Saturday, 11 June 2011

So it goes

Posted by Tania Kindersley.

Whoomph, whack, oof, kapow, bif, bam, pah. That’s what grief did with me last night. I don’t know. Maybe it thought I had got a bit cocky, with my good day and my butcher jokes. Maybe it wanted to remind me who was boss. Maybe it thought I was flying too close to the sun. So it picked me up and threw me across the room, just to show it could.

My old shrink used to say I lived too much in my head. I never really understood why this was a bad thing. Thinking is the key to everything, surely? Get that old brain fired up and it will send you roaring down the track. But I suppose there is the elemental stuff that will not cede to thought. There is the stuff right down in the marrow of the bones that cannot be neatly dealt with by mere contemplation.

I keep thinking I can track this thing. That’s why I write it here. I can put it into sentences, which are clean and true. I can shape it and observe it and make sense of it. I start to see it is not quite so simple as that. I start to see that perhaps strange old Donald Rumsfeld was right when he said there are the unknown unknowns. I start to realise that I wanted to prove I was doing so well, so someone would come along and give me a gold star.

I think: it’s not well or ill. It just is.

My lovely old friend S sends me an email. He has worries of his own, just now. KBO, he writes, at the end. It’s what Churchill used to say in the war. Keep Buggering On.

Oddly, as I write this, I feel a low sense of relief. It was a big one, last night. There was a sense of tearing, which has not come before. Maybe nature is very clever, and gives it to you when it knows you can take it. Just as you are starting to feel stronger, it thinks: now you can take the big guns. Now it’s time to wheel out the heavy artillery. (I am aware I am in danger of talking what the women of Absolutely Fabulous called Complete Buggery Bollocks.)

But the point is: I’m still here. I feel still and present and real. My fingers go on typing. My old brain is a bit battered, but it can just about produce a thought.

When I was young and I liked to show off, I used to go body surfing. I had a thing about not being a girly girl, showing the big old fellas that I could take on the waves just like they did. I remember once completely misjudging a roller. It grabbed me, turned me round and round like I was in a washing machine, so I did not know which way was up, and smacked me head down on the beach. It took me a moment to realise I was all right. Everything was whacked out of me: breath, sense, feeling. People were running towards me, concern furrowing their brows. I’m fine, I said, standing up. No, really, I'm fine.

I had a big old scrape down my forehead, and a bump which turned blue the next day. It was the kind of place where glamorous women go. They wandered about with their dewy skin and their perfect hips. But I wore my scar with pride, even though I must have looked absurd compared to the beautiful people. I’m still not sure why. I think it was that I felt pleased that the sea had thrown everything it had at me and I was still standing. The ugly mark on my forehead was like a badge of survival.

I feel a bit like that now. I got smashed on the beach, and the wind is knocked out of me, a bit. But the old line from the old song is running through my head: I’ll just pick myself up, dust myself off, and start all over again. KBO, my darlings. KBO.


No pictures today as it is pouring with rain, so here are some from the last week. I could become demoralised by the relentless pouring and the cross brown sky, but I decide to look out at it and think: good for the garden, good for the garden. Because this is what it produces, that miracle rain:

The salvia:

11 June 3

The little shrub whose name I do not know:

11 June 4

The dwarf euphorbia:

11 June 6-1

The rowan:


The hellebore:

11 June 7

The oriental poppy:

11 June 10

My most loved salix:

11 June 9

This is the youngest and most delicate of the apple trees. I thought this tough winter would kill it off, but it is fighting back like a tiger:

11 June 5

As is this dear little lavender. Lavender is almost impossible to keep alive up here, so mostly people treat it like an annual. To get one through the frost and snow feels like a huge achievement, even if it is tiny and producing only one potential flower:

11 June 6

This little fern is also hanging on by its fingertips. I know it is slightly out of focus, but I still think it one of the prettiest things I ever saw:

11 June 14


11 June 2

Festival of Pigeon, just because:

11 June 18

Oh the blinky eyes:

11 June 19

Guarding the hose:

11 June 20

I know this is not well framed and slightly blurred, but for some reason I love it:

11 June 17

No hill today; it's in the cloud.

And now, as part of the Sitting Very Still plan, I am going to listen to The Browning Version on Radio Four. What a wild and cosmopolitan life I do lead. But there can be something awfully comforting about one's own room and the voices of the dear old BBC.


  1. When walking in the wood today I was thinking of your walks and wondered to myself pleasingly how good it was that the grief was giving you an easier day. And then I came home and read this - what a shame it's such an unpredictable thing! Thank goodness for greenness and dogs. Lou x

  2. Mystica - aren't they HEAVEN? They are making me smile, just looking at them.

    Lou - it's so funny how it comes and goes. Starting to feel a bit like an old pro now, rolling with the punches. The fact that the Dear Readers keep coming back through it all is amazingly comforting though, so thank you for sticking with.

  3. I love reading your blog, hope today is better for you x

  4. I think grief is rather like recovering from illness - you take two or three steps forward, then have to go one step back, then start to go forward again. Anyway, you're doing really well, and bravely!

    I listened to The Browning Version too. Hadn't heard it for decades. A wonderful play which still seems quite fresh because of Rattigan's humanity and skilful depiction of the characters and how they relate to each other. When I last heard it I thought the Croc's wife was a villain, but hearing it again I felt rather sorry for her (not through personal experience): she'd married the wrong person (so had he), and was desperate for a lover and a life without having scrape around for money - she'd become bitter, and couldn't find a way out of it, divorce being difficult then (and would she have been capable of getting a job?). The ending was interestingly ambiguous - would the Croc manage to find his own peace of mind without her? Would she manage to escape to a more congenial life?

    I don't often listen to the Radio 4afternoon plays, partly because I'm often out in the afternoon but also because they're often based on fantasy or portray people with terrible accents relentlessly yelling at each other. But occasionally they're very good - there was one recently about Margaret Rutherford.

  5. Your blog makes my day each time I read it.

    I do the 'I'm not a girly girl' thing too - I think it was having six uncles that did it. They had me out climbing hills and making fires and getting muddy from an early age. Gets me into trouble sometimes - I was out power-kiting with a friend and decided that skinny ol' me could TAKE that 12 footer kite and show it a thing or two. Or not. My brother doubled over with laughter as I shrieked 'Grab my LEGS before I take-off!' He was laughing so hard that he didn't manage to stop me being thrown onto the sand and dragged quite some distance, shredding my shirt and ripping the seam of my dress.

    My mother was not amused. And boy were my arms sore for the next few days. Felt like I'd been put on the rack and streeeeeeetched.

    And it was very important to stress that I Am Fine and It Was Actually Quite Funny, because it would never do to let the boys know that...*whisper*... actually it hurt quite a bit and I was quite worried.

    Perhaps it's good though - maybe Keeping Up with The Boys makes us push ourselves further.


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