Posted by Tania Kindersley.
The sun shines on a glittering frost. It is minus five; the kind of weather where I wear two cardigans, two coats, my special Fair Isle gloves from Kirkby Lonsdale, and thick boot socks, and I am still chilly.
I start to get a little bit Christmassy. I go to the village and buy many green plants. I am not having a tree, for various dull reasons, but am filling the house with small verdant things instead. The flower shop is a riot of laughter and seasonal spirit. I buy two scarlet cyclamens for my mother and take them to her.
‘I really am quite bored with packing,’ she says.
I pause. I wonder if there is some secret trip she is taking that she has neglected to mention. Is she on her way to Vladivostok to do espionage?
‘You mean wrapping,’ says The Stepfather.
‘That’s it,’ says my mother.
We discuss whether Kauto Star might defy the doubters and win his fifth King George. We hope for nothing more.
‘And I think I’m going to do a ham,’ I say, a propos of nothing.
My mother nods.
‘Quite right,’ she says.
I do small pieces of work. I read an interesting book for research about the pliability of the brain. I like to think of the plastic brain. It fills me with optimism.
I arrange some of the green things, and put the special silver eucalyptus in a vase, and make a nice little centrepiece of some burnt orange roses. I am still frantically disorganised. Every year I mean to start early, with the wrapping and the trips to the Post Office, and every year I fail. I think a little sadly of my dad. He was an impossible person to buy for, but I always enjoyed the challenge of thinking of something he really might like. There is no need for that now.
Darkness falls, and a low hunter’s moon hovers over the horizon. There is suddenly a commotion at the door. IT IS THE YOUNGER BROTHER. (In his special hat.)
We have a slightly odd habit of shouting at each other when we meet. ‘Madly,’ we holler, hugging and kissing. ‘Here we are, madly.’
Then, for no reason at all, we roar with laughter. It would really be quite embarrassing if anyone were to witness it, and I’m not at all sure why I am describing it to you now. But it is so lovely to have him back.
The Pigeon is beside herself. She does not know which bit of his face to attempt to lick first. She jumps up and down on all fours. She wiggles and waggles her whole body, like a puppy. Her adoration for him knows no bounds. She stops, suddenly, and gazes at him with ineffable love.
It is very interesting. She is fond of a range of people, although I notice she is less indiscriminate with her affection as she grows older. She doesn’t just fling it about. She loves all the family, especially the very small people. But she reserves a special place in her heart for The Brother, even though, until this last trip, she had not seen him for three years. I wonder, in my odder moments, if he has a slightly canine aspect himself, which she recognises.
Really can’t quite believe I wrote that last sentence. You can tell my sleep patterns are still not what they should be. The brain continues addled.
So, that was my day. I think I did listen to the news at some point, but it was too demoralising to take in. (Still same Eurosmash, still same dire economic news.) I felt sad about Christopher Hitchens, who died this morning. He was an intensely complex man. I remember seeing him arrive, years ago, at Hay on Wye, to give a talk. He baffled the eager young woman sent to look after him by demanding whisky in a tea-cup at four o’clock in the afternoon, so he could take it on stage with him.
His opinions caused intense division, and he could sometimes be a bit of a showboat, but I don’t think he ever wrote a dull sentence. That’s not a bad way to be remembered.
Photographs of the day.
The spoils from the flower shop: