Happy Birthday Chaos*


Chaos is twelve years old today.  Darkness is too, of course, but he’s not around to enjoy his roast chicken.  Sigh.  Chaos, Pav** and I went on one of our standard local walks today, up the hill in Old Eden with the fabulous view—of, among other things, the mews where Peter used to live.  Birthdays mug you as you get older, I guess.  I couldn’t stop thinking, today, that a year ago there were four of us and three years ago there were five of us.


Chaos’ eyes just about stood out on stalks when he saw the size of the bowl of fresh roast chicken he had for/after supper tonight.  I think he’d forgotten it was his birthday.  We have a bribe system about meals.  He’s a terrible eater anyway, always has been, just like his brother, and he’s now on kind of a lot of immune system/kidney/old dog/person support stuff which don’t smell bad to me—I’m on a few of them myself—but they certainly smell, and if it’s not fresh roast chicken Chaos is pretty much not interested.  There has been LANGUAGE when he began refusing and now continues to refuse the WILDLY EXPENSIVE*** fresh raw dog food that a local organic farm produces and that I bought quite a lot of (frozen) after initial reactions were positive.  Feh.  This smells totally like food to me and Pav, of course, is climbing my leg in a passion to assist in making my expenditure worthwhile.

So the system goes that I put all the icky stuff in some dog food and Chaos and I argue about it.  I win because I have to, but it’s not a pretty sight.&  AND THEN HE GETS HIS CHICKEN.  Occasionally laced with fresh fish and tiny, non-system-straining scraps of fresh liver and goat-or-sheep cheese.  The things we do for love.&&

I can see all your eyebrows rising from here but I’m still planning to get back to putting a blog post up, let’s say, twice a week.  Meanwhile things, which is to say shit, keeps happening.  The really big current pile of faeces is that a very dear friend went into hospital for emergency surgery the beginning of the week.  Very much worse on his family, of course, but I’m in shock, and any of you out there with a predilection for prayer or other positive supernatural intervention, all prayers and supplications welcome.  If you’re like me and want a name to pray for even if it’s not the person’s real name, we’re going to call my friend Ethan.  We’re not going to know how he’s doing for a while yet so we want to keep him on God’s active list.

And down here in the mundane world . . . I had another fly attack.  And this one was worse.  Last time it lasted a day, this time it lasted about a day and a half, last time I killed hundreds of flies . . . this time I think I must have broken a thousand of the revolting things.  My strike rate was up to 4-5 and occasionally 6 flies per tissue and I went through over a box of 100 again—but I also added chicken-stock drowning traps this time, three of them, and I was dumping them out and refilling them&&& when they turned black with disgusting corpses.  I was really feeling I was losing my mind, the way it went on and on and on.  I’d read online that a pomander made of a citrus fruit stuck with cloves would keep them off, so I made one thinking to clear a tiny space so I could eat, and I’m here to tell you that a frenzy of flies couldn’t care less about your fresh pomander.

So what I’m thinking now is, does this mean I’m due a third assault in another fortnight, which will be worse yet?  And I still have no idea where they can be breeding!  This is, granted, an untidy, make that an extremely untidy house, but the stuff that gets wedged in corners is mostly books, leavened with tins of dog food, bought in bulk online because it’s so much cheaper.  The garbage is taken out at least twice a week . . . and why isn’t there a SMELL?  Don’t flies breed in . . . things that SMELL?  I am going to drag everything out of the Dog Food Corner on the possibility that something ruptured, or arrived ruptured, without my noticing.  And when I can’t find anything I don’t know what I do.  Sit in the middle of the floor and cry, probably.  Prospective whimpers.

OKAY.  FRELL IT.  LET’S HAVE SOME GOOD NEWS.  The blasted weather did finally break—dropped thirty flaming Fahrenheit degrees in about twenty-four hours and it’s even rained properly a couple of times.  I have the Aga back on!!!  Yaaaaaaaaaay

But here’s my real news.  I KNOW ABOUT A HUNDRED KANJI.  HOW THE HOWLING DOODAH DID THAT HAPPEN??  Mind you I can’t do anything with them but point to a flash card and say, Five!  Eight!  Fire!  Water!  Woman!  Man!  Horse!  Dog! Village! Talent-ability-years-old!%  I’m not even sure how it has happened, all this kanji learning, except that as I had been pathetically telling Sophia, it’s worth it to me to keep having my lessons even in the appalling heat when I had No Available Brain just to spend time in the Japanese space she provides, and I think I was just READY TO LEARN SOMETHING when the weather finally let me.  Let me emphasise that while this certainly counts as a beginning, it’s utterly impractical:  I can’t read street signs or menus with the weird selection of kanji I’ve picked up—I’m not interested in reading street signs, so the textbooks that quite reasonably start by assuming you want to order food in restaurants and take the right train don’t compel me at all—I have no structure (YET) to slot my kanji into.  I’m very roughly following the flash card order, which is also roughly the Japanese government list of kanji for schools, but what I’m more doing is a magpie thing of Oooh!  Pretty!, as I leaf through the card stack, or the pages of one of my books.

But the big thing I need to start doing is learning the ‘readings’ to the kanji I have for some mysterious reason learnt.  Which is to say learning the Japanese for five, eight, fire, water, woman, man, horse, dog, village, talent-ability-years-old, the problem being that pretty much every kanji has several readings, and as in talent-ability-years-old they may not all mean the same thing AND the SAME readings VERY OFTEN SHOW UP IN A LOT OF DIFFERENT KANJI. So you have the kanji for ‘evening’ and the kanji for ‘stone’ and both first readings are ‘seki’.  Evening only has one more, ‘yu’, although stone has SEVERAL, shaku, koku, ishi . . . they all mean stone.  In context.  Sort of, since ‘seki’ is also used (for example) in the word for petroleum.  And sometimes seki means evening . . . AND OF COURSE everything changes depending on the context, and what other kanji may be hanging around.  Or how about the kanji for right-just-principal-positive and the kanji for blue-green-unripe-inexperienced, which have the same two first readings:  sei and sho.   Are you confused yet?  I am.  Very.%%%

But remember Sophia telling me, my second lesson, that she used to just read her kanji book and having initially thought that I was consorting with a dangerous lunatic I discovered I kind of knew what she meant?  Yeah.  I think it’s the pictograph aspect that makes them so interesting—most of them, well, the kanji for ‘dog’ is an upside-down Y with a stroke through the central stem, plus a tiny stroke drifting off to the right.  Hmmmmm.  The horse kanji does at least have four little dots at the bottom that might be legs.  But then you get a really clear one like the kanji for ‘man’ which is actually two kanji:  the kanji for ‘power, strength’ and the kanji for ‘rice paddy’.  Hey.  Cool.  Not that the kanji for ‘power, strength’ makes any particular sense, however, since it looks like an ‘h’ with a problem, although the rice paddy is at least a nice square box with two lines running through it making four nice neat little paddies.  But kanji are still all pictographs at source, like blokes toiling in the fields, and that makes them story-telling:  which is my language.  Pity about the frelling readings . . .  I’m also not getting anywhere very fast with the equally frelling syllabaries:  that’s my other task this week:  hiragana.  I haven’t even started katakana.  Bad me.  Learning kanji is fun.$  I have to get serious. 

But, you know, a hundred kanji!  Only TWENTY NINE HUNDRED to go!$$

* * *

*An interesting heading to catch the eye of anyone cruising for reading material who is unacquainted with my domestic arrangements^

^ Also, it’s yesterday by the time I get this hung.  It’s still today to me, the 17th, Chaos’ birthday:  I haven’t been to bed yet.

** Pav’s sixth birthday was a little over a week ago.  She is so easy to please.  Would you like some dog food?  YES YES YES YES YES.  Would you like a nice dog treat, like some crunchy fish skin?  YES YES YES YES YES.  Would you like the slime out of the bottom of the trash can?  YES YES YES YES YES.  Oh.  Well.  Here, have some fresh roast chicken instead.  She does very well on the fresh chicken front because she is very alert to what Chaos gets.  I admit she receives a percentage less chicken and more dog food, but it’s really GOOD dog food.  ANY DOG would be HAPPY to eat this dog food.  Chaos, of course, is not a dog, he is a hellhound.  Possibly if there was a crispy demon parts flavoured dog food we’d get somewhere.

*** But not as expensive as fresh roast chicken

& One of the things we’re both on is a herbal thing that soothes the gut.  It’s also very, very gluey.  I swallow mine straight to get it over with, but it performs the useful function of making Chaos’ despised dog food stick together which means that if I seem to be losing the argument, it’s a whole lot easier to sweep up globs and throw down his throat.^  The thing I do not understand is that he absolutely knows what the system is:  he gets his chicken only after he’s embraced his dog food.  Day after day after day—as I’m fond of telling him, I will stress myself to breaking point trying to keep him alive with some decent quality of life attached, but three times a day, which is to say at every meal, I am ready to kill him with my bare hands—he will not eat his dog food until the comfy chair comes out.  In this household we do expect the Spanish Inquisition, it arrives like clockwork three times a day.  ARRRRRRRRGH.  And as soon as that’s over with he’s all shiny eyed and perky and under my feet, waiting for his chicken.  ARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRGH.

^ I’m usually getting in my own way however by doing things like drowning the dog food in fresh home made chicken stock+, which does, sometimes, work.  Sometimes it doesn’t.  And the gluey stuff can only do so much.  I haven’t yet used a baster to get Chaos’ food down his throat, but that’s probably only because I can’t remember if I still have one, and if so, where it is.

+ I make chicken stock by the GALLON.  Sometimes I even get a little.

&& Any of you with critters know exactly what I’m talking about.  I do my final prayer-sit very last thing every night before I go to bed, sitting on my zafu in front of the fireplace in the sitting room, and Chaos usually comes in with me, and very often arranges himself in such a manner that some elderly human joint or other is being compressed in a way it doesn’t like BUT IT’S TOTALLY WORTH IT AND I WOULDN’T DREAM OF MAKING HIM MOVE.^

^ Also, one of those slightly woo-woo things about many domestic animals, he seems to know as soon as my evening prayer list hits Ethan.+

+ Pav, however, is a rather unrestful prayer companion.  She finds the sitting room stimulating for some reason.  All the books possibly.

&&& An appalling misuse of my lovely home made chicken stock

% No, really.  There’s a kanji that means talent or ability . . . or years old.  It’s not like it’s straightforward.  It’s a language, isn’t it?  When was a language ever straightforward?  And Japanese doesn’t do round.  The kanji for round is a divided rectangle on legs.  Certainly.  I get that.  And ‘eye’ is a rectangle standing up on its narrow end with two horizontal strokes through it:  if it were at least lying down it would look a little like an eye, with its iris marked out.  However Sophia was telling me about Russian noun declensions to make me feel better AND I FEEL A LOT BETTER.  I AM SO GLAD I AM LEARNING A NICE (RELATIVELY) STRAIGHTFORWARD LANGUAGE LIKE JAPANESE.  WHAT’S A FEW (THOUSAND) KANJI AMONG FRIENDS AFTER ALL.

%%% I’ve only just now discovered, or comprehended the fact of, the readings index in my big fat 2000-kanji book.  There are eighteen ‘seiki’s!  There are THIRTY FIVE ‘sei’s!!!  Waaaaaaaaaaaaaah!

$ I am a dangerous lunatic

$$ And a few readings!

10 thoughts on “Happy Birthday Chaos*”

  1. Big happy birthday to Chaos, bravo bravo, you GO, boydog. Having just recently lost a veteran of my own, I know how valuable our days with our old guys are. And, alas, how bad eaters can set you up for expensive failures in the food area. In my case the failures included roast chicken, pork chops, barbecue–yes, really–turkey . . . the list goes on. My current girl is a crocodile when it comes to food–ANY food–indeed, anything that MIGHT be food. This has a few drawbacks (is she determined to poison herself/choke to death/get an obstruction/ etc. etc.?) but on the whole I’m just pathetically grateful.

    The flies are ghastly. I’d tend to suspect an outside breeding location over one in the house–the Asian lady beetles that appeared in hordes here for a couple of years don’t breed in houses, but they sure can find the cracks and crevices to get inside them. (I used the vacuum cleaner on mine. The little suckers leave a stain when you smash them.) Do you have a compost heap that could not only supply fly food but also hide the, ugh, maggots? Do your neighbors?

  2. As a native English speaker who spent about a year total in Japan working for a Japanese nursery where no one spoke English, I’ve got bad news for you: It gets worse. The grammar is a positive rats nest. I spent the time working at the nursery going to enormous lengths to avoid ever asking anyone to give me anything because you have to choose from a long list of DIFFERENT words for “give” all based on your relative status to the person you are talking to and the formality of the situation. It is a crazy beautiful place though, and the food is nothing short of transcendent.

  3. I hope Chaos enjoyed his birthday. Send him birthday greetings from the Blog. I was about to go Get Things Done (it is my errand-running time), but then a cat sat down on my lap and so now I’m pinned here and have to read instead. I love having lap pets but every now and then it makes it hard to, you know, get things done. (My place is a wreck right now but the CATS are happy so I guess life is good anyway….) And I prayed for Ethan and will try to keep doing so. This may be a difficult question and if so you can feel free to dodge it, but what happened to your friend Luke (I think that was the name you have him) that had the awful accident a few years ago. I still pray for him every now and then when I think about him. You didn’t give a lot of details but I know something of what accidents can do to the body and it is not pretty or fun.

  4. Prayers. & birthday wishes.

    I Googled the fly situation, which–as people were telling you–is widespread this year in U.K. Partly because of heat: more of them and they come inside. It sounds as though your second flies are the kids of the first lot. Wouldn’t have to be on anything horrendous: a rubbish bin, a container for scraps you save for compost, water under a sink–but not corpses.
    I’m not going to send you links because you can’t know that they’re secure, but there are online various suggestions concerning fly paper, cider vinegar traps, store-bought traps or repellents, and so on.

    It sounds like one of the Biblical plagues but does seem based on the weather.

    Unless they hit the White House, in which case the gods sent them.

    I reread your books often, especially when I’m troubled. Thank you for writing them. I would come from Brooklyn to fight your flies if I could.

  5. What’s next on the list of Biblical plagues? I must check.
    Happy Birthday to Chaos, and belated pats to Pav.
    I’m crossing fingers all this Kanji work will be stimulating enough to the Story Council that Shadows 2 will be let out of the holding pen and rear into consciousness. (Hehehehe. You’re not the only one who can be a dangerous lunatic. I AM ONLY JOKING. Poking Robin McKinley with a Story Council stick: definition of lunatic with a death wish!!!) I LOVE the strong theme in your work where characters aren’t exactly sure of the nebulous meanings and purposes of others, like human/pegasus, human/dragon, human/magic, etc. Since when do we humans ever have everything figured out?!
    Hoping and praying that Ethan hangs in there, and prayers for you as you worry for him.

  6. Katakana is V V similar to hirigana – just more “square”. If I remember correctly the sounds are the same for the same looking symbols.
    Also Happy Birthday Chaos!

  7. Congratulations on keeping the hellhound alive to reach his birthday!

    I’ve been entertained by your Japanese adventures. I’ve been trying to learn for…about a year now. I’ve used Duolingo.com, that’s good on grammar, kinda, but not kanji at all; Wanikani.com for learning kanji; and tinycards.com for hirigana and katakana (still shaky on the one for foreign words).

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