Posted by Tania Kindersley.
The regular readers will know that I pride myself on being a child of the Enlightenment. It's odd, the things that you congratulate yourself for. I take idiotic satisfaction from a variety of irrelevant matters. I like that I can make soda bread, type at 70 words a minute, have read every word F Scott Fitzgerald ever wrote, know about the repeal of the Corn Laws and how Peel split his party to achieve it, and can recite Yeats. When the financial crash was at its height, and it was all anyone could talk about, I held a ridiculous pride in the fact that I knew what the Glass-Steagall act was. (I remember sitting next to some flash money fellow at dinner and having a terrible flush of triumph because he had never heard of it, and I could cite chapter and verse. I hang my head at the memory.)
The irrational shames are equally odd. I still have a slicing sense of failure that I cannot speak French or play the piano, even though I was taught both as a child. I am embarrassed by the fact that I cannot keep my office tidy and I must finally admit that I shall never really understand quantum physics. I can't make good mayonnaise. There is a distinct possibility that I shall never read James Joyce. (Even as I write that sentence I can hear the CALL YOURSELF A WRITER? klaxon going off in my head.) I will never be that kind of stylish woman who can transform an outfit with one witty accessory. In fact, most of my favourite clothes have actual holes in, and of course I do not know how to darn.
But at least I am the queen of Rational Thought. Well, perhaps not the queen, but certainly a princess of the blood. I know all about not being led into the morass of things which cannot be proved by the scientific method, which have no peer-reviewed studies to back them up. I won't be led astray by astrology, or homeopathy, or the laying on of hands, oh no. This is surely a Good Thing. Look at me, with all my empirical rectitude.
Then, this morning, I go out into the low, quiet day, thinking very much of the people of Christchurch, whose city has been devastated by random natural forces. One of my dear readers lives there, and has sent me a heartbreaking despatch. I find myself taking many, many pictures of the dogs, who happen to be looking particularly beautiful in the low light. As I do it, I think: I can put these on the blog and this will cheer up my readers in New Zealand. I actually think that thought.
This is INSANITY. If your entire world has been literally rocked by a senseless earthquake, if your streets are filled with rubble, and nothing works, and the hospitals are overflowing with casualties, will some snapshots of two elderly lab-collie crosses really make you feel even an iota better? What is wrong with me?
I think it's the helplessness thing. Because of the combined miracle and curse of the internet, every bit of the world comes into my quiet corner of Scotland. I get all the news, plus the blogs from the ground, and the tweeted reports and the Facebook updates. The bloody events in Libya do not take the form of some distant news story, filed two days later, from a faraway country of which we know nothing, but immediate, real-time happenings. New Zealand, which is ten thousand miles away, feels as if it is in the next county. And yet, for all this sense of closeness, of being a global village, of connectedness, there is absolutely nothing that can be done. I still live in a small village in Scotland. One can send money to disaster relief funds, put up faltering words of sympathy and empathy on a tiny blog, watch with attention as the news rolls by, but, in the end, the world swings on, in its gaudy, tragic way, and there is nothing in my puny plan which makes any difference.
When I was young, I thought I was going to change the world. Come on, that's what we all think, when we are fifteen. We shall fight injustice with our bare hands, take to the barricades in fearless triumph. Now I think: I can only concentrate very hard on the small things. It turns out that this is what this blog has become about. That is why there are daily pictures of canines and lichen. It is why I write of chicken soup and the nieces and my dear old mum.
So, here are the pictures. Even though I know my magical thinking is palpable nonsense, I am putting up extra dog pictures today, after all that. They cannot make any single thing better, but they are a few extra seconds of loveliness on which to rest your poor, tired eyes.
The new crocuses, the first of the season:
Here I was experimenting, not entirely successfully, with different kinds of focus:
The grass, which has been old and brown after the long, snowy winter, has suddenly gone emerald green:
The first little geranium leaves are pushing through the brown, leafy earth:
The beech leaves, which have clung to the bare branches since the autumn, continue to fascinate me:
This little clump, for some reason, is much paler than all the others, the colour of biscuits instead of bright amber. You can see I am playing with the focus again:
The lichen, of course, of course:
The view to the south, against a flat white sky:
And now, the promised canine loveliness. I do not know why they were looking quite so ravishing today, nor do I know why they decided to lie down and do some serious posing. I did not instruct them. They just decided it was time for their close-up:
Duchess looking very duchessy:
And Pigeon very pigeony:
A delicate clump of long grass:
And the hill:
It is a thin sentence, and a sentiment so paltry that I hesitate to write it, but: I wish you well, wherever you are.