Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Here comes the sun

Posted by Tania Kindersley.

There is an odd little scratching voice in my head which says this blog should not really be about me. For a start, it was begun as an adjunct to the book, and it was supposed to be Sarah and me together. That did not really happen, because Sarah has two jobs and a husband and two children and a dog and a social life. It turned, insensibly, into my obsession. Then the dogs pictures began, and the thin end of the wedge was firmly inserted.

But still, the idea persists that I should write about things:  what is happening in Libya, the state of the government, the madness of the GOP, whether or not there will be a second great crash (on gloomy days, I fear there might be). I must must must NOT fall into the Great Blogging Trap, which all the grumpy critics cite ad nauseam, and do the solipsism shuffle.

There is also an idea that I should not talk about the medium itself too much, or the serpent will eat its tail, and everyone will run for the exits. But I do find the process absolutely fascinating: because it is so new, because everyone does it in different ways, because the blogosphere is, unlike newspapers and magazines, so various, so unruly, so anarchic. There is no accepted template to which everyone must cleave; hundreds of millions of people are  making it up as they go along. This really interests me.

Yesterday, after I did my riff on the question of gay marriage, I completely freaked out. I sent an emergency email to my friend The Man of Letters, who is my touchstone in all matters literary, saying: Have I Gone Too Far? He wrote back, rather sternly: if your writing is not stirring people up, you are not doing it right. What I realised, oddly, is that here, in this place, I do not much want to stir people up. I know that whenever one wades into matters Biblical, one risks controversy, and I have discovered, rather to my surprise, that I do not want the blog to be a controversial place. On the other hand, I also know that I cannot sit by and let people like Melanie Phillips cast aspersions on people I love.

In life, I have some pretty trenchant opinions. I wage a daily battle against dogmatism, and crank my mind open with a wrench so that I do not become one of those annoying smug set in stone liberals who think they are right about everything. But I have a fatal tendency to what my old dad calls 'making statements'. I do not crave confrontation, but I have a complete inability to let things go. I am always rolling up my sleeves and wading in. Now I have my very own blog: what better place to start hares running?

And yet, and yet. Generally, I don't. Quite often, if there is some big controversy which everyone is shouting about, like the Sky sexism row, I'll do a recipe and some dog pictures instead. Sometimes this is because whatever the yelling du jour is about is so complex that I cannot fit it into a neat 800 words; I don't want to bang on and bore people. Sometimes I feel everything that has to be said has been said. But sometimes it is because I simply do not want to get a huge debate underway.

I think, and I am still working this out in my head, it is because, most oddly, this has become a safe place. Obviously, the radical in me despises this kind of bourgeois sentiment. Who needs safety when the world is so oppressed? Yet because the internet and the new media and the relentless 24 hour news has created a maelstrom of sound and fury, I love that my dear readers are so kind and polite. I love that we are not yelling at each other about ideological shibboleths. I love that in the almost two years I have been doing this there has been only one mildly disobliging comment. I love that you appear to love the dogs and the hill and the lichen.

After all my frets, it turns out I need not have worried. The response to yesterday's post was as generous and thoughtful as always. The blog remains a place of courtesy and good hearts.

I can't work out if all this is a massive cop-out, or a fairly sane response to a sometimes insane world. Maybe it's a little bit of both. I'm not sure there is a definitive answer. I really just wanted to write about it because it was not what I expected to happen, and I find it interesting.

But just at this very minute, none of it matters very much because - THE SUN HAS COME OUT. After days and days of determined dreich, there is light and even warmth. I ran into The Man in the Hat, and we walked our dogs round the block together, and I was so excited that I shouted at him for twenty minutes. I have a terrible habit of yelling when I am happy. He did not seem to mind too much. The dogs ran about in the woods, and sniffed the air, and picked up enormous sticks. Above us, the birds were going crazy, flirting it up, and chasing each other over the dogwood like shameless hussies. I started to believe that spring really will come.

PS. Am thinking of the earthquake in New Zealand. At least two of my regular readers are from New Zealand, and I know more of you have family there, so I am hoping that you are all alright. Send me a line to let me know.

Now for the pictures; for once, not of the murk.

The light on the tree trunks:

22nd Feb 1

The burn and the bridge. Yesterday, that water was the colour of old mud; today it is blue:

22nd Feb 2

The light, the light:

22nd Feb 5

More snowdrops:

22nd Feb 3

The woods:

22nd Feb 7

22nd Feb 8

22nd Feb 13

My favourite pile of logs:

22nd Feb 12

The viburnum, clearly proud that it is still the only flowering plant in the garden:

22nd Feb 14

Off go the ladyships:

22nd Feb 6

They have spotted something:

22nd Feb 10

Yes, yes, it is the Man in the Hat (see the yearny looks of love he gets):

22nd Feb 9

22nd Feb 11

And, wonder of wonders, the hill has reappeared. I was so excited I took it from several different angles:

22nd Feb 4

22nd Feb 16

22nd Feb 15


  1. Tania - I love that you fret; it makes you human. We come here for humanness; the internet is enough of an alien place. I see this when my daughter does her science homework online and googles a word that takes her one frighteningly little click nearer to some dreadful image. For me blogging is the human spirit and similarly I love that everyone is frightfully polite and kind. The vast majority have empathy and grace and a 'live and let live' attitude. I enjoy your discussions on the mechanism of blogging as much as I enjoy the dogs and the hill. I am a keeper, so maybe my view is not shared by all - but I for one say keep fretting (only mildly; if it causes you pain then stop) as what comes out of the fret is indeed interesting and thought-provoking. As all good writing should be. Lou x

  2. Lou - what a lovely and kind comment, as always. I love your idea of blogging being the human spirit and think that you are right. :)

  3. I visit your blog because you write about all sorts of things so don't stop. It is a breath of fresh air - I never know what to expect each day and that's joyous... please carry on carrying on...

  4. I love your recipe, or non-recipe for blogging. That is why I read every post you put out. (But not in a stalker-creepy kind of way). Yes, I just made myself laugh. I am so happy you have sunshine today! It is rather grey here.

  5. I think you do a mighty fine job of mixing politics, emotions, random thoughts, landscapes, and Ladyships on the blog. (Though really, one can never have too much of the Ladyships.) I look forward to your posts each day, and I never know if they will bring a rant, or a particularly lovely photograph, or a suggestion for soup, or a joyful post about family and friends. Your little corner of the internet is an inspiration to many of us, and I am quite glad it has turned out the way it has.

  6. Well I think you do everything just right, so keep doing it, OK?

    I'm a NZer tho' I haven't lived there for yonks, and every time there's something like yesterday's earthquake, or last Sept's, I get emails and texts from friends, worried that I might have family or friends hurt. In fact I don't, at least I think I don't, although several of my friends do, but I so appreciate the reaching out - and in such a small country you're almost bound to have connections of some kind. (9/11 was a bit like this, too: we most of us in London seemed to know someone who might have been there, hurt, dead, but in the end most of us didn't, I hope.)

  7. Your blog is just right in every sense. I think your generosity of spirit rings true, as do your words. And your photos are a truly lovely addition.
    Thank you for your kind words about the quake. Although I don't live in Christchurch now we did when my daughter was younger for 2 years. I saw the house we first rented flattened from a picture on the news. I have family and friends who live and work in the city and we are waiting to hear news.

  8. Tania - we are forever changed here in Christchurch. It is devastating - so much worse than the Sept 2010 earthquake of 7.1 magnitude. The CBD is unrecognisable - bodies are lying in the streets, under rubble and in crushed cars. And still the aftershocks come - relentless, frightening, unbearable.

    It took my husband more than two hours to drive the five minutes between his office and our girls' school. He is out now, driving with the last precious petrol reserves looking for water. We have no water, no waste systems, but power - thankfully - the internet. We have no money. You can't use ATMs - you can't get cash - systems are down - his salary did not go through. Our garden is under sand and silt - liquefaction - thrown up by the force of the quake. Our contents are strewn throughout the house - so much broken glass. And we are the lucky ones. Wooden houses flex and move and groan with the quakes. And our 100 year-old house is hanging in there.

    The children are terrified and aftershocks saw them screaming through the night - almost hourly. The dog is crazed with fear. We want to get out, but we can't mobilise resources yet.

    The stories of loss of life are heartbreaking. And the air force helicopters are continuously overhead - ferrying trauma patients out.

    Buildings continue to fall.

    It is desperately, desperately sad.
    God... Another massive aftershock...I think one of our chimneys just collapsed

  9. Tania - Please forgive me for the long, dismal missive before. I was a bit overcome. It's all a bit ironic given the content of your post. I feel like someone who has committed the folly of drinking and texting!

    And now that I have calmed down, a bit, I do agree with LouBoo - beautifully said.

  10. Christine - such a lovely comment, thank you.

    Susan - I would NEVER think my lovely daily readers stalkerish. Can't tell you how happy it makes me that some people do come here every day.

    Amy - really incredibly kind compliment; thank you.

    Lillyanne - do hope all your friends stay safe. I imagine it must be awful watching those pictures on the news, even if you have lived away for many years.

    Em - I so hope your friends and family are all right. The more I see on the news, the more terrifying it looks.

    Michelle - I was worrying about you in particular, because you are the only one I knew lived in Christchurch. Thank you so much for letting me know you and your family are safe. It sounds absolutely terrifying. PLEASE do not apologise for writing; I saw this late last night and was shocked and moved by the vividness of the description. It was as if you had transported me half way round the world. I'm so sorry this has happened to your lovely city and I only hope that the aftershocks will stop and you can start getting back to something like normal life.

    Would you give me permission to put your description on the main blog? I want the readers to know what is going on. You may think it dismal, but it is actually one of the best and most immediate pieces of writing I've read in a long time.

    Stay safe. I am thinking of you and your family.

  11. Michelle's description brought the situation in Christchurch more vividly to life than anything else I have read or seen on TV. It was utterly compelling but truly painful to read and to know it wasn't fiction but hard terrible fact. Michelle - the thoughts of faraway strangers are with you as you go through this.

    Tania - I'm also one of the daily visitors, drawn irresistibly to your blog and in fact I save it up as a little treat, because I know I'll feel just right when I get here.

    I have finally launched my own blog - on the subject of getting self and horse fit for a competitive endurance ride in April. Any visitors will be made very welcome!

  12. Tania - you are so kind and thoughtful. You are welcome to share the comment.


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