Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Sorry about this

Posted by Tania Kindersley.

Oh, oh, oh, OH. Viz my continuing obsession with the START treaty and why the Republicans are attempting to block it: I have just been given the answer. According to Senator Jon Kyl, it's because 'you can't do everything'. No, you damn well can't. Let's get our priorities straight, people. Reduce the danger from nuclear weapons OR keep tax cuts for the richest one percent of Americans. Come on, you can't have both. Keep up at the back.

Some excellent video here, from the even crosser than I am Keith Olbermann:


Meant to say

Posted by Tania Kindersley.

Quick Wikileaks flash:

One of the dear readers asked what it was that was revealed about naughty Saudi Arabia. It was: they were tremendously keen that the United States bomb Iran. Ah, what larks.

My favourite part of the whole thing was the quote from Prince Andrew:

'The Americans don't understand geography. Never have. In the U.K., we have the best geography teachers in the world.'

Yeah! Take that, you Americans, with your ignorance of oxbow lakes and your dearth of Ordnance Survey maps. Go and ponder a tectonic plate, why don't you?

Full story here:


For those of you who take The Times, Sarah has a coruscating piece on the whole thing tomorrow. Her line: we are supposed to be amazed, amazed I tell you, that Putin rules Russia with a rod of iron and Mr Berlusconi has a weakness for the ladies. After an extensive telephone conversation, we conclude that the whole thing should be renamed Wiki-statement-of-the-bleeding-obvious.

And you know I never miss any excuse for a bonus ladyship picture, so here you are:

1st Dec 12

1st Dec 14

You KNOW it makes sense. (Especially since nothing else in the world at the moment much does.)

In which I am really back

Posted by Tania Kindersley.

I'm back, and I have a question. My question is: why does the Right Wing hate poofs?

See? I'm back, baby.

This all came up because I was going to do a whole thing about the START treaty. This is so inexplicable and crazy-making that it is about to make my ears blow off. America is probably the country that fascinates me and baffles me most in the world, but this is too operatic even for them. The Republicans, the party of National Security and Law and Order and, oh you know, guns, as long as they do not belong to Kim Jong-il, are trying to sabotage a treaty which would MAKE THE WORLD SAFE FROM NUCLEAR WEAPONS. It's a treaty even Henry Kissinger loves, for God's sake. But not that old GOP, oh no. (If you think I am simplifying the thing, look it up on the Google. I am not exaggerating for comic effect.)

I genuinely do not understand, not one word of it. Pundits keep saying, vaguely, it's for political gain. Why would any party which has hopes of governing ever trash such a shiningly obviously blatantly good piece of legislation? Do they think all the voters will say, oh yes, I'll go with the people who want some crazy Afghan warlord to get his hands on all those loose nukes floating about in the Urals?

Anyway, it turned out I was so cross about it that I could not write anything coherent, so my mind wandered off into a contemplation of the Right in America generally, and how it is different from the Right here, and the nature of Republicanism, and what it is they really believe. I had a nice little riff about old school One Nation Tories and how they contrast with the Sarah Palin school of God, guns and gays right-wingery. And then I stubbed my toe on the old, old chestnut of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, which is back in the news. I found myself in another political cul de sac, with no good answers, but only the question with which I started this post.

Virtually every good army in the world lets The Gays serve. Even South Africa does, and that is not currently a place famous for its lovely liberal attitudes towards different kinds of sexuality. The Israeli army has had open homosexuals for years, and no one has noticed that it has gone to pot, sitting about listening to Judy Garland records instead of fighting people. In funny old Blighty, it's not even a thing any more. Army officers and naval commanders march in Gay Pride parades, and it does not make the news. It's exactly as it should be: if you want to fight and die for your country, it should not matter who you love. (This is so central and important and true that I might have to say it again: if you are brave enough to fight and die, love whomever you want.)

So it's not as if there is not absolute boatloads of evidence that putting an end to discrimination is a good thing. It's not as if it has not been tried anywhere else. It should not have even a sliver of controversy about it, because the empirical evidence is so damn empirical. There is no deleterious effect on morale or efficacy or any other thing. You would think, from the way the Republicans are going crazy over it, that the moment the policy was changed, every single soldier would start wearing pink, or singing show tunes instead of fixing bayonets, or something.

The only conclusion I can come to is that the Right in America hates poofs. I say this advisedly. Although there are social conservatives who are really not very keen on lesbians, there was even one charming fellow who appeared to blame Hurricane Katrina on Ellen DeGeneres, it is the male homosexuals who make them really, really cross. I do not know why this should be. (I really don't; I'm not being disingenuous. I would quite like answers on a postcard, if you have any clue.) The Right is the place for tradition, and you could not get a more storied tradition than that of homosexuality. Did no right-winger ever read Classics? In Ancient Greece, gayness was a very model of aristocratic superiority. The Symposium is, apart from a serious examination of philosophy, a wail of love for Socrates from his fellow men.

You know that I have given up tribalism. It was starting to make my stomach ache. I would still say that I am of the Left, but I am quick to criticise leftish ideas that seem not to work, and willing to embrace rightist ideas that make sense. I say that no side has the franchise on wisdom or goodness, and the reason I go on having faith in President Obama is that he represents the pragmatic, moderate middle, which does not sound terribly sexy, but is almost certainly what is needed, in these troubled times. I understand arguments about smaller government and bureaucratic over-reach, even if I do not always agree with them. There are some elements of the philosophy of the Right which make sense to me. (I like very much the Whiggish tendency of The Coalition, even if there are individual policies which make me fret.) What I do not understand is where in the Right Wing primer it says: And you must persecute The Gays. What did they ever do to you, Right Wing People? Go and do something useful, like bringing down the national debt, and leave the homosexuals alone.

And now, after all that, the moment you have been waiting for. THE SNOW PICTURES.

We have had another ten inches in the night, and it was still snowing when I went out. The whole compound is quite silent, as if someone turned the volume down.

The west avenue:

1st Dec-3

My beloved Scots pines:

1st Dec-5

My favourite old gateposts:

1st Dec-1

A young tree, its wooden surround so piled with snow it looks like a sculpture:

1st Dec-2

The rowan berries, slightly out of focus, but still rather lovely for all that:

1st Dec 1

The older niece, madly setting off through the weather, watched by a slightly puzzled Duchess:

1st Dec 2

That is just snow:

1st Dec 3

Suddenly, on my walk, I came across my sister, dressed in her high glamour cold weather gear:

1st Dec-4

We organised a photo shoot of all our dogs together, naturally:

1st Dec 7

And then off she went, to do some slow cooking in her slow cooker (she is experimenting with 24 hour lamb, in the manner of the Greeks):

1st Dec 9

My little robin, who spends most of his days among the rowans:

1st Dec 10


The small beech trees:

1st Dec 11

And, of course, the rampant BEAUTY:

1st Dec 15

1st Dec 16

Oh, oh, I am happy to be home.

Monday, 29 November 2010

The drive home

Posted by Tania Kindersley.

Do you really want the full story? Those of you who really can't bear a tale of motorways and snow and the eating of a whole box of Pro-Plus, go at once to The Guardian and read the Wikileaks leaks. (Apparently the naughty Americans have been rude about our own dear Prime Minister, which is not clever or kind, and Saudia Arabia wants to do something unspeakable.)

Actually, I was not going to do much more on the journey, but I am in such a state of screaming relief that I made it through that I do rather have to share with the group.

I am not good at traffic. I find too many large lorries enervating. As I get older, I will do almost anything to avoid jams, and the M6 is the spiritual and actual home of the jam. So what I do now take the five hundred and fifty miles in two stages, very early on Saturday and Sunday mornings, when everyone is asleep. I am stupidly proud of this technique.

This Friday, as I was checking the AA and looking at the weather, while lying in bed like an old lady in my room at the Groucho, I started to realise that my cunning plan was not going to work. It did not matter which Met Office or BBC weather expert I consulted, they all said that Sunday was going to see mad bands of snow coming down from Iceland, or somewhere. Huge splashes of threatening white lay between my proposed billet in the Lake District and my house and my dogs. Not only that, but the weather might go on for two weeks. I had frantic visions of being stuck, forever, somewhere north of Penrith.

The only answer was to do the whole thing on Saturday. It was flat out or bust. There were two problems with this. (Are you sure you would not rather be reading about what the State Department really thinks of Mrs Merkel?) One was that I would have to go the long way round, which meant six hundred miles, the last of it up the A90, which runs along the North Sea, and where drifts appear in the middle of the road at the merest hint of wind, as if some giant hand had picked up the snow and plunked it down in front of one. And the second was that even if I left at five, I would still be doing the final forty miles in the dark, with every single website saying SEVERE WEATHER WARNING, and ONLY TRAVEL IF YOUR JOURNEY IS ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY.

I left London just before six, in the end. It was pitch black, minus three, and there was fog and snow before I reached Oxford. I felt trepidation building, as my bold plan began to falter. Then the M40 was closed, so I had to do a detour via Leamington Spa, never an entirely good start to an epic voyage. By the time I reached Liverpool, the M6 was down to two lanes, one entirely covered in snow. It was slow going.

But the weather gods were smiling on me in one sense. By eight o'clock, there was bright winter sunshine. The sun shone on me all day long, lighting up the white hills, glinting gold on the magically transformed countryside of Cumbria, welcoming me back to the mountains of the north. When I passed the Welcome to Scotland sign I whooped like a football hooligan.

The problem always with the absolute joy of being back in Scotland is the following realisation that I still have three hundred miles to go before I am home. At this stage, I was on my third double espresso, and munching Pro-Plus like a crazy person. Concentration was fierce, because, despite the glorious sun, huge amounts of muck were being thrown up by the other cars from the snowy road, and my windscreen was in a constant state of smear. I had horrid visions of my wipers suddenly failing.

After Stonehaven, where I thought for an insane second of trying to cut across the hills, the road headed up towards the sea, which appeared like magic, dark blue and shining in the last of the light. Behind me, the sun was setting in a crazed scarlet ball of defiance. Over the water, vast clouds completely blocked out the sky, rising up like something from a film about the end of the world. They were bright purple, with splashes of carmine. They were bringing the snow which would have made any Sunday travelling impossible, a blazing sign that I had made the right decision.

Dusk fell fast, as I got onto the last road home. I chose the main highway, an A road, thinking that the gritters and ploughs would surely have been out. What a hollow thought that now seems. As the light went, I was left with a road entirely covered in snow. A brave four by four was in front of me, path-finding. I followed it like a dutiful puppy, both of us going at twenty miles an hour. The temperature fell to minus six, and I was starting to get worried about black ice. I could not countenance the idea that I had made it this far, only to be stymied in the last thirty miles.

It took an hour and a half, in exhaustion, apprehension, and second gear. Finally, just as I thought I could not go any more, there were the lights of my village. The Christmas decorations were up, gleaming blue against the snow. I laughed out loud.

Yesterday, when I woke to find the two ladyships gazing down at me as if to check I really was back, I found that about eight inches of snow had fallen in the night. It took me half an hour to get out of my drive. If I had left the journey for one more day, I would never have got home. The forecast remains awful. I am hearing stories of abandoned cars all along the road from Dundee. For some reason, I managed to find the one day when my return was at all possible. I am quite breathless with luck and relief.

As I write this, it is snowing again. The sky is white and ominous. I have enough coffee, cigarettes, red wine, and green soup to keep me going. Now I just have to hope that the power lines do not go down.

PS No photographs yet, as the camera battery is flat and takes ages to recharge, but they shall come.

AND, again, a million thanks for the incredibly kind comments of the last couple of days. It is amazingly touching to think of the dear readers fretting over my journey, almost as much as my darling old mum. It makes me smile to think of all your generosity, and how much you refute the grumpy idea that blogging is somehow a horridly selfish medium. As always: Love 1, Grumpy People Nil.

Saturday, 27 November 2010


Posted by Tania Kindersley.

All I can say is: HOME HOME HOME HOME.

There is a reason that is all I can say. Had to go the long way round, since all the mountain roads were blocked. Had to do it in one go, since there was such weather coming in that I feared I might literally not arrive at my front door until the week after next. Had to get up at five in order to do that. Drove the last forty miles on roads thick with snow, where no gritter had been, nor snow plough neither, as the dark fell and the temperature plummeted to minus five, minus six, minus seven. There was one moment where I thought I would not make it, but would have to set up camp or rely on the kindness of strangers.

Hard to tell who was more pleased to see that I was not dead in a ditch: mother, or dogs. The heavenly stepfather poured restorative vodka down my throat, and sent me home with celebratory boxes of Bonios. (Since of course that is all I eat.)

You can see I am making no sense at all. Eleven hours on the road in this weather is too much. But I was never so pleased to see Scotland, in all her glittery wintry glory. Thank you for all your well wishes; I needed every one.

Full update on Monday, once I am human again.

Friday, 26 November 2010

More on the road, in brief

Posted by Tania Kindersley.

Not a hint of wi-fi for two whole days; I have been going frantic. Am typing this from a limited implement which does not do pictures or much formatting, so this is a bulletin rather than a proper blog, just to let you know that I have not yet set off for snowy Scotland. Some of you have very kindly expressed concern (cannot tell you how touching that is). I leave tomorrow at dawn, with anti-freeze, gumboots, spade, emergency supplies of chocolate, large bottles of water, and several good books in case I am stuck in snowdrifts for dull hours. It shall be the long way round, as the road home over the mountains is closed. My mother says she has eight inches outside, and is staying put for the duration. I keep telling her to stock up like a Montana survivalist.

It is quite odd to be sitting here in Soho, where I have just had a double espresso in the Bar Italia followed by a bloody mary in a bar populated by extremely famous actors, to think that tomorrow it shall all be hills and weather. I like looking at a handsome star of stage and screen from time to time, but my heart really beats where the snow falls. Secretly, I am rather thrilled that I must battle the elements to reach my dear old front door. Wish me luck.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

On the road again

Posted by Tania Kindersley.

The next three days will be spent moving, from post to pillar, and although there is some new technology, I do not yet rely on it. Blogging, in other words, may be light.

I probably should not do this, because it's a bit cheesy and all about me, and I should be writing about the migration cap and the tottering Eurozone and whether poor President Obama will get his START treaty passed. But sod it. What I really want to send out is a high song of thanks and praise to the dear, dear readers. You are of an outrageous calibre. I was not especially looking for love when I wrote yesterday but that was what I got, hurled at me from all corners of the internet. Your comments were so generous and funny and reassuring and big-hearted and just damn kind that they made me smile all day, and I am smiling as I type now, a little groggy at six-thirty in the morning.

I would go on, but I must have a bath. One must be squeaky clean for travelling. Also, there will be a goodbye breakfast with the children. The smallest person made me literally weep last night. Informed that I was leaving, she turned to me, frowned and shouted: 'You can't GO.' This was repeated several times, with a face like thunder. Then, devastatingly: 'When you coming back?' So you see, what with that and the absolute loveliness of the readers, I am in not much of a fit state for stringing any kind of sentence together.

I keep thinking: this is not what the grown-ups would call a blog post. You can't just go about thanking people for the Love and calling it blogging. But today, it seems, that is what I am doing. So: THANK YOU FOR THE LOVE.


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.

Monday, 22 November 2010


Posted by Tania Kindersley.

I know I should have a spanking box set of opinions for you on the Irish bailout and what the North Koreans are up to with all that uranium and whether Sarah Palin really can fish or not (which is charmingly occupying Andrew Sullivan over at the Daily Dish). But today I do not. This is why I like writing a blog rather than a column or any official thing. Some days, I do not have to have an opinion. I cannot express to you what a luxury that is.

The most pressing matter on my mind is the making of hot dogs for the children's tea. It is exam season, so they are getting special treats. Normally of course we would make them eat raw vegetables and brown bread. Tonight though it will be delightful chipolatas with roasted tomatoes and fried onions and naughty white hot dog buns and all the trimmings. If that does not take their mind off the agonies of Latin revision, I do not know what will.

In the meantime, I leave you with some quick pictures of my cousin's garden.

Sometimes I think there is almost nothing I love more than a plain green leaf:

22nd Nov 1

A brave euphorbia, still in bloom:

22nd Nov 2

Along with a bold rosebud:

22nd Nov 3

More glorious leaf action:

22nd Nov 4

It turns out that there is lichen in the south. It is not Scottish lichen, of course, but still, it IS lichen:

22nd Nov 5

I have always loved the expression: 'how do you like them apples', although I have never really known what it meant. (It's from The West Wing.) Still, occasionally I say it and hope no one will pick me up on it:

22nd Nov 6

Anyway, how do you like them apples?

22nd Nov 7

The classic Gloucestershire dry stone wall. It is very different from the one I have at home, but a thing of great beauty and ancient craft all the same:

22nd Nov 8

The last of the autumn colour:

22nd Nov 9

Yet more leaf, this time in the gloaming:

22nd Nov 10

Not at all sure what this is, but it looks pretty:

22nd Nov 11

And now for the FRIED ONIONS (said in the manner of Buzz Lightyear, To infinity and Beyond…..)

Sunday, 21 November 2010


Posted by Tania Kindersley.

I don't normally blog on a Sunday, but I have angst, and typing helps me quell it. When I am angst-ridden, I need the clack of the keys under my fingers and the mild concentration of summoning a train of thought. Otherwise I just say: 'For God's sake', out loud, over and over again, as I relive the crushing moment. (Then the baby looks at me, very very sternly indeed, and says: 'TANIA, do not say For God's sake', and I have to apologise, once more, with feeling.

It's a memory thing. I have these terrible lapses. I waltz into the house of an old friend, someone I was at school with, and say: 'What a glorious house, just look at your beautiful house', which is of course true, and has the added advantage of making me feel that I am being complimentary and charming, and she stares at me and says: 'But you have been here before'. NO MEMORY OF IT. And it's a memorable house. The window frames are painted the colour of forget-me-nots at dusk. There is a sofa as yellow as a jar of sherbet lemons. A carved silver gilt looking glass takes up the whole of one wall. It is not the kind of house you just forget because it's two a penny. It's a one of a kind, stick in the mind sort of place.

I managed to come back from that one but then I made an even stupider and more unforgiveable act of forgetting and that is why I found myself in the kitchen at six thirty making tomato salad for the children's tea and saying For God's sake out loud, while the Two-Year-Old chuntered in disapproval. Even my cousin's perfect carbonara could only take my mind off it for so long. So: the typing.

It's not as if I can blame it on age and be done with it. I used to do this when I was box fresh, in my twenties, with a brain trained like a greyhound from my history degree (three essays every fortnight, with at least eleven primary sources at the top of a three page reading list). Once, I was having a happy party picture taken at a rather swanky cocktail by another of my cousins.

'Stand closer to George,' she said. I can hear the voice in my head now, as if it were yesterday. I can also hear just what I said next.

'I'm not sure if George would like that,' I said, thinking I was making a bit of a jolly joke. 'After all I've never met him IN MY LIFE BEFORE.'

Small pause.

George shifted his feet.

'Actually,' he said, 'we sat next to each other at dinner last week.'

Not just happened to be in the same room, or were briefly introduced, or ran into each other on the top floor of the Number Fourteen bus. Oh no. Sat next to each other.

I blame my father. He has famously never remembered a thing in his life. He struggles with his children's names (he often muddles up my sister and me); he still calls my stepmother by my mother's name, even though they have been married for almost forty years. He used to take me round Newbury Racecourse when I was young and introduce me to forty-three people called 'John Bllllaallbalbla'. I think he figured that perhaps one in five of them might be called John Something at least, so he had a faint chance of being right a small percentage of the time.

I suppose I shall have to buy one of those stupid brain training machines that Terry Wogan and Nicole Kidman keep advertising. Because if I keep going around with my angst, I shall keep saying FOR GOD'S SAKE out loud to myself, and if the Two-Year-Old hears I shall be put in the corner for ever. Which I probably do deserve.


Pictures of the day are some of the things of beauty my eyes have fallen on in the last two weeks, to take my mind off the Terrible Gaffe and idiotic memory lapse.

London flower stall:

21st Nov 3

21st Nov 4

21st Nov 5

Trees at Westonbirt:

21st Nov 6

21st Nov 7

21st Nov 8

Red onions at Cirencester:

21st Nov 8-1

Mackerel at Tetbury:

21st Nov 12

The Lake District:

21st Nov 10

The inordinately nice blanket I bought in the Lake District, even though I had no excuse whatsoever, because I never, ever can resist an inordinately nice blanket:

21st Nov 11

And (my heart skips a beat) the darling old ladyships, waiting, patiently, patiently, for me to return:

21st Nov 1

21st Nov 2 

(Actually, since dogs have no sense of time, and anyway they are being spoilt rotten by the dear mother and heavenly stepfather, they are not waiting at all, but basking in their new billet.)


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