Friday, 30 July 2010


Posted by T Kindersley.

On way south. Plan was to blog as usual. I cannot leave you high and dry. I get to Shap and discover NO LAPTOP. Am blithering IDIOT. Have only ghastly iPhone and I hate my iPhone. So very, very sorry, there will be no blog for a week. At least the dogs are happy; they are in hog heaven with my dear mum and lovely stepfather. Meanwhile, I must deal with unexpected technology withdrawal.

Can't even leave you with a picture as 'this browser does not support Compose'. Which means text only. Load of buggery bollocks. iPhone schmiphone.

Back at desk Sat 7th.

Be well till then.

Thursday, 29 July 2010

An old lady Thursday

Posted by Tania Kindersley.

When I was young, I moved about like a crazy thing. I was always getting into my car and driving to the West of Ireland or the South of France. I jumped on aeroplanes like they were buses; New York one moment, Venice the next. No one ever had to ask me twice.

Now, I feel like one of those creaking old persons who can rarely be tempted to leave the house. I have become famous for chucking and refusing, not because I do not yearn to see the old friends, but because I find the whole process of travelling amazingly enervating. Sarah rings up and makes jokes about my having to pack at least a month in advance, which is only a very slight exaggeration. I was never marvellous at travelling light (two Globetrotters were my standard minimum, even when riding the length of India on a train), but now I am practically into cabin trunk territory. You never know what the weather will do.

So I am slightly dreading my journey south. It is a good and true and necessary journey; I am not gadding about. All the same, the thought of leaving my dear old ladies makes me a little wistful:



They know I am going away because they have seen me trying on outfits, and they are being extra sweet and affectionate in a very effective attempt to make me feel like a heartless Dickensian villain.

My faithful hydrangea has finally started to flower:


Every year I forget to prune it, and it should have given up the ghost by now, but it forgives my neglect and rewards me with blatant beauty.

The roses and the lavender are in full fig:



And my newest little herb pot is coming along a treat:


The astrantia gives me daily joy:


It's only leaving the house. It's just a little bit of a drive. But sometimes I do wish I had a tardis, which could magically transport me through time and space.

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

No blog today

Posted by Tania Kindersley.

So sorry that there is no blog. I have no idea why I cannot just NOT do a blog. For whatever reason, I must come here and formally apologise. Sometimes I really do wonder about the voices in my head.

I have a funeral in the south and am too bashed up by logistics to write today. But there are a couple of lovely pictures, at least:





Taken in the garden during the last month.

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Percy Bysshe

Posted by Tania Kindersley.

Today, I ended up thinking about Shelley. I did not start the day with that intention. I started thinking about the erroneous correlation between goodness and beauty; I was wondering why it persists despite all evidence to the contrary. I googled about, looking for clues; one thing led to another, and I found myself on a whole Keats and Shelley and beauty and goodness page. It never ceases to amaze me that the internet has everything.

I realised, to my shame, how little I know about Shelley. I know about the wandering about Italy in the big poofy white shirts, of course, and the marriage to Mary and the exile and the being sent down from Oxford. But that's about it. The only poem of his that I know is Ozymandias, and there are people who might think that is so good it is all you need.

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: "Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
`My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!'
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away".

I like this description of his rooms at Oxford by his friend Thomas Hogg:

Books, boots, papers, shoes, philosophical instruments, clothes, pistols, linen, crockery, ammunition, and phials innumerable, with money, stockings, prints, crucibles, bags, and boxes were scattered on the floor and in every place. . . . The tables, and especially the carpet, were already stained with large spots of various hues, which frequently proclaimed the agency of fire. An electrical machine, an air pump, the galvanic trough, a solar microscope, and large glass jars and receivers, were conspicuous amidst the mass of matter.

I like the most what Byron wrote about him after his death by drowning:

''There is another man gone about whom the world was ill-natured, and ignorantly and brutally mistaken.'

And again: ' You were all brutally mistaken about Shelley, who was, without exception, the best and least selfish man I ever knew. I never knew one who was not a beast in comparison.'

This is one of the reasons I like my job; it leads me into unexpected and enchanting places.

And talking of enchanting - we went a bit mad with the close-ups today:




Dogs 1

Dogs 2

Dogs 4

Dogs 6

Do you notice very hopeful face on the left? That is because I have said the word 'biscuits'. Bored disdainful look on the right is because she finds the whole posing for photographs thing a long way below her dignity.

The lavender was intensely lavender:


The trees were green:


The meadow had been mown:


The burn was peaty:


And the moss was mossy:


AND I finally managed to get to the post office. It's the sort of miracle I do not take for granted.

Monday, 26 July 2010


Posted by Tania Kindersley.

1402 words today, so, as is now customary, all brain function appears to have halted. I have a horrible feeling that I am giving all the love to the book and short-changing the blog. There are only so many dog photographs you can put up with. I offer keen apologies.

All I have left in my head are random thoughts:

Should I mind quite so much when an American senator says 'incredulous' on the BBC when he means 'incredible'?

And, on the subject of language, I really wish people would stop talking about 'ticking timebombs'. What the hell is a timebomb? Have you ever seen one? Do they actually tick? And if one more person gets on an 'emotional rollercoaster' I might do something foolish.

I discovered today, for various tangential reasons, that Eliza Manningham-Buller's mother trained SPY PIGEONS during the war. I'm sorry about the capital letters, but some things are just too damn cool for normal font. She was called Lady Mary something (you see what I mean about the brain not working) and she schooled the pigeons in Hampshire or somewhere, and sent them off into enemy territory, where, amazingly, they knew to stay stock still while a British agent put top secret information into their little spy satchels or whatever they used, and then the birds flew all the way back to the Home Counties with vital information about fiendish Nazi weaponry. Best story I've heard all month.

I am quite passionately in love with a reporter on BBC radio called Dennis Sewell. I have no information about him at all, but he has the most seductive voice I've heard since the old Queen died. I have a suspicion that grown women should not run around getting crushes on people because of their vocal chords. I suppose it's better than marrying for money.

And talking of crushes: one of my dogs has a mad pash on a black Labrador called Rufus. He is a macho, muscular, swaggery sort of fellow, and the moment she sees him she starts waggling her bottom and letting out strange yipping noises in a most undignified way. I am uncertain if you can explain to a dog the concept of hard to get.

Three words I shall never knowingly use: opined, toddler, and quaff.


That's quite enough randomness for one day. Thank you for your enduring patience, and the very kind comments you have left over the last few days. Sorry I have been a bit crap about replying. Time is getting away from me just now.

Did not take any photographs today, so here are a few old ones instead, in the continuing spirit of randomness:









I hope your week is off to a rattling good start.

Sunday, 25 July 2010

Swimming canines

Posted by Tania Kindersley.

You know I don't usually blog on a Sunday, but there was a great deal of very sweet dog burn action again today, and I could not resist the impulse to share.

Both nieces came, with both their dogs, and we all played pooh sticks as if we were six years old.




Also, there were the first, tiny, green conkers, like a gentle premonition of autumn:


I hope you all had a lovely weekend.

Saturday, 24 July 2010

Friday, 23 July 2010

A day in pictures

Posted by Tania Kindersley.

Today there was actual SUNSHINE.

Look, look:


The first, tiny cherries are out, too bitter yet to eat but thrilling to look at:


I ran into the older niece and we took the dogs swimming in the burn:


Then there had to be a lot of lying about in the sunshine to dry off:


In celebration of the weather, I made lemonade, except with the limes my mother sent instead of lemons:


(I recommend the juice of three limes, one tablespoon of Demerara sugar, one litre of water, and vast amounts of ice. The ice is important; the thing must be freezing cold. Then I throw in some sliced limes and a couple of leaves of mint. Mmm mmm.)

Then there was a bit of this, that and the other:








It was rather a lovely thing, altogether. I feel quite still and calm. I did not sleep that well last night, so quite soon I am going to stump up the stairs with my book and have an old lady early night. What a wild life I do lead.

Have a delightful Friday.

Thursday, 22 July 2010

The extraordinary story of Shirley Sherrod

Posted by Tania Kindersley.

Shirley Sherrod

I mentioned Shirley Sherrod in my previous post. I was tired after a long day of work, and I could not do the story justice, and anyway, lots of other people are writing about it today, so I thought I would leave it.

It turns out I can't leave it. When the news first came onto my radar last night, I thought it was a story about the extreme right wing and its craziness, the journalistic irresponsibility of Fox News, and, I am very sad to say, a rather spineless reaction from the Obama administration. I thought that, in a wider sense, it was a story about race. All those things are interesting enough in themselves, and the political bloggers in particular are doing a very good job of dissecting them. (I can't quite get an accurate reading of the timeline of this story because it moved so fast, but my sense is that it was the bloggers who moved quickest to debunk the attempted smear, while the traditional media ambled along behind.  I might be wrong about this.)

Anyway, the reason I am writing this now is that I discover the story is not just about those things. It is not even mostly about those things. The story is about one extraordinary woman. Shirley Sherrod's father was shot to death by a white farmer when she was seventeen. When that ghastly tragedy happened, she made a promise to herself that she would not leave the South, but stay, and try to make a difference, not just for black people but for everybody.

Let us just pause for one moment and imagine that. Walk for one moment in that seventeen-year-old girl's shoes.

So, many years later, this remarkable individual gives a speech in which she tells about how she started that making a difference. She tells about helping families to save their farms when they were threatened with foreclosure. She tells about the first white family she was called upon to help. She was used to saving black families, because they were losing their land at a frightening rate, and when she first came into contact with a white couple in need it crossed her mind that she might not give them her very best efforts. Then, she told herself that this was an unworthy thought, saved their farm, and used that moment as a constant reminder that her work was, as she puts it, not about race, but about poor people.

The white couple, it may be noted, have gone on television to say they love her and owe her everything.

There is no excuse for prejudice of any kind, from any quarter, but if your father had been murdered by a white man, against whom an all-white jury refused to bring charges so that the killer was never brought to justice, there  might be a little latitude if you harboured suspicions about people with a skin colour lighter than your own. I'm just saying.

Shirley Sherrod did not allow herself that latitude. This admirable woman, who rose above personal tragedy and racial animus to devote her life to public service was, last night, sacked from her job at the Department of Agriculture, branded 'shameful' and 'intolerable' by the 'appalled' NAACP, and accused of racism by Fox News.

Today, of course, there have been scrambling, abject apologies. A great deal of regret has been expressed, most of all because a private woman has been cast into the merciless glare of the public spotlight. The man who put her there, Andrew Breitbart, has not apologised.

I am going to say something slightly odd. I am grateful to Andrew Breitbart. He did a shitty thing. He took remarks out of context to make a good woman look like a bigot. But if he had not, I should never have known the story of Shirley Sherrod, and I am really glad I do. She is my woman of the year, without a doubt. It's not just because of who she is, and what she has done in her life, it is also because of the grace she has shown over the last couple of days. Do you know what she said when asked whether she was angry about the injustice shown to her? She said: 'I can't hold a grudge'. That is sheer, unadulterated class. And that is her victory, in the end. Just by being herself, she makes everyone else involved in this shoddy story look small.


I don't often put up videos here. I think they look clunky and I am always afraid the links won't work. But this one, if you can make it play, is really worth watching. Rachel Maddow does a wonderful job of encapsulating the whole thing into thirteen minutes.

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