So last night Gemma and I went to a little village outside Greater Footling to ring handbells with Albert and Leandra.* I haven’t had a (plausible) chance to ring major—eight—on handbells in yonks and while we only rang plain courses of plain bob it was thrilling, not least because I actually rang like a person who knew what she was doing. I rang both the difficult inside pairs, the 3-4 and the 5-6, and lived. And I hope I wouldn’t go on about it in this unattractive way except that it was VERY GOOD FOR MORALE to do something bell-related with/in front of Albert and Leandra that I COULD DO, since I’m still 90% a disaster at the abbey.** This veneer of competence will all go away horribly as soon as we try to ring a touch, however. Ringing plain courses we were relatively speaking level: Gemma and I are still learning, but Albert and Leandra haven’t done it in a while and were rusty enough they made the occasional mistake. But they’re extremely good and extremely experienced ringers—slightly less so on handbells, but not all that frelling much less so. A few more plain courses and they’ll be ready for anything. I won’t. It is taking me FOREVER to learn to ring touches in bob minor . . . it’s not going to be any better in major. Sigh. However, last night was excellent.***
So today I had off from the ringing thing. Thursday is Niall, Colin and my usual handbell evening, but Niall was going to be pretending to be a normal civilised human being and doing some frelling cultural thing with his wife who thinks he rings too much.† Since I had all afternoon and evening to work uninterrupted, I permitted myself a little burst of badly overdue remedial gardening after hellhounds and I got back from the morning’s hurtle. Maybe it wasn’t such a little burst. Well, it was very overdue and one thing led to another, or maybe I should say that I couldn’t get to x till I’d hacked my way through y, and meanwhile I’d got entangled with z.†† Also it’s HOT again so I have to water everything. Feh. ††† So I got down to the mews late for lunch but feeling all mellow and relaxed‡ and my SHADOWS focus was all clear and unwavering and . . .
The phone rang. It was about four o’clock. We usually meet at 4:45. Hi, said Niall.
Hi, I said suspiciously.
I’m not going out tonight after all, he said. And Colin’s free. Are you? Can you ring handbells?
I looked at my computer. There’s always later.
So we rang handbells. And they just had to put up with the fact that the biscuits at the tea break were sub standard, because I wasn’t expecting to be hosting handbells today.
I am not ringing anything anywhere tomorrow.
* * *
* Gemma drove. I wouldn’t be able to drive that far and ring. She was a bit late—I was meeting her at her house, and comfortably waiting knitting in her sitting room^ and being gloriously entertained by her theatrical son^^—and rather than go through the whole complex urban parking thing she decided to take the vehicle she was already in, which was the family camper van.^^^ It’s not large as such things go but you are higher up than in an ordinary car and I kept thinking of Merry. Thus does life reproduce . . . er . . . blog serials. #
^ I have begun Second Front of First Cardie. I am going to do a proper Knitting Blog here one day soon. Fiona’s and my adventure was a teaser.
^^ It was rather a pity to have to leave for mere bell ringing. But obsession is like that.
^^^ She and her husband had taken it on a picnic. I’d like picnics better myself if I got to bring my kitchen along.
# Vikkik wrote:
Okay, now I NEED a t-shirt that says “If I wanted your opinion I would read your entrails!”
Me, too!! Something with a looming Lovecraftian graphic.
I’ve seen that T-shirt at larger SF conventions! Don’t remember who the dealer was, though. If I see it again in a few weeks (going to WorldCon in Chicago) I’ll grab a card from the dealer and post it here for those who want one.
I’ve actually got the ‘Entrails’ T-shirt. We do need ‘GerbilCon 2008′ shirts, though……
Yes. I have one too. A friend, who reads the blog and can identify herself if she wishes to, saw it at a convention and for some reason immediately thought of me. I agree that some Lovecraftian graphics might have been nice.+
I’m a bit relieved that no one has immediately posted about GerbilCon, one of the oldest, most reliable and best-attended cons in the entire SF&F world, Ursula LeGuin/William Gibson/HG Wells was the GoH in 2008, Kestrel who? Get with the programme, McKinley. I did (nervously) google GerbilCon, but gerbil, I mean google, and I are not always best friends. I dunno, should we design a GerbilCon 2008 t shirt after I turn SHADOWS in and clear off the auction backlog? Although, speaking of getting with the programme, I think most of the lumps have been hammered out now, but in KES’ first couple of months there seemed to be a surprising number of readers who didn’t immediately twig it was a story++. I know I didn’t make it easy, but . . . well, I thought it was easy. A friend suggested creating a t shirt that says: KES. IT’S FICTION, BITCHES. Which I totally want.
+ All you knitters are aware of all the awesome Lovecraft possibilities there are out there? A lot of them on Ravelry. A friend knitted me a Cthulhu—I don’t immediately see it here, I can’t remember where she found the pattern—and she said the best thing about it was knitting on the bus, having someone ask her what she was making, and being able to give the truthful response: a tentacle.
++ I, however, have been living in the so-called real world too long. There was a wild noise from the corner of the kitchen I have my back to as I sit at the table at the mews. I did not think, oh unholy gods it’s the zombie apocalypse! I thought, oh unholy gods it’s a rat!
It was, in fact, the cheap fizz in the refrigerator blowing its stopper. There is a clear answer to this: drink more.
** Gemma, who believes that support and encouragement are the answer to everything, keeps insisting that all I have to do is keep coming to practice—which is pretty much the one thing I can do reliably—and everything will be fine. She did admit, however, to chasing after me on Sunday for that frelling quarter because she thought it would be good for me.
Well. She was right.
*** They also have a great house. It reminds me of mine for some reason. Something to do with the Too Full of Interesting Stuff.^
^ Theirs is bigger though. Everybody’s house is bigger than mine. But then I have a second/third in reserve.+
+ Most people don’t have a backlist problem.
† Penelope rarely goes to extra practises at other towers, and doesn’t ring handbells at all. Incredible.
†† I also owe you a gardening blog. Soon.
††† It is a curious fact that you have more pots that need watering when there is no rain. It’s one of those little mysteries of physics.
‡ Well, let’s not get carried away here. For example, we met two St Bernards while we were out hurtling today. We got past the actual dogs without incident^ but . . .the piles of dog crap on the footpath were knee high. Now an ancillary reason to my having no desire to have St Bernards is the idea of trying to pick up crap that needs both hands. Picking up hellhound crap is not a joyous life-affirming experience but it’s just not a—ahem—big deal. St Bernards . . . well. But if you have a St Bernard you frelling PICK UP AFTER IT.
^Fortunately. One St Bernard head is the size of an entire hellhound
So. Um. I rang a quarter peal at the abbey today. I rang a quarter peal at the abbey today. IT WAS ONLY ON SIX BELLS AND I WAS ONLY ON THE TREBLE. Still. I rang a quarter peal. At the abbey . . . *
Today kind of began last Friday. Gemma and Niall and I were ringing handbells, and Gemma and Niall were saying, and you’re going to come to New Arcadia tower practise with us after this, RIGHT? And I was saying, well, no, I’m not. The old tower politics are beginning to re-emerge from the shadows and show their teeth and while I’m delighted to realise how little of it matters any more, still, life is short, and I think I’ll stay home and polish the goldfish or knit or something. No, no, they said, come on, it’ll be fun, it’ll be fine. So I finally said, I wasn’t going to come to tower practise and therefore I haven’t given the hellhounds their evening hurtle yet. But I will listen, and if you’re short of ringers I will hustle hellhounds home, take them out again after practise, and come along.
They were ringing five. Five is marginally okay on Sunday morning when you’re usually short, but it’s pretty sad for a practise, especially when one of the ringers is a beginner. Sigh. So I hustled only mildly outraged hellhounds home again** and went along to the tower. And it was fun because Niall likes torturing us with peculiar methods.*** I also wished Niall and Gemma luck, because they were trying for a full peal on Saturday—yesterday—Gemma’s first.† I texted Gemma later saying to let me know how it goes, if she feels like it.
I didn’t hear from Gemma yesterday, so I thought, uh-oh.
Now tower practise is open, while Sunday service ringing is usually done by members of the home band. This is standard. But there’s also a feeling that if you attend a practise regularly, if you’re a low-level ringer who is using the practise for your benefit, you owe that tower something. If you can’t ring at their Sunday service because it’s at the same time as your own, you can at least say ‘yes’ if they phone you some day and ask you to ring for the vicar’s dog’s birthday on Saturday. I’ve been ringing Sunday afternoon service at the abbey because that’s when they’re short of ringers and I don’t like getting up in the morning. But that leaves me hideously available for, for example, New Arcadia morning service.
Never mind that the hellhounds are going through a serious anti-supper phase which means I’m catching up on a lot of old magazines at mmph o’clock in the morning. Given the somewhat touchy situation at New Arcadia, if I went to practise on Friday, I’d better frelling show up on Sunday morning.
Well, with me, we were six, so I was serving a useful purpose. Fine. Paying your dues is a good thing. And Niall told me they’d lost their peal yesterday. I’m sorry, I said.
But I went home feeling limp and soggy. It’s very muggy, I’m short of sleep, and bell-ringing, as I keep saying, is a demanding and complex skill . . . especially on Sunday morning. I had just settled down with a nice cup of tea and a new knitting magazine when Pooka started barking at me. I assumed it was Peter with a weather report††.
It was Gemma. What are you doing this afternoon? she said. How would you like to ring a quarter peal at the abbey?
WHAT? I said. ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR TINY FREAKING MIND? —or words to that effect. I’m not the most reliable ringer at my best, and I’m a nightmare on the abbey bells.
Well, we can’t find anyone else, said Gemma, at the last minute like this, and you’d enjoy it, it’s a nice friendly band.
Whuffle whuffle whuffle, I said.
The thing is, Gemma went on, you know we lost the peal yesterday? Well it was for [insert standard celebratory life event here] and we were thinking, we could have a go at just a quarter . . . but we’ve only got five ringers.†††
Whuffle whuffle whuffle, I said.
We need you, said Gemma.‡
Siiiiiiiiiiiiigh, I said. Okay. Put me on the treble. I should cause the least damage there.
. . . We got our quarter. We did have to stop and start over—not my fault! Not my fault!—and there were a few hedgerows along the way that Albert had to drag people out of‡‡ . . . but the treble actually managed to hold her line when not everyone else was holding theirs.
And then Gemma invited us back to her house for tea.§ And somehow, I can’t imagine how, we found ourselves ringing handbells. And even more astonishing and inexplicable, it appears that Gemma and I have arranged to drive to Albert and Leandra’s house in Greater Footling on Wednesday so that we can ring more handbells.§§
I thought that August was going to be a desert of non-ringing.
* * *
** They possess such touching faith that I’ll make any shortfalls up to them. And I did. We went out for another walk while everyone else went to the pub. Never mind. It was a lovely evening and it turned out Peter had put a bottle of prosecco in the fridge at the mews.
*** Catch hold [of your rope] for Marmalade Zanzibar Fruitcake minor!
You can also torture your beginner much more effectively when there’s six of you, which is a proper method-ringing number. You ring on five if five is what you’ve got, but it’s a little bogus.
† I will never ring a full peal—I know, famous last words. But I pretty well can’t, I haven’t got the stamina. It’s three-plus hours of non-stop ringing, and the person with ME who folds in the last quarter-hour will be justifiably unpopular.^ It’s not that peal attempts aren’t lost all the time—they are: bell ringing is a complex and demanding skill, and maintaining your concentration for that long is difficult—but you want to start out with as much on your side as possible. I’m a bad risk. Also I can’t imagine not having a pee for three-plus hours.
Niall hasn’t given up on trying to persuade me to ring a full peal on handbells however. They go a lot faster than tower bells, you can sit down . . . and you can keep your legs crossed as necessary toward the end.
^ I realise this is poor-spirited but ringing a full peal doesn’t actually sound like a good time to me.
†† Saying, approximately, Get out NOW before the rain starts.
††† The peal had been eight. But not everybody wants to get back on the horse that threw them the very next day.
‡ Note that I have a strong suspicion that Gemma was doing a little boost-Robin here. It’s perfectly true that you are likely to have trouble coming up with a scratch band at the very last minute on a beautiful Sunday afternoon in August^ to spend forty-five minutes in a dark, hot, clammy ringing chamber getting blisters from sweaty hands on sweaty ropes . . . but it’s not impossible. I’m sure they had already gone through a lot of better ringers who turned them down. I doubt I was their last hope.
^ . . . during the Olympics
‡‡ You know how I keep banging on about the 3,211 bells at the abbey. It was very funny deciding which six bells we were going to ring . . . although some of this was my fault and I shouldn’t laugh. Albert had been planning on using the very frontest front six, but the two littlest bells are REALLY LITTLE and I’d yank my poor little thing right out of the belfry, because I overring anyway but the more nervous I am the more I overring. So Albert said, okay, fine, and we ended up ringing something middle-ish which actually sounded rather nice, nicer, I think, than if we’d been on the tinkerbells.
‡‡‡ Don’t tell . . . but it was fun. In spite of the almost-blisters.
§ And I ate about twelve pounds of gorgeous fresh cherries. I adore cherries, and the season for fresh ones is about six hours long.
§§ Bob major!^ Yaaaaaaay!
^ Four people/eight bells
It is now hot. Two days ago it was cold and sheeting and it is now HOT. My blood—as well as my brain—is still in Thick and Cold-Resistant mode. Hellhounds are all over me as I put my shoes and their harnesses on and then we walk outdoors into Wall of Heat and . . . they turn and look at me reproachfully. Again. There was a lot of reproachful looking two days ago with the cold and the sheeting. There was a lot of reproachful looking for weeks, there, with the cold and the sheeting. They’re going to lose faith in me. If they weren’t dogs they would ALREADY have lost faith in me.* Dogs: the only love, and against-all-evidence confidence in your omnipotence, that money can buy. It’s not necessarily a good bargain. Siiiiiiigh.
It has not been a great day overall.** It’s too HOOOOT and when I went up to Third House to view the situation for practicalities beyond sufficient compost and rose food because we have people coming to stay the end of the week, I found I’m out of things like soap and paper towels—how does this HAPPEN? Do basic household supplies MIGRATE or something? Cheez. And all the roses need deadheading, but I knew that.***
And then Niall and I went to Curlyewe tonight. We’d been due to go a few weeks ago and then Niall’s car was run into by a deer. Sic. He did not run into it, it ran into him.† Ex-deer and ex-car. We went to Curlyewe in his new car tonight.†† We blundered through the usual suspects (ouch! Oof!) on handbells†††, and then tower practise . . . the big kids got stuck on trying to ring a touch of Cambridge, which kept breaking down—cue heated discussion on who got what wrong and why—and then they’d try it again and something/someone else would go wrong. After this by the time they’d dragged their assortment of beginners through a great many plain courses of bob doubles it was time to ring down again. Feh. But I got a lot of knitting done.
Tomorrow could be better. Maybe I’ll try to get up earlier so we can hurtle before hellhound melting point is reached.
* * *
* If they weren’t dogs, they wouldn’t be thinking I control the weather anyway. When cats turn and glare at you after you’ve opened the door on meteorological extravagances they don’t approve of, you have the feeling that they aren’t surprised. They’ve always known you were a broken reed. With dogs it’s like every day you’re taking the ice-cream away from the four-year-old child who idolises you just because you can. The sad, forlorn look. The ‘what have I done wrong that you treat me so cruelly’ look. AAAAAAAUGH.^
^ Although . . . hellhounds. Speaking of AAAAAAAUGH. Hellhounds are their own little demonic subgroup within the vast complex enigma that is dog. We are continuing to struggle through an anti-food period. It’s not as bad as it was, but I’m still not having a good time. Lunch today, for example. They hid frantically in the back of the dog bed while I was putting it together and when I came after them with it they gave me the whole collapsed-subsmissive-enormous-tortured-eyes thing. It’s difficult to concentrate+ when you have to get out of your chair every ten minutes or so to move hellhound bowls and chirrup at them in a friendly and encouraging manner: ‘Eat your lunch, you monsters of prandial depravity before I turn you into rose fertilizer.’++
They did, eventually. Eat lunch. All that moving around gave them an appetite. About half an hour later I decided I’d better cut up the chicken for their supper, because Niall and I were going to Curlyewe, which is too frelling far away, and I had asked Peter if he’d feed them before I would get back. Suddenly I am besieged by a seethe of eager scrap-begging hellhounds. What the frell, guys? Eating makes you hungry?
+ I have only JUST had an important bit of frelling plot machinery delivered. FOR GODSSAKE YOU STORY COUNCIL GUYS, GIVE A WORKING WRITER A BREAK. I’m through the last draft, I’m at the final tinkering stage—the making sure the heroine’s second cousin’s boyfriend’s dog is a Dalmatian on both page 47 and page 213#—the plot was obviously The Plot and I had decided that this particular aspect of it was supposed to remain mysterious. Okay, I can do mysterious. I’d quite like to know what’s going on myself but . . . okay, okay, I don’t know, it’s not going to be in the story, whatever, fine, it’s not my decision, it’s never my decision . . . AND THEY SEND IT TO ME NOW? THEY SEND IT TO ME NOOOOOW? Frelling frelling frelling frelling FRELLING FRELLING FREEEELLLLLLLLINGGGGGG. I mean, no, it doesn’t change the story—for which I am devoutly grateful—but it sure casts some heavy srggghffdblugging atmosphere, we’re all a little rocked back on our heels here and our eyebrows are lightly singed.## Adjectives. I need some new adjectives.###
# Okay, you don’t meet any of Maggie’s second cousins, let alone their boyfriends or their boyfriends’ dogs, but you know what I mean.
## Even Mongo.
### Frelling does not appear in SHADOWS.
In the hard copy version of this article, which I only read about an hour ago, there is a page opposite the text, of photographs of nine roses. On line you have to squirrel around for another link: http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/gallery/2012/jul/23/growing-roses-best-varieties-in-pictures#/?picture=393471114&index=0 This begins with a photo of Pearson’s own garden which, if a professional gardener can’t do any better I feel he should stick to close-ups of individual blooms. Anyway, I wanted to say, off-handedly, that I have seven of the nine he recommends# although this wouldn’t be my top nine list. I have very mixed feelings about orange in an old-fashioned rose. I have Lady of Shalott because . . .well, because I had to have a rose called Lady of Shalott, and I had to have Benjamin Britten for the same reason. The Lady of Shalott is pretty . . . frelling orange, and I don’t know what to call Benjamin Britten: she’s a sort of very dark burnt orange with a heavy pink overlay. It’s interesting but I’m not sure it’s a rose colour. The two I don’t have are Lady Emma Hamilton because . . . well, orange, and The Alexandra Rose who doesn’t really believe in leaves. I know about mixed borders to hide your roses’ deficiencies, but I feel there are limits about this. I grew TAR at the old house but she’s not one of those that I miss enormously. Those I miss enormously tend to get wedged into a corner here somewhere. . . .
Oh, and that’s a terrible picture of Graham Thomas, who is a glorious pure vivid yellow. This is better: http://www.rhs.org.uk/Gardens/Hyde-Hall/About-HydeHall/Plant-of-the-month/June/Rosa-Graham-Thomas-(-Ausmas-)
# Yes. They’re all David Austins. Yes. I keep saying that Austin roses are overrated. They are overrated. They’re just so sodblasted ubiquitous. And some of them are very nice indeed.
** See previous footnote, about late deliveries.
*** I was also scowling at my wisteria which is, I think, four years old and HAS NEVER PRODUCED A SINGLE FLOWER. I know wisteria are like this, but this is supposedly one of the ones that flower in the first year or two. This one is reverting to its Palaeolithic ancestor which flowers on its fortieth birthday. It’s already got a purple clematis growing through it. Maybe I’ll plant another purple clematis.
† Deer are like this. As some of you probably know.
†† It is very shiny. I am keeping it away from Wolfgang.^
^ And the MGB is dusty.
††† No, no, the shiny new car is fine.
Whiiiiiimper. Bronwen was supposed to come down today—Niall and I were poised to beat her up with handbells—both our third ringers this week having pressing engagements elsewhere.* And I haven’t seen her in yonks and yonks—I still have her Christmas present sitting in my office.**
It’s been muggy-sultry-breathless hot*** today and I was worried about her driving in her un-airconned car. This is the only bright spot in a day of Bronwenlessness, that she wasn’t long on the road in this weather: no, she was long hanging around for the locksmith. She rang me about an hour before she was due to arrive, to say that the door lock on her house had decided to secede from the union, and she needed a locksmith to break into her own home.† She’d been waiting something like two hours at that point, and was obviously not going to make it here.
Waaaah.†† Bronwen KNITS.††† I was going to ask her KNITTING QUESTIONS.
See. There has been knitting.
And then there has been . . . knitting.
I have no idea what I did here. It looks like the yarn version of that old dumb teenage thing where all nine of you in the VW Bug get out at the stoplight, run around the car, and get back in again before the light changes to green.
I’m pretty sure I dropped a stitch here. What I don’t know is what I did next. I know that personally what I hate worst in knitting errors is when there’s a hole so Above All Things There Shall Be No Hole. Well, there isn’t a hole. But there seem to be several more stitches. After I’d knitted a couple more rows I started to worry, so I decided to count.
And I had SIX FEWER STITCHES THAN I STARTED OUT WITH. How does this HAPPEN?‡ I counted and recounted obsessively when I first cast on, and used stitch counters and everything to doublecheck. But I don’t see any way I can have LOST SIX STITCHES in what passes, in beginners’ terms, for a relatively even, regular block of knitting. WHERE ARE YOOOOOOOOOOU? So, since I was six stitches down anyway, I decided to let the extra two or four (this is 2 x 2 ribbing) live. Clearly I need their aid and support.
But I am so glad that I managed to half-plan and half-luck-into this particular pattern and this particular yarn for First Cardi. I knew from all those hellhound blanket squares that variegated yarn was the way to go: solid colours show up your mistakes way too much. And then I discovered the extra disguise feature of ribbing, so then I had to have ribbing too. The two errors we are examining here are only the largest and ugliest: there are lots of little gleeps and oopses. I want to be able to WEAR this sucker when I’m done—but I don’t want to spend the next six years ripping out and starting over either. And the yarn itself is just the right level of ‘I really like this, it’s pretty, and comfortable and satisfying to work’ but not to the dangerous ‘I am not WORTHY of this DIVINE STUFF and when I make a HORRIBLE MESS I will have to FALL ON MY KNITTING NEEDLES’ level. I have some of that yarn in my stash.
But I may yet have to fall on my knitting needles. This is only the back. All the stuff that isn’t like just knitting a Very Large Square is to come. Beginning with . . . shaping the armholes. AAAAAAAUGH. I realised a day or two ago I was within a few rows of having to SHAPE THE ARMHOLES and . . . stopped knitting. (Note: siiiiigh.) But then Bronwen was coming, and she could . . .
And then Bronwen didn’t come.
* * *
* How can someone choose a HOLIDAY over the chance to ring handbells—especially with Niall and me?^
^ Be careful how you answer that. I can have you banned from the forum, you know.
** Of course I could put it in an envelope and post it. And your point would be?
*** No, not as E Moon in Texas would recognise sultry. But we’re flimsy delicate little things here in southern England. And I frankly wouldn’t survive Texas.^
^ Neither would the hellhounds. Another friend with dogs wrote me recently about her vet, who has a rescue greyhound. Does he eat? asked my friend. Oh yes, said the vet, he eats. There was a pause. Although he’s what you might call a self regulating eater, she added. If it’s too hot, he doesn’t eat. If he hasn’t had enough exercise, he doesn’t eat. He doesn’t always like the stuff at the bottom of the kibble bag, and some of the really high-quality stuff upsets his digestion. —Yes. I hear this. In my guys’ case however the list continues ‘If the moon is in the wrong quarter, they don’t eat. If the bus at the bus stop when we walk by is the wrong colour, they don’t eat. If the first fellow in the queue to get on the bus is wearing the wrong shirt, they don’t eat. If there are the wrong number of squirrels in the Foremost Squirrel Tree, they don’t eat. If they do/do not see the churchyard cat who does/does not swank around under their noses, they don’t eat. If the hellgoddess’ knapsack is sitting on the floor at the wrong angle^, they don’t eat.’ Siiiiigh. But what I’ve finally begun to figure out, the last summer or two, is that they eat better in hot weather with less exercise. You’d think, once they’d crashed out in front of the fan^^ for an hour or so and cooled off, it wouldn’t matter. But it does.^^^
^ The wrong angle for that day, you understand. It will be a different wrong angle tomorrow.
^^ Unless it’s an Objecting to the Fan day. We have those too.
^^^ Especially when the moon is in the wrong quarter.
† This almost happened to me about six months ago—at grrmph o’clock in the morning, of course. And I don’t think we have 24-hour locksmiths around here. Fortunately my lock relented and I spent the next week basting it in WD40 and it’s been . . . fine, she says, looking around nervously.
†† She finally got another locksmith. But it was still too late for handbells in New Arcadia. Niall, who is a truly loathsome human being, suggested that I could spend the already-dedicated handbell time learning a touch that I could call next time we get together. Certainly. Right after I finish creating this failsafe appetite stimulant for hellhounds.
††† Bronwen knits appallingly well. I have to avert my eyes or I would be forced to take up tatting or discus-throwing.
‡ I don’t think the Twilight Zone ever tackled knitting. Probably too scary for an ordinary audience.
Well. I have a car. Maybe. I seem to have a car at the moment. Um. A car-shaped object. It looks a lot like Wolfgang. Except that this red, convincingly dented and red-paint-touched-up, very Wolfgang-like car-thing keeps starting. Well. So far.
Yesterday afternoon I rang the garage. The line was engaged. It went on being engaged. I said to Colin and Niall, when they arrived to ring handbells, that the garage had taken their phone off the hook so I couldn’t ring them up. I kept trying. Eventually someone absent-mindedly put the phone back in its cradle again and then there it was, ringing, and they sighed heavily and answered.
It’s all ready, said Paxton.
Uh huh (I did not say aloud). I’ve heard that one before.
Paxton heard me anyway. No, really, he said. We couldn’t find anything wrong with it . . . until we discovered it had been fitted with a gingledrabbler. We’ve never seen a gingledrabbler on a Volkswagen before.
Um. Granted that everything I know about cars could dance on the head of a pin with room left over for a picnic table, but this is not a word I’ve ever heard before, in relation to cars or anything else. I don’t want to have a discussion about it but I do at least know the word ‘solenoid’ exists, for example, and that it’s a Car Part in one of its manifestations, and that you need the one or ones in your car to be happy in their work. Gingledrabbler I do not know. Apparently it’s another of these fluxy electrically channelly things. And it was interrupting the flow in Wolfgang somewhere.
So we called Volkswagen, Paxton went on enthusiastically, and they said, oh, yeah, only a few cars were fitted with gingledrabblers—
—Which I take as a bad sign, just by the way. They tried it and they decided it was a bad idea and didn’t do it any more.
—but, went on Paxton, they said they were still making replacements. So we ordered one. And we’ve fitted it and the car starts.
Okay, good, I said cautiously. Wolfgang had run brilliantly over the Jubilee weekend after our little emergency trip to the local garage with the RAC man, and then declined to start two or three times as he readied himself for the additional exertion of dropping me in the proverbial soup at 70 mph on the motorway. And then there was last Tuesday. I’m feeling a little bruised.
I’ll take it out tomorrow morning and drive it really hard, said Paxton. And turn it on and off a lot. Give us a ring, and you can pick it up in the afternoon.
My today began last night, as my todays usually do. We are in a supper resistant phase with the hellhounds.* The current system involves that they must have lain at tortured, food-repelling angles all over the kitchen floor for a sufficient time and then locked in their crate before they will eat. Sometimes. And it’s not like the exact sufficiency of time is measurable or predictable. Nooooooo. No, you have to monitor the tortured angles, and at the RIGHT MOMENT you have to move them into their bed, and then watch them closely** for tiny signs of interest in the contents of their bowls. If you shut them in too quickly it doesn’t work, and then you have to start all over. If you wait too long they just go to sleep. ARRRRRRGH. I could be solving the global financial crisis and finding a cure for malaria with the focus and energy I’m using TRYING TO GET FOOD INTO HELLHOUNDS.
Last night was a Chaos fail. And I couldn’t stay awake any longer.*** So we all got off to a slow, late and CRANKY start today. And the weather was going RAAAAAAAAIIIIIIIIN sun RAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAIIIIIN sun RAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAIIIIIN WIIIIIIIIIIIIND sun so on the whole I decided we did not want to walk back out to Warm Upford again. Instead I sacrificed my music lesson and Oisin drove me out there.† I approached Wolfgang with caution, holding out three keys in a humble, supplicating manner.†† I got in the driver’s seat. I buckled my seatbelt to indicate my faith in the process. And with Oisin looking on somewhat cynically, I turned the key in the little hole. . . .
And Wolfgang started. Vroom vroom. There was a problem?†††
Hellhounds and I had a gorgeous post-more-handbells‡ hurtle this evening while my knees and ankles went No heavy knapsack! No endless commuting with heavy knapsack! Wheeeeee! Do you have any idea what a bag of dog kibble WEIGHS? No, don’t put it on the scale, we don’t want to know!
And then we got in Wolfgang‡‡ and luxuriously DROVE to the mews.
And now I guess I get to see if he’s going to start for the, uh, fifth time in a row. . . .
* * *
* You’ve all seen some version of this, yes? http://mikewarot.blogspot.co.uk/2010/04/humor-how-to-give-cat-pill.html ^ Of the ones I’ve seen, this one’s my favourite, not least for the ‘how to give a dog a pill’ add on at the end. But then dogs and sighthounds are only distantly related. You’re much better off giving a sighthound—my hellhounds anyway—a pill the hard way, which is to say opening its mouth and poking it down its throat. It will look at you reproachfully, but that’s about all.^^ But try to offer it food out of context and clearly the end of the world is approaching. My guys adore liver, and (usually) shoot out of their bed to beg for it if they think it’s on offer.^^^ But offer it outdoors in what might conceivably be a training environment and it’s squashy, red-brown cyanide. My guys’ recall is mysteriously good^^^^ but for godssake don’t offer them a reward for coming, that will put them right off.
^ Although it leaves out the peeing-on-you stage. I was once left in charge of a cat that had to have a pill every day. Longest week of my life.
^^ If it’s your own dog, and it manages to hork it up again, I find that saying ‘you’re supposed to swallow that, you wretched animal’ before repeating the opening-and-poking routine is usually effective. Dog Hierarchy: Make It Work for You. You might as well get the breaks where you can, you’re still going to be cleaning sick off the floor at intervals, not to mention the out-of-hours emergency runs to the vet. +
+ Companion animals are SO REWARDING.
^^^ This includes after they’ve had their dinner and I might be so brazen as to be having liver myself for mine.+ I’ve told you before that the hellhounds are so, well, awful, about eating that I have positively encouraged them to learn to beg while I’m putting their meals together: ANY interest in food is to be encouraged. This means that on liver nights I approach preparing my portion with a kind of lightning-raid mentality, because I will have hellhounds underfoot for the duration. Yes, they get scraps of mine too. When I decide to err as a dog owner, I err comprehensively.
+ I LIKE liver, okay? It’s also one of those superfoods—we buy organic—that is a Very Good Idea if you’ve got a chronic debilitator like ME.
^^^^ knocking on wood here till my knuckles bleed
** While pretending to ignore them. This is easier out in the kitchen with, you know, light, than it is in the deep dark recesses of the frelling crate.
*** I was too tired to KNIT.
† And I brought my camera . . . and there was no puppy.
†† Paxton said that sometimes the chips in the keys go wrong. So when Paxton drove us in the other day I sent him back with ALL Wolfgang’s keys.
††† Oisin followed me home. So he could pick up the bits that fell off, as he said helpfully.
‡ The theory is that I ring only with Niall and Colin on Thursday or Niall and Gemma on Friday, because I have a novel to finish, etc. But like this week we were already set up for Gemma on Friday and then Colin suddenly realised he wasn’t leaving on holiday till Friday and could therefore ring handbells on Thursday, and . . . I have no self control . . . but my touches of bob minor on the three-four are improving.
‡‡ With a remarkable assortment of stuff that seems to have silted up at the wrong end. There’s its equal and opposite load at the mews.