Posted by Tania Kindersley.
I have an old and hysterically unfashionable affection for the Whig view of history. Sometimes I really do want to dream that the unfolding years are a gentle upward curve of progress. Look! Women get the vote! Lesbians actually do exist, despite what Queen Victoria might have had to say about it! Children no longer have to go up chimneys! Someone invented the internet! Slavery is outlawed! There is Wolfenden, and the gentlemen need not get arrested for having fun with Guards officers!
You know that I generally avoid exclamation marks as long as my fingers have life left in them. But sometimes they are the only things that will do.
Anyway, the point is: because I like to emphasise the positive, I tend to see that lovely curve. Then I remember that the women of Saudi Arabia still may not drive, and my precious theory crumbles about my optimistic ears.
It’s a little bit the same in life. Sometimes I am ruthlessly realistic; sometimes, you may be surprised to hear, I am capable of pragmatism. But more often I just get carried away. Come on, come on I cry, as I drive a metaphorical coach and horses through the rising slope of my own mind. On, on, faster, faster. Each galloping step will drive one nearer to the peak of, oh, I don’t know, some mythical plateau where the sun always shines. (I’m so sorry; it’s always at times like this that my more strained metaphors break down.)
Then one bashes into a bit of a setback, and even though I know life is made of setbacks, more setback than setforward, one might say, it’s always a tiny bit of a shock. I blame my love of those old Whigs. Even though I know there is no mythical upward curve, my irrational mind thinks there might be, and is mildly outraged when it is proved wrong.
So there is that moment when the wind is knocked out of one. It was supposed to be onward and upward, bigger and better, new and improved, and it’s actually crash bang wallop, collapse in a heap on the floor, and wait patiently until one’s ears stop ringing.
And then, what comes along and saves the day is: determination. It’s not very sexy or rock and roll or haut bohemian or poetic or even especially noteworthy. It’s not idealism or brave new worlds or I have a dream or shining cities on hills. With me, it’s the gritted teeth that count. I might stumble and fall, but I shall not stay down there on the floor. I think: damn it, the rocks in the road do not get the better of me, no sir. I shall be cussed and galvanised; I shall rely on those most British of things: gumption, and bottom. (For those of you not from Blighty, bottom does not mean an actual arse, but the emotional and spiritual ballast which means one may be knocked off course, but one does not give up.)
So there. Determination, and perhaps the odd dry martini. My friend the playwright rings. He knows all about this stuff. Underneath his Noel Coward turn of phrase lies a core of steel. (Also, since I seem to have succumbed to mild platitude: a heart of gold.) He will take me for cocktails, and set me gently back on the right path. Rather like the Beloved Cousin, he is one of those who knows just what to say, at just the precise moment it needs to be said. It is the most rare of gifts.
In the meantime, my very small friend H appears to be watching something called Spongebob. I don’t really know what this is, but it sounds highly diverting. It may not be the dear old Whigs, but when someone of three years of age is shrieking with laughter at a cartoon character named after a bathroom implement, nothing can be that bad.
I'm afraid the day ran away with me, and there was no time for photographs, so here, in compensation, are three various shots of the glory that is The Pigeon:
I do not want to get your hopes up, but tomorrow, if the fates collude, and the sun shines, and I remember to charge the battery, there may be pictures of acers. It is definitely time for the return of the autumn colour.