May 10, 2015

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 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?

. . . 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.


The Quest for Pooka II

Pooka, my (relatively) loyal (as gizmos go) iPhone, is getting ready to check out permanently and go to that big Silicon Valley in the sky where she can play with all the Sinclairs and Altairs in the perfectly atmospherically controlled Elysian Fields equivalent geekily overseen by the demiurge of technology.*  I’m still hoping to get twenty years out of Wolfgang, I guess four or five years is pretty good for a mobile phone.   SIIIIIIIGH.  The first sign of trouble is that she began jumping lines while I was texting which is therefore my own fault for getting sucked into texting in the first place.  ARRRRRGH.  YOU KNOW THE WORLD WAS FULL OF INTEREST AND DELIGHT BEFORE THERE WAS TEXTING.**  But the real moment of shock, horror and brutal recognition of having arrived at the Point of No Return was when I discovered MY BELL RINGING APP WAS FRIED.***

I can no longer remember why I got flummoxed into an iPhone rather than some other mobile phone.  I’m sure there was a good† reason.††  However I want no more steep learning curves in my life††† so if I’m replacing Pooka I’m going to replace her with another iPhone, okay?  Meanwhile because EVERYTHING! has to be BIGGER!! And BRIGHTER!!! and WHIZZIER!!!! and FLASHIER!!!!!! . . . the frelling iPhone 6 has two models:  the just-larger-enough to not squash in the little pink bag that Pooka fits in and hangs around my neck‡ and the frelling ginormous sub-tablet sized. I decided I should actually see these critters before I asked Raphael to order one.  If the slightly-too-large one is TOTALLY IMPOSSIBLE the earlier Pooka-sized edition is still available, it just doesn’t have all the upgradey bits that are probably mostly worth having, and I have a certain resistance to spending several hundred pounds on something that isn’t as good as something that is only slightly more insanely expensive and which latter is also less likely to go seriously passé and customer-support-free before it’s ready for the polished-aluminium Elysian Fields.  And with all this FRELLING TEXTING I’m now doing the tiny iPhone keyboard is driving me NUTS‡‡ and I thought it might just be worth having a look at the keyboard on the Ginormous Sub-Tablet.

Niall, ahem, texted me, asking if I was going ringing at Crabbiton tonight?   I guess, I replied, my fingers a blur of anguish and misspelling, but I’m thinking of going slightly the long way to have a look in at Doorknob and Beastly’s electronics department:  their web site says they have iPhone 6s and there’s a D and B on the Crabbiton side of Mauncester.  Since we’ve started carpooling I offered to pick him up:  he could look at cameras or longswords or something while I was muttering over iPhones.

We arrived at our local Doorknob and Beastly and a nice young man said, oh, we don’t have mobile phones here.‡‡‡  You have to go to the store in Drabness.  Drabness? I said, and laughed hollowly.  Drabness is Super Mall City:  it makes Disney World look like your small local county fair, with the lead-line pony class and the grapefruit-arranging contest.  Also you have to go on the motorway to go to Drabness.  I don’t drive on motorways.§  Never mind, I said.  But we’re going to be early at Crabbiton.

No, no, said Niall, Drabness is like ten minutes on the motorway from here.  We can do it easily.  NO WE CAN’T, I said.  He turned to the nice young man.  The Super Mall City end is this side, isn’t it?  Ten minutes from here?  Fifteen maybe?  Yes, said the nice young man.  It’s just straight down the motorway and you take the Abandon Hope All Ye Who Enter Here exit and it’s right there, it’s dead simple.  NOOOOOOOO, I said, considering falling to my knees and begging for my life.  They discussed the particulars of where, exactly, weaving among Thunder Mountain, the Haunted Mansion, Pirates of the Caribbean and Space Mountain, we were going to find Doorknob and Beastly and then Niall shooed me out of the store saying loudly over my feverish quacking that it would be easy and he could tell me EXACTLY what to do.

We got on the motorway (under Niall’s strict direction).  With me still clucking and cheeping.

And two minutes later we ran into THE BIGGEST TRAFFIC JAM IN THE HISTORY OF BRITISH ROAD HAVOC.  Of course there were no available exits.  That would be so obvious.  Mind you it was almost worth it, sitting there breathing 1,000,000,000,000 internal combustion engines’ combined exhaust and watching all the SUVs play chicken with each other pointlessly swapping lanes, while listening to Niall apologising for getting me into this.  ALMOST.

We did get there.  Eventually.  And I’M the one found Doorknob and Beastly.§§  Just by the way.  And the Ginormous Sub-Tablet iPhone 6’s keyboard is not worth carrying—or figuring out how to carry—around something the size of a frelling DVD box.§§§  And the little one does fit into Pooka’s little pink bag . . . but it won’t, as soon as I get a cover for it.  I’ll worry about that LATER.

We even made it to Crabbiton half an hour before the end of practise.

* * *

* I’m fine with—no, I’m positively looking forward to—going down under a large many-legged wave of furry things when I finally make it through the pearly gates some moment when St Peter is looking the other way.  I’m not sure I’m joyously anticipating greeting all the technology that has gone before.  In which case I probably shouldn’t give it names and genders:  this behaviour probably leads it to believe we’re supposed to be friends.  WELL YES WE ARE.  SUPPOSED TO BE.  FRIENDS.  Arrrrrrrrrgh.

** Too frelling late now:  the genie is not only out of the bottle, she’s turned it into a flower-pot and is growing a fine healthy crop of deadly nightshade.

*** Life was going to be so much simpler if I was just going to kind of sidle away from bell ringing without ever quite giving it up officially.  Like maybe if Niall moved to Zurich and Wild Robert to Ottawa.    These people who have taught you to ring somehow seem to think, okay, you ring.  I know you ring.  SO RING.  WHAT DO YOU MEAN, KNITTING?  OR TIRED AND DEMORALISED?  I SAID RING.

†  ????????

†† Which is probably immortalised on the blog.  I DON’T WANT TO KNOW.

††† I may tell you about . . . um . . . well, maybe not tonight.

‡ I totally do not get the penchant for carrying your iPhone in your pocket.  The little fold-up non-iPhone mobiles, sure, if that’s how you want to frictionize holes in your pockets:  I tend to the Large Wodge of Keys method myself but to each his/her own.  But an iPhone—even a little old one like Pooka—is MUCH TOO LARGE.  I keep reading these reviews that report, bristling with multiple dudgeon from the highest possible of horses, that their iPhones have bent.  Usually I think that modern paraphernalia is criminally tacky and built to disintegrate on contact so you have to buy another one immediately, but in the case of people who keep their iPhones in their pockets I THINK THEY DESERVE BENT IPHONES.  If you have the thing lying next to you on the table or counter or the bookshelf by your bed^ you will not only be aware of it doing its little vibration tango^^ but even turned off it burrs at you.

^ or the back of the loo while you take your bath:  I know, for someone who is still at least 85% Luddite I’m a trifle neuromancer about my iPhone, but if I say if Peter ever actually DOES phone me when he’s had a fall rather than soldiering on alone and bleeding all over the carpet, I want to get that phone call.

^^ And on the top of the loo cistern it positively rattles like a small pink rectangular castanet


‡‡‡ YOUR FRELLING WEB SITE SAYS YOU DO.  It’s a national chain, right?  So you look narrowly at the listings for both your shop and your desired item, looking for any warning about ‘not all outlets have all listed merchandise’ or similar . . . or a phone number for your local shop rather than the random national 800 number that will leave you on hold for half an hour while playing Vivaldi’s the Four Seasons on six kazoos and an eggbeater very loudly in your ear.  I used to like Vivaldi’s the Four Seasons.

§ Highways. The forty-eight lane kind where the slow lane is going 80 mph and the fast lane is in orbit.

§§ It wasn’t even that large. Two acres tops. Okay maybe three.

§§§ Anybody wanting to carry this sucker around in a pocket is going to have to buy a whole new wardrobe. With Kevlar pockets.

It’s only another placeholder


Okay, I’ve got some stories for you, but no time to tell them.  But as a placeholder you might find the email I just wrote to Worthy Charity #74,821,333 mildly entertaining:

Your web designer is a MORON.  Please pass on my lack of respect.  In the first place, why is a title required?  Many people—myself included—prefer not to use one if we’re given the option.  Then, if the standard short list of titles your site provides does not apply and one is so foolhardy as to tick ‘other’, one is presented with a drop-down list of epic proportions, offering ever wilder opportunities, Death Star Commander, Harvest Goddess, Sixth Degree of Kevin Bacon . . . and lo and behold tucked away in there is ‘Family’.  My sponsorship is a gift to four members of a family, and so with a somewhat wary relief, I ticked ‘family’.  BUT A FIRST NAME IS STILL REQUIRED.  Um.  Xxxx?  Ja-Sa-Sa-An?  What?  This is to a family.  There is no single ‘first name.’  And the four of them are going to have to look at whatever inanity I come up with for the duration of the sponsorship.  Thanks ever so. 

If you’re lucky, your other would-be sponsors are less volatile.  I am fed up to here with web sites that have been designed by lobotomised beavers with hangovers.  This time of year I do a lot of on line ordering and there are a lot of worthy charities out there, some of whose web sites function more or less straightforwardly.  I could have sponsored another [furry critter worth keeping alive and well fed] for half the price of one of your [glorified superwhatsits]:  but it wouldn’t [grow up to make the world a better place].  So here I am.  Fuming.

R McKinley Dickinson

I’m going to be at the hospital a lot of tomorrow again and then I have somehow allowed myself to get ensorcelled into frelling handbells in the evening.  ARRRRGH.  I’ve warned Niall I will have No Brain after all that knitting* but he seems to think this is not as relevant as the Body in the Chair with Outstretched Hands Holding Handbells part of it.  He may live to regret this.  Meanwhile I’m missing deadlines right and left** but if I have the kind of limbo-brain later tomorrow night that is utterly incapable of work*** but could probably splodge out a blog post as an alternative to cruising end-of-year knitting sale sites . . . I’ll give splodging a try.

PS:  Thanks for all the nice supportive words, all you readers, both on the forum and in my email inbox.  The kindness of strangers–or semi-strangers–is more of a comfort than perhaps most of you guess.

 * * *

* Just as an aside, thank God for knitting as a way of not driving the ill person you’re visiting crazy.  Also the nurses would probably throw me out after I picked the second chair to pieces.  Not that God is my favourite person recently with all the depressing mayhem in my life, but my monk ruthlessly pointed out that the bloke whose birthday we’re celebrating next week suffered^  so that none of us need ever suffer alone AND THERE’S A CYCLICAL NON-LOGIC TO THIS THAT I DON’T LIKE AT ALL but . . . yeah.  I have no idea how it works but the thing is that it does work.  It doesn’t work ENOUGH.  But . . . Jesus and knitting.  Okay.  Whatever.

^ among other reasons to do with life everlasting where it’s never too cold to sit still and contemplate higher things and eating too much chocolate never makes you fat

** No, nothing to do with EBON, I’m afraid.  EBON doesn’t even have a deadline to miss at the moment, sigh.  No, things like interviews for Open Road who are trying valiantly to publicise all those shiny new ebooks, and house insurance.  HOUSE INSURANCE??  I’M OVERDUE ON THE HOUSE INSURANCE?  Fortunately an insurance company that has had you by the short hairs for a number of years tends to come after you pretty robustly.  MONEY.  WE WANT MONEY.  WE WANT YOUR MONEY.  WE WANT IT NOOOOOOOW.  I put the cheque in the post today.  That only leaves 1,000,000,000 deadlines of a moderately life-threatening nature to go.

*** This includes looking at columns of figures with slightly more understanding than if I were staring at the Voynich manuscript, and writing my signature on the bottom of cheques that the bank won’t return as forgeries^. 

^ Tear splotches and bloodstains, of course, are majestically ignored.  Banks have seen that all before.


A wide glittering variety of arrrrrrrgh


We’ve got three or four degrees of frost out there* AND THE FRELLING MONKS HAVEN’T TURNED THE FRELLING HEATING ON IN THEIR FRELLING CHAPEL. I HAVE NEVER BEEN SO COLD IN MY ENTIRE LIFE.** At least when you’re Street Pastoring you can, you know, fidget.*** Although the big problem with SPing in the COOOOOOLD is that you’re supposed to stroll, so you can catch people’s eyes and check for passed-out drunks in alleyways and things. The Street Pastor Amble. It’s a skill. I haven’t got it. When I walk slowly I tend to fall over. My sense of balance—which used to be pretty good; I was one of those people who could run on Maine so-called beaches, springing gazelle-like from rock to rock†—has been programmed for speed since I first waveringly clambered up a coffee-table leg and launched out into the perilous unknown of the living-room floor at the age, I believe, of eleven months. About most things I’m the slowest person on the planet†† but it’s like walking is trying to make up for deficits elsewhere. I WALK FAST. I ONLY KNOW HOW TO WALK FAST. And falling over when you’re a Street Pastor does not look good. I’m working on my amble.

Anyway. Street Pastoring can be very, very, very cold. BUT NOT AS COLD AS SITTING STILL IN A FRELLING CHAPEL WATCHING YOUR BREATH SMOKE AND TRYING TO THINK ABOUT GOD.††† You kind of get distracted by thoughts of When Is This Torture Going to End and It’s Only December. I spent November telling myself that it wasn’t that cold yet‡ and that I’d start bringing a blanket again in December. And then I missed last week because the monks were having a doodah that crude amateur members of the public were not invited to and so tonight . . . well, I brought a blanket, and it’s a good thing or I’d have FRELLING DIED OF EXPOSURE. It was a near thing anyway.‡‡

But I also saw my monk beforehand, and as I said to him as he let me in, just seeing him cheers me up ‡‡‡  so I can’t moan properly.  Listen, all you loyal blog readers, a little of why I haven’t posted in yonks-frelling-plus is a little bit the thing about how if I stop posting every night I’ll stop posting altogether, but it’s mostly because my life has taken a violent turn for the absolutely shitty, and I’m not coping too brilliantly. There are days when I’m not coping at all. This blog has always been Days in the Life . . . but that’s been mostly predicated on the idea that I can find something in the daily round that is modestly amusing and can be amped up for public consumption, and the opportunities for funny are sodblasted thin on the barren, meteorite-crater-pocked ground lately. As is my energy level for spin doctoring.

The one contrariety I am admitting to, and which I tweeted about a few days ago, is that THIS IS A NEW COMPUTER. AND DO I HAVE TO BOTHER TELLING YOU THAT IT IS DRIVING ME BANANA NUT TWIST SUPERLATIVE SUPREME BONKERS WITH EXTRA FROSTING. No, I didn’t think I had to tell you that.§ And my old laptop died SPECTACULARLY about twenty-six minutes—okay, maybe it was twenty-six hours, but it was also a Saturday—after I took delivery of this one, holding to its aged and flaming bosom as it crashed burning, a certain amount of stuff that hadn’t been transferred yet, and while in theory YES EVERYTHING IS BACKED UP, um, WHERE??????

And at this interesting juncture I’m going to leave you, because I have to get up what passes in my world for early tomorrow, I have a friend to visit in hospital. . . .

I hope I will post again some time this week. It’ll be a good sign if I do. Prayers, positive thoughts, well-disposed corn dollies or anything else of a spiritually uplifting nature, most welcome. §§

* * *

 * ARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRGH. Okay, I’m getting ahead of myself. HOLD THAT ARRRRRRRRRRRGH. Meanwhile, we have three or four degrees of frost out there and any geraniums I missed in the dark are toast.^


** More ARRRRGH. As above.

*** EVEN MORE ARRRRGH. Maybe I’ll go knit, I mean knit, something.

† Well maybe not precisely gazelle like

†† WRITING BOOKS, for example. Whimper.

††† I’m sure I saw ice crystals on the Host we were supposed to be contemplating. I really hope heaven is warm.^ 

^ Hey. We all get to heaven. It just takes some of us a few more millennia+ than others.++

+ Possibly spent in small rooms with large blackboards writing something like ‘I will not murder people who misuse “lie” and “lay”’ six hundred and forty-seven gazillion times.

++ And I said warm. I didn’t say fiery inferno and demons with pitchforks and nasty laughs.

‡ And it wasn’t. I just don’t sit still any better than I walk slowly. My blood goes gelid and viscous and stops circulating. Both my congenital fidgets and walking speed may merely be the result of having lazy blood that has to be PRODDED to keep circulating.^

^ Don’t I feed you enough VITAMINS? I feed you SHEDLOADS of vitamins. Grrrrr. +

+ I hate taking pills. But supplements are one of the things that got me off the sofa again after the ME stomped me flat, and keep me off the sofa# now. I know supplements are controversial. But I’ve proved their usefulness to my own satisfaction many times by the simple expedient of running out of something occasionally and working backwards when the symptoms the thing I’ve run out of is holding off start coming back. I haven’t found the vitamin or vitamins that will plug the gaps in my memory—although the idea that this is the shiny improved supplement-supported memory is pretty terrifying.

# Mournful looks from hellhounds~

~ Smug look from hellterror, who can fit on my lap in a chair when there isn’t time for a proper sofa.

‡‡ In spite of the two turtlenecks, two wool cardigans, heavy leather jacket, wool gloves, heavy long johns under the 501 Levis, two pairs of socks and wool inserts in my All Stars. COLD. COOOOOOLD.

‡‡‡ Go with it, he said, grinning.

§ All those earlier ARRRRRGHS? Well, for example, the ‘function’ and the ‘control’ key have swapped places. I use flapbloodydoodling control all the time. For example you hit control-i for italic, okay? You hit function-i and NOTHING HAPPENS, except to your blood pressure. For another example, Raphael, in theory, gave me a PINK FONT option in the drop-down menu here in Word. If you start a new document . . . it’s in pink. Which I probably don’t want.^^^ But if you look in the drop-down menu for pink . . . it isn’t there. You have to go frelling dive^ for it in the Colour Hexagram, which is not^^ user-friendly.



^^^ I’m in pink now because I had to copy and paste format-free into a fresh document to get rid of some SODITDOODAHANDTHEHORSEITRODEINON hard line breaks that I have no+ idea about where they came from or anything else, and having just spent about twenty minutes GETTING RID OF AUTO-BULLETING EVERY TIME I WANTED TO INSERT A FOOTNOTE++ I’m feeling a little harassed. +++ I’ve also had to reinstate the shortcuts for my footnote icons and let’s not even APPROACH the interesting time I’m having with IE.




§§ And I apologise about KES. But you don’t want me doing any final tweaking to half-finished eps at the moment, trust me. It would not end well.

« Previous PageNext Page »