I rang for the carol service yesterday at Old Eden* and ran away from the evening (carol) service at St Margaret’s.** Today I’d signed up to SING*** at two old-folks’ homes, overslept†, went haring around like . . . someone with a hellhound after her††. . . made it to the first engagement with at least a minute to spare AND DISCOVERED A SIGN ON THE DOOR SAYING THE CAROL SERVICE WAS CANCELLED BECAUSE THE RESIDENTS ALL HAD FLU. ARRRRRRRRRGH. And, you know, no one told me.††† Although poor Buck was very apologetic when I rang up to ask if THE SECOND ONE WAS STILL ON. It was. So I sang.‡ And we’re rescheduled for the first one on Friday, if enough of the denizens are capable of being propped up in chairs by then. Tonight I was sidled up to by one of my fellow singers, who said, You are coming to sing in town on Saturday morning‡‡, aren’t you? Um.
It’s been a gigantically hideous week. Today’s the first day I haven’t felt like pease porridge cold, ninety days old, and rejected by rats in favour of tea leaves and old tyres. I’m not going to give you the gruesome details because it’s too depressing and I prefer not to drag myself back into pease porridge cold mood, but Third House went nova in a particularly local-solar-system-destroying way last Monday and, speaking of solar systems, I am so signing up for that first generational planet-ship to Alpha Centauri, AWAAAAAAAAY FROM HEEEEEEEEERE, assuming they want a few old hags for variety. And then of course there was last Friday. Siiiiiiiiiiiigh. Siiiiiiiiiiiigh. I went to Mass three times last week because I needed all the help I could get, but the most important one was Friday, of course, because Peter’s in the monks’ death book, what-you-call-it, liber mortuorum, something, that won’t be it because I haven’t got a clue, anyway, on the anniversary of death they read out the names at morning Mass, and I was going to be there, see: need all the help I could get.
AND THEN MY ALARM CLOCK EXPLODED THE NIGHT BEFORE ARRRRRRRGH. Well, my 24-hour kitchen timer, which I use for an alarm clock, because it turns out I’m slightly more reliable about deciding when to get up by having to add up the hours. And I was just setting it and it went HICCUP GLEEP BLAAAAAH, did a little palm-of-hand dance and died. And of course I didn’t have the right spare batteries.‡‡‡ Fortunately, and perhaps ironically, as a result of clearing out Third House I have more clocks than I know what to do with and not all of them are at the Lodge. So I had three lined up on my shelf because I had no idea if any of them were the least bit accurate and climbed into bed wondering when any of them would go off. As it happens it didn’t matter because I didn’t sleep, which was a good thing WHEN THE FIRST ONE WENT OFF TWO HOURS EARLY. No, stop laughing, I had set it correctly. It just had its own ideas. And the one that worked beautifully? Peter’s old bedside alarm clock. Whimper.
Life goes on for us the living. One way or another. And tonight, coming home from singing at the old folks’ home, I was even gladder than usual to be fallen on by a hellmob.§
* * *
* Seven blokes and me. Which felt very odd. I think in the upper echelons of bell ringing it’s still more guys than gals—gender-specific nerdism—but at my level of semi-competence I’d’ve said the male-female ratio is relatively level, although it varies from tower to tower. When I was a kid I totally wanted to hang out with the boys because, barring all the frelling sports stuff, they had much more interesting adventures than the girls.^ See any of my rants about reading books about boys because they’re the ones who went out and did things while the girls stayed home and pined beautifully. Nice for some. Arrrrrgh. Anyway. The world has changed somewhat in some of the right directions^^ or maybe I’ve just learnt better ways of finding people to hang out with, but I now feel like an alien species when I’m stranded with a lot of men.^^^ Even nice bell-ringing men.
^ Make up and fashion, for example. Except for a few years in college of way too much eye make up+ I’ve never been able to give a flying figment about what Hannah calls products although the fact that I’m allergic to most of them contributes to the aversion. And having been a skinny tomboy kid I boiled out to serious overweight during most of my adolescence and about halfway through my twenties. This was also back in the days before any manufacturer paid attention to clothing in the larger sizes, you were more or less expected to wear a tent and shut up. Furthermore I was an inconvenient shape: none of that lush, sexy female hips and breasts and thighs thing, I was a beach ball on little toothpick legs. ::Shudder:: So, fashion? I wore a tent and shut up.
+ It was the era, okay? You had to look like you ran into doorways with your face a lot. Plus major eyelashes. I had an unexpected epiphany when I got out of spectacles and into contact lenses and my eyelashes grew about a sixteenth of an inch, which is a lot for eyelashes. I’m now back in glasses and my eyelashes have reverted to stubby.# But they keep the insides of the lenses dust free.
# I wonder if eyelashes can have split ends?
^^ Except for the voting in of presidents and one or two other negligible things. Arrrrrrrrrrrrrgh.
^^^ Although speaking of fashion . . . I know there are men who not only pay attention to what they’re wearing but can bring themselves and their virility+ to wear COLOURS++ but I don’t think any of them are bell ringers.
+ which is a sexual-orientation-bias neutral word, okay?
++ Black, brown, grey and navy blue ARE NOT COLOURS. I wear all of them myself# but ONLY WITH COLOURS.
# I learnt to wear brown because Peter used to keep giving me brown stuff. He eventually learnt about black and pink but he got the ‘sparkle’ part before he got the ‘black and PINK’ part and I’m going to wear it if it’s sparkly, you know?
** Which was PACKED OUT again. I knew—well, I could predict—that it would be—if it was full to the rafters for a mere confirmation with a presiding bishop, what chance a carol service having elbow room to knit in? I suppose I was hoping for the best because there had been two carol services already.^ I don’t know if this is one of weirdnesses of grief or merely advancing age and crankiness but I really am into the genuinely claustrophobic range. Pressure headache, sweaty palms, racing heart, creeping terror. Ugh. Also my usual props were absent. I don’t know if the choir would have had me, they have a few people who can actually sing and may have standards, but I didn’t try to join because I knew I didn’t have time or driving-Wolfgang energy to make it to rehearsals. So I wasn’t singing with the band/choir and not only was the church wedged with bodies—I could have always sat on the floor in the aisle—but it was too dark to knit.
^ No. I wasn’t hoping for the best. I wanted to be able to say I had tried.
*** I still had my knitting in my pocket. There are occasional virtues to having the pocket linings in your ancient black leather jacket shredded out. Means you can get fourteen-inch needles in a six-inch pocket, because the pocket now plunges to the seams. Okay, they stick out a little at the top. Not that much.
† I’ve been having a bad go with insomnia, even for me.
†† Hurtle! Hurtle! We want our HURTLE!!! We don’t CARE about little old people or Christmas carols!
††† Given that I’ve been saying for four years now that I was going to come carolling^ it’s not entirely surprising that I was either not even on the official list or if anyone saw my name there, laughed hollowly and passed on.
^ Hey. It’s not a good time of year. Peter had his first stroke three years ago as well as shaking the dust of this earth off permanently this time last year. The other two years’ absence were probably the ME. That it’s the ME is always a good guess. Sigh. It’s amazing I have any friends left. Three of us, including Fiona, made it to Maddy Prior and her Carnival Band’s regular Christmas show last week, and Fiona said proudly that we’d finally defeated the gremlin, since this was the third+ time we’d tried and the first time we made it. Never tease the ME gremlin. I cancelled seeing the National Theatre’s live-cinema broadcast of NO MAN’S LAND the next night because I could barely stand up.
+ Possibly fourth. I’m holding out for it only being the third.
‡‡ Old people’s homes. Oh dear. I remember, I remember. I was chiefly reminded of how much Peter hated Rivendell. I did wonder if it was such a great idea to sign up for this duty, but I figured I’m singing in the band and it would be okay. It just about was . . . and a few of our audience smiled. And there were mince pies, even if I couldn’t eat any.^ Also I was helpful. Uziel had brought his keyboard but various bits of wiring at the home didn’t work as planned so he had a Heath Robinson arrangement which involved him chasing his footpedal around the floor to the detriment of keeping us on pitch. So I stood in front of it and was jabbed by an ill-mannered extension-cord housing for the duration . . . but it was worth it.
^ It’s funny what nails you. I’ve been off sugar most of a year now and have been fascinated to discover that things like the little inner leaves of cabbages are sweet. CABBAGE? Who knew? Well, you’re not going to know if you’re still putting 1,000,000,000 spoonsful of sugar in your pitch-black morning tea, and while sweet little green leaves are very nice, it’s a fairly stiff price to pay. Most of the time I genuinely don’t notice the price—I like all the brassica family, and I’m wholly converted to green tea—and while there’s certain stuff I miss, I don’t have CRAAAAAAAAAAVINGS, and trust me, I know what cravings are+, so I must be doing something right. But I am shaken every week at the moment, making up the order for one of my organic grocers, by the presence of a particular variety of gooey, teeth-achingly sweet, several-chocolate brownies, that I hadn’t yet figured out how to duplicate at home the celestial heights of the commercial ones, when I Stopped All That. Fortunately they’re seasonal, so they’ll go away again after New Year’s. I can perhaps remind myself at this point that I like COLOUR and cabbages are green.
+ Cravings are chemical, you know? Like my chocolate craving got a whole lot worse with menopause. It’s worth remembering that if you’re having a rough time with one—it also gives you something to research on Google, if you want to. The amount of health stuff out there is dazzling—a lot of it is crap, of course, but I think you kind of learn who to believe or at least to try the advice of, eventually, although developing that kind of instinct or grounding takes a spectacular investment of time. I assume you don’t have to ask me how I know this.
‡‡‡ GLORY GLORY BUT I HATE THE PROLIFERATION OF BUTTON BATTERIES. There are 1,000,000,000,000,000 different kinds and every gizmo you owns that wants them wants a different kind.
§ Pet me!^ Feeeeeeed me!^^ HURTLE me!!!!^^^
This should have gone up last night, of course—one rarely ransoms cars from garages on Sundays—and today got away from me as my days so often do. I should perhaps adopt an acronym: TSHGULNOC, which sounds a little like something out of HP Lovecraft says just before it eats you. Some day if I ever get my act together Raphael is going to commute me to another internet provider, and we will see if I spend less time waiting for things to load with my fingers in my ears so I can’t hear myself screaming. Meanwhile: TSHGULNOC.
* * *
I have a car! I have a car! YAAAAAAAAAY!
I got home last night after dinner* to a brief laconic phone message from the garage. ‘Give us a ring when you have a minute.’ ARRRRRRRRGH. Can’t they just tell me?? But I assumed the not telling me, the terseness and the . . . er . . . what’s the noun form of ‘laconic’? . . . the laconia, the laconitry, were not a good omen.
This morning I left** before even a garage is likely to be open, to go to Mass*** and decided just for laughs to take a detour on the way home, I might as well make them look me in the eye when they told me they could probably get to my car in January.† So I braced myself not to burst into tears and lie down on the floor and drum my heels . . . and first I couldn’t find anyone to ask and I figured they’d seen me coming and were hiding, and then when I did find someone they still wouldn’t meet my eyes but they said (laconically), oh, it’s all done. You can have it now.
Apparently what happened—although garage men tend to be Of Few Words††, I may have a better version from Morag when she’s back in the office next week—is that they were failing to locate a new pedal box††† and on closer examination the pedal box breakage was less drastic than feared and they said oh piffle let’s just weld‡ the sucker, and they did.
I was so excited that when I arrived home‡‡ I threw the hellhounds in the back seat and we shot off to . . . somewhere. Anywhere. We had a proper hurtle over the countryside for the first time in yonks, which has less to do with Wolfgang than with my interesting energy levels or lack thereof. We were already on the road before I thought about where we were going, and I decided on Ditherington where we used to hurtle frequently and haven’t been . . . all this year, I think, which means over a year, because I pretty much stopped superfluous driving after Peter’s second stroke and I was spending all available time wherever he was. Ditherington looked pretty good and the hellhounds were thrilled.‡‡‡
And then we came home and the hellterror had her own epic hurtle across more dangerously local countryside, which I’m willing to risk on a nice Saturday afternoon because I can pick her up if there are problems.§
I even did a little gardening.§§ Reclaiming a member of the family is very energizing.§§§ YAAAAAAAY. WOLFGANG.
* * *
* And while I’m celebrating I also want to celebrate that I’ve eaten in restaurants twice this week^ and I’m still alive. There are no fresh bits falling off that I’ve noticed and I haven’t broken out in a scaly rash that makes me look like a diseased turbot. There is hope.
^ Where the people in the kitchen may be injecting secret cow feta into the crab salad.+
+ I was talking to someone about the somewhat retro manager of a local food bank—have I told you I’m planning to do Pitch a Foodstuff in a Box Every Day for Advent# and then donate box and contents to a food bank?—whose attitude toward the undeserving poor is that if they’re hungry they’ll eat it.## Uh huh. Tell that to someone with a peanut allergy. Hey, tell it to someone who’s allergic to cow feta. She won’t die, but she will rip your face off.
# You will remember that I have been heaping righteous scorn on the designers, the gift-buyers, and the clueless, superficial and self-indulgent recipients of Advent calendars dedicated to beauty products or whisky or hamsters or something? I have had my comeuppance. There’s a yarn Advent calendar. No, no, no, no. It’s okay though. It’s way too expensive. And furthermore the yarn is acrylic. BUT I BET YOU COULD MAKE A REALLY CUTE BABY BLANKET FOR CHARITY OUT OF TWENTY-FOUR SQUARES OF ADVENT CALENDAR YARN.~
~ And someone can explain to me why Advent calendars only have twenty four windows when Advent starts some time before that. This year apparently on 27 November. Presumably I start my food box on the 27th even though I don’t have any fun till the 1st of December.=
= Although since I’m planning to do readings out of THE ROADS FROM BETHLEHEM https://www.amazon.co.uk/Roads-Bethlehem-Christmas-Literature-Writers/dp/0664221572/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1479600578&sr=8-1&keywords=road+from+bethlehem which Alfrick loaned me his old, well-loved copy of to shut me up about my latest opportunity for outrage, the Shocking Commercialisation of Advent. What’s next? Give your sweetheart a dozen chocolate pencils for Punctuation Day? . . . ANYWAY. Since I’m planning to declaim to the hellmob, the Aga and the indoor jungle I could start that on the 27th too.
## I’m sure there’s a place in the new American cabinet for this moron. Health and human services possibly. Or education.
** And a word here for St Admetus. He’s been letting me drive his car. The only drawback to this fabulous, beyond-my-wildest-imaginings situation is that Fleur is new.^ You will remember that one of the reasons I want to keep my ancient, beat-up car is that any car that lived with me would become ancient and beat-up pretty fast. It’s very hard on a person trying to behave in a drastically out of character a manner . . . although in my defence a lot of Wolfgang’s more interesting impairments have to do with inadequately maintained back country roads and I wouldn’t DREAM of taking Fleur anywhere but on flawlessly paved roads, or as frelling flawlessly as the frelling Hampshire county council can provide which isn’t blistering very. But there are one or two other variations like the fact that her brakes are DELICATE. You speak to them sweetly and for pity’s sake don’t actually step on them. I did eventually stop throwing myself through the windscreen.^^ . . . Which meant that when I got behind the more robust and jolly Wolfgang’s wheel again I was all WHERE ARE THE BRAAAAAAAAAKES.
The other high point was arriving with Fleur at my late-night shift at the Sams and not being able to pull the frelling ignition key out of the frelling ignition.
^ She’s also shiny and WHITE. Admetus washes his car+. Fancy. But anything I come in contact with staggers away from the encounter covered in mud and dog hair. Although I may be doing the hellmob an injustice. I think I must produce dog hair too. Hmmmm.
+ Have I mentioned that Wolfgang now has Herb Robert growing in the crack between the windscreen and the hinge of the bonnet?
^^ Fortunately modern flexi-plast windscreens don’t star on impact very easily.
*** Before I realised the extent to which St Admetus is willing to sacrifice himself on the altar of friendship I’d been telling myself that it was not the end of the world^ if I didn’t make it to Mass^^ this week.^^^ The result is this is now the second week in a row that I’ve gone both to morning Mass and the night contemplative service on Saturday, pant, gasp, whiplash, due to circumstances beyond my control. God likes her little joke.
^ That would have been 8 November
^^ Jonesing for the Eucharist. Go Jesus.
^^^ I’d been trying to figure out the festering bus schedule. The buses between here and Mauncester in one direction and Opprobrium in the other are pretty reliable. But if you want to peel off in a funny direction from the main route, like, say, Dreepworth, which is a village of about three, plus some monks well back among the trees+, there are rumours of a local bus but no one knows anything about it. It is not encouraging that it is further rumoured to stop at the ski lodge and the planetarium. Dreepworth does not have a ski lodge or a planetarium.
+ And a big sign that says WELCOME. I like that sign.
† Since I was there I thought the least I could do was fill up the petrol tank. You have to release the lock, said the helpful petrol-pump man. RELEASE? THE LOCK?? We had to get the frelling handbook out to find the frelling petrol-tank release latch ARRRRRRRGH. Admetus thought this was very funny.^ I had to tell him since the first thing he said was, how did you find the petrol tank release?
^ Hey. I’d written down the mileage and the litres because I knew Admetus is the kind of OCD git . . . I mean, the kind of thoughtful, responsible car owner+ who keeps track of such things. GIVE ME SOME CREDIT HERE.
+ Yes. Admetus usually reads the blog.
†† I should perhaps specify intelligible words. Paxton is usually happy to explain exactly what happened in great detail, except that I don’t know any of the words he’s using, since they have to do with cars and I pretty much stop with ‘steering wheel’ and ‘rear view mirror’.
††† Those Fijians really like their pristine showcases.
‡ Welding. You youngsters may not have heard of this interesting ploy. It’s something you can do to old cars which are still mostly made out of metal.^
^ Except the FENDERS. Which are made out of plastic-coated papier mache and fall off at a TOUCH. There is a humiliating story about this in the archives somewhere.
‡‡ Admetus having given me a lift back out to Warm Upford to fetch Wolfgang
‡‡‡ Although the reason Ditherington began to fall out of favour in the first place is because the local gamekeeper is/was a ratbag sod. He’s the one responsible, for example, for the line of guns across a public footpath one shooting season which is frankly illegal, and which the hellhounds and I walked straight into because you’re coming out of a copse into a field and you have no warning what you’re getting into unless they’re actually firing which I am glad to say they weren’t. And I grew very tired of him snapping and snarling for no reason but that he was in a nasty mood and didn’t like old women walking their dogs. If someone could tell me he now has a job wrestling alligators in Florida, and that the new keeper prefers to sit on a hay bale and knit, I would be very happy.
§ We had an absolutely classic run in with an off lead dog. It was coming down the hill on lead to our right as we carried on straight ahead along the footpath. The idiot woman saw us. I saw her seeing us. And the moment we were out of sight behind the fence she let Throgmorton off the lead and he instantly hared after us, coming around the corner on one leg and a tail. CALL YOUR DOG, I said, scooping up the meanest SOB in the valley. Throgmorton was about the size of an SUV and I was considering climbing the fence—with an armful of Meanest SOB—when Idiot Woman came panting around the corner and did, in fact, catch her abominable dog.
§§ It started to rain as I was putting on my pink wellies. I heard Peter’s voice in my ear saying It’s not wet rain and went out anyway.
§§§ Really I’m on a roll. I bounced through not one but two social occasions last night—first catching up with Ceridwen and Vidhya and the little frumplet^ and then dinner with Nina and Ignatius. Hey, wouldn’t it be great if I were just getting stronger? Yes. It would be great. ^^
^ Who will soon grow out of the fabulous baby blanket he hasn’t received
^^ Maybe I could even get more than three syllables a day of story-in-progress written. That would be GREAT.
. . . Also, yesterday. I’m now officially even older than I was. This keeps happening. You’re just kind of getting used to being twelve or thirty-five or fifty or a hundred and three and zap you have to get used to being thirteen or thirty-six or fifty-one or a hundred and four. And that’s not good enough either! Fifty two more weeks and you’re fourteen or thirty seven or fifty two or a hundred and five! No wonder human beings are so insecure. Stuff keeps changing. It’s very unsettling.
So yesterday I didn’t ring the garage because I figured if there was any good news they would have rung me and I didn’t want avoidable bad news on my birthday.* But the hellmob and I had a variety of nice walks even if they were perforce in town, I gave myself the day off from hitting myself repeatedly in the head with a brick, I mean, working on story-in-progress, and I had dinner out with a friend.** We had a really lovely relaxing delectable dinner*** and I don’t think I gave our waiter a nervous breakdown with all my searching questions about ingredients.† I even had half a half glass of wine.††
And I came home, hurtled the hellmob for the last time, opened all my presents . . . and fell into a deep funk. This time last year Peter was so frail he stayed in bed and didn’t come to the birthday party in one of Rivendell’s little private function rooms. We took turns ferrying him fizz and dainties. . . .
Life. Birthdays. Crap. But I have several excellent new books to read.†††
* * *
* I rang them today. They’re in negotiations with the old VW parts factory in Viti Levu for the pristine 20-year-old VW Golf pedal box kept in a glass case outside the CEO’s office as a particularly fascinating example of last century’s technology^. They will ring me when they have anything to tell me, like whether I’ll get my car back before the frelling end of the frelling year. At least they’re not saying ‘buy a new car’. Hey! He doesn’t even have two hundred thousand miles on him yet! A diesel VW ought to be worth 200,000 miles!
^ I have no idea why it’s particularly fascinating. I have no idea what a pedal box is.+
+ I mean, why would you keep your pedals in a box? Generally you want them out doing mobile, pedally things.#
# I know, I know. Don’t tell me.
** I think this was the first time I’ve been in a skirt since Peter’s memorial. I’ve almost forgotten how.^
^ Tights. Where do I keep my frelling TIGHTS?
*** I may have knitted between courses
† It seems like a great idea that restaurants post their menus on line these days^ and if you eat like I do you need to check ahead one way or another. It’s easier and less embarrassing to do it via google rather than get into one of those no-win conversations with a phone-answering member of staff who has probably heard of gluten-free and lactose intolerance^^ but by the time you’ve rejected several harmless-sounding possibilities due to the presence of nightshades or cereal grains you can hear the person at the other end of the line wanting to go into another line of work. Immediately. So I read up before I go anywhere and then I get there and . . . they’ve changed the menu. The, one might almost say delicious, irony here is that this is likeliest to happen in the local-seasonal-footprint-conscious restaurants I’m likeliest to opt for. This happened last night. It will probably happen again tomorrow night when I’m having dinner with some other friends at another local-seasonal-patient-with-the-deranged restaurant.
^ especially if you’re some frelling import like me who can’t get her head around the idea that traditional British food means meat, stodge and gravy. There are quite a few old-fashioned pubs in this area who are awarded lots of stars and fulsome acclaim on Trip Advisor where there isn’t a green veg in sight, where the side dishes are all things you can do with potatoes. What seems to me even more bizarre is that you may be likelier to see aloo masala or onion paratha than a plain mixed green salad or, you know, Brussel sprouts or leeks+ or something you or your neighbour might very well have in your garden.++ I know Britain is now Curry Nation but until global warming gets a better grip we still can’t grow turmeric here. And personally I’d prefer to go on importing our turmeric and not grow malaria here either.
+ You know, fresh local seasonal veg. I also prefer to stay away from restaurants whose menus are advertising fresh asparagus in November.
++ It’s not looking good for the five# a day.
# Or seven. The latest seems to be seven. And people are still eating at Macdonalds. Oh but wait, they’re having a bedtime snack of broccoli with their hot milk, right? And getting up in the morning to a ginormous platter of raw spinach salad with their hot caffeine. Come on guys. Vegetables are good. Vegetables are friendly. Vegetables have your best interests at heart.
^^ I haven’t given you the gruesome details of my ‘food poisoning’ the other week, have I? My medical herbalist, whom we will call Gundred, both because she deserves a name and because ‘medical herbalist’ is a daunting phrase, persuaded me that goats’- and sheep-milk products were worth a try. Non-cow dairy would contribute to Building Me Up and it would be a nice boost to variety in my diet. Well I like the yogurt and I like kefir a lot+ but the cheeeeeeeese. . . . . I had no idea I loved/missed cheese this much. AHHHHHHHHHH. Eating cheese again is like the first thing that has made me happy since Peter died.++
So one of my visiting friends and I went to lunch at one of the local pubs who is Used to Me. And lo they had changed their menu—local and seasonal, you know—to include a root-veg salad I could actually eat without asking them to hold half the ingredients and substitute the other half. The salad included feta cheese. I adore feta cheese, I (now) eat it at home regularly (wheeeeeee).
I put my friend back on the train and went home and felt sicker and sicker and sicker and every bone and muscle in my body turned into one big throbbing ache and I had dancing anvils in my head. And I thought WTF, this is my dairy allergy. I tried to think of anything else that might have done this to me, failed—but the dancing anvils were having a somewhat negative effect on my thought processes—and eventually in despair googled feta. Where I was informed that it was, indeed, goats’ and/or sheep cheese, but some evil ratbag Northern Europeans sometimes made it out of cows’ milk. Which is pretty clearly what happened to me.
It’s taken me frelling weeks to recover. Everything hurt and none of the bendy things bent properly, so for example closing my hands on a bell rope or a berserking hellterror who wants that other dog to know that she is the meanest SOB in the valley was both unpleasant and perilous. But when the frelling eczema started I panicked because this was a good two weeks after the incident and I was afraid my body was rejecting the goats and sheep too. Noooooooo. But the eczema has subsided . . . and I’m still eating cheese (and yogurt and kefir).
But my point is I don’t torture waiters for fun. I’m pathological for cause.+++
+ And since I have to make my own it had better be worth it. Although making it is kind of fun. It’s like a school science project. You mix the weird stuff together and then you put the result in a jar and wait to see what happens.
++ The high doesn’t last, of course, but for the few minutes I’m actually eating cheese the world cannot touch me.#
# Barring the hellterror getting the refrigerator door open~ or one of the hellhounds climbing the garden wall. Because they can. I hope they can’t, but I wouldn’t put it past them. Reasons the hellmob are never in the garden unless I’m out there too. Especially now we’re surrounded by little yappy dogs. Arrrrrrrrrgh. Although the ones we share walls with are fine really. Damien is on the other side of the cul de sac. And the hellmob isn’t in the Lodge’s garden without me either. They probably could get over that wall, but eating Damien would probably give them food poisoning.
~ I Live In Fear
+++ As part of Birthday Celebration Week we were going to go to one of the big national gardens that plants for year round interest as they say, not to mention tourist money. But we had thunderstorms and horizontal rain today in unpredictable bursts, so we went to a film instead. I’ve seen three films in the last six months. I hope you’re impressed. Hey, I could do a film review post.# Today’s was ARRIVAL. And never mind what I thought of it—I’ll tell you that in my film review post—it more or less begins with our heroine being told she has ten minutes to pack before the big guy takes her off to a top-secret-clearance military encampment. This is one of twelve top-secret-clearance military encampments all over the world, pitched next to twelve alien spacecraft which have materialised out of nowhere and seem to want the natives to talk to them. Our heroine is a hot shot linguist. But I was thinking, if some big guy knocked on my door and said, I Am Going to Give You the Chance of a Life Time, you have ten minutes to pack, I would say, wait, can you GUARANTEE 100% fresh organic food to a strict schedule, to include barrowloads of dark green leafy things, no cereal grains, no nightshades, a hearty dose of chicken liver every week, ditto oily fish, goats’ and sheep cheese and some funny beverages including green tea, kefir, kombucha and coconut water?## No? Well, nice try. See you round.
It’s a good thing I had lots of adventures when I was younger.
# And while I’m at it, remind me to rant at you about the new ROH staging of NORMA. Snarl.
## And adequate accommodation for three hellcritters.
†† They didn’t have organic fizz so I had to settle for organic red. Never mind. The novelty was shocking enough. And after nine dry months three sips was about my limit. But hey, I wasn’t driving.
††† And a box of vegan organic chocolate. How fabulous is that? Except for the fact that I don’t eat sugar. Drat. Okay. Wait. I figure on the three-sips-of-organic-wine standard these will last till my birthday next year
[This should have gone up last night, of course. This may be the New System. Time is merely a concept, not a reality, right? But I’ve been talking to other people in the area and I Am Not Alone. There are too many of us on line and not enough bandwidth. Why this means the malign minders of supply CLOSE bandwidth after midnight to a thread, a wisp, a spool of spider silk belonging to a microdot sized spider, I have no idea. I realise my technological understanding is . . . ahem . . . is such that calling it ‘understanding’ is a blunder, but they can’t frelling stockpile bandwidth from the wee smalls and bolt it on to the bandwidth during the day, or the evening when everyone rushes home to see if anyone has posted to their Facebook page, can they? CAN THEY? —ed]
. . . with a small refrigerator. Two small refrigerators. Today I took delivery of The Largest Green** Cauliflower I Have Ever Seen in My Life and . . . it wouldn’t fit in either refrigerator, unless I took one of the frelling shelves out which I can’t because I’m short of shelf space already ALL THAT FRELLING VEG TAKES UP AMAZING AMOUNTS OF ROOM. So the green cauliflower the size of a medium-sized asteroid sat in my sink—and sort of drizzled out around the edges, and may have patted a hellhound with a prehensile tendril—till I had time to hack it up and steam it and then crush it into a series of bowls and WEDGE it into the cottage refrigerator. The trials of being veganish.
And it’s not like I had budgeted time for inconvenient vegetables. Let me tell you what a splendid and thrilling few days I have had.*** Now—see footnotes—I am a disorganised twit, but I have kind of a lot going on, including trying to write some saleable fiction before I run out of money†, and when I manage to beat some teeming disaster back to stuff-under-the-table proportions I do tend to stuff it under the table and turn to the next looming vorticose abyss trying to swallow me††, the hellmob, and several small houses.†††
I was [bell] ringing a wedding on Saturday. I’d just got back from hurtling and had about five minutes before I had to leave for the tower. The post had come while the hellhounds and I were out checking the continued viability of a certain rose in the churchyard and I noticed that one of the envelopes was from the local city council. Uh oh. This is one of the abysses I had (I thought) slapped a personhole cover over, after Ordure, Funk and Weltschmerz closed my account and stole all my money for about ten days about three months ago, the repercussions of which are still wrecking my peace‡ of mind and causing a lot of extra work for a disorganised twit who hates all business admin at the best of times. But even I recognise, in my blurry, dragon-biased way‡‡, that the Tax Gods Rule. Which is why I’d been round the local office and made sure that I was caught up on all frelling three frelling houses.
I admit that was two months ago. BUT ONLY TWO MONTHS. So imagine my . . . adrenaline surge when I opened the envelope and discovered I was being SUMMONSED FOR NONPAYMENT OF COUNCIL TAX. They were going to DRAG ME TO COURT AND PROSECUTE me for not having paid any council tax ALL YEAR. Now even I in the outer reaches of synapse-bursting panic could see that this had to be at least partly an administrative error‡‡‡ . . . it’s still a summons and it’s horrible, and it’s also SATURDAY so I can’t do anything about it till Monday.
I staggered off to ring bells. I got through the bell ringing part with all my insides jangling worse than the bells and my blood-pressure headache getting worse with every dong.
I came home and spent the next five hours throwing up out of sheer beastly stress.
Saturday was wonderful. Really a high point.§
Sunday I spent trying to figure out what the flaming doodah I could eat—I know, I’ve been here before, recently, but that was stomach flu. The rules are different.§§
And today I spent 1,000,000 hours on the phone§§§, mostly knitting and nursing another blood-pressure headache while I waited For the Next Customer Service Representative. Monday, you know? The city council woman was polite, laid back, and even a little sympathetic, which was a bonus. I am no longer on the FBI/MI5 top ten wanted list. Yaay. The most interesting thing is that what this woman said BORE VERY LITTLE RESEMBLANCE to what the woman I’d spoken to in June had said, or had led me to believe that she had set up for me for the immediate future involving juggling three houses. And of course neither of them said anything that might lead me to believe that I was going to be prosecuted for non-payment of council tax any time soon. So I’ve given them a lot more money and I BELIEVE I am to be allowed to live. But remember what believing got me last time.
Then I made a few other phone calls—although it was still MONDAY—looking for monsters. I couldn’t find any. I must not have been making the right phone calls.
I can hardly wait to find out what goes wrong next.§§§§
* * *
* I was reading yet another of these Live Green and Free and Absolute and Right and We’re So Pure and Wonderful We Will Make You Sick what-to-eat health sites. There are amazing numbers of these bozos out there and only some of them have a sense of humour. This one’s bias was vegan but finally, foot-draggingly, in this I’m-so-disappointed-in-you headmistress voice, they said And if you feel you must eat a little fish occasionally . . . and I’m sitting here thinking, yet again, HOW do these people live in the world? Somebody, I think in the forum, was talking about this too. I don’t spend a lot of time with Macdonald’s clientele and still I’m a joke in my social circle^. GIVE ME A CUP OF GREEN TEA/ROOIBUS/GINGER AND LEMONGRASS AND SHUT UP, I’LL EAT WHEN I GET HOME.^^ I still like fish but it’s not necessary to happiness and if pure veganism were a little more rampant in the land I might give it up too^^^ since fish have eyes and agency and I assume little proto-thoughts^^^^. There’s a whole whacked out mind/body thing as soon as you start seriously messing with what you eat and if you find yourself at the sharp end of immaculateness while you may be willing to risk the proto-thoughts of green cauliflower^^^^^, your singing teacher’s goldfish are beginning to give you a guilty conscience. But until they start building vegan shtetls for us to hang out in . . . I will probably keep eating fish.
^ I’m not sure about circle. A lumpy trapezoid. Or an irregular nonagon perhaps.
^^ Anyone else out there remember the term ‘crunchy granola’ for health food junkies in Birkenstocks in the 80’s or thereabouts? No earnest seeker after nutritional truth now would eat GRANOLA. CEREAL GRAINS. NOOOOOO. WE DID NOT EVOLVE TO EAT CEREAL GRAINS. And my Birkenstocks are either pink or have rhinestones. I’d have pink and rhinestones if I could find them.
^^^ And then again I might not. The trusty tin of mackerel or tuna is very useful to a disorganised twit who finds herself needing to rush out the door in five minutes and doesn’t have time to produce the healthy green salad with the protein-based dressing, let alone eat the sucker.+ Fresh veg takes an appalling amount of chewing.
+ Vegan shtetls will have vegan corner stores that offer hearty organic vegan snacks for disorganised twits.
^^^ My willingness to continue to eat fish has nothing to do with the fact that the video screen on my dentist’s ceiling always shows underwater sea life, mostly but not exclusively fish. There is NO causative connection in my subconscious between fish and pain which might arouse a (subconscious) desire for vengeance on the piscine world. NO. NONE.
^^^^ Bottom line: YOU DO HAVE TO EAT SOMETHING.
** AKA Romanesco. I love the green ones and find the white ones eh. I’m told there’s no difference but the colour. Okay. I’m very vision-led. I know this. I still think they taste different. So my retinas are wired to my taste buds. I have stranger characteristics.
*** Spoiler alert: ARRRRRRRRRRRGH.
† Oh that old whine again
†† Did I tell you that Damien got out twice, weekend before last, and had a go at me both times? I being so outrageous as to be outdoors at the time(s). His garden now looks like a stage set for Les Miz and every time I have the unjustified temerity to emerge from some door or other I can hear him flinging himself passionately against the barricades whilst barking hysterically. It’s surprising how beleaguered something that weighs about twenty pounds can make you feel. I have to call the dog warden. I keep putting it off.
††† I told you, didn’t I, that I had THREE supposed buyers ready to put in a bid I couldn’t possibly resist and wouldn’t want to, for Third House? And that I was perhaps cynical about this prospect? Yep. Not one of them showed. Meanwhile I have—theoretically—a fourth. I’m not holding my breath. I am getting on with clearing out the sheds^ so I can let^^ the freller. Thank you God for Atlas^^^ and his trailer.
^ We’d done a first cut of most of the obvious stuff months ago. This was the stuff we didn’t know what to do with plus all the little bins and tins and boxes of gubbins that all of us accumulate in some area of our lives or other+: for Peter it was tools and the toolshed. So there are all these labels to collections of enigmatic bits in his handwriting. Whimper.
+ Perhaps in some cases more than one area. ::Whistles::
^^^ Who also could translate some of the labels. This was less useful than you might think since he didn’t want to throw anything out either. ‘Oh, that’s a 1948 glimmigerthinggimerdoodah! Haven’t seen one of those in decades! You can’t throw that out!’
‡ Um, ‘peace’?
‡‡ Popular fantasies include watching a nice fleet of dragons eating HM Revenue & Customs^ in its morbid entirety. Salt, pepper and Worcestershire sauce optional.
^ Remember this is a governmental department that levies custom charges on postage. And you know what overseas postage is like now? If Abebooks doesn’t list it in the UK, forget it.
‡‡‡ I have perhaps mentioned how much I hate business admin of all varieties?
§ And the poor hellmob were downstairs howling to go for a hurtle. I crept down a couple of times and let them out into the garden for any urgencies. They didn’t want the garden, they wanted the hurtles they can usually depend on when I come home from having been AWAY FROM THEM FOR MORE THAN FIVE MINUTES.
§§ I did manage both my second ringing gig Sunday afternoon and singing for service Sunday evening. Because bodies are perverse, I was in what in my unfortunate case passes for good voice which amused me enough to cheer me up a little. Usually your throat says nooooooooo after a lot of unnecessary stomach acid has geysered through it.
§§§ But at least after this I got to sprint off and SEE MY MONK. I was supposed to meet him Saturday evening before the Saturday contemplative night prayer service but since I couldn’t stand up, um. My email telling him I couldn’t make it was probably the tersest of my entire life but at that point focussing my eyes on something like a computer screen WAS A VERY VERY BAD IDEA.
§§§§ I can wait! I CAN WAIT! I CAN WAAAAAAAAAIT!
Here’s a question for you: if you have become a sort of vegan-paleo-alkaline-raw-foodie person, what the jolly doodah do you eat coming off a savage bout of stomach flu? And I mean savage. It only lasted about six hours, thank you God, but I was a double-ended geysering hellhound in all ways except fur, long pointy nose and long tail for the duration. I was certainly walking on all fours because I couldn’t stand up: the world spun quite amazingly, and my heart was going about four hundred beats a minute. Throwing up always makes my heart race* but it usually slows down again. In this case it went on trying to shake me off the bed.
I crept downstairs at one point because there was quite a lot of moaning going on: the urgency had come upon me very suddenly and I hadn’t got the hellmob out for any more than a bit of grass on the street corner—my garden has no grass, except the stuff that flies over the wall and colonises my potted plants, and dogs need grass. Ask any dog. But I’d been going about indoors briskly doing stuff because I had a friend coming today, Saturday, I am describing the scene from yesterday, Friday, and, okay, I could have done some housework earlier in the week but . . . well, in the first place I didn’t, because I don’t, and in the second place since the floor needs sweeping/hoovering again approximately the minute I unplug the blasted hoover and jam it back into its current corner** because my resident fur factories are never off line, there’s not a lot of point of trying to do it ahead of time. I’ll just have to do it again. Which is inefficient, right? There were still fresh fur eddies in the draft from the door this morning when I brought my friend home Sigh.
And then, you know, there’s all that other stupid stuff that housework consists of.*** And I’d been hoping to get back out into the garden again—did I tell you I have hauled two entire Wolfgang loads of garden detritus off to the dump? Chiefly consisting of nettles, but other weeds and some rose-prunings did appear.† This is only the beginning. And, erm, it’s already frelling August.†† I was going to get my garden sorted this summer.††† And I had a friend coming! I didn’t want to lock the kitchen door and hide the key and say offhandedly, oh, you don’t want to go out there! ANYWAY. I crept downstairs at one point when the moaning was reaching something of a pitch, opened the garden door, left it open, which I never do unless I’m there to supervise,‡ and crawled back upstairs again.
Well, I didn’t get out into the garden. I also missed my appointment with my estate agent to discuss the Letting of Third House. I missed Friday afternoon handbells. When I could finally stand upright again I just about managed to do a quick stiff-brush thing on the stairs, which, due to a little backlist-box problem, won’t really accommodate a hoover at present. And I hurtled the mob. Not nearly well enough, according to the mob, but I told them they were lucky to get out at all. And I had COOKED green beans for supper and they stayed down. Yaay.
And it was great to see my friend today. This is someone I haven’t seen in years because we’ve both been having adventures—not all of hers have been desirable either—but she’s the kind of friend you just pick up with again like you saw each other last week. I even ate lunch successfully. And took her for a hike over gorgeous late summer Hampshire countryside without falling down.‡‡ And drove her back to the train where we promised not to lose touch again. But I’m way too brain dead to work tonight, so I thought I’d write a blog.
* * *
* Things You Would Be Very Happy Not to Know About Yourself
** I have still not found the perfect storage space for a hoover, which is an awkward, bulky object, in this house with no storage AND covered in bookshelves on all the walls and piles of books in front of all the bookshelves. There’s the attic, of course, but if it disappears into the attic I really WILL never use it again. Haul it up and down my narrow little rail-free ladder stairs and back up again? Never happen.
*** As I have often said before, I don’t hate housework^, I hate the time it takes.
^ Except hoovering. I HATE hoovering. I’d rather be on my knees with a Patented Pet Hair Remover and a stiff brush. Which is indeed what I usually do.
† Note that you can still be stung by a nettle that has been frelling dead for a frelling week, lying on the ground waiting to be bagged up. I assume I don’t have to tell you how I know this. Also, nettles hide. As I say, most of eight gigantic bags of green stuff were nettles.^ I TOOK OUT A LOT OF NETTLES.^^ But the minute I go back indoors again and look out my kitchen window THERE ARE NETTLES. I just blitzed that area! I exclaim in outrage. No. You didn’t. Hahahahahahahaha, say the nettles.^^^
^ Although the last bag or two contained quite a lot of this small variegated-leaf tree put in by my predecessor, so it is no doubt rare and admirable and I don’t appreciate it properly. Phineas, my poor neighbour, came hesitantly up to me about a week ago and explained humbly that this thing had colonised the roof of his conservatory to the extent that he was beginning to worry about said roof maintaining its present desirable state of leakproofness, not to mention that my tree was shutting out the sunlight to the dismay of the huge planters of geraniums that live in the conservatory. Oops. Now it’s true that my garden has become even more of a jungle the last year or two but slightly in my defence in this case this is a very enthusiastic tree+ and since it was growing forward over its end of my garden in a very liberal manner and I can’t actually see over the wall to Phineas’ conservatory roof I had no idea that it was doing exactly the same in the other direction. Arrgh. I’ve hacked it back some, but more is necessary, and first you have to get THROUGH the stuff on my side to reach the stuff on the other side, which involves being poked in the eye, clawed, strangled, hair-yanked, and the delightful experience of repeated disgorgings of scratchy leaves down the back of the neck. ARRRRGH.
+ It must be part nettle
^^ And I have the scars to show for it. According to some of the Birkenstocks-and-beards natural medicine sites, nettle stings are good for rheumatism like bee stings are. I’m allergic to bee stings, so that’s out. I’ve been on the anti-rheumatism diet for about twelve years because it works, but I was thinking, if I keep a corner of my (tiny) garden sacred to nettles, if I went and rolled in these occasionally could I eat a tomato? Sigh. It would have to be a very good tomato.
^ The really bizarre thing is that I’m kind of fond of nettles. All part of my yen for self-torture I suppose. But a lot of weeds just make me snarl: creeping buttercup. SNARL. Ground elder. SNARL. And Japanese anemone. EXTRA SNARL. You gardeners are about to tell me that Japanese anemones are lovely, graceful and entirely desirable garden plants. No they’re not. They’re frelling takeover frelling thugs. THEY’RE WEEDS. Like frelling crocosmia, another so-called desirable garden plant. Rip out where seen. I don’t actually want a lot of nettles around—they, you know, sting, and they aren’t exactly beautiful—but maybe I’m just remembering that the presence of nettles means you have a nice healthy garden, that they’re good for butterflies, that you can eat nettles+, or that as an herbal tincture they’re useful for a lot of what ails you. But whatever. I kind of like them. This doesn’t stop me tearing them out. And getting stung spectacularly because when they’re cross, and pulling them up does tend to make them cross, they will sting you through your clothing.++
+ You can eat ground elder too but I’d rather not. Nettles are pretty reasonable, and I positively like nettle tea.
++ Reasons to be glad you’re wearing glasses instead of contacts: being lashed across the face by the eight-foot nettle you didn’t notice when you were pulling up some little ones at the eight-footer’s ankles. Owwww. Also, nettles across the scalp? Um, if it’s good for rheumatism, will it make your hair grow?
†† How did that happen? May was last week.
††† I think I say this every summer. This summer, however, I’m here all the time. On the other hand, this summer, I’m spending a lot more time lying on the floor in a state of ME stasis than usual. There’s just about enough floor space left in the kitchen for me to lie down on it, if I contort a little. The problem with lying on the sofa is that the hellmob expects to join me, and there are days when I can’t face being lain on by a hellmob with twenty-four or forty-eight elbows attached. If I lie on my bed, as previously observed, there will be moaning, but if I lie on the kitchen floor, it’s like, oh, hi, and we can all kind of curl up together. The hellterror is especially pleased because generally speaking she is expected to keep her attentions to herself since she is very . . . attentive. But remind me to tell you about my shrinking kitchen floor.
‡ The creativity of dogs, when presented with a garden, is much undervalued. Especially by the owner of said garden. Who furthermore will be cleaning up the kitchen floor of uningestables experimentally ingested.
‡‡ Granted I’m perfectly capable of falling down without any help from stomach flu aftermath totteriness.