Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Good Things

Posted by Tania Kindersley.

Sometimes I like a nuanced, suggestive title. Sometimes not. Today, not. It’s Good Things or bust.

Here is the thing I think about grief. It’s all right, as long as there is still room for the good stuff. I am lucky: these are profound sorrows, but they are not obliterating. I heard a woman on the wireless today who was widowed at a young age; her husband’s heart just stopped ticking. She said that at the beginning she could not taste anything, see anything, think anything, do anything, feel anything. She was so articulate and interesting, ten years or so on, and so without self-pity. But it was a terrifying description.

I can write this. I can get up in the morning. I can cook and love my dog and laugh great shouting belly laughs. The Brother is back on the compound, and he and The Sister came round last night for half an hour.

‘The death and oblivion stuff,’ he said. ‘Are you having trouble with that?’

‘Yes,’ I said. ‘I am damn well having trouble with that.’

Then the three of us laughed and laughed and laughed. I don’t even really know how it started. It was something to do with Finland. And the Bishop of Stockholm. (The Brother has just come back from a Scandinavian tour. Oh, he says, I do love the Danes.) I think he had startled the Finns, which is not surprising, and suddenly it was the funniest thing that had ever happened, anywhere, ever.

So, you see. Good Things.

Then, just now, the Co-Writer called.

‘I’m sitting on a beach reading a rather good book,' she said.

‘You don’t mean,’ I said. I started yelling, partly from excitement, partly because the line was not very good. ‘You can’t mean?’

She rustled the manuscript down the line.

‘Can’t put it down,’ she said.

She has, of course, serious points to make. There is bagginess, some repetition, and, apparently, some intemperate ranting.

‘Surely not,’ I said, ironically. ‘You amaze me.’

But the main, amazing, wondrous thing is that it seems it is not the 93,000 words of absolute buggery bollocks that I feared.

This is a very, very good thing indeed. I can start sleeping at night again. It still means that there must be a final 30 day work storm, because even though she did not run screaming from the room, there is still space for improvement.

The other Good Thing was that she paid me one of the nicest compliments I’ve ever had. It’s very vulgar to retell compliments about oneself, but I’ve been crying a lot in the last week, missing my dad and my dog, and feel rather bashed about by sadness, and strained from work worry, and still a bit weak from laryngitis, so I’m going to indulge myself. Then we shall say no more about it.

She said: ‘The thing about you is that you are so culturally adept. You have a great cultural hinterland.’

She is not a gushing sort of person. She keeps her powder dry. So when she says something kind like that, she really means it. I became immediately incoherent, and not very adept at all.

I don’t know why it gave me quite so much pleasure, but it did. I grew up with horses and cows and dung and muck heaps. My academic achievements came from graft, rather than a dancing brain. I think I sometimes feel I am still playing catch-up, in some nebulous way. I’m always thinking Must Try Harder. I always wanted to be a cultured sort of person, not in a swishy, snobby way, but in a low-key, bone-deep manner. And it seems that is how she sees me.

And that is all very unBritish, and primed with vulgarity, and perilously close to showing off, which is what I was told off for when I was small, so you must push it at once from your minds.

And since I am being unBritish, may I just say how extraordinary you Dear Readers are. I’ve banged on a bit lately, skirted the shores of self-indulgence, and you have met me with vast reserves of wisdom, kindness, and sympathy. You are bloody brilliant. And that may be the goodest Good Thing of all.


One of the Dear Readers very sweetly asked after Virginia the Pig, and so I went down this morning to see her, and here she is, with her most peculiar boyfriend (he is the rarest of rare breeds, but really quite odd-looking, one must admit):

31 Aug 3

31 Aug 1

31 Aug 2

These are also dedicated to my friend Amber, who loves pigs.

Turned round to see the Pidge staring at me as if to say: what are you doing with those crazy old pigs?:

31 Aug 4

Then back down the beech avenue we went:

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31 Aug 6

I looked out over the lovely young trees:

31 Aug 7

Went back in, and plumped up the cushions. My poor old sofa has actual holes in it, so I am currently covering it with blankets. Not very House and Garden, but I quite like the different reds:

31 Aug 8

Favourite medicine bottles:

31 Aug 9

Made some lemonade with ginger and mint, for health:

31 Aug 10

Turned to find the Pigeon staring again, as if to say: what are you doing, taking pictures of cushions when you could be throwing a stick for me?:

31 Aug 11

Went back outside to examine the pot table. This little lavender was almost dead, after last winter’s snow and frost, so it gives me almost more joy than anything else to see it so full of life:

31 Aug 12

31 Aug 13

And, there in another pot, were some radishes. I had put the seeds in week ago and then forgotten. I picked one. It was an actual radish. I have never had any luck with seeds; the rabbits get them or I forget to water them and it’s all a disaster. But I GREW A RADISH:

31 Aug 14

31 Aug 15

The Pigeon was posed for her close-up:

31 Aug 20

Love the noble profile; slight pity I cut the end of her nose off, but you can’t have everything:

31 Aug 21

And the hill:

31 Aug 23


  1. Wonderful, lovely post - because, really, life is all about resilience.. and you have it in spades....

    There is guts and courage and these are all laudable and the mark of the man - but in order to KBO I have found a sense of humour invaluable - indeed, would be desolate without it....
    That, and my books.

    Shall I send you my mother's recipe for spinach and lentil soup - cos nothing really bad can
    happen when you have a bowl of that in front of you!

    Bless you for inviting us into your personal space - something I myself dont think i would have the courage to do...

    That Pigeon is one handsome dog!


  2. I am glad that you have good things in your life. I love that you grew a radish!

    Very jealous of your lemonade jug and glass.

    Your house looks far nicer than anything in House and Garden. The red colours look so comfortable and cosy.

    I do read all your posts, it's just sometimes it feels silly to comment if I don't have much to say. And other people always manage to write such lovely, meaningful comments.

    Is that ragwort in the picture of the Pigeon by the old pale blue door?

  3. Anon - how lovely you are. I had slight angst about this post so your kind words are extra welcome.

    Rebecca - so understand about the comments. I am very shy about commenting on other people's blogs, although I love nothing more than reader comments on my own. I'm afraid it is horrid ragwort, but luckily there are no creatures in that bit of old garden and so it is no danger. Isn't it hideous though? Thank you for kindness about my funny old house. :)

  4. That's one of those lovely woolly Hungarian pigs, isn't it?

  5. Despite the ragwort (evil, fiendish stuff), the picture of the Pigeon in front of the open door is one of the loveliest things I've seen in a long time.

  6. I love the pictures of your house - so much nicer than anything featured in House and Gardens - which look beautiful but souless (and no less than Ilse Crawford agrees!) whereas your place looks cosy and loved and lived in - thank you for sharing that with us.... x

  7. Lovely photos. Beech trees and lavender, is it Hidcote? Two of the things I miss most about Britain. We've tried growing Hidcote here but it doesn't take unlike the still beautiful but not so boldly purple Provence lavender. And I don't think I've seen a beech tree here ever.
    What great comments to set you up for the work you have to do on your book. Hopefully it will make it less painful for you.

  8. I am so glad about the book and thank you as usual for the photographs.

    Btw JC Penny have pulled out the T Shirt with the offensive print.

  9. Return of the Native - I'm not sure. I must look him up on the Google. He is very rare and special, is all I know.

    Anon - what a really lovely thing to say. Thank you.

    Jane - think it is hidcote, although sometimes I get muddled, because I have another bigger variety which I also suspect might be hidcote. Sad about no beeches. I become rather obsessed with them as I get older. We have very good varieties here, and it's been a banner year for the copper beeches, which makes me smile.

    Mystica - always so lovely to hear from you. Amazing news about JC Penny.

  10. Thank you so much for pig pics. He's certainly quite macho - Virginia looks positively coquettish around him. Have been googling and wonder could he be a Mangalitza? (says she who has zero pig knowledge)
    Lovely compliment from your co-writer yesterday.
    Hope today has been another good day.

  11. I hesitate to say this, except that I know you care about such things so I am somehat emboldened by that, but you have misspelt the word "focused" and did it a few days ago as well so I am guessing it was a fundamental error not a slip. It's one of those annoying verbs that don't double the final consonant when a suffix is added. "Benefited" is another one. It's something to do with the stress being on an earlier syllable, or so it has been explained to me. Anyhow I offer you this to do with as you wish. Scream "pedant!" at me if you like! You won't be the first...

  12. Goldenoldlady - never, EVER, apologise for pointing out howlers. You know I am a terrible pedant and so get hysterical when I make mistakes or typing errors. Means I am then in a much weaker position when I complain about grammatical solecisms.

    Focussed is fascinating. It seems there is a school of thought which thinks both double s and single s correct, with the double s being more common in British English, as opposed to American English. I just checked the papers. The Indy uses focussed, The Guardian focused; so I'm not sure the American vs English thing holds. I know the Grauniad is famous for bad subbing, but they do have a very good style guide, and I tend to trust them in these matters. Also, I see you are a TEACHER of English. So I am going to revert to focused, as you suggest.

    Oh, oh, I do love a good bit of fine linguistic discussion. I might make it a regular feature on the blog. (Am currently very cross about a best-selling book containing THREE dangling modifiers.) Anyway, thank you. :)


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