March 23, 2015

Shadows is here!

Blurry weekend


I had an appointment with Dentist from R’lyeh on Friday*, the second in a fortnight.**  I knew that being pumped full of anaesthesia twice in slightly less than fourteen days was not going to go down well with the ME***  but you want to get it over with, you know?  ‘It’ being death, taxes, anything to do with dentists and being tour guide for the friends of friends of friends who were told to look you up and whose idea of casual chat with a stranger doing them a favour is to complain about women bishops, Obama, and your fashion†/career††choices.

I have therefore spent the weekend in a daze of chemical hangover.†††  That no doubt explains why having made it to church, because Wolfgang knows the way, I was actually inquiring about the job‡ vacancies Buck was haranguing us about.  Because I’m so fuzzy-minded I can’t remember that I already have too much socially engaged yatta yatta stuff to do.  There’s a meeting tomorrow night about this apparently.  Maybe I can forget to go.

* * *

* I now have uniformly smooth grey front teeth rather than furrowed speckly brown ones!  Yaaaay!

** We’ve been bonding over our mutual first ownership of terriers.  A Whole Other Life Form, we concur.  I got distracted by the ‘bull’ thing and the grin, and he has a preteen son who wanted his own dog, not a part share in one of the (several) family dogs, and went for a little manic hairy thing.  The paw marks on the ceiling take some getting used to as does the robust response to the hearing of burglars at inappropriate hours.^

^ ‘Inappropriate’ being a mutable term.  During socially sanctioned inappropriate hours I’m available to suppress the little varmint.  It’s when she wants to disembowel the mailperson at 7 or 8 am that I get a little testy.

*** Which is also why I will not have my teeth whitened, and the grey will stay grey.  There are chemical sensitivities I don’t have to find out all the fascinating details of, and elect not to.^

^ The Appalling Perversities of Bodies.  It’s not enough that my multiple chemical sensitivities are probably one of the sources and maintaining causes of my ME but my frelling metabolism burns through anaesthetic with the speed of an exuberant hellhound after a frisky young rabbit, so the frelling dentist has to keep slugging more into me.  ARRRRRGH.

† ‘You could hire a tailor to replace the [disintegrating] lining of your leather jacket^ and wearing Converse All Stars is very bad for your feet.’^^

^ Yep.  I could.  And I probably will as soon as the lining rots away from the bottom hem, so all the stuff that has fallen through the holes in the pockets and now resides lumpily in the gap between lining and leather starts falling to the ground and being lost forever.

Fortunately my last lot of interesting companions for an afternoon never saw Wolfgang.  Wolfgang would have given them life-threatening palpitations.  I met them at the train station in Mauncester, guided them to the obvious photo ops in the obvious picturesque bits of town, and put them back on the train again.+

+ You know what really rankles though?  That I can never think of anything clever and quelling to say at the time.  I just suck it up like a dope and seethe like anything later on.

^^ I’m really tired of being told that All Stars are bad for my feet.  I’ve been wearing them for forty years+, three to seven miles a day for most of that time and my feet are in pretty good shape thanks awfully.  Some of the rest of me, not so much, true, but I doubt it’s because of lack of cushioning and arch support in my All Stars.  The properly-engineered-shoe argument reminds me of the other one that says that you can’t just walk three to seven miles a day you have to belong to a gym and have a personal trainer create a specific exercise programme for you.  No.  You don’t.  It’s not in the contract.

Now some of my best friends belong to gyms, have personal trainers and don’t wear All Stars because they hurt their feet.  I feel sorry for them about the All Stars++, but it’s all what works for you.+++  I have a hellmob.  We go hurtling together.  It works for us.

+ Yeeeep.

++ Personally I do not wish to envision a life without All Stars.

+++ Although in the absence of gym membership I need to keep ringing tower bells to maintain upper body strength.#  Although lifting the hellterror out of harm’s way on a regular basis counts for something.##

# Over-ringing does serve a purpose.  It also burns calories.  Wild Robert, who is built of toothpicks and super glue, can ring the 1,000,000,000 pound abbey tenor with one hand.  And does occasionally to be annoying.  But rumour has it he doesn’t eat, so he doesn’t need to burn calories, let alone go home and comfort himself with chocolate after he’s screwed up a simple touch of a simple method on a well-behaved modest-sized bell.  SIIIIIIGH.

## Chiefly mental anguish.

†† ‘Have you ever written a REAL book?’

††† I was supposed to ring frelling handbells again yesterday.  I seem to have got myself ambushed into this semi-regular extra Saturday in which Melinda and Niall try to chivvy Spenser and me into ringing quarter peals.  Apparently this is what handbell ringers do.  They don’t just, you know, ring handbells, they get together and rack up stuff they can put on their life list.  Quarters.  Full peals.  Shudder.  I told Spenser and Niall Friday night, during our usual, ordinary, low level, lots of wrong notes just-get-together-and-ring handbell session with Gillian or Gemma, that I had been badly dentalled and wasn’t likely to be up to much the next day.  Spenser said he was chiefly interested in practise and didn’t actually care about quarters, which is how I feel about it, and Niall is an obsessive crazy so never mind what he may or may not have said.  And Melinda, who seems so normal,^ would already have rung one quarter that day^^ and would probably bear the disappointment of not getting a second.

Well my brain kept blanking out and we kept crashing and burning.  As predicted.  Spenser and I had swapped pairs of bells too so I didn’t even have relative familiarity to plug the gaps.  It wasn’t all bad:  both Spenser and I felt we were getting useful practise.

Now as it happens the monks were holding a bingo night for prospective oblates or something and my usual Saturday night contemplative service wasn’t on.  I had told the assembled bell crowd that I didn’t have my usual time constraints and so of course Niall suggested we have one more crash and clang at the frelling quarter after our tea break.  I was already tired and getting stupider with multiple failures. . . .

Yep.  We got it.  And as I wrote to Alfrick later, God once again proves to have a funny sense of humour.

^ She babysits for her grandchildren!  It doesn’t get more normal!

^^ One of the Super Surprise Delight Domineering Demented methods.  The kind of thing where I can’t even read the line, let alone imagine ringing it.

‡ Volunteer.  Things like chair-straightener and crucifix-polisher and cable-winder and tea-and-cake producer.  But these apparently harmless if time-consuming occupations have fancy names like Dapifer and Manciple and one has the suspicion that the moment one had said ‘okay’ the task list would turn out to be seven single-spaced pages of deviant Anglican jargon meant to intimidate and enslave.  Or they’d have more volunteers.

Kitchen Appliance Triumph


So, all this time I’ve clawed back by no longer writing a blog every night?  Has disappeared without trace.  Of course.

Today, for example, it has disappeared without trace by my having spent NEARLY TWO HOURS IN DENTIST FROM R’LYEH’S CHAIR OF DREADFUL TORMENT.  Owwwwwww.*

Yesterday it disappeared because . . . MAJOR TRUMPET FLOURISH . . .


This wasn’t easy.  Even leaving out the amount of time I spent researching** frelling washing machines*** I was so freaked out by the PRICE of the one that was going best to cope with all the hair in this household† that I put off ordering it for most of another fortnight.  Peter had grown a bit testy about my usurping his washing machine so I decided in that non-decision way that I hope most people who read this blog have experienced for themselves, that I would merely accumulate dirty laundry because, after all, I was going to buy a washing machine.  Fortunately I have a lot of clothes†† although the hellpack is down to pretty much its final lot of bedding.†††

I had a four-hour delivery slot booked for Wednesday morning during which I paced the floor and wondered what I was going to do when the delivery persons Viewed the Situation and said they couldn’t do it.  The Winter Table is still up because I’m still fetching recently-arrived-and-potted-up little green things indoors when the temperature starts re-enacting the Pit and the Pendulum.  Plus there’s a hellterror crate since the last time any major kitchen appliances were brought in or out.  Also, washing machines weigh.  My last appliant purchase was the refrigerator—refrigerators weigh nothing.  I can lift a refrigerator‡.  A washing machine I can barely shove back into its corner when it starts walking across the floor.  And they were going to have to wrestle the new marvel up the narrow flight of stairs with the black iron railing from street level to the front door, around the sharp 180 degree bend into the kitchen—and, while they were making that turn, lift it over the puppy gate, which is bolted to the wall.‡‡

They came.  They viewed the situation.  Their eyes got rather large.  They withdrew to the street and muttered between themselves while I wrung my hands and thought dire thoughts about washboards and rocks in rivers.


I tipped them lavishly.  They were, to their credit, startled, and I said:  what was I going to do when you looked at this kitchen and said that getting large heavy camels through eyes of needles one storey up, over Becher’s Brook and at a 180° angle wasn’t in your job description?

I hope they got together and bought their wives a nice bottle of champagne.‡‡‡

* * *

* I won’t tell you what this thrilling^ experience did to my bank balance.  OWWWWWWWWWWWWW.

^ I have told you, haven’t I, that the wonders of scuba diving are Forever Closed to Me on account of the number of hours I have spent in Dentist from R’lyeh’s chair staring at the video loop of tropical fish on the TV screen on the ceiling?  I totally support+ the presence of distracting video on a TV screen on the ceiling.  And I can forfeit scuba diving.  Even though the fish are pretty fabulous.  I’m grateful it’s not opera or BUFFY reruns.

+ And I do.  See main footnote *

**  You have to figure it’s going to be an important member of the family for at least a decade so, especially when it lives in the kitchen of your very small house, which happens also to be the room that (a) you spend the most time in (b) the main beds of your three fur factories^ indwell, which helps to explain (a)^^, you and it had better be good friends. ^^^

^ Note also:  fur factories

^^ Remind me to tell you the Pav’s Bed in My Office story.  Sigh.

^^^ Peter had Radio 4 on recently when it was a programme on psychological problems and the discussion was about hoarding disorder, which is apparently defined as an inability to throw things away to the point where the accumulation gets in the way of normal function.  Hmmmm.  One of the things they mention is when you can’t get into your bed because of all the stuff on it?  Feh.  I can still get in my bed . . . I may have to roll some of the books, knitting magazines and homeopathic journals over a little . . . and it’s true I’m an uncharacteristically quiet sleeper.  But I was really thinking about this after I’d cleared off+ the old washing machine and the refrigerator, which was going to have to move to get it out, and had nowhere to put anything.

+ Mostly the stuff on top, which was in layers.  But I also stripped off all the kitchen magnets . . . which fill a mixing bowl.  A small mixing bowl . . . but still a mixing bowl.  Not a cereal bowl or a soup bowl.  You could definitely get a batch of muffin batter out of this bowl.  I often have.

*** I think I told you I joined WHICH? just so I could read their washing machine reviews?  They’ve got this clever hook-the-sucker system where you only have to pay £1 for a month of membership, including a copy of the magazine and free access to their gigantic site—and individual phone support for ‘consumer and finance issues’ which bait really attracted me after my recent scary, infuriating and demoralising banking experiences—and at the end of the month if you forget to cancel they quietly make you a full-price member because, after all, you gave them your credit card number for the £1.  Fine.  They got me.  The magazine is full of interesting stuff.  And now I’m researching juicers. ^

^ Everyone see this report?   Good luck getting this one over to Person in the Street.  But it is one of those Why [mild] ME Is A Good Thing Really moments.  I have evolved, over the past sixty-one years, from a few frozen peas and a leaf of iceberg lettuce style reluctant veg eater to a major rabbit+.  And in the last fourteen years—since the ME felled me—I am eating ten a day++.  It’s a life style, okay?  You get used to it.  And I like broccoli.+++ I’m more inclined to take this report seriously—ten a day does seem like kind of a lot for someone who doesn’t already have chronic health issues—because they make the point that vegetables are more important.  Yes.  A large glass of orange juice with your chocolate croissant is not the same as a large bowl of broccoli . . . er, probably not with your chocolate croissant.  I’d like to hear a little more about ‘juice is worthless’ however.  Out of a carton, maybe.  But I’d’ve said there’s pretty good substantiation for the belief that the Juicer Phenomenon is worthwhile.  Although it’s another life style.  At some point you have to wonder what you’re preserving your life for if you’re spending all your time preserving it.

+ Unfortunately my teeth don’t keep growing.  That would solve a lot of problems, if the cavities just grew out and you could gnaw them off.  Carrots are a lot cheaper than Dentist from R’lyeh.

++ Except occasionally when I’ve been in the Chair of Dreadful Torment and can’t chew.

† There isn’t nearly as much of mine but mine is LONG.  You’d have to line up like fifty-three of Pav’s for an equivalent pilose factor.  Pav, however, has plenty to spare.

†† Which is what happens when you like clothes, have been more or less the same size for nearly forty years, and have hoarding disorder.

††† There is less of this than there might be because the hellterror—like the hellhounds before her—used to eat hers When She Was a Puppy, which, of course, now being almost tw‡‡o years old she is not.  Cough.  Cough.  But she did give up eating her bedding somewhere around her first birthday—which is better than can be said for Chaos.

‡ Well.  I can lift a dwarf under-the-stairs size refrigerator.

‡‡ Because I was tired of it falling over every time Chaos stood up and put his forepaws on it.  Which, being a rather dim sweetheart, he never took advantage of, and Darkness is above that kind of thing.  Pav, however . . . it’s a good thing it was bolted in by the time Pav arrived.

‡‡‡ Or, possibly, husbands.



I’m so glad it’s short Wednesday, I’m so tired I am in grave danger of falling off my chair.*

Also, I am in shock.  Which is very tiring.




It’s taken my bank nearly four months and they’ve still got both my name and my address wrong BUT NEVER MIND.  THEY APOLOGISED.  They’ve REFUNDED the substantial number and £££ of fines they charged me and have sent me copies of all the letters they wrote to all the people whose cheques bounced—including scary, credit-rating-ruining people like my credit card companies—saying it was THEIR FAULT.  NOT MINE.  THEIRS.  THE BANK’S.  THE BANK’S FAULT.


Good news.  I can USE some good news.***  And I can continue to contemplate the goodness of this news tomorrow during the three and a half hours I am due to be in dentist from R’lyeh’s torture . . . I mean, chair. † I think you had better expect tomorrow night’s blog to be short too.††

* * *

* It was a bell-ringing night, one of those nights when there were only six of us so all of us had to ring all evening.  You know retired people may still have some BRAIN left by the end of the day. . . .

Also my beloved Celtic-knotwork-pattern-cover cushion is going—has gone—to pieces.  There is no security in this insecure world where things wear out.  I am sure I am much unsteadier in my chair in the mews kitchen with my chair cushion in SHREDS,^ whether or not I just spent an hour and a half on the end of a bell-rope.^^  And I’m totally failing to get my head around replacing it.  There are gazillions of cushions out there.

^ It disintegrated all by itself, with no help from hellterrors whatsoever.

^^ One of the other ringers, whom I would have said I had never met before, stared at me for a minute and said, I know you.  I rang a wedding with you at Ditherington last year.  You’re the knitter.


** Pity they can’t make an itsy-bitsy further error, move the decimal place over six or seven or eight places to the right and make me wealthy.^  Then I could not only keep Third House I could build a conservatory off the sitting-room.^^  I suppose, having noticed one error, they might notice this one too.  No, wait . . . I pointed their previous error out.  I had to point it out.  Hmm.

^ And for those helpful people telling me if I’d only write this or that book/sequel I’d immediately become wealthy . . . in the first place *&^%$£”!!!!!! and the frelling horse you frelling rode in on.  In theory this blog nonsense—and the Twitter nonsense, and the Facebook nonsense, and the public email address nonsense—is so that public people can have some direct contact with their private readers/fans/supporters.  And vice versa.  Which seems to me to be mostly a good idea:  we’re all human beings first and last.  But shouldn’t there be some FAINT responsibility in that vice versa-ing, for paying attention?  Which is to say HOW MANY RATBLASTED TIMES DO I HAVE TO SAY I ONLY WRITE WHAT I AM GIVEN TO WRITE?   I’D BE ON SUNSHINE SEVENTEEN AND DAMAR THIRTY-TWO BY NOW IF I COULD.

And in the second place . . . SUNSHINE and Damar didn’t make me wealthy the first time.  There’s no reason to think that a second or a third or twenty-seventh book would do any better.  Remember that for every GAME OF THRONES there are 1,000,000,000 series that only did well enough to bully the poor sweating author to keep trying.


. . . an autographed book sale? I’m sure that the hell-hounds and -terror would cooperate to place ‘official’ pawprints.

Sure.  The minute I finish the last frelling doodle from the now-ancient-history Bell Fund.  Siiiiiiigh. . . .

^^ Have I mentioned that one of the knock-on effects of letting Third House is that I won’t have the little summerhouse as a greenhouse this winter?  I have therefore, with Atlas’ aid, brought the grow-light to the cottage and hung it from one of the big ceiling beams in the already-small sitting room, and in cold weather we will have to have handbells at Niall’s because my sitting room will be full of PLANTS.

*** There are way too many alligators in my immediate vicinity.  As the saying goes.

† On Halloween.

†† And apropos of nothing at all, any of you folk on this side of the Atlantic have experience with Lovefilm vs. Netflix?

I’m feeling pretty fragmented so let’s have a fragmenty blog post




. . . how my mother helped capture a pair of bank robbers and managed not to sell them the guns they wanted to buy.

Guest.  Post.  . . . Please?  Or if you’ve told the story elsewhere, a link?


It may be time to go to the Financial Ombudsman Service about the bank.

I passed the eight weeks’ necessary time lapse yesterday if we’re counting from the date on my initial complaint letter.  If I have to wait from the first written acknowledgement I had from the bank, add a fortnight.  If the clock only starts ticking from the first case-specific letter I had from the bank add about five weeks.  I wrote to, and have been sending updates to since, the Guardian consumer champion people but apparently my case is not interesting enough—which kind of makes you wonder what is going on elsewhere.  Oh, and the latest?  My local branch told me that the reason I can have only one cheque-writing account tapping my holding-tank account is because you’re only allowed ONE account feeding off ONE other account.  WHAT?  I’ve had two cheque-writing accounts kept topped up by my single holding-tank account FOR TWENTY TWO YEARS, my personal individual account AND A SECOND ONE that I share with Peter.

I still have a headache.

Mrs Redboots

If it were me, I would be taking up residence in the bank and insisting on speaking to Someone In Authority, and not moving until you did. And if they won’t give you satisfaction, then I’d be on the phone to First Direct or one of those….

Well, it’s not you.  My local branch doesn’t have a person in authority and the idea of trying to find a bigger, hairier branch that does and then staging a dignified tantrum for said authority’s benefit doesn’t sound like a successful stratagem for me.  I’m an introvert with ME.  I have stamina problems anyway—and I’d have to drive to whatever confrontation I planned—and aside from the sheer grisly blank-mind-inducing horror of trying to have what is essentially an antagonistic conversation with a stranger about MONEY, my least favourite topic and around which I have minimal skill, between the ME and menopause I have no memory.  I want to slog through this fiscal murk as much as possible leaving a clear shining paper trail.  Or at least a slightly scintillant email trail.

But yes, I suspect First Direct is in my future.  I’ve had several people recommend them.  Even Which? likes them.*    Old person than I am, I’m not crazy about the idea of an on-line-only bank, but I like VERY MUCH that there is always a human being to talk to.


Glad you made that dental appointment. One of my friends recently decided to “tough-out” a toothache, but he waited too long and by the time he sought out treatment it had gone all septic on him. He ended up near death in the hospital for a week to the tune of a bazillion dollars. (All better now though, just poorer.)

OH PLEASE.  THAT IS VERY RARE.  I’m very sorry about your friend, and I’m glad he’s better, and I’m sorry Obamacare isn’t doing anything for septic tooth related emergency hospital care . . . but he was also unlucky.  I have some of the worst teeth in human history—about twenty-six of them left, I think, although one is a glossy high-tech plastic thingy cemented onto a titanium implant and I wish I could afford more of these—and I have toughed out bad toothaches a few times when I had a deadline, most memorably for DRAGONHAVEN a few years ago.  Even before I had ME I had a history of bad times with dentistry, and if I need to keep working I’ll put off Terror by Chair with Fish** as long as I can.

On this particular visit to a sunken city in the South Pacific redolent of ancient evil . . . it’s going to cost a fortune because it always does, but I don’t think anything but my sanity (and my bank balance) are at risk.  Both of these however are at serious risk.  Whimper.

Thus I reeled back out onto the pavement today after this first sizing-up-the-victim*** appointment and . . . staggered up the street to the department store with a knitting precinct and BOUGHT TWO MAGAZINES.  I narrowly missed falling afoul of some Rowan Summerspun† which the wicked clerk†† had left scattered across the floor when—so she claimed—she was called away.  A likely story.  But I was STRONG.  I RESISTED.†††


whippets and greyhounds are the easy end

Ok, ok, advice accepted. But I don’t suppose whippets and greyhounds come with long hair options (think Ash disguised by the Moonwoman.)? That is one large attraction of Salukis.

What about a nice Silken Windhound?  ‡

* * *


In case you’re interested.

** The videos on the ceiling screen are still fish.  I think my attitude toward aquariums—aquaria if you prefer—has been permanently damaged.^

^ Although I still have a fantasy about a betta splendens.  Or two.  In separate tanks:  I know.

*** Moustache-twisting and mwa hahahahaha optional.  However, guess what?  My dentist has had a three-YEAR argybargying, ombudsman-adjudicated row with his bank.  No, it’s not the same bank.  I’m not sure if this is a good thing or a bad thing.  There aren’t that many monster, medium-sized-country owning, multi-gazillion bonus CEO maintaining, ordinary person underfoot crushing^ type banks out there.  One would have liked the incompetent ones to be in the minority.

^ Although dentist from R’lyeh and I really don’t belong in the same category.  If he’s a Cthulhu, I’m a single nightgaunt.  A single stunted nightgaunt.  A single stunted nightgaunt with issues.+

+ I bet real nightgaunts don’t have problems with their banks.

. . . In case you’re interested.

†† She’s from R’lyeh too.

††† I totally don’t want to go to this.  Totally.  Absolutely.  Not.  No way.  Ridiculous.  Never.  No.

And if one more person tells me how fabulous it is I am going to strangle her in her own yarn.^

^ And furthermore, I have no money.  And if I did, I’d have to give it all to the dentist from R’yleh.  Again.

‡ There are also Afghans and Borzois if you want long hair.  All sighthounds are inclined to be a trifle inconveniently independent-minded—because they have to be able to make their own decisions when they’re flat out after their quarry—what I know about Afghans and Borzois is that they’re a little farther out on that continuum than greyhounds and whippets.  Afghans are stupid north-northwest, when it suits them;  like all sighthounds, they’re stubborn.  Borzois have a unique sense of humour.  Deerhounds tend to be sweeties, like most greyhounds and whippets, but I’m told they’re also on balance the worst eaters of the lot.  I personally am not going there.  But what you want is to make friends with a breeder who loves acquainting people with the sterling qualities of his or her own chosen breed.  Or several breeders and several chosen breeds.  And then go home and see who you dream about.

A Day in the Life


There’s a footnote, on Wednesday night’s blog, that the someone who had come to the door of the cottage while I was in the greenhouse locked in inadvertent mortal combat with a robin* was Penelope.  A large lorry had crunched up her car (fortunately she was not in it at the time), she was on foot, and wanted to know if she could leave some of her kit with me—she was on her way to a home visit and didn’t need the full panoply,** and it was a long walk back to her own home.  Of course, I said, and inquired after the details, which included that the lorry driver and the insurance company might not see eye to eye right away and she had a nursing-home gig on Friday that she had to get to if she had to hire Santa Claus’ sleigh—and it might come to that, since the four-day Jubilee weekend is upon us and the likelihood is that every functional vehicle*** is already booked.  I said she could borrow Wolfgang if she couldn’t do any better.  That Wolfgang had an erratic fault but that as long as you didn’t try to start him when he was warm there wasn’t a problem—and that he hadn’t misbehaved in months.

            You see where this is going.

            Thursday morning I was, as so often, late, so hellhounds and I had a as-far-as-we-can-get-out-of-town-from-the-cottage-front-door hurtle.  Upon our return I bundled hellhounds into Wolfgang and fetched my insanely large and hulking knapsack and moderately bulging briefcase from the cottage for our standard schlep down to the mews.

            Wolfgang didn’t start.  It doesn’t happen like this.  It doesn’t happen when he’s been sitting quietly overnight under his tree† at the cottage.

            Aaaaaaand he didn’t start after five minutes. 

            I got out my knitting.

            Half an hour. 

            I rearranged my Critical Daily Mass and took the briefcase back to the cottage.††  I shouldered my ludicrously heavy knapsack and we walked down to the mews.  We did not hurtle.  We walked.

            It was at about this point that the downstairs toilet at the mews stopped working.

            This may have distracted me from the main issue slightly.

            Hellhounds and I semi-hurtled back to the cottage later in the afternoon.  Wolfgang was still not in a starting mood.  I stuffed Penelope’s rather large bag into another knapsack, and we set out across town to take it to her creaking with the irony of it.

            Peter, who gets up earlier and has a better phone manner than I do†††, set to work this morning.  Our usual garage out at Warm Upford is so booked they can’t promise to get us in next week either.  And—just as I had been discussing with Penelope Wednesday evening—every car hire in the country has all its stock out on the roads already, including the golf carts, the forklifts, and the retired hearses.  Peter found somewhere in Arizona that could let us have a lunar roving vehicle but I had a paddy about the difficulties of fetching it. 

            The RAC man arrived, bless his gigantic orange van.‡

            And of course Wolfgang started immediately.

            I leaped out of the driver’s seat, rushed across the top of the cul de sac and started trying to climb Phineas’ three-storey house so I could throw myself off the roof.

            Turn it off and turn it on again, said the nice calm RAC man.

            This time Wolfgang did not start.  Modified rapture, if you follow me.

            The only good thing about any of this—and have I mentioned that I have a wedding to ring tomorrow afternoon in Sox Episcopi which is about half an hour from here?—is that the RAC man said, no, no, that’s not the starter motor—so at least I didn’t spend way too much money getting it replaced, the thought of which (money) is why I haven’t done it yet.  It’s not that I thought the Erratic Fault is going to go away, just that while it’s erratic I can’t demonstrate it to a mechanic‡‡—and if I can put something off, I will.

            Peter found another car hire place several thousand miles closer that will let me have the front half of a 1945 Jeep.  Fine.  I’ll take it. 

            The RAC man says it’s electrical, that it should be a straightforward pull out bad thingy and plug in good thingy, that there’s a garage that does emergency repairs half a mile away and he’ll give me a lift back—he’s got Wolfgang running, but he says all bets are off about whether he’ll start again.‡‡‡

            We convoyed down to the repair shop, and the RAC man and a random mechanic had one of those conversations in another language:   I’m pretty sure it’s the gusslebladder findlewhopping the zork, etc.  Apparently there is a Volkswagen specialist warehouse/whatever in Lesser Disconcerting and if they have The Part they can messenger it over this afternoon and if they don’t I’m frelled.  No, I’m catching a bus to Mauncester to pick up the front half of a sixty-seven-year-old Jeep.  The garage will ring me as soon as they know if they can get The Part or not.  I need to know by x because I need to be in Mauncester by y because the car-hire place closes at z. . . .

            I’d been keeping a running email conversation with Oisin about whether or not I was going to look in on my way to the bus stop, and I was trying to cancel handbells only Niall was en route somewhere on his way back from Wales§.  At the point that the garage was clearly not ringing me, I told Oisin I’d see him next week, harnessed the hellhounds and set off for the garage, assuming that a hysterical woman on the ground would be harder to ignore than a hysterical woman over the phone.§§

            None of the people who had been there that morning were there now.  This didn’t seem to me to be a good sign.  Someone said he’d be with me right away, and wasn’t.  I kept reminding myself these people were doing me an enormous favour by looking at Wolfgang at all the day before a four-day holiday. . . . And when the man who wasn’t with me right away finally ambled in he said, your car’s ready.


            It wouldn’t start for us either, he said.  The mechanic found a fault, and fixed it, and now it starts.  Of course we don’t know if that’s all the problem. . . .

            The Part does not seem to figure in the story at all.  And I have no idea what this sterling piece of Good Samaritanism is going to cost me.  They’ll put the invoice in the post, airily said the man.

            I then had to wait another ten minutes while the car parked in front of Wolfgang was washed.  Why they didn’t move it and let me out first, I have no idea.  At that point I didn’t care.  I had a car.  I had Wolfgang.  I did not have the front half of a Jeep even older than Wolfgang.  Even older than me (although not by very much).  I put the hellhounds in their bed in the back seat.  I got out my knitting.

            Peter did not find a plumber for the downstairs toilet.

            The dustbin men failed to pick up my garbage.

            And the crown on the tooth immediately behind the crown on the tooth that fell out a fortnight ago . . . JUST FELL OUT.

            And have I mentioned recently that this is the beginning of the frelling Jubilee frelling four day frelling weekend?           

* * *

* I’ve been creeping out and humbly putting prehensile mealworms in the planter for her, or for the bloke who got her into this mess to bring to her.  What is the weird mechanism whereby she sinks lower over the course of the fortnight or so that’s she’s sitting on a given nest?  You can see all of her clearly to begin with.  By the time the nest is full of little fluffy things that you can’t see over the brim, you had barely been able to see her over the brim for the final few days.  It can’t just be her ridiculous pretence of weight.  This clutch must be close to hatching because I can only just see her—in fact I thought she was gone today and was pretzeling myself into hopeless contortions to try and get a better look for little fluffy things or (horrors) if after my inappropriate, imprudent and stupid interference the other day she’d deserted after all (in spite of the mealworms).  But she’s still there.  

** I long to make her a shaman and launch into a vivid description of the rattles, fetishes, capes, stones, wands, chalices and other fascinating impedimenta . . . but I’d probably better not.  The so-called anonymity of this blog is rather less use than Venus’ hair in Botticelli’s painting, and I know Niall and Colin have occasionally read these virtual pages.  Penelope is one of the range of health visitors this island nation rejoices in—the impedimenta part is true, as is the purpose and the training for healing.  And if you think I might be dissing shamanism, quite the contrary.  I studied experiential shamanism—the, er, doctrine more or less re-begun by Michael Harner^—for some time, and still use what it taught me. 

^ Whose famous book THE WAY OF THE SHAMAN I do not endorse, just by the way. 

*** Including the little red wagon Kes’ mum taught a gang of Ghastlies to pull. 

† Being extensively crapped on by pigeons.  Why don’t all the frelling neighbourhood cats catch some pigeons? 

†† As I was locking the cottage door again, a dazzlingly shiny and pristine cherry-red convertible Jaguar with equally shiny and pristine white leather interior turned up the cul de sac.  I looked at it, and its dazzling and shiny occupants, with disfavour.  It was stopped, thwarted, at the top of the hill—which put it immediately behind Wolfgang—when I caught up with it:  immediately behind beat up dented seventeen year old probably-cost-as-much-as-the-Jag’s-wing-mirrors-when-he-was-new Wolfgang.  The woman in the passenger seat got out to talk to me.  They were looking for an address that was clearly not up here.  I assume they thought I was the cleaning lady. 

††† Not to mention being British and a bloke 

‡‡ I’d had a couple of people who claimed to know something about cars who had heard Wolfgang not starting months ago say they thought it was the starter motor, so I wasn’t just plucking a plausible-sounding phrase out of the aether.  

‡‡‡ I was very amused to discover—he having sent me off to have a nice cup of tea while he worked—when he knocked on the cottage door again that he’d made a mess of getting Wolfgang out of what is admittedly the diabolical jigsaw of his parking space (it actually is worse than it looks) and had simply left him at a funny angle in the middle of the way.  The RAC man climbed straight-faced into his orange van and left me to cope. 

§ No, really.  It was a ringing outing.  But it was only towers.  He didn’t want to miss handbells.

§§ There was also a tiny issue about not knowing its name and not being able to find it in the phone book.

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