I bought nine roses last week.* AND I PLANTED THE LAST TWO OF THEM TODAY. It’s only been a WEEK.** And I’ve already got ALL OF THEM them in the ground.*** Are you impressed? Trust me, you should be impressed.
So I thought I’d give myself a Slightly Short Blog Day to celebrate.† And maybe I’ll do a little work. Or go to bed early.†† Or something.
* * *
* Hey. I need more roses.
** I can’t remember if I told you this story or not^. I’d ordered from a rose nursery that isn’t impossibly far from here and said I would pick them up. When they rang me that my roses were ready I suggested to Peter that he come too and we’d go on afterward to the big public garden nearby and have a wander. So that’s what we did. Except that by the time we got to the big public garden . . . we were too tired.^^ So we didn’t walk around it. Ho hum. Life in the Slow Lane. But I did get my roses.
^ And the Footnote Labyrinth makes trying to look back and check somewhat challenging.
^^ In my case all that frelling driving was aggravated by a long conversation I had with one of the rose-nursery proprietors about, how surprising, roses. She was full of embarrassing information I should have known.+ I have, for example, never had any luck with the symbiotic fungus stuff that you put in the hole when you plant your rose, and it colonises the roots which then develop like crazy in all directions and your rose is very, very happy. Except it didn’t and it wasn’t. I thought it was another fashionable scam. Nobody told me that root fungi don’t like blood-fish-and-bone which is the traditional rose and general perennial shrub food. You ALWAYS put BFB in the hole you’re planting a rose in. Not when you’re using mycorrhizal fungi. Oh. –So I bought some more of the frelling stuff and have used it. Except I’ve only used about half the packet and it only keeps for about a year and it’s stupidly expensive, you wouldn’t want to waste it nooooooooooo. . . . .
+ Although we did a little mutual howling about people who don’t get it that roses are, you know, living things. I told her a story I know I’ve told you, from when we were still at the old house and opened our garden on the National Gardens Scheme. I had someone at least once every open day saying, your roses are amazing, how do you get your roses to be so amazing? My roses are barely struggling along. And I would say, well, what do you feed them? And they would look at me blankly and say, Feed them? FOR PITY’S SAKE, GUYS. HOW DO YOU THINK ROSES PRODUCE ALL THOSE FLOWERS? MAGIC? How can anyone look at a modern, repeat-flowering rose, frelling bowed down by the weight of its flowers, not least because it’s been overbred for flower production at the expense of everything else like leaves and stems and good health, and not realise it’s going to need a little more help than scratching a hole in the ground and plonking it in?? That’s like buying a racehorse and feeding it straw. GOOD GRIEF.
*** Well. Mostly not in the ground. Not in the All the Plumbing in Hampshire cottage garden. Most of them are in pots. I suspect I have rather good drainage, between the builder’s rubble and all the plumbing in Hampshire, but most roses that aren’t major thugs, in this garden, do better in pots, possibly just because they don’t have to fight off the thugs. But I lost a few this wet winter that I don’t think I should have lost so . . . more pots. A few of the new intake are in pots smaller than they’ll stay in forever . . . but they’ll do for a year or two. Or three. Just keep feeding them.
† Also because I took Peter to the ex-library again today and we battered our way through all the other media and went and hung out in the small dark corner where the books now live. I found a little trove of knitting books . . . and then read one of Peter’s thrillers over tea. During which I absent-mindedly ate a Very Nasty gluten-free pistachio cookie. I think I object to a book so absorbing that you can eat nasty food without noticing till it’s too late. That’s the problem with thrillers: they make you forsake all rationality and keep turning pages.
And then I went bell ringing at Crabbiton for the second week in a row. I haven’t been ringing, I’m too tired, and the idea of facing eighty-six bells and a ringing chamber the size of a ballroom at Forza is too much for me. Crabbiton has six bells, and a pretty laid-back and low-level band, and I found out by accident that Wild Robert has started teaching there pretty regularly again. So I went along last week and made bob minor possible—they generally only have four inside ringers, and bob minor requires five—and so this week they were really glad to see me. It’s a hoot being one of the big kids. Although Felicity had to go and wreck my feeble glow of self-satisfaction by inquiring if I wouldn’t like to make up the number at Madhatterington on Mothering Sunday. Nooooooooooooo.
So . . . after all this febrile self indulgence . . . work would be good.
†† No! No! Not that!
Peter and I went out to dinner tonight. Just because. To the Bard and Orpharion which tends to be our default. And they were out of half bottles of champagne and weren’t offering it by the glass.* We didn’t quite get up and stamp out the door but we thought about it. Peter, in best loyal-husband mode, suggested this drastic course of action. We could go back to the Bulgy Loaf, which was our great find a fortnight ago when the electricity went phut at Peter’s end of town: they had teeny-weeny individual bottles of Freixenet** available, thank you very much, and they’re probably not heaving on a Monday evening in early March. But one doesn’t really want to burn one’s bridges too spectacularly in a small town***. So we stayed. There may have been muttering.
And then I thought, well, okay, I have a minor thing for killer dessert wines—the kind you might mistake for treacle if you weren’t paying close attention, till the alcohol aftershock makes your hair stand on end and your socks pop off†—I’ll have a glass of dessert wine with my brownie. THEY DON’T DO DESSERT WINE BY THE GLASS EITHER.
But at least the brownie was serious.
. . . And yes, we’d been playing bridge, where Peter fiddles the cards first so we have (a) more fun (b) a better Teaching Experience and I actually sort of almost understood what was happening some of the time. I can’t decide if this is a good thing or not.
So we came home and Peter got one of our emergency quarter bottles of champagne out of the cupboard and put it in the freezer for twenty minutes AND I’M DRINKING IT NOW.
* * *
*Their pathetically feeble excuse is that they’d had a wedding which had drunk it all. A wedding that drank all the HALF BOTTLES? What kind of a cheap cheezy wedding is that? With only three people at the reception and two of them are teetotallers?^ We’ll have more in on Wednesday, said the lightly sweating waiter. WEDNESDAY? WHAT GOOD IS WEDNESDAY? IT’S MONDAY AND I WANT CHAMPAGNE.^^
. . . and maybe the Bulgy Loaf had a wedding last week too where teetotalism was rampant and they’re all out of little bottles too.
^ I mean, not cheap. Half bottles are ridiculously expensive per glass—you only do it because You. Must. Have. Champagne and there’s only one of you, or maybe two, you’re both nearly teetotallers and one of you doesn’t like champagne much.+
+ There’s no accounting. Maybe it’s that Y chromosome.
^^ Peter, who can sometimes be noble beyond all measure+, offered to buy a REAL bottle of champagne. Even I quailed at the magnificence of this sacrifice.++
+ Which helps to balance out the times THAT HE’S SPILT MARMALADE IN THE SILVERWARE DRAWER AGAIN AND I WANT TO KILL HIM.
++ I’ll try to remember this moment the next time he spills marmalade in the silverware drawer. Or unloads the dishwasher and puts everything tidily away having not run it first. AAAAAAUUUUUGH.
** I’ve said this before, haven’t I? That Freixenet has come a long way in the last thirty years or so? There was a time when I wouldn’t drink it because it was nasty. It’s still not the Widow, but it doesn’t cost like the Widow either.
. . . I was just looking it up on line so I could spell it correctly and . . . you have to be of legal drinking age in the country you’re in to look at their site? What? Why? Is looking at virtual bottles of B-list fizz really going to tip you over the edge into picking the lock on your parents’ liquor cabinet and getting pootered on Harvey’s?^ I did not, in fact, penetrate past the are you of legal drinking age click here pop up because the site background is all dark and creepy and there is ominous icky music like one of those computer games where stuff starts jumping out at you before I’ve got my finger off the ‘start’ button and I never live long enough to get out of the first level.
^ I feel that a hangover from Harvey’s Bristol Cream would probably cure you of drinking alcohol for life, but maybe that’s just me.
*** Besides, one possibly has a habit of doing it inadvertently and had better mind one’s ps and qs when one notices before it’s too late that they’re milling around in a dangerous manner^ and really need minding.^^
^ like bull terrier puppies. All smiles and little evil eyes . . . and remarkably fast on those little short legs.
^^ Sit! Sit! That’s not sitting!+
+ I’m not sure what it is, but it’s not sitting.
† In my early drinking days I’ve even been known to enjoy a glass of Harvey’s. But I wouldn’t want to make a habit of it.
The expert bozos and the news-dispensing people are already saying that even if it stops raining we’re going to have excess-of-water troubles, including some increased flooding, for the next few weeks and possibly the next few months, because of saturation and groundwater levels and so on. And it hasn’t stopped raining. It rained yesterday. It rained today. It’s raining now.
According to the five-day it’s going to rain every day this week. It’s (maybe) going to rain less on Wednesday . . . but it’s still going to rain. ‘Sometimes heavy. Sometimes with thunder.’ Sometimes with three hellcritters linking arms/legs and bracing themselves against whatever is available* and thus preventing the hellgoddess from dragging any of them outdoors for a hurtle.**
It’s been sucky recently for other meteorologically inaugurated reasons. I didn’t make it to silent prayer Wednesday afternoon because the ME and the weather linked arms/legs and prevented me from dragging myself out the door and going anywhere.*** I cancelled going Street Pastoring on Friday, as I told you at the time. †
Saturday . . . I got to the monks’ a little early because I’d been worrying about water on the roads—one of the intersections not far from them is on the official list of closed roads, and I wouldn’t have said it was the lowest patch of country in the area—and then sailed (so to speak) through with minimal splashing. I noticed the monks were blacked out (also so to speak) more than usual—the abbey is often really dark when I turn up for Saturday night prayer†† but there’s usually a light shining somewhere. No light. As I walked down the path to the chapel the security light failed to come on. Power cut, I thought, but I kept going. They’re monks. Monks have been doing this for almost two thousand years. They’ve been doing it without electricity for most of that time. I assumed they’d break out the candles and get on with it. Maybe some of them would have blankets too, in the circumstances.
The door was locked. Nooooooo. Robin bursts into tears. It’s been a crummy week.
I’ve emailed Alfrick, but I have no idea when, or if, he’ll get it. I assume what’s happened is that they did have a power cut, but that they have no back-up for things like heat and cooking—they live on a frayed shoestring, so while I might have expected oil lamps, a camping stove and a substantial log pile for the fireplace(s), I’m not at all surprised at the lack of a generator—and most of them are, you know, old.††† The average temperature of their chapel is challenging enough. So I further assume they’ve evacuated themselves to somewhere that the central heating still works.‡ Or maybe I should say that has central heating. I just hope they don’t decide they like it and refuse to come back.
And then last night . . . I was going to go to church. I have three services I go to pretty faithfully every week, and I’d already missed two of them, due to circumstances beyond my control. I really had to get to church Sunday night because otherwise I’d’ve had no official public worship all week and would instantly become a heathen. And it shouldn’t be a problem; there was nothing too exciting going on with the weather. I mean, sure, it was raining, but the Pope is Catholic, isn’t he?
I need to leave at about 6:45 so at about 5:30 I stood up—from laptop on kitchen table at the mews—to perform evening hurtles.
And the lights went out.
We hung around, the way you do, waiting for them to come on again. I shut down and unplugged the laptop. Eventually Peter went off to have a nap and I took the first critter-shift out. It was only Peter’s end of town; I had power at the cottage. But the cottage is (still) full of stuff from Third House and my steep, narrow twisty stairs are not ideal for someone who had a stroke a few months ago and whose right leg still doesn’t work too well. Hellhounds and I hurtled back down to the mews, where the lights were still out. I took the second critter shift for her hurtle.
We returned. The lights were still out.
I didn’t go to church. We found a pub that (a) had power and (b) served dinner on a Sunday night. I dropped Peter off while I schlepped hellcritters, hellcritter dinner, laptop etc back to the cottage. I was very glad to see the glass of champagne Peter had ordered for me when I finally got back to the pub. And the food was really good: add that pub to our list for future reference. So I may be a heathen but I’m a well-fed heathen.
And Pav is definitely coming off heat. Yaaaaaaay.
* * *
* This is really easy at the cottage. Finding one’s way through is the hard one.
** I’m not cleaning any litterboxes.^ You’re going out. I admit that I’m a little disheartened that Pav the Thunderer, Pav the Riotous, dislikes rain as much as the hellhounds.
^ Cats are small. Maintaining litterboxes for a hundred and fifteen pounds of critter(s)? NO THANK YOU. Aside from where I would put this yacht+.
+ I seem to be preoccupied with watery things. I wonder why.
*** Also the village next door was under water and the way around is not only longer, it involves the kind of fast ‘A’ road I try to avoid when the ME is whacking me.
† The weather was plenty dire enough for me to be glad to be staying home, but not as dire as it might have been so I was enabled to feel horribly guilty for not going. But there was enough wind from an unfriendly direction that my eaves at the cottage started doing their banshee imitation, whereupon Darkness shot out of the hellhound crate and cowered trembling by the front door. Arrrrrrgh.
†† One of the minor pleasures of driving in in the dark is that while they’ve got a big official VISITORS WELCOME sign out by the road, there’s another small sign that just says WELCOME as you trundle down the little drive to the (unlit) car park—it’s like ‘just in case you thought we didn’t really mean it’—but if you’re coming in after dark your headlights pick it up and it’s like a smile from a friend.
††† Alfrick is nearly as old as I am.
‡ Have I mentioned that my central heating at the cottage crapped out about three weeks ago? Feh. But while my hateful bank is hanging onto my brought-over-from-America money for Bank Reasons that for some reason the government and judicial system let them get away with I can’t afford to hire someone to mend it. Fortunately I have an Aga, it’s a small house, and the weather is only really fierce in terms of precipifrellingtation, not temperature.^
^ Although being helped to dress by a hellterror, as I shiver by the Aga, is not ideal.
I NEED A NIGHT OFF.*
So let’s have a LINKS NIGHT.
First: Peter’s EMMA TUPPER’S DIARY, one of my and many other people’s favourites of Peter’s, HAS BEEN REISSUED.
And here he talks a little about writing it:
Second: Lightspeed (e)magazine has reprinted HELLHOUND in their February issue:
You have to scroll down the left-hand column—it is there, I promise—and while of course all of you have already read it in FIRE—there’s a lot of other good stuff in Lightspeed’s virtual pages, and you might find the McKinley author spotlight amusing. You’ll recognise the voice from this blog. . . .
* * *
* Pav is definitely starting to come back out of pheromone hell and to revert to nice normal manic hellterror status—she brought me a toy this morning for the first time in about ten days—but the hellhounds don’t seem to notice. They still aren’t eating, there’s still way too much moaning and they still dash back from hurtles or into the mews to check that she’s still there. And having pranced through the door like Hackney ponies on the way to the carriage driving finals, once they’ve established that in fact she is still there they go all floppy and pathetic-swain-like and IT MAKES ME CRAZY.^
^ The superfluously bizarre thing is that they are all over me for their sofa time. I thought it at least possible that they would be so committed to guarding the hellterror’s crate against alien invasion+ that they wouldn’t want their sofa time with a mere [menopausal++] hellgoddess. But nooooo. They’re all over me like a cheap suit or Miss Havisham’s wedding veil.+++
+ See previous blog post. You cannot be too careful about these things.
I once bought a 16 yo gelding, not knowing he’d been gelded only 6 months before. After a lifetime as a breeding stallion. (These little secrets sellers keep…) He was quite aware of everything’s ovulation and/or heat. . . .
. . . .”Hi, glorious wonderful female person! Am I not beautiful? Am I not gloriously male? Would you not like a hug?” He was gentlemanly about it . . . But there were no mistaking the source of the interest. Fluttering nostrils, upraised lip, and all. That’s how I found out that he recognized (with a slight difference in the behavior) ovulation separately from menstruation.
If I’d paid attention one of mine# might have told me when I was ovulating since I never knew. One of the things this body had trouble with was the whole female-cycle thing, and I was on the Pill## for way too many years### but I love the idea of Rhythm Method by Stallion.
Do any other male domestic critters do this? Given that there aren’t that many stallions around to begin with a lot of women who’ve worked with them will mention this interesting aspect of the experience. But you don’t hear about it with dogs, for example, and there are LOTS and LOTS of entire male dogs cluttering up the landscape. I had already started menopause when I brought the hellhounds home as puppies and most of my dog life till then had been with girls.
I knew an entire male cat once—who was also a prodigiously, gloriously male creature—who was extra-snuggly when you were menstruating, but I didn’t see him often enough to be sure that this wasn’t him reacting to you being curled up in a little ball of misery, and I was on the Pill when I knew him, so he wouldn’t have had a chance to check me for ovulation.
# I never owned one of these glorious creatures; I just did things like muck out their stalls, hang out with them and—when I was lucky—ride them.
## which back in my fertile days kept you unpregnable by suppressing ovulation. Dunno if they may have figured out other tricky methods since.
### My experience of female-cycle specialists—most of them men—became the strong foundation of my profound loathing for the medical profession.
++ NOT MY FACE. GET OFFA MY FACE.
Pav is still in full bloody streaming heat and I want to run away from home. Except I can’t because Darkness is trying to starve himself to death and my severely chapped hands* and I are the only thing(s) between him and the ultimate whatever.** At that we’re not doing a great job. He’s lost so much weight that he disappears behind his final pair of ribs: there’s just spine and a tail. Chaos is eating badly*** but he does occasionally eat a few mouthfuls that I haven’t had to pry his jaws open and stab down his throat. A few. He’s also pretty awesomely ribby—but Darkness is worse. I have the radio turned up REALLY LOUD which goes a little way toward drowning out the incessant moaning. I do frelling separate them for some hours during the day, usually taking the hellhounds back to the cottage and leaving Pav at the mews. This doesn’t work as well as you might think. There is less moaning, but it doesn’t stop altogether, and there is a lot of pacing and anguish. She’ll be kidnapped by aliens, their agonised looks declare. She’ll run off with a mongrel.† And I feel like a bigamist, trying to satisfy two families. And failing, of course.
I usually have a voice lesson on Mondays. Ordinarily both voice lessons or the prospect of a voice lesson cheers me up but I feel that this week is a good week for Nadia not to have been teaching. In the discouraging annals of Things That Squash My Voice Down Flat the present circumstances rank rather high. Peter and I decided to have an excursion, this Monday afternoon without a voice lesson, but since neither of us is feeling exactly lively and enthusiastic†† we kept thinking smaller and smaller and . . . smaller. . . .
We went to the library. Or what used to be the big regional library and is now the Random Media Centre full of random media.††† And a few books. ‡ And a rather nice café.‡‡ So we hit the cheezy SF&F section first and then I took a detour to the knitting shelf ‡‡‡ on our way to the café. And then we sat and read like a couple of old married folks out on an excursion.§
Of course then I had to go home to the hellpack. . . .
* * *
* My hands now smell permanently of dog food no matter how much I wash them^. This is kind of off-putting when you’re eating chocolate.
^ Ow. Yes, I’ve thought of one-use gloves. But force-feeding is a delicate operation and even latex gloves are clumsy. I suppose if I thought I was going to be doing this the rest of my life I’d learn to use the gloves. But I’m not going to be doing this the rest of my life. Pav is going to come out of season any minute. And hellhounds will revert to being ordinarily crappy eaters rather than pathologically crappy eaters. SIIIIIIIIIIIIIIGH.
** Yes. Critters go to heaven too. I say so.^
^ Although some of them may have quite a lot of repenting to do first.
*** But then Chaos never eats well. He’s secretly convinced that he could live on air, if only I’d let him try it out properly.
† I don’t know if this is because Aroma of Bitch in Season hangs heavy on the air, despite frequent changes of hellterror bedding and mopping of crate and kitchen floor, or whether they’re just, you know, not stupid. I have frequently noticed that dogs are not stupid at just the times when you wish they were.
†† Also there are these, you know, floods. They do get in the way. The uni campus on the outskirts of Zigguraton is impressively under water.
††† And men with beards. HUGE beards. Long thick massive losing-small-animals-your-iPhone-and-the-tickets-to-tonight’s-concert-in type beards. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many gigantic beards in a smallish area before—and they weren’t with each other for the Southern England Beard Festival either. So what is it about beards and random media? Not all geeks have face hair and only one of these guys really looked geeky.
‡ Snarl. It’s a bit of a vicious circle. Us book people are proportionately less likely to hang out at libraries the fewer books the new random media centres contain. But libraries are morphed into random media centres because fewer people seem to be reading books—in hard copy anyway, she adds hastily. Also . . . how many of us Book People suffer from Too High a Percentage of Disposable Income Is Spent on Books-itis, plus Life Is Short and the TBR Pile is Tall? Although in my case what eventually killed off most of my go-to-the-library instinct is that the centralised Hampshire library computer system stank and I got tired of wasting my time.
‡‡ Not only did they have acceptable weedwash—I mean herb tea—THEY HAD SOMETHING I COULD EAT. ^
In case you’re wondering.
‡‡‡ The knitting half a dozen beat up old books quarter-shelf, speaking of snarl. Knitting is popular and fashionable, you not-paying-attention random media people. BUY MORE KNITTING BOOKS.
§ Okay, now here’s the philosophical debate. I brought two of the knitting books home with me. They’re both out of print. One of them only has two patterns I’m interested in; the other one has several, plus some useful-looking general how-to-design-your-own-version stuff. Neither of these books appears on ravelry, and while the author of the book that appeals to me more has a lot of individual patterns from other books available for individual purchase, I don’t see any from this book. I’ve wasted some time on google looking either for a used copy or for non-ravelry knitting sites where this author might also hang out. Nada.
Now I’m a little touchy about copyright, since I myself earn my living thereby^—you can also insert a terse rant here on the subject of secondhand book sales kicking back nothing to living authors^^, so looking for a secondhand copy of the book I liked is just a kind of twitch, rather than any courtesy to the author. But these books are OP and I’ve made a genuine attempt to find the patterns I’m interested in for sale somewhere. Do I now brashly make photocopies? Or not? And if I do am I a bad person? And if I don’t . . . why don’t I? Presumably it’s legal, moral and non-fattening to knit something from a pattern from a library book? Does it remain legal and moral as well as non-fattening only so long as you are doing it directly from the book?
I imagine the answer is that I don’t make copies, because the rights still belong to the author and there’s always a chance she’ll resell them somewhere—or hang them on ravelry or similar. There’s also that feeling that instructions to make something are somehow different in kind to, say, fiction, but that’s probably illusory. Creative rights are still creative rights.^^^
^ And so long as society still uses money, piracy is bad and evil and just because it’s on the internet doesn’t mean it’s free or that you’re not making some creator of something’s life unfairly harder and punching them in the morale they need to maintain to go on creating stuff you want.
^^ Paperback exchange and ‘reading copies’ for a few dollars/pounds, no blame, no harm. But the signed first editions that go for a lot of money? That’s stealing. Full stop.
^^^ Please note that I write the blog last thing anyway and at the moment I’m even more chronically short of sleep than usual. But it does seem to me that on-line knitting sites, chiefly ravelry but there are others, are a game-changer about knitting patterns. Maybe I write to the author(s) on ravelry and ask her/them if any of these patterns are going to be reissued in a new book or possibly hung on ravelry?