January 27, 2015

26 January 2015

Today was Alcestis’ 58th birthday.

Would have been.  She died a little over a week ago.

Peter and I often go out to dinner either the 3rd or the 26th of whatever month it is*;  occasionally both, like this month.  January is frequently a sod;  serious deluges of champagne are often required in January.  Last year, after Peter’s stroke in December, pretty much bathtubs full of the stuff were prescribed and dutifully consumed.  And this year. . . . I’d remembered that Alcestis’ birthday was the end of January somewhere;  I’d forgotten it was today till Admetus reminded me.   Peter and I clinked our glasses tonight and drank to Alcestis.  Who is dancing joyfully in the sunlit fields of the Lord . . . which means fuck-all to me right now.

The funeral is on Friday.

That’s the worst, of course.  I miss her.  Remember I said in the Not a happy new year post to make time for your friends, life is shorter than you think?  It’s not like I didn’t know Alcestis’ time and life were running out all last year, but the habit of ‘oh next week is soon enough’ is hard to sodding break.  I am so glad now for all of those evenings I spent knitting and chatting with her the last few months;  I wouldn’t have not done it for anything, now that it’s all over—now that she’s gone.  But it also makes me miss her worse.  Because I’d FINALLY got in the habit of going round to see her regularly.  And enjoying her company.  And remembering why I liked her so much:  for her dry humour, her empathy, her astonishing breadth of practical knowledge about the world;  if you wanted to know something about pretty much anything, chances were that Alcestis could tell you something you could use and suggest where you might look for more.  She’d been a scientist and a science teacher, and teaching came naturally to her, whether it was basic physics or how to pluck a chicken.**  And yet months would go by, before she fell ill, when we’d run into each other in town and say ‘oh yes we must get together’ and then go our separate ways for more months.  Why are humans so STUPID?  Because I’m far from the only person who treats their friends like this.  There’s always going to be time.  But there isn’t.

So.  Sorry for the long blog silence.  There’s still a lot of staring blankly into space—and several other WHAAAAAAT? unexpected crises, mostly unsuitable for a family-friendly public blog, but I will mention the evening this past week, having just been knocked sideways by one of said crises, I managed to leave my diary in Mauncester I CANNOT LIIIIIIIVE WITHOUT MY DIARY I can barely remember to breathe without checking in my diary first*** and having phoned to be sure that I had left it where I thought I had, and they said they’d keep it safe for me, I leaped into Wolfgang to drive back to fetch it . . .

. . . and Wolfgang wouldn’t start.  AAAAAAAAAAAUGH.  I spent most of the next DAY schlepping in to Mauncester on the frelling BUS and hiking to the far end of town TO PICK UP MY DIARY.  While Wolfgang was towed off to the garage.  I got him back today:  hellhounds and I had a very nice walk over hill and under milkwood to Warm Upford to pick him up, with a shiny new starter motor under his bonnet.†  And all that stumbling over tussocks gave me an appetite for champagne, duck confit and a big fat chocolate brownie with chocolate sauce tonight at the pub.  It was a very good confit, and an excellent brownie.  But the brownie wasn’t as good as Alcestis’.

* * *

The news isn’t all bad, if you will permit me to range now into the frivolous.  Niall, who can smell weakness, and has his own unique ideas about cheering people up, seems to have inveigled me into RINGING FRELLING HANDBELLS AGAIN.  HOW DO I GET INTO THESE THINGS.††  Furthermore I seem to have become a semi-regular fourth with a particular group, Niall, Jillian, who was starting to learn handbells shortly before I more or less stopped, and a gentleman who has not appeared on these virtual pages before, whom we will call Spenser.  I’ve rung tower bells with Jillian many times—although she’s a good ringer and I’m not—I only know Spenser by reputation.  The fact that he’s not only a good tower bell ringer but also an organist and therefore has developed the Extra Brain Lobes for keeping track of several manuals AND a pedal keyboard or whatever you call them means he is beautifully pre-programmed to learn frelling handbells swiftly and accurately and I will HATE HIM SOON.  But right at the moment he and I are about level in the Struggle to Master Bob Major.

I’ve spent most of my handbell career thus far on six bells, mostly ringing bob minor.  ‘Plain bob’ is where everyone starts.  If you’ve only got three handbell ringers there are a lot of other more complex six-bell methods, but when you first make the step up to major—eight bells, four ringers—you’ll go back to plain bob.  This time plain bob major.  Counting to eight is hard—which you have to do, every dorgleflamming row, to keep yourself in your place in the pattern.  And ‘seven’ has too many syllables in it.  OnetwothreefourfivesixSEVENeight.  Ruins your rhythm.†††

Jillian at the moment is our weak link.  Not her fault, she’s been ringing less time than I have, Spenser is just talented, drat him, and Niall is, well, Niall.  Niall conceived of the daring plan to swap Jillian out some day that isn’t our regular meeting so that Spenser and I can have the thrill [sic] of ringing with two good steady ringers and see how far we get.  I could see the quarter-peal light going off in Niall’s evil little eyes‡.  We were fixed for this past Wednesday, with Melinda as our fourth.  Melinda would be one of my favourite ringers—despite her reprehensible excellence on handbells—if I saw more of her;  she’s the one got me going to the extra tower practise at Fustian, which stopped happening some time this last year when I haven’t been ringing anyway.  After Alcestis died I told Niall I am NOT trying for a quarter peal on Wednesday.  Both my stamina and my focus are zero for the present and the immediate future.  That’s okay, said Niall in his blandest possible manner.

I should frelling know better by now.

You can see where this is going.  We rang a couple of touches and first I and then Spenser—and bless him for not being perfect—crashed and burned.  So we started over.  No big;  we were getting good practise with Melinda there.  But then we started to steady down—Melinda is a lovely, equable, consistent, low-tension-transfer ringer.‡‡  Aaaaaaand we didn’t crash and burn.  For a few minutes.  For a few more minutes.  For . . . that ratbag Niall is going for a quarter.

We rang a quarter.  Spenser’s and my first quarter of bob major.

And that’s for Alcestis too.  Makes a change from glasses of champagne.  ‡‡‡

* * *

* Our wedding anniversary is 3 January;  our lightning-strike meeting anniversary is 26 July.

** She was also an excellent—and self taught—knitter.  She half-blinded herself knitting the Plain Dark Pullovers that are all the Standard British Male will wear, for Admetus.  And the sweater I knitted^ about three-quarters of, those last evenings of knit and chat, is hanging on the back of a chair at Third House and every time I see it I catch my breath.  I should finish it.  I know.  At some deep superstitious level I think I’m still hoping if I don’t finish it I’ll get a few more evenings with Alcestis.  Sigh.

^ which is for me and is about as far from plain and dark as it is possible to get.

*** Drink champagne, yes.  Eat chocolate, yes.  Breathing, I may need reminding.

† He now leaps six feet off the ground when you turn the key in the little hole.  BRAAAAAAANG.  NEXT STOP MARS.

†† A pathetic insufficiency of counter-obstinacy.  There is NOTHING ON THE PLANET as persistent as Niall in pursuit of handbell ringers.  And he’s such a polite, quiet, gentle person . . . most of the time.  Not about handbells.  Be glad you don’t live in New Arcadia.  He’d get you too.

††† One of the additional reasons I will never graduate to twelve on handbells, aside from the spectacular absence of necessary brain support, is because of having to count a row that has a three-syllable number in it.  Seven is bad enough.  ELEVEN?  Are you frelling JOKING?  I can just about manage plain hunt in the tower on twelve, because tower bells go so much slower you have half a chance to squeeze those extra syllables out.  Frelling handbells go a frelling lick.  Well-rung handbells sound like the louder, more musical version of someone running their thumb over the edges of a pack of cards.  That’s how fast it goes.^

^ Not with me however.  Handbells rung with me in the group are . . . stately.  There are people who won’t ring with me because I’m too slow.  Trust me, I don’t want to ring with these people anyway.

‡  If he’s part bull terrier that would explain a lot.

‡‡ There are other handbell ringers I won’t ring with because just being in the same room with them winds me up.  But I suspect they feel the same about me.

‡‡‡ Okay, I should finish that sweater.

Not a happy new year

 

The friend I’ve been visiting in hospital?

She’s dying.

It won’t be long now.

I hate this.  This is a stupid system, this life thing.  She’s younger than I am, by the way.  And another friend—another good friend—who is also younger than I am—has just been diagnosed with . . . well.  Not with blue skies and happy fluffy bunnies.

Life sucks.  And then, as we know, you die.

So, that’s been my holidays.*  Let’s call her Alcestis—the friend who’s dying—although in the damned myth some god or godling usually comes along at the last minute and saves her, and so far as I know my friend’s Admetus wasn’t in any danger.  She’s been ill for a while, and in and out of hospital, but they’ve known for a while they aren’t going to turn this one around, it’s going to get her, and sooner rather than later.  And she’s been slipping—also for a while—but the last three weeks or so the slope has suddenly got steeper.  Although we knew this was going to happen too.

I’ve been through this before, of course, but it doesn’t get easier, losing people—watching them slide away from you, and you can’t do a bloody thing except sit by their bedside and breathe.  Be there, stunned and clueless and disbelieving.  Everyone who is trying to comfort you says, oh, being there counts!  That is what you can do!  I guess.  But it’s throwing rose petals in the abyss.  Except it’s not even rose petals.  It’s dead toads or dandruff or anthrax or something.

Alcestis is in a specialist unit and it’s too far for me to drive, and I’m dependent on Admetus to give me a lift—but he’s a friend too, and they’re neighbours.  I blast over there five or ten (or fifteen) minutes later than I said I’d get there, and he does the driving.   I like to imagine that having someone in the car with him sometimes—he’s quite the taxi service, is our Admetus, bless him—is maybe a bit comforting, or grounding, or something.  I have really NO IDEA how he’s doing.  He’s a BRITISH MALE.  I assume he’s still eating, although he’s got awfully thin and he wasn’t exactly portly to begin with.  The unit Alcestis is in will feed a spouse or one other designated person for the big holidays, and they came round with the New Year’s Day dinner menus today while I was there doing my sitting and breathing thing—and in my case knitting:  my knitting is not improving with practise—and I was looking at Admetus looking at the menu and wanted to say to the nurses ‘make sure he eats too, okay?’

It’s a nice place, as far as places where people go to die are ever nice.  The nurses are kind and thoughtful and engaged:  they’re all over Admetus as he comes in, and a couple of them even recognise me.  There’s free tea and coffee (okay, and a donation box), and a big lounge-sitting-room-waiting-room space with comfy chairs and tables and books, and a computer with a selection of all-ages games.  They keep Alcestis clean and comfortable.  She’s just barely there any more and . . . drifting . . . farther . . . away.

Today the doctor took Admetus aside and said that hopes/plans to be able to send Alcestis home after the holidays, when they’d be up to full staff strength again for the amount of home care she’d need, were, barring miracles, permanently shelved and that . . . the unit is set up for a spouse or partner to spend the night there:  he might want to know that.  He might want to consider. . . . When we got back to New Arcadia tonight he gave me the domestic fauna care drill and he’ll text me if I need to step in.  There was a little austere hilarity at the outrage the capybaras, sugar gliders and wallabies are going to feel at being put abruptly on my schedule rather than Admetus’.  He gets up at about 6 a.m. most mornings.  I suppose I could go round and feed and do a quick sweep last thing before I go to bed. . . .

They’re rerunning the last night of the Proms on Radio 3 tonight.  Last night of the Proms live was mid September, and Alcestis was still alert and walking (slowly) and interested in the world and having opinions about the books she read.

And to everyone who is reading this:  make time to get together with your friends, and do stuff, or just hang out, drink tea, loan each other books.  Or if geography is against you—and I know a lot about that—talk on the phone, email, text, Skype.   Stay in touch.**  Time is a whole lot shorter than you think.

Tonight’s glass of champagne is to you, honey, Alcestis, my old friend.

 

* * *

* Another thing about holidays is the way people go on them leaving their social-welfare charities short-handed.  And falling prey to the common philosophy of wretchedness that if you can’t do anything for you and yours maybe you can do some damn thing for a stranger, I’ve picked up a few extra shifts here and there to the extent that I’ve had one or two lectures from older hands about taking care of myself.  OH SHUT UP.  Okay, yes, I know, and I appreciate the concern and understand why they’re having a word, but I’m at least conscious of what I’m doing and as soon as the holidays are over with I’ll revert to being the volunteer-organisation version of assistant bottle-washer.  But whatever your flavour of belief^ or disbelief, the end of year holiday season and all the jolly consumerism, I mean family and friendship and togetherness, tend to magnify anything that’s less than fabulous in your individual life, so social services get a bit strained.  The less than fabulous would include me and mine of course.  But being a do gooder at least means you have somewhere to put some of the sorrow and frustration.

^ Although just by the way the tendency for Christmas to be presented in Christian churches in all its blue-skies-and-fluffy-bunnies splendour MAKES ME CRAZY.  YO.  THAT KID YOU’RE WORSHIPPING IS GOING TO DIE HORRIBLY IN THIRTY-THREE YEARS+ AND THERE’S A CRUCIFIX HANGING OVER THE ALTAR, YES, EVEN AT CHRISTMAS, POSSIBLY TO REMIND YOU OF THIS TINY FACTOID??  As one might say, Jesus.  There’s a dark despairing edge even at Christmas, a shadow behind the joy.  Welcoming this baby should break your heart, and if it doesn’t you’re not paying attention.++

+ Or about four months, depending on how you’re counting.  This is only my third Easter coming up and I already want a year off.#

# I think I said that last year.  Easter is hard.~

~ And it has nothing to do with fluffy bunnies, chocolate or otherwise.

++ Some of the carols get this right.  When I’m experiencing a worse than usual brain failure day, the verse I can never forget is from We Three Kings:  Myrrh is mine, its bitter perfume/ breathes a life of gathering gloom/  Sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying/ Sealed in a stone-cold tomb.  Elsewhere it refers to King and God and sacrifice.  Um, yeah.  Stay with it.   And Christmases like this one for me, it’s exactly like my monk said:  he died also so none of us ever has to suffer alone.

I still think it’s a total fucker of a system.  When I get to heaven# I’m going to start a petition.

# And remember we all do, eventually, whatever ‘heaven’ turns out to be and whatever petitioning options there are.

** Which I’m doing a lousy job of with everyone else in my life.  Because I’m too sunk in being bad company.  Sigh.  Do as I say, not as I do, okay?

 

 

Niall, the evil ratbag

 

I haven’t seen much of Niall in quite some time because I haven’t been ringing bells. I’m aware that I miss ringing but there’s been a lot going on including all the major life change stuff and I’m so boring I keep getting tired.  We’ve stayed in touch by text* which in Niall’s case is chiefly offers of handbell opportunities which I mostly rebuff although he’s caught me once or twice by being pathetic, when they really really really need a third person or they can’t ring.  Sob.  But we also occasionally exchange fascinating information like that fresh brownies have just come out of the oven** or that there are mushrooms growing on the dashboard*** since the torrential rain that broke our early autumn drought last week with an unnecessarily extended HURRAH.  The seasonal river at the bottom of our hill is now in places pretty much up to the hellterror’s little evil eyes since of course the storm drains are blocked up again because that’s what storm drains do.  Ask any local council.

But Penelope has been ill so I’ve been going round their house to see her with Niall in attendance and it’s a lot harder to blow off someone bringing you cups of tea and fresh brownies† on a tray and staring at you with beady, meaningful eyes†† while ‘handbells’ forms in a thought bubble over his head.

Arrrrgh. So last night I had late duty††† which ran over time because that’s what it does, and when I get home I still have me and a hellmob to feed, and the hellmob needs a final relieving hurtle and I need a bath in which I will fall asleep and then not be able to sleep in my bed.‡  So I was staggering around this morning on even less sleep than usual wondering where the teakettle was‡‡ when Pooka chirruped.  I just about got her open and on and . . . Niall.  Wanting to know if I might come along before Old Eden tower practise tonight to be a steady pair of hands to ring handbells with his new beginner.‡‡‡  No.  Next question.  I scowled at the screen.  Poor earnest hopeful Niall§, wishing for a mere half an hour of my time, and even in my present condition I can (probably) ring plain hunt on handbells, in fact it’s probably one of the few things I am capable of so it would be half an hour of this bleary day that would not be wasted.  Think of the next pan of brownies§§.

Okay, I texted back. But I’m too tired for tower bells;  it’s been too long and the Old Eden bells are possessed by demons anyway.  Thank you, replied Niall politely.

You see where this is going. I successfully rang handbells with Niall’s very nice beginner.§§§  My basic handbell autopilot is still alive and well even if the rest of me is mushroom compost.  The tower bell ringers began trickling in and . . . stopped.  There were at final count six of us, including the very new beginner and one less new beginner.  And Niall and Vicky.  And Monty.  And me.  I stayed.  Obviously.  I rang. I enjoyed it.#

I MISS MY BELLS. DRAT YOU NIALL. HOW AM I GOING TO FIT TOWER BELLS BACK INTO MY LIFE?

* * *

* Old people. Texting.  You youngsters^ may need to avert your eyes.

^ I know there are youngsters who read the blog.  They email me sometimes.  Hi, I’m sixteen, and your blog makes me laugh.  —Oh good.  I think.

** Niall retired about a year ago and has learnt to bake. Clearly I should be cultivating this connection.

*** All right I don’t really have mushrooms growing on the dashboard.  But I will soon. It’s a little-known fact that commercial mushroom compost is made of compressed dog hair.

† Okay, they’re not really brownies. He thinks they’re brownies, but he’s a bloke. They haven’t got enough chocolate in them. They are totally superlative cake, dense and moist and studded with cranberries and raisins and other redeeming social values and with a faint pleasant haze of chocolate just discernible in the background.  THESE ARE NOT BROWNIES.  Brownies must be so saturated, so rampant with chocolate that they suck all the light out of their immediate surroundings except for a faint seductive gleam on their enigmatic darkest dark brown almost-black surfaces.  Redeeming social values wither and die in the vicinity of true brownies.  Penelope however, is no fool. Darling, she says, these are excellent. And has another one.

†† Almost hellterrorish, Niall, staring at you.

††† And anyone who is wondering why I haven’t mentioned the Samaritans by name on the blog in months, it’s because the admin asked me not to. Oh.  Ah.  I know they are pathological about confidentiality—which is a GOOD THING!!!!—but, um.  I may try to renegotiate the absoluteness of the ban some day in future but at the moment, while I’m still a frelling beginner, is not the time.  I will however risk mentioning that I’m out of the initial clueless wonder apprenticeship period and into the second, theoretically not quite so clueless^ apprenticeship period and yaaaaay. But the main thing is, yes, I’m certainly continuing with it.  I hope that joining is proving to be one of my better ideas—and yes, one of the new time and energy holes in this blog, as I anticipated when I stopped posting every day, is/are my Samaritan duty shifts and various relateds.  And if anyone reading this has been wondering if volunteering for the Samaritans is for them—find out where your local is and go along to an information evening.  No, it’s not easy work, but yes it is rewarding, and like pretty much every other worthwhile organization in this world, they can always use more bodies.

Shutting up now.

^ I would cross my fingers but that makes it harder to answer the phone.

‡ I swear if I could figure out a way to keep the water effectively hot I’d just sleep in the bath.^ Although as soon as this became official I’m sure the demons would say SHE’S SLEEPING IN THE BATH. RELOCATE. YOU’RE NOT AFRAID OF A LITTLE WATER ARE YOU?

^ No a waterbed is NOT the same thing.

‡‡ On the counter. Where it always is.  I have a relationship with my electric kettle and my large bag(s) of loose leaf tea and various necessary accoutrements not unlike my relationship with my glasses.  I can’t see anything till I find my glasses, including where I put them.  I can’t possibly get a couple of handfuls of those tiny black shreddy things into that ridiculously narrow-mouthed sieve and then accurately pour just-off-boiling water into it and over them . . . till I’ve had my caffeine.  I can almost see why tea bags caught on.

‡‡‡ Niall has this hilarious idea that handbells help you learn tower bells. Well, yes, they do, after several years of hard graft and when you’re getting used to the sensation of your brain melting and running out of your ears every time you ring a method.  Not so much when you’re in the early not-strangling-yourself-in-your-rope phase, when ‘plain hunt’ sounds like ‘nuclear physics’.

§ You frelling manipulative ratbag

§§ Cake

§§§ I hope she stays.

# With two beginners it’s not like we rang anything demanding. And when I folded half an hour early the others were ready to pack it in too:  ringing bells possessed by demons nonstop because there are only five or six of you is taxing even if you don’t have ME and a complicated life.

But it’s barely rained all day. How did that happen?

 

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.

Remember, remember . . .

 

 

Remember, remember!
    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.

‡‡ Stable

‡‡‡ 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.

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