Posted by Tania Kindersley.
See? This is what happens. I go away for a couple of days, and all hell breaks loose. A monumental piece of legislation passes in America, against all the odds, to cries of communism, tyranny and the end of days. A huge row over settlements breaks out in Israel. British MPs are caught on camera referring to themselves as taxis for hire (oh, the edification). Lovely Sandra Bullock finds out that her husband has been catting about with a tattooed lady who likes dressing up in Nazi costumes. Meanwhile, my top news is that the oystercatchers have come in from the coast, which is the surefire, copper-bottomed, blue chip sign that spring has arrived at last.
When I say away, what I really mean is that I have not had time to blog for the last few days. My lovely cousin G came to stay and I went into full hostess mode. I take guests very seriously. The good linen sheets must be aired, the flowers arranged, the vodka frozen, the logs brought in for the fire. I even brushed the dogs, so that they would look shiny and smart, like small children on their first day at school. The visit was utter heaven, from start to finish. The sun came out and shone gaudily from the moment she arrived, to the moment she left; there was the taking of cocktails and the discussing of politics and the rehashing of old jokes and all the other intense pleasures of which a friendship of twenty-five years is made. There was laughter and exclamation and long, luxurious breakfasts and walks along the burn, where the ducks are getting ready to build their nests.
We ate delicious Aberdeen Angus steaks, so melting and tender you could have cut them with a spoon, and spicy prawn and noodle soup with coriander and lime, and Thai curry, and pork escalopes cooked in the Milanese style. It was a perfect United Nations in this house. We went up to my mother's house to celebrate my dear stepfather's birthday, and ended up drinking fine cognac at four in the afternoon in a thoroughly decadent manner.
Now I am back to normal. I do apologise for the slight break in transmission. I must sharpen my wits and concentrate; I must write my book and do my work. But it was a perfect four days, and I smile as I think of it.
Picture of the day is Barack Obama, watching his healthcare bill pass:
It has become fashionable now to trash Obama. The Left complain because he is not radical enough, he is not doing enough to rein in the banks, he keeps bashing away at the bipartisan thing even though the Republicans will not give him a single vote and treat him with disdain. The Right insist that he is an evil communist (and sometimes a fascist at the very same time) who wants to take their guns, tax them into extinction, kill their grandmothers, pander to terrorists, and generally turn America into France. Commentators say that he is not tough enough, experienced enough, even engaged enough.
I think he is a sort of Zen miracle. He appears able to absorb the relentless blows rained down on him, without buckling. He sits back as people on national television describe how he is just like Hitler, how he is a racist, how he refuses to keep America safe (a peculiar and persistent meme, as if somehow he is longing for Armageddon). He deals with a rabid 24 hour news cycle, a recalcitrant legislature, the jostling disagreements in his own party, the blatant untruths told by the other side, and then, finally, calmly, he passes a bill that no other president has been able to achieve, although many have tried. I think that shows extraordinary patience, determination and cool.
America may be the most complicated country in the world. It has a kind of rage in it at the moment which makes me think it is almost impossible to govern. It is mired in a bleak recession and fighting a hot war. It faces continuing terrorist threats. Yet Obama manages to retain his belief in it, as a place of innovation and progress and, that hoary old chestnut, hope. He is a study in keeping his head whilst all about him people are losing theirs. I admire him very much for that.