Monday, 31 October 2011

All Hallows' Eve

Posted by Tania Kindersley.

I get very grumbly indeed about Halloween. Nonsense commercial farrago, sent to us, naughtily, by our American cousins. America has sent us many wonderful things: Dorothy Parker, Scott Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, Humphrey Bogart, jazz. But Halloween in the costumed, trick or treating, sugary incarnation is not a good one.

So when I go into the Co-Op and see all the awful, hideous Halloween cupcakes and nylon witches’ hats, I get very, very cross. Except for today, when it was suggested that the great-nieces and nephew might come and pay me a trick or treat visit. Suddenly, it was the most joyous, wonderful, giddy festival, and I should push out that boat.

I swung into action. There would be special Halloween tea. Rather than get everything with spiders and worms and in orange, which seems to be a thing, I decided to cook. I based my menu on memories of bonfire night from when I was little. I remembered always loving tomato soup in cups, so that was what I made. I was running late, so I did a complete cheat, simply simmering some fat tomatoes and two garlic cloves in Marigold bouillon and then liquidising with a gloop of olive oil, and some passata for extra oomph. That was it. (If you were doing it for grown-ups, I would add some chilli and perhaps some marjoram.) It went down a storm. I made cheese straws with a thin line of Gentlemen’s Relish running through them for a little anchovy kick, a huge pot of popcorn with Maldon Salt, and a chocolate fridge cake.

Two small witches and a pumpkin arrived at four-thirty. They cast spells, patted the dog, shrieked ghoulish shrieks, and ate all the popcorn. I got a lot of special Halloween hugs, which is the thing I like the best. It was an absolute riot. I take it all back. I absolutely adore Halloween, and I hope you are having a happy one, wherever you are.


Sadly, there are no photographs of the momentous afternoon, on account of me being too dim to work out how the flash works on my camera, but here are some beech symphonies instead, from earlier in the day:

I can't quite believe this picture of the avenue is real. It looks almost like a painting:

31 Oct 1

See how flat and white the sky is? Even in a dull light, these great old beeches are flaming scarlet:

31 Oct 2

31 Oct 3

31 Oct 4

The lovely beech hedge:

31 Oct 6 31-10-2011 15-07-40

And opposite it, on some rough ground, a line of young beech trees has been planted, like an echo:

31 Oct 9 31-10-2011 15-08-00

My favourite of the young beeches. This one is about five years old:

31 Oct 10 31-10-2011 15-10-45

Very happy Pigeon:

31 Oct 20.ORF

31 Oct 21

And in more contemplative, faraway mood:

31 Oct 23 31-10-2011 14-46-07.ORF


31 Oct 24 31-10-2011 14-45-34

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Apologies for lack of blog

Posted by Tania Kindersley.

Tired today, so no blog. But after the marvellous wasp comments of yesterday, I could not leave you with absolutely nothing.

So here is a little Pigeon:

30 Oct 1.ORF

And a hill, because there must be a hill, even a rather blurry one like this:

30 Oct 2

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Wasps Attack

Posted by Tania Kindersley.

So, last night, I climbed up the stairs to bed. Nothing remarkable about that, you might think. It was clean sheet day, so I was looking forward to a lovely, comfortable sleep.

Walked into the room. Turned on the light.


I’m not joking. And they weren’t sweet, sleepy autumn wasps. They were furious crack regiment wasps, and they were flying at my head.

I’m ashamed to say I shrieked like a girl.

First of all, I tried to kill them with deodorant. I know that the Buddhists believe that all creatures are sacred and should not be randomly murdered, but I had no time for milk of human kindness. You may also be wondering about the deodorant thing. Well, I just reached for anything that sprayed. I got a spare out of the cupboard, so I went in double-handed. I think at one stage I may actually have shouted DIE DIE, but I might be imagining that part.

It wasn’t that effective. The wasps just got more furious. I swear reinforcements were coming in the open window. I was seriously outnumbered.

Then I remembered that I had some Raid somewhere. There followed a frantic Hunt for Raid. This took some time. The buzzing got louder and louder.

I found the Raid. Now the fuckers would rue the day. Ha. I got about half of them, almost asphyxiating myself in the process. The Pigeon stayed in close order for excellent moral support. Then the Raid ran out. Phhtt, phtt the can went, and that was that. The remaining wasps mustered, ready to avenge their slaughtered comrades. Back to the deodorant.

I could not get them all, and I’m afraid I ceded the field. I would have been pathetic in the war. (I always think of those SOE women and how courageous they were under fire. I am defeated by wasps.)

I slammed the bedroom door, to keep the buggers in, and went to sleep on the sofa. My sofa is very long and comfortable and covered in lovely blankets; it’s not sleeping in a tent outside St Paul’s Cathedral; but even so. I feared I might have strange wasp nightmares, but in the end I dreamed of having a new sofa delivered. The Prime Minister himself delivered it, carrying it up three flights of stairs and giving me a big kiss afterwards. That’s Her Majesty’s Government: service with a smile. What can this mean? I suspect even Jung would be stumped.

This morning, I had to be brave and go and inspect the battlefield. The room was quiet. (Too quiet.) There were dead wasps everywhere, curled up into sad little apostrophes. I felt faintly remorseful.

I cleared them all away and wondered what would happen tonight. Will their cohort arrive, to punish me for doing away with their fallen fighters? Where does a wasp swarm even come from, at midnight on a Friday? Will I ever sleep quietly in my bed again?


Pictures of the day are of the trees. It was a dull old day, but even so, the colours really are going crazy guns:

29 Oct 1

29 Oct 2

29 Oct 3

29 Oct 4

29 Oct 4-1

29 Oct 6

29 Oct 6-1

29 Oct 7

29 Oct 8

29 Oct 9-1

The Pigeon wandered off, and I went to look for her and found her skulking about in the yard, looking very guilty. I think she has found some secret stash of something down there, although I don't know what it is. I decided the old tractor looked very charming, so I made her pose in front of it, which she thought was excessively silly. Look at her face:

29 Oct 9

29 Oct 10

29 Oct 11

Then we went and threw the stick, so that cheered her up:

29 Oct 17-1

Today's hill:

29 Oct 15

I gather from the comments that there are some new readers this week. There is almost nothing that delights me more than new readers, so: Welcome. And thank you for coming.

Friday, 28 October 2011

Michael D and oak trees

Posted by Tania Kindersley.

Woke this morning to the tremendous news that it looks as if Michael D shall be President of Ireland.

The truth is, I have not really been following this much. The main thing that was reported here was that Martin McGuinness was getting very awkward questions about his past as an IRA commander, and what he did when, and whether he, literally, knew where the bodies were buried. (One of the cruellest things about the paramilitary groups is that they would take away sons in the night, and mothers and sisters sometimes too, shoot them, bury them in some godforsaken grave, and never tell the family where, so there was no body to mourn.) Anyway, despite the fact that I have loved the thought of Michael D Higgins ever since The Saw Doctors wrote their great shout of joy about him, which I listened to all through my twenties as I drove about Connemara in the shadow of the Twelve Bens, I had not really taken in that he was running.

In mitigation, I offer: book obsession.

A couple of days ago, there were news reports that he had suddenly surged in the polls, almost entirely because he had trounced all the other candidates in a debate. The thing I loved most about the trouncing is that it came not from clever rhetoric or calculated positioning, but, apparently, from clarity and straightforwardness and good English. Michael D speaks in honest sentences (he is a poet, after all), and does not use jargon or weasel words. This felt like rather a profound victory to me.

The results are still coming in, but it looks like Michael D is still rocking. And hurrah for that.

In the afternoon, I walked with the stepsister and small niece, who are visiting, and the stepfather, through the oak woods, past the tiny standing stones that sit there, by the coos, and round back down the lime avenue. The air was clear and still and the ground was cool and mossy and earthy under our feet and the colours were gleaming. We talked of birds and trees and dogs and the meaning of names. The Pigeon had a perfectly splendid time and is now whacked out on the sofa, exhausted from her afternoon.


Pictures are of what we saw on our walk:

The oaks:

28 Oct 2-1

28 Oct 3

28 Oct 4

The standing stones:

28 Oct 1

28 Oct 2

The Pigeon, checking for rabbits:

28 Oct 5

The beeches, which were green only two days ago, are now blazing amber:

28 Oct 6

The trees on the hill:

28 Oct 7

The splendid coos:

28 Oct 8

28 Oct 9

The limes:

28 Oct 10

Pigeon, thoughtful for her close-up:


28 Oct 12

Today's hill:

28 Oct 13.ORF


And here, in honour of the wonderful Michael D Higgins, is his very own song. I try never to tell the readers what to do, but you really do need to play this at full volume:


The Saw Doctors

The Irish really could not have chosen a better fellow.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

A very small story

Posted by Tania Kindersley.

I’m always banging on about the little things. The older I get, the more important I think them.

Yesterday afternoon, I looked out of my office window to see a family, gazing about, giving the appearance of being a bit lost. I went out and asked if I could help them. The Pigeon bounded up, in high delight, since there were four small children, and she loves nothing more. The children looked a bit doubtful at first to see a strange black dog galloping towards them; but I reassured them, explained her love of small people, and said that she just wanted to play. Then there were instant wide smiles of delight.

I spoke to the parents. They were looking for a local beauty spot, of which they had been told. I pointed them in the right direction and showed them how to get there. We talked for a bit. I asked them where they had come from. London, they said. I asked if they had been here before. They had not. The sun was shining like gangbusters and I said I was so glad that they had got some good weather, so they could see the hills in their pomp.

The woman said: ‘Well, it did rain yesterday, but that was not going to stop up. Out we went walking, all the same.’ Her husband nodded and smiled. They were very elegant and well-dressed, and the children were immaculate; with their black clothes and London accents, I could see they might be taken as soft southern visitors, not with the flinty stuff of the north-east. But not a bit of it; out they had gone, in the murk and the dreich and the wet, defiant in the face of weather. All the same, I was very very pleased that they had the fine sun now, as the colours are starting to sing.

Anyway, it’s not a specially interesting story. We made some more polite conversation. I suggested another local place they might like to see. I wished them all well and smiled and waved at the children. It was a small, ordinary, human interaction, nothing dramatic or screenworthy about it.

As they walked off, and the mother said, to her children: ‘Say thank you to the nice lady’. They politely did. The Pigeon watched them go with regret. I said I hoped they had a lovely trip.

Inside I was shouting: I’m a NICE LADY. It was like getting a badge or a medal. Most of the time lately, I’ve been a distrait lady, or an impatient lady, or a slightly nuts in the head lady. I thought: all that talk of manners that my mother did with us when we were small really was worth it.

You see – tiny, tiny thing. So small I did not even write of it yesterday. But it has stayed with me. It’s something to do with the kindness of strangers. It’s something to do with the simplicity of seeing a family having a delightful holiday, not in some exotic foreign clime or some antic theme park, but here, in dear old Scotland, where they may look at the mountains and the trees and the local architecture. It was a little sliver of politesse, all of us minding our Ps and Qs, as if in defiance of the cross newspapers, which insist we live in an atomised and selfish and rude society.

Anyway, whatever it was, it made me oddly happy. So that is my small thing of the day.

And now your pictures of the day. The colours remain quite astonishing, almost too real to be real:

Almost the last horse chestnut to still have its leaves:

27 Oct 1

This one is a bit blurry, but I wanted you to see the colours:

27 Oct 2

I keep taking shots of this view, because of the tiny golden trees in the foreground, and the echoing gold on the hill:

27 Oct 3

My Japanese cherry, with which I remain entranced:

27 Oct 4

The salix has suddenly gone bright yellow:

27 Oct 5

Some of the beeches are still not yet turned:

27 Oct 6.ORF

Another golden tree, with the blue hill beyond:

27 Oct 8

Light on the hill:

27 Oct 9.ORF

Another view of the Japanese cherry; hope this does not become too repetitive. But LOOK at it:

27 Oct 10.ORF

And talking of looking at things, regard this eager are-you-going-to-throw-the-ball face:

27 Oct 11

Answer was, of course, yes I am.

Today's hill:

27 Oct 15


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