freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
For once I have remembered to note that it's my blog's birthday. I first posted on 31st January 2005. That's nine years of blogging. 1 657 entries, counting this one. That's one every 1.98 days, if the weather hasn't robbed me of my tiny vestiges of mathematical ability. People have posted 10 732 comments. The longest hiatus in posting has been the ten days or so in July 2011 while I was in hospital with my feet exploded. I think it's fair to assume that I quite like writing stuff, for some reason. Or am actually addicted to words. Or uncommonly cussed. Probably all three.

Cape Town is having heatwaves. I think it's almost allowed to, usually they come in February and that's ... in a few hours, now. (Alas January. I'm sure there was something else I was planning to do with you, but oh well). Be that as it may, today was ungodly, stinking, improbable hot. This is something of a continuing theme: this weekend the foot pedal on my sewing machine inconveniently burst into smoke and melted plastic in the middle of a skirt reconstruction, so possibly Hell is closer to the surface than usual. I spent the only tolerable hour or two this afternoon sitting in the living room (in the middle of a power cut, for some reason - Capetonians, turn off your aircon. It isn't fair that you have it when I don't) with my feet in a bucket of water and ice. Turns out this reduces my swollen ankles immediately and dramatically, which is useful, as the combination of heat and running round conducting orientation for four days gives me puffy feet like whoa and dammit. I can't even blame the DVT, they used to do this while I was running roleplaying cons and SCA events, years before my leg inconveniently exploded on the way to Australia. I don't like this weather. Have you noticed?

Fortunately, given the heat, the Revenge of the Son of the Bride of the Return of the Army of Reconstruction has finished the remodelling of the front wall and departed for points unknown, which means we don't have to deal with dust as well as heat in that sort of misguided fake Western movie fashion. They have left behind a rather spanky carport and pristine section of new wall in addition to the traditional blasted heath which always attends their efforts. Viz.:


I thumb my nose in the general direction of the hadeda aerial bombardment of my car, now frustrated. Hah!

I know "I'll stop the world" from Nouvelle Vague, for whom I have a somewhat unbecoming passion quite apart from their bossa nova version of this song, which has an insidiously beautiful lyric line. I do vaguely know the Modern English original (quite a fun music video, despite o lord the 80s), but it's not a patch on the cover.
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
It's happening again! Chez Evil Landlord is once more infested with an Army of Reconstruction, only four years after the last one, and with the traditional pinpoint accuracy the blitzkrieg has been unleashed just in time to coincide with my exhaustion-making orientation frenzy. This time the panzer divisions are rolling only over the front wall of the garden, which they are assaulting for processes of dismantling the gate where I park my car and moving it five metres to the right, lowering the ground by a foot or so, paving, and installing a carport. I should add, for posterity, that the conversations around this particular proceeding have gone as follows:

(Approximately four years ago):
ME: Gosh, you know, that extreme right-hand corner of the front garden under the plane tree is an awful little space, nothing grows there, it would make more sense to move the second gate there and use that space for a carport. We might actually get something to grow in the space where the car currently stands, which is further away from the plane tree and has more light.
EVIL LANDLORD (dismissively): Nah, it'll never work, there isn't enough space for a car in that corner.
(Invoking the well-known "Well it's his house anyway" clause, I give up and go away.)

(Approximately a year ago, on a more or less averagely drunken Sunday evening):
JO: Gosh, you know, that extreme right-hand corner of the front garden under the plane tree is an awful little space, nothing grows there, it would make more sense to move the second gate there and use that space for a carport. You might actually get something to grow in the space where the car currently stands, which is further away from the plane tree and has more light.
EVIL LANDLORD (struck): You know, you're right!
(Various tape measures are unleashed and measurements slightly wildly made; it is determined that there's plenty of place for a car if you remove the small sad mirrorbush. Plans are submitted to Council for the necessary delay, circumlocution and meaningless quibbles, and Kurt the Amazing Builder and his panzer division are contracted. I roll my eyes. Memo to self, next time suggest interesting renovations only when the EL is safely sloshed.)

The blitzkrieg started on Monday, and by yesterday evening they had already cleared the corner of the tree and all the associated guff that's accumulated there over the last few years (piles of branches, decaying veggie boxes, the old birdbath, weird bits of broken garden ornament, small pocket universes, the like), dismantled the wall where the new gate is migrating to, and dug a large and mysterious hole under the current one. My vague theory that this was probably foundations for the new wall was proved correct when I came home today to find that a new section of wall had mysteriously sprung into being in the gap.

I note, also for posterity, that this has done exactly what I gently suggested it might, which is to block most of the light from the front garden so that nothing much is likely to grow there anyway. Within the terms of the Well It's His House Anyway clause this is covered by the fact that the EL is more interested in privacy and security than in flourishing gardens, which sunk my suggestion that they stick in a lower section of wall with iron palings atop it. We're getting the extra bit on the whole wall anyway, with electric fencing, which I have to admit is something of a balm to my wounded druiding. It is difficult to overestimate the extent to which I am now bored with being burgled.

I include for your amusement pictorial evidence of (a) the chaos, and (b) the size of the gap which will contain the second car and carport. (As of today it's about a foot lower). The presence of the elderly tumble drier is somewhat mysterious, but I think represents a migration from where it's been standing for a year or so in the back courtyard after it died and the EL replaced it. I think it may have been some sort of shrine.


I also hasten to add that, theatrical whinging notwithstanding, I am delighted by this development and ecstatic at the possibility of a carport which will prevent the damned birds roosting in the plane tree from crapping all over my brand new and recently washed car. (Last weekend I drove it back from the carwash and emerged from the car exactly as a hadeda let fly all over the roof. Actual time between stopping and desecration: fifteen seconds). The EL, while somewhat impervious to suggestion from the Lawful Good front, is a kind and generous man of whom I am somewhat fond even while I gently mock his idiosyncracies. I shall also attempt to forgive the Army of Reconstruction for disconnecting the grey water system without warning, plonking their ladder on top of the struggling plants in the bed below the bottlebrush, and piling sand in front of the pedestrian gate so it narrowly missed bouncing back and clonking me in the teeth when I opened it yesterday. These things are sent to try us. Car port, I tell myself. An end to the bird crap. It'll be worth it.
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The ceiling in the foyer outside my campus office randomly fell in the other day. This is both ironic and inevitable, as the building has been rendered hideous for most of this year by the merry crash of scaffolding being erected, the merry crash of scaffolding being dismantled, the thumps and joyous cries of builders chipping plaster off walls, likewise for builders slapping plaster onto walls, the headache-inducing smell of paint fumes, and the intermittent, ground-shaking, skull-invading roar of angle-grinders, jackhammers and other industrial monstrosities one shouldn't encounter outside of Einst├╝rzende Neubauten. Side effects have included gents on scaffolding outside the ladies' loo, gents on scaffolding breaking the windows in the ladies' loo, a sort of involuntary Gothic outbreak in the courtyards where the builders constructed the post-structuralist art installation draped in black roofing material, and a continuous, tenuous, palpable film of dust over the back of my throat.

Now that it's all over, the outside of the building looks wonderful, and I am relieved to note that they have replaced the supports of the Classics balcony. (One of the first things the builders did was to remove the wooden cladding around the base of the metal poles, revealing that they were rusted through to leave about a 2cm pitted central core supporting the edifice. Fortunately balcony and Classics professors are all still present and accounted for. I like the Classics department.) However, all the jarring has clearly mounted a sneak shockwave attack on the structural integrity of the ceilings and floors, and we have the sudden descent of several square metres of plaster just in time for innumerable droves of undergraduates to stand in precisely that spot while we sign their forms to change their course registrations. It all seems somehow Meant. Fated. Because of course it'll happen like that.

On the other hand, enough students have been driving me homicidally insane in the last couple of days that I'd rather relish dropping ceilings on them. The narcissistic bubble occupied by your average post-adolescent would depress me profoundly if I wasn't rather sadistically relishing my awareness of the way it's going to be ruthlessly burst by their experiences of the Big Bad World over the next decade or so. I figure that being snarled at by a wild-eyed advisor figure crouched dragon-like over her desk is probably good practice. My bad temper, let me show you it. It's for your own good.

Other than ceiling collapses, the usual pile of student corpses and a rather high exhaustion level, life is rendered more pleasant than it might otherwise be by the presence of my mother, who is inhabiting the house with her customary unobtrusive cheer. Of course, the ceiling of the guestroom collapsed right on schedule the day before she arrived, owing to the heavy rain and a breakdown of a famous Evil Landlord/Heath Robinson leak collection contraption in the ceiling, and we only rendered the guestroom habitable in time by dint of serious heater action. I'm sensing a theme here. Probably the one from The Amityville Horror.
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Time seems to go awfully fast when you're tired. I mean, it's October already, and the end of the semester, with its associated expectation of my return to work, is looming ominously. I feel as though I've hardly been at home for any time at all, and I certainly haven't achieved a fraction of the things I thought I would.

Given that I have been lurking in my study for whole chunks of the day (i.e. when not collapsed on the sofa), and will continue to do so for a few weeks yet, it's just as well that my study is a nice place to lurk. Last year's Return of the Bride of the Revenge of the Army of Reconstruction achieved wonders in the way of extra space, a lovely built-in desk and acres of shelving which fended off the book crisis for at least a couple of months. (It's back in full swing. I estimate that the separate piles of books all over the study rack up to about four metres of height.) In the last few weeks, though, the finishing touches have been applied: I scored a perfectly spontaneous kelim rug, courtesy of Vi, in appropriate size and shades, and today the Evil Landlord actually put up the wooden blinds I ordered for the window about three weeks ago and which have been languishing in a corner of the study in a sort of quantumly indetermined state occasioned by the wrong size of screws. The result is, though I say so myself, luvvely.

Please note (a) the inevitable Hobbit, who has for once abandoned his little ottoman hobbit-throne in order to lie heavily on the pile of papers in my in-tray, and (b) the plethora of Ursula Vernon artworks. The blind is lovely, all wooden and warm-toned, and it allows me to adjust it so I can look out of the window and watch my tomato plants visibly stretching skywards in the current ridiculously warm weather. It certainly beats the hell out of the previous "blind" arrangement, which consisted of a fast-fading Malawian cappulana, featuring black and blue butterflies, draped over the burglar bars.

Now that I have this perfect working space, all I need to do is some work. Hmmm. The weekend has been a washout owing to toothache, but these excuses are starting to wear a bit thin.
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I know I'm a total klutz. I have come to terms with my own embarrassing lack of motor control. But I think it vaults upwards into new, high and inscrutable realms of clumsy when I manage to stub my toe rather painfully while lying in bed at night, asleep. (Why, yes, sleepwalking. Some unspecified threat caused me to catapult myself to the end of my bed in a desperate effort to escape whatever it was, catching my left baby toe painfully on the footboard.) I tell myself that since the last stubbed toe was on the other foot, at least it's evened out the limp. Also, there was a small but definite chance I could have strangled myself on the mosquito net, so I'm grateful it wasn't worse.

Talking about blue, this is (a) very meta, (b) very funny and (c) very rude about Avatar. Hat tip to [ profile] strawberryfrog, whose icon is so very appropriately be-hatted.

And, while we're about it, the new Iron Man 2 trailer is new and shiny and making me go "squee!" in an undignified fashion. Is is just me, or is Mickey Roarke being particularly badass? Also, suitcase armour! *pretends to be comic-book geek*. (I have, after all, read the Warren Ellis one, although the fact of Orson Scott Card scripting in earlier arcs is precluding me acquiring those).

In other news this week's evenings have been dedicated to trying to sort out the garden, which the builders have left looking like something from "Childe Roland" ("Bog, clay and rubble, sand and stark black dearth" - god, I love Browning, words for every occasion.) Yesterday the gardener actually unearthed the garden path, hitherto concealed beneath sand-drifts. He also dumped a metric buttload of compost onto the sand and dug it in, which means that Saturday's pig-roast has a reasonable chance of taking place in churned black mud since I'm buggered if I'll plant grass for everyone to trample. Tonight I may cautiously put some plants in. Memo to self, borrow [ profile] smoczek for artistic input while buying more plants this weekend.
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We have a house! almost. Still a bit gritty, but most of the furniture is in, and I actually cooked supper last night. Yesterday the EL and I sallied forth and bought furniture, including a set of six birch bustle-back chairs for the dining room, to replace the benches, which were starting to look rather more than rickety. I'm very enamoured of the new chairs: curvy and minimalist and attractive, and rather feminine in shape. I am also amused and distracted, however, by the fact that the furniture store had them labelled as "busselback chairs". I'm assuming "bustle" here refers to the curvy item of Victorian clothing attached to a lady's waist to make an extra sort of false derrière: there is, after all, considerable correspondence of shape. Viz:

DSCN1800, originally uploaded by extemporanea.

Please also to note the new hanging lamp, produced after two days of looking at lights while arguing gently. Given this, it looks surprisingly serene.

The furniture is mostly in thanks to the sweating, heaving efforts of jo&stv and sven&tanya who assisted the Evil Landlord yesterday afternoon. My role was restricted to plying them all with gin, as I've once more buggered my dodgy wrist (the one that's attached to the dodgy arm with the dodgy elbow joint lacking a piece of bone), and singing "Right Said Fred"1 to myself under my breath ("Charlie had a think and he thought we ought to take off all the handles, And the things wot held the candles...") - this last occasioned by the fact that we borrowed the furniture delivery people to help move the piano, a minimally six-person operation productive of swearing, cursing, more sweating, backing and filling, shouted instructions, repeat tries in new configurations and almost, but not quite, ending up with it magnificently wedged in the door to the passage. (My piano is heavy. They had to tilt it up on its end, finally, which is probably a Piano Solecism of the first water, but I figured rather that than having to access my bedroom via the garden door for ever after.)

In other news, Golux amused the crowds yesterday by turning up in little black booties, suggesting she'd wandered through an ash pile or something, but she callously cleaned them up before I could find the camera.

Right. Now I shall go and immerse myself in jo&stv's pool, on the grounds that once more it's STINKING HOT!

1 Which I always thought was Flanders and Swann, but apparently it's Bernard Cribbens, of whom I wot nothing except that he has a rather irresistibly Goon-Show name.

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Good lord, the combination of start of term at work and no home internet has been torrid for my posting habits. I am pleased to note, however, that as of Thursday I am back home, which is still fairly full of builders but is also largely habitable, being as how the builders are drifting around doing all the last-minute fiddling but the ADSL is working. The house is painted inside and out, the floors are sanded, the extensions are done, the new bathroom is installed, the wiring is completely refurbished, the shed is rebuilt and the patio and back courtyard are resurfaced. It's practically a new house, through which the cats wander, lost, confused and bumping into all the furniture that's no longer there.

I spent a ten-hour day yesterday, in tandem with our amazing cleaning lady, who is a Dynamo of Energy, cleaning the place to render it fit for human habitation. We had to take every last item out of the kitchen cupboards and drawers and wash it and the shelf/drawer before relocating, on account of the fine and plentiful layer of brickdust which had sifted gently in through the cracks, like vampiric mist. I'm still totally buggered from yesterday, my hands are in shreds and I ache in every bone, but the house is habitable. Today we hung curtains, which also all had to be washed. Tomorrow a select posse of long-suffering friends arrives to move all the furniture in from the garage. In two weeks or so, after a few more cleaning sprees, we might have a home again. One that doesn't leave grit in your teeth.

Since I'm still spacey and exhausted and have only a cute robotic brain suitable for the solving of minor puzzles after an entire day spent playing Machinarium (which I heartily endorse), I shall fall back on photos. Behind a cut, in a civilised gesture. )
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I love blogging. Yesterday I post a deliriously happy-making video featuring Jane Austen movie parody and Darcy espousing the cause of free-style disco, and what happens? a flurry of comments based entirely on a throw-away footnote about tiles. The unpredictability of blog responses is curiously pleasing to me.

Today is the last day of Hell, in the sense of the most difficult month in my year, and I'm in that slightly reeling state of realisation: I survived, I didn't kill anyone, I haven't actually dislocated any limbs. (Yet). From here on, it can only improve. Yay! Of course, there's still a bunch of admin left, and I'm running late orientation tomorrow morning, but my sanity is slowly being restored by the fact that I can actually spend more than ten minutes at a time alone in my office, catching up, cruising the internet and otherwise recharging. While I enjoy interacting with students and making their lives better, it's also continuous and incredibly draining, and I am firmly an introvert in the sense that I need time alone to recover my energy.

The home front is also on the up: have resolved tile argument with EL1, the ADSL has miraculously started working again, and apparently the plumber installed the bath backwards for good and sufficient reason which makes actual practical sense. Also, I really like all the paint colours.

This weekend my Princely Hosts are buggering off to Knysna, leaving me to water the cats, pet the garden and play incredible quantities of Zelda, so score. Tonight I have supper with [ profile] wolverine_nun, which is another chance to see [ profile] starmadeshadow, so double score.

And, in the Department of Brass Bands Make Me Cry, the new OK Go music video is simply delightful. Notre Dame marching band. Silly uniforms. Trumpeters camouflaged in fields. The whole song recorded live in the open air while they were performing, which is rather impressive and gives it a particularly rough and plausible edge. (Context: OK Go were the people who did that amazing video with the treadmills).

Memo to self, must acquire some OK Go, the music is also muchly fun.

1 Well, we've agreed that glass-finished mosaic tiles in a much calmer colour than the bronzy green ones we're using for edging will work, since we are united in liking none of the varying shades of oatmeal offered by the larger stock. The EL has degenerated into threatening to choose tiles in electric blue, which usually signals that he's run out of viable arguments. Since habituation has granted me a +10 saving throw vs. Electric Blue Attack, I shrug and move on.

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1991-1992 were years of desperate drought in Zimbabwe; I have very vivid memories of driving back from Cape Town through the Lowveld during university vacs, with red, scorched earth and leafless trees in all directions, and skeletal cattle and donkeys wandering dazed through the devastation. At the height of the drought there were animal bodies all over the roads. I hated it, and still do; that parched, hopeless, ungenerative feeling hits me on some sort of primal level which possibly has something to do with the several generations of farmers in my immediate family history.

As a result of this, as you may have noticed, rain makes me uncomplicatedly happy. Today's is dense and soaking without being hard; yesterday was something of a heatwave, so I have the double pleasure of rain causing all the little plants to perk up their drooping heads, and me to perk up mine. There was enough lightning last night that I woke up several times with the bleary conviction that someone, possibly one of the cats, was flicking my bedroom light off and on. There's still thunder at intervals, which in Cape Town always makes me want to pat it on the head and go "Awwww!" - that's not real thunder, but it's so sweet that it's trying, just for me. Things I Still Miss About The Highveld: proper thunderstorms.

Of course, it's all my fault: last night I braved the house in order to thoroughly water the three little islands of fertility I have identified as worth trying to save from the blasted heath occasioned by the Army of Reconstruction. Therefore, today it rains. I am a small, perverse, localised rain goddess.

Said Army, incidentally, are somewhat thwarted at the moment as the tile supply place, cursed be their incompetent name, have crowned the initial solecism of ordering completely the wrong tiles (they gave the Evil Landlord the wrong code for the ones he wanted) by discovering that the right ones can't be found in the country, and would have to be ordered from overseas at great expense and about three month's delay. We are Miffed, TM.

This is the extension bit on my study, a few days ago, before they finished the plastering and put in the ceiling. It also seems accidentally to be some kind of minimalist abstractionist photo that's all about postmodern deconstruction and interesting light.

DSCN1772, originally uploaded by extemporanea.

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Right, so have been in curriculum advice all morning and just found myself shouting at a particularly dense and recalcitrant student, so this is a designated 20-minute break while I drink Earl Grey, cruise the internet for random distraction which doesn't require a brain, and recover my equanimity and love for the gazelles. Therefore, linkage.

  • The recent Amazon bully tactics against Macmillan make me cross and inclined to boycott Amazon, although I have to say Macmillan's pricing on e-books seems little excessive. As a bonus side-effect, alternative online sources are being punted all over: The Book Depository is apparently as cheap, doesn't charge for international delivery and lets you watch people buying books across the world in real time, which for some reason I find inexpressibly cool.

  • Is all this curriculum advice rotting my brain? I find myself rather liking the first pink swirly thing worn by Lady Gaga at the Grammys. Kind of a classic insanity rather than the more usual incomprehensible madness. On the other hand, I wouldn't currently trust my aesthetic judgement.

  • In other news, this is exquisitely written and does precise, tenuous, luminous things with vision and significance. Catherynne Valente is my new literary girl crush.
Right, that was the last of my Earl Grey. I dangle before myself like a deep-fried battered carrot the promise that jo&stv, still Prince of Hosts, promise to cook tempura tonight. This shall console me for the First Serious Army of Reconstruction screw-up - they've delivered the wrong kitchen tiles, so probably a couple of weeks of delay. Phooey. I'm dying to see how they look.

My doom beckons. Excelsior!

melodious twang

Friday, 29 January 2010 02:05 pm
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Right, well, then. That seems to be it: the official length of contiguous time during which I can handle the degree of stress occasioned by orientation and registration in evil-minded tandem is, in fact, four and a half days. At around lunchtime, when yet another crisis reared its ugly head, there was a sort of audible snapping noise in the key of F#, and I gave up. Cancelled the activity. Ignored OL meeps of complaint. Made unilateral decision to save self, and all else concerned, additional stress, and simply opted out. It was a silly part of the programme anyway, and I was planning to ditch it next year come what may. I am become ruthless in the pursuit of my own sanity, which incidentally was materially assisted in the last two days by (a) random chocolate from [ profile] wolverine_nun and (b) random chocolate from [ profile] herne_kzn. I am now hermitted in my office with the door locked, defiantly blogging, and let the rest of the bloody programme go hang.

My sanity is also being materially assisted not only by the haven of the jo&stv abode, but by Supernatural. The above image of an evil-minded tandem has irresistibly recalled the particularly goofy Season 5 episode I just watched, which features whole chunks of Sam & Dean mugging for the camera in a sort of 50s zany sitcom setting, including above-mentioned bicycle made for two. David M complains that whenever the Supernatural writers run out of ideas they fling in a meta episode. My known proclivities in the direction of narrative self-consciousness being what they are, I acknowledge the justice of his statement and joyously celebrate its truth. The meta episodes tickle me no end. The convention one cracked me up completely. This series is actually beautifully layered.

I am led to believe, via my daily ELB (Evil Landlord Bulletin), that the house is currently without a functioning toilet bar the smelly chemical toilet near the gate, and will moreover be without water for several days while plumbers plumb merrily. I clutch my temporary haven close to my chest in devout thankfulness, and shudder.
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Also, typing this on stv's computer owing to still-being-in-exile-from-horrible-home, and the keyboard has everything subtly in the wrong place, which is playing merry hob with my touch-typing. I'm very, very tired after a twelve-hour day ending in two hours being badgered, foxed and boared with angsty questions by nervous first-year parents. Have fulfilled daily quota of hand-patting, fog-dispersal and wantonly sabotaging the undergraduate Law stream. Actual orientation for nervous first-years, the second instalment (twice as large as the first), starts tomorrow. Am braced. Will stash gin bottle in my left boot and the emergency Red Bull in my right.

When not staggering drunkenly around in a pre-, post- or mid-orientation haze, I've caught up (in company with jo&stv, Prince of Hosts) the first five or so episodes of Supernatural Season 5, which has principally charmed me by giving us (a) shy!uncertain!geeky!Sam, who was a bit submerged at the end of last season, and (b) a totally unexpected Paris Hilton guest star in which she cheerfully takes the mickey out of herself. It's possible I may despise her marginally less than before, i.e. only mostly utterly.

Wimped out on visiting the house tonight, too tired, so I have no idea what the Army of Reconstruction have been doing. If they've knocked down the wrong wall or anything I'm sure the Evil Landlord would tell me. Probably. Unless he didn't, on the grounds of preserving what's left of my mental health.

I'm wittering, and something is eating the hell out of my feet. (Not the cats, I checked). I'm going to bed. Send prayers for continued sanity.
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DSCN1769, originally uploaded by extemporanea.

I wasn't prepared for the extent to which this renovation process has assaulted me on some sort of primal, psychological level: being in the house for any longer than an hour or so has me swinging wildly between suicidal and homicidal, although I suppose it could also be the PMT talking. I hate, hate, hate seeing my spaces invaded and brutalised: I hate having to come to terms with the fact that the world is filled with people, particularly builders, who simply don't hold important the same things I do. Yesterday a merry crew of EL plus jo&stv plus sven&tanya plus me did a several-hour furniture-removal and random-washing-and-boxing of all the stuff we should have boxed before the electrician started (see Interesting Patterns Left In Dust, above), and it's all Much Better, but I still hate it. Seeing my kitchen bits covered with a thick mat of red dust makes me feel obscurely guilty, as though I've failed somehow to sufficiently cherish my household gods.

On the upside, jo&stv fed me huevos rancheros and champagne for breakfast this morning, so I can't really complain that it's all bad.

tempting fate

Friday, 22 January 2010 04:47 pm
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So, this time last year (i.e. the Friday afternoon of the first orientation programme) I was in hospital with a dislocated patella. I am certainly tempting bodily injury to state that I consider myself to be worthy of congratulation to have reached the same milestone this year refreshingly undislocated, and in the face of ravening parents, scatty OLs, stupid errors of my own and the discovery, this morning, that the entire run of faculty handbooks, delivery of which has been delayed for three weeks because the printers were waiting for the final section before they could print, has in fact been printed without the final section. My curriculum advisors have been giving advice without the handbooks for a day and a half, and thank heavens I'm prone to giving them handouts which digest the information. The entire undergrad office has been wandering the corridors all morning giggling weakly, on the grounds that there's not much else one can do but laugh. We'll deal with it. But heads will roll, she says darkly. They'll roll.

The house is horrible. It's a filth pit, and the garden is worse. The electricians and their merry angle-grinder crew have dismally failed to prepare us in any way for the degree of mess, and have cheerfully tramped brick-dust into mats, sprayed it across carpets and coated with a thick film a bunch of stuff in the kitchen, without it apparently occurring to them to move anything. Also, the Evil Landlord forgot about the fridge and it's sat without power for two days, which means we'll have to throw out absolutely everything in both fridge and freezer. Bleah. These things are sent to try us. On the other hand, we have a foundation, the start of a wall, several bricked-up windows, a semi-dismantled bathroom and complete new wiring. Also, jo&stv and their house are a Saviour and a Blessing, and are keeping me sane.

I'm going home now. First time before 6.30pm this entire week. Victory!
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Aargh! Staggered home last night at about 7.30 after the First Day Of Orientation, of which I shall not speak, dreaming gently of a quiet poached egg and bed, only to be met on the ruins of the patio by the Evil Landlord, palm up in a "You Shall Not Pass" sort of way. He'd clearly been lying in wait for me.

"Before you enter the house, I think you should prepare yourself," he said, in friendly but slightly doom-laden tones.

I wibbled slightly. Or possibly slightly more.

"The electrician's slightly ahead of schedule," he said.

I braced myself and peered around him through the fog of exhaustion. The house seemed to have suffered the involuntary descent of what appears to be a post-punk minimalist Goth sensibility. In the aftermath of my 12-hour day, it seemed curiously appropriate.

"Worst of all, I don't think we can get to the tea supplies," he said.

It's all a bit hazy from there onwards. Things went black. All I know is, the furniture is piled into heaps and shrouded in black plastic so the electrician can cut holes for wiring without saturating everything in dust. The 'fridge, the stove, the cupboards and the bookshelves are taped shut: I cannot access food, drink, utensils, the TV or the sink, the latter mostly because they've disconnected the U-bend without telling us. My study is moved into my bedroom, where it's causing me to have interesting nightmares about glowing red eyes because of all the computer lights. The cats are distraught, with brief breaks to enjoy the piles of felt all over the floor. As the crowning insult, the electricity is off today and tomorrow so there won't be any hot water.

My address for the next two days will be, when not imitating the action of the orientation tornado, chez [ profile] smoczek and [ profile] maxbarners, who promise to feed me and wash me and stroke my head gently. That is all.

I dugged an hole

Sunday, 17 January 2010 03:16 am
freckles_and_doubt: (Default)

DSCN1751, originally uploaded by extemporanea.

Our back courtyard is currently making me think irresistibly of the random NPC peasant from one of[ profile] egadfly's games lo these many years, if not decades, ago, who came up with the immortal pearl of syntax in my subject line after being pressganged into digging, IIRC, graves for the party after a particularly successful combat. (In fact, it may have been for the red herring fast courier guy who we accidentally killed after making him fall off his horse.) At any rate: holes. Lots of holes. Lots of deep, dangerous holes into which the cats peer with fascinated horror. (They're all very clingy at the moment, there's usually a full set within a 10m radius of the pink blobs. It's going to get worse tomorrow when the electrician starts cutting channels in the walls: up until now all the landscape-rearranging has been outside, which I think has been quite alarming enough for feline territorial urges).

In addition to the back, the Army of Reconstruction has ripped up the front patio. Before and After:

I have been forced to conclude that either Hobbit really is a ridiculously hyper-friendly people-cat, or he's a slut for the camera. Every time I try to take a photo, there he is.

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Hmmm. The day the Army of Reconstruction arrived, both the clocks stopped. I'm having difficulty not seeing that as some sort of omen. As the Evil Landlord says, it definitely bodes. Other negatives: there's a smelly chemical toilet next to the front gate, no surface on the patio, and the toilet cistern in my bathroom has sprung an exuberant leak, presumably as a result of all the bashing outside. It's all a bit apocalyptic.

Also, the house is filthy but I'm buggered from a day of maddened orientation planning (success of the day! the box of 1000 newly-copied orientation booklets I've been hunting with increasing panic for five days eventually surfaced, two inches from the right foot of the secretary who has assured me, straight-faced and without flinching on four separate occasions, that it was never delivered) and damned if I'm going to clean it, as it's just going to get filthy again tomorrow. Have concocted elaborate baked rice supper instead, and shall allow that to put a ceremonial tick in the "domesticity" box.

I hate not having my books to hand. There's a perfectly lovely Thurber quote about clockwork I really want to use in the subject line, and The Thirteen Clocks is sealed in a box in Sven&Tanya's guest room so I can't dig it out. Tchah, and likewise Phooey.
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'Tis a momentous day, oh yes. Today is the day that the Army of Reconstruction, or rather the Son of the Bride of the Return of the Army of Reconstruction, rolls in with its panzer division and proceeds to lay waste to all before it. I came home to a house infested with a choking pall of dust, through which the kitties peered all wide-eyed and jumpy. Oh, and the builders have done the usual, which is to put the pile of bricks flat down onto a reasonably flourishing piece of lawn. I am not destined to grow lawn. Between the plane tree, which is ridiculously shady, the fact that I park my car on the poor struggling grass, and my Erratic Hosepipe of Ineffectual Druiding -2, it's pretty much doomed even before the builders implement their scorched earth policy.

I have to report, they're clearly not amateurs in the Destroying Things category. This was the courtyard yesterday afternoon:

This was the courtyard when I got home this evening after a jolly orientation-preparatory 11-hour day:

(I think Hobbit thinks this is a new, giant litterbox especially for him).

I'm beginning to think my fondness for disaster movies is actually a deep-seated psychological response to renovations, the latest round of which is extra-traumatic because it's entailed my book collection being reduced to forty-two boxes, all carefully packed, with the contents printed clearly on each, and I get downright twitchy when I suddenly can't access my Bujold collection at 2am on an insomniac whim.

Golux is also a bit traumatised, one of the minor unnecessary walls which bought it today was the randomly curvy one on which she was wont to imitate the action of the gargoyle, all medieval-like:

I'm going to book club now, where I shall proceed to get drunk, on the excellent grounds that work is horrible, and there's grit in my teeth.
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You know, there might be a zeppelin in the garage and elephant catapults on the roof, and he still cannot master the complex topographical processes of loading the dishwasher, but I still have a damn fine Evil Landlord. Apart from his cheerful acceptance of lawful-good-tenants-in-law occupying the house for months at a time, the fact that he keeps the chocolate jar continuously filled and his uncomplaining situation of the internet connection in my study rather than his, he is also a Lesser Demon of Carpentry of notable unselfishness. I worked out the other day, of the approximately three hundred miles of fitted bookshelves he's installed in the house, at least 200 miles of them are for my benefit. Memo to self, must put my rent up again.

The new plan is to wildly build a 1m-extension onto the main bathroom so he can fit in a proper shower; when I jokingly suggested that he should do the same to my study (the extension, not the shower), he said "Good idea!" with some enthusiasm, and is proceeding to double the building costs by doing exactly that, recking not my guilty expostulations about not being serious. I am forced to conclude that, unless he's doing all this for a new, improved Seekrit Tenant he's planning on installing, he's probably not going to throw me out into the snow any time soon. On the downside, the Bride of the Return of the Revenge of the Army of Reconstruction is scheduled for the end of next month, producing the alarming side-effect that the EL will have to use my bathroom for the duration, and it's un-separated from my bedroom by any vestige of door.

His most recent project has been the construction of a new cabinet thingy to house the television, sound system and my ever-burgeoning DVD collection, which has seriously outgrown its bookshelf. The last few months have been notable for the EL vanishing into the garage at frequent intervals, therefrom to produce sound effects of sawing, sanding, hammering and faint thuds I think must be the result of bumping into things while high on varnish fumes. We moved the cabinet into the living room on Sunday, thereby completely reconfiguring the living room and making me very happy (I love rearranging furniture, it's like taking a holiday). It's a damned fine cabinet. Viz:

I draw your attention in particular to the four-panel cat portrait effect on top of the cabinet. This photo is important for [ profile] short_mort to see, since she hasn't yet witnessed the fate of the beautiful cat-photos she sent me (two out of the four, the Ounce and Golux ones), and she needs cheering up.

In other, completely random news, "enjoyed a mild success in Purgatory" is my new, favourite catch phrase. Courtesy of Pajiba. Even more randomly, Purgatorial movie notwithstanding, isn't it nice to see Sidney's BF get some famelove? He's cute in a kinda goofy way.
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My Ultimately Big Boss had one of those Touch Base sort of meetings with me this afternoon - as an abstract concept, the kind of token buzz-word get-together which fills me with a sense of lowering doom. However, my belief in her ultimate support of my academic nature, self-definition and overall happiness has been materially improved by the fact that (a) she informed me upfront that I am pretty much the best possible candidate for this job, and (b) she spent fifteen minutes asking me fascinated questions about fan fiction and encouraging me to babble in a more or less intellectual fashion. This seems promising, not to mention being about a thousand percent improvement on the interest levels of my old department.

Other reasons not to whinge about my job: the view from my window.

While on the subject of pictorial evidence, reasons to wimp out of making dinner for jo's game tomorrow night:

The nice cabinet-maker man has made a fascinating sort of exploded diagram of the kitchen, removing for the purpose the sink, the oven and all actual counter space. The kitchen contents are piled all over the dining-room, where they occasionally slither over on top of the cats. I'm about to go out for take-out.


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