Posted by Tania Kindersley.
It’s been a bit of a sad old blog over the last few weeks, what with all the death and all. One can have too much of a melancholy note, and in honour of the Pigeon, who is slowly on the mend after her horrid illness, here is a little list of the things that have gladdened my heart in the last couple of days.
1. Watching the Queen grinning her head off as she was driven up the straight mile at Ascot in her elegant carriage. Even though on the third day it was actually pouring with rain, and she is eight-five and did not have an umbrella, she was clearly so excited by the prospect of a day’s racing that she could not keep the smile off her face.
I liked her beautiful carriage horses too, especially the matched greys. Very eighteenth century.
And, idiot old conventionalist that I seem to have become, I rather liked watching the gentlemen take their black top hats off as the Queen passed them by. Oh, I used to be so contrarian and bolshie and sneery about anything that smacked of the Establishment. But as I get old I put more and more store in good manners. I see the taking off of the hats not as some cringing deference, but just good old politeness. I love politeness.
2. The racing itself. I was too distracted earlier in the week, with the dog and the vet, and today have been having an orgy of top flight horseflesh, as I catch up, via the miracle that is the BBC iPlayer.
I went off flat racing for a while, preferring the toughness and what I thought of as authenticity of the jumps. Also, jumping was what I was first brought up with. But this year, partly because of the diamond brilliance of the magnificent Frankel, I came back to it. Things I had rather forgotten: the sheer beauty; the astonishing nature of the sheer speed; the boldness and bravery. Even though no one has to jump anything, flat horses still have to be courageous and genuine and big-hearted. There is something wonderfully true and untamed and mighty about the really good ones.
3. At home: the rain. I’m a bit weary after a long week, and I could have looked out on the relentless wet and dreich and the dirty low sky and decided it was all too gloomy for words. Instead, I decided I was delighted, because of all my new plants, longing for a drink.
I dragged a rather puzzled Pigeon out to look at the garden and inspect the green stuff. Watering is fine, but there is nothing like a good, long rain. All the astrantias are standing to attention and the delphiniums look delirious.
4. The very simple fact that I am making a beef pie for supper. It is so cold and dreary outside, so I thought a lovely pie was the only answer. I’ve not always had mad success with slow-cooked beef. Today, I am experimenting with using extra carrots, for that slight sweetness, lots of marjoram from the garden, for a herby aspect, and really good claret, which the kind stepfather had left over and gave me for cooking.
5. The fact that I have six different arrangements of scarlet carnations in my house. Since I dropped my hideous carnation snobbery and saw how pretty the dark red ones can be, I have been slightly obsessed with making little arrangements of them in my coloured Victorian glasses. So cheap, and yet so pretty. I know I keep banging on about the small things: a few vermilion flowers in a slender glass is one of the smaller of the small things, but oh they do make me smile.
6. Amazingly, after I wrote of Overdose the Hungarian Wonder Horse, an actual Hungarian reader left a lovely comment. The thought that I have actual Hungarian readers is, for some reason, profoundly thrilling.
Here are a few quick pictures.
Hidcote lavender, with my favourite catmint in the background:
A very wet but happy delphinium:
The delighted violas:
The acer is settling in very well:
These new violas are of a colour I cannot quite believe exists:
My favourite tiny geranium:
My dad’s little tree is looking quite at home now:
No hill today; lost in the weather.
And thank you for the wonderful comments of this week. You are so good and kind, and I am glad that the news is, for once, happy. The poor old girl is still a bit sore and sad, but she is eating and drinking and wagging her tail. And her coat is very, very shiny, which must surely be a good sign:
Although here she is wearing her ‘what are we doing taking horticultural pictures in the rain’ face: