THE ROBINS’ NEST IN MY GREENHOUSE IS INHABITED. Er. By, you know, robins.
It was time for the day to start improving by then. It had not begun well. It had not begun well several days ago. The old mews laptop has been off line since last Friday, which is a mega frelling pain in the patootie, since while the little knapsack computer is a gigantic patootie-saver, in all other ways it is too dagblaggingly SMALL. Somebody sends you something you want to look at? Forget it. You have to scroll around so much it’s a seven blind persons and the elephant show. The keyboard is almost big enough, so you type on it as usual, only you’re making as many errors as Frodo the Nine Fingered would, playing Liszt’s Transcendental Etudes.
I had emailed the archangels the beginning of the week, and Raphael had responded that he’d be in touch Tuesday or Wednesday to come out Wednesday or Thursday. By last night—Thursday night—I hadn’t heard from him so I sent him a one-word email: whiiiiiiiine.** This morning there was an email back saying that he’d left a message on Pooka on Wednesday. WHIIIIIIINE. In which one’s technology lets one down again. New phone calls or texts are supposed to show up ON THE OPENING SCREEN of your semi-reliable*** iPhone, and I never think to go looking for them as I go looking for email. There it was, sure enough: but Pooka had apparently been having the vapours when it came in, and failed to put it where I could see it. Meanwhile, however, the little laptop was beginning to emit dark smoke and chittering noises—and the mews had been entirely off the air for about three hours one evening and two hours the next AND I was getting very tired of writing the blog on the off-line mews proper-sized laptop and putting it on a memory stick to plug into a live socket somewhere. †
So Raphael, who is a wonderful human being, I mean archangel, rejuggled his Friday and came out anyway. I texted Oisin that I might be a little late . . . I guess maybe. Two and a half hours later I texted Oisin again, saying, cup of tea or do you want to kill me? Raphael had walked in the door, pressed ONE MYSTIC SYMBOL—I mean it’s not even a button or a key it’s a perfectly flat, non-contoured symbol—on the semi-dead†† laptop and LO! it was live again. Kill me.††† However . . . nothing else was the slightest bit straightforward and two and a half hours later he had to leave because he had to leave‡ . . . and while he had convinced the iPad update not to delete everything stored in my library, iPod, photos, etc, he hadn’t convinced it to, you know, update either.
I’m also trailing around at one-quarter speed because I was comprehensively shattered by yesterday’s events. I had slept badly night-before-last in dread of yesterday, and I couldn’t really separate out grief for Gloriana and Gloriana’s family and simple fear of walking into my old ringing chamber. I also wanted to go to the funeral, but where was I supposed to sit? With the ringers because I was ringing or not with the ringers because I’m not a member of the band? I don’t think this is covered by Miss Manners.
I was also, of course, terrified that I was going to put my foot or my head through the frelling rope, or break a stay, or fall down in a fit, or something. . . . But in fact in terms of blood and horror it was a complete failure. I’m pleased to say. Admin was extremely gracious and I was gracious right back. And I’m not a good ringer, and I’m a twitchy, jerky ringer but I’m still a ringer, and the feeling of my hands on a bell rope is automatically steadying. And those bells are—aside from the crucial health and safety stuff that made the work necessary—noticeably easier to ring.‡‡ I had thought it was ‘open’ ringing where everyone who knew how was welcome to come have a pull, but there were only eight of us for the eight bells. We rang. Hands on ropes: bong. Bong. Bong. This is what the bells are for: well, change ringing was invented by Christian bell ringers for Christian churches, but I cast the net wider: for me the sound of the bells is a declaration: there is something beyond us. You want it at a wedding, but—for me—you need it at a funeral.‡‡‡
Admin wanted to try to ring after the funeral too. I had been planning on opting out, but that would have left them with only five—six is a good number, and five isn’t really. So I stayed. The funeral itself was pretty gruelling—the church was packed out; she had a lot of friends, and quite a few of them spoke—and when we got back to our ropes we just rang rounds: one-two-three-four-five-six, one-two-three-four-five-six, the bells in order, smallest to largest, over and over and over and over. Your heart lifts at the same time as you’re trying not to burst into tears. . . .
So. Yes. I went. I faced all those people§. I rang on several of the bells in the ringing chamber that used to be as familiar to me as my own furniture in my own sitting room. It was a bit miserable, but then it was a funeral, and Gloriana will be much missed. And . . . it was still a good decision for me, quitting my tower. I don’t like that it was a good decision, but it was a good decision. And I think I slept fine last night, I just need a month or two of hibernation.§§
. . . So I went along to Oisin’s nearly two hours late this afternoon. And I drank several cups of tea and raved, chiefly about bell ringing and computers§§§ and after I eventually wound down a little Oisin asked if I’d like to sing something? I’d even brought my music. How about that. I must be beginning to believe in the system. So I sang something. And it wasn’t too bad. I may even learn my entries on Dove Sei. It is very confusing having some piano galumphing along with you and throwing you off.
And then I came home and rushed out into the garden because there was a little daylight left and since I don’t dare plant the frellers I’d better pot up the blasted sweet peas . . . and there was a little robin face peering out at me from the shelf in the greenhouse.
* * *
* Books? Why would it be about books? No, it’s not about books.
** He’s used to me. It’s a good thing.
*** This is similar to ‘a little bit pregnant.’
† Diane in MN
On a typewriter. Remember typescript? [ . . .] Nostalgia.
Yes–but it’s tempered nostalgia. I like word processors a whole lot. I think of my mother, going to work out of high school in a lawyer’s office and having to retype entire documents for a single error because corrections weren’t allowed . . . I really really like word processors!
I have also spent time typing contracts that you couldn’t make an error on—and while I’m sure that someone on salary who wasted hours retyping wouldn’t be long for that job, it was immediately critical for a free lancer like me who got paid by the assignment. So. Yes. And I love the internet, but a lot of the frenzy of that love is on account of needing underpinning and maintenance for the sodblasted blog which itself wouldn’t exist . . . without the internet. You didn’t get error messages with typewriters and they broke or blew up only RARELY. You didn’t have to buy a new one every few years . . . and when you did buy a new one you were not legally required to buy with it a new keyboard layout, a new return mechanism, a new brand of error cover-up paint (with a new dispenser), a new dictionary, new encyclopaedia, a new language . . . all of which you would have to LEARN TO USE.
Er. Hurrumph. I like word processors too. But I’m not a whole-hearted fan. Especially not after a week like this one. And if you’re going to go all snippy on me and say that a word processor has nothing to do with internet connection . . . I shall become CRANKY.
†† Very like ‘semi-reliable’ and ‘a little bit pregnant’.
††† Oisin having declined.
‡ I think this may be very like being paid by the assignment.
‡‡ Siiiiiiiigh. Nicest set of bells in the area just got nicer.
‡‡‡ I know this isn’t going to happen, but I wish ringers were on retainer, so more weddings and particularly more funerals had bells. We ring ordinary services as part of our charter, but bells for your individual event are expensive.
§ Most of whom, in a few cases to my surprise, are apparently still talking to me.
§§ And, tension level? I seem to have sprung just about every muscle in my body. Pulling a big, ratbaggy, awkward bell, you may feel it—or anyway I¸ who am not very good at it, may feel it—in my shoulders and stomach. Ordinary ringing on ordinary bells, no.^ But yesterday . . . my chest, shoulders, arms, belly and back . . . all of them were telling me that I had been toting barges and lifting bales all day. Good grief.
^ It’s never about sheer strength. It’s always about (sheer) skill.
§§§ And the continued non-existence of the New Arcadia Singers
I put Hannah on the train this morning. Waaaaaaah.
I put Hannah on the train way too early this morning in an absolute sense aside from the losing-Hannah aspect. I haven’t been out of bed that early since I stopped service ringing. . . . and we just lost our frelling spring-forward hour this weekend. I am seriously not of this planet right now. But (being awake for) millions of hours of daylight is, I admit, rather jolly, and the weather goes on being spectacular* if spectacularly dry.**
So I put Hannah on the train and, sobbing brokenly, parked Wolfgang under a tree near the station and took hellhounds for a hurtle. Of course I brought them with me. Doesn’t everyone with companion canines take advantage of every possible excuse for hurtling?
I love the way you stress that you know every pub in Mauncester by name only. . . . I have to admit I’d been wondering. . . .
Well, there are critter-friendly pubs, but we’re generally not going inside even when we can. We’re hurtling. But Mauncester is a good walking town, I’ve lived in this area for twenty (and a half) years, and ferreting around in the twisty back bits is fun. I don’t remember when I crossed the line where I (mostly) stop worrying about getting lost because I know enough of Mauncester that I won’t stay lost very long, but at this point I seek out the bits (especially twisty back bits) I don’t know. During the foot-and-mouth crisis when the entire countryside was closed we hurtled that generation of resident four-legs in Mauncester and Prinkle-on-Weald.*** Prinkle-on-Weald is now pretty much too far away for anything but an adventure, but Mauncester is closer than it was from the old house. I also have a very minor fantasy about living in Mauncester—where you can be walking distance of a library†, a cinema and a train station, as well as some very nice English countryside. It’s not going to happen, but it makes an agreeable directional fantasy: okay, do I want to live in this neighbourhood? How does the pub look?
After this we went back to the mews where I alternately poured cold water over my head and guzzled hot caffeine in a (mostly futile) attempt to wake up. But I still managed to pretend to sing a little, and went off to my voice lesson. You are probably aware by other standards that life is full of ratbaggishness? Over the weekend I’d sung less well than I can, because I was busy being nerrrrrrvous about singing for someone. While, perversely and simultaneously, I found myself able to ham it up more than I can for Nadia or Oisin—because my audience was a relaxed, friendly and nonprofessional one††. Nadia, of course, heard what I was (or wasn’t) doing almost immediately, sorted me out with rather embarrassing swiftness††† and then threw me into Dove Sei, which I had cornballed up in a shocking manner for Peter and Hannah. And of course I stiffened up and sang it like a funerary urn, if funerary urns sang—and this despite the fact that I was making a better quality of noise, if you follow me. ARRRRRGH. That’s fine, said Nadia, that’s a very nice tone, now sing it like you’re ENJOYING it.
Diane in MN
. . . as an opera fan, I tend to cringe when opera singers decide to make crossover albums. South Pacific may have worked for Ezio Pinza, but Placido Domingo as Tony in West Side Story was not a good idea. And there is a cruel recording of Jose Carreras singing Jingle Bells. . . .
JINGLE BELLS? Oh my . . . gods. Oh. Eeeep. Did Domingo do a West Side Story? OUCH. I lose all respect, etc. Kiri te Kanawa and Jose Carreras—poor old Jose is listening to the wrong advice, clearly—were bad enough: I agree that crossover is mostly dire.‡ But I’d gladly—gladly—forfeit all possibility of singing Maria plausibly‡‡ in exchange for sounding like te Kanawa.‡‡‡
* * *
* Anthea tonight on the treble commented on the excellence of the view: where you stand to ring the treble at Glaciation^ is opposite one of those little high arched church windows, and in this case you could see a shiny crescent moon and some glittering planet or other through it. I had been ringing the treble before her, but I had been staring at the floor in an agony of concentration. If I’d noticed the moon I would merely have instantly gone wrong.
^^ I’m still in two wool jumpers to ring there, although it’s shirtsleeve weather in daytime sun. You wander down the path to the church in your t shirt with your bulging knapsack over one shoulder. You walk through the vestibule and shiver. You enter the main part of the church and pull out your first jumper and put it on. Then you walk into the ringing chamber, hastily don your second jumper, and race to plug in the two electric fires.
** I was out watering in the cottage garden this afternoon^ and thinking I ought to have a built in irrigation system with All the Plumbing in Hampshire running under my tiny plot of land: I ought to be able to drill a few tactful little holes, attach those leaky-hose things, and bob’s your uncle. Pipes should have a nice colour-code system like electric wires, so you know you’re drilling in the right pipe. . . .
^ And swearing. Later in the year when I shift from my PINK wellies to my (brown) clogs because it’s too hot to be in rubber to your knees, I become resigned to slopping water in my shoes. It takes skill and dedication to pour water down the inside of your pink wellies.
*** I missed telling you yesterday that the garden Hannah and I went to was in Chappington Fritworthy. It’s not like I get to mention it very often.
† New Arcadia does have a library, but it’s the two shelves and a plastic chair, open alternate Thursdays from 2:45-3 pm and every third Friday from 7-7:17 pm variety. Mauncester has a proper library.
†† Not to say clueless. Clueless would be good.
††† It’s so obvious after the fact. Sometimes it’s obvious before the fact too, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you can DO anything about it. I was aware that my throat was only about half open, the roof of my mouth and my ‘mask’ were pretty well as bright and light as an anvil, and my abdominal support had decamped for Toulouse.
‡ In both directions. I HAAAAAAAATED Sting singing Purcell and Dowland. HAAAAAAAAATED.
‡‡‡ Or Deborah Voigt or Janet Baker or Marilyn Horne or Joyce diDonato or Beverly Sills or Tatiana Troyanos or Cecilia Bartoli or . . . see really I’m easy to please.
We begin with a minute’s silence. I can’t call her a friend because I didn’t know her well enough, but she was in my crowd, to the extent that I as a nineteen-marks-out-of-twenty introvert have a crowd, and she was a good person—and had three half grown kids—and took piano lessons, and gave me Oisin’s name and phone number, six or so years ago. She’s been ill for a while, and at first it looked like she was gaining on it, but we’ve known for a while now that it was gaining on her. We knew it wasn’t long . . . but this was still soon, and sudden.
We begin with a minute’s silence.
* * *
Yesterday was a gorgeous day, a perfect gardening day, the sort of day you have to tie yourself to your chair to stop yourself from rushing outdoors but your neck keeps mutinously turning your face toward the window anyway and your eyes gaze longingly into the garden where there are little green leafbuds everywhere.* Why didn’t someone else cancel handbells? Niall is a monomaniac, of course,** but both Colin and Gemma have gardens. That was yesterday.
And today, when I could have wrested an hour or two free of other demanding activities, it was suddenly cold and grey and bone-achingly horrible again. That didn’t stop another (small) box of hopeful plant life arriving on my doorstep or me reading gardening magazines over what passes in my case for breakfast***. And I came emphatically home after my cup of tea with Oisin† and went out into the garden and damn the weather. This is partly because it’s Oisin who told me that—let’s call her Gloriana—had died. Spring is some comfort; or if not comfort, exactly, the sense of that new young energy dragging you with it—green leaves, warmer temperatures (sometimes), more daylight, lambs and calves in the fields—makes you keep moving, makes you notice you’re still alive.††
I went out and planted my acidanthera ††† and admired my increasing hyacinth forest, since I’ve fallen into the habit the last few years of planting out any of my indoor-forced hyacinth bulbs that still look healthy the next spring. The first daffs are out, and both my gardens are popping with little green noses of things I’ve lost the labels of—and I have a resident robin at the cottage again for the first time in several years. The blackbirds have become right thugs, and while there’s always a territorial robin in the background, I haven’t seen nearly enough of him. At the moment I even have a pair so maybe there will be a nest with little baby robins.
And there’s a human baby I know who’s due to pop into this world and start breathing for itself any minute now. Life goes on.
* * *
Maybe we’ll end with a moment of silence as well.
* * *
*Fortunately I’m a touch typist.
** He does garden, I believe, when Penelope hands him an implement and tells him to go hack that thing down or dig a hole there or something. But he’s not what you’d call self motivated.
*** Our somewhat-seasonal organic grocery delivery has just put grapes back on its list. It’s summer. Well, it’s summer for fifteen minutes in the morning while I eat a handful of grapes.
Out in the real world I’m watching the lilac bushes with obsessive attention. The funny little nobbles that will become lilac flowers start appearing not long after the leafbuds do, and we have leafbuds. I know every lilac in this town, I swear, and New Arcadia has a lot of lilacs, for some reason. Before I bought Third House I didn’t have any of my own and so I tracked down everyone else’s: we have the purple ones, the lavender ones, the magenta ones, the pink ones, the white ones, and the red-purple with white edges ones. We have the knock-you-down-at-a-hundred-paces scented ones and the bury-your-face-in-the-flowers-first scented ones, but they’re all good. Peter does not share my enthusiasm—he points out with some justice that they are not particularly attractive shrubs^ and they’re only in flower a few weeks of the year. He feels there are more generally rewarding plants. Well, maybe,^^ but they aren’t lilacs. Although I may just be marked by all those years in Maine: as I’ve said before, you certainly can garden in Maine, and people do, but it’s very, very hard graft, of a sort that makes the most back-breaking labour in southern England look like a Victorian gentlewoman with a sun-bonnet and a trug snipping a few blooms for a posy. Of the standard garden plants there aren’t that many that will thrive in Maine. Lilacs are one of them. And they are so necessary at the end of that frelling winter.
I have four lilacs at Third House and it’s not a big garden. Well, five: the fifth is a ‘patio syringa’. Beware of lilacs called by their Latin^^^ name: it tends to mean they aren’t lilacs, they’re just lumped into the genus by some frelling botanist. I had this one in a pot at the cottage, and I was not nice to it because it wasn’t a PROPER LILAC. I took pity on it and planted it (in a corner, where it wouldn’t bother me) at Third House and it is so happy, poor thing. I like it much better now when I don’t try to think of it as a lilac.
^ He keeps making this same irrelevant comment about roses.
^^ . . . roses
^^^ Or New Latin/Greek. WTF??
† Who was perhaps as near as I ever see him get to cranky when, as I was leaving, I admitted I had brought music with me and then hadn’t told him. Well, when I came in, he was playing something amazing on the organ^, Paul Hindemith’s first organ sonata, in fact, and fortunately I didn’t know it was Hindemith or I might have covered my ears and rushed back outside again. Oisin has been telling me for a while that I am slightly wrong about Hindemith. Anyway. It’s exactly my sort of thing and by the end I know this is stupid, okay? the idea of following it with my so-called singing was just not on. I was even singing what counts with me as pretty well this morning. Siiiiiiiiigh. I don’t actually know how to think about switching between professional performance and amateur; there isn’t any very useful parallel, it seems to me, between music, which does have to be performed, and professionally-written-down stories, which don’t. The amateur reader doesn’t need any help: she just reads the book. Caro Mio Ben or Dove Sei aren’t songs unless someone sings them. Arrgh.
^ I wonder if this works in England. Never mind. I’ll just buy a CD. http://www.classicalarchives.com/work/272545.html
†† I am of course flashbacking to Diana’s death—a year ago the end of this month. And I’ve got three big anniversaries of loss in April which is weird because now begins my favourite time of year, and it—you should forgive the term—snowballs through April when, in southern England, the lilacs come out. And the bluebells.
††† I am totally failing to find a good photo of them, possibly because part of their great charm is their scent. Here’s someone talking about how fabulous they are: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/gardening/howtogrow/3305281/How-to-grow-Gladiolus-callianthus.html
And here’s an uninspiring photo: http://www.crocus.co.uk/plants/_/bulbs/gladioli/gladiolus-murielae-/itemno.BU30001081/
Oh yes, and you’re not supposed to call them acidanthera any more. Piffle.
Andraste and Luke were supposed to be here today. But they weren’t.
I was up late last night* taking down the Christmas tree** in their honour. And then I was up early this morning*** to get hellhounds comprehensively hurtled before they were due to arrive for what-in-my-universe-is-early lunch. I was standing in a field† surrounded by bemused hellhounds when Pooka started barking at me. It was Andraste saying that their Specially Adapted Car was making a funny noise and they were returning to base till the RAC could come and sort it for them: when one of you is tetraplegic your acceptable-risk level is pretty low. And it took the RAC forever to get to them, of course, because that’s the way it is. The problem turned out to be pretty much one mouse hair and half a sesame seed, but they didn’t know that till the RAC mechanic told them. All they knew was that it was a funny noise. So they didn’t come, and we don’t know when they might be in this area again and . . .
It was, however, a gorgeous day—Spring! Hurrah! Please don’t go away again!—so hellhounds and I went back to the cottage and I played†† in the garden for a bit to cheer myself up, although the cheeringness factor was a bit mixed. I lost a lot in that I-hope-final malevolent cold spell when we had hard frosts every night for most of a week—stuff that had come through this mostly mild winter and thought it had nothing more to worry about and might as well get going on the spring thing. So I was hauling stuff out and looking at all this empty space and trying to remind myself that I do this every year, every year I think I have all this EMPTY SPACE to fill up and . . .
* * *
*Shock! Horror! Film at 3 a.m.!
** Stop that giggling. Fiona, when she was here in February, seemed to think it was very funny we still had our Christmas tree up. Hmmph. It’s still before Easter. I don’t see what your problem is. For one thing ours didn’t go up till Christmas Eve, as I’m sure I reported here at the time, and you want to enjoy it a little, don’t you? Especially the new-last-year baubles with the roses made out of glitter stencilled on them. Also, this is a small, civilised fake tree, so it’s not like it’s dying horribly and dropping needles everywhere. I’m sure it enjoys being out of the box it spends the rest of the year in a little longer than the standard . . . uh . . . what is the standard for Christmas trees? Fortnight? A month? Feh. Mingy.
Also, while it is little—about four foot—it is well furnished. Which means there’s a lot to look at, you know? You don’t want to rush the process of artistic appreciation. Not to mention the fact that it is kind of a lot of work to set up and even more to take down.^
But Andraste is one of these organised people. Your birthday present always arrives exactly 2.5 days before your birthday^^ and I’m sure her Christmas tree comes down on the thirteenth day of Christmas. I decided it wouldn’t be all that much fun watching her trying to think of something to say about our Christmas tree in March. ^^^ But the sitting room at the mews looks all kind of hollow without it. Sigh. Maybe I could start a new fashion? You just move your Christmas tree back against the wall the other eleven months of the year? And turn it occasionally so you see all the ornaments?#
Meanwhile . . . I have four boxes of Christmas decorations wedged into the front passenger seat of Wolfgang. I feel it is reasonable that I haven’t quite got them up to Third House yet, but why aren’t they in the boot? Um. Well, the boot is still full of bagged manure and compost because I still have this little starting problem with Wolfgang, I don’t dare park him next to the cottage so I can unload and I can’t quite face schlepping it all down from his parking space at the top of the hill. The steep gruesome stair from road level up to my garden gate is bad enough. I realise I will have to face all this some day . . . but not today.
^ Including the fact that the boxes and the bubble wrap you have been using every year for yonks morph strangely between the time you took everything out and the time you try to pack everything away again. Somebody tell me why I have a twelve-hole box for my set of basic red baubles . . . and fourteen baubles. I realise the answer is that I originally had two identical boxes and twenty-four red baubles,+ but I feel that even I would have noticed breaking ten of them. Or perhaps that was the year that Peter met me at the door, one day late in December, wild-eyed and panting, and as I think about it he may have had a broom in his hand, saying no, don’t come in, there’s just been a bulletin on the radio, there’s an outbreak of wyverns in Ditherington, and they need every pair of hands they can get! And so of course I went to Ditherington where in fact they were rather surprised to see me as the report on the radio had not included an appeal for ordinary members of the public. But when I explained that I’d helped to deal with wyverns in Maine a few times (although the New World wyvern is rather different from its European cousin) they gave me a flak suit and a multi-zorm stick and were glad to have me. By the time I got home again I was too tired to ask Peter . . .
+ Remember that at the old house we had two-storey trees in the elbow of the stairs. Two-storey trees require frightening numbers of ornaments before they stop looking green and start looking decorated. I used to buy baubles by the parsec.
^^ The Royal Mail wouldn’t dare mess with Andraste.
I had a card through the door yesterday saying that a package I had to sign for had been returned to the post office and that I could pick it up ‘tomorrow’. I couldn’t find the special Sunday-opening button though so I’m going to have to wait till Monday.
^^^ It’s not Easter yet.
# This would also solve the Untangling Problem. We gave up lights several years ago, but there are still a lot of long tinselly and bannery things which tend to pound themselves into dreadlocks over the course of the year. Never mind that they are wrapped LIGHTLY and GENTLY and laid on the TOP of the boxes.
*** Well, comparatively
† Make that hiding. Some evil little terrier was dragged past us, snapping and snarling in the standard evil-little-terrier way, while various of us had stopped for calls of nature. When I was done picking up same I looked ahead and saw that they’d let the sodding little villain OFF HIS LEAD. And I may have mentioned recently that we move faster than pretty much anyone else we meet while we’re out hurtling. So we went and hid in a neighbouring field for a while.
†† Slowly. The ME has its feet up on the furniture but it’s not running me too ragged fetching it peeled grapes and cups of tea etc.
As I posted fairly early on last night, as the first rush of sympathy arrived on the forum, and before I started trying to go to bed,* you guys are the best. I don’t want to get into a major watch-Robin-wallow fest here, and I don’t know that I’m all that good at sticky-free gracious**, but thank you all very much.***
At least one person on the forum posted that she went through something similar and regrets not having written a letter of resignation. Well, if it’s any comfort, remember that such a letter opens you to reprisals. I received a pin-my-ears-back, singe-my-eyebrows letter from one of the admin.† I’m such a bad girl. Bad me. Some of you reading this must have been in (psycho)therapy? One of the first things a good shrink warns you of, as you begin to get to grips with whatever brought you into their office, is ‘change back’ behaviour. Probably the first thing they’ve wanted you to take in is that the only person you can change is YOURSELF. That’s the rule, and that’s the rule you’ll be working by in therapy. But as soon as you do manifest change, any and/or everyone around you who is invested in the status quo is going to start giving you change back! messages. People who care about you will go with what you need to do. People who prefer you crippled, subservient, non-stroppy, silent, whatever makes their lives easier, will not like it at all, and will let you know they don’t like it at all. This letter is a big fat change back! message.
New Arcadia wouldn’t accept the money because they disapproved of the way you’d raised it? It sounds like you went street walking for it.
SNOOORK. I know there are people with minority tastes who pay for sex with people pretending to be French maids or Tony Blair or kangaroos or something, but is there a market for skinny, wrinkly, cranky old women? . . . No. On second thought, there probably is, and I don’t want to know.
It’s hardly as if you’ve been selling improper drawings of… er… dubious morality… so to speak… thus tarnishing the good name of New Arcadia
SNOOORK. Now, I could do something with this. Naked hellhounds. Bat orgies. Improper uses of bells never before considered by humankind. Things that fanged muffins get up to when no one else is around. You know, I bet I could pull real money for these. . . .
. . . people who drive friends of mine into such misery–GRUMP! But not to worry; I’m sufficient thousands of miles away that all I can do is GRUMP across an ocean at them, and they won’t know or care.
I think a well-focussed GRUMP sent from a good rocket-launcher might very well arrive as a functional whole. Thank you. Let me send you the geographic coordinates.
I hope the book now agrees to be written really, really fast.
SO DO I. Whimper. I did not need dramas right now.
Years ago, after a horrid day at grade school which involved me not doing something like the ‘in’ crowd and hence suffering their ridicule, I remember thinking, “I can’t wait until I’m an adult so all these silly games will stop.”
I SO REMEMBER THIS. I SO REMEMBER THIS. And then they don’t. And you think, wha’? What happened?
. . . And – hello – you’re getting a monetary gift from a world famous author who got this gift by selling her books & autographs to her blog followers – not like she went out & extorted money from people.
Sigh. Unfortunately this may be part of it. There’s a contingent of the population—and I met it in America too, it’s not a British peculiarity—who believes that all authors are either egomaniacs, nuts, or both^, and behave accordingly. You can’t prove otherwise because they’re seeing everything you do through this perception. And, you know, my ego probably is a different shape from an accountant’s, because I frelling use it differently. But it’s a bit like mistrusting a blacksmith because he or she has big bulgy arms and they’re more likely to punch holes through your walls because they can. Blacksmiths have big bulgy arms^^ from their job. It doesn’t make them better or worse people, although it might make one a good friend to have when you need to move the furniture.
I don’t know this. But I think it’s possible that my desire to have the work I’ve done both recognized and accepted is being translated as the insane vanity of an author, and they all know what authors are like.
^ I think some form of this happens to everyone who manages to sell stuff they make, it’s just being an author is what I know.
^^ Which I think are totally hot, just by the way. I don’t like the gym bunny look, but muscles from use? Hot. Very hot.
The mind-body connection IS very strong and, as a homoeopath, you have trained yours to be even stronger – a double edged sword right now.
This aspect of it hadn’t occurred to me—that by using homeopathy I’m training my mind/body to talk to, er, itself and me more clearly. I’ve been startled by the bluntness, the non-metaphoric-ness of my throat closing, hurting and opening, but I hadn’t thought about why it was being, or able to be, so, um, candid. Now maybe I can get the new communicative mind/body to explain to me about a few other things I wish I could persuade to go away. . . .
I’m going to let Aaron have the last word. Yes. Bells are alive, and the sound they make is more than just a (more or less accurate) bong. I’ve been saying this for years. And I’d like to think my contribution didn’t stop the moment I’m not ringing my bells any more.
The next time you hear the local bells I want you to listen carefully. If you think back to how they sounded when you first heard them you should be able to hear a little more tolerance, an improvement in their determination to show up and ring even on a bad day, a greater degree of care for the nurture of new ringers, and a thousand small things that you did right while you were there, a thousand more that you helped others do right, and, just possibly, a thousand beyond that that the people still ringing will be inspired to do right in the future because you were there.
The things you put into those bells are still there and they are the better for it. When you listen, don’t listen to the echoes of your parting, listen to the joy, and sweat, and care that you put there and which still rings out.
It is still a joyful noise.
* * *
* I slept lying down last night. LYING DOWN. Body horizontal, head on pillow(s). I cannot tell you how thrilling this was. I’ve been sleeping sitting up for something like the last fortnight—which is not fun and certainly not restful, and six pillows was only barely enough.^ More than once as I woke up already half strangled by a coughing fit I thought, all I want is to be able to sleep lying down. It’s nice to have simple wants occasionally.^^
^ Someone on the forum—and I can’t find it now, it was a few days ago—asked if I’d considered the possibility that I had strep throat. Yes. With alarm. But . . . after the first few days of fever and sparkly edge-of-vision hallucinations and drenching sweats and other lovelies, I was mysteriously not really sick enough. I’ve had strep—not in about four decades, but I’ve had it—and you’re sick. One of the things that was really forcing me to look at the fact that it was centred on my THROAT, with some head and ear involvement, is that the rest of me was not all that bad. I was keeping hounds hurtled and I was working on SHADOWS . . . and I was writing blog entries. I didn’t feel good, and this is not my usual level of madness, but with proper flu you’re prostrate.
^^ Mine usually run to cases of Taittinger’s, yearly best-sellers+, self supporting horse farms and five acres of Hampshire countryside securely fenced in for off-lead, aggressive-other-dog-free, hellhound hurtling. And a cure for ME and a thirty-six hour day.
+ Which includes, of course, the fact of writing a book a year.
** Anyone who is bailing now, if you need a suggestion what to do with yourself in the time that you usually spend reading Days in the Life, allow me to recommend back issues of xkcd, possibly starting here, which I have blatantly stolen from rainycity1’s tag line on the forum: FairyTales – http://xkcd.com/872/ Then you can just go on hitting ‘random’ till you finish your coffee/tea/porridge/jellied eel.
*** And to those of you who are thinking, actually, I did want my doodle four months ago . . . I’m very sorry. I’m constitutionally a deadline-misser, but this last year has been worse than usual, even for me.
† Not the one I was expecting, just by the way.