Friday, 3 June 2011

Light and shade

Posted by Tania Kindersley.

A sudden, violent storm of tears last night. There was a day of calm, in the sunshine, and then, out of nowhere, a great cloudburst. It was that kind of visceral weeping that comes from the gut; it was end of The Railway Children tears. It wiped me clean.

I think: this is what is supposed to happen. It is like an excavation; all the dirt and silt and detritus must be got out, or it will calcify inside, into a block of nothing, and that is what gets you stuck. I think: this is the correct human reaction. I have a suspicion that we are taught to fear sadness. It must be conquered, driven out, fixed, and then everyone can sing a happy song. Yet it is one of the most profound and crucial emotions. Imagine if someone you loved died, and you did not feel sorrow. That really would be frightening.

At the same time, I think: is this what people do? (Don't know who these People are; ones who have all the answers at the tips of their fingers, I suppose.) I come back to my desire for a manual. I want to turn to the chapter which says what you should expect in week four.

It was partly because the Younger Brother called to tell me of the memorial. ‘It was very sweet,’ he said. ‘People kept coming up and saying how much they loved Dad, and how he made them laugh. They talked of his kindness.’

‘Oh,’ I said. ‘Yes. That is nice.’

‘I saw Orlando,’ he said.

‘Ah,’ I said. And that, for some reason, was the moment that I wished I had had the steely strength to drive those five hundred miles for the third time in a month. Orlando was a friend of the Older Brother, who brought him home one day when I was ten. I took one look at the tall, golden, laughing boy and fell helplessly in love. He was the second great love of my life. The first was an old racing man called Eddy Harty, who was a friend of my dad’s from Ireland, and had the weather-beaten face of a man who makes his living outside. I loved Eddy Harty so much that whenever he came to the house I ran upstairs, put on my best party dress, and went and sat on his knee. I was two. It is practically my first memory. (I also have a terrible feeling I may have told you that story before; for which, I ask your forgiveness. I love my Eddy Harty story.)

Anyway, poor Orlando, at the age of twenty, had to put up with a ten-year-old child following him round like a lovesick puppy. He must have wanted to listen to records and drink beer and do whatever twenty-year-olds did in the seventies, I don’t know, talk about prog rock or something. Instead, I was always hanging about, with my moony face, dragging him off to see a foal, or the cow, or my pony. He put up with it with extraordinarily good grace. He even danced with me at my brother’s twenty-first birthday party, for which I was allowed to stay up. I remember feeling awfully self-conscious in my poofy dress, while all around were languid, slender girls, wafting about in groovy threads from Biba or Fiorucci. But the handsome fellow danced with me, and that made it all alright.

So that boy with the great name was a part of the enduring memories of childhood and my early teenage years. He said to the Younger Brother, yesterday, that he remembered going to the house, and how welcoming Dad always was to the young, and how lovely that was. ‘He was so kind,’ he said.

I don’t know. I think that was the thing that made me cry.

But here is the thing. I have my crazy old family, tight around me. The dear Stepfather gave me some 1955 port last night, for strength. My step-aunt and uncle are here, and it is a keen pleasure to see them. This morning, the Beloved Cousin calls, and gently talks me down off the ceiling. She has a miraculous talent for that. She says she is looking out of the window, where my godson is flying his kite. ‘He’s been doing it for an hour and a half,’ she says. ‘It crashes down and he just picks it up again. I love watching it. Those are the things that matter.’

‘Yes,’ I say. ‘Those are the things that matter.’

The Younger Niece rings up and makes me laugh. ‘I love you so much,’ I yell down the telephone.

The sun is shining again. The dog of the Older Niece and the Man in the Hat is staying, and I take her and my Pigeon for a swim in the burn. They splish and splash about under a sun as hot as the South of France.

I have the glorious spring. (I know it is June, but it still feels like spring here.) I have my little garden. I am planting many things in the black earth. My acer is about to arrive, which fills me with delight. I have the Dog. I have the Family. I have the Love. Sometimes, I am sad, an acute, yearning sadness that comes from missing my dad and my dog. But you know, I think that is what happens now. I think it is not something to be feared. I think it is human.

I think: my plan is to sit very still, and let this thing gently pass.


Pictures of the day:

Water dogs:

4 June 1-3

Look, look, The Pigeon is smiling:

4 June 2-3

(Actually panting a bit after scrambling up the river bank, but I choose to interpret it as a smile.)

This is what I like a dog to look like; all wet and muddy and dirty and doggish:

4 June 3-3

Then we walked through the wild phlox:

4 June 4-3

Past the old tree trunk and the gorse:

4 June 5-3

Along the path that runs by three of my favourite trees:

4 June 6-3

Back to the garden where the honeysuckle buds are growing more purple each day:

4 June 7-3

My dad's tree seems happy in the light:

4 June 8-3

The first peony is out:

4 June 9-3

I was never mad keen on these geraniums. I thought they were a bit mimsy with that pedestrian mid-pink, neither flesh, fowl, nor good red herring. Now I am growing rather fond of them:

4 June 10-3

The wonderful bush hydrangea or tree hydrangea or whatever it is called.  The one that grows tall and slender instead of bushy and squat, anyway:

4 June 11-3

The salvia and the perennial whose Name I Cannot Remember:

4 June 12-3

This dear old Portuguese laurel got absolutely clobbered by the snow and the frost this year. It was a big old bush, but the lower branches were so burnt from cold that I lopped them all off, and presto, now it is a tree. Rather elegant and continental, I think:

4 June 12-4

Pigeon with very, very serious face on. This is because I have just said the word biscuit. Her expression suggests that she is thinking: Do not use that word unless you really mean it:

4 June 18

The hill:

4 June 13-3

Just as I was finishing this post, there was a knock at the door, and two smiling gentleman were standing on the step.

'Have you got my trees?' I said, rather breathless with excitement.

'Oh yes,' they said.

The dogs danced out to greet them.

'Look girls, I said. 'Here are the lovely men with the lovely trees.'

Sometimes I am not sure I should necessarily say every single thing I think in my head out loud. The men looked mildly surprised, but they went along with it. They probably think I am some sort of care in the community project.

I was so thrilled by the arrival of the acer that I could not even wait to put on my gloves and boots. I had to plant that thing in the good earth. (As a result, I am typing this with black fingers, and my All Stars are filthy with mud, but I don't care.) I bashed away with my spade, mixed up the finest organic compost with two different kinds of plant food, watered the whole thing in, and stood back, quite ravished by the beauty. Now, in amongst the antic greens of the apple and the elder and the cherry and the lilac and the box, there is a harlot flash of red.

I think we can say that one is for my dad, too.

4 June 16

4 June 17

4 June 15


  1. Beautiful. I planted an acer for my thinking of her a lot recently (I mentioned her and her love of the peonies and swallows the other day) I think it is partly because of you, and partly because of the pregnancy she is closer than ever in my thoughts. That's what we must do I think, keep them close about us, for always.
    You're doing brilliantly Tania. Keep on keeping on.

  2. Don't you realise that what you write here - this is the manual for us - and as I have said before, it's so comforting to know that your blog is there. Do you realise too how heartening it is to read this every day? The rawness of the emotion makes me cry every time but the intent that life will go on (and grow) is just so grounding and real. L x

  3. Nothing is quite as sweet and painful as the memory of a first crush. And I always weep buckets at the Railway Children and I am so emphatically NOT a crier-at-films type. Let it come. You will be better for it.

  4. There is no manual. Please be kind to yourself. I have spent most of my life looking for rules to follow and it has never helped, not really.

    The red leaves are magnificent.

    And of course that is what the Pigeon is thinking - and quite right, too.

  5. Beautiful post. You have such a talent to say the right things and put into words what others will only be thinking of.


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