Monday, December 26

Sing me now of Christmas, nowell sing me here.

(My Christmas wasn't really like this. I'm just being cynical because I generally dislike family holidays.)

I don't typically like holidays of the type where families roam the country in packs, raiding the refrigerators of their formerly cordial acquaintances and imposing sly diplomatic affections on distant relations.

Nearer to the home front, brother against sister and parents against in-laws all crowd under one roof, in frozen and polite accord. More dangerously do the females of the species congregate all in one kitchen where, inevitably, too many microwaves spoil the gravy. The children, expected to get along famously, will awkwardly sit at the television and wish they weren't. A few will find a good conversation or new cousin and gossip cliquishly.

The eve and day church services of Christmas are invariably led by one or more persons with snowflakes on their sweaters. At least one of their wives will have a machine-knit on-sale snowman cardigan. Grown-up children will return under obligation to their parents, though they have not for their own adopted the unaccountable sweaters; teenagers will fight the dress code, and the younger ones are shocked by the novelty into obedience.

After the present-snatching ceremony of Christmas Day, and Christmas Lunch is had, the good will of men for men will take shape in the form of mutual silence on account of having over-eaten.

Saturday, December 24

An attempt at archaic dialogue.

The feast ended slowly. Ceramics clinked, benches creaked on the stone floors, and knives were wiped and sheathed; the talking died down as people left the hall in twos and threes. Some went back to their rooms along torch-lit halls to prepare for evensong, and others went to finish their day's work and have a surreptitious beaker or two, or three, of wine mixed with honey. The table on the dais, usually the first to empty, was hushed and silent, the day having been long for all of them--cold and difficult winter days caught in closed spaces do not foster chivalry in the best of men.

The King leaned back in his chair and closed his eyes. Perhaps he was praying, or maybe only hoping, or maybe he was merely more exhausted than he had been willing to show at the meal itself. The Queen was saying farewell to the Knight of the Golden Wren, so old and gray as he walked in perfect dignity to pray for his Order before evensong. The riddler was led off to find a place to sleep, and then only the royal family, several guests, and their attendants remained.

A few more logs were put on the fire in the back of the hall, and then at a word from the King, they stood and made their way to form a semi-circle around the fire. In such a way did the King begin to speak, recounting the deeds of the past month and declaring the purpose of their meeting.

" . . . and a reward is due, a request from the champion ought to be granted. We are gathered to hear what this request may be, and how it may be fulfilled to the honor of the people. Let the champion speak."

The young man squared his shoulders and spoke.

"Long did I ponder what boon I might ask of thee, and in the wondering did I fathom how vulnerable thou hast made thyself to those whom you honor. Thanks must doubly be in order, and the price thou hast set upon the honor of thy family--thy people--that care must be taken to find a suitable reward I return for what seems a small deed, to me. I have tried to think well. I would honor the love of thy family with my request--the good lady to whom I owe the honor of my reward I ask to pray at the vigil of my knighthood, that will be in one year's time, from the first day of the new year."

The King, afraid that the young man might have asked a place in the court for which he was not prepared, or a horse that he might ride errant, or at worst a vulgar kiss (all of which he could have rightly asked), was relieved and pleased by the discretion of the youth.

"You are a true son of your father! As thou hast a right to thy request, so we shall honor it. Thy vigil she shall attend, and pray therewith. May the day of thy knighting come soon that may we all prove your worth in praise and thanks, for verily thy grace and prowesse has shown thee worthy of knighthood yet again."

They stepped forward in front of the fire and grasped hands. A cup was brought of wine that all might drink in witness and agreement, and then the meeting broke up. It would be an early morning and there was much work to do yet.

Wednesday, December 21

Following the tunic.

The "squire" was actually a glorified page, whose name happened to be something from which the diminutive was Nolly. It may have originally been "Oliver", but who can tell? Oh, you mean you want to know why I called him a "glorified page". Well, the champion of the past fortnight's combat was to become a knight in a year's time; he'd been nominally granted his knighthood but the ceremony was not to take place until the period of mourning for his father had passed. That was at the man's request--and an odd request it was!--but most people already treated him as a knight since he was altogether worthy of the place.

Since it was still Nolly's duty to act as page, he dutifully and dolefully ran messages and carried things back and forth, but one of the maids had seen his method of laundering clothes and at the last moment decided to have pity on the other guests and wash the champion's clothes with the rest of the batch that was going in at the moment. You know of course Nolly wouldn't mind that, so when he brought back the tunic and chausses for his master, he was expecting surprise or praise for finally having mastered the art of laundry.

However, he was disappointed. His master was preoccupied and distant, and rather cold from sitting in the stables in his old, patched clothes (the only clean ones at present) while his court-clothes had been prepared. In a fit of frivolity he laid his chausses (the equivalent of pants) on a hook by the broad stone hearth before putting them on, warmed. The brocade tunic he put on absent-mindedly over a linen under-tunic, then untangled his hair with his fingers, tying it back with a leather cord.

"I miss my gambeson," he mumbled, feeling oddly bereft. (A gambeson is the padded jacket that a fighter wears under his armor.) He took his cloak from a now sulky Nolly and stepped out into the cold towards the hall.

The feast was a rather homely affair of root vegetables and stewed meats, and baked fruits--all things to fill and warm those feasting, but still lavish enough to be called a feast. The dais was full of royalty with a few additions of the token Knight of the Golden Wren, the champion whose judgment and reward would be called after the feast had ended, and a traveling riddler that chanced to be overly clever and won a bet with the King in his own hall.

The light from the hearths in the hall glittered off of jewels and hair and the ruddy faces of those who had recently come in from the cold. The room was soon warmed from the talking and jostling of one and a half, maybe two hundred people, with the tapestries and fires in the hall insulating the feeling of cheerful isolation from the world outside.

Tuesday, December 20

Sleeves, tunics, and gambesons: modesty and honor.

"That's not your tunic." It was a rather abrupt greeting, one might think. Well, so it was.

"I know. Somebody gave it to me while my clothes dry. I think it's father's--the shoulders on this are fantastically huge." She shrugged to show the seam where the sleeve met the torso of the shirt was several inches past her own shoulders.

"I don't think it's your father's." There was an awkward silence.

"Umm. I need to take it off, then." The woman in the tunic blushed. Another pause. "How very embarrassing. Whose--never mind, I don't want to know. I don't have anything to wear until someone brings out the next batch of clothes. It should be any minute. All I have are stockings."

"Oh dear. His squire is waiting outside for the laundry--"

Smoothly eliminating the tension in the room, Juliana (nee Fiona) sailed into the room with several dresses laid over her outspread arms. "Put these on!" she said, and as Juliana's prophecies generally had a habit of coming true, the tunic was exchanged for the proper underdress, and the tunic was spirited out of the room to its owner, none the worse for wear. Another prophecy from Juliana made sure that nobody would slip the secret of such impropriety on behalf of the ladies.

Juliana took a phial of oil, a brush, and a comb from her basket and clucked at her lady's hair all pinned up and drying only in patches.



"The dress is still a bit damp in places."

"It will dry. Give me those ridiculous pins. Turn around. Sit there. Your hair has to dry before midsummer, so let the fire warm it a bit and it will dry faster."

"Couldn't you just brush it wet this once? It's cold."

"Not if you want hair when I'm finished. I've raised you better than that, girl; you have to treat your hair like silk if you want it to look like that."

"Yes, but it's cold."

"I've got other things to do than to listen to you whinge about being cold. Don't touch the brush. I'll return in a moment. Your hair had better be dry when I come back."

"I'll do my best."

Juliana sailed out of the room as majestically as she had entered, and the lute player laughed, shaking her head.

"Isn't she sweet?" said the lady, sitting obediently and still in front of the fire.

"No. I mean yes. I wasn't laughing about that, though--I just think it's funny that he's been wearing your sleeve as his honor and you've been wearing his tunic for modesty."

"What?! I think you must be mistaken. I haven't given my sleeve to anybody since I came of age."

"Didn't you hear? Oh, no, you were gone. I thought certainly you would have heard at the first opportunity--a man made an idiot of himself insulting your charity in the north, and somehow or other it got to be awkward. One of the southerners threw the gauntlet and they fought for your honor."

"When did this happen?"

"A fortnight back--the justice is to be pronounced tonight after the feast. I thought you must know."

"No, I didn't. I only just returned, you know Thank you for telling me . . . " She began to comb through her tangled hair with her fingers. "Mercy! What an interesting world I live in." The door opened, letting in a draft, and Juliana entered bearing brocade slippers.

"I have to find the rest of my company--we'll need to set up in the hall soon." She gathered up her lute and finished buttoning her hood. "Oh, you might like to know that the southerner won."

"What? Oh! Thanks."

Monday, December 19

In the winter solar.

It would have been scandalous anywhere else but a woman in nothing but a man's wool tunic and her own stockings, all curled up under a pile of blankets, was nothing really surprising in the ladies' winter solar. Since there was a bathing room down the hallway and the room was only ever frequented by women, it was a safe place to dry while clothes were brought down and warmed for their wearers. The days before winter feasts often filled the room with slightly damp and cold women in warm robes, sewing or talking while their hair dried enough for a servant to brush, oil, and pin it up.

This afternoon was a stormy one; the horizon over the sea outside was blurred with falling rain and the wind as it fled the surface of the water. Occasionally there would be a fall of rain that whipped the window panes, but for the most part the storm raged outside without affecting the peace and warmth of the solar.

There was a pot of cider warming over the fire, hung by an iron hook that squeaked; one of the newly-wed lords was praised high for his practical gift of a set of glass beakers to the solar.

Anyway, she had her hair pinned up even though it was still soaking wet, and she was sketching on a piece of vellum with a bit of charcoal. She'd returned with her retinue from a long trip and since she had been riding forward of the group, got caught in the rain. After she made certain that her servants had been seen to, and the horses stabled, and arrangements to be made for their return, she'd been huddled off to the solar to be "fixed up" before the feast began that night. Unfortunately not everything had been seen to, so she was left to sit in a towel before the fire for a little while before some clothes were hurried from the laundry--none of hers were ready--so that she wouldn't catch her death of cold before the night fell.

The only female member of the company of players that was to play that night sat humming and tuning her lute a little distance from the fire. The tuning would be quite useless by the time night set in (the feast hall was noticeably cooler than the solar and the presence of such a warm fire in the solar would change the tune considerably) but the fire was so warm and the presence of female company so rare that the player sat comfortably dawdling until the hour they were to rehearse.

The two companions talked to each other during the intermittent silences when others weren't going in and out of the room. Discussing the dances, they decided the country dances were infinitely more fun to dance and to play. In dress their tastes ran mostly alike, except for the business about sleeves (the lute player really had to have close sleeves so that she could play); but generally it was quite decided that the jewel tones of dress were abhorrent and unnatural. A golden yellow or nice blue of natural dye always looked more graceful than the bright glare of scarlet or green. In books, too, they could converse, though the player knew more poetry than prose, because of her profession, of course.

Saturday, December 17

The AviceFiona woman and her ridiculous name.

Alright, her name is now Juliana. It reminds me of Julian of Norwich, who was a shrewd businesswoman and and argumentative goodwife who made me laugh. You can find her in the NAEL vol. 1 and I promise you will not be disappointed.

Will that do? I'm still biting my nails over this woman.

Friday, December 16

Delicate situations require ceremonial scripts.

I wish I could say it was a beautiful fight, or that the fighters moved with the grace and decorum of their years' experience--that their swords glittered in the glare of a righteous sun--but it was a cold and muddy, cloudy day and the fighters were not even well matched. There was a fair crowd of onlookers because the gauntlet had been thrown on account of a matter of honor--some said it was an irrelevant matter and counted both men fools but there were those that recognized how very solemn the matter might have become had not the challenge been accepted.

In the end, it was the younger of the two that won even though he'd had less experience and followed a higher standard of chivalry that without he might have been able to end the fight earlier in the day. As it was, the defeated had to be taken off the field on account of a twisted ankle. Nobody was sorry for him because he was trying to execute an illegal move when it happened; they hardly waited to see if he was examined before throwing a cheer of victory for the victorious youth. For a moment he stood triumphant, the righteous defender victorious; then those who knew him could see his shoulder slump a little.

The King himself stepped forward from his chair on the dais and with a startling grace, walked across the yielding ground as if it were the stones of his own hall. As he stepped forward to congratulate the champion, a breeze lifted the air and the sun shot a shaft of light across his shoulders. Smiling, he stepped aside to let the natural glory of the sun reflect on the winner. Still trying to catch his breath, the youth removed his helmet and knelt before the King.

The King announced the winner to the assembled crowd in a loud voice, and the crowd cheered again before dispersing slowly towards the hall and outbuildings. The rest of the judgment would be settled in court sometime within the next fortnight, and the day was wet and cold, after all was fought and won. The King and his guards remained, as did a nondescript secretary or two. A page was sent to the gate to help carry the youth's armor and weaponry back to their quarters and the armory.

"I owe you a very deep gratitude, as does the entirety of the court, for not shedding blood on this especially beautiful day." The King looked gravely down at his subject, who looked up, startled. The maille on their shoulders clinked as both men laughed softly and blinked in the sunlight. "As a father, too, I must thank you," continued the King a little more hesitantly; "as you must know it is difficult to be a leader of men when one's own family is threatened by the very same men." The King removed his armored glove and held his bare hand out to the youth, who removed his glove in turn, and accepted the assistance to stand.

"Sire, I beg you not to single me out for this; it is what any man would have done in my place had there been another present." Indecorously putting his glove inside his helmet the better to carry it, he flexed his fingers awkwardly and tried with many stammers and stutters to explain himself.

"Assuredly they should have, but none did." The King had a quiet and confident voice, as sure as his steady step as they walked back to rejoin his retinue at the edge of the enclosure. "I hope you will at least dine with us tonight," said the King. "I am--that is, I would be honored to join you," returned the youth, and bowed and the King smiled and began the trek back to the dry, warm throne room.

The sun once again retreated behind dark masses of clouds, and the wind once again began to lift. He finally felt the cold, and turned back to prepare for the evening.

Pronouns. Don't play that game.

Oh, dears, I'm sorry I keep writing about a man talking with a woman. I just find it so hard to name characters and then put ridiculously individual characteristics on them that it is easier use pronouns. Plus it creates more tension without me putting it there (people seem to expect it between men and women, anyway, so it's fairly easy to take stereotypes for granted) and somehow people find it easier to believe that women have more than brainless conversation amongst ourselves. It is dashedly difficult to write, and rare to find that one may imitate it (the only really good example I've found is in Sayers' Wimsey book Gaudy Night, and that is set in Oxford).

Anyway, some of you will have been wondering why, and I knew I had to explain sometime. I do have a few guy characters that are their own selves but most of the time I just want an excuse to write dialogue. I have all sorts of interesting conversations with myself but can't quite put them all down.

Tuesday, December 13

Playing with names, goals, and motives: more words.

The shopping mall crouched licentiously on the edge of a well-groomed neighborhood, on a rainy December afternoon. The rain got in your collar and somehow into your shoes even if you had a scarf and didn't jump into even the shallowest of the many enticing puddles. The mall was situated so that it was between the elementary schools, grocery stores, movie rentals and the manicured lawns of the respectable neighborhood that lay in the vicinity.

They'd gone inside for a shortcut to the grocery store--it was movie night for the roommates of the shared house (with friends and sundries) and by some cruel trick of fate there were five bags of corn chips and no salsa. Not really a cause for too much adventure, just for one of those conversations that lasts for five minutes and then you remember it--and just to give props all around, it's there stereotype of a safe and platonic conversation.

"You won't reread a book because you don't like it." He said it as if he was amused.

"Basically." Well, it seemed obvious enough. She unwrapped her scarf from her neck and put it around her hands; she'd forgotten her gloves.

"Not even to study it?" In a futile effort to better humanity, he wiped his shoes on the mat.

"Studying it would be worse!" She shook her head. "Studying, reading--it all means I'm exposed to the material again, and that isn't good. It's filling your mind with trash, Ethan."

"Meg." He grinned. "Meg. Look, I'm not a Christian, but the argument works for me because you are, so hear me out: you read the Bible, don't you? Yes, of course you do. You're the kind of person who would. Well, have you ever taken a good look at those 'chosen' people?"

She opened her mouth to say something and no sound came out. Tried again. "That's . . . different."

"Of course. You are going to say that the Bible has a message in it, and that that is what makes it different." She nodded, still listening. "Humans, on the other hand, cannot be relied upon to try and express a . . . pure message."

"Yeah." They passed the little bakery shoppe that always smelled like cinnamon rolls; Bing Crosby's Christmas music was blaring out of the intercom system.

"Gah! Ok, you were just quoting that guy who wrote the hobbit books. Tolkywhatsit."


"I know." Then there was the electronics store. They stopped for a moment in silent agreement that the products in the window were ridiculously overpriced.

"Oh, you mean what he said about mistaking applicability with allegory?"

"Exactly. Can you see where it is that I'm taking this?"

"You mean that the message I take from the book depends on me."

"Pretty much. That your reaction reflects more on you than on the book--or books--in question."

The coffee shop. "Coffee? Hot chocolate?"

"Sure, we have time."

They stopped, and there was hardly any line for the counter, so they were walking past the enormous plastic Christmas tree in the centre of the mall before she said something.

"Is there a specific book you wanted me to read, that you made the point?"

"Ever heard of the story of Tristan and Yseult?" Gently, gently . . .

"Read it last summer for a class on legends. Gross. Must I?" Her nose wrinkled in disgust.

"Well . . . not exactly 'must', but I don't know anything about legends and I need help in this class." He poked at the marshmallows in his hot chocolate and thought about making an effort to look pitiful instead of half-triumphant.

"Ok. I can teach you a little."

"Yes! I knew it. Adam said you wouldn't for love nor money."

"Heh. So I won't for love or money, but I will for hot caffeine and good conversation."

"I proved you wrong."

"I know."

They walked out of the mall through two sets of double doors and walked back into the rain, towards the grocery store.

Monday, December 12

Fiona must change her name.

I shall have to change Fiona's name, because it is a new one--very new, and not medieval at all. So do excuse me. It was a substitute, anyway, because we all know how bad I am at choosing names for people. I'd rather they choose themselves. Anyhow. Fiona is now to be called Avice, until she finds a name better suited to her.

Note: write about going to the chandler when he makes beeswax candles instead of tallow ones, and the way the wax smells. Also, about plain dresses and the market, and what it is like to enter a stall full of fabric. Write about making trim for a dress. Write about getting trim from Amelia for Christ's mass celebrations and exchanging trims and tablet cards. Also about patterns.

Friday, December 9

Julian is Emeric's mum.

"Jules, you could at least come out by yourself, sometimes. You're an adult. Your son is brilliant. He's a great kid. I'm not saying anything against him. But maybe," the voice paused and sighed, "maybe you're spending too much time with him and not enough with other . . . you know, adults."

"So Aubrey, Jen, Gil, and Eric aren't adults . . . No, wait, let me say something, Mum. I get the fact that you're upset I'm spending too much time with Em, and we've already discussed that, but I don't see how your concern for my adult friendships has any real foundation."

She paused and waited for her mother to continue, but there was a silence on the other line--maybe a hesitant silence. Julian was used to talking to her mother face to face, and could almost see her twisting a bracelet on her hand and shaking her head as she waited for the words to come. Finally, she decided to say it and get the whole hour's conversation out in one sentence.

"It sounds like you just don't approve of them."

"Well, they're hardly mature--," began her mother, and Julian rolled her eyes. The whole hour had been only for this. Just for this.

"Look, Mum, I love you. However. The only reasons you've given me to avoid these people are things like . . . well, that Gil plays video-games. That Jen and Eric don't plan on having kids. That Aubrey . . . how can you think badly of Aubrey? He's a librarian, for crying out loud."

"He's a drug dealer."

"Dreadlocks do not make you a drug dealer, Mum. Aside from the fact that I think I am old enough to enter into being friends with other adults, I think you ought to spend some time with my friends. Aubrey said he wanted the recipe for the breakfast bread you brought by last Friday--want to come join us for coffee and we can talk recipes? It's just a half hour until Em gets out of school."

Her mother sounded flustered. "Jules, I am not giving my recipes out to drug dealers. I have to go; your father just came home. Bye, sweetie!"

Julian was laughing so hard at the thought of Aubrey as a druggie that she barely gasped a farewell before her mother ended the call.

"Does she make you keep a curfew, too?" asked Jen, sipping on a mocha and underlining a large paragraph in her DSM study guide. Julian laughed wryly. "She'd probably like to." Jen raised her eyebrows and gave her friend a Look. Julian tried to explain.

"I can't afford to alienate my mother because she worries about me. She's family, and she loves me. She'll get used to the idea of me having my own friends. She's just . . . overprotective, that's all. Come on, she's a mother."

"Is this your first time living apart from your parents?" Jen looked at Julian in a new light.

"No. The first time was a little over nine years ago. I had a flat in the city with a cousin of mine. Had to move back when I was pregnant with Emeric--that got too much to handle." She sifted through her purse for money to buy herself a coffee.

"It's because Em's dad left you. That's why she's overprotective. Of course, that would make sense." She stopped herself. "I'm sorry Jules, I'm totally prying. I've been reading too much of this type of stuff." Jen held up one of her psychology texts on attachment theory.

"Emeric's dad and I were never together. I only saw him in court." Julian found an extra quarter in her pocket. "And on the news. I'm going to get a coffee. I'll be right back."

Thursday, December 8

Bookstores and interesting gingerbread.

There are times when one feels especially solitary and contented, and some of those times can be stumbled upon in bookstores. Emeric, a nine-year-old boy, already knew this well--he and his mother visited bookstores on special days; holidays they spent alone, dreaded visits to the dentist, and special Wednesday nights when they were both really exhausted and went to share a hot chocolate and giggle at people reading aloud.

The novelty of that solitary contentedness was mixed with the feeling that it would soon be Christmas. Christmas music could be heard over the speakers, and shiny bits of colored paper were attached to bookshelves and ceilings and computers, and even some of the hats of the employees. It was still the same bookstore, though--big and full of the smell of paper, except for the corner with the coffee shop which housed the delightful dark smell of roasted coffee beans (his favorite place, even though he didn't really like coffee very much).

Emeric and his mom been holding hands going into the store, taking turns to open doors for each other and then meeting up on the inside, stopping in front of a large display of Books Made For Purposes Other Than Reading to decide whether they wanted to go to the left or the right or split up, or go get drinks and then wander around. He was standing still, just letting it all sink in.

"Hey, Em." It was his`mom, holding up a book for him to see. Somehow she'd gotten two or three tables ahead of him into the store without him noticing. He was shocked. "Have you got this one?" she asked.

He shook his head and went to join her. "Derek said it wasn't so good. There's a lot of . . . umm, kissy parts in it." He wrinkled his nose and hoped she understood; baring his soul was difficult even in the middle of a safe haven of books.

"Oh." She wrinkled her nose, too, and put the book back. "Lame." Suddenly he felt that his mom was the best, the only mom to understand the imminent danger of sappy books.

One of the employees walked past with a Santa's elf hat on, and they watched her pass. It was then that they decided they would have gingerbread with their hot chocolate, the interesting gingerbread with the raisins in it--the kind that came with a little tub of cream cheese icing.

Monday, December 5

A metafiction.

She's not wearing a wimple today; it's too hot.

(You do know what a wimple is, don't you? A little before Shakespeare, women wore coverings on their hair and neck; veils, mostly, sometimes hats, and wimples. In any case, despite the Renaissance pictures of women with loosed hair flitting about forests, most women wore their hair up and covered. We say nowadays that it was for modesty--that explains, to some, the seemingly excessive coverings. I'm inclined to think, for myself, that it was for warmth--most of the places they were worn was in cold climates--and that when working, one of the worst problems to come up against is messy hair so a wimple was only practical, but it cannot be denied that even today, the "faint half-flush that dies along the throat" which Browning's duke found so mesmerizing is still captured in cosmetics and film quite a lot.)

She is wearing a veil, though--she wears a rectangular veil and not an oval one because someone once told her that round veils are dressy, and fashionable--that may have been the fashion of twenty years ago, but she still holds to the idea that she wishes to look a tad austere. So she wears a rectangular veil, unsupported by wires or wicker frames and a little on the long side, in the back.

Without a wimple, the world is much cooler (even if the ornery contraption was only linen), especially the kitchen, where she is kneading dough. Her hands are covered in flour, and the sleeves of her linen underdress are pushed up past her elbows right before the line of her overdress (scandalously short-sleeved) and tied with the trim that should have been holding up her stockings--she's taken her stockings off and stowed them in a corner with her shoes, planning to bathe her bare feet in the stream later in the afternoon, so nobody will be the wiser (or the warmer).

A lute player and a man with the short drum are sitting by the window that looks out on the sea--they're picking out a tune and arguing over the beat. The drummer would have the song go faster than they've been practicing but the lute-player is insisting that he will not have the dancers hopping about the floor like crickets in velvet. This is because the drummer is a country man and used to the livelier dances of village folk--friends among friends having fun, not stately strangers of stiff manners that must be politic.

The cook is paying no attention, but she likes to have music while she works, so she's rented them the window as long as they will watch the chiches (chickpeas) roasting near the fire. They've already let about four servings burn.

Friday, December 2

Selling his cloak for a sword, maybe.

A horn sounded in the distance, and the hearts of men quickened. Hoarse calls from warrior to warrior for direction were partially drowned among the cries and groans of the wounded. A wind blew across the scattering retreat, washing them with a metallic smell of blood and smoke; to some it seemed like the herald of death riding an hour ahead. A few standing men reached for any weapon at hand and turned back to join the last stand.

"Quick, give me your sword!" A wiry man with an empty sheath stooped over one of the wounded--a ragged youth still clutching the naked blade to his chest as he crawled away from the blood-soaked fields.

"It was my father's." The youth shook his head, teeth chattering. The warrior took this in for a moment, and said "Let me fight for him, too, then!" There was a pause. "I shall not dishonor him. Your sword I shall return to you--do but let me fight!"

"Give me your cloak. Promise me," entreated the youth, his breathing ragged, "Promise you'll bring me back my father's sword." The warrior nodded grimly, handing over his cloak and gently prying the broadsword from the young man's cold and bloody hands.

The youth collapsed as the horn sounded again, his head against the trunk of a tree and the cloak over his knees. The warrior found an easy grip on the sword, sheathed it awkwardly, and ran back to the line of trees. With no cloak, he could hardly hope to last through the night unless he were moving--not running: fighting.

Thursday, December 1

What to write when do you daily scribble.

"What do you carry closest to your heart? What pulses at your mind and makes your fingers twitch? What makes you laugh loudly to yourself or cry silently in a corner?

All those things are real and all are begging expression. Pick one and begin."

For a while, I've been writing whatever came to my head--and that isn't wrong--but it also doesn't have a purpose that I recognise, and such a faith in one's imagination is not always safe. I'm sure it will all make sense some day, but for my everyday purposes, it must be realised that I'm not always inspired like that. I need practice, so that when I am inspired, I will be trained to handle that sort of . . . crisis:)

Sir Walter Scott started writing at 4:30 a.m. when he moved to Abbotsford, and Ray Bradbury writes every day for at least two hours, in the morning (starting at 9 a.m., though; shows Americans must be at least a tad bit more sane than those crazy Scots). I'm not sure I could handle that type of routine. I do write personal reflections in a journal, almost every night and sometimes during the day, but it is hardly something I keep up very well as a routine . . .

I do try, normally, to write a page every day, but with no specific time set aside for it--my life does not cater to routines. Normally, though, it is just about as difficult to find something set in my head to write about as it is to find time to not feel guilty about writing.

It isn't that writing is work. That is what it sounds like from this post. What I mean is that I've got something inside me trying to force its way out, and I have no certain means of expression for it. That's difficult, my friend.

So perhaps I really will write what is close to my heart. Then we will all see what happens. I have a feeling I'll be posting less of them, though. How very awkward. I hope they turn out alright and don't make me seem a fool for writing woodenly.

But let not my pessimism be untoward! I can't NOT write. I may as well practice here as anywhere.

Thursday, November 17

Things to consume when sick or feeling ill:

(Even when you don't feel like eating.)

Chicken broth.

Cold oranges.

Ice cream.



(Yes, I know the last one's a weird one, but trust me.)

Wednesday, November 9

As soon as my sudafed kicks in, they're in for it.

I'm spending an incredibly sniffly morning at home trying to catch up to classes . . . one of my professors is so darn calm about not knowing anything that I could almost scream--you have to admit that that is adventurous, very risky, and I don't have to admit that I respect him for it, so I won't. Unfortunately, it's stripping away the illusion that the academic world can be settled into categories and answers. That's unsettling, because I like a world of black and white, now and then, but I suppose it's a good thing that that isn't what I have a passion for.

To do: remind self that it is okay to not know things. Refuse to be alchemist in high dark tower looking into crystal ball and counting names of fathers more important than sons (see LOTR for further vague abstractions).

Watch this trailer.

I'm taking this program next year, if all goes well.

I am also sniffly.

*rolls over on back and eyes turn to Xs*

Monday, November 7

A pic of me and my hair.

Originally uploaded by ifothelawon.

I like this pic. I finally let my hair down, quite literally . . . *sigh* Busy day. Chocolate and caffeine together at last! Am also wearing my Elephant House hoodie (from Scotland).

Tuesday, November 1

on formal dresses:

In other news, I have been pressed upon to find a formal dress, and I've found one I like enough that it only needs a few modifications to make it me-friendly. Please don't puke when you see it.

Am going to tone down the embroidery, make the sleeves longer (prolly bell sleeves, not very big, down a little past the elbows, or even down to a wristfall), and change the color to blue or grey--something that will go with my beautiful silk velvet scarf. Must go back to Venice for accessories and possible bits of things for it . . . am such a lush.

I don't think I'll "get" this life, ever.

Yes. I have just sufficiently annoyed a roommate, forgotten how to do my class work (algebra; I've always been terrible at it--don't ask), got a hole in my styrofoam cup-o-noodles, and discovered that my toes are cold.

Am beginning to feel, in this altered state of mind, that I don't. do. enough.

Which is preposterous. I am an overachiever in the worst sense of the word. Anybody who knows me knows this, and a lot of people blame that for my quietude, my lack of affinity for a huge social life. I will have you know, I have bought shoes! I have! I cook good food for my family, I clean up, I get A's, I look nice when I go out . . . I hug people who smell. Why do I feel like such a loser?

Of course, this won't last. But I hate it while it does. I'm sure if this out of any of my entries will get replies, it will be because whoever does comment will not realise that I am separate from this mood. It is like a fly that buzzes around my head, a splinter, a crick in my neck. It is not lasting, or too harmful. I'm sure I'm reminded by it of what I really should be doing, where my priorities are--that I am not tied up with details of dishes and clothing. If it is harmful, then I'm the only one to blame, anyway--it is me and me alone that caters to my moods. I encourage them or discourage them.

It is odd how simple it seems to be when you type it out like that. Moods are, after all, very powerful things.

To feel better tomorrow:
1. Post on your online class, or die a painful death.
2. Do the dishes, or suffer unimaginable guilt.
3. Take out the trash, would you? You forgot this morning.
4. And can you get your laundry out of the room downstairs?
5. Clean your room. Looks like a pigpen in there.
6. Don't suppose you could make something to eat so that they'd be able to have food when they get home, do you? I mean, it isn't as if you have anything to DO if you stay at home. May as well make dinner so that you will have done something tangible for your fellow human beings.
7. Also, stop being a jerk, especially on your blog when God and everybody can see it.

Somehow, I know I'll post this. I wrote a great vignette in math class today, about a shop I went into in Venice, and another shop that I loved, and how I was reminded of T.S. Eliot. Speaking of, I should read Murder in the Cathedral. I tend to like that kind of stuff, you know.

Now I really will stop being an idiot. Trust me, I'll write an antipodes entry tomorrow and make myself feel better. I might even respond to the replies, like I've been meaning to. *sigh*

Meanwhile, I'm going to brush and oil and put up my hair, drink my latte and lotion my hands, then clean my teeth and wash my face and crawl into bed and hope that I can get to sleep, not like last night.

What will get me out of this stupid funk? I should write a prayer, make a cup of hot tea, do some breathing exercises, pet my cat, and get some sleep. All these would make me feel better, and work better. I feel so discouraged, right now. This is lame.

Sunday, October 30

Women who save men, and what we all have to say about it.

The light on his face flickered with blue, red, and orange as the film played off in the distance of the dark theatre. He happened to be drunk (entirely his own doing) and inclined to whisper to her, at least during the first half of the show; those terrible whisperings of "Oh, he's going to open the cupboard!" and "He'll walk right into it this time!", even "Well, I nevah!" but there was once when she turned to find him a slimy creature with debauched features and an unhealthily red face; he said:

"I want to kissssyou. Rightnow. Come. Here." He coughed. "Love" was the last word he croaked before leering at her and leaning so far over on her side that he missed his armrest and landed halfway in her lap, awkward elbows and foul-smelling silent laughter.

She roughly shoved him back into his seat. The plot had just begun to get fairly thick, and he was being a nuisance. He might have gone to sleep, but nooooooo, he had to talk. Shame on her sense of pity. And compassion: he had been about to drive home when she found him in the parking lot. Ugh.

"No. I'm not kissing you. Be quiet." She pulled her jacket around her and leaned forward to avoid the smell of him, thankful they were nearly the only people in the cinema.

"Whyyyy not?" he said, spraying saliva over the chair in front of him. The hero of the movie tripped on a root in the middle of a major chase scene. Lame. What a dumb trick.

"Because you're Catholic." She realised what she said after she said it, not having given him a moment's thought. A giggle surfaced, then subsided as a dance scene began onscreen. "Ha haaaaaaa. I--I--ammm not!" he said, his voice breaking.

She shushed loudly, and then there was an intermission. She brought a refill of water in her empty soda cup, and he fell asleep during the second half. When they finally emerged from the stuffy theatre, the wind had picked up and the parking lot was dimly attended by orange lamps that reflected wearily off of dusty automobiles.

Driving home, the streets were cold and empty, glittering black, but eventually his roommate answered her knock at the door and shouldered him inside. The next time they met was outside the college coffee stand during a break in the middle of their Wednesday evening classes (about 1930).

"Sorry about that, the other night. I kinda remember you taking me home." He smiled in insincere apology.

"Yeah, sure." Nodding to the girl behind the counter (they'd share their Tues.-Thurs. morning class), she took off her gloves, stuffed them in a pocket, and reached for her hot chocolate on the counter. Without meaning to, she'd been a little cooler than was quite necessary.

"Well, hey--I didn't need your help. Don't act so . . . superior . . ." He'd lowered his dignity enough to apologize to her; she normally barely gave him the time of day, but he was gulping down a little pride! Shouldn't he get a little leeway? He re-shouldered his messenger bag and dropped his relaxed pose. Suddenly the breadth of his shoulders became important; so did those measly five inches that made him taller than her.

"Right. You were drunk and scratching up your car door trying to get the key in the lock . . . do you realise you were going to drive drunk?"

"I wouldn't have actually done it! I don't need to be . . . saved. I can take care of myself."

"Fine. I didn't do anything to try and save you." She scalded her tongue, and he dropped his notebook. "If you want to know, I wasn't thinking of you at all when I drove you home. My brother was killed by a drunk driver." Suddenly he became all sympathy, eyebrows creased and a concerned frown on his lips. "So think, why don't you? There are other people in the world besides you."

He thought of a few great comebacks and chewed on them; she was not his conscience, anyway. It wouldn't have happened that way; he never got into trouble when he was drunk.

She gave him an awed look, shook her head in disbelief. "I'm going back into class. See you around." He gave her an ambivalent nod, and turned back to the stairs he came from.

Saturday, October 29

Have I killed the albatross? (see also COLERIDGE; "Rime of the Ancient Mariner")

I have a love/hate relationship with the feeling I get when I sit down to write. First, I tend to either take in or shut out the things around me, highlight on the taste of my coffee and the look of what I've got on my desktop, put on some music, and then poise my fingers over the keyboard.

Sometimes I immediately have something begging to be written, and that is my favorite time (I don't have to feel like it's me writing--more of a channeling exercise, I guess.). Other times I will have to turn on a sort of mental light-switch, and then I can choose from a grab bag of things that want to be written about, but aren't willing to beg for it. Some of them aren't ready and take a bit of tweaking--alright, a LOT of editing.

The worst time is when I sit here at my keyboard aching to write something, and I can't. Nothing appropriate is ready to be written, and yet the high that I get off of finishing a piece (no matter how bad it is) is so addictive that I almost just want to do some sort of free-association stuff to get out SOMEthing. Then I feel guilty--was I supposed to try and force this? Am I feeding an addiction or writing something worth hearing? This is a blog, after all; not a journal. Journals are for mental experiments, the ones that don't need closure.

So a lot of the time I end up writing about writing, because I do a lot more thinking about writing than I do actually writing full-fledged stories (or even vignettes). I write down ideas on my grocery lists, and take down interesting words and names and concepts on coffee shop receipts (confession: I have a lot of these). Instead of writing fiction, I end up having the beginnings of an enormous grab-bag of ideas.

A grab bag of ideas is a marvelous thing, and I may say that it is much of the time a daydream I retire to during boring classes and dull but necessary social obligations. This is why sometimes I don't like to experience certain things, per se, but I do find them interesting. Ex. the Ramones: I don't like them, but they are interesting. Ex. human sacrifice: I want to know WHY, but I don't have to like it.

(There, now I have just compared the Ramones to human sacrifice. Hopefully, some of you didn't have to have that pointed out to you in order for you to laugh at it.)

So I'm stuck with a grab bag of ideas and nothing coherent to write. Brilliant.

You know what? I should totally take the idea of the literary quest and sieve a story into it, like those toys you have to push shapes through in the right holes. It would be child's play, but I'd understand a bit more, I think. Maybe put some of my own life into that form--I am utterly presumptuous that way, but there you have it.

Friday, October 28

Must . . . post . . .

Well, I've been thinking that I must have some kind of story running around in my head is willing to be told, but none of them are ready yet. Like half-baked bread, reluctant stories don't go down well. I really must have SOMEthing to be written . . . ! Am getting slightly fed up. I need to go do work, now. *sigh*

--SCA story idea
--venetian con man vignette
--vignette of medieval kitchen
--evening at the theatre postscript
--being late for a class in florence description
--medieval handmaid idea

You see, most of what I write is what I know. Who doesn't write what they know? Anyway, I am trying to find nice things to write about that don't frighten me out of my wits worrying if I will meet the right person to complete a certain vignette (because I'm not willing to try and copy the style of the person I was with at the time). It is rather a bothersome thing to try. So I guess I ought to get to work. Heh.


Tuesday, October 25

a list, so I won't forget

Things to remember for princesses in stories and out of stories. Remember, the former had maids.

        •        satin pillowcase
        •        make-up (foundation, eye-shadow)
        •        really nice lip gloss/chapstick
        •        really nice lotion
        •        nice razor
        •        slippers
        •        boar bristle brush
        •        mirror
        •        good hairbrush
        •        good hair decoration-thingies
        •        nail kit
        •        scrubby towel
        •        face mask stuff
        •        hair oil
        •        shampoo
        •        conditioner
        •        wide-toothed, no-seam comb
        •        nice bath things (salts, herbs, scented whatsits, pretty soaps, etc.)

My writing as a bit overly detail-oriented.

There's a certain satisfaction to writing details of actions. I like to know how people do things, the little quirks that mark the means to an end. One of the best examples I can think of for this one is to think of five people with the same recipe: they all come out with different-tasting things. It may be because of unique ingredients, or timing, or measurements, or tools, but the same recipe rarely comes out the same for two individual cooks. That is interesting.

So, if you wondered why my writing was getting a bit boring, it is because I keep wanting to write little things; the small details that make the difference. Only, it has taken me awhile to figure out nuances, so mostly all that comes out of my fingers is the routines/means themselves but not their individuality.

Monday, October 24

Getting back.

She put her luggage down, a neat collection of sturdy, easily-hauled pieces. She normally packed light, but she did some shopping this trip, and felt an odd sense of accomplishment in bringing new things to her rather shabby apartment. No, not shabby--just used. Lived in. It just seemed shabby after the glamour and flimsiness of the tourist world.

Straightening her back, she brushed her hair out of her face--somebody said it fell gracefully, once--and looked around the messy room, full of books and papers and things that should have been picked up before she left, but she didn't have the time or motivation, then, anyway. That would change, in a minute.

Over a cup-o-noodles (the kettle, too, was dusty), she contemplated her surroundings and then finished the last spoonful with a slurp. Nodding decidedly, she put on a cd of . . . well, classical wouldn't hurt. Vivaldi would do--that's what she heard at the concert, while she was away. Vivaldi's "Spring" played as she tidied the room, dusting, sweeping, mopping, replacing the armchair and curio where they stood near the window.

Another check on her feeling of accomplishment: she unpacked her bags. Dirty things in the laundry, clean things back folded up, new clothes put in the wardrobe. A few small items went into a silk bag that held a few special things; a camisole embroidered by her great grandmother, some lingerie from the time everybody thought she was going to get married . . . ugh, better not dredge up that one. The silk bag retreated to a shelf in the back of the wardrobe (she knocked on the back of it, to make sure).

Alright, the apartment has got its makeover. She ran hot water and spent a leisurely time putting herself back together. She noticed oddly that her bathrobe was threadbare and her slippers uncomfortably dirty (she ended up putting on socks instead), but sat down at the vanity anyway, and opened a drawer of rarely used cosmetics. A few of them got tossed in the trash bin immediately, but she took the others out, for the color. Water dripped down the back of her toweled neck, making her shiver and she turned the light switch and compared the colors with her skin. The ones she liked got put neatly into her handbag.

Clean clothes, warm shirts--her jeans would have to spend another turn in the dryer . . . Vivaldi was on "Spring" again. Alright, there, she was dressed. Her hair was still wet, though, so she stepped onto the cold tile to put on the kettle again. May as well have a cup of tea (loose leaf, of course).

Hair dried, brushed, oiled, and put up; she put on her jacket and stepped out the door with her handbag, to buy new foundation, mascara, blush, lotion . . . maybe some new jewelry. Something had changed, in that trip. Something about traveling gave her a new feeling that something in her life quite had to change. Stand up straight, she told herself.

I'd love to feel this change when I come home, but really I just feel like I have so much to do and so little time to do it in (and so little fashion sense) that there is a determined fatalism in deciding to do anything but make myself a cup of tea and crawl into bed. Speaking of . . .

Saturday, October 15

Feeling the effects of caffeine for the first time in ages.

Wow. Well, I am shaky and have a slight headache, heart racing, and dizzy when I stand up. Whoa. This is so weird . . . I have coffee all the time, but I had an extra triple-shot today on account of two weeks' overdue class work . . . oh this is so bad for me. It JUST kicked in, and now I'm toast. I have to wake up tomorrow, too . . . *sigh*

I feel sick to my stomach. I haven't packed for my trip yet. So little time. Bah.

I think I might take my tunic along to Venice with me. Must sew things. Maybe I should take my embroidery instead, but it isn't mindless. Tunic is mindless. Maybe start the belt . . . Belt would be interesting to start. But would take too much preparation. Never mind that. Tunic or nothing.

Hate caffeine. Ugh.

Time to try again to focus on class work. Heh.

Thursday, October 13

Alright, that's it. I need a bagel.

Bagels are one of the things I miss about this place. Italians don't know how to do bagels. *sigh* Oh how I wish for a warm, actually TOASTed bagel with sesame seeds, poppy seeds, onions, and real cream cheese! Or even butter.

Un caffe ristretto in cup, two ice cubes, milk, milk, milk, and straw.

Bagel half #1. From store: plain. Bad, in comparison with bagels of yore, but good in comparison with the concept of bagels in the negative. Add a garlic-herb spread with lots of fat in it.

Italian toaster is practically worthless. Bagel half #2 is frittering away its moistness as I type.

Bagel half #2. Much better toasted that #1 but still not up to par with nostalgia. Coffee bitter but not bad, though I like the Lavazza more than whatever this stuff is . . .

Why, you ask, am I frizzling away my morning blogging here, about nothing whatsoever?

Well, in Pythonite tones, I'll tell you . . .

(Oh, and I put Dumbledore's favourite flavor of jam on Bagel half #2.)

I like to write, and it's addictive. I almost can't help it. I did want to write some terribly personal and awfully judgmental things here, but that sort of stuff is like tabloids on the internet--wrong or outrageously true--and hurtful either way to the writer or the morbid listener. So I'm writing about bagels.

Putting on some Loreena McKennit music . . . I have a feeling I'll be listening to a lot of this in Venice. Venice seems to suit her, even if she doesn't suit Venice.

I've still got to pack, and I should probably look nice, too, which is a bummer. Of course, a sweatshirt and my jean jacket WILL make it in my luggage, but there are times when desperation calls for sweatshirts. They're not BAD for you.

Realise this: I've been trying to dress nicer, when I leave the house. I wear shoes other than my boots, and not always put a comfy sweater over my tshirt. I've worn heeled shoes and conventionally pretty shirts. Even wore make-up for the past week or so, consistently. Not once taken out my despised jean jacket that I love so much. Lots of compliments about how I look nice. Very nice, of course, but I don't like it, and it makes me uncomfortable to be on display. I'd much rather be indignant and comfortable. "So be that way!" I have heard. But then I get a double standard of words and expressions. Bah, it is better to change for a year and then be comfortable.

I'm actually a bit worried. If/when I do get to Ireland, on my own, it will be utterly different to live--on my own. I know my style will change, my habits and routines, my likes and dislikes--it will be a different world. (I'LL FINALLY GET TO HAVE LEBANESE FOOD! It is one of my favorites and Italy has none of it, tragically.) Better, I suppose, that I should have two sets of habits to fall back on just in case one of them doesn't work for a while. But I was so comfortable, there . . .

Of course, it isn't like Edinburgh, but then where else is? Maybe I can go to Scotland for a Ph.D. if they have something, and if the pound lightens a bit. In other words, when pigs fly. I don't know. I like Ireland a lot.

I watched Dear Frankie again last night, behind my work. I love the soundtrack, and the sound of the accents, and the comfortable knowledge that I like this movie. That means I've watched it three times in the past two weeks, which, bar LOTR and the last pre-HBP week of HP, is probably a record.

I'm not sure if I like the actors and actresses outside of the movie (Gerry Butler, though thoughtful and perceptive about the characters he portrays--he will play Beowulf!--has the mouth of a sailor. That isn't good, in my book. And Emily Mortimer, incredibly graceful and talented as she is, plays in Disney movies . . . ), but I don't know yet. That's nice, because I'm free to like it unconditionally, so far.

I like the character that Butler plays in Dear Frankie; he's introspective, gentle, and has an awesome accent, but he isn't all that realistic, based on the men I've known. What kind of a guy would be so emotionally touched--and show it? I don't know what else it is about the character that seems not quite realistic. Maybe a woman wrote the script:P

This is an incredibly long entry. Heh.

Well, I'm bringing moleskines to write in on the train and hopefully I will be able to sit and enjoy myself scribbling for a while. This journal will be different, as it won't be much a travel journal as a personal journal, with maybe some fiction thrown in. I've got empty places in my normal journal, too . . . shall be interesting to figure out how I'll work with it.

Also: last trip, I met a very writable man, who is sticking in my head as a character--I keep seeing him as a person in a story rather than a person I've met (which isn't very nice to him, but it is very interesting to me all the same). I can't imagine we'll ever meet again, and I sincerely doubt he'll ever read anything I write, so I wonder if it is quite safe to write him? Not in the Eleanor Lavish sense of danger--he wouldn't be victimized, just described as I saw him, which is subjective anyway. I'll give it a go one of these days and we'll see how it goes. I'd dearly like to write him in a first person narrative. It might make sense of a type of person I'm not used to understanding, and understanding people is always interesting and useful.

Right. We'll give it a go, and see how things work out. But I'm not telling you when I do write him, and maybe you will guess. If you do, you must tell me.

And I should go now, because I have a placement exam, two papers, and a textbook to read all today.

Tuesday, September 27

winter solar, cider, and hot bread

The winter solar was a low-ceilinged room with woolen tapestries on the walls and two broad hearths at either end. The benches against the wall and the few chairs were made with a dark wood--or maybe they weren't dark themselves but only seemed to be, against the pale walls. Thick blankets, furs, and rugs were piled against the wall and on top of the benches to be taken down during the day. Windows were set back into the wall and usually covered with heavy curtains; they were opened every morning to air out the room.

A few of the women, layered in wool gowns and hoods and shawls, liked to sit there in the morning shortly after the fires were started and a pot of cider hung to warm over the grate. The room would yet be bitingly cold, but a certain conspiratorial air lay over the early hours of the morning, huddled around the fire with cider and hot bread somehow finagled out of the cook before the Hall would be set out with food to break the others' fast.

Thursday, September 15

Yet another introspective oddity of me.

I like to please people. It's why I didn't do badly in school (except for English Lit. and Latin, which were escapes) and why I feel guilty when the kitchen isn't clean. It's why I am polite to people in uncomfortable social situations--don't want to put my friends in a bad spot or get them upset with me because I'm different. I want my friends and family to feel good, when it doesn't get in the way of anything (I try not to take the consequences for others' actions or enable them to continue something unhealthy) and might build them up a little.

Of course, I botch it all the time--I seem to not have that gift of being spontaneous that most of my family has, and trying to plan so that I can do something nice for them often turns me on my head and rubs them the wrong way. They may need to realise that it is dashed hard to practise being spontaneous when it isn't natural in your personality already, but I know there is something about that particular gift that I'm missing, too, so I can't exactly pass judgment on them. Pot calling the kettle black, and all that.

The fact that I'm oversensitive to my own needs doesn't help, either--I constantly feel like I'm making a martyr of myself, if I don't really feel like being nice. (Note: feeling like a martyr doesn't mean you are one.) Then the feeling like a martyr thing makes me not want to do anything nice at all--which goes back to the thing about doing good and not having to like it. I want to be useful.

Saying that to myself, I always get a flashback of one of my favourite teachers looking at me in his peculiarly focused way, saying "That is going to lead to a quick burnout." I love him for saying that because it has saved me needless pain, but I hate his saying it at the same time because it only voiced my confusion. I know that endurance alone is not going to pull me through, but what are my alternatives? I can't exactly enjoy life without knowing if I'm on the right track . . . some people can, and they tell me to "loosen up" or just "go with the flow", but I'm sticking it out that

1) It is so much more important to know I'm doing good than to know I'm having fun. (I was one of those kids who couldn't play until they had their work done.)

2) I'd rather have a real Joy than a giggly personality.

3) The whole "loosening up" thing has only ever got me into trouble, anyway.

Sounds weird to some of you. I'll stay on the safe side of the line in that sense. In popular psychology/spirituality/whathaveyou that is the BIGGEST line to cross. It isn't.

This entry is getting long and my brain is shorting out because of the music, and I need to go bake some oatcakes. I hope they bring home apples and cheese. Or pears. Pears would be fine with oatcakes too.

Tuesday, September 13

summer solar, smelling of lavender

Well, this is totally an experiment. I was daydreaming in my weekend class and drew pictures on my syllabus, of a tall, wide tower with a solar at the top, and it was obviously a ladies' hall.

I've also been looking at medieval costumes and recipes, which are very cool. Veils and wimples don't seem so strange when you look at the funny hairstyles we have around today.

Am also trying to figure out dialogue in period style, but I'm really no good at it yet. Practice, I suppose.

The ladies' summer solar was at the top of the most southern tower, a wide unpanelled room with many windows cut in the round walls. During the summer months, the room was used commonly by all the ladies as a resting place. Wimple and veil could be unpinned and put aside, crying children were not glared at, and the topics unfit--or all too fit--for the company of the men could be discussed at leisure and without the semipolitical reserve required in a very political court.

But it was very much a room of women; only small children were allowed, and no men. Not that many men would have relished the experience of being confronted with an entire room of tired women in their stockings and without even a veil to cover their hair . . . most men steered clear even of the door to the tower, for the guards there (all of whom bore resigned looks on their faces) often left their posts with a lingering scent of perfume not their own.

Coming down the wide, even steps of the stairwell, she stopped at the lowest window to put on her wimple and veil over mussed hair. It was a hot day--not warm but hot--and putting on a head covering in addition to two layers of linen dress seemed doubly hot when she descended from the cool of the summer solar.

The world outside that small window was turning brown with the dead heat of summer. Soon it would be autumn, at least, and the death of the world would not seem so unexpected. The houses in the city looked so small, so far away, and yet she could pick out her favourite chandlers' shop, the best silversmiths' building apart from the crowded streets in a green of its own, and the cluster of alleyways devoted to making musical instruments. Tucking the hem of her wimple into the collar of her dress, she thought idly of picking up the lute again.

She turned to the door only to see a messenger waiting, watching her arrange her veil. Slightly annoyed at his silence, yet too hot to be upset, she gave him formal leave to speak. He looked slightly flustered.

"Ye smell of lavender," he said abruptly, and stopped.

"I see. Is that all ye came to say?" she asked, reaching up to affix a second pin to her veil.

"Well, when I was a child I used to--" he cleared his throat."My mother was a fine lady--the Queen liked her to spend time teaching girls how to sew in the afternoons--and when she came down, she always smelled sweet, like that. So I thought it was something special. All mothers smell like lavender! Methought maybe it had something to do with being a mother--one of the best, nicest mothers. She always came down from the solar rested, like that, I so always assumed that lavender was equated with goodness." He paused a moment. "That and the smell of--" He smiled, remembering. "I don't even know what it's called . . . "

She grinned. "Is your mother known as Lady Ellen?"

"Indeed! Do ye know her?"

"She taught me to embroider." Suddenly conscious of her embroidered shoes and various hems, she was glad Lady Ellen was not present to see the loose stitching on her slippers. She made a note to mend them as soon as possible.

"Ah. Tis' no wonder you smell like lavender."

"Well, there may be more to that than you know. Young girls usually sew lavender pouches for their first project."

"Oh. I had rather hoped it was something more glorious than that, but pouches will do."

Monday, September 12

picking apart stories

"So what do you think the story meant? I mean, it obviously could not have happened to a real knight." He stood up and stretched. It had been a longer story than he'd originally thought it would be, and even the teller looked weary with the telling.

"Don't ruin it!" She clapped her hands over her ears. "I don't want to know. Can't you just leave it alone and let it be beautiful?" She let her hands stray but warily back to her embroidery.

"I think somebody wanted to make something out of it--not discussing it wouldn't do the work justice." Reluctant to sit down, he crossed to the table and brought back a cup of ale for the poet, who was grinning. For a split second it shocked him that the man had very few teeth. He smiled back.

Oh, that's just because--ouch," she pricked her finger and took it out from underneath the veil of her sewing frame, "you take the words 'enjoyment' and 'understanding' to mean the same thing." She put the offending finger and its welling drop of blood in her mouth.

"Not necessarily. The truth is what is important, not my enjoyment of it."

"So you can't enjoy something unless you understand it?" She folded her hands in her lap.

"That isn't what I said . . . " he stopped, exasperated, and shook his head. "How could it be, when I'm still spending my evenings perfectly sober, listening to an elf in the guise of an old man and a goose in the guise of a maid!" (The poet cackled toothlessly.) "I don't understand that either."

Wednesday, September 7

same heroine, five years later

"Why are your hands so rough, so wounded? Are you not in the practice of ministering to that delicacy we so admire in our . . ." He searched for the appropriate cliche: "Our flowers of the court? True ladies should have hands made of rose petals, and fragile . . ."

She let her visitor trail off into silence as the King's vanguard moved across the plain; it would not be until evening that tales would be told or the news given.

He held her limp hand for a moment, scrutinizing it for blemishes and pointing them out to her; a fading scar, a callous, a graze that was slowly oozing blood from underneath a pale cover of blotched cream and powder.

"Like to porcelain?" she asked tonelessly, pronouncing the syllables deliberately.

It dimly crossed his mind to be annoyed with her seeming aloofness--she almost seemed as if she wasn't enjoying his presence at all--but he reminded himself, very patiently, he thought, that she was a young creature and perhaps unschooled. All the better. Untaught beauties, though with less elegantly affected behaviour, were often the more in need of refined company.

"Yes. Like to porcelain. Very good."

Thursday, August 25

I never could think of what they were saying, anyway.

Warm summer nights are always good times for heroes and heroines to talk, and that is how we come upon them now so prosaically; Miss Austen has shown by example, and many authors have since imitated her, in that summer evenings are inherently appropriate times to have meaningful communication between character and character, especially in a novel.

More often than not, we would rather spend them--summer nights, that is--in the silent looming tall-shadows of our own thoughts or the peaceful company of as many companions as we can gather round us. The compromise of these two extremes is what our heroes are doing now. They are having a quiet conversation with each other and will not soon after follow into either extreme like good conformists but separate into empty halls and rooms filled with few people and even more sparse conversation.

Right now, though, they are leaning on the parapet, watching the sky turn dark, with their backs to the sunset. They are talking in normal voices, not the quiet, low tones in which we might expect to overhear tidbits of serious and solemn exchanges. No, the woman is plainly dressed, and modest, and the man bored. He is picking at the inside seam of his surcoat, or jacket, or whatever it is; it is all rather difficult to see but lights and darks as the sun is rather far down in the west. You think that maybe he is talking loudly and in a livelier manner because he wants to keep himself awake; we all have friends that amuse us that way. The lady is ignoring the fact that he is so loud, and rests her elbows on the parapet, looking down on the dark shadows beneath the wall.

A couple walks by them in evening dress, and silence follows as each couple pretends not to have seen the other. The man that I told you about earlier is now quieter. The lady next to him turns and asks him a question, smiling, and he laughs, sits down cross-legged with his back to the wall, looking up at her and saying something in a quieter tone, more as if he wants her to laugh. She says something else, seriously, and then you see him convulse with laughter. From here, even, we can hear him laughing--what did she say?

But never mind, she is leaving. She brushes off her elbows, turns to face us for the first time. Unfortunately, now all we can see is her silhouette. Her hair curls behind her ears and hangs down a few inches, but it makes her look elegant and not disheveled, though she seems to be feeling more disheveled than elegant at the moment. Anyway, she was brushing off her elbows. She says one more thing to the man, who is recovering himself on the ground, and then walks off towards a tall stone building.

The man seems put out, and a little indignant. He pushes himself up off the ground and paces back and forth four times--seven paces each way--and then shakes his head. He runs towards the tall building, and the scene we can see now is only the darkness, the slowly fading night. The moon is high above us, and the sunset behind us is dim. The breeze blows a soft, meandering way across the parapet, bumps like a sleepwalker into the tall building, and runs away tumbling sounds of music and laughing with it across the hills.

status update: suspiciously uninterneted activities of miss rika

I have been doing a lot of baking. I have made, in the past five days:

        •        three (3) pans of brownies; two with walnuts and one of the fudge persuasion
        •        approximately a dozen meat pasties (pork and chicken with sage, thyme, potatoes, onions, garlic, & carrots)
        •        two (2) loaves of banana-chocolate-chip-&-walnut bread; one for a guy who has no family around for another month yet (just moved), another for my cool friends at the college office and current employer(s)
        •        four stuffed chicken breasts (two artichoke filled and the other roasted-red-bell-pepper)
        •        pesto and pasta
        •        a cool granita thingy--lemon juice and some wild-strawberry paint thinner/liqueur
        •        baked apples (with raisins, currants, cinnamon, brandy, and walnuts)
        •        tasty bruschetta made just like my Italian "auntie" taught me to make it
        •        breakfast sandwiches/grease-and-butter transport devices
        •        innumerable and ineffably tasty cafe lattes
        •        theoretical pancakes (I meant to make them)

I know most mothers do more than this, which is astounding. Nobody should ever underestimate mothers who cook and have clean houses, though those that do so on a consistent basis ought to be put away. Yes, I have also been cleaning. Mopping, sweeping, wiping down, disinfecting, washing with soap and water, scrubbing, rearranging, reorganising, putting things up; this is all never to be underestimated. No, I did not dust. Ha.

As a reward, I have a happy, more rested family, and plans to visit my bestest friend in the whole entire world for a whole big entire enormous weekend. Woot.

Classes are beginning again soon, too. I shall be Busy this year, again.


But I do have my podcasts, coffees, sisters, and books to urge me onwards to the ultimately cooler and more fun things ahead--like masters degrees. I am thinking, too, that I'd like to get a degree in theology or Bible after I do the Medieval Studies thing. That is all after I'm rich and famous, of course.

*sigh no. 2*

I hate the summer, and I love my new sweater, and I am spending the day (spent hitherto at the kitchen table listening to my The Gort read aloud HP IV and watching my cat hunt lizards and crickets) in the basement spinning piles of laundry into gold.

Saturday, July 30

I don't know.

I have a story that I may post, but I don't know if anybody would want to read it--it has to do with motives, mostly, and consequences, and thoughts, and people who don't have very much hope. And it is a tiny story. Maybe it is all in my head, all the depth of the story, because I've talked into it several conversations I've seen/heard/experienced. Rather difficult. I want to put into words so many things that I haven't the wit to express. And you know all of these things will be edited to pieces in a year or two. I don't even like them all now.

I analyse things too much. It makes writing dialogue a bit difficult, because all of their sentences are loaded. When I talk, it is usually like a rough draft of what I really mean to say, and then I never have time for even a final draft before the finished product gets out there in the open for everybody to hear. Lame. I almost wish I could do that for my characters but I don't really want to wish the torture of self-consciousness on them.

Thursday, July 21

I succumbed to yet another quiz.

Your Hidden Talent
Your natural talent is interpersonal relations and dealing with people.
You communicate well and are able to bring disparate groups together.
Your calming presence helps everything go more smoothly.
People crave your praise and complements.

Wednesday, July 6

the tunnel scene

Somehow or other he had managed to spend the entire day alone. Well, the entire morning, anyway. It was only a few hours after most people would have their noon meal . . . he still hadn't eaten, but it didn't matter; he wasn't hungry anyway.

Somehow the sky had remained overcast since dawn but he felt at ease with the wind in the trees and something about the way the clouds were brooding over the hills. Every couple of hours it drizzled and spat rain to blur the lines of road and tree and hill. The high road was empty for as far as the eye could see--had been for hours--and the blurred line of it wound off into the green most satisfactorily.

Around the next bend there was a single arch over the road. It had been part of an old, unused aqueduct that descended from a snowy mountain. There was a dark patch right underneath the arch where the water line stopped and the walker stopped under it too, throwing back the hood of his cloak. The air smelled like wet soil and leaves and stone. He exhaled slowly to watch his breath turn to steam in the air.

Leaning against the inner wall of the arch, he cleared his throat and thought how odd it was to finally hear his own voice in the long silence of the day. He found himself oddly uncomfortable now that he had paused. His arms seemed too long, and his feet looked weird in their creased, worn boots.

Funny, he thought; I feel rather much the same way. Surprised at thinking this, he tried to explain how he felt to himself: it felt as if his mind was a pool and his thoughts things that surfaced slowly; it was a peaceful feeling. Well, not exactly peaceful; more contented. Not even contented!

There was something calm about his state of mind, but not exactly happy. He tried smiling, just in case, but it all came to nothing; he wasn't happy. He frowned, but that wasn't right either. Oh, well.

In the end he had to give it up, shrug his shoulders back into the familiar folds of his cloak, reposition his hood, and continue his trek into the hills.

It was five or seven miles later when he arrived at the fortress.

Thursday, June 30

The phrase, as I remember it, is "the primitive duality of human nature". (?!)

Here I was, minding my own business (or rather not minding it, as I have a lot of emails that need to be written), and then these thoughts keep dropping on me. Impertinent imagination! Sometimes I wish that it would know when to quit.

In the anyway, I was thinking about Scottish literature and human potential for good and evil and connecting that all with the Evanescence song "Where Will You Go" and a few memories of long ago in a dim auditorium with turquoise seats. People seem to think that human nature is split into two parts--the potential for good and the potential for evil. Please don't argue the point; I haven't clearly thought it out, you know.

The popular image of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde grew up out of this even though Robert Louis Stevenson clearly explained in the actual novella that this was not the case. Even Harry Potter seems to have caught on--has anybody seen the new trailer? "Difficult times lie ahead, Harry. Soon you will face the choice between what is right, and what is easy." Or somesuch line. It is important, because it shows that what is right is often the hard road (unfortunately, I tend to be the one to think that if it is hard then it must be good for me; even though I don't like brussel sprouts or cooked bell peppers).

Then the Evanescence song talks about a person who lives a role they want to be, but the speaker of the song knows the secret, that they're "the one who cries when [they're] alone". Interesting, of course, and there is always that feeling of intimacy with a person who shares the knowledge of vulnerability. Fascinating, no? It is the choice of what you do with the knowledge of somebody else's vulnerability that "shows your quality" as Samwise the Brave might have said. Dorothy Sayers mentions this idea briefly in passing though with some interesting thoughts as Peter Wimsey falls asleep in the middle of a picnic/investigation, leaving Harriet to search through his pockets for a match to light her cigarette. A companion's sleep produces one of two reactions in the wakeful, she says; one is an instinct of protection and the other is that of bullying or mocking.

I read a story once, that talked about a fairy tale--a fairy tale in which there was a man who wore a mask. The man's face was ugly as your most shameful moment and he wore a mask of such craftsmanship that no one could tell it was a mask. In the dim light of his tower room, he took off the mask--the first time in so long!--and found he must light a candle. Click, swwwsht, flish. A little flame danced twice, once in the mirror and once in the air. The man's ugly face had changed to mold and fit the mask he had to carefully worn for so long. That's practically the same moral as our catchphrase, "fake it till ya make it". And there is a time and a place for that false confidence, but where exactly is the line between false confidence and hypocrisy? That's what most people think of when they think of duality in human nature, isn't it? I don't know, you see, I'm not most people.

So it all comes down to choices and the inexorable reminder of free will while still being aware of the nagging feeling that one might have done well on the Other Side. It is like the time I realised goths had a point in dwelling on death and despair. The only thing that they are missing is the other half of the story, the bit about rebirth and resurrection. So lame, to miss that bit.

Anyway, all of these silly thoughts have gone through my head and sooner or later I will come back to them and giggle my way through a second reading. They will sound a bit silly, but perhaps I will want to reference all of these delightful sources in another time or place. How odd.

Wednesday, June 29

Saturday, June 18

what I should have done today but didn't

8 a.m. wake up, leisurely puttering about morning routines

        •        brush teeth
        •        brush hair (different brush)
        •        put ear drops in (5 min. on each side)
        •        take amoxicillin capsules (sp?)
        •        wash face (daily wash stuff)

9 a.m. make self latte and surf internet for inordinate amount of time

12 noon drink large glass of water because day is getting v. hot and we have no AC

        •        ear drops again
        •        decide to take shower and feel nice
        •        take shower; use hair mask stuff and go by the directions this time
        •        antibiotic capsule thingummy

1 p.m. am now out and dressed, thinking about a cup of tea

        •        put face masky thing on (5 min.)
        •        wriggle toes a bit
        •        hum
        •        take face masky thing off
        •        eat large brownie for lunch, stealing cappuccino icing off of other brownies

1.30 p.m. (does not take a long time to wriggle toes but does take long time to hum)

        •        take a long nap.

5 p.m. room is slowly cooling off and cat is stretched out on tile floor

        •        wake up
        •        ear drop thingies
        •        think about how nice it is to have face masky things
        •        read something amusing until it is time to get something to eat

. . .

10 p.m. retire to bedroom with cup of cafe latte and surf internet for an hour and a half before falling asleep with glasses on

        •        ear drops
        •        antibiotics
        •        take glasses off

Thursday, June 16

Behold: the glorious me.

Originally uploaded by ifothelawon.

From thence I wield my powah and from thence do I ruhl thah wahld.

Tuesday, June 14

and the reply:


I'm fine. Wounded in my left shoulder, now it only itches and bleeds. Good to hear things are well back there. We miss the cooking. The Queen is very capable; can stand on her own two feet.

The King is the best lord I've ever been in service to. He knows his men, all of us respect him. He's the eyes of a hawk and the cunning of a fox, with the honor of a true man. Be thankful he's your father.

Keep your chin up; things are going well for us here. I miss you too. Send more books?


Monday, June 13

A letter written while there was a war.

Dear ----

I shan't bother you with countless enquiries of how you are, but if you have a moment to post, I've included some paper. I don't know if you can get any there, so it will be useful for a map or a sketch anyway.

Things are going well here; we are all quite the team and work surprisingly well together. The harvest has come in a bit clumsily but altogether well. I'm really very happy about that because it's gotten rid of the few remaining beggars about the cities, and it means we'll be able to send some food your way in a few weeks.

Mother is doing quite well governing the kingdom, though I can't say I'm surprised. A few tales are reviving about how she held the throne in the old days (old days--before I was born) and she must have mellowed a lot since then because she has refrained, so far, from wearing her sword at mealtimes. She does practice a little more everyday, though. I think it is hard for her to be home when Father is gone.

We all wear plainer clothes about the palace now--not much lace, if any, and no jewels; you'd think it was funny. Yes, that includes shoes! I wear boots, now. Fiona says they make me look like a cow.

Thank you for continuing to support Father; he speaks very well of you in his letters to us. Somebody put the story about the broadsword to song and it is being played everywhere with a rousing chorus, as follows:

And he fought with a strength not his own,
When all hope for the battle was gone,
An' he strove through the night
With no succor in sight
By the light of his sword, all alone.

Not the best ballad we've heard, but no doubt there will be better ones when you all come back.

I must be off--I've taken up and left off this letter over the space of a fortnight and if I leave it any longer it won't be sent. Wish I could send greetings, but at least toast my Father at dinner, from me. That at least will be acceptable. I have already written him.

Take care of yourself. We are all proud of you. And I miss your company.


Thursday, June 2

Past the tower to the stars in a stern, wise sky.

When she was a child, memories of her evening toilette were mostly of a maid tugging at her hair with a comb that always had not quite enough or rather too many teeth, the uncomfortable process of the toweling off of hands (they always stayed a bit damp despite the maid's best efforts), the scrubbing off of smudges gained from sources unremembered, and the rough scraping of teeth with spicy paste on a coarsely woven rag.

Afterwards, she always felt as if she'd been tugged and pulled and pushed about till she was dizzy; and she was glad to finally crawl under soft sheets to peek out the window, past the tower, to the stars in a stern, wise sky.

Wednesday, June 1

I have made improvements and named two of them.

Carrie had her speech all planned out. It would be a marvelous speech, calling on the fraternity of studenthood and the hour of the night, maybe even touching on expatriate sacrifices and the universal yearning for a good philanthropist. She heard the door open and began her spiel.

"Can I please borrow some peanut butter . . . ?" She stopped short at the sight of a very frazzled Maggie, who was talking frantically into her hand. No, wait--she was on the phone.

"We talked about this before and you said--hold on, there's somebody at the door--I know--" She was wearing an apron over her normal clothes and held a wooden spoon that was dripping on the threshold. "Oh, hey, Carrie. Come on in; I'll be off the phone in a second."

Carrie stepped inside the flat and tried to say that she only wanted some peanut butter, but Maggie had already resumed her telephone conversation, nodding violently and frowning as she walked back to the small kitchenette area of tiny living space, leaving the door open to the watery light of the hallway.

Her visitor closed the door quietly and stood uneasily by it. Maybe she should have just apologized for the bother and left. Maggie was now wielding a knife at what looked like some potatoes and carrots, maybe an onion or two. The rest of the room was silent and dim with the night, and somehow a citified cricket found an audience for its arias below the single window of the room. Carrie walked over to the window, not wanting to sit down and make herself comfortable, and hoping Maggie wouldn't be on the phone long.

She had that awkward feeling of asking a favor of somebody she didn't know very well. That is, she knew Maggie, but not really to speak to. They'd had a class or two together and shared a nationality, though that didn't amount to much as the classes had been rather large and so was America. Come to think of it, Carrie didn't even know where Maggie had lived in the States before .

Maggie pulled out a metal pan from a cupboard and said something in a sad tone of voice, explaining something unintelligible (it must have referred to several previous conversations because Carrie could make no sense of it) while scattering the vegetables on top of two chicken breasts she'd put in the pan. She listened for a little while, hands still moving, and poured a little olive oil, a little wine, and a squirt or two of honey from half-bottles next to the stove. The spoon she'd held as Carrie entered was in a bowl of broth that Maggie poured over the mixture. Maggie slid the pan into the oven and twisted the timer in a familiar fashion before tugging absently at the knot at the back of her apron.

Carrie had found a book of poetry by the window; a translation of Carmina Burana. How very odd. It was open to something called "Burning Inside"; she read it and then reread it breathlessly. What was she doing in sociology? Somehow Carrie found a chair and sat down with the book.

Maggie, having forgotten her visitor entirely, ended her telephone conversation on an exhausted note and began the process of washing up. The smell of the roast in the oven began to fill the room and the cricket outside the window bowed offstage with a dignified but slightly off-key finale.

"Peanut butter." Carrie started. Maggie had turned around in sudden remembrance of opening the door for something that had to do with peanut butter. "I don't have any."

"Oh," said Carrie. "Did you need peanut butter?"

"I thought you did." Maggie frowned.

"Did I?" Carrie looked blankly at Maggie for a moment. "Oh! I found your book and I forgot why I came. Yes. I wanted peanut butter. It's too late to go out for dinner but I have toast and jelly in my flat."

"But you needed peanut butter;" Maggie nodded sagely: "I see." They looked at each other appraisingly for a moment.

"Which book?" Maggie peered into the dimness of the room as if the title would appear in fiery letters.

"'Carmine Bureau' or something. It's really good." Carrie held up the book but was unwilling to let it go. Maggie grinned.

"The Carmina Burana? Yeah, that's great stuff if you read it in the right context."

"I've never read one poem for half an hour straight, before."

"Want to stay for dinner? I made extra. You can tell me what you think about the poetry."

"Sure! Thanks!" Carrie half-rose from her chair. "I say, was your phone call alright? You sounded upset."

"Oh, no, it's fine. Thanks for asking, though." She turned back to the kitchen and checked the timer. "A friend and I seem to have periodic arguments on the nature of the universe. In fact, we don't really get along very well. It is an absurd friendship."

"Huh. Well, can I do anything for dinner?"

"Nope. You could read the poem aloud while I get out dishes, if you want."


"Would you read the poem for me?"

"Out loud?"

"If you don't mind."

"No. Uhh . . . no, that's ok." Carrie cleared her throat and began to read.