I haven’t seen much of Niall in quite some time because I haven’t been ringing bells. I’m aware that I miss ringing but there’s been a lot going on including all the major life change stuff and I’m so boring I keep getting tired. We’ve stayed in touch by text* which in Niall’s case is chiefly offers of handbell opportunities which I mostly rebuff although he’s caught me once or twice by being pathetic, when they really really really need a third person or they can’t ring. Sob. But we also occasionally exchange fascinating information like that fresh brownies have just come out of the oven** or that there are mushrooms growing on the dashboard*** since the torrential rain that broke our early autumn drought last week with an unnecessarily extended HURRAH. The seasonal river at the bottom of our hill is now in places pretty much up to the hellterror’s little evil eyes since of course the storm drains are blocked up again because that’s what storm drains do. Ask any local council.
But Penelope has been ill so I’ve been going round their house to see her with Niall in attendance and it’s a lot harder to blow off someone bringing you cups of tea and fresh brownies† on a tray and staring at you with beady, meaningful eyes†† while ‘handbells’ forms in a thought bubble over his head.
Arrrrgh. So last night I had late duty††† which ran over time because that’s what it does, and when I get home I still have me and a hellmob to feed, and the hellmob needs a final relieving hurtle and I need a bath in which I will fall asleep and then not be able to sleep in my bed.‡ So I was staggering around this morning on even less sleep than usual wondering where the teakettle was‡‡ when Pooka chirruped. I just about got her open and on and . . . Niall. Wanting to know if I might come along before Old Eden tower practise tonight to be a steady pair of hands to ring handbells with his new beginner.‡‡‡ No. Next question. I scowled at the screen. Poor earnest hopeful Niall§, wishing for a mere half an hour of my time, and even in my present condition I can (probably) ring plain hunt on handbells, in fact it’s probably one of the few things I am capable of so it would be half an hour of this bleary day that would not be wasted. Think of the next pan of brownies§§.
Okay, I texted back. But I’m too tired for tower bells; it’s been too long and the Old Eden bells are possessed by demons anyway. Thank you, replied Niall politely.
You see where this is going. I successfully rang handbells with Niall’s very nice beginner.§§§ My basic handbell autopilot is still alive and well even if the rest of me is mushroom compost. The tower bell ringers began trickling in and . . . stopped. There were at final count six of us, including the very new beginner and one less new beginner. And Niall and Vicky. And Monty. And me. I stayed. Obviously. I rang. I enjoyed it.#
I MISS MY BELLS. DRAT YOU NIALL. HOW AM I GOING TO FIT TOWER BELLS BACK INTO MY LIFE?
* * *
* Old people. Texting. You youngsters^ may need to avert your eyes.
^ I know there are youngsters who read the blog. They email me sometimes. Hi, I’m sixteen, and your blog makes me laugh. —Oh good. I think.
** Niall retired about a year ago and has learnt to bake. Clearly I should be cultivating this connection.
*** All right I don’t really have mushrooms growing on the dashboard. But I will soon. It’s a little-known fact that commercial mushroom compost is made of compressed dog hair.
† Okay, they’re not really brownies. He thinks they’re brownies, but he’s a bloke. They haven’t got enough chocolate in them. They are totally superlative cake, dense and moist and studded with cranberries and raisins and other redeeming social values and with a faint pleasant haze of chocolate just discernible in the background. THESE ARE NOT BROWNIES. Brownies must be so saturated, so rampant with chocolate that they suck all the light out of their immediate surroundings except for a faint seductive gleam on their enigmatic darkest dark brown almost-black surfaces. Redeeming social values wither and die in the vicinity of true brownies. Penelope however, is no fool. Darling, she says, these are excellent. And has another one.
†† Almost hellterrorish, Niall, staring at you.
††† And anyone who is wondering why I haven’t mentioned the Samaritans by name on the blog in months, it’s because the admin asked me not to. Oh. Ah. I know they are pathological about confidentiality—which is a GOOD THING!!!!—but, um. I may try to renegotiate the absoluteness of the ban some day in future but at the moment, while I’m still a frelling beginner, is not the time. I will however risk mentioning that I’m out of the initial clueless wonder apprenticeship period and into the second, theoretically not quite so clueless^ apprenticeship period and yaaaaay. But the main thing is, yes, I’m certainly continuing with it. I hope that joining is proving to be one of my better ideas—and yes, one of the new time and energy holes in this blog, as I anticipated when I stopped posting every day, is/are my Samaritan duty shifts and various relateds. And if anyone reading this has been wondering if volunteering for the Samaritans is for them—find out where your local is and go along to an information evening. No, it’s not easy work, but yes it is rewarding, and like pretty much every other worthwhile organization in this world, they can always use more bodies.
Shutting up now.
^ I would cross my fingers but that makes it harder to answer the phone.
‡ I swear if I could figure out a way to keep the water effectively hot I’d just sleep in the bath.^ Although as soon as this became official I’m sure the demons would say SHE’S SLEEPING IN THE BATH. RELOCATE. YOU’RE NOT AFRAID OF A LITTLE WATER ARE YOU?
^ No a waterbed is NOT the same thing.
‡‡ On the counter. Where it always is. I have a relationship with my electric kettle and my large bag(s) of loose leaf tea and various necessary accoutrements not unlike my relationship with my glasses. I can’t see anything till I find my glasses, including where I put them. I can’t possibly get a couple of handfuls of those tiny black shreddy things into that ridiculously narrow-mouthed sieve and then accurately pour just-off-boiling water into it and over them . . . till I’ve had my caffeine. I can almost see why tea bags caught on.
‡‡‡ Niall has this hilarious idea that handbells help you learn tower bells. Well, yes, they do, after several years of hard graft and when you’re getting used to the sensation of your brain melting and running out of your ears every time you ring a method. Not so much when you’re in the early not-strangling-yourself-in-your-rope phase, when ‘plain hunt’ sounds like ‘nuclear physics’.
§ You frelling manipulative ratbag
§§§ I hope she stays.
# With two beginners it’s not like we rang anything demanding. And when I folded half an hour early the others were ready to pack it in too: ringing bells possessed by demons nonstop because there are only five or six of you is taxing even if you don’t have ME and a complicated life.
This is the worst the ME has been in years . . . possibly since I first started struggling up off the sofa again occasionally, about eighteen months after I went down with it for the first, spectacular, devastating time fourteen and a half years ago.*
And the furniture lorry arrives at 8 a.m. on Friday morning whether I’m ready or not. Whether I’m upright or not.**
It’s cooled off some, but not enough, and there’s still no rain—and no rain forecast.*** The hellhounds still aren’t eating. At all. I’m surrounded by half-packed boxes and piles of things that have been pulled off shelves or out of cupboards and . . .
. . . I think I need to go lie down again.
* * *
* Which is to say thirteen years ago.^ Enough to make you superstitious.
^ Good thing I’m not likely to see in any more millennia. However you count it—2000 or 2001—it was not a good time for me and I might feel a little, well, superstitious, if I saw a lot of zeroes bearing down on me again. But even Methuselah didn’t quite make a thousand, so I’m assuming I’m safe.
** Last night—26 July—is one of our two big anniversaries: the meeting-Peter-Dickinson-at-the-Bangor-Maine-airport-oh-wow-oops one. We always go out and have a big splashy dinner. Last night we cancelled. I couldn’t have sat up in a chair long enough. I know. Worse things happen. But on the Comprehensive Demoralisation Scale it’s right up there.
*** There may be the odd local thunderstorm on Friday. If we actually have one of the odd local thunderstorms, which will be a first since this no-rain thing began about a month ago, it will certainly be punctiliously restricted to the corridor between the mews’ front door and the back of the lorry, all the rain^ will run straight into the gravel of the courtyard, and everybody’s gardens and potted plants will still be lying there gasping pathetically.
^ Except the rain-god’s special water-grenades which will explode under whatever plastic sheeting careful furniture removal men deploy on such occasions, and will leave irredeemable squiggles on the polished wood of Peter’s few nice old family pieces. May these prove to be runes for the cure of ME.
Glory hallelujah I hate this weather. And if one more frelling dingdong weather person says, Oh, it’s going to be ANOTHER BEAUTIFUL SUMMER DAY, NOT A DROP OF RAIN IN SIGHT!!!, I am going to hunt them down and kill them.* I really don’t get it, about the weather reporters. Not counting people like me who comprehensively hate the heat** a meteorologist worth a third of his/her salary has to know that land needs rain. Especially standard western agricultural landscape like southern England. Endless blue lying-on-the-beach days*** are NOT GOOD FOR ANYONE.†
Okay, there is one semi-advantage to this weather. It slows even the hellterror down so—especially because I’m too tired and stupid to be doing anything like, you know, writing PEG II or a few more episodes of KES— I’ve been taking the opportunity to oversee having the entire hellmob loose at once. Usually the hellterror rampages about the place till I get tired of stripping her off the ceiling and prying small pieces of furniture or bits of hellhound out of her mouth, and then she goes back in her crate and, to do the little monster (and her pre-hellgoddess conditioning) credit, she settles down quickly (mostly) and goes to sleep. She will stop mayheming when she’s told but this doesn’t often last . . . and also, she’s a hellterror. To some extent they’re built this way. And if she wants to hucklebutt around table, human, and hellhound legs followed by the end-swapping thing till I get dizzy watching her—and then flip over on her back and repeat her morning ritual†† . . . there’s really no reason she shouldn’t, so long as she (and the hellhounds) get that that’s the deal, and that jumping on the sofa or diving in the garbage is not part of the deal. Also also, in my enfeebled state, nobody is getting as much hurtling as they’re accustomed to and while in this heat they don’t mind as much as they might, still, basic levels of stimulation should be maintained.††† And, you know (she says cautiously) it seems to be working reasonably well. . . .
But I will be very, very, very, very glad when the weather persons stop putting the next rain off for at least another forty-eight hours AND THE WET STUFF POURS FROM THE SKY.‡
* * *
* There I go again, being a good Christian.
** And hate watering their 1,000,000,000 pot plants. It’s almost enough to make me pave the frelling garden over. Not quite. Besides, if I had a garden-sized patio I’d just HAVE MORE POTTED PLANTS.^
^ After all I have no front garden at the cottage, just brick steps and tarmac, AND IT’S COVERED WITH POT PLANTS.+
+ It’s also looking pretty fabulous if I do say so myself. My semi-detached neighbour, Phineas, said to me a day or two ago that he loves walking up the little hill past my house to his because he is ENGULFED in the smell of my flowers. ::Beams:: That’s mostly the sweet peas. I invariably buy the ones described as having the strongest scent.
† Especially anyone having an unusually severe ME attack. That BathBot sealant has absolutely done me in.^
^ And of course the hellhounds aren’t eating. Of course. I’m not eating very well, myself, but I’m eating, because I know I need food like landscape needs rain. It’s true that your moral imperative quavers a little about tamping food down your hellhounds’ throats when you’re having to do something very similar to yourself, but. I’d retweeted something a day or two ago, someone howling at the idiocy of some of the anti-food rhetoric in certain women’s magazines, that FOOD IS NECESSARY TO SURVIVE and I’d added that yes, I’d been thinking about this in the post-flu doldrums of having to force myself to eat. Someone tweeted, did this make me more sympathetic about the hellhounds? Basically . . . no. They’re forcing me to take responsibility for keeping them alive.+ If it were emergency four-hourly dosings and blood transfusions and things, okay, yes, of course. But this is just bad mental/physical wiring and stupidity and obstinacy and I’m sick to, you should forgive the term, death of it.++
They tend to get all apologetic when they won’t eat. They flatten their ears and look at me mournfully.+++ That and £3 will buy me a cup of coffee, guys. And I don’t drink coffee.
+ The vet said, they don’t usually quite starve themselves to death. I’m sure usually dogs don’t. But these are food-indifferent sighthounds with something already wrong with their digestive functions, I know what happens if they don’t eat for twenty four hours and I don’t want to go there.
++ Also I’m coming out of it now, but it was interesting for about five days trying to figure out what I could feed myself that I would actually EAT. If you really really really don’t want to eat something, your throat closes and if you try to swallow it anyway you’ll gag. It was like arguing with a two year old in a tantrum. Well, will you eat A—? No. Well, will you eat B—? No. C? No. D? No. Well, what WILL you eat? I DON’T WANT TO EAT ANYTHING! WAAAAAAAAAH! And, you know, vegetables? I who am about 80% rabbit, only taller and with a nastier temper? Bleeeeeaugh.
I lost weight. I didn’t like losing weight. I’m thin enough, and at my age you lose weight you get haggard, and the sympathy you attract isn’t the good kind because you’re too old to get haggard interestingly. Also, post-flu and with the ME lying on me like a very, very, very, very, very large hellterror~ and as a person of relatively advanced years I need not only calories I need good calories. Arrrgh.
~ Hellhounds lie much more delicately. The fact they weigh—speaking of weight—a third again as much as she does, each, is utterly beside the point.
++ And then a little while later they get all jolly and want to prance around and play. That’s the fresh calories coursing through your systems, you morons.
†† This usually involves ferocious growling for some reason. If you check on her just to make sure nothing is troubling her she won’t stop growling, but the tail starts going lickety split.
††† And the hellterror is maniacally willing—nay, eager—for lap time even in this weather. After she’s hucklebutted, destroyed a few toys, pestered Peter, rolled around on her back and growled, been yelled at a few times for garbage/sofa/hellhound misbehaviour, she starts trying to climb into my lap. She can just about do it too, with those pogo-stick legs. First time I thought she was kidding, so I fished her up, draped her over my legs, and waited for her to get down again. Wrong. Half an hour later she was dead asleep and I was sweating.
Hellhounds and I still lie on the sofa together. But we leave gaps for air circulation.
‡ At which point we will find out if hellterrors can generalise from somewhat better behaviour mostly on account of the heat to somewhat better behaviour learnt while the heat was helping press home the lesson.^
^ I am of course naively assuming this welcome rain will be the kind of extra-welcome rain that drags the temperature down drastically as well as watering your garden.
Before I went down with this lurgy I had booked Peter’s BathBot** for delivery and installation this past week. This meant lying on the floor*** festooned with hellhounds for an hour last Monday† waiting for this large heavy box†† to arrive.
Friday was installation day. I had a booking slot for noon to two. I was beginning to feel a little bit alive again by Friday, so having chased the hellterror around the churchyard and locked her up with a fresh chew toy the hellhounds and I went up to Third House where I re-embarked on that tired old house-move cliché of attempting to get too many books on too few shelves. †††
It occurred to me that time was passing in a lacking-installer kind of way.
At quarter to two I rang customer service‡ and said, um, I had a date with a toolkit and a drill for noon to two and neither hide, hair nor drill-bit had I seen thus far? Ooooh? she said. She took my post code and said she’d ring the engineer and get back to me.
At quarter past two I rang again‡‡ and this time, when some other woman took my post code she said, ooooh, there’s a message for you. The message said: the engineer has been delayed and will be with you at THREE THIRTY.
First I checked that they did, in fact, have Pooka’s correct number—Pooka, who had been lying open on the table for the last two and three quarters hours‡‡‡ so I would be ABSOLUTELY SURE to hear any incoming calls§. Yes. They read it back to me faultlessly. THEN WHY DIDN’T SOMEONE TELL ME THE ENGINEER WAS DELAYED? I said, thinking of the poor hellterror back at the cottage wondering where the rest of her hurtle (not to mention lunch) was. I MIGHT HAVE ONE OR TWO OTHER THINGS I NEED TO DO TODAY. ASIDE FROM THE SHEER INFURIATINGNESS OF HANGING AROUND WAITING FOR SOMEONE WHO DOESN’T ARRIVE.
Do you want to reschedule? said the woman in a placatory manner.
NO, I said, I WANT TO GET THIS OVER WITH. BUT WOULD YOU PLEASE PASS IT ON TO ADMIN THAT YOU SHOULD TELL PEOPLE WHEN THEIR ENGINEERS ARE DELAYED? I AM, AT THE MOMENT, FEELING EXTREMELY CROSS. I’m sure she would never have guessed.
So I sprinted back to the cottage§§, pelted Pav around a bit§§§, hauled everyone down to the mews, produced lunch in which only Pav was interested, and the hellhounds and I were just about to leap into Wolfgang and return to Third House when Pooka started barking AND IT WAS THE ENGINEER WHO WAS TEN MINUTES EARLY.
He viewed me a little warily, I think, but I wanted the frelling BathBot installed, didn’t I? So I was as glacially polite as possible in this weather. And then I went back to my books on shelves and he got on.#
He was there over two hours## and I was feeling rougher and rougher, but I put it down to FURY, lack of lunch, and trying to keep any of the discarded books on the discarded pile.### And then he called me in to see what he’d done~ and as he said ‘the sealant will need a couple of hours to settle’ the smell hit me and I felt dizzy, queasy—well, queasier—and my returning sore throat started to swell. FRELLING FRELLING FRELLING I’VE BEEN OFFGASSED. If I’d actually been able to smell it before I was in the same room with it I might have had the sense to open some windows. . . . ~~
So I’m back on the sofa again. Still. Forever. Not. I hope.
And I feel like rubbish.
* * *
* or fortnight
** Since I’m about to be rude I will give them a belated alias
*** There are a few chairs at Third House but nothing to lie on, and chairs have mostly not been my best trick recently.
† An hour. One hour. Let me tell you about the wonders of DPD. http://www.dpd.co.uk/index.jsp First you get an email from your seller, telling you that your parcel has been dispatched to DPD and what day it will arrive.^ And then on the day YOU WILL RECEIVE A TEXT WITH AT LEAST AN HOUR’S WARNING OF THE SINGLE HOUR YOU NEED TO WAIT IN FOR DELIVERY. I adore DPD.
^ This for ordinary shopping like, ahem, say, dog food, when you haven’t booked a delivery day, as well as hideously expensive one-offs like BathBots when you have.
†† I’m not going to touch it, I said to Mr Delivery Man with his handcart. You just plonk it down there, and thanks.
††† Episode 76. Episodes 77 through 1,003 to come.
‡ Which was pretty much an event of its own since their 800 number apparently bounces from local office to local office to local office till—at last!—it finds someone not on a coffee break^ who could actually bear to pick up a ringing telephone and every time it bounces to the next office first you hear that little jerk in the ringing tone AND THEN YOU GET THE SAME FRELLING FRELLING FRELLING ROBOT VOICE ABOUT HOW CALLS MAY BE RECORDED FOR TRAINING PURPOSES AND YOUR CALL IS IMPORTANT TO THEM FRELLING FRELLING FRELLING DOODAH FRELLING.
^ Not in a good mood here.
‡‡ Undergoing the same lively and engaging experience as last time.
‡‡‡ Because I’d got there early poor eager fool that I was, so I wouldn’t miss anything.
§ Absorbed as I might be in the books-on-shelves question. And its corollary, the I have here one hundred books and have space for fifty, therefore I must divest myself of fifty books conundrum. And the sub-corollary which says you will comb carefully through your hundred books and divest yourself of . . . three.
§§ Which is a really bad idea when you’re struggling with the end of flu and the familiar recidivist weight of the ME.
§§§ And aside from flu and ME the weather for the past week SUCKS DEAD BEARS. It is that gruesome hot-sticky-humid that makes you feel as if you had ME even if you don’t. We’ve had several nights of thunderstorms but all they provide is son et lumiere. There’ve been cloudbursts that wouldn’t fill a birdbath, and the water continues to hang in the air.
# Because the frelling Brits won’t allow ANYTHING ELECTRICAL in a bathroom you have to go through all these acrobatics any time you want . . . oh, a light switch installed, say, let alone a BathBot. So he looked at the ground and made some sensible suggestions and then let me decide—this was something he was good at, as opposed to the ‘keeping abreast of scheduling problems’ thing—and we now have wiring holes in the airing cupboard and some curious tech in a corner of the dining room. Feh.
## You can see how he could fall behind, because of having to fit everything but the Bot itself outside the bathroom and finding a remotely suitable location for this; I briefly wondered about putting some of it through to the attic but decided that was just too Cyberiad. We don’t give a lot of formal dinner parties anyway.
### The moment you turn your back, they hop back on the keepers pile. This is another well-known house-move phenomenon.
~ And to give the chronologically careless ratbag his due, he had done an extremely neat and well-disguised job in the dining room. The BathBot itself is the BathBot but it’s supposed to be, you know?
~~ In this weather it tends to be cooler inside than out so you don’t frivolously open windows.^
^ And while the well-being of the twit who stole six hours out of my day is perhaps not high on my list of priorities, and I’m prone to environmental allergies, which goes with the whole auto-immune ME-and-other-things spectrum, I do kind of wonder what breathing that stuff day after day is doing to him, however robust his constitution.
~~~ I know. KES. Some day.
I meant to write you a proper blog post tonight but the day has got away from me as days can do.* So I thought I’d finally post The Hellterror’s Morning Ritual. We all had a very itchy patch at the beginning of the spring. The three hellcritters ate holes in their fur, but it only really showed on the hellterror because of black overcoat, beige undercoat and pale pink skin: the hellhounds mostly match: steel-grey Darkness has black skin and fawn-coloured Chaos has pale skin. I had swollen ITCHY red eyes and I might well have chewed my eyelashes off if my face were configured for it. Everybody’s hair has mostly grown in again, but I almost miss the extravagance of the hellterror’s ritual when she really, really, really wants to scratch her back. Lately she’s more interested in whacking me with her long yellow rubber toy till I yield to the inevitable and play with her. But she doesn’t look moth eaten any more.
You have dogs because they make you laugh.
* * *
* This includes that Penelope and I went to a big National Trust garden over Ditherington direction this afternoon and sat in the sun and totally vagued out the way denizens of the British Isles may very well because . . . sunlight!?!^
^ Also because most of Main Street in New Arcadia has been dug up and is in heaps placed for maximum inconvenience plus scaffolding+ and temporary stoplights with boa-constrictor sized cables running everywhere and GETTING ANYWHERE takes about 1,000,000 times longer than usual. In fact, I’m still in a frelling queue.
+ The scaffolding is up near me and isn’t the town unplanners or anything civic. The Big House on the Corner belongs to We Are Wealthier Than God#, You Are Peons and We Don’t Care, and they put scaffolding up at least once a year when buying and selling small countries palls and they want to make their presence felt closer to home. Then they hang workpersons all over the scaffolding in decorative patterns. Who eat sandwiches and chat and sometimes they sit on the planks dangling their feet. And six weeks or six months later they take the scaffolding down again.
# I don’t think God does money, does he/she/they?