Smokey the Magnificent

Failing the Turing Test since 1986

A Happening

Yesterday Helpdesk Man had gone out mountain-biking. He does this now, though with mixed success. He has lost weight, which is the point; but he has also fallen off enough times to warrant the purchase of arm-guards, at which his fellow mountain-biking friends smirked a little before politely saying that they had never felt the need for them. (Helpdesk Man: “But I ride more aggressively than they do! I push myself further!” Me: “Pushing yourself so far that you fall off ISN’T A VIRTUE!” Helpdesk Man: [radiating manly smugness.])

It was heading towards lunchtime and I was wondering if he were about to return, but decided instead of waiting around like a computer-bound Penelope for his return I would take the children on a short trot round the orchard to filch a lemon from a lemon tree at the other end. So we did. And it was lovely. We found two eggs lying out in the middle of the apple trees, which indicated worrying slatternliness on the part of the hens but was still a minor triumph. We took a small, scenic detour down a hill and past a rusting pile of freezers in order to climb on some logs. We braved the slightly scary dog who guards the lemon tree – entrepreneurially, I hasten to add. We’re allowed to filch the lemons. The dog just happens to be tied up near the lemon tree and goes ballistic whenever we approach it.

So anyway, bearing our lemons and eggs and the occasional stick for poking puddles, we wended out way home. To my disappointment, Helpdesk Man had not arrived home, which would have allowed me to be all “I was out for a walk with the children” so he could have been all “What a wholesome and excellent family outing, good wife”.

And then I went to the computer and found this message:

Helpdesk Man: Are you there?
I’m not sure I can drive
I think I may have broken my collarbone
I crashed my bike
Sent at 12:50 PM on Friday
Come to the computer
Helpdesk Man: Haaaaalp
He had indeed broken his collarbone. And if this post is a little disjointed and some of the sentences tail off into nowhere, it is because I was up until at least 2AM arranging his pillows, wedging towels under his shoulders, administering drugs, leaping out of bed to fetch a bucket when he thought he was going to pass out from the pain and ringing the ER to see if they would put him on a morphine drip. (Worse for him; I recognise that.) Apparently broken collarbones are kind of a drag. He got up at 5:45 because he couldn’t stomach lying down any more, and now at 10:30 is passed out in the bedroom again. AND yesterday at the ER he had to take off his shirt in front of God and everybody; and when I solicitously helped him re-dress without disarranging his shoulder I managed to get it on backwards. Poor wee sausage.
It is interesting to see how our two children deal with this situation. Yesterday I had to leave the pigs with their tiny aunt while Father and I drove to pick up the bike and car and I joined Helpdesk Man at the emergency room; upon returning, the snortlepig had thoroughly cleaned the living area for us out of the goodness of her heart. Miles, conversely, was just caught in the act of pelting down the corridor shouting joyously “Let’s go wake Daddy up!”
Oh, and incidentally? Helpdesk Man’s crash was caused by aiming for a plank-bridge over a ditch and missing. Ladies and gentlemen, my husband.

Sub Terra

I have always wanted to live in a house with secret passageways. As a kidlet my house had a small door which led under the house, and if you didn’t mind getting covered in dirt and spiders you could crawl through and emerge on a shelf in the underground garage. It wasn’t exactly a secret lair hidden behind a bookcase, but I convinced myself it was glamorous and spent a good deal of time there, going so far as to furnish the place with old carpet and op-shop dishes.

Our current house does not have secret passages. An esoteric wiring system, yes. A laundry that converts to a sauna by operating the dryer, yes. Secret passages, no. Or so I thought.

But a few days ago I was outside photographing a birthday cake where the light was good, and the snortlepig was pesking about by the rosemary bush by the deck. Next thing I knew there was a squeak and a wail and the pig had disappeared up to her armpits.

Apparently there’s a secret subterranean world next to the deck. With a hole in it. The hole had been concealed with a large flat rock and a pot-plant, at least until we removed the latter on the grounds of deadness and the pig stood on the edge of the former, flipping it over and neatly tipping her in.

She was OK, just a tad scraped around the legs and extremely surprised. We had to go out, so we merely put the rock back and warned the pigs sternly away from it. But perhaps later on today I will investigate. I hope to find at least a cache of Prohibition-era whiskey, if not gold ingots and a Batman-themed media den.


By the snortlepig. Edited for spelling. I cannot even begin to formulate commentary, so just picture me rocking and trembling in a corner as you read them.

The Dark Hill

Once upon a dark

hill lay an evil wizard

who did not like any

one except for his one self

he was so so evil that

he could touch a worm

and when he had touched

it then the worm would

be dead and he would

eat it because

he hated insects he

just did not like

anything at all

even children


babies he was just

a awful wizard.

* * * * * * *

Stoopid Pop

One summer

night lived a chicken

his mum had

died but before

she had died

her baby boy

Pop had lied in

the coffin with

his mum because

he loved his mum

so much he just

could not leave



So the thing about me being off Citalopram? Yeah, now I’m on Prozac.

What happened is, I had a minor meltdown yesterday morning and instead of going to Bible study to cover Samsom’s dying moments (a pity, they were pretty cinematic) I ended up driving snivellingly to the doctor swearing that if she told me to nurture myself I would poke out her eyes with a fork. Two hours later I had a prescription for Prozac, blood tests for prolactin and cortisol and a cervical smear. (HOW? WHY? I don’t even know.)

Not from my own doctor, of course; she was busy. This was Doctor, I dunno, Six. Seven? Crikey, I’ve lost count; that’s a bad sign. She was nice, actually. Took me seriously, though I don’t suppose I gave her much choice as I was wailing violently at her face. Maybe I should have tried that earlier. Anyway, I started on the new drugs yesterday and today I made a custard pie and cleaned the mould off the bedroom ceiling, so perhaps things are looking up. There’s still the issue of SSRIs causing autism in putative future progeny, but as the doctor said, on balance it’s better that I don’t throw myself off a bridge. So. Yay. Here we are again.

On a brighter note: guess what I did on Wednesday? Judged a homeschool history fair, that’s what. “That’s odd,” you might be snarkily saying, “I didn’t know you were an historian.” To which I say, A, “an historian”, really? And B, no, well, the lady who was going to do it had to go to a funeral – her mother’s funeral – so I was the scrambled-about-for hasty replacement.

It was awesome. A history fair is just like a science fair, you know, with the big cardboard displays and the big title carefully constructed to take up half the board and a little bibliography in the corner that says “Websites” because you’re too young and inept to know how to source things. I had thought I was going to be one of a panel of judges, but nope, it was just me.

“Do I have specific criteria or a chart or something?” I asked.

“Oh, nope, just wander around and have a look at them.”

“Oh! Um, should I talk to the children?”

“Yeah, good idea! I’ll get them to go stand by their displays and you can ask them questions.”

“Um, OK. And should I make notes? Do I just give you the names, or should I do a little speech about why I chose each one?”

“Ooh, that’d be good, if you want to. Only if you can be bothered.”

“OK. Ooh, can I judge them on their spelling and grammar?”

“Oh, no, I told them spelling and handwriting and stuff wouldn’t be judged. I didn’t want them to get scared.”

Hmph. Still, it was fun. The kids were all scared and respectful (heh). There were the usual gamut of exhibits – a couple that had obviously taken weeks of dedicated work, and a few that the kids incautiously admitted within earshot that they’d started the week before. There were the suspiciously erudite typewritten ones written by small children who, when asked to explain them, stared at me blankly and pointed hopefully to the pictures. There was one on the life of a certain female English monarch which managed to entirely omit any mention of her acts as Queen, creating the impression that she was did nothing but wear dresses and produce babies. I thought of getting into the feminism of it all with the entrant, but she was small and earnest and it seemed unkind. Oh, and there was one science fair project masquerading as a history fair project. I admired that. Stick to your strengths, kid.

Anyway, I totally rose to the occasion and gave them all a little speech about what I’d been looking for and the importance of using a variety of resources, not copy-and-pasting from Wikipedia and so on. And as my choices didn’t provoke cries of outrage and I wasn’t lynched by mobs of angry parents on the way out, I can only assume this is my new calling in life. They’re having a Literature Fair next term; I will expect the call.


I went to see a therapist today.

I’m not sure how I feel about this. On the one hand, I’m a great fan of being Open and Honest about mental illness, because it’s just like any disease and you wouldn’t hesitate to tell the world you had cystitis or fatty degeneration of the heart, now would you? I’ll drop Citalopram into the conversation – any conversation – like it ain’t no thing. (Point of interest? In America it’s called Celexa. Much better name.) I’ll tell you about my phobias any day of the week, as long as it isn’t a day when they’re too severe or even typing or saying the word of the thing of which I’m phobic will make me come over all panicky, because that’s just not pleasant – but actually that hasn’t happened for ages, because it turns out Citalopram is excellent for phobias. Nifty, no? I watched the BBC Planet Earth ‘Deep Oceans’ documentary awhile back and didn’t even blench.

Only, the thing is, I’m not *on* Citalopram any more. Long story short, I got pregnant earlier this year, decided to stay on Citalopram anyway because it seemed better than going crazy, had a miscarriage (don’t recommend it), read up on SSRIs and increased autism risk, decided to come off the drugs before trying to get pregnant again, weaned myself down from two tablets to one to none over several weeks, and went crazy. Man, I really don’t update this blog a lot, do I?

Enter my doctor. Well, I say ‘my’ doctor. My medical centre has a suspiciously high turnover rate. Periodically I’ll get a letter in the post saying my official GP has retired, died or been kidnapped by pirates and my new GP is Dr Indiansoundingsurname. At which I go ‘oh ar’, throw the letter away and get another one six months later. This means I can never remember who ‘my’ doctor actually is, but as he or she is invariably booked up until next week anyway and the only time I visit a doctor is when I need to see one right absolutely now this instant, I end up with the on-call and/or unpopular-enough-to-have-free-time doctor anyway, whose name I do happen to remember because she shares it with a terrorist dictator.

She is not a terrorist dictator. Terrorist dictators get stuff done. My doctor, on the other hand, pooh-poohed any suggestion that my depression and chronic fatigue were even the teensiest problem and told me that because my husband worked from home, my three-hour afternoon naps weren’t actually a problem so much as a creative and satisfactory solution to my natural tiny spot of sleepiness caused, no doubt, by my running after those cute kids: and therefore, I was fine. Better than fine, even. All I needed to do was Nurture Myself.

After a couple of months of this I finally snapped and decided to get a new doctor. This one is nicer. She orders blood tests in a patronising, “I really don’t think this is it, but if it’ll make you feel better…” way, but at least she orders them. Which is how, incidentally, we found out I have a circulating iron level of 5. The very lowest end of normal is 20. 0 is, I presume, dead. Mum says she got down to 3 once while pregnant, but she may be boasting.

Anyway, the good news is, she booked me into a sleep clinic, which should be grand fun. The bad news is, she told me to Nurture Myself. She also told me to see a therapist. How twee, thunk I. How absurdly middle-class. How White Girl Problems. How privileged and gitty and who do I think I am, anyway, when people are being murdered in subways? And why does everyone assume I have situational depression when our family’s brain-cells have managed to revolt in every conceivable circumstance over many generations? And ooh, do they really have couches?

Then she told me it was free, and I said “Oh well, OK then.” Because you don’t turn your back on a bargain, fools.

Still, I feel sort of odd about it. I wasn’t going to bring it up, but then I remembered only about three people read this blog anyway and at least one of them’s legit cuckoo herself (it’s you, Krissy; sorry), so you’ll just have to deal. And after all, mental illness is just a disease like any other and you wouldn’t be ashamed of going to a professional to find out if having a refrigerator mother caused your pancreas to stop producing insulin, now would you?

First off: I went to the wrong street. Nothing like greeting an old man at his door with a cheery “This is probably a random question, but you don’t happen to be a psychologist?” to foster community spirit. He was nice, actually.

Secondly: she did not have a couch. An absurdly squishy chair, yes. Tissues and a bin placed tactfully by. A clipboard. Many pamphlets, some of which she didn’t seem to think much of and crossed bits outta before handing them to me. I admire that.

Thirdly: apparently my depression is ‘quite severe’. I was kind of chuffed to hear that. Last time I did the multiple choice test it was only ‘moderate to severe’, and it’s always nice to feel one isn’t wasting the taxpayers’ dime.

Fourthly: I need to Nurture Myself.

Actually, it was kind of fun. She made me tell her about things that give me pleasure, and then we rated the pleasure out of 10 and compared it to the effort, also out of 10, which it took to achieving said pleasure. The idea is to try to do things which give one maximal pleasure at minimal effort. So, for example, taking a refreshing hike up a mountain might give one a 7 for pleasure, but a 10 for effort, and is therefore not that helpful as one will simply spend the rest of the week lying flat on one’s back with achy thighs and sunburn. But eating a Bounty bar, while it may only give one a 3 for pleasure, takes like 0.5 effort-points, and is therefore… more worthwhile? That doesn’t seem right. Possibly I am drawing the wrong moral here. Anyway, the upshot of it all is that we decided I like baking. Which is hardly a revelation, but I suppose it’s nice to have it professionally confirmed at a low low price.

Going back to Disneyland, sadly, is an uncompromising 10 on the effort scale, and also unsubsidised. Do you think Make a Wish – no, probably not. Shame.

Also, I don’t know how the cool kids are Nurturing Themselves these days, but her suggestions were that I could ‘go get a haircut’ (rude?) or ‘sit by myself for half an hour and just breathe’, which I do already, lady, it’s called BEING DEPRESSED. Was that inspiring. I was hoping she’d insist I take up zorbing or paragliding or moving to Oxford to do the occasional paper in children’s literature and punt a lot. (Well, sit in a punt. Not actually punt. Remember the Effort Scale. Also, can’t punt. Can you?)

So…. yup. One session down, three to go. Will keep you apprised. Possibly. Honestly, I might not. And I shall make no promises, because putting Expectations on myself only leads to a Fear of Failure, which is a Negative Thought I should not attempt to Judgmentally Change but merely Acknowledge, on the grounds that Negative Thoughts are like other people’s toddlers and if you stare at them in a fixed, neutral way as they approach, they will get nervous and slink on by. (Which is certainly better than trying to change someone else’s toddler. A nappy joke. Ha-ha! See, I’m better already.)


1. Hennaing one’s roots with Tiny Miles as an audience is delightful.

Miles: “Ewww, Mummy, you got some yucky on you ear!”

Me, deftly applying henna down my parting with a soup spoon: “It’s OK, I’ll wash it off.”

Miles: “Cause it’s yucky?”

Me: “Yes. It’s yucky on ears, but it’s OK on my hair.”

Miles: “Why do you want dat yucky on you hair?”

Me: “To make it red.” [Thinks: Ha! Did not say ‘To make it pretty’, implying a hierarchy of hair-colour beauty and setting him up for a life of casual misogyny and frosted tips]

Miles: “Why you want to make you hair red?”

Me: “Because look, most of it is red, but when my new hair grows here at the roo- at the top, it’s not so red, so I’m making it red like the rest, see?’

Miles, wisely: “Oh. Do your new hair not work any more?”

Me: “…No, it works. It’s just not red.”

Miles: “Mummy! You got scoop on you hands too!”

Me: “Scoop? Oh, goop. Heh. Yes. It’s OK. I’ll wash it off.”

Miles: “You gonna wash it off you head?”

Me: “Yes, later; after you’ve gone to bed. It takes a while for the red to work.”

The snortlepig, coming in unexpectedly: “Whoa! You’re surprisingly good at that.” [Leaves]

Miles, looking with mingled horror and longing at the henna mug: “I’m not gonna eat dat.”

Me: “No, it’s not for eating. It’s only for making hair pretty.” (DANGNABBIT!)

Miles: “I wouldn’t want dat scoop on my head.”

Me, still flummoxed: “No, but you don’t need to have henna on your head, because you have lovely blond hair.” (WHAT ARE YOU SAYING, HITLER?)

Miles: “Yeah.” [Pulls the top drawer halfway out of the chest of drawers and begins to climb into it in order to reach the top, on which the bathroom mirror is precariously perched]


Miles, surprised: “I’m just climbing like dis.”

Me: “No no no! That’s very dangerous. We Don’t Do That.”

Miles: “I’m jus’ climbing to get to da top. I show you.”

Me: “Don’t show me! No no. Push it back in. That’s not a good thing.”

Miles: “I jus’ want to look in da mirror.”

[Miles stretches on tiptoes, manages to catch a glimpse of himself and beams with unalloyed pleasure. I wrap my head in a plastic bag and retire to the living room to have a chat with Miles about sterilising the undesirables, having come this far.]

2. I weaned myself off Citalopram and now I keep getting really, really angry about misattributed Pinterest quotes.

3. There is a disembowelled, inside-out ex-hedgehog on our driveway. It may be Reggie the Hedgie, our resident garden porker. If so, he got over his prickle-baldness only to succumb to (presumably) cherry-picker squashage. If not, we have a sick hedgehog and a dead hedgehog on the premises. Neither of those scenarios is comforting.

4. If you were an actor on Star Trek, don’t you think you’d feel kind of cheated playing a human? I mean, being a Vulcan or a Klingon might be somewhat limiting after a while – a Trill, less so – but it’d be more fun, kind of. Deanna got to make up her own accent, and Kira had nifty nose-ridges. Plus you’d get nifty rituals and weapons and snatches of language and wedding traditions and an exotic homeworld and apparently, regardless of race, a ton of candles.

I asked George Takei about this once at a convention, and he not only misunderstood the question but answered the completely different question I hadn’t asked with a certain tired patience, as if I were a mouth-breathing moron who’d clawed her way out of the basement with a mighty mousing hand and three other atrophied limbs. Never liked him since.


1. We are very proud of Helpdesk Man. Two nights ago he came down with the lurgy and woke me up in the small hours to demand a Receptacle. The only thing I could find at such short notice was a one-litre Pyrex measuring jug. Despite having eaten next to nothing all day, my man managed to produce 850mL so rapidly we began to worry about overflow. Well done, Helpdesk Man!

2. I love libraries.

This was not always the case. As a smallish child I once lost a book and had to pay for it, which was trebly distressing because a) Mum was peeved, b) paying up decimated my tiny bank account, and c) I was SURE I’d returned it. Traumatised and broke, I avoided the library for the next two years. On my next reluctant visit, what did I find in the Core Stock? The missing book. I triumphantly presented a very worn receipt from the depths of my purse and demanded my thirty dollars from a bemused librarian while the angels rejoiced. But the library-phobia lingered, and it wasn’t until a few years ago that I got back into ’em.

Recently, though? They make me quite giddy.

One enters the fiction section and invariably suffers from an initial disappointment. “There’s nothing heeeeere,” one whinges at passing strangers, curling one’s lip at row after row of The Secret Diaries of the Many Lovers of a Minor Tudor and pallid romcoms which hope invoking Jane Austen in the title will lead them to posterity. One begins to believe one must have already read everything worth reading and what’s the point of going on?

And then somehow, despite oneself, creeping slowly backwards around the shelves with one’s head on sideways, a pile accumulates. Another Alexander McCall Smith – ehh, might as well. A couple of Terry Pratchetts – ooh, I haven’t read that one. The Lovely Bones – well, I didn’t like the movie, but might as well see if the book’s better. Carrie Fisher – that’s right, Carrie Fisher writes novels! And ooh look, a PG Wodehouse tucked between Mr Darcy’s Sultry Temptation and The Jane Austen Skydiving Posse 2: Vegas Vacation.

By the time one makes it to the non-fiction section one is already respectably loaded, and then the real fun begins. A memoir of nursing in the 1950s… a book on the science of cooking… the untold stories of how new species were discovered… a defense of plastic surgery written by a plastic surgeon… Michael Pollan… midwifery throughout history… Oliver Saks… Roswell conspiracy theories. And the next thing you know, you’ve maxed out your library card and have to resort to using the snortlepig’s for the last five books, hoping she won’t object to Polyps: An Intimate History appearing on her permanent record.

This leads to to two conclusions. First, libraries are awesome. Secondly, they are the direct opposite of fabric stores, which give the initial impression of varied abundance and leave one sobbing among the Notions half an hour later because there isn’t a single bolt of smoky blue dress fabric to be had in the place, either plain or patterned, even for ready money.

3. If I see ‘best friend’ written as one word one more time, I’m going to burn something down. Probably Pinterest.


I have determined my hair’s porosity.

What you do is fill a sink with water and drop a single hair on top. If it sinks immediately, your hair is porous. If it takes a long time to sink – the website did not specify, but I’m assuming the duration of a hair-washy shower ought to do it – your hair is of medium porosity. If it does not sink at all, your hair is not porous.

Mine isn’t. I have no idea what to do with this information. Feel empowered, though. Just like when I recently, finally learned my blood type – I think. The form just said ‘O’ – but I assume one has to be either positive or negative, does one not? Is there a neutral state? Very Zen, if so. O Neutral. You could chant that during meditation, if it didn’t cause images of newts to flit across your blankening mind.

Now if only I could figure out m’Colours, I’d be sorted. I never understood Colours. I have a friend who got hers done – pastels, she was, which is what? Spring? – and henceforth went shopping with a swatch of fabrics on a keyring on her purse. I look it up every few years and say ‘Um’. Problem is, my hair always foils me. Do I use my natural dishwater-mouse colour or my henna? Wouldn’t that change things? It seems absurd to dress to flatter a hair colour one no longer sports; but on the other hand, it seems like fraud to throw dye into the calculations. I mean, what if I dyed my hair different colours on a weekly basis, like Clementine? Would I have to have four separate seasons’ worth of wardrobes? And anyway, I once read that seasons are so last year, and the truly chic woman is neither a Summer nor Autumn, but a Gold or Silver.

One puts gold and silver jewellery against the inside of one’s wrist and observes which makes one’s skin Pop. Tried it once. Nothing Popped. Praps I’m a Copper or Mercury. Tungsten. Is that a metal? Ooh, so it is. Also known as wolfram. Heh.

Anyway, it’s an interesting thing, beauty, innit. The thing is, as with childbirth, I’m keener on the theory. I can tell you how fourteenth-century Italian women wore crownless hats in order to bleach their hair; I can discuss the ethics of Photoshop with the best of them; I can argue that the dangers of corsetry in the Victorian age were vastly overstated by a reactionary clergy; I know about the Oil Cleansing Method and doctor fish pedicures and how surfactants promote excess sebum production and how to do Renaissance hair taping. I know how to braid hair that’s longer than one’s arms can reach (hook the braid over a door handle and continue to braid back towards yourself) and the exciting politics of the Afro. I know about traction alopecia in ballerinas and Amishwomen; I’ve read about the discovery of a nerve-free layer in the face through which plastic surgeons can tunnel; and I am more familiar than most with the surprisingly long history of nasal reconstruction. (Tertiary syphilis and duelling created the demand – fascinating stuff, look it up.) I know that more perfumes than one might wish are derived from the anal glands of various ruminants. I know that placenta-containing hair products can cause premature puberty. Plus I once read a book about Coco Chanel, although the only fact I retained is that she popularised the jersey dress, which is something of a mixed legacy, innit? Oh, and sailor-striped tops on women. Lovely.

Yet I still struggle with the very basic notion of an Outfit. (Also childbirth.) I manicure not, neither do I knot floaty scarves in an arty way. Not a doer of the word, but a hearer only. The problem is, like with all my sporadic interests, I get obsessed for a bit and then it wears off. I’ll go through a month-long period of moisturising my entire self twice a day, while swearing panic-stricken under my breath Never to Forget lest I wither untimely and expose myself at the age of forty with a craggy neck. Then I forget about it for two years. (Pretty much exactly the same situation applies to gardening, unfortunately.) I had someone once assume I wore a hat to church for religious reasons, and had to confess it was simply to disguise the fact that on Sunday mornings I haven’t done my hair. (I didn’t tell her that on most mornings I haven’t done my hair, but that it generally doesn’t matter because going out to face the public would require finding socks.)

Anyway, I bring this up because I have just had a minor epiphanical happenstance. After a bad hair day lasting about eight months, I decided two days ago I wanted to try curls again – those being, in theory, the reason I chopped five miles off it in the first place. To be sure, my Ionic Steam Foam Rollers had never produced curls that lasted more than two hours, but then, I’d never worn them all night, had I?

Well, I did and it worked – a triumph somewhat marred by the fact that I’m never doing that again, no sirree, ow. Nevertheless, inspired, I looked up some rather confidence-shattering hairstyle tutorials on YouTube and found a lass who curled her hair using baby wipes. Baby wipes. For the cleansing of infants’ nefarious particulars. To curl hair. I had to do this thing.

I must say success didn’t exactly seem like a sure thing. They were marginally more comfortable to sleep in than the rollers, in that I could turn over without yelping; but come the dawn they didn’t seem to have dried out overnight the way the pretty lady’s had. I could have admitted defeat – it wasn’t like I was Going Out – but a whole night’s sleep fosters a certain commitment, so I ended up reading a murder mystery on the floor of Helpdesk Man’s office using his foot heater in lieu of a hair dryer. (Five Red Herrings, Dorothy L Sayers – not her best.)

And on eventual removal – curls. And not only did they last the day, but when I went to brush them out in the having-a-shower-now sense, they actually brushed out in the 1940s sense. Typical. I’ve been trying to brush out vintage curls for months only to see them sag and disappear, and the one time I’m actually trying to get rid of the curls they go all Veronica Lake and refuse to die. I think I’d been using the round brush wrong, which… probably shouldn’t even be possible. I’ll have to look it up.

Acourse, whether or not it’ll work a second time is doubtful. It always is with hairstyles, don’t you find? Nevertheless, it is a Triumph. And what’s more, as I strode my freshly-becurled self through the bulk supermarket, I may or may not have received a lewd comment of appreciation from a man who looked like Hank from Breaking Bad. It didn’t really register until I’d already given him the shy, distant yet gracious smile of a Sisters of Mercy novice I automatically confer upon older people in supermarkets – but then, that was probably not a bad note to strike in any case, no? Perhaps he blushed and repented and became a Better Man. Or perhaps he was only expressing an earthy delight for the discounted sour cream. The world is full of mystery.

Thoughts on the Lam

1. American fries are surprisingly bad. They have an off, rancid-oil taste to them. Chik-Fil-A’s waffle-shaped fries, however, are delicious.

2. Between pennies and dollar bills, a purse can look extremely sumptuous and yet contain very little money.

3. So far two people have guessed we are English. One, oddly enough, was from Sydney.

4. Carsland at night is a thing of utter beauty. Srsly. It is astonishingly gorgeous.

5. I have a sunburn. California in summer must be deadly.

6. The air here is extremely dry. Burns the sinuses. I feel I should have a spray bottle on hand at all times to squirt up my nose.

7. Favorite rides so far – Star Tours, Radiator Springs Racers and the Hollywood Tower of Terror.

8. If Autopia gives any clues to the future, I am NOT teaching the pig to drive.

9. Hollywood is extremely grotty. In a sort of charming way, but still. You can buy plastic Oscars saying Best Barber and Best Golfer at fifteen shops right next to each other. The Founding Fathers would have been proud.

10. At one point in a burger joint a strange-looking man came in and started shouting at us all to listen up. I thought it was some kind of stick-up, but he merely told us all loudly that Jesus loved us and then disappeared into the restrooms.

11. You know the scene in Monsters Inc where Sully tries to flush Boo’s stuff down the toilet? I always found it strangely unrealistic, with the water level that high. Well, nope. US toilets are like that. Explains the whole ‘dog drinking out of the toilet’ thing, not to mention those toilet seat locks you can buy so your toddler doesn’t fall in and drown.

12. Yesterday evening, our final suitcase arrived at the hotel. It had spent the intervening week skulking in airports, traveling merrily to and fro across the Pacific, and apparently causing great mental distress to the good folk at Delta Airlines, who did not know what to do with it and hope if they ignored it, it would leave of its own accord. The only reason it arrived at all was because Mother waged a prolonged telephone campaign for four days straight, being worried that without my drugs I would jump off a roller coaster or get a reality TV show or something.

*I* was hoping that the delighted of Disneyland would wean me off the drugs in a magical, heartwarming fashion. It did not, alas, though it didn’t really get a fair chance, what with us all dying of the flu. Still, being off me meds made Great Moments with Mr Lincoln seem terribly beautiful.

13. There is nothing more dispiriting than trying to order some plain buttered toast, being invalided and temporarily unable to appreciate the delights of po’boys, gumbo and cheesy pretzels; and finding it sickly sweet. Bread should not be sweet, people! It’s bread.

14. The Carnation Cafe’s loaded baked potato soup, on the other hand, is delightful.

15. I saw Peter Dinklage at DCA. Helpdesk Man said he thought he saw that girl who was in that show that time.

16. Knott’s Berry Farm today. We will see how many G-forces our recently regained health can withstand.


Three days.

We are leaving in THREE DAYS.

Well, four, technically. We’re spending the night in an airport hotel. But in terms of packing, sewing, organising things, getting the house into housesitter-acceptable condition and trying to look up all the landmarks we might later kick ourselves for having missed… three.

On the debit side, I have two tops, a coat and three dresses to finish sewing before we go. In the black, there are now only three days in which we can contract chicken pox, break our legs, die in a car crash or consume dodgy ham, thus ruining the whole enterprise. This thought has begun to consume my mind. I hurt my toe while ironing the other day (don’t ask) and immediately thought “Welp, this is it”. I wince every time the snortlepig jumps off something. Miles – well, he’s a walking advertisement for travel insurance at the best of times.

We do have travel insurance, fortunately. The brochure was alarmingly specific. Under Loss of Limb, it informed us that the going rate for a severed toe is $50 per. Does that seem low to you? I mean, I’m attached to my toes – if a hygienic but maniacal surgeon offered to lop them off for me, I doubt I’d be convinced at any price – but for $50, I wouldn’t even be tempted. And shouldn’t it be on some kind of scale? I mean, surely losing five toes is more than five times as debilitating as losing one – balance-wise, aesthetically, when purchasing shoes, not to mention repelling potential life partners. If only I’d done better at maths in my youth, I could sell the formula to insurance companies and make my millions.

Also, our travel insurance will not pay out for kidnap if they can prove you’ve been kidnapped before. As if kidnappability is a pre-existing condition. Never having been kidnapped before – at my most portable ages, people tended to wish to get rid of me rather than the reverse – I can’t muster up too much rage about this, but it’s a curious bylaw. I suppose most repeat offenders come from wealthy families who can afford to pay their own ransom, which is sort of the point, isn’t it? Still, it seems rather like victim-blaming. Like losing your no-claims bonus if you get hit by a drunk driver. Life ain’t fair.

Tijuana isn’t covered either. Tijuana is a Bad Place, people. So are Greyhound bus stations. It is fortunate that Google is so happy to reveal the sordid underbellies of American life, and equally fortunate that Helpdesk Man hasn’t lost the childhood paranoia born from living in South Africa which causes him to shy away from unattended luggage, or I’d probably end up leaping right into a drug mule conscription van in the hope that it sold hot dogs.

[Brief pause to google ‘can you take needles on a plane?’ According to Mental Floss: Cremated remains are permitted as both carry-on and checked items, but an agent has to be able to sift through them.”And on the TSA website: “Snow globes that appear to contain less than 3.4 ounces (approximately tennis ball size) will be permitted if the entire snow globe, including the base, is able to fit in the same one clear, plastic, quart-sized, re-sealable bag, as the passenger’s other liquids, such as shampoo, toothpaste and cosmetics.” Fascinating.]

Anyhoo. Back to sewing. Have I mentioned I’m on my fourth sewing machine in a week? Mine finally gave up the ghost, bobbin-jamming every two seconds and emitting angry noises. Then I borrowed Mother’s ancient Janome, which sews like butter for the first six inches of every seam and then shreds the thread. Then I borrowed one from a friend, who got it from her mother and had never used it. It was of an extremely peculiar design and didn’t sew – probably an Autobot which failed to do its research. Now I’m using my sister-in-law’s machine, which fortunately works and is similar enough in construction to my old one that I don’t keep wildly pawing at the air trying to find the presser foot. Such excitement. Here’s the pig in her Wonder Woman outfit.

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