1-24-2000 Happy Burns Night! ( Have a Haggis?)

Dear Folks:            January 24, 2000
Still nippy. Well, it’s generally nippy in the office- except in the
summer, when it’s usually fairly nice. Over the last week our lows have
ranged from ten below (F.) to one above, and our highs have actually
reached 16 F. once. The news is having reports about added demands for
fuels. Our problem has been that we’ve burned so much wood that the
furnace is malfunctioning because it isn’t running often enough, so we
had to set the thermostats up to 60 degrees so the furnace wouldn’t
clog, and make us lose hot water again. Well, I thought it was too warm
in the living room most of the time anyway. But it’s got to be hard on
someone like Fitz who has had many of his moving parts much abused over
the last half century when he can’t control the heat around him himself.
Since today it seems to be going above freezing we are thinking of
putting the ramp up and letting him out for a little. The goats, on the
other hand, are still inside. But they haven’t complained.
I understand Bella and Raven got their first lambs this weekend (we
were gone and Fitz fielded the call, denying all parental
responsibility). {more on our weekend later} I am once again being
suspicious of Bonnie Hazelton’s motives. She came over Wednesday and was
supposed to be getting Fitz’s services re-established, but while she got
the hair-dresser back, she seems to have not reassigned the Physical
Therapist; once again bringing up the question: incompetence or malice?
At this point we are especially suspicious because when they told Fitz
that he should be getting some of these services for which he had been
paying covered by them, when they sent in the papers saying that they
were going to pay for it, the Government started deducting that much
more out of his Social Security check, apparently convinced that they
were saying that Fitz had NOT been paying for the services up to now,
and so owed them back payments. All efforts to correct these errors have
been met with reassurances that it will all be made right within three
or four months. So until they get around to fixing it, they deducted
Fitz down to living on about $400 a month! (the reason he was supposed
to have some subsidy was that his income was appropriately low before).
It is SO frustrating!

Tuesday I took Kat over to Keene to the allergists for more testing
(last time we did environmentals- dust, molds, mites, etc.). This time
we did foods, and she came up positive for wheat, eggs, milk and yeast.
I’d told her on the way over that if she had to give up wheat, I’d give
it up with her. Oh, well. Honour has been doing so well since she went
off it, she’s been urging me to try it. On the other hand, other than
being overweight, I don’t have much health improvements to anticipate.
Still a promise is a promise. Since Kat’s got the neutralization drops,
we’ve decided that she can allow herself something with wheat once a
week on the weekends; but if it looks like I am having a positive
reaction to giving it up, I should get some drops so I can too. All week
I have been casting covetous eyes on every bit of bread and pasta that
goes by, but so far I have seen no effect. If it’s weight loss, of
course it will be slow. No obvious effect for Kat yet either. I was kind
of hoping there’d be a miraculous improvement on her handwriting. Oh,
Wednesday Tamooj and Jeanne and their kids came over for a visit. They
looked great! I am hoping that he finds work near here this time. It was
Christopher’s second visit here, and he was expectedly shy (although
they really enjoyed the animals in the barn), and I think Kia was only
less shy because she’s older and more able to deal with being dragged
around to see her parents friends. Both are remarkably pleasant
children- I SO admire Jeanne for home schooling them. I really have
never noticed that public schooling results in any improvement in social
skills, actually, the reverse. Jeanne brought along a teenage cousin of
hers (another Jennifer, as if we don’t know too many already!) who we
immediately liked, although if they don’t move back to New Hampshire, we
may not see again. Tamooj totally appalled us with stories of how much
renting cost in Southern California- I think he said $1800 a month.
Maybe $2000. If so I have blocked it from my mind. It must make it
confusing to figure out how much your paycheck really represents when
you are comparing offers from all over the country and the housing and
other costs vary that much. Their family has just into a new game called
Pit which seems like fun, but the adults never got to it.
Thursday Willow and I went up to probate court for her name change. It
took about an hour of driving each way, and about five minutes wait
inside the court, and finally all that happened was the judge said,
“good morning” and “here you are.”, handed her the papers and that was
it. I think it took me longer than that to get through the metal
detector- I had a foil Think bar wrapper in my pocket (if you’ve never
heard of it, it’s essentially a candy bar with instructions- “eat bar 30
minutes before you are going to engage in mental activity” I kid you
not!) and then I had put on a dress with a zipper in it. Try to avoid
that next time you have to enter a government building! That was weird.
Anyway, her name is now Willow Elizabeth Taylor, the Fair is gone. Oh,
well, I kept mine. We stopped at the DMV on the way home and picked up a
new license for her since it was Thursday (the day they do licenses).
That took about five minutes too. I LOVE living in New Hampshire. Of
course, then she got her new Red Cross blood donor card in the mail-
there will be several places she has to let know about the name change.
In the afternoon, Willow and Ernie came by to help her celebrate. The
toasted marshmallows and hot dogs in the fireplace in the library, and
we played Risk. I am not well suited to Risk. I do not like “killing”
the other player’s armies or taking over their continents, and I tend to
sulk and pout when they attack me. I am not a likely dominatrix of the
world. Oh, well.
I sulked a bit Thursday night too, when we didn’t get to see the Lunar
eclipse because of the snow. This is yet another in a LONG string of
astronomical “fun events” that I didn’t get to see because of clouds.
Admittedly, I was also worried that snow might keep us from going to
0stgardr this weekend, but there won’t be another spectral eclipse for
another twenty years, and I am very disappointed! Not only that, I am
not cute when I sulk, so there isn’t even a consolation there.
Honour came over on Friday- she is going through a lot of changes in
her life right now. Just as she is making plans to get Alex into the
McClane School, with Kami and Michael’s help, Alex’s case worker makes
the brilliant discovery that the local school isn’t meeting his needs
(duh!). She just found out that Roy had another annuity he’d failed to
disclose during the divorce, and has to chase him through the courts for
that. She’s been trying to not accept anything from him but minimal
child support, but since he’s been stiffing her on that one, and getting
the state to help has simply made the situation worse, (and teen-agers
are more expensive to provide for than toddlers, and things in general
got pricier over the past decade) she has to go back to court again. And
she’s in the middle of switching therapists, diets, and medications, and
has to get all her stuff that is being stored in the attic of the
Meeting Hall repacked into plastic bins and moved to the basement (due a
slight miscalculation on how much weight the ceiling could hold). You
know, normal total chaos. So much change at once, that even though most
of the changes should be positive, the confluence is incredibly
stressful. And not much that I can do more than listen to her to help.
While she was chatting with me, I was digging through bins we put away
when we cleaned before the holidays. I’m looking for all the sewing
stuff- I found three bins of mending! Oddly enough, I find that I am
really looking forward to doing it. But first I have to figure out where
I put the spools of thread and needles and other stuff that used to be
out piled around the sewing machines. Hmmm.
I was looking for an unfinished piece of garb I remembered having
nearly done to finish for the event this weekend. Finally it got so late
that I knew I couldn’t do it, and went out to the hall to pick something
else- and there it was, I’d forgotten that I’d finished it before the
war this summer. Oops. (It’s a wine colored wool gown, for which
Aelfwine made me some brass wrist clips in the 6th century Saxon Style.
At some point I plan to sew a tree of life type pattern on in with
garnets as bunches of grapes. (I think I drew up the design for that
gown when I was pregnant with Diana- greetings from the procrastination
center of the universe!) But, due to the cold I was able to wear that
with the black silk chiton I made for last Pennsic, (thinking it was
linen) which turned out to be too hot for summer wear. AElfwine wore his
black tunic with the tablet woven trim (which did need mending I noticed
once we were there), and a pair of black wool trews that were in the
mending- which we couldn’t find any problem with. I wonder how many of
the items in those bins are also already done?
We left for 0stgardr first thing (about 8 AM) Saturday morning after
chores. About a half hour out I remembered that the batch of cookies I
had made with the Seahorse cookie cutter (0stgardr’s heraldic badge) was
still on the kitchen table! We did not turn back. But, to my surprise
and delight, it took almost precisely the four hours and seven minutes
that the computer route-finder had predicted to get down there. Aelfwine
noted that for much of the trip he was going with the flow of traffic,
which means speeding, so technically, it should have taken longer (and
did on the trip home).
We had a wonderful time- saw many old friends, but not so many that I
came away knowing that I’d missed opportunities to talk to them.
Although we barely met any new people.
It’s kind of funny- we think that the last time we were in 0stgardr was
when we were there 18 years ago as king and queen, when we made the
Viceroy and Viceriene Court Baron and Baroness, so they would have rank
of their own. (They had a tradition of thinking that they ruled the
Crown Province, rather than “holding it” from and for the Crown.
Apparently, according to a speech they gave Saturday, they still feel
that way. As much as the modernist in me agrees with the philosophy, the
historian says that that it didn’t work that way historically.) Luckily,
the Crowned heads from Acre (we made a major treaty that day) didn’t
show up, as they did last time, so the whole thing didn’t come up again.
Still, it was a bit weird when we were asked to join Ian and Kathrine at
high table. Luckily, so was Lord El, whom we hadn’t seen in far too long
either, so we got to sit and eat with one old friend anyway. The only
difference is that I kept my coronet on for most of the meal- noblesse
oblige you know- duty to provide ceremony for everyone else.
We did skip court- sat in the back room with Barak and Mathilde (doing
gorgeous embroidery as usual) and Dana Stewart (who was doing beautiful
music on what I think was a lute- something he didn’t do back when he
lived with us at Washington Court). So we got an hour to talk with them.
And we talked with Ed Dragonslayer and Morwenna, whom we hadn’t seen in
ages, although I hope to see again as we are planning on going to the
Baronial Investiture in Dragonship Haven next month. Arwen will be
stepping down as Baroness due to a heavy schedule in the convention
circuit (I think). Of course, at this point Dragonship Haven hasn’t yet
managed to select a new Baron. There is a part of the law that says that
no election is valid if at least half the eligible voters don’t vote.
Can you imagine what would happen to national politics if we tried to
have that rule? Would we EVER get a president elected? Well, yes, I
guess we would. I think we still do top 50% participation – of the
registered voters, anyway.
Ed told us that he has developed a new system of soothsaying with
pieces of polished rocks- and he told us how too often people ask “What
do the rocks tell me to do?” and he has to explain: “This is a rock, you
are a sentient human being. I can use the rocks to tell you what
influences may be in your future- but YOU have to decide what to do.” I
often have to remind my clients the same thing, but somehow it seems so
much funnier when you say “don’t let rocks make your decisions for you.”
Sadly, too many people want to use divination to avoid making decisions
for themselves. What can you do?
Ewan was there (as well as a lot of other merchants). He gave me a neat
bodkin, and then we bought another table cloth that matches the one that
Mother gave us just before she died- the same pattern from the book of
Lindisfarne, but only two colors, thus MUCH less expensive. I also got a
new string of Amber (Ewan says that the competition is up so much that
prices are WAY down- this string was only $24, so he must be right. I
traded two strings of amber chips for a new pair of UG boots a few years
ago.) We also picked up a table bowling set, which was a coincidence,
because Willow and her friends went bowling while we were gone, and some
horn and bone dice, and a glass pen, and more striped socks and a few
other things. Aelfwine got some handmade fishhooks, which I am afraid he
isn’t allowed to carry without a fishing license, but if we are lucky,
it won’t come up. He doesn’t like fish anyway. They were just ‘neat to
have’ in his dark ages gear.
We had MUCH fun at the bardic competition. Luckily for Aelfwine, Barak
had brought his stack of East Kingdom Songbooks. He is distributing
them, trading for other songbooks, etc. and collecting enough songs to
make up the next edition. So Aelfwine was able to sing, rather than just
tell, the story of the Cattle/Kitten Raid (what was that- 24 years ago?)
There was a great song from one of Sir Edward’s (Fast Eddie’s) Squires
about setting up for Pennsic to the tune of the Twelve days of
Christmas. I think the last verse goes: “On the twelfth day of Pennsic
Sir Edward said to me: Let’s kill the autocrat, help keep those tents
up, get in the shield wall, bring me a bimbo, boys keep your dirks dry
(well, that’s what he sang in public – actually, it was a bit cruder
than that), here come the others (day seven), go bundle firewood, I LOVE
THE WAR, go paint the showers, we’re making roads now, build a picnic
table, and then get me a cup of coffee.” (that’s 12, so I think I got
them all). It was very funny, and of course, everyone started joining in
as soon as we could remember the previous verses. And Lord El told the
story of how after one fair at the Cloisters the whole bunch of them had
gone in garb to see Monty Python’s Holy Grail to the amusement of the
populace. A significant portion of the folk there weren’t BORN when it
came out! Aidan and Anne of Hatfield were there too, and Berowne of
Arden who is about half his former self. I remember how impressed I was
when I met people who’d been in the SCA four or five years before I’d
joined. I wonder what people thought when they saw us?
They had a history of 0stgardr on display which we knew intimately- for
the first three pages, and then recognized nothing. There was a fold of
all the sheep given to Ian over the years, and a couple of really
excellent portraits. One, done by Katya the Half-handed I had seen
before, but there was a miniature of Ian and Kathrine I hadn’t had
couldn’t find out who’d done it. The feast was cooked by Brekke (the
only one there who out ranked us, but of course, she couldn’t leave the
kitchen and so escaped High Table); so needless to say it was excellent,
although not as excessive as mine. I had to suppress my urges to apply
to the kitchen for the compost, but as we have no pigs just now, I held
it in check. They were clearing away for dancing as we left, but we
wanted to get home to our own wonderful fur lined, down padded waterbed-
which we did by two, so I think that will encourage us to go to more
events. One a month maybe.
Needless to say, we did not do much on Sunday, as we were somewhat
slowed down by getting to bed five hours late. Aelfwine spent much of
the day futzing with the furnace, as I already mentioned, and I read
Food and Cooking in Roman Britain which Megan and Dennis gave me for
Yule (very pertinent to a couple of articles I’m about to write). Two
new books arrived in the mail Saturday, significantly: The Promise of
Sleep, and You Eat What You Are. The first looks to be another medical
book where a specialist- in this case a sleep specialist, ascribes all
the worlds ills to insufficient or poor sleep. I expect that there is
probably a grain of truth to it- I’ve only gotten through the
introduction so far. In it he describes how he was part of a study
commissioned by the US Congress to find out how sleep patterns effected
the health (and productivity) of America, and since they got the report
and did nothing about it, he’s taking the word out to the people
himself. The second book is an anthropological study on how culture and
food are inter-related. I must admit that as I started looking through
it yesterday, I was looking for ideas on how to live without wheat.
Sigh. But it should be good reading this week. I also want to start a
new gown for Birka. (something about looking at all that beautiful garb
this weekend), and I’ve got a couple new articles to write for PanGaia
and Blessed Bee. Writing is a good way to spend the winter months (and
PanGaia pays). I have to remind myself that once the warm weather is
back I lose a lot of time to out-door activities with the animals and
Still, as chilly as it can get (and I wouldn’t mind a little more snow,
and a little less cold- personally- of course, I don’t have to drive in
it daily) I do love the quiet evenings playing games- I didn’t mention
that Star is trying to teach Kat to play chess, although she really
prefers Chinese checkers. As long as we don’t start losing stock, and as
long as the firewood holds out, I’m very happy to have winter once a

47. Talk doesn’t cook the rice.