Monday, 31 May 2010

In which the sun shines

Posted by Tania Kindersley.

Sometimes the sun really does come out on the May Bank Holiday. Even though I am not a bank, I am naughtily taking the day off in celebration.

Because it's not a usual Monday, the radio schedules are all over the shop. I turned on expecting to hear some cross discussion about poor David Laws, and the Coalition tottering (amazing how it has gone in official judgement from bold new step to hanging by a thread) and instead there was something about the sixties. Frank Sinatra sang a song, and then there was a piece about Kennedy and Churchill dying, and clips of ask what you can do for your country, and blood toil sweat and tears.

There was something about hearing old Winnie talk of our island nation which made me both thrilled and sad at the same time. There was no golden age when politicians were titans and the public held them in pristine regard. Britons, in particular, have always been quite unsentimental about their leaders. Churchill was beloved; then, when they had enough of him, the voters turfed him unceremoniously out, after the war. All the same, it feels now as if we have started to eat our young. There is a kind of savage glee with which politicians are brought down. Look, look - RIPPING off the taxpayer, GAY lover, FORTY thousand pounds. Let us dance piously on the grave of a political career. For good measure, let us discuss, endlessly, whether people should stay in or out of the closet, because the idea of a private life or an autonomous decision is so last season.

Laws claimed for some rent on his second home. He did not go out at night drowning kittens. His transgression depends on semantics: was the man with whom he lived his official partner, or not. It's not the most egregious crime in the history of crime, even if he should be proved to have broken the rules. But everyone should build bonfires and dance in delight as the amazingly self-regarding Telegraph claims another scalp. There, political class, take that, and that, and that. HA.

In America, there are perfectly reasonable commentators who are complaining that President Obama is not angry enough about the BP oil spill. They admit, almost grudgingly, that he cannot actually put on a wetsuit and go and staunch the flow himself, but goddammit, he should be madder. Apparently his job description includes Emoter in Chief, and he is failing perilously. The Telegraph, showing some more of its charming self-righteousness, claims that he has now 'lost all credibility'.

Of course our elected representatives should be held to account. The age of deference, should it ever have existed, did not do anyone much good. But I start to feel a little uncomfortable about this wholesale visceral hatred and distrust of the political class. The endless bitching and suspicion and giddy delight when an MP is brought low is entirely negative and destructive. I hold the unfashionable view that most people go into public life for honourable reasons. They could much more easily sidle off and work for a nice oil company that is raping the land and get fatly rich on the proceeds, without ever having their sexual preferences splattered all over the front pages. But no, no, they are all the same, they are all in it for what they can get, they hold the electorate in contempt. They are corrupt and self-serving and bloated with arrogance, every last one of them. I do not think this is true. I do not think that believing this is constructive. I do not think we should doff our hats every time a politicians walks by, but I wonder if we should not resurrect The Benefit of the Doubt. Just because the sun is shining.

Meanwhile, I contemplate the new life in my garden:


The lilac lilac.


The very first flower on the white lilac.


The first geraniums, coming out.


A fat, tightly furled peony. Last year, I found some peonies growing wild in the rough ground by my compost heap. I dug them up and transplanted them, more in hope than expectation. And now LOOK.


This is another miracle. In the wild part of my garden, there were some big Scottish ferns. The weeks and weeks of snow appeared to have killed them stone dead. They went quite brown and desiccated. Then, this morning, I wandered into the wilderness corner, and there was this curled leaf, green and alive, like a little sign of hope.


This is not some kind of exotic insect-munching plant, but an oriental poppy, in bud. I made this garden from scratch; it was originally just a rough patch of land, all nettles and high grass. An expert horticultural lady came in and dug the beds and did some of the early planting. She put in big blowsy poppies, which I did not like. I like delicate, shy plants, mostly in blue and white. I thought the huge scarlet poppies were vulgar and overblown. I kept digging them up and giving them away, but they would not be denied. Now I rather love them, after all that.


This is my very favourite plant in the whole garden, a tiny little purple geranium.


This baby euphorbia is my second favourite.

And talking of favourites:


Regard the elegance.


And the beauty.

Because a bank holiday is not a bank holiday without a dog picture.

I hope the sun is shining wherever you are.


  1. Hello. I started reading your blog recently, and wanted to let you know how much I've been enjoying it - the combination of political commentary I agree with and beautiful photos of things that I like to look at is extremely pleasing! I have also taken to stealing your photos to set as my desktop background every two or three days - today it's the lilac, which is sadly on the way out here in France. I hope you don't mind - and thank you!

  2. Kate - WELCOME to the blog. So glad you enjoy it. Make free with the photographs; I regard it as a great compliment.

  3. I am devastated about David Laws' resignation. And to think that The Telegraph had this up their sleeve to let it out when it suited them, makes it all the more infuriating.

    Who exactly is running Britain?

  4. Helena - so agree. I feel furious with The Telegraph, and cannot see what possible positive purpose its action has served.

  5. I would like to second Kate - your blog is a fantastic, grounded and intelligent combination of the interesting and uplifting (the photos are the uplifting bit in this post of course, not the resignation of David Laws which I personally was rather sad about).

    Thanks for sharing


  6. Peonies are my all time favourites - I have some in a vase but this is the real deal - bravo ! Beautiful.

    As for David Laws the most maddening thing is that the consensus seems to be that he was shaping up to be a really good Minister - lets face it we could do with a few of those...

  7. What I think is most frustrating is that if David Laws had declared his partner he could have claimed far far more than he did from the public purse. The sanctimoniousness of many of the people writing about this is astonishing.

  8. Hello - just found your blog also (via Belgian Waffling) and would like to second all the compliments about your writing above, also the sentiments re David Laws- I think it was Peter Mandelson who said over the weekend if financial gain was what drove him why did he give up a massively succesful banking career in order to become a Liberal Democrat MP (also of course he didn't financiall gain from his so-called 'crime', and neither did the taxpayers lose). I don't imagine George Osborne is feeling to kindly towards the Telegraph either, by the way- his job just got a whole lot more difficult in a way he couldn't possibly have foreseen.

  9. There is no way, unfortunately, of getting away from the fact that in all honesty David Laws would have been better off declaring it when the matter of MPs' expenses kicked off last year and taking the flak then. It was still wrong and he should have done it and gotten it over with and possibly saved his career (but who knows?). BUT I do think the spite and glee with which the media tramples over a political career and life (note their statement 'we didn't want to reveal his private life but he left us no choice'-leaves a very sour taste), leaving him with no choice but to reveal an essentially very private and clearly difficult issue to family and friends not of his own volition but under duress, starts to edge towards homophobia. It's interesting that for all the public anger towards expenses that caused such a media storm last year, this time most seem to sympathise and be prepared to accept his misdemeanour as a digression that should perhaps be reviewed but ultimately forgiven, which shows that we have moved on somewhat. And as you point out, he was hardly throwing puppies out of windows.

    In other news, aren't the late spring flowers indeed glorious? Our clematis is so startlingly purple I am putting it up on t'blg tomorrow in celebration of its short-lived fabulousness.

  10. your post is, as always well written, lucid, fair and in this case compassionate and very uplifting with the lovely pics of your beautiful garden and of course beautiful beautiful dogs.
    keep it up !
    liz from paris

  11. Tania, I absolutely agree with this:
    "I hold the unfashionable view that most people go into public life for honourable reasons." Poor old Obama is being treated so shabbily by everyone for not throwing a tantrum. I just don't know what the answer is, or what he can do in the situation. It is quite, quite devastating.
    Thanks again for bright, clever, compassionate commentary.

    Miss W


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