Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Things I do not understand, No 1

Posted by Tania Kindersley.

Every blog should have a running series. The very interesting John Rentoul over at The Indy has an excellent one: Questions to which the Answer is No. I think he is up to about No 378 now.
A lot of head-scratching goes on in this house, so I am going to dignify it by making the whole show a formal element of the blog. There will be the Things I Do Not Understand in capital letters for all to see. I used to think not understanding was a red badge of shame. Now I am more fatalistic: no one brain can understand everything. It is the human condition, and I'm all about the human condition. Sometimes I think we should try to embrace our flaws, rather than battle against them in mortal combat.

The things I do not understand take many forms. There are the very big ones, like dark matter and the origins of the universe. (I can just about manage the Big Bang, but I find the concept of billions of atoms suddenly appearing where there was nothing impossible to comprehend.) There are the very small ones. I can never work out why it is so much quicker and easier to make a mess than to clean one up; I am mystified by the fact that hideous smells like bleach or rotting matter are so much stronger and more prevalent than delightful smells like lemon and rosemary.

There are the things I should understand but don't. However much I studied it, I never quite got to grips with Rousseau's Theory of the General Will. I'm a bit of a dunce when it comes to philosophy in general, even though it fascinates me. I wish I understood my garden better, instead of bumbling along in a mild haze of ignorance. (I did try with all those gardening books, but for some reason it never took.) I don't understand why misogyny still exists. I have absolutely no understanding of how the technology I use every day works; even the telephone is still a mystery to me, all those human voices carrying through the air.

So here we go, with the very first in the series. It's a little parochial, I am afraid, but it's been preying on my mind for ten days now, and I can't shake it. Who knows? - perhaps one of you genius readers out there might even know the answer.

It is:

I do not understand how the England football team can be bored.

There have been myriad explanations for the dire performance of a collection highly-paid, internationally renowned athletes, who should have the skills and motivation and national pride to dance all over the park, instead of stumbling about like donkeys. The one which keeps coming up, and which completely baffles me is: they are bored.

No one challenges this. When it is mentioned, everyone just nods their head, as if precious words of wisdom have been uttered. The players can't train all day, they are not allowed to leave their hotel for some reason, there are no wives and girlfriends permitted, so they can't even divert themselves with sex. They've been away for three whole weeks, everyone keeps saying, as if I should know what that implies. They feel isolated and incarcerated, apparently, in their five star hotel.

I could get all high horse-ish about men who earn thousands of pounds a week complaining about anything, but that is not the part that interests me. That's an old argument. Besides, the players are not saying any of this out loud; it's all coming from reporters and pundits.

What I really don't understand is: if boredom is a problem, there is such a simple solution. GIVE THEM A BOOK. I mean, seriously. It might be a little sad that they can't go sight-seeing, in such a storied and ravishing country, but they are not there on holiday, after all. If they are confined to barracks, all they need to do is read. I don't really understand why they can't chat, as well. It's not as if they have nothing in common. They could play poker or backgammon or chess. But the number one antidote to any feelings of dullness is a damn good book.

So: I don't really understand why they are bored. I don't understand why all commentators appear to accept that boredom is an inevitable consequence of being physically in one place. I don't understand why no one in the entire squad of nutritionists, psychologists and various other support staff seems able to provide a remedy. I don't understand why some enterprising person at Waterstone's does not just send out a care package and single-handedly rescue the entire England campaign.

I don't believe that footballers do not read. It does not have to be Ulysses or The Critique of Pure Reason. A couple of cracking thrillers and the thing is done.

Meanwhile, in other news, my obsession with the new table grows. I went into the village this morning and bought some pretty plants to give the whole thing a little more va va voom:


The little red ones are a kind of salvia I did not know before this morning.


Here's a lovely new lavender. Lavender rarely survives the winter here; if the snow and frost do not kill it off, then the wet will. It's an absurd thing to try and grow in Scotland, yet each year, in hope over experience, I go and get some more, because I love it so.


The little green bushy ones are bedding plants whose name I have already forgotten.


I planted these this morning with mystery seeds. Almost every drawer in my house contains a tiny pack of seeds with no identifying marks. I have a terrible habit of ripping off the outer package, which tells me what they are, and then thinking Oh, I'll do that later, and later never comes, so into a drawer they go. The bright side of this shockingly lax behaviour is that I get the joy of not knowing what I shall get. These little pots could produce anything from lettuces to cornflowers. I am watching them like a hawk.


Here they are in moody black and white.


And here is a little chive flower, just because.


  1. Oh I so could not agree more....though I do wonder if the likes of Wayne Rooney CAN actually read, he does look rather like a pig that's been strategically shaved.
    In other far more important news, I adore your table and terracotta pots and as ever, your photography is just stunning, I especially love that moody black and white.x

  2. They are bored? Really truly that's the excuse? What with the training and the crisis meetings with Mr Cappello and the endless discussions of tactics and approaches that I imagine to be going on in their luxury accommodation, they have time to be bored? Now I think I officially do want them to go out this afternoon. Even if they don't like reading, there must be TVs and DVD players, can't they watch The Great Escape or The Italian Job and get some inspiration about teamwork and inventiveness?
    stripeycat makes a very good point about Wayne Rooney.
    I look forward to finding out what germinates in your new terracotta pots. They look wonderful on the table.

  3. Chuckling to myself at the thought of Wayne Rooney stuck into War & Peace, I'd be surprised if some of them can even wade through a Peter & Jane.

    Loving your terracota pots though, hope you have more success with your containers than I currently am.

  4. I believe they have a darts tournament running but that can't occupy them all the time, surely?

  5. Nice Pots !! I too have a Thing for pots!
    Couldn't care less about the football - I expect very few of them have opened a book, anyway my excuse - i dont have a TV, cant fit in viewing what with the pots and newspapers for the news, new novels out all the time, and lots of crafty creative things going on! - My! - thats the answer get the England squad some needlework to do - they do it in Prisons!

    Vicky x

  6. Oh dear, what I wouldn't give to be bored in SA - or anywhere I could spend days just reading for that matter. Poor little [overpaid] lambs!
    The pots are beautiful and I look forward to seeing what appears in them as they start growing

  7. Most sporty men don't read any sort of mildly advanced literature. They're stuck in the year c. 3000 BC. Anyway, all this football is better than war!

  8. I have laughed all the way through this, but the thing I can associate with the most is really boring up the messes. Mind you, Tania, this could mean ALL the messes the world seems to have gotten itself into. Whatever. You will now have me awaiting your next post telling us what germinates.

  9. Stripeycat - v naughty but quite true about W Rooney. Thank you so much for kind photograph compliment.

    Mona - Watching The Great Escape is genius idea.

    VBinC - Think there should now be national campaign to get Rooney to read War and Peace. He could do it for charity like some people climb mountains.

    Alex - definitely feel darts not enough.

    Anglesey - Yes, YES, get them a needle and thread.

    GoldenGirl - so pleased you are intrigued by the mystery pots. Who knows what may appear?

    Vivien - really IS better than war.

    Splenderosa - you are always so kind. Especially pleased the pots made you laugh. Worry sometimes I have a habit of getting too earnest.

    Lovely comments all; thank you so much.


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