Thursday, 17 June 2010

In which I spy an unexpected lesson

Posted by Tania Kindersley.

I woke very tired this morning. It never stops amazing me how enervating mental work can be. I tell myself, when I am shattered after a day of typing: oh, for God's sake, you are not working down a mine. I have an awed respect for people who do manual jobs. I look at the soldiers in Afghanistan, and, quite apart from the physical danger of their work, what astonishes me is how they carry heavy packs and wear full armour in forty degree heat. So I always feel like the most terrible fraud when I declare myself exhausted after a bit of poxy writing.

Also, unlike you mothers and wives out there, I do not have children to tidy up after, or another half to tend. I do not have to go to corporate events and be charming to dull people. I do not have to give presentations or have meetings or calculate budgets. I do not have to commute round the M25, cursing the traffic. All I have to do is write one little book, and take the dogs for a walk, and have my daily chat with my dear old mum. I really am the most awful powder puff.

Anyway, today I was pathetically tired. The last three days of crazed writing spurt had pulled every last atom of energy out of me.

'Oh yes,' Sarah said, laughing, when she called yesterday and I told her of the hundreds of words. 'You are in your manic phase. People can set clocks by it.'

I thought: I'll take the day off. My rule is that I must work six days a week. The day of rest is usually Saturday or Sunday, but sometimes I take a naughty weekday and then write over the weekend.

I'll just go and look at the internet, I thought. My idea of a day off is not to go to the beach, but to indulge in an orgy of political geekery. I can catch up on all those American politics shows I love so much, and watch The Daily Politics on the iPlayer. (Sometimes I really do wonder that I reveal all these dark secrets to you. Sometimes I wonder that you don't all run away screaming, or at least laughing and pointing.) Once at the computer, with a huge pot of coffee at my side, I thought: perhaps I'll just have a fleeting glance at what I did yesterday.

It wasn't too bad. It wasn't Mrs Woolf, but it was not shaming. Some of the tiredness receded. I felt my brain start clicking into gear. Perhaps I'll just do a hundred words, I thought, for the hell of it. I'll do a quick, crafty hundred, and then there will be something to mark the day.

I chose a section that did not need any research, so I would not have to stop to look things up. I just let a bit of a theory develop. I like making things up on the hoof; later I can go back and see if they make any sense or not.

Two hours later I had 1200 words.

I thought: it's all very well, this lashing and planning and forcing and demanding. Maybe sometimes we need to fool our minds just a little. Perhaps there are days when we get more done if there is not a twelve-point plan. Once I gave myself permission not to do anything, I got rather a lot done. I can't work out if that is a profound life lesson, or if it is just me, with my idiotically contrary nature.

Outside, big white clouds are falling away behind the Wellingtonias, to reveal the first blue sky we have seen for two weeks. The swallows are performing a pas de deux, flying low over the bright grass. There is absolute quiet. My mind goes blank again. But that's all right, because I did my words.


No new pictures today, so here are some from the last couple of weeks, all collaged up:





You know I love almost nothing more that a bit of moss and lichen, so here is a little festival of both:


Finally, all the blues and all the mauves, my favourite colours after green:


Have a happy Thursday.

PS. When I say wives and mothers, don't think I am ignoring the husbands and fathers and the work they do. I know that most of my dear readers are women, and I may be sometimes guilty of assuming an entirely female sensibility, if there even is such a thing. When Sarah and I wrote Backwards, we did think it would probably be of most interest to women, but one of the nicest reviews we ever had was from a seventy-something man called Arthur on Amazon. It was particularly touching to us, because it was rather a surprise. In the same way, I do tend to think of this blog as a gathering of women, and I always get a tremendous fillip of surprise and delight when I have a gentleman caller. Especially during the World Cup.

Not that I would ever stoop to stereotyping, but you boys are all biologically programmed to think of nothing else but football for the next three weeks.

Only joking.


  1. I got lots done this morning at work, when the fact I had meetings from then on made me think I would do nothing. It is rather freeing and helpful (but not all the time)

    Your photos are always lovely.

  2. I love the photos so much, especially the green and the moss, which remind me of happy times in Scotland and growing up in the Pacific Northwest of the US.

  3. It is hotter than the hinges of hell in the south of the U.S. today, and your lovely lichens and greenery give me pause. Bless you for them, in fact for all your gorgeous photos. And about your dogs? I am in full-blown canine love. What beauties.

  4. I don't think anyone is likely to point and laugh. I have a series record set up for Daily Politics which surely has to be worse (or better, depending on your perspective!)

    As always, stunning photos.

  5. mind work and writing is tiring- especially when it's very good like yours. When i started my first 'proper' job ie sitting working all day long I was too physically tired to do anything but go to sleep for weeks.

    Now of course I'm numbed to it but I'm still tired a lot of the time- I think we all aren't we- perhaps it's a modern condition. I spent much of my holiday feeling even more tired than I do normally.

    See manual work is very hard but the physical satifaction of it is not to be sniffed at. I worked at a stables when younger and I never felt more exhausted or more rounded than after a day of riding, mucking out, sweeping, slaving basically. Interesting that.

  6. My endocrinologist told me last week that we spend 25% of our energy THINKING. So, go recalculate, you work a lot more than you thought (no pun intended)!!

  7. Dear Tania, it's wonderful to hear the book is going well. I'm very much looking forward to reading it.

    Like you my time is my own and I work in bursts, although at odder times than you. I'm very happy I haven't had children (although there is still time... eek!). I love being able to do what I like when I like and can't see that ever changing. It's the ultimate luxury in life xx

  8. Siobhan - ah, so glad I am not the only one.

    Ellie - so pleased you like the pictures. Whole photography thing still very much a work in progress.

    Jean P - LOVE to think of bringing you a bit of green in the arid south. (How deep are you?)

    Alex - hurrah, another Daily Politics obsessive.

    Rose - how funny, I spent my formative years mucking out, riding out, cleaning tack. Although that was for pleasure, not work. I remember the holy satisfaction when the pony was settled in clean straw with a big bran mash.

    Splenderosa - brilliant information. This explains a LOT. There is not just the work thinking, but also the constant What's it all about Alfie thinking, which goes on from dawn till dusk. Am amazed I can stand upright.

    Christina - SO agree about the luxury of time, and choice. I never take it for granted for a single second.

    Really lovely comments today; thank you all. You know I love finding little messages at the bottom of my posts, and really appreciate you all taking the time.

  9. Hi Tania...I think sitting at a computer is exhausting! Sometimes nice but also exhausting! So much sensory input. Last night I worked late and then stopped as I too was writing twaddle. Different kind of twaddle to yours (not that you do) but twaddle nonetheless. I then lay in bed for hours and hours trying to sleep but was - completely over-tired. Could not sleep! Anyway - when concentrating on things of beauty today - much like your lovely flowers and lichens, I added a doggie - as you like them so. I was thinking of you :-) Lou x

  10. Lou - that is such a sweet thing to do, I have no words. Just went to look and the pictures are ravishing. As for that heavenly dog: genius choice. You know I like a creature that looks as if it could do tough country work, even though, as in the case of my old ladies, that only consists of occasional rabbit hunts. (Dramatically unsuccessful in their case: rabbits go one way, girls shoot off in diametrically opposite direction. In this way, great fun is had by all.)


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