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.
WELL I GOT SOME KNITTING DONE.
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
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.
*** 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. DOWN. Arrrrrrgh. And then it’s back to Edwardian parlour ballads till it forgives me. ARRRRRRGH.
^ Or in a little morning hour
^^^ 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 FOLLOWING IS COLOUR-CODED. THIS IS SUPPOSED TO BE HELPFUL. HA HA HA HA HA. BUT THE FOOTNOTES BELONG TO THE TEXT COLOUR, OKAY? THEY’RE NOT ALL AT THE BOTTOM.
* * *
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.
## 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.
^ I WAS DOWN TO MY LAST PAIR OF PEPTO-BISMOL PINK ALL STARS! PANIC STATIONS!+
+ 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.
Sorry everyone. I’m just so freaking tired.* It’s been a somewhat action-packed week/ten days/fortnight/century. The good news is that I haven’t knocked Peter over with the car again recently. YAAAAAY. But we’ve had three lots of visitors** and assorted emergencies.*** And Niall and I seem to be teaching more people to ring handbells.
Also, it’s definitively spring. The weather is still jerking us around† but the primroses are flowering like mad—AND MY SNAKESHEAD FRITILLARIES YAAAAAAAAAY—and the early pansies, and the early tulips and there are daffodils and hellebores everywhere as thick as marmalade on toast and it is unmistakably SPRING. So I’m out there frantically potting up little things that keep arriving in the post†† . . . and occasionally I’m also potting up things that I stuck in some perlite because I was REALLY IRRITATED that I or a member of the hellmob or some discourteous frelling typhoon broke off a perfectly good branch of something or other and if I sliced it up in pieces and stuck them in perlite . . . well, they’d die, of course, but at least I’d’ve tried.
Occasionally they live. I now have five abutilon megapotamicum. If they’re happy, they can get to eight foot. The original one—the one that got blown off the kitchen window shelf and snapped off a long limb—is getting on for six foot. It’s a terrific plant—it flowers all year. But FIVE of them??? This is just possibly superfluous to requirements.
And now, if you’ll excuse me again, I have to go sing something: voice lesson tomorrow.††† I’m supposed to be learning Rachmaninoff’s Vocalise . . . but it’s in four sharps, and I don’t like sharps, and it’s all foolhardy lines of unusual intervals—these blasted great composers are so frelling unpredictable—and he keeps flatting and/or double-sharping things that in some cases don’t have a black key there anyway AND YOU HAVE TO KEEP TRACK OF ALL THIS STUFF and . . . my brain hurts.‡ I may be leaning on YouTube a little more than I should be. Was that a chromatic scale when you strip out all the persiflage or wasn’t it? No. It wasn’t. That would be too easy. Quack. Quaver. But possibly the most annoying thing . . . Nadia told me I can just miss out the line with the high C in it—unless it’s a C flat which would make it some kind of B, and I occasionally have a high B—and I was wibbling along with YouTube and not thinking about it . . . okay, maybe the singer I was yodelling with had knocked it down a semi-tone or so but I got to the end and thought . . . wait a minute. I sang that line.
Haven’t been able to do it again of course. Your body is your instrument. Your instrument is a gibbering neurotic nutso. Sigh. . . .
* * *
* I’m reading a nice restful book^ in which our heroine winds up briefly hospitalised and is driven mad by having nothing to read, and when a sympathetic nurse loans her a copy of HELLO! magazine . . . she reads it as a desperate alternative to ripping her sheets into long thin strips and using broken clothes-hangers as knitting needles^^. And I read this with a feeling of cold deep horror and thought again THIS IS WHY MY KNAPSACK WEIGHS MORE THAN A HELLTERROR. It’s my phobia about being trapped somewhere WITH NOTHING TO READ.^^^ And given the number of times Peter has closed his hand in a door—never mind the serious stuff—and we’ve spent several unscheduled hours in A&E/Emergency, I am not being paranoid I am being practical.
^ THE JANUS STONE by Elly Griffiths which is the second in her murder-mystery series about Ruth Galloway who is a forensic archaeologist. And which are fabulous. Ceridwen loaned me the first one and when I read it in about forty-eight hours+ laughed in an evil and knowing manner, and loaned me the second.
+ despite not being able to read it in the bath because it belonged to someone else and IT WOULD NOT BE GOOD IF I DROPPED IT. I have quite a few paperbacks with curly pages . . . and I barely have a knitting magazine that doesn’t have curly pages.
^^ Okay, I made the extreme knitting alternative up, but personally I might have gone for it over HELLO!
^^^ Or knit.+ Granted most knitting weighs considerably less than three paperbacks and a fully charged iPad,++ and I don’t think they’ve started commercial production of ununseptium needles, possibly because they would be a trifle unstable as well as heavy, and my knitting doesn’t need any help in instability, but the Scarf as Big as the Universe sure takes up a lot of space. I keep being tempted to take it OUT of my knapsack and finish it at home where it can have its own room+++ but I know this way madness lies. I would just have the 1,000,000,000th unfinished woolly object lying around somewhere for me to trip over in the middle of the night.
. . . But starting NEW woolly objects is fun. Especially during that early halcyon period before you’ve made any really ghastly errors that you can’t figure out how to fix.
+ I actually went to an AGM recently.# WITH MY KNITTING. THANK YOU, GOD, FOR KNITTING.
# Reasons not to join things: the dreadful possibility of an AGM.
++ Note that I take my charging cable with me everywhere too. Just in case.
+++ Mind you in my house it would be sharing that room with 1,000,000 other yarn projects, 1,000,000,000 books and 1,000,000,000,000 All Stars. Plus assorted miscellaneous items.# But the rooms at the cottage, while small, are all larger than a knapsack.
# The miscellaneous-item problem is worse than usual at the moment because the American government in its wisdom~ decided that I had to re-prove that I live here and have lived here for quite some time and so you find salient documentation of ten-plus years ago, especially less than a year after a major house move when everything that CAN be shoved into the back of an attic HAS been shoved into the back of an attic including gruesome old paperwork. My tribulations began with the question which attic?, but more or less climaxed with insane-even-for-me tottering piles of everything all over my office floor at the cottage. Sigh. Which, the adrenaline of panic having worn off, I have no enthusiasm for sorting out and putting away again.~~
~~ Putting away WHERE? %
% Er. ‘Putting away’?
** NECESSARY HOUSEWORK. NOOOOOOOOO. Failing this activity would certainly be a way of ensuring that people don’t come back, but unfortunately anyone who gets as far as being invited to stay is probably someone I want to come back which leaves me in a terrible predicament. I keep trying to teach the hellhounds to pull the hoover. And the hellterror to mop the floor. Nobody does much about the cobwebs. Or the dust.^
^ Ways to Tell What I Am Really Truly Currently Reading: it’s not dusty.
*** See *, ^^^, +++, # above
† If I put long johns on in the morning^ I will be hot and cranky at 3 pm. But if I don’t put long johns on^^ I will be cold and cranky at . . . 3 am.
^ Oh all right, when I get dressed. There are drawbacks to sleeping in something you can answer the door in, because you can also put your gardening apron and your wellies on and do some gardening—just while your tea steeps, you know. Today this innocent activity led to my realising I was due to ring handbells in an hour while I was still in my nightgown equivalent and hadn’t had breakfast/lunch or hurtled any of the waiting hurtlables in this household.
I was late for handbells. Never mind. This fresh victim is catching on way too quickly and will be ringing Surplice Maximillian while I’m still trying to sort out the details of Basic Stupid. Which I have been for the last . . . decade. Siiiiiigh. And Niall is, I fear, only too accustomed to me being late for handbells. He may have a much-punctured dartboard somewhere with my face on it but . . . he doesn’t let even lumpy, brain-fogged semi-handbellers escape without a struggle. AND HE’S PUT AN AWFUL LOT OF HOURS INTO ME OVER THE LAST DECADE. I think I’m doomed. No, I know I am. But so is he. However as he throws darts at my face I’m sure he murmurs to himself, If I can teach her to ring handbells I CAN TEACH ANYONE.
I’m a good thing, really I am. Really. I set the standard. Ahem. . . .
^^ When I get dressed
†† More, or sometimes less, suitably attired. Hey, what’s wrong with a simple cotton jersey dress with a BLUE HILL MAINE sweatshirt over, a muddy apron and hot pink wellies?
††† Okay, I am now loud. When do I get to the hits the right notes part? I went off and stood in a corner and sang into the wall again tonight at church. I’m assuming God doesn’t mind, but the congregation might.
‡ It’s not just handbells.
I had an appointment with Dentist from R’lyeh on Friday*, the second in a fortnight.** I knew that being pumped full of anaesthesia twice in slightly less than fourteen days was not going to go down well with the ME*** but you want to get it over with, you know? ‘It’ being death, taxes, anything to do with dentists and being tour guide for the friends of friends of friends who were told to look you up and whose idea of casual chat with a stranger doing them a favour is to complain about women bishops, Obama, and your fashion†/career††choices.
I have therefore spent the weekend in a daze of chemical hangover.††† That no doubt explains why having made it to church, because Wolfgang knows the way, I was actually inquiring about the job‡ vacancies Buck was haranguing us about. Because I’m so fuzzy-minded I can’t remember that I already have too much socially engaged yatta yatta stuff to do. There’s a meeting tomorrow night about this apparently. Maybe I can forget to go.
* * *
* I now have uniformly smooth grey front teeth rather than furrowed speckly brown ones! Yaaaay!
** We’ve been bonding over our mutual first ownership of terriers. A Whole Other Life Form, we concur. I got distracted by the ‘bull’ thing and the grin, and he has a preteen son who wanted his own dog, not a part share in one of the (several) family dogs, and went for a little manic hairy thing. The paw marks on the ceiling take some getting used to as does the robust response to the hearing of burglars at inappropriate hours.^
^ ‘Inappropriate’ being a mutable term. During socially sanctioned inappropriate hours I’m available to suppress the little varmint. It’s when she wants to disembowel the mailperson at 7 or 8 am that I get a little testy.
*** Which is also why I will not have my teeth whitened, and the grey will stay grey. There are chemical sensitivities I don’t have to find out all the fascinating details of, and elect not to.^
^ The Appalling Perversities of Bodies. It’s not enough that my multiple chemical sensitivities are probably one of the sources and maintaining causes of my ME but my frelling metabolism burns through anaesthetic with the speed of an exuberant hellhound after a frisky young rabbit, so the frelling dentist has to keep slugging more into me. ARRRRRGH.
† ‘You could hire a tailor to replace the [disintegrating] lining of your leather jacket^ and wearing Converse All Stars is very bad for your feet.’^^
^ Yep. I could. And I probably will as soon as the lining rots away from the bottom hem, so all the stuff that has fallen through the holes in the pockets and now resides lumpily in the gap between lining and leather starts falling to the ground and being lost forever.
Fortunately my last lot of interesting companions for an afternoon never saw Wolfgang. Wolfgang would have given them life-threatening palpitations. I met them at the train station in Mauncester, guided them to the obvious photo ops in the obvious picturesque bits of town, and put them back on the train again.+
+ You know what really rankles though? That I can never think of anything clever and quelling to say at the time. I just suck it up like a dope and seethe like anything later on.
^^ I’m really tired of being told that All Stars are bad for my feet. I’ve been wearing them for forty years+, three to seven miles a day for most of that time and my feet are in pretty good shape thanks awfully. Some of the rest of me, not so much, true, but I doubt it’s because of lack of cushioning and arch support in my All Stars. The properly-engineered-shoe argument reminds me of the other one that says that you can’t just walk three to seven miles a day you have to belong to a gym and have a personal trainer create a specific exercise programme for you. No. You don’t. It’s not in the contract.
Now some of my best friends belong to gyms, have personal trainers and don’t wear All Stars because they hurt their feet. I feel sorry for them about the All Stars++, but it’s all what works for you.+++ I have a hellmob. We go hurtling together. It works for us.
++ Personally I do not wish to envision a life without All Stars.
+++ Although in the absence of gym membership I need to keep ringing tower bells to maintain upper body strength.# Although lifting the hellterror out of harm’s way on a regular basis counts for something.##
# Over-ringing does serve a purpose. It also burns calories. Wild Robert, who is built of toothpicks and super glue, can ring the 1,000,000,000 pound abbey tenor with one hand. And does occasionally to be annoying. But rumour has it he doesn’t eat, so he doesn’t need to burn calories, let alone go home and comfort himself with chocolate after he’s screwed up a simple touch of a simple method on a well-behaved modest-sized bell. SIIIIIIGH.
## Chiefly mental anguish.
†† ‘Have you ever written a REAL book?’
††† I was supposed to ring frelling handbells again yesterday. I seem to have got myself ambushed into this semi-regular extra Saturday in which Melinda and Niall try to chivvy Spenser and me into ringing quarter peals. Apparently this is what handbell ringers do. They don’t just, you know, ring handbells, they get together and rack up stuff they can put on their life list. Quarters. Full peals. Shudder. I told Spenser and Niall Friday night, during our usual, ordinary, low level, lots of wrong notes just-get-together-and-ring handbell session with Gillian or Gemma, that I had been badly dentalled and wasn’t likely to be up to much the next day. Spenser said he was chiefly interested in practise and didn’t actually care about quarters, which is how I feel about it, and Niall is an obsessive crazy so never mind what he may or may not have said. And Melinda, who seems so normal,^ would already have rung one quarter that day^^ and would probably bear the disappointment of not getting a second.
Well my brain kept blanking out and we kept crashing and burning. As predicted. Spenser and I had swapped pairs of bells too so I didn’t even have relative familiarity to plug the gaps. It wasn’t all bad: both Spenser and I felt we were getting useful practise.
Now as it happens the monks were holding a bingo night for prospective oblates or something and my usual Saturday night contemplative service wasn’t on. I had told the assembled bell crowd that I didn’t have my usual time constraints and so of course Niall suggested we have one more crash and clang at the frelling quarter after our tea break. I was already tired and getting stupider with multiple failures. . . .
Yep. We got it. And as I wrote to Alfrick later, God once again proves to have a funny sense of humour.
^ She babysits for her grandchildren! It doesn’t get more normal!
^^ One of the Super Surprise Delight Domineering Demented methods. The kind of thing where I can’t even read the line, let alone imagine ringing it.
‡ Volunteer. Things like chair-straightener and crucifix-polisher and cable-winder and tea-and-cake producer. But these apparently harmless if time-consuming occupations have fancy names like Dapifer and Manciple and one has the suspicion that the moment one had said ‘okay’ the task list would turn out to be seven single-spaced pages of deviant Anglican jargon meant to intimidate and enslave. Or they’d have more volunteers.