Tuesday, 23 November 2010

How one breakfast can make everything better

Posted by Tania Kindersley.

Here is why I love my cousin:

This morning, she made me a boiled egg, from her own chickens, WITH SOLDIERS. I came downstairs, and the top was off the blue egg, just like when you were six years old, and the soldiers were cut and buttered, waiting for me. How many people do you know who would do that?

Actually, I love her for too many reasons to count all the ways, but the egg thing seemed to distill it all into one perfect illustration. I went to sleep last night rather jangly, as we say in this house, because I stumbled upon some disobliging things about my book on the internet. Backwards was published a while ago, to generally kind reviews, and I am supposed to be a hardened pro after all, but it still occupies a place very close to my heart, and when people bash it wholesale I have little defence. I grow as sad as if someone had insulted me personally.

So, when I came down to the egg for breakfast, I had quite a lot to share with the group. The cousin got the whole book story, which led on to a more general musing on ad hominem attacks in general, and unkind assumptions about people in particular. (Poor Gwyneth Paltrow gets a very short end of that stick, for not much more reason than that she appears to have a slightly perfect life.) The cousin generously let me rant, then proceeded to talk me down off the ceiling, and cunningly distracted me with a tangential diversion or two. She knows how I love a tangent.

As a result, by the end of the egg, we had talked of: the internet, different varieties of intelligence, the effects computers have on children's brains, The Garden of Eden (Godson is doing his RE exams), Twitter, the price people pay for being in the public eye, the green ink brigade, and the difference between professional 'celebrities' and people who are good at something but can still go to the supermarket.

Now I feel happy and human again. 'Don't listen to those cross people,' says the cousin. I even admit to her that in order to soothe my singed feelings I looked at some pictures of the dogs, whom I am missing. There are people who would laugh and point at this slightly embarrassing revelation, especially after I used to be so high-handed about the Dog People. Not she. 'Quite right,' she says staunchly. 'That's what they are there for.'

I know it's simplistic and reductive and possibly just plain silly, but it is at times like this that I think: Love 1, Cross People Nil.

And in a shameless act of self-indulgence, this is what I gazed upon last night, when I was feeling rather flayed:

new dogs

new dogs-4

new dogs-1

new dogs-3

new dogs-2

new dogs-5

new dogs-6

 new dogs-7

new dogs 2

Just read through what I have written, and would like to add two small reflections, if that is all right with you:

1. It's not criticism per se which I cannot take; that would be silly. There are going to be some people who do not like what I write, and quite often they are going to be right. It's that there can be something personal and almost nihilistic about some of the stuff on the internet. It is not reasoned critique, it is write-off. For that, one needs a thicker skin than I.

2. I am tempted to apologise for throwing NINE dog pictures at you, but I am not going to. You may have noticed the dog love reaching an acute pitch lately, and I have suddenly realised why. It is because they are old ladies. I know they look marvellously youthful and vigorous but the truth is that there are only three or four years left. This sharpens one's focus. The happiness they bring telescopes and I realise acutely how lucky I am to have such charming, funny, interesting, tactile, nice creatures in my house. I do not take that for granted for a single minute.


  1. Oh, that last paragraph had me welling up.

    I enjoyed your book enormously, and read the blog most days simply because you write so beautifully, and I do love a nice dog photo.

    Listen to your sister and forget about the cross people.

  2. The internet gives angry people the blanket of anonimity they need to vent their spleens. I absolutely adore your writing for so many reasons and love the dog and landscape photos as well. It's perfectly understandable to feel despair at criticism that seems personal and cruel. I am convinced it is the projected rage of those whose lives have failed them for whatever reason. I hope you carry on with your writings and your blog. I would miss them very much.

  3. Hi,

    I stumbled across your blog, and I love it!

    I love your writing and the subjects you are writing about, it's amusing, light-hearted, and enjoyable.


  4. That last paragraph hit me hard. We lost our Franky after nine loving years and Googly is now five years old.

    I haven't read your book and must try to find a way to get it. And thank you thank you for such a lot of nice doggy pictures. The dogs are amazing.

  5. Hey! Cheer up! I stayed with friends 2 weeks ago and your book was on my bedside table and I loved it so much from page 1 that I honestly considered pinching it. But then my moral compass switched itself back on and I ordered a copy from Amazon instead. Great book. Have recommended it to several girlfriends. Clarissa

  6. Oh that sounds like a lovely way to recover form people who use the internet to be mean. I forget how many people read what I write (I don't understand it, though I read lots of other people) and sometimes say something thoughtless, but I hope I am never out and out mean.

    Your dogs are beautiful. I hope that you enjoy your remaining years with the ladies.

  7. Like Kate, the last paragraph made a big fat tear trickle down my face. My darling cat - sleeping and trumping quietly next to me as I type(!) - is nineteen and I know we too are approaching the twilight of our great friendship which is why I let him sit on the pillow and dribble on my knee.

    As for negativity about Backwards, I hope you can take some comfort in knowing there are many many more of us who adore your words and love your books. I have actually just bought two more copies for friends this Christmas.

    Keep your sunny side up. Anne.x

  8. I`m very glad to hear you are better now. I`m always looking forward to reading new posts from you, and looking at the lovely pictures you share.

  9. Can just imagine how you felt yesterday Tania. I loved your book, gave it to everyone for birthdays and Christmases. It went from here to there across the planet and back. As you know I adore your writing AND your beautiful dogs. My wee Dougal is 13 and I can so empathise with your comments about them not being with us forever.

  10. Tania, I've been meaning to say this all week but keep forgetting - I'm on holiday at the moment and have brought Backwards with me. I've been saving it up for a reread as I enjoyed it so much the first time and wanted some peace and quiet to curl up with it and give it the attention it deserves. It's a wonderful book - don't let the negative Internet folk get to you.

  11. I know many people have already told you how wonderful the book and the blog are......

    I was just about to log off for the night thinking what a crazy world we live in, with the MSN site stating that Rebecca says Cher is a brat, having read my emails, mainly regarding the estate of my ex-husband (and great friend) who died suddenly in October at 46....having soothed my youngest daughter aged 9 because she misses her daddy so much.....

    ...and I promise you my thought was, "lets just have a look at Tania's blog for some sanity amongst all this craziness". That is what your book and your blog have meant to me and so many others, and that is really something.

    P.S I'm sorry I'm hopeless at punctuation (and spelling), I feel there should have been a semicolon in there somewhere.

  12. I totally echo Rachel on this - your blog is one of the sanity savers in the mad world of IT and a flat out life. It's as necessary as coffee. I regularly re-read Backwards for the same reason (and keep giving it to friends). I *know* all these things, but oh, the bliss of reading it again!

    So ignore the grumps on the interweb. Life is too short to waste on fools. Particularly when the Ladyships need to be waited upon. I was born on Dog Island, so have gone through several grievings over the decades (and for my cats as well). Nothing ever makes it easier, but the geriatric delinquents are a constant delight. And the love is incredible. I couldn't be without them.

  13. I think your book is great and I love your blog, so there! Why do people become so aggressive on the Internet? I work on the assumption that if I wouldn't dare say something to a person's face, then I won't write it hiding behind a screen ...

    And I love your pics, especially of the girls. Through my own stupidity and forgetfulness my wee Scottish gentleman is still in Brussels, working out his quarantine and I miss him horribly - I do 'talk' to him on Skype though!

  14. Cannot really express the joy and delight these incredible comments have given. You are all like a TONIC. I would reply to each individually, line by line, but I am madly packing up on the first leg of my journey home (London first, then, finally, finally, dear old Scotland). But I cannot thank you enough for putting such a big fat smile on my face as I get in the car to drive. xx

    Oh, and also a special big thank you for the lovely understanding about the dogs. It is reassuring to find other people out there who know all about the crazy old canine love.

  15. Until I read your blog, I never knew dogs could look cute and noble at the same time. Thanks :)

  16. Dear Tania, you can't please everyone all of the time. Your book is wonderful so please don't take negative comments to heart.

    I visit your blog because of your writing and your views just like visit mine for a bit of glamour and frippery. I'm very much looking forward to your new book. C xx

    PS. When I was first going out with The Actor he was regularly presented with boiled eggs with the tops cut off and perfect soldiers with a pot of coffee on a silver tray in bed. After nearly five years he still gets all the other bits but I give him plain toast so he has to butter and slice his own soldiers. He says standards have dropped but my excuse is that I bought him a rather nice silver art deco toast rack last Christmas because I couldn't be bothered to faff with soldiers in the morning.

  17. Well, I haven't read your book but I reckon someone who writes such a warm humane, funny, touching, (ranting at times) loving blog cannot write a bad book. There are some very bitter people out there and you just have to live with it, and not let it get to you otherwise they have won.
    oh yes, even I'm missing the dogs and can't wait for you to get back home weird no ?
    liz from Paris

  18. me again about the dogs and the last paragraph...

    yes, time is precious and dogs have such short lives so cherish every single moment with your beauties.
    My dog Ziggy lived until a venerable 18 (she was a small very bad tempered bossy lady who believed she was the centre of my world)and elbowed 2 cats and even my son out of the way but she was very special and I still miss her 7 years on.

  19. Sorry you had to deal with the meanies who lurk in the bowels of the Internet. Inadequates all. I confess I haven't read your book but even so there is no need for anyone to be vicious or personal about someone else.

  20. Tania, just catching up on your blog, pictures and the Ladyships after a bit of an absence. It IS such a tonic. And sod the meanies...sod them!
    And I have just ordered 2 copies of your book for both my sisters.


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