I’m supposed to be at a concert. Right now.*
It was Mitsuko Uchida. Possibly my favourite living pianist.** AND THIS IS NOW THE SECOND TIME I’VE HAD TO BAIL ON A BOUGHT-AND-PAID-FOR TICKET TO HEAR HER. The first time was years ago—it may have even appeared in the blog as another very bad day—she was at the South Bank which is just a hop over the pedestrian bridge from Waterloo Station which is where trains from around here check in. And I can’t remember now who fell ill—Peter, me, or some hellhound or other, but somebody did. And I didn’t go. ARRRRRRRRRGH. Also, whimper. Tonight was going to be more or less the high point of my non-opera classical-music season. WHIMPER.
At least I didn’t have a late Sam duty tonight. Well, I wouldn’t have booked one for tonight, because I was going to a concert. However, I do have a Foibles of Transport story for you. I staggered out onto the street at 3 am or so recently, after one of those late Sam duties. You’re kind of on autopilot at that hour even if you are a late bird.*** Now when you turn a car on—I assume this is still true even of modern cars—every red light on the dashboard flames on and glares at you while the car checks itself over for presence of working chipmunks† and absence of cacodemons. And I hauled the brake off, let in the clutch and hit the road . . . because it took me a minute or two to realise THAT ONE OF THE RED LIGHTS HAD NOT TURNED ITSELF OFF BUT WAS IN FACT BLINKING IN A DETERMINED AND OMINOUS MANNER.
I pulled over to the side of the empty, deserted road. I got out my frelling manual. I did at least manage to find the weird little symbol in question, which told me Wolfgang needed coolant. What the frelling doodah is COOLANT? I mean, something that cools, but WHAT? Whatever it was, I didn’t have any in the boot or under the seat, and I was twenty minutes from home and tired. I climbed out of the car and felt Wolfgang’s bonnet. Cold. I managed to unhook the insanely uncooperative latch†† and had a look under the lid. Not that I have a clue what I’m looking at, but I’d probably recognise smoke.††† No smoke.
I thought about it. It was a cold night and a lot of the way home is downhill. I went home at a cautious 40mph and threw the clutch out when I could, and freewheeled, which may or may not have been a good thing, but we got here. And I felt up his bonnet again and he was still cold. So. Yaay. Tentative okayness.
Next morning I rang the garage.‡ And they said, oh, you need antifreeze. ANTIFREEZE? IS COOLANT? DOES NOT FRELLING COMPUTE. Don’t worry about it, said Paxton. Add some water and we’ll sort out the antifreeze the next time you’re in.
So I added water. And yes, I added it in the right place, witness that the little red flashing light went away.‡‡ Wolfgang has a lot to put up with, with me as his owner. Herb Robert in the windscreen wiper bed is only the beginning.
. . . It is now later. And it’s stopped snowing. Siiiiiiiiiigh . . . ‡‡‡
* * *
*Instead I’m mournfully eating broccoli in some really excellent goose stock. The hellmob and I finished the stripped-off meat a little while ago^ but since so far as I know you can reboil stock forever to keep evil bacteria at bay, I’ve been keeping it going. Only about half a serving left, sigh.^^
^ and the hellhounds, having been moved to some slight interest in food containing roast goose, have lapsed back into total apathy.
^^ But that’s okay! I have my first oxtail of the season percolating in the slow cooker! If you have to be a carnivore you might as well embrace it. I don’t really believe in New Year’s resolutions—it seems to me a set up, like the evil concept of ‘will power’, to beat yourself up with about your failure later on—but I have been thinking I am going to make ANOTHER ATTEMPT (a) to talk about other people’s books I have enjoyed more and (b) to use the resource that your forum comments are, by, um, er, like, responding to a few of them?!?!? Good grief, McKinley.
So I’ve been meaning for months now, because it dates back to the last days of trying inadvertently to kill myself by malnutrition, I mean, the last days of being vegan+, to say to whomever it was posted about this, I’ve never had a philosophical problem with meat eating. When I was a kid I ate what I was given++, and by the time I got old enough to think about making choices I’d been hanging out with people who bagged their deer or their moose every year because that was how their families got through the winter. Not everyone can afford enough supermarket food. I’ve tried being vegetarian three times now, for various complicated reasons including I like the airhead buzz it gives me, but it doesn’t suit me. And I’m not going to try it again unless I get an air mail letter from God, and it’s going to have to have bulletproof provenance.
+ People who do well as vegetarians or vegans, that’s great. But if you are really trying to do the meat-free thing and are being careful about your vitamins and your proteins and all that stuff, and you’re not doing well, remember that not everybody is built to live that way, okay? If for example your hair is falling out and your legs barely work any more . . . um. A steak or a large platter of chicken liver may be the answer.#
# And my hair is growing back in. At least somewhat. It has to grow in a little more before I find out how much there is.~ But meanwhile I am in a Permanent Bad Hair day and probably should not be allowed out in public. It is a symptom of how badly St Margaret’s needs singers that they let me on stage without a bag over my head.
~ Fingers crossed. I know I’m old and haggy and it doesn’t really matter, but I would really like to go on having hair. I feel you can be a much more interesting hag with hair.
++ Remember how old I am. Fast food hadn’t really been invented# when I was a kid, although we did have ‘family restaurants’, which by mostly being cheap and nasty were precursors to fast food. Microwaves weren’t even a fairy tale unless there was a tame dragon involved, or a fire witch. I mean, we didn’t invent microwaves, but someone invented a box that cooked food by microwave.##
# although McDonald’s was spreading insidiously like a virus.
## And I still won’t have one in my house. They seem like a spectacularly bad idea to me. I’m old and cranky. I’d consider a tame dragon though.
** Although Joanna MacGregor is close
*** Robins sing all night, you know.^
^ I was talking a friend recently about ways to deal with anxiety. With Turnip and Penis due into the White House any minute now us wet knee-jerk liberals are having palpitations and panic attacks. The conversation had been through hard drugs (no) and meditation and yoga (yes) and I said that something I found weirdly calming, dead easy, and always available is singing. Granted you have to be careful when you’re out in public+ but I find just singing under my breath works better than not. My friend said dubiously, well it’s probably different for you, you’re a trained singer.
::falls down laughing::
Okay, technically, yes, I am. I am a trained singer.
::falls down laughing some more::
+ Especially when you’re suffering from Permanent Bad Hair Day. I sing a lot when I’m out with the hellhounds#, and, you know, hag with hellhounds = nuts. Avoid. Mostly I do manage to keep an eye out and shut up when anyone comes in what is probably earshot. I missed today, and swung round a corner to see a woman I know slightly grinning from ear to ear, who said, Someone’s happy. Well, I wasn’t too bad this morning.## Before the snow started.
# Herself not so much. She needs more supervising. Not to say dominating.~
~ I AM THE HELLGODDESS. AND I FEED YOU. YOU MIGHT WANT TO REMEMBER THAT.
## At least I managed to shoot off to Mass at the abbey this morning since it’s going to be yaktrax only tomorrow morning. But I was still hoping the rough stuff wouldn’t settle in till after the concert. More whimpering.
† I’m not sure what small furry creatures they use over here to run the crucial machinery. Voles?
†† I’m sardonically a bit pleased that even proper garage persons have trouble with Wolfgang’s bonnet latch
††† We had the engine catch fire on the old car once. Belting down the M whatever at 70mph and suddenly there is black smoke billowing asphyxiatingly out of the front of your car. Garage person had failed to put the oil cap back on when they added oil. Oops.
‡ And rang and rang and rang AND RANG AND RANG. I was late to see Alfrick because I couldn’t go anywhere till someone told me what COOLANT is.
‡‡ And we bolted off to see Alfrick. Because I’d wasted so much time ringing the arglebargling garage the hellhounds hadn’t had a proper hurtle so I took them with me and afterward we had a fabulous hurtle in the dark under the biggest moon you ever saw. A snow moon, of course. Sigh.
‡‡‡ I have been nursing a small venal hope that perhaps the concert was cancelled, but apparently not. SIIIIIIIIIIIGH.
[This was supposed to go up last night, of course. Technology is so not my friend. And today has been complex.]
Wolfgang died.* Waaaaaaaaaaaah.
And it’s Saturday night, I can’t ring the garage till Monday.** I’m wild-eyed, hair-sticking-out terrified that it’s the kind of serious that means ‘not worth mending in a twenty year old car’. I DON’T WANT A NEW CAR. And that’s aside from my interesting cash flow problem, which is to say lack of flow. I own three blinging blanging doodah frelling houses, but keeping the hellmob and me fed*** is much more unpleasantly exciting than nourishing and jolly. I like my excitement in stories. I like food† just to be there.†† NEW CAR??? Not in this reality. So, okay, after last Tuesday I wouldn’t at all mind being transferred to some other reality. . . .
I finally got some sleep last night.††† I hadn’t had anything even close to resembling sleep since the beginning of the week—I’d had a late Sam shift and then I stayed up watching the returns ohGodohGodohGodohGod when the world as I thought I knew it ended Tuesday night. It’s very hard to sleep when the world is a suddenly stranger and scarier place—I’d never thought it was exactly safe, but I thought there were some limits—and there’s an evil asshole about to destroy the country of your birth.‡ Friday I even blew off handbells. Shock. Horror. I did go, but I fell apart at the tea break and spent the rest of the evening knitting.‡ And scowling.‡‡ Hey, there were four ringers without me, and major (eight) is a lot easier than royal (ten). I WAS DOING THEM A FAVOUR. Especially because Niall makes me ring inside.‡‡‡ So maybe it was the handbells that broke me. Whatever. I came home and slept.
And so managed to scrape myself out of bed in time to go to morning Mass. I had decided that God was just going to have to forgive me for a week I didn’t make it to morning Mass, if she wanted me at morning Mass she could have made Hillary win.§ The problem with Saturday morning Mass is that I will then turn around and hare back out to the abbey for the Saturday night prayer service with the half hour silent sit beforehand§§. Twice in a day and it’s like I can begin to discern tatty black robes swishing around my ankles.§§§ But Wolfgang and I toodled home after the night service, and I was feeling as mellow as I ever do, especially since last Tuesday, and I had just backed into our parking space and I was throwing the clutch out to roll forward a few inches so that I could still get at my bins and my garden shed and the clutch pedal shot into the floor and stayed there.
* * *
* It has so not been a good week.
** Okay, I could ring the garage. But no one would answer.
*** Especially since all of us but the bullie have stringent dietary constraints. Pav only requires that she be able to get her mouth around it. When this proves to be an item of hellgoddess clothing there is domestic drama.
† and books. And yarn
†† The bullie is with me on this. The hellhounds would much prefer food not to be there.
††† Meanwhile I have another half done post, this one about my Realio Trulio Finished Knitting Project^, but the project will stay finished so I can come back to my unfinished blog about it later.^^
^ It’s about as dead boring as a Knitting Project can be but it is finished. Which makes it automatically glorious and fascinating within my knitting life.+
+ I have now reverted to the feltable wool that is going to become a series of grotty little bags, the important one being destined to carry super long knitting needles. Does anyone else have needles that are too long to fit in any standard knitting needle containers?# I suppose I could just stick them in a vase but most of my vases are full of dried roses from various occasions.## But between needing a bag pole-vaulting pole length and not being sure how much the thing is going to shrink when I felt it, people keep mistaking the long thin item coiling off my lap for a scarf. Several scarves. Several Doctor Who scarves.
There are two reasons I’m back to my felting-in-their-future bags over all the other unfinished knitting projects lying about the place. The first one is that I really like rectangles. I really, really like rectangles. You know, no shaping, no frelling counting. You just knit. And knit. And knit.###
The other reason is that I do a lot of knitting after morning Mass, when you can sit around with a cup of tea and chat with monks and anyone else from the congregation desirous of caffeine and possibly a little time to slot back into normal life.#### And, aside from all the jokes about knitting long johns for monks#####, one of the monks, whom we will call Aloysius, has decided that I never finish anything and demands proof that this is not true. Uh oh. So, I figured, felting might disguise some of my inevitable irregularities, if I’m going to have to pass the object in question around to an assembly. An assembly of jocular monks. I mean, I’m not exactly reliable, even on rectangles.
# No, of course not. Everyone but me knits on circulars. Uggggggh. SOMEBODY (else) must knit on super-long straights OR THEY WOULDN’T SELL THEM, right?
## Yes. I save empty champagne bottles too~. And one or three bottles that once contained spectacular reds. Including my first experience of Vieux Telegraph, which put Peter’s beloved strong, leathery French reds~~ on my, you should forgive the term, radar. That was on our honeymoon in Cornwall. Sigh.
~ Some of these are also full of dried roses.
~~ I AM NOT GOING TO TOUCH the whole Rhone/Bordeaux/Burgundy/claret thing. Among other reasons because I don’t understand it. But Peter could pick out one of these gorgeous items from the brambly, brain-stabbing boscage of a wine list while I sat back contentedly and waited for my glass to be filled.
### Yes. I’m a process knitter. More finished objects would be nice, but it’s the knitting that’s important. Although the fact that my finished objects tend to be pathetic may have something to do with my attachment to process.
#### If going to Mass doesn’t rattle your cage, you’re not paying attention.
##### Which would be a VERY GOOD THING in that chapel, but it would be kind of a pity to cover up the orange, yellow, pink, purple, blue, scarlet and lime green wool I’m using. If they’d agree to raise their hemlines an inch or two . . . it doesn’t have to be a lot . . .
^^ With dead boring photos.
‡ [with vast reluctance this rude and ribald footnote concerning a prominent evil asshole has been excised for fear of legal reprisals SIIIIIIIIIIIGH.]
‡‡ Knitting when I’m brain dead could have some impact on why my FOs tend to be pathetic. I’M A PROCESS KNITTER. SO WHATEVER.
‡‡ I’m still in black. I could do this for quite a while. When I was younger and less haggard I wore a lot of black, and I Never Throw Anything Out. So I still have . . . a lot of black. I’d forgotten. I’m quite glad to see some of it. Perhaps not all at once.
‡‡‡ All right, ringing ‘inside’ is more fun. You know, like walking across Niagara on dental floss is fun. The first pair (. . . of bells) and the last pair are usually the easiest of any method—‘easiest’ being relative, there is NOTHING ABOUT handbells that is easy, except maybe the sitting down in the warm part, which is the single thing that handbells have over tower bells, which tend to occur in gelid towers—and the inside pairs are the ones that dance the hokey cokey with your brain and leave you with footprints on your grey matter.
§ I have a great idea! Let’s all pray that the electoral college vote to DO AWAY WITH THEMSELVES, AND HILLARY WINS RETROACTIVELY ON THE POPULAR VOTE.
§§ It’s a ratbag that Saturday night tends to be popular for live entertainment. Three of us went to KISS ME KATE last Saturday and it was very, very well done . . . and I’d forgotten how frelling ANNOYING it is because I only remember how great the tunes are. I should have stayed home and gone to the monks.
§§§ Okay. Black is good.
£ Also, who wants a new car when their old one is kind and thoughtful enough to break down in his own driveway? Aside from . . . £££££££££££
* * *
SUNDAY NIGHT UPDATE: I spent an hour on the phone to the RAC^ this afternoon trying to extricate myself from being the add-on to Peter’s membership, siiiiiiigh, the things that frelling ambush you, I hadn’t wasted a single thought on the likely status of my RAC membership all this year, till last night. And as so often this year dealing with Corporate Great Britain, the individual human beings were friendly and helpful^^ BUT THE ADMIN IS A NIGHTMARE. But they eventually beat their data base into submission and sent me a person. The person was about seven feet tall, eight feet wide, covered with tattoos, and looked like he probably juggled blue whales before breakfast. EEEEEEEEEEEEEK. He was also very nice. He said ‘broken pedal box’, whatever the doodah that means, but it sounds less threatening than ‘whole new clutch assembly’ which was what I was afraid of, because that was going to be the moment when everyone, beginning with the guys at the Warm Upford garage who have kept Wolfgang on the road the last twenty years, tell me helpfully that it’s not worth it for a twenty year old car. LET ME GO ON THINKING THAT ‘BROKEN PEDAL BOX’ IS NOT THE END OF THE LINE. And Mr Tattoo DROVE Wolfgang out to Warm Upford with a note from me to stick through the garage office door for Monday morning. He DROVE Wolfgang without a clutch. Gibber gibber gibber, I said . . . and then it occurred to me that once in days very, very much gone by, I knew how to drive an elderly, persnickety vehicle without a working clutch. And the person who taught me this interesting skill—this being about thirty years before internet searches—may be reading this blog. ::Waves::
Stay tuned. And anyone of a praying persuasion, pray for Warm Upford to say ‘no problem.’ I’ll worry later about the six weeks that it’s going to take to import the last in existence new pedal box for a twenty-year-old Golf from Viti Levu. I might have to start taking daytime Sam duties, when the buses are running. No! No! Anything but daytime duties!
^ I have no idea what RAC stands for, but they’re the UK Ghostbusters+ of broken-down cars.
+ Who you gonna call?
^^ Um, mostly. I think one of them had had a late Samaritan shift last night and hadn’t had enough sleep.
[This should have gone up last night, of course. This may be the New System. Time is merely a concept, not a reality, right? But I’ve been talking to other people in the area and I Am Not Alone. There are too many of us on line and not enough bandwidth. Why this means the malign minders of supply CLOSE bandwidth after midnight to a thread, a wisp, a spool of spider silk belonging to a microdot sized spider, I have no idea. I realise my technological understanding is . . . ahem . . . is such that calling it ‘understanding’ is a blunder, but they can’t frelling stockpile bandwidth from the wee smalls and bolt it on to the bandwidth during the day, or the evening when everyone rushes home to see if anyone has posted to their Facebook page, can they? CAN THEY? —ed]
. . . with a small refrigerator. Two small refrigerators. Today I took delivery of The Largest Green** Cauliflower I Have Ever Seen in My Life and . . . it wouldn’t fit in either refrigerator, unless I took one of the frelling shelves out which I can’t because I’m short of shelf space already ALL THAT FRELLING VEG TAKES UP AMAZING AMOUNTS OF ROOM. So the green cauliflower the size of a medium-sized asteroid sat in my sink—and sort of drizzled out around the edges, and may have patted a hellhound with a prehensile tendril—till I had time to hack it up and steam it and then crush it into a series of bowls and WEDGE it into the cottage refrigerator. The trials of being veganish.
And it’s not like I had budgeted time for inconvenient vegetables. Let me tell you what a splendid and thrilling few days I have had.*** Now—see footnotes—I am a disorganised twit, but I have kind of a lot going on, including trying to write some saleable fiction before I run out of money†, and when I manage to beat some teeming disaster back to stuff-under-the-table proportions I do tend to stuff it under the table and turn to the next looming vorticose abyss trying to swallow me††, the hellmob, and several small houses.†††
I was [bell] ringing a wedding on Saturday. I’d just got back from hurtling and had about five minutes before I had to leave for the tower. The post had come while the hellhounds and I were out checking the continued viability of a certain rose in the churchyard and I noticed that one of the envelopes was from the local city council. Uh oh. This is one of the abysses I had (I thought) slapped a personhole cover over, after Ordure, Funk and Weltschmerz closed my account and stole all my money for about ten days about three months ago, the repercussions of which are still wrecking my peace‡ of mind and causing a lot of extra work for a disorganised twit who hates all business admin at the best of times. But even I recognise, in my blurry, dragon-biased way‡‡, that the Tax Gods Rule. Which is why I’d been round the local office and made sure that I was caught up on all frelling three frelling houses.
I admit that was two months ago. BUT ONLY TWO MONTHS. So imagine my . . . adrenaline surge when I opened the envelope and discovered I was being SUMMONSED FOR NONPAYMENT OF COUNCIL TAX. They were going to DRAG ME TO COURT AND PROSECUTE me for not having paid any council tax ALL YEAR. Now even I in the outer reaches of synapse-bursting panic could see that this had to be at least partly an administrative error‡‡‡ . . . it’s still a summons and it’s horrible, and it’s also SATURDAY so I can’t do anything about it till Monday.
I staggered off to ring bells. I got through the bell ringing part with all my insides jangling worse than the bells and my blood-pressure headache getting worse with every dong.
I came home and spent the next five hours throwing up out of sheer beastly stress.
Saturday was wonderful. Really a high point.§
Sunday I spent trying to figure out what the flaming doodah I could eat—I know, I’ve been here before, recently, but that was stomach flu. The rules are different.§§
And today I spent 1,000,000 hours on the phone§§§, mostly knitting and nursing another blood-pressure headache while I waited For the Next Customer Service Representative. Monday, you know? The city council woman was polite, laid back, and even a little sympathetic, which was a bonus. I am no longer on the FBI/MI5 top ten wanted list. Yaay. The most interesting thing is that what this woman said BORE VERY LITTLE RESEMBLANCE to what the woman I’d spoken to in June had said, or had led me to believe that she had set up for me for the immediate future involving juggling three houses. And of course neither of them said anything that might lead me to believe that I was going to be prosecuted for non-payment of council tax any time soon. So I’ve given them a lot more money and I BELIEVE I am to be allowed to live. But remember what believing got me last time.
Then I made a few other phone calls—although it was still MONDAY—looking for monsters. I couldn’t find any. I must not have been making the right phone calls.
I can hardly wait to find out what goes wrong next.§§§§
* * *
* I was reading yet another of these Live Green and Free and Absolute and Right and We’re So Pure and Wonderful We Will Make You Sick what-to-eat health sites. There are amazing numbers of these bozos out there and only some of them have a sense of humour. This one’s bias was vegan but finally, foot-draggingly, in this I’m-so-disappointed-in-you headmistress voice, they said And if you feel you must eat a little fish occasionally . . . and I’m sitting here thinking, yet again, HOW do these people live in the world? Somebody, I think in the forum, was talking about this too. I don’t spend a lot of time with Macdonald’s clientele and still I’m a joke in my social circle^. GIVE ME A CUP OF GREEN TEA/ROOIBUS/GINGER AND LEMONGRASS AND SHUT UP, I’LL EAT WHEN I GET HOME.^^ I still like fish but it’s not necessary to happiness and if pure veganism were a little more rampant in the land I might give it up too^^^ since fish have eyes and agency and I assume little proto-thoughts^^^^. There’s a whole whacked out mind/body thing as soon as you start seriously messing with what you eat and if you find yourself at the sharp end of immaculateness while you may be willing to risk the proto-thoughts of green cauliflower^^^^^, your singing teacher’s goldfish are beginning to give you a guilty conscience. But until they start building vegan shtetls for us to hang out in . . . I will probably keep eating fish.
^ I’m not sure about circle. A lumpy trapezoid. Or an irregular nonagon perhaps.
^^ Anyone else out there remember the term ‘crunchy granola’ for health food junkies in Birkenstocks in the 80’s or thereabouts? No earnest seeker after nutritional truth now would eat GRANOLA. CEREAL GRAINS. NOOOOOO. WE DID NOT EVOLVE TO EAT CEREAL GRAINS. And my Birkenstocks are either pink or have rhinestones. I’d have pink and rhinestones if I could find them.
^^^ And then again I might not. The trusty tin of mackerel or tuna is very useful to a disorganised twit who finds herself needing to rush out the door in five minutes and doesn’t have time to produce the healthy green salad with the protein-based dressing, let alone eat the sucker.+ Fresh veg takes an appalling amount of chewing.
+ Vegan shtetls will have vegan corner stores that offer hearty organic vegan snacks for disorganised twits.
^^^ My willingness to continue to eat fish has nothing to do with the fact that the video screen on my dentist’s ceiling always shows underwater sea life, mostly but not exclusively fish. There is NO causative connection in my subconscious between fish and pain which might arouse a (subconscious) desire for vengeance on the piscine world. NO. NONE.
^^^^ Bottom line: YOU DO HAVE TO EAT SOMETHING.
** AKA Romanesco. I love the green ones and find the white ones eh. I’m told there’s no difference but the colour. Okay. I’m very vision-led. I know this. I still think they taste different. So my retinas are wired to my taste buds. I have stranger characteristics.
*** Spoiler alert: ARRRRRRRRRRRGH.
† Oh that old whine again
†† Did I tell you that Damien got out twice, weekend before last, and had a go at me both times? I being so outrageous as to be outdoors at the time(s). His garden now looks like a stage set for Les Miz and every time I have the unjustified temerity to emerge from some door or other I can hear him flinging himself passionately against the barricades whilst barking hysterically. It’s surprising how beleaguered something that weighs about twenty pounds can make you feel. I have to call the dog warden. I keep putting it off.
††† I told you, didn’t I, that I had THREE supposed buyers ready to put in a bid I couldn’t possibly resist and wouldn’t want to, for Third House? And that I was perhaps cynical about this prospect? Yep. Not one of them showed. Meanwhile I have—theoretically—a fourth. I’m not holding my breath. I am getting on with clearing out the sheds^ so I can let^^ the freller. Thank you God for Atlas^^^ and his trailer.
^ We’d done a first cut of most of the obvious stuff months ago. This was the stuff we didn’t know what to do with plus all the little bins and tins and boxes of gubbins that all of us accumulate in some area of our lives or other+: for Peter it was tools and the toolshed. So there are all these labels to collections of enigmatic bits in his handwriting. Whimper.
+ Perhaps in some cases more than one area. ::Whistles::
^^^ Who also could translate some of the labels. This was less useful than you might think since he didn’t want to throw anything out either. ‘Oh, that’s a 1948 glimmigerthinggimerdoodah! Haven’t seen one of those in decades! You can’t throw that out!’
‡ Um, ‘peace’?
‡‡ Popular fantasies include watching a nice fleet of dragons eating HM Revenue & Customs^ in its morbid entirety. Salt, pepper and Worcestershire sauce optional.
^ Remember this is a governmental department that levies custom charges on postage. And you know what overseas postage is like now? If Abebooks doesn’t list it in the UK, forget it.
‡‡‡ I have perhaps mentioned how much I hate business admin of all varieties?
§ And the poor hellmob were downstairs howling to go for a hurtle. I crept down a couple of times and let them out into the garden for any urgencies. They didn’t want the garden, they wanted the hurtles they can usually depend on when I come home from having been AWAY FROM THEM FOR MORE THAN FIVE MINUTES.
§§ I did manage both my second ringing gig Sunday afternoon and singing for service Sunday evening. Because bodies are perverse, I was in what in my unfortunate case passes for good voice which amused me enough to cheer me up a little. Usually your throat says nooooooooo after a lot of unnecessary stomach acid has geysered through it.
§§§ But at least after this I got to sprint off and SEE MY MONK. I was supposed to meet him Saturday evening before the Saturday contemplative night prayer service but since I couldn’t stand up, um. My email telling him I couldn’t make it was probably the tersest of my entire life but at that point focussing my eyes on something like a computer screen WAS A VERY VERY BAD IDEA.
§§§§ I can wait! I CAN WAIT! I CAN WAAAAAAAAAIT!
Niall and I went bell ringing tonight. Tower bells. One proper substantial bell at a time YAAAAAAY. Not handbells. Two horrible little random bells at a time NOT YAAAAAAAY.
WELL I GOT SOME KNITTING DONE.
One of the things about method ringing on handbells is that it is SO FRELLING INSANELY HERCULEAN AND FORMIDABLE AND DEMANDING** that when you can finally ring something it’s like the most amazing thing that has ever happened to you*** and furthermore since in the process you have completely altered the structure of your brain there’s quite a good chance it will stick.† Tower bell ringing is a ratbag of epic proportions, but in terms of learning the method line, handbells makes it look easy.
But there are important caveats about that easy. First caveat: you have to ring any given method often enough to gouge out a channel in your brain.†† Second caveat: you have to be able to HANDLE the bell you are ringing ACCURATELY. Which is the one thing—the ONE THING—that handbells has over tower bells in fatal adversarialness: handling technique is not much of an issue with handbells. You just shake the frellers. Tower bells are mostly bigger than you are—usually quite a lot bigger than you are—and tact and adroitness enter the picture. More or less.
And then there are mini rings. Where the bells are buckets or flower-pots or large thimbles that say GREETINGS FROM GRIMSBY and you’re essentially ringing something handbell-sized only with all the style and paraphernalia of tower bell ringing. I HATE MINI RINGS. THEY’RE THE WORST OF BOTH WORLDS. Which is to say I suck at mini rings.†††
It was a mini ring tonight.‡
WHAT IDIOT INVENTED METHOD BELL RINGING ANYWAY. After this it’s knitting all the way. Starting NOW.‡‡
* * *
* We’re having a major storm out there with wind and rain and banshees. Radio 3 has just fallen off the air with a crash and a whine^ and I’m contemplating with disfavour the prospect of getting the hellmob back to the cottage. I tend to be a trifle top heavy because I’m carrying a knapsack full of misbehaving technology and the hellhounds are not only tall and long-legged but they don’t weigh anything because they don’t eat and will probably take off like kites the minute they’re out the door. Which will be hard on my shoulders. Even weightless hellhounds hitting the ends of their leads at speed tends to be painful.^^
^ And is now making intermittent gobbling noises
^^ There is a good deal of hellmob-derived pain around at the moment: the hellterror is in full bloody [sic] streaming heat, and a good month early. She wasn’t due even to start inspiring Darkness—who is the more clued in about these matters—to emerge from the backmost recesses of the hellhound bed, which is where he tends to remain when the hellterror is loose about the landscape, to investigate an evolving situation till about now, and never mind having already moved into the dripping [hellterror] and moaning [hellhounds] phase. ARRRRRRGH. I DO NOT WANT HER CYCLE GETTING SHORTER. I CAN STAND IT EVERY NINE MONTHS. NOT EIGHT MONTHS. NOT SEVEN MONTHS. NOT . . .
Meanwhile she’s not in a very good mood either. Not only won’t I let her play with the hellhounds, and while Darkness tends to disappear into the shadows, torturing Chaos is one of her favourite games+, but she is at present only allowed to hang out in rooms with vinyl floors. This means, for example, at the cottage she cannot come into the sitting room with me when I enter the Magical Dog Food Grotto to fetch a fresh tin or bag of something,++ nor can she accompany me upstairs to fetch the thing I know I brought downstairs a minute ago but can’t find. Although this last is a rather desirable state of affairs given hellterror ebullience and the state of my floors as storage space. Hellhounds negotiate, delicately, the many obstacles to straightforward passage from one room to the next. Hellterrors spring and ricochet with abandon. Those little bedspring legs certainly could clear the piles of books, magazines, All Stars, yarn, etc, but what’s the fun in that? The most interesting effect however was when she knocked twenty hardback copies of SHADOWS downstairs. Very, very interesting. Very.
Nobody died. That’s all you need to know.
+ Second only to hurling herself upon me in gladness and felicity when her paws are muddy and my jeans were clean a minute ago. #
# One of my many failures as a dog owner, as I believe I have told you before, is that it seems to me entirely reasonable that something only about twelve inches tall should want to jump up on you.~
~ Hey, she rolls over beautifully for little pieces of roast chicken. What do you want, perfection?=
= She is a funny wee thing in a lot of ways. As Southdowner told me what seems like forty centuries ago—and years before Lavvy got pregnant—you keep bull terriers because they make you laugh. Bull terriers are also hungry all the time and to a dog, possibly especially a short dog, who is hungry all the time, almost everything looks like food. Pav has learnt that I have an inexplicable dislike of her ingesting random bits of rubbish we meet out hurtling and we have reached a compromise about this which works reasonably well most of the time. Something that is positively not edible, like a plastic bottle—she and Chaos share a passion for crunching plastic bottles between their teeth for the noise, but even Pav doesn’t seem to want to eat them—she will, on command [sic], when we stop by a trash bin, ‘drop’.% If, however, her current prize is deemed edible, she will not drop.%% But if I have lodged my protest promptly she will graciously not swallow either, but I do have to get down on my knees and frelling hoick it out of her mouth while she stands, unresisting, with the little evil eye twinkling away at me and the thought-balloon over her head clearly reading heh heh heh heh. When the thus-removed substance is pizza or sandwich-end or similar, no big. Yuck, but no big. BUT SOMETIMES. EW. WHAT IS THAT? EW. EWWWWWWWW. I swear she prances with several inches more boing per bounce after one of these encounters.
% And her resultant glow of fatuous virtue may last even a second or two.
%% What do I think she is, stupid?
++The Magical Dog Food Grotto contains only sealed containers of bull terrier ultimate desire, but she can tell the stuff’s in there somewhere.
** If there are any method handbell ringers out there reading this and shaking their heads in puzzlement because it is not difficult, I DO NOT WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU. Indeed if you decide to join the forum so you can remonstrate with me—kindly of course and using words of one syllable as befits the case—I will not only instantly DELETE your comments with menaces and rude gestures but I will tell Blogmom to Ban You Forever^ plus a few years.
^ and your little dog too.
*** Chocolate? Nope. Champagne? Uh-uh. Perfect love? Nah. Hot fabulous lateral-orbitofrontal-cortex-exploding sex? . . . Um. Wait a minute. Let me think.^
^ If I say handbells I will lose all credibility forever. Such a dilemma.
† Sadly you will probably have to go through the brain-restructure thing with every additional method. I can now (mostly, sort of) ring both bob minor and bob major AND MY SKULL HAS RUN OUT OF ROOM FOR ANY FURTHER EXPANSION.^ Planning permission for the new conservatory off the existing building will be denied.
^ Cambridge.+ Whimper. Yorkshire++ Mega whimper.
+ Yes. This is the name of a method.
++ Yes. This is too. Cambridge (minor, on six bells) and Yorkshire (which cannot be rung on fewer than eight bells) represent the PINNACLE of my handbell yearning, and I have about as much chance of attaining either of them as the hellhounds have of achieving weight-bearing lift-off on the walk home tonight and flying me there.#
# Long-time readers of this blog may feel they recall that some years ago I was grappling with Cambridge on handbells with some modest degree of success. Yes. Very modest. I could get through about half a plain course on the front pair of bells. This is like someone who wants to ride in the Grand National being able to sit in the saddle if the horse isn’t doing anything.
†† Tower bell ringing: 1,000,000,000,000 times, approximately. This is a lot of hours out of your life. Handbell ringing: 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 times, approximately. Which is even more hours out of your life. And that’s still only per pair of bells. You can move around a lot easier from single bell to single bell in the tower^ than you can from pair of bells to pair of bells in handbells. IT’S LIKE LEARNING A WHOLE FLAMING NEW METHOD, EVERY RATBLASTED PAIR OF HANDBELLS.^^ ARRRRRRRRRRRGH.
^ Barring little circumstantial details like the bell whose rope regularly jumps off its wheel, or the bell that has an interesting relationship with the corner of the church its rope hangs over so that on every backstroke the pew or the misericord or the flying buttress or whatever the doodah that is immediately behind you reaches out and whacks you one. Keep your mind on your bobs under those conditions.
^^ All these diverse sub-methods do eventually meet up into one grand over-arching meta-method but that’s a lot of zeroes down that very long queue.
††† Niall can ring anything, including mini rings. I have considered hating Niall, but . . . no. He makes very good brownies, even if I do have to ring handbells to get any. Also, I couldn’t hate him tonight, we went in his car.
‡ It wasn’t supposed to be a mini ring, of course, or I’d’ve stayed home. I’VE BEEN BAITED AND SWITCHED. I NEED CHOCOLATE.
‡‡ Maybe I’ll even finish this frelling two-years-and-counting scarf by this winter
Have I told you I’ve gone back into therapy because I Am Not Coping with Reality Very Well Right Now?* I went in for an assessment a while ago but it took them some time to find a slot for me.** I’ve seen Metis a few times now and like her—if ‘like’ is quite the word you want to apply to your shrink—and have some hope that she’ll crack me open like whacking off the top of your soft-boiled egg with an egg-spoon.*** But it’s still early days. Yesterday she taught me a relaxation technique. Chiefly it served to demonstrate that I do not relax. Nadia could have told her this. Sigh.†
But weekly therapy meetings are one more thing on the schedule. And in the last fortnight I seem also to have been to three concerts†† and not merely done my standard weekly Sam duty but the frelling occasional-required long overnight duty which reduces you to a little pile of sticky ashes even if you’re healthy††† plus picking up an extra (late, not everyone’s favourite time of day for some reason) duty when someone went down sick at the last minute.‡
And of course there’s still monks. And singing.‡‡ And the hellmob. And the garden, which is booming into early summer. And bell ringing, although tower ringing has taken a hit the last fortnight due to all the other excitements. But handbells . . . it’s Friday. There were handbells.‡‡‡
* * *
* I’m an American, we believe in therapy. And my best friend is a New Yorker and everyone in Manhattan is in therapy, it’s a civic ordinance. You want to live there, you need to sign up with a therapist before you try to find a place to live. Your rental agreement or your mortgage application will have a query on it something like ‘Are you currently actively engaged in seeking self-development by way of a professional relationship with a psychotherapist whose name appears on this year’s list of Persons Licensed to Charge More Than $1000 an Hour which you gladly disburse for the Privilege of Discovering What a Hopeless Dolt You Are?’ You need to be able to fill in the ‘yes’ box. Residents of the Tri-State Area are given a tax rebate for being in therapy, although it doesn’t run to $4000 a month. Hey, what do you want, healthy, well nourished children and a car that runs^ or greater self awareness?^^
^ All the festering DRIVING involved in my proliferating life-enrichment programmes is a pain. It’s worth it but IT IS A PAIN. And while I’m both a careful and a law-abiding driver I do kind of yell a lot. I had a Classic Robin Moment on my way to my last voice lesson. I was late, of course, because I’m always late, and I got stuck behind this moron going thirty-five miles an hour in a SIXTY MILE AN HOUR ZONE. I was not doing my singing voice any good in my description of his heritage and his likely future. Then we hit town—I’ve tried going the back way and all that happens is that I get stuck behind tractors, and that doesn’t do my singing voice or my blood pressure any favours either—and the slow wiggly main road was made even slower and wigglier by the plethora of frelling LORRIES parked on it while they unloaded shoes and sausages and hammers and mattresses into all the frelling shops. So you and your soon to be overheating car are ducking back and forth from one single lane to the other, depending on where the latest lorry is parked and you are getting later and later for your voice lesson and CRANKIER AND CRANKIER. Now, despite my malevolent views of other drivers, I’m quite the—ahem!—Samaritan about letting other drivers in, especially in a situation like this one where we’re all suffering. Well I’d got stuck behind the final lorry and no one was letting me into the other lane. Guess who finally did. Yep. Thirty Five Miles an Hour in a Sixty Mile an Hour Zone Man. I waved gratefully but I hope he doesn’t lip-read.
^^ Note that Metis’ practise does not charge £646 an hour. Trust me, I would not be there.
** It’s a group practise. I imagine them sitting around at their admin meeting and saying, okay, we have an axe murderer, a pathological collector of HP Lovecraft t shirts^, someone who thinks they’re Napoleon/Marie Stopes/Edward Cullen and a writer with writer’s block . . . and a chorus of voices reply eagerly, I’ll take the axe murderer! I’ll take Lovecraft, AT THE MOUNTAINS OF MADNESS is the best novel of the 20th century! I’ll take Marie Stopes! . . . Silence. I am fully booked, says the person remaining. I totally must shampoo the cat, and then sort the contents of the kibble bin by size. Fluffy is so particular. I can’t consider taking on a new client till someone else has been desperate enough to take the wri—I mean, probably not till next year.
*** Personally I scramble my eggs. But Peter does the egg-spoon trick.
† Note to self: Metis and Nadia must never meet.
†† If Jackie Oates http://www.jackieoates.co.uk/live-dates/ comes anywhere near you and/or you have a friend who is willing to do the driving, speaking of driving,^ and unless you are one of these poor sad creatures who doesn’t get good folk music, go. And listen especially closely to the newly arranged and adapted 21st-century lyrics to A Cornish Young Man, which are delicious.
^ Fiona and I found a new yarn shop. I was doing pretty well+ till I made the mistake of checking out the sale bin again. I had thought on the way in that the Yarn Pet percentage might be a little perilous but at that point I had a whole shop to be endangered by and adrenaline was running high. And I then managed (mostly) to resist the breathtakingly gorgeous single-skein small-local-indie-dyers gauntlet, chiefly because I have some self-protective resistance to spending more than a New York City shrink’s hourly rate on a one-off that there isn’t even enough of to make a scarf. A fichu maybe.++
AND THEN I WENT BACK TO THE FRELLING SALE BIN. Alpaca is evil. Especially when it is mixed in big fat fluffy skeins with merino. You can frelling hear it purring when you cradle it in your arms.+++
+ I say nothing about how Fiona was doing
++ If you’re small and flat-chested.
+++ Dogs purr too, you know. At least every dog I’ve ever had purrs when it settles in your lap. Whether it fits in your lap or not.
††† And/or stay up late and don’t do mornings anyway. Although some annoying person^ has pointed out that I do do mornings, I do a lot of mornings, I just do the, you know, little end.
^ I never name names on this blog but this particular person is very annoying about handbells.+
+ What do you mean you can’t ring handbells tomorrow, the next day, the day after that and three times on Madnessday? —GO AWAY. YOU’RE RETIRED. SOME OF US ARE STILL WORKING FOR A LIVING# AND FURTHERMORE MAY POSSIBLY DO OTHER THINGS IN THEIR SPARE [SIC] TIME THAT AREN’T HANDBELLS. ##
# Or at least staring despairingly at an empty computer screen regularly.
## Aren’t . . . handbells? this person murmurs brokenly.
‡ And this potent sacrifice was absolutely worth it for the barrage of brownie points thus accrued. I can probably spill scalding coffee on the director/the fancy new computer/the delicately poised for heightened reactivity electronic fire alarm and no one will say anything.
‡‡ Your Body Is Your Instrument I Wish I Had Taken up the Guitar When I Was a Teenager Like Everyone Else Did. Nadia told me the last time I was beating up Batti Batti O Bel Masetto to skip the allegro, which has all those frelling runs in it AND goes up to a high B. Last time, as I recall, I did leave it alone. This time I was idly leafing through it again when a little light went on and I said, Hey! It’s a B flat! I can (usually) get to B flat! —So, occasionally, late at night^, when my voice is feeling all relaxed^^ and warm and willing I sing the allegro. I can’t frelling sing and play the piano at the same time, but I do have a finger poised to hit that B flat to make sure I’m hitting it, if you follow me. I usually am, in my squeaky un-self-confident and death-defying-not-in-a-good-way way^^^.
And next time through I can’t hit G. I can always hit a friggleblasting doodahing G, give me a flapdoodling BREAK. Yes, I can always hit a G, except right after I’ve hit an A sharp/B flat and my voice says NO WE DON’T DO THAT and shuts down. That’s SHUTS. DOWN. Arrrrrrgh. And then it’s back to Edwardian parlour ballads till it forgives me. ARRRRRRGH.
^ Or in a little morning hour
^^^ Yes I can hear the unglefrakking difference when Nadia manages to persuade me to float down from above a note rather than ramping up at it from underneath like a guerrilla attack on a dangerous enemy. Sigh. Sometimes I’m very flat indeed. Sometimes I just . . . sound like I’m attacking an enemy I’m terrified of.+ SIGH.
+ I also indulge in a concomitant worry that St Margaret’s will decide they’re not that desperate for singers at the evening service.
‡‡‡ And brownies. I had told Niall firmly that if there were no brownies I would remember a prior engagement. What prior engagement? said Niall suspiciously. Well, I forget, I said, there are brownies, right?