April 17, 2014

Shadows is here!

Rant revisited

 

Didn’t get a lot of sleep last night—so what else is new—last night was however aggravated by shooting awake every time a hellcritter sighed or got up to scratch its bed into a more salubrious shape.  Siiiiiigh.  There have been no further outbreaks today . . . although the night is young* the current digestive miscreant, having eaten his dinner, looks pretty crashed out. . . . That sound you hear is me crossing my fingers till they squeak.

More baby plants showed up in the post today and the Winter Table is full.  There hasn’t been a proper frost in town this month I think, but baby plants, having been intensively reared in massive great commercial greenhouses, are fragile little creatures and you can’t just whack them in potting-on pots and plonk them outdoors.  You have to ‘harden them off’ as they say which in practise, since my greenhouse is full of stuff and I have no earthly room for a cold frame, means that if we’re having a run of chilly nights I have to bring them indoors every evening and back outdoors again every morning.**   Arrrrgh.

So, where was I, in my not-very-good-mood way last night?  Aside from the prospect of a lot of moving of plant trays back frelling indoors while trying not to trip over the hellterror***, there had been a certain supernumerary  force to my rushing outdoors into the garden yesterday afternoon†, aside from the latest stack of baby-plant-containing cardboard boxes arriving in the post, which, yesterday, was pretty well an avalanche. ††

What is it with people.

I regularly receive requests via email for help with the frelling papers people are writing about me and/or my books.†††  The vast, catastrophic, overwhelming majority of them ask me the same blasted questions . . . most of which would be answered far beyond the scope of any seventh or eleventh grader’s term paper requirement‡‡ with only the most cursory glance at my web site, let alone doing a little diving via the ‘search’ facility or the ‘topics’ list on this blog.  I’ve ranted this rant to you before—several times in fact—how can all these jokers even arrive at my public email address WITHOUT HAVING NOTICED THE SUGGESTIONS THAT THEY READ THE FAQ FIRST.  OR THE GENTLE REMINDER THAT I’M, YOU KNOW, BUSY AND THAT ANSWERING QUESTIONS TAKES TIME.  But they do.  In their relentless marching regiments they do.  Yesterday I received a follow up from someone who clearly thinks that saying please and thank you is enough.  Reading the FAQ is not necessary.  This person is capable of writing me a sheaf of long, complicated questions and putting a note in their diary to follow up . . . without ever looking at the FAQ.   First contact in this case included a plug from the kid’s teacher,‡‡‡ telling me how wonderful the kid is—and this kid may very well be wonderful, but they nonetheless need to learn to do their homework—and how (the teacher continued) my thoughtful informed answers were going to help this student chart their course through college and into their chosen career of professional writer.  PLEEEEEEEEEEZ.   This follow up, unannotated by the teacher, generously offers to answer any questions I may have. . . . §

Standard caveat begins here:  Of course I want people to read my books.  I need people to buy my books so the hellpack and I can keep eating.  And I love fan mail:  I looooove it when some reader takes the time, speaking of time, to tell me that they enjoy my books.  A really warm and/or clever and/or funny fan letter (or forum comment or Tweet or dreaded-Facebook post)  makes my day, and sometimes my week.  But I will never learn not to mind that a lot of people out there don’t recognise me as a human being essentially like themselves with a life—and, furthermore, inevitably limited expertise even in my professional domain—and behave accordingly.§§

Today I got a fresh request for help on a school project.  This one addresses me as ‘Mrs McKinley’ so I don’t have to read any farther to know that this person hasn’t made any attempt to do their homework. . . .

* * *

* as I count young.  But how can ‘one’ or ‘two’ or even ‘three’ not be young?^

^ Unless you’re a hamster.+

+ And you’re talking in years, not hours.  A three-hour-old hamster is young.  And one o’clock in the morning is MORNING and last night is dead.  So—wait—‘the night is young’ has to start at like two o’clock in the afternoon. . . .   Nights are never young . . . Hey, I’ve just invented a philosophy.#

# How did I get into this?  And where’s the door?

** Given when I am staggering out of bed lately, they’re going to get distressingly etiolated if the nights don’t warm up soon so that I can leave them outdoors to greet the dawn and all those distasteful hours immediately following.

*** Who is very interested in people rushing back and forth in a purposeful way.  Hellhounds know to crush themselves in the back of their crate and not stir till it’s all over.

† Well, I’d been outdoors kind of a lot already:  it was such a glorious day I took both critter shifts^ on country walks which was self-indulgent but . . . fun.^^

^ A little old lady said to me yesterday, every time I see you you’re walking a different dog.  There are only three, I said, but I mostly walk them in two shifts.  Oh, said the little old lady, and I could watch the thought process in her expression:  first she accepted the answer to this question that had been puzzling her and then, moving right along, this little old lady being a quick thinker, I could see the woman is mad dawning in her eyes.

^^ And since I won’t leave critters in a car because of the dog-theft problem, it’s also very time consuming.

†† Also aside from the fact that Outlook decided not to let me in yesterday afternoon.  No.  Won’t.  And I don’t like your password any more either.  Bite me.  —ARRRRRRRRGH.

††† We’re already in trouble:  the books are the books, they’re there, you don’t need me, and chances are very good that if you’re going in for literary criticism I’ll think your penetrating insights bear a strong family resemblance to mouldy root vegetables^, and you’ve got no business writing about me at all.^^

^ You know, really mouldy, when they’ve gone all squishy

^^ Yes, I read biographies.  Your point would be?

‡ When’s the last time I got a blog post out of an interesting question from someone writing a paper on me?  Exactly.^

^ Although the kid who wanted to know what it was like growing up with all those half-siblings made me blink a bit.  I wonder who they thought they were writing about?

‡‡ And with luck will so derail under- or post-grad thesis topics that the students will decide to write about something else

‡‡‡ ie an adult with adult responsibilities.  Plugs from teachers aren’t that uncommon, but they always depress me more.

§ The fact that this was the first email Outlook let through after Raphael told me how to make it behave was not destined to improve my attitude.

§§ You don’t walk up to a doctor at the supermarket and ask them to diagnose the rash on your leg.  You don’t write a letter to a lawyer asking them what their daily schedule is and how and why it makes them a better lawyer.  You don’t tell a blacksmith you want to borrow their tools because anyone can shoe a horse if they have the right hammer.

WHAT???

 

::POLITICAL RANT ALERT::

I know.  I don’t do politics.  Well. . . .

I am, I admit, frequently appallingly clueless about the realities of . . . reality.  I know I’m a wet bleeding-heart knee-jerk la-di-dah liberal but I forget how far from the mainstream that sometimes takes me.  Take gay marriage.

I do know there are still rabid homophobic enclaves out there but that’s what I expect them to be . . . enclaves.*  In the modern First World at least I expect anyone my age and younger to behave in a polite and tolerant way;  if they have private caveats about certain intrinsically harmless and productive subgroups of society they keep this to themselves.  That government tends to be butt-heavy with old fogies is one of those sad facts of reality, but I’m rapidly approaching old-fogey status myself so the obvious stuff should be getting dealt with as there are more old fogies like me in Parliament—or Congress, or the Orwellian farmyard, or what-have-you.  So we finally got civil partnerships here in the UK for gays a few years ago—so they can have insurance and inheritance and hospital-visiting rights and so on just like hets, well duh—can gay marriage be far behind?

I don’t keep track of this kind of controversy—I know, bad me—because it makes me too crazy.  I don’t keep track of all the anti-women stuff still relentlessly going on out there** either, for the same reason.  It makes me feel too small and too helpless and too ANGRY:  human rights are human rights are human rights.  There’s nothing to discuss.***  So I’ll just go on writing my stories about Girls Who Do Things—and keep my head (mostly) down out here in rough and ratbagging reality.

While I was as appalled as everyone else—everyone on the wet-liberal side anyway—about the C of E blocking women bishops again, there was enough general outrage that the church synod what-you-call-it managed to cram a fresh vote through before time, and there’s at least been progress, although there’s a bit too much havering about what they’re doing to keep the paralytic-tradition fogies from mutinying again.  But I remember—as a separation-of-church-and-state American—being fascinated by the suggestion that if the C of E didn’t get its act together promptly about women bishops Parliament would make them.

So.  Gay marriage.  It’s legal in the UK.  Finally.  But the C of E is saying no, no, a thousand times no, I’d rather diiiiiie than say yes.  WHAT?  You can’t just look for a sympathetic priest—even wet liberals like me will acknowledge that tolerance tends to be a continuum—it’s illegal for a C of E vicar to perform a gay marriage?  This is the Church.  Of.  England.  That’s how it works over here.  And Parliament isn’t going to say, ‘Do it and shut up’?  WHAT?

And—and this was my personal snapping point—the frelling Archbishop of Canterbury is saying gay marriage would be ‘catastrophic’ for Christians in other parts of the world because it would leave them vulnerable to violence by anti-gay mob rule?  http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-26894133  WHAT?  Where are you drawing the line, mate?  Or what line or you drawing?  Being a Christian at all in certain parts of the world is still dangerous.  The tradition of violence and martyrdom goes back to the beginning—um, the crucifixion, um?—and ‘don’t ask don’t tell’ has always been a crummy policy.  If the early Christians hadn’t been such arrogant little twerps, insisting on going around shooting their mouths off about Jesus being the Offspring of God, they might have believed what they liked in the privacy of their own homes, as long as they didn’t do it on the street and frighten the horses or piss off the local tyrant.  Not to mention that appeasement of bullies and murderers doesn’t have a great track record for success.†  I hope our Most Reverend Justin is being quoted badly out of context.

It was Aloysius who pointed out to me, in a calm, holy way, that gay marriage is very, very controversial in the C of E—and at the moment the traditionalists are winning.††  And I’m a card-carrying, fee-paying member of this organisation?  Aloysius—who admits to being frustrated by the ban himself—says that we’re supposed to pray for change and love those who disagree with us.

ARRRRRRRRRGH.  Personally I’d rather have a flaming sword.

* * *

^ The Samaritans question you-as-applicant pretty closely about your attitude toward homosexuality but I half-thought they were joking.  In my wet-liberal way I can’t imagine wanting to do something like take shifts on a people-in-emotional-extremis phone line and not sympathise with gays who do have more of a struggle with society and expectations and okay and not-okay than hets do.  Not wholly unlike, to my eye, women have more of a struggle with society etc than men do, or non-white people than white people do.  Etc.  Humanity = ratbag.  Sigh.

** http://everydaysexism.com/  Everyone know this one?  Read it and weep.  I don’t read it very often, because of the weeping thing, and the blood-pressure headaches, and the wondering whether anything ever does get better, or whether it just goes round in endless circles.  The early Christian church had women in positions of power, for example, but it didn’t last.  Here’s a bit more about Laura Bates, Everyday Sexism’s founder:  http://www.independent.co.uk/biography/laura-bates

She’s on Twitter too:  @EverydaySexism

Go for it.  I’m glad someone has the grit.

*** Anyone thinking of writing a counter-diatribe on the forum, please take note.  Also, it’s my blog.

† I want to know why these people think that the presence of Christians is going to turn them homosexual?^  Is it something we put in the water?  There’s a word that’s struggling to surface in my aging and forgetful mind—wait for it—EDUCATION.  You know you can educate people about lots of things.  Like that the existence and maintenance of heterosexuality in the Christian church is actually rather common.

^ Which is of course the worst thing that could possibly happen to you.  Worse than gangrene!  Worse than Sarah Palin for president!

†† Scripture!  Yes, I know!  But we don’t cut people’s hands off for stealing any more, or stone people to death for adultery!  And if you’re asking me, which you probably aren’t, as well as welcoming gay marriage, there are a lot of abused kids out there who are let off honouring their fathers and mothers!

 

 

Regular Forum Day

 

I should declare a dedicated Regular Forum Day.  I read the comments and think oh, yes, I want to answer that . . . and then I get distracted and the comments I particularly want to answer pile up and pile up and then I can’t find the ones I was thinking about and I fuss about this one or that one which would overlap with what I wanted to say about this other one if I could find it/them and then I stress about the ones I miss out, especially the interesting and amusing ones that I meant to get back to but they didn’t fit with the hare I was pursuing right now and then of course I LOSE THEM . . . .

No, I’m not safe to cross the street alone.*

B_twin

Or – when the power is out – [smoke alarms] chirp despairingly** at you. Which I figured meant the back up battery was dead. I had presumed that the battery was what they ran on. Turns out that ours must be wired in. And no, the spare, little square battery wasn’t there. Must have used the spare last time.

At the old house we had this diabolical system where whatever you did . . . was wrong.  They were (apparently) BOTH wired in and had batteries, like yours.  There was the additional factor at the old house however that it was LARGE.  You could wander for days through the winding corridors and up and down stairs looking for the particular smoke alarm piping forlornly.  And if it started at two/five a.m., forget it.  Put a pillow over your head.  Put several pillows over your head.  Oxygen shortage will make your heart thud in your ears louder than the frelling smoke alarm.

Although for hysterical-making LOUDNESS, any of you have back-up batteries for your desktop computers?  So if the power goes out you have a few minutes to save and shut down?  I have never heard anything so loud in my entire life as that thing.  An entire chorus line of Wagnerian sopranos couldn’t make so much noise (HOJOTOHO HEIAHA-HA!!!!!!  etc).  AND IT’S A MAJOR RATBAG TO TURN OFF.  MAAAAAAAJOR.  It’s hammering you with that noise and you CAN’T THINK what you did last time to make it stoooooop—no, you can’t think, THAT’S ALL.  YOU CAN’T THINK.  I don’t believe the power has ever gone off while the desktop was on so I haven’t tested the likelihood that I’m incapable of focussing through the cacophony to save and close down which kind of destroys the point, doesn’t it?  The wretched thing is now years and years old so maybe I could replace it.***  No, better not, my even more ancient desktop, which at present is bizarrely rather reliable†, would probably pine.

Angelia

Your luck is rubbing off–my oven gave up the ghost this morning–sigh.

Oh dear.  Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world . . . Whimper.  Please may my Aga go on working.  Did I tell you that my central heating packed in several weeks . . . um . . . quite a few weeks ago?  Since I spend most of my time crouched by the Aga downstairs it’s not crucial although I should perhaps get it mended in time for next winter, just in case it’s more like winter and less like spring in a rainforest.  But these last two nights when we’ve had frost I do kind of pelt downstairs in a hurry to get dressed by the Aga.  In lots of hairy, fluffy layers.††

Hearthrose

I’ll see you a peacefully chirping smoke alarm in need of a battery and raise you a screaming (yes, the dragons reference is accurate) carbon monoxide sensor… which is a plug-in… and the power goes off… and it screams… and you eventually stash it in the garage, under something large, until your husband can come home and eviscerate it temporarily but thoroughly. Or until the power comes back on. Which ever is first.

So at least it’s portable?  My frelling computer back up battery weighs more than a hellterror.  Probably more than a fat hellterror.  Not to mention that little ‘not making your neighbours hate you’ thing.  I have at least one fairly scary neighbour—Phineas, Atlas and I tend to hide when we see her coming.

Carbon monoxide?  Is this something to do with your furnace/boiler?  As I recall when I was still in Maine they were starting to have screaming radon alarms.  I had no need for one, since I had entire weather systems tooling around through my charming, but aged and leaky little house.  Since it sat on granite and had two one-and-a-half storey granite boulders in the back yard I’m sure there was radon around, but it didn’t settle in and get comfy.

Diane in MN

Pooka continues to refuse to pick up the internet when we’re away from our home wifi. I can have all the little ‘signal’ bars that there’s frelling room for dancing the fandango and singing ‘I feel pretty’ and Safari just sits there saying ‘Nope.

. . . is it supposed to connect automatically to any network anywhere? Or do you have to tell it to locate all available networks, then specify which one to use? . . . Another possibility is that the bars you see are for a wifi network that’s password protected, and if you don’t have the password, you’re toast.

No, this seems to be pretty genuinely a FAULT.  The bars are to do with the automatic if-the-default-wifi-is-not-available alternate system.  Raphael has come and wrestled with it twice and all the ‘settings’ say the right things, they just don’t do what they’re told.  Tech.  Arrrgh.  Speaking of default:  tech = arrrrrrgh.  The problem I see slowly and relentlessly coming into focus is that everything except, for the moment, my elderly desktop, is getting increasingly unreliable:  Pooka, Astarte, the laptop.  I can’t replace all of them.  I wish they’d get together and offload all the nonsense on one piece of kit.  But that would be much too easy.

It was the kind of meeting where your fearless leader decides that you should start with something that makes you talk to each other. [ . . . ] The first thing on the list was: ‘knits’.

I’m not a big fan of these exercises, and if this is typical of the list, I wouldn’t be too optimistic about this one. Just as an example, I’ve found that “I knit” might generate a comment or a question, but will only start a conversation with another knitter.

I pretty much detest all pointless social flimflam.  Either let’s do something or let’s go home.  If I’d gone into the kind of career that started developing Team Bonding Seminars and Group Hug Retreats—which were rare when I was a young thing and I’ve watched proliferate alarmingly as I pursue my cranky, fortunately solo way through life—I think I might have had to change careers.  Or, possibly, had them changed out from under me when I failed the Group Hug Weekend.  In this particular instance, however, the list was long enough you didn’t have time for a conversation, you were busy tracking down the next thing on your list.  Anybody who plays a musical instrument/ knits/ likes Marmite/ would like either to DO SOMETHING or go home, please wave your hand.  I, of course, being able to get stuff wrong even when I’m not trying to get stuff wrong managed to strike up a conversation with the wrong people and had to be chivvied back into the central melee.   Sigh.

Rikke

I think this little fire-movie from Norway is quite funny.

 The geeky person starts by saying “In the beginning it felt really strange. I didn’t understand – why did they want me in their home, when they didn’t respect me at all…?”

http://www.forglemmegeifilm.no/

::falls down laughing::  Yes.  And while it’s more or less clear in context I’m grateful for the translation.

Rachel

I did the fire marshall training at my work. It was very entertaining. How often, these days, do you get to let off a fire extinguisher ON PURPOSE?

::ENVY::

 Among the other gems that stick in my mind, I remember the trainer saying that he changed the batteries on all his smoke alarms every Christmas. Presents, Queen’s speech, change the batteries. He said that way you remember to do it. He acknowledged that some people might want to do it on their birthday instead.

Oh, feh.  That battery had lasted SEVERAL YEARS.  I’m supposed to WASTE SEVERAL YEARS of battery?  I suppose I could buy a five-year diary for batteries  . . . um, no, I don’t think so.  Although I did write down, and put in Wolfgang’s glovebox, when I was obliged to buy him a new battery two (!) years ago.  So I’d know.   Hmm.  Actually I could put ‘Mar 14’ on a sticky label and tack it to the smoke alarm. . . .  maybe that’s too obvious. . . .

Shalea

YOU CAN’T TURN THE RING OFF ON MY NEW PHONE/ANSWERPHONE. . . .

 Grrrr. My husband wants us to continue to have a land line, so we have a phone/answering machine plugged into it. I work from home and no longer answer the land line (anyone I actually want to talk to calls the mobile), and so I wanted to turn the ringer off so I’m not disturbed every time someone calls wanting to sell me something or ask me to donate money to their cause.

Yes.  I am continuing to fail, speaking of failing, to get my act together to finish the process of renting Third House, and one of the obstacles I keep swerving away from is spending the several hundred pounds to force BT to put a landline in, since there isn’t one in this centre-of-town, eighty-year-old house with the phone jack in the kitchen.  Do I have to have a landline?  Unfortunately rental agencies are still kind of traditional about this.

 There is no “ringer off” button on our machine. Or on either handset.

 I think we figured out that for ours, at least, we can silence the ring on the handset but it took some digging and poking in the menus (and I’m usually good at figuring this stuff out).

Well I feel better that the insanity is general.  I am NOT usually good at figuring this stuff out . . . but eventually I managed to find the very small print in the handbook that SAYS you can’t turn the ring off the portable handset.  It does not, however, tell you why.

* * *

* Fortunately I rarely am crossing the street alone.  Usually I am accompanied by hellcritters.

** Just by the way I am interested that Australian smoke alarms make the same dying-battery noises as British smoke alarms.

*** First I have to buy a washing machine.  I’m still whining and wincing.  I need to get on with it though.  The extra-years’ guarantee deal is only till the end of the month.  Not to mention that Peter is threatening to divorce me if I don’t get my stuff out of his washing machine.

† No, no!  I didn’t say that!  Never use the “r” word about computers, it makes them nasty!

†† No, the hellcritters come after the dressing.  Although some of the hairy-and-fluffy kind of migrates.

Feebledweeb

 

Once upon a time there was a carrier company. . . . Let’s call it Feebledweeb.  It’s been around a long time.  I had a lively and robust, not to say ranting, dislike of it over twenty years ago, before I left the States.  Before I discovered the true range of global carrier-company incompetence, creative perversity and aggressive unhelpfulness.

Feebledweeb made both of us crazy—although Peter bears crazy better than I do—back at the old house, when we were living out in the sticks of the sticks and there was a lot more hard copy in publishing than there is now.  Feebledweeb at the time was, I believe, the only carrier that would pick stuff up in the sticks of the sticks of southern England and deliver it, more or less safely and in one piece, to a Manhattan highrise.  And vice versa.  Maybe.  With a following wind.

They did, however, make their services coughcoughcoughcough as difficult and unservicelike as possible.  They toyed with the concept of timed arrivals, and even at that they could never be pinned down to anything more exacting than before noon or after noon.  But that was still better than ‘some time in April, and if you’re out, we’re going to reschedule you without telling you for some date which may or may not be at least six months in the future, oh, you have a deadline?  You should have thought of that before you took your dogs on that totally gratuitous walk, shouldn’t you?  And what do you mean by being so self-indulgent and unprofessional as having dogs that need walking in the first place?  We may not reschedule you at all, you’re not our type.’  Which system is what they reverted to.  All day, any day, whatever, if you don’t like it you can hitchhike to the coast and swim to Manhattan.  But being cruelly imprisoned by a time frame of before or after noon was giving their drivers palpitations and random crying jags and Feebledweeb are totally committed to employee welfare.

Snarl.

And then Peter and I moved into town.  And there seems to have been rather a boom in carriers, some of whom are no worse than dire and unreliable.  But Feebledweeb, unfortunately, seems still to control the frelling transatlantic routes.

Now it will amaze you to hear this, but I am not the perfect client.  I want to believe that I mostly behave myself with Merrilee, but Merrilee’s subrights department has little cause to love me, and it would not stun me with flabbergastery that there’s a doll hanging by the neck in a corner of the subrights department with a pin through her heart and a banner reading ‘Robin McKinley’.  I lose things.  I don’t remember ever having seen things.  When I send things back it turns out I signed the wrong pages, or didn’t sign enough of them*, or I didn’t put the date on when I should have or did put the date on when I shouldn’t.  And then New Arcadia’s post office exploded and was removed and rebuilt using reject Lego in the back of the village grocery, you’re no longer allowed to bring your critters with you to keep you amused while you wait in the endless queue**, and I, having been a borderline*** post office user since I moved over here†, became, um, pathological.

Re-enter Feebledweeb.  Who will come to my house and fetch my botched, ill-signed documents, and cart them off to a subrights department across the Water, where they will be the cause of screaming and nervous breakdowns—only some of which will be because I screwed up (again).

Recently we’ve been having a nice little extended torment trying to get Feebledweeb to do what it says on the tin/envelope.  Subrights and I got all excited—briefly—because according to Feebledweeb’s web site, subrights could include a prepaid return envelope with the documents I’m supposed to deal with in some way other than the way I will deal with them, and I can just pop them in the return envelope and post them in an ordinary post box, and Feebledweeb will take it from there.

Yes, they will.  They will deliver it back to me again with large red marks and seals all over it declaring that I am a liar and a cheat and that I haven’t paid them and their dog is going to pee on my shoes††.  We gambolled through this amusing cycle, I think, three times.

Okay.  The next plan of action is that we are going to revert to the earlier system of their coming to my house to pick up the envelope of mangled documents.

Feebledweeb were supposed to come last Wednesday between ten and two [sic].

Nothing happened.  Nobody came between ten and two and there were no postcards through my door when I returned after belated gratuitous critter-hurtling [see above].

Subrights emailed me anxiously that they had spoken to Feebledweeb again and Feebledweeb would now come this Wednesday between ten and two.

Monday I received a phone call from a very pleasant, very fluent young man with a very strong Indian accent, confirming that Feebledweeb was going to be fetching a parcel from me today—Tuesday.  Er, I said.  Wednesday.  Tuesday, said the young man firmly.  Okay, I said.  Tuesday.  What time?  Noon to three pm, he said.  Fine, I said, in fact, great, and wrote it down.††

Ten minutes later the phone rang again.  This time it was a woman with an English accent.  Confirming that Feebledweeb is picking up a parcel from you tomorrow, she said.  Yes, I said, between noon and three pm.  Certainly not! said the woman.  You can ring up tomorrow morning at 9 a.m. and they will give you your allocated time slot.  But— I said weakly, I have just been talking to someone at your call centre in India . . .

Ring tomorrow at nine, commanded the woman.  We never give out advance time slots.‡

I was downstairs and putting my tea water on at eight forty five this morning, I hope you’re impressed.  At 8:59 I rang the number the woman had given me.  Another woman answered and asked for my tracking number.  I gave it to her, watching an unmarked white van backing up the cul de sac and stopping in front of the cottage.  We have no record— began the woman, and there was a knock on the door.  Excuse me, I said, hope flaring in a sharp uncomfortable way, there is someone at the door.

I threw the door open . . . and there was a man in a Feebledweeb hoodie.  YAAAAAAAAAY,  I said, and thrust my envelope upon him.  I may have said one or two things . . . particularly because this is a guy I know.  Several of the regular drivers for the various carriers are regular enough that us (regular) customers say hi when we see them on the street.  FEEBLEDWEEB MAKES ME FRELLING NUTS, I may have said.  The guy held up his hands (my envelope in one of them), grinning.  You are not alone, he said.

He departed.  I picked up the phone and discovered . . . the woman had cut me off.  Never mind.  The package had gone.  And she rang back to say that the driver had just confirmed pick up and tracking number and all was well.

Five hours later I received an email from the subrights department saying that they had just got off the phone from Feebledweeb, re-verifying that one of their agents will pick up my envelope tomorrow, Wednesday, some time between ten and two. . . .

* * *

* I start to lose the will to live after about the ninety-third copy.  Why does the president of Dormidalump Multimedia Cupcakes and Related Pastry’s wife’s brother’s assistant’s hamster need a copy of the contract anyway?  I’m not sure I like the idea of CHALICE being turned into singing apple strudel, even if Merrilee did get a paragraph in there about how they had to use honey.  I should have held out for baklava . . . but that still doesn’t explain the hamster.

** It seems to me very sad that Pav may never have the fabulous experience of waiting in an endless post office queue.

*** Borderline as in personality

† THE POSTMISTRESS HATED ME.  SHE DID.  She also retired some years ago, but THE TRAUMA REMAINS.

†† Note that (a) the payment for this interesting process is coming out of the money that passes through Merrilee’s hands on my behalf and (b) apparently even if they believed they had been paid . . . they would still deliver it back to me again.  Because they can’t read.  Or because they can’t design forms that are readable.

††† He then asked me where I was from and acknowledged that he was Indian and calling from India. The thing that interests me though is that these overseas call centres have a very bad rep, which is mostly well earned, but allowing for the fact that Feebledweeb is messing him over as well as messing me over, the phone line was clearer than mine to Peter often is and he was intelligent and articulate and able to answer questions . . . off the sheet of bad info they had given him, but hey.

‡  Of course not.  OF COURSE NOT.

In medias res

 

Let me see, where were we?  Well, where was I . . .

I still have a dead car.  I rang up the garage this afternoon and most of the parts have arrived . . . but not all of them.  Of course.  This is how it goes.  The flusterdamitter is still en route from Enceladus* and won’t be here till Wednesday.  Or Thursday.  Whimper.

The hellpack and I stream** up and down main street on foot, pitter patter pitter patter, to and from the mews.***  I am poised to try to rent a car if Peter wants me to . . . but I’m not going to unless he does.  The worst of the week is over:  I’ve already missed my singing lesson.

And I have a definitively dead washing machine.  The repairman’s wife, who is also his secretary and office manager, rang back today to say that the necessary part is obsolete.  Sigh.  Meanwhile I had had a look on line for washing machines and there aren’t any that say HAS EXTRA-STRENGTH FILTER.†  CAN STAND UP TO THREE HAIRY DOGS.  I have asked Mrs Repairman to ask her husband if he can recommend one.  Meanwhile when I contemplate the likelihood of my carrying large knapsacks of dirty/clean laundry up and down main street in the near future the idea of a rental car starts to look pretty good.

* * *

* They relocated the factory because those cold water jets make cooling all that molten steel^ a snap.  Also native labour is cheap.

^ As if they made cars out of steel any more.  HAhahahahahahahahaha.  But Enceladus’ surface contains substantial deposits of rmmfglorple, which makes really great Car Plastic.

** New Arcadia is mostly not streaming any more, but down by the river there are great chunks of the path missing where the water has undermined it till it collapsed.  There’s at least one spot where you have to leap, and for some reason you don’t see as many pushchairs^ on that path as you used to.  The river is still really high all along its length and at the most exciting point it’s broken up through actual paving slabs, where an overstressed tributary is joining the main flow and it’s gushing out across the path and torrenting down the little hill built over the confluence.  It’s strong enough to wash away small children and unwary dogs, and the hellterror, who is a bit of a delicate flower for a bullie, doesn’t like it much.  You might have thought legs that short couldn’t do a decent passage^^, but you’d be wrong.  But the look I get nearly burns through denim.

The dog-encounter stories just keep on however, and we’re trapped in town at present.  Saw what is possibly the nastiest of our local dogs again a few days ago—off lead of course—this thing is totally known to be dog aggressive.  I was out with Pav, fortunately, not the hellhounds, saw dog and murder-worthy owner.  No-jury-would-convict-me owner looked at us, glanced around for his vicious off lead brute . . . and then kept on coming!  ARRRRRRRRRRGH!  —Pav and I crossed the road.

My most recent meltdown, however, was a day or two before that.  I’m not the only near relation with dogs at the mews.  We’ve had mostly minor encounters with the worst offenders but one of these is a border collie type—it’s either a crossbred or a very badly bred border collie—who is the kind of aggressive-manic that gives border collies a bad name^^^.  It’s frequently loose, of course.  Arrrrrrgh.  The other day Pav and I were coming back from our afternoon hurtle, came through the gate, and there was that criminally idiot owner surrounded by her three dogs, one harmless Lab, one semi-harmless Lab . . . and this border collie.  To give her what little credit she’s due, she saw us and did put them all on lead, and they trailed her across the drive and into the big garden that belongs to her father/mother/uncle/halfsister/secondcousintwiceremoved . . . and then she deliberately dropped the leads.

And as Pav and I walked past the wide, entirely open mouth of that garden, the border collie just went for us—trailing its useless lead.  I had time to pick Pav up—just.  The no-jury-would-convict-me-for-this-one-either is screaming her head off and the dog is, of course, ignoring her.  It’s growling and snapping and making little leaps at Pav, who is comfortably folded up chest-high in my arms~ and even allowing for the situation this is a mean looking dog.  It ran away as its owner came after it—she didn’t say a word to me of course—and have I mentioned that a lot of what used to be the parkland around the Big Pink Blot has sheep on it?

But we were even more of a draw than the sheep.  Once it had lost its owner it came after us again.  It was not willing, fortunately, to attack a human, so we strolled the rest of the way back to Peter’s—I’m not quite up to walking briskly clutching thirty pounds of hellterror awkwardly to my chest~~ —with it circling and snarling. . . .

And there’s not a thing I can do about it, not really.  The police don’t care.  The dog warden has most of southern England to patrol.  And the family the idiot is visiting . . . well, let’s simplify the politics of cooperative ownership and say they have seniority.  Which I assume is why no one else has ever complained . . . about the dog crap that loose unsupervised dogs tend to leave about the place, for example.

::is beyond words:: ~~~

^ Strollers

^^ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sqaQ6SnqAtI

^^^ I know that Cocker spaniels are supposed to be the top of the bitey dogs list, but I and several generations of my dogs have been nipped by far more border collies.  It’s not frelling all herding instinct.

~ There are advantages to the little short legs.  She weighs nearly twice what Hazel did, but Hazel was a whippet with legs that went on and on.  Upon similar occasions it would have been better if I could have hung her around my neck, but there was never quite time.

~~ The funny thing, if I’d been in a mood to appreciate it, is how laid back Pav was about the whole thing.  Maybe because she was already out of reach by the time the marauder arrived?  But she peered down with interest and no alarm whatsoever.  At least having her relaxed made her easier to hang onto.  She can be quite challenging in this regard when she’s in LEMME AT ’EM mode.

~~~ Which is a bad thing in a professional writer.

*** During the day we go down to the mews in shifts—I was bringing Pav down at lunchtime when we met Mr Notorious Evil Ratbag—but we do all go home collectively after midnight.  Speaking of challenging, trying to pick up crap when you have not merely three leads to deal with but a heavy knapsack throwing your blasted balance off . . . and last night Pav’s extending-lead spring failed.  I’m a little amazed we all got home in one piece.  There may have been language.

† Preferably one that does not exist suspended in a reservoir of dirty water two inches from the floor which you have to bail out spoonful by spoonful because you can’t get a container of any size under the frelling hatch.

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