Posted by Tania Kindersley.
I call my mother. We talk of cabbages and kings. (Actually whether or not she liked the barley and bacon soup I left her. She did.) After a while, we get onto divas.
I say: 'You probably haven't heard of Mariah Carey, but I read that when she goes on tour she demands twelve kittens to play with before she goes on stage.'
'Kittens?' says my mother in amazement.
'And such a precise number,' I say. 'Not eleven, not thirteen, but twelve.'
'A nice round dozen,' says my mother, as if at least this part made sense. 'But imagine if you went to Wolverhampton, or somewhere.'
There is a pause.
'Yes,' I say. 'Because everyone knows they have no kittens in Wolverhampton.'
This very stupid joke makes us laugh immoderately.
Later she says: 'You really do tell me the most funny things.'
Sometimes I think: I may not know the meaning of life, precisely, but if I can make my old mum laugh once a day then my work here is done.
This may be a function of age. When I was young I had a lot of grandiose change the world kind of ideas. I liked ideology and campaigns and crusades and furious arguments at three in the morning. (I never won.) Now I find enormous value in the very small. Grand notions are all very well, and must be had, but sometimes I find the most solace in the making of a soup.
Talking of small things, the moment that gave me most pleasure this morning was an interview on the Today Programme with a redoubtable old gentleman called Stanley Ballard. He had been on the ships in the war which ran the Arctic Convoy, taking vital food to keep the Russians alive on the Eastern Front. When asked what it was like, he said: 'Bloody cold'.
And finally, the first in what may, or may not, become a running series. I shall call it, pithily, Things I had Forgotten Quite How Much I Loved. Number One is: The Walrus and the Carpenter. I had forgotten its haunting, lilting metre, its excellent jokes, and its ruthless, tragic ending. You can read the whole thing here.
You know I love the beech avenue almost more than anything:
Well, it has had some tree surgery.
I know this is necessary, and the dear old trees will thank us in the end, but it gives me a shock all the same, because it is so brutal, in its way:
I find there something elementally tragic in the loss of trees. I have had this slight over-reaction since I was a child. At the age of six I remember driving past a row of beloved felled trees, lost to Dutch Elm disease, and actually crying. Last year, we lost two magnificent limes in the winter storms. They are about two hundred years old, and limes do not last forever, not like oaks or yews (I swear there is a yew in the old walled garden that remembers Robert the Bruce). One should say they had a good run of it, but when I saw them, helpless on the ground, their trashed roots sticking up like dead elephant bones, I felt ineffably sad. The forecast is for northerly gales. Let us hope the lovely beeches survive.