the effect on my peace of mind and stomach lining. Not that I would know peace of mind if it bit me ++ but there are better seasons and worse seasons for not sleeping or for waking up and going AAAAAAUGH.
+ And at this point can’t. Who knew that moss could get its roots through hard-finish automobile paint? Feh. Bad design somewhere.
++ This is another reason my road to Damascus moment last 12 September was so indisputable. I don’t do the peace that passeth all understanding, even in fiction. If someone was standing there shining with it . . . it wasn’t anything I was making up.
^^ MINOR SQUICK WARNING. Well, I think minor. But then I’m a critter owner and we have to be tough. So READ ON AT YOUR OWN RISK. I keep telling you that Pav isn’t a bull terrier really, she just looks like one. One of the tricks both Olivia and Southdowner warned me about is the extra-dimensional pouches bullies have in their cheeks, to hide things you’re trying to take away from them. Even if you have a bullie that lets you open its mouth it’s not guaranteed you’re going to find what you’re looking for. Now, very often what you’re looking for is not something you want to fish around for with your bare hands.+ I discovered, quite by accident, and as part of the whole astonishing another-poor-sad-deluded-creature-accepts-me-as-hellgoddess business++, that if I hold Pav’s head nose down while keeping her jaws well open and give it a shake, the offending object/substance may fly out. In fact surprisingly often does. Even when it’s . . . you know, squishy. Sometimes it helps to clamp the entire hellterror vertically upside down between my legs and then shaking the open-jawed head. . . . Yes, she puts up with this. I’m convinced however that this has very little to do with my status as Alpha+++ and everything to do with the well-developed and one might even say notorious bullie sense of humour.
+ Some of you will remember South Desuetude Cemetery Adventure. Ewwwwwwwww.
++ BUT THIS ONE EATS.#
# I mean wow, does she ever eat. Still.
+++ We all know that the whole Alpha business is pretty much bogus, right? It has limited usefulness—yes you are the boss, or you’d better be—but Alpha? Nah.
^^^ I think it is my destiny to be awarded digestively-challenged critters. I can’t starve the hellhounds when they have the rivers because empty stomachs make them worse. I can’t starve the hellterror when she has the purees because she eats her bedding.
*** Not of course as stunning as Pavlova.
† Or apaw, if you prefer.
I am going to amaze you. Sit down and take a deep breath.
We got LOST on the way to the yarn shop. There. You’re amazed, right?
Have we ever not got lost on the way to the yarn shop? Whichever yarn shop is on offer on a day Fiona and I are loose, together and dangerous? Barring the little one which I have to go out of my way not to walk past on the way to the abbey*, so even I would probably have some difficulty failing to find it. Fiona could try putting a bag over my head and spinning me in a circle. . . . That would probably work. . . .
I do feel that perhaps Fiona went out of her way to ensure we got lost today. We’ve been to this shop before** and we both know it’s sort of . . . that way. Fiona apparently decided that this was sufficient. I was a trifle taken aback that she hadn’t turned her possessed-by-demons—I mean her excellent, tactful and reliable satnav on but . . . the driver is god. And I’m way too happy not to be driving. And if there was a paper atlas in the car . . . when the ME is gnawing on me you really don’t want me navigating for you.*** So we set out for Opprobrium. Turpitude is just beyond it. Sort of. It’s sort of suspended between Opprobrium and Prinkle-on-Weald in what is a very unhelpful manner†, rather Tir-nan-Og-like, there not really being any roads between here and there. You have to kind of sneak up on it while whistling a little tune and looking in another direction—a bit like catching a slightly tricky horse in a too-large field.
So you are approaching Opprobrium and there are like fourteen roundabouts in the space of about fifty yards, each of which is bristling with sixty-seven road signs saying things like Tibet * —>5000 miles and London—>you want to turn around and go back the way you came and town centre—>MWA HA HA HA GO HOME. There was a sign for Turpitude, but there were poisonous snakes and a lot of guys with swords, and we lost our nerve. We took the town centre option.
Now I know Opprobrium a little, and I was under the semi-erroneous impression that Turpitude was roughly on the other side of it to the right, and that when we came out the other end there would be another sign indicating a road to Turpitude, and maybe this one would be free of poisonous snakes and big ugly guys with swords and maybe there would be fewer than nine-hundred-and-thirty-seven other signs to confuse us.††
No. No sign. No sign at all except to things like the recycling centre and Greater Footling which we knew we didn’t want. We were most of the way to Surfeit by the time Fiona folded, pulled into one of those extremely dubious-looking parking areas off the motorway where you’re sure poisonous snakes and big ugly guys with swords and a bad attitude hang out, and turned her satnav on.††† The worst of this is that when we did, in fact, get to Turpitude, and blasted Billy comes over all smug and says that we can thank him now because it was only possible with him and without him we would have been hopelessly lost, rather than throwing things at the windscreen we had to say YES BILLY WE KNOW BILLY SHUT UP BILLY.‡
And the yarn shop? Because we wasted so much time on the road I didn’t have a chance to get into NEARLY ENOUGH TROUBLE.‡‡
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* Fortunately it’s usually shut at standard bell ringing hours. Woe for daytime weddings and other one-offs however. And it’s even worse than that: this little yarn shop likes dogs. I’ve taken both hellhounds and hellterror ALTHOUGH NOT ALL AT THE SAME TIME in there and they smile and croon and whip out photos of their hellcritters. So you can be having a perfectly straightforward alternative hurtle on a beautiful day when you felt like getting in the car and going somewhere else, maybe looking for otters on the river^, and suddenly, on the way back to the car park . . . yarn fumes. And your hellcritters can’t save you.
^ Which seem to be pretty blasé about tourists going oooooh, and whose den or nest or lodge or what you call it is out of reach.
** We’ve been to pretty much every yarn shop in Hampshire at this point and may be forced to widen our range, perhaps into Doorstep and Suffix. We particularly have our eye on Smite-the-Infidel in Wiltingshire, where there is a rumour of three yarn shops. Be still our hearts. Be terrified our credit cards.
*** Pride or, if you prefer, vanity, insists that I insert here that when I’ve got a few neurons firing I’m not at all bad with a paper map.
† I realise, having now got home again and looked at a paper map.
†† 67 x 14 – 1 = 937. I think. I hadn’t regularly done arithmetic in decades . . . till I started frelling knitting. Now it’s like um, yardage? Um. How many? Um. If Wicked On Line Yarn Shop is having a sale of 17.5% off but the frelling skeins are only 82 yards long so I need a lot of them, how much is it going to cost to make that car cozy? AAAAUGH. Maybe I could knit it on bigger needles. Better drape. . . .
††† We could have just gone to the yarn shop in Opprobrium.^ Or we could have taken a slight sideways sidle and gone back to the one in Frellingham. But noooooo. We had decided on Turpitude^^ and Turpitude was what we were going to have.
^ Yes we have. I’m sure I blogged about it. Opprobrium also has two old-books shops and we DROVE PAST ONE OF THEM today and Fiona with a swift, sure gesture hit the central locking on the car before I could get out. Hey! I bought TANGLEWRECK there! It’s a good shop!
‡ I think I have told you Fiona’s satnav speaks in Billy Connolly’s voice. I’m here to tell you that even a Scottish accent only gets you so far.
‡‡ Fiona did though. Fiona has an amazing talent for yarn trouble. And I did manage to buy a pattern for some yarn I’d bought a different pattern for and decided it wasn’t what I wanted but I really liked the yarn, and you yarnies out there will know how this story goes: I’m one skein too short for the new pattern.
* WORDPRESS I BLOODY HATE YOU. I have a beautiful arrow sign here and frelling WordPress is giving me a frelling a with an accent grave over it. GO. AWAY. So I guess I have to replace all my lovely arrows with stupid dashes. . . .^
^ Okay. I may have recreated ARROWS. ::holding breath:: ::punching PUBLISH button::+
+ Well . . . they’re not nearly as good as the original arrows. . . .
THAW YAAAAAAAAAY THAW. I got back to my monks last night for the first time in over a week and it felt like years had gone by.* They still have quite a lot of snow so I have been making the right decision to stay home but** . . . YAAAAAAAAAY. Not that unmixed blessings are standard, and in this case IT’S BEEN RAINING AGAIN. IT’S BEEN FRELLING THROWING IT DOWN AGAIN. Arrrgh. However meteorological mayhem did assist me to get to bed early last night because the troika had a minimal final hurtle—with the hellterror forging ahead at the end of her lead and the hellhounds dragging behind at the ends of their leads which at least meant there was less Extreme Plaiting last night than sometimes.
Today I have been a thawed-out model citizen.
I got up early.
I rang morning service at New Arcadia.***
I rang afternoon service at the abbey.
And I went to evening service at St Margaret of Scotland† and clambered all over poor Aloysius with questions, including the one about having a second silent prayer meeting that happens somewhat LATER in the day. And he’s reading DRAGONHAVEN. Yes. Really.
But so you won’t think I might become vain or anything, I copy and paste in its entirety an email received in my inbox today:
Just read Pegasus. And the sequel isn’t coming out till 2014? You stink.
::falls down laughing:: And you, whoever you are, are charming and delightful and exquisite and I’m so glad you’re not my next-door neighbour.
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* As a Christian I’m still a very small child. Remember when you were in primary school summer vacation went on FOREVER?^ And the time between birthdays (with the presents and cake and everyone was supposed to be nice to you etc) went on for MORE THAN FOREVER? By the time you’re my age now you’re like, ewwwww, another birthday?^^ Take it away.^^^ But ten days without my MONKS? Totally forever.
^ In America. Over here they break up the holiday time more.
^^ There may, of course, be other issues here.
^^^ I have more hellcritters than I can handle I don’t need any more.+
+ I usually am in a hurry, of course, because I’m already late for the next twelve things, but the hellterror and I were going a lick as we wheeled around a corner and . . . came face to face with a GIGANTIC male Rottweiler on a loose lead looking at us with interest. My life flashed before my eyes, as it does on these occasions# as the woman on the other end of the lead said off-handedly, as owners of drooling monsters tend to do, oh, he’s fine, he loves puppies, and I was thinking uh-huh, grilled or roasted? But at this point, as I was about to reach down and grab my hellterror—out of the monster’s gullet as necessary, although I was aware that by bending down I was putting my jugular at greater risk—my life finished flashing and I could begin to register what I was seeing. In this case the woman was telling the truth: he was fine. And he did seem to love puppies, at least manic bullie puppies. I was also thinking, if you describe a dog as having his ears and his tail up, this can be good or bad: hellhounds and I met a bad out today.## But the first thing I noticed about the Rottie once I was looking at the Rottie is the soft eyes and the soft expression on his face. That’s your real clue—the lack of tension. His raised tail was wagging, not the stiff territorial wagging of a thug, but a floppy waving back and forth, and he was standing four square but completely at ease. You get so traumatized by all the villains out there you almost don’t recognise a sweetie when you meet one.### The two of them made an attempt to play which in the middle of main street and on short leads was doomed to failure, but it was still pretty cute. Breed that dog. We want more of him.
# Funny how much better your memory is when you’re about to die. I can’t remember half this stuff when I’m sitting at my computer trying to write a blog post.
##Siiiiiiigh. I knew from across the green that this ears-and-tail-up were the bad variety.~ The hellterror hasn’t had a genuine bad yet: I pick her up or turn on our various heels and go somewhere else if I recognise one of the local thugs. But our hurtles are also still relatively short and I choose the territory carefully. I’m putting off the inevitable bad as long as possible.
~ Still not as terrifying as the Elvis Impersonator we’ve now met twice. He has an American accent and he likes sighthounds. I keep wanting to ask him, Are you really an Elvis Impersonator? And if so what are you doing in New Arcadia? But if you’re not, what’s with the hair?
### We meet lots of nice dogs. But not many nice-to-other-dogs Rotties. I’ve known several Rotties who are pussycats with human beings but morph into the Terminator when faced with another dog.
** I was beginning to have cabin fever, for pity’s sake. After a week? Pull yourself together, McKinley. You used to live in Maine. But I wasn’t going regularly to tower practise at Forza last winter—I don’t off hand remember when I quit New Arcadia, but Forza was such a gruesome learning curve that it took me a while not to look for excuses to miss a ring—and I only went over the line into Christianity this September, and started picking up out-of-town churches. Two winters ago, which I think is the last time I had my Yaktrax out for an extended period, New Arcadia could still hold me.
*** Did I tell you I went to practise again on Friday? —Having gone last Friday, when we were snowed in. This week Gemma and Niall more or less got me by the elbows after handbells and frog-marched me to the tower. The problem is that I owe them: I owe Niall more than any other ringer in making me the mediocre git that I am today, even though he doesn’t have Wild Robert’s deranged brilliance. And if it weren’t for Gemma cheering me on I would never have stuck it out at Forza. So when they smell weakness I don’t resist very well.
They sainted her for doing something rather than wringing her hands, remaining virgin or having bits cut off, I like the Scotland part, the Anglicans recognise her too, and look at her feast day.