Hello Petals, and greetings from the other side of yesterday’s long, dark teatime of the soul. I don’t know if it’s the rest, ice, baths, massage, chiropractic, physiotherapy, drugs, whiskey, homeopathy or donations that helped, but today I feel hopeful and optimistic, and my arse and I have resumed speaking terms. It still doesn’t feel great, but it feels better, that much is sure, and last night I slept the whole night through. It took a lot of pillows, but when I woke up I felt like maybe things are improving for sure. (I will not be getting on my bike until Sunday to be sure, and I’m going to keep doing all the things I’m doing. One of them is working.) I also had a rather fantastic snuggle with Elliot this morning, and the healing impact of his glorious cheeks cannot possibly be understated. He is the most delicious chunk. Fat and happy, and slept the whole hour his mother was in the dentist, while I walked him up to the drugstore and back, and then, wonder of wonders, resisted the urge to scream in the car. (This is his favourite trick. He resents the carseat and all that it is, and generally acts like he’s experiencing death by a thousand cuts all the way wherever he’s going, then brightens right up the minute he’s free of it – though a minute before you would have sworn he was starving or had mere minutes to live. It’s really not hard to tell he comes from a cycling family.)
Also, a minor fibre miracle. The other day, tidying a basket I keep spinning things in, one tucked way back in the cupboard, I found two bobbins of camel/silk singles.
I pulled them out and for a minute, couldn’t even remember spinning them, but then it came back to me. They’re spindle spun, wound onto the bobbins to empty the spindle each time it filled, and I spun them at least ten years ago. Ten years! (Let us gloss over entirely what it means to my housekeeping skills that I can lose things for ten years in a tiny house.) My wheel was still right there, oiled and clean, and so I popped them onto my Kate (I refuse to call it a lazy kate. I has a sexist ring to it. Why is it always a lazy woman? Lazy Susan, Lazy Kate… how come nothing is called a Lazy Gary?) A little while later I had the most delicious tiny skein of laceweight camel/silk. Just a weensie 210m, but still, it’s delicious, and when I told Joe what I’d found and done, I realized that his conversion to Fiber-support-spouse is complete. “Wow honey” he said, “That’s like finding $50 in your winter coat pocket when you put it on in the Fall.”
That’s it exactly.
Karmic Balancing gifts? Let’s do them until I run out of time. Tonight is our last Steering Committee meeting for the Rally, and I can’t tell you how thrilled I am to say that. It turns out that my dedication does know bounds, and it’s meetings. Only because I can knit at them is this all possible.
First up, Gauge Dye Works has two beautiful skeins for Virgina Y. One skein of classic sock, one shawl. (Man, Catherine who runs that place is so clever. That’s the yarn my most recent pair of socks were knit from.)
Tia has three skeins of Shibui Knits sock weight yarn in 50’s Kitchen (I love that, it’s the colours of my kitchen!) that she’ll be sending to Susan G.
The lovely Suzanne Visch is donating the pattern of their choice to five lucky knitters. (Lucky is right, what gorgeous things!) Congratulations to Nichole B, Heather K, Mary Jo M, Anisa S, Jennifer W, and Susan D.
By the way, yesterday’s yarn went happily to the highest bidder, who asked only two things. That I not mention their name, and that the yarn not go to her, but to someone new to knitting who would adore it, and be inspired by it. I love that idea, and I know just the knitter. Thanks to everyone who bid, it was charming, flattering and made the world a better place for people who need help. You guys are amazing.
More tomorrow – It’s a desk day. Thank you all for everything, you’re my favourite.
What I read
A novella by Heather Rose Jones, Three Nights at the Opera (2014), prequel to Daughter of Mystery.
There was indeed a new Catherine Fox, Realms of Glory, delivered to my Kobo well in time to beguile my journeyings. Very good.
Alex Hall, Glitterland (2013): m/m contemporary romance, which was an absolute page-turner and I will even give it a degree of pass on the phonetic rendering of Estuarine speech, on the grounds that this might be down to the first-person narrator's attempt to depict Difference.
Charlie Jane Anders, All the Birds in the Sky (2016): I had a bit of a problem with the rather gender-stereotypical allocation of science vs magic, and also with the way that both of them, in particular Patricia, are shown as coming to their powers as a result of familial dysfunction and school bullying (are US high schools really quite so generally toxic as literature would have me believe?), which is not that dissimilar in its rather Spartan overtones to the ethos of the military school to which Laurence is briefly sent. But I read on.
Helene Wecker, The Golem and the Djinni (2013) - there were parts where I thought this was a bit slow, and possibly about showing off the author's research, but then it all came together with all the threads meshing at the end.
On the go
The end is almost in sight with Prince of Tricksters. Also continuing with Rejected Essays and Buried Thoughts, as and when.
Well, I have lately had delivered to my Kobo Kate Elliott's Buried Heart (2017), conclusion (?) to the Court of Fives series. But I've also, finally, received Monica Ferris's cozy mystery, Knit Your Own Murder (2016), at last a) out in paperback and b) actually in the mailer received from the seller.
The interview starts at about 1 minute in, and runs about 30 minutes.
This was recorded on Day 4 of ConVergence, earlier this month. (Which seems longer ago than that, already.)
posted by Lois McMaster Bujold on July, 24
The final volume of the AMacD commonplace books ends abruptly halfway through. Between two pages are inserted a large number of loose cuttings from assorted periodicals, reporting the death of Gervase Reveley, Viscount Raxdell, in a street accident which only his own skills as a whip prevented from being a far worse disaster, but leading to his being thrown clear of his own curricle and fatally injured. There are also a number of obituary notices. On the following page is written three times I must be philosophical with a heavy line drawn underneath.
Alexander MacDonald, MA, locks the volume away with the others in the secure press, and looks down at his hand. The effects of grief upon the physical body are surely a topic suited to the philosopher, he murmurs as he observes its faint persistent trembling.
But, he thinks, no-one will imagine it to be anything but the natural effects of his efforts over these past few days: no-one will suppose that the signs of lack of sleep upon his face due to anything but the business of organising the funeral, arranging for the succession of the new viscount, writing or causing to be written the vast number of letters that have been necessary, and having all in order for this present morning’s reading of the will.
At least he had been there to the last: it had been considered not in the least remarkable that Gervase desired to communicate last wishes to his dedicated secretary, when they brought in his broken body.
He bites his lip. The new viscount, a fellow of nearly Gervase’s own years that had never expected to inherit, any anticipations in the matter falling upon his son, shows considerable signs of wanting him to stay and steer an obscure country squire through the new paths he suddenly finds himself set upon. But to stay at Raxdell House, when there is no Gervase –
But first, the reading of the will. The servants were well instructed beforehand, but he should be there with His new Lordship to greet the lawyers as they arrive.
The relatives and the household have assembled. Jerome, Seraphine and Roberts all sit together. Old Fosticue – demonstrating respect for the ancient association of the firm with the Reveley family, it is Old Fosticue comes creaking about this ceremony – picks up the document.
There is a little – not quite a gasp, more the sounds of breaths being drawn in among the assembled company – and Old Fosticue looks up as the drawing-room door can be heard opening. A late-comer to the reading? He cannot think of anyone who should be there and isn’t - mayhap some family black sheep in hopes of some small legacy –
A rustle of silk. He turns to look.
Still able to glide like a swan into a room, though in this instance, a black swan, Clorinda, Dowager Marchioness of Bexbury, advances down the rows of chairs, clad in the deepest of mourning, and, gracefully resisting any efforts to direct her anywhere else, comes to sit beside him.
How could he have not known she would come? One must play the comedy out to the last act and the final bow, she has said in respect of so many stratagems and contrivances over the years. Of course she would be here. Under concealment of the full skirt, she takes and squeezes his hand.
A deal of the property is entailed but there was still a considerable amount entirely within Gervase’s disposal. In the will he has carefully detailed numerous minor bequests to various members of the household, distant relatives, and friends. Jerome is well-provided for, as he should be. His dear friend, the Dowager Marchioness of Bexbury, comes in for several pieces of his mother’s jewellery, a valuable snuff-box, and a painting by Raoul de Clérault: doubtless everyone will speculate that Gervase made some settlement upon her years ago, and guess that these are merely sentimental tokens of his esteem. And after all, she is known a well-left widow with no need to hang out for legacies
And to my devoted secretary, who has served me so well and so faithfully - of course, he had expected some remembrance –
- but not that it would be what could only be described as a generous independence, along with something about enabling him to devote his abilities to philosophy -
- at which he finds himself feeling quite the reverse of philosophical, but Clorinda grips his hand again and he does not faint or fall into a fit of weeping.
Afterwards, His new Lordship says all that is proper, but looks as though he is about to lead to the possibility of Sandy's remaining; but a weight leans upon his arm, a voice says in die-away tones, o, Mr MacDonald, I feel quite overset - no-one can apply a dainty handkerchief to her eyes as Clorinda can – might you see is my smelling-bottle in my reticule, sure I thought I had put it in – o, Your Lordship, I am indeed sorry to break in upon your conversation, but I find myself so exceeding faint I would prevail upon Mr MacDonald's kindness to escort me home.
Clorinda’s hair under the cap may be silver-gilt rather than golden these days, she is no longer a young woman, but she still has only to enter a room to draw a bevy of men, old and young, to her side. The new viscount swallows and says, indeed, he would not wish to detain Lady Bexbury here –
O, thank you, breathes Clorinda, and they leave the room quite as if he is rescuing her from the press rather than the reverse.
Once they are in her carriage, and driving away, she says, really! solicit you at such a time to remain about Raxdell House! shocking ton.
But -, he begins.
O, but me no buts, Sandy dear. Are there not young men among your connexion would jump at such a place? You need only say to Lord Raxdell that you have become so entire used to Milord’s particular ways that you confide you would find it hard, at your time of life, to have to change to suit his, but that you will ever be entire at his disposal and that of any secretary he appoints to give advice.
It is entirely true, utterly sensible, quite proper: and something that he had not even managed to begin to think in his frozen state.
My dear, she says, I confide that these past days you have barely slept, have been about all matter of arrangements and perform’d them all exceeding well, and 'tis entirely that consideration should prevent Lord Raxdell from approaching you until you have had time to think of what you will do now. In particular as you do not need to be hanging out for preference.
No… he says, wondering if having something to put his hand to would at least be a distraction, keep him from thinking, from remembering –
They arrive at Clorinda’s pretty house, where they have hatched so many plots and sounded so many mysteries. Hector makes exceeding civil condolences to him, and shows them into the pretty parlour. He goes sit in his accustomed chair.
Vaguely, he hears Clorinda give some instructions to Hector, then turn and say, and Hector, when you have spoke to Euphemia, send up someone with more coals to stir up the fire.
He thinks it might be one of Hector and Euphemia’s offspring that comes lay more coals and stir up the fire into a fine blaze.
Why, dearest C-, do we need a great fire? (For the weather has of a sudden become a deal milder than that cold snap, with ice upon the ground that contributed to the accident.)
Because, dear Sandy, you are shivering.
So he is.
Quite shortly afterwards comes Euphemia herself with a mug in her hand. He had been expecting coffee, has not coffee ever been almost immediately served whenever he comes here?
'Tis a posset, says Clorinda, a most sustaining thing. I daresay you have not eat a thing these several days. You cannot live upon coffee.
He wrinkles his nose but indeed, he cannot remember eating anything, though surely Seraphine must have been leaving food for him.
A little while later comes some excellent soup.
And then he remembers nothing more except for some faint remembrance of being conveyed upstairs by Hector.
"WEIRD 70S GOTHICS PLEASE," I said, and Jo duly carried out her commission so well that I don't know if anybody's ever going to top it:
Portrait in Jig-Saw is apparently so obscure it doesn't even have a Goodreads page, which, having read it, I can honestly now say is kind of a shame.
Our Heroine's name is Alixander David Somerlaid MacDonald (I KNOW), otherwise known as Alisdair; she is a Strictly Sheltered Heiress who has been raised in a Freezing Castle in Complete Isolation and Solitude with only occasional visits from her father until she comes of age on her 21st birthday.
...for the record, the year is 1973.
( My legit favorite part about these spoilers is that the entire plot relies on an alternate universe where the world's most famous postmodern novelist is a Thai princess, I want to live in THAT universe! )
and, now in progress:
Enjoy. (I will update this post as needed, to have everything in one place.)
I have been accused, more than a few times in my life, of being overly optimistic. You wouldn’t think that such a thing could be a negative, but it works against me from time to time, as I persist (usually in the face of terrible odds) in thinking that most things will work out just fine if I apply myself to the problem. If something is properly doomed, this can occasionally spell heartbreak, and that’s what I’m thinking about as I sit here writing to you with an icepack on my left arse, chock full of pain meds, and pondering my week. The Rally begins on Sunday morning, and while I’m sure I’ll be able to ride, I’m not sure I won’t be able to do it without some suffering, and I’m reaching for my optimism a bit.
I’ve done everything I can think of for the last few weeks to try and clear this up. Apparently it’s my SI joint (didn’t even know I had one, but there you go) and I’ve had a bike fit, seen a sports medicine doctor (I know! I laughed all the way there. Me! At a sports clinic. I kept thinking they’d look at me like a sloth that had wandered into the gazelle pen at the zoo, but it turns out that when I told them how much I was riding, they wrote down that I was a “serious cyclist.” I almost had to bite myself to keep from laughing out loud.) The doctor prescribed physiotherapy, and I’ve been doing that, and all my exercises, and I felt like maybe things were getting better, but Sundays’ ride has left me whinging and limping around – and it’s hard for even me to be optimistic under these circumstances. Today after the gym I thought about having a bit of a weep.
I can’t tell you how disappointing it is to prepare for this for months and months, and then get a small but miserable injury right at the end. The whole reason I train is to prevent suffering. This week I’ve been prescribed rest, ice, baths, sleep, massage, anti-inflammatory stuff and… no bike. We’re going for maximum healing before Sunday, when everyone agrees that the worst thing that can happen is pain. I won’t do any permanent harm, and the great thing about going to a sports medicine clinic is that nobody has suggested I don’t do my sport, which is pretty reassuring. (I believe them too, the dude who has the appointment before mine is an Olympian. They must know what they’re doing if he’s there.) I’m going to pack, eat well, do as I’m told, reach for that optimism, and hope for the very best. I’m also going to keep my eyes on the prize, and that’s fundraising. Me on my bike doesn’t help PWA- it’s the donations that give it power, and they’re behind in the money department this year. I’ll heal, but a lot of the people that look to the agency for important help won’t have a the same chance, so – I’m going to focus on why I do this, and not let the circumstances get me down. I want to thank you all for your support and donations over the last while. It makes a huge difference, and I’m so grateful.
Enough of that, want to see some spinning? Sure you do. It’s way more interesting than my arse. Remember this?
It’s that gorgeous braid of Fiber Optic Yarns merino/silk. I sat down at the wheel with it when I had that devastatingly tiny cut on my finger, and worked at it a few hours a day. I wanted to preserve the gradient, and I tossed around the idea of spinning it all into one long single, and then chain plying it, but I was really hoping to get decent yardage, and a laceweight. I decided I’d split the whole braid down the middle, lengthwise, and then spin each half as it was, and ply them together afterwards. This sometimes works, and sometimes not so much, but I was (see above) optimistic. I launched.
When I was done, I had two bobbins full that I hoped were more of less equal, and then started to ply.
This is where the whole thing can go sideways. If I hadn’t split the roving equally, I’d have more of one of the other, and it wouldn’t match up as I went along. That happened a little bit, but as I plied, if it started to not match up, I’d break the single from the offending bobbin, pull out a metre or two until they matched again, and then rejoin and keep plying. (I had to do that three times, which is pretty good, considering that I’m human. One bobbin was about 10 metres longer than the other.) When I was done, voila.
It’s about 450 metres (492 yards) of a really lovely laceweight. Well, it’s a little heavy for laceweight, but it’s quite light for fingering, so I’m going with the former. It’s the tiniest bit wonky, like all handspun, but I’m totally in love with it. It is soft, and strong and pretty, and it’s going to make a beautiful… something.
I don’t know what it will be though – because I’m not going to knit it. You can, if you want. If it calls to your heart, let me know, and let me know what it would be worth to you. The knitter who makes the best offer of a donation gets it. Email me at email@example.com (subject line “that yarn” please) and tell me what you’d be willing to donate to my fundraising, and the highest bid gets it mailed to their house. (I’ll choose tomorrow afternoon. I’ve got to babysit in the morning.)
Happy Tuesday everyone. See you tomorrow, and I’m sure everything is going to be just fine.
I noticed - flitting past me on Twitter the other day - somebody eyerolling at, if not codfishing, some bloke's plaint that watching Dunkirk had made him realise that The Modern Man does not have these Manly Challenges To Rise To -
And being a historian, I thought that, actually, there have been long generations, at least in my country, where most men were not being called upon to take arms and fight, and the general attitude to the soldiery was summed up by Kipling in Tommy.
And that thing about Challenges to Rise To always tends to be seen in a context which leads to e.g. the Battle of the Somme, rather than to being a despised Conscientious Objector, a decision which history may read entirely differently -
Which possibly links on to that thing I also saw flit past me on Twitter apropos of alt-history narratives which allow the viewer to believe that they would be The Resistance, which reminded me of that nasty piece of work Jimmy Porter in Look Back in Anger going 'where are the good brave causes?', and really, one can think of a few relevant to the 1950s, not to mention, we do not, ourselves, envisage J Porter going off to Spain in the 30s.
And the whole notion of Heroic Actions and somehow, not here, not now.
And I thought, did not my beloved Dame Rebecca say somewhat to this point in Black Lamb and Grey Falcon, and while this has the rhetorical universalisation and generalisation to which she was (alas) prone, it does seem relevant to this notion of some kind of masculine Rite de Passage:
All men believe that some day they will do something supremely disagreeable, and that afterwards life will move on so exalted a plane that all considerations of the agreeable and disagreeable will prove petty and superfluous.
As opposed to, persistently beavering away at the moderately disagreeable in the hopes that it might become a little more agreeable.
The day after, he told me, he'd had a visit -- from Loffe, who had come up to his house, and even entered it, for the first time ever. "Do you think he could tell so soon that the dog was gone?", he asked me. I said: "Quite likely".
**Ta bort -- that's how they say it around here
Dear readers, I have recently completed what I suppose, length-wise, amounts to a novella, i.e. long enough that I will be posting it in instalments.
It is set some 20+ years after Clorinda renounced writing her memoirs.
Content warnings: some character deaths, atypical behaviour while in the throes of bereavement, startling and unexpected revelations.
But some answers to questions about 'what happened to - ?'.
First episode coming shortly.
Sex and love, lies and truth, shades in between. Happy endings and might-have-beens. Nine tales of these things between men.
It was not fear of such an encounter that was responsible for the delay in paying this most natural duty. Orcs had not been known in the neighbourhood for many years, and had their return to the region been known the party would have elected to travel by the Pass of Rohan, no matter the greater distance. Rather the lady's children had reached the difficult age of the late second millenium when an elf is most in need of guidance from a mother. The presence in Rivendell of their distant cousins the Dunedain had made this guidance particularly essential. None knew more than the daughter of the Lady Galadriel the importance of harmonious relations between kin, and Celebrían had sincerely welcomed the many greats grandchildren of her brother-in-law to her home. But there were limits to how close a connection should be considered, and no count of generations could undo the fact that the children of Elrond and the Line of Elendil were first cousins. It would not do.