Tuesday, 17 May 2011

On the Road

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:

Cairn o mount

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.


  1. Even in your darkest days I personally am SO GLAD you are still blogging. It is important to me that you are OK. And on the pigeon thinking she might be there - isn't that entirely reasonable in the dog world? Lost a friend? Find her in the last place I recall we were. Left a lump in my throat too. Good luck for the next funeral and may this be the last for a while.

    Lou x

    P.S being engaging at parties is one of the most important attributes - for sure.

  2. You had me at Tebay. Best motorway services in the country.

    Poor, poor Pigeon. I hope for both your sakes that it was just tiredness and not the sad longing for the Duchess that you thought.

  3. Glad to know you are safe and sound in that nice hotel having dined with products of the near farm shop with the Pigeon at your feet.
    You know, I really think you were right. She must have been looking for her sister which is totally lovely as the indication of blood loyalty to her, and also quite sensible behaviour, if we assume that she is not au fait with death just in the same way as we are.
    Hope she has picked up a little since then and enjoyoed her AA doggie meal.
    I understand your need for 'the jewel': it talkes about continuation, about noblesse oblige and you must know that other women long before you used it to face their own seasons of grief.

    Love and bon courage,

    Cristina x

  4. P.S. Sorry: *it talks (the jewel)*

  5. on the contrary, you should write when you have driven 600 miles, 900 miles...1200 miles.
    Poor Pigeon, I think you may well be right about her "reasoning"
    As LouBoo says so glad you have kept on blogging through these dark times, stay the course they're bound to lighten up
    take care
    liz from Paris

  6. Catching up with your posts after some time offline... I can't believe you have lost another loved one. I hate the superstition of it all but "they" do say things happen in threes.

    I have no doubt that Pigeon imagined, nay expected, to see Duchess at Tebay and as LouBoo says it's a reasonable thing. Maybe for humans too.

    Here's wishing you and Pigeon three very wonderful things and soon,

    Bird x

  7. I am so sad too for you and Pigeon who must have sensed something in this place.

  8. Darling Pigeon. Left a lump in my throat too.
    You have remembered something wonderful about your cousin. Take care of yourself x

  9. I also would have thought that was exactly what Pigeon was doing -- looking for the Duchess.

  10. It's 3 a.m. in the States, and I'm sitting here suffering what LouBoo said...about the Pigeon. Hope your reckoning was wrong...but guessing it probably wasn't. Love to you both.

  11. Just sending kind thoughts and a hug today. Amanda xx

  12. Your writing is growing in beauty with the depth of sentiment and minutiae of memory you have. Don't apologise - don't EVER apologise - for being capable of great feeling and great love for man OR beast.

  13. Oh, lump in throat.

    Aw. Poor Pigeon. I expect that's exactly what she thought.

    Years ago, I had two cats that got along rather well. Sadly, one got hit by a car and killed. The other one spent the next three days investigating every nook and cranny of the house, meowing at cupboards and closets, demanding they be opened, behaviour he had never exhibited prior.

    They may not understand death as we do, but they miss companion animals, of that I'm certain.

    Wearing the jewel is totally appropriate. I think wearing our best bit and tucker is a sign of respect for the deceased.

    And I would give my eye teeth to have the gift of being considered engaging at parties.

  14. Always always happened with our dogs too. When one was gone, the others would rush around madly, no matter at home or abroad, trying to find them. They're quite sensible.
    I do wonder if it's worth having your wake before you die, then you could see all the people in their finery. I am putting it to serious consideration.
    Thinking of you and let's hope the jewel stays away until a happier time after this x

  15. Another tear brought to my eye! Poor Pigeon - what a lovely girl she sounds.

    And your cousin. If it's a choice of big achievements or of having brightened up the lives of my loved ones, I know which I'd choose. Your cousin sounds wonderful, and I do hope today was all it could be.

  16. Poor Pigeon - if only one could explain to animals what has happened!

  17. A hug for you and for Pigeon. I think that is exactly what she was doing... animals love and know loss as well.... be kind to both of you....

  18. Enormous hugs for both of you, poor darling Pigeon.
    PS-Love Tebay - my home county - I grew up in Knock, near Appleby.

  19. Dear Tania, that's so sad. I think you're probably right, it's a familiarity thing. They have hope too.

    I live by "I'm not here for a long time, I'm here for a good time" Life's too short to be dull. On the occasions I am dull I tend not to bother people with it.

    I had a beautifully written message from Stephen yesterday saying he reads our blogs but doesn't comment. He described himself as "a cat burglar" which made me smile. Love, C xx

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