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.
Hey. People. I read the forum. But you don’t seriously believe I’m going to post the second part of Corellia’s saga right away, do you? Blow off two guest posts in a ROW? If I had two nights in a row off I’d have established a habit of lying on the sofa covered with hellhounds during blog-writing time, eating bonbons and reading trashy novels. Marabou-trimmed satin lingerie optional. No, no, no. Besides, torturing blog readers is one of my few pleasures.
. . . ‘Pleasures’ certainly not including bell ringing. Oh gods. Practise tonight at the abbey was unbelievably awful. Awful. As I said to Albert as I raced out the door* to escape as soon as possible, this habit of taking one step forward and two steps back is getting discouraging.** Profound and utter humiliation is disagreeable at best but in this case I don’t know what to do about it. I’ve only ever learnt . . . well, pretty much anything, but particularly bell ringing . . . by grind. Relentless grind. You don’t get to grind at the abbey—there are too many ringers at too many different levels (especially upper) to have time for grinding any of them.*** I’d been hoping that I was far enough down the ringing road generally that I wouldn’t need to grind the way I used to . . . wrong. But the big spiky unmediatable situation here is that it’s specifically the abbey that’s the problem: those bells, that frelling ringing chamber, the fact that it’s the abbey. I can ring Grandsire Frelling Triples at other towers—not gloriously well, but I can ring it. Or I could. I think I’m forgetting, because what I’m chiefly doing lately is failing to ring it at the abbey. I cannot begin to tell you how WILDLY FRUSTRATING it is to listen, or to stand behind and watch someone else ringing, something that in any other tower I’d give my eyeteeth† to have a go at—I should be consolidating my Grandsire Triples and practising bob triples and major, Stedman triples, Cambridge minor, treble bobbing to surprise major. But I can’t ring at the abbey.
I wasn’t even expecting the worst tonight. Usually I’m horribly good at expecting the worst. Tonight when I pulled off the bell felt familiar—it is not, in fact, the bells, it’s the ballroom-sized ringing chamber and the abbeyness of it. And I thought, pulling on this familiar bell, oh good. I’m getting there. I’m making progress. This is, or at any rate is going to be, my new home tower.
Does anyone have a bridge handy that I could throw myself off?
* * *
Meanwhile . . . @cambridgeminor/CathyR tweeted me this today:
I know there have been ME awareness weeks—possibly every year at this time, one of the symptoms is really bad memory—but I’d missed we were having one now. And ME, like way too many other badly understood and/or scary don’t-want-to-think-about-it-because-it-might-happen-to-me afflictions and ailments, can use all the good press it can get. Yes, it’s a real disease.†† No, we’re not all malingerers.††† Hurrah for journalists who write articles‡ saying that ME is a nasty kick in the head from fate and to take it seriously. And I’m very glad to see someone making a noise about the appalling so-called ‘treatment’ of enforced exercise, which I’ve railed about here before. If you have ME the last thing you should do is force yourself to do stuff. That only makes it worse. As I’ve also said—but to me, being someone with ME, this is all worth saying again—there may be a few ME-diagnosed people out there for whom enforced exercise worked . . . but I’d personally doubt that in that case what they did have is ME. It’s a fairly slippery disease/syndrome and there’s a lot of overlap with other fateful kicks in the head.
But I want to add (again) that my experience of it is also that what energy, physical and mental, you do have you MUST USE, because if you don’t it will not only go away again—but you’ll feel worse, just like if you forced yourself to do too much. The Lack of Slack Syndrome. One of the things this article also mentions, and good for her, although I’d put quite a few underlines around it too, is the good days and bad days thing—you may also have good half days and bad half days, good hours and bad hours . . . good minutes and bad minutes. She mentions people who have to put their lives on hold because they can’t do anything consistently. Yes. This is one of the big ratbags about managing it—and leads to why I seem to get away with so much. I’ve told you (often) before there are a lot of smoke and mirrors on the blog—well, if I have to lie down for an hour or a day, I just do it. I don’t have to tell you or my boss about it—and the hellhounds adore it, of course. But one of my bottom lines is that I have no stamina, despite all that hurtling. I gave up horses (several times) because I can’t ride regularly enough. I don’t ring quarter peals because I never know when I’m going to have a bad day or a bad hour, and you’re letting down five or seven other people if you fold up unexpectedly. I don’t travel for a variety of reasons, but head of the list is the ME. Managing it on the road is . . . well. I’d rather have bell practise nights like tonight, when throwing myself off bridges seems like a rational reaction, than cope with a bad ME day away from home.
This is one of the things I’d like to see more recognition of—that most people with ME are still capable of doing something—and most of us want to: who wants to be helpless, hopeless, dependent and bored?—but we need SLACK from the healthy, functioning world. We need FLEXIBILITY. The business/working/income-oriented world is still lousy about people who don’t fit their pattern. It’s like the colossal waste of energy and talent of parents who want to, you know, raise their kids themselves. The corporate world still seems to think that kids are something you do in your spare time, and that making widgets and earning money is the real centre of the universe. What is wrong with this picture.
Everybody would be happier if they could work and live to a model that suited them better, you know? You don’t have to have ME or little kids. Elasti-world! Now all we need is a logo and catchy tag line.
* * *
* Not a good idea from this tower. GERONIMOOOOOOOOOO!
** I’ve also started wondering again how long before they tell me not to come back.
*** Except in terms of ‘into little pieces’. I came home in a basket.
† As if anyone would want these eyeteeth. I did, however, get my crown glued back in today.
Dentist from R’lyeh was on holiday, so I saw An Extremely Chirpy female dentist. Extremely Chirpy. Except that I guess you aren’t allowed to make jokes about doctors on drugs I’d say she’s on drugs. Nobody is that chirpy without chemical assistance. I commented, as I produced the small offending object, that it was remarkably clean, as was the post-stub it used to be stuck to. This is, in fact, a crown put in by Dentist from R’lyeh himself, so they could look it up in their records and the chirpy dentist went off into peals of tinkling laughter when the assistant declared that he’d glued it in originally with Glurpbggg™ ^ which is a temporary cement. Oh, that’s why the crown was so clean! sang Ms Nitrous Oxide. Temporary cement always dissolves over time!
Erm, I said, spitting out the crown, which she had spronged back in place to check rapport and congruity with the surrounding teeth, and then couldn’t dislodge again, why?
Oh, because it’s such a good fit! she trilled.
Um. From where I’m sitting . . . the temporary cement was always going to dissolve? Therefore I was always due to be back here in this chair having spent x number of days chewing on one side of my mouth and worrying there was something actually wrong, and then spending an afternoon I might have spent getting on with novel-in-progress schlepping into Mauncester to have it put back in?
^ I can hardly wait to see what WordPress does to the TM symbol. I wonder if I need popcorn.
†† Although I personally think it’s a syndrome. As I keep saying. If I were going to guess more, I’d guess that it’s caused by a variety of sensitivities to the extremely not-what-we-evolved-for life we lead now. A kind of uber-allergy.
††† Note that of course there are malingerers among us. It’s like some accountants embezzle. That doesn’t mean the definition of an accountant includes ‘embezzler’.
‡ Although please the frelling gods couldn’t they have hired a PROOFREADER? Text as bad as this undermines both the message and the professionalism of the journalist or the paper or both . . . or maybe that’s just that I’m a professional writer with ME.
I’ve been to the dentist again. He has many children to put through college.* This time however I came home with TEETH. Well, more teeth. Oh, all right, one more tooth. But it’s one of the big fat chewing ones. Plus a recap (so to speak) of the one behind that.** The truly horrifying thing however is the Next Phase which involves a phoenix egg and a sliver of bark from Yggdrasil and a drop of water from Charon’s bow-wave and one or two other things that . . . well, I really could buy a new car for what the Next Phase is going to cost. But ordinary dentists won’t look at my teeth*** Would it be so bad living on porridge for the rest of my life? Porridge and cake. I tweeted when I got home, numbed to the eyeballs barring the distant precognitive throb, that I was looking at my nice healthy green salad in dismay because it required chewing and would it be so bad to have cake for lunch? —And was promptly encouraged by several responding tweeters. Twitter is dangerous. In a lot of ways that don’t make it onto the stats.
Cake may have been somewhat more prominently than sometimes on my mind today however because last night I made:
I realise that the concept of leftover chocolate is foreign to many of us, and once upon a time it would have been foreign to me too and at least mildly implausible to Peter. But that was Then. This is Now. Peter has mouth trouble and I have Post Menopausal Zero Metabolism. Meanwhile, however, we are notorious for loving chocolate, so people tend to give it to us. I do not wish to discourage this excellent habit. And furthermore now that I’ve invented Leftover-Christmas-Chocolate Bars I may have to arrange for leftover chocolate henceforth.†
Preheat your oven to 350°F. Butter a 13 x 9” pan
¾ c butter
1 ¾ c sugar
2 large eggs, room temp
1 ½ tsp REAL vanilla††
1 ½ c all-purpose flour
1 ½ tsp baking powder††
½ c unsweetened cocoa powder
1 c chopped-up Leftover Chocolate. The point here is that it should be lots of different kinds. I had four or five different sorts plus some ginger fudge. Don’t chop too small or it’ll disappear in the baking.
Cream butter and sugar. I scrape with the spoon in my right hand and knead with my left. Better results sooner. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Then the dry stuff. Be sure everything is THOROUGHLY mixed. Then finally stir in the chopped-up chocolate.
Bake about half an hour. I started checking after about twenty minutes because there’s kind of a lot of chocolate involved and I wanted to make sure nothing untoward happened. It’ll still be slightly squidgy when you take it out, and I assume it’ll fall a little—mine did, but I was expecting it to. This is a sign of excellent chewy-squidginess-with-crunch-around-the-edges to come. I also wasn’t sure what the ginger fudge would do if it was baked so I sprinkled it over the top and put the pan back in the oven for five minutes, just to melt it enough to stick.
From a health and safety standpoint I have to admit these are not a great deal better than pure chocolate, but they are fearfully good. And they give you something to pass around during your handbell tea break.†††
* * *
* Not to mention the horses. I was going to say that I didn’t think they went to college . . . but in fact one of them does. And horse college costs as much as human college. Maybe more.
** Was I just In Denial or, thirty years ago, did dentists lead you to believe that once crowned, your tooth or teeth will stay crowned? This is I think the third refit I’ve had. At vast, three-years-undergrad-at-Cambridge prices, of course. And that doesn’t count the disintegrated root canals, which were another thing that thirty years ago were supposed to be for life. Pardon me, but first-world life expectancy for women has been well over fifty for longer than the last thirty years. Teeth: design FAIL.
*** At least not any longer than it takes to scream and run away.
† I’m aware that this is not an original idea. I’ve done something like it before myself. But this is probably the first time I’ve thought ‘why don’t I sweep up all the bits and pieces from not-quite-as-indulgent-a-Christmas-as-in-years-past and do something egregious?’
†† Maybe. I was making them at the mews and Peter doesn’t seem to have a set of measuring spoons. I know he made me take the fourteen or twenty-six spare sets of measuring spoons^ away with me but I hadn’t realised he didn’t have any. This Will Be Rectified. Meanwhile after forty-odd years of baking I probably know what a measuring-tsp quantity looks like.
^ When I was first over here, it was hard to find measuring cups and spoons in standard American sizes so I got . . . kind of paranoid. And would come back from a visit to the States with my suitcases not merely full of All Stars and black jeans but measuring cups and spoons. Glass jugs—which I prefer—have a built in population control mechanism, but metal measuring spoons live forever. I may have got a little carried away with the reserve measuring spoon sets.
††† I’ve been trying to figure out if there’s a way to mention this on the blog that won’t just bore you all to death. I need to gloat here, okay? You might give me the benefit of remembering that I had a brain full of dental anaesthesia this afternoon, and in fact when I’d tried to practise on Pooka before real people showed up with real handbells it had been so awful I’d considered that perhaps it wasn’t the anaesthesia at all, I really had lost my mind. So I was feeling pretty cowed when Niall came in, started unwrapping handbells^, and said that we were going do an exercise that James had had the Saturday handbell group doing last weekend, which you might call Merry Go Round Plain Hunt. Plain Hunt is the pattern-before-the-pattern to all bell ringing: it’s the first thing you learn after you can more or less handle your bell, and it gives you a dreadful clue^^ of what is to come.^^^ Merry Go Round Handbell Plain Hunt is that after you have rung however many ordinary ‘courses’ as they’re called of plain hunt you pass one bell to the person on your left. And then you ring normal plain hunt again. On whatever weird pair of bells you’re now holding. This is not how you ring handbells: you ring the trebles, which are the one and the two, or the three and the four, the five and the six, or the tenors (if you’re ringing on eight), the seven and eight. This is what you learn; this is what you’re used to. This is what you can COPE WITH. But for merry-go-round, after the first pass you’re holding the one and the eight, or the two and the three, the four and the five, the six and the seven. Which means that diabolical SHAPE of what you’re ringing is blown to pieces. I can’t do this! I wailed—I can’t do anything unless I’ve thought about it and practised it first. I can’t think handbells on the spot like this.
But I did. It just about killed me, but I did it. I got it. I got all of the weird pairs: the 2-3, the 4-5, the 6-7, the 8-1. Yaay me. Gloat.
^ And yes, I agree, one of the reasons I need my own set of handbells is so I can knit little storage bags for them.
^^ Although not nearly dreadful enough
^^^ ARRRGH. Have just wasted half an hour trying to persuade either Google or any of my three bell-ringing simulators to produce a diagram of plain hunt major. It can’t be this hard. So, here. I’ve just written it out. Make that scrawled. The point is just to look at the shape of what you’re ringing if you’re ringing two bells. The method line is the same for everybody: you go straight out to the back, strike twice in last place, go straight down to the front, strike two blows in first place, and go out to the back again till someone says ‘that’s all’. The only trick when you’re ringing it in the tower is where you’re starting in this very straight in and out pattern. If you’re the two (or any even-numbered bell) you go down to the front first; if you’re the three (or any odd-numbered bell) you start by heading out to the back. Easy peasy. Now get your head around it if you’re ringing two bells. The front and back pairs are still pretty simple; they stay pretty parallel, one ‘blow’ as it’s called apart, and they only have to remember to cross at the front and the back. (The treble is in red, and the two is in blue. I should have done them both in the same colour, but bell ringers are trained to think of the treble by itself, because it usually is.)
But look at the shape of what the 3-4 rings (both in green). This is what I mean about the inside pairs. The 5-6 is like this only mirror-image. (I will spare you why the 5-6 is worse than the 3-4 in bob major.)
And BE SURE to keep scrolling down to read Black Bear’s PEGASUS AND CAKE updates, and especially to applaud the Urbana, Illinois PRC’s poster.
I’ve been, as Niall likes to say (but he has better teeth than I do), dented. Two hours in the tortu—I mean the dentist’s chair this afternoon. I’m thinking, hey, McKinley, it’s only two hours—the day has twenty four of ’em. Yes, but not all hours are created equal. Hours spent in the dentist’s chair count for quadrillion.* I’m now officially shattered till 2251.** Then I had to, ahem, hurtle home and pelt out with hellhounds again*** because Thursday is handbell evening. Gaaaaaaah. A sane woman would CANCEL for pity’s sake† . . . but I left sanity behind long ago. ††
It was not one of our more glorious evenings. When it was just Colin, Niall and I, Niall was thirty three percent of us, bob minor on six bells is some really impressive algorithm easier than bob major on eight, and I’m actually not too bad at bob minor myself.††† Bob major . . . Niall is only twenty-five percent of us, Colin and Fernanda are still thinking like tower ringers‡ . . . and I can’t ring the damn thing to save my life.‡‡ The only thing that is saving us, to the extent that we are being saved, and we’re talking a broken spar in a gale halfway between South Africa and Tasmania and I’m sure there are sharks in the vicinity, is my peculiar small gift for ringing the lines of the method as I’m reading them off a piece of paper. If I were a magician, while everybody else was saving the world and creating Taj Mahals and Hanging Gardens of Babylon with a wand-wave and a few muttered words, I’d be cleaning shoes. Well, sometimes you really need clean shoes.‡‡‡ Sigh. But I think I may be reading the lines off a piece of paper for the rest of my semi-saved life. I’m not sure Niall was best advised to say brightly at the end of the evening, as we were all preparing to crawl away and drown our sorrows in our respective liquids of choice,§ John Paternoster told me that it took them a year to get bob major right! The Paternosters are handbell royalty. There are about eight of them—some brothers, some cousins, and at least one dad§§—I’ve even rung with John. Think Gary Cooper in HIGH NOON. I didn’t like ringing with John: he makes me feel like one of the townsfolk hiding behind a door and listening for the noon train. And it took them a year to get bob major right? Whimper.§§§
Meanwhile, for the majority of Days in the Life’s readers, it’s Thanksgiving. Happy Thanksgiving. I hope you’re having a better time than I am. The anaesthetic has worn off. It’s time to apply chocolate. . . .
* * *
* Which, assuming a conventional professional hourly rate, would explain the cost. AAAAAIIIIIIEEEEEEEEEE. You’re all planning on buying multiple copies of PEGASUS for Christmas presents, right? I really need the money. And I have to go back to R’lyeh in three weeks and do it all again. Including the writing-the-cheque-afterward part.
My dentist looked a little tired himself. The flush of chartreuse across his sharp cheekbones was muted, the slender writhing coils of his hair were looser than usual, even his long yellow talons seemed blunted. But his eyes still glittered when he started the drill, and the front eighty-four of his teeth that you can see when he smiles^ gleam in their own horripilant light.
**Hey! Maybe I’ll meet Mr Spock!
*** I’ve realised that I love sports afternoons at the local comprehensive [school]. This means that there are kids everywhere on the big open grounds and morons walking their aggressive, mannerless dogs keep them on lead.
† Or possibly Shub-Niggurath’s.
†† Occasionally I send it a postcard.
††† At least some of the time, and particularly on the trebles.
‡ What is this second frelling clinky thing in my other hand. Make it go away.
‡‡ At least the other three of them have rung it in the tower (she says sullenly). I have not. I think I’ve fudged a plain course or two on the treble. I wouldn’t have a clue about inside.
‡‡‡ I’d be extremely glad for a wand-wave and a charm that would clean my All Stars without recourse to such low and inefficient options as laundry soap and washing machines.
§ No, actually. Cider—British brewed cider. I don’t drink champagne every night.^ And good cider is lovely.
^ See: writing cheques to dentists from R’lyeh. Even most of our champagne nights aren’t champagne, they’re just fizzy. Fortunately cheap fizz has got a lot better lately.
§§ Yep. All blokes. I’m not going there.
§§§ And speaking of whimper . . . have I told you that Beltower arrived? The ringing ap that Tilda recommended, because it has little cartoon people ringing the bells on your screen so in theory it looks more like the real situation in the tower, when you’re looking around at big real people ringing the bells? I loaded it yesterday. AAAAAAAAAAUGH.^ All right, maybe I’ll get accustomed to it. Maybe I’ll learn to use it and it will teach me Cambridge minor and Grandsire triples and Spliced Doolally Surprise Maximus. Maybe I’ll wake up tomorrow morning and PEG II will be finished, and I can read the ending and find out what happens.
^ There sure is a lot of screaming tonight. Okay, I have no reason to give you this link except that it was in today’s GUARDIAN and I like Stephen Sondheim. The article is excerpted from his FINISHING THE HAT which regular blog readers will remember Peter gave me for my birthday last week. Sondheim does not suffer from any nonsense about Pollyanna or not speaking ill of the dead, which is only what you’d expect from the man responsible for SWEENEY TODD. It’s a thought-provoking article for anyone at least remotely interested in classic music theatre: which would include me.
But this is the bit I want to draw your attention to, even if you’re not interested in music theatre, classic, Sondheim, or otherwise:
The pencils I write with are Blackwings, a brand formerly made by Eberhard Faber but alas no longer. Their motto, printed proudly on the shaft, is “Half the pressure, twice the speed” and they live up to that promise. They utilise very soft lead, which makes them not only easy to write with (although extremely smudgy) but also encourages the user to waste time repeatedly sharpening them, since they wear out in minutes. They also have removable erasers which, when they have dried out, can be reversed to resume their softness.
I write on a yellow legal pad with 32 lines, allowing alternate words to be written above one another without either crowding or wasting the space. These pads are hard to find, as most come with fewer or more lined spaces. Having been warned that stationery supplies are frequently discontinued, I had the good sense to stock up on them, as well as the Blackwings, before they disappeared, and now have a life-time supply.
Emphasis mine. I love this. I am so there. You find a system that you like and you want to keep it, and progress and innovation be damned. The problem is that you couldn’t do it with typewriter ribbons, because eventually they dry out, and then the moving parts of your typewriter wear out and suddenly you find yourself with a computer. Screaming. . . . I wonder if Sondheim had to put in a weight-bearing attic floor anywhere—?
Got an email from a friend a little while ago: Dentist bad, worse, or unspeakably horrible?
Um . . .
The ‘unspeakable’ part might only be functional, ie can’t/don’t want to open my mouth, except that I managed to oversleep this morning* and it was an early appointment**. From this a long cascade of unfortunateness descends. When I finally woke up I looked at the clock, gave a someone-is-standing-on-my-tail hellhound yelp, banged into the first seven articles of clothing*** I could find, tore downstairs, scooped hellhounds out of their crate†, added All Stars†† to the array and hit the road running. The hellhounds are better at this last part than I am.†††
But by the time we got back from our truncated hurtle I was well into Panic Mode, so I had the cup of very, very, very strong tea but couldn’t really face lunch. And I hadn’t had time for my breakfast apple(s).‡ So I leaped into the Wolfmobile and shot off to Mauncester on zero food and a megakick of caffeine and sugar. I am a sane, responsible grown up. I am.
They scraped me off the ceiling at the dentist’s and pumped me full of anaesthesia. The kind with adrenaline, so I wouldn’t bleed so much. Have I mentioned that this was the first stage of my first implant? They’re going to slash open my gum and drill a hole in my jawbone. I was really looking forward to this experience. So the adrenaline-laced junk is a perfectly reasonable choice, and the ‘not bleeding so much’ part appealed to me. Except for the fact that after they filled me up like a swimming pool I started shaking so badly it was hard to read the magazine‡‡ I was holding, or perhaps that was my eyeballs vibrating in my skull. I was, you see, sent out to read in the hall while they turned the office into an operating theatre. Jeezum Crow. I’d have been terrified when I was finally waved back in if it hadn’t looked so much like a TV set.
LOUD NOISES. BLOOD. FISH ON THE CEILING.‡‡‡
Looks really good, said the dentist from R’lyeh jovially.
I am instructed in rolled-handkerchief biting, the correct application of packets of frozen peas, and how much ibuprofen I can take before I become the Incredible Hulk. And sent on my way. There’s a funny little peg sticking up in the middle of what used to be a gap in my teeth, and four extremely neat little stitches around the edges.
I got back to the mews, looked queasily at my rejected salad, and made another cup of tea. I put a cosy on my cup and took hounds out for a hurtle. And did I mention handbells? Thursday is handbells. I got back from hurtling, drank the extremely well steeped tea, and bolted back to the cottage to repel boarders, I mean, welcome my fellow ringers. Fernanda is still struggling with the basics of bob minor, and Niall, who is like this, kept me on the 3-4 which forced me to concentrate. Unfortunately Colin was there today too so then we had to ring major. Eight bells! I don’t ring major! And I have no brain! It’s all burnt up with adrenaline and caffeine and PAIN!§ And a certain lack of calories. I still haven’t had anything to eat. Food. Ewww. There’s got to be a better way.
Handbell ringers left. I hurtled hounds again. They’re still time-short, but they’ll just have to be time short today. I staggered down to the mews.
I am eating.§§ I may live. You can check in again tomorrow.
* * *
*How . . . not unusual
**Okay, as I count early.
*** Bra, knickers, two socks, jeans, tshirt, little hot pink cardigan with white polka dots
† Oooooh! An adventure! We like adventures! Will there be things to chase?
†† hot pink
††† I haaaaaaaaaate other dog owners! Hate! Hate! Hate! Hate! The rec ground beyond Warlock Gate has been discovered by way too many of the Exacerbated Fathead subheading of this generally unlovable^ clan. There’s one dog we’ve now met several times, always off-lead, always borderline aggressive—if my guys ever grow up and stop presenting as puppies, I’m going to be in the middle of canine gang warfare several times a frelling week. And yesterday we got jumped by an Alsatian about the size of Peter. Turned out he was wearing a muzzle, but I’d already had my heart attack at that point, you know? The owner’s girlfriend thought this was hysterical. If my hands hadn’t been full of leads I might have hit her, so what a good thing my hands were full of leads.
And today . . . those of a sensitive disposition might want to look away now . . . My Best Beloved Hot Pink All Stars are very old. Here’s a photo: Old. They were the driving force behind my desire to find waterproof shoe liners, okay? There are HOLES in the bottom of both soles. Waterproof shoe liners are so I can go on wearing them a little longer, especially on days of high trauma, like this one.
Now—do I have to remind you delicate flowers to look away?—contemplate stepping in dog crap with a hole in the bottom of your shoe (even when covered by a waterproof liner).
^ A few of our forum members excepted. And the owner of an adorable Pomeranian+ we meet occasionally around here.
+ No, really! She is my Pomeranian Conversion experience like my very-ex-British editor’s stud Pekinese was my Pekinese Conversion experience. Unfortunately I don’t dare tell you about my very-ex-British editor because he just might concievably know about this blog. He and his wife bred and raised wolfhounds . . . and Pekinese. And he introduced me to Eva Ibbotson’s books, so he is a Force for Good. Nobody’s perfect.
‡ Hot off the tree. This is really appalling timing for having to eat soft food for a few days.
‡‡ Kew, as in the Royal Botanical Gardens. Usually one of my favourite journals, but I may have just imprinted it with today’s events.
‡‡‡ He needs a new DVD. I’ve seen this one kind of a lot.
§ The anaesthesia has worn off. And I’m going through the arnica pretty much with both hands. Arnica works surprisingly well for most things for most people^, but you do kind of have to keep your nerve to begin with. I started off taking it about every five minutes and am now down to . . . um. Over an hour. I’ll take the ibuprofen if I have to to get through the night—fumbling for tiny white pills gets old when you’re trying to sleep—but at this rate of improvement I won’t have to.
^ And for incised wounds, like this one, you might throw in a staphysagria.
§§ Broccoli (somewhat overdone in the circs) and fish salad. I like broccoli. Get used to it.^ And the fish salad features Peter’s mayonnaise.
^ Actually . . . broccoli is a comfort food for me. Okay, I admit it. That’s sick.