February 3, 2016

Shadows is here!

The Ambush of Memory

 

When I started writing this Radio 3 was playing Beethoven’s Fifth. About a week ago a bunch of us handbell ringers sloped off after practise to go hear some fire-breathing orchestra detonate Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony.  They played some other stuff first—very well too—and I noticed that two of the six double bass players were small, slight women* but mostly I had my head down over my knitting.  Knitting is my default these days.**  And it was (mostly) okay.  Change of air.  Change of scenery.  Change of people.  All good things (mostly).  My three companions were chatting away cheerfully about music during the pauses while I went loop-wrap-pull, loop-wrap-pull.***

And then the orchestra went dah dah dah DAAAAAAAH and I . . . lost it.  WHAM.  Small intimate train wreck.  Wept copiously all over my knitting.  Swallowed one hand and half a box of tissues in an attempt not to sob cacophonously .  Wanted a bag to put over my head so as not to blind everybody else in the theatre with the dazzling redness of my eyes.

I don’t even know why Beethoven’s Fifth.  It wasn’t Peter’s favourite or anything.  But (several of) Beethoven’s symphonies have been somewhat guilty pleasures for me for most of my life.  Beethoven’s symphonies—maybe especially the Fifth—are so . . . obvious. I love, oh, say, Messiaen, but I have to be feeling like a grown-up to listen to him.  Small children and dogs like Beethoven’s Fifth.†  I first fell under its spell when I was a small child†† And I think what happened is that I found myself staring down the long††† unravelling skein of years during which I have listened many, many times to Beethoven’s Fifth and . . .

I know this is a Stage of Grief. I hope it will be over soon. The grief won’t be over soon—you don’t get over the loss of someone you loved, that’s a no-brainer—but this not being able to go out in public without being frelling likely to make a scene is a colossal bore as well as a vicious circle since the more you don’t go out the more likely you are to melt down when you do . . . and the more likely the depths you will plumb while you’re sitting at home staring at the walls will get depthier.‡

So I do go out.  I’m going to see a live-streaming LA TRAVIATA this Thursday.  It’ll be great.  I can cry when she dies . . . .

This is a Stage of Grief. I know this.

* * *

* I assume they have finger, and possibly arm, extensions to get around the half a mile of those strings.

** It’s certainly my default in public.^ My default at home is mostly a milling hellmob wanting to know when something interesting is going to happen.  Now that we’re spending all our time at the cottage^^ which has very limited floor space due both to original square footage and the whole Things in Corners When There Are No Corners and the Rooms Are a Lot Smaller Than They Were Before There Were Bookshelves on All the Walls etc, this question is more urgent than it used to be.

^ WHAT AM I GOING TO DO about that frelling frelling FRELLING Jesus is my totally creepy boyfriend Modern Christian Worship NOISE?  I got through church this past Sunday for the first time without suffering comprehensive disintegration followed by bolting for the door and sitting in Wolfgang in the dark till I could frelling drive.+  But it wasn’t a good or a holy uplifting time.  GAAAAAAAH.  Sermons about the glory and beauty of life are bad enough but the singing . . . .  The long view is that I want to get back on the singing rota—St Margaret’s have no standards, fortunately and would be happy to have me back—because even before 16 December++ I’ve found the power ballad to God thing a trifle testing, and up on stage ‘leading’ cough cough cough turns it into a performance and I can flip the ‘performance’ switch+++ and the emotional manipulation factor is thereby dimmed.  BUT I need to reach a tipping point of self-control before I risk it.  The performance apparatus will stretch, gouge and support only so far.  It’s  maybe like a hammer to thud a few nails further in.  But it won’t abracadabra a frame to clamp you together.  ++++

+ I can’t remember now if it was last week or the week before that it was helpfully raining so I could sit in Wolfgang with the wipers going and nobody could see me chewing on the steering wheel.

++ Although I effectively stopped going to church after 7 September.  I was at Rivendell on Sunday evenings, like every other evening, and I still can’t get out of bed in the mornings when most people go to church.  Well, I can get up, but I can’t get sane and plugged together enough to drive a car, even a very well-mannered# car like Wolfgang before noon.  Two or three in the afternoon is preferable.

# which is to say lacking in youthful pizzazz and top end precipitancy

+++ Just so long as there’s at least one guitarist to hide behind

++++ MIXED METAPHOR ALERT. And now I’m going make it worse by telling you how the necessary planks are still holding up bird’s nests back in the forest somewhere.  I am trying to tell you I am nowhere near the tipping-back-into-prudence-and-rationality# point.

# Not perhaps that prudence or rationality were strong points before.

^^ Oh, and?, she tosses off lightly, have I mentioned that I’ve bought another house? A . . . you should forgive the term . . . third house?  I have spectacular cash flow problems that may result in a failure to buy dog food soon+ BUT I OWN THREE HOUSES.++  Briefly.  Poor Third House goes on the market as soon as I can finish getting it cleared out.  New House needs a name.  Second Third House? Fourth House Minus Two?  Daughter of Third House?  Seventh Cousin Twice Removed of Third House House? Numerical Confusion I Never Could Count House?  Gwendolyn?

+ This will delight the hellhounds of course. The hellterror, not so much.

++ It’s a long story. Next blog post.

*** I’m not going to say clickety-clack because I don’t clickety-clack.  I use wooden needles, not metal, and I’m slow so I might as well be silent too.

^ Not that this saves me from, for example, the stitch I dropped and then picked up again incompetently when I was knitting in bed one night and heard . . . the unmistakable sounds of a member of the hellmob downstairs throwing up. There is now a HOLE.+  I will sew it up during the seaming stage which, as we all know with McKinley knitting productions, never happens.++

+ In the knitting. Not the hellmob.  Or the kitchen floor.  The hellmob are all remarkably resistant to being left in a box by the side of the road.  They tend to climb out and follow me home again.

++ Which will be embarrassing in this case because it’s the latest in my attempts at a baby blanket. ONE OF THESE DAYS I’LL ACTUALLY FINISH ONE. Before the kid goes off to uni.#

# All right. Before the kid goes off to uni may be too much to ask.  By the time its first baby is born perhaps.~

~ But I still won’t have seamed it up and woven the ends in.

† The hellmob prefer LA TRAVIATA. But they’re okay with Beethoven’s symphonies.

†† And doubtless I was a dog in a previous life.^

^ I know Christianity doesn’t do reincarnation.  WE DON’T KNOW EVERYTHING.

††† Long long long. One of the tangential horrors of the current presidential-election follies is that these bozos are my age.^  These scary creeps are my generation. Forty years ago my generation were going to SAVE THE WORLD, especially from the politicians—and the politicians’ policies—of our parents’ generation.  Same old same old same old I DON’T NEED ANY ADDITIONAL REASONS TO BE UTTERLY DEPRESSED.

^ Ted Cruz is an infant.

‡ Also you are so unlike the self you used to be or thought you knew, blither blither quackety quack quack, and this current self is so exasperating and unseemly and difficult to manage^ that you, or anyway I, do find myself trying to ‘manage’ it/me like you might manage any other intractable problem.  What frelling works? Avoidance?  Confrontation?  Drugs?  Handcuffs and a soundproof dungeon?  Chocolate?  I haven’t found what works yet.

^ And liable to mood changes so supersonically fast, as you might say breakneck, you give yourself whiplash.+

+ It’s not that there aren’t good minutes#. There are just so many more bad ones.

# Getting sworn in as an ornamental laic doohickey by my monks was a good minute. Actually it was several good minutes in a row.  Even if they did occur at EIGHT FORTY FIVE FRELLING O’CLOCK IN THE SUPER-FRELLING MORNING.

Post-memorial placeholder

 

One day at a time is a good idea when you’re a little more plugged into the concept of ‘day’. I was planning to post another piece from the memorial last night, but I’d had a really nice day out with a friend* followed by supper at a pub** and when I got home . . . home was darker and colder and emptier even than usual since 16 December, despite the presence of a hellmob who were more than happy to join me on the sofa for some mutual support*** and I couldn’t face posting more remembering-Peter stuff.  This evening I got home from my interview at the abbey to become an Ornamental Laic Doohickey appended in some mystic and numinous manner from the monkish community†, firmly opened my laptop and addressed myself to the next memorial piece and . . . realised I needed to ask its author a few questions before I posted it and he didn’t get back to me by return electron what is the MATTER with the man.††  My sensible alternative was to hang some photos—there were posters full of photos at the memorial service, most of them patiently loaded and tweaked into available digital format by the tireless Philippa—but I can’t face that right now either.†††

So you’ll have to make do with this for tonight. Tomorrow is another day.  For better or worse.

* * *

*Fiona. We went to a YARN SHOP.  That was a no-brainer, wasn’t it?  But it’s a yarn shop that specialises in small indie spinners and dyers where if you see something you like BUY IT IMMEDIATELY BECAUSE IT WON’T BE THERE IF YOU GO AWAY FOR A CUP OF TEA TO THINK ABOUT IT AND COME BACK HAVING DECIDED ‘YES’.  The problem with going in there even having decided in advance to kill on sight—er—I mean snaffle and stuff in basket on sight is that these frelling itsy bitsy indies—I mean the tinies, doing it in their kitchen sinks^, seem only ever to produce one middling-sized skein of anything. Which does make for a highly engaged day out, scampering around the shop looking for something that complements the single unique skein you have fallen in love with, which alone has about enough yardage^^ for a bow tie and one earring.  This matching trick is likely to be impossible however because you’ve got to get the same gauge—the thickness of your yarn—and the mix of fibres similar if not identical between or among your skeins or your knitting will come out a gnarly ramshackle mess.^^^  This odds-against pursuit also goes some way to preventing you from buying more yarn than will fit in the car.#

^ You can tell what mum or dad is dyeing by the colour of the food on your plate. Orange meatloaf.  Green bread speckled with dazzling yellow pumpkin seeds.  Red peanut butter.  Pink brussels sprouts.  All finest wholesome vegetable dyes of course.  That’s probably beet juice in the peanut butter and maybe in the brussels sprouts too.

^^ or meterage

^^^ Fiona, who has been at this scam a lot longer than I have, is also a lot braver. I keep looking at the percentages of stretchy (wool, etc) and non-stretchy (cotton, silk etc) and wanting them to match if I’m going to try to knit them together, and sometimes frelling teeny indies don’t even give you the percentages, so you have something that says wool/silk and something else that says wool/silk but THEY ARE OBVIOUSLY PERILOUSLY DIFFERENT and then you see something that says wool/silk and something else that says alpaca/cotton and they actually look pretty similar and you’re sure you’re losing your mind as you’re kneeling weeping on the floor when Fiona drifts by says, no, feel it—rubbing various yarns briskly between her fingers—it’ll be fine. She also has some INSANE ideas about holding double a 4-ply yarn that matches your unique skein of 8-ply colours in paradisical perfection, to make up the weight.  AAAAAUUUUUGGGGHHHH.  Maybe she could do this without inadvertently stringing herself and three local hellcritters from the rafters but I’m not going to risk it.

# It’s probably a good thing Fiona has a small car.~

~ I have ANOTHER yarn day out planned with ANOTHER friend. This however will be to a serious, sober yarn shop and I shall go armed with a LIST. As Fiona and I were agreeing yesterday, when you go into a random yarn shop you buy . . . random yarn which goes in your stash. If you have a PROJECT in mind . . . of course you have to buy yarn for it because your stash is . . . your stash. You don’t knit from it. Of course not.

** I think I’ve told you that the Troll and Nightingale used to be the brawlers’ pub, the presence of which haven of misbehaviour in deeply staid New Arcadia used to amuse me to an unseemly degree.^ Well it got a refit a year or three ago and has blossomed into quite the many-petalled flower of the art of the gastropub.  I’m a tiny bit nostalgic for the bad behaviour of yore, but mostly I’m happy to have another option for a glass of fizz and some food to hold it down within walking distance.  New Arcadia is so well off for foodie pubs that you can choose your atmosphere by your mood of the moment and you can indulge in a permanent snit with one of your locals and still have plenty of alternatives.  For a cranky person the availability of a righteous snit that doesn’t cost anything in pleasure or convenience is as delicious as . . . well, Niall’s chocolate brownies, say.  Anyway.  The Troll and Nightingale wasn’t expecting much business on a wet Tuesday night in January and were understaffed and service was SLOOOOOW.  But Fiona and I just got on with our knitting.  Knitting rules.^^

^ except when the spilling into the street and the tops of their lungs and breaking furniture+ thing was happening very late at night on a summer evening when your windows are open. I won’t say I would be trying to sleep, but if you’re propped up in bed on six pillows in the wee hours reading, part of the pleasure of the entertainment is the you’re-the-only-one-awake silence.

+ You probably know it’s actually quite difficult to break furniture that hasn’t been Hollywoodised for filming scenic altercations, but it can be done.

^^ Even if I did have to rip that multiply-damned sleeve out again. I would suspect myself of not wanting to finish the last project I’d started while Peter was still alive but since I never finish anything anyway this seems superfluous to requirements.  I’ve done a lot of knitting since 7 September because it keeps me off the ceiling^ and pretending to be calm and sane, knitknitknitFOCUSknitknitknit, but I think it’s all lying around waiting to have some kind of finishing element applied.  Mostly this involves weaving in ends and sewing up seams but I’m also experimenting with making bags for handbells which require felting. Oh, and I made an adorable scarf with my last two skeins of indie yarn.^^

^ Unless of course I’m trying to knit with a double strand of 4-ply to match the every-two-rows swap with the other single-indie-skein of 8-ply.

^^ You’re allowed to knit randomly out of your stash.  You just can’t knit planned projects.

*** And snoring. The hellterror is a redoubtable snorer.

† The monk who is Master of Ornamental Doohickeys said to me kindly that signing up was a significant thing to do at a crisis or turning point in one’s life. Oh.  I thought Alfrick was just stampeding me into something he thought would be good for me.

†† Possibly he has a life? Some people do I believe.

††† The posters themselves, at my request, were handed over to me at the end of the memorial, and they are leaning up against a corner in the cottage sitting room. I want them, I just don’t want to look at them quite yet.

After

 

 

I can’t get my head around the widow thing. I’m what? Peter’s what? No, no, no, it’s a bad dream.  It’s a shit-sucking multi-tentacled toxic-spiked nightmare.  At heart level I know he’s gone gone gone gongegonegonegone gone:  it’s why I don’t seem to be inhabiting my body, I look at my hands on the keyboard or picking up the chopsticks to seize some broccoli* and think, what?  What are you? Whose are you?  I’m pelting down the pavement*** after the hellhounds and thinking, whose legs are these, that still work so well?  If Peter can’t hurtle any more, why was I left behind?

Intellectually I’m still arguing about the gone gone gone. My body knows.  I can hardly type because my fingers may still bend and strike but they’re crying too, and crying ruins your aim.  I’ve broken three dishes in about ten days—one of them a favourite, and it’s out of print, whatever you call it for china, and I can’t replace it.  I don’t break dishes.  That’s Peter’s job.

Every day I get out of bed and am surprised that I can. And then wonder why I’m bothering.  Well, I have to.  I have to let the hellmob out.†

The truth is that Peter hasn’t hurtled in years. He still used to come with us sometimes on the shorter afternoon hurtles when the hellhounds were young and frelling inexhaustible†† but his long long tramps over (muddy†††) Hampshire countryside had stopped by the time we moved into town.  Being walking distance of the shops, Peter said, was his idea of growing old gracefully.  And he did keep walking to the shops, even if he got a little slower, and a little slower, and eventually he was walking with a stick.  But he was still moving along. . . .

And then the first stroke, two years ago.

The last two years have been sodding bloody puking awful. Even though I can only afford to admit it now.  Now that it’s all over.‡  I don’t know how common this is, but I’ve always been someone who when things are bad, helplessly bad, and the only thing to do is endure, I shut down, and get on with it as best I can.  Admitting the unbearable is unbearable does not help.  So I don’t.  Didn’t.  I joined the Street Pastors and the Samaritans partly because God told me to‡‡ but partly because I could do fuck-all for Peter, and maybe I could have a dab at slapping a plaster on someone else’s mortal wounds.

And? I pretty well haven’t written a publishable word since Peter’s first stroke. It took a few months to catch up with me—that I essentially wasn’t coping—but the proof is pretty stark.  And I’d better start writing soon or retrain as a grocery store shelf re-stocker.

Life sucks and then you die. Or your beloved husband does, after being yanked around by fate and the devil for a couple of years.

I have various friends keeping a sharp eye on me. I rang frelling handbells this afternoon because doubly-frelling Niall is triply-frelling relentless.‡‡‡  Half a dozen of my St Margaret’s friends came to the memorial service and mobbed me after the talking part and before the champagne to discuss how and when I was going to start coming to church again, since I haven’t for . . . about four months.  Since the 7th of September.  I want to start coming, I said, but I can’t face all those people asking me how I am. We’ll come fetch you! they said, more or less in chorus.  And we won’t leave your side for a moment! So there was discussion of tactical defence manoeuvres . . . and one of them, whom we will call Rosamund§, is going to drive to New Arcadia and pick me up, and about four of the others are going to GUARD THE BACK ROW against our arrival.  I’m going to bring my knitting!§§  I may not do anything but crouch in the back, cry, and knit! I said.  That’s fine, they all chorused—including Buck, whose sermon I will be knitting through.

Whatever. Okay.  I guess.  Sigh.  And you all are probably going to tell me I still have to finish PEGASUS.

I’ve got permission to hang the other memorial pieces, by the way, which will follow in due course. And the six minute limit?  Thanks for all your protests on my behalf, but we were trying to cram a lot in in an hour.  It was actually a pretty spectacular show.  Peter would have loved it . . .

So, I’m crying again.

* * *

* Yes I am eating.^

^ And broccoli is my fifth food group, with black tea, champagne, chocolate and apples.

** It’s kind of funny that knitting is soothing when it seems to be being performed by someone else’s hands, but I’ll take what I can get in terms of soothingness.

*** The wettest December on record is morphing seamlessly into the wettest January. I’ve got standing water in my little garden^, which is on the top of a hill and less than a spade-blade length down is full of builders’ rubble which ought to be good drainage, for pity’s sake, even it’s a little short on plant nutrients.  Hannah is coming over next week bringing, she told me, her hiking boots, and I’m wondering if I should tell her not to waste the space:  out in the countryside it’s scuba gear^^ or nothing.^^^  We can splash down assorted quaint medieval cobblestone streets in Mauncester.  Supposing the road between here and there doesn’t flood out.  I seem to have mislaid Wolfgang’s water wings.^^^^

^ This severely displeases the hellmob.

^^ No, a bathysphere. With a strong headlamp.

^^^ If I told her not to bring them the sun would instantly nova and turn us into a desert. I guess she’d better bring them.

^^^^ The hellterror may have eaten them.

† Into the paddling pool

†† Okay, so at least I haven’t been trying to quench two young inflammable hellhounds every day these last four months, and the hellterror, given about four foot in all seven directions^ can hucklebutt herself into a state of pleasant nap-taking collapse. Am I supposed to be GRATEFUL?

^ Up, down, back, forth, in, out and AAAAAUGH

††† All right it hasn’t always been muddy, the last not-quite-quarter-century^ but right at the moment it feels like it has.

^ Our anniversary was 3 January+ but we also celebrated 26 July, which was the beginning of that weekend in Maine

+ Tolkien’s birthday. Yes.  I’ve told that story somewhere on this blog.

‡ He wanted to go.  He absolutely, totally wanted to go.  But I wasn’t ready to let him go.  He won.

‡‡ I’m not going to argue about this. Anyone who doesn’t believe in God^ is going to have no clue why the unsainted hell your faith is a comfort to you in bad times, when God could flapdoodling well sort it, whatever it is, if he/she/it/they blinkety-blankety well wanted to.  I can only say that faith really is your bulwark and buttress and rock of ages and so on, and I’m not entirely sure I would still be getting out of bed in the morning if I didn’t have Jesus and his Mum^^ to scream at.

^ And I’m not going to argue about this either: as Alfrick says, we’re all going to have some surprises when we get to whatever heaven is, all of us, the Christians, the Muslims, the Hindus, the Shintos, the Buddhists, the shamans, the wiccans, the pagans, the everybody else, and the agnostics and the atheists.  Especially the atheists.

^^ That would be God, not Mary, although Mary is good too. Although I have my own ideas about what she thought she was getting into with Gabriel.  I mean, she was a teenager, right?  And Gabriel was cute.

‡‡‡ He’s also responsible for chivvying me into ringing a quarter peal in Peter’s memory a few days after Peter died and before the madness that is funeral and memorial service arrangements had closed me down completely. It’ll be good for you, Niall said.  It will not!  I said.  Jumping off a bridge would be good for me!  No, no, no, Niall said. Think of the hellmob.  For better or worse all my friends know to remind me of the furries at critical moments.

§ Who is another of Alfrick’s devoted admirers, by the way

§§ I took a certain amount of teasing for the fact that I had my knitting with me at the memorial service. I had bought my Good Black Leather Shoulderbag some years before there was any question of knitting needles, and they stick out the top. Yo, I said, if I go to pieces, I will want my knitting.

I should have stayed in bed

 

. . . yesterday.  I’d been Street Pastoring Friday night* so getting out of bed Saturday (ahem) morning (ahem) was a somewhat protracted business.**  I eventually came downstairs*** and was fallen on by the hellmob† who feel that six hours is plenty of time to be without the fascinating, stimulating and all-providing hellgoddess.††

And before I go on with this story I want to make it very clear that I had had an adequate amount of caffeine . . .

I have three eggs for breakfast every morning.†††  I make excellent scrambled eggs‡ and this also means that if I—er—don’t get around to eating for the rest of the day I’m still good to go.‡‡  I have NO IDEA how it happened, except that I must have put the pan carelessly down on the edge of the cooker while I reached for the bowl.  Possibly to do with sleep deprivation.  Even caffeine can only do so much.

AND THE BLOODY PAN LEAPED OFF THE COOKER, DID THREE CARTWHEELS MIDAIR‡‡‡ AND PLUNGED TO THE FLOOR WHERE IT FRELLING BOUNCED.  Who knew that a heavy copper pan COULD BOUNCE THAT HIGH?

I had scrambled eggs—scrambled eggs that had just had their butter stirred into them a moment ago—EVERYWHERE.  I mean EVERYWHERE.  I’m starting to feel hysterical again just remembering.  The eggs that landed on the front of the Aga itself were instantly welded into place because the front of the Aga is HOT, you know?  The fronts of the white cupboards were suddenly a shiny mottled yellow.  I had eggs on my computer, eggs on the piles of books and magazines§ to either side of it, eggs on the glass panes of the cupboards above the counters, eggs on my knitting bag . . . eggs on the FAR SIDE OF THE KITCHEN ISLAND, on the table I can no longer get the leaves up of because there are too many hellcritter crates, and on the glass front of the bookcase that stands next to the table.  There are probably eggs in the geraniums on the windowsills too, but it’s a bit of a jungle in there and if there are eggs they can just stay there.

Meanwhile, back at ground zero . . . my kitchen was built by a cowboy.  I have no idea where my predecessor found him, but I hope she put him back where he can trouble no one any further.  Since I have a cowboy mentality when it comes to housework this is mostly not that big a problem.  I curse the drawer that doesn’t open except when it shoots out and falls to the floor, but mostly I can ignore the fact that it has big gaps at the top and on both sides, and that the handle doesn’t fit flush to the front.  I can also ignore that the cowboy was either drunk or high when he put in the footings for the Aga§§ UNTIL I’M TRYING TO CLEAN SCRAMBLED EGGS OFF EVERY SURFACE IN THE KITCHEN.  A heavy copper pot can cannonball its contents with amazing force.  I had greasy scrambled eggs inside that frelling drawer, having slammed through the cracks;  I had scrambled eggs jammed under the not-flush handle.  I had—and, in fact, still have, since I see no way of getting them out—scrambled eggs puttying up the gaps in the Aga footings . . . I had scrambled eggs inside the oven-shaped space in the Aga that contains the gas feed and the striking mechanism and the spigots because there are vents in the top of the door which the eggs came through.  I had eggs sliding down Jesus’ tummy on the brand-new icon I have hanging on the front of one of those glass-paned cupboards§§§.  I had eggs dripping off the overhead ceiling beam.

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAUGH

I spent two hours cleaning the kitchen.~  And whining.  And then I made myself more scrambled eggs and I ate them.  ~~

* * *

* And I got STOPPED BY THE FUZZ ON THE WAY HOME.  Hee hee hee hee hee.  They must have been bored^—or poor Wolfgang has that look of minor criminal delinquency.  I saw a car pull in behind me and I couldn’t see it was cops but I am happy to say that late at night any car that pulls in behind me is guilty until proven innocent of being cops, and I drive accordingly.  At 4 am after being on your feet strolling the city for six hours you might be forgiven for BEING A LITTLE TIRED.^^  I had about decided this car was not cops since it had followed me all the way through town and out the other side and I hadn’t had any near encounters with trees or anything.  But they still pulled me over, one of them ambled out and asked—politely—if I was lost or if perhaps . . . I had had one or two down t’pub earlier?  No, I said cheerfully, I’ve been Street Pastoring, and I waved the sleeve of my jacket, lying on the seat next to me, at him.  Oh, Street Pastors, he said, carry on.  I spared him pointing out that he’d just spoken to me not an hour before on a street corner . . . but the anonymous thing about a uniform?  The SP logo is like a great big HARMLESS sign and I think cop gaze slides right off us.  Not the other way around, you will note.  But I’m still getting used to chatting amiably with The Man.  Or, occasionally, Woman.

^ I’m happy to say that in this area at 4 am, when the final Chinese/Thai/Indian takeaway/kebab shop/Subway sandwiches has closed after the last club+ has closed, things are pretty quiet.  Except for the occasional random old lady serially hurtling a hellmob.  The cops’ve stopped her too, as you may recall.

+ Yes we have those too.  No, really.  You want vices?  We got vices.  It’s just most of them go to bed pretty early.

^^ I would be useless at shift work—like cops—and with the ME the only reason I can do Street Pastoring at all—or all those late Sam duties—is because I stay up late anyway.  Just not quite this late+ and there’s less walking involved++, although what walking there is on an ordinary McKinley late night includes liberal use of small plastic bags.

+ Um.  Usually

++ Or chatting to people, which is much more tiring.#  I like carrying the knapsack, despite the weight of a full frelling thermos, because then I can concentrate on the hot-drinks service and conversation can be honourably limited to ‘vegetable, chicken and vegetable or hot chocolate?’  Mind you wrestling with thermoses that don’t open, plastic bags of paper cups that have no entry point, packets of soup that won’t tear and the regular dismaying disappearance of all the spoons, it usually takes an entire team to get a hot drink made anyway.  I suspect many of our regular homeless don’t want the drink but they enjoy the show.

# Answering the phones at the Sams is different.  They rang you.  You didn’t wander up to them wearing a silly hat.

** I’ve got the standard post-late-Sam duty system reasonably well banged out but I’m still working on post-SP.  I have two major problems about getting to bed before the morning news on Radio 3^:  the first is this three dog drill.  Pav is totally down on bodily functions.  You take her out, she does the necessary and she can’t wait to get back indoors again BECAUSE THERE WILL BE FOOOOOOOOOD.  Hellhounds . . . Chaos has to crap at least twice^^ every time he sets foot across the threshold and Darkness has to find the PEEEEEEEEEERFECT spot.  He can shuttle around a patch five foot square for five minutes . . . and then CHANGE HIS MIND and be obliged to LOOK ELSEWHERE.  And the pee-marking . . . they may have to pee several times and from several different directions on a single tree, dustbin, bus stop, wall^^^, pole, etc.  Although watching them trying to get it RIGHT with a pole is pretty funny since their aim isn’t all that great, and . . .

And the other thing is that I come back from any late duty STARVING.  And more so after following flaming hellhounds around on their eliminatory QUEST.  And eating is, you know, time consuming, since you’re not going to gag down six brownies and an onion^^^^ at the kitchen sink, are you?  You’re going to want to consider your choices and then sit down and enjoy your selection, and maybe get out a book to read or a little knitting and . . .

^ the sound of which produces an OH FESTERING FESTERING reaction, especially if I’ve fallen asleep in the bath again

^^ I am not merely paying for the makers of biodegradable plastic crap bags to send their children to college, I am also funding their tropical rainforest holidays in Maine and sun and surf holidays in Tibet+.  ARRRRRRGH.

+ Both of these options are EXTRA EXPENSIVE for what you might call the obvious reasons

^^^ Walls come in extents, you realise.  A self-contained extent from a peeing-dog perspective is anywhere from three-quarters of an inch to about two foot.  Sigh.

^^^^  Well I hope you aren’t

*** There may have been moaning

† I am DELIGHTED TO REPORT THAT the hellterror is off heat again YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY.  Although the hellhounds are still checking.  Hellterror is all, you want my butt?  I am delighted you want my butt!  Here is my butt!  HERE IS MY BUTT!  HERE IT IS!  HERE!  ARE YOU ENJOYING MY BUTT?  IT’S A NICE BUTT, ISN’T IT?  MAYBE YOU’D LIKE TO TICKLE MY TUMMY TOO?  OR I COULD JUST MUG YOU.  —Remind me why I have dogs.

†† Getting your dogs on your peculiar schedule is easy.  But all those bright little expectant eyes when you crawl through the door at three or four in the morning is perhaps not the perfect solution.  When are they going to invent a dog-walking robot?

††† All right so it’s not necessarily morning.  It’s the first meal of the day, okay?  Unless you count the nosh at 5 am.

‡ Possibly almost as good as Sunshine’s.  Almost.  After all, she’s a professional.

‡‡ There could be some connection here with why I am often starving at three or four in the morning.  But post-menopausal metabolism, you know?  The frelling eggs are an indulgence.  I could maintain weight on a carrot a week, I swear.  A small carrot.^

I am not thinking about Niall’s brownies.  I am not thinking about Niall’s brownies.  NOT.  +

+ However I am apparently ringing at Old Eden tomorrow night, where ringing up those bells is like running a flag up a flagpole where the pulleys are all frozen and the flag is the approximate size, weight and momentum resistance of the Albert Memorial.  Who needs a gym subscription?

‡‡‡ During which I wrung my hands and did not make a grab for it because it had only JUST come off the hot plate and I employ a heavy copper-clad steel pan because I can use all the upper-body strengthening devices I can get AND it cooks divinely not least for its HEAT RETAINING PROPERTIES.

§ You mean not everybody eats surrounded by books and writing implements of various applications, or keeps current reading material on the kitchen counters?^

^ There would be more on the floor except, you know, hellterror.  No she doesn’t eat paper but she does carom off it.

§§ It’s a reconditioned one so it’s possible that whoever did the reconditioning also supplied the footing. This is not an encouraging thought. Fortunately the Aga herself is a star and I wouldn’t be without her.  Long time readers may recall I’ve said that all my friends fell down laughing when they found out I’d bought a house with an Aga in it since I had clearly bought it for the Aga.  Ahem.  I deny this charge.  Although I admit the presence of an Aga may have been a tipping point.

§§§ A few weeks ago, when the real world was beating me up unusually hard, I met my monk on my way into the chapel on Saturday night and he asked me how I was. I burst into tears. The end of that conversation included Alfrick suggesting I buy myself a suitable icon and start poking my problems into the little cave with the skull in it at the foot of the cross.^

^ First you have to find a reproduction that doesn’t chop the cave off because it’s all for tourists anyway and they won’t care.  Good grief.  Or I should probably say God bless.  I finally found a nice shiny working Catholic repro of an icon.  I don’t recall however that you’re supposed to baptise your new icon in scrambled eggs and I was a little worried that the cheap varnish was going to peel off, but it seems to have taken no harm.+

+ This is a monologue for another night, but having been raised, supposedly, to be a generic Protestant . . . generic Protestants so miss out on the evil-papist [sic] ritual objects like icons and rosaries.  Maybe I’m just unusually mired in earthly matters# and/or old to be this young, but I find the props tremendously helpful and supportive.  We are living in this world with bodies in three mortal dimensions##.  I belong to the school of thought that it’s not all about transcendence.

# two hellhounds with chronic diarrhoea and a hellterror with a fabulous butt can do this to you

## and hellcritters.  I think hellcritter bodies exude an extra dimension or two.  Possibly hellterrors have a special Butt Dimension which could explain a lot.

# Small mercies:  the hellterror had been recrated^ before the excitement.  She did, however, have lovely buttery scrambled eggs for breakfast.  She did not care that they’d spent a few minutes on the floor or were seasoned with tears of rage and despair.

^ For an excess of butt-related activities

~ It’s still speckled yellow.  But it’s less speckled.  .

~~ Today, however, has been better.  We went to a ROSE GARDEN.

A night to remember.* Or not.

Niall and I went bell ringing tonight.  Tower bells.  One proper substantial bell at a time YAAAAAAY.  Not handbells.  Two horrible little random bells at a time NOT YAAAAAAAY.

Long pause.

WELL I GOT SOME KNITTING DONE.

Sigh.

One of the things about method ringing on handbells is that it is SO FRELLING INSANELY HERCULEAN AND FORMIDABLE AND DEMANDING** that when you can finally ring something it’s like the most amazing thing that has ever happened to you*** and furthermore since in the process you have completely altered the structure of your brain there’s quite a good chance it will stick.†  Tower bell ringing is a ratbag of epic proportions, but in terms of learning the method line, handbells makes it look easy.

But there are important caveats about that easy.  First caveat:  you have to ring any given method often enough to gouge out a channel in your brain.††  Second caveat:  you have to be able to HANDLE the bell you are ringing ACCURATELY.  Which is the one thing—the ONE THING—that handbells has over tower bells in fatal adversarialness:  handling technique is not much of an issue with handbells.  You just shake the frellers.  Tower bells are mostly bigger than you are—usually quite a lot bigger than you are—and tact and adroitness enter the picture.  More or less.

And then there are mini rings.  Where the bells are buckets or flower-pots or large thimbles that say GREETINGS FROM GRIMSBY and you’re essentially ringing something handbell-sized only with all the style and paraphernalia of tower bell ringing.  I HATE MINI RINGS.  THEY’RE THE WORST OF BOTH WORLDS.  Which is to say I suck at mini rings.†††

It was a mini ring tonight.‡

WHAT IDIOT INVENTED METHOD BELL RINGING ANYWAY.  After this it’s knitting all the way.  Starting NOW.‡‡

* * *

* We’re having a major storm out there with wind and rain and banshees.  Radio 3 has just fallen off the air with a crash and a whine^ and I’m contemplating with disfavour the prospect of getting the hellmob back to the cottage.  I tend to be a trifle top heavy because I’m carrying a knapsack full of misbehaving technology and the hellhounds are not only tall and long-legged but they don’t weigh anything because they don’t eat and will probably take off like kites the minute they’re out the door.  Which will be hard on my shoulders.  Even weightless hellhounds hitting the ends of their leads at speed tends to be painful.^^

^ And is now making intermittent gobbling noises

^^ There is a good deal of hellmob-derived pain around at the moment:  the hellterror is in full bloody [sic] streaming heat, and a good month early.  She wasn’t due even to start inspiring Darkness—who is the more clued in about these matters—to emerge from the backmost recesses of the hellhound bed, which is where he tends to remain when the hellterror is loose about the landscape, to investigate an evolving situation till about now, and never mind having already moved into the dripping [hellterror] and moaning [hellhounds] phase.  ARRRRRRGH.  I DO NOT WANT HER CYCLE GETTING SHORTER.  I CAN STAND IT EVERY NINE MONTHS.  NOT EIGHT MONTHS.  NOT SEVEN MONTHS.  NOT . . .

Meanwhile she’s not in a very good mood either.  Not only won’t I let her play with the hellhounds, and while Darkness tends to disappear into the shadows, torturing Chaos is one of her favourite games+, but she is at present only allowed to hang out in rooms with vinyl floors.  This means, for example, at the cottage she cannot come into the sitting room with me when I enter the Magical Dog Food Grotto to fetch a fresh tin or bag of something,++ nor can she accompany me upstairs to fetch the thing I know I brought downstairs a minute ago but can’t find.  Although this last is a rather desirable state of affairs given hellterror ebullience and the state of my floors as storage space.  Hellhounds negotiate, delicately, the many obstacles to straightforward passage from one room to the next.  Hellterrors spring and ricochet with abandon.  Those little bedspring legs certainly could clear the piles of books, magazines, All Stars, yarn, etc, but what’s the fun in that?  The most interesting effect however was when she knocked twenty hardback copies of SHADOWS downstairs.  Very, very interesting.  Very.

Nobody died.  That’s all you need to know.

+ Second only to hurling herself upon me in gladness and felicity when her paws are muddy and my jeans were clean a minute ago. #

# One of my many failures as a dog owner, as I believe I have told you before, is that it seems to me entirely reasonable that something only about twelve inches tall should want to jump up on you.~

~ Hey, she rolls over beautifully for little pieces of roast chicken.  What do you want, perfection?=

= She is a funny wee thing in a lot of ways.  As Southdowner told me what seems like forty centuries ago—and years before Lavvy got pregnant—you keep bull terriers because they make you laugh.  Bull terriers are also hungry all the time and to a dog, possibly especially a short dog, who is hungry all the time, almost everything looks like food.  Pav has learnt that I have an inexplicable dislike of her ingesting random bits of rubbish we meet out hurtling and we have reached a compromise about this which works reasonably well most of the time.  Something that is positively not edible, like a plastic bottle—she and Chaos share a passion for crunching plastic bottles between their teeth for the noise, but even Pav doesn’t seem to want to eat them—she will, on command [sic], when we stop by a trash bin, ‘drop’.%  If, however, her current prize is deemed edible, she will not drop.%%  But if I have lodged my protest promptly she will graciously not swallow either, but I do have to get down on my knees and frelling hoick it out of her mouth while she stands, unresisting, with the little evil eye twinkling away at me and the thought-balloon over her head clearly reading heh heh heh heh.  When the thus-removed substance is pizza or sandwich-end or similar, no big.  Yuck, but no big.  BUT SOMETIMES.  EW.  WHAT IS THAT?  EW.  EWWWWWWWW.  I swear she prances with several inches more boing per bounce after one of these encounters.

% And her resultant glow of fatuous virtue may last even a second or two.

%% What do I think she is, stupid?

++The Magical Dog Food Grotto contains only sealed containers of bull terrier ultimate desire, but she can tell the stuff’s in there somewhere.

** If there are any method handbell ringers out there reading this and shaking their heads in puzzlement because it is not difficult, I DO NOT WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU.  Indeed if you decide to join the forum so you can remonstrate with me—kindly of course and using words of one syllable as befits the case—I will not only instantly DELETE your comments with menaces and rude gestures but I will tell Blogmom to Ban You Forever^ plus a few years.

^ and your little dog too.

*** Chocolate?  Nope.  Champagne?  Uh-uh.  Perfect love?  Nah.  Hot fabulous lateral-orbitofrontal-cortex-exploding sex?  . . . Um.  Wait a minute.  Let me think.^

^ If I say handbells I will lose all credibility forever.  Such a dilemma.

† Sadly you will probably have to go through the brain-restructure thing with every additional method.  I can now (mostly, sort of) ring both bob minor and bob major AND MY SKULL HAS RUN OUT OF ROOM FOR ANY FURTHER EXPANSION.^  Planning permission for the new conservatory off the existing building will be denied.

^ Cambridge.+ Whimper.  Yorkshire++  Mega whimper.

+ Yes.  This is the name of a method.

++ Yes.  This is too.  Cambridge (minor, on six bells) and Yorkshire (which cannot be rung on fewer than eight bells) represent the PINNACLE of my handbell yearning, and I have about as much chance of attaining either of them as the hellhounds have of achieving weight-bearing lift-off on the walk home tonight and flying me there.#

# Long-time readers of this blog may feel they recall that some years ago I was grappling with Cambridge on handbells with some modest degree of success.  Yes.  Very modest.  I could get through about half a plain course on the front pair of bells.  This is like someone who wants to ride in the Grand National being able to sit in the saddle if the horse isn’t doing anything.

†† Tower bell ringing:  1,000,000,000,000 times, approximately.  This is a lot of hours out of your life.   Handbell ringing:  1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 times, approximately.  Which is even more hours out of your life.  And that’s still only per pair of bells.  You can move around a lot easier from single bell to single bell in the tower^ than you can from pair of bells to pair of bells in handbells.  IT’S LIKE LEARNING A WHOLE FLAMING NEW METHOD, EVERY RATBLASTED PAIR OF HANDBELLS.^^  ARRRRRRRRRRRGH.

^ Barring little circumstantial details like the bell whose rope regularly jumps off its wheel, or the bell that has an interesting relationship with the corner of the church its rope hangs over so that on every backstroke the pew or the misericord or the flying buttress or whatever the doodah that is immediately behind you reaches out and whacks you one.  Keep your mind on your bobs under those conditions.

^^ All these diverse sub-methods do eventually meet up into one grand over-arching meta-method but that’s a lot of zeroes down that very long queue.

††† Niall can ring anything, including mini rings.  I have considered hating Niall, but . . . no.  He makes very good brownies, even if I do have to ring handbells to get any.  Also, I couldn’t hate him tonight, we went in his car.

‡ It wasn’t supposed to be a mini ring, of course, or I’d’ve stayed home.  I’VE BEEN BAITED AND SWITCHED.  I NEED CHOCOLATE.

‡‡ Maybe I’ll even finish this frelling two-years-and-counting scarf by this winter

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