Posted by Tania Kindersley.
This morning, when the Pigeon and I went out to inspect the plants, she came upon an enormous branch that had been lopped off one of the rowan trees. At first, she tried to pick it up, so I could throw it for her. The fact that it was ten feet long did not deter her. After a bit, she figured out that it was really not moving, so she decided to strip the bark from it, for fun. What larks, as my heavenly tree-sending friend Stephen would say.
For some reason, I found this very funny. She was so busy and determined. What started off as a jolly game quickly turned into a vital task which had to be completed. It was very cheering, for many different reasons. I thought it demonstrated that she really has got her groove back. Not only has she been given the all-clear by the vet, but she seems to be fretting less over her sister. She retrieved her spirit, and the branch-stripping was a perfect emblem of that.
It was good to stand under the Scots pines in the cool June air and laugh at my dog. Last night, I suddenly missed my father so much I could not breathe. I’m getting used to this now. I can have a good day, do work, make jokes, feel quite human and usual, and then the loss comes and socks me on the jaw, as if to say: don’t think you can get away from me, just yet.
I think of it a bit like a broken ankle. My entire body is not broken, it’s just one vital bone; but it means I have to walk on crutches for a while. It’s a bit of a strained metaphor, but I’m going with it.
So today I have that bleached, bashed-up feeling that comes after a sudden grief attack. It’s when I go back to the Sitting Very Still plan. Gently, gently, I say to myself; focus hard on the lovely things. That was why I went to look at the plants. I talked to my sister for an hour, and we threw sanity and reassurance back and forth at each other like people playing ping-pong. And then the Pigeon worked her own magic, with her little comedy riff on the stick.
The real point of all this is that my dear camera has a little video button on it. I hardly ever use it, because I can’t quite work it out, but today I thought I should record the Pigeon for posterity, she was being so adorable and amusing.
It’s absolutely awful. I clearly have no idea how to focus, frame a shot, even move the camera so it does not make you sea-sick. The Younger Brother actually makes films, and I see now how talented he is. I looked at my own muddled mess and thought: I can’t show anyone that. But actually, I am going to put it up here, partly because even though it is terrible, it will let you see the full sweetness of the Pigeon, and partly in the spirit of the Cupboard of Doom.
You see, we were brought up to do things well. Doing things well is one of my central driving forces. It wasn’t that my parents were pushy perfectionists, it was just that there was some kind of implicit understanding that if you did something, you did it to the best of your ability. My dad was such a fine and brave and fearless jockey that old men still smile when they remember him on a horse. When I learnt to ride, I practised day after day, shine or rain. As I got older, my mother brought in an expert to teach me the finer points of dressage. Forward momentum, my teacher used to say, and I can remember now the feeling of sitting deep in the saddle, pushing my horse on with my legs and bottom, as she shouted strict instruction. That was the way to do it; and I had the high benchmark of my father to live up to.
So it is now with writing. Each day I practice and practice, like a tennis player working on her strokes. I think about it every day. When I read someone I admire, I frown as I try to figure out how it is that they do the things they do. I think: even when I am eighty, I shall be trying to get better.
But, and this is where the cupboard comes in, as a great symbol of the human condition: I can’t be good at everything. No one can. We all (as I have seen from the lovely reader comments of yesterday) have our own literal and metaphorical muddly cupboards, where the messy nonsense gets chucked. And that’s all right. No one can be a shiny perfect person every day and in every way, and imagine how awful it would be if they were. So even though I have an odd, atavistic fear of the things I do not do well, I think it oddly important to admit to that.
Even as I write this, I am repressing the urge to apologise. I have gone on too long; I have rambled; I’m not even sure I have quite made the point I want to make. I think, in the silence of my head: what I put the Dear Readers through. My finger hovers over the delete button. Then I think, no, that is the whole point. It is: face the flaws, embrace the flaws, because in a way that is what draws people together. That is what makes them sigh a long sigh of relief, and say to themselves: thank goodness I am not the only one. At least, I think that is what happens.
So in the spirit of the flawed, I am going to show you this absurd little video. Best moment by far is about half way through, when she looks up as if to say: it’s all very well, you poncing about with that damn camera of yours, but some of us have work to do. Worst moment is at the end, when I turn the camera around, not realising that it would mean the picture ends up the wrong way about. Idiocy. What is lovely though is that even through the cack-handed camerawork, and blurry focus, and general inadequacy, the beauty and spirit of the Pigeon shines through. That seems symbolic of something wonderful.
Here it is:
This is getting a bit too symbolic. Having written all this about the Pigeon and the little video, I now discover that Picasa and Live Writer, the software I use, will not allow me to download it. I have tried ten different approaches, and nothing works.
I could go back and rewrite the entire post, but you know what? In the great spirit of the flaws, I think I’m going to let it stand. I’m going to put this up and then fiddle around and see if I can find a way to let you see the thing. If not, you have to imagine a really crappy 30 second video clip of a really, really sweet dog.
Here are some compensatory pictures:
This is MY big stick:
Now I must strip the bark:
Aaaannnddd…my work here is done:
And it is time for my Grace Kelly impersonation:
(I swear if she could speak English she would be quoting lines from High Society. ‘Duluth? Oh, it sounds like singing.’)
And the hill, rather majestic today: