January 13, 2011

Shadows is here!

The Return of an Old Friend and a Surprise Meeting


Also to say that as washed-out, dumb-as-a-brick, you-overdid-it-yesterday*-and-today-you-will-PAY, ME-ascendant days go, this one has not been too bad.  But this is still likely to be a motlier**-than-usual entry because I haven’t got the brain to tie it together.*** 

            I brought Wolfgang home today.†  If it weren’t for the yawning ravine in my bank balance you’d never know.  He’s all red and smooth and shiny and clink-clink-rattle-free†† . . . and when you put your foot down on the go pedal of a 16-year-old Golf VW as opposed to a six-month-old two-bobbin Citroen something happens beyond the distant hum of a worried sewing machine.  Also while I am going to try very determinedly not to run into anything again, driving the pristine little blue wonder was very hard on the nerves.†††   When one of the monster Hampshire buses comes flailing around a tight corner at me—as happened today, on my way to fill up the wonder’s tank before taking it back to the garage—I want to dive into the hedgerow first and fret about the paintwork later.  

            On my way home from the garage I stopped at the vet surgery for wormer.  There was a vaguely familiar-looking gentleman at the counter in front of me, who stood aside while someone went off to rootle in the back room for what he wanted.  I gave my name and my hellhounds’ names and the vaguely familiar gentleman winced and said something terribly British like ‘one might want to ask how they’re doing.’  I looked at him and he said, they were our puppies.

            Oh—!  The last time I’d had any contact with their breeder was nearly three years ago, when I was still completely at a loss about what was wrong with them.  It is still mysterious to me that out of eight puppies apparently only my specific two have a cereal allergy—but since that’s clearly what it is, or at any rate going off all cereal has been the thing that works—I don’t really care any more.  So I chirruped on for several minutes about how beautiful and charming and excellent my hellhounds are—and observed that he looked relieved.  But the thing I wanted to tell all you animal folk out there is that I couldn’t remember his name to save my life.  I could look it up, I’ve still got it among the hellhounds’ papers.  But his dogs’ names . . . totally present and available.  Asked after them individually, while I could only say ‘you’, ‘your wife’, ‘your daughter’.  The reason I remember the daughter’s existence is because she was the one responsible for puppy socialisation (and an excellent job she did too).   But pigeon frelling feathers and stale cookie crumbs—I run into the hellhounds’ breeder on maybe the only day in the last four years I haven’t had hellhounds in the back of the car if I’m driving around New Arcadia.  So I finished by saying, if you would like to see them again, give me a shout. . . .

            I now have to pull myself together to cram madly for tomorrow’s handbells, sigh.  I’m 99% certain that three hours of learning a plain course on the 3-4 to bob major yesterday on the train will have served chiefly (a) to dislodge the plain course on the 1-2 to bob major which I had learnt (mostly) and (b) to render me incapable of learning to ring a touch on the 3-4 to bob minor which is what is going to be expected of me tomorrow.  Brain, brain, brain, brain. . . . ‡

 * * *

* I am so glad I did not make it to handbells last night or I would probably be a little smudge on the floor today.   There is no credit union option for overspending your energy supply. 

** motleyer?  Eww.  More motley.  Whatever. 

*** I’m sure I’ve got plenty of green garden string . . . 

† And he smells like wet dog.  Five days in the body shop and he smells like wet dog.  Which is nonetheless an improvement on the alarming New Car Smell^ of the little blue wonder.  But I think I might nonetheless change the hellhounds’ car bedding which I perhaps tend to be a trifle cavalier about. 

^ I always feel that if I breathe too much of it I’ll start to glow in the dark. 

†† Except for the steering.  Sigh. 

††† Negotiating with a gear box where all the gears are trying to duck away and hide in the back seat is also bad for morale.  

‡ And one last piece of semi-news:  I may have my first voice lesson with my new voice teacher Monday week—the week after next.

          . . . This is the last day of the Everything Mozart Ever Wrote, Quite a Lot of It Several Times, twelve-day Nothing-But-Mozart-Fest on Radio Three.   They’ve done several of these one-composer-only marathons and as a rule I think they’re a dumb idea;  nobody can stand being obsessed over to this level.^  Well.  Um.  I’m going to miss him^^ when it’s all Strauss and Tchaikovsky and Schoenberg tomorrow.  Especially Schoenberg.

            However as I’m writing this the last Mozart programme is on, which is for listeners to ask for and dedicate favourite bits, and the presenter has just read out a dedication from ‘Robin’ to ‘all things beautiful’.  Ewwwwww.  That’s not me.  Just in case you might have wondered.  But the chosen piece is Horowitz playing the Rondo ala Turca . . . which might very well have been me.  Or something from the Marriage of Figaro.  I have pretty simple-minded tastes about a lot of things I’m afraid.  Chocolate.  Champagne.  Beethoven’s symphonies.  Mozart’s piano sonatas and The Marriage of Figaro.  

^ The JS Bach-athon still holds first place however for the Fatuous Prat award for dipstick audience comments.  Jeez.   This is a problem for an All-Star wearing guttersnipe listening to classical music:  it’s the literature of music.  We’re all so frelling exquisite.  And I’ve mostly lost my cheap-genre touch.  I know, I know, I could get it back . . . but I need to listen to the Eroica or La Traviata or K 331 again first.  Or Una Voce Poco Fa because I want to sing it.

+ No, I don’t yet know how good my new voice teacher’s sense of humour is.  

^^ Although I’m pretty sure I said this about Beethoven too, and he wrote a lot more rubbishy bits than Mozart lived long enough to.

All Singing. Not All Dancing.


There had better be nothing happening tomorrow.  Nothing, okay?  N o t h i n g. *   I want to hurtle hellhounds, drink too much tea, open the PEG II file and recognise what I find there**, talk to Merrilee***, write another blog entry and go to bed†.   I’m tired of the endless shiny excitements of recent days.††  I want predictable!  I want familiar!

            I’d managed to forget that I had my first proper rehearsal of the Octopus and the Chandelier today.  At least this time I checked my diary before I stretched out on the sofa with two hellhounds and six[teen] books.  But since service ring was late today for Remembrance Sunday††† the rest of my life ran late too.  I managed to stuff down about half my lunch before I ran off to rehearsal and was still about ten minutes late and . . .

            . . . um . . .

            . . . er . . .

            I’m telling myself it’s educational.  I wanted to broaden my musical horizons.  Well, broaden some frelling horizons or other.  I think possibly what I learnt today is that I’m not a musical kind of girl.  The problem with the back row of the chorus is that you sit around doing NOTHING an awful lot.  I’m not enormously talented at the sitting around and doing of nothing.‡  In fact it made me fairly nuts.  And no, this does not mean I’m trying out for a principal’s role next time.‡‡  I’m back row of the chorus because that’s where this voice belongs.  I suppose it might conceivably mean that when this is all over I’ll try a little harder to find that nice local chorus that can use a lacklustre mezzo‡‡‡.  Oh, where is the eleven-person choral group seeking a twelfth when you want them?

            And thank the gods§ that I went for ‘singing only’.  I hadn’t fully grasped the implications of ‘professional choreographer.’  I suppose I thought a professional was licensed to use a cattle prod on amateurs, and that the shepherding from one side of the stage to the other would be done smartish.  But—yeep—this woman has ideas.  I think she watched too much Busby Berkeley at an impressionable stage of her development.§§  But she had the principals and the poor beggars who signed up for dancing walloping across the floor like Fred and Ginger§§§ . . . on a bad day.  On a very very very bad day.  Yowzah.  If our fearless leader and her minions hadn’t been wandering around looking relaxed and interested and saying things like ‘oh, it’s always Krakatoa and sinking the Bismarck at this point’ I might be worried.  But . . . the cast have to learn all that and sing too?   I am too old to take on learning any more new skills.#   I can just about cope with two hellhound leads while shouting.  Choreographic grapevines, shunts and canons and singing are beyond me.  But I wouldn’t mind being in the blokes’ chorus.##


* Barring a film option offer of $1,000,000,000,000 for PEGASUS.  Hell, I’ll throw in PEG II for $1,000,000,000,000.  I wouldn’t mind if that happened tomorrow.^ 

^ Just so long as they promised not to make it.  But option money . . . fab.  Yes please.  I’ll finally get that new door for Third House. 

** I think that falls into the ‘prayer’ category rather than the ‘to do’ category 

*** We have a situation in which I want several people dead or at least permanently exiled to Betelgeuse.   Merrilee gets to talk me out of trying to accomplish this myself.^ 

^ Those hammering noises, as of someone building a rocketship in their back garden?  Whatever can you mean?  

† I might go bell ringing tomorrow night.  Ahem.  But that doesn’t really count.  Why doesn’t it really count?  Um.  Because I usually go bell ringing on Monday nights? 

†† Remember I’m old.  ‘Shiny’ and ‘excitement’ are relative.  I’m the woman who got excited by sparkly socks.  

††† But I’m still short of sleep 

Why didn’t I bring a book?  Very good question.  I asked myself that repeatedly over the course of the three hours.  But it had seemed sort of pathetic to schlep my entire knapsack—with book, and I never seem to be reading small slim paperbacks—to back row of the chorus rehearsal.  I had just put Pooka in a pocket and bolted.  At least there was Pooka.  Pooka and, what’s more, itty bitty earphones.  I got desperate enough I fired up Mobel and rang handbells with my thumbs for a while although the sound of other people singing and that frelling piano was very distracting.  


‡‡‡ There were two blokes and about twenty women.^  The woman sitting next to me started singing the men’s chorus parts too, so I joined her.  In the proper register, mind you, none of this octave-higher stuff.  We made rather good blokes. 

^ plus an enthusiastic rabble of small-to-medium children 

§ and muses, especially Euterpe 

§§ She’s also so young and perky I feel my inner Shub-Niggurath stirring. 

§§§ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mxPgplMujzQ&feature=related 

# My thumbs are sore.  And I’ve just bought Beltower.  Which is another frelling ringing ap.  This is all, all Tilda’s fault.  Okay, I admit I asked her to bring it with her, but she didn’t have to be so zealous about it.  The exciting^ new thing about Beltower is that it has little cartoon people pulling on its tower ropes.  Those of us ringers entirely lacking in talent tend to be over dependent on ropesight, which is to say looking around frantically to see the person you’re next supposed to follow (remember that your position in the row changes pretty much every stroke, so for every stroke you’re usually following a different bell too).  Ropesight includes watching people raise their hands to grab the rope.  Abel, the simulator programme I’ve got, just has the ropes twitching from hand to backstroke.  It’s one thing too many that isn’t like being in a bell tower, and I’ve never been able to use the wretched thing.^^  

            Friday night in honour of Tilda’s presence we went to the pub after practise.  Usually people with lives and other inessentials are members of the party and the conversation becomes general.  Not this time.  There were four of us—Tilda and I, and Niall and Edward—and we sat around Tilda’s laptop and geeked over Beltower.  I enjoyed it a lot.

^ There’s that word again 

^^ Mobel’s handbell division and I are, however, warily becoming closer acquainted.  I got through a plain course of bob major even with that piano racket this afternoon.

##  Especially if it meant I got to wear a tux or a dinner jacket in the show.  But I think I have learnt something useful: that I’m interested in singing.  That I’m not particularly interested in all the theatre part.^   

            Sigh.  I wonder if the Cherub has run off to Florida?

 ^ Unless they wanted to tackle Sweeney Todd.  Mmmmmm.  Mrs Lovett.  Mmmmmm.  Hey, a girl can dream.

My husband the comedian and other funny men


So when I got down to the mews today for lunch this is what I found standing beside my chair in the kitchen: 


            Oisin is finally home from his fabulous holiday** but since he’s been gone an entire fortnight there was serious catching up that needed to be done.  This proved to include various ugly threats about what penalties he might extract if I don’t remember my guise as a music student.***  But we also had a go at how the world should be taken apart and rearranged to attain a much higher standard than it supports at present.  There’s a lot more arts funding in our version.

            So I got back to the cottage late and in a hurry.  But I noticed my neighbour’s car was not only in his driveway but had its boot open, so I thought, ah ha, he’s there, this might be the moment for a lightning introduction. . . .

            I have to go back a bit.  About a week ago my semi-detached neighbour, whom we will call Phineas, was strolling down our cul de sac when hellhounds and I were emerging from the cottage door.  Oh, Robin, said Phineas.  I wanted to tell you, I’ve got a kitten. . . .

            A KITTEN? I did not scream, because it is a good thing to remain on friendly terms with your neighbours, however sorely they try you.  THE LAST THING WE FRELLING NEED IN THIS FRELLING NEIGHBOURHOOD, I did not continue, IS ANOTHER FRELLING CAT. 

            I did, however, visibly droop, and I believe I may have said oh dear.  Phineas looked nonplussed.  There are kind of a lot of cats around here already, I said.

            There are? said Phineas.  Phineas is a very nice man and an almost perfect neighbour, but he’s not what you’d call noticing.

            Yes, I said, firmly.  There are.  Some of them sing under my bedroom window very late at night.  What a good thing I’m not usually trying to sleep.  And your last cat used to get into my garden over your conservatory roof—and then have trouble getting out again.†

            A little silence fell.  I sighed.  It’ll be fine, I said.  But I wish you’d got a dog.††

            I have been thinking gloomily about this dranglefabbing kitten, but if I’m going to have to put up with another cat, I could at least meet the kitten while it’s still little and cute.  So the next time I saw Phineas I asked if I could meet the new addition.

            He looked nonplussed again.  I didn’t think you’d want to, he said.†††

            I sighed again.  I like kittens, I said.  I even like cats.  I’m just a little oppressed by the number of local cats already in residence.

            But Phineas had brightened up.  Come round any time, he said.  Happy to see you.

            So I went up the drive‡ this afternoon and knocked on the door.  His son, whose name really is Robin, which is very confusing, and so we are going to call him Eidolon, answered the door.  Your dad said I could come round some time and meet the kitten— I began. . .

            . . . when around the corner, coming out through the conservatory door, was Phineas, carrying a little bundle of orange fluff, which he simply held out to me.

            I took the creature, of course, and cuddled it up against me because it’s hardwired that if someone hands you a kitten you cuddle it, and it looked at me with large amber eyes and I could feel my face doing that Kitten Thing. 

            Eidolon said, gosh, he really likes you, he bites and scratches everybody. 

            Yes, said Phineas, look—and he held out his hands and forearms which are, indeed, a network of tiny red lines and gouges.  He said wonderingly, I’ve never seen him so quiet.

            This is such a set up.

            Meanwhile the small fluffy orange demon was still lying comfortably on my forearm, looking as if he never bit or scratched anybody in his life.  Woosha, I said, or something equally clever, rubbing his little fluffy orange head with my other hand.  Oh, kittens.  Gah.  Little furry things with little pointed faces.  Woosha woosha woosha woosha‡‡  Gaaah. 

            How would you like to take care of him this weekend? Phineas asked suddenly and insinuatingly.  We’re leaving in about half an hour. . . .  It’s really simple, he went on eagerly.  I’ll show you where the food is. . . .

            GAH?  BLAH?  WHAT?

            So I’ve got a frelling kitten on my conscience for the weekend.‡‡‡

            And then only a very little later this evening Niall said, Robin!  Would you please ring the tenor for a touch of Grandsire doubles on the back six!  —I don’t ring our tenor.  It’s a big frelling bell, I scare easily, I’m a jerky ringer—and you can’t afford to be jerky on a big bell—and I have ME, which means I’m always kind of trying to stay well inside the boundaries. 

            I rang the tenor.  Nobody died.  The other thing about our tenor is that it’s really a very nice bell.  It pretty well rings itself, if you don’t get in its way.  Mind you, I don’t want to turn it in, as it’s called, which is to say do anything but bong behind—I don’t want to ring a method when the tenor plays with the other bells rather than remaining statelily at the back.  But stately at the back I can probably do.  Bong.  Bong.  Niall grinned all over his face afterward.  He looked a little like Phineas after I said I’d look after the frelling kitten for the weekend.§

            And then hellhounds did not come out of their bed and mill around my feet for scraps (carefully and selectively dropped) while I was cutting up the chicken for their dinner and I thought oh nooooooo . . . because they always come out and mill when they’re planning on eating.§§ 

            And then they ate just fine.

            All the men in my life are comedians.

* * *

* He made some conciliatory mayonnaise for my supper.  Hmmph.  It’s hard to remain cranky while eating Peter’s mayonnaise.  But I’m a strong woman.  I’m up for the challenge.

** Which seems to have chiefly consisted of having their plane flights cancelled and being forced to take slow ferries.  Stay on the mainland.  Islands aren’t worth it.^

^ My slow ferry for Brittany leaves in half an hour.   

*** Finale doesn’t work?  Mozart didn’t have a computer!  Beethoven didn’t have a computer!  Verdi didn’t have a computer!   And have I mentioned that Oisin is involved in a local musical-theatre company that is going to be putting on some damn thing this winter?  I think I did tell you about it.  Because I went to their Meet the Usual Suspects rally this summer, and Oisin saw me there. 

            When all else fails he threatens me with piano duets.

            And I really must ring the cherub.  Must.  Ring.  Cherub.

† I didn’t mention Third House at all.  Another cat will be hardly noticed in that affiliate of the local mob, which, as the crow flies and the cat runs, is only the other side of our little hill.  It’s only people (and dogs) that have to go around.

†† He used to talk about getting a dog!  He could take it with him to work!  And then he decided he was going to get one when he retired!  Which was last year!

††† Apparently he had a strip torn off by our top-of-the-hill neighbour with the fancy garden.  My sympathies are a trifle . . . mixed.

‡ I have told you that Phineas’ house is twice the size of mine?  Plus conservatory.  Plus cellar.  He has a cellar.  And the garden is probably three times the size of my garden.  Plus garage.  And driveway.  The builder was going to live in Phineas’ house and make his wicked stepmother live in mine.

‡‡ Does anybody know how to spell this?  Or possibly wuhsha.  It is a not-uncommon noise to make at small furry things with little pointed faces, but I can’t find it defined anywhere.

‡‡‡ Of course I said yes.  What do you think I am, a brute?  Apparently Phineas has already entrapped another neighbour—a neighbour responsible for one of the singers-under-windows, just by the way—into occasional kitten duty, but is delighted at the prospect of developing a list of possible patsies.    

§ You realise this includes operating the correct toys in the correct manner.  Kittens must have their tiny minds stimulated and their tiny reflexes honed.

§§ Sometimes they mill when they’re not planning on eating.  But they never not mill when they are going to.  Okay, almost never.

Stephen Sondheim


This really is going to be Short Monday because I’ve just spent the last two hours* cruising the web for Sondheim music clips.  Of which there are lots, but very few of them are anything I’m looking for**—and furthermore way too many of them are students practising for their vocal finals and . . . not all of them are going to pass. 

Everybody knows who Stephen Sondheim is, right?   http://sondheimsociety.webs.com/aboutstephensondheim.htm  I feel that not knowing who Stephen Sondheim is would be like not knowing who Bill Gates or the Queen of England or Elvis Presley is.  You may not approve*** but they’re monuments of the age.

It’s Stephen Sondheim’s 80th birthday today.  I haven’t been keeping track or anything;  I only know it because I’m a Composer of the Week junkie† and this week it’s Stephen Sondheim http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00rjycs.  I know I’ve ranted and bayed to you about the absolute supremacy of Sweeney Todd over . . . everything.  There was an era of my life when Sweeney was the permanent soundtrack to . . . well, everything.  And I saw it at all by chance;  my then boss at Little, Brown†† was a musical-theatre freak and I eventually got curious.  Also this was the era when I was spending all my disposable income on concert series—I felt myself to be a country girl with a lot of catching-up to do and I’ve never been very social:  Hang out?  Why would I want to hang out?  So I went to concerts—and when the latest Stephen Sondheim came to Boston I decided to give it a go.  Wow.  Wow.  WOW.†††  Suddenly I thought musical theatre was great. 

I don’t agree with a lot of this‡ but it’s an interesting and thoughtful overview:  http://www2.macleans.ca/2010/03/22/stephen-sondheims-80th-birthday/   One of the ways I diverge from standard Sondheim worship is that I think Company is . . . kind of a snore.  Oh, gods, more neurotic frelling New Yorkers.‡‡  Snoooooore.  But I love Not Getting Married Today, and it’s an example of just how mind-bogglingly brilliant Sondheim is as a lyricist.‡‡‡  And that in terms of patter songs he makes W S Gilbert look like he wasn’t trying.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5iiz8nql5ps   And do watch the Weekend in the Country clip (from the Macleans article) too, which is an example of the delight of both his ensemble work and what the article-writer means about his ability to move the story along in the music.

            Very Happy Birthday, Mr Sondheim. 

* * *

* Since I got back from bell ringing.  Colin’s tower.  They were actually glad to see me, because I made six.  We rang Cambridge, which needs six ringers.  Colin allowed us small panting breaks between assaults on our campanological Eiger.  In another hundred years I’ll be able to ring it.   Probably.  Tonight my education was further expanded and developed by the fact that everybody but Colin went wrong at some point or another.  The fact that they didn’t always take me with them proves I’m learning something. 

** There are at least 1,000,000,000 versions of Send in the Clowns out there, which I think remains his one Top of the Pops type hit.  Note that if Send in the Clowns is not a big favourite of yours this does not necessarily mean you will never be a Sondheim fan.  One of the many, many things he is terrific at is jerking his audience around with stuff they’re not expecting—some of his most conventionally beautiful melodies^ mean something else entirely in the context of their original show.  Oisin, who doesn’t know Sweeney Todd,^^ had the music to Greenfinch and Linnet Bird lying on his piano stand last week.  One of his students is singing it for one of those grade-test doohickeys they have over here^^^ and he was raving about what a beautiful song it is.  Well, yes, it is . . . but see the show.  Yeep.  The one that makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up however is Not While I’m Around, a conventional-sounding love song which is also from Sweeney, and is sung by the rather dim assistant at Mrs Lovett’s pie shop, who has a major crush on Mrs Lovett.  Sweeney’s evil deeds are about to catch up with him, and the dim assistant is comforting Mrs Lovett that nothing bad can happen to her ‘Not While I’m Around’.  Mrs Lovett is—I think this hardly counts as a spoiler—another homicidal lunatic, and if he knows what’s good for him, he’ll get out of there fast. 

            I don’t myself much like Send in the Clowns (or Not While I’m Around) all by itself but it works a treat in context.  

^ If you can ever say ‘conventional’ about Sondheim with a straight face. 

^^ Sweeney Todd:  greatest musical work of the twentieth century.  I’m not going to argue with you so don’t bother.  And I’ve already told you I hated the film.  Hated. 

^^^ http://www.abrsm.org/?page=exams/gradedMusicExams/latestSyllabuses.html 

*** That would be three out of three . . . but I approve of Sondheim.  


†† http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Little,_Brown_and_Company Oh gods they publish Twilight.  . . . Speaking of books Pollyanna cannot control me about, I may have to have a rant about The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, which, like Twilight, really really really bothers me for the not-very-subliminal message it’s putting out. 

††† Note that the travelling show had George Hearn as Sweeney, not Len Cariou.  Len Cariou is fine, and I wore through I think two copies of the original Broadway cast on LP^ before I got it—I assume permanently—on CD.  But I liked George better.  I managed to see Len once live in New York but George, to me, always had an even darker, madder, more powerful edge. 

^ I know.  You keep forgetting how old I am. 

‡ A Little Priest is not too long.  

‡‡ I am so not a fan of Another Hundred People.  Let ’em get back on the train and go back to Peoria. 

‡‡‡ Everybody here knows he wrote the lyrics to West Side Story, yes?

The middle of the night


 Oh for pity’s sake it’s the middle of the night already and I still have to write a blog entry.  I haven’t eaten supper yet either.  It can’t be that late if I haven’t eaten supper yet.

            Yes it can.

            My days usually do kind of flash by but for the next five days I am under the colossal, the description-beggaring strain of having to wash my own salad and chop my own hellhound chicken.*  Peter is in Scotland for these five days;  he has a proper author gig at the University of St Andrews** and he’s using the excuse (fie!) to visit relatives.***  Do you realise how much time it takes to wash sixteen lettuces?†  I am reminded every occasion Peter takes it into his head not to be here for lunch.  Ordinarily it’s a rather bracing shock.††  But it’s rough on Fridays when I have both a piano lesson and home tower bell practise.  And possibly a novel to finish.   I was coping before the novel-to-finish went acute.†††

            On Wednesday I thought my latest assault on poor Mr Warlock’s Capriol Suite‡ was going rather well.  Last night at about one am I realised this was not the case.  And so this morning—having overslept again through a combination of going to bed too late and refusing to acknowledge that three hours of sleep is not enough—I got down to the mews as rapidly as possible . . . was annoyingly held up by sixteen lettuces . . . and finally sat down at the piano.‡‡  Aaaaaaaaugh.‡‡‡

            I tried to keep Oisin talking about . . . oh, publishing deadlines and things.§  But eventually the deed had to be done.  AAAAAAAAAAAUGH.  Oisin, being Oisin, said, no, no, very good, it’s mostly §§ there (I think music teachers must have to take a Sincerity Module to get their license) . . . here, have another two pages for next week.  And I still haven’t learnt the 9/4.§§§

            . . . There were only seven of us at tower practise tonight, and three of us were beginners.  I still managed to ad lib a trifle undesirably in various directions . . . sigh.  It’s a rough deal when you have both a Pegasus and a Warlock biting your butt.¤ 

* * *

 * Which almost is rocket science.  Both the size of the individual flecks of chicken are carefully calibrated as well as the proportions of chicken to kibble to chicken stock, and profound thought must be given to the addition of any supplementary enticements such as liver or cheese.  Fooling a hellhound into eating is a deeply complex business. 

** Mention of whose name always gives me a tiny thrill of what-might-have-been.  There are any number of roads not taken in my or anyone’s life, but some of them haunt you more than others.  My first college—I’ve told you I dropped out and went back later?—had a junior-year-abroad programme.  I’m sure the programme included somewhere in England, but in my youth while the UK was the UK was the UK, if I were going to choose, I’d choose Scotland.^    And the Scottish option was St Andrews.  I totally wanted to do this.  However, my parents weren’t going to wear it, so I didn’t lose much by dropping out.  A few years later I made friends with someone who had had her junior year there.  She said that it was really cold and really damp.  And there were no clothes dryers.  She bought a mangle for her jeans.  I love this.  But I’m glad it’s someone else’s story.

            I’ve still never been to St Andrews.^^  But I’ve been to a lot of Scottish castles. 

^ My first printed-up flyer-type pass-out-at-conventions author bio said that while I loved my little lilac-covered cottage in Maine, what I really wanted was a castle in Scotland.  I think I’m over that phase. 

^^ I wonder if they ever got round to installing clothes dryers.  I’ve not actually had one since I moved over here;  if you live in a small flat with six children, you need a dryer.  A lot of the rest of us don’t.  Peter’s always objected to them on price-of-electricity grounds, and I’d been going increasingly green for a few years before I married him, and relearning the quaint application of clothes pegs.  At the old house we had space for racks of damp clothing.  My little lilac-covered cottage in Maine, while in floor space probably fairly equivalent to my little rose-congested cottage in Hampshire, did have a screened-in porch where I could hang a clothes-line.  Here. . . . Ahem.  I know I’ve told you that one of this cottage’s selling points for me is that for its square footage its walls are unusually tall—a good extra bookshelf’s worth.  I believe I also have referred to the fact that this also means space for one of those airers you hoist up and down on a rope.   http://www.lakeland.co.uk/traditional-airer/F/keyword/airer/product/8849  Although I’m still embraced by wet clammy sleeves and trailing sheets and things kind of a lot.+  And there’s the Aga of course.  All hail the Aga, especially this time of year.++  But Peter has a heated-by-presence-of-hot-water-tank airing cupboard at the mews big enough to hang laundry in.  Peter wins. 

+ Also, since it hangs near the ceiling, the pulleys are near the ceiling, and the rope running through the pulleys is near the ceiling.  I’m assuming I’ll find out I need a new rope some evening when I’m peacefully reading in the bath and the whole works falls down. 

++ It’s supposed to Rain Torrentially this weekend.  Joy. 

*** Hellhounds will be intensely interested in the traces of his expedition upon his return.  They have a dog. 

† I eat a lot of salad.  Lettuce has a great caloric profile for people banged up, so to speak, by menopause.  Fortunately I like salad. 

†† And I do the twelve handsful of herbs and the various other bits and bobs even when he’s here.  But he does do the lettuce. 

††† But I think I’d regret the hot fudge brownie with vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce for lunch, even if that meant I could get someone else to make it. 

‡ Which sounds like this only different.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W73UErBmXEQ


There doesn’t seem to be a youtube of the piano duet version.  Which is really pretty, or would be if Oisin had someone else to play it with. 

And which I keep insisting on calling the Capriole Suite.


‡‡ I can’t decide whether cleaning salad dressing off your piano is better or worse than cleaning salad dressing off your computer. 

‡‡‡ At least the hellhounds ate their beautifully-chopped lunch.  Eventually. 

§ He also had a Schubert duet lying negligently on his music stand.  Oh, I said, you’ve got a student who can actually play duets.  Yes.  He does.  She’s seventeen, she’s going for her grade-eight (piano) exam, she’s on her way to Oxford, she hasn’t decided whether she’s studying to be a civil engineer or a doctor, and she’s pretty.

            Going back to PEGASUS now.  Maybe I’ll take up the crumhorn. 

 §§ There’s a very wide range of possibility contained in ‘mostly’ 

§§§ The one thing that can perhaps be said for me as a piano duettist is that I get it about keeping going.  That’s the bell tower training:  DON’T STOP!  WHATEVER YOU DO DON’T STOP!  There are two absolute rules to bell ringing.  The first one is HOLD THAT TAIL END.  That’s the absolute absolute rule of bell ringing.  NEVER LET GO OF THE TAIL END OF YOUR ROPE.  But the other absolute rule, only slightly less unqualified and thoroughgoing because you don’t positively break anything^ if you fail, is KEEP GOING.  Your conductor has a prayer of sorting you out if you keep ringing;  if you stop, everyone falls in the hole after you. 

^ Like the stay on the bell, which the steeple keeper will tell you through tight lips is a *&^%$£”!!!! to replace. 

¤ Note that hellhounds have also eaten their beautifully chopped supper.  And Peter rang me from Scotland.

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