March 8, 2014

Shadows is here!

Yurk. Also, from the ridiculous to the sublime


The yurk part:  experiments in raising my activity level to previous modest heights are proving unsuccessful, or at least inspiring undesirable repercussions.  Which is to say I have barely got the hellpack hurtled today, and possibly in slo-mo, I’m too whacked to be sure of what my legs have been doing, but Pav can create her own alternate realities, and hucklebutts rather well on her extending lead, given the absence of large inconveniently-placed trees.  And the hellhounds are, after all, well into middle age, and are happy to saunter along, looking elegant and fabulous, with a brief sprint when no one is looking but me.

The rest is a daze.*  And this one. Word. After. Another. doohickey, whatsit, blog is just beyond me tonight.**

But I don’t want to leave you entirely without frivolous reading material.  So here’s the ridiculous part:

B_twin, knowing my feelings about Peter Jackson***, sent this to me several weeks ago and I laughed and laughed and saved the address so I could hang it on the blog some day† and today is the day.  Some of you’ll have already seen it . . . but there are paragraphs definitely worth revisiting.

The sublime part:

Aloysius loaned me the DVD . . . oh, months ago.  Probably months and months.  I watched it once fairly quickly but really—even after you’ve watched all the extra bits and clips—it raises more questions than it answers so I wanted to watch it again before I gave it back . . . and that plan of a plan went on kind of a while.  Poor Aloysius finally asked for its return so I hastily rewatched it right around the time B_twin sent me the SMAUG review . . . and these two so clearly belong together.††  You know.  Ridiculous.  Sublime.

The SILENCE web site is a little obscure but keep clicking.  The film is a documentary about a ‘closed’ Carthusian monastery and it’s . . . well, it’s amazing.  I didn’t, myself, ever forget I was watching a film—I’m a trifle resistant to arty films and this one has AAAAAAAART stamped on every frame, and the suggested use of it as a meditation aid I’m like, what?—but the mixture as demonstrated in these monks’ lives of the spiritual and the practical, the outer and inner, the ordinary and extraordinary, was lovely and moving.  And the landscape is spectacular.  Although I’m glad I don’t live there, aside from the whole no-talking thing.

* * *

* There was a lot of lap time today.  This is now the second and third generation of critters to think that ME is a great invention.

** Also I need to claw myself together to go to my monks tomorrow night.

*** The brief polite version is that I thought THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING was a mostly honourable failure, I hated TWO TOWERS and never saw RETURN OF THE KING.  There was never any way in any universe similar or dissimilar to this one that I was going to see what smashed and broken melee he was going to make of THE HOBBIT.

† Preferably before the third film comes out, but greatness, in reviewing as in everything, is timeless.

†† I am sick.  Yes, I know.

A few semi-glad tidings and some other stuff


Joy.  Not only are we having the wettest January since records began* but the month has decided to go out roaring like a lion** and tomorrow, according to the local doomsayers, is going to be a big fat drooling ratbag with fangs, high winds and thunder.  And Peter and I will be heading for the farmer’s market just as it’s working itself up to landscape-trashing mode.***

The stroke unit appointment today was nonthreatening but a bit anticlimactic—at least after we (a) found a parking space and (b) found the correct frelling building.  I’d allowed approximately twice the time we should need and very little of that is to do with the fact that Peter walks slower than he used to—most of it is to do with the whole assailing-Tartarus aspect of any close encounter with that labyrinthine epic of a hospital.  Gah.  They’ve managed to change the road lay-out—again—for the approach to the main car park.  I don’t even understand how they can keep doing this, which they do, I think some of the more peculiar outbuildings must be plastic or papier mache or something and periodically the largest, hulkingest members of staff on duty go out in the dead of night—having forethoughtfully prepared a small distracting emergency at the other end of the conurbation—and move them around.

Then, of course, because the car park facilities are wholly inadequate, we couldn’t find an empty spot.  Adrenaline spike.  Peter would miss his appointment and it would be all my fault and the prime minister would sign an anti-Robin sanction forcing me to give up my secret yarn of mass destruction stash.

We found a parking space.  Then we had to find the right building, and while we’ve been to the Reignac-sur-Indre wing before, when they move the rubber buildings around of course they screw up your landmark system as well.†  The hospital is generously bestrewn with signposts, but they rarely tell you what you want to know:  Tiger pits this way.  Overflow car park, guaranteed full, that way.  Exobiology unit this way:  warning possible contamination issues.  Finally we found one for Reignac-sur-Indre.  Or rather we found two:  the external route and the internal route.  What?  I don’t want to have to make frelling decisions.  Just tell me how to get there.  I opted for the external route.  Mistake, of course.  It was probably twice as long.†† When we finally arrived I was confounded by the lift.  Fortunately Peter pointed to a button I hadn’t noticed and said, try that one.

We were on time.  Just.

Peter’s stroke doc is a ridiculously young Scot who does the jolly upbeat routine rather well.  And he didn’t have a magic wand††† (oh well) but he did emphasize that the road back from a stroke is long but—if you’re lucky—pretty open-ended.  He also had Peter’s scans up on his computer and when I asked he ran through them, explaining what we were looking at and that was fascinating.  Much rather not be in the position for this kind of fascinating, but . . .

We went back to the car park the short way.  And while it’s too late for me to go to bed early††† I could go to bed no later than usual and maybe shave a few minutes off 11 a.m. tomorrow . . . maybe.

* * *


** That’s March, you know, the lion thing, although the entire set up seems to me bogus.  Or at least personally I would say that lamb-like is not a description I would usually apply to any part of March.

*** We could go earlier, Peter said hopefully.  Eleven a.m. is early, I replied.^

^ Hey.  Not only does the caffeine need time to work+ I have an assortment of critters to hurtle.

+ I’ve tried getting dressed first.  It’s pretty funny in a why-can’t-humans-be-covered-in-fur-like-most-mammals way.   Although in terms of necessary clothing there’s also the several-times-daily melodrama of getting the hellpack’s harnesses on, which is at least as diabolical as trying to find two matching socks from the unsorted heap of clean laundry on the bed#, and which mere caffeine is not really sufficient defense.  The hellhounds’ either play cat’s-cradle with each other in ways only comprehensible to life forms more flexible than thick stolid humans or they have a rich, complex sex life that thick stolid humans can only dream of.##  The hellterror’s harness, marooned in solitude, has instead developed a speciality of always being too small when I try to snap it around her chest.  Once it is snapped . . . it fits fine.  But getting the two bits of the buckle within closing distance of each other?  I’d suspect her of holding her breath, like a horse that doesn’t like the girth tightened, but she’s too busy snorkelling for kibble bits, which requires a good deal of huffing and grunting.

# Or two matching All Stars from the heap under the shelves by the front door.~

~ All right, they don’t have to match.  But they have to relate to each other in an interesting way.

## Straps.  Strap guards.  D-rings.  Buckles.  Oooooh.

† Also, they repaint them.  The buildings.  When they move them around.  So you look ahead and think, wasn’t there a green shed somewhere about there—?  Yes.  There was.  It’s now yellow, and behind you.

†† Peter would miss his appointment and it would be all my fault and . . .

††† What he did have was two medical students sitting in, both women and both non-Anglo which is very pleasing in a world where a good deal less than my lifetime ago^ any doc that wasn’t white and a bloke was exotic if not downright bizarre.  You did see the occasional white woman but I think I was a twenty-something in Manhattan before I saw either a black woman or a Middle Easterner of either gender any higher up in the medical hierarchy than nurse.

But the really interesting thing is that one of them today was taking her notes with a ballpoint pen on lined notebook paper.  (The other one had an iPad, but its cover was not pink.)  I was fascinated by this, and said something to her.  Oh yes, she said, of course she has and uses a computer, but for note taking she still prefers paper.

Golly.  Hard copy is not dead, even at the individual level.

^ Let me just insert here that the medical students were RIDICULOUSLY YOUNG.  I’m sure they’re too young to be in medical school.

†† Two hours on the phone to Hannah may have something to do with this.

On making singing-like noises.


Back before Christmas—back before Peter’s stroke*—I had taken one of those erratic Leaps Forward in my voice lessons that anyone who keeps slogging at anything will eventually take, even if it’s perceptible only to the slogger and her teacher.**  I must have blogged about this before.  And I thought, in one of those vague self-improvement spasms that afflict most of us, that I should find that little recording doohickey that Peter gave me for my birthday years ago . . . I think to enhance my piano-lesson experience (hahahahahaha) rather than my voice-lesson experience (HAHAHAHAHAHAHA) . . . and employ the freller.  I did manage to take it along to Nadia once or twice quite a while ago—I think before she went on maternity leave for Renfrew—but playback, despite the advantage of being able to hear EXACTLY what Nadia had said, was so depressing that I gave it up.

And then Peter did have his stroke, and my focus, concentration and energy levels have gone a bit phut generally.  Although I’m certainly singing I’m singing for sanity as much as for any sense of working toward that distant mythic goal of finding and being accepted by a nice-ish choir.***  Only in the process of trying to clear out some of the accumulation around the piano at the mews so that I can shoehorn a little more of the overflow from Third House† there instead . . . I discovered the little recording doohickey.  And I got Raphael to remind me how to USE IT, since it is yet another of these flapdoodling overspecified pieces of ooh-shiny tech . . . all I want is an on and off switch.  And a method of getting batteries in and out that does not involve a mini-screwdriver whose shaft is the approximate diameter of a hummingbird’s tongue.  Gaaah.

. . . And at this point I am going to start what may be a horrifying new tradition, and declare TO BE CONTINUED††.  We went to Tabitha again this afternoon and my brains feel pummelled.  Also, this compromising with Peter about the time at which things happen—things like when I pick him up after the daily shopping excursion, since in fact he’s only comfortable walking one way—is a ratbag.  If you figure that he’s getting out of his bed when I’m getting into mine you’d only be a couple of hours out and he likes to do his shopping in the morning. . . .

* * *

* We have the follow-up appointment with the stroke unit at the hospital on Thursday.  Any of you so inclined, all prayers, positive thoughts and finger-and-other-limb-crossings gratefully received.  I’m trying to remind myself they are not going to wave a magic wand and they do not have a schedule sheet that says ‘by the end of February you will . . .’ and ‘by the beginning of May you will not . . .’.  Still.  I would like it to be somewhat more informative and possibly even comforting than merely the poor old weary beleaguered NHS ticking another box on its paperwork.

** I’ve told you, haven’t I, that with the new school semester, and Stella, Nadia’s daughter, in primary school, we’ve had our lesson times and order shaken up?  And Boris—the baritone who could have been professional—IS after me?  After that meltdown I had and everything??  Nooooooooo.  When the doorbell rang last week I started trying to climb behind the piano^ but when Nadia came back from letting the invader in, she said it’s okay, it’s only Boris’ wife, Boris is sitting in the car practising his German.  This week when the doorbell rang and I started trying to climb behind the piano^^ Nadia said no, no, Boris isn’t coming this week, it’s only Myrtle . . . who is another of Nadia’s, ahem, mature beginners, and who makes a little squeaking noise when she sings, like I used to.  Although I was thinking as I (relatively speaking) made the windows rattle (it’s a small house with low ceilings) with my Sebben Crudele^^^ that hearing me isn’t necessarily doing Myrtle any good, nor giving her hope for her future, since I’m kind of the aural version of the large clumsy ungulate in the vintage knick-knack shop.  I KNOW THAT NOTE IS AROUND HERE SOMEWHERE.  HERE, THAT’LL DO, WHAP.  I realise that you can’t start doing something with your voice till you have a voice to do it with but still. . . . I was thinking, as I ricocheted off the walls this week at home that at my age I should be worrying that I’m going to develop a little old lady quaver before I get all that far with letting what voice I have out of durance vile—and of course I do worry about this because I worry about everything—but my own experience of my voice is not that it is old and frail and tottering toward ultimate retirement and (possibly) resentful of being prodded out of the shadows . . . but young, like it’s been in suspended animation all these years, and clueless and has NO IDEA what it’s capable of or even what it’s for.  There must be someone else out there who started taking voice lessons late?  What was/is it like for you?  —And in this case I specifically mean voice lessons, since the whole your-body-is-your-instrument thing is a crucial part of the weirdness.

^ Which is against the wall, the unhelpful thing

^^ This week I brought a crowbar


Sigh.  I don’t sound like this at all.

I don’t sound anything like this either:

All you other mezzos out there will know these are absolute standards of the student repertoire and EVERYONE SINGS THEM.  Including, probably, a lot of people who have hung their recitals on YouTube who shouldn’t’ve.  I lost my taste for student recitals some while ago.

*** That’s not a slap at the Muddles.  I’d still be a member if I could stand either the length of their rehearsals or the funny air in their choice of practise venue.

† Remember Third House?  Speaking of sagging energy levels and loss of focus.  Sigh.

†† It’s not a real cliff hanger.   I’m just talking about singing.  There are no swords or banners with a strange device.

Zero Brain


That would be me.

I’ve told you that I’ve done that standard stupid human thing of getting through the crisis—in this case the immediate aftermath of Peter’s stroke—and then when everything else is beginning to find some tentative stability . . . going to pieces.  In my case of course the manifestation of disintegration is the multiply-blasted ME.  I’m just about getting the hellpack hurtled . . . and the rest of the day is horizontal, in spirit anyway.*  I’m getting out of bed at what is nearly a responsible adult hour in the moooooorning but it’s not doing me much good;  the first two or three hours are a blur, which means I’m still having trouble getting down to the mews before lunch to take Peter shopping.

At the moment I may have an hour or two around midday that are not too bad and then it’s all downhill again.  Yesterday I was already pretty marginal by the time I had to leave for service ring at Forza . . . so I didn’t go, telling myself that this should at least mean I could pull myself together enough to go to church last night.  Nope.**  By the time I would have had to leave to go to St Margaret’s I was definitely not safe behind the wheel of a car, not to mention the whole ‘sitting upright in a chair’ thing once I got there.

But today . . . today was my first voice lesson in a month.  I was not going to miss this if I had to yoke the hellpack to a sledge. . . .  Nah.  Wolfgang knows the way.  And a good thing too.

I’m paying for it now and I’m trying to make no plans about tomorrow.  But I’m still glad I went.  It’s been interesting, in that I-could-have-done-without-knowing-any-of-this-way, trying to sing, these last few weeks, the noise I make, or not, and the stuff I’m willing to have a go at and the stuff I’m not willing to have a go at—this latter is not about the technical difficulties, which are just technical, but the emotional ones:  I’m not in the mood to sing anything I’m going to have to inhabit.  Just doing warm-up today with Nadia tweaking and adjusting as she does, I could hear some of the last three weeks coming out.  So could Nadia, of course.  But . . . as I said to her, I wanted to come today because singing is good for morale, but also my voice wanted to come, because it knows she’s its friend and me, not so much, lately.  It’s very odd, this having a voice.  That even with the ME, once Nadia had found where I’d hidden the key to the jail cell and let my voice out, it was . . . there.

* * *

* Hellhounds are cool with a horizontal hellgoddess.  Hellterror not so much.  And she’s a lot easier to suppress on your lap than your chest.  She’s as big as you are, on your chest.  Eeep.^

^ Also she’s a solid little hellspawn.  When she bounces on you you know you’ve been bounced.+

+ . . . I’ve just wasted about fifteen minutes of my . . . well, zero-brain time can’t really be wasted because the implication is there’s something to waste.  Anyway there’s a series in the Sunday GUARDIAN, which is to say the OBSERVER, called ‘why it works’ and every Sunday there’s a photo of a celebrity and some member of staff does a more or less tongue-in-cheek run down of why the look ‘works’.  Generally speaking it never looks like a look to me;  mostly these people look like celebrities being more or less dorkily aware that someone is taking a photo of them and they’re celebrities so that’s why they’re wearing what they’re wearing, including if it looks like something they picked up at Oxfam five minutes ago.  Especially if it looks like something they picked up at Oxfam five minutes ago.

This week it’s Marc Jacobs.  People who don’t spend all their more or less spare time hurtling hellcritters and ringing bells may know who Marc Jacobs is.  I didn’t till just now when I was trying to find a link to the ‘why it works’ page.  Now that I know he’s a frelling clothing designer I realise that the ridiculous coat he’s wearing is actually a fabulously expensive designer creation and not a rather adorable piece of over the top kitsch.  I’d wear it—I’d’ve seized it instantly if I’d found it in Oxfam.  It’s fuzzy plush, like what stuffed animals for kiddies are made of—at least I hope it’s fuzzy plush and no real animals died for this—with rainbow stripes.  Cootchy-coo.

Anyway.  He’s walking his dog.  And his dog is a (standard not mini) BULL TERRIER.  YES.  And furthermore it’s a coloured bull terrier, not a white one.  Coloured.  Like someone we all know# and love, although I think Marc’s is brindle and white rather than tricolour.  And it’s strolling along with its head down looking away##, and the ha-ha funny why-it-works caption goes:  The dog.  ‘No pictures!’

NO.  WRONG.  If this dog ever finds out its photo was taken unawares, it will be crushed.  It will be devastated.  Bullies LIVE to play up to any opportunity that presents itself###.  And here was an opportunity and it MISSED IT??!  This bullie may feel itself obliged to hunt down this photographer and deliver a little lecture, with the famously evil, varminty little eyes shooting out laser beams and a certain shark-like smile much in evidence.

Oh, and Marc is carrying a little green bag of dog crap.  Yaay Marc.  Either that or a seriously ill-designed man-bag.  I prefer to think it’s dog crap.

# And some of us have the bruises to prove it.

## In what I admit is a rather un-bullie-like posture—maybe it had had a hard night sitting in celebrities’ laps and drinking champagne.

### And one had better present itself fairly regularly or the bullie in question will be forced to create one.  Ask me how I know this.

** When you’re choosing a church you don’t really think in terms of how often your frelling ME is going to prevent you from driving that far.  Although maybe you should.  The additional aggravator in this case is that St Radegund, from which I am two garden walls over at the cottage, also has an evening service but it’s earlier than St Margaret’s.  I’m still deluding myself I’m going to make it to my own church when St Radegund’s service starts.  Feh.



The truth is I’m not doing very well.  We had both the speech therapist and Tabitha yesterday—note the we—and the speech therapist tired me out almost as much as she did Peter.*  I tottered after hellhounds and hellterror while Tabitha worked Peter over and admired the floods and the torn-up trees and the flattened fences in her neighbourhood** and then after she’d pummeled me it was one of those Wolfgang-knows-the-way journeys home again.  Sigh.  I didn’t make it to Fustian bell practise last night.  I barely made it off the sofa at the mews to go back to the cottage.  I didn’t make it to Forza bell practise tonight either.***

This is, I think, mostly the backlash from Peter’s stroke.  He’s getting better so I can afford to fall apart.†  Even people who don’t have ME may indulge in a spot of this behaviour under similar circumstances.††  Booooooring.†††

So maybe I’ll try that going-to-bed-early thing again.‡

Thank you all of you who have posted about book recs past.  I was looking over the list and thinking oh, wow, I remember that, and I was going to do . . . and . . . and. . . . Maybe this will inspire me.  And, speaking of personal inspiration:


I got Shadows for Christmas and finally had some time to read it this week. IT IS FABULOUS!!! I went to reread my favorite parts and sat there for another hour. Good work McKinley.
Thanks for the awesome story!

::Beams::  This is especially cheering on a day when the energy level is .05% of the live human average and there’s a monsoon out there that won’t go away.  Thank you.

* * *

* It was the knitting.  When you’re as stupid-fingered as I am knitting is hard.^

^ I missed the frelling chunky-yarn sale at one of my favourite on-line yarn stores from dithering and not noticing when the deadline was.  Bah.  I’m quite taken with the idea of knitting myself a large triangular navy-blue shawl/scarf in time for next New Year’s Eve when I may need it to Disguise My Logo—and the rest of the time it can wrap around my neck.  I want something fairly big-gauge—yarn that will play nicely with 6.5 mm to 8 mm needles—so it will knit FAST+—and I also like the bounce you get with big fat yarn.  But this does bring up the question of fibre.  It has to be something I can bear next to my skin, which means either merino or not wool.  But I like wool. I like the heft and the texture and the warm-when-wet.  The two yarns I have my eye on—which both have a bright friendly dark blue and both are from reputable yarn makers—one is 100% merino and the other is half merino and half acrylic.  Given that this scarf is likely to have a hard life do any of you people out there with EXPERIENCE have an opinion on what would survive better?  I’m a natural-fibres snob so my immediate impulse is the 100% merino, but I’ve wondered sometimes if, in my extremely limited experience, merino is all that tough.  Also, this is, you know, reasonably priced merino, so not top end, and I’m thinking about how cheap cotton is nasty and expensive cotton is often worth the added pop, even when it doesn’t call itself pima or anything snooty.  But then frelling acrylic varies in quality too. . . . Maybe I’ll just take a black plastic garbage bag next New Year’s Eve.

But if I’m going to do this I need to get started.++  It’s only eleven and three-quarters months till New Year’s Eve.  Now all I need is another chunky-yarn sale.+++

+ As fast goes, in my case.  But I’m going to be knitting my big square scarf on 4 mm needles for several years yet.

++ YAAAAAY another unfinished project YAAAAAAY.  One cardi, one jumper, two scarves, we’re not even going to mention the hellhound blanket(s)~ and do I have to count all the unseamed leg warmers?  I’ve finished knitting them.

~ Or the two or three items I’ve flatly given up on

+++ . . . and my fate is sealed.

** Although hellhounds and I went out to Warm Upford today, mostly because the monsoon backed off for a few hours^ and I’m getting claustrophobia about town walks, and it’s relatively unwrecked out that way.  Took the hellterror over the hill just outside this town however and we were scrambling over fallen trees and little landslips and sinking up to our knees in new mudholes.^^  The hellterror thought it was a fabulous adventure..^^^

^ Not many.  It’s out there eating the scenery again now.

^^ These jeans were clean this morning.

^^^ And had to keep pogo-sticking off my body to encourage me to share her enthusiasm.  Some of the mud on these jeans is recognisably pawprint shaped.

*** I will soon forget what Grandsire Triples or Stedman is.^

^ . . . Ah.  Hmmm.  This has possibilities.  Bob major?  Fie.  Cambridge minor?  Piffle.  . . . I could grow to like this.

† Learning to get down to the mews in time to take him shopping in the morning is very good for my character.  Or will be as soon as I learn it.

†† And the hellhounds not eating and not eating and going on not eating is not helping.  There’s only so much force-feeding you can perform before you get utterly demoralised.  Yes, I’m going to ring the (homeopathic) vet again.  It’s just that they usually cycle out of these spasms and this one is just going on and on and on.  But I’ve been reluctant to mess with the fact that what he gave them last time seems to have significantly improved the eliminatory aspect.  Can’t I have dogs that both eat and crap solid?  Is this too much to ask?^

^ The hellterror eats and craps solid (mostly).  I know it can be done.

††† Even more boring:  this frelling laptop may be dying.  Raphael is trying to get here tomorrow to perform either resuscitation or last rites, but the monsoon ate his car.

Sleep is probably too much to ask, however, like the eating-and-crapping-solid.  But lying down is restful, right?  And I have MARCO AND THE BLADE OF NIGHT on Astarte.

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