Monday, 17 October 2011

In which I remember what normal life is like

Posted by Tania Kindersley.

Today is official deadline day. Ha! I laugh in the face of its puny plan. I beat it by a whole 36 hours.

I used those hours to lapse into a state of mild catatonia, interspersed by keen pleasures.

I watched the racing. The mighty Frankel did what so many people hoped, and cantered away with the big race at Ascot, against the top milers in the world, by four lengths, easing up. He has never been beaten. His form just goes: 1111-11111. It’s a sort of poetry.

He has the look of eagles now. He carries an air of infinity. He does not preen, because he does not need to. When he comes into the winning enclosure, to applause and whoops and whistles, to a polite racing crowd cheering as if they were at a football match, he does not throw his head up and skitter about, as so many thoroughbreds would. A top-class three-year-old racehorse is a finely bred creature, temperamental, a part of them still slightly untamed; met with that kind of noise, they could freak out. Frankel just looked at the crowd, quite calm, not showboating or grandstanding, as if to say: ‘I know’.

He’s a beautiful horse. He does what he does unbelievably well. He is an animal of glory and grace.

I thought: I am really, really lucky to have seen that.

The next day, there was a family lunch. The great-nieces and nephew were there, in their Sunday best. The smallest Small, who is still very tiny indeed, is a very thoughtful little fellow. He spends quite a lot of time gazing into the middle distance, thinking important thoughts. Occasionally, he breaks out into a wide smile and says: ‘Digger’, for no special reason except that diggers are his favourite things. He spent some time very, very gently stroking The Pigeon, who lay quite still for him, as his tiny little hand patted her fur.

Then I made some more chicken soup, went to bed, and slept ten hours straight.

This morning, I got up, went down, let the dog out, and collected the post. There was a slim packet from Amazon. I have not ordered any books, I thought, although I have been nutty enough in the last week to have done a secret book purchase and forgotten all about it.

I opened it up, and found a beautiful book about a man who planted trees. It is elegantly bound, and illustrated with woodcuts. There was a note. It was from a Dear Reader. An unfeasibly kind reader sent me a book. I felt quite overcome and slightly tearful. It was such an unexpected thing, so generous and thoughtful. Everyone says the world is going to the dogs, that we live in a spoilt and selfish culture, riven with commercial imperatives and sullied by celebrity obsession. But still, here, in dear old Blighty, there are the random acts of kindness, to reassure and console.

So, thank you, Cassie, not just for the lovely present, but for the reminder of the essential goodness which still survives.

(And thank you all for the incredibly kind and supportive messages you have left, over the last few days.)

Now, I am going to take a week off. I am going to catch up with the news, and reacquaint myself with the world. I am going to cook things. I am going to read my delightful new book. I am going to throw the stick for The Pigeon, and get the garden ready for winter. (There are rumours of snow on the Grampians today, and there is the first proper chill in the air, as if the weather is getting serious.) I might even, if I am very bold, make an attempt to tidy up my office.


Dirty old dreich old day today, so here are a few pictures from the last week, when the sun was shining:

17 Oct 1

17 Oct 2

17 Oct 3

17 Oct 4

17 Oct 5.ORF

Autumn is getting its groove on, but the beeches are still green as green. In a few weeks, all that will be bright scarlet:

17 Oct 6

17 Oct 7

17 Oct 8

There has been a sudden, unexpected flowering of the chives:

17 Oct 9

And the marjoram still has tiny blooms on it:

17 Oct 10.ORF

I love this tale of Two Pigeons – serious face:

17 Oct 12

Delirious face:

17 Oct 13

Hill, in panorama:

17 Oct 20


And some lovely Frankel pictures for you, from Saturday's triumph:

Leaving everything trailing in his majestic wake:

frankel-ascot Getty Images

Photograph by Getty Images.

Jockey Tom Queally, hugging him after the race:

Frankel-is-hugged-by-Tom Queally Eddie Keogh Reuters

Photograph by Eddie Keogh, for Reuters.

At his turbo-charged finest:

Frankel-wins-at-Ascot- Steve Parsons for PA

Photograph by Steve Parsons for the PA.

And I love this one, of him on the gallops at home, looking as relaxed as an old hound:

Frankel by Alan Crowhurst at Getty Images

Photograph by Alan Crowhurst for Getty Images.

There is a video of the race here, if you want to have a look:

Especially watch him going down to the post, as collected as if he were a dressage pony. That's almost my favourite part.


  1. Your relief comes through in your words. Or is it joy? Satisfaction? You did a JOB, for heaven's sake, did it well, on time, all those things that are so strengthening. What a nice payoff for all the angst.

    Saw Frankel - and like you, loved best that gallop to the post. He looked the like handsomest casual ride in history, only moments before he came home like a freight train.

    Didn't know Bobby Frankel personally, but always had a soft spot for him because once, when his old dog was sick and couldn't travel with him, he declined to come to the Breeders Cup. Sent his stable of horses and some probably won (can't recall), but didn't come with them himself. He would have to be proud of the horse named after him.

    Welcome back to the living.


  2. Bird - what an absolutely lovely comment. I adore that Bobby Frankel story. I find it very reassuring that a serious, successful professional should still do the dog island thing. I won't go anywhere now without my Pigeon, and do wonder if that makes me a bit nutty. Now I think: if it was good enough for Mr Frankel, it's good enough for me. :)

  3. There absolutely never was a moment's doubt, not on this little patch of North American soil, that you would recover and be every bit your sassy self again. Welcome back, now go have a good ol' rest and do as you please for however long you like. You know all of us will be here when you get back.

  4. Tania: I am so glad it arrived safely, and that it had the effect I hoped for. I'm privileged to have had the opportunity. I do hope you enjoy the book. Take and enjoy your rest as you so richly deserve.

    [And if you do head for the office in an attempt to tidy it, you could [in manner of Red Queen believing six impossible things before breakfast] believe that the spirit of the professional organiser came included in the slim parcel from Amazon...

  5. Thank goodness for the Dear Readers...your and mine. What would we do without them? L x

  6. P.S. Well done well done well done.

  7. You sound so relieved and happy that its over an done with. Enjoy now.

  8. Larrouxgirl - thank you so much. I love sassy; a great adjective.

    Cassie - you are so kind. I can't tell you what a surprise and a treat it was. I love it, and you are so very generous. Now all I have to do is imagine that organising spirit...

    Lou - thank you so much. I do feel quite weepy about the dear readers at the moment.

    Mystica - you are so kind. I AM relieved. Thank you. :)

  9. I love sassy too; not least because I played (the part played by Cher in the film) Sissy in Come Back to the Five & Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean; and one of my fellow actresses from that show has, forever since, addressed me as Sassie... :D

  10. We, all of us together, could to a right splendid job of straightening out some disarray in MY country, which also may be your country, some of you. Everyone who gathers here seems sane and grounded in ways many of my acquaintances aren't. Thank God for the flock at Backwards...


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