Wednesday, 25 May 2011

In which nothing is charged

Posted by Tania Kindersley.

The lovely Stepfather comes to collect me and takes me to the garden centre so I may buy plants. I feel it is important to be putting things in the earth. I am ready to spend stupid amounts of money, but the place is filled to the brim with horrors. An exotic theme seems to have permeated the buying remit, most unScottish plants of dubious longevity. Will that survive the first frost? I ask myself. For the rest, it seems a carnival of hideous variegated leaves and all the colours I do not like. I end up with a small collection of sage and marjoram and lavender, two tasteful shrubs with leaves the colour of verdigris, whose name I have already forgotten, and a Japanese cherry tree. I buy the tree for my dead dog. My stepfather still has the ashes; I cannot yet quite bring myself to ask for them. When I feel strong enough, I am going to bury them in the garden and plant the tree on top.

I start work again. It feels familiar and strange at the same time. My powers of concentration are not stellar, so I go slowly, trying not to castigate myself.

The Older Niece arrives with special vitamins for the Pigeon, as part of the keep her alive forever plan. I am absurdly touched. We walk up the beech avenue and throw sticks for our dogs and look at the lambs. Some have escaped their field, so we call the farmer, who arrives in his battered old Landrover. (We did try to guide them back in ourselves, but it turns out we have no talent for shepherding.) We have a most satisfying conversation about animal husbandry with him. Sometimes I think that one of the things I love most in the world is talking to a farming fellow about sheep.

For a tea-time treat, I listen to Martin Sixsmith's history of Russia on the iPlayer. I suddenly realise I have spent my whole life blithely talking of the Mongol hordes, without really knowing particularly what they did. They were the Tartars who conquered Russia in the 13th century, it turns out, and laid waste to every single thing in their path. The poor Russians; just as that party was over, they got Ivan the Terrible. Tomorrow, I shall see the start of the Romanovs.

I listen to the news coverage of Barack Obama's speech in the hall of Westminster. I find myself oddly embarrassed that no one, from the BBC newsreader to Mr Speaker Bercow, knows how to pronounce the President's name. It is Barack rhymes with park, not Barack rhymes with shack. It would be like David Cameron going to America to find everyone calling him Dahv-eed. Luckily Mr Obama has impeccable manners, and is probably too polite to correct the solecism.

I think: if I am getting bolshie about the pronunciation of names, then I must be moving back towards usualness. If my inner pedant is still alive and kicking, then all cannot be lost.

Yet, I cannot quite manage ordinary logistical tasks. The camera and the mobile telephone have both died because I have no clue where their chargers are. The Hoover has broken, and I must either get it repaired, or invest in a new one. This ordinary household imperative seems quite insurmountable.

Oh well, I think: I shall deal with it tomorrow. Tomorrow is another day.


No pictures today, on account of the lack of camera charger, so here are some from the last few days:

25th May 1

25th May 2

25th May 2-1

25th May 3

25th May 6

Even though this one of my acer is all blurred, on account of it being taken in a gale force wind, I still rather love it:

25th May 7

25th May 7-1

25th May 11

25th May 12

25th May 12-1

The sheep:

25th May 13

The Pigeon:

25th May 10

Yesterday's hill:

25th May 14


  1. That face. The Pigeon is utterly gorgeous and I want to throw my arms around her.
    Agree with the pronounciation of Barack. Makes me laugh a wee bit as *ahem* dear British friends like to correct those of us who are English-speaking-but-not-with-an-English-accent. 'Yogit' and 'scooooane' come to mind...

  2. Just checking on you, Tania. I'd worry if I didn't. Hang the electronics, but don't forget to eat. Oh, and thanks for noticing that our president has lovely manners. I think so, too, but I am biased.

  3. This poem - 'Kindness', by Naomi Shahib Nye - has been going through my head as I've read your updates these past weeks. A friend sent me a copy of it years ago when I lost someone I loved dearly; it's only in the last several years that I've really taken the words completely in.

    My best to you and Pigeon, keep up the good fight.

  4. Jack Weatherford has written two very interesting books about the Mongols: Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World, and The Secret History of the Mongol Queens. He is an anthropology professor and has a different take on the usual story.

    Yes, it does sound as though you are "moving back to usualness." There's something to be said for inner pedants—they won't stay down for long! I still would counsel you to really pay careful attention to the "familiar and strange at the same time" phase you are in and appreciate it while it lasts. I feel like it is a very special time where you can learn a lot.

    Sorry to hear about your technological difficulties.



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