. . . insofar as ‘dreading’ is a suitable word for anything that happens on a blog. As I say (regularly) to Blogmom when I’ve screwed up yet again, ‘It’s a blog. Nobody dies.’
Well, nobody dies, but this is the week when you will not get a KES for the foreseeable future. This flaming sore throat is showing no sign whatsoever of folding its tents and silently stealing away. And it’s wearing me down, you know? It’s no worse than it was on Wednesday, it’s just no better, and the rest of me is following it down into the abyssal pit of lethargy* and brainlessness.** And I’m not going to post a KES ep until I’ve had a brain available to look it over with first. As I said last week, the Black Tower interpolations were a late addition, but once one thing has come a bit adrift other things tend to follow. Story-telling entropy. Or A Sound of Thunder.***
And you know one of the worst things about this extremely unpleasant lurgy? Chocolate doesn’t taste good. How am I supposed to comfort myself in my affliction when I am denied chocolate?
* * *
* Hurtling my two shifts of hellpack is interesting in a losing all your money in Las Vegas, your house just fell down or your beloved just ran off with a fireperson^ and what really hurts is that he/she took the dog^^ kind of way. As I staggered after them I was thinking it could be worse. The hellhounds are pretty frelling laid back at the moment possibly because they stopped eating again and there’s a limit to the amount of force feeding I have the morale/energy for, and at the moment I can’t talk to the vet because I can’t talk. But they don’t require miles across rough country as they have been known to do when they were younger, possibly because at present their bellies are starting to stick to their backbones.^^^ And the hellterror . . . on a long extending lead, I can just mosey along while she hucklebutts her little cotton socks off . . . bringing me especially desirable, well-chewed, sticky and drooly sticks and plastic bottles occasionally so I don’t feel left out. Gee. Thanks.
I don’t actually get this sick very often. I was lying on the floor with my head in the hellhound bed# last night listening to this: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b048ngny ## and thinking, I remember lying on the floor with my head in the hellhound bed listening to that bloke read Paradise Lost on Radio Three and that was several years ago. Uggggh. Not nearly long ago enough, if you follow me. I could have gone on not feeling this bloody for any number more years.
^ My mind seems to run on fire for some reason
^^ And dogs. For some reason.
^^^ I know they don’t like the taste of the drug they’re on, because back during some recent era when they were occasionally eating, if one of them missed their drug-laced dinner and the other one didn’t, I was liable to find the one who was facing a rerun of the drugged food trying to eat the drug-free final snack of the other. They need to be on this *&^%$£””!!!!! drug, it’s working, but it hasn’t worked enough yet. I am so frelled.
# I changed their bedding Wednesday night. It’s all nice and clean+ and a good deal softer than the floor.
+ If HAIRY
## This should be Hesperion XXI at the York Early Music Festival. The BBC web site is such a nightmare I never trust it. But if it isn’t, you can look it up on the schedule, Thursday night at 7:30 on Radio Three and it’s fabulous. I think it’s one of those only available for seven days, so get it while it’s there. I’m going to listen to it again.
** I was supposed to go Street Pastoring tonight. Not a chance. Whimper. I keep wondering where I picked up this particular lurgy. See previous entry about the downside of interaction with other human beings. It could have been last Saturday on the street, for example.
*** I’m not a big fan of Wikipedia at the best of times.^ So it’s probably not surprising I feel that the article on ‘the butterfly effect’ might have mentioned the Bradbury story. I know there’s a difference between the beating of butterfly wings creating major weather and the wrong guy getting elected because your big fat boot stepped on one back in the Cretaceous^^ but . . . the butterfly effect article even mentions that it’s a popular trope in SF&F.
^ And that meatloaf at the head having come out as rantingly, pathologically against homeopathy+ means I will stay not a big fan
+ Let me just say that anyone who thinks homeopathy is nonsense hasn’t done their homework=
= Self-prescribing is not ideal–see above about not posting a KES while I have no discernible brain–but I am walking. Sometimes a lurgy just has your name on it. And back in the days when I still believed in standard medicine I got prescribed an awful lot of garbage that did me significant harm. Whatever this is, it’ll go away . . . eventually.
^^ How do we know it wasn’t the microorganisms in the soil? Just because the butterfly is flashier?
Bleagh. I’m frelling ill again/still. I hadn’t really finished getting over the thrice blasted stomach flu—which kept kind of circling back and biting me—and I’ve now got one of those sore throats where you feel like your throat was attacked by a cheese grater and then set fire to. Plus the shakes and shivers that tend to go with. Arrrgh. YOU KNOW THERE’S A DOWN SIDE TO ALL THIS INTERACTION WITH OTHER HUMAN BEINGS NONSENSE.* MORE GERMS.
I made it in to my third Sams duty shift last night, aware that all was not well internally but not having arrived at true graphic cheese-grater stage yet—and also you really don’t want to cancel at the last minute if you possibly can avoid it because last-minute Samaritan substitutes are a good deal rarer and more valuable than hen’s-egg-sized rubies, and just as the Street Pastors can’t go out unless there are at least three of them plus two Prayer Pastors back at base, the Sams office can only stay open if there are two duty Sams.
As it happens it was a very draining shift** but Pythia seemed to think I’d done well, and since she wasn’t shoving notes under my nose I’m willing to believe she did think so.*** Which is a bit of a ‘yaaay’ because however earnest and willing you are you don’t know if you can do it—do it over some of the range of human distress—till you’ve done it.
So apparently I am going to make a Sam. Knitting critter coats for Battersea Dog and Cat Rescue optional. Yaaay. †
* * *
* Saturday night is the traditionally busiest night of the Street Pastors’ weekend, which runs three nights starting with Thursday, although some of the individually scariest stuff can perfectly well happen on non-Saturdays. As a Friday regular I was braced for the foaming hordes—also it’s summer so the weather and assorted festivals encourage the punters onto the streets—and it was sure busy but nothing too hectic. The most melodramatic aspect was the number of bottles and cans left around. WHY ARE PEOPLE SUCH SLOBS.^ There are a variety of views about this among Street Pastor groups and areas. We all pick up glass because of the potential danger if it breaks.^^ After that the edicts get a little less clear. We’re not litter pickers, we’re concerned about safety, so generally speaking we look for anything to do with alcohol. We’ll sully our hands^^^ to dispose of Guinness and Old Speckled Hen cans, but not Pepsi or Innocent Super Smoothie. And we pour out any contents of our hogsheads and firkins before we bin them—which means you want to find a grating on your way to your bin. On the grounds that drunk people will do anything, perhaps especially drunk teenage boys daring each other to greater feats of grossness, I am also one of those who picks up abandoned plastic ‘glasses’ that still have something that looks like beer in them.
Occasionally this may lead to a situation open to misinterpretation. Saturday night for some reason I got my eye in and was seeing cans and bottles that my teammates were walking straight past—usually there’s someone on a team who is struck by greatness this way but it’s never been me before.# I had just ducked aside to pick up a (empty) bottle of Cava and paused on my return to the main road to seize a half-full-of-something plastic glass. I turned around, looking for a grating and/or a bin and saw two gentlemen, rather the worse for wear, staring at me goggle-eyed. The Street Pastors are pretty well known around here and of course a Street Pastor on her beat is wearing logos of dazzling, unmissable blatancy. Can you drink on the job? said one of them in hushed, almost reverent tones. No, I said, trying not to laugh at the looks on their faces. I’m dumping these out. They watched me closely as I found my grating and then my bin . . . but I wonder if they went home thinking that they’d caught me at something and of course I had to pour my illicit beverage out once they’d seen me.
^ These are probably some of the same people that don’t pick up after their dogs. Hellhounds and I walked past a pile of dog crap in the middle of a BUS SHELTER today. How disgusting is that? WHAT IS WRONG WITH PEOPLE.
^^ Each team also carries a flimsy little dustpan and brush for sweeping up broken glass. I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to wield same on Saturday. Glass weighs, you know? And the poor little dustpan goes groan groan groan so you have to keep emptying it . . . so you hope that whoever drops a breakable object does so near a bin.+
+ I was also, on my hands and knees sweeping up glass, lavishly praised by passing coppers. Oh my misspent youth. I’ve become a little old lady who sweeps up broken glass in public places.
^^^ We also carry one-use gloves for anything really revolting.
# I can think of superpowers I would prefer. There’s a woman on my usual team who is so good at it I swear she draws cans and bottles to her, like the birds flocking to St Francis. At least bottles don’t crap on your head.
** Which is fine. It’s what we’re for. And while you-a-Sam may well end a call feeling ‘oh dear oh dear oh dear’ you also get to hope you made a difference . . . after all, this person picked up the phone^ to talk to a Samaritan . . . presumably because they wanted to talk to a friendly, empathetic, non-judgemental person. THAT’S WHAT WE’RE FOR. Make a note.
^ Or fired up their computer/smartphone for an email or a text
*** She has the lurgy also. Possibly we gave it to each other last week.
† Thank you God. Stamina is still an issue, but Pythia says that comes with practise and experience, which seems to me reasonable. If I were sitting quietly and solitarily at my desk and someone said Here. You now have three dogs, each of them seriously insane in its own individual way, and you have to walk them several miles every day as well as feeding, playing with, and generally interacting with them, including Long Yellow Rubber Pull Toy Things and sofas, including when you feel like the ancient compacted rubbish at the bottom of a dustbin-collection lorry, I think I might squeak a bit. It’s all what you’re used to.
You were due to get a blog post tonight and I have stomach flu. As these things go it’s mild* but it’s knocked my energy level over and squashed it flat, because that’s what happens when you have ME and some blasted interfering ‘acute’ comes along and joins the party.
Meanwhile I had my observation duty at the Samaritans last night—and was aware of feeling a little peaky** but that might have been tension level***—and I have my first official duty shift tomorrow. And I’m going. So let’s hope I can sit in a chair and speak in complete sentences, okay? I want to do this. And I don’t want my mentor to have to do it for me because I’m convulsing on the floor. Arrrrrrrgh.†
* * *
* May it stay mild, thank you very much
** I’ve actually been peaky most of this week, the kind of peaky that makes me think ‘oh help the ME is getting worse I’m not going to be able to keep on floundering through as much stuff as I do if this is settling in to be the new system’—also PAIN. Golly. I really do not like pain and it makes me CRANKY^ and at my age it also makes me feel dangerously old. Having the intensification of the ME coalesce into something like stomach flu, which can reasonably be presumed will go away again, is actually a relief.^^
^ I would have been such a bad martyr. I wouldn’t have forgiven anybody.
^^ This is how acutes tend to manifest with me, that the ME gets worse and then as if spits out the acute.+ But of course during the run up I don’t think ‘oh I must be coming down with something’ I think OH WOE MY LIFE IS OVER.
+ Not everyone with ME follows this pattern but it is a common one.
*** There weren’t any ordinary people who just wanted a chat last night—yes the Sams get those although that’s not what they’re for—YEEEEP. The Sams really are the sharp end. Yeeeeeep. I was there mid-shift so I could watch the handover, the point being that there’s always someone available to answer a ringing phone and there’s always a debrief every shift with the admin^, so I had a chance to speak to four duty-shift Sams plus my mentor^^ plus yesterday’s admin head and I was saying yeeeeep and they were all saying sympathetically, well, yes. That’s what we do.
It has come up constantly from the first information evening when you’re still deciding whether to apply or not that the Sams support their people. What the Samaritans do is rough. And you can’t take it home with you or you won’t be able to do the job for long. Hence constant, structured checking from admin and colleagues that you’re okay.
The other crucial aspect of this is the Sams’ rule of ABSOLUTE CONFIDENTIALITY. The only people you’re allowed to discuss Sams’ callers with is other Sams. And I had a little taste of what this is going to mean in practise last night. Intellectually I totally get it and totally agree with it too—that’s what makes the Sams such a great resource. Have something that’s eating holes in you that you either have no one to discuss it with or you just can’t discuss it with friends and family? Ring the Sams. You can tell them anything, they’ll not only listen, it won’t go any farther. Terminally ill and want to talk about death but your family are all in denial? Ring the Sams. Suicidal from the break-up that everyone thinks is your fault because they won’t hear the truth about your ex-partner? Ring the Sams. Your dog died and nobody gets it that it matters? Ring the Sams.
But to engage, to empathise, as a Sam you do have to get alongside whoever you’re talking to. And you also have to put it down again when you put the phone down.
I’ll learn to do this—as I told my mentor I’m reasonably confident about the long term: short term is the yeeeeeep—but the new skill is not being able to talk about it. I’m a girl. When stuff gets to me I find a friend to talk it through with. It’s what girls do. I wrote a couple of emails to friends last night and I probably sounded pretty distracted because what I was chiefly thinking about was what I couldn’t say. ^^^ Grim stuff is undoubtedly more of a burden when you can’t ask a trusted friend to help you lever it off and lay it down.
^ The admin are all practising Sams too. They know what you’re doing, what life on the, ahem, line is.
^^ Whom I like a lot, by the way. I feel in safe hands with her: that she’ll catch me if I screw up but she won’t make me feel like a retarded liver fluke for screwing up.
^^^ It’ll be easier once I’ve made some friends in the Sams. The Street Pastors keep schtum too but since most of what we do happens in public and out on the street the lockdown isn’t as absolute. And I went into the SPs as one of four from St Margaret’s, the other three of whom were already my friends by the time I started doing duty shifts. Clearly I need to send that email to the other five trainees of my Sams intake saying, so what about meeting up for that beer then?
† What you guys really want to be hoping/praying/dancing around bonfires for however is that I’m sufficiently alive and functioning to tweak another chapter of KES and release her to the world Saturday night.
I’ve been accepted for training by the Samaritans. http://www.samaritans.org/
It’s a serious commitment in both time and energy: the first training module is ten half-days in six weeks and begins in about a fortnight. Then they start putting you to work. You’re expected to rack up fifty-two duty shifts in a year—so one a week: if you want to take a holiday, you have to squeeze a few more shifts in elsewhere. There’s a second training module later in the year, and a continuing-training requirement of (I think) two half-days a year for as long as you’re a volunteer.
My initial interview process was made just a trifle more interesting by nine days without a car, and as a result I got in under the wire last Friday. I received the email saying ‘you’re in, clear your diary’ on Saturday.
And here’s the official notification: I’m cutting back drastically on the blog. No, really. As of tonight it will NO LONGER BE DAILY. I’m not sure what I’m cutting back to: two days a week, maybe, plus or including KES.*
This has been coming for a while. I know I keep saying I’m cutting back, and then I don’t. There’s an ‘all change’ blog from a year ago January—and in fact I have cut back. But not enough. God** and commuting and three hellcritters take a lot of time.***
But that the blog as I have been insanely pursuing it is no longer tenable has really been written on the wall in six-foot letters of fire since the end of last year. This is really dumb but it’s also dead common: your spouse or partner or child or best friend has a stroke or a heart attack or is badly injured in a traffic accident or something and you go to pieces. Peter had the stroke. I’m knocked for six. I’m not getting on with stuff—EBON, renting Third House—that I have to get on with.† I want to do the Samaritans, and I think I can. The blog is, however, ultimately, dispensable. ††
So. It’s been real, as we used to say when turning on, tuning in and dropping out was cool.††† And the blog has been real, in its smoke and mirrors way. I’m hoping it will go on being real in a slightly streamlined, slightly reset mirrors and resignalled smoke way. ‡
We’ll find out.
Meanwhile . . . see you soon.‡‡ And thanks for all the fish.
* * *
* I still don’t know what happens when I reach the end of Part One. I’ve been assuming I’m going to take a break, and I’m still assuming that, but I don’t know what having fewer Days in the Life to write may do to writing about Kes’.
Also please note I will be HAPPY to continue to post GUEST BLOGS.
** My applying to the Samaritans is God’s fault again, although the Samaritans, as they say on their opening page, are very much not a religious organisation, unlike, for example, the Street Pastors. The funny thing is that it’s joining the SPs that has given me the confidence to try for the Samaritans—although the Samaritans have been on my radar for years. I went through some very rough stuff when I was pretty young and spent some years in therapy, including group therapy, where you learn something of the non-judgemental listening shtick which is the Samaritans’ stock in trade—and how important having someone to talk to is. But one of the Samaritans’ requirements is that you take an all-night shift every two or three months. And I knew I couldn’t do that. Then I went down with ME and volunteering for the Samaritans became as imaginary as anything Tolkien ever came up with. Then I hit menopause and while insomnia is part of my personal package of hormonal horror . . . so is being able to get by on less sleep. Oh. Hmm.
And then I turned Christian and my dormant do-gooder came droolingly, rampantly, havoc-creatingly to life. But I gravitate to the practical side of do-gooding: handing out flipflops and cups of hot soup is practical. But so is listening. You may know that from having been in group therapy. But you find it out all over again on your first pre-interview, pre-training observation night with the Street Pastors.
It wasn’t much over a month ago an ad for the Samaritans in the local paper caught my eye. They were holding an ‘information evening’ for potential volunteers. Yo, McKinley, said the bloke in the tatty blue jeans whom I first met 12/9/12. This.
Oh, and the best thing about the Samaritans? IT HAPPENS INDOORS. YOU SIT IN A NICE WELL-APPOINTED OFFICE ON A COMFY CHAIR WITH A TEAKETTLE AT YOUR IMMEDIATE DISPOSAL. YOU’RE NOT OUT ON A STREET CORNER FREEZING YOUR BUTT OFF OR DISSOLVING IN THE FRELLING DOWNPOUR.
*** I’m also sitting here thinking about how the more I’m managing to put into my singing the more frelling shattered I am after my voice lessons. I’d gone back to Dido’s Lament^ and Nadia said she’d like to hear it. I’ve got like eighty times more voice than I did when I learnt it the first time and—I realise how deafeningly ridiculous this is—the volume I’m now capable of scares me.^^ Siiiiiiiiiiigh.
^ It’s interesting, this business about repertoire. If you’ve gorblimey worked to learn something you don’t want to lose it. You can’t keep too many things on top at once, but you can circulate. On the face of it this is obvious. In practise this is yet one more unexpected skill you have to learn.
^^ Remember, however, I’m still talking about making the walls rattle in Nadia’s mum’s small low-ceilinged dining room. Not the Royal Albert Hall.
† I think I’ve done one doodle from my bottomless backlog in the last four months. Maybe two.
†† Even if there are a lot of hours of my life I’m not going to get back that I spent writing it.
††† Which probably doesn’t actually mean ‘get stoned and stay that way forever’ although my generation in our mad youth sure thought it did.
‡ There’s another aspect to this decision: I’m generating less blog material by the choices I’m making about how I spend my time. There’s an awful [sic] lot about the God thing I don’t feel like trying to explain on a public blog, for example. And while I can at least talk about the weather on Street Pastors nights, there’s an absolute black-out confidentiality requirement with the Samaritans^. You can’t talk to anyone about what happens on a duty shift except another Samaritan.^^
^ Which, as previously observed, takes place indoors. I suppose I could blog about the night I drop the cup of tea on the computer keyboard . . . I’d rather not be given this rich, golden opportunity. . . .
^^ And, just by the way, debriefing at the end of every shift is required. They take care of their own.
‡‡ MY NEW WASHING MACHINE IS ARRIVING ON WEDNESDAY . . . I hope. Let’s say it’s scheduled to arrive on Wednesday.
Tired. Oh, I just said that, didn’t I?
But first, a story about life with dogs. When things are not going well generally* it’s very easy to slide into a grim sort of Put Harness On, Take for Hurtle, Open Tin of Dog Food, Sprinkle with Chicken Scraps, Watch Hellhounds Not Eat and Hellterror Jaws Blur into Engulfing Machine and forget that these are your hellpack and not just random furry moochers that exist to make your life more complicated.
One of the pubs on the main street was having some kind of private party yesterday that involved a large bunch of grey balloons tied to the pavement sign out front. Grey. Who on earth** would want to advertise their festive event with grey balloons? Anyway. The sign in question is one of those mini sandwich boards that stand on their own little feet and are usually set out in a manner to cause a maximum of pedestrian traffic disruption. On our way to the cottage from the mews*** the balloons were on the far side of the sign and Pav gave them only a cursory glance. On the way back . . . there was a large flapping Yog-Sothoth right at her eye level. And she wasn’t having any of it.
Hellterror. Bouncing up and down on four little stiff legs. BarkbarkbarkbarkbarkbarkbarkBARK. If she had a ruff it would be standing on end. Tail like a flagpole. Head straight up and ears stiff and alert as phased-array radar. BARKBARKBARKBARKBARK.
I walked on past this demonstration of the imminent end of life as we know it. I turned around. Yo, Pav, I said. Her concentration wavered just long enough to cast me a you-must-be-joking glance, and then returned smartly to her duties as herald and alarm. BARKBARKBARKBARKBARKBARK.
Pav, I said. I didn’t want to order her to come to me because her recall is ordinarily surprisingly good and I don’t want to damage it by stressing it beyond its strength. She paused long enough this time to give me a beseeching look, with that ‘it’s not that I want to be doing this’ expression of gallant anguish. Barkbarkbarkbarkbarkbarkbarkbark.
I bent over a little and said her name again. She stopped briefly . . . her tail dropped by about a micro-millimetre . . . she was tempted . . . no. Those grey balloons were a threat to world—nay, universal order. BARKBARKBARKBARKBARKBARK.
I knelt on the frelling pavement and called her. Paaaaaaav. She stopped. She looked at me.
The tail dropped, the ears flattened . . . and she rushed past Yog-Sothoth and hurled herself into my lap/arms.
My hellterror. Mine.
* * *
I was going to go on and tell you about Street Pastoring on Friday night† and my voice lesson today†† but . . . I think I’ll go to bed with a good book. And maybe a few furry moochers.
* * *
* Peter has backslid rather.^ Probably from overdoing it. And my ME is a drooling nightmare. Probably because I’ve been overdoing it.
^ But he did come last night to the galactic super-gala Christian unity festival doodah including, as part of the floor show, Maxine and my intake of Street Pastors being superfluously blessed and re-sworn in by forty-seven bishops, including three from the planet Dzorkek, and the live video link to the Vatican+. What a scrum.++ Eleanor, bless her, gave Peter and me a lift, since parking was also going to be a scrum.
Having been sternly admonished that the usual rule applied and to wear something over my logo I was wearing a hot pink gilet and wondering if we were going to do a synchronised Busby-Berkley number when at a signal no one had prearranged with me we all stood up and ripped off our Clark Kent disguises. Got there and discovered that nobody was doing Clark Kent. Which at least made the wodges of Street Pastors easy to find: the old guard were there in force. May I remark here about the total weirdness of wearing a highly visible team uniform. I stayed the hell [sic] out of school sports and my horse riding was always solo, even if I had to wear a number at a show. Bell ringing has been enough of a shock to the cranky individualist system and at least we don’t wear uniforms.+++
Peter claims he was glad to have come. And I’m sure there were a few other non-Christian family members scattered through the heaving mob. But I don’t want to know how often he wished he was at home doing the crossword.
+ Joke. But I actually wonder if anyone has tried to get our new pope interested in the Street Pastors? We’re a small but increasing global phenomenon, all committed Christians welcome and never mind which church you go to, and Francis, despite adhering to the hoary party line about celibate male priests and abortion#, seems to be pretty enthusiastic about humanity first and categorization second.
# not in conjunction, we hope
++ Aggravated by the large area cordoned off for the Dzorkekians, who have special needs from an Earthly point of view.
+++ Although I do have a Guild sweatshirt somewhere.
** It may be different on Dzorkek.
*** The hellhounds are unlikely to have found Yog-Sothoth very alarming, although they would have examined this manifestation closely. But hellhounds and I hurtled in the other direction yesterday.
† IT DIDN’T RAIN (much). How amazing is that?
†† Speaking of overdoing it when the ME is biting. But I’m not giving up my voice lessons. Not.