It's cold outside. Worse, it's cold in that sneaky December way that makes me think, "Well, maybe winter's not so totally dreadful," when ha ha ha the joke is on me because December really is just late fall or maybe prewinter, and I should just wait until January and then oh fuck February, and oh dear also March. Then even April is not spring but merely prespring. Dammit. At least the part where it is dark all the time is nearing its apogee, or nadir, depending on how you look at it.
Afternoons and evenings can be a bit of a drag these days, with the cold and the dark that arrives well before dinnertime, and Jane wailing about how no she does not want to go for a walk or play outside, it is too dark, instead she wants to watch a video, a video please, how about some Peppa Pig please? A video a video a video pleeeeeeease.
Hm, is there a story here? Alas, I think not. So here, have some bedtime stories instead. These are the ones Jane currently likes to be told multiple times a day, which I suppose somewhat undermines their status as bedtime stories, per se. They are
"The Helicopter Story"
In this heartwarming tale, Mrs. Rabbit (stolen from Peppa Pig) takes Jane, Hedgehog, and Mr. Badger on a helicopter ride to Helicopter Island. Helicopter Island is very rocky, but covered in lots of springy green moss. There Hedgehog and Jane go off to climb rocks and roll on the moss, but the best part is that there is a big hill all covered in moss that you can slide down on pieces of cardboard. They slide on it and climb up and slide and climb up again and again until they are so tired they just flop at the bottom.
Then Mrs. Rabbit calls them to come over for tea, so they come and have tea from a thermos and some chocolate sandwich cookies. Then Mrs. Rabbit explains that she has finished her work (delivering mail and collecting moss samples) and it is time to go home. They do and she lands the helicopter very neatly in their back garden. They get out and stand well out of the way and say thank you, and then she leaves. The loudness and wind-makingness of the rotors is commented on. That is all.
"The Story on a Train"
It is breakfast time on the train! Mr. Badger, Hedgehog, and Jane get up out of their red velvet seats and walk to the end of their car. Jane presses a button (foosh) and the door opens. Then they step through and press the next button. The door closes behind them (foosh) and another door opens in front of them (foosh). They walk through the club car, and then enter the dining car. There a walrus dressed in a crisp white uniform greets them: "Moddom, gundlemun. May I show you to your seats?"
They choose their breakfasts from their beautiful menus. They receive their breakfasts. They eat their breakfasts. They taste one another's breakfasts and agree that they are very good, but everyone likes their own best. The walrus says "Veddy good" at appropriate intervals. At last they are done and the walrus brings the check on a little tray. On the tray also are three tiny cookies!
Jane says, "But we didn't order these! Is it a mistake?" and the walrus says, gravely, "Cumplemunts of the house, moddom." And they eat them.
It is lunchtime on the train! As above in nearly every detail, though the foods, of course, are different. Jane, for example, may have a peanut butter sandwich. Hedgehog may have grilled cheese. Badger may have egg salad on rye. Some new treats appear with the check.
It is dinnertime on the train! As they pass through the club car, they see Moose, who knows Badger and gives him a nod. The proceedings include selecting rolls from a cloth-lined basket with silver tongs. There is also dessert. The treats that appear with the check this time around may be little candies, or perhaps tiny macarons.
"Cumplemunts of the house," the walrus assures her, as always, and then they walk back to their compartment (foosh, foosh) and get back into their red velvet seats, and fall asleep.
Reading this over I fear it comes uncomfortably close to the failure of entertainment and common decency that is going on and on about one's dreams (and then it turned out it was my elementary school, but the classrooms were all different somehow...) but oh well. How are you?
This is a good illustration of one of the many faces of death and the abyss that can appear in those late night moments described in my last post:
Fortunately I seem to be over it for now. Sleep and I are back in one another's good graces and I am glad of it.
Lately and unrelatedly, Jane has developed a very decided attachment to the sign for "more." In her very small ideolect it signifies something along the general lines of "I feel a lack." This is not really particularly more communicative than having no vocabulary at all, but she seems to feel that it adds value.
Sometimes she will look very pointedly at your electronic device or coffee or other unsuitable thing and sign "more more more more more." Then comes a pause to see if you are too dense to have gotten the point, apparently so, more more more more more, good grief, no one can be as stupid as you act, surely, more more more, you get it? more. more? more more more, oh fuck it, there's no getting through to these people, I'll just grab it.
Sometimes she will amble up to you and do a little offhand "more," with a shrug: whatcha got for me? Anything? Just checkin'. No? I'll be on my way, then, ma'am.
Occasionally, teething, she will sob BUH HUH HUH HUH HUH HUH more? BUH HUH HUH. It lends the whole scene a very touching pathos.
There is something to be said for having a such a broadly expressive "more." No need to worry about fine gradations of desire, or about phrasing for politeness. Jane-more would be a fine comment for those occasions when I ask my students a question about something near the end of their assigned reading, for example, and they all find something very interesting to look at that is not me. Or when I try FOUR TIMES to find a way through the hydralike earthquake-retrofitting construction to my lunch appointment, the intended start of which is slipping further and further into the past. Or when the family of six walking in front of me begins to move more... and more... slowly... and creaks... to... a dead... halt.
But as I am a grown woman who can both hear and speak, instead of baby-signing I may acquire an air horn. MORE!
I have been exchanging a lot of planning emails with other academics this week. These messages might be too brief or blunt if we didn't plump them up with pleasantries. No one wants that. We must at all costs be pleasing and plump!
On the other hand, it is clear that none of us has a repertoire of stock phrases at all large enough to stretch to the number of stock spaces that need filling. So, on the theory that what worked once will work forever and always, we are very VERY ready to reiterate just how very much we are looking forward to things.
I am looking forward to this event I am planning, with these speakers I am wrangling, and they are all looking forward to it, too. The organizer of the event I am attending is very much looking forward to my visit. I am looking forward to it as well! I am looking forward to her talk, and his talk, and meeting everyone. She is looking forward to everything. He is looking forward to everything. We are all so looking forward to what promises to be a very exciting forward-looking forward forward forward. Look!
When it is all over, I'm sure we can look back with pride at how thoroughly we looked forward to it all.
This Sunday took place in the shadow of a painfully blocked milk duct. The progression of events went about like this:
Good morning! Wow, my tit is certainly very full of milk.
Hours of fruitless hot compresses, hot showers, glasses of water, ibuprofin, attempts at expressing with the dairy-cow machine, and lethargic moaning (lethargy and moaning both of course known to be highly fruitful at the best of times).
A timid and tentative piercing of the bleb with a sterile needle.
THANK CHRIST. Bless you, suckling infant, for the powerful hoover of your maw.
Forty-five minutes of limp, yet enthusiastic, vocal relief.
Quite a satisfying dramatic arc, in the end, with all the ingredients—foreshadowing, rising action, climax, falling action, dénouement—just as they taught us in school.
And what a fine word "bleb" is, incidentally, isn't it? It's even better, as so many words are, if you take the time to read up on it in the OED. There you will find such splendid sentences as
fig.1651 [Henry] MOREEnthus. Triumph* (1656) 180 You blebs of venery, you bags of filth!
1880J. E. BURTONHandbk. Midwives §38. 25 The ovum, or egg, is at first a little bladder, or bleb.
The second of these may seem fairly unremarkable on the face of it, but I think you'll find that it's very catchy. Try it aloud: The ovum! Or egg. Is at first a little bladder! Or bleb.
You'll also be happy to learn that "bleb" can also be a verb, meaning (and the exact phrasing of this is the good bit, obviously) "to furnish with blebs." Hence:
1821CLAREVill. Minstr. II. 84 While big drops..bleb the withering hay with pearly gems.
Do you think this was written to be romantic, poetic, evocative, tender, lovely? I believe it was. But I fear, John Clare, that this line has not stood the test of time.
*Full title: Enthusiasmus triumphatus, or a discourse of the nature, causes, kinds and cure of enthusiasme.
Jane will occasionally produce a perfect, implausible arc segment frown, as seen in the popular emoticon :(
"I hope someday to capture that one frown on film. Have you seen it?"
"Yes! Only once or twice though. She doesn't do it very often."
"True. It's rare. It's collectible. It's a get!"
Impossible to find on eBay, too, and there are no frown farmers, the way there are MMORPG gold farmers. (Although imagine if there were! Chain smoking Asian frown farmers working eighteen hours a day in combination internet cafe/creches.)
I found this snippet in an old text file. I wonder if I planned to make something more of it, or if this was all there was:
It is an attempt to loosen the mental blockages to recording information and to scrape away the tartar of convention that handicaps its retrieval. The solution is by nature nonconformist.
"Wow. William Gibson character, is that you? I can't tell what this program is now because I read that part and I can't make any sense of it."
"Yeah, ignore that."
"I can't. It's taken over my brain. It's a virus."
I have no memory of this conversation at all, but it turns out that the program in question was Notational Velocity, which is in fact a very nice little thing, if not in fact by nature particularly nonconformist. Handy for keeping track of my shopping list, though.
Finally, Lizardbreath will be pleased to learn that I have a Georgette Heyer novel on hold at the library. Also a number of Jane Langton books. I can't remember which one of you tipped me off to the fact that she wrote novels for grownups, but I'm excited.
I'm also excited about re-reading the (out of print?) Boyhood of Grace Jones. I never seem to be able to track down the other book about that character, The Majesty of Grace, aka Her Majesty, Grace Jones. Have any of you ever read it?
Oh! PS. If you would like to obtain the original wug test pictures, to test the morphological generalizations of your own loved ones, see here.