Friday, 11 February 2011

The peculiarities of memory

Posted by Tania Kindersley.

I shot out of bed this morning with my head filled with stuff. There is a slight problem with loving the blog so much: in the old days, BB (Before Blog), I at once started thinking about whatever book I was writing. I would rehearse paragraphs in my mind as I cleaned my teeth; I could write entire chapters while I had my bath. Now what happens is that I think of book, think of blog, think of book, think of blog. It as if my brain is a computer, and I have got eight tabs open and am switching between them.

The other problem is that the blog is an entirely freeform operation. I am not ruthlessly sticking to one subject. Since I am interested in almost everything except for darts and Justin Bieber, anything can set me off on a train of thought. It might be an item of news, or a joke on the Today Programme, or even a figure of speech.

A couple of days ago, a government minister came on to talk about prisons or something, and he said 'across the piece' not once, but four times. (I counted on my fingers.) That was going to be a whole blog post right there.

I was going to do a riff about how those odd expressions get started. I was going to ask, plaintively, what was wrong with 'across the board'? I was going to point out, rather brilliantly, I thought, that you never, ever hear a single ordinary person in ordinary life say: across the piece. Only management people and political people ever use it. I was going to wonder, philosophically, why perfectly well-educated humans could not realise how idiotic they sounded when they used these meaningless slices of jargonese. I was going to clinch my argument with the notion that it must be a mark of insecurity. The really successful politicians and business people almost never use those empty collocations. I was going to give Boris Johnson and Barack Obama as my exemplars.

Oh I was pleased with myself. Then the day happened. There was the walking of the dogs, the making of chicken for my mother, the writing of book, the perusal of the news. The thing was lost.

This morning, the teeth-cleaning was accompanied by a long exposition in my brain on the contradictions of small-government conservatives. I had not given you a meaty political post in a while, and now I had a dilly. I was very excited.

I wrote it all in my head. But the day has been busy. I had to make fishcakes. (Sometimes these imperatives strike me, from a clear blue sky.) I took some delicious vegetables to Virginia the Pig.  She particularly appreciated the cauliflower, you will be pleased to hear. My computer was blinking glitchily at me, so I decided it was time to defraggle, which sounds like something out of Edward Lear but is in fact a hard drive thing. Somehow, 1030 words of book got done, rather messily and not quite as to the point as I would have liked, but there were WORDS nonetheless. For no explicable reason I started thinking about Auden.

The small government argument, so brilliant this morning, had quite dissipated by the time I sat down to write this. All I can remember is that somewhere along the line I veered off into a little discursion on MacDonald's and the free market. I remember there was one sentence I was so pleased with I actually told myself not to forget it. It went something like: would you rather have a burger made with cynicism and ground-up cows' hooves, or one made with real ingredients and love?

The funny thing is, now I have written it down, I see it's not really that good. When I thought of it this morning, I was so overcome by my own bon mot I almost gave myself a prize. I have no memory of the context, or how I got from small government to disgusting hamburgers, or even what devastating point I was making. It is gone forever.

Instead, you get a rather rambling exposition of the oddities of my mind. Ah, well. As Tony Curtis said in Some Like it Hot: Nobody's perfect.

And now for the pictures of the day.

Tangle of philadelphus branches:

12th Feb 2

The beech avenue:

12th Feb 3

12th Feb 5

12th Feb 6-1

This next part made me laugh a lot. To get to the pig, you have to go through a little gate. I walked through, gave her the food, and crooned at her a bit as she ate up all the most delicious items. 'Oh you do like that nice cauliflower,' I said, in my special pig voice. After a while, I turned round, only to see I had left the dogs behind. They had been watching me making a fuss of someone else. They were not pleased. Just look at those reproachful faces:

12th Feb 7

Very unimpressed Duchess, staring beadily at Virginia, I imagine saying Pig, pig? in her best Lady Bracknell voice:

12th Feb 14

Pigeon, peering mournfully through the hole in the gate, doing an excellent impersonation of a Dickensian orphan left out in the snow by an evil industrialist, or some such:

12th Feb 15

(Can't actually quite believe that face.)

Luckily, I had some biscuits in my pocket, so I was forgiven for feeding someone else. Good humour was restored, and they romped off down the avenue, having made their point:

12th Feb 9

12th Feb 6

(How do you think my battle against anthropomorphism is going? Screamingly well, I think we can all agree.)

Mystery photograph of the day. Where do you think this is? The frozen lakes of one of the Stans? The salt flats of Utah? The wilds of Mongolia?

12th Feb 7-1

It's actually a frozen puddle. It amazes me that I have the capacity to romanticise a puddle.

From a little farther away, it looked like this:

12th Feb 16 

(I still say it could be a Google Earth picture of Siberia.)

It's a bit of a murky old day, but I did not mind. There was still something lovely in the views to the south:

12th Feb 11

12th Feb 12

And there is always the wondrous tree bark to divert and delight:


(See how it matches the wall, in a most chic manner?)

12th Feb 8

Finally, the dear old hill:

12th Feb 1

I hope you are having a lovely Friday.


  1. I ADORE the frozen puddles! I took some like that during our snow at the end of last year, it was only when I got back that I spotted that one of them was in fact of a perfect heart-shaped piece of ice. Terribly sentimental, but it was my Photo of the Day.

    And as for Their Ladyships: that is such a beautiful Expression of Disapproval. Lady Bracknell, indeed.

  2. Tania - you have captured the moment beautifully. Those reproachful faces! They remind me of my dear old German Shorthaired Pointer who, before he passed away at 17, ENDURED the arrival of one husband, three cats, three children, and a puppy.

    Loving yesterday's bridge, too.

  3. Please, what does 'across the piece' mean?

  4. I know I'm bad - but I too prefer the bridge to the hill! Michelle, that poor dog probably lived that long just to see what other injury you are capable of :-)

  5. Another fabulous post. One day I would love to be in one of your writing classes Tania. One day...

  6. OK, so Tania, I read this late on a Friday and it makes me laugh out loud which has to be good. Have you considered Twitter? I think it might suit you. I have delved in and found myself - how to say? - stimulated by the new medium. For all our angsting (a word? not sure) about the medium of blogging, there is a whole world of angst about the use and significance of Twitter. I recommend it. Please try it! It provides the ultimate opportunity to download one's teeth-brushing brain waves. Lou xx

  7. I think you need a secretary who can do shorthand to follow you around, taking down bon mots as fast as you can think them up!

  8. My personal favourite teeth-gnasher at the moment comes when an interviewer says 'talk us through...' What happened to good old 'tell us' - or possibly even 'could you explain...'

    PS to yesterday's note - nice Doctor gave husband mega-strength pain-killers - and he was so ecstatic to be mobile again, he waltzed me round the kitchen! So the day became a diamond after all.

  9. Cassie - so very pleased you like the mad puddles.

    Michelle - your dear old dog sounds lovely. I am determined to get mine to the grand old age of 17 too.

    Colby - you may well ask. It means across the board, in every area. So, if dicussing education, and some idiot says across the piece, they mean in all areas of education, from kindergarten to university. It's distantly related to the big picture.

    Sabina - you know you can prefer whichever you wish; or love both?

    Connie - what a very nice thing to say.

    Lou - I do a bit of Twitter, and blow hot and cold. Some days love, some hate. Mostly I find it quite hard to be pithy and witty in one sentence and that annoys me.

    Cybill - genius idea. And it would help the economy.

    Gilly - your husband sounds absolute heaven. So glad he is feeling better.

  10. I'm blaming the not so new technology for all this "in head thought jumping". It's like having Google in my mind; I start with one thing which segues to something or three others and, by the time I finish whatever "mindless" task (teeth, dishes, cleaning the cat box), I'm not only lost but often a little exhausted!
    I try to write as much down as possible because I'll get a line or even a few words that sound pointed or clever (to me) & if I wait, it almost certainly will have vanished!
    I continue to be amazed that you have (and exercise) the discipline to write your book...and then manage to get so much else into your day!
    Commenting here or on news stories, authoritatively meting out "advice" on Yahoo!Answers (which I'm certain is populated primarily by barely pubescent boys) and doing the odd New York Times weekend crossword puzzle is mostly how I "flex" my mental muscles.
    Living abroad, having to communicate (badly, but still...) in not one but two foreign languages, possibly helps stave off atrophy.
    I definitely think dogs (as a species) have the corner on looking totally bereft (or any other equally dramatic emotion), especially when they have absolutely no "real" reason to do so! Loved those photos!
    Anticipating spring here! The air smells different.
    Have a wonderful weekend.

    Pat (in Belgium)

    PS Have you ever seen Morgan Spurlock's documentary on MacDonald's "Supersize Me"? It will eliminate any temptation to go near a fast food place ever ever again!

  11. I share your dilemma - sit down and write book or blog; I find blog so much easier and a tempting distraction - as dangerous as chocolate.
    Finally started re-writing first draft of novel - have left it almost 2 years to do and now I think I have benefited from the time gap. I was writing too much stuff that was still in my head from my MA Creative Writing work for dissertation. Now I can see the book plot more clearly and have a fresh enthusiasm for the idea again.

    Blog or book? I wish I was as organised as you and did both regularly; seems to be the blog that still wins! I wish I had your self discipline. Ah well I must keep trying. So now, to blog, no'll read and marvel at yours again, just one more time.

  12. Pat - so agree about dog thing. Sometimes mine put on quite tragic faces when in fact they are having a perfectly lovely time. Could not face Spurlock film although everyone says it is brilliant. Even thinking about MacDonald's makes me too demoralised.

    Emma - you are kind. You should know I do have quite hopeless days when I achieve NOTHING. I just don't write about those too much, because they make me feel cross and sad. Good luck with your novel.

  13. Oh Pigeon, such a face!

    The puddle photographs are wonderful.

  14. No, no - not Tony Curtis, Joe E Brown!!!


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