Monday, 13 June 2011


Posted by Tania Kindersley.

Who is it who says simples instead of simple? I am hearing it in my head in a cod Greek accent. I have a terrible feeling that it might be one of those talking meerkats who are on the You Tube. (Sometimes I do feel like one of those old high court judges who used to ask: 'Who are these Beatles?' The answer always was: 'A popular beat combo, m'lud.')

Anyway, the point is that today was all about the simples. The Younger Brother called on the Skype, and I spoke to him while I was eating a bacon sandwich for breakfast and he was doing his ablutions. I could hear the splashing of water and the acoustics of the bathroom tiles. 'Skype is a marvellous thing like that,' he said.

(I probably should explain that he is the younger of my two full brothers, not younger than me. He is seven years older, and we were born on the same day, within the same hour, seven years apart, so we feel a bit like dislocated twins.)

We spoke about dad and death and sorrow. 'That's the HUMAN CONDITION,' he shouted at one point, which is pretty much what I am saying to myself each day. He told me the story of the Buddha, which I am ashamed to say I did not know. I did not know he was a golden prince, who was purposely protected from human suffering until he finally went out and saw, outside his father's castle walls, human pain and poverty and age.

We spoke of another golden boy, our uncle Tara, who died in a car crash when he was twenty-one. That was forty-four years ago, and yet he is still remembered with love. I told the Brother how I met a man at the last of my three funerals who was Tara's great friend. He spoke of him for ten minutes without stopping while I listened. At the end, he put his hand to his heart, looked at me with tears in his eyes, and said: 'He was a lovely, lovely man.'

He was very beautiful, with a Modigliani profile and hair the colour of ash. That much we always saw from photographs. What you could not see was what someone else told me very recently: 'He had a great grace,' she said. 'He was the person the most at ease in their own skin that I ever knew.'

We are all thinking of him a bit now, I suppose because our minds are with the departed. It's what my sister calls remembering the gaps.

Then I did my work. It was a little mundane and pedestrian. My mind is not making lovely leaps. But that is all right. Some days, it's just plain work.

I made a radically simple chicken soup for lunch, with proper stock that I cooked last night, and slivers of spinach and watercress.

I went outside to throw a ball for The Pigeon. Again, it was one of the simplest things in the world. I take a slightly grubby spherical object, throw it in the air, and she races for it, leaps for it, sometimes overshoots and makes a handbrake turn back on herself, sometimes catches it in one perfect go. She brings it back, puts it down by my hand, gazes at me with her eager eyes, her entire body quivering with anticipation, and I throw it again. It gives her more pleasure than if I built her an entire dog palace made of dog treats. It's all she really wants, along with a biscuit every so often, and a rub on the stomach.

I sometimes think that if I were ever to give anyone any advice about life it would be: learn to type, and get a dog that likes chasing balls. Then you and your canine can have hours of simple delight and afterwards you can write a book about it, at 75 words per minute.

Then I inspected the garden. Two days of rain have had a miraculous effect. The plants have opened and stretched themselves, in green gratitude. The earth is black and wet and heavy with goodness.

I thought: what was that poem that ee cummings wrote, about the rain and the small hands? I went inside and looked it up. Here are the last two verses:

nothing which we are to perceive in this world equals
the power of your intense fragility: whose texture
compels me with the colour of its countries,
rendering death and forever with each breathing

(i do not know what it is about you that closes
and opens; only something in me understands
the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses)
nobody, not even the rain, has such small hands


So, there, it was all simples. Brother, work, soup, dog, ball, garden. It was a six word day.

Here are some pictures of it:

Lord Plunket's viola:

13 June 1

Ordinary, non-aristocratic violas:

13 June 2

This little hebe was unhappy. It has been moved and now is practically waving its arms in the air with joy:

13 June 2-1

I am trying hyssop for the first time:

13 June 3

I rather love this next bed. I've let the mint go where it will, which everyone says is a terrible mistake, but I like that it rambles about as it pleases. It's one of the herbs I use most, and one of my keenest pleasures is to be able to run into the garden and pick it, rather than go to a shop to buy it. The idea was, when I made this garden from the wild (nettles and weeds up to your shoulder), was that it should look as if it had all grown up naturally. Although part of me yearns for the formal box of the Italians and French, up here in Scotland I like the higgledy piggledy approach. You may see from this I might have succeeded a little too well:

13 June 7

This year's lavender:

13 June 4

I know I feature the astrantias day after day after day, but they are giving me so much pleasure:

13 June 5

Raindrops on the little apple tree:

13 June 9

New growth on the salix:

13 June 10

The new cotinus, with which I am now slightly obsessed:

13 June 11

The honeysuckle:

13 June 12

And my favourite delicate purple geranium. I thought I had lost these, but today I found two survivors huddling under the philadelphus:

13 June 12-1

And now a short photo essay on The Pigeon and the ball.

It starts with her patiently getting the ball, and waiting until I stop taking all these stupid photographs:

13 June 14

If I look very demure, will that help?

13 June 15

Still waiting, la di dah, la di dah:

13 June 17

It's right here, ready to go:

13 June 16

Now waiting in black and white, slightly fed up:

13 June 16-1

Go on, go on, you know you want to:

13 June 18

And this, THIS, is the face after the ball has been thrown:

13 June 19

13 June 20

Sometimes, she is so sweet I literally do not know what to do with myself.

The hill:

13 June 22


  1. Your dog is simply beautiful and I'm with you and the mint. I can't wait to get back to my herbs in Brittany, role on the end of term. Jude x ps it is the awful meerkats!

  2. Oh that big doggy smile! Gardens are always nicer a little bit shaggy at this time of year anyway with everything reaching maximum lushness.

  3. I do think you mean Aleksandr Orlov, the meerkat!

  4. I haven't commented for a while, thinking my own stories were little comfort..... I check in every day though and you have touched another nerve.... My eldest and youngest daughters were born on the same day within ten minutes of each other six years apart!!! The eldest is now 11 the youngest 5 and they are still delighted by it! I do feel sorry for my daughter in the middle (8) who doesn't quite understand why everyone hasn't got the same birthday.

    Lovely pidgeon today, my doggy loves a ball too (not so good at dropping it though daft girl)

    Amanda x

  5. "Who are the Beatles?" is like "Elvis who?" which I think yet another member of the judiciary once enquired.

    I'm afraid it WAS a meerkat you're thinking of. Never mind. They're arguably cute, although nowhere near, by a country mile and then some, as cute as your dog.

  6. Colby Kavanagh13 June 2011 at 18:13

    Higgledy piggledy is my favourite for gardens -- the box hedges that appear to have been cut with precision instruments are lovely meditations in the colour green, but can't soothe the eye in the way natural forms, lapping against each other, can. And, of course, nothing soothes the eye like a dog, urging you on with word and gesture to throw the ball!

  7. I grow my mint exactly the same way.
    And I think the Pigeon is smiling! Gorgeous.

  8. You made me think of the simples in my own life. Husband just after surgery, and now all three children in Australia made me try to concentrate on what is making me happy. Now that we have our "up country" property in Rozella I am just waiting to show off the photographs of flowers and veggies which we have planted, Googly our dog who is very simple and just thank God that things are the way they are for me.

  9. You truly seem to be sounding like your old lovely self, Tania, and it warms my heart. I, too, am joyful, since I'm finally "going home" to the lovely little Coast town from which I was uncerimoniously washed by Hurricane Katrina 6 years ago. I can hardly contain my enthusiasm, though I must wait till the end of the month. Do love The Pigeon series, and she DOES appear to be smiling, but who wouldn't, given the chance to chase and fetch a ball.

  10. Such kind and lovely comments; thank you all so much.


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