Wednesday, 24 August 2011

A little bit of a ramble

Posted by Tania Kindersley.

Historical events happen in Libya. I hear snatches of the news. Did someone really say at 7.30 this morning that Colonel Gaddafi was quite possibly holed up in a bunker under his palace? Are hold-outs firing AK47s at journalists? I like to think of myself as a citizen of the world, but for some reason all this news seems distant and unreal.

The blog, meanwhile, gets more and more personal. I notice this, and cannot work out if it is a good thing, or not. Should I be taking on world events, and wading into high controversies? Then I think: but there is a place for the personal. It’s not just navel-gazing, not if you do it right. I read a brilliant piece recently, I think it was in The Observer, and I stupidly can’t remember the name of the writer. She was a poet, from somewhere in America, and she wrote of the death of her mother, and it was not self-indulgent or morbid or mawkish. It was clean and true. I read it slowly, and said: yes, yes, yes.

I think, I think, this is what I am trying to do here. It’s about identification; it’s about no woman being an island. I have never really understood this putting of humans into different categories, ordered by culture, religion, gender, sexuality, skin colour. (The pigmentation thing always baffled me; we all started off in Africa, after all; it is, literally, skin deep.) I think human beings are much more the same than they are different. The basic needs and desires do not vary much. I think they are: to love well and be loved in return; to work with purpose; to know hope; to feel that your life has some small significance. I think that is why you can read something by someone who lives a distant life in a far country and think, yes, yes, I am not the only one. That’s my theory and I am sticking with it.

I wonder too about revelation. I am, at heart, quite private. I am not guarded or reticent; I have a terrible habit of saying anything to get a laugh; sometimes I will be a bit edgy, just to show I am not bound by bourgeois mores. But I do not go around randomly revealing my darkest hopes and fears. It took me years to admit that my greatest terror is that I shall go mad in the night, and wake up thinking I am Queen Marie of Roumania. I told this to my friend the Playwright, one sunny early evening in a hotel bar in Mayfair. He roared with laughter. My dear, he said, how positively Shakespearian. I love him very much for that. (He really does talk like that, too. He is the only person I know who can without sounding at all pretentious. I think it is because of his gleaming streak of the ironical. I could listen to him talk all night.)

Apparently it’s a thing, the going mad in the night. It’s one of the definitions psychologists use to differentiate extroverts from introverts. Extroverts’ greatest fear is that they will be left quite alone in the world; introverts’ highest fear is that their internal world will disintegrate.

Yet, for all my essentially private nature, I find myself telling you more and more things. The regular readers come back, and leave kind comments, and I feel a small sense of community, of safety, which is not something I anticipated when I waded into the wilder shores of the world wide web.

But I want it to be for something, not just undifferentiated gush and spew. I think, I hope, that it might be like that piece by that poet. If even one person reads these rambling musings and sighs the sigh of recognition and relief, then my work is done. People like to scoff at the internet; all that tweeting and Facebooking and YouTubing. Oh, they say, it’s the twenty-first century disease; everyone thinks they and their immediate concerns are of intense fascination. I think of that great line William Hurt said in The Big Chill, which went something like: ‘I’m so sick of people selling their psyche for a little attention; Alex was classier than that.’ But then I think perhaps the great miracle of this internet is that, if you use it right, it can remind you that you are not alone. The critics’ festival of self-indulgence is my global village.

All of which is, I think, a very long way of saying: it’s not all going to be jazz hands. It’s not, despite my desire to be shiny and fine, going to be the written equivalent of someone doing tricks on a unicycle. It’s not look, Ma, no hands. Loss lives in me. There is room too for joy and delight; there are the keen daily pleasures of the garden, my work, my dear canine, my family. But the missing continues, pulling at my heart. And sometimes I need to say that.

As always, after I indulge a little in the mildly plaintive, instead of the more British antic, I attempt to make it up to you by giving you many pretty and diverting pictures:

My little white geranium:

24 Aug 1-4

The newest laurel:

24 Aug 2-4

The lovely shrub whose name I cannot remember:

24 Aug 3-4

The cotinus tree is going multi-coloured:

24 Aug 5-4

A delicate hydrangea:

24 Aug 6-4


24 Aug 7-4

A cotinus bush:

24 Aug 8-4

Marjoram flower:

24 Aug 9-4

One of my favourite blue geraniums:

24 Aug 10-4

The cyclamen really is that colour; sometimes I can hardly believe it:

24 Aug 11-4

The last of the salvia:

24 Aug 11-5

This amazing creature is a catmint flower:

24 Aug 12-4

A smaller more discreet version:

24 Aug 13-4

As I was taking these, I heard a snorting, snuffling sound behind me. It was the Pigeon, having a great big roll. She is so funny when she does this. She does a lot of heavy breathing, as if she is harrumphing; she snaps her teeth at herself; she waggles her legs in the air. Half way through, she stops abruptly, pauses for dramatic effect, and then goes back to it with renewed vigour. Tonight, it made me laugh and laugh. I managed to take some rather bad action shots, because I really did want you to see:

24 Aug 19-4

When she had finished, she looked up to see me with the camera, and gave me this look, which made me laugh even more:

24 Aug 20.ORF

I put a colour filter on this one, so she would look like something from the 1950s:

24 Aug 21.ORF

I’m not sure I ever saw anything so sweet in my entire wide life.

Today’s hill is slightly out of focus, but I rather love it because it looks like a painting:

24 Aug 23.ORF

Dear Readers, thank you for bearing with. You really are the most tremendous bunch, and I do not take a single one of you for granted.


  1. I had almost forgotten that William Hurt line (because someone - I think Glen Close - replies, "yeah that was a real class act he pulled off in our bathroom" referring to the suicide.

    I have a 6-lb Pom-chihuahua mix (Moose) that rolls around like that. It's the most joyous thing I've ever seen.

    Thanks as always for this post!

  2. Marnilla - you are brilliant. It WAS Glenn Close. So glad there is someone else out there who can quote great chunks of The Big Chill. :)

  3. But you are clean and true and it is about identification. Your posts are so beautiful and brave and inspiring. I have told told so many of my friends about you - including a writer friend in LA who had got stuck until she read you and a bereaved friend who couldn't get out of bed. LA friend started wring again and the other one got out of bed. Just not gracious enough to thank you . Missed you last week - all week was wondering when you were coming back. thank you from me and on behalf of my radio 4 listening, soup making, should know better than not to say thank you friends

  4. Oh Helen - what an incredibly, incredibly touching thing to say. Here's to you and your friends. Thank you.

  5. I wonder if the lovely shrub is a pittosporum?

    (Oh dear! the wv is poxed - is that allowed?)

  6. Lucille - you are a genius. It IS pittosporum. I knew one of the Dear Readers would know. Thank you so much. But what is this pox of which you speak?

  7. Tania: thank you, as ever. You so often reach places I wasn't even aware of, but today is especially right.

    The basic needs: so true. They are summed up in my own favourite quotation - this time Ralph Waldo Emerson:

    "To laugh often and love much; to win the respect of intelligent persons and the affection of children; to earn the approbation of honest citizens and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to give of one's self; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to have played and laughed with enthusiasm and sung with exultation; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived - this is to have succeeded."


    And the Pigeon's expression is quite priceless.

  8. Tania, what beautiful words. Your fears are our fears - its the human condition - but how comforting to know one is not alone.... I love the snowdrop...

  9. ooops i meant the white geranium!

  10. I came to your blog after a followed a link about a brave horse or racing on some other blog and I'm so happy I did! I've been meaning to write something along these lines for ages but I did not want to appear stalkerish or something - today you've presented me with the perfect opportunity. I'm by no means insecure about myself but I live very differently from most people around me and it was certainly a 'relief' that there's someone else in the world whose life is probably very similar to what mine will be in a few years from now, and that it is a good life that can be lived well. I'm quite sane I promise and not in love with you or anything :-) but a big thank you!

  11. As everybody else has already said eloquently, we come here because we love the words and we love the connection (I love, too, that I am very familiar with many of the commenters and smile to see that they have dropped in and left a note). For me, and many others I am sure, I also love to see the photos of a country I adore more than any other and am very far from, and the excellent Pigeon brightens me every time. I think the rolling pictures are the most delightful yet.

  12. But you are ALWAYS my daily dose of sanity! :)

    Sometimes I think all writing is about the human condition, it's just the scale that varies and the emotional depth. And I get furious at the idea that somehow emotion is a bad thing and everything should be looked at coolly and remotely. Ditto personal.

    Maybe, just maybe, the ramblings of our minds as we try to make sense of the world - maybe these are the jewels of our life. Sometimes we can compress them later into elegant writing. Other times, it's the immediacy and personal slant that makes them so recognisable, so potent.

    Quite apart from those thoughts - oh, the Pigeon! There is a wonderful vitality when a dog does that rolling scruffle, and the happy glint in their eyes! Best of hugs to her.

    There is something exquisite about white geraniums. The coloured ones just don't do it for me. Damned if I know why. p.s. I think the wv means cotinus. Some of the leaves look a little ruffled, as if they have leaf curl.

  13. Big difference between navel-gazing (or status: getting ready to go to church, just ate a ham sandwich, etc etc etc) and what you are doing. It takes no special talent to natter on. It most certainly does to turn out prose that makes your readers think every day.

    I feel lucky to have found your blog, and on the most insane days, it offers a serenity something akin to your hill and to the Pigeon. On the days when the blog isn't in the least serene, its sanity still makes it seem so. And anyhow, even if one day you turn up illiterate, I'll still read for the Pigeon. ;-)

    PS Thanks for some of the best racing stuff I've ever read.

  14. "I think that is why you can read something by someone who lives a distant life in a far country and think, yes, yes, I am not the only one."

    Yes, yes, exactly! This is the heart of it all.

    The laurel is so beautiful, and the cyclamen have been stunning all week.

    Silly Pigeon! You are so funny!

  15. Love the Pigeon. just love him.

  16. I've never commented anywhere before, but I just have to say - don't worry about turning into Marie of Roumania - your writing is the sanest and most life affirming on the net! a source of regular joyful mutters of agreement.. As for the Pigeon, I have a terrier I adore as much! And take nearly as many photos of... Just keep on doing what you're doing, please...

  17. If art is something that reminds us what it is to be human and to live in this world (and I think it is) then you are an artist.

  18. Tania - the statement on introvert and extrovert - oh how I love that. It made me harumph (much like Pigeon) in recognition. Going mad is one of my biggest fears too...much more heartening to know we can all do it together...on the web if needs be. I like your sharing; it makes me feel there is hope. And hope can only be a good thing can't it? Lou x

  19. Meghan O'Rourke. I think it was mainly an extract from her book, The Long Goodbye. I read the article too, and thought of you and your blog.

  20. Really overwhelmed by the loveliness of these comments. Did start off replying to all individually, but it is a mad work day, so please forgive me if to these last ones I just say a huge, collective,heartfelt thank you. THANK YOU. x

  21. cassie, that quote is perfect, thank you.

    Tania, I love, love, love the dear Pigeon. That's her collie-ness showing though.

  22. But I must just set your mind at rest. Absolutely nothing in your garden has the pox, it was just my rather startling word verification. I should never have mentioned it.

  23. Mona - so agree about Cassie's quote. And clever of you to see the collie coming through.

    Lucille - am laughing and laughing and laughing. Of COURSE wv is word verification. I should have worked that out. And of course you should have mentioned it. It's hysterical. Am only relieved that my poor little cotinus shall live to see another day. :)

  24. I am so glad that the Emerson quote went down well. I came back to this post (searched among the last couple of weeks' worth as I couldn't find where it was) because I HAD to see the photo of the pigeon with her bum in the air once more. :D


Your comments give me great delight, so please do leave one.


Blog Widget by LinkWithin