Thursday, 28 July 2011

Where the light gets in

Posted by Tania Kindersley.

Yesterday was a day of great delight. A big race just happened to coincide with the meeting of a book deadline, so I could legitimately take the day off. I could spend all morning getting revved up about it, watching old videos of the 1000 Guineas, reading all the views from the Bridge of Experts. (The very uncharitable part of me thinks how foolish the people who said Frankel was over-rated after the St James’ Palace must feel now.)

A thing I very much wanted to happen, happened. I hoped that it might be a once in a generation spectacle, and it really was. The crowd at Goodwood knew that too; they actually clapped when Frankel went to post. I have never seen that in the forty years I have followed racing. Even at Cheltenham, where they roar as the tapes go up, and roar again as the horses pass the stands on the first circuit of the Gold Cup, I have never heard applause as the horses go down to the start.

Nothing had yet happened; the champion was not yet confirmed as the champion. It was as if they were saying: however it goes, you are a magnificent creature, and we salute you. It was oddly moving. And Frankel, who can be temperamental before his races, seemed to sense it, and cantered past his admirers with his ears pricked, bouncing over the turf, nicely on the bridle, as cool and collected as a show pony.

It was, I suddenly realised, the first moment of pure, undilute, raw joy, I have felt since my father died. There were no ifs or buts; no shadows or hauntings. I stood up, in my room, watching that glorious sight, as the mighty horse flashed past the post, and shouted: yes, yes, yes. Go on, my son, I yelled; go on, you beauty. The Pigeon was jumping up and down like a cartoon dog, all four legs off the ground, barking her head off. The volume was up to ten, and Simon Holt was shouting from the television: oh, he’s a brilliant horse.

It was perfect.

‘We were lucky to be alive to see that,’ my mother said, later.

But the piper always must be paid. Last night, I watched the race again. I thought: oh, Dad would have loved that.

One must not sentimentalise the dead. He would have loved it, but he would also have grumbled. He was a betting man to his boots, and he would have groused and groaned about the horse being odds on. No way to have a good punt there. He taught me not to back favourites, as if it were cheating, no glory in it. He was always looking for value. Thirteen to eight on, he would have said; that’s no kind of price.

But still, I wished, suddenly, urgently, that he might have been here to see it. Again, I felt a slight rupture in the universe, a tiny tear in the fabric of being, at the realisation, which comes each time as if it were new, that the world exists without my father in it.

It is a tiny chime of dissonance, very faint, so that only my ears can pick it up. It is a high, distant feeling of wrongness.

Even three months on, it can still leave me breathless. Just as I think I am returning to the usual, it can come along and punch me in the stomach. It brings violent, streaming tears, as if I have just heard the news. There are nights when I am fine, and then there are nights when I say out loud, like a child: I want my dad back. And: I want my dog back.

Joy, and grief, I think, today, as I sit under a quiet Scottish sky, and listen to the swallows sing their song outside my window. And all the spaces in between.

I think, for some reason, of that line from Leonard Cohen, that goes something like: there’s a crack in everything; it’s how the light gets in.

I look out on the mild drizzle, and wonder when summer will come. I think of Shakespeare: the rain, it raineth every day.

I think: but tomorrow there will be sun. One way or a damn other, there will be sun.


Today’s pictures are a view from the pot table. I have moved the phlox, which were never very happy confined to terracotta, and needed to be planted in the good earth. The table is now devoted to cuttings, which I am doing for the first time ever, planting seeds (radishes, so far, but there will be other things), and a couple of rescued lavenders and sages and thymes, which got hit by the last winter, and which I am coaxing back to life, partly by feeding them, and partly by staring at them with love.

It rather enchanted me today, although it’s a bit of a mess and a muddle. It’s not a perfect, Martha Stewart, magazine type of pot table. It’s my own little imperfect version, but I love it anyway:

Rescued lavender:

28 July 1

Mystery thing which seeded itself:

28 July 2

One tiny flower, just holding on:

28 July 3

My first ever sedum cutting, about three weeks old now, which really has started to grow:

28 July 4

Happy sage:

28 July 5

I put this cotinus cutting in yesterday, with some lovely new compost, and am keeping my fingers crossed:

28 July 6

A little mint cutting, which seems to be working:

28 July 7

Lavender and sage, with the mauve smudge of the marjoram flowers in the background:

28 July 8

Tiny pots, waiting for seeds:

28 July 10

The whole, glorious, muddly thing:

28 July 11

Marjoram flowers:

28 July 11-1

More sedum:

28 July 11-2

I had the idea for the pot table last summer. It existed in my head, but I had no idea how to go about it. Then my sister just gave me the table, and all the old pots, which she had sitting in her garage, and now look:

28 July 12

Apple mint cuttings:

28 July 13

Then, because I was feeling rather whimsical, I made the poor Pigeon pose as if she were growing out of a hydrangea:

28 July 20

She is not at all sure about all the absurd posing, because she would much rather be chasing rabbits, but she does it with tremendous good grace:

28 July 21

And today’s hill, stately under the heavy sky:

28 July 22


  1. Here's to mystery things, seeding themselves, Rachel

  2. Could it be a cherry seedling?

  3. Oh stunning pictures, I too love to plant. xx

  4. There will always be those moments of "I wish they were here" - where something needs to be shared. One of my best friends died of non-Hodgkins lymphoma, and believed that there was nothing thereafter. I still tell her things in my mind.

    Love is love.
    It doesn't die.
    Transmute, yes.
    But the echoes dance
    And hold memories
    like stars.

    And on a more prosaic note, Pigeon continues to be glorious and the essence of dog...

  5. "... a slight rupture in the universe, a tiny tear in the fabric of being... "

    Indeed. That's exactly what it feels like when a loved one dies.

  6. Years ago, well into my adulthood, I was very ill in hospital. So cruel when I look back on it, because she couldn't do a thing, I just kept wimpering, "Mummy, make it go away". I'm not sure we ever totally grow up, you know.

  7. awesome collection of pics..Thanks for sharing..I would like to see such photographs..Please keep posting...

  8. I'm delighted Goodwood brought you joy - it being about three miles from my house, I like that. Still your writing makes my heart ache and I wish there was a way that your difficult nights, when they come, could be salved. Some day soon...I'm sure it will ease. Lou x


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