Thursday, 9 September 2010

In which I am filled with remorse

Posted by Tania Kindersley.

One of the things I like to pride myself on is manners. My mother taught me my Ps and Qs well. I hold open the door for strangers, help with the washing up, stand up when an older person enters a room. I write thank you letters.

And yet I am currently guilty of the most excessive rudeness. I am ashamed of myself.

There is a lovely and inspiring blog called Falling Off a High-Heeled Life. It is a written by a charming and humane blogger, who suffered a horrible accident and is putting her life back together. Two months ago (TWO MONTHS) she had the generosity and grace to give me an award. What did I do? NOTHING.

There is no excuse. I remember that time. I was harried and fretful about the book. I felt there were not enough hours in the day. There are never enough hours in the day. But really, could I not have taken five minutes to say: High Heeled Life, your blog is a marvel, your courage is boundless, and thank you so much for sending me the Life is Good award through the ether? Could I not have done that? What is wrong with me?

All I can do now is say thank you for this:

Life is good -pink preppy lilly lover

And my sincere and boundless apologies for my shocking lack of courtesy. I also apologise to my mother, who will be appalled. She did bring me up better than that.

You are supposed to pass it on to a select group, but you know that I have a Sophie's Choice aversion to singling out any of you dear bloggers, really, so in the spirit of universality, I give it to all my treasured readers. I hope your life is good.

Talking of bloggers, the equally lovely Christina at Fashion's Most Wanted sent me a Getting to Know You tag. I have been rather dilatory about thanking her for that, and so there are more apologies. I was a little reluctant at first, because I think you probably know more about me than is probably good for you, but here goes:

1. What is your favourite time of day?

It's very hard to choose. I am not an early riser, although I always wish I were. When I do rise to greet the dawn, I always get a sense of infinite possibility. Everything is new and clean; the day has not yet been crowded with news and work. It's just me and the birds and the cool air on my face. I also love the gloaming, in the autumn, when the nights are drawing in, and at about six in the evening the sky turns translucent and the evening star glimmers over the blue hill.

2. Where and when did you meet the love of your life?

It is slightly embarrassing to admit that the current loves of my life are my dogs. (Oh, oh, to have come to this. And there was I, spending half my life rather snootily looking down my silly nose at the Dog People.) I met them on a hot August day, in front of my sister's house, as they were originally my nieces' dogs, and did not come to live with me until they were three. They were two tiny black bundles, with sleepy, blinky eyes, and they had come all the way from Fort William, and were not quite sure about the east.

3. What three words would your friends outside the blogging world use to describe you?

I have absolutely no idea. I'm not being precious. In my wildest dreams I would hope something like funny, articulate, kind. In reality, it would probably be more like cussed, opinionated, occasionally shouty. (I tend to yell when I get excited.) Slightly obsessive? A bit of a politics geek? Endlessly bangs on about the important of making soup? Has a morbid fascination with the semi-colon? Here is what they would not say: calm, conventional, collected. I do sometimes long to be collected.

4. What country would you like to visit and why?

I have an odd yearning for Denmark, because it sounds so civilised. And I must, must, must see the fjords before I die.

5. What is your favourite dish to cook?

There is soup, obviously, because it cures all ills. But perhaps the one I really love the most is risotto. I love the constant stirring, like a meditation. The one I make best is seafood risotto, with prawns and squid and a little saffron. Oh, and you know I do adore to make the soda bread. So quick, so simple, and yet so satisfying.

6. Salt or sugar.

Salt, by a country mile.

7. What are your must-have make-up or beauty items?

The book I am working on is all about beauty (theories of rather than how to) and one of the things I am currently crossest about is the insistence of magazines on these things we ladies MUST HAVE. So I resist that locution. But I am not a puritan; I love a good product, although I am sceptical about the wilder claims of the beauty industry. I adore oils. Nuxe dry body oil is enchanting, and smells of summer. Darphin does a wonderful range of facial oils, with no horrid bogus science to go with them. When I go to London from Scotland my poor face often reacts with horror, no longer being used to pollution. Almost always by the second day I have come out in blotches, usually before some dinner where I am attempting to look glamorous and as if I do not have straw in my hair. I rush along to Space NK and get the Darphin camomile oil, and within moments my beleaguered visage is happy again. It is one of the very few products that really has an almost instant effect. I also like Origins salt body scrub. It smells of the sea.

8. What are your favourite flowers?

I do love a tulip. And a dark burgundy arum lily is a most elegant thing. A nodding viola, a delicate astrantia, a deep blue salvia, a flowering thyme…

9. What do you think are your worst vices, honestly?

Procrastination. A fatal tendency to think everyone sees the world as I do. In my darkest moments, I must admit to a filthy streak of intellectual snobbism, which I am doing my best to tame. Untidiness. An absolute inability to manage money, allied to the idea that extravagance is somehow good. Smoking. Greed. Although there are days when I think that greed is quite life-affirming and we should all eat cake. I am growing quite set in my ways. Stubbornness. Also, I sometimes eat popcorn in bed. Admittedly, it is home-made with the finest olive oil and sea salt, but still.

10. At what time of your life were you happiest, and why?

I recall many moments of intense happiness, in beautiful places, with lovely people; snapshots from holidays or trips or crazy days in Soho. I was very happy at university. I never quite got over the privilege of living in such a beautiful place (my college was ancient and ravishing) or being able to sit in the presence of such brilliant minds. I had one tutor who once told me that Louis XV was 'not safe in taxis'. He had been at Oxford since the war, and he called with Miss Kindersley with grave formality and I adored him. I don't think I grade happiness. I am pretty happy now, although I am having the normal mid-life angst. I feel that joy comes in increments, rather than as a permanent state. I was rather melancholy yesterday, but this morning I woke up and the sky was the bluest blue, and the air was clear, and the sun was shining, and I felt sheer delight. I do feel very lucky in my life and I don't take that for granted.

This is another one I am suppose to pass on, but I can't choose, so I send it out again to all my dear readers, and you may choose or not whether you want to reveal yourselves.

I think this post is definitely falling into the category of too many words, so here are some quick pictures:

Older niece's ducklings:


Flowering marjoram:

9th September 7

The ladyships, with slight halo effect from bright morning sun:

9th September 3

(The old duch is doing her Lady Catherine look, because she has just spotted a common bluebottle.)

Nodding violas:

9th September 8

I am growing mesmerised by the green on green effect of the elder leaves and berries:

9th September 4

Lichen, because you know I cannot resist lichen:


My Scots pines with gleaming blue sky behind:



  1. Congrats on your award! Tho I think you will find High Heeled Life and Lily Lemontree are two different bloggers.

  2. Dear Tania, thank you for doing that. I enjoyed your answers very much..

    I think olive oil and sea salt popcorn in bed sounds perfectly civilised.

    I bet your squid, prawn and saffron risotto is wonderful. I am in awe of your cookery skills.

    I must admit I was hoping for something slightly more revealing about the love of your life than getting your gorgeous dogs ; ) xx

    PS. The shoes are rather amazing, a present from Giles. I couldn't possibly have justified paying for them. I spend next to nothing on clothes. I'm doing a post about it soon.

    I thought you might find it amusing that my post on Vogue's Fashion Night Out was about... dogs.

  3. Suburban princess - thank you SO much. Am IDIOT. Was very tired when I wrote this post, and brain was not working very well. I went to High Heeled Life and saw Lily Lemontree's email at the top, and thought, in my fogged brain, oh, are they the same person. Even as I wrote it I thought that can't be right, I hope I haven't made an awful faux pas. Have now corrected it, but cannot believe I have compounded an act of discourtesy with a stupid mistake. Only hope you have saved me in time.

    Christina - loved the dog post, as well as the crazy shoes. Glad you noticed my sudden attack of discretion. Could not go into loves; too damn complicated. x

  4. Tania, you need to come spend the day in South London so that you can get some perspective on what constitutes excessive rudeness! It won't take long - a quick trip on the DLR, or down the crisps aisle at Tesco should suffice.

  5. Glory - oh you HAVE cheered me up. I shall use the crips aisle as my touchstone from now on.

  6. Happiness - often deep very basic things: a lover (assuming you're Getting On - a bit fleeting, that, sometimes!...), a new baby, time spent with friends and laughter. Sometimes it's unexpected and you don't realise at the time you were very happy. A few years ago I went for a day to Inis Mor (Aran Islands, off the West coast of Ireland), hired a bike and went round the northern shore of the island - it was a cloudless day (unusual!), and I went past the blue sea, the far blue-grey coast of Galway, and the small fields with stone walls - it was such delight, freedom and happiness. (Doesn't last for ever though - had to turn back to be in time to get the ferry back!_- not grousing - was lucky to have the experience). Maybe happiness is always rather fleeting.

    Thanks for a really interesting and enlivening blog. Love the dog photos!

  7. Wonderful. Adorable ducklings. Glorious violas. And you've just reminded me to hop on ebay and see what's available in the way of Origins products. (Unable to buy up here.)

    I see it as part of my fundamental duty as a mother to instill good manners into my children. 'Manners maketh a person', they reason. Alexander McCall Smith said in a recent radio interview that manners and ritual are the basis for an effective, cultured society. Absolutement. I understand W.H.Auden was particular about the latter. A poet who insisted that the martinis were always brought out at 6pm precisely. Chin chin!

  8. Tania... you are most sweet!!! I love your blog ... you are most deserving of many awards! Thank you for your gracious post!! I was extremely touched.

    Wishing you a quiet week-end!!! Hugs..HHL

  9. Tania - I am sure no one else noticed :O) I just happen to know both of those lovely ladies :O)
    I have done the same thing when calling one blog by another blog's name and vice versa - I figured it was brought on by a caffeine deficiency :O)

  10. Vivien - by coincidence, I had some of my happiest moments ever on the coast west of Galway.

    Tilda - Auden AND manners; my two favourites.

    HHL - you are so very kind and forgiving. So glad you liked the post.

    Suburban Princess - YES. Had not nearly enough caffeine. Trying to make good the deficiency. Thanks again.


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