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.
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.