Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Normal service not restored at all

Posted by Tania Kindersley.

Instead, I am sitting very still, and contemplating the flowers:







Monday, 30 August 2010

In which it turns out I cannot do everything

Posted by Tania Kindersley.

Here was my plan:

My guests would arrive, admire the newly hung pictures, eat the Aberdeen Angus beef, drink the good 2005 claret, dispose themselves about the house, while I would waft about in serene hostess mode, and in moments of quiet, calmly keep up with the blog. Oh, and I also thought they might like to sit in the sun. SUN. In Scotland. In August. Ha.

Actually, what with avoiding the monsoon rains, going on expeditions along Deeside, Donside, and all points in between, attending the Lonach gathering, getting up before breakfast to make the bread, and cooking lunch for ten yesterday, I hardly know what my own name is. So it turns out I ruthlessly abandoned you, which is perfectly disgraceful after all the incredibly kind and lovely comments you left on my last couple of posts. I am a perfect shocker, and there is no health in me, and I keenly apologise.

The guests are still here, but there is a tiny moment of quiet, so I have rushed to my desk for a swift interim update.

It's always the most humble things which are the greatest triumph. The fine wines and the best beef in the world were obviously appreciated, but actually what gave the keenest pleasure were: the dogs, leaping for tennis balls; the hills, turning purple now as the heather comes out for autumn; and the soda bread, that great peasant staple of old Ireland.


My funny pot table was also much admired:



I am very excited about my new violas:


And my rather splendid pot hydrangea, which actually no one much noticed but me:


Now I must go and start planning lunch.

Normal service shall resume tomorrow.

PS. You may remember that I told you how the duchessy dog occasionally gives one the Lady Catherine de Bourgh look. Sarah was sitting quite innocently on the sofa last night when she got The Look.

'That dog,' she said, 'just raised her eyebrow at me.'

It's always a little bit of a shock, the first time.

Friday, 27 August 2010

In memory of the Radletts

Posted by Tania Kindersley.

Those of you who have ever read Don't Tell Alfred by Nancy Mitford will remember the great scene when the Radletts came to visit Fanny in her small house in Oxford. They did what she called exclaiming. Everything was of the most wondrous, in their eyes. They loved the little room, the Fuller's cake, the plain curtains.

I have been madly attempting to wrangle some order from the shaming muddle of my domestic arrangements, all week, in anticipation of my guests. I need not have worried. Here is what the two smallest visitors (aged five and seven) said:

We love your dogs.

We missed your dogs.

Can we borrow your dogs?

Can the dogs sleep in the bed with us?

We love the pictures on your walls.

Oh, oh, is that a picture of Daddy? That's Daddy.

I want to sleep in that bed. That's my favourite bed.

We like stroking the dogs' ears, because they are so soft.

I hear all this and I think:

What on earth was I ever worrying about?

Once the children went to bed, the grown-ups ate lamb medallions with red wine and quince sauce, drank 2005 claret, and laughed and laughed. Sometimes I do wonder about all the things I fret over, and wonder what is the point. Still, it is important that the visitors have water by the bed, flowers to look at, a pretty tin filled with sweet and savoury biscuits, in case they should awake, starving, in the middle of the night, twenty-three copies of old Vanity Fairs, and a discrete selection of diverting reading. I give a lot of thought to the books I put on their bedside tables.

But really, all that matters is that they are old friends, and I have known their babies since they were born.

Here is the house, at its most respectable:




And here is the lovely younger niece, who came to help me arrange everything at the last minute, when I was starting to panic:


It's late now, and my brain is a little fogged, from all that organising, but I do start to think that, in the end, it is all about family: both the one you are born into, and the ones you adopt and choose. It's about the small people you have known forever, and watched grow up, who rush into your still slightly muddly house and say: please, please, can the dogs sleep on our bed? It's obviously also about dark matter, and geo-politics, and the unmapped parts of the brain, but sometimes that sweet, touching stuff is what keep your heart beating. I hate to say it, because it sounds like a bumper sticker or a Hallmark card, but it really is about the Love.

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Unexpected pleasures

Posted by Tania Kindersley.

One of the good things about tidying up is that you stumble across evocative old photographs. (I suppose the tidying is in itself a good thing, although it makes me mad with rage, mostly at myself, for letting things get in such a muddle in the first place.)

My sister is number one on the compound list today, because she saved me with chairs. Years ago, I rather rashly bought some beautiful 19th century French dining chairs, but they are so delicate that every time someone threw back their head with laughter (as so often happens at my dining table, of course) a fatal crack could be heard, and now they are all on their literal last legs, wobbly and entirely unsafe. I had terrible visions of Sarah tumbling to the floor in the most undignified manner. By outrageous good fortune, the lovely sister has some pretty limed chairs she no longer wants, so I am to collect them tomorrow and we shall all eat in safety.

So here is a little homage to my dear sister.

Just look at the sweetness:


Here she is with our grandmother, looking rather chic in her excellent green cardigan:


With older niece, as a baby:


And as a grown-up:


I also found this adorable one of my older brother, on the beach:


My dad, riding in a hurdle race, some time in the late fifties or early sixties:


My younger brother, at Hickstead, with the exact same expression of mad determination on his face:


And who is this Posy Posington? Yes, it is I. Look at me with my hat and my tennis racket. What on earth was I doing?


Here is my mum, doing her Grace Kelly thing:


How elegant she was. Take a look at this profile:


And there is my dad, all rakish in his flat cap:


Well, that's enough of the memory lane. I have miles to go before I sleep.

While I was rummaging about upstairs, trying to conjure order from chaos, someone decided it was time to check if the spare bed was all in order:


It appears to be up to her exacting standards:


Which is a tremendous relief all round.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

In the midst of hostess frenzy

Posted by Tania Kindersley.

You can see it is so bad that I did not even have time for a blog yesterday, and you know how I hate to miss a Monday. I was madly reorganising the entire downstairs loo/utility room. This is not the life of glamour I dreamed of when I was a girl.

My house is slightly curious. It is a little bit oddly laid out, and also, because it is rented, there are various things that I put up with, because I am too mean to spend the money. (Or you could say cautious and prudent, although it must be said I am not known for those particular virtues.) So: I made a nice new kitchen and built bookshelves in the drawing room, but I could not face spending a fortune on having the woodchip removed from the downstairs lav and putting up proper blinds, and changing the horrid white 1970s lavatory itself. I have learned to live with woodchip (I know; you are amazed), and, as with all things in the day to day, I don't notice it that much. Of course, the moment people are coming, I suddenly do notice, and recoil in horror and shame.

Pictures, I decided, were the answer. You should have heard the hammering and swearing. The older niece was so alarmed she rushed in to investigate. 'Pictures,' I shouted. She seemed to understand, although she left looking slightly baffled.

It's not the Louvre, but it's very slightly better than it was.

Before, I am afraid to say:

Downstairs lav


Downstairs lav1

I do not think that World of Interiors shall be beating a path to my door, and I shall still have to rely on personality, but at least there is a small sense of improvement.

Do you think I am taking sharing with the group a little too far? I am so tired it is all I can think of.

There are aspects of the rest of the house that look reasonable:


But there, it was always going to be a battle against weeks of disorganisation. I have never had such a tight deadline on a book before, and I had not quite realised how much my domestic arrangements had gone entirely to pot.

The dogs, needless to say, are not amused:



More tomorrow, if I can get my poor beleaguered brain to work at all.

Saturday, 21 August 2010


Posted by Tania Kindersley.

Sarah and her family are coming to stay on Thursday and I am in full-blown hostess panic. This is nuts, since if there is one person in the world you cannot impress, it is your co-writer. She sees me straight and she sees me curly, as the great Nanci Griffith once sang. Still, I can't break every single habit of a lifetime, overnight. The house must look lovely. I even dashed to the garden place and bought some more roses and lavender, to fill in the gaps in the flowerbeds.

I am beginning menu plans. Lovely Italian feasts is going to be the theme, with many dishes, so that everyone can take a little bit of what they fancy. I am hoping for sun, so that we might picnic under the pines. But this is Scotland, so more likely I shall have to turn the heating back on and we shall end up eating stew, to keep the cold out.

A very quick trip round the garden, and then I must get on:








Have a wonderful weekend.

Friday, 20 August 2010

Random Friday

Posted by Tania Kindersley.

Brain a little flaky today, so instead of the long exposition of first principles that I was going to give you, I shall let the scattergun scatter.

Moment of the week:

Wednesday lunchtime, when Shaun Ley completely lost control of three lords of the realm. He had Michael Heseltine, David Steele and John Prescott on The World at One, and he did not stand a chance. Since Lord Prescott has taken the ermine, his vocal stylings have gone into the realms of  performance art. He actually said 'farty' on the BBC. (He meant 'party'.) With David Steele, however much lordship he puts on, you just know that he cannot get over the fact that the loping, leonine David Owen stole his thunder, and he's never going to get it back. Heseltine does elder statesman better than anyone else, I suspect because he does not give a damn any more. He was very naughty at the end, when he concluded that all Lord Prescott does is 'bang on'. If you want fifteen minutes of pure pleasure, you can find it on the iPlayer.

The song that is currently living in my head:

The way you wear your hat, the way you sip your tea, the memory of all that, no no they can't take that away from me.

Guilty pleasure of the week:

Vexed, a new series starring Toby Stephens. It is absolutely dreadful: derivative, borderline sexist, filled to the brim with stereotype, and in questionable taste. I adored it. (I also love that Stephens is looking more and more like his mother, the magnificent Maggie Smith.)

This week I am learning about:

The Normans. I did my Anglo-Saxon and Norman history with a very, very old tutor who mostly liked playing Mahler on an ancient gramophone player. I never loved that period. I really only got properly excited once I reached the later Henrys. (I had an odd fascination for Henry VII.) But there is a charming prof currently on the BBC doing a storming series about those old Normans, and it turns out they were much more interesting than I ever expected. For those of you who have access, it is also on the iPlayer.

Collective noun of the week:

A knot of toads. Closely followed by: a hover of trout. And a flange of baboons is not half bad.

This week I am eating:

Chilled avocado soup. I heard someone on the wireless this week say 'cold soup might be a problem'. I cannot understand why. The cold soups are some of the greatest: cucumber, gazpacho, vichyssoise.

Mind-bending fact of the week:

Scientists have discovered that the universe will go on expanding forever. Sometimes I can't help the suspicion that the universe is just one big show-off.

Slightly pointless thing I have been doing this week:

Attempting to organise the seven thousand photographs on my computer. I actually think that number is a lie, but there it is. I am still baffled by my inability to use the delete button, but I suppose we all have our flaws. I've been trying to collect the ones I really like into one file. Here are some of my current favourites from the last year:

Used 26th July-2

12th September walk 039

London 053








Looking at these now, I realise that most of them are not technically awfully good. The focus is not quite right and some of them are not framed artfully and a professional photographer would probably be horrified. I like them because of the colours, or because they remind me of something or are in other ways evocative. I am, like Lord Prescott, always banging on, and one of the things I bang on about is the great human achievement of allowing oneself not to be perfect. So I think I rather like that these are flawed. I'll take my blurry green trees any day over diamond-hard perfection.

Have a lovely Friday.



To the lordships on The World at One here:


Scroll down and click on Wednesday's programme.

To the Normans here:


For more on the expanding universe click here:


Thursday, 19 August 2010

The size of the world

Posted by Tania Kindersley.

Some of the very kind readers have been appreciating the pictures, and asking for more of the dogs. (You really should not be encouraging me like that; we all know where it will end.) I am trying to get some printing done, and my chip is occupied, which I promise is not some ghastly euphemism, so I cannot use the camera today, and I had to go back through my files to find some old pictures to put up. I suddenly realised it is a record of a very small world. There are the dogs, of course, and then the flowers, the moss, the trees, the wall, the burn, the occasional artistic leaf. That's it.

I used to live in a very big world. London is one of the great global cities. I remember years ago walking down Bond Street and hearing twelve different languages in one block, at least three of which I could not identify at all. Pashto? I wondered afterwards. Serbo-Croat? I spent a lot of time in Soho and Chinatown and Notting Hill, before it became a hedge-fund compound, back in the old days when the All Saint's Road really was the front line, working girls and crack palaces where there are now boutiques and chi-chi restaurants. I'm not saying that crack dens are good things, but I did quite like the sense of being on the edge. I liked the old established communities, where the immigrants had come from Naples or Bridgetown or Peking, in the days when it was Peking, and made little corners of the city their own.

I had friends and relations in Dublin, New York, Seattle, Siena, Singapore and Los Angeles, and I would fly off and visit them. It was before there was such a thing as a carbon footprint.

Now, there is this small place. I ponder whether I should go and visit my cousins in North Uist, and that feels like an epic journey to me. The world comes to me via my computer, where I can find news and pictures and blogs from Ulan Bator to the South China Seas. But my physical space has shrunk; I am at a stage in my life where I want to stay still. I cannot quite work out if this is a good thing or a bad thing. When I was green and foolish, I rather despised the people who stayed at home. Travel broadens the mind, I thought, as I skipped off on another jaunt. I think this is true, however much of a cliché it might be, but I also think that there are many places to explore in the privacy of one's own head. There will come a time when I shall go off again; there are still many places I want to see. I yearn for the fjords, and I want to look at St Petersburg and Copenhagen; I should very much like to see the rose red city at Petra.

Just now, I am staying at home. This is what I see here:

The wall:


The trees:

Thursday before Easter 044

The pots:


The shrubbery:


(It's not really a shrubbery, I just like saying that, in a Monty Python accent.)

My room:


Virginia the pig:


The dogs:

May 3rd 035

The beautiful younger niece, who has just come home for the holidays, and is looking more and more like Julie Christie in Darling:


The view:

May 3rd 022

The flowers:


My books:

Bookshelves 073

The lichen:


The obligatory artistic leaf:


It's a tiny world, but it's where I live, and I feel very lucky in it.


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