It All Comes Round Again
ANOTHER Plokta season of superfluous calories is upon us and the cabal are ensconced in the depths of Reading with the entire excess stock of Waitrose, Tesco and Sainsbury's on our groaning table. I went to a most splendid party on the Sunday before Xmas, hosted by my friends, Jo and Karl, two thirds of To Hell With Burgundy, the folky-pop band that were playing at both Eastercon and Novacon, for those of you who were paying attention -- i.e. not Alison Scott who failed miserably to go to either of the gigs despite all her best intentions (and me going on and on about how good they were). Jo and Karl are deeply spiffing people and hold great parties, lots of music, fun company, silly conversation and champagne cocktails too. I have to say that I got rather squiffy and lay down in the hall for a while, as a girl does now and then. I also danced rather a lot. We rolled the carpet back and boogied; or rather, the girls boogied, the men just sat around and did the wallflower thing. I was wearing my sole pair of silly shoes, heels of about... ooh, an excessive two and a half inches. You would think that they were six inch spikes from the way I teetered around in them and I'd already slithered and skated to the party, so for dancing, I took them off. It's years since I danced the night away in stockinged feet and I floated (read: staggered) home in the wee small hours.
The following day I realised that I had a sore foot. Close inspection revealed a splinter driven well into the ball of the foot by my groovy gyrations. I hadn't noticed it at all the previous night, due to an astonishingly good anaesthetic, i.e. champagne and brandy. I tried to winkle the offending shard of wood out with a not too sharp needle and only succeeded in making my foot sore. Mum's a dressmaker, why can I never find a sharp needle when I need one? It's the same with pens. I'm an artist and there are, in theory, hundreds of pens in the house, but you can never find one when trying to take down a message on the 'phone. Hmm, that's not quite true. You can usually find one terribly expensive, terribly specialised technical pen which is designed specifically for drawing only on the virgin vellum of a white she goat raised on the left side of the highest hill in the Camargue but which scratches like a pissed spider when required to take down the directions to the new pub in a hurried scribble on the back of an old envelope. Or at least that's how it goes in my house. Anyway, my night of raving left me with a sore foot and as I couldn't solve this I called in the experts. A swift call to my doctors got me a hastily arranged appointment with the nurse and after writing the time of the appointment on a scrap of virgin goat vellum, I hobbled up to the surgery.
The doctor's surgery, bright and cheery as it is, always makes me feel guilty for taking up an appointment for something as trivial as a splinter. I sat there as various invalids dragged themselves from their sick beds to beg for antibiotics, castration or a crate of Viagra from the great guru. My mother and most of her generation seem to treat the doctor with a reverence which precludes any input from the patient. I walk in, declare what is wrong with me and tell him what I want done about it. Usually this involves anti-fungal stuff. My body has an ambition to become a mushroom. Athlete's foot up the nose is embarrassing. Particularly when the doctor asks you what you have been doing with the athletes.
I threaded my way through the maze of screaming kids and their stressed mothers, kindly old ladies and men sneezing into handkerchiefs dripping with foul green ichor, trying to avoid the miasma of bugs about me. Suddenly the idea of a posy held under the nose seems a reasonable idea. Why do you always feel that you will leave the place more sick than when you arrived? I went in to see the nurse in her little cupboard. I could feel my blood pressure climbing as the door closed behind me and I leant against it, pulse pounding, heart in my throat. The nurse is the female presence when I go to the doc's for a smear, and old survival instincts die hard.
After several minutes of intense picking with her specialised tool for removing splinters from
horses' hooves tender feet she managed to remove the offending foreign body then insisted on giving me a tetanus jab, as a penance for too many champagne cocktails, no doubt.
On the way home, limping only slightly, I decided to nip into Sainsburys for another couple of tins of cat food. Feeding my cat is rather like painting the Forth Road Bridge, and I'm in the habit of grabbing more supplies whenever I walk past the supermarket, market, corner shop, fish pond, etc. This meant that I happened to pass the Rather Good Indian Take-away (as opposed to the OK Indian Take-away and the Over-my-dead-body-it's-probably-a-poodle Indian take-away). In the doorway of the Rather Good Indian Take-away stood the proprietor, looking worried. As I hobbled past, he asked anxiously if I was going into the supermarket and could I get him six pints of milk. This is not the usual proposition one expects from men on street corners, even in Altrincham, but he explained his desperate need and I took pity on him.
He'd begun cooking the Rather Good sauces for the evening before realising his culinary omission. He was in the shop on his own until after sunset (it being Ramadan) and please, please could I get him six pints of Mr Sainsbury's finest. ("Six pints! That's almost a body full.") When I returned to the shop with the milk he cooked me a poppadom as a thank-you and swore his eternal thanks and special pampering when ever I order Rather Good curry in the future. The main courses there are about six quid a head so I'll most likely be sticking to curried poodle but I felt that I'd done my good deed for the day.
While at the party I'd been invited by Jo and her girl friends to the festival of carols and readings at Manchester Cathedral and, somewhat guiltily I decided to go. This is sort of the pagan equivalent of a vegetarian sneaking a bacon sarnie, a guilty pleasure you would rather your more strong-willed chums didn't find out about but one of those old habits which die hard. I became pagan more years ago than I can count (in about 1974; my mother blames an early diet of A. Garner and his ilk, well, she bought me the bloody books) but I still miss carols at Christmas. There aren't many pagan carols and most of the Christian traditions are pretty pagan -- oh, like holly, ivy, mistletoe, decorated trees, Yule logs, booze, pressies, excess, um...most of it really and the odd, waffer thin carol can't hurt me, can it?
I was late arriving at the Cathedral. Its impressive gothic structure was no more rocked by the Manchester bomb than by the blitz before it. Would it survive what my impressive vocal chords could throw at it? I dashed inside to candle-scented gothic gloom. Rank upon rank of pious church goers, not one of them under the age of sixty-five, filled the pews which were usually empty of all but dust balls and antiquated hassocks. And there's me, hippie skirt, dripping slightly from the Mancunian drizzle, silver pentagram and denim jacket proudly decorated with my lovingly hand-painted Shadowrun logo -- a rather fetching demon skull against a background of gothic computer print. I could feel a myriad eyes boring into my back and no sign of my friends. I accepted a programme of service from a bemused looking deacon and escaped. They were running up towards the cathedral, contrite at being late; some twit had run into the back of their car. We snuck into the pews near the back just as the first lesson began.
It's little wonder that the C of E is seen as dull and old. It was all so dry and serious, no fun, no joy apart from the carols. Apparently it's all us girlies' fault; the first lesson was from way back in Genesis and involved apples and serpents -- do people still believe that was what happened?!? Still, the choir, singing very old hymns in Latin and mediæval French were impressive and I really enjoyed being able to cut loose and sing at full volume. All those I went with were singers and musicians and they all came out deaf in one ear. When I really pulled out all the stops you could hear my voice hitting the ceiling, all those feet above us.
When I was a kid, there always seemed to be one mad old trout at Church with an imposing bosom and an earth-shattering voice to match. She would always lead the singing and could usually carry a tune and the rest of the congregation quite well, apart from the odd bum note. Oh dear, I think I could have become her. I knew there was a reason I became a pagan at a tender age; hugging trees and dancing around stone circles is infinitely preferable. And pity the poor filkers, they've had to put up with me for years. Cruel and unusual punishment methinks.