I believe I've found a system of sorts for cutting the blackberry vines back. In previous years I cut the stems, but then the dead bits form an impenetrable net, worse than than the live ones in that they have all the thorns but none of the fruit. The system is to take the shears (which I broke, last week, doing this, but they are mended now) and proceed along a stem, snipping off the offshoots as far as I can reach. Then take another stem and do the same. After a few of these attacks, the net starts to fall apart, and the stems can be cut into shorter pieces for dismantling. So now we have a growing pile of dead blackberry bits, eventually to be carted off to the garden waste disposal.
Also a stack of springy young suckers from the Transparent, with pink buds swelling at the tips. I've snipped a few pieces and stuck them in a glass jug, pretending that I am a Country Lady with an Eye For Natural Beauty.
The Transparent is now looking all light and airy. I enlisted Mark to prune off the suckers I couldn't reach, and had to stop him after a while, because the lure of the sharp tools is a powerful lure, and the book says no more than 1/3 should be pruned in a year.
Then I hacked away at the grapevine on the other side of the yard, behind the garden bench, and cleared out under the Spartan tree, where infant hollies were sneaking about under the bluebells. I had no idea that holly grew along vines, but these were.
The Spartan needs pruning, but first I have to remove most of the grapevine that's twining into it, so I can tell how much is the Spartan. This is how I ended up cutting back blackberries last weekend, in order to uncover the true Transparent.
I think I will gather up the grapevine and try making vine charcoal, just to be annoying. I wonder if I should try to find a Dutch oven at the thrift shops, or whether it would be simpler to cobble something up to roast the grapevine?
I'd dig a hole in the backyard, but backyard burning's been outbylawed for ages now, and charcoal burning is still burning. And you can only dig down about a foot here, before you hit rock.
The amusing/terrifying thing about the budding of the apple trees is that I still have apples left from last year. I don't mean the dried apples, of which there are 3 bags full, yes sir. I don't mean the apple pies, of which there are a half-dozen in the freezer. I don't mean the apple crumbles, of which there are at least a dozen in the freezer.
No, I mean apples, gathered in November, wrapped in newspaper and stored in orange crates in the pantry, which I have been taking for my lunches for two months (February and March--January I took mandarin oranges). Even with one crate of Spartans turning to mush, suggesting that Golden Delicious are a more reliable 'keeping' apple, the apple season stretched from August to April.
Now the trees are budding afresh. Isn't Nature wonderful?
You should hear that in the voice from a Monty Python skit, suggestive of someone slamming his hand in the desk drawer while saying it.
Likewise in the endless cycle of renewal, my stories fly out and fly back to me, with little notes attached that are not cheques. The two most recent rejections:
And for the same story:
Thanks for allowing us to consider "Climbing Boys," but regretfully, I'm going to pass on this one.
I have to say, however, that I absolutely loved this story in many ways; it's such a morbid yet fitting way to portray the climbing boys, and the writing is very well done. Unfortunately, I felt the dialogue was too heavy with dialect; it kept stopping me, and I wished it was pared a bit to aid the flow of the story. Also, I wasn't altogether positive that the POV switch at the end worked.
In any case, it's a lovely story, and I hope you find a great home for it! Please do send us more of your work soon.
Thank you for submitting "Climbing Boys" to Strange Horizons, but we've decided not to accept it for publication. There's some very neat stuff in here; I particularly liked the portrayal of Ned and how he catches ghosts. But the story and exposition came across as a bit too heavy-handed to fully work for us.
We appreciate your interest in our magazine.
But I will not complain, because these are positive, personal, rejections, and thus better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick.
The agent hunt has so far netted me 12 form rejections and 1 request for a partial.
Look, this is me not getting my hopes up.
Want to see me do it again?
On the arthritis front, I am achey today, which may be due to
b) warm sunny weather
c) ancestral curse
With the hydroxyquin added to the methotrexate, it looks as if the swelling on my second knuckle, left hand, is going down, though still present. The left foot is pretty much the same, though it's difficult to judge when I'm having what would probably be a flare-up if I weren't medicated. Yay drugs!