Let me get this over with.
I won’t be at Boskone next February. I’ve written to the Boskone admin and asked Blogmom to take the sidebar down.
I’m extremely sorry. I don’t like screwing people over and . . . and I wanted to go.
I’ve also known this was coming for a while but I have been trying to pretend not to know it. I’ve been putting off talking to my vet for . . . probably two months, because by two months ago I knew that his Miracle Cure for the hellhounds’ digestion, while it has certainly improved matters for which I am very grateful indeed, it hasn’t been quite the miracle cure we’d been hoping for. One of the possibilities is that the other dogs he’s cured (and admittedly there are only a few of them because it’s kind of a new and experimental as well as last-ditch treatment) are all half the hellhounds’ age or less, and my hellhounds may just have permanent unfixable damage. . . .
Last Friday I finally talked to my vet.
The bottom line is, the hellhounds are a life sentence, of which I’ve already served eight years while trying not to think about it in those terms. A kennels won’t take them and I wouldn’t inflict them on a pet sitter* and my few certifiably deranged-ly doggy friends who could and would cope are all hundreds to thousands of miles away.
And this is just the way it is. Fortunately I’ve turned into something of a homebody in my old age, and while there is a needs-must aspect to it, still, I don’t exactly sit around twiddling my thumbs, do I? And have I mentioned I’m going back to homeopathy college? Speaking of sitting at home not twiddling.** I discovered rather by accident recently that since I dropped out of the face-to-face, classroom, commuting kind of college***, on-line courses have come a long way. I’ve been poking around the corners of this intriguing information the last few weeks, and about a fortnight ago, when I finally made the appointment to talk to my vet, I thought, okay, when the vet tells me what I already know he’s going to tell me, I’ll get serious about college. Because I have so much spare time now that I’m not writing a blog post every night.
Who knows. Maybe I’ll find a cure for the hellhounds. But it won’t be before next February.
* * *
* This aside from the fact that after my interesting acquaintance with a downward spiral of dog minders and my one DISASTROUS even by my standards experience with a national pet sitting company, I wouldn’t be likely to inflict a pet sitter on the hellmob anyway.^
^ Although I could just tell the hellterror that if he/she gets out of line, eat them.
** Except knitting needles, of course.
*** For the given reason of my ME-afflicted energy level not being up to it, but the hellhounds had something to do with it too.
‘Pavlova, drag these boxes of books up the stairs for Mommy, please.’
::falls down laughing:: Now why didn’t I think of that? She’s got both the legs sprung of extra-supreme-alloy and the jaws of death.* We could have done it together. It could have been a bonding experience.**
However. It wasn’t. And at least this means there are no teeth marks on the books. And yes, I finished carrying the last monster boxes upstairs yesterday although I admit I unpacked the three heaviest*** and took them up in armfuls.
ME is a weird disease. I have no idea why I was allowed to heave a hundred book boxes† around without serious repercussions. Because—so far anyway—there have been no repercussions.†† I am inevitably reasonably fit because of all the frelling hurtling I do although on bad days it tends to be more like dawdling but the ME means that I have to assume I have No Stamina Whatsoever because I frequently don’t, often with diabolical suddenness, especially when we’re a couple of miles from where we left Wolfgang. You live like this for fourteen years and you start thinking of yourself as rather flimsy. I feel a bit like I’ve had an unexpected body transplant†††. No doubt the old familiar rickety one will be returned soon. And then I’ll fall over.
This isn’t the first time the ME has let me cope with something that I REALLY NEED TO COPE WITH‡—moving day itself, for example, when I was a lot thinner on the ground generally than I appear to be at the moment—but it seems to me unlikely that I’m really going to get away with this. Presumably one day soon, when I’m planting autumn pansies, say, or putting endless dog bedding into the washing machine or taking endless dog bedding out of the washing machine . . . I will suddenly need to sit down for thirty-six hours. Never mind. The backlist is in the attic. ‡‡
* * *
* Someone in the forum said, after I posted the photos of Pav on her birthday, that she found the Jaws of Death photo a little anxious-making. I HAD TO WORK REALLY HARD TO GET A JAWS OF DEATH PHOTO AT ALL. Pav is not naturally a Jaws of Death kind of dog. She just happens to be a bull terrier and the mythology around them is very jaws-of-death-y. If you push the lips of any dog back you get pretty much the same view: short front teeth framed with fangs. Pav is mouthy—if you play with her you’ll probably find yourself with your hand in her mouth at some point^—but she hasn’t bitten me since she was an infant and hadn’t quite got it that you can’t chew on humans the way you can your littermates. She was actually easier to get this point across to than the hellhounds had been because she’d been socialised very very very well before she came to me. She may yet grow out of being mouthy. Chaos, the eternal puppy, was mouthy for years.
^ I think I’ve also told you she’s a licker and a nibbler. The licking is fine, she’s not at all drooly+, but the nibbling is a little exciting since she favours places where the skin is thin, like necks and the insides of elbows.
+ Except in her water bowl. Ew. Which I have to change about four times a day. She has the most extraordinary drinking style. She’ll stand there going SLURP SLURP SLURP SLURP for, like, minutes, and when she comes away the water level hasn’t gone down at all, there’s just this—ew—churned up FOAM on the top. Good thing she gets a lot of wet food or she might die of not actually swallowing any of the water that passes through her mouth.
** The hellhounds would have opened one eye, gone, Eh?, and closed the eye again.^ The hellhounds had originally been Rather Interested in the new Alp in the garden . . . PEE ON THAT, GUYS, AND YOU WILL NOT LIVE TO PEE AGAIN. One of the things about having a proper garden is having your hellmob in it but things can get a little out of control when you’re also in the centre of town. When we got back from the second and FINAL book box run on Monday I let Pav out of Wolfgang because that’s what you do, you turn off the engine and let the critter(s) out but because of the size of Atlas’ trailer the gate was still open. Which Pav shot through and disappeared . . . while I was letting the hellhounds out of the house and discouraging their interest in the Alp. I heard Atlas calling her, thought OH GHASTLY AWFUL END OF THE UNIVERSE TYPE THINGS, ran out into the street and called her . . . and she came. Noble Pav.
*** One of encyclopaedias, and no I haven’t found the missing box yet^, one of MERLIN DREAMS and one of the illustrated ROSE DAUGHTER. Any one of these three weighed nearly as much as rather-large-box-shaped Wolfgang.
^ It would be encyclopaedias, you know? If it were one of my gazillion boxes of out of print editions of books I’ve forgotten writing I would never have noticed. In fact, I may be missing a few boxes of my gazillions of out of print editions of books I’ve forgotten writing and haven’t noticed.
† And I did break a hundred. I’d forgotten about the half dozen I left in Peter’s office, two of which because they were labelled ‘files’ and ‘mss’, and the others because he still has some empty bookshelves in there. But I didn’t carry these upstairs.
Also if you count the twenty or so boxes of his backlist from Peter’s office and bedroom at the mews that Nina and Ignatius packed and brought over THAT’S EVEN MORE BOXES OF BACKLIST TOWARD A TERRIFYING TOTAL.^
^ I notice that Peter has more copies of his recent books. This may just be the exigencies of publishing but I suspect there may be some malign influence from his second wife. THEY’RE OFFERING YOU MORE COPIES? TAKE THEM. SOMETHING IS GOING OUT OF PRINT AND THEY’LL LET YOU HAVE 1,000,000,000 COPIES FOR 7P PER? TAKE THEM. Let it be recorded that I have suffered for my sins.
†† Although the arnica will have helped. Arnica the Wonder Drug.
††† I wish they’d given me more hair and fewer wrinkles. Ah well, if they had, it would be harder giving this body back.
‡ I wonder a bit about late-onset ME. I don’t know that many other people who have had it long-term^ but my vague unreliable impression is that the younger you are the bigger and more unpredictable a rat bastard it is. My first eighteen months of it were entirely horrible but it mostly only knocks me over badly any more when I haven’t been behaving like a person who knows very well she has ME and had better stop with the shot-putting and the mixed martial arts. And it will usually let me pull myself together if it’s urgent, although it may make me pay and pay and pay and pay and pay for it afterward.
^ I’m also not convinced that people who get over it really had ME, although since I also believe it’s a continuum or a syndrome and not a single disease, they may just be at the far end of the range. That or it’ll be back when they least expect it. LIE DOWN NOW. BECAUSE I SAID SO.
Pictures? I would love to see pictures of the books. Even books in boxes. I’m just so curious to see what 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 books looks like. You know, in a house, or rather, an attic.
Hmm. I was looking the attic with this request in mind today. I’m not sure it’s really all that obviously impressive. I’ve done my BEST to wedge things around the edges—and there’s a chimney in the way—and it’s a long thin attic with peculiar corners, see previous blog on the subject of the ceiling.^ I’ll have a go at photographing the chief ramparts and see if I can make them look amusing.
^ I only hit my head ONCE. Of course now that the dramatic bit is over with I’ll forget to be careful again. Ow.
This is the worst the ME has been in years . . . possibly since I first started struggling up off the sofa again occasionally, about eighteen months after I went down with it for the first, spectacular, devastating time fourteen and a half years ago.*
And the furniture lorry arrives at 8 a.m. on Friday morning whether I’m ready or not. Whether I’m upright or not.**
It’s cooled off some, but not enough, and there’s still no rain—and no rain forecast.*** The hellhounds still aren’t eating. At all. I’m surrounded by half-packed boxes and piles of things that have been pulled off shelves or out of cupboards and . . .
. . . I think I need to go lie down again.
* * *
* Which is to say thirteen years ago.^ Enough to make you superstitious.
^ Good thing I’m not likely to see in any more millennia. However you count it—2000 or 2001—it was not a good time for me and I might feel a little, well, superstitious, if I saw a lot of zeroes bearing down on me again. But even Methuselah didn’t quite make a thousand, so I’m assuming I’m safe.
** Last night—26 July—is one of our two big anniversaries: the meeting-Peter-Dickinson-at-the-Bangor-Maine-airport-oh-wow-oops one. We always go out and have a big splashy dinner. Last night we cancelled. I couldn’t have sat up in a chair long enough. I know. Worse things happen. But on the Comprehensive Demoralisation Scale it’s right up there.
*** There may be the odd local thunderstorm on Friday. If we actually have one of the odd local thunderstorms, which will be a first since this no-rain thing began about a month ago, it will certainly be punctiliously restricted to the corridor between the mews’ front door and the back of the lorry, all the rain^ will run straight into the gravel of the courtyard, and everybody’s gardens and potted plants will still be lying there gasping pathetically.
^ Except the rain-god’s special water-grenades which will explode under whatever plastic sheeting careful furniture removal men deploy on such occasions, and will leave irredeemable squiggles on the polished wood of Peter’s few nice old family pieces. May these prove to be runes for the cure of ME.
Glory hallelujah I hate this weather. And if one more frelling dingdong weather person says, Oh, it’s going to be ANOTHER BEAUTIFUL SUMMER DAY, NOT A DROP OF RAIN IN SIGHT!!!, I am going to hunt them down and kill them.* I really don’t get it, about the weather reporters. Not counting people like me who comprehensively hate the heat** a meteorologist worth a third of his/her salary has to know that land needs rain. Especially standard western agricultural landscape like southern England. Endless blue lying-on-the-beach days*** are NOT GOOD FOR ANYONE.†
Okay, there is one semi-advantage to this weather. It slows even the hellterror down so—especially because I’m too tired and stupid to be doing anything like, you know, writing PEG II or a few more episodes of KES— I’ve been taking the opportunity to oversee having the entire hellmob loose at once. Usually the hellterror rampages about the place till I get tired of stripping her off the ceiling and prying small pieces of furniture or bits of hellhound out of her mouth, and then she goes back in her crate and, to do the little monster (and her pre-hellgoddess conditioning) credit, she settles down quickly (mostly) and goes to sleep. She will stop mayheming when she’s told but this doesn’t often last . . . and also, she’s a hellterror. To some extent they’re built this way. And if she wants to hucklebutt around table, human, and hellhound legs followed by the end-swapping thing till I get dizzy watching her—and then flip over on her back and repeat her morning ritual†† . . . there’s really no reason she shouldn’t, so long as she (and the hellhounds) get that that’s the deal, and that jumping on the sofa or diving in the garbage is not part of the deal. Also also, in my enfeebled state, nobody is getting as much hurtling as they’re accustomed to and while in this heat they don’t mind as much as they might, still, basic levels of stimulation should be maintained.††† And, you know (she says cautiously) it seems to be working reasonably well. . . .
But I will be very, very, very, very glad when the weather persons stop putting the next rain off for at least another forty-eight hours AND THE WET STUFF POURS FROM THE SKY.‡
* * *
* There I go again, being a good Christian.
** And hate watering their 1,000,000,000 pot plants. It’s almost enough to make me pave the frelling garden over. Not quite. Besides, if I had a garden-sized patio I’d just HAVE MORE POTTED PLANTS.^
^ After all I have no front garden at the cottage, just brick steps and tarmac, AND IT’S COVERED WITH POT PLANTS.+
+ It’s also looking pretty fabulous if I do say so myself. My semi-detached neighbour, Phineas, said to me a day or two ago that he loves walking up the little hill past my house to his because he is ENGULFED in the smell of my flowers. ::Beams:: That’s mostly the sweet peas. I invariably buy the ones described as having the strongest scent.
† Especially anyone having an unusually severe ME attack. That BathBot sealant has absolutely done me in.^
^ And of course the hellhounds aren’t eating. Of course. I’m not eating very well, myself, but I’m eating, because I know I need food like landscape needs rain. It’s true that your moral imperative quavers a little about tamping food down your hellhounds’ throats when you’re having to do something very similar to yourself, but. I’d retweeted something a day or two ago, someone howling at the idiocy of some of the anti-food rhetoric in certain women’s magazines, that FOOD IS NECESSARY TO SURVIVE and I’d added that yes, I’d been thinking about this in the post-flu doldrums of having to force myself to eat. Someone tweeted, did this make me more sympathetic about the hellhounds? Basically . . . no. They’re forcing me to take responsibility for keeping them alive.+ If it were emergency four-hourly dosings and blood transfusions and things, okay, yes, of course. But this is just bad mental/physical wiring and stupidity and obstinacy and I’m sick to, you should forgive the term, death of it.++
They tend to get all apologetic when they won’t eat. They flatten their ears and look at me mournfully.+++ That and £3 will buy me a cup of coffee, guys. And I don’t drink coffee.
+ The vet said, they don’t usually quite starve themselves to death. I’m sure usually dogs don’t. But these are food-indifferent sighthounds with something already wrong with their digestive functions, I know what happens if they don’t eat for twenty four hours and I don’t want to go there.
++ Also I’m coming out of it now, but it was interesting for about five days trying to figure out what I could feed myself that I would actually EAT. If you really really really don’t want to eat something, your throat closes and if you try to swallow it anyway you’ll gag. It was like arguing with a two year old in a tantrum. Well, will you eat A—? No. Well, will you eat B—? No. C? No. D? No. Well, what WILL you eat? I DON’T WANT TO EAT ANYTHING! WAAAAAAAAAH! And, you know, vegetables? I who am about 80% rabbit, only taller and with a nastier temper? Bleeeeeaugh.
I lost weight. I didn’t like losing weight. I’m thin enough, and at my age you lose weight you get haggard, and the sympathy you attract isn’t the good kind because you’re too old to get haggard interestingly. Also, post-flu and with the ME lying on me like a very, very, very, very, very large hellterror~ and as a person of relatively advanced years I need not only calories I need good calories. Arrrgh.
~ Hellhounds lie much more delicately. The fact they weigh—speaking of weight—a third again as much as she does, each, is utterly beside the point.
++ And then a little while later they get all jolly and want to prance around and play. That’s the fresh calories coursing through your systems, you morons.
†† This usually involves ferocious growling for some reason. If you check on her just to make sure nothing is troubling her she won’t stop growling, but the tail starts going lickety split.
††† And the hellterror is maniacally willing—nay, eager—for lap time even in this weather. After she’s hucklebutted, destroyed a few toys, pestered Peter, rolled around on her back and growled, been yelled at a few times for garbage/sofa/hellhound misbehaviour, she starts trying to climb into my lap. She can just about do it too, with those pogo-stick legs. First time I thought she was kidding, so I fished her up, draped her over my legs, and waited for her to get down again. Wrong. Half an hour later she was dead asleep and I was sweating.
Hellhounds and I still lie on the sofa together. But we leave gaps for air circulation.
‡ At which point we will find out if hellterrors can generalise from somewhat better behaviour mostly on account of the heat to somewhat better behaviour learnt while the heat was helping press home the lesson.^
^ I am of course naively assuming this welcome rain will be the kind of extra-welcome rain that drags the temperature down drastically as well as watering your garden.
Before I went down with this lurgy I had booked Peter’s BathBot** for delivery and installation this past week. This meant lying on the floor*** festooned with hellhounds for an hour last Monday† waiting for this large heavy box†† to arrive.
Friday was installation day. I had a booking slot for noon to two. I was beginning to feel a little bit alive again by Friday, so having chased the hellterror around the churchyard and locked her up with a fresh chew toy the hellhounds and I went up to Third House where I re-embarked on that tired old house-move cliché of attempting to get too many books on too few shelves. †††
It occurred to me that time was passing in a lacking-installer kind of way.
At quarter to two I rang customer service‡ and said, um, I had a date with a toolkit and a drill for noon to two and neither hide, hair nor drill-bit had I seen thus far? Ooooh? she said. She took my post code and said she’d ring the engineer and get back to me.
At quarter past two I rang again‡‡ and this time, when some other woman took my post code she said, ooooh, there’s a message for you. The message said: the engineer has been delayed and will be with you at THREE THIRTY.
First I checked that they did, in fact, have Pooka’s correct number—Pooka, who had been lying open on the table for the last two and three quarters hours‡‡‡ so I would be ABSOLUTELY SURE to hear any incoming calls§. Yes. They read it back to me faultlessly. THEN WHY DIDN’T SOMEONE TELL ME THE ENGINEER WAS DELAYED? I said, thinking of the poor hellterror back at the cottage wondering where the rest of her hurtle (not to mention lunch) was. I MIGHT HAVE ONE OR TWO OTHER THINGS I NEED TO DO TODAY. ASIDE FROM THE SHEER INFURIATINGNESS OF HANGING AROUND WAITING FOR SOMEONE WHO DOESN’T ARRIVE.
Do you want to reschedule? said the woman in a placatory manner.
NO, I said, I WANT TO GET THIS OVER WITH. BUT WOULD YOU PLEASE PASS IT ON TO ADMIN THAT YOU SHOULD TELL PEOPLE WHEN THEIR ENGINEERS ARE DELAYED? I AM, AT THE MOMENT, FEELING EXTREMELY CROSS. I’m sure she would never have guessed.
So I sprinted back to the cottage§§, pelted Pav around a bit§§§, hauled everyone down to the mews, produced lunch in which only Pav was interested, and the hellhounds and I were just about to leap into Wolfgang and return to Third House when Pooka started barking AND IT WAS THE ENGINEER WHO WAS TEN MINUTES EARLY.
He viewed me a little warily, I think, but I wanted the frelling BathBot installed, didn’t I? So I was as glacially polite as possible in this weather. And then I went back to my books on shelves and he got on.#
He was there over two hours## and I was feeling rougher and rougher, but I put it down to FURY, lack of lunch, and trying to keep any of the discarded books on the discarded pile.### And then he called me in to see what he’d done~ and as he said ‘the sealant will need a couple of hours to settle’ the smell hit me and I felt dizzy, queasy—well, queasier—and my returning sore throat started to swell. FRELLING FRELLING FRELLING I’VE BEEN OFFGASSED. If I’d actually been able to smell it before I was in the same room with it I might have had the sense to open some windows. . . . ~~
So I’m back on the sofa again. Still. Forever. Not. I hope.
And I feel like rubbish.
* * *
* or fortnight
** Since I’m about to be rude I will give them a belated alias
*** There are a few chairs at Third House but nothing to lie on, and chairs have mostly not been my best trick recently.
† An hour. One hour. Let me tell you about the wonders of DPD. http://www.dpd.co.uk/index.jsp First you get an email from your seller, telling you that your parcel has been dispatched to DPD and what day it will arrive.^ And then on the day YOU WILL RECEIVE A TEXT WITH AT LEAST AN HOUR’S WARNING OF THE SINGLE HOUR YOU NEED TO WAIT IN FOR DELIVERY. I adore DPD.
^ This for ordinary shopping like, ahem, say, dog food, when you haven’t booked a delivery day, as well as hideously expensive one-offs like BathBots when you have.
†† I’m not going to touch it, I said to Mr Delivery Man with his handcart. You just plonk it down there, and thanks.
††† Episode 76. Episodes 77 through 1,003 to come.
‡ Which was pretty much an event of its own since their 800 number apparently bounces from local office to local office to local office till—at last!—it finds someone not on a coffee break^ who could actually bear to pick up a ringing telephone and every time it bounces to the next office first you hear that little jerk in the ringing tone AND THEN YOU GET THE SAME FRELLING FRELLING FRELLING ROBOT VOICE ABOUT HOW CALLS MAY BE RECORDED FOR TRAINING PURPOSES AND YOUR CALL IS IMPORTANT TO THEM FRELLING FRELLING FRELLING DOODAH FRELLING.
^ Not in a good mood here.
‡‡ Undergoing the same lively and engaging experience as last time.
‡‡‡ Because I’d got there early poor eager fool that I was, so I wouldn’t miss anything.
§ Absorbed as I might be in the books-on-shelves question. And its corollary, the I have here one hundred books and have space for fifty, therefore I must divest myself of fifty books conundrum. And the sub-corollary which says you will comb carefully through your hundred books and divest yourself of . . . three.
§§ Which is a really bad idea when you’re struggling with the end of flu and the familiar recidivist weight of the ME.
§§§ And aside from flu and ME the weather for the past week SUCKS DEAD BEARS. It is that gruesome hot-sticky-humid that makes you feel as if you had ME even if you don’t. We’ve had several nights of thunderstorms but all they provide is son et lumiere. There’ve been cloudbursts that wouldn’t fill a birdbath, and the water continues to hang in the air.
# Because the frelling Brits won’t allow ANYTHING ELECTRICAL in a bathroom you have to go through all these acrobatics any time you want . . . oh, a light switch installed, say, let alone a BathBot. So he looked at the ground and made some sensible suggestions and then let me decide—this was something he was good at, as opposed to the ‘keeping abreast of scheduling problems’ thing—and we now have wiring holes in the airing cupboard and some curious tech in a corner of the dining room. Feh.
## You can see how he could fall behind, because of having to fit everything but the Bot itself outside the bathroom and finding a remotely suitable location for this; I briefly wondered about putting some of it through to the attic but decided that was just too Cyberiad. We don’t give a lot of formal dinner parties anyway.
### The moment you turn your back, they hop back on the keepers pile. This is another well-known house-move phenomenon.
~ And to give the chronologically careless ratbag his due, he had done an extremely neat and well-disguised job in the dining room. The BathBot itself is the BathBot but it’s supposed to be, you know?
~~ In this weather it tends to be cooler inside than out so you don’t frivolously open windows.^
^ And while the well-being of the twit who stole six hours out of my day is perhaps not high on my list of priorities, and I’m prone to environmental allergies, which goes with the whole auto-immune ME-and-other-things spectrum, I do kind of wonder what breathing that stuff day after day is doing to him, however robust his constitution.
~~~ I know. KES. Some day.