November 18, 2016

Happy Birthday to me. Not.

 

. . . 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

Time, time

 

Yes, two days, um, nights, in a row, posting to the blog.  It won’t last.  But I don’t want to leave that evil asshole on the opening screen of my blog for any longer than necessary:  Twenty-four hours is plenty.  But . . . having just mentioned him, here on what will now become the opening page, does that mean I have to write again tomorrow?  Hmmmm.

Time, time, was one of Peter’s phrases.  I cannot believe how much time time TIME TIIIIIIME it takes just adding one thing back into your weekly schedule.  Um.  Maybe two.  Well, maybe three.  Trying to wake the blog up counts, or counted, till the malnutrition and bronchitis splintered me, and it will count again.*  I wasn’t committed to going to Mass with my monks once a week when I was last having weekly voice lessons and Samaritan shifts either.  If Nadia insists on keeping me in a late-morning slot it makes the juggling act even more extreme because I can’t go to morning Mass and make it to the other end of the frelling country** for a voice lesson and the drive would wreck the fragile post-Mass serenity*** although it might have been interesting to discover what effect chanting penitential rites would have as warm-up to singing Mozart.  However all such questions have been set aside as I croaked through recent weeks.  I need to hustle Nadia now however in the hopes of a lesson or two before Christmas shuts all such trifles and fripperies down†:  I would like to be able to scare people on the other side of a small room with my carol singing, and all stresses, including trivialities like legal suits by the local crown court and bronchitis, make my voice go into hiding-behind-the-parapet-and-squeaking mode.

But how to begin to catch up, or slot back in, with the blog and any readers who haven’t given me up as a lost cause? The daily adventure of the hellmob?  Singing dismal and maudlin folk songs whilst hurtling?  Conversations with Peter?††  KNITTING?†††  Bell ringing?‡  The failure of Third House to sell and the oh-God-details-I-hate-details of trying to prep it to let for a year or two and see where the foaming tides of Brexit may have left us by then?  I think I need to slip into the blogging business again gently.

* * *

* IT CERTAINLY DOES. I’D FORGOTTEN HOW LONG WRITING A POST TAKES.^  Also I may have an ulterior motive.  Mwa hahahahahaha.

^ And I’m out of practise trying to herd footnotes. Which make cats or bell ringers or Sam volunteers+ or hellmobs look like a doddle.

+ Or St Margaret’s band members for the evening service. At least summer is over#, when there were Sundays we were getting by with three. When one of the three is you it’s a lot harder to pretend that strange background keening noise isn’t you singing.

# Aaaaaaaand . . . still no probate.~ Less than a month to the first anniversary of Peter’s death.  Just by the way.~~

~ The latest interesting development from my delightful bank’s closing my private nothing-to-do-with-my-husband account and stealing all my money last May is that some of the direct debits that they killed and then reinstated . . . re-died, to coin a term. Only about a third of them did reinstate, and I’m still struggling to keep up with all the stuff I haven’t had to think about every frelling ratblasted month, because I can’t INAUGURATE ANY NEW DIRECT DEBITS TILL I’M OUT OF PROBATE but I assumed those that had successfully reconnected would STAY reconnected?  Noooooooo.  That would be too simple.

~~ THIS IS ONLY THE FIRST FOOTNOTE AND I’M ALREADY OUT OF CONTROL.

** Anything over five miles is my idea of the other end of the frelling country, and this would be nearly thirty miles. I’m pretty used to the commute to my monks but Nadia has moved to Somerset.  Nearly.  The Somerset that is the opposite direction from my monks, if you follow me, so if I were pelting from monks to Nadia I’d have to squeal back through New Arcadia on the way.  Feh.

*** IF I WEREN’T WIRED OUT OF MY TINY MIND it might not be quite so fragile. Remember that the area court in Greater Footling wanted to sue me for non-payment of council tax?  And that I had sorted this out?  You didn’t think that was the end of it, did you?  No, of course not, you are intelligent grown ups with your own stories to tell about local government.  I then received another letter from the Greater Footling court system thanking me for paying up till 1 October, but that they still want me to pay up to the end of the year or they were going to sue me anyway.  Point one:  all three houses were, as of my at that time most recent conversation with the local council, paid up to 1 September. Greater Footling, for reasons best known to itself, is only suing me for the Lodge.  The local clerk in theory had removed the whole court-case thing because my situation is unusual, and she explained that if you fall behind on your council tax they will demand you pay up to the end of the year. What? Whose bright idea was that?  Most people fall behind because they’re having cash flow problems, not because they’re in probate, their bank is heli-skiing with their money, and all real-world business admin makes them cry.  So you sue someone for more money because they’ve already graphically demonstrated they don’t have enough money?  Is the government trying to make people homeless?  Or oblige them to feed their children out of the dustbins behind Macdonalds?

But perhaps I digress. I have already referred (repeatedly) to the fact that the last two or so months have been prey to a broad spectrum of diversions, and one of the results of this is that I didn’t pay the October house tax instalments on the first of the month like a good little anal-retentive control-freak stooge would.^  Midway through the month when my legs were working better and I was coughing less and I really was going to go tackle the city council AGAIN because I’d had NO paperwork yet and according to the clerks, this being one of the few things that, over the months, everybody I saw agreed on, I should receive individual monthly invoices reminding me in the politest possible way^^ that I was due to open a vein for the benefit of the council office again, and specifying the quantity they planned to tap. . . . Now I repeat that midway through the month I had had NO PAPERWORK concerning my monthly council tax bills.

Then I received three envelopes from the city council on the same day.  Declaring that I was in arrears.  And for the three houses that all come due on the same date, remember the SAME DATE thing, organised to make it easier for me, a bear of very, very little brain?  Yes?  You remember? . . . for these three simultaneously-due houses I received two first reminders and one second reminder. So with the mind-bendiness of the simultaneity situation I can also remark that the paperwork I hadn’t received included the first reminder for the third house.  Except it wasn’t for Third House, it was . . . oh, never mind.

^ My biases may be showing. But what would you rather expend your even-more-than-usually frustratingly limited energy on, friends you don’t see often enough or possibly haven’t seen in years, OR paying your frelling council tax?  Anyone who says, oooh, I’d pay my tax, of course, is banned forever from this blog.  I’d further suggest that I’m going to sneak into your house and hide your chequebook, except that nobody but the elderly hopeless like me uses cheques any more.

^^ HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

† With my voice, voice lessons are unequivocally trifling fripperies

†† I’m becoming pretty shameless about this. The locals can just get used to the scraggy old lady chatting away hard to a rose stuck in the ground in a corner between two sarcophagi.  The hellmob has.

††† I certainly must tell you about THE THING I ACTUALLY FINISHED.

† I’m still all in black. I got up this morning, late, having once again watched the dawn come up before I got to sleep, stared at the clean laundry I haven’t put away yet^, and reached for the black jeans and cardi I’d been wearing yesterday.  I went bell ringing at Crabbiton tonight and the other American eyed me and said, so, are you in mourning?  Yes, I said.  And then we did some wailing and bitching about the evil asshole before we got down to the serious business of trying to weasel out of ringing at Madhatterington on Sunday morning, Madhatterington’s bells being not only possessed by demons but they sound like a train wreck, so the ringers’ agonies aren’t even worthwhile.

^ I usually only bother to put away stuff I don’t wear that often. Something I’m going to wear again in the next day or three, why waste the time?  I only need half the bed to sleep in.

Talking to my husband

Maybe they thought I was talking to the rose.

                                                                                                                Maybe they thought I was talking to the rose.*

I got caught talking to Peter for the first time the other day. That I know of, I mean.  I’ve been talking to him in the churchyard, of course, since the unnecessarily grand ashes box went into the ground, what, is it three weeks ago now?  Even if it’s no more than hey, how’s it going, as some hurtle-shift or other passes at speed because I’m late, as usual, for the next thing, whatever it is, I still take a loop off the main path to say hello and check how the current rose is doing.*  So half the town may already be aware that the Dickinson widow chats to her husband, but then, she’s a little loony, maybe it’s being an American?**

But the first time I noticed being caught talking to Peter was a few days ago.  When I told this to a friend she said drily, who was more embarrassed?  Well, at the time, I would have said the honours were about even *** but by the time I was taking the hellhounds and my red face briskly in the opposite direction I was thinking wait a minute.  This is a churchyard. This must happen all the time!  People talking to their departed beloveds† in cemeteries!††  Meanwhile I’d better get used to being caught because it’s going to happen again.  And again.  My friend suggested that part of my discoverers’ shock was just that this was happening immediately off the main, well travelled, path through the churchyard—there’s perhaps an unconscious assumption that people who are going to speak to the dead are going to do it in the tucked-away parts of churchyards.  And this churchyard has tucked-away places.  I originally thought I’d want to have him in one of those, but I changed my mind.†††  I like him where I’m going to walk past him every day.  And my friend—who knew Peter—agreed.  That’s the path he walked on every day to go buy his newspaper.‡  And he was always interested in what was going on, what people were doing.  It’s a good spot.

Sigh.

* * *

* This is supposed to be a CAPTION.

* Some day it will NOT be a rose. Some day.  Not today.  Not tomorrow.  Probably not next week either.  Although if our little village florist ever had really fabulous sunflowers the day the current rose needs replacing I might well go for a fabulous sunflower . . . which would probably look very peculiar in the plastic spike-vase . . . eh.  The unexpected confusions of looking after a grave.  But it’s not like it’s something you think ahead about.  What I Will Do If I Ever Have An Important Grave to Look After.  We even knew that the statistical probability was very strong that I would be looking after his grave some day.  Did we think about it?  No.^  Also, you don’t get cut clematis the way you get cut roses—clematis are just not a cut-flower plant.  And Peter being a clematis man leaves me free to do my worst.  Which means roses.  And maybe a sunflower once a year.

^ There is an argument that Peter knew perfectly well that I would buy a spike-vase and put roses in it, and didn’t see the need to say anything.

** The country that has elected Donald Trump as the Republican candidate for the presidency, greater, hair-tearing, teeth-grinding, shrieking proof of national looniness is not possible.

I’m also a fantasy writer of course, but I don’t think most of the locals pay this any attention. My being an American is in your face—or your ear—the minute I say anything.  Most of them don’t task me with Trump, however.  Maybe they can see the blood in my eye if they unwarily attempt to bring politics into the conversation.  Maybe they just realise I must be a liberal, I wear All Stars.

People are funny though.^ There are people I would have expected to phone me occasionally or put a postcard through the door or something, saying ‘thinking of you, hope you’re doing okay’ or thereabouts.  I don’t need casseroles^^ and I don’t go to parties^^^ but contact might have been nice.  Which in some cases isn’t happening.  Oh.  Okay.  It’s not like I don’t have friends who are keeping a close eye on me^^^^.  The cold draught I constantly feel is about absence of Peter, not absence of friends and friendly support.^^^^^  And some people I would not have expected to take an interest, do.  Still.  Odd.

^ Make a note.

^^ Which would almost certainly be full of things I can’t eat anyway

^^^ Except I am going to one on Wednesday. A cocktail party. A large cocktail party.  I have clearly taken leave of my few remaining senses.  But it’s being held at the beautiful old country house where we had Peter’s memorial and I want to go back there for the first time since then and get it over with.  And it is a beautiful old country house with glorious parkland, and I shall wear All Stars and having had my token glass of . . . mineral water and said hello to at least three people, I shall go for a walk before Wolfgang takes me home.

^^^^ YES I’M EATING. But as I’ve said before, eliminate meat, sugar and alcohol—and butter, my one remaining dairy product—and it suddenly becomes surprisingly difficult not to lose weight.  Especially if you were a serious sugar junkie, which I was.+  Aggravated in my case by the fact that I’m an ex-fat person who learnt to deal with the fact that I gain weight easily and had what I thought was an ineradicable addiction to chocolate and other sweet things, including remarkable amounts of sugar in my remarkably strong black tea, AND champagne.  So my mindset for the last forty years has been the ‘push yourself away from the table while you’re still hungry I mean NOW’ thing to make room for the sugar and the chocolate and the butter and the champagne, and a cemented-in for additional security mindset is HARD to change after forty years.  So I keep having these conversations with myself that go, wait, you’re not going to eat ALL those nuts, are you?  Nuts are VERY HIGH CALORIE.  —YES. EAT THE NUTS.  EAT ALL THE NUTS.  YOU CAN FRELLING USE THE CALORIES.  Wait, no, no, you aren’t going to eat an entire avocado, are you?  YES.  I AM.  I AM GOING TO EAT AN ENTIRE AVOCADO.

+ And yes, I thought I was going to endure the tortures of the damned, eliminating sugar. I didn’t.  I get a little WISTFUL# sometimes but major cravings and all that?  Nope.  My body I guess was just ready.  It’s a lot more of a grown-up than the rest of me.

# You know what I really miss? Being able to treat myself.  A hard afternoon sweating through the ‘two for one’ table at Waterstones and I want a sit-down and a cup of tea before I go home.  Green tea is now fashionable enough that it’s usually not too difficult finding a tea shop that serves green.  But I can’t do the sticky cake any more.  And it’s not the cake I miss nearly so much, it’s the treat. If you follow me.  At least if I go with someone they can have the sticky cake and the shop needn’t feel it’s wasting its table on me.

^^^^^ WHICH I TOTALLY, ABSOLUTELY, GROVELLINGLY APPRECIATE.  This directed at anyone reading this blog who is wondering sadly if I’m ever going to acknowledge their card/letter/email.  Yes.  You’re on the list.   Eight months is nothing, I’m afraid, to a disorganised, ME-riddled loony.+

+ I probably shouldn’t admit this, but speaking of disorganised loonies, yesterday I discovered a little cache of letters I wrote in . . . March.  That ahem didn’t get sent ahem.  Sigh.

*** I don’t know whether it’s a good or a bad thing that I’ve never seen them before. It’s tourist season and it’s a pretty churchyard.  I was adding local colour. And the hellhounds are very decorative.  If I want an actual chat I take the hellhounds.  Pav isn’t so great at hanging out.  Although she has recently taken to hucklebutting like a dervish in the little clear space in front of Peter’s grave, which I hope he is finding entertaining.

† Of whatever kind, variety, relationship or flavour

†† It happens in the graveyard where Miri’s grandfather is buried, in Hellhound.

††† And fortunately the vicar agreed.  Thank you, God.  Thank you, lovely vicar.

‡ My little cul de sac is kind of around the corner from the churchyard, although it’s a short corner. Third House really is slap on the other side of the churchyard from the centre of town.  Have I told you that one of the weirder comments from a potential house buyer was that she really liked the house ‘but it was too near the churchyard’? What? She reads too much Stephen King or something?

Domestic Dramas

The hellterror broke my favourite bowl today. Her head is on a stake in the back garden.

Nearly.

Actually I’m thinking about tying the stake to the railing at the front of the cottage. If Damien, hairy* four-legged scion of the Black Goat of the Woods, wants to have hysterical barking meltdowns every time I walk in or out of the cottage or the Lodge, I figure let’s give him something to melt down about.

This particular bowl, unlike most of the stuff I’ve been breaking without help lately, is relatively old in my life; I bought it probably pushing forty years ago, on holiday with my oldest and best Maine friend—who died a few years ago, way too long before time.  We were on Prince Edward Island because she was an Anne of Green Gables fanatic, and this was one of those local-artists’-cooperative shops, dripping with highly desirable things.  I bought a bowl.  It is—was—a huge salad bowl, suitable for families of twelve, or for one slightly crazed paleo vegan alkaline raw foodie sort of.**  It will be horribly, horribly missed, and since some of it shattered, I doubt there are enough pieces to epoxy back together, but I will save them and give it a try some decade in the future because I am like that.  Meanwhile what am I supposed to do for a SALAD BOWL?  Alfrick, who as an experienced spiritual director has a great wealth of uplifting suggestions for all occasions of profound anguish, recommends that I engage with the prospect of The Quest for the New Perfect Salad Bowl.  This man knows me too well.

* * *

* He looks like a frelling floor mop. Not that I’m prejudiced or anything.  I have told you that five new barking dogs have moved into my immediate neighbourhood?  But only Damien is hellspawn.

** Ref what a person like this eats when she’s coming off a nasty bout of stomach flu^: your metabolism or your ability to cope or whatever changes when you drastically change your diet.  In hindsight I’ve always been lactose intolerant but I got a lot more lactose intolerant as soon as I went off dairy, although going off dairy was one of the best decisions of my life^^, and I could hear my body going YAAAAAAAAAAAAY while my mind and mouth were going waaaaaaaah ice cream cheese eggnog whipped cream waaaaaaaaah. I’m pretty sure I’ve told the blog that I used to have ice cream blow outs once or twice a year for a while but I had to stop because the hangover the next day, in which my entire physical being seemed to be inflamed, became seriously not worth it.  I’ve been a vegetarian only a little over a year but the very idea of beef broth, for example, one of the post-flu options suggested on the forum, makes me feel extremely queasy, and while I used to be a chicken-soup-for-what-ails you person, I know I couldn’t face it now.  Dead flesh?  ANIMAL FAT? Ewwwwww. And Saltines, I’ve been off wheat for yonks—I even take gluten-free wafers at Communion—and lately comprehensively off all cereal grains.  Saltines would kill me.  I don’t doubt beef broth and Saltines work a treat for the person who posted;  it’s what your body is set up to recognise as food^^^.  I agree with those of you who have said that when you’re ill the rules change.  It’s how they change and what they change to I haven’t figured out yet from the vegan paleo nutter^^^^ view.

^ And yes, it was so brief and so violent I thought about food poisoning too, but in the first place—er—the order of occurrence of certain categories of personal violence followed the stomach-flu pattern rather than the food-poisoning pattern. In the second place I can’t face the idea that it was food poisoning, because that would mean It Happened in My Kitchen, and while generally speaking housework is not my thing, I’m fairly paranoid about kitchen hygiene because my gut is so not a thing of beauty and a joy forever. And in the third place, Alfrick says there is a twenty-four hour stomach bug going around. Ah the many delights of conversation with one’s spiritual advisor.  And the reassurance about the big things he can provide.

^^ Second to moving to England and marrying Peter.  Sigh.  And I’m already frelling failing as a gravekeeper.  That first dark red rose lasted an amazingly long time.  It lasted so long in fact that I didn’t believe it was lasting that long, and had bought a second spike’s worth+ and stuck it in the ground . . . and then the red rose went on and on and on, bless it, and the second spike, which had gone in eight days after the first, lasted approximately ONE day after I took the dark red one out, and this happened to be Saturday, and because I had Cecilia here, I didn’t notice till afternoon, and didn’t make it to the florist’s before they shut.++  So, because, after all, this is Peter, and the next day was Sunday when small town florists do not open for business, I committed the ultimate act of love and cut one of my own roses. Saturday evening it was a big fat happy bright pink rose with a lot of scent, which as most of you will know florists’ roses almost never have, and less than twenty-four hours later it was already over. Arrrrrrrgh.  So tomorrow I will go back to the florist.

+ I have two of those spike-vase things so I can do the swapping more easily. #

# Okay, really I have three. Because I’m like that.  But hey, they’re cheap.

++ I might have just about made it except WE GOT STUCK BEHIND SOMEONE GOING NINETEEN MILES AN HOUR FROM THE EDGE OF NEW ARCADIA TO FIFTY FEET FROM THE TRAIN STATION. ARRRRRRRRRRRRGH. YES, THERE WAS LANGUAGE.  THERE WAS QUITE A LOT OF LANGUAGE. #

# Admetus thinks I suffer from road rage. I think he’s led a sheltered life.  Cecilia just laughed.~  I was thinking about this.  My girlfriends just laugh.  Maybe it’s a testosterone thing?  A sort of anti testosterone thing with blokes who don’t think a good evening out is to get tanked down t’pub and have a punch-up with whoever is available.

~ Which was noble of her since we barely made her train and we didn’t know at that point that we would. But we did make her train.  Possibly the fates were rewarding her for being noble.

^^^ News flash: the hellterror has decided that lettuce is not food. Shock and dismay of family and friends.  Film at eleven.  She learnt a long time ago that when I’m doing something with a knife and a chopping board there’s food involved, and the way I now frelling eat, doing something at the sink with a salad spinner and a chopping board is most of the time I’m not reading, writing, hurtling, gardening or pretending to sleep.  I NEVER used to let dogs mill around my feet and beg for scraps, but many rules have been changed in the era of non-eating hellhounds, and what you do with one hellcritter you pretty much have to do with all hellcritters, or at least choose your battles and be prepared to be extremely creative about setting up different protocols that the suspicious resident hellmob will actually wear. I never even tried to convince the hellterror that she wasn’t allowed to hope for falling items of an interesting nature.  I am not entirely stupid.  Anyway, the  hellhounds, of course, rarely can be bothered, now that I’m never grappling with anything that smells attractive, but the hellterror is always there, radiating hopefulness.  She likes broad beans.  She likes all green beans, French, runner, whatever.  She likes peas, both sugar snap and the ones you shell.  She likes all the brassicas, as previously mentioned:  she eats them RAW which I mostly can’t quite manage.  She adores carrots.  And she likes apple.  She gets a lot of apple while I’m dealing with things she either scorns—this is a short list, but it now includes all lettuce—or that she can’t have, like avocado, or that I’m not going to let her have, like frelling frelling frelling salmon, which is Terribly Good for You+ but costs not one but several bombs if you buy either wild or responsibly farmed++.  We’ve just had one of our little hellgoddess/hellterror interactions+++ where I drop a bit of apple which frelling bounces and she can’t get at it.  FRANTIC SCRATCHING NOISES.  I extend a bare foot to retrieve the thing and she can’t wait and is frenziedly licking my foot which is not helping the extraction process.  THERE.  VICTORY.

+ So no, I’m not a true vegan either. Life is short, and eating fish makes it simpler when you’re trying to live in a world where no one knows what ‘vegan’ means and if you say ‘vegetarian’ they all go ‘cheese sauce.’  And if you say, no, no cheese sauce they get all worried and say, then how do you get your PROTEIN?  Well I used to get it by chewing up people who annoyed me, but . . .

++ Although the hellmob does receive the lovely greasy scrapings at the bottom of either the tin or the baking dish because . . . because . . . um. Because.  But even the hellhounds may open one eye for salmon scrapings.  That’s ‘may’.

+++ All right, her head is not outdoors on a stake. But it was a near thing. She doesn’t get it about the bowl, but she gets it that she is not my favourite person at the minute and is therefore sleeping Very Determinedly at my feet and next to the Aga in spite of the weather.  The hellhounds are at the far end of the kitchen somewhat sheltered from the Aga by the desk-island, and with a nice cool breeze coming through the cracked-open front door.

^^^^ Yes I eat nuts. I eat lots of nuts.

 

Today

P1070093

 

Not counting poor Third House I now have three gardens:  the four-burner Aga size behind the cottage, the hall cupboard large enough for one unlined raincoat and a pair of All Stars if you pile one on top of the other size behind the Lodge, and a ragged grassy square about the size of the palm of my hand* in a corner between two ancient, falling-down sarcophagi in the churchyard twenty seconds from my front door.   Since Peter was a clematis man I’m eyeing  the sarcophagi and wondering if anyone would mind if I planted a clematis next to the gravestone–there will be a gravestone eventually–and tossed it over them as it got going.  One each possibly.  I’m afraid to ask what the rules about churchyard planting are since I’m sure I won’t like them.

I do have photos from yesterday but I think they may be maudlin.  If I decide they aren’t maudlin I’ll think about posting them next 26 July.  This one is probably maudlin too but I’m incapable of believing that a photo of a red rose is ever inappropriate**.   Something I didn’t tell you yesterday because I was already too deranged is that I threw my wedding bouquet in the bottom of the hole before the box went in.***  My bouquet was the one a-little-bit sad thing about our wedding:  we left for London almost immediately after the registrar finished declaring us husband and wife so I only had it about two hours;  we’d only picked it up on our way to the registrar’s office.  But I knew I wanted to dry it so I could keep it, so I hung it upside-down in the kitchen before we left, and it was toast by the time we got back.†   It’s been sitting in a particular china pitcher for the last twenty four and a half years but I knew I wanted to bury it with him.††  Although that empty pitcher is now very eye-catching.

I wanted to say one more thing about all of this.  I’m not mythologizing–much.  I’m telling you the truth–my truth–about death and grief the way I have always tried to tell you the truth about anything I write here:  but all public blog truths are consciously selective truths and I’m a professional writer.  Peter was not a perfect human being and you already know with knobs on that I’m not a perfect human being.  In some very important ways we were a gloriously, life-enhancingly, ridiculously well-matched couple.  In some other very important ways we didn’t get on at all.  Everyone is a control freak about something, and our control freakeries did not integrate well.  And I’m stubborn, but I have nothing on Peter;  I keep remembering that I called him ‘monolithic’ in my memorial piece.  Yes.  I’m (ahem) volatile and (ahem) reactive, not to say overreactive, um, yes, let’s say overreactive, and Peter was a proper British gentleman who reverted to type under stress.  As I grieve I am not remembering a halcyon, glittering marriage with twinkling stars and fluffy bunnies–NO BUNNIES–with twinkling stars and dancing centaurs with rhinestone-studded hooves††† that went on and on in days full of unbroken golden sunlight‡ and the smell of roses, even in January.  And the last two years were grim.  But we loved each other and we did our best.  And I miss him horribly.

* * *

* I have big hands.

** Or a pink rose, or a white rose, or . . .

*** I’d been expecting some little cardboard number, just something to transport the ashes to the ground where they could become one with tree roots and earthworms, but it was this disturbingly classy wooden box with a plaque with his name on it.  Eeep.  It looks like the kind of thing you keep on the mantelpiece to discourage visitors.  If ash receptacles were discussed when we were first arranging the funeral, including indecorous details like the practical disposal of a dead body, I completely spaced on it, but I’m doing a lot of that.  We got the British-made woven-willow coffin right, and the flowers, and that’s what counts to me.

† We had dinner at a blisteringly grand restaurant in Knightsbridge that doesn’t seem to exist any more and I kept looking across the table and thinking, you mean I get to keep him?, spent the night at the Ritz, yah hoo whammy^, spent another night in London to go to the opera^^ and then drove to Cornwall for the rest of our honeymoon.  I’ve told you this story, right?  Peter said, so, where would you like to go for the honeymoon?  France?  Italy?  Japan?  Er, I said.  Cornwall?

^ They give you a bottle of complementary champagne if you say you’ve just got married.^  I still have the bottle.  You’re not surprised, I hope.

^ I assume they check?  Otherwise this system seems to me rife with possibility of misuse by the champagne-loving crowd who can afford the Ritz’s prices.  Spend £1,000,000,000 on a room and get a £50 bottle of champagne FREE!

^^ Turandot, because that’s what was on, not because I wanted to see Turandot, the plot of which makes me chew the wallpaper particularly hard.  I’m reasonably sure I’ve done a Turandot rant on these pages.  But, you know, opera, on your honeymoon.  Yessssssss.  Hey, it wasn’t me!  Peter suggested it!  Because he was lovely and adorable and kind and thoughtful when he wasn’t being totally frelling impossible.

†† Note that dried flowers as they get older and frailer, because I didn’t treat these with anything that would make them last, become increasingly undustable, and removing sticky cobwebs?  Forget it.

††† You may have guessed I didn’t get enough sleep last night.

‡ This was happening in England after all.

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