Posted by Tania Kindersley.
Even though I am on the road, I feel that I must check in, so you do not think I am dead in a ditch. It is a bit like ringing my mother, to shout down the mobile: 'I'm at TEBAY.'
'Where?' she always says, in amazement, as if I had set out for Tipperary and got lost. 'How? What time did you leave?'
Actually, today was a very civilised journey. There's no point leaving early on a weekday, because you just run slap into Glasgow rush hour (see that even in a season of grief, I can still pay attention to traffic patterns; I find this rather reassuring). So I got up at eight, listened to some nice Irish gentlemen talk about how pleased they were that the Queen was coming at last and some of the darker history might be put into its place in the past, rather than kept alive in the breast as grievance. I made sandwiches: beef, ham and smoked mackerel. I wrapped them up in little foil packages, which always reminds me of being a child, and wished that I had not lost all my thermoses. If I had a thermos I could have taken a soup.
Up on the Cairn O'Mount, I was amazed to see daffodils in full bloom. There was sunshine and cloud, which felt about right. I thought of my dead dog.
I thought of my dear cousin, whose funeral is tomorrow. I thought: he was the person you most wanted to bump into at a party. As this ran through my head, unbidden, I scolded myself. I should surely be remembering his serious attributes: his brilliant mind, his original wit, his great cleverness. But then I thought: it's not nothing, the party thing. It's the gift of making people's hearts lift, instead of plummet. We are here for such a very short time; not all of us have Archimedes' lever. Adding to the gaiety of nations is really something. The more I think of it, the more I think that quite a lot of people do not bother to do that. They are grumpy or charmless or self-absorbed or aggressively dull (and I start to believe that dullness is a form of aggression) or distracted or flat. So someone on whom you can rely to beam the full force of their wit and charm and idiosyncrasy at you is someone to treasure. I know that life is earnest, life is real, and I know that I say that a lot, so that now I am guilty of repetition, and when obituaries are written they are filled with serious lists of worldly achievement, but the human gift of laughter is as important to remember as all those other things. That's my story and I am sticking to it.
Did that paragraph make any sense at all? My eyes are literally crossing with tiredness. I am squinting and frowning at the screen.
The main thing is: I remembered to bring the jewel. I think: at least I will look elegant tomorrow. It's a strange thing, because it really is the one time the loved one cannot see and will not care what the hell you look like, but for some reason I think it is important to make an effort. I think: just because people died, it does not mean that standards can start to slip.
No camera today, but here is a picture of the Cairn O'Mount, as I drove over it ten days ago. Now imagine it with a crowd of daffodils in the foreground and a bit more sunshine, and that was what I saw this morning:
I know that I should be thinking about people just now, and not so much canines, and I know that this must not turn into some awful mawkish sentimental anthropormorphic thing, but I have to tell you one heart-breaking Pigeon story. The last time we stopped at this hotel, we were all three together. The dogs and I have stayed here a lot, over the years. It is a motorway miracle: the rooms are charmingly decorated, everyone is incredibly nice and smiling, there is a farm shop with beef and lamb from their own cows and sheep. All on the M6. They love having the canines; they actually sound quite sad on the few occasions when I say that I am travelling alone.
Anyway, when we arrived today, the Pigeon who has not been very boundy lately, positively bounded out of the car, galloped to the door, and stood there, wagging her tail impatiently. When we got inside, she ran at full tilt along the corridor to the room, barged in, and looked in every corner. Then, abruptly, she sank to the floor, and lay very still. I know this is almost certainly wrong, and this is not The Incredible bloody Journey, and I must be practical and stoical and live in the reality-based community, but I have a horrible, haunting feeling that she thought she might find The Duchess here, waiting for her; that she might have thought that I had just left her behind and come back to collect.
I'm sure that is not right at all. I'm sure I am just making it up in my head. But it was quite strange and it brought a bit of a lump to my throat.
Stopping now. Apologies for rambly incoherence. I really should not be allowed to write when I have driven three hundred miles.