This one: http://www.metopera.org/opera/la-donna-del-lago-rossini-tickets [If the link dies at the end of the season: LA DONNA DEL LAGO by Rossini]
In the first place it was fabulous. I’m enormously glad I went. The singing from the four principals was AMAZING.**
In the second place, however, it’s way up there on the silly scale—not quite ERNANI but close. REALLY SILLY PLOT. REALLY REALLY SILLY. REALLY. SILLY. I also felt the translation was more cack-handed than was strictly required.*** We want to know what’s going on, we don’t necessarily want the exquisitely precise rendering of the Italian, which word choice may have more to do with how it sings rather than whether it makes any sense at all as something anyone might ever say, even two hundred years ago in a Walter Scott novel. †
In the third place, it’s all about Joyce Di Donato’s breasts.
I admit I wasn’t expecting this last. I’m fine with the fact that she has breasts, but I wasn’t expecting them to be Triumphant Before Everything, aka Beware the Bustier.†† I suppose the designer/costumer might be trying to make sure we know that Di Donato is the girl, since her boyfriend is played by another mezzo soprano†††, and the boyfriend is, furthermore, in a kilt, which is perhaps not the best choice for a girl playing a trouser role. I mean a kilt role. It turns out that the entire Highland army—you got it that this is Sir Walter Scott, yes?—is in kilts, but you haven’t taken this in yet when Malcolm first strides on stage/screen and starts mooning over Elena. Even knowing that Malcolm is going to be a mezzo the urge to giggle is powerful when she appears in a kilt. It took me about four bars into her, um, his, um, her first aria however to become her drooling slave and beyond that I couldn’t care less. ‡
But I get ahead of myself. The first bloke we see on stage is Juan Diego Florez ‡ in really icky plastic leather.‡‡ He’s the king, who has allowed himself to be distracted from stamping the crap out of the Highland rebels by tales of a mysterious beauty, whom he has disguised himself to get a glimpse of. I mean, you don’t expect to see your king in plastic leathers, do you? Elena is picking plastic‡‡‡ heather in another one of production/design’s curious choices for stage business. She, for some reason, thinks he needs help§ and offers to take him home with her. That loud bang you just heard was plot credibility exploding. HONEY. YOU’RE OUT IN THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE WITH A MAN YOU’VE NEVER MET BEFORE§§ WHO IS, FURTHERMORE, SHOWING SIGNS OF FINDING YOU HOT §§§. I THINK YOU MIGHT AT LEAST MENTION THAT YOU LIVE WITH YOUR DAD, AND THAT A CHORUS’ WORTH OF HENCHPERSONS IS JUST OVER THAT PAPIER MACHE HILL. I think. The operatic geography remains a trifle underexplained. Because the show is called The Lady of the Lake~ there has to be a lake, which our heroine rows across every day, apparently, to gather plastic heather and have random encounters with gleaming-eyed strangers. After that, beyond a throwaway reference to taking the current random stranger back to the shore~~ the characters just hop around from set piece to set piece. Special non-points are awarded for Elena’s cottage, which is a small roof on two walls, like a capital letter ‘E’ stood on its front with the central bar removed, plonked down in the middle of the stage, and through which the henchpersons/chorus eventually swirl, and to give themselves something to do, set up some banqueting tables out back. Hope it doesn’t rain.~~~
I was regularly distracted from all the nonsense by the sheer glory of the music. I like Rossini, I like bel canto, and I’m now passionately in love with not one but two mezzos.= But this is one of those evenings when I came away thinking, It does not have to be this daft. It does not have to be this daft. It’s hard to do a lot of acting when you’re a girl in a trouser role dressed in a kilt, the king is mainly required to flounce variously, which is fortunately one of Florez’ skills, the superfluous tenor has nothing to do, poor man, but stomp about looking heroic== and be spurned by his affianced bride, who wants to marry the other mezzo. But Di Donato is a really effective actress, and watching her creating small shining bits of sense within all the doolally is almost worse than if she’d been a student of the Leontyne Price school.&
Let’s also just take a moment to contemplate the character of the king. Okay, he falls for Elena big time in that insta-whammy way popular in both opera and Hollywood romcom. He’s the king. What is he planning to offer this small-time laird’s daughter, before or after he finds out she’s one of the revolting scum raising arms against him? I kinda doubt it’s anything her dad would recognise as honourable, even if her dad weren’t a member of the revolting scum. And this is an era when the male relatives get to dispose of the bodies of the females, you know? And when the short hero she doesn’t want to marry objects to her clear loathing of him, her dad tries to play it off as virginal modesty. Uh huh.
But the king is supposed to be a good guy. Well, I think. I think he’s supposed to be being a good guy when he leaves the battle to go hunt up Elena and give her a ring that he says, rolling his eyes theatrically, if she shows to the king he will be merciful and give her safe passage to somewhere or other. Tahiti. Guam. But there’s this hilarious exchange between them when he’s trying to go for her again&& and she says No no no! I’m in love with the other mezzo! And he replies, in what I feel is not wholly inexplicable bewilderment, Well, why didn’t you discourage my ardour when you took me HOME WITH YOU the other day? Well, yes. Although possibly because she’d only set eyes on him half an hour ago and she was wrapped in a sweet naïve mist of Scottish hospitality and concentrating on her rowing. Oh, and she’s already in love with the mezzo named Malcolm. But I repeat . . . what exactly is the king of Scotland OFFERING her? A big fat dowry to cover up the fact that she may be pregnant when he pats her on the . . . head and sends her on her way again?
I’d forgive either the story or the staging a lot if the last scene weren’t quite so determinedly demented. So, the rebels have been crushed absolutely, the (short) heroic rebel tenor has been conveniently killed, and Elena, with the safe-passage ring&&& has gone up to the palace to try begging for the life of her dad and her beloved. And she meets the bloke she last saw in plastic leathers now all decked out in white and gilt and she says, oh, hi, I’m here to see the king, um, I have this ring that this random guy gave me . . . um, you gave me. You’ll see the king, the random guy says. Grandly.% So now we have languours of daftitude while the court all processes in and does galliard-y type things around Florez, who stands there looking like a stuffed prat, while poor Di Donato has to go on and on and on and on and on NOT GETTING IT. She doesn’t get to get it till one of the courtiers plonks a frelling crown on Florez’ head.
Okay, whatever. Cue general rejoicing. The king pardons both dad and Malcolm and is apparently not requiring them to emigrate to Tahiti or Guam, which is very nice of him, and proves that he is supposed to be a good guy. And if he draws Malcom aside later and mutters something about droit de seigneur, it doesn’t happen till after the curtain comes down.
I’m glad I went! The music was spectacular and my head is still full of it!%% I just wish—um—I just wish—um!
. . . And if not writing regular blogs causes me to write three thousand words when I finally get around to it again, even under the extreme provocation of an opera to rant about, I’d better rethink. Um. Again.
* * *
* How Christianity Ruins Your Life. My Saturday evenings are now dedicated to sitting in the dark with monks. The thing is that I want to sit in the dark with monks, but I miss my Live at the Mets.^ I have not figured this out yet. ^^ There are slowly more live opera broadcasts at your friendly neighbourhood cinemas but the New York City Met is my opera company and they broadcast to the distant punters on Saturday afternoons in New York, which is Saturday evening sitting in the dark with monks time in Hampshire, England. Also, most cinema web sites are possessed by demons. For example, apparently the ROH^^^ is streaming a Guillaume Tell which I would love to attend and THEORETICALLY it’s coming to my cinema but my cinema’s web site won’t discuss it. ARRRRRRGH. And since it’s a chain, you can’t get a local on the phone—and because something is coming to the chain, that does not mean it is coming to all the individual theatres belonging to that chain. ARRRRRRRRRGH.
^ Including the prosecco and knitting in the interval. There’s no reason I couldn’t do prosecco and knitting at home, I just don’t. Way too self-indulgent somehow. Because of course I am never self indulgent. Ever. About anything.+
+ Choooooooocolate. Also how many books in the TBR pile(s)? And we’re not even going to mention yarn. # Or All Stars. ##
# Or for that matter furry four-legged creatures of the night.~ Some people would consider three of these somewhat self-indulgent. Personally I just call it dangerously insane.
~ Although the ‘of the night’ part is kind of my fault. I go to bed late.
## I had to THROW OUT A PAIR OF PINK ONES recently. I’m still in mourning. But the amount of water they were letting through the holes in the soles was getting kind of extreme.
^^ I have told Alfrick that they should lay on more silent sitting-in-the-dark contemplative services. Only one a week seems, you know, careless. Unprofessional. For a bunch of monks.
^^^ Royal Opera House. Which is one of my problems. The ROH tend to be up-themselves scum-sucking banderglizzards. When I first moved over here a quarter century ago and was bouncing all over the landscape with JOY at the prospect of two, count ‘em, TWO, world-class opera houses only a little over an hour away+, my heart was quickly won by the English National Opera, which was the other one, both because it was CHEAPER++ and because they hired real human beings who answered phones and personned the front of house if you wandered in off the street and who were nice. The ROH hired scum-sucking banderglizzards. And, guys, in today’s economy, including twenty-five years’ ago economy, you can’t afford not to take the money of vulgar Americans who want to buy full-price+++ seats and you should behave accordingly. Vulgar Americans don’t necessarily think brass-balled rudeness in a British accent is charming. Some of those memories linger. Although the memory of going to The Huguenots at the ROH on what I think was my first birthday in England, with Peter in a dinner jacket and me in green velvet, also rather lingers. I’m not sure what Peter has done with his dinner jacket but I still have the green velvet.
Anyway. The ROH does beam some of its screenings down here to the one cinema within my driving range, but the ENO does not. Yet. I hope they’re planning to cast their webby net wider soon.
+ Especially the way Peter used to thunder up the motorway when he and Wolfgang were a lot younger.
++ And before any ROH supporters tell me, with lashings of dudgeon, that the ROH offers cheap seats too, it didn’t use to. And I’m only taking it on faith that you can actually hear and/or see anything from the cheap seats.
** I admit I didn’t think the supporting-role baritone was quite up to the standard set by the two tenors and two mezzo-sopranos, but that may be the sheer physical facts of a low voice emerging from a human voice box. Are there coloratura baritones? I don’t know.
*** But I think I’m losing my grip on the whole translation question as a result of struggling with the Bible. There are a lot of WHAT? moments about the Bible anyway and groping hastily for some other translation usually only makes it worse.
† What is it with opera composers and Sir Walter Scott? Surely they could have got their silly from a wider range of sources?
†† That’s bust-ee-ay as in corset, not bust-ee-er as in possessing more bust.
††† And as the off-duty operatic soprano doing the backstage introduction to us nonpresent audience drones finished her plot synopsis by saying: and so the mezzo gets the mezzo, and tough luck to the two tenors.^
^ Note that this opera has a HAPPY ENDING. YAAAAAAAAY. Mind you this happy ending requires the killing-off of the awkward superfluous tenor, but hey. He starts breathing again in time for the curtain calls.
‡ Her name is Daniela Barcellona. And it’s just as well she doesn’t have an enormous back catalogue or I’d be taking out a bank loan.
Just for the record, they kiss. Which I like to think is another blow for irrelevant-detail-blind staging.^ Like the Oscar Wilde play—I can’t even remember which one—I saw in London about twenty years ago where the actor playing the female lead was black: which I’m afraid is the first time I’d seen historical-drama colour-blind anywhere but Shakespeare. Yessssss. But while Wilde plays don’t call for black actors and Malcolm in DONNA DEL LAGO is written for a mezzo, Di Donato and Barcellona’s duet that the kiss is at the end of is so frelling ravishing you’ve probably forgotten everything but ohmygodohmygodohmygod, and also, Barcellona is TALL, so she can do the male-swagger thing, including the looming protectively over the girl, pretty well. Better, in fact, than most tenors, who tend to be bandy-legged midgets. Barcellona towered over both of last night’s tenors. Just by the way.
^ Maybe Rossini was thinking about gay sex really. But the story on stage is het.
‡ Who is a SHORT TENOR. Di Donato, who doesn’t look very tall herself, was in flats. Florez’ boots had substantial heels on them. But he is a bloke.
‡‡ Or if it was real leather, the Met needs a new buyer.
‡‡‡ I perceive a pattern. Not in a good way.
§ HE’S IN PLASTIC LEATHERS. IF HE WERE A GOOD GUY HE’D BE WEARING A KILT.
§§ WHO IS WEARING PLASTIC LEATHER.
§§§ I know you’re a legendary beauty and all, but the bustier is not really supportive^ of the modest Scottish virgin thing. And while Florez does the overheated Latin^^ lover persona very well the character he’s playing in this case would be forgiven for the thought bubble appearing over his head saying NOBODY TOLD ME THE LEGENDARY BEAUTY IS FAST.
^^ He looks about as Scottish as Barcellona looks like a bloke. I can deal with this. The plastic leathers must go.
~ Um, why? The Lady of the Lake as an Arthurian trope has been around a long time, and Scott must have known Malory’s Arthur? Surely? Or is there some Arthurian resonance in the Scott novel that I’ve forgotten?^ And if Rossini’s librettist cut it out why didn’t they CHANGE THE TITLE?
^ I read shedloads of frelling Scott at various times in my misspent youth, but in my memory, never my best feature, the stories have all mooshed together in one gargantuan wodge of forsoothly, studded with hopelessly wet, floppy heroines. Don’t Rebecca me. She only looks good in comparison.
~~ And leaving him there? What?
~~~ It’s the Scottish Highlands. IT NEVER RAINS THERE. NOOOOOOO.
= The tenors are fine. And I’ve been a fan of Florez for a long time. But . . . give me one of those mezzos. Please.^
^ I am of course Giving Up Singing Forever again. Had a voice lesson today. . . . No, no, this blog post is already reader-numbingly too long.
== which is harder still when you’re the shortest person on the stage. Pav is taller than this bloke.
& Stand Like Fence Post, Wave Arms and Sing. I adored Price and have a lot of her recordings but she was not an actress.
&& Nothing like a little rumpy-pumpy to soothe those battlefield nerves.
&&& I mean, how much can you trust someone wearing plastic leathers?
% Trying not to take a cheap shot here. But grandly is not Florez’ metier.
%% To the extreme detriment of my own singing. Sigh. Why didn’t I take up the xylophone?
It’s bad enough that I have a brain that . . . well, if you put my brain at one end of the Spectrum of Deadly Danger and a berserker regiment in a nasty temper all bearing freshly-sharpened weapons of individual destruction at the other end, and then tried to decide where a peanut butter sandwich on Wonder bread should be placed . . . it would go nearer the berserker regiment end than the my-brain end, all right? Which this paragraph goes some considerable way toward proving.
So if I forget something important it’s ALWAYS likely that it’s my own stupid disintegrating fault because I am a frelling nincompoop and I drop things constantly* and my brain is made of guacamole.** Which is to say I DO NOT NEED ANY HELP FROM MY TECHNOLOGY ABOUT SCREWING STUFF UP.
Which of course has no impact on present circumstances whatsoever. Pooka keeps insisting that she hasn’t been backed up to The Cloud in years***, so much so that pretty much everything I do on her—text, for example—suffers from extreme pop-up-box-itis, something like this: Hi, are you—BACK ME UP! BACK ME UP! BACK ME UP!—free for the dinosaur safari—BACK ME UP! BACK ME UP! BACK ME UP NOW!—next week? If we—BACK MEEEEEEE UUUUUUUUUP—book now we get a free slushie and a Tyrannosaurus Rex—AREN’T YOU PAYING ATTENTION? I NEED TO BE BACKED UP BEFORE THE HELLTERROR EATS YOUR LAPTOP†—hatband—YOU’LL BE SORRRRREEEEEE ABOUT ALL THOSE UPDATED FILE EMAILS YOU FORGOT TO SEND YOURSELF†† IF YOU DON’T BACK ME UP.†††
Interspersed in these merry japes also are sporadic demands for my Apple ID password. I’m really tired of Apple’s The World Is At Risk By Our Greatness attitude which means they won’t let you reuse a password because WE ALL MIGHT GET HACKED BY PURPLE TENTACLES FROM BETELGEUSE but I would put up with this better if they didn’t periodically decide they don’t like my password and demand I come up with a new one. I used to think this was just my idiot fingers typing ‘Agamemnon’ when I meant ‘Clytemnestra’ but no. Apple clearly produces ALGORITHMS demanding new passwords at intervals that sure come across as random to people like me.
A new low in my tech relationships was reached this past week. One of the things the Sams don’t go out of their way to warn you about when you sign up is that they will be requiring certain admin duties out of you as well as all those hours on telephones. I had an Admin Duty spell this last week which necessitated the sending of emails to massed ranks of Sams. I had laboured particularly over one such email, bent over the Aga and a cup of very strong tea with the iPad on my knee, hit ‘send’ and . . . NOTHING HAPPENED. AAAAAAAAUGH. The iPad gets lonely if it doesn’t get to keep a few emails all to itself. And it likes to collect unsent emails. You the helpless suffering human get the ‘server failure’ notice, the email disappears, the little box at the bottom of your email screen adds one to the ‘unsent’ total . . . but you can’t rescue the email and, I don’t know, resend or anything, because it doesn’t get stashed anywhere sensible like your outbox. IT’S PROBABLY LURKING IN THE CLOUD.
And did I tell you that the last time I actually managed to hang a blog post, this from the ultralapbooktop, Microsoft in its infinite unwise bad attitude informed me that it wanted to do an update, and it wanted to do it now, but I could postpone if I wanted . . . so I postponed AND IT SHUT ME DOWN ANYWAY WITHOUT WARNING ABOUT TEN MINUTES LATER. I HAD TIME TO EAT A LOT OF WALLPAPER BEFORE IT TURNED ITSELF BACK ON AGAIN, AND WHEN I CLIMBED BACK INTO THE ADMIN SIDE OF THE BLOG, SNAPPING AND SNARLING, I DISCOVERED THAT ABOUT A TENTH OF THE TEXT HAD LEFT FOR PARTS UNKNOWN TAKING WITH IT MOST OF THE PUNCTUATION AND ALL THE FORMATTING.
I may not have told you. I was too busy trying to prevent my head from exploding.
Maybe I should just go bell ringing more often. . . .
* * *
* Ask the hellterror. Fortunately she thinks it’s a game. —Oooh!, she says, leaping up on her little bedspring legs and punching me enthusiastically in the gut with her forepaws.^ Do that AGAIN!
^ I know. I am a Bad Owner. I permit this. But I think having her pogosticking about the place is amusing. She does know ‘off’ but she hears it relatively rarely and it doesn’t slow her down much. When I try to enforce it she looks at me with an expression of ‘I have to long sit before my last PALTRY snack of the evening+ and now THIS?’ Bullies’ faces aren’t built for looking long-suffering but she has a really good try.
+ She does too. Three to five minutes depending on how patient I’m feeling#. She’s got her harness and lead off and the gate is open and NOTHING BUT SELF RESTRAINT is preventing her from bolting into her crate and snarfing like crazy. ::haphazard owner beams with pride::
There really is a lot to be said for food oriented hellcritters. They are so . . . trainable. Said training may be a long, bloody, and hoarse-making process but it’s POSSIBLE. I get bombarded with a variety of Dog Media because I contribute tiny sums to a number of critter charities and they’re always frenziedly updating you as a flimsy disguise for begging for more money, and they frequently offer you clever suggestions for Training Interactions with Your Resident Hellcritter(s). And they’re ALL frelling based on FOOD REWARDS. I was particularly offended by one that fell through the mail slot just a day or two ago, since the illustrations included a whippet clearly getting into the whole food-treat thing. It was a bull terrier with leg extensions and a mask.
# And/or how many knots I’ve got in the laces of my All Stars. There is a rant to be ranted about the varying LENGTHS of the laces that over the years come with your pretty much standard-shaped All Stars. Some seasons they’re so frelling long I could tie the hellmob to them and dispense with leads. Some seasons they’re so dranglefabbing short you have to omit the last two or three pairs of holes to get them tied at all.
** I perceive a theme.^ I didn’t realise I was hungry. MORE CHOCOLATE. More chocolate is the answer. More chocolate usually is the answer. As the kitchen magnet says, Chocolate is the answer. What was the question?
^ Also: guacamole is far less dangerous than peanut butter. You might want to make a note.
*** Do I want to be backed up to The Cloud? The thing about little pieces of paper is that you’re pretty sure they’re here somewhere. Explanations about what The Cloud is or how it works or where anything in it actually is involves the dreaded word ‘algorithms’. I am allergic to the ‘a’ word. Just frelling typing it makes my fingertips hurt.^
^ Although that may also have something to do with recent close encounters of an unfortunate kind with hellmob-comestible-chopping implements.
† Ultrabook. It’s not ultra and it’s not a book. Grrrrrr.
†† Although anything I’ve actually done on Pooka’s Lilliputian keyboard will be illegible anyway^ so the backing up of gibberish is perhaps more of a matter of principle than practicality.
^ Note that being in a texting relationship with me is not all joy. Not only can’t I type what I mean to be typing, but I have a sometimes unique McKinley take on acceptable abbreviations.
††† Speaking of the hellterror, texting on Pooka lately is a lot like trying to do anything with a hellterror in my lap.^ HI. I’M HERE. I’M IN YOUR LAP. Yes. I had noticed. LET’S PLAY A GAME. No, let’s not. You’re supposed to lie there quietly. That’s the deal about laps. Lying quietly. SURE. I’LL LIE QUIETLY. LET’S PLAY A LYING QUIETLY GAME. YOU DON’T MIND IF I PUT MY FOREPAWS ON YOUR SHOULDERS AND LICK YOUR GLASSES, DO YOU? I’LL DO IT QUIETLY.
^ And anyone who thinks there is perhaps a hellterror bias going on? Well, yes. This month it will be a year since the hellhounds went on this drug that more or less holds back the chronic geysering but also stops them eating pretty much altogether. I don’t know if it destroys their appetite or makes them queasy but the truth is I don’t care. I’ve been forcefeeding them, oh, 85-100% of the time for a year and you could say our relationship has suffered. You could say that. Yes, you could say that with some energy.
Pooka, my (relatively) loyal (as gizmos go) iPhone, is getting ready to check out permanently and go to that big Silicon Valley in the sky where she can play with all the Sinclairs and Altairs in the perfectly atmospherically controlled Elysian Fields equivalent geekily overseen by the demiurge of technology.* I’m still hoping to get twenty years out of Wolfgang, I guess four or five years is pretty good for a mobile phone. SIIIIIIIGH. The first sign of trouble is that she began jumping lines while I was texting which is therefore my own fault for getting sucked into texting in the first place. ARRRRRGH. YOU KNOW THE WORLD WAS FULL OF INTEREST AND DELIGHT BEFORE THERE WAS TEXTING.** But the real moment of shock, horror and brutal recognition of having arrived at the Point of No Return was when I discovered MY BELL RINGING APP WAS FRIED.***
I can no longer remember why I got flummoxed into an iPhone rather than some other mobile phone. I’m sure there was a good† reason.†† However I want no more steep learning curves in my life††† so if I’m replacing Pooka I’m going to replace her with another iPhone, okay? Meanwhile because EVERYTHING! has to be BIGGER!! And BRIGHTER!!! and WHIZZIER!!!! and FLASHIER!!!!!! . . . the frelling iPhone 6 has two models: the just-larger-enough to not squash in the little pink bag that Pooka fits in and hangs around my neck‡ and the frelling ginormous sub-tablet sized. I decided I should actually see these critters before I asked Raphael to order one. If the slightly-too-large one is TOTALLY IMPOSSIBLE the earlier Pooka-sized edition is still available, it just doesn’t have all the upgradey bits that are probably mostly worth having, and I have a certain resistance to spending several hundred pounds on something that isn’t as good as something that is only slightly more insanely expensive and which latter is also less likely to go seriously passé and customer-support-free before it’s ready for the polished-aluminium Elysian Fields. And with all this FRELLING TEXTING I’m now doing the tiny iPhone keyboard is driving me NUTS‡‡ and I thought it might just be worth having a look at the keyboard on the Ginormous Sub-Tablet.
Niall, ahem, texted me, asking if I was going ringing at Crabbiton tonight? I guess, I replied, my fingers a blur of anguish and misspelling, but I’m thinking of going slightly the long way to have a look in at Doorknob and Beastly’s electronics department: their web site says they have iPhone 6s and there’s a D and B on the Crabbiton side of Mauncester. Since we’ve started carpooling I offered to pick him up: he could look at cameras or longswords or something while I was muttering over iPhones.
We arrived at our local Doorknob and Beastly and a nice young man said, oh, we don’t have mobile phones here.‡‡‡ You have to go to the store in Drabness. Drabness? I said, and laughed hollowly. Drabness is Super Mall City: it makes Disney World look like your small local county fair, with the lead-line pony class and the grapefruit-arranging contest. Also you have to go on the motorway to go to Drabness. I don’t drive on motorways.§ Never mind, I said. But we’re going to be early at Crabbiton.
No, no, said Niall, Drabness is like ten minutes on the motorway from here. We can do it easily. NO WE CAN’T, I said. He turned to the nice young man. The Super Mall City end is this side, isn’t it? Ten minutes from here? Fifteen maybe? Yes, said the nice young man. It’s just straight down the motorway and you take the Abandon Hope All Ye Who Enter Here exit and it’s right there, it’s dead simple. NOOOOOOOO, I said, considering falling to my knees and begging for my life. They discussed the particulars of where, exactly, weaving among Thunder Mountain, the Haunted Mansion, Pirates of the Caribbean and Space Mountain, we were going to find Doorknob and Beastly and then Niall shooed me out of the store saying loudly over my feverish quacking that it would be easy and he could tell me EXACTLY what to do.
We got on the motorway (under Niall’s strict direction). With me still clucking and cheeping.
And two minutes later we ran into THE BIGGEST TRAFFIC JAM IN THE HISTORY OF BRITISH ROAD HAVOC. Of course there were no available exits. That would be so obvious. Mind you it was almost worth it, sitting there breathing 1,000,000,000,000 internal combustion engines’ combined exhaust and watching all the SUVs play chicken with each other pointlessly swapping lanes, while listening to Niall apologising for getting me into this. ALMOST.
We did get there. Eventually. And I’M the one found Doorknob and Beastly.§§ Just by the way. And the Ginormous Sub-Tablet iPhone 6’s keyboard is not worth carrying—or figuring out how to carry—around something the size of a frelling DVD box.§§§ And the little one does fit into Pooka’s little pink bag . . . but it won’t, as soon as I get a cover for it. I’ll worry about that LATER.
We even made it to Crabbiton half an hour before the end of practise.
* * *
* I’m fine with—no, I’m positively looking forward to—going down under a large many-legged wave of furry things when I finally make it through the pearly gates some moment when St Peter is looking the other way. I’m not sure I’m joyously anticipating greeting all the technology that has gone before. In which case I probably shouldn’t give it names and genders: this behaviour probably leads it to believe we’re supposed to be friends. WELL YES WE ARE. SUPPOSED TO BE. FRIENDS. Arrrrrrrrrgh.
** Too frelling late now: the genie is not only out of the bottle, she’s turned it into a flower-pot and is growing a fine healthy crop of deadly nightshade.
*** Life was going to be so much simpler if I was just going to kind of sidle away from bell ringing without ever quite giving it up officially. Like maybe if Niall moved to Zurich and Wild Robert to Ottawa. These people who have taught you to ring somehow seem to think, okay, you ring. I know you ring. SO RING. WHAT DO YOU MEAN, KNITTING? OR TIRED AND DEMORALISED? I SAID RING.
†† Which is probably immortalised on the blog. I DON’T WANT TO KNOW.
††† I may tell you about . . . um . . . well, maybe not tonight.
‡ I totally do not get the penchant for carrying your iPhone in your pocket. The little fold-up non-iPhone mobiles, sure, if that’s how you want to frictionize holes in your pockets: I tend to the Large Wodge of Keys method myself but to each his/her own. But an iPhone—even a little old one like Pooka—is MUCH TOO LARGE. I keep reading these reviews that report, bristling with multiple dudgeon from the highest possible of horses, that their iPhones have bent. Usually I think that modern paraphernalia is criminally tacky and built to disintegrate on contact so you have to buy another one immediately, but in the case of people who keep their iPhones in their pockets I THINK THEY DESERVE BENT IPHONES. If you have the thing lying next to you on the table or counter or the bookshelf by your bed^ you will not only be aware of it doing its little vibration tango^^ but even turned off it burrs at you.
^ or the back of the loo while you take your bath: I know, for someone who is still at least 85% Luddite I’m a trifle neuromancer about my iPhone, but if I say if Peter ever actually DOES phone me when he’s had a fall rather than soldiering on alone and bleeding all over the carpet, I want to get that phone call.
^^ And on the top of the loo cistern it positively rattles like a small pink rectangular castanet
‡‡ WHY ARE THERE NO ARROW KEYS SO YOU CAN MOVE AROUND MORE PRECISELY THAN THE SCREEN WILL READ YOUR BIG FAT FINGERS? ESPECIALLY WHEN THE PREDICTIVE FACILITY IS CORRECTING YOU IN A MORE THAN USUALLY INFURIATING WAY? WHY ARE THERE NO ARROW KEYS?
‡‡‡ YOUR FRELLING WEB SITE SAYS YOU DO. It’s a national chain, right? So you look narrowly at the listings for both your shop and your desired item, looking for any warning about ‘not all outlets have all listed merchandise’ or similar . . . or a phone number for your local shop rather than the random national 800 number that will leave you on hold for half an hour while playing Vivaldi’s the Four Seasons on six kazoos and an eggbeater very loudly in your ear. I used to like Vivaldi’s the Four Seasons.
§ Highways. The forty-eight lane kind where the slow lane is going 80 mph and the fast lane is in orbit.
§§ It wasn’t even that large. Two acres tops. Okay maybe three.
§§§ Anybody wanting to carry this sucker around in a pocket is going to have to buy a whole new wardrobe. With Kevlar pockets.
I’ve fallen into the habit of spending some of Monday evening with Penelope and yarn.** I usually try and feed the frelling-frelling argling-bargling hellhounds—and the perfect, adorable, food friendly hellterror—before I leave. One of the things that sometimes works with the [muttermuttermutter] hellhounds is that if you get them STARTED and they think, oh, right, food, it’s not sooo bad . . . they will keep eating. So I’m always on the lookout for dog-treat type things that might tempt them and are free of all the things they can’t have SIIIIGH. There’s a relatively recent line of tinned dog food that costs more than fresh frelling caviar*** that they will sometimes open one eye and look at thoughtfully. And there’s a new flavour of it that I gave them a big chunk of the other day which they ate with what passes in their case for alacrity and enthusiasm.† So today I chopped more of it up in smallish globs and shoved it into their proper food . . . put the bowls down and turned my back on them since they don’t like being watched . . . but there were terrific gobbling noises proceeding from the hellhound corner and I was weak and permitted myself to be hopeful. . . . Nah. Chaos had merely done his Prehensile Tongue thing which I’ve noticed before makes a remarkable amount of noise, and precision-instrument extracted every small globule of Consecrated Canine Comestible Flavour of the Month, leaving an interestingly pock-marked bowl like an artist’s rendition of the surface of the moon in . . . dog food. Darkness had decided that this operation was too much like work, and having opened the one eye and looked thoughtfully at his bowl, closed the eye again without moving.
But the day has been not without its small sheepish victories. I’ve previously referred to the fact that my singing lessons have not been going splendidly since we started up again after summer break . . . there have been goodish lessons and there have been I’M RUNNING AWAY AND JOINING THE CIRCUS lessons of traumatising disaster, but while I haven’t quite got to the point of thinking I should start investigating another outlet for my frustrated musical non-talent†† I have occasionally wondered if I should be thinking about it. Meanwhile I keep missing church because I’m too blasted tired to get in Wolfgang again and drive—yo, God, why did you plop someone with ME down a forty-minute commute from the church she’s happy in? I’m sure I’m supposed to be learning something from this tedious piece of reality but, um, I’m too tired—which means I’ve also been missing service singing. I was signed up to sing this Sunday—yesterday—and I’ve been in unusually-bad-even-for-recently voice the last fortnight BUT I WANTED TO SING and . . . I think I’ve said this before, the awful Jesus Is My Boyfriend stuff does give me a certain amount of freedom from worrying about Mozart or Handel getting special permission to come back and haunt me, and I can just sing, and offer it as part of my service to the church. I like to think that God hears it the way it’s supposed to sound, like Handel or Mozart sung by Marilyn Horne or Renee Fleming.
I started out last night sounding like a bowl of rice krispies. If you’re into breakfast cereal that crackling noise is fine in the morning as Morse code for EAT ME but not so much later on in the day with a microphone in your hand. But something happened: God, or team spirit††† or alien mind probe or whatever but . . . I started singing. Indeed I was making so much noise I decided to dispense with the microphone.‡
And I went in to Nadia today and sang How Beautiful Are the Feet, which is the horse that threw me violently something like two months ago and that I have been afraid to go near.‡‡ And I didn’t sound like Marilyn Horne or Renee Fleming‡‡‡ but it was recognisable.§ So I’m putting off running away and joining the circus for at least another week.
* * *
* NOOOOOOOO IT’S DECEMBER NOOOOOOOOOOOO
** Penelope used to knit . . . and stopped for some unfathomable reason. I’ve been spending even more than my usual amount of time lately hanging from the chandelier^ and screaming ^^ and have therefore had even greater than usual need to knit as a coping mechanism^^^ and Penelope has got re-interested by relentless exposure.# We even went to one of my favourite yarn shops the other week so she could squodge what she was buying. But the best part was that WE TOOK NIALL WITH US. SO HE COULD DO THE DRIVING. Hee hee hee hee hee hee. Hey, he’s retired. He doesn’t have anything better to do, does he?## I don’t think he’s going to learn to knit however. He looked kind of stunned in the yarn shop. Of course I wasn’t paying that much attention because I was on my knees digging through the sale bins.
^ Although I no longer need a chandelier. Excess of . . . um, excess . . . has caused me to grow little super-glue pads on the ends of my fingers and toes so I can stick to the ceiling like a very large gecko. THIS MAKES TYPING AND WALKING ON THE FLOOR VERY INTERESTING. It’s also hard on the finger joints. Which I need limber and flexible for knitting.
^^ Those of you who know me off line will be aware that I have reason, and that most of the reason(s) don’t get on the blog.+ I am hoping this is merely a phase and what I used to think of as a life will return. Meanwhile . . . thank God for knitting. Even if at this rate—as I was telling some friend or other recently—I may never get past garter-stitch scarves and ditto pullover jumpers, the square kind where the body is two big rectangles and the sleeves are two littler skinnier rectangles and you leave a gap in the sewing-up for your head to poke through. HEY. IT’S ALL ABOUT THE YARN. I’ve been saying this for, um, is it getting to be three years now? It’s all about the yarn. Cables? Pfffft. Lace? Are you frelling joking? On a good day with a following wind I can manage simple increases and decreases. SIMPLE ONES. ON A GOOD DAY. But I buy nice yarn.
+ It is now MONDAY night and my new computer gear HAS STILL NOT ARRIVED.
# She is remarkably calm in the face of a ranting madwoman waving pointy sticks in her face. She raised four children. Nothing flaps her.
## Remodelling the kitchen. It will look really flash when he finishes. That’s when.
*** But I’m pretty sure Darkness wouldn’t like caviar. He’s not a big fish person.
† If the hellterror ever approached a meal like that however I’d think she was seriously ill.
†† Triangle? Washboard? Plastic kiddie piano, the kind with the keys that don’t work?
††† I know about having one’s little ways and so on^ but sometimes my own blinding ridiculousness amazes me. Last night the one other singer asked me where I wanted to stand. In the back, I said. She looked at me pityingly. There is no back, she said. There are only four of us.^^ I know, I said, but we can stand farther back on the stage.
And this does it for me. I have no idea why. We’re still face to face with the frelling congregation—there is nothing between us and them—but we stand about a foot farther back than—last night—the keyboardist and the guitarist. I can look at the back of someone’s head if I want to.^^^
^^ Guitar, keyboard, us. Plus a bass player and a drummer who somehow or other get not to be on the stage with the rest of us.
^^^ Although since the leader is usually on guitar, you kind of want to be able to see his face to pick up your cues more easily. And yes, so far as I’m aware, all our guitarists are blokes. Any female Christian guitarists with a high tolerance for fatally maudlin Christian worship music moving to the south of England, I know a church that needs you.
‡ In kindness to the assembled. The more my life is kicking me in the head the flatter I sing. Nadia says this is dead common but . . . I don’t want to be expelled from St Margaret’s, or even the band.
‡‡ Nice horsie. Nice horsie.
§ I was, I believe, even occasionally on pitch.
. . . only more annoying. Thanksgiving in England. Feh. COMPUTERS. GINORMOUS ERUPTING ARRRRRGH WITH LOTS OF BOILING LAVA. And maybe a fire-god or two. And Boadicea—she’s supposed to have flaming red hair, right?—and the scything knives on her chariot.* What’s the computer version of a red-haired warrior queen with whizzing chopper blades on her war-chariot’s wheels and a really really bad attitude toward her overlords? I NEED THIS. WHATEVER IT IS. I NEED IT BADLY. I NEED IT NOW.
Peter and I did manage to go out for dinner—I know, we should have been at home slaving over a whole series of hot, speaking of hot, cooking aids, including the wooden spoon you accidentally left in the whatever and which is beginning to give off a pleasant fragrance of charring wood, but—why? Christmas will be here soon enough.** Never mind my confusingly American-sounding accent, my passport, and my place of birth: I’m British. I find Thanksgiving quaint, and, with my digestion, superfluous. Another good reason to live in England. Tick that box.
But we didn’t go out to dinner to celebrate, if in a non-traditional way, because it was Thanksgiving. We went out to dinner because we were supposed to go out for tea, only I missed. I got to bed late even for me*** thanks to one of my duty shifts running over time, and when I finally staggered out of bed again I ENTIRELY FORGOT that I was supposed to be ringing Raphael so he could do his Remote Meddling and yank the latest diabolical computer miseries† back into some temporary but functional alignment†† . . . until I’d already had the first necessary injection of caffeine, and had tried to turn a computer on . . . ARRRRRGH.
By the time Raphael had returned from rappelling down the side of the Post Office Tower††† I was too late to go out for tea. But we went out for dinner. Which was really better anyway since you don’t usually get champagne at tea time.
* * *
* I could have put Kes in a chariot . . . maybe in book twelve or sixteen or something.
There is a surprising paucity of really satisfactory images of Boadicea, considering she’s one of the few major historical heroines around. I was looking for one with impressive, you know, gauntlets, which might conceivably be magical bracelets, with or without rose embellishments. There aren’t any that I can find after poking around in the usual places via Google:
Hey, lady, anything you say, if you stop waving that kitchen knife at me.
Um, how are they steering those horses? Telepathy?
** I spent one ENTIRE EVENING this week when I could have been, I don’t know, writing a blog post or something, on-line ordering frelling they-deliver pot plants to go to the members of the Dickinson clan it would be the most embarrassing if I forgot entirely (again) . . . I mean, I don’t forget, I just don’t get around to, you know, organising the final dash to the holiday finish line . . . including having got so far as buying things like calendars and tins of biscuits WHICH WILL HAVE GONE OUT OF DATE by the time I unearth them next year because I didn’t get them WRAPPED AND SENT LAST YEAR. Anybody want a decorative tin of stale biscuits? I can occasionally recycle the calendar photos which are often . . . oh, roses or something. And may I just remark that that venerable British manufacturing icon, Blu Frelling Tack^, is not worth its reputation. Sure, it’s reusable. It’s reusable up to and including the 1,000,000,000th time something has fallen off the wall/the back of the refrigerator^^/the side of the cupboard/the edge of the bookshelf, etc, that it was supposedly glomped onto by Blu Tack. I have other things to do with my time than resticking. ^^^
^ Why not Blue Tack or Blu Tak? Blu Tack merely looks confused and indecisive. +
+ Hums an old American folk song and does not make any obvious remarks about British politicians.
^^ which is much more attractive covered in calendar cut-out photos of roses
^^^ Laundry, for example. The INSUFFICIENT advantage of washing hellmob bedding every two or three days is that the critter hair problem is much reduced+. Well, sort of. The ambient hair level is definitely lower, as is the amount I claw out of the washing machine after every critter load. But it means that EVERYTHING I OWN that gets washed in the machine now has some critter hair in it. Yes, I run a quick cold wash after the mob stuff comes out, but that’s like using a broom to sweep off snow-laden steps that you’ve already tramped up and down several times. I used to be able to sort of stagger post-critter-washes so the jeans took the worst, and then the sweatshirts and outer layers and finally . . . hmmm. I’m here to tell you that I haven’t found a clothes brush yet—including those disposable sticky-tape ones and the little pads that are like a cross between velvet and Velcro—that works worth a damn on your underwear.
Meanwhile . . . I began Flea Protocol #7,243,006 today. SIIIIIIIIGH. One of the reasons I’m posting less often lately is that I’m frelling reading everything I can get my gnarly hands on about . . . well, about parasites generally, at this point, and about immune system strengtheners and blah blah blah, to give me more ideas about what else to try for fleas. The fact that there’s a huge amount of controversy and conflict and contradictory PROOF [sic] about what is safe to use is not helping. Maybe I could just bore the ugly little sods into going somewhere else? . . . Oh God guys here she comes again. I just want to suck blood in peace, what is her PROBLEM? We’re so tiny—she’d never have to know we’re here—all 1,000,000,000,000,000,000 of us. Okay mates we’re gonna hide behind this ear—NO NO SHE’S GOING FOR THE EARS. One of the advantages of naturally comatose++, plasticine+++ hellhounds is that you can roll them around and rub whatever into their fur, including all their private bits, any way you like. As long as it doesn’t involve swallowing anything it’s all attention, and it’s all good. The hellterror is also perfectly happy to be rolled around, but she tends to want to engage with the game WILL YOU HOLD STILL YOU THING. ARR-ARR-ARR-ARR, says happy engaged hellterror.
+ I still want to know whose brilliant idea it was to design the front-loader part of a front-loading washing machine to accumulate dirty water, critter hair, tiny shreds of unidentifiable gubbins and really unpleasant semi-dissolved yuck, in the un-get-at-able bottom of the door, defended by several heavy, uncooperative folds of rubber tubing. Which is apparently still standard over here, including the greater European Union, since both my last was and my current washing machine is, German#. My not-very-new-any-more washing machine gets very mixed reviews from me; not only is the front-loading door familiar in all the wrong ways, its filter is emergency only and you must approach it by precision serial usage of several Special Tools and the manual suggests sacrificing a black cockerel at the new moon as well, although advice about how to predict which new moon is the one heralding more-than-the-usual filter anguish does not seem to be included.
# Different brands. I try to make different mistakes.
++ Except, of course, outdoors, if there is a prospect of SOMETHING TO CHASE. Although Chaos did manage to slam into a cupboard once back at the mews because he saw a mouse amble across the floor.
+++ Or possibly Fawn, Charcoal and Tri-Colour Tack
*** I bring the hellmob back to the cottage from Third House sequentially, hellhounds first and hellterror second. I looooove the new system, by the way, because the Last Hurtle of the Day is built in, without recourse to Wolfgang, and can be any length I/we choose, depending on energy levels, the way the day/night has gone thus far, what is going to jump on me from a dark corner in the day to come, and a variety of other factors, lately chiefly the heaviness of the RAIN.^ Wednesday night I was coming back, as mentioned above, um, rather spectacularly late, which is to say, um, dawn, and noodling along not paying attention to anything much while Pav investigated every leaf, shadow and discarded crisp packet . . . and WE SUDDENLY MET ANOTHER WOMAN AND HER DOG. OOOOOOPS. The other woman and I looked at each other in amazement. I never see anyone else out at this hour! she said. Erm, I said, neither do I—failing to mention that I hadn’t been to bed yet. She had all the irritating glitter of the early riser about her.
^ Have I mentioned that fleas like warm and wet and that one of the things that haunts me is the possibility that this unprecedented invasion is a front runner of global warming? And I’m really looking forward to the return of malaria to southern England. Not.
† The beginning of the week I had no email for nearly two days. The middle of the week I had no internet for nearly two days. I’ve been doing a lot of knitting.^
And my new kit—ultrabook and iPad Air—was supposed to be here by the end of this week so Raphael could install it next week AND GUESS WHAT IT’S FRIDAY NIGHT AND I HAVEN’T HEARD ANYTHING.
^ Which I promise or, if you prefer, threaten, will be the topic of a blog post soon.
†† This process is seriously disconcerting. I turn on the gizmo programme from my end, it goes SHAZZAM!!!, my screen turns midnight-blue and suddenly Raphael, from however many miles away, is invisibly moving my mouse around and opening and shutting my files and my browser(s) and . . . eeeeep.
††† See, there was this peregrine nest dangling over the gruntzenjam ventilator of the main computer scorbovarg, and the operators all cried in one voice, RAPHAEL!^
^ He used a rope to keep up appearances. An archangel hovering beside the Post Office Tower in central London would definitely cause a traffic jam.