Okay, I’ve got some stories for you, but no time to tell them. But as a placeholder you might find the email I just wrote to Worthy Charity #74,821,333 mildly entertaining:
Your web designer is a MORON. Please pass on my lack of respect. In the first place, why is a title required? Many people—myself included—prefer not to use one if we’re given the option. Then, if the standard short list of titles your site provides does not apply and one is so foolhardy as to tick ‘other’, one is presented with a drop-down list of epic proportions, offering ever wilder opportunities, Death Star Commander, Harvest Goddess, Sixth Degree of Kevin Bacon . . . and lo and behold tucked away in there is ‘Family’. My sponsorship is a gift to four members of a family, and so with a somewhat wary relief, I ticked ‘family’. BUT A FIRST NAME IS STILL REQUIRED. Um. Xxxx? Ja-Sa-Sa-An? What? This is to a family. There is no single ‘first name.’ And the four of them are going to have to look at whatever inanity I come up with for the duration of the sponsorship. Thanks ever so.
If you’re lucky, your other would-be sponsors are less volatile. I am fed up to here with web sites that have been designed by lobotomised beavers with hangovers. This time of year I do a lot of on line ordering and there are a lot of worthy charities out there, some of whose web sites function more or less straightforwardly. I could have sponsored another [furry critter worth keeping alive and well fed] for half the price of one of your [glorified superwhatsits]: but it wouldn’t [grow up to make the world a better place]. So here I am. Fuming.
R McKinley Dickinson
I’m going to be at the hospital a lot of tomorrow again and then I have somehow allowed myself to get ensorcelled into frelling handbells in the evening. ARRRRGH. I’ve warned Niall I will have No Brain after all that knitting* but he seems to think this is not as relevant as the Body in the Chair with Outstretched Hands Holding Handbells part of it. He may live to regret this. Meanwhile I’m missing deadlines right and left** but if I have the kind of limbo-brain later tomorrow night that is utterly incapable of work*** but could probably splodge out a blog post as an alternative to cruising end-of-year knitting sale sites . . . I’ll give splodging a try.
PS: Thanks for all the nice supportive words, all you readers, both on the forum and in my email inbox. The kindness of strangers–or semi-strangers–is more of a comfort than perhaps most of you guess.
* * *
* Just as an aside, thank God for knitting as a way of not driving the ill person you’re visiting crazy. Also the nurses would probably throw me out after I picked the second chair to pieces. Not that God is my favourite person recently with all the depressing mayhem in my life, but my monk ruthlessly pointed out that the bloke whose birthday we’re celebrating next week suffered^ so that none of us need ever suffer alone AND THERE’S A CYCLICAL NON-LOGIC TO THIS THAT I DON’T LIKE AT ALL but . . . yeah. I have no idea how it works but the thing is that it does work. It doesn’t work ENOUGH. But . . . Jesus and knitting. Okay. Whatever.
^ among other reasons to do with life everlasting where it’s never too cold to sit still and contemplate higher things and eating too much chocolate never makes you fat
** No, nothing to do with EBON, I’m afraid. EBON doesn’t even have a deadline to miss at the moment, sigh. No, things like interviews for Open Road who are trying valiantly to publicise all those shiny new ebooks, and house insurance. HOUSE INSURANCE?? I’M OVERDUE ON THE HOUSE INSURANCE? Fortunately an insurance company that has had you by the short hairs for a number of years tends to come after you pretty robustly. MONEY. WE WANT MONEY. WE WANT YOUR MONEY. WE WANT IT NOOOOOOOW. I put the cheque in the post today. That only leaves 1,000,000,000 deadlines of a moderately life-threatening nature to go.
*** This includes looking at columns of figures with slightly more understanding than if I were staring at the Voynich manuscript, and writing my signature on the bottom of cheques that the bank won’t return as forgeries^.
^ Tear splotches and bloodstains, of course, are majestically ignored. Banks have seen that all before.
. . . only more annoying. Thanksgiving in England. Feh. COMPUTERS. GINORMOUS ERUPTING ARRRRRGH WITH LOTS OF BOILING LAVA. And maybe a fire-god or two. And Boadicea—she’s supposed to have flaming red hair, right?—and the scything knives on her chariot.* What’s the computer version of a red-haired warrior queen with whizzing chopper blades on her war-chariot’s wheels and a really really bad attitude toward her overlords? I NEED THIS. WHATEVER IT IS. I NEED IT BADLY. I NEED IT NOW.
Peter and I did manage to go out for dinner—I know, we should have been at home slaving over a whole series of hot, speaking of hot, cooking aids, including the wooden spoon you accidentally left in the whatever and which is beginning to give off a pleasant fragrance of charring wood, but—why? Christmas will be here soon enough.** Never mind my confusingly American-sounding accent, my passport, and my place of birth: I’m British. I find Thanksgiving quaint, and, with my digestion, superfluous. Another good reason to live in England. Tick that box.
But we didn’t go out to dinner to celebrate, if in a non-traditional way, because it was Thanksgiving. We went out to dinner because we were supposed to go out for tea, only I missed. I got to bed late even for me*** thanks to one of my duty shifts running over time, and when I finally staggered out of bed again I ENTIRELY FORGOT that I was supposed to be ringing Raphael so he could do his Remote Meddling and yank the latest diabolical computer miseries† back into some temporary but functional alignment†† . . . until I’d already had the first necessary injection of caffeine, and had tried to turn a computer on . . . ARRRRRGH.
By the time Raphael had returned from rappelling down the side of the Post Office Tower††† I was too late to go out for tea. But we went out for dinner. Which was really better anyway since you don’t usually get champagne at tea time.
* * *
* I could have put Kes in a chariot . . . maybe in book twelve or sixteen or something.
There is a surprising paucity of really satisfactory images of Boadicea, considering she’s one of the few major historical heroines around. I was looking for one with impressive, you know, gauntlets, which might conceivably be magical bracelets, with or without rose embellishments. There aren’t any that I can find after poking around in the usual places via Google:
Hey, lady, anything you say, if you stop waving that kitchen knife at me.
Um, how are they steering those horses? Telepathy?
** I spent one ENTIRE EVENING this week when I could have been, I don’t know, writing a blog post or something, on-line ordering frelling they-deliver pot plants to go to the members of the Dickinson clan it would be the most embarrassing if I forgot entirely (again) . . . I mean, I don’t forget, I just don’t get around to, you know, organising the final dash to the holiday finish line . . . including having got so far as buying things like calendars and tins of biscuits WHICH WILL HAVE GONE OUT OF DATE by the time I unearth them next year because I didn’t get them WRAPPED AND SENT LAST YEAR. Anybody want a decorative tin of stale biscuits? I can occasionally recycle the calendar photos which are often . . . oh, roses or something. And may I just remark that that venerable British manufacturing icon, Blu Frelling Tack^, is not worth its reputation. Sure, it’s reusable. It’s reusable up to and including the 1,000,000,000th time something has fallen off the wall/the back of the refrigerator^^/the side of the cupboard/the edge of the bookshelf, etc, that it was supposedly glomped onto by Blu Tack. I have other things to do with my time than resticking. ^^^
^ Why not Blue Tack or Blu Tak? Blu Tack merely looks confused and indecisive. +
+ Hums an old American folk song and does not make any obvious remarks about British politicians.
^^ which is much more attractive covered in calendar cut-out photos of roses
^^^ Laundry, for example. The INSUFFICIENT advantage of washing hellmob bedding every two or three days is that the critter hair problem is much reduced+. Well, sort of. The ambient hair level is definitely lower, as is the amount I claw out of the washing machine after every critter load. But it means that EVERYTHING I OWN that gets washed in the machine now has some critter hair in it. Yes, I run a quick cold wash after the mob stuff comes out, but that’s like using a broom to sweep off snow-laden steps that you’ve already tramped up and down several times. I used to be able to sort of stagger post-critter-washes so the jeans took the worst, and then the sweatshirts and outer layers and finally . . . hmmm. I’m here to tell you that I haven’t found a clothes brush yet—including those disposable sticky-tape ones and the little pads that are like a cross between velvet and Velcro—that works worth a damn on your underwear.
Meanwhile . . . I began Flea Protocol #7,243,006 today. SIIIIIIIIGH. One of the reasons I’m posting less often lately is that I’m frelling reading everything I can get my gnarly hands on about . . . well, about parasites generally, at this point, and about immune system strengtheners and blah blah blah, to give me more ideas about what else to try for fleas. The fact that there’s a huge amount of controversy and conflict and contradictory PROOF [sic] about what is safe to use is not helping. Maybe I could just bore the ugly little sods into going somewhere else? . . . Oh God guys here she comes again. I just want to suck blood in peace, what is her PROBLEM? We’re so tiny—she’d never have to know we’re here—all 1,000,000,000,000,000,000 of us. Okay mates we’re gonna hide behind this ear—NO NO SHE’S GOING FOR THE EARS. One of the advantages of naturally comatose++, plasticine+++ hellhounds is that you can roll them around and rub whatever into their fur, including all their private bits, any way you like. As long as it doesn’t involve swallowing anything it’s all attention, and it’s all good. The hellterror is also perfectly happy to be rolled around, but she tends to want to engage with the game WILL YOU HOLD STILL YOU THING. ARR-ARR-ARR-ARR, says happy engaged hellterror.
+ I still want to know whose brilliant idea it was to design the front-loader part of a front-loading washing machine to accumulate dirty water, critter hair, tiny shreds of unidentifiable gubbins and really unpleasant semi-dissolved yuck, in the un-get-at-able bottom of the door, defended by several heavy, uncooperative folds of rubber tubing. Which is apparently still standard over here, including the greater European Union, since both my last was and my current washing machine is, German#. My not-very-new-any-more washing machine gets very mixed reviews from me; not only is the front-loading door familiar in all the wrong ways, its filter is emergency only and you must approach it by precision serial usage of several Special Tools and the manual suggests sacrificing a black cockerel at the new moon as well, although advice about how to predict which new moon is the one heralding more-than-the-usual filter anguish does not seem to be included.
# Different brands. I try to make different mistakes.
++ Except, of course, outdoors, if there is a prospect of SOMETHING TO CHASE. Although Chaos did manage to slam into a cupboard once back at the mews because he saw a mouse amble across the floor.
+++ Or possibly Fawn, Charcoal and Tri-Colour Tack
*** I bring the hellmob back to the cottage from Third House sequentially, hellhounds first and hellterror second. I looooove the new system, by the way, because the Last Hurtle of the Day is built in, without recourse to Wolfgang, and can be any length I/we choose, depending on energy levels, the way the day/night has gone thus far, what is going to jump on me from a dark corner in the day to come, and a variety of other factors, lately chiefly the heaviness of the RAIN.^ Wednesday night I was coming back, as mentioned above, um, rather spectacularly late, which is to say, um, dawn, and noodling along not paying attention to anything much while Pav investigated every leaf, shadow and discarded crisp packet . . . and WE SUDDENLY MET ANOTHER WOMAN AND HER DOG. OOOOOOPS. The other woman and I looked at each other in amazement. I never see anyone else out at this hour! she said. Erm, I said, neither do I—failing to mention that I hadn’t been to bed yet. She had all the irritating glitter of the early riser about her.
^ Have I mentioned that fleas like warm and wet and that one of the things that haunts me is the possibility that this unprecedented invasion is a front runner of global warming? And I’m really looking forward to the return of malaria to southern England. Not.
† The beginning of the week I had no email for nearly two days. The middle of the week I had no internet for nearly two days. I’ve been doing a lot of knitting.^
And my new kit—ultrabook and iPad Air—was supposed to be here by the end of this week so Raphael could install it next week AND GUESS WHAT IT’S FRIDAY NIGHT AND I HAVEN’T HEARD ANYTHING.
^ Which I promise or, if you prefer, threaten, will be the topic of a blog post soon.
†† This process is seriously disconcerting. I turn on the gizmo programme from my end, it goes SHAZZAM!!!, my screen turns midnight-blue and suddenly Raphael, from however many miles away, is invisibly moving my mouse around and opening and shutting my files and my browser(s) and . . . eeeeep.
††† See, there was this peregrine nest dangling over the gruntzenjam ventilator of the main computer scorbovarg, and the operators all cried in one voice, RAPHAEL!^
^ He used a rope to keep up appearances. An archangel hovering beside the Post Office Tower in central London would definitely cause a traffic jam.
I ate an apple this morning. In fact I ate two.* And I am still alive. ::Beams:: Of course everything was downhill from there but the apples were fabulous . . .
I was thinking . . . it’s not all stomach flu, or the Samaritans, that my blogging has dropped so precipitously. Some of it is what I had been saying for six and a half years or whatever it was by then, that if I stopped doing it every day I would stop doing it. Although some of it certainly is the added time-and-energy demand of the Samaritans.**
But some of it is just the way my life is going. At the moment there’s a lot less good public blog material than there was a couple of years ago. I don’t want to wrestle with my involuntary two-year-old faith in public: God is love and the world is a mess, whatever. Why does accepting God as love immediately throw THE WORLD IS A MESS into unbearably sharp relief? Discuss. No, don’t. And theology scares the living doodah out of me. WHAT? I was comforted recently by reading or hearing some frelling scholar saying that in the Middle Ages no one would have bothered debating the existence of God, and if you’d tried they’d look at you in bewilderment: theirs was a practical faith and they just got on with it. And when it’s all too much, which it usually is, I just get on with it too, here in the twenty-first century, although that plan is not without its drawbacks. I went round to the estate agent’s today, the fellow who is (we hope) selling the mews for us, because he has a long list of councils, bodies, boards and free lance gardeners, haulers-away and electricians, whom he’s going to sic onto me, and those of you who know me know I do not do mornings, which councils, bodies, boards etc, are often regrettably fond of, and I wanted to emphasise that my passing references to being a late riser were particularly apropos these next two mornings because I had a late duty with the Sams followed by an all-nighter with the Street Pastors. I knew he had already categorised me as peculiar*** but I could now see him staring at me as if I had six heads.
And then . . . well, for example, I have a recently-disabled friend whom I spend the evening with about once a week, to give both her and her regular carers a break. I could make a very funny story of our experience this week when the latest piece of shiny! New! Expensive! NHS kit got jammed in the frelling doorway because it was TOO WIDE TO FIT THROUGH. The little squeezy lever didn’t squeeze it far enough.† My friend lives in an ordinary, non-adapted house with, you know, ordinary sized doors. Doesn’t the NHS, like, I mean, how obvious . . . um, measure the average apertures their home-care assistance machinery is going to have to NEGOTIATE WITH?? We went through some of this after Peter’s stroke too, but . . . GAH. But while I’m the one that gouged some paint off the doorframe, the choice being gouge the sodding frame or call an ambulance and she voted for architectural damage, it’s still essentially not my story to tell.
I’ve told you before about the Samaritans’ pathological confidentiality, so there it’s like, telephone? There are telephones in the Sams’ front office? REALLY? ::Drums fingers and looks clueless:: And I could have got a lot of stories, not very many of them funny although all of them redolent of human nature, out of the Street Pastors’ David Lynch Halloween.†† Or out of most SP shifts. But while I know there are a lot of properly published and money-for-their-authors-earning memoirs out there about social-service work both professional and charitable most of my SP duties don’t feel like my stories to tell either.
Eh well. I’m going to have to work on learning to recommend books or something. I’ve got a pile of ‘must put these on the blog’ books about hip high at this point, leaning against the grandmother clock in the sitting room at the cottage. I should also answer more forum comments.
Maybe I should just concentrate on KES.
* * *
* But not six. But they were big ones.
** And there’s still that homeopathy course to wedge in somewhere.^ Blasted Darkness managed to put his back/neck/shoulders out again. Arnica didn’t work, but rhus tox did. I should do some reading up on frelling stomach flu to have a short list of plausible suspects if the subject comes up again WHICH IT’S NOT GOING TO OF COURSE.
^ I keep averting my attention from Japanese language lessons. Sigh.
*** I have no idea why! None whatsoever!
† Like trying to thread super-chunky-monster yarn into an ordinary tapestry needle. HAHAHAHAHAHAHA. Fluffy 12-mm size yarn won’t even fit through the big diamond-shaped wire opening of a needle threader, you know? Now what? Weave in the ends with my fingers? Cut off the carefully preserved long frelling yarn tails and sew the ends in place?
†† Did I even tell you that the two people who had had possibly the worst Halloween night of anyone on the planet actually tracking Saturday night’s Street Pastors team down to thank them/us/SPs? That was pretty frelling nice.
Sigh. Exactly what I was afraid would happen is happening, once I stopped blogging every day—which is that I’m always going to do it again tomorrow. Mind you, there are things going on. Including that I keep frelling collapsing, and if I have any spare energy I should probably give some member(s) of the hellmob or other a better hurtle than they’ve probably had today. Whereupon I will be too tired to do anything so frivolous as write a blog and furthermore I’ve been knocking myself out for way too much of the last week writing frelling COPY for a big wodge of my backlist that is going to be rereleased soonish, and about which I will give you all the details as soon as there’s a schedule to give you the details of. BUT TRY TO IMAGINE HOW MUCH I HATE NOT MERELY WRITING COPY FOR MY OWN STUFF, which regular readers of this blog are well aware of, BUT WRITING IT FOR A WHOLE FRELLING STACK OF MY BOOKS.* No, don’t try to imagine, it would be very bad for you.
But for a further graphic example of things going on, the twice frelling put off** new boiler installation finally happened yesterday. YAAAAAAY. Well, sort of, barring the gaping hole in my bank balance that is letting in a frigid blast of hostile air despite the mild September we’re having locally and the war zone the army of two left behind. WORKMEN. ARRRRRRGH.*** And where did all the frelling red dirt come from? What is this, Louisiana/Mississippi/Alabama/Georgia/South Carolina?† My entire house is sheeted in a thin, less than delightful film of powdery red dirt.†† So charming. The bathroom was hazy with it Monday night and the excitingly renovated linen cupboard looked like something out of a bad fantasy film: Evil Witch’s Grotto. Put the red cellophane over the lens. I could feel the cloud clinging to my skin as I climbed out of my (hot: definitely hot) bath last night. I don’t want to think about the newly-slightly-red-tinted condition of my lungs. SO CHARMING.
The army of two showed up as promised at 10 am and were not early, so we got off to a good start—which is to say I was not only dressed but I’d had enough caffeine to be able to figure out how to get the front door key out of my pocket and open the door with it—this pleasing punctuality aside from the fact that if they hadn’t shown up as most recently promised I would have had to hunt them down and kill them because I am VERY TIRED of having my entire bathroom in cardboard boxes . . . not only because I can’t find anything but because there’s already no available floor space at the cottage because of the immediate distressing results of moving from a somewhat larger house to a somewhat smaller house, and the first time Joachim cancelled it was already the morning of the day he was supposed to come so I had sensibly already pulled everything out of the cupboard AND PUT IT IN BOXES. You have no idea what you’ve managed to wedge into a rather small airing cupboard, rather full of boiler and hot water tank, till you have to take it all out and put it in boxes AND PUT THE BOXES SOMEWHERE.†††
Let me make this short, which the day was not.‡ Joachim and adjutant arrived. They arrived with amazing amounts of kit, which meant I stayed downstairs with the Aga—which they had to turn off, so that was not satisfactory from a keeping-tea-hot perspective—because I couldn’t get into my office with the upstairs hallway JAMMED with screwdrivers‡‡ and winches and a small backhoe, and I didn’t like to decamp to Third House when they kept asking me things like, where is the gas line?, which I could have told them over the phone but not so they could find it without serious excavation‡‡‡, or where is the nearest plumbers’ supply house? When they didn’t have a spare of something that just broke. Oh.
They were due to clear off by three in the afternoon. Four latest. THEY WERE THERE TILL SIX THIRTY. But I’m looking on the bright side. They only destroyed one window screen and a rather good fuchsia, although I’m hoping the latter will recover. They did attempt to clean up after themselves.§ They were polite.§§ And while the additional space in the airing cupboard may be a bit of a bust there is definitely more space in the attic where the holding tank came out. And I haven’t seen any bats emerging from the new holes in the ceiling . . . but I’d better get Atlas to patch them before the bat mums come home to the largest pipistrelle nursery in Hampshire next spring.
And I do (still) have hot water. But I had hot water before. The crucial moment comes later in the season when I try to turn the central heating on for the first time. . . . §§§
* * *
* Especially old ones where I may actually have to read a bit here and there to make it likelier I get it right. There’s very little worse than flipping frustratedly through something you yourself wrote because you’re CONVINCED that this or that thing happened and it has to have happened before/after this or that other thing, didn’t it? DIDN’T IT? MAYBE IT WAS IN SOME OTHER BOOK NOOOOOOOOO?? Arrrrrrgh. How to feel really, really stupid without even any recourse to maths.^
That’s aside from the nooooo I didn’t really use that cringe-making metaphor did I? I didn’t really allow the plot to do that did I? I didn’t really name that character that, did I?^^ Why didn’t I grow up to be a mechanic?^^^
^ Hey, I don’t hate maths like I used to+ but all those clever maths books I like reading in the bath? I read the story or the set up or the problem or the joke or something and go, oooooh, cool . . . and then I look up the answer in the back of the book.
+ Unless there’s something about money involved in which case I hate it worse. Money is a stupid system. Let’s find another one. Which may or may not be maths based. I vote for not.
^^ That’ll be one of the names the story didn’t give me, that I had to choose. Brrrrrr.
^^^ Because no one in his, or her, right mind would hire me. Mercy Thompson would laugh till she did herself an injury. So would Munch Mancini.
** Due to what sounded like a pretty genuine family emergency and resultant critical shortage of childminders. Or maybe Joachim just uses hire-a-kid for verisimilitude.
*** Okay, the really good part? No builder’s cracks.
† I know there’s really RED red dirt in the American South somewhere because I remember being amazed by it. I just don’t remember where I was at the time.^
^ MAYBE IT WAS IN SOME OTHER BOOK NOOOOOOOOO?
†† Okay, it’s probably brick dust. That’s not nearly so romantic.
††† The irony is that one of the things he seduced me with is the fact that there would be more ROOM in my small airing cupboard because the new boiler is an on-demand so . . . no tank. Well. Sort of more room. Because of where the new thing is hung and where its dashboard is there’s not hugely more room than there was when there was a tank in there the size of a small nuclear silo.^ The best thing about the new gold-plated^ whatsit is that there is no hideously complex control panel for the end user—the dashboard on the thing itself is for professionals—the frelling wall panel for the shivering householder on my old one was diabolical. You had like six columns^^^ and you had to choose the right button in each of the six columns to get what you wanted. The permutations are . . . mathematically intimidating. And this is one of the few occasions when the right answer is not ‘chocolate’. THE NEW ONE YOU JUST TURN THE HOT TAP ON OR THE THERMOSTAT UP. There is NO control panel. I could almost talk myself into it being worth the money.#
^ You could still run out of hot water if you topped up your cooling bath too often. Hey, it’s an exciting knitting magazine! Double sized with pull outs! I want to finish reading!
^^ At this PRICE? It better be gold-plated. I think I was promised diamond encrusted. Maybe there are diamonds once I get the red dirt cleaned off. +
+ Furthermore it’s STICKY. It doesn’t come off EASILY.=
= See? It is clay. It’s not brick dust.
^^^ Hot, cold, yes, no, left, right, octopus and Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch.
# Although this is one of those Where Did We Go Wrong moments. The furnaces and hot water of my childhood were like this. You could go down into the basement and stare at a couple of glass tubes with motor oil or magma or something moving slowly back and forth in them but generally speaking you turned the thing on or off upstairs and it worked and when it didn’t work you called a plumber. You couldn’t programme it to turn on for seventeen minutes February 3rd, 2044, no, but I do not consider this facility worth the misery at 3 a.m. tonight when you just want a bath. If one of the six columns had ‘hurtle the hellmob’ as an option I’d reconsider, but I have yet to see a boiler out on the trot with a lead extruding from its input valve. Yaay retro. Yaay primitive. Yaay HOT BATHS ON DEMAND.
‡ And I have to go to bed in order to get up FRESH and SPRINGY and ATHLETIC and ready to go on mashing the attic at Third House. The backlist comes home next Monday whether I’m ready or not.
‡‡ One of which they left behind. The shank on it is about three feet long. I don’t want to know.
‡‡‡ It’s in the greenhouse. Nuff said. Where the tap to turn the water into the house off is worse however because I hadn’t thought to clear that cupboard out. Sigh.
§ I only found half a dozen screws, presumably to keep the screwdriver company. As well as a lot of adherent red dirt.
§§ Even if Joachim can’t stop calling his elderly female clients ‘darling’. I think possibly on account of my eruptions on the subject of control panels he thinks I need looking after.
§§§ I don’t want so mild a winter I don’t ever turn it on. I want the slugs and snails and the black spot and the aphids and the red lily beetle to die.
It was going to be a really bad day.** The ME is using me as a punching-bag again*** and I got out of bed in stages, saying, it is Monday, and I am going to my voice lesson. I am going to my voice lesson. All I have to do is crawl to the car, unlock the door, and put the key in the little hole. Wolfgang knows the way.
It has been a really bad week for—not for singing, see previous about singing for sanity, but for attentive practise, so that I don’t feel a total fool going to sing for Nadia.† After my voice slammed shut on me last Monday—which was actually rather alarming—I gave it two days off anything but folk songs and Leonard Cohen†† . . . and then I had stomach flu and all those deep breaths and gut-disturbing diaphragm action for singing seemed like a pretty bad idea, although I could (maybe) stop worrying about the slamming shut, which was probably germ related. †††
I did sing over the weekend—a little—and I noticed at church last night that I was making a noise.‡ But this morning, warming up, I felt like I’d Never Seen Any of This Music Before in My Life‡‡ and did not set out for my lesson in a very positive frame of mind.‡‡‡
But fate and body parts are often perverse little creatures. I don’t even know how to explain what happened; if I try it’ll sound like gibberish to non-singers and will probably make those of you who would understand what I was talking about if I could explain it properly fall down laughing. The point is I made what Nadia herself called a Technical Leap Forward having to do with waking up the ‘mask’ sinuses and persuading all the various bits and pieces—tongue and soft palate in particular—to clear out of the way and let the sound resonate. Gleep. And she took me up to the high B-flat I need for both Batti, Batti§ and I Want to Be a Prima Donna—I didn’t know it, of course, although I knew we were getting up there—and which I do erratically have at home when I’m focussed on not paying attention and shutting myself down because I Can’t Possibly Do That, so I know the frelling thing exists. And as she pointed out, grinning, I sang it with no strain and no muscle tension. It’s the lack of tension that was so astonishing—she said, yes, your support has come a little adrift, but we can fix that.§§ You’ve made real progress today.
And . . . golly . . . you know . . . I may yet make a singer.
* * *
* Although everything is relative. See next footnote.
** It’s been a bad hellhound day for weeks. With the very, very occasional exception, Darkness more often than Chaos, neither of them is eating. The only reason they haven’t starved themselves to death by now is because I keep force feeding them. They haven’t eaten a scrap of anything today, voluntarily, for example. This is utterly demoralising for me even when the ME isn’t bad. It’s not the taste of the drug; they get three meals and only two of them are dosed. If they are having a unique nauseous reaction to this stuff—nausea which lasts through the third meal—that would explain it, but I doubt it’s that simple, and neither the vet nor I can ask them how they feel or why they’ve decided food is the enemy.^ Meanwhile although their output is improved it’s still far from . . . um . . . a neat pick-up so we persevere. Wearily.
^ Although if it were that simple, anorexia in humans would be less scary and less difficult to treat. I remind myself of this sometimes, on my knees beside the dog bed, stuffing cold sticky food down recoiling hellhounds.
*** I did survive^ my first official Samaritan duty shift, thank you for asking. It was a relatively quiet night which given that I was not at my best is probably just as well,^^ although I need some demanding shifts to get through the list of things your mentor has to support you through before you’re turned loose to function mentor-less. I did write a few texts^^^—and I hope you eventually get over that initial shock of, oh, you poor thing, let me give you a cup of tea and a biscuit.#
The next fortnight is going to be a little unnecessarily exciting however since I’m still at the tremulous beginning of learning Sam weekly duty-shift stamina and I’ve got Street Pastor shifts two weeks in a row too. This is from the swap with Eleanor—she took my Friday night before a Saturday-morning Sam training in June and I’m taking her Saturday in July while she’s touring great swathes of America with her husband. Meanwhile the ME needs to clear off.
^ . . . I’m here. I’m writing a blog entry. This is not the new Zombie McKinley. Breath on the mirror and everything.
^^ And I’m going to assume that hang-ups are not in response to my American accent.
^^^ My mentor, whom we will call Pythia, has a very good line: if you had written what this person has written, is this the response you’d want to read? —Since ‘I have a magic wand and I’m about to make it all go away’ is ineligible, like the cup of tea, if for different reasons.
# Tricky, of course, since they could be texting you from anywhere. New Guinea. Mars.+
+ A CUP OF TEA AND A BISCUIT?? I’M SO BRITISH.~
~ I have no idea what the cup-of-tea-and-a-biscuit equivalent is in either New Guinea or Mars.
† Although I continue to be tempted to take . . . probably Matty Groves in to Nadia. Some folk song with drama. I told you, didn’t I, that I asked her how you sing a maddened nobleman who is about to off both his wife and her lover when you’re a soprano? And she said it’s all in how you release the consonants. And. Glory. Yes.^
I may not have told you since I don’t remember admitting that I’m not a big Sandy Denny fan^^. I know. Heresy. I am, indeed, so lost to all finer feelings that I wonder if the Sandy Denny cult might be somewhat based on the fact that she died young. Nice enough voice but . . . eh. Give me Maddy Prior or June Tabor or Norma Waterson. The Matty Groves take that makes my blood beat hard and my hair stand on end is Fairport Convention after Sandy Denny, with the blokes singing. And they can roar, which is not an option available to a soprano.
But I think I’m still not quite up to eating the scenery for Nadia. Maybe a few more weeks. Months. Years. . . .
^ ‘ . . . And I shall Strike the very next blow, and I will Kill you if I Can.’
^^ But when the ME is this bad I don’t have any memory either.
†† Famous on twenty-three continents^ for having a vocal range of two and a half notes, and tends to write songs accordingly.
^ This includes Mars
††† Your Body Is Your Instrument. Why didn’t I stick with the piano?
‡ I mean . . . singing. Melodic. More or less. Probably. I wasn’t in the band this week so it didn’t matter.
‡‡ Mozart? And he was—?
‡‡‡ Although the presence of non-eating hellhounds in the back seat, looking forward to their Monday afternoon post-lesson walk somewhere interesting, probably was not helping. They like me wrecked by ME: I’m much more willing to noodle along while they investigate every clump of grass for the recent presence of other dogs and/or fascinating pieces of litter.
§ Oh—that Mozart
§§ She also said that if I can’t do this free resonating thing at home this week—don’t panic. But that I should only sing new music—stuff I’m working on for the first time now—if I break out Che Faro, for example, which is absolutely my longing and desire, I’ll just revert to old habits. Wait a little now, she said. We’ll go back to Che Faro later, I promise.