Sunday, 25 September 2011


Posted by Tania Kindersley.

A low, silent day. Sudden gusts of wind come up out of the south, which is rare, because our winds normally howl down from the north-west. This southern wind carries warmth with it; it is a high, dry, buffeting wind, with no hint of winter in it. I remember vaguely something about three years ago, when the winds came all the way from the Sahara, and left tiny particles of red African sand on the Scottish fields. I remember thinking it was poetic, and extraordinary.

My current policy is not to think about The Thing. I am putting sorrow to one side, for the moment. Yeah, yeah, go the voices in my head: you’ve got all your arms and legs, you’ve got a book to finish, get on with it.

I quite like this voice, actually. It is not a the critical voice, but the practical, prosaic, stoical one. It is the one that stops me falling into solipsism and self-indulgence. It remembers the war, when brave Londoners got through the Blitz, and the doughty Britons sang roll out the barrel as the bombs fell. It’s almost a cultural voice, the one drawn from the cussed, won’t be beaten by the buggers streak that runs through the British character. It’s a phlegmatic voice.

I think one of the things about learning to be a grown-up is discovering the balance between griefs that must be honoured, and wallowing and dwelling. One cannot pretend that every day is Pollyanna day, but nor can one fall into a brown study and write oneself a three-act melodrama. I feel as if I am searching for that balance with my very fingertips.

Things are stuttering towards normal; there are still small glitches. My sleeping patterns are wildly unpredictable. I find it hard to keep up with the news. Most alarming of all, my rampant fascination with politics has gone into abeyance.

This is very odd. My usual geekish treat, after a long day’s work, is to catch up on the minutiae of American politics, via the brilliant MSNBC website, where I may watch Rachel Maddow and Lawrence O’Donnell. Primary season is hotting up; I should be glued to what strange Mr Rick Perry is going to say next, and how stary the staring eyes of Michelle Bachman are.

I should be on the edge of my seat, wondering whether Sarah Palin is going to run or not. Instead, I think: oh, what a bunch of showers. Can someone just say something sensible about unemployment and stop grandstanding for a single second? I have a suspicion that contemplation of mortality makes one impatient with egregious silliness.

This side of the pond, it is conference season. This is usually pig in clover time for me. For a political anorak, it is the equivalent of Fashion Week for the fashionistas. But this year, I have no interest in what Mr Ed Miliband is going to tell the gathered faithful. Yada, yada, I think; same old same old. If one person could just come up with a sane idea for economic growth without scoring party political points, I would send them a bunch of flowers.

Instead of obsessively watching The Daily Politics, with Andrew Neil, I have gone back to history, with Simon Schama. I am finding something soothing about returning to the grand sweep of the story of this island race. Ah, I think, the Wars of the Roses and The Field of the Cloth of Gold and The Dissolution of the Monasteries; that’s more like it. Years ago, I chose to read history rather than English at university because I thought I’ll always read Keats and Yeats for pleasure, but I won’t necessarily be glued to AJP Taylor and Professor Plumb. Oddly enough, twenty-five years on, I find that I have returned to history, rather than poetry, to soften my jagged soul.

It’s not just that it is so interesting, which it is, or that it is helpful for my work, which it also is, but that it is the big stuff. I want big stuff, just now. I have no time for petty political posturing or internecine party rows. I want battles and dynastic clashes and rebellions and sweeping electoral reform.

Outside, the wind whispers sinuously  at the window, and the sky turns the colour of pigeons. I shall do some work, and make some soup. And then I shall read something fascinating about The Long Parliament, for a special treat.


Today’s pictures are of our walk:

Autumn leaf action. The horse chestnuts are the first to turn:

25 Sept 1

25 Sept 2

25 Sept 3

25 Sept 4.ORF

Whilst the beeches remain green:

25 Sept 5

25 Sept 6

25 Sept 8

I found a perfect pigeon feather, and stuck it on a tree and took a picture of it:

25 Sept 7

And then contemplated the moss on the old stone wall, because I love contemplating moss:

25 Sept 9

Up at the end of the avenue, the Pigeon thought she saw a rabbit. Did it go that way?:

25 Sept 20

Or that?

25 Sept 21

Ah, well, never mind:

25 Sept 23

Then we got back to the house, after some excellent stick-throwing, and the dogs looked like this. Visiting poodle:

25 Sept 24

Happy Pigeon:

25 Sept 25

And the hill, rather ethereal in the low light:

25 Sept 26


  1. I have my head so deeply buried in the sand that I am managing to ignore the electoral run-up. Every time I see the word "Rick Perry" in the news-- and of course we see it a lot here in TX-- I avert my eyes and hum a peppy tune to distract myself until I forget he exists. This is not helping, but what to do. Instead of paying attention I am reading everything I own by V.S. Naipaul over again. Perhaps I should dig back into my history books too-- but they're all so very American-- Cold War stuff. Nothing divorced enough from modern life to cheer me up, but somehow Naipaul on the American South is just what I want. It makes us look like an observable phenomenon instead of an emotionally charged snarly mess. So clean.

    I hope that the horror of The Thing dissipates quickly from your life. Thank you as always for the lovely photos.

  2. "...contemplation of mortality makes one impatient with egregious silliness"... this is why (well, one of the many reasons why) I read your blog so much. Simple commonsense (with which I generally agree wholeheartedly) expressed with matchless verbal elegance. It is so, so satisfying.

    And the red trees are come. Wonderful. Thank you.

  3. I too had noticed how easy and light footed the Pigeon looks these days: she has grown to occupy what I think must be her present position as the Senior dog in the compound, with extreme grace and more than a touch of regality for the delight of everyone.

    Long long live those all-embracing smiles of hers!!!

    Enjoy your evening (almost, but not entirely, if you are like me) away from politcs. :)

  4. Ellie - what a lovely comment. V much like the thought of you humming a peppy tune.

    Cassie - you are always so kind. This particular comment is so generous it actually makes me feel a bit weepy. :)

    Cristina - love the thought of the Pigeon being light-footed, with its echoes of Houseman. And it is how she feels just now. You are good to notice.

  5. tania, for the love of God, woman, what is The Thing?? You have us all worried to distraction...

  6. Take a cue from the ever delightful (and so photogenic) Pigeon. Some rabbits are just not worth chasing!
    The older I get, the more carefully I pick my battles (and moral outrages). I don't think this "attitude" has to have a particular age assigned to it (I can still get quite passionate & scarily angry about particular things, oh yeah!). It's that more and more seems just so ridiculous (the current "offering" of Republican party candidates for the U.S. presidency, for example. If and when one idiot emerges from this herd, then I'll shoot into action. Or not?).
    Resisting autumn (not my favorite season because it means winter is on its way), still, those colors ARE brilliant. Beautiful. Thank you.

  7. Tania,
    I'm a relatively new reader here and wanted to write and tell me that your words are so resonant with me. I am at the beginning of my own grief journey - tight throated and tearful - and love the description of the balance we grown ups should seek to achieve.
    Thank you


  8. Anon - don't worry. Is not THAT bad. And I am bashing on through.

    Pat - LOVE the Pigeon and rabbit metaphor. She has got to that age, and so, perhaps, have I. Very wise of you.

    Beth - always so lovely to have a new reader. I cannot tell you how happy it makes me. I am so sorry you are in the shadow of grief, but so very glad that my paltry words are of some use. The tightness and ache in the throat is something I had for a long time, and it is only just easing. Go gently. :)


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