Thursday, 28 October 2010

Family, and what do you do, exactly, on that blog of yours?

Posted by Tania Kindersley.

Today the oldest brother was visiting, and it was his birthday, so there was a lunch. Despite the new austerity, there were extraordinarily elegant things to eat, and it turns out that the Heavenly Stepfather has a secret stash of 1990 Cheval Blanc, which is not something you drink every day, so I became rather over-excited.

I have been known to be cynical about family, when it is presented in the motherhood and apple pie and oh look everyone is just like the Waltons kind of way. But I must admit that it was very lovely today, with all of us gathered together, gossiping and teasing and chasing off down Memory Lane. Ours is not exactly the perfect nuclear unit. There have been mistaken marriages and noisy heartbreaks and the usual misunderstandings and crossness and non-speaks. Now we are all old enough to have been bashed about a bit by life, we have grown keenly grateful for the good parts. Blood is not always thicker than water, but I start to think that family is like the girl with the little curl: when it is good, it is very, very good.

The curious thing about leaving my desk and going out into the real world is that people always ask about the blog. 'What is it you do, on this blog?' they say, as if I am committing dark acts with farm animals.

'Oh you know,' I say. 'I write about politics, and food, and, well, stuff.'

It sounds hideously lame. At this stage I usually attempt to change the subject.

'You write recipes?' they say.

'Well, yes,' I say. 'I did a nice pea soup the other day.'

'And politics?'

'Yes,' I mutter. 'The American elections and things.'

The reason it is hard to explain is that I am not quite sure what it is that I am doing, or what the point of the whole damn thing is. I have a horrible lurking feeling that it is all a form of showing off - look at me, with my jazz hands. Who really cares what I think about The Coalition, or the mid-terms, or the keeping of dogs? Until very recently, I did not even put up links to the blog on Twitter, because I felt so shy about the whole shooting match.

'It can be quite funny,' my sister said, today, being supportive. A gentleman who had not visited before wrote yesterday that it was 'not insubstantial'. I love that. I'm thinking of asking for it to be written on my gravestone.

For all that I duck my head and blush when the subject comes up, I suppose one could turn the whole thing round and look at it from a diametrically different angle. The question could be not Why, but Why Not? I think the problem with blogs is that they are so new. There is no hinterland, no tradition, no honourable precedent. Nobody asks an author: why do you write books?, as if it were the most peculiar thing to do. No one challenges a columnist on a newspaper to justify putting her opinions into print. These things have been done for hundreds of years, and are expected and understood.

I'm not entirely certain there is a point. For whatever reason, despite my doubts and moments of reticence, I do love it. I love the freedom of it, because blogging is so young that there are not yet rules. I love the kind comments. I love that people come here from far-flung places, from Tucson to Sydney. I love that the dear readers put up patiently with the endless pictures of leaves and dogs. That is enough for me.

Pictures of the day are of the family.

The Mother:


Heavenly Stepfather:


Younger niece:


The Sister:


The Brother-in-Law is uncertain about all this online stuff, but I could not omit him, so I have bleached him out into an International Man of Mystery, which means that only someone who knows him very well will recognise him:


Oldest Brother's Other Half, who did the miraculous cooking:


Which looked like this:


(Can't really believe that pudding is real life, and not something faked up for a magazine. It was every bit as delicious as it looks.)

The Sister and me, trying not to giggle like six year olds:


The Birthday Boy:


And what he looked like when he was a serious little fellow:


The view from my mother's house, looking west:


And of course the ladyships, who had such a thrilling time that they had to go and have a little lie-down on the grass afterwards:


Well, not exactly substantial. Tomorrow: a great deal of serious thought about fiscal tightening.


  1. I love your blog. It is my favourite of all the blogs I read, honestly. Please do not be discouraged by people who don't see the point - for me, it is like a conversation with a friend with whom I agree on almost everything (granted you are not hearing my side, but I am mentally agreeing with you loudly and adding points in support).
    It makes me feel that there are sane and sensible people in the world (a fact which is all too often obscured by the mass media) and, in a perhaps relatively small, but still very real way, raises the level of public debate. I think it is good for society for people to think and talk about issues out loud, and since we're not doing it in salons or public meetings anymore, blogs are one way in which to do that.

    Also the recipes are excellent.

  2. I want to echo this whole bit from Kate
    "It makes me feel that there are sane and sensible people in the world (a fact which is all too often obscured by the mass media) and, in a perhaps relatively small, but still very real way, raises the level of public debate. I think it is good for society for people to think and talk about issues out loud, and since we're not doing it in salons or public meetings anymore, blogs are one way in which to do that.

    Also the recipes are excellent."

    And add that the photos are beautiful too.

  3. I loved this post - it made me laugh out loud (at the part about acts with farm animals) and nod in agreement (at the part about blogs being so new) and smile (at the lovely dogs). What else is more worthwhile after a day's work and a glass of wine when the children are finally in bed, than reading something that makes me laugh, nod and smile? You did that.

    You are a treat Tania - nothing else for it. Your family look positively friendly too. Lou x

  4. I am just repeating what the others have already said. Please continue to do what you are doing so well right now (with the blog I mean!!!). I get asked the same question by those who know about my blog at home (very few actually) because in Sri Lanka having a blog is a puzzle - but why?? is the normal question. How does one explain..

  5. Ditto the above. This is one blog I tune into regularly. It's both comforting and thought-provoking. You have a wonderful turn of phrase and I love the way you cross-reference and lead us to some delightful, sometimes unexpected places by way of links, photographs and the like.
    One journalist (can't recall who)was recently rather scathing about blogs and FB updates etc. saying something like 'the trouble is that they give everbody licence to assume that their stories are somehow important.' I thought this was so ludicrous. Of course everybody's stories are important! Tsk. Although, granted, some stories are more interesting than others. But then, that's probably just a matter of perspective...
    Anyway, do keep on, dear lady. It's part of my ritual of getting up in the morning before the children wake - drinking tea and reading this. Thank you!

  6. Well I must agree with all of the above. And I must also agree with the strangeness of this new way of communicating. But as you say Tania, we don't question the newspapers, we don't question the television, why do we question the validity of this form of communication? Why, when we say we have a blog, do we often feel as though we are carrying out some sort of activity that is self-serving? I know I think like this.
    Keeping a diary is, I feel, viewed with more respect. Think Mr Pepys and Queen Victoria. I carry on thinking that perhaps one day my grandchildren might like to sit down and look at the daily happenings in her/his grandmother's garden and the passing of time seen in family celebrations such as yours. I know I would just love to have been able to go to my own grandmother's blog. It's like reading a book with wonderful photos of the life of this writer - only this is in real time. I'm so glad I've found your blog amongst the millions there must be out there.

  7. Dear Tania, I love your family photos and that pudding looks AMAZING! xx

  8. This is a blog that I never fail to read. I don't comment very often but that's not because I don't appreciate your writing or because I disagree with your thoughts, it's just because I feel a bit feeble and unintelligent compared to you!

  9. I agree with Kate, and Siobhan and all the other commenters: I love your blog so much for its sanity, its humor, and the love oozing from every pore. (Yes, Virginia, I've been in Southern California, far, far too long). It's a pleasure every single day.


    Miss W x

    ps On the subject of trying to explain the blog to one's family: don't try. It's far too complicated.

  10. I interrupt my working day every afternoon to read your blog. I'm drawn to you for your frankness, your ease of prose and therefore the enjoyment of reading you, and also for the distinct similarities in our lives: we both live in beautiful if somewhat remote areas of the world; we both have rather solitary wordsmithing occupations (I am a translator), and, although your perspective on politics, whether British or American, is not relevant to me in an immediate sense because I do not live in either of those countries, I still enjoy reading your well-reflected views. As a former avid blogger who has lost her rhythm, I also admire the apparent ease with which you manage to post regularly. I'm hoping to acquire some by osmosis. ;-) Your ladies, too, and the floral photography are fantastic. Thank you and please keep it up!


  11. Kate - how incredibly kind you are. And I am particularly glad you like the recipes.

    Siobhan - thank you so much. I am especially delighted you like the photographs, since most of the time I do not know what I am doing. (Am helped enormously by truly excellent camera.)

    LouBoo - laugh nod and smile is the highest compliment. It is making ME laugh and smile (and blush).

    Mystica - thank you so much. I love the thought of you reading all the way from Sri Lanka.

    Tilda - such a great picture of you reading with your tea in a quiet house, and so kind of you to say.

    Connie - I am so glad you found the blog too. And I SHALL think of Mr Pepys and Queen Victoria.

    Christina - always so lovely to hear from you. So pleased you like family AND pudding (which was, as you say, utterly delicious).

    Alex - thank you so much. I don't think there is anything feeble about you; please always comment, I can't tell you how much I appreciate it.

    Dear Miss W - slightly overwhelmed by your sweet words. (And so glad you understand slight bafflement of the family.)

    Imogene - so many wonderful compliments in one comment; thank you, thank you. As for losing the blogging mojo: I have found, slightly unexpectedly, that doing something every day actually makes it easier. I used to post two or three times a week, and often it felt daunting, because I was not in the swing of the thing. I think of writing generally like a muscle, and I find that posting more often gets the muscle strong, and so, paradoxically, less effort is involved. Sorry, that was rather convoluted. What I really mean to say is: I wish you well with your own blog and am sure your inspiration will come back.

    May I just say: I was not expecting such am amazing wave of blogging love from my funny little family post. I feel quite teary. You are all so kind and generous, and confirm my faith in this curious new medium. x

  12. Re: last paragraph.

    Of course I meant such AN amazing wave, not AM amazing wave. You have so moved me with your loveliness that I have clearly lost the ability to type.

  13. Dear Tania,

    I'd just like to chip in and say that I absolutely love reading your blog too. It's a welcome dose of cheerfulness and good sense every afternoon, and your writing is reassuring, thoughtful and kind.

    It's particularly refreshing to read political musings from someone with no axe to grind. You always manage to combine a liberal heart with a hefty dose of common sense and good humour - a difficult balancing act. A lot of our 'professional' political commentators could do with taking a leaf out of your book!

    The pictures are beautiful too - I've just moved abroad leaving behind England's green and pleasant land, so they're a lovely reminder of the countryside back in blighty, and how much I miss our dogs at home.

    Right, I'd better stop there else Private Eye'll have me in OBN, but thanks again for the blog - it's a great read and an excellent combination of sanity and optimism: two things I sometimes think are frequently and worryingly missing from uk/us politics!


    PS If you happen to feel in the mood to share a few more recipes, then they'd certainly be much appreciated in this corner - my flatmates still wax lyrical about your pea soup and seafood risotto.

  14. I love your blog too....please more soup.....actually you were the one who turned me on the wonderful of homemade soup, and marigold bullion. What a clever lady you are xxx


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