Adventures of the motley crew

My sister’s played in five weddings before the one on Saturday, and all of them have been for people we already knew. In this case, someone in Joel’s church asked him to play in their wedding, and she wanted Pachelbel’s Canon, of course, which meant four musicians. He got JP and David, and then asked Olivia — he hadn’t quite taken her participation for granted — and she was able to. But the wedding was an hour and a half away, and she can’t drive herself yet, so I had to be there all three times: when the musicians practiced last Sunday (due to miscommunications), and at the rehearsal, and of course the wedding itself. Because they were hired musicians, apparently, they weren’t invited to the reception or rehearsal dinner and whatnot. And people kept coming up to them and asking them to stand together for pictures.

(There’s a great deal more that happened, but some of it is relegated to the realm of inside jokes, and some of it I’ve forgotten too much of it to expect the joke to still get across. Also, this is how they do things when they’re dressed up and relatively impressed with the dignity of the situation. You should have seen us on Friday.)

The choir loft is to one side of the nave, perpendicular to the end of the aisle, and that was where I sat, and where the others would be sitting when they weren’t playing, and where a lot of these conversations took place either while we were waiting for the wedding to begin, or sitting waiting for all the people to be dismissed so we could slip out.

The five of us got there early for the wedding and the four of them practiced together. David got to be unco-operative once in a while, and during one of these moments Olivia turned and sharply said, “Joel!”

Joel, who was standing on her other side, by the piano, looked up, wondering what he’d done. David gave her a blank stare and then started laughing.

On Sunday, a week ago, when the musicians got together to practice, Joel was pronouncing the J of Jesu (in Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring) as in ordinary modern English, to alliterate with jewel. We enlightened him as to the Latin alphabet, upon which he began pronouncing it Hesu, as if Johann Sebastian Bach were Spanish, so we had to explain again. Saturday a woman asked him, “And what are you guys playing for the recessional?” and he proudly answered, “Iesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring.” The woman who’d asked couldn’t figure out why that would make his fellow musicians so happy.

When they had finished rehearsing on Saturday, David (who, by the way, plays cello — I don’t think I’ve mentioned that yet) started playing the cancan, which the orchestra did for a concert this spring, and Joel joined in.

“Professionalism, guys,” Olivia scolded. “We need to look responsible.”

I went into the choir loft to sit while they were rehearsing, and on the floor between the front pew and the railing a black wasp was tangled up in a cobweb. It was long dead, but still very shiny, so I picked it up and put it on top of the railing where I could look at it.

There came a time when David wasn’t playing anything, so he started to wander around, and eventually fetched up against the choir loft, where he noticed the wasp.

“What’s that?” he asked, poking it.

“A black wasp,” I said.

“And it’s just sitting there? Where’d it come from?”

“It’s dead. It was on the floor over here.”

“Why’d you put it up on top?”

“‘Cos they’re pretty, but the only time it’s really safe to admire them is when they’re dead.”

“You think it’s pretty?” He jerked his hand away from it.

“Well, it’s shiny. . . er. . .”

He spun away from the rail and called to his brother, “She picked up a dead black thing and put it there because it’s shiny!”

“What?” JP said, looking confused.

“It’s called a wasp, if you want to be precise,” I said, though I was out of breath from laughing.

“She picked up a dead black hornet because it was pretty,” David repeated, apparently dissatisfied with his brother’s lack of reaction. “Why?” he said, whirling back to me.

“Well, if it were alive, I’d have to kill it first —“

“You’d kill it?”

“It’s not safe to pick them up when they’re alive, they’re mean — they sting.”

“You kill things? So it doesn’t have a soul?”

“Animals, like redheads, have no souls,” I said, but he missed the joke.

After the wedding, two girls came down the aisle and started snuffing the candles — both the unity candle (to the accompaniment of many wails from our side: “Oh, look, there goes the couple!” And as they hesitated and the flame flickered and didn’t quite go out: “Oh, be kind, do it fast, I can’t watch!”) and the candles which were decorating the dais on each side of the altar.

“Are they allowed to do that?” Olivia asked me.

“If it’s just a practical let’s-not-burn-down-the-church thing, yes,” I said. “If it’s part of the service —“

“Oh, we have girls light candles all the time,” Joel said. “They do the Christ candle at Christmas, and —“

“There you go,” I said.

“You mean you don’t let girls light candles at your church?” Joel asked.

“We don’t have candles,” I said, and Olivia added, “Except on Christmas Eve, and that’s a congregational thing.”

“You don’t have candles?” one of the Catholic boys said.

“We used to at our Tenebrae services, but our new pastor thought that was too Roman, so we don’t anymore,” I said.

“Roman candles?” Joel said.

“Not at a Good Friday service!” Olivia and I both said.

“Someone set off a rocket outside the back of the church one year at Good Friday, during the service,” David said, “and Father just looked at us and said, ‘Well, it wasn’t me’.”

“I think she means Roman Catholic,” JP said. “So you don’t have candles because Catholics have them?”

“The sisters built us a really tall bonfire one year for Good Friday,” David went on, “and it was like ten feet tall, and we were like, we can’t burn that all in one evening. We don’t think they know very much about our fire laws, usually the bonfire fits in a tiny pit.”

“A bonfire for Good Friday?” I said.

“He means Holy Saturday,” JP said.

I happen to be under five feet tall, and done growing, and David’s six foot two and definitely not done yet. People kept asking the musicians to stand together for pictures, and the third time that happened David (apparently being tired of having his picture taken) said, “Oh, have Sophia stand in for me, she’s about my height.” The next time Joel suggested I take his place.

Someone asked (I forget who) about my knitting, when we were sitting together after the wedding, and then asked after the blue thing I’d been making before. That was still in my bag, so I dug down to it and pulled it out to show it off.

“It looks awfully thin,” David said. “Is it supposed to keep you warm? Wouldn’t it just come apart when you pulled on it?”

“It helps that it’s partly silk,” I said, “which is the strongest natural fibre — only it’s too expensive to go making ropes out of it.”

“I don’t know about that,” David said, “because once we had a piece of silk and I ripped it really easily.”

“I don’t suppose you burned any of it,” I began.

“Burned it?”

“It’s one way of telling whether it’s real or fake silk, by how it burns.”

“Oh, good,” David said. “You burn it all up, now you know it was real, for all the good it does you now.”

“When burned in large quantities silk gives off a toxic gas like mustard gas,” I said (knowing this only by hearsay), “but in smaller quantities, if you just snip off a corner, it has a distinctive smell, and so you’d know what it was, and still have most of it to use.”

“Then you could put the ashes in a mixture of bleach and ammonia,” David suggested eagerly.

“That would get rid of all the evidence,” I said, since silk dissolves in bleach.

“He means it would explode,” JP translated.

A little while before the wedding was supposed to start, they were done practicing, and the four of them, and me, and a guy who would be playing piano, were the only people in the sanctuary. All at once we heard the opening of Bach’s Toccata and Fugue from the organ. The five of us looked toward it, but no one was sitting there — and JP and Joel, who’d played the same on that organ at other times during the week, were holding stringed instruments and not standing anywhere close. Olivia and David were likewise.

We all looked at the pianos. No one was there either.

“Did you play that?” one of us asked the pianist guy, who was doing something on his phone.

“What? No,” he said.


“Was fifty-five dollars enough?” I asked Olivia, when we were on our way home and she was eating a muffin (and grumbling about the state of the reception).


“What would have been?”


Posted in Ordinary life | Leave a comment

“A Socialist government is one which in its nature does not tolerate any true and real opposition.”

“For there the Government provides everything; and it is absurd to ask a Government to provide an opposition.”

I’m back — at least for a little while. I really should not go around announcing what I plan to do, because that seems to make it less likely to happen — like this supposed series on history. Someday that will happen.

Where have I been, anyway? At school, mostly. Writing papers about why Saul failed at being king, or how Homer provides a nuanced view of the morality of lying in the Odyssey. I’m also working for the orchestra, which is inefficient as ever (these artists. . .), and the Writing Center as usual. And still talking to Catholics. Seemingly I’ve added another, quite a nice fellow, but I don’t understand why a secular school is suddenly overrun with them. When we eat supper together on Tuesday nights it’s going to be a regular crowd, which I like. The school can have official policies about not talking about religion or risking offending people or praying in public as much as they like, but one Communist Lutheran, two or three Baptists, and two or three or even perhaps four Catholics are going to use their cafeteria to do all of those things.

My sister’s playing in a wedding this afternoon with the three boys, and last night was the rehearsal. It went late (sundry people involved seem to be more or less incompetent), and the musicians apparently weren’t invited to the dinner, so Joel said we’d go to (what appears to be the only place in town) — a bar. Two Catholic boys and two Baptist girls looked a little alarmed. He explained there was a restaurant in it. We were still sceptical. (It did turn out all right, though.) And we talked about who can be saved, cases of aborted infants, or people who’d never heard the Gospel, and about Olivia’s career at a music school, and everything short of why the sea is boiling hot and whether pigs have wings.

It’s raining here, and we’re glad it’s not an outdoor wedding, and my sister just ran up the stairs yelling something that sounded like “Let’s get hitched!” and she’s in despair because she can’t find the right shirt. This is the sixth wedding she’s played in. Oh, and not content with doing a unity candle, the couple’s going to have candles for everybody in the audience to hold, and light. The church, whose sanctuary isn’t as ugly as some (it does have a nice high ceiling) had rainbow banners hanging in it — evidently neither for gay pride nor for the Noahic covenant,  but because this church likes having all the liturgical seasons present at once. But they took them down when they decorated for the wedding, and the sanctuary looks much better.

The quote, as usual, is from Chesterton.

Posted in Ordinary life | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

In Which: I finally do something the way everybody else does

(Or. . . maybe not.)

At last I am at liberty to share details about the job I got — because I did get it.

Yes, now I’m one step closer to being the typical college student: having two jobs.

For the last few semesters it’s looked as if money from one source or another is about to run out, so “this time you do need to get a job” becomes the refrain — and then I unexpectedly get a schol. or grant I didn’t ask for, or something. This semester the Writing Center had to cut my two and a half hours per week to one and a half, so once again the ready conclusion was that I needed a job. Well, the school was having a part-time job fair, and some on-campus jobs would be there, so I was supposed to go. Only it was strongly recommended that applicants bring résumés, and I didn’t have one. So I went just because.

And then someone there (as I discovered I was going the wrong way through the maze of tables — blame it on being left-handed, I guess) spoke up from the Fine Arts Department’s table, and was so desperate for an Orchestra Manager and Librarian (which kind of means maid-of-all-work) that she was willing to hire me even when I said I can’t read music. Upon hearing that my sister’s in the orchestra she said I’d be a great fit. I’m pretty sure logic doesn’t work that way, since we’re two separate things, but oh well. I already know about the orchestra from hearing people talk about it.

I’m sure this is how everybody’s first job interview goes.

Yesterday, then, was my first day actually working. Now, I’m on campus all day Tuesday, and my sister comes down in the afternoon for her violin lesson, then there’s rehearsal at seven. The Catholic and Communist Lutheran friends of ours have similar schedules, and as the evening goes on other people with instruments will turn up. I’m not usually around by then, but that’s changed.

My first job, at six, was to take some copies of music and give them to the conductor — presumably in his office. He wasn’t there. The light was on, but the door was locked, so I couldn’t have put them on his desk.

So I found my sister in a practice room (she’s in a wedding next week and there’s a lot of communication not happening, which means last-minute practicing) and asked her if the conductor was usually somewhere on campus around this time, and if so, where, so I could find him. She knows more about the inner workings of the orchestra than someone who can’t even read music, after all. But in this case she didn’t know.

So I went upstairs and asked the woman who’d hired me, who was still working and had given me the job, and she said to put them in the rehearsal room. (The rehearsal room is one of a pair of mirror-image rooms, the left-hand one. The other is the choir room.) Well, I went there, and the choir room’s door was open, and the lights were on. But the room on the left was locked and dark. So I put the papers on the piano in the choir room and then began to have misgivings about misplaced music. So I went to the practice room again. (As I waited outside the door for a good time to interrupt, I heard the guy accompanying her say, “I know, I’ve just been so busy,” and crash his hands on the piano.) Eventually I thought I’d better not keep running to my sister for help while supposedly doing my own job, and went away again. But then I remembered stories about lost keys and the Music department, and so, after circumambulating the Fine Arts building again, I returned to their practice room.

My sister demanded to see the situation this time, so we went over, and she concluded that I should ask upstairs (where the woman who hired me was still working) whether there was a key. So I went back and said it was a case of another locked door. She said she’d give me the key to unlock it.

And then she couldn’t find the key.

But at last she did, and I was able to deliver the papers, and then stand around knitting for half an hour until people showed up. And the other girl who’s got half the job, hers being more the librarian side of things, was there, and evidently a bit more capable.

And the conductor actually showed up.

And other than that, I only needed to lend the conductor my pencil (my sister warned me to remind him to give it back — I forgot, by the end of the evening, but he actually remembered), and at another time he asked me to write something down and then said never mind after I had my notebook out. And he called me by my sister’s name, but we’re used to that.

Bonus SCAdian moment: Before rehearsal started I went running down two hallways, with my knitting streaming out behind me, yelling, “Jean, Jean!” after someone who ordinarily would be called something else. SCAdian moments, you know — you need to get somebody’s attention quickly, so of course his mundane name goes clean out of your head.

Posted in Ordinary life | Tagged , | 2 Comments

We all know I like to introduce Catholics to Catholic writers

With tomorrow, Deo volente, being the scene of a long conversation on justification and sanctification, under the auspices (most likely) of people like the good Aquinas, have a quote from Chesterton’s essay on Thomas Carlyle:

“A great deal is said in these days about the value or valuelessness of logic. In the main, indeed, logic is not a productive tool so much as a weapon for defence. A man building up an intellectual system has to build like Nehemiah, with the sword in one hand and the trowel in the other. The imagination, the constructive quality, is the trowel, and argument is the sword. A wide experience of actual intellectual affairs will lead most people to the conclusion that logic is mainly valuable as a weapon wherewith to exterminate logicians.”

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment

August Wrap-up


Went by fits and starts. I finished Camp NaNo and almost immediately ran into a problem with Of the North, a huge problem in fact, and so I stopped writing words to think about the words I had written and how well they’d fit with what I might or might not end up writing. It goes like that sometimes.

How did my summer plans end up, you ask?

Well, I did write a novella for the Rooglewood contest. It’s more of a novelette at the moment, and I need to get beta-readers arranged and send in my form to the contest and all that, but it exists in some form outside of myself now.

I finished sending out Wind Age in that I decided to stop on that one and let it wait. It had too many problems. Maybe in a few years.

I have not finished rewriting Of the North. I still cherish hopes of getting to Realm Makers next year — we shall see. But I did get about 52,000 words done in it, and I’m still working through the implications of AEschild being Catholic, so the progress of the word count has paused.


Um. Well, Liturgy, Architecture, and Sacred Places in Anglo-Saxon England, by Helen Gittos (partway through the second reading of that). It’s good.

And several mysteries about Flavia de Luce, recommended by a family friend. They’re nothing to Chesterton or even Doyle, but on evenings when I was tired they weren’t too bad. Well, except for the fact that the MC is always taking revenge on family members and that’s not portrayed as wrong, and she’s constantly lying and that’s never portrayed as wrong, and that the authour is good enough at writing that the girl is still likeable. Grrr.

And, because I’ve been talking to Catholics lately, Orthodoxy for the thousandth time.

Also some of Jonathan Edwards, because my American Literature class can be tiresome; the Odyssey, for the Greek Myth and Literature class, and things like the first chapters of Joshua for Historiography. And I will be reading some of the City of God and Bede and the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle for that last class!


Our local group had a dance practice about halfway through the month, and then on Saturday Wynnie and I day-tripped Hadrian’s Feld again. I’ve tried to write about the day, but you see, right smack in the middle of it we had a two-hour-long conversation with — you may have guessed — a Catholic.

Now when you sit down to have lunch, and you’re an 11th-century Anglo-Saxon, and the gentle across from you is 11th-century Norman, and you not only manage to avoid politics, but discuss the philosophy and theology of such anachronistic figures as Sir Thomas More, Thomas Aquinas, G. K. Chesterton, C. S. Lewis, Tolkien, and others, throwing in the separation of church and state, the problem of evil, free will versus determinism — and when the whole thing started off with a comment about Intelligent Design — well, it not only colours everything that came after, but makes it hard to tell a single story, not mixing worlds. I have a world where I debate religion, increasingly with Catholics, and another world where I’m known as AEschild. I’ve never before found myself plying distaff and spindle while explaining that the Baptist Catechism says that “God is a Spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable in His being, wisdom, power, justice, holiness, goodness, and truth.”

So I doubt I’ll post the story here. But highlights of the day included His Majesty being beaten in single combat, our cheddar getting smoked by sitting downwind from someone else’s cooking fire all afternoon, a newcomer to our group having lots of fun, our forming group’s minister of Arts and Sciences getting his Award of Arms, me greeting a friend by accidentally punching him in the stomach, and that same friend later having to run from a group of children while carrying a toy chest.

Summer goals in this area: I did take out the gores in my green cyrtel and re-do them, and it fits much better now, and I’ve talked about it. I haven’t done any new projects unless you count spinning, which I just remembered it’s too late to send a picture of to Cailin to put in his Arts and Sciences report. . . . bother. I used all the undyed roving and started on the silver, which is very nice.


My cat had a fight with another cat in the middle of the night one Sunday, and was limping badly on the Monday morning — the other had bit his left front leg, so of course swelling and such accompanied deep puncture wounds. We took him to the vet and he spent a long time shut in the basement bathroom. When we could work around the inside cat, who hates him, we’d bring him upstairs for sunshine and a change of view, or I’d go sit in the shower with him and bring something to work on. I spent a lot of time reading Gaudy Night or working on Rose-Tinted Arrows that way (still not a lot to show for that last bit, though. . . but plans for a prequel novel, or as they like to call it, “prelude”, are in the works).

It’s all very nice to talk about cats, you say, but what about the thing that just sent you missing for more than a week?

Oh right. School.

Well, between the two history classes, the two literature classes, and the poetry workshop, I’ll have a lot of writing to do. I figure if I can do a paper a weekend I should be able to keep up. First paper, for Early Europe: “Judging from the selections from the Hebrew Bible, why was Saul made king, and why did he ultimately fail?”

(And when you’ve got a teacher who explains the advantages of a certain Protestant translation of the Bible and then adds, “Oh, and there are some Catholic ones too”, and who comes into class saying “Tempus fugit!” it’s going to be fun.)

In the mean while, I haven’t been eating lunch alone. That’s a new experience: all my other days at school, to this point, I’ve eaten my lunch on the bench outside the library, watching people go by. I ate once with Jenny, in the very noisy Food Court, but that’s all I can think of. But this semester, one of our friends from orchestra, a Catholic, and a friend of his who’s new to me, ditto, and I have all been getting together to discuss Tolkien, Chesterton, creation versus theistic evolution, the many problems with being public-schooled, the equally numerous problems with Communism, being pro-life, Sola Scriptura versus the papacy (we haven’t got around to the Babylonian Captivity — yet), transubstantiation, justification, baptism, organs, external (briefly), Aquinas, Augustine, et cetera. So that’s been exciting and like adding another three-credit class to my load. I’m working at the Writing Center, an hour and a half on Wednesdays, and may get another on-campus job — not sharing details unless I do get it — and, of course, homework.

And maybe once in a while I’ll get to work on a story.

I did take the online summer class and got out of it with a B; and the summer reading group went fairly well, I think; and I kept up on blogging until last week. So I think I tidied up my summer plans pretty neatly, for the most part, if you ignore Wind Age.

Posted in Books, History, Of the North, Ordinary life, Reading, Rose-Tinted Arrows, SCA, Wind Age, Writing | Tagged , , , , | 8 Comments

“A facility for quotation covers the absence of original thought.”

Monday was a confused muddle; Tuesday went much better except that one of my classes was canceled; today’s American Literature was a politically-correct disaster, and I got to talk to one of our Catholic friends about baptism, and a teacher’s gone missing. Last night my sister’s rabbit bit through my computer cord, while it was plugged in — fortunately he’s still alive, but I won’t have a working cord for a week. So posts may be a bit erratic while I get used to school again, including the series on medieval clothes, sorry.

I’ve been reading Gaudy Night, too, and so by contrast American colleges are even more disappointing than usual. Oh for a place where more than two teachers have good standards! Where people wear medieval-looking robes instead of. . . what they do wear. Where we have British slang such as “quad”. I guess what I’m looking for is a bit more Romance than this place offers — a setting for a nice academic adventure complete with research on obscure topics like the disappearance of the seax after the Norman Conquest and one, moreover, where doing that kind of thing isn’t weird. And I want to do some story writing, but I don’t like doing private stuff on a college computer where anyone can walk behind you and see what you’re doing.

The teacher of my Early Europe and Historiography classes canceled the first two days because of recovering from a medical procedure. He hasn’t been seen yet today, which everyone says is most unusual for him.

The teacher of the Form Poetry Workshop and the Greek Myth and Literature class is on her last semester, which is a pity, because she’s a good teacher. One of the students in the Greek class knew that mead is the oldest known alcoholic drink, and seems likely to be the A student, and seems also to be a nice guy generally (if none of those statements seem to go together — the mead thing isn’t widely known, and knowledge of the fact doesn’t necessitate that you’ve tasted it). Another student in that class, on the other hand, said silly things about Baptists and Catholics, and went on talking when I started to correct him. If people have got to say bad things about us (and the Catholics), there’s a wide range of true things to pick from — no need to go making things up.

And the American Literature class, as I said, is a politically-correct disaster. Brings one back to one’s old MNWest days (for those of you who haven’t heard me complaining about them in real life, that’s the community college I was at for a year, before abandoning it in some disgust). Maybe it will get better once we get past the “Native American oral literature” section.

My hours at the Writing Center (as a tutor) are down from 2.5 per week to 1.5 — nothing personal, just lack of funds and too many people. So that may mean more free time for writing and such this semester.

Till later, then!


Posted in Ordinary life | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Introducing Clothes, not Costume

Sometimes I try to read historical fiction, because if you write in that genre that’s what you’re supposed to do, and growl at all the things that show authours haven’t done their research.

Who am I to tell people what they’re doing wrong (or right)? Some of these authours have published several books or even been praised for their research and re-creating an authentic “feel”. (I won’t name names.) I’ve never published any of mine, unless you count this blog — certainly no experts have looked at my work and pronounced judgement.

I have done research, a fair bit in the American Civil War era, a few years ago, but most of it concentrated on the Anglo-Saxon era, as you know. Being in the SCA, where we have so many places and centuries at once, I’ve picked up a thing or two about other centuries as well. As I know most about the eleventh century, that’s probably what I’ll talk most about. I don’t know all there is to know about, say, 14th-century English garb, but I’ve done enough research to notice when people haven’t done any.

My own forays into making my own garb, by hand, without the use of a machine, have taught me more about the practical ways of making things (and common mistakes). I’ve learned how much value a yard of fabric really has, why wool is not a horrible thing next to the skin, and what cutting an edge on the bias really does to your seam.

I have worn the clothes I’ve made, sometimes spending a whole day in them, so I know how they feel, and what they need to fit, and how heavy good wool can be (and how comfortable), and what it’s like to wear clothes, not costume.

I have observed certain things about what clothes say about their wearers.

Most people, in most times and places, have worn clothes. Up until very recently, clothes weren’t widely available from stores, let alone made by machines, which meant that people usually made their own. Now if most people make their own clothes, some of their personality tends to creep in despite the dictates of fashion — you go to all the trouble of making it, so you might as well make something you like, right? And for the few who hire people to make their clothes for them, that shows what you can afford, which is money.

This was going to be all one post, but it got a bit long, so this will introduce a series of posts on Clothes (not Costume) in Historical Fiction. Some of the things I’ll mention (the great Belt controversy) are peculiar, as far as I know, to the Anglo-Saxon era, but the principles go for all eras until the sewing machine.

Hopefully the gentlemen who read my blog aren’t bored out of their minds. I didn’t often find myself talking about clothes until I got into the SCA and found out that making them could be fun, and now, it seems, I haven’t stopped talking.

Posted in Historical fiction, Research, SCA, Writing | Tagged | Leave a comment