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:
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.