We have visitors over the weekend, and they suggested we go out for dinner Friday night. Friday night even in the back woods of Hampshire in October is likely to fill up anywhere anyone would want to eat at, so having ascertained how many of us there were likely to be I attempted to ring up to make a booking. I was hampered in this effort by the fact that the last time we went to our previous favourite local gastropub they were rather a cow about Luke in his wheelchair. I’d made that booking ahead too, and said that one of us was in a wheelchair, and they’d said that was fine. On the night however I had the distinct feeling that we were being viewed as causing trouble. Excuse me? Their preparations consisted of putting a ‘reserved’ tag on a ground-floor table—they hadn’t even removed the superfluous chair. Nor were they particularly gracious about doing it after we arrived. And . . . it’s the sort of pub where the food’s all on a chalkboard and you have to get up from your table and go read it. The chalkboard is up a half flight of stairs. Nobody offered to read it for us. Recollect that I’d made the booking in advance, ALERTING them to the fact of a wheelchair. And nobody could be frelling bothered to write out the menu on a piece of paper? Well I don’t think we can be frelling bothered to go back there.
Peter and I don’t eat out much so we’re out of the loop. Rumour has it that both the Six Legged Pony and the Rugby Scrum have acquired new management and more to the point new cooks, but the improvement would have to be almost unencompassably vast, like the Bowery street vendor I used to buy hot pretzels from when I lived on Staten Island and was coming over on the ferry, taking on the Petrie Court Café and Wine Bar at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and earning a couple of Michelin stars. I’m not really enthusiastic about putting my digestion and our visitors’ digestion* on the line to find out, either. So I thought I’d play it relatively safe and try to get us in at the Bard and Orpharion, where Peter and I used to go occasionally when I still had more than about three calories’ slack in the daily budget.**
We haven’t been there since the advent of Pooka so the phone number is not in my iPhone contacts list. So, you look it up in the phone book, right? It’s a pub. It wants people to come there and buy things to eat and drink. Right? It’ll be in the phone book.
We have three local phone books: the big local, the little local, and the highlights. I couldn’t find it listed in any of them, under pubs, restaurants, restaurants general, public houses, pub food, hotels and inns (it also has bedrooms), menu guide, English food, elephant hire or washing machine repair. Nor was it in the white pages of any of these. Eventually the amount of noise I was making brought Peter to my side, bearing cold compresses***. And he looked for it in all these places† and failed to find it either. ††
Now it’s perfectly true that at least one of my computers is on all the time and that I take both Pooka and Astarte the iPad to bed with me.††† But I object to the idea of looking up a frelling landline phone number on line. But whatever. Okay. And there the Bard was, with a shiny flashy web site with a lot of revolving frelling video sensitively fading in and out GO AWAY YOU’RE IRRITATING ME. The phone number is tucked away almost invisible behind a frond of hyperactive graphic art.
But at least it was there. I pulled Peter’s elderly cheap still-plugged-into-the-wall phone toward me and punched‡ in the numbers. The phone rang. And rang. And rang. And rang. And rang. And rang. And rang. And rang. I’m tired of typing ‘and rang.’ EVENTUALLY there was a click at the other end and a robot voice said, your call cannot be connected at this time.
Followed by dead air. No nonsense like thank you for calling, we apologise for missing your call, please leave a message and we’ll get back to you (which a lot of restaurants do), please ring at the following times, please go hire an elephant and leave us alone. Nope. Nothing.
I went back to the web site, found their email address, and wrote them an email. It was not friendly. It expressed surprise that, given their manifest customer relations and communication skills, they had any customers, and adding that they certainly weren’t going to have me, my husband, and our visitors.
Meanwhile we still don’t have a booking for Friday night.
* * *
* Peter can eat ANYTHING. This has been a source of marital friction, not to say snarling, for almost twenty-one years. At least he knows what good food is and objects to wasting time and money on bad.
** THREE? No, no, not three. Maybe one and a half. Put that carrot stick down.
*** And chains, in case the cold compresses didn’t work.
† I think he added plumbing supplies and house removals^, not necessarily because it was likely to be found in either but because there were lots of pages to look through so it gave us a spurious sense of actively seeking our goal.
^ Which standard British phrase I still love after twenty-one years of seeing it in the phone book. It means house contents movers, you know? But I really want to see them remove a house.
†† He did notice a very good two for one deal on elephant hire with free balloons.
††† I also take my knitting, about forty-three books, and several years of back journal issues, mostly homeopathy and gardening. And occasionally some dogs.
‡ It’s not that old. I bought him an old, reconditioned, They Made Things to Last in Those Days indestructible rotary phone a few years ago because it amused me. It broke.
It’s been a day full of exciting adventures. First and foremost DURANCE VILE IS OFFICIALLY OVER. LET THE HURTLING BEGIN. Since we only had a few minutes* because I wanted to be able to put her down for a another few minutes elsewhere today, I carried her to the churchyard this morning and set her down . . . and watched her react to the realisation that The World Is a Very Big Place. Very. Big. Especially when you’re only about six inches at the shoulder.**
And we went bell ringing again tonight at South Desuetude and those stairs aren’t getting any shorter and Pavlova is not getting any lighter, but Niall carried the crate for me. I bought him a beer at the pub***, where Pavlova was a star. I’d warned poor Niall that while I was happy to drive and give him a lift, I was bringing the hellterror and that I was furthermore positively going to stop at the Phlogiston Arms on the way back because they allow dogs and I could Show the Puppy More Stuff. Also, they brew their own beer, which is excellent.
I think she’s getting bored with bell ringing, since no one ever offers to teach her. Oh, this again, she says, puts her paws over her ears and goes to sleep. But she woke up for the pub, where it turned out the bar maid loooooooooves bull terriers, and told rather alarming stories of the gigantic brindle bullie bitch of her childhood, who had the bullie joie de vivre and an awful lot of weight to throw it around with. Pavlova is a MINI! I said, perhaps a little desperately. She also said there is a gigantic genial brindle male bullie who comes to the pub upon occasion (trailing humans, as dogs are usually expected to do). Pavlova and I may have to investigate. Tonight there was a yellow lab I have seen before, who is about the size of a bull mastiff crossed with an SUV, but friendly. He sauntered up to Pavlova who was, at that point, having a slight moment of insecurity about things—it was pretty noisy in the pub, and she had met a lot of new best friends in the last few minutes—but as soon as he raised his shovel-sized head toward her as she sat in my lap I could feel her tail start to go. WhapwhapwhapwhapwhapwhapwhapwhapWHAP.
Ears UP, I notice. And a very attractive feature they prove. They have that adorable slightly-too-big-for-the-rest-of-the-puppy look.
Southdowner says they’ll flop back down again when she hits teething. They’re not actually what you’d call hard up even now. But I have mixed feelings about her ears. Aside from the question of how big she’s going to get because her ears have come up slowly, if they don’t come up perfectly then we’re let off the dog show question. Southdowner said when she was down here last Sunday week that Pav is still the pattern-card of bullie puppy perfection. Oh dear. I think a nice small harmless design fault might be in order.†
just look at the little, pink puppy tummy!
I adore the little pink puppy tummy. I am extremely fond of dog tummies generally, when they belong to dogs who want their them rubbed. Sighthounds with their dramatic undercarriage are a little more challenging a rub than the standard issue, but you learn to adjust. The best thing about Pavlova is that she’s a girl. Not that I wouldn’t have been just as besotted with Fruitcake if I’d ended up with him . . . but there’s all that tummy on a girl.
Diane in MN
So, remind me . . . what’s the bright idea about THREE dogs?
Been there, done that, it’s all heart and gut, no matter what the brain provides as reasons. It’s why I don’t go out of my way to look at puppies.
Birmingham is only two and something hours away by train. And another two and something coming back. That’s not going out of my way, is it?
Thanks to your blog, I now find myself ogling bull terriers in the street. I saw two … today, one white, one brindle. I wanted to go and give them a cuddle … but realised just in time that the owner might, at the very least, give me strange looks.
Well you certainly have to ask before you fall on someone else’s dog(s) with arms outstretched and cries of gladness, but most owners would be delighted. Want to get on someone’s good side? Want to make a blindly loyal friend for life? Make a fuss over their dog(s).
She is, furthermore, starting to respond to Little Fat Thing. Oops.
I don’t suppose you’d consider transitioning her call name to Elefti, by any chance?
You know, ‘LFT’….
It sounds like a character in one of Kes’ books. I wouldn’t be surprised if Aldetruda has a friend named Elefti. She kicks ass, of course.
Diane in MN
I’ve found that puppies generally start sleeping through the night at ten or eleven weeks. I hope Pavlova reaches this milestone soon.
SHE REACHED IT THE DAY BEFORE HER BOWELS MUTINIED. At the moment I have no clue . . . and I’m cleaning out various crates rather a lot and I’m not in a good mood.
Well, we still call our puppy Baby . . . it has been two years, so I’m beginning to think that’s probably her name now.
Well, Brighid and Bramble are still “the pups” at age 3.
I guess there are a lot of us around. In the last generation Holly and Hazel were ‘the pups’ all their lives. And I think Rowan was born a grande dame.
She can hardly pee fast enough to rush back and get her bit of kibble. In fact I suspect that sometimes the reason she has to pee again so soon is because she cut the first one short because she was HUNGRY.
You don’t think it’s just because she wants more kibble?
???? Why isn’t this what I said?
Diane in MN
It would be nice if puppies got solid sphincter control at about the same time as they figured out what outdoors is for, but it’s never happened that way with any puppy I’ve known.
ARRRRRRRRGH. See above. Also, despite the number of dogs that frolic through the churchyard†† Pavlova did not pee . . . in our churchyard, in South Desuetude’s, or in the meadow behind the pub. No, she had to get back home to her garden. Or her crate, of course, with the endless supply of freshly changed newspapers. Siiiiiiiiiiigh.
I have 2yo husky mix, myself, and this brings back all sorts of [repressed] memories of those horrible and yet sweet first few weeks.
Ha. Horrible and yet sweet. And repressed. Yes. Exactly. As I’ve said for some reason several times recently, baby things are adorable so we don’t kill them. Little pink puppy tummies are an evolutionary survival mechanism. ARRRRRRGH.
. . . The upshot of all these numbers is that yes, whippets are considerably faster than cheetahs, pound-for-pound. If you had a 100lb whippet that maintained the speed-to-weight ratio, a cheetah-sized whippet would have a top speed of approximately 140mph, which, incidentally, is fast enough to be a federal offense on many US highways.
* * *
* Ten lousy minutes! Ten minutes! I can add five minutes a month to walk time. ARRRRGH. So there is still a lot of hanging on the other end of frayed cotton ropes and creatively shaped rubber and plastic objects and hot pink snugga wubbas^ in my immediate future.^^
^^ And by the time she’s ten years old we’ll be walking ten hours a day. + Hmm. I assume you get to stop adding five minutes a month at some point.
+ Or nine hours and fifty-five minutes. Because we’re starting with ten minutes at three months. Or something.
** One of those hard crusty blokes that you surreptitiously look around to check if there’s anyone else nearby as he walks toward you, stopped and looked at Pavlova. His face lit up and he said, Oh! A bull terrier puppy! An English bull terrier! They are wonderful dogs!
*** not necessarily because he carried the crate, but it didn’t hurt.
† I don’t think slightly frilly ears are going to save me from breeding her however if she goes on as she’s begun. I know, I know, I’m besotted, but she is at least nearly a pattern-card of physical perfection, and she really does have the kind of personality you want to keep in the gene pool.
†† Rant alert: I cannot BELIEVE the amount of dog crap in the churchyard. What is the MATTER with people. It’s bad enough to be an utter beneath contempt turd in public spaces generally^ but in a CHURCHYARD?????? I don’t care what your dinglebrained private beliefs are, you can jolly well fricking respect other people’s. Not to mention people who want a nice amble around a pretty churchyard with romantic old stones in it, and maybe sit on the grass for a picnic . . . ewwwwwwww.
^ And some modest allowance does have to be made for the way crap can go invisible on you, especially this time of year when there are a lot of crap-coloured leaves around, especially when your more-than-one dog decide(s) to crap simultaneously at opposite ends of their long extending leads. Also, if you happen to have a dog that likes to stroll while he’s defecating, you’re never perfectly sure you got all of it. Especially if there’s long grass involved.+
+ HATE long grass. HAAAAAAATE.
Okay, I don’t rant about readers very often. No matter how many times I start off by saying THE VAST—THE VAST, VASTVASTVAST—MAJORITY, that’s MAJORITY, did you get it that I said MAJORITY? OF PEOPLE WHO WRITE TO ME ABOUT MY BOOKS ARE COMPLIMENTARY AND I AM GLAD TO HEAR FROM THEM,** on the comparatively rare occasions when I do allow my inner vicious cow to express herself I can pretty well guarantee I will, shortly thereafter, receive one or more emails from outraged members of the public*** telling me that I am toxic pond slime, and conceited, and arrogant, and that I don’t deserve to have ANY readers, and that they will tell all their friends not to read me, and occasionally, on a roll, they start telling me that I have no idea what their life is like† and it’s all downhill from there††.
I do not enjoy reading these emails††† and I have to read enough of each of them to know to delete it, you know? But sometimes my inner vicious cow just cannot be silenced. Yesterday I received an email from a teenager doing an Important Project. She is an Aspiring Writer and she has decided that, for her Important Project, she is going to collect a lot of writing advice from fabulous published writers, create a book-shaped object out of this, and dispense copies to all the libraries in her area.‡
She addresses me, one of her chosen fabulous published writers, thus: For years I was reluctant to read your novel, The Dragon and The Sword, solely because my mom recommended.‡‡
So, which one do we think she is referring to? Or has she conflated SWORD and HERO and is fondly remembering a story where a tall/middling blond/redhead from the Homeland/North rides a chestnut/grey to glory involving dragons/monsters/distant relatives‡‡‡?
If you’re going to write to somebody, like maybe an author, like maybe a stranger you’re asking a favour, for pity’s sake DO YOUR HOMEWORK FIRST.
A few hours after this unlovely email arrived, another one pinged into my inbox from the same person. Oh, I thought, she’s noticed, and she’s writing an embarrassed apology.§ Not at all. She was sending me an extra question that was left out of the earlier version of her questionnaire,§§ to wit, would I be willing to teach a class in a writing seminar day at her school?
Do I get to hope she means via Skype?§§§
* * *
* It did not end well when three of the four of us rushed to the exit after the first act, cheeping with boredom, frustration, and the kind of embarrassment you feel at a good professional troupe wasting their time on tosh, tonight at the theatre.
We all came home during intermission, the fourth of our party having said, oh, well, I didn’t think it was that bad. I had fed hellhounds—and they, for a wonder, had eaten—really early, before we left. I now have a hellhound who is convinced he never had supper. I guess it makes a change from . . . Food? You mean . . . food? We’re supposed to . . . eat this stuff?^
^ Southdowner says that I have to feed Pavlova first. That bullies do like their food, but that the megrims of hellhounds might conceivably put even a bull terrier off.
** Although . . . siiiiiiiiiiigh . . . wouldn’t you think someone writing to an author would be REALLY REALLY REALLY CAREFUL with stuff like grammar and spelling? Okay, looking up grammar^ can sometimes be a ratbag, but spelling? It takes a fraction of a fraction of a second to look something up from pretty much ANY computer programme that produces words any more, and if I see ‘definately’ once more I may run mad with an axe. —Which the faithful Microsoft Word just automatically corrected for me (and is now objecting with a red line to my de-correction) so apparently there are a lot of people out there not using Microsoft Word or who have turned the auto-spell thing off. Turn it back on. Please.
^ Between you and me. Not I. ME. Between you and me. Between is a PREPOSITION. Your pronoun needs to be in the OBJECTIVE. Please generalise this to with her and me, from him and me, etc.
*** They’re not even necessarily readers of my books. This is the thing that really boggles me. It’s tedious and discouraging enough to get yelled at for being a Loathsome Human Being by someone who claims they used to like my books. It’s really disconcerting to get yelled at by someone who says ‘and now I’m never ever going to read ANY of your books.’ Huh? Are there specifiable search protocols out there for finding stuff that will piss you off when you need to yell at someone?^
^ Where do I . . . no, no, my computer(s) supply as much yelling-at opportunity as I need.
† Okay, that’s true
†† Rolling, you know.
††† At least they’re rarely street mail any more. I swear hate mail off-gases nuclear meltdown or car exhaust or something.
‡ Just by the way, if there’s a book-shaped object to be made out of professional writers’ words, there’s usually, you know, contracts, and, conceivably, money, involved in the transaction. I haven’t got a problem with donating to a charity^ but I think I might feel a little twitchy about this project if other details weren’t ploughing it under. It could be a perfectly genuine error of concept on her part, but aren’t teenagers doing Important Projects usually assigned adult mentors with a clue?
^ Aside from the fact that I’ve never produced a piece of writing to order that a charity would want. See: Peter’s EARTH AND AIR, since I can’t write short stories.
‡‡ Sic, by the way. There is no ‘it’. This is probably an acceptable typo—it’s always hard to proofread your own stuff, and we’re going on the assumption that she doesn’t have an adult mentor with a clue who might proofread with her—still.
‡‡‡ Okay, there is some cause for confusion. There is a war, a blue sword, and marrying the king in both of them.^
^ Unless she’s talking about DRAGONHAVEN. In which case it gets really interesting.
§ Not that this will actually do her any good. I haven’t got time to—or the least interest in—writing a lot more drivel about The Writing Process. That’s what my website FAQ is for. I haven’t updated it in years—bad me—but the writing stuff doesn’t need updating.
§§ Which she sent as an attachment. Does anyone open attachments from strangers any more? Not me babe. And this is something I would have thought Today’s Teenager, on Facebook from birth, who may have forgotten how to sign her name on a piece of paper with a pen^ but who can text faster than Super(wo)man can leap a tall building in a single bound, wouldn’t have needed an adult mentor to tell her not to do.
^ Pen? You mean like that thing I need to buy before my BULL TERRIER PUPPY comes home in about ten days?
§§§ She’s a year off graduating. She’s old enough to have some idea of money and that, you know, travelling costs an amount of it. Never mind professional fees. And she’s writing from America and it’s a one-clicker to find out I live in England.
IT’S GIGANTIC FRELLING SPIDER SEASON AGAIN. ARRRRRRRGH. IT’S NOT EVEN SEPTEMBER YET! ARRRRRRRRGH! But I’ve just dumped my second-in-two-days asteroid-sized spider outdoors muttering to myself I know you’re a house spider I don’t care it’s either outdoors or SQUISH.* It’s not even cold yet you have plenty of time to find some OTHER household to infiltrate before winter. Although I don’t think something that size can infiltrate. Like trying to introduce rhinoceroses by osmosis. No. Not going to work. I saw this vast creature out of the corner of my eye as I was bent over SHADOWS. It threw a strange, spiky SHADOW. . . . AAAAAAAAUGH.
Those made-for-purpose spider catchers are always TOO SMALL. Are they trying to make you think that the only spiders you will ever need to catch are SMALL? Is this some kind of reverse psychology? Oh, it’s a spider, well I’ll just get my proprietary spider catcher and scoop the sucker up, it’s just an OPTICAL ILLUSION that the spider is BIGGER THAN MY HEAD . . . AAAAAAAAAAUGH.
When I see a spider that is clearly bigger than my head I do not assume that I am suffering some strange optical delusion, I assume that it is BIGGER THAN MY HEAD and behave accordingly. Behaving in an appropriate manner involves a spare door and a medium-sized yurt, and you clap the yurt over the spider and then slide the door carefully so you don’t hurt the spider UNDER the yurt, thus trapping it between the two, and then you stagger desperately toward the door to outdoors, being OBSESSIVELY MINDFUL of the need to keep the yurt pressed in a vise-grip to the (as it were, unhinged) door . . . now entire theses have been written on the best way to get a yurt seamlessly crushed to a door through a door, and I wish to point out that it is a great deal easier if you have had the forethought to lay in a stable door for these occasions, so that you can use one half of it instead of the full rectangular array of a standard door . . . anyway. You contrive to get outside with your prize and are ignoring the burning in your hellhound-honed shoulder muscles and the faint quiver in your wrists, totter a step or two down the courtyard . . . to release the thing in front of the neighbour you don’t like. Psst! you hiss at it as it perches confused in the gravel. That way!
* * *
* And the truth is that some of my selfless generosity to spider kind is that I don’t want to squish anything that large.^
^ In my defense I don’t kill little spiders either. I don’t like killing things. I am a wuss, but I’m also kind of consciously and actively a wuss. I’m a meat eater but I try not to kill things+ unless I have a reason.++ Even if they have too many legs.+++
There’s been a conversation going on on the forum about Jared Diamond’s GUNS, GERMS AND STEEL. This book by a very weird piece of serendipity was literally next in the audible queue for listening to on Pooka while hurtling after I finished THINKING FAST AND SLOW, my doubts about that book’s reliability being what started the conversation about GUNS. And . . . I’m not all that far into GUNS yet. But what I am taking to be the assumption that the way human civilisation—make that ‘civilisation’—works is that you figure out a way to produce enough food surplus to start adding specialists like warriors and kings to your society and then you go look for some other less ‘advanced’ or organised or just smaller society, and kill them basically because you can . . . SO DEPRESSING I’m not sure whether I’m going to get much farther. Human being? No, I don’t want to be one. I’d like to come back as a carrot or a liver fluke or something like that please. Part of what makes it so depressing is that Diamond doesn’t seem to feel the need to say anything about it—maybe he does later? Maybe I was fending off the matched set of Rottweilers++++ while he addressed this point? Is this just human nature and the inevitable loop—or vicious circle—of history? Whimper. Diamond also mentions (blandly) that horses are the single most important military advantage of any army through the ages till World War I, which is still (barely) less than a century ago and I’m like . . . horses? Yes, all right, I’ve read this or something like this before, but it doesn’t make me hate it any less. Horses are prey animals and basically too biddable for their own good, which is why we’ve been able to make such inexcusable use of them. To use a prey animal that eats grass for a living and has been bred and trained to want to please you to kill people is just totally horribly WRONG.
Sorry. I must not be in a very good mood. I think the situation with the hellhounds is getting to me, and playing with adorable puppies who are going to have to grow up and go out into this Morons with Dogs world isn’t helping.
+ Things do of course include broccoli and carrots and soy beans, but even vegans have to eat something.
++ ‘Existence’ is sufficient reason for death if you’re a house fly or a mosquito however.
+++ Hee hee hee. You haven’t read SHADOWS yet.# Too many legs. Spiky shadows. Hee hee hee hee.
# Nearly. NEARLY. Yes, I know, I’ve been saying this for weeks. Still. Nearly.
++++ SPEAKING OF FENDING OFF ROTTWEILERS. Today @radmilibrarian tweeted THIS ENTIRELY FABULOUS LINK, Space Etiquette for Dogs: http://www.flickr.com/photos/lilita/6577001349/ arrgle arrgle arrgle arrgle. As I tweeted back to her, you, which is to say I, get to feeling so embattled that the very fact of this poster, which means that someone out there GETS IT, is a relief in itself—someone other than me and my friends and various people on the forum who have posted about their similar experiences of Morons# with Dogs. Not that this is the least bit of help the next time you meet a moron with a dog—and it does not address the aggressive off lead dog problem, but it’s still good for morale, and mine is pretty much bumping along the bottom about my dog plight at present.
I think I may have only realised yesterday, talking to southdowner after the Visitation of Puppies, but I have pretty well officially gone into Bunker Mode with the hellhounds after they unexpectedly added a third dog to their Most Loathed list: this is, of course, also a dog that has offered them major discourtesy in the past . . . but I don’t like the declaration of war business, and three dogs that my sweet lovely hellhounds will go ferocious for is three too ******* many, and that doesn’t cover that if I don’t have them on short lead at the outbreak of hostilities they’ll pull me over. Eighty-plus pounds of hellhound in full burst could uproot a small continent. THAT’S. JUST. GREAT. So . . . at present we’re hurtling almost totally in town on pavement, where it’s least likely we’re going to meet aggressive dogs, either on or off lead—although, because Morons with Dogs are amazingly moronic sometimes, it’s still not a sure thing. This is not my idea of true hurtling—true hurtling involves fields and trees and stumbling through tussocks and getting lashed in the face by brambles and so on—but unfortunately I think it’s our best option at the moment, till the hellhound reactivity level drops somewhat. A lot. Which is also to say that I hope it will. We’ve had bad seasons for aggressive dogs previously, but this is the first time that Chaos has joined Darkness in saying NO MORE MR NICE GUY. I used to hate it that Chaos would just stand there and squeak a little when some bloody asshat of a dog would roar up and bite him, but this is worse.
At least I can listen to books on Pooka as we stomp grimly around town. But I think maybe I need more cheerful books.##
# More reasons to come back as a carrot or a liver fluke. Just sayin’.
## Okay, you need a laugh too? @cambridgeminor tweeted this today: http://www.amazon.co.uk/product-reviews/B004FTGJUW Bic for Her pens. Because of course us girls need special writing implements. Do not read while ingesting anything you don’t want to spit all over your keyboard.
Okay, enough with the happy Peter Dickinson book news and the adorable puppy photos and all that chirpy stuff. I am still kind of reeling from a couple of days ago* which may help explain why this evening . . . I am having a CRANKY ATTACK.**
I’ve been reading a very interesting book, THINKING, FAST AND SLOW by Daniel Kahneman. It’s had a huge amount of positive press (as in this link: http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2011/dec/13/thinking-fast-slow-daniel-kahneman ) and is a mega best seller and as someone who is even more depressed by the FIFTY SHADES OF GREY phenomenon than she was at the TWILIGHT phenomenon, which was as low as I was expecting the common denominator to get***, I say splendid, and may it sell trillions. But . . .
I found the first half a lot more compelling than the second, although I’d been making occasional spluttering noises of disbelief or disagreement from the beginning†. But he lost me completely near the end.†† He decides to use LA TRAVIATA as a coat hanger to drape some stuff about the irrationality of human emotions over. And he gets details of the plot wrong. He says that Violetta’s lover, Alfredo, is an aristocrat. He is not. He is bourgeois. When Papa Germont comes to do the heavy-dad thing at Violetta and convince her to give Alfredo up for the sake of Alfredo’s family and especially his sister, innocent flower that she is, and about to be sold, I mean married, to a man who won’t have her if her brother is shacked up with a whore. There is no way this scene would work the way it works if Germont were an aristocrat. It might work some other way, but that’s not the opera Verdi wrote.
Kahneman goes on to describe the end: Violetta is dying surrounded by a few friends. She is NOT. She is ALONE, except for her maid, and occasional visits from her doctor, and the fact that the doctor who professionally declares the death sentence††† is treated like a friendly visitor underscores just how terribly alone she is.‡ This makes her last-minute reunion with her bourgeois lover and his thug of a father—who can afford to be generous because she’s going to be dead in a minute—infinitely more poignant. Someone might have written what Kahneman says Verdi wrote. But that’s not what Verdi wrote, and what Verdi wrote breaks your heart. Stuff irrationality.
But if Kahneman is this careless over such easily checked details, what else has he been careless about?
* * *
* The state of this society, in which I was born, grew up and am now growing old in, on the subject of sex, power and women’s rights, APPALS me. You all know about Todd Akin’s recent, fabulously grotesque remark that a woman’s body will reject rapist sperm so she won’t get pregnant? Uh-huh. That alone does my head in, but now read this, any of you who haven’t already, it was a popular retweet on Twitter a couple of days ago: http://www.xojane.com/it-happened-to-me/dear-representative-todd-akin-i-got-pregnant-from-rape Here’s the paragraph I wish to draw your particular attention to, emphasis mine:
Today, I am an attorney and the busy single mother of an amazing second grader. My rape is responsible for both of these roles. You see, I enrolled at GeorgetownLawSchoolafter learning, firsthand, that pregnancy from rape creates unimaginable obstacles for women who decide to raise the children they conceive through rape. In the vast majority of states, a rapist has the same custody and visitation rights to a child born through his crime as other fathers enjoy. In 2010, a paper I wrote on this topic was published by the Georgetown Law Journal, and I continue to travel throughout the country speaking on this issue.
I despair. Sometimes . . . I despair.
** If you want to put your iPad down and go hunt up your hellgoddess SPF 157 dark glasses at this point, that would be a good idea.
*** I AM BORED TO DEATH BY PORN, BOTH SOFT AND HARD^. And pretty much always have been. I went through a phase of watching quite a lot of, ahem, hard commercial porn, because it was all about sexual liberation . . . and is some of where I woke up to the reality of the fact that it isn’t. And the apparent fact that some form of tie-me-up-tie-me-down^^ is the fantasy du jour of gazillions of women today frelling desolates me. It makes me wish I was born on the second planet of Tau Ceti, where it’s all about tentacles and there are thirteen genders which are reassigned by blind ballot every other year.
^ I’m a Scorpio. We like sex. We think sex is great.
^^ No, I haven’t seen the Almodovar film, and I won’t. Sue me. I haven’t read FIFTY SHADES either. Yes, I read TWILIGHT. Well, most of it. I tried.
† I’m willing to entertain the possibility that to run experiments at all the lab coats have to simplify. But simplifying human beings’ reactions is risky. I’ve loaned my hard copy of the book to Gemma and have been listening on Audible while hurtling, so I can’t look up chapter and verse. But one example that sticks in my mind is about an experiment in—let’s call it compassion. A group of strangers are in a series of little booths, and each in turn has a chance to speak. A plant by the admin, when it’s his turn, says that he is inclined to fits when he gets stressed, this is stressing him . . . and then apparently goes off in a fit. The point is that almost none of the genuine guinea pigs attempts to go to his rescue, and this is supposed to prove that we’re less nice than we think we are.
Wait a minute. You mean nobody was screaming for the admin, phoning for an ambulance—okay, I don’t know if this was since mobile phones became ubiquitous—or demanding to know what the hell was the problem that whoever screened experimental candidates didn’t find out that one of their prospects might have a fatal fit from the stress of being in this study? Nobody either objected to the set up or smelled a gigantic rotting rat here? No, I don’t want to deal with a stranger having a fit, so, fine, I’m not a nice person. But I haven’t got a clue about fits^, and there ought to be safety precautions in place.
And something else I kept thinking over and over as yet another bunch of credulous humans fell in yet another trap laid for them by the devious lab coats, isn’t anyone ever suspicious when they’ve turned up for some kind of unspecified psychological testing and are shown into a booth or handed a page of curiously bland instructions?^^
^ Or perhaps I should say that on the blessedly few occasions that I’ve been the conscious human on the spot, the first thing I did was go for expert help.
^^ One of my terrible secrets is that I do sometimes read amazon reviews for nonfiction.+ THINKING gets mostly good customer buzz too, but the few objectors are instructive. This one pretty much reflects my feelings. http://www.amazon.co.uk/product-reviews/1846140552/ref=cm_cr_pr_hist_3?ie=UTF8&filterBy=addThreeStar&showViewpoints=0 And since I’m not sure how amazon customer review links work, the one I mean is by M D Holley.
+ If you’re looking for a basic Japanese grammar or a knitting reference book, your means of making even a semi-informed choice are limited.
†† Which I just listened to this evening and had to explain to the hellhounds since there was no one else around. Possibly because I was trying to explain it to the hellhounds.
††† The ridiculousness of the doctor declaring ‘she has only a few hours to live’ almost wrecks it. But not quite. Especially if you don’t speak Italian.
‡ Maybe Kahneman is confusing it with the end of La Boheme. Another heroine dying of tuberculosis in Italian, la la la la, who cares? I care.