March 28, 2014

Shadows is here!

Regular Forum Day


I should declare a dedicated Regular Forum Day.  I read the comments and think oh, yes, I want to answer that . . . and then I get distracted and the comments I particularly want to answer pile up and pile up and then I can’t find the ones I was thinking about and I fuss about this one or that one which would overlap with what I wanted to say about this other one if I could find it/them and then I stress about the ones I miss out, especially the interesting and amusing ones that I meant to get back to but they didn’t fit with the hare I was pursuing right now and then of course I LOSE THEM . . . .

No, I’m not safe to cross the street alone.*


Or – when the power is out – [smoke alarms] chirp despairingly** at you. Which I figured meant the back up battery was dead. I had presumed that the battery was what they ran on. Turns out that ours must be wired in. And no, the spare, little square battery wasn’t there. Must have used the spare last time.

At the old house we had this diabolical system where whatever you did . . . was wrong.  They were (apparently) BOTH wired in and had batteries, like yours.  There was the additional factor at the old house however that it was LARGE.  You could wander for days through the winding corridors and up and down stairs looking for the particular smoke alarm piping forlornly.  And if it started at two/five a.m., forget it.  Put a pillow over your head.  Put several pillows over your head.  Oxygen shortage will make your heart thud in your ears louder than the frelling smoke alarm.

Although for hysterical-making LOUDNESS, any of you have back-up batteries for your desktop computers?  So if the power goes out you have a few minutes to save and shut down?  I have never heard anything so loud in my entire life as that thing.  An entire chorus line of Wagnerian sopranos couldn’t make so much noise (HOJOTOHO HEIAHA-HA!!!!!!  etc).  AND IT’S A MAJOR RATBAG TO TURN OFF.  MAAAAAAAJOR.  It’s hammering you with that noise and you CAN’T THINK what you did last time to make it stoooooop—no, you can’t think, THAT’S ALL.  YOU CAN’T THINK.  I don’t believe the power has ever gone off while the desktop was on so I haven’t tested the likelihood that I’m incapable of focussing through the cacophony to save and close down which kind of destroys the point, doesn’t it?  The wretched thing is now years and years old so maybe I could replace it.***  No, better not, my even more ancient desktop, which at present is bizarrely rather reliable†, would probably pine.


Your luck is rubbing off–my oven gave up the ghost this morning–sigh.

Oh dear.  Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world . . . Whimper.  Please may my Aga go on working.  Did I tell you that my central heating packed in several weeks . . . um . . . quite a few weeks ago?  Since I spend most of my time crouched by the Aga downstairs it’s not crucial although I should perhaps get it mended in time for next winter, just in case it’s more like winter and less like spring in a rainforest.  But these last two nights when we’ve had frost I do kind of pelt downstairs in a hurry to get dressed by the Aga.  In lots of hairy, fluffy layers.††


I’ll see you a peacefully chirping smoke alarm in need of a battery and raise you a screaming (yes, the dragons reference is accurate) carbon monoxide sensor… which is a plug-in… and the power goes off… and it screams… and you eventually stash it in the garage, under something large, until your husband can come home and eviscerate it temporarily but thoroughly. Or until the power comes back on. Which ever is first.

So at least it’s portable?  My frelling computer back up battery weighs more than a hellterror.  Probably more than a fat hellterror.  Not to mention that little ‘not making your neighbours hate you’ thing.  I have at least one fairly scary neighbour—Phineas, Atlas and I tend to hide when we see her coming.

Carbon monoxide?  Is this something to do with your furnace/boiler?  As I recall when I was still in Maine they were starting to have screaming radon alarms.  I had no need for one, since I had entire weather systems tooling around through my charming, but aged and leaky little house.  Since it sat on granite and had two one-and-a-half storey granite boulders in the back yard I’m sure there was radon around, but it didn’t settle in and get comfy.

Diane in MN

Pooka continues to refuse to pick up the internet when we’re away from our home wifi. I can have all the little ‘signal’ bars that there’s frelling room for dancing the fandango and singing ‘I feel pretty’ and Safari just sits there saying ‘Nope.

. . . is it supposed to connect automatically to any network anywhere? Or do you have to tell it to locate all available networks, then specify which one to use? . . . Another possibility is that the bars you see are for a wifi network that’s password protected, and if you don’t have the password, you’re toast.

No, this seems to be pretty genuinely a FAULT.  The bars are to do with the automatic if-the-default-wifi-is-not-available alternate system.  Raphael has come and wrestled with it twice and all the ‘settings’ say the right things, they just don’t do what they’re told.  Tech.  Arrrgh.  Speaking of default:  tech = arrrrrrgh.  The problem I see slowly and relentlessly coming into focus is that everything except, for the moment, my elderly desktop, is getting increasingly unreliable:  Pooka, Astarte, the laptop.  I can’t replace all of them.  I wish they’d get together and offload all the nonsense on one piece of kit.  But that would be much too easy.

It was the kind of meeting where your fearless leader decides that you should start with something that makes you talk to each other. [ . . . ] The first thing on the list was: ‘knits’.

I’m not a big fan of these exercises, and if this is typical of the list, I wouldn’t be too optimistic about this one. Just as an example, I’ve found that “I knit” might generate a comment or a question, but will only start a conversation with another knitter.

I pretty much detest all pointless social flimflam.  Either let’s do something or let’s go home.  If I’d gone into the kind of career that started developing Team Bonding Seminars and Group Hug Retreats—which were rare when I was a young thing and I’ve watched proliferate alarmingly as I pursue my cranky, fortunately solo way through life—I think I might have had to change careers.  Or, possibly, had them changed out from under me when I failed the Group Hug Weekend.  In this particular instance, however, the list was long enough you didn’t have time for a conversation, you were busy tracking down the next thing on your list.  Anybody who plays a musical instrument/ knits/ likes Marmite/ would like either to DO SOMETHING or go home, please wave your hand.  I, of course, being able to get stuff wrong even when I’m not trying to get stuff wrong managed to strike up a conversation with the wrong people and had to be chivvied back into the central melee.   Sigh.


I think this little fire-movie from Norway is quite funny.

 The geeky person starts by saying “In the beginning it felt really strange. I didn’t understand – why did they want me in their home, when they didn’t respect me at all…?”

::falls down laughing::  Yes.  And while it’s more or less clear in context I’m grateful for the translation.


I did the fire marshall training at my work. It was very entertaining. How often, these days, do you get to let off a fire extinguisher ON PURPOSE?


 Among the other gems that stick in my mind, I remember the trainer saying that he changed the batteries on all his smoke alarms every Christmas. Presents, Queen’s speech, change the batteries. He said that way you remember to do it. He acknowledged that some people might want to do it on their birthday instead.

Oh, feh.  That battery had lasted SEVERAL YEARS.  I’m supposed to WASTE SEVERAL YEARS of battery?  I suppose I could buy a five-year diary for batteries  . . . um, no, I don’t think so.  Although I did write down, and put in Wolfgang’s glovebox, when I was obliged to buy him a new battery two (!) years ago.  So I’d know.   Hmm.  Actually I could put ‘Mar 14’ on a sticky label and tack it to the smoke alarm. . . .  maybe that’s too obvious. . . .



 Grrrr. My husband wants us to continue to have a land line, so we have a phone/answering machine plugged into it. I work from home and no longer answer the land line (anyone I actually want to talk to calls the mobile), and so I wanted to turn the ringer off so I’m not disturbed every time someone calls wanting to sell me something or ask me to donate money to their cause.

Yes.  I am continuing to fail, speaking of failing, to get my act together to finish the process of renting Third House, and one of the obstacles I keep swerving away from is spending the several hundred pounds to force BT to put a landline in, since there isn’t one in this centre-of-town, eighty-year-old house with the phone jack in the kitchen.  Do I have to have a landline?  Unfortunately rental agencies are still kind of traditional about this.

 There is no “ringer off” button on our machine. Or on either handset.

 I think we figured out that for ours, at least, we can silence the ring on the handset but it took some digging and poking in the menus (and I’m usually good at figuring this stuff out).

Well I feel better that the insanity is general.  I am NOT usually good at figuring this stuff out . . . but eventually I managed to find the very small print in the handbook that SAYS you can’t turn the ring off the portable handset.  It does not, however, tell you why.

* * *

* Fortunately I rarely am crossing the street alone.  Usually I am accompanied by hellcritters.

** Just by the way I am interested that Australian smoke alarms make the same dying-battery noises as British smoke alarms.

*** First I have to buy a washing machine.  I’m still whining and wincing.  I need to get on with it though.  The extra-years’ guarantee deal is only till the end of the month.  Not to mention that Peter is threatening to divorce me if I don’t get my stuff out of his washing machine.

† No, no!  I didn’t say that!  Never use the “r” word about computers, it makes them nasty!

†† No, the hellcritters come after the dressing.  Although some of the hairy-and-fluffy kind of migrates.

My debut


I can’t remember if I told the blog that I’d been blowing off my mouth to Aloysius six weeks or so ago, after the gratuitous extra-fancy swearing-in of my intake of Street Pastors last January, with the forty-seven bishops and a miracle or two*, and which Aloysius and Alfrick had attended.  Given the forty-seven bishops and various other bits of high-churchery I was startled by the music, which was the Modern Christian Whatsit we sing at St Margaret’s and which drives me to despair.**

But I sang it, because singing is better than not singing.  And what I noticed—and what I imprudently said to Aloysius—is that while it used to be that when I was in a mob and wanted to feel that I was contributing, I dropped down to chest voice and BELLOWED . . .  now, after getting on for three years of Nadia’s elegant mercilessness, I make just as much noise in head voice and I suspect it’s more penetrating.***  And Aloysius responded promptly that if I ever felt like singing with the band† I would be more than welcome.

Hmmmmmm . . .

It had occurred to me some time ago that the only way I could, you know, validly try to have some effect on the music at St Margaret’s evening service is to become one of the people who produce it.  So I didn’t laugh like a drain or whap Aloysius up longside the head.  Or run away.  I said, Ah.  Er.  What an interesting idea.

And he said, If you want to give it a shot, I suggest you try it the next time I’m in charge.

Okay, I said.

. . . Which was last night.  AAAAAAAAAUGH.

Where do I BEGIN?  For example  . . . they don’t even much have sheet music.  It doesn’t actually seem to exist for a lot of this Modern Christian doodah??  It is no longer assumed that makers of music can, and might possibly want to, read the line they’re supposed to be performing?  Or possibly take it home and nervously pick it out on the piano first?  What?  And at St Margaret’s, for example, the regular keyboardist†† doesn’t read music—he plays by frelling ear.†††  Buckminster doesn’t read music either—he has a chord sheet, as does the church office guru who I think usually plays bass.  There’s a rota, and Samantha, who is a volunteer,‡ organizes folders of music for all the regulars, in whatever form the recipient of the folder prefers—so Aloysius gets sheet music (when it’s available) and Buckminster gets chord sheets.  Ugly, I think, just gets a playlist and maybe lyric sheets, although the lyrics are also computer-projected on the walls.  Samantha was a trifle startled by my vehemence on the subject of sheet music. . . .

Apparently you only get your playlist a few days before you go on.  GORBLIMEY GUYS.  THIS IS HARD ON A NEWBIE.  Aloysius emailed ours out on Thursday in the form of a title list and some YouTube links . . . and there went any possibility of my practising Italian art songs or German lieder for the rest of the week, while I got a lot of knitting done listening, relistening, and re-re-relistening to YouTube, whilst simultaneously moaning and chewing on the furniture.‡‡  St Margaret’s spends quite a lot of the evening service singing, so there were a lot of YouTube links.  Long YouTube links.  Fortunately about three of the songs are half familiar from regular evening-service use but the one that I’d never heard before in my in-hindsight-privileged ‡‡‡ life also had the worst performance, the one that made me want to stick my knitting needles through my monitor.§  The lead singer was having oral sex with her microphone, the massed electronic instrumentation was making drooly Technicolor-sunset noises which made me feel I was being hammered to death with fluffy bunnies and there was some escapee from the Swan Lake chorus line gambolling at the front of the stage WHAT IS THISALSO, WHY.  —I failed to learn this one.  I failed to go on trying to learn this one because I don’t really want to buy a new laptop just now.

But I put my time in on the others.  God help me, God, you got me into this.  And I’m supposed to trust in him, right?  Old habits die hard.  Because I am a hopeless wet dweeb I didn’t sleep very well Saturday night because I was going to have to sing from the wrong side of the microphone the next evening.  And . . .


* * *

* I could have sworn I had, because I remember remarking on the plentifulness of bishops, but I can’t find it in the archive.  It’s probably in a footnote somewhere.

** Alfrick, given the setting, hadn’t been expecting it either, and commented drily that it was out of his comfort zone.  I thought of the antiphonal chanting—and the little square tail-free notes of the music—at the abbey and tried not to laugh.  Or possibly cry.

*** I do not say this is a good thing.  I merely make note of it.

† Sic.  It’s not a choir;  the instrumentalists usually outnumber the singers, and said instrumentalists include the vicar on guitar or bass, the curate on guitar—he’s got more than one guitar, I don’t think I’ve ever seen him play bass, but he has at least once played ukulele—and various admin and ordinary congregation members on electric keyboard, drums and the occasional woodwind.

Sigh . . .

†† Who I’m about to name Ugly, because he doesn’t approve of singers—and we are, furthermore, not singers but mere backing singers—and has declared that there are never to be more than three of us cluttering up the stage.  THREE?  THREE?  That is nowhere near enough bodies to hide among when you’re one of them.  I had noticed that there weren’t very many, week to week, but I hadn’t caught on that there were EVER only three.  I’m going to start putting peanut butter on the keyboard when I know Ugly is playing.  Hmmph.

††† Another reason to LOATHE HIM, just by the way.^

^ No it does not count that he probably doesn’t have a clue how to write a novel.   Or that he’s kind to his mother, has adopted six stray dogs and has solar panelling all over his roof.

‡ The kind of volunteer without whom a lot of things like churches and underfunded charities would not be able to function:  dedicated, competent, intelligent, and mad.

‡‡ Not the knitting needles.  Never the knitting needles.  TOOTHMARKS ON MY PRECIOUS ASH AND ROSEWOOD KNITTING NEEDLES?  ARE YOU KIDDING?^

^ I might chew on bamboo needles if I were desperate.  Fortunately the current project is on ash, because Hey God You’re My Bestest Bud, which I describe below, might have driven me to intemperate behaviour with bamboo.

‡‡‡ Ignorance is bliss.

§ Which would be one way of deciding it was time for a new laptop.

§§ Sorry.  I have to go to bed.  Raphael is coming tomorrow to discuss why Outlook occasionally decides to send a crucial email to perdition instead of to me^ and various other variations on a theme of technological havoc and I may be looking at a new laptop after all.  I need to be well rested for the conflict.

^ Maybe the hellgoddess shtick confuses its tiny solid state unmind?

Rain. How unusual.


Hellhounds and I took a turn by Soggy Bottom today to see how it’s, um, flowing . . . and the personhole covers over the storm drains have been shoved off by the pressure of the water driving up through the inadequate apertures.  It’s almost as good as a play, or it would be if we didn’t live here:  the little round-headed jets of water boiling up through the holes, and this great wave sluicing out through the gap where the personhole cover has lost its place.  Three of these rush together with the naked overflow from the ditch and, well, hurtle down Soggy Bottom toward the raging torrent that used to be a ford over a quiet little Hampshire stream that the locals call a river.  If I’d been in wellies rather than All Stars* I might have been tempted to leave hellhounds dry-footed in Wolfgang and slosh down in that direction and see how far I could get.  The lake by the Gormless Pettifogger is deep enough that the person approaching as Wolfgang and I paddlewheeled through stopped, apparently aghast, at his shoreline . . . and turned around.  Oh, come on, it’s not like you’re driving a Ferrari with zero-point-four inches clearance.**

It rained today.  Of course.  It’s Tuesday.  It rained yesterday.  Of course.  It was Monday.***  It’s going to rain tomorrow.  Of course.  It’s Wednesday.


* * *

* Well I wouldn’t be in wellies rather than All Stars but I used to have a spare pair of (ordinary black^) wellies that lived in the, ahem, boot.  It occurs to me to wonder what I’ve done with them.  Maybe I’ve just forgotten giving them to the itinerant mage in exchange for . . . for . . . well, I certainly didn’t trade them for a rain stopping charm.

^ From the days when you could only get black or child-of-the-earth green wellies

** I saw an SUV—the kind you need a stepladder to get into—turn around at the edge of a large puddle some time recently.  I laughed so much I nearly ran off the road.^

^ She’d probably heard the rumours that giant squid from the centre of the earth were using southern England’s floods to lurk in wait for their favourite snack, SUVs.  No, no!  Relax!  It’s a ridiculous rumour put about by people who don’t have anything better to do than retweet silly urban myt—SLURP.

*** Monday had even less to recommend it than the rain.  I got to Nadia’s and discovered she wasn’t teaching this week either.  ::Sobs::  I wrote it down wrong in my diary;  I knew she wasn’t teaching last Monday, but this Monday I thought if I didn’t hear it meant she was, when it was if I didn’t hear she wasn’t.

Fortunately I had hellhounds with me so throwing myself off a cliff^ wasn’t a good plan because neither of them can drive Wolfgang to get themselves home.^^  So we went to the farm supply shop and bought compost and fertilizer^^^.  I was wearing singing-lesson-day clothes, not going-to-the-farm-store-in-the-rain-day clothes#.  I considered asking one of the stalwart young men to heave the nasty bags around for me but while, generally speaking, I’ve got over the extreme feminism of my youth when asking a bloke for help was SELF BETRAYAL##, I still occasionally get all tough/stupid  virago with bare-able teeth and (metaphorically) bulging muscles.  I slung the frelling bags myself.  And while I managed to keep my cute little cropped cardi safe, my jeans were goners.

And then I destroyed another pair of jeans today, getting the blasted bags up the stairs### to the greenhouse ARRRRRRRGH.  This shouldn’t happen at home.  I have a lovely pair of gardener’s chaps, which snap over your belt and around your legs and heroically repel mud (and thorns).  But in one of the monsoons of the last few months, when the rain was not only coming in sideways but from a funny direction, EVERYTHING IN THE GREENHOUSE GOT SOAKED.  Which I didn’t realise till later.  I’m still unearthing little quagmires in corners arrrrrrgh.  The chaps are still drying out.  I think they’re resuscitate-able.  Please.  I have no idea where I bought them and google is not forthcoming.

^ Which are in short supply in most of south-central England.  At the old house when circumstances conspired I used to threaten to drown myself in the pond, of which we had two, and both Peter and Third House have ponds here.  But somehow drama-queen drowning doesn’t hold the appeal it does when not drowning is a daily goal and preoccupation.+

+ Dentist from R’lyeh has been driven out of his large glamorous multi-storey office by floodwater.  I’m not laughing ::mrmph:: really I’m not ::MRRRMMFFFF::  Being from R’lyeh and all you’d think he’d be fine with a spot of drowning, wouldn’t you?

^^ They like the central heating+ and the soft bed out of the rain.  THE FOOD DOESN’T INTEREST THEM AT ALL.

+ Or the Aga

^^^ Which is to say cow crap.  Organic cow crap.  I prefer it to chicken—which is the other common commercially-available one+—because it smells less.  I admit I don’t know how the plants feel about it.  They’d probably say they were missing an essential element without the pong.  Like dogs adore tripe.  TOO BAD.  I don’t know how long I can go on with Pav’s dried pigs’ ears either.  She doesn’t eat them fast enough.

+ When I had a horse we made our own critter-crap fertilizer and it was lovely.

# I have enough trouble fighting with my wardrobe every morning.  I get dressed once.  I do not change for anything less than serious festivities that include Taittinger’s or the Widow, and not merely Prosecco.

## I don’t entirely fault my young self for this attitude.  Back in the early 1800s or whenever it was I was young, blokes offering, or responding to requests for help tended to do it with a gloss of patronage.+  Men have died for less.  I would know.

+ Not that this doesn’t happen now.  But either it happens less, or I hang out with a better class of bloke than I used to.

### The only young man who lives on my cul de sac is slenderer and more willowy than I am and so far as I can tell he doesn’t do the adrenaline-rage thing that enables slender willowy people to do things they can’t.  I wouldn’t be so unkind as to ask him to help me with large muddy bags of compost and other even less salubrious substances.



It’s raining.  Whiiiiiiine.  It held off long enough this morning that I managed to hurtle everyone, including myself of course, extra hard, against the forecasted likelihood that by afternoon we’d need water wings.  Or a helicopter.  And, those being the choices* would elect to remain indoors.  Hellhounds are major wusses about rain** so I took them out first***.  It was beginning to leak increasingly by the time the hellterror and I were on our way out but she’s, you know, a dog, and she shakes herself and gets on with it rather than turning hopeless and pitiful.†  Although hopeless and pitiful is to be preferred when you get home again and are trying to towel off a whirling dervish.

I’m trying to remember the last time we had a proper country hurtle.  We skirt the town perimeter occasionally but real countryside is all eyebrow-deep in mud and washing everything you’re wearing again gets old very quickly as well as reusing already muddy critter towels because you’ve only got 1,000,000 and they’re all wet, including the recently-washed ones steaming off as fast as possible on the plug-in heated-airer rails.††  And there’s no amelioration to needing several raincoats which you wear in rotation, to give them a chance to dry out.  Not to mention the permanent aroma of wet hellcritter. †††

Sigh.  And to add to the joy of the assembled the hellterror, as previously observed, is in season.  The last few days I’ve been determinedly getting her out for an extra walk(s) so I can have the excuse of keeping her locked up in her crate more indoors.  I know the smell of lurrrrrve is pervasive but the hellhounds seem to cope reasonably well so long as she’s not, you know, swinging her booty in the immediate vicinity—which she does whether she’s in season or not.  Aside from longer crate hours she’s not having a good time, poor thing, she throws herself around like that swollen thing sticking out behind her is uncomfortable, which it probably is and FORTUNATELY she and the hellhounds don’t seem to have any clue that together they possess an answer to this situation.  Mind you, I’m patrolling the bzzrgrmph out of any time they’re loose together, so they do not have the opportunity to experiment.  The kitchen floor at the cottage is never so clean as when there’s a dripping hellterror occupant:  she’s worst in the morning, for some reason, maybe just because overnight is her longest stretch shut up.  But she also doesn’t understand why I don’t seem to want her in my lap at the moment—you can see the thought bubble:  All This And No Lap??—so we have sacrificed a clean dry towel toward rectifying this sad situation.  Now an ex-clean towel.‡

We’re going to a concert‡‡ tomorrow night when I usually go to my monks, so I went to the evening prayer service tonight.  There is water everywhere.  When it started chucking it down again after B_twin left we were back to standing water that made the landscape dazzle when the sun managed to come out for a quarter hour or so.  By now we’ve got above-ground water torrenting down the roads and drowning the pedestrian pavements.  I was thinking as I sloshed after the hellhounds this evening on a brief pee run that I’m going to have to start wearing my hiking boots in town:  the water sluicing over the pavements is higher than the rubber edges of my All Stars.

With the rain pouring off my leather jacket as well as my umbrella I met Alfrick on my way into the abbey—trying to shake off the worst on the mat by the door before I left trailing-wet footprints down the corridor—who raised his eyebrows and said, Where did you park the ark?

On the way home again the long queue of traffic on the 60-mph bypass was going 35, because of the amount of water on the road.  And I haven’t even told you about how the main road into New Arcadia has been dug up by the water company, and we all have to take the back way which involves sliding off the hardtop into the sticky trough that is what the shoulder has become, every time you meet a car coming in the other direction. . . .

* * *

* And helicopters are expensive

** I’ve never decided if they hate their raincoats because they hate their raincoats or because they only ever wear them when it’s, you know, raining.  And I, as Putter On of Hated Raincoats, am doomed either way.  Nor have I ever managed to convince them that the hellgoddess’ remit does not include the weather.^  Today I decided to cut my losses and not put raincoats on.

^ Hellgoddess:  Guys . . . you really think THIS is the weather I would conjure if I could conjure weather?  COLD?  WET?  HORRIBLE?

Hellhounds:  Well, you make us eat.


Hellhounds:  ::blank innocent looks::

*** They came with us to the farmers’ market and had a wonderful time moseying through the back streets with me while Peter negotiated with vendors for emeralds from Samarkand and so on.  But when we got home and I took them out again immediately you could see them giving each other the hairy eyeball and wondering what my problem was.

† Hellgoddess:  Guys.  You won’t melt.  I promise.

Hellhounds [faintly]:  Oh you can’t possibly be sure.  [Hellhound delicately raises paw.  Delicately raises second paw.  Attempts delicately to raise third paw.  Other hellhound is trying to hide under a hedgerow.]  This is particularly . . . penetrating rain.

Hellgoddess:  It’s been seven years.  You haven’t melted yet.

Hellhounds turn two pairs of huge golden eyes^ reproachfully on their goddess:  Today is today.  The last seven years have been the last seven years. 

^ Dark They Were and Golden Eyed.  If hellhounds are part Martian it could explain a lot.

†† I might almost be thinking about a proper electric tumble dryer if I had anywhere to put it.

††† I actually rather like the smell of clean wet dog.  Just not all the time.

‡ Which I have to keep folded up and out of hellhound reach.  LIFE AND PROCREATION ARE SO RATBLASTED GRUBBY.

‡‡ That is Peter and Nina and Ignatius and I, not the hellpack and I.

Florence Foster Jenkins lives



Interested to hear how the recording went.

AAAAAAAAAUGH.  AAAAAAAAAAAUGH.  Anybody not know who Florence Foster Jenkins is?*  If you are so fortunate, allow me to ruin your evening/ morning/ afternoon/ life.  Go google her and come back.  I can wait.

You now know everything you need to know about my singing.**  ::Bangs head against wall::***  Nadia did warn me last week, when I took the recording doohickey in for the first time, that recent events were audibly weighing on my voice and if I was going to record and listen to the recording, to try not to be discouraged. . . . †


Nadia has also said that contrary to apparent reality, tuning is not my problem and that it’ll come right when the rest of it comes right—like not cranking your horse’s head in to get him/her on the bit.  Concentrate on getting your seat and legs right and the front end will sort itself out.  So my musical seat and legs equivalent still need a lot of work.††

When I wrote the blog entry for last night I hadn’t played this week’s lesson back yet.  I had listened to last week’s recording before this week’s lesson and had more or less managed to absorb the punishing truth, which is that I sang more flat notes than accurate ones but that was last week.  This week I went in prepared to lighten up a little††† so that my voice wouldn’t keep breaking its fingernails trying to hoick itself up over the edge of the right note.

Well.  I may have thought I was prepared.  HOW DOES NADIA STAND IT?  WHY DON’T I JUST TAKE UP KNITTING? ‡


Speaking of erratic leaps forward… they don’t really happen for everyone who slogs, you know.

I imagined it.  I take it all back.‡‡

The teacher has to be good

That I have in full measure.  Have I mentioned lately that Nadia walks on water?‡‡‡

& the student has to be honestly trying to change things, not just putting in hours . . .

Dunno.  We may have a slight semantic difference in the definition of slog.  Slog as in dragging aggrieved hellhounds through hip-deep mud, well, no, this does not improve with practise.§  Slog as in loyally doing your grindlefarbing vocal ratblasted exercises and learning, so you thought, the notes to your new song . . . yeah.  I think that catches up with you eventually.  Sometimes it’s more catchy and sometimes it’s more eventually. . . .

Although thank you for being supportive.

I’ve met plenty of—well, let’s call them musicians for lack of a better term—who’ve been stuck in the same place for years. They’ve essentially hit a musical wall, either through bad teaching, no teaching, or pig-headedly not listening to advice.

Yes, like bell ringers who don’t want to learn anything past call changes, or maybe trebling.  They’re not going to learn methods and you can’t make them.§§

That you’re getting More Voice (and I’d lay money that people besides you & Nadia can hear the difference)

Yep.  They can, poor things.  I’m LOUDER.  I’m seriously louder.  I’m not loud like Nadia or Joyce DiDonato is loud but I’m loud compared to the average congregation member at the annual carol service.  Siiiiiiigh.

is credit both to Nadia’s excellent teaching and to your own engagement with the process.

Oh, engagement, schmengagement.  Yes, I love singing, but then . . . so did Florence Foster Jenkins.  The thing that I was leading up to last night—before I heard this week’s lesson playback§§§—is that I’ve been formally invited to join the ‘band’ for the evening service at St Margaret’s.  You know, singing.


* * *

* I’ve mentioned her here before but you may not have been paying attention.

** Except I haven’t learnt the notorious Queen of the Night aria yet.^

^ Ha ha ha.

*** This will doubtless have an enormous positive effect on my singing.  Doubtless.

† Of course it’s possible that Little Recording Doohickey is possessed by demons.  Most of my tech is.^

^ Everyone’s favourite trick at the minute—that is desktop, laptop and iPad—is suddenly to go, This page cannot be displayed because you are not connected to the internet WHEN I’M CONNECTED JUST FINE ON THE OTHER OPEN TABS.

†† I was never much of a rider either.  Siiiiiiiiiiigh.

††† I’d brought a crowbar, you know.

‡ Oh . . . right.  And I don’t show any great talent for knitting, either.

‡‡ The leap forward anyway.  Possibly not the erratic.

‡‡‡ Which with the weather we’ve been having is a very useful skill.

§ Neither does the hellgoddess’ temper.

§§ This is a somewhat controversial and contentious subject in the ringing world.  I think if you enjoy ringing call changes, especially if your tower is short handed, which most towers are these days, and you don’t want to break your brain and insomniacify your nights with learning methods, you shouldn’t have to.  But at the same time I can’t imagine not wanting to go on, to try for the next level, and most of the people I’ve known—a limited group I admit—who have stopped with call changes have Other Issues, including being taught wrong.  Either wrong in an absolute sense or wrong for them.  The problem with difficult skills is that there’s also more than one way of learning them and bell ringing is volunteer and most towers are lucky to have anyone even relatively able and willing to take on the frequently discouraging and onerous^ task of teaching at all.  There’s also a controversial and contentious conversation going on about teaching ringing teachers and setting up some kind of system whereby a teacher has to pass some kind of competence standard . . . and if you’re asking me, it’s going to end in tears.

^ Because of the spectacular attrition rate.  Bringing a beginner on is a colossal investment of time and effort from the entire band, especially the teacher, and then they go and quit, usually at whatever point where it realio trulio dawns on them that ringing is a DIFFICULT SKILL and is going to require BRAIN and COMMITMENT.  I don’t blame people for deciding they’d rather stay home and shampoo the cat, but I wish they’d figure this out a little earlier in the training process.

§§§ All right, yes, I did sound better this week.  BUT I’M STILL HORRIBLY FLAT.  What I do notice, and I can’t decide if this is hopeful or even more frustrating, is that every now and then when I hit a note more or less like true and full . . . it’s not bad.  And it’s spectacularly not the thin sour noise I was making several years ago.  If all my notes sounded like that, which they do not, I could get into that goodish choir.  But I was saying last night that my new voice doesn’t feel old, it feels young?  My relationship with what I’m trying to sing is a whole lot like watching a newborn foal try to get up on those four spindly things stuck on the corners of its tiny squished-together body.  Now, this one goes here . . . WHOOPS.  Um.  Well, this one goes here . . . WHOOPS.  And so on.  I always used to think that whatever my shortcomings I could carry a tune, and . . . apparently I can’t any more.  And this feels like the result of having more voice.  Nadia even said as much—not on the subject of carrying a tune;  she’s tactful like that—that it’s like when you shift up from the 13 hand pony you actually outgrew a couple of years ago and you’re on a 15.3 hand thoroughbred and . . . WHOOPS.

Maybe I’ll figure it out.  Whimper.

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Whoever thinks of going to bed before twelve o'clock is a scoundrel. -- Samuel Johnson