Thursday, 15 September 2011

Sentence by sentence

Posted by Tania Kindersley.

What was it I promised you? Pom-poms and dancing girls? Ha. (Oh the hollowness of the hollow laugh.) Yesterday was what my cousin V calls a False Perk. Today we are back to: head filled with gunk, body aching and hot and cold, eyes like two boiled sweets. More bloody chicken soup. More swigging of the Benylin.

I must get air, so I go out for an old lady walk with the Younger Brother. We discuss rage and despair. We are now quite fluent on the subject.

As we walk past the hill, he says:

‘I have a friend who believes that the moon was put there by aliens.’

He does not say this in a WHOO-WHOO fruitcake-alert kind of voice. He says it quite normally, and actually it turns out the moon-alien aspect is not the point of the story at all. The story is a little parable about heaven and hell, and rather wise and interesting.

At the end, I say: ‘Can we just go back to the whole friend with the alien moon thing?’

‘Oh yes,’ says The Brother, in a very matter of fact voice. ‘He’s a lovely hippie. He sells shedloads of crystals to Nicholas Cage.’

At which point, I stop in my tracks, clutch my stomach, and shout and yell with laughter. I don’t know. For some reason, this strikes me as one of the funniest things I have ever heard.

The Brother starts laughing too. ‘It was at Glastonbury, or something,’ he says. ‘You know.’

I really don’t know. I am an empiricist. I don’t believe in crystals or aliens or fairies at the bottom of the garden. It is one of the great differences between me and The Brother. I believe in science. It seems to me there are quite enough miracles there to be going on with. Every atom in every one of our bodies is made of stardust. STARDUST. Joni Mitchell was not just clicking her teeth when she sang that song about we are stardust, we are golden. It was not whimsy; it was physics. When I stop in front of an ancient hill and begin to laugh, it is because the ancient pieces of an exploded star which compose my body are reconfiguring themselves into hilarity.

We get back to the garden.

‘You have to come and see the new heathers,’ I say.

The Brother inspects them seriously, and kindly admires them. He is not all about horticulture, but he sweetly knows that it is what makes me happy at the moment. I feel weak, so I lie down on the grass as we finish our conversation.

‘Got to feel the earth under me,’ I say. ‘That’s what I need now.’

The Brother throws the ball for The Pigeon. ‘You are the best of all dogs,’ he says to her, gravely. ‘Because you are so well-behaved.’ She stares up at him with flaming adoration.

Actually, she is not that well-behaved with him, because she has developed a huge crush on him, and sometimes cannot help herself crawling all over his stomach and licking his ears. ‘Yes, yes,’ he says, when she does this. ‘I know. I know. But enough with the licking.’

There was a point, when I started this post, but I can’t now remember what it was. I have always had a fatal tendency to go off on tangents; my strict headmistress used to castigate me for it when I was nine. I think, I think, that before I sat down to write this I was contemplating the fear of wasting time. That’s what makes me cross about being ill, because my schedule goes all to pot. The stardust atoms in my brain will not concentrate, and my cognitive function gets blurred, and instead of the diamond-hard achievement that I crave, there is vagueness. I am getting some work done, but not enough, not enough.

I think I was thinking that perhaps a day is never wasted if I can write one lovely sentence. Some days, there will not be a lovely sentence, but there might be a decent idiom, or a bright figure of speech. Sometimes, I may get a sense of satisfaction if I can find just the right adjective and put it in its perfect place.

I wonder if this is the perspective that middle age and contemplations of mortality bring. The insanely ambitious part of me still wants to write a hundred books before I die. Then, the more prosaic, rational part thinks: if I can just write one good sentence a day, then the time is not wasted.

Part of the treachery of writing is that you get hung up on word counts. Oh, oh, look at me, with my fifteen hundred words. I have been guilty of boasting of that on this blog, when I have had a day of many words. What I do not say is that hundreds of those words shall never be seen. They are the dead darlings, who languish in limbo. Hemingway, who wrote one of my three favourite novels of all time in The Sun Also Rises, once said: ‘I write one page of masterpiece for every ninety-nine pages of shit.’

It’s one of the best things I ever heard about writing. His theory was the you have to be clever enough to know the difference, and brave enough to carve away the dross.

So maybe that’s my ambition just now. In my swimmy head, which is making no sense at all, I think: one lovely sentence. Or at least, the dream of one.

One lovely sentence, and the day is done.


Naughtily feeling too weak for photographs today, so here is a rather random selection from this week:

15 Sept 1

15 Sept 2

15 Sept 3.ORF

15 Sept 5

15 Sept 7

15 Sept 8.ORF

15 Sept 8.ORF-1

15 Sept 9.ORF

15 Sept 10.ORF

15 Sept 11

15 Sept 12.ORF

15 Sept 13.ORF

15 Sept 14.ORF

Because having a cold makes me think slightly odder thoughts than usual, I actually decided the other night that I should get The Pigeon a job. I wrote something for Red Magazine a while ago, and I really thought that I might ring up the nice editor I dealt with and ask if she needed any dog models. Human models are ten a penny, but a canine that photographs as well as this must surely be like gold dust?:

15 Sept 18

I mean, really, she is the Christy Turlington of the dog world:

15 Sept 19.ORF

And this face, this face kills me. Slightly reproving, more in sorrow than in anger. What is she thinking?:

15 Sept 21

You will be glad to hear that I have come to my senses, and shall not be hawking her out to the highest bidder. But I do still say that this kind of beauty adds mightily to the gaiety of nations. Well, the gaiety of my own private nation, anyway.

And today’s hill, which is actually not really today’s at all, but from Tuesday:

15 Sept 20

PS. May I say a special thank you to the Dear Reader who very kindly pointed out that yesterday I wrote hyacinth when I meant hydrangea. She generously blamed it on computer malfunction. In fact, it was brain malfunction. But that’s how nice my readers are. And I feel very lucky that you all put up with my mazy wanderings with such excellent grace.


  1. I am sure Christy Turlington is thinking she might have met her match ;-) Lou x

  2. Oh Tania, I have missed you. What a wonderful, cheering post. You ALWAYS write such beautiful sentences. Lovely stuff.

    Big love from CA,

    Miss W xx

  3. I second Miss Whistle. I enjoy reading your beautiful sentences every morning. You have a lovely turn of phrase. Get well soon. Lou

  4. Sometimes my body has a mind of its own.
    For whatever reason(s), your body is telling you to TAKE A BREAK.
    Send that so-called "rational" brain on vacation. Embrace your stardust and wonderful, crazy (in the best and most creative sense of that word!) thoughts.
    It IS a major bummer that you have to be filled with snot to slow down...but, maybe that's what it takes (this time) to s l o w you down.
    (I know. My body periodically bushwhacks me too.)
    PS "Mazy" is a good thing too....


  5. Lou - rather love the idea of Christy freaking out at the idea of The Pigeon. :)

    Miss W - always so lovely to hear yr voice. Big love back to CA from Scotland.

    Lou - such a kind comment; thank you.

    Pat - LOVE the idea of embracing the stardust.


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