July 17, 2015

Shadows is here!



Admetus, Peter and I went to the live cinema screening of the National Theatre’s EVERYMAN tonight—yes, the medieval morality play*, yanked into the present day and adorned with bad language and cocaine by Carol Ann Duffy, of whom I am a besotted and drooling fan**, and when I saw this play existed and that, furthermore, the National Theatre was going to live-screen it I WANTED TO GO.***

IT IS WONDERFUL AND AMAZING AND POWERFUL AND TERRIFIC.  GO IF YOU HAVE THE CHANCE.  They do rescreenings for these live things some times . . . check your local listings.

* * *

* Which I read in college.  Hey, it’s shorter than Bunyan’s frelling PILGRIM’S PROGRESS.  Even us English majors have our limits.  Although I read most of Bunyan too.^

^ And I like Spenser, who usually appears on the same class syllabus.  Sue me.

* I admire both her poetry and her politics.  Generally speaking I remember a pressing engagement on the other side of the planet as soon as some arty type starts coming out in political activism like a rash, but there are a few who do it with aplomb, Duffy being one of them.  The fact that she’s hot on women’s and sexual and gender rights AND HAS A SENSE OF HUMOUR WITH IT might have something to do with this.^

^ Also my wet-liberal tendencies are getting larger and meaner and shorter-tempered+ as my Street Pastor and Samaritan duty hours rack up.

+ Frightening.  Yes.

*** There followed several months of frustration.  I cannot BELIEVE the level of meatloafhood in many and possibly most arts and entertainment web sites.  ARRRRRRGH.  I think I only found out about either the play or the live screening because I’m on the NT’s STREET MAIL CATALOGUE LIST.  But you have to buy your tickets from your local cinema, supposing you can find the right local cinema, since the cinema list on the NT site will not match the local cinema’s information when, the NT link being dead or missing, you try your local cinema’s own web site.  This tarantella of frustration is further enhanced by the original performance site—in this case the National Theatre, but it is by no means the only perpetrator of this variety of on line crime—whining continuously in obtrusive pop-up boxes for your location so it can give you a personally tailored web site experience, and, when you cave and give it to them, and it is, let’s say, Hampshire, immediately offering you 1,000,000 cinemas in London.  THANKS EVER SO.  I KNOW IT SOMETIMES LOOKS LIKE THE ENTIRE SOUTH OF ENGLAND IS A LARGE BEDROOM COMMUNITY FOR LONDON BUT SOME OF US REALLY LIVE HERE.^

Meanwhile . . . I could not persuade my local cinema to take my money and give me some seats for EVERYMAN, and since it’s a flapdoodling cinema chain, you can’t get a local human being on the phone—nor is the on-the-ground ticket office open during ordinary town-errand-running day hours—to tell you if it’s coming to your particular local.  The chain’s theatre local to a town 300 miles away is not really what you are after.  ARRRRRRGH.  So the NT web site went on saying it was here, and here went on saying Page Not Found.  So I finally threw up my hands^^ and bought tickets at a theatre in Greater Footling, which isn’t impossibly far from here.^^^  I didn’t find out that yes, indeed, EVERYMAN is coming to the local scion of national cinema glory until we walked in to see the Royal Opera House live screening of GUILLAME TELL~ there a fortnight ago, and saw large flashy posters for EVERYMAN on the walls.  AAAAAARRRRRRRRGH.

BUT THE STORY DOES NOT END HERE.  In the first place, there are two theatres belonging to this other incompetently head-officed and web-sited cinema chain, AND with nearly the same name, ie the Toadstool and the Toadstool Phoenix, both of them not merely in Greater Footling but the same end of Greater Footling and Greater Footling is not exactly a gazillion-citizen megalopolis AND BOTH OF THEM WERE SCREENING EVERYMAN.  Go figure.  Admetus had looked up how to find the Toadstool Phoenix and I had looked up the Toadstool, and there was a certain amount of frantic cross-checking yesterday.

Well we got that sorted and we even successfully arrived at the Toadstool~~.  Now my on line booking was, according to what I printed out to take with me, only a booking and we had to get there HALF AN HOUR EARLY to pick up the tickets.  Fortunately, having wasted time going in several wrong directions, we got there only about a quarter hour early . . . fortunately because the box office was not open.  The ticket machine did not show EVERYMAN.  The androids behind the snacks counter were only programmed to provide snacks.  The whole dranglefabbing complex was pretty comprehensively deserted and since there are 1,000,000 screens at the Toadstool Stepford we might still be there wandering hopelessly down identical corridors except the screen number was on my booking page.  We went there.  We decided we didn’t like the seats I’d booked—who can tell anything from a web schematic—and sat somewhere else.  Since there were only about ten of us perched randomly in a theatre that would probably seat 200 it didn’t matter too astonishingly.  And no one ever checked our booking, or asked for our tickets, or offered us a wet fish or a glass of Prosecco, or anything else.  But there must have been a Stepford minion pressing the button for the show to run, because it did run.  Yaaaaaay.

^ The worst offender in the web site visitor location category however is the frelling New York Metropolitan Opera.  I don’t know what the frelling doodah is going on with the Met Live this year—tickets should be on sale by now—and I can’t find a cinema anywhere around here that admits to screening it, including the one I’ve always used in the past.  But if you click through all the dazzle to the Met Live page on the Met Opera site, and ask it to find you your local cinema, it will ask you for your country and then for your city.  I clicked hopefully on Mauncester, which is even on the Met Live drop down menu of Hampshire cities . . . AND THE CINEMA LIST STARTS OFF IN AUSTRIA.  THEN GERMANY.  THEN . . . Belgium, I think.  I forget.  But you’ve scrolled down several pages before you ever get to the UK at all.  If they’re trying to impress me favourably with the number of cinemas worldwide that screen the Met Live this is not having the desired effect.

^^ There may have been language.

^^^ Especially when Admetus is driving.  Ahem.

~ The now nationally if not internationally notorious new ROH production of GUILLAUME TELL.  Yes, yes, William Tell, but Rossini was an Italian writing for the French opera, okay?  Whatever you call it it’s supposed to be Rossini’s unknown masterpiece, never put on because it’s five hours long and you’re only allowed to write operas longer than four hours if you’re Wagner.+  I was THRILLED when I heard that the ROH was going to do it, and QUADRUPLY THRILLED that they were going to live stream it and live stream it at a cinema close enough for me to drive to.  YAAAAAAAAAAY.  I bought tickets more or less the moment they went on sale and was enormously looking forward to it.  ENORMOUSLY.

The beginning of that week I got a text from Admetus saying, erm, have you seen the reviews for the opening night of GUILLAUME TELL?  I hadn’t.  The hot young director++ in his creative capacity as an enormous flaming asshole had decided that the bad guys’ bad-guy-ness—whatever else you do with it, the story is still basically about a bunch of locals being stomped by an invading army—needed to be heightened, and never mind that Rossini and his text provider actually took quite good care of making the bad guys bad in the libretto—and so staged an extremely graphic rape scene during the chirpy ballet+++ at the beginning of the third act.  A local woman is harassed and molested by a gang of the bad-guy officers . . . and then stripped naked, thrown on the banqueting table and gang raped.  BECAUSE THE AUDIENCE NEEDS TO UNDERSTAND ABOUT THE BRUTALITY OF WAR.

Opening night was booed so thoroughly that (according to reports) you couldn’t hear the music.  Quite a lot of ink, newspaper and virtual, was spilled subsequently (most of which you can still find on line if you’re interested) and I spent rather too much of that week reading reviews and feeling ill.  I almost didn’t go.  I don’t need to understand about the brutality of war, or about the gross inhumanity of man to man or men to woman# and I don’t think the first night reaction was anything about British parochialism, which is one of the things that was elitistly suggested.

They’d toned it down some## by the day of the cinema broadcast . . . but I did go, and that scene still made me feel physically sick and I almost walked out.  The only reason I finally went at all was because the reviews were also universal that it was exquisitely sung AND I WANTED TO FRELLING HEAR IT which is where we came in.  And it was exquisitely sung, and I in fact came home and ordered the CD with the same cast and conductor which gets about twelve stars in the Penguin Guide as well.  But for gratuitous, inappropriate, stupid, pretentious shock value, the rape scene takes some kind of gigantic toxic biscuit.  I’m also happy to say that the controversy did not put bums on seats around here:  I’d never seen the cinema so empty for an opera screening.###

+ I will probably never see Parsifal, partly because I’d be throwing rubbery carrots and small dead animals at the stage by the end of act two, but also because, supposing I hadn’t been ejected yet, I’d have pressure sores by the end of act twelve, or whenever it finally stops.

++ On whose head let there be a positive avalanche of small dead animals in an advanced state of decomposition

+++ French operas of that period apparently HAD to have ballets.  There are a lot of standard rep grand operas that seem suddenly and startlingly to come to a thundering [sic] halt for the ballet.  Good time to sneak out for another glass of Prosecco.  Especially if it’s GUILLAUME TELL under this director.

# Oh, and?  The actress does not—or at any rate did not—get a mention in the credits.  Several of us saw some further symbolism in this.

## After both director and ROH head did the blustery bit about artistic integrity and said they weren’t going to change a thing

### There was a lot of raging stupidity elsewhere in this production.  Why the freedom fighters took their shirts off—rarely a performance plus in a large group of opera singers—to smear themselves in blood and dirt before they went into battle was not clear, and went CLANG in a production that had more or less updated the story to the 20th century.  And there is a scene at the end that I’m surprised was even allowed, when the villagers’ children are stripped down to their underwear and bathed in a series of small tubs dotted across the stage.  Presumably it was to indicate Fresh Young New Beginnings, the bad guys having been against the odds seen off, but it was creepy in the extreme.

~~ Some of our wrong turnings tonight looked very familiar since Fiona and I had made them a while back when we tried to find the Toadstool.  We had of course complicated the issue by stopping at a yarn store first which for some reason Peter and Admetus were not interested in.  Men.  Sigh.


A night to remember.* Or not.

Niall and I went bell ringing tonight.  Tower bells.  One proper substantial bell at a time YAAAAAAY.  Not handbells.  Two horrible little random bells at a time NOT YAAAAAAAY.

Long pause.



One of the things about method ringing on handbells is that it is SO FRELLING INSANELY HERCULEAN AND FORMIDABLE AND DEMANDING** that when you can finally ring something it’s like the most amazing thing that has ever happened to you*** and furthermore since in the process you have completely altered the structure of your brain there’s quite a good chance it will stick.†  Tower bell ringing is a ratbag of epic proportions, but in terms of learning the method line, handbells makes it look easy.

But there are important caveats about that easy.  First caveat:  you have to ring any given method often enough to gouge out a channel in your brain.††  Second caveat:  you have to be able to HANDLE the bell you are ringing ACCURATELY.  Which is the one thing—the ONE THING—that handbells has over tower bells in fatal adversarialness:  handling technique is not much of an issue with handbells.  You just shake the frellers.  Tower bells are mostly bigger than you are—usually quite a lot bigger than you are—and tact and adroitness enter the picture.  More or less.

And then there are mini rings.  Where the bells are buckets or flower-pots or large thimbles that say GREETINGS FROM GRIMSBY and you’re essentially ringing something handbell-sized only with all the style and paraphernalia of tower bell ringing.  I HATE MINI RINGS.  THEY’RE THE WORST OF BOTH WORLDS.  Which is to say I suck at mini rings.†††

It was a mini ring tonight.‡

WHAT IDIOT INVENTED METHOD BELL RINGING ANYWAY.  After this it’s knitting all the way.  Starting NOW.‡‡

* * *

* We’re having a major storm out there with wind and rain and banshees.  Radio 3 has just fallen off the air with a crash and a whine^ and I’m contemplating with disfavour the prospect of getting the hellmob back to the cottage.  I tend to be a trifle top heavy because I’m carrying a knapsack full of misbehaving technology and the hellhounds are not only tall and long-legged but they don’t weigh anything because they don’t eat and will probably take off like kites the minute they’re out the door.  Which will be hard on my shoulders.  Even weightless hellhounds hitting the ends of their leads at speed tends to be painful.^^

^ And is now making intermittent gobbling noises

^^ There is a good deal of hellmob-derived pain around at the moment:  the hellterror is in full bloody [sic] streaming heat, and a good month early.  She wasn’t due even to start inspiring Darkness—who is the more clued in about these matters—to emerge from the backmost recesses of the hellhound bed, which is where he tends to remain when the hellterror is loose about the landscape, to investigate an evolving situation till about now, and never mind having already moved into the dripping [hellterror] and moaning [hellhounds] phase.  ARRRRRRGH.  I DO NOT WANT HER CYCLE GETTING SHORTER.  I CAN STAND IT EVERY NINE MONTHS.  NOT EIGHT MONTHS.  NOT SEVEN MONTHS.  NOT . . .

Meanwhile she’s not in a very good mood either.  Not only won’t I let her play with the hellhounds, and while Darkness tends to disappear into the shadows, torturing Chaos is one of her favourite games+, but she is at present only allowed to hang out in rooms with vinyl floors.  This means, for example, at the cottage she cannot come into the sitting room with me when I enter the Magical Dog Food Grotto to fetch a fresh tin or bag of something,++ nor can she accompany me upstairs to fetch the thing I know I brought downstairs a minute ago but can’t find.  Although this last is a rather desirable state of affairs given hellterror ebullience and the state of my floors as storage space.  Hellhounds negotiate, delicately, the many obstacles to straightforward passage from one room to the next.  Hellterrors spring and ricochet with abandon.  Those little bedspring legs certainly could clear the piles of books, magazines, All Stars, yarn, etc, but what’s the fun in that?  The most interesting effect however was when she knocked twenty hardback copies of SHADOWS downstairs.  Very, very interesting.  Very.

Nobody died.  That’s all you need to know.

+ Second only to hurling herself upon me in gladness and felicity when her paws are muddy and my jeans were clean a minute ago. #

# One of my many failures as a dog owner, as I believe I have told you before, is that it seems to me entirely reasonable that something only about twelve inches tall should want to jump up on you.~

~ Hey, she rolls over beautifully for little pieces of roast chicken.  What do you want, perfection?=

= She is a funny wee thing in a lot of ways.  As Southdowner told me what seems like forty centuries ago—and years before Lavvy got pregnant—you keep bull terriers because they make you laugh.  Bull terriers are also hungry all the time and to a dog, possibly especially a short dog, who is hungry all the time, almost everything looks like food.  Pav has learnt that I have an inexplicable dislike of her ingesting random bits of rubbish we meet out hurtling and we have reached a compromise about this which works reasonably well most of the time.  Something that is positively not edible, like a plastic bottle—she and Chaos share a passion for crunching plastic bottles between their teeth for the noise, but even Pav doesn’t seem to want to eat them—she will, on command [sic], when we stop by a trash bin, ‘drop’.%  If, however, her current prize is deemed edible, she will not drop.%%  But if I have lodged my protest promptly she will graciously not swallow either, but I do have to get down on my knees and frelling hoick it out of her mouth while she stands, unresisting, with the little evil eye twinkling away at me and the thought-balloon over her head clearly reading heh heh heh heh.  When the thus-removed substance is pizza or sandwich-end or similar, no big.  Yuck, but no big.  BUT SOMETIMES.  EW.  WHAT IS THAT?  EW.  EWWWWWWWW.  I swear she prances with several inches more boing per bounce after one of these encounters.

% And her resultant glow of fatuous virtue may last even a second or two.

%% What do I think she is, stupid?

++The Magical Dog Food Grotto contains only sealed containers of bull terrier ultimate desire, but she can tell the stuff’s in there somewhere.

** If there are any method handbell ringers out there reading this and shaking their heads in puzzlement because it is not difficult, I DO NOT WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU.  Indeed if you decide to join the forum so you can remonstrate with me—kindly of course and using words of one syllable as befits the case—I will not only instantly DELETE your comments with menaces and rude gestures but I will tell Blogmom to Ban You Forever^ plus a few years.

^ and your little dog too.

*** Chocolate?  Nope.  Champagne?  Uh-uh.  Perfect love?  Nah.  Hot fabulous lateral-orbitofrontal-cortex-exploding sex?  . . . Um.  Wait a minute.  Let me think.^

^ If I say handbells I will lose all credibility forever.  Such a dilemma.

† Sadly you will probably have to go through the brain-restructure thing with every additional method.  I can now (mostly, sort of) ring both bob minor and bob major AND MY SKULL HAS RUN OUT OF ROOM FOR ANY FURTHER EXPANSION.^  Planning permission for the new conservatory off the existing building will be denied.

^ Cambridge.+ Whimper.  Yorkshire++  Mega whimper.

+ Yes.  This is the name of a method.

++ Yes.  This is too.  Cambridge (minor, on six bells) and Yorkshire (which cannot be rung on fewer than eight bells) represent the PINNACLE of my handbell yearning, and I have about as much chance of attaining either of them as the hellhounds have of achieving weight-bearing lift-off on the walk home tonight and flying me there.#

# Long-time readers of this blog may feel they recall that some years ago I was grappling with Cambridge on handbells with some modest degree of success.  Yes.  Very modest.  I could get through about half a plain course on the front pair of bells.  This is like someone who wants to ride in the Grand National being able to sit in the saddle if the horse isn’t doing anything.

†† Tower bell ringing:  1,000,000,000,000 times, approximately.  This is a lot of hours out of your life.   Handbell ringing:  1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 times, approximately.  Which is even more hours out of your life.  And that’s still only per pair of bells.  You can move around a lot easier from single bell to single bell in the tower^ than you can from pair of bells to pair of bells in handbells.  IT’S LIKE LEARNING A WHOLE FLAMING NEW METHOD, EVERY RATBLASTED PAIR OF HANDBELLS.^^  ARRRRRRRRRRRGH.

^ Barring little circumstantial details like the bell whose rope regularly jumps off its wheel, or the bell that has an interesting relationship with the corner of the church its rope hangs over so that on every backstroke the pew or the misericord or the flying buttress or whatever the doodah that is immediately behind you reaches out and whacks you one.  Keep your mind on your bobs under those conditions.

^^ All these diverse sub-methods do eventually meet up into one grand over-arching meta-method but that’s a lot of zeroes down that very long queue.

††† Niall can ring anything, including mini rings.  I have considered hating Niall, but . . . no.  He makes very good brownies, even if I do have to ring handbells to get any.  Also, I couldn’t hate him tonight, we went in his car.

‡ It wasn’t supposed to be a mini ring, of course, or I’d’ve stayed home.  I’VE BEEN BAITED AND SWITCHED.  I NEED CHOCOLATE.

‡‡ Maybe I’ll even finish this frelling two-years-and-counting scarf by this winter

It’s Friday, it must be handbells


Have I told you I’ve gone back into therapy because I Am Not Coping with Reality Very Well Right Now?*  I went in for an assessment a while ago but it took them some time to find a slot for me.**  I’ve seen Metis a few times now and like her—if ‘like’ is quite the word you want to apply to your shrink—and have some hope that she’ll crack me open like whacking off the top of your soft-boiled egg with an egg-spoon.***  But it’s still early days.  Yesterday she taught me a relaxation technique.  Chiefly it served to demonstrate that I do not relax.   Nadia could have told her this.  Sigh.†

But weekly therapy meetings are one more thing on the schedule.  And in the last fortnight I seem also to have been to three concerts†† and not merely done my standard weekly Sam duty but the frelling occasional-required long overnight duty which reduces you to a little pile of sticky ashes even if you’re healthy††† plus picking up an extra (late, not everyone’s favourite time of day for some reason) duty when someone went down sick at the last minute.‡

And of course there’s still monks.  And singing.‡‡  And the hellmob.  And the garden, which is booming into early summer.  And bell ringing, although tower ringing has taken a hit the last fortnight due to all the other excitements.  But handbells . . . it’s Friday.  There were handbells.‡‡‡

* * *

* I’m an American, we believe in therapy.  And my best friend is a New Yorker and everyone in Manhattan is in therapy, it’s a civic ordinance.  You want to live there, you need to sign up with a therapist before you try to find a place to live.  Your rental agreement or your mortgage application will have a query on it something like ‘Are you currently actively engaged in seeking self-development by way of a professional relationship with a psychotherapist whose name appears on this year’s list of Persons Licensed to Charge More Than $1000 an Hour which you gladly disburse for the Privilege of Discovering What a Hopeless Dolt You Are?’  You need to be able to fill in the ‘yes’ box.  Residents of the Tri-State Area are given a tax rebate for being in therapy, although it doesn’t run to $4000 a month.  Hey, what do you want, healthy, well nourished children and a car that runs^ or greater self awareness?^^

^ All the festering DRIVING involved in my proliferating life-enrichment programmes is a pain.  It’s worth it but IT IS A PAIN.  And while I’m both a careful and a law-abiding driver I do kind of yell a lot.  I had a Classic Robin Moment on my way to my last voice lesson.  I was late, of course, because I’m always late, and I got stuck behind this moron going thirty-five miles an hour in a SIXTY MILE AN HOUR ZONE.  I was not doing my singing voice any good in my description of his heritage and his likely future.  Then we hit town—I’ve tried going the back way and all that happens is that I get stuck behind tractors, and that doesn’t do my singing voice or my blood pressure any favours either—and the slow wiggly main road was made even slower and wigglier by the plethora of frelling LORRIES parked on it while they unloaded shoes and sausages and hammers and mattresses into all the frelling shops.  So you and your soon to be overheating car are ducking back and forth from one single lane to the other, depending on where the latest lorry is parked and you are getting later and later for your voice lesson and CRANKIER AND CRANKIER.  Now, despite my malevolent views of other drivers, I’m quite the—ahem!—Samaritan about letting other drivers in, especially in a situation like this one where we’re all suffering.  Well I’d got stuck behind the final lorry and no one was letting me into the other lane.  Guess who finally did.  Yep.  Thirty Five Miles an Hour in a Sixty Mile an Hour Zone Man.  I waved gratefully but I hope he doesn’t lip-read.

^^ Note that Metis’ practise does not charge £646 an hour.  Trust me, I would not be there.

** It’s a group practise.  I imagine them sitting around at their admin meeting and saying, okay, we have an axe murderer, a pathological collector of HP Lovecraft t shirts^, someone who thinks they’re Napoleon/Marie Stopes/Edward Cullen and a writer with writer’s block . . . and a chorus of voices reply eagerly, I’ll take the axe murderer!  I’ll take Lovecraft, AT THE MOUNTAINS OF MADNESS is the best novel of the 20th century!  I’ll take Marie Stopes! . . . Silence.  I am fully booked, says the person remaining.  I totally must shampoo the cat, and then sort the contents of the kibble bin by size.  Fluffy is so particular.  I can’t consider taking on a new client till someone else has been desperate enough to take the wri—I mean, probably not till next year.

^ ::whistles::

*** Personally I scramble my eggs.  But Peter does the egg-spoon trick.

† Note to self:  Metis and Nadia must never meet.

†† If Jackie Oates http://www.jackieoates.co.uk/live-dates/ comes anywhere near you and/or you have a friend who is willing to do the driving, speaking of driving,^ and unless you are one of these poor sad creatures who doesn’t get good folk music, go.  And listen especially closely to the newly arranged and adapted 21st-century lyrics to A Cornish Young Man, which are delicious.

^ Fiona and I found a new yarn shop.  I was doing pretty well+ till I made the mistake of checking out the sale bin again.  I had thought on the way in that the Yarn Pet percentage might be a little perilous but at that point I had a whole shop to be endangered by and adrenaline was running high.  And I then managed (mostly) to resist the breathtakingly gorgeous single-skein small-local-indie-dyers gauntlet, chiefly because I have some self-protective resistance to spending more than a New York City shrink’s hourly rate on a one-off that there isn’t even enough of to make a scarf.  A fichu maybe.++

AND THEN I WENT BACK TO THE FRELLING SALE BIN.  Alpaca is evil.  Especially when it is mixed in big fat fluffy skeins with merino.  You can frelling hear it purring when you cradle it in your arms.+++

+ I say nothing about how Fiona was doing

++ If you’re small and flat-chested.

+++ Dogs purr too, you know.  At least every dog I’ve ever had purrs when it settles in your lap.  Whether it fits in your lap or not.

††† And/or stay up late and don’t do mornings anyway.  Although some annoying person^ has pointed out that I do do mornings, I do a lot of mornings, I just do the, you know, little end.

^ I never name names on this blog but this particular person is very annoying about handbells.+

+ What do you mean you can’t ring handbells tomorrow, the next day, the day after that and three times on Madnessday?  —GO AWAY.  YOU’RE RETIRED.  SOME OF US ARE STILL WORKING FOR A LIVING# AND FURTHERMORE MAY POSSIBLY DO OTHER THINGS IN THEIR SPARE [SIC] TIME THAT AREN’T HANDBELLS. ##

# Or at least staring despairingly at an empty computer screen regularly.

## Aren’t . . . handbells? this person murmurs brokenly.

‡ And this potent sacrifice was absolutely worth it for the barrage of brownie points thus accrued.  I can probably spill scalding coffee on the director/the fancy new computer/the delicately poised for heightened reactivity electronic fire alarm and no one will say anything.

‡‡ Your Body Is Your Instrument I Wish I Had Taken up the Guitar When I Was a Teenager Like Everyone Else Did.  Nadia told me the last time I was beating up Batti Batti O Bel Masetto to skip the allegro, which has all those frelling runs in it AND goes up to a high B.  Last time, as I recall, I did leave it alone.  This time I was idly leafing through it again when a little light went on and I said, Hey!  It’s a B flat!  I can (usually) get to B flat!  —So, occasionally, late at night^, when my voice is feeling all relaxed^^ and warm and willing I sing the allegro.  I can’t frelling sing and play the piano at the same time, but I do have a finger poised to hit that B flat to make sure I’m hitting it, if you follow me.  I usually am, in my squeaky un-self-confident and death-defying-not-in-a-good-way way^^^.

And next time through I can’t hit G.  I can always hit a friggleblasting doodahing G, give me a flapdoodling BREAK.  Yes, I can always hit a G, except right after I’ve hit an A sharp/B flat and my voice says NO WE DON’T DO THAT and shuts down.  That’s SHUTS. DOWNArrrrrrgh.  And then it’s back to Edwardian parlour ballads till it forgives me.  ARRRRRRGH.

^ Or in a little morning hour

^^ Sic

^^^ Yes I can hear the unglefrakking difference when Nadia manages to persuade me to float down from above a note rather than ramping up at it from underneath like a guerrilla attack on a dangerous enemy.  Sigh.  Sometimes I’m very flat indeed.  Sometimes I just . . . sound like I’m attacking an enemy I’m terrified of.+  SIGH.

+ I also indulge in a concomitant worry that St Margaret’s will decide they’re not that desperate for singers at the evening service.

‡‡‡ And brownies.  I had told Niall firmly that if there were no brownies I would remember a prior engagement.  What prior engagement? said Niall suspiciously.  Well, I forget, I said, there are brownies, right?

The Once and Future Blog*




* * *

I have started and restarted and re-re-re-restarted this blog post any number of times in the last fortnight and become variously distracted and imbroglio’d** and then at blurglemmph o’clock decided (again) that sleep was possibly more crucial than getting it finished.  And in terms of immediate preoccupations late on a Saturday night, like, now, I have another voice lesson on Monday, and it might be quite a good idea if I went to it WITH SOMETHING TO SING, especially since Nadia recently said briskly that I should increase my practise time and never mind that I think that being the Mad Singing Lady out with the hellmob counts.***  A fortnight ago, after this alarming statement, I came home and rootled anxiously through my extraordinary amounts of sheet music, 99.3% of which is pure and unsullied and the remaining .7% is dog-earned, written on, liberally tea†-spotted and only half-learnt.  But:  Mozart.  When in doubt, Mozart.   

Which pertains to some of the following.  The problem is that both verb tenses and footnotes get a trifle provocative . . . not to say hopelessly confusing . . . when written on the run over a period of time.  Even I can become only so disastrously tangential over the course of one evening. . . .

Therefore the following may be even more incomprehensibly non-linear than usual.  I know.  Mind boggling.  I’ll wait if you want to fetch smelling-salts (or Scotch) to have at hand before you make any attempt to engage with this misleadingly text-shaped object.  Good luck.

* * *

* I am reading H IS FOR HAWK^ and T H White is kind of on my mind.

^ So are you, right?  Everyone is reading H IS FOR HAWK.+

+ Which is a very good book.  But since everyone is reading it nobody needs to be told to read it.  Everyone should be reading MS MARVEL   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ms._Marvel_(Kamala_Khan) which is spectacularly wonderful in so many ways.  Now, everyone may be reading this too and it may just be that I am humiliatingly out of the loop# but even I had heard of H IS FOR HAWK before I made a pact with Hannah that we’d both read it so we could talk about it and I had not heard of MS MARVEL till I tripped over raving, lunatic mention of it on some drooling feminist blog or other and thought oh, okay.  A Muslim kick-ass comic-book heroine?  Yep.  I’m totally there.    

I’ve just been saying to my monk I am so ratblasted TIRED of the gender wars.  And turning Christian has thrown me into a whole seizure of fresh front lines about this since, of course, the origins of Christianity ARE HEAVILY FRELLING PATRIARCHAL and we’re still fighting this battle two thousand years later.  I don’t care what the Ephesian thugs say, or that frellwit Paul##, the head of me is me and not some up-himself bloke. 

But if you’re a woman in a male-biased society you can’t, you know, pass.  You’re a woman all the time.  You’re up against it ALL.  THE.  TIME.  When I was younger I had only two settings about this:  ON.  And OFF.  My younger ON was extremely, um, draining, so I would periodically flip the switch and lapse into a black leather, studs and pink All Stars haze of apparent submissive femininity, and if any testosterone dingdong wanted to assume the wrong thing so long as he kept it to himself I would not endeavour to hand him his balls on a plate.###  Because it was all going to change, you know?  It was going to CHANGE.

This runs parallel to my foolish assumption that by the time I was the age I am now we’d’ve got the available heroines in books thing sorted.~  My generation of writers was going to sort this.  I wasn’t too surprised~~ about the initial deluge of OHMIGOD A HEROINE WHO ISN’T WET AND HOPELESS about Harry in SWORD . . . I’m depressed out of my tiny aging mind that forty years later I’M STILL GETTING THESE LETTERS.  Or emails.  There are more genuine heroines out there . . . but there aren’t enough.  THERE AREN’T ANYTHING LIKE ENOUGH.  And the unconscious—or anyway I hope the doodah it’s unconscious—chauvinism about men’s and women’s writing . . . don’t get me started.~~~

But the point is I didn’t think the gender wars would have come so not far in the last forty-odd years.  I’M BORED.  I’M BORED WITH ALL THE STUPIDITY.  And I’m driven spare by being dropped about two thousand years back in social-equality time . . . WOMEN IN THE MINISTRY SHOULDN’T EVEN BE A PHRASE LET ALONE AN ISSUE.

Oh, and on the unassailable perfection and clarity of Scripture, here concerning the sacrament of marriage?  https://bobcargill.files.wordpress.com/2011/10/biblical-marriage.jpg

. . . At least having just had a state-of-the-world tantrum at my monk I was a little bit extra warm.  Afterward I went to the monks’ chapel for the Saturday evening silent contemplation before the prayer service.  It’s the middle of May, it’s shirtsleeve weather, I didn’t bring my blanket, how cold can it be in shirtsleeve weather, I NEARLY FROZE TO DEATH.  Next week I bring the blanket.  And the monk who calls me Blanket Lady may rupture himself laughing. 

# True

## I should add however that I have a curious soft spot for Paul, ranting nincompoop that he often is.  I sure never used to:  he and that toadwart Augustine were two of the flaming angels keeping me out of the holy green room.  But I empathise with the shock of Paul’s conversion experience even if I hadn’t been torturing Christians before I had my own shocking conversion experience.  I see a lot of his more distressing extremes as overcompensation.  I haven’t ever killed anybody so I can overcompensate less. 

### I also had a black boyfriend.  Speaking of passing and not passing.  I could at least jam a fireproof lid over my real attitude and put on a skirt and some pearl-pink lipstick.  If you’re a black man over six feet tall hanging out on the streets of America?  Pass?  Forget it.

A bit like being a Muslim in a Christian-centric society, perhaps.

~ I’m not going to say ANYTHING about the rest of the arts/media.  Film, for example.  ARRRRRRGH.  And the Tate’s summer issue devoted to female artists didn’t do a lot for me either. 

~~ Beyond the—continuing—surprise that strangers read my stories. 

~~~ Looking on the bright side:  the current award-sweeping literary phenomenon, H IS FOR HAWK, is written by a woman.

** Including, but not exclusively, such activities as Twitter, texting, emailing, ordering pink All Stars,^ reading, frantically channelling all that sappy riotous green spring enthusiasm in the garden before the leafage takes over and the hellmob and I can’t get out of either door without a machete, learning more diabolically frelling methods for handbells, Samaritanning, force feeding the blasted hellhounds, plus long bluebell walks and a curious spasm of concerts.  You know how when you book your cultural enrichment programme ahead your diary looks EMPTY?  And then suddenly you find you’re going to fifty-six performances in eight days.  Oops. 


+ And while I was at it I bought a pair of turquoise with red and yellow flowers.  They were on sale, there was a pair in my size, it was meant. 

*** Well, it does count.  It’s just that it counts in terms of coming home all warmed up and ready to practise rather than wasting a lot of time whining about having no voice and what there is of it sounds like a broken buzz saw.  And, unlike singing folk songs and Edwardian parlour ballads to the trees and bluebells, whining is not a good way to warm up. 

† And probably tear-

* * *

If I had any sense I’d break this up into two or even three posts.  There’s enough frelling wordage.  But if I do that I’ll just not get any of it up AGAIN while I try to tidy up the edges.  And fail.  So that when I finally do start posting it’ll be EVEN MORE CONFUSING.*  So don’t read it all at once, okay?  It’ll keep.  So will the Scotch and the smelling salts.

* You wouldn’t want me to WASTE any of it would you?^

^ . . . Don’t answer that.  Please.

* * *

I have rung handbells four times in the last forty eight hours.*  I am brain fried.  I am crazy.** 

But it’s a useful displacement activity.  I also went to an entirely fabulous ‘operatic singing masterclass’ recently enough for my head still to be ringing like an, ahem, bell:  Nadia has mentioned singing masterclasses and festivals and summer schools before that I might be interested in attending as an audience member but they tend to be held in unsuitable places.***  I had all but given up the intriguing fantasy of sitting in the audience at a singing seminar listening to people who can really sing being enlightened and inspired to sing even better and being personally crushed with despair and futility† and swearing to stick to KNITTING hereafter.

Nadia had told me some of the things to listen out for but had also warned me that I wouldn’t necessarily be able to hear either what the tutor heard or what changed for the singer.  It wasn’t going to matter:  it was still going to be a delicious and varied concert by a lot of clever skylarks and nightingales showing off like mad.  But as it happened I did hear.  This was a lot of why it was all so edge-of-seat fascinating.  In a lot of cases I could even guess what the tutor was going choose to work on.

And on balance, and surprisingly, it was more inspiring than it was crushing.  Probably because the stuff that all these talented, fancy people need to work on is still the same stuff that pathetic, talent-free dorks like me also need to work on.  It’s all the same stuff.  We’re all still human beings making music.  Even if they are the shiny dancing racehorses and I’m the three legged Thelwell pony.

* * *

* It’s all Niall’s fault, of course.  How the cross-eyed bindlestiff did I get sucked back into this frelling vortex of HANDBELLS?  And I’m now contributing to the cacophonous plague:  I was talking it up to Vidhya and Ceridwen^ and they were foolish enough to express an interest so Niall and I showed up like a plague of locusts two Saturday mornings bearing handbells and large, toothy grins.^^  Friday evening has been the standard New Arcadia handbell gathering for several years and I used to be a pillar of that community and recently have been becoming more pillar-like again.^^^  Saturday afternoon began as a one off with Niall finding a steady experienced fourth for Spenser and me to ring with, but of course there are no one offs with Niall about handbells. 

Sunday evening was demonic.  Niall knew I was going to church in the afternoon^^^^ and so he said Mwa hahahahahaha, now, as it happens, Titus and I are minus a third ringer tonight and since you’re free. . . .

And so today, Monday, I stayed as far away from all bells and frelling change ringing bell METHODS as possible, right?  Right.  Yes.  Absolutely.  I went tower bell ringing.  At Glaciation.  Haven’t been there in yonks.  It hasn’t got any warmer.  And it took me three tries to get through a frelling single in Stedman doubles SIIIIIIIIIIIGH.^^^^^

^ They’re significantly younger than I am+ and I was probably trying to convince them that getting old doesn’t necessarily mean creeping++ sanity and sobriety+++ and that indeed the pink All Stars are a true reflection of my inner being.++++  Plus bell ringing and singing opera really, really badly.  Really badly.

+ As, mysteriously, increasing numbers of people are

++ you know, like fungus

+++ We were down t’pub at the time.  Just by the way. 

++++ Including the muddy pawprints.  SIIIIIIIGH.  I have a spectacular new pair of REALLY REALLY HOT NEON PINK All Stars# which I was foolishly wearing today hurtling the hellterror by the river and we met an OBVIOUSLY DANGEROUS OTHER DOG## and in tearing her away from her legitimate prey I received major mud activity over most of one leg of pale blue denim and a generous speckly blast worthy of Jackson Pollock over one All Star.  Sigh.### 

# I was down to my VERY LAST PAIR of basic Pepto-Bismol pink. EEEEEEEP.  Had to lay in a couple of spare pairs in case of accidents.~  The problem with this excellent plan is that there are two Basic Pinks presently on offer on line.  So I bought one of each, right?  One of them proves to be the Pepto-Bismol.  The other one is NEON.

~ Invasions of sneaker-eating aliens, etc.  It doesn’t do to be unprepared.

## Clearly a sneaker-eating alien disguised as a harmless terrestrial dog.  Pav is very clued in about these things.

## But the alien slunk away swearing to lead a virtuous life hereafter and convert to donuts. 

^^ It remains to be seen if they’re still speaking to me.

^^^ Possibly caryatid-like.  I identify with that grim stalwart expression of carrying something too large and heavy.  On your head.  Learning frelling bell methods, especially in the geometrically-horrifyingly-enhanced handbell version of said methods, is really very like carrying a large building on your head. 

^^^^ Because I am stupid and have a big mouth.  Usually I go in the evening and it’s a funny thing but Christ wins over handbells.+  But this Sunday afternoon was a special ‘remembrance’ service for friends and family lost in the last year.  I was going for Alcestis and it seemed to me only polite to invite Admetus.  It never occurred to me he’d say ‘yes’.  And when I picked him up HE WAS WEARING A TIE.  I DIDN’T KNOW ADMETUS EVEN OWNED A TIE.  I nearly jumped out of Wolfgang and ran away.

+ Although when the Jesus Is My Boyfriend song selection is at its worst my mind may just drift to Sunday evening handbells.#

# It wasn’t The Little Drummer Boy, you know.  It was The Little Handbell Gang.  I’m not at all sure the baby smiled either.  And it seems to me very likely that Mary said Get these people out of here.    

^^^^^ BUT I DID IT.  It still counts.#

# Edited to add:  I’ve done it since too.  So it still still counts.

** Although I believe these two attributes are frequently found in the same trembling zombie-eyed victim.

*** Most places are unsuitable.  I don’t drive on motorways, I don’t drive for more than about forty-five minutes to get to anywhere at all, and I have a hellhound that needs a pee about every four hours.^  Six on a good day.  I have the impression that the hellmob goes into a state of suspended animation when I leave them all behind:  nothing is going to happen till she gets back.  This is useful in bladder control terms.  If Chaos is keeping a hopeful/suspicious eye on me as I twitch around the house muttering to myself he will need to go out in four hours.

But this is somewhat limiting.  I keep looking at live-opera schedules and homeopathic seminars and sighing heavily.  Because I have so little to keep me busy at home, you know.  But I am not going the dog minder route again ^^.  So I might as well stay home and practise my repertoire.  And continue the tragically hopeless quest for a homeopathic, herbal, behavioural or any other multiply-damned remedy that doesn’t include either barbed chains or hard drugs, that will make the hellhounds eat voluntarily.^^^

^ Bless his pointed little middle-aged prostate but he made it through the masterclass.  They’d frelling printed the frelling tickets wrong:  I thought I was going to have just enough time to, you should forgive the term, hurtle back home and let everyone out during the break, but not a hope.  I tried to convince myself either to miss the first singer after the break or leave before the last but I was too totally riveted by the show.  I told myself that it wouldn’t be the absolute WORST thing that ever happened if I came home to a puddle on the floor.  Or on the wall.+  I leave them locked up in the kitchen at the cottage:  there should be a limit to the amount of damage they can do. 

Anyway I arrived home to dry floors++ but Chaos was very glad to see me. 

+ Ewwwwww.  I can’t remember ever noticing that come-ons for house paint ever mention urine resistant. 

++ And walls.

^^ ::breaks out in a cold sweat of terror::

^^^ Eat? says the hellterror alertly.  FOOOOOOOOD??

† Which is no doubt why I came home and fished out Mozart, since several of the Singers with a Fabulous Future sang Mozart.  Knot those self-flagellation straps.  More knots.  Even more knots.  We will have blood

Tech rules. Not okay! Not okay!!!


It’s bad enough that I have a brain that . . . well, if you put my brain at one end of the Spectrum of Deadly Danger and a berserker regiment in a nasty temper all bearing freshly-sharpened weapons of individual destruction at the other end, and then tried to decide where a peanut butter sandwich on Wonder bread should be placed . . . it would go nearer the berserker regiment end than the my-brain end, all right?  Which this paragraph goes some considerable way toward proving.

So if I forget something important it’s ALWAYS likely that it’s my own stupid disintegrating fault because I am a frelling nincompoop and I drop things constantly* and my brain is made of guacamole.**  Which is to say I DO NOT NEED ANY HELP FROM MY TECHNOLOGY ABOUT SCREWING STUFF UP.

Which of course has no impact on present circumstances whatsoever.  Pooka keeps insisting that she hasn’t been backed up to The Cloud in years***, so much so that pretty much everything I do on her—text, for example—suffers from extreme pop-up-box-itis, something like this:  Hi, are you—BACK ME UP! BACK ME UP! BACK ME UP!—free for the dinosaur safari—BACK ME UP! BACK ME UP! BACK ME UP NOW!—next week?  If we—BACK MEEEEEEE UUUUUUUUUP—book now we get a free slushie and a Tyrannosaurus Rex—AREN’T YOU PAYING ATTENTION?  I NEED TO BE BACKED UP BEFORE THE HELLTERROR EATS YOUR LAPTOP†—hatband—YOU’LL BE SORRRRREEEEEE ABOUT ALL THOSE UPDATED FILE EMAILS YOU FORGOT TO SEND YOURSELF†† IF YOU DON’T BACK ME UP.†††

Interspersed in these merry japes also are sporadic demands for my Apple ID password.  I’m really tired of Apple’s The World Is At Risk By Our Greatness attitude which means they won’t let you reuse a password because WE ALL MIGHT GET HACKED BY PURPLE TENTACLES FROM BETELGEUSE but I would put up with this better if they didn’t periodically decide they don’t like my password and demand I come up with a new one.  I used to think this was just my idiot fingers typing ‘Agamemnon’ when I meant ‘Clytemnestra’ but no.  Apple clearly produces ALGORITHMS demanding new passwords at intervals that sure come across as random to people like me.

A new low in my tech relationships was reached this past week.  One of the things the Sams don’t go out of their way to warn you about when you sign up is that they will be requiring certain admin duties out of you as well as all those hours on telephones.  I had an Admin Duty spell this last week which necessitated the sending of emails to massed ranks of Sams.  I had laboured particularly over one such email, bent over the Aga and a cup of very strong tea with the iPad on my knee, hit ‘send’ and . . . NOTHING HAPPENED.  AAAAAAAAUGH.  The iPad gets lonely if it doesn’t get to keep a few emails all to itself.  And it likes to collect unsent emails.  You the helpless suffering human get the ‘server failure’ notice, the email disappears, the little box at the bottom of your email screen adds one to the ‘unsent’ total . . . but you can’t rescue the email and, I don’t know, resend or anything, because it doesn’t get stashed anywhere sensible like your outbox.  IT’S PROBABLY LURKING IN THE CLOUD.

And did I tell you that the last time I actually managed to hang a blog post, this from the ultralapbooktop, Microsoft in its infinite unwise bad attitude informed me that it wanted to do an update, and it wanted to do it now, but I could postpone if I wanted . . . so I postponed AND IT SHUT ME DOWN ANYWAY WITHOUT WARNING ABOUT TEN MINUTES LATER.  I HAD TIME TO EAT A LOT OF WALLPAPER BEFORE IT TURNED ITSELF BACK ON AGAIN, AND WHEN I CLIMBED BACK INTO THE ADMIN SIDE OF THE BLOG, SNAPPING AND SNARLING, I DISCOVERED THAT ABOUT A TENTH OF THE TEXT HAD LEFT FOR PARTS UNKNOWN TAKING WITH IT MOST OF THE PUNCTUATION AND ALL THE FORMATTING.

I may not have told you.  I was too busy trying to prevent my head from exploding.

Maybe I should just go bell ringing more often. . . .

* * *

* Ask the hellterror.  Fortunately she thinks it’s a game.  —Oooh!, she says, leaping up on her little bedspring legs and punching me enthusiastically in the gut with her forepaws.^  Do that AGAIN!

^ I know.  I am a Bad Owner.  I permit this.  But I think having her pogosticking about the place is amusing.  She does know ‘off’ but she hears it relatively rarely and it doesn’t slow her down much.   When I try to enforce it she looks at me with an expression of ‘I have to long sit before my last PALTRY snack of the evening+ and now THIS?’  Bullies’ faces aren’t built for looking long-suffering but she has a really good try.

+ She does too.  Three to five minutes depending on how patient I’m feeling#.  She’s got her harness and lead off and the gate is open and NOTHING BUT SELF RESTRAINT is preventing her from bolting into her crate and snarfing like crazy.  ::haphazard owner beams with pride::

There really is a lot to be said for food oriented hellcritters.  They are so . . . trainable.  Said training may be a long, bloody, and hoarse-making process but it’s POSSIBLE.  I get bombarded with a variety of Dog Media because I contribute tiny sums to a number of critter charities and they’re always frenziedly updating you as a flimsy disguise for begging for more money, and they frequently offer you clever suggestions for Training Interactions with Your Resident Hellcritter(s).   And they’re ALL frelling based on FOOD REWARDS.  I was particularly offended by one that fell through the mail slot just a day or two ago, since the illustrations included a whippet clearly getting into the whole food-treat thing.  It was a bull terrier with leg extensions and a mask.

# And/or how many knots I’ve got in the laces of my All Stars.  There is a rant to be ranted about the varying LENGTHS of the laces that over the years come with your pretty much standard-shaped All Stars.  Some seasons they’re so frelling long I could tie the hellmob to them and dispense with leads.  Some seasons they’re so dranglefabbing short you have to omit the last two or three pairs of holes to get them tied at all.

** I perceive a theme.^  I didn’t realise I was hungry.  MORE CHOCOLATE.  More chocolate is the answer.  More chocolate usually is the answer.  As the kitchen magnet says, Chocolate is the answer.  What was the question?

^ Also:  guacamole is far less dangerous than peanut butter.  You might want to make a note.

*** Do I want to be backed up to The Cloud?  The thing about little pieces of paper is that you’re pretty sure they’re here somewhere.  Explanations about what The Cloud is or how it works or where anything in it actually is involves the dreaded word ‘algorithms’.  I am allergic to the ‘a’ word.  Just frelling typing it makes my fingertips hurt.^

^ Although that may also have something to do with recent close encounters of an unfortunate kind with hellmob-comestible-chopping implements.

† Ultrabook.  It’s not ultra and it’s not a book.  Grrrrrr.

†† Although anything I’ve actually done on Pooka’s Lilliputian keyboard will be illegible anyway^ so the backing up of gibberish is perhaps more of a matter of principle than practicality.

^ Note that being in a texting relationship with me is not all joy.  Not only can’t I type what I mean to be typing, but I have a sometimes unique McKinley take on acceptable abbreviations.

††† Speaking of the hellterror, texting on Pooka lately is a lot like trying to do anything with a hellterror in my lap.^  HI.  I’M HERE.  I’M IN YOUR LAP.  Yes.  I had noticed.  LET’S PLAY A GAME.  No, let’s not.  You’re supposed to lie there quietly.  That’s the deal about laps.  Lying quietly.  SURE.  I’LL LIE QUIETLY.  LET’S PLAY A LYING QUIETLY GAME.  YOU DON’T MIND IF I PUT MY FOREPAWS ON YOUR SHOULDERS AND LICK YOUR GLASSES, DO YOU?  I’LL DO IT QUIETLY.

^ And anyone who thinks there is perhaps a hellterror bias going on?  Well, yes.  This month it will be a year since the hellhounds went on this drug that more or less holds back the chronic geysering but also stops them eating pretty much altogether.  I don’t know if it destroys their appetite or makes them queasy but the truth is I don’t care.  I’ve been forcefeeding them, oh, 85-100% of the time for a year and you could say our relationship has suffered.  You could say that.  Yes, you could say that with some energy.


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