I thought I’d ordered a swift and nostepinne. But two days went by and there was no reply to my email. Whimper. Here you are trying to support local/indie talent and not order from frelling amazon and THEY DON’T ANSWER.
They answered. Today. There was a spam bin involved. WELL OF COURSE THERE WAS A SPAM BIN INVOLVED. THIS IS WHAT SPAM BINS DO, IS EAT GOOD MAIL AND LET THE TOXIC GARBAGE THROUGH.*
I now have a swift and nostepinne coming. But the indie talent are still a business, drat them, and they’re not sending them out till MONDAY. Monday is three days away. And then it still has to get here.
I spent a good deal of the afternoon in the garden again, working off Lack of Swift.*** There’s a rather unfortunate Spending Time in the Garden Syndrome however. You’re not a big bedding plant person—you’ve already let the labour-intensive thing get out of control by having too many roses, you don’t need bedding plants too—you’re a mental case of course, gardeners are, but you have no illusions about ‘tidy’ or ‘design’. Stuff goes in where there’s room† and the weeds are really healthy because the one thing you are usually pretty good about is feeding. So you look at the labyrinthine wilderness out there and you think, all I really need is a few good days.
The garden at the cottage is tiny. All I need is a few not-freezing, not-raining afternoons—!
Wrong. The more you do the more you see. And the more you see the more you DESPAIR. Having got most of the urgent stuff potted up or potted on††, the most hostile of the roses tied ferociously back††† and (semi) pruned as necessary, I was reduced to WEEDING today. I actually like weeding‡ but when the forest of ground elder closes over your head and the enchanters’ nightshade twines up your ankles and pulls you down—and enchanters’ nightshade grows fast enough to do this, if you stay somewhere too long, levering up wild poppies or creeping buttercup or those black-leaved pansies that look so cute and innocent and have long almost-invisible roots reaching to China or possibly Mars—AAAAAAAUGH. I’d rather be winding hanks of yarn.
What’s the weather this weekend? I should probably hoover the floor indoors before my friend arrives on Monday. Just don’t let me notice how much else I should be doing. . . .
* * *
* Griselda is in Pago Pago and all her money has been stolen and would I please transfer the entire contents of my bank account to the Evil Scam Holding Syndicate so she can get a glass of water?^ But . . . but . . . I had a cup of tea with her yesterday afternoon and she didn’t say anything about Pago Pago. There must be some mistake. . . .
^ Which is about what the entire contents of my bank account would be worth. Tourist traps are expensive.
** NOW. NOW. I WANT THEM NOW. —You know I’m expecting a mere eight-months’-old puppy to calm down and stop being a manic git. Clearly we were made for each other.^
^ Hellhounds open one eye. Possibly one eye each. Does whatever this thing is run? Can we chase it? —I think a swift on end given a push downhill might canter a bit.
*** Stop laughing. Hmmph.
† And sometimes when there isn’t. That’s where the tiered effect comes in handy.
†† Although it’s been a bad season for mail-order errors. The usual response of big on-line gardening sites is ‘keep it and we’ll send you the right one.’ Or ones. I didn’t actually want four hundred and twelve osteospermums or nine hundred and sixty apple blossom geraniums, some of which actually are apple blossom geraniums, and which are all going like thunder and will need somewhere to put their roots down soon. I was poised to send the sellers photos of their errors as evidence but they must have a certain percentage of goofs built into the system. Do they keep track of who protests? Do they put tick marks against your name? Or merely fry in oil the staff responsible for the blip that caused Hampshire to be carpeted in non-apple-blossom geraniums?
And of course, like every other year, I am waiting breathlessly to see how many of my dahlia cuttings grow up to be what I ordered. I go on ordering them because they’re so much cheaper than tubers—and the awful truth is that I rarely have a cutting failure, while my tubers rather too often decide that the accommodations don’t suit them, they were looking for something a little more up market, with designer chocolate on the pillow and free wifi. But cuttings are wildly unreliable in their own fabulous way. Up to about a quarter of the frellers are anything but what you ordered. It does make you wonder, speaking of staff, what the staff are, you know, smoking.
††† That faint unfriendly humming noise you hear, like a nest of wasps in a bad mood, is the sound of various whippy-stemmed roses with known violent tendencies gnawing through their restraints.^
^ I am still sad I didn’t get around to buying the ‘some days it’s not worth gnawing through the restraints’ t shirt before they inexplicably cut it. There are still cheap knock offs available—and one of these days when it’s not worth gnawing through the restraints I will probably buy one—but this one was a QUALITY t shirt.
‡ There’s a quote out there somewhere that I am failing to google into confirmation, that says something like ‘No one is a gardener who doesn’t like weeding’ which is just a specific-object version of one of the quotes on the blog’s quote thingy: ‘The test of a vocation is the love of the drudgery it involves.’ Yep. You don’t like rewriting, don’t be a writer. Anthony Trollope may have got away with turning in his beautiful copperplate handwritten first drafts to his publisher, but you and I won’t. Aside from the beautiful copperplate part.
I actually am going to bed (somewhat) earlier and getting up (somewhat) earlier. It doesn’t seem to be working. The frustration just moves around a little. This reminds me of those dingdongs who say that Daylight Savings Time gives you more hours of daylight. NO IT FRELLING DOESN’T. IT JUST GIVES THEM TO YOU AT DIFFERENT HOURS. I mean, duuuuh. Twenty four hours is twenty four hours, more’s the pity. And this time of year I’m seeing dawn occasionally, not in a good way, in spite of being able to have the afternoon hurtle any time up to about eight o’clock—it’s still afternoon because it’s still daylight. You see my problem.
Anyway. I yanked myself out of bed BEFORE NINE O’CLOCK* . . . I swear there really is a hole in my life where time leaks out. Although today was additionally depleted by another live** baby-plant tray delivery . . . of the wrong plants. They were, however, gasping to get out of their useless little plastic containers, so I’ve potted the frellers on while typing (okay not quite simultaneously) a sardonic email to the nursery in question***. I now have three outstanding queries in to plant nurseries about botched deliveries—all three have sent me robo letters telling me My Inquiry Is Important To Them and they will respond as soon as they are able. One of these nurseries is one of these specialist bozos that go on and frelling on about being a family business through seventeen generations and how dedicated they are to customer service . . . and their dratblasted advertising always comes with a photo of some smiling family member with a phony signature scrawled at the bottom. They not only sent their robo letter a week ago but I’ve had both a street mail catalogue and an email from smiling family members since AND I THINK THEY SHOULD PAY LESS ATTENTION TO FORM AND MORE TO FUNCTION.
The point is that despite having all these HOURS this morning I was still late getting sixty-seven hellcritters and an awful lot of stuff † into Wolfgang for the outgoing journey to the mews.
I turned the key. The radio came on. Nothing else happened. I stared at the dashboard in disbelief. I turned the key again.
Nothing continued to happen.
I sat in my dead car and punched in the phone number of the RAC on Pooka. Forty-five minutes, they said. At least. I sighed heavily. I brought everybody back indoors again. I sent out an emergency lunch bulletin to Peter—I have critter food at the cottage, but I require daily injections of several gallons of lettuce, most of which are consumed at lunch. I had barely got my hands covered in greasy chicken carcase shreds††, the hellterror was just warming up for flinging herself frantically against the sides of her crate . . . when there was a commotion outside, which was one of my neighbours having her ingress blocked by a large orange RAC van. YOU AREN’T SUPPOSED TO BE HERE FOR ANOTHER THIRTY FIVE MINUTES. AND YOU WERE SUPPOSED TO CALL ME FIRST.
Other than that, the service was exemplary. Although I was feeling a little cranky about my neighbours all queuing up to tell me I needed a new car. Hey! It’s a frelling dead battery! Any car can have a dead battery! —And this battery is several years old, although I feel it would have been polite if it gave me a little warning that it was about to pop its clogs. Phineas said that he’s amazed every time Wolfgang starts and I drive away anywhere. The neighbour whose ingress was blocked was so busy laughing she could hardly get the words out: Robin, you need a new car. —I DO NOT NEED A NEW CAR.†††
And to support this attitude I bought a battery that is guaranteed for five years.
* * *
* Yes, in the morning. Very funny. Ha ha ha ha ha.
** You hope
*** And they had better not tell me to return them.
† It was a big day for deliveries. I also took delivery on a GIGANTIC box of non-perishable groceries . . . only the heavy items of which had to come down to the mews.
At least I was there when they delivered it. I have yet to be home when the Gold Standard Kibble boxes arrive. You have to buy two of the extra-large size to get free shipping and at these prices IT’S WORTH IT. But it means that every few months I find myself grappling sixty-plus pounds of large rectangular shipping box down a perilously steep flight of stairs from the back of the greenhouse which is where deliveries are left^ and then back up the less steep but equally perilous steps to the front door aaaaand then through the pit-and-pendulum arrangement of stable-style (front) door, permanent puppy gate^^, chimney breast with coathooks bearing far too many coats, and the grandfather clock. And possibly some hellhounds, who enjoy the pranks the hellgoddess gets up to to entertain them.
The latest consignment arrived two days ago. I swear the deliveryman hides around the corner and waits till he sees me leave with some assortment of hellcritters or other and then nips in and deposits the by-this-time-starting-to-disintegrate cardboard box full of tungsten chips. He’s going to have to heave it up some stairs or other, and this way he can luxuriate in the awareness that the customer gets a double shot.^^^ All of this rant I am pretty sure I have ranted at you before. However I was thinking, this time, as I tried not to destroy anything, like an ankle or a pot of pansies, that I don’t know why I’m complaining, it’s only like carrying two hellterrors. I’d rather carry two hellterrors. Which may give you an idea. . . .
^ Except when they weigh more than half what you do, this is a sensible place to have things left
^^ which has been there since the hellhounds were puppies, and very glad I am to have it, except when wrestling annoyingly large parcels
^^^ And trust me, this is still better than trying to negotiate the greenhouse and the kitchen door, even though there would be no stairs involved.
†† ‘Chicken carcases’ are what’s left after butchers have cut all the separately-packaged bits off. They’re CHEAP and they’re CHICKEN but they are a pain to deal with.
††† And aside from the sheer fact of his advanced age, Wolfgang looks worse than he is. There are kind of a lot of dents. Er. And most of the chrome strips have been ripped off. And the bumpers may dangle slightly. And some of the headlight housing is missing. And the taillight housing leaks. And some of the doors work better than others, and let’s not talk about the frangledrabbing electric windows at all. Other than that . . . well, other than that I never wash him. I could do that. I could give him a nice bath. The once a year I do this I’m always surprised at how much better he looks (in spite of the dents). Poor Wolfgang.
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.‡‡
* * *
* 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. . . .
Some things may be looking up. No, no, nothing about ARCs and books scheduled for publication in September*. Both hellhounds ate lunch today for the first time in weeks. Of course then we had an unexpected meltdown about dinner, arrrgh. However, eating was eventually accomplished at dinner as well . . . and then they got all cranky about Pav getting bits of chicken for afters too. Guys. Your neurosis is showing.
But I was thinking despairingly today . . . I may not only be starting to hope strenuously that Pav doesn’t get too big to pick up**, I may spend my declining years specialising in dogs that are small enough to pick up.*** It is the simple truth that Other People’s Dogs are starting to undermine my delight in my own dogs. Yes. It’s that bad.
I think it was two days ago I was giving Pav a last quick sprint around the centre of town. It was after dark and New Arcadia is not known for its heady night life. There were only a few people on the street. Two of them were standing talking to each other outside the Troll and Nightingale. Between them was a lying-down dog.
I am paranoid, but like the old joke goes, even paranoids have real enemies. This dog was just lying there but I knew I didn’t like the look of it, and I had taken note that it was not wearing a lead. I think we’ll not worry about it, I said to Pav, and picked her up. I then strolled out into the street, so we would be passing Ominous Dog at a little distance instead of possibly invading its private space by passing it on the, you know, public pavement.
We hadn’t even come level with it when it LEAPED to its feet and came barrelling straight at us, barking and snarling with all its hair up. OH GREAT. THIS IS GREAT. I REALLY GOT UP THIS MORNING SAYING PERHAPS TODAY IS A GOOD DAY TO DIE. I yelled, which is what I usually do in these situations, bellowing is less embarrassing than shrieking and if by any chance the human involved is going to do anything this is a SUGGESTION THAT THEY DO IT NOW.
They never do, of course. In this case as I yelled I swung around, on the theory that fewer dogs will attack a human than will go for the hellterror in the human’s arms, and Toxic Purulence Dog swerved off at the last minute, circled around us and came up behind me again. I don’t suppose I did feel its hot breath on the back of my neck but I felt as if I was feeling its hot breath on the back of my neck. Not a small dog. Just by the way.
Its human said, Awwwwwww, he just wants to say helloooooooo.
Words failed me, which is just as well. You can neither argue nor reason with these troglodytes—and in this case I guess there is more going on than mere denial. This guy’s getting off on his evil dog, in some weird passive-aggressive way. Toxic Purulence Dog eventually peeled away and left us alone, and I, even more eventually, put Pav back on her own feet.†
I was out with Pav after dark again tonight†† but we were at the other end of town. We were walking past one of the sports grounds which was all lit up because they were playing one of those men-in-shorts-kicking-balls games. I therefore couldn’t see much into the dark beyond, but I was pretty sure I was seeing . . . an off lead dog and a human. I picked Pav up. As we got closer . . . IT WAS TOXIC PURULENCE DOG AGAIN. How did we get so lucky? And it ran straight at us††† while its human said, Awwwwww, now, Uncle Wiggly‡ . . .
It swerved off again, a little sooner this time. Small favours. I tracked it going down the other side of the football field and thought, we’ll just take an extra loop around the hedgerow so we don’t all arrive back at the car park at the same time.
I was nonetheless looking around like Ripley in Aliens as we got close to the car park and . . . saw a large familiar-looking dog just jumping into a car. ‡ We lingered a little longer before venturing to cross the tarmac and . . . violent, hysterical barking broke out from the car we’d seen. I risked looking over my shoulder and . . . yup. Toxic Purulence Dog. Slightly muffled by being behind a closed window.
Here’s the really incredible bit. The troglodyte lowered the window so Toxic Purulence Dog could jam its head and shoulders through the opening and scream at us. I wondered in a cool detached way if TPD was actually going to get out and come after us again. . . .
What is the matter with people?
* * *
* SHADOWS’ official pub date is the 26th of September, if you want to draw a big red circle on your calendar. I Remember the Good Old Days when authors got their first copies weeks before the rest of the world did. Now it’s the other way around. With pre-orders and things readers who are not merely enthusiastic but organised may have your book in their hot little hands weeks before your publisher’s warehouse sends it to you.
** I can’t think of Pav as ‘small’ however. She’s just . . . low slung. She’s so frelling solid.^ When I think of a small dog, I think of the sort of critter that you’re afraid of breaking if you pick it up wrong or hold it too tightly. It’s not merely a question of weight: Pekinese are solid little beggars. Bichon Frises, in my admittedly limited experience, are not, although they may weigh half again to twice what a Peke weighs. While I’m not going to try dribbling Pav like a basketball^^, I’m quite sure she’d bounce and come up smiling.^^^
^ Even if she’s too thin.+
+ . . . mutters: she is not too thin.
^^ and am only occasionally tempted . . . STOP EATING THE CARPET. STOP EATING THE SOFA. STOP EATING THE HELLHOUNDS’ BED. STOP EATING YOUR LEAD. STOP EATING MY JEANS/SHOELACES/SOCKS. STOP EATING . . .
^^^ Love the bullie grin. Just saying.
*** My second to last dog will be a Yorkshire terrier. Then I’ll get one of those mobility scooter things and have an extra-large basket put on the front in which can ride a mini-bullie and a small whippet.^
^ Hazel, at nineteen pounds, all of which was leg and spine, curled up on your lap beautifully. Pav, at twenty-seven pounds, doesn’t fit in your lap at all, partly because she’s a rectangular solid and doesn’t bend very well.
† Pav was all, Okay, that was fun and exciting! What’s next? I was shivering with adrenaline and had to sit down for a minute. No, no, no, said Pav. Sitting down is not fun and exciting. Perhaps if I eat your shoelaces you will be aroused to take an interest.
†† I spent most of the afternoon IN THE GARDEN. Which I will probably tell you about tomorrow. (*&^%$£”!!!!!, etc.
††† And Pav sat up Very Straight and said, Ooooh, this is fun and exciting! —She’s been freaked out a couple of times by big dogs rushing up to her, even big friendly dogs. I would love to know what she’s thinking when we’re having an encounter while I’m carrying her. As I’ve said many times, she’s very, very good about being carried, because of all that holding when she was a baby; picking her up is, in fact, a good way of telling her to calm down; nine times out of ten she collapses instantly.^ But what she is thinking while Armageddon is racing toward us? ‘I’m taller than he is’? ‘Nobody goes up against the hellgoddess and lives’? ‘Wheeeee’?
^ The tenth time, of course, there is major blood loss, and you feel as if you’re holding onto a small exploding galaxy.
‡ Not Its Real Name
‡‡ I hope I’m imagining it that the troglodyte waved at me.
So. We finally have some SPRING WEATHER. You know, sunlight. Remember SUNLIGHT [you other British* people]? Yes. Also, it’s warm enough to need only one woolly layer under your coat and longjohns are optional.** And my sweet pea seedlings aren’t dead yet although they’re a little paler than desirable, since I don’t get up early and it’s still too cold to put them out even after I become capable of carrying a tray of plants outdoors (probably) without dropping them.
. . . And it’s the WEEKEND. Which most people would find a DESIRABLE TIME to have some spring weather. But WALL MEN DO NOT WORK ON WEEKENDS.
I cannot WAIT to have a greenhouse again. Under my guardianship the greenhouse has always looked as if someone fought a duel to the death in it recently*** but I could find stuff. I was out there today, trying to pot stuff on and snarling because I can’t find anything. I’m also worrying about my robins. Where are they nesting, this brutally cold year? † I hope they’ve found a greenhouse that less resembles Waterloo Station at rush hour.
It’s a nice modest travelling sized cement mixer. It reminds me of the stepping-stone moulds I bought at/for the old house, in the implementation of which a modest travelling sized cement mixer would have been a necessary adjunct. It’s probably just as well I never tangled with a cement mixer.
* Okay, okay. British resident people. Happy?
** Less optional now the sun has been down for a while. I still have the evening double hurtle to look forward to, I’m wearing mine.
*** Everyone lost. But the rubble remains. Rather like having your wall fall down.
† Some little fluffy feathery thing was trying to get in through the kitchen window this morning while I was sitting close to the Aga to eat breakfast. It kept coming back, clinging to one or another of the wooden pane frames, and staring inside. Was it hoping its reflection was a potential romantic attachment? Or did it just want to sit by the Aga too?