Posted by Tania Kindersley.
Sometimes I like a nuanced, suggestive title. Sometimes not. Today, not. It’s Good Things or bust.
Here is the thing I think about grief. It’s all right, as long as there is still room for the good stuff. I am lucky: these are profound sorrows, but they are not obliterating. I heard a woman on the wireless today who was widowed at a young age; her husband’s heart just stopped ticking. She said that at the beginning she could not taste anything, see anything, think anything, do anything, feel anything. She was so articulate and interesting, ten years or so on, and so without self-pity. But it was a terrifying description.
I can write this. I can get up in the morning. I can cook and love my dog and laugh great shouting belly laughs. The Brother is back on the compound, and he and The Sister came round last night for half an hour.
‘The death and oblivion stuff,’ he said. ‘Are you having trouble with that?’
‘Yes,’ I said. ‘I am damn well having trouble with that.’
Then the three of us laughed and laughed and laughed. I don’t even really know how it started. It was something to do with Finland. And the Bishop of Stockholm. (The Brother has just come back from a Scandinavian tour. Oh, he says, I do love the Danes.) I think he had startled the Finns, which is not surprising, and suddenly it was the funniest thing that had ever happened, anywhere, ever.
So, you see. Good Things.
Then, just now, the Co-Writer called.
‘I’m sitting on a beach reading a rather good book,' she said.
‘You don’t mean,’ I said. I started yelling, partly from excitement, partly because the line was not very good. ‘You can’t mean?’
She rustled the manuscript down the line.
‘Can’t put it down,’ she said.
She has, of course, serious points to make. There is bagginess, some repetition, and, apparently, some intemperate ranting.
‘Surely not,’ I said, ironically. ‘You amaze me.’
But the main, amazing, wondrous thing is that it seems it is not the 93,000 words of absolute buggery bollocks that I feared.
This is a very, very good thing indeed. I can start sleeping at night again. It still means that there must be a final 30 day work storm, because even though she did not run screaming from the room, there is still space for improvement.
The other Good Thing was that she paid me one of the nicest compliments I’ve ever had. It’s very vulgar to retell compliments about oneself, but I’ve been crying a lot in the last week, missing my dad and my dog, and feel rather bashed about by sadness, and strained from work worry, and still a bit weak from laryngitis, so I’m going to indulge myself. Then we shall say no more about it.
She said: ‘The thing about you is that you are so culturally adept. You have a great cultural hinterland.’
She is not a gushing sort of person. She keeps her powder dry. So when she says something kind like that, she really means it. I became immediately incoherent, and not very adept at all.
I don’t know why it gave me quite so much pleasure, but it did. I grew up with horses and cows and dung and muck heaps. My academic achievements came from graft, rather than a dancing brain. I think I sometimes feel I am still playing catch-up, in some nebulous way. I’m always thinking Must Try Harder. I always wanted to be a cultured sort of person, not in a swishy, snobby way, but in a low-key, bone-deep manner. And it seems that is how she sees me.
And that is all very unBritish, and primed with vulgarity, and perilously close to showing off, which is what I was told off for when I was small, so you must push it at once from your minds.
And since I am being unBritish, may I just say how extraordinary you Dear Readers are. I’ve banged on a bit lately, skirted the shores of self-indulgence, and you have met me with vast reserves of wisdom, kindness, and sympathy. You are bloody brilliant. And that may be the goodest Good Thing of all.
One of the Dear Readers very sweetly asked after Virginia the Pig, and so I went down this morning to see her, and here she is, with her most peculiar boyfriend (he is the rarest of rare breeds, but really quite odd-looking, one must admit):
These are also dedicated to my friend Amber, who loves pigs.
Turned round to see the Pidge staring at me as if to say: what are you doing with those crazy old pigs?:
Then back down the beech avenue we went:
I looked out over the lovely young trees:
Went back in, and plumped up the cushions. My poor old sofa has actual holes in it, so I am currently covering it with blankets. Not very House and Garden, but I quite like the different reds:
Favourite medicine bottles:
Made some lemonade with ginger and mint, for health:
Turned to find the Pigeon staring again, as if to say: what are you doing, taking pictures of cushions when you could be throwing a stick for me?:
Went back outside to examine the pot table. This little lavender was almost dead, after last winter’s snow and frost, so it gives me almost more joy than anything else to see it so full of life:
And, there in another pot, were some radishes. I had put the seeds in week ago and then forgotten. I picked one. It was an actual radish. I have never had any luck with seeds; the rabbits get them or I forget to water them and it’s all a disaster. But I GREW A RADISH:
The Pigeon was posed for her close-up:
Love the noble profile; slight pity I cut the end of her nose off, but you can’t have everything:
And the hill: