Saturday, 30 April 2011

Another Hill

Posted by Tania Kindersley.

I saw another hill today. Actually, she's a mountain, and she's my favourite, and I have no idea why she is a she in my mind, but she is, and that's all.

I remember saying to someone I love, a few years ago, when things like this happen, it's as if you lose a layer of skin. So there is absolutely no defence against anything. This turns out to be true. I'm not sure I knew when I said it how true it was. Or perhaps I forgot.

30th April 1

I'm going off the blog for a bit. Do not fret; it is logistics, mostly. Thank you, thank you, thank you for the incredible kindness you have shown in the last week. Each comment has made me smile, and the thoughtfulness and sheer heart of what you have written has touched me profoundly.

Back in a little while.

Friday, 29 April 2011


Posted by Tania Kindersley.

Yesterday was the worst day. I don't know why. It just was.

The Younger Niece comes home. She says, plaintively, to my sister: 'Can we have a cheerful day?'.

So we are damn well going to have a cheerful day. We are British, dammit, we have a stiff upper lip.

We are going to watch the Royal Wedding. I know it is fashionable to sneer at the whole thing. Thing is: sneering is easy. Anyone can sneer. It takes no imagination. I watched the news last night and there were thousands of Ordinary Decent Britons camped out on the Mall. They were all so happy. Some ladies from Portsmouth were singing Roll Out the Barrel. I wanted to kiss them. I love the British, I don't care. Roll Out the Barrel? I'm damn well not sneering at that.

One young boy, about ten, said, very seriously, to the BBC: 'I've never seen so many people so, so…' He stopped, searching for the right word. 'Cheerful,' he said. 'Not in my whole life.'

That's the British way. Not ecstatic or crazed with exhuberance, but cheerful. That was the Niece's word too. That's what we'll do.

All the great-nephews and nieces are here. There are going to be cupcakes. The sun is shining in Scotland. You can't ask more than that.

For me, I am most excited about the horses of the Household Cavalry. Dresses are all very well, but give me a good army horse any day, groomed to within an inch of its life.

In the spirit of the thing, here is a good old Union flag, for dear old Blighty and all who sail in her:


Thursday, 28 April 2011


Posted by Tania Kindersley.

The sun goes on shining. I did a good old big fat cry last night, and the pain has gone from my shoulders. There is instead a low pressure on my head, as if someone is pressing on it.

I have quite a lot of irrational thoughts. Suddenly, today, I thought: why does there have to be all this bloody funeral business? I know humans need ceremony and ritual. I know the family must gather. I know it is proper and right. It is the way of things. It must be done. But suddenly, suddenly, I think: why do I have to go and stand in a church and see him in a box? What’s that about? Why must there be the putting in the ground, in the old earth? Why can’t I just drive down to Glenn Muick and say goodbye now, consign what is left of the spirit and the life to the mountains and the loch? Why do I have to put on my jewel and find a suitable black dress and make sure I remember the waterproof mascara?

In the illogical part of my head, I think of all this mummery and say: stupid, stupid, stupid.

Almost certainly by tomorrow I shall think the diametrical opposite. Perhaps that is a thing too, like the ache in the shoulder blades. Perhaps there will be people out there nodding their heads, saying, quietly, oh yes, I remember that day.


Pictures, which are mostly of the green things:

28th April 1

28th April 2

28th April 3

28th April 4

28th April 5

28th April 10

28th April 11


28th April 14

Wednesday, 27 April 2011


Posted by Tania Kindersley.

The sun shines, like a crazy shining thing. It is as hot as midsummer. My cousin calls and makes me laugh. An old friend I have not seen for years touches me by sending a message all the way from the West Coast of California.

I put in the death notice.

I speak to a very professional woman called Amy, at The Telegraph. When she reads the words back to me she spells them in pilot-spelling; that's Alpha Lima Bravo, she says, very very fast. I think: my God, she really knows that special alphabet.

It is hundreds of pounds. I try very hard to be dignified. I am representing the family, after all. I must be proper and correct. It feels like a very important and definitive thing to be doing, and I am glad that I have the responsibility. But I cannot help a most unworthy thought crossing my head: quite naughty of the old Torygraph to profit so mightily from the death of people. Not very family values of it; oh your dad died, that will be two hundred and ninety quid. Don't say anything out loud, I tell myself. To poor Amy I say, really without meaning to: 'It's not given away, is it?'

Not good with the dignity and gravitas. Not good at all. It's only a bit of cash. And it's really not Amy's fault. She just has to do that special alphabet, very very fast. She does not set the rates.

My back hurts all over. The Older Niece comes. She does very high-end Thai massage; she has many certificates from Bangkok. I lie flat on the lovely soft travel rug I bought in the Lake District, on my lawn, in the sunshine, while she rolls up her sleeves and gets to work.

'Yes,' she says, wisely. 'Very, very tense. Your back is locked. I think you are holding your grief in your shoulder blades.'

'They bloody hurt,' I shout.

The massage is quite full-on. You do it with all your clothes on and it involves a lot of rocking and pressing and pummelling. It's brilliant, but it makes me yell. Usually, for some reason, it makes me laugh belly-laughs, which surprises the Niece. Apparently most of her other clients do not make that noise. Today it does not make me laugh. It makes me shout and groan.

The Pigeon, who is very protective, loves the Niece but is clearly unsure whether she is using her powers for good or evil. She cannot bark or growl at this person she loves, so she chooses the excellent compromise. She runs over and lies down on my legs, putting her whole body between me and possible harm. She will not be moved, but stares balefully into the middle distance.

Eventually, with much coaxing, she goes and sits next to the Sister, who is also with us, and anxiously licks my hand to let me know she has not abandoned me.

'That dog,' says my sister, 'will never let anything happen to you.'

The Duchess, true to her years of achieving ultimate grandeur, does not move from her place in the sun, but merely gives the Niece a tremendous de haut en bas stare from her steely yellow eyes.

Apparently the physical aching is a thing. People have told my sister that it does happen. The Niece says it is because I am trying to be good and brave and calm and not startle the horses. She thinks that anything complicated and messy is getting stuck in my muscles. (She is a bit new age sometimes, and I am a strict child of the Enlightenment, so when she says things like this I sometimes josh and tease her. Now I wonder if she is not right, on account of mind and body being so intimately connected. That's not just hippie talk; that's empirical fact.)

I am quite cross about this. It seems that even when faced with death my competitive streak still surfaced without my knowing it. I was going to damn well do the best grieving ever. It was going to be pure and clean and true. I would remember my old dad at his most majestic and best and cry for him and that would be that. That's what I thought I was doing. Turns out my shoulder blades know something I did not. Something is trapped in there, and it's not going to be all as lovely and limpid and straightforward as I thought.

Bugger, bugger, bugger, I say, out loud. The Pigeon walks over, stares me straight in the eye, and gives me a great big lick on the nose.



The quince is flowering:

27th April 1

And the tulips continue quite unreal:

27th April 1-1

27th April 3

I love that apple tree:

27th April 4

27th April 5

Under it, nestles the acer:

27th April 6

Beside the little blue flowers:

27th April 7

I love the light on all the green things:

27th April 9

27th April 9-1

27th April 10

The hellebores are very elegant today:

27th April 11

The dozing yellow eyes of The Duchess:

27th April 12

The watchful face of The Pigeon:

27th April 14

The hill:

27th April 16

27th April 15


PS. Such a sweet thing happened just now. I was taking the dogs through the woods, thinking that perhaps a bit of walking would be good for loosening the knots. We were going past a rather lovely house that we sometimes walk by when we ran into a quartet of people from the South, touring the area. They were so nice: staunch, smiling Yorkshire people. (I know I should not generalise, but I have a deep love for the people of Yorkshire.)

'Do you know this area?' I said. No, it turned out, they did not. So I gave them a little history of the house, with specific reference to the local vernacular, which is very lovely and very particular to this part of Scotland. We commented of course on the fine weather, with the air of surprise that British people always have when it turns out sunny. I wished them a lovely stay, and we walked on, in our different directions.

I don't know why it was such a delightful interlude, but it was. I think it was because they were such nice people, so friendly and beaming with good nature. They were obviously having a marvellous trip. They were taking that most simple of pleasures: a walk in the country. The whole thing was very polite, very proper, and very good.

Will they remember, I thought, when they get home, the slightly distrait woman (my hair has gone to pot and I am dressing in a frankly peculiar way just now) with the very charming dogs whom they found in the woods?

For some reason, a line runs through my mind. It is of Karen Blixen. It goes something like: if I sing a song of Africa, will Africa sing a song of me?


Posted By Tania Kindersley.

Last night, I made a noise. It came out of nowhere. It went: ah, ah, ah, ah. It was quite loud. Even though there was no other person to hear, I felt slightly embarrassed. I was brought up in the Irish tradition, I live now in Scotland, it’s all Celtic fringe with me, but I lived my formative years in England. So there is that English thing of not doing drama; the great tradition of phlegm, of not making a fuss. Don’t make a damn fuss, says the voice in my head.

The noise went: AH, AH, AH, AH. It was like the beginning of tears, but there were no tears. There was no water; everything stayed dry. My shoulders started moving up and down. There was a tremor through my body. AH, I said. I breathed out, like an exhausted racehorse. Bloody hell, I said.

At once, I thought: I must write this down. That is always my instinct. When it is written it is true; on the page it makes sense. Maybe the thing I love the most that was ever said about writing was Chekhov’s stern instruction: if you hear a gun go off in the fourth act, you must see it loaded in the first. My own little trope, the one I have used over and over again, is: in actual life, you don’t even know there is a gun.

I was always rather proud of that. I think I thought it quite clever and correct. But now I see that I am with Chekhov, after all. In my gut, I want the first act to make sense of the fourth act. That is why I love the written word. It’s not just for the prose, or the rhythm of a sentence, which, if you do it right, can sound like singing, or the sometimes cunning or surprising placement of a semi-colon. I love it because it makes sense of things that make no sense at all.

If I can write a thing, then it has a pattern, a truth, a meaning. If it is not written, then it is just life, which is too messy and random and inexplicable. It has no shape. It has no sense.

Even now, as I feel the tap tap click click of the keys under my fingers, I feel my shoulders start to come down, and the sensation of movement return to my tight body. When people talk of writing as therapy, I think sometimes they make a fundamental error. It’s not the spilling of the stuff that brings reason back; it’s the shaping of it. We can all share with the group, and I don’t underestimate that. I talked to a man today who lost his dad two years ago, and there was a huge relief in that. ‘You know all about this,’ I said, and he smiled and nodded his head, and I knew I would not have to make excuses or explain the oddity.

But the writing of it is a different thing. It is not the telling, it is the gathering into complete sentences. It is the plain, comforting fact that there is a beginning, middle, and end. It may be that I am a little freakish that I find comfort in that, but I do. There is something about the lovely, sensible, comprehensible black marks on a white page that fill me with relief. As long as I can do that, all is not lost.


26th April 5

26th April 6

26th April 4

26th April 6-1

26th April 2

26th April 1

26th April 3.ORF

Monday, 25 April 2011


Posted by Tania Kindersley.

I am tired. I am tired deep into the bone, in the places where sleep cannot reach. My eyelids are tired. My fingernails are tired.

I yearn for simplicity.

The sun shines down. The world turns. The blossom blossoms.

In it all, I find the younger niece. We sit for a moment in the sun and talk of life and death. And dogs, of course. She loves the dogs as much as I; they were once her puppies, before they came to live with me. She pulls their velvet ears and they gaze at her in plain adoration.

She is completely and utterly herself; young and funny and kind and true. I think: what a lovely gift, to be always your absolute self. I think: authenticity is not a high, singing word. It’s not something on which epic poems are made. But it is my word of the day. If I had the talent for the sonnet form, which I do not, it is the quality about which I should weave my sonnets.


The first mint:

25th April 2

And the young marjoram:

25th April 4


25th April 3


25th April 4-1

The light on the apple tree:

25th April 6-1

And the white lilac:

25th April 6

And the blue flowers:

25th April 7

And the unknown shrub, which now, thanks to a kind reader, I remember is a daphne:

25th April 8

25th April 9

The last of the grape hyacinths:

25th April 9-1

The dogs:

25th April 1

25th April 11

The hill:

25th April 10

Lovely, lovely comments, again; so wise and kind. Thank you for them all. They mean a lot.

Sunday, 24 April 2011

In which I am not ready for prime-time

Posted by Tania Kindersley.

Yesterday, I went to the shop, because I must buy and eat food. I thought that was perfectly all right. There is a kind of adrenaline I have found in the beginning of grief. I'm not sure if that is the same for everyone. On the first morning after, I walked round and round the block, as the sun beat down, talking to friends, remembering good times, making jokes. Making jokes? But then I rather loved that there was room for laughter in the remembrance. That felt right.

I could not sit still, so I walked and walked, until the Duchess actually refused to go another step, planting herself on the path and looking at me with baffled eyes.

There was a hovering sense of unreality, but as long as I was with the family, getting calls from the good friends, and the Beloved Cousin, who rings each day, that was fine. Not fine, exactly, but finer than I might have thought.

I was a bit vague in the shop. I just thought: protein, and green things. Chicken, I thought; I must make chicken soup.  Then I ran into someone I know, not very well, whom I have not seen for a long time. She had to say hello twice before I realised that she was there.

'You look in a bit of a daze,' she said.

In my head, I said: my Dad died.

Out loud I said: 'Oh yes, I suppose I am.' I did a silly me sort of laugh and tried to focus my eyes. I nodded and shrugged.

We made small talk. Because we are British, we spoke of the weather. I heard myself say: 'I am so glad there is some rain for the garden. The poor flowers are frantic for rain.'

In my head, I said: But my Dad died.

I nodded and smiled some more. Don't say anything, I thought. You can't talk about death in the Co-Op.

That poor woman, I thought, she must think I am so rude.

When I got home I thought how funny it is. Funny peculiar, really, more than funny ha ha. I think I actually thought my grief was going rather well. It's a clean thing, strong and authentic, running through my body like a river. It is tears and laughter. It is a lot of love. But it is more fragile than I thought. It is not yet ready to go out of the house.



I bought some roses. They are a little bit out of focus:

24th April 2


24th April q


24th April 3

24th April 4


And for those of you who celebrate it, Happy Easter.

And thank you again for all the many wonderful comments. I know that a lot of you know all about this. That you took the time to leave messages is incredibly moving. Forgive me for not replying to you individually.


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