Posted by Tania Kindersley.
This morning: woke, turned on radio, had grief storm.
It was Chris Tarrant’s fault.
(For my dear readers not familiar with Blighty: this is the very last thing one would expect. Chris Tarrant is a big, cheesy, old school, yeah yeah yeah disc jockey and quiz show host. I would lay money that he has never made anyone weep tears of bitter grief in his life.)
Here is what happens in my house. The moment I wake, I turn on Radio Four. When I go into the kitchen, I turn on Radio Four. When I was away just now, I found myself one day without a wireless. I almost had a panic attack.
It’s odd that Radio Four has become the soundtrack of my life. I did not grow up with it. My parents were not radio people. Anyway, in the morning, there was always too much to do. My dad was up at 5.30, to go out to muck out the horses. Usually, I would follow him, like a little puppy, blinking my eyes in the pitch dark.
Then there was first lot, and second lot, and then breakfast, quite often with work riders, or visiting owners, or sometimes my glamorous godmother, who had come down from London in an unsuitable car. Breakfast is a very big thing in racing households; there is not time for The Today Programme. Then there was often going to the races; then a lot of drinking, to celebrate or commiserate.
When I was in my twenties, I thought Radio Four was for old people who played golf and did good works. I used to run around Dublin with a professor of Irish (he spoke six different Gaelic dialects and was very handsome) and I was acutely embarrassed when he started talking about Kaleidoscope, and I had no idea what he meant. I discovered later it was the flagship Radio Four arts programme at the time.
So I’m not sure how it came to be my defining feature. It always makes me laugh that when I go to stay with the Beloved Cousin, the day starts with Radio Four on stereophonic, blaring from her radio at one end of the house, and mine at the other, usually interspersed with the three-year-old shouting: Where are my sparkly shoes? (She is very particular about footwear.)
Anyway, today, despite the vaunted new regime, I woke late, automatically switched on the wireless, and there was Chris Tarrant talking about the songs that reminded him of his father. He was really thoughtful and touching as he remembered him. His dad sounded like an extraordinary fellow; he was on the beaches at D-Day, wading through dead bodies, and he never spoke of it. ‘I wish I could have had just one more conversation with him,’ said Tarrant.
At which point: bathroom tears. Bathroom tears are my big ones, the ones that so shake and shatter me that I have to go and sit on the bathroom floor, wedged up against the hard side of the bath, so I will not disintegrate. They are actually good tears, because they come right up from the gut, cleaning everything out. They are fast and hard and cathartic, and they wipe me clean.
Then they played In the Living Years by Mike and the Mechanics, and that finished me off altogether.
The Pigeon came and sat next to me. Occasionally, she nudged my cheek with her cold nose, as if to say, it’s all right, it will be fine. She is quite wise like that. She watched me carefully until the storm had passed, and then pricked up her ears and put on her questing face, as if to say: can we go and throw sticks now?
Wow, I thought, as I went down to make breakfast, where did that come from? Silly question. I know exactly where it comes from. I wonder if all this new work frenzy is a subliminal attempt to push the sadness behind me. Come on, let’s get on with life, concentrate on your real job, no more mooning about. I think perhaps it is an attempt to be hard and real, and not fall into the cracks.
Theory and practice, I think, as I read the kind comments from yesterday’s post. The Dear Readers, are, as always, right on the money. Come on, they say, don’t lash yourself so hard. One even reminds me that I was the one who wrote of the Perspective Police, which makes me smile. In fact, the entire premise of Backwards was that we should allow ourselves to be our own quirky, imperfect, flawed, sometimes messy selves. It was a battle cry not to punish ourselves for every perceived lapse in the drive to perfection. You see, I am shit hot at theory. Ask me anything. I’m super excellent good at theory. It’s my special subject. At practice, not always so shiny.
Theory and practice, I think, and all the spaces in between. Sometimes, as humans, we know exactly what we should do, but we do not do it. It would take a squad of psychologists and evolutionary biologists to explain that one.
I put some pretty white roses on my desk. The Pidge and I go down and look at the sheep, who look back at us. I settle back to work, but without the lash. I’ll get it done. It won’t be the most brilliant book anyone ever wrote, but it will be as good as I can get it. I listen to dear old Jack Johnson singing a sweet little guitar song about saving your soul. He’s good on the soul stuff.
I come back to my own old song, which I have been singing for years. It has a simple lyric. It goes something like: sometimes we laugh, sometimes we cry, and that’s all she wrote. (Not quite top ten material, I freely admit.)
Those shiny, happy people are phantoms; they only exist in one’s imagination. Everyone has joys, and everyone has griefs. Pretty much everyone has days when they worry they are not doing well enough.
And then I come back to lovely, growly old Churchill, and what he said in the darkest days of the war, when poor Blighty stood alone. KBO, KBO, he used to mutter. Keep buggering on.
I smile as I write this. I am calm again. I think: yes, I shall just keep on buggering on. If there is one thing I do know how to do, it is that.
Oh, oh, and just as I finish, Sammy Davies Jr is starting to sing The Rhythm of Life. (The rhythm of life, it’s a powerful beat, puts a tingle in your finger, and a tingle in your feet.) And do you know what? I’m damn well going to sing along.
And now, for a special Saturday treat, because you really do deserve it, some SHEEP:
Aren’t they most splendid, elegant ladies?
The honeysuckle, having gone a few weeks ago, is back for another bash at it:
View of the garden, from the south:
It rather amazes me to think that, only eight years ago, that was all nettles and weeds.
Yesterday, I took pictures of bought hydrangeas, grown by some clever person in hothouse conditions. Here is one of my own, out in the earth:
The interesting thing about that is that when I planted it, it was white. Something in the soil is turning it green and pink. Clever horticulturalists will know the reason.
The delphiniums are almost over. Here is a last, hardy survivor:
My dear little beech tree:
Blue planting in the wild garden:
The sheer simple chic of the ivy on the old stone wall:
One of the cotinuses, which apparently is not dying of the pox. It was a misunderstanding, mostly me being obtuse:
And here is the original and best hydrangea. I bought it years ago, a little plant about a foot high. I kept forgetting to prune it, so it has grown to about seven feet, and it is against a north-facing wall, and last winter it spent weeks at a time covered in snow and besieged by frost, so by rights it should have died a lonely death. And yet here it is, in the dog days of August, coming into magnificent flower. I love it:
Speaking of love, here is the Pigeon, with her please can we do the stick thing face on:
In a minute, I say, sternly. Lie down, I say, and because she is a highly trained dog, she settles herself in her most demure position on the grass, looking at me in mild resignation:
Then I go off and take some more flower pictures. After a while, I turn around and see her standing by the door, as if to say: have you not finished yet?:
All right, I say, we’ll go in for biscuits. At which point, she turns on a sixpence, like a London cab, gathers up her whole body into a perfect black clutch of muscle and energy, and leaps up the step, as if I had offered her all the joy in the world. I think in her world, biscuits probably are all the joy she desires. That, and the occasional swim in the burn, some love, and a good rub on the stomach every so often. And the throwing of the stick, of course.