The charity gang that were taking away all our surplus furniture finally came today. Either they’re a very popular charity or their lorries break down a lot.* Or both, I suppose. But the situation was made unnecessarily exciting by my penchant for living on cul de sacs. I’d asked the lorry guys to ring me fifteen minutes before they arrived to give me time to get down to the mews and let them in. They rang. Fifteen minutes, they said. I stuffed the hellhounds in their harnesses, shoved the hellterror’s breakfast, ready made against this moment, into her crate and her after it, not that the shoving of a hellterror toward foooooood is required, and the hellhounds and I bolted up to Third House to fetch Wolfgang . . . and found the end of the cul de sac comprehensively full of large flatbed lorry delivering pallet after pallet after pallet of . . . I don’t know, buildery stuff, with reference to the fact that the row of Tiny But Desirable Cottages that abut the churchyard seem to be in a state of permanent renovation. The one on the end had barely swept up its last skip’s worth of brick and cement dust when one of the ones in the middle ripped out all its insides and started over. Arrrgh.
So I spun round the footpath corner toward my driveway and AAAAAAAUGH. I rushed up to the bloke overseeing the latest pallet swaying earthwards on its giant hoist and said in a frantic voice, I HAVE TO GET MY CAR OUT!!!! And he looked at me and said, We’ll move, ma’am—perhaps there are advantages to being a little old lady: blokes don’t like to see us cry—and they did. Mind you, getting something that carries 1,000,000,000 pallets and a giant hoist doesn’t move very fast, and I was a few minutes late . . . but so was the charity lorry. And we were all somewhat bemused by the labyrinth of scaffolding we had to make our way through because they’re painting the Big Pink Blot again**.
While the two guys from the charity were wrestling furniture that must come out since it certainly went in I prepared to load up Wolfgang, around the hellhounds, for a quick sprint to the dump, since empty houses extrude junk and a corner you perfectly well know was empty the last time you had a sweep (so to speak) through has six boxes and a broken lamp in it this time. The charity guys eventually solved their problems of practical geometry and went their way two double beds and some miscellaneous doodads the better and the hellhounds and I went ours to the dump . . . where the way was BLOCKED by an even MORE gigantic lorry with an even MORE gigantic hoist, lifting in one of those massive small-country-sized skips that town dumps use. ARRRRRRRRRGH. I hadn’t packed Wolfgang at all carefully—for one thing I’m a little cross about the empty-house-extrusion thing—and I didn’t think it was going to matter for long that when I opened the passenger door there would be an avalanche . . . or that the hellterror’s travelling crate is full of superfluous kitchen gear for the dump shop.
So in this cranky and unalleviated state we went back to the cottage long enough to . . . NO WE DIDN’T. BECAUSE THERE WAS ANOTHER FRELLING LORRY UNLOADING MORE BUILDERY STUFF FOR ANOTHER RENOVATION PROJECT THAT IS GOING ON FOREVER ON THE COTTAGE CUL DE SAC AND SAID LORRY AND ITS LOAD WERE ENTIRELY BLOCKING THE WAY.
Some days you should just stay in bed with a few good books and some knitting.***
* * *
* This may be part of their training programme. They offer apprenticeships to street people to learn money-earning skills. I think mechanics is one of the choices. So maybe the trainers sneak into the lorry-fleet garage in dark of night and yank a few wires and drill a few holes and put antifreeze in the petrol tanks to make sure their course will be popular.
** Since it was a four-hour slot I would not have made her wait that long if they’d come at the end instead of the beginning. But the domestic fauna are not having a good time right now because Pav is in bloody [sic] season so she’s locked up more than usual and the hellhounds . . . have stopped eating again.^ She’s in her second week which is usually when the hellhounds start moaning. I had PLANNED that when the moaning became tedious^^ I’d stash hellhounds in the sitting room or the attic at Third House and leave her to emit hormonal fug in her crate in the dining room, and probably leave her there overnight since they’re all in the kitchen at the cottage.^^^ But we are also having the absolute worst season for fleas I’ve seen in a quarter century so while I’m frantically trying to get it under control there’s not as much wandering about the house(s) as normal as a kind of despairing attempt at damage control. I won’t use the standard chemicals, they’re frelling poisonous, they make some dogs sick—ask me how I know this—and they don’t even always frelling work. If I’m going to fail to eradicate fleas I’d rather do it without toxic side-effects. Meanwhile the list of ‘natural’ flea extermination methods, thanks to in depth on line research, gets longer and longer and longer and longer and more and more time-consuming and expensive# . . . and we still have fleas. So the ways in which the indoor wildlife and their hellgoddess are currently not having a good time are many-splendored. Remind me why I have dogs?##
^ Fifty percent is a good average. I try not to complain if they eat one and a half of their three meals. I start losing the will to live (again) when they stop altogether.
^^ This takes about seven minutes.
^^^ If the hellhounds’ sexual appetite rates with their interest level in food this probably explains why I’m getting away with having three entire creatures of two genders in a relatively small space at all.+ But simply putting them in separate rooms stops the moaning++ and while I’m very grateful I’m also surprised since, you know, dogs have a tediously discerning sense of smell and can nail the precise location of that dead hedgehog/rat/squirrel while you’re only just registering ‘ew—dead thing somewhere in the vicinity.’ I’d’ve thought hormonal fug would be fairly penetrating, if you’ll forgive the term.
+ Although Pav is not noticeably more besotted with the hellhounds than she ever is—which is extremely, just by the way—and her interest in FOOOOOOOOD is in no doubt whatsoever.
# The only thing that slows them down from chewing holes in themselves is a neem-oil based salve that costs £20 for a tiny little pot.
## And the NOISE the hellterror makes while she is Slurping Her Inflamed Parts is enough to . . . enough to . . . ARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRGH.
** What’s it going to be this go? Maroon? Mint green? Why don’t they just leave it pink? I think the co-op admin doesn’t have enough to do with its time or its AGMs.
*** KNITTING. ARRRRRRGH. No, I’ll tell you about it some other post. . . . ^
^ But Fiona and I did have a lovely yarn adventure yesterday. And I haven’t told her this yet but if you count the yarn I bought last night off the internet I did spend more money than she did. The thing is, there’s this line . . . never mind which line . . . that I’m quite fond of for reasons of EXTREME AND LURID COLOUR, and this shop had a lot of it, so I fondled a great deal of it and bought some, but was Juiced Up with Desire for More by this tactile experience+ and, while we were sitting around knitting over supper, my mind would keep reverting to the knowledge that several of the more intense colourways were on sale on one of my deplorably regular yarn sites . . . colourways that were in fact not available in the shop we’d been to. I hope you can follow my thought (?) processes here. BECAUSE I had SUPPORTED MY LYS++ I therefore deserved to buy some of what they hadn’t had that was on sale. You get that, right? Yes.
+ LIKE I NEED MORE YARN. LIKE I FRELLING NEED MORE YARN.
++ Local Yarn Shop/Store, for those of you unafflicated by the knitting mania
‘Pavlova, drag these boxes of books up the stairs for Mommy, please.’
::falls down laughing:: Now why didn’t I think of that? She’s got both the legs sprung of extra-supreme-alloy and the jaws of death.* We could have done it together. It could have been a bonding experience.**
However. It wasn’t. And at least this means there are no teeth marks on the books. And yes, I finished carrying the last monster boxes upstairs yesterday although I admit I unpacked the three heaviest*** and took them up in armfuls.
ME is a weird disease. I have no idea why I was allowed to heave a hundred book boxes† around without serious repercussions. Because—so far anyway—there have been no repercussions.†† I am inevitably reasonably fit because of all the frelling hurtling I do although on bad days it tends to be more like dawdling but the ME means that I have to assume I have No Stamina Whatsoever because I frequently don’t, often with diabolical suddenness, especially when we’re a couple of miles from where we left Wolfgang. You live like this for fourteen years and you start thinking of yourself as rather flimsy. I feel a bit like I’ve had an unexpected body transplant†††. No doubt the old familiar rickety one will be returned soon. And then I’ll fall over.
This isn’t the first time the ME has let me cope with something that I REALLY NEED TO COPE WITH‡—moving day itself, for example, when I was a lot thinner on the ground generally than I appear to be at the moment—but it seems to me unlikely that I’m really going to get away with this. Presumably one day soon, when I’m planting autumn pansies, say, or putting endless dog bedding into the washing machine or taking endless dog bedding out of the washing machine . . . I will suddenly need to sit down for thirty-six hours. Never mind. The backlist is in the attic. ‡‡
* * *
* Someone in the forum said, after I posted the photos of Pav on her birthday, that she found the Jaws of Death photo a little anxious-making. I HAD TO WORK REALLY HARD TO GET A JAWS OF DEATH PHOTO AT ALL. Pav is not naturally a Jaws of Death kind of dog. She just happens to be a bull terrier and the mythology around them is very jaws-of-death-y. If you push the lips of any dog back you get pretty much the same view: short front teeth framed with fangs. Pav is mouthy—if you play with her you’ll probably find yourself with your hand in her mouth at some point^—but she hasn’t bitten me since she was an infant and hadn’t quite got it that you can’t chew on humans the way you can your littermates. She was actually easier to get this point across to than the hellhounds had been because she’d been socialised very very very well before she came to me. She may yet grow out of being mouthy. Chaos, the eternal puppy, was mouthy for years.
^ I think I’ve also told you she’s a licker and a nibbler. The licking is fine, she’s not at all drooly+, but the nibbling is a little exciting since she favours places where the skin is thin, like necks and the insides of elbows.
+ Except in her water bowl. Ew. Which I have to change about four times a day. She has the most extraordinary drinking style. She’ll stand there going SLURP SLURP SLURP SLURP for, like, minutes, and when she comes away the water level hasn’t gone down at all, there’s just this—ew—churned up FOAM on the top. Good thing she gets a lot of wet food or she might die of not actually swallowing any of the water that passes through her mouth.
** The hellhounds would have opened one eye, gone, Eh?, and closed the eye again.^ The hellhounds had originally been Rather Interested in the new Alp in the garden . . . PEE ON THAT, GUYS, AND YOU WILL NOT LIVE TO PEE AGAIN. One of the things about having a proper garden is having your hellmob in it but things can get a little out of control when you’re also in the centre of town. When we got back from the second and FINAL book box run on Monday I let Pav out of Wolfgang because that’s what you do, you turn off the engine and let the critter(s) out but because of the size of Atlas’ trailer the gate was still open. Which Pav shot through and disappeared . . . while I was letting the hellhounds out of the house and discouraging their interest in the Alp. I heard Atlas calling her, thought OH GHASTLY AWFUL END OF THE UNIVERSE TYPE THINGS, ran out into the street and called her . . . and she came. Noble Pav.
*** One of encyclopaedias, and no I haven’t found the missing box yet^, one of MERLIN DREAMS and one of the illustrated ROSE DAUGHTER. Any one of these three weighed nearly as much as rather-large-box-shaped Wolfgang.
^ It would be encyclopaedias, you know? If it were one of my gazillion boxes of out of print editions of books I’ve forgotten writing I would never have noticed. In fact, I may be missing a few boxes of my gazillions of out of print editions of books I’ve forgotten writing and haven’t noticed.
† And I did break a hundred. I’d forgotten about the half dozen I left in Peter’s office, two of which because they were labelled ‘files’ and ‘mss’, and the others because he still has some empty bookshelves in there. But I didn’t carry these upstairs.
Also if you count the twenty or so boxes of his backlist from Peter’s office and bedroom at the mews that Nina and Ignatius packed and brought over THAT’S EVEN MORE BOXES OF BACKLIST TOWARD A TERRIFYING TOTAL.^
^ I notice that Peter has more copies of his recent books. This may just be the exigencies of publishing but I suspect there may be some malign influence from his second wife. THEY’RE OFFERING YOU MORE COPIES? TAKE THEM. SOMETHING IS GOING OUT OF PRINT AND THEY’LL LET YOU HAVE 1,000,000,000 COPIES FOR 7P PER? TAKE THEM. Let it be recorded that I have suffered for my sins.
†† Although the arnica will have helped. Arnica the Wonder Drug.
††† I wish they’d given me more hair and fewer wrinkles. Ah well, if they had, it would be harder giving this body back.
‡ I wonder a bit about late-onset ME. I don’t know that many other people who have had it long-term^ but my vague unreliable impression is that the younger you are the bigger and more unpredictable a rat bastard it is. My first eighteen months of it were entirely horrible but it mostly only knocks me over badly any more when I haven’t been behaving like a person who knows very well she has ME and had better stop with the shot-putting and the mixed martial arts. And it will usually let me pull myself together if it’s urgent, although it may make me pay and pay and pay and pay and pay for it afterward.
^ I’m also not convinced that people who get over it really had ME, although since I also believe it’s a continuum or a syndrome and not a single disease, they may just be at the far end of the range. That or it’ll be back when they least expect it. LIE DOWN NOW. BECAUSE I SAID SO.
Pictures? I would love to see pictures of the books. Even books in boxes. I’m just so curious to see what 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 books looks like. You know, in a house, or rather, an attic.
Hmm. I was looking the attic with this request in mind today. I’m not sure it’s really all that obviously impressive. I’ve done my BEST to wedge things around the edges—and there’s a chimney in the way—and it’s a long thin attic with peculiar corners, see previous blog on the subject of the ceiling.^ I’ll have a go at photographing the chief ramparts and see if I can make them look amusing.
^ I only hit my head ONCE. Of course now that the dramatic bit is over with I’ll forget to be careful again. Ow.
All 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 boxes of it. I should know, I shifted all of them. I am a HEROINE. Peter says so. I am a heroine having a nice little quarter bottle of champagne.* I’m kind of assuming I won’t get out of bed at all tomorrow** because all my muscles will have gone paralytic*** as well as the ME saying, you did WHAT? Lie down,† but tonight I am aglow with virtue and a certain amount of astonishment. I’m still half spazzing with adrenaline so I thought I could tell you about how amazing I am.
Everything went wrong really early when I had a tech disaster over breakfast†† so I got up to Third House, to meet Atlas and his trailer, a good half hour later than scheduled. Fortunately Atlas is used to me.
It took two trips to haul all those boxes home††† and Atlas got all lugubrious the first time and said it might take three‡ whereupon I went into Frantic Action Mode and shoved a dozen boxes into Wolfgang, who is a bit tardis-like that way. We weren’t going to get our somewhat bedraggled loot‡‡ into the attic today so Atlas unloaded it onto a pallet of black plastic garbage bags on the paving in front of the summerhouse‡‡‡ and then we rushed back for the second load . . . well, ‘rush’ does not pertain to Atlas’ trailer, but he set out while I went back to the cottage for Pav and (a) got embroiled with a neighbour having a flap (b) WOLFGANG WAS MAKING A STRANGE NEW NOISE§ (c) got stuck behind a bicycle for about three miles.§§ By the time I finally arrived Atlas had nearly finished his plan for world peace and was just drawing up his list of world leaders to send it to.
When Atlas got the last of the second load into the back garden it was past his time to leave. So I was left looking at an Alp of book boxes. Peter told me helpfully that it might very well rain tonight. Not enough to do the garden(s) any good. Just enough to wet down boxes of backlist.
Tarpaulin, said Peter. Um, I said. And started carrying boxes upstairs. I meant to keep count, but I kept forgetting. Nearly a hundred. No, I’m serious. Over ninety but not quite a hundred. I think. Some of them were small. Not very many.
It took me quite a while. Atlas had sensibly put most of the biggest boxes in the bottom layer and by the time I reached it I had blisters on the middle joints of my little fingers and the insides of my arms just below the elbows. I was also cranky. I shifted about twenty of these last leviathans under the porch roof by the garden/sitting room door in the niches created by the bay windows. Everything else is in the attic. Oh, and yes, it is all going to fit. . . .
I think I’ll take another arnica.§§§
* * *
* It’s going to be a drunken, revelrous week: we’re taking Nina and Ignatius out to dinner on Friday as an INADEQUATE THANK YOU for everything they’ve done around the house move. Ignatius installed the much delayed splashback just this weekend. I hadn’t had a car^ all week so I finally rang the Hardened Glass People on Friday and my impression is that they went around looking under everybody’s desks till they found it. However, they did find it.^^ And Ignatius installed it. Hurrah hurrah hurrah. Tick one more thing off the House Move list. Only nearly as many things left on said list as there are boxes of backlist.
^ And they mended the thing they found+ but everything I took him in for is still there going zap whine roar moan.
+ Note to self: next time Wolfgang starts rattling like a nearly twenty-year-old car, ask them to check that there are no shock absorbers ready to fall off and go whirling down the road independently while Wolfgang and I blast away in a sudden, unplanned different direction.
^^ I should not have been driving on Friday—I told you it was a bad ME day—but God was looking out for me. He/she/it/they could have just not given me an ME day in the first place but I suppose that would be too easy.
** YAAAAAAY says the hellmob. MOVE OVER.
*** See, the champagne is therapeutic. Really. Absolutely.
† Yes, all right, don’t be so pushy, I need a pee first. I’ll lie down again in a minute, supposing the hellmob has left me any space. Bed sharing presently is a bit problematic because HALF the bed is still taken up with all the sheets and towels out of my airing cupboard. And have I mentioned that Atlas, my shelf builder, is GOING ON A FORTNIGHT’S HOLIDAY?
†† Most of my frelling kit at this point is ancient as tech goes, and while I hope the desktop—which is in fact the oldest of all—will soldier on for a while and possibly Pooka also, both the iPad and the laptop are frelling racing down that last long slope. Poor Raphael would already have the new stuff at least ordered and probably installed by now if I didn’t KEEP CHANGING MY MIND. There’s this vast horrible continuum of specs and . . . and . . . but the bottom line is that the Apple experiment has been kind of a bust. Pooka—who is an iPhone, for anyone who has forgotten (!)—is okay and I’ll worry about what to upgrade her to when she starts failing, but I have had it with the iPad refusing to play nicely with all the Microsoft stuff I’ve been living by for the last fifteen or so years. Fifteen or so years ago you could not get Apple over here, or at least no one would support it, so when I bought my first real computer it just was not an issue that all my American friends said Apple is better. And I loathe Microsoft but it’s what I’m used to and I can’t be bothered trying to learn a whole new ratbagging system which, from my experience with the iPad is not so blindingly marvellous thank you very much. My next tablet will run Windows. Sue me.
††† Which is not wholly a bad thing. I took the hellhounds along the first time and hurtled them in the farmland, splendidly riddled with footpaths, beyond the storage place—loading Atlas’ trailer with book boxes is not really a two person job—and then brought the hellterror the second time and hurtled her. The hellhounds aren’t what I’d call safe to stock, but they do know I won’t let them chase anything interesting. The hellterror got a little overexcited because she hasn’t had as many long country hurtles as the hellhounds had at her age but I’m still bigger than she is. And she was so beside herself about the game birds that she missed a perfectly good rabbit sitting in the middle of a stubble field.
‡ We did this today^ in case it Did Not End Well because his only other free day before his fortnight away is Thursday,
^ When I could have been having my first voice lesson after a way-too-long break. Summer holidays are overrated.
‡‡ Some of those boxes have been loaded and reloaded and written on and written over and written over the over so often they probably need new shock absorbers. And speaking of the disintegration of crucial parts I wish to remark again on the sheer bloody awfulness of British tape. I swear half the frelling boxes’ bottoms are falling out because the heavy packing tape has lost the will to live and started falling off like hair from a hellmob. Grrrrrrr.
‡‡‡ Which is full of Atlas’ tools and unfinished projects and leftover stuff from moving house. And I need to get it cleared out before the first frosts so I can get plants in there and the growlight back from the cottage’s sitting room. ARRRRRRRRRGH. Maybe I’ll lie down till January. No, March.
§ Which seems to have been something he picked up bouncing over back roads, which then clattered its way back out again. I HOPE. But I wasted about five minutes crawling around on my hands and knees trying to find . . . whatever.
§§ I HATE BICYCLES. I am not sane on this subject.^ I have many friends who ride bicycles regularly and I have at least two who frelling race. I HATE BICYCLES. If there isn’t room on a given road for a car to pass a bicycle it should be BANNED to bicycles.^^ They are a sodding hazard. And for example today there were I think eight cars behind this bozo going fifteen miles an hour—which is a perfectly good speed for a bicycle—before we could get past him. It regularly happens in the local equivalent of rush hour that #8 in the queue out of town will simply rocket on by the rest of us, white-knuckled with fury at our steering wheels ourselves, with the bicycle in the lead—and those adrenaline spikes when I’m waiting for all of us to die in a colossal pile up when a juggernaut comes over the hill and hits #8 on the wrong side of the road are very bad for me.
^ Consider yourselves warned. This is my blog. You want to argue about it, go elsewhere.
^^ Or to cars. But these two forms of vehicular transport are incompatible on shared road space. And I don’t want bicycles mowing down the hellmob and me on the pavement either.
§§§ You don’t have to be in pain already to take arnica. The likely prospect will do. If you know you’ve overdone it but you don’t know how badly . . . take some arnica. And maybe you won’t have to find out.
I’m just back from church. Hurrah. I haven’t been in yonks and yonks. I’ve thought for the last three Sundays—I think it’s three—that I would make it this week and then I have one of my unscheduled collapses and don’t.* I felt deeply guilty** a fortnight ago when my name was on the [singing] rota again and Aloysius could have really used some support—St Margaret’s, like most of the rest of the northern hemisphere where people live, gets thin on the ground in August while they’re all on holiday in someone else’s home town.*** So if that shocking failure was a fortnight ago, my name would coming up on the rota again . . . yes. Hmm. Buck was leading. And there was no one else on the list.
. . . Pav, go lie down.†
I looked the music rota up on Thursday and blanched. Also I’d had no song list so I could look the stuff up on YouTube and complain. But possibly I had had no song list because I had been a no show for so long they’d drummed me off the rolls. Which in August when there is an insufficiency of people on stage to hide behind is maybe quite a good thing.
Friday. Still no song list. I began the day feeling pretty good in brain and energy terms, so I emailed Buck. WHERE IS MY SONG LIST [I might come, you never know]?
. . . And then Saturday I had another frelling lying-down day†† ARRRRRRGH . . .
Pav, go lie down.†††
So I got cautiously out of bed today wondering what was going to happen. One of the things that happened was that I FINALLY had a return email from Buck saying he’d only just got back from holiday to 1,000,000,000 emails and sure, come along tonight and we’ll party.
So I went early like a good girl and found him practising ALL BY HIMSELF. Where would you like to be? he said, brandishing a music stand. In the middle? On the other side of the stage? BEHIND YOU, I said clearly. And you have to sing what I’m supposed to sing. No messing around with the tune.‡ He gave me his Steady Look, which is never a good sign. But we gambolled through the music, some of which I knew and some of which I did not know. One of the ones I did not know has a long embarrassing spell of Woah woah woah where you just sort of emote with your mouth open, torturing innocent variations of the so-called tune in whatever manner seems good to you. Ad lib. You know. Eh. Gah. Buck can do that one.
I didn’t know how much voice I was going to have, because I’ve been too feeble lately to do much singing beyond folk songs while hurtling, but since for some reason they refused to turn my microphone off tonight you could certainly hear me.
As it happened it wasn’t as dire as all that. One of the blokes who plays a keyboard was unwise enough to turn up for the evening service and Buck nailed him. So in fact we started a few minutes late while Jethro frantically dragged his keyboard out of the cupboard and started plugging things in with his hands going so fast he looked like an octopus with fingers. Which may explain why, when we got to the woah woah woah and Buck shot off into parts unknown I not only shot after him but soared past—he’s a nice strong tenor with some top end but I’m a soprano. I win.‡‡
And having been winding up cables that hate me since I first started this singing shtick, tonight I had a lesson from the ex-roadie and ex-member-of-the-band Buck in how to wind up a cable so it doesn’t hate you. Who knew this was a skill?
Pav, GO LIE DOWN.
Yeah. I think I’ll do that too. Preferably in a bed however. With lots of pillows and books. Pav will probably prefer a chew toy.
* * *
* I haven’t been to the monks in forever either. Siiiiiiigh. If you have ME, don’t join a church frelling MILES from where you live or fall in love with a bunch of monks who are even farther away. I thought I was finally going to make it to the abbey last Saturday . . . and got an email from Alfrick saying, don’t come if you were planning to, there’s a doodah^ on and night prayer is cancelled. And then Sunday, possibly from disappointment, I had another lying-down-in-a-daze day, and didn’t make it to church again.
^ This is of course the deep theological usage of the term ‘doodah’.
** Which does not improve the lying-down-in-a-daze experience
*** And the evening service is the little one. Apparently the earlier services still teem pretty well, even in August.
† Poor Pav’s training has gone totally pear-shaped the last two months or so what with Everything Else Going On and I swore that as soon as things even BEGAN to settle down I’d start doing something more with her again.^ And fabulously amusing as rolling over on command is, the thing that would make a significant difference to both her quality of life and mine is if she would learn to GO LIE DOWN on command, so I have a better alternative when she’s winding herself up to start bouncing off the ceiling than to lock her up in her crate again. Even bribing her with foooooood gets a little oppressive after a while and I need her to like her crate because she inevitably spends a good deal of time in it. And I don’t want to make a huge deal of it when she’s just being a bull terrier and put her in her harness and make her Long Down at my feet. ‘Go lie down’ is just another off button like Southdowner-trained Olivia’s holding is.^^
^ Her walking more or less at heel and sitting and looking up at me when I stop is getting not at all bad except, of course, when I start to think so. But people who know bullies tend to fall down laughing when they see us doing our somewhat erratic trick+. I’m usually smiling even without onlookers++. The little evil eyes do enhance the experience of being stared up at—and the way a bullie’s back legs are built how bullies sit down often provokes hilarity even in the clueless onlooker.
+ Ie successfully.
++ No NOT in surprise. You rude person.
++ Holding still works fine, by the way. If she gets too turbo-charged about another dog—and with her personality I am not going to risk her being ruined by too many encounters with stupid people’s off lead ugly citizens the way my poor sweet hellhounds have been ruined—I don’t just pick her up I hold her.
†† Possibly due to the extreme frustrations of Friday, which included, after learning of the third mortgage I was going to have to take out to pay for the new boiler, belting into Mauncester at the last possible minute to pick up our NEW CLEAR GLASS SPLASHBACK^ for the gas hob/stovetop at Third House which Ignatius had already promised to screw in on Saturday . . . AND THEY FRELLING MUFFED THE JOB. And are going to have to do it all over again. On their penny, but even so. Arrrrrrgh.
And then I rang handbells with Niall for the first time in months and it TOTALLY wiped me out. No measurable trace of brain function after. I used to be able to ring handbells without having to be rolled home in a wheelbarrow. . . .
^ Ordering same having taken somewhat longer than it might have when I arrived last Friday at 3:55 to find that despite the stated hour of closure as 4:30 the only person still there was locking up as fast as he could turn the key.
Finding someone who could provide a clear glass splashback has been a whole other saga as fashion presently dictates that the only splashbacks any cool up to the minute person would want are brutally glossy things in really harsh grisly in your face colours or the even more in your face polished steel uggggggh. I get enough of the dentist’s office/torturer’s look at my dentist’s office/torturer’s tea parties, okay? AND I WANT TO SEE MY TILES. They’re nice tiles and they cost a lot of money.
††† If you stirred Pav and me together you’d get . . . one very extraordinary looking creature who lay down precisely the right amount in precisely the right circumstances.
‡ Aloysius perfectly well can sing harmony, and often does. Buck, however, is dangerous. He gets carried away.
‡‡ I had two people tell me after how lovely my singing harmony was.^ They’re so nice at St Margaret’s. And they so really need singers they are eager to be encouraging.
^ Wrong. Trust me on this.
It’s not the actual moving that puts a house move at the top of the stress list: it’s the everyflippingthing that goes wrong.
I’ve been trying for about five weeks to find a plumber that isn’t booked up till 2020. The plumbing company that I used satisfactorily for several years has stopped answering their phone. You get a message saying leave your phone number and we’ll get back to you, and they don’t. I kept waiting for the real human being to return from the longest lunch in employee history and she never did, so I finally left a message, and that didn’t work either. Meanwhile I was asking everyone who might have cause to know about local plumbers—other men* driving vans full of tools, for example, or the sector of the market which sells hammers and spanners and garpenscrads to them. I even asked the nice lady at the estate agent’s who I talked to last autumn about letting Third House. Hers was, as I recall, booked till 2032.
You can’t get away from plumbers’ vans in this frelling area and they all have emblazoned down their long sides variations on a theme of QUICK FRIENDLY PROFESSIONAL SERVICE. HERE IS A SELECTION OF PHONE NUMBERS, HOME, MOBILE, THE LOCAL PUB THAT TAKES MESSAGES, AND MY DOG** WHO LOVES TO ANSWER THE PHONE SO MUCH I’VE GIVEN HIM HIS OWN LINE. I ALSO ACCEPT SMOKE SIGNALS. Snarl. Most of these geezers aren’t too fabulous in the social niceties either. I understand that they don’t like turning down work, but someone should gather them all in a room and teach them to say, clearly and calmly, I’m really sorry, but I’m booked till 2032. The ‘I’m sorry’ part is important, as is the tone, which should not suggest to the hapless caller that the sound of her voice is similar to the sensation of hot needles being plunged into their ears.***
I am absolutely clueless about things like plumbers and I didn’t want just to start going through the phone book. Dire things and cowboys proceed from such desperate procedures. The most recent local independent I asked, on the recommendation of another Bloke Who Should Know, and whose van I see around town all the frelling time, turned out to speak in complete sentences and didn’t seem to hate me for wanting to give him some work. So I asked him.
He said, uh, yeah, try Blithering Doodah. They’re a big national company and they’ve got a branch in Mauncester, and they’re pretty good about who they hire, and I know some of the guys.
So I tried Blithering Doodah.† That was Monday. And I got this terribly chirpy and efficient sounding young woman who said certainly, we will send you a gas boiler specialist,†† since the purpose of my feverish search for a plumber is that neither Peter’s nor my boiler is working properly, and they could do it . . . Wednesday. YIKES, I said, or words to that effect, you mean the day after tomorrow? Certainly, said the young woman. YES PLEASE, I said.
She then took my details down to my shoe size and the number of dogs in the household.††† She took the post codes of both houses; she consulted with her manager if the Gas Boiler Specialist could look at both boilers on the same job; the manager said he could; she took careful directions how to find the cottage, in case his SatNav failed, and said firmly that he would come to the cottage first since that was the phone number I was calling from, and we could proceed from there to Third House subsequently.
Fine. Great. I spent nearly thirty six hours in a daze of success and accomplishment. Also Peter is looking forward to not having to boil several kettles to take a hot bath.‡
This morning, much too early, the phone rang. It was Blithering Doodah who wanted to tell me that my slot was no longer one to three this afternoon, but three to six, and I could assume it would be nearer five than four or three. Golly, I said, he doesn’t mind working late? No, said this new person, he doesn’t mind. And then the new person proceeded to take all my details all over again, including the shoe size and the range of domestic fauna, but CONFIRMED that the Gas Boiler Specialist would come to the cottage. At five o’clock or so. And the Gas Boiler Specialist would ring me on my mobile about half an hour before he arrived.
You see where this is going.
I spent the morning shovelling a path at the cottage so he could get in. I was finally taking the patient hellhounds out for a hurtle‡‡ and decided to swing by Third House to water those potted plants. Peter plays bridge Wednesday afternoons so there wasn’t anyone there. I’d just let all of us in the door when the hellhounds shot back outside again and there was a whoop of alarm from the courtyard. Frell. I followed them hastily and discovered a young man just barely not climbing a tree.‡‡‡
You wanted a plumber to look at your boiler? said the young man.
It was about three-forty-five. I gaped at him. You’re not supposed to be here for hours, I said. And this is the wrong house. And you were supposed to ring me half an hour before you got here.
This is the only address they gave me, he said. They didn’t give me a phone number either.
ARRRRRGH. Well, what a good thing I happened to be here.
Blithering Doodah are pretty good generally, he said. But their customer service, um. At least they gave me the right day this time. They don’t always.
So. He examined Peter’s boiler. And there was something wrong with it. Modified hurrah. But it’s not like the funny noise your car is making and the mechanic looks at you sidelong and says I don’t hear any funny noises and it’s running fine. Here’s my bill for two hours of drinking coffee and chatting up the new receptionist.
There is, however, something wrong with Peter’s boiler to the tune of several hundred pounds. Arrrrgh.
The young man then goes off in his van to meet me at the cottage—my arrival somewhat delayed by the fact that now the hellhounds decide to perform various ablutions, and they do not hurry their ablutions, my hellhounds—spends about thirty seconds looking at my boiler, appears to be repressing snickering and says . . . I’m sorry, but this thing is a piece of rubbish. You should just get rid of it and buy a new one.
YAMMER YAMMER YAMMER GIBBLE GIBBLE GIBBLE GIBBLE.§
Yeah, he said. But by the time you buy the parts you’re halfway to a new one anyway . . . and this one never was any good. An Infinity Dreadnaught will last you forever.
Anyone want to guess what an Infinity Dreadnaught costs?§§
. . . I have to go lie down again.§§§
* * *
* Are there any female plumbers? Maybe in other countries? Iceland, which may not be known for fiscal stability but they’ve got the best rating for gender equality in the first world? Don’t you school-leavers out there know that you will ALWAYS be in work if you’re a plumber? And if you don’t want to worry about those blocked-loo calls, you can specialise, and then you can charge more too.
** There’s a woman I see occasionally waiting for her ride when I lurch past behind some hellmob division or other. She is, unusually, an admirer of both my hurtle shifts; I’ve noticed that generally the lurcher and the bullie admiration societies are non-overlapping sets. Pav saw her slightly before I did the last time and was already in full assault mode before I got her hauled in.^ But the woman laughed and said she had a dog of her own. So we’ve become quite friendly in the monosyllabic ‘hi’ ‘hi’ way. Tonight I was very tired after striving with plumbers and it was the hellhounds that got away from me and started milling about this woman as if she were their presumed lost forever best friend and by the way she was responding maybe she was. I have ascertained in our minimal conversations that she doesn’t merely have an accent—as I have an accent—but that English of any variety is not her first language. Tonight I said, you told me you have a dog, what kind is it? Oh it is a lavender, she said and I instantly translated this as Labrador without even noticing I was doing it, probably because the L-word is always what a dog beginning with ‘L’ is, never a Lithuanian Hound or a Lhasa Apso, and there are more frelling L-words around here than all the other dog breeds combined. Oh, I said politely, they tend to be very friendly and enthusiastic too.
It wasn’t till I was already striding down the road again at hellhound speed^^ that I was playing the conversation back in my mind and I thought, lavender?
^ Note: arrrgh. I am not so doting as to assume that everyone likes being hustled by dogs, even a hellmob as beautiful and charming as mine, and if you possess a bunch of eager hustlers, it behoves you to be quick on the brake button.
^^ They’d had kind of a boring day due to plumbers etc and had some catching up to do on the wind-in-their-fur thing.
*** Maybe they don’t like American accents? Maybe it’s part of the Secret Plumber Handshake ritual? ‘And we all hate American accents!’
† I should have realised from the name, right? Umm . . .
†† See? Specialist. I bet he’s never unplugged a loo.
††† None. Two hellhounds and a hellterror however.
‡ I merely have no central heating. I won’t care for another couple of months and I may not care then since with the Aga in the centre of this little house and at the foot of the stairs so the heat streams up the hall, I only turn the heating on for short hedonistic self-indulgent bursts. The last time I tried, in March or thereabouts, nothing happened. Eh, I’ll worry about it later, I thought. But it makes me faintly anxious that half my boiler isn’t working—the hot water might follow—and it seems like the responsible grown-up thing to do, to have it mended.
‡‡ Leaving an outraged hellterror hanging from the top of her crate making noises like a jungleful of monkeys. We go through this every day. She has Riot Time at the cottage—and if the hellhounds retreat to the back of their crate I shut them in so she can’t get at them—including extensive tummy rubbing, Long Yellow Thing wars and varying individual excitements such as helping me water the potted plants or going upstairs to check if the document I just printed actually did. And then I shut her up again with her breakfast.^ And try to get out the door with the hellhounds while she’s preoccupied. This doesn’t stop the protests, but the noise is a bit muffled.
^ Well. Let’s say first meal of the day.
‡‡‡ Clearly he does not have a lavender at home.
§ Including the fact that it’s only a few years old. I’ve already frelling replaced it once.
§§ And when he rang back to the head office to order the parts for Peter’s boiler—my arglefargling new one is a more complicated process—they had lost my credit card details AGAIN.
§§§ I could live without central heating. But I really want my hot water.