Friday, 30 September 2011

And so the darlings die

Posted by Tania Kindersley.

Crash, bash, whack to the floor go the Dead Darlings. The Co-Writer is in butcher’s mode in our editing conference today; she has been in a meeting all morning and is in no mood for nonsense.

‘I might just save some of the quotes,’ I say, pathetically.

‘Trim, trim,’ she says.

There is an interesting thing about the Darlings. They fall into three categories. The first is Sheer Self-Indulgence. This is when you think you are being hysterically witty, but in fact you are the only one laughing. I suffer from a hideous tendency to laugh at my own jokes anyway, so I fall into that first category every time, as if it were a huge elephant trap and I were an elephant with the memory of a goldfish.

The second category is things which are genuinely not bad, and even quite clever or entertaining, but have no place here. These are the hardest to kill. They might be nice turns of phrase, or lovely emblematic paragraphs, but they have been said before, or they are elaborating on a point already well made, or they are shooting off on a tangent too far. I am addicted to tangents; it’s like some kind of genetic defect.

And the third category is a slight misnomer, because it is not really Darlings at all, but actual buggery bollocks, it’s just you are so lost in deadline madness that you cannot see and need someone else to point it out to you.

So I set up a Dead Darlings file, which softens the pain. I am not doing delete, delete, so the agonisingly crafted words fly out into the ether, laughing at my puny plan. I do cut, and paste, so the poor battered things may live to fight another day.

I wrote another 729 words after the editing conference, and then snuck back to the Darlings file like a naughty child into a sweet cupboard. (Is there such a thing as a sweet cupboard? Sorry, frontal cortex really is a car wreck now.)

And here is the thing. Some of it was awful. Torn out of context, the repetitive tropes or flat platitudes stared reproachfully up at me from the page. Then there was some reasonable stuff, but I could see quite well it was extraneous. And then there were some glittery little Saxon hoards, some piles of treasure, and I dusted them off, polished them a little, held them up to the light, and in a terrible act of transgressive defiance, put them back in.

All I can say is it is a bloody good thing the Co-Writer is far too busy to read this blog at the moment.

Here is the really crazy part. The Dead Darlings file is now 7000 words long. Even after that bloody cull, I have still written 99,000 words of book, and I have decided that there must be a culture chapter. I want to put in stuff about Queen Elizabeth I, because a book is not a book without a bit of Virgin Queen.

There is a very real danger that I am now completely out of control.


Two sets of photographs today. The first are from last night, when I was driving back from a village about six miles to our north-east. This is what I got to see on the drive home:

The farmers are finally getting the harvest in, after the cold summer and the dank of the last couple of weeks, which made them despair. But now look:

30 Sept 1-1

I always think they look like great cotton reels:

30 Sept 7

Then there are the wild blue mountains, which roll like the sea:

30 Sept 2-1

30 Sept 3.ORF

To the north, the view is very typical of this county, with its lush farmland and wooded hills behind and coat of many colours look:

30 Sept 4

The road home:

30 Sept 5

30 Sept 6

Coming back to my house from the south, this is what I see:

30 Sept 8

And then there was this fella:

30 Sept 11

Staring right at me, bold as brass:

30 Sept 12

This evening, in the garden, the little sedum cutting really seems to have taken:

30 Sept 12-1

One lone astrantia is putting out a second flowering:

30 Sept 9.ORF

Every day I think the lavender must be over, but it keeps on keeping on:

30 Sept 13

I'm afraid there might be rather a lot of the geraniums, hydrangea and marjoram over the next few days:

30 Sept 14.ORF-1

30 Sept 16.ORF

30 Sept 15.ORF

The pot table:

30 Sept 14.ORF

Pigeon, offering three of her different faces.

Mid-ball happy face:

30 Sept 20

Imperative sniffing the air pose:

30 Sept 19-1

(She does this quite a lot. I always wonder what it is, exactly, that she is scenting. It reminds me very much of her sister.)

I am inscrutable, elegant, and many other adjectives that only dogs can hear:

30 Sept 20.ORF

And the hill, rather faded and mauve behind the increasingly gaudy young horse chestnut:

30 Sept 19

I hope you had a fine Friday.

I have to work early tomorrow, but I am quite seriously considering saying sod it and making myself a very dry martini. There is Smirnoff Black in the freezer. It seems rude not to.

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Ignore everything I have just said

Posted by Tania Kindersley.

My morning editing conference is cancelled. I am all ready to whip that puppy into shape, but the world intervenes. The Co-Writer has to go and do something, with real life people. Instead, I write 679 desultory words, and ponder the nature of perfection. (My conclusion: just say no.)

It is fifteen days to go now. My world shrinks and shrinks. It is as if I am looking down a long, shiny, well-lit tunnel at midnight, the road slick with rain, the headlamps of the cars dazzling as they all go in one direction. (The fact that I imagine it as glittering and lit up seems to me a Good Sign.) Everything outside the tunnel is blurred and indistinct.

I just have to hurl myself down it for another fifteen days, and then I shall emerge into the world again and there will be daylight and trees and flowers and vistas and people and news.

Well, I'm not sure if any of that made any sense.

Warning now for the next few paragraphs: those of you who have no interest in blogging might like to go and make a nice cup of tea. Imagine it as an advertisement break in the middle of your favourite television show. But I must, for some reason no one can explain, share with the group.

So: the Tumblr experiment. FINISHED. It only took 36 hours. I hate it. It's annoying and recalcitrant and won't bloody do what I want. One of the Dear Readers who kindly went to have a look said it demanded that she sign up with it, before she could leave a comment.

I find it limited and limiting. I can see that for a certain kind of person it would be perfect, but not for me. Still, for some reason my current favoured displacement activity, for when I want to give my harried mind a rest, is the setting up of this thing I imagine in my head as a lovely virtual commonplace book. There will be a link here, a picture there, a moment of YouTube, a line of poetry. I need a magpie place, which is not here.

I have no idea where this imperative comes from, but it must be met.

So I have trudged back to dear old Blogger, which does have its own irritations and limitations, but does allow me to do more of what I want. It also lets me to use Live Writer, which is by far the best and most useful blogging software I have ever discovered. Pictures go up in a flash; formatting is easy; everything is clear and clean.

The only fly in an otherwise restorative ointment is that the templates here are not nearly as delightful as the Tumblr ones. That is the only place Tumblr wins for me: it looks better. But for God's sake, it's only a blog, not the roof of the Sistine Chapel.

So now, madly, there are two blogs. (Why? Why? What is wrong with me?) There is this one, which shall continue to ramble about dogs and food and politics and life and whimsy. And there is the other one, which will have a picture or two and interesting things I want to preserve from around the web, and whatever clever thing Andrew Sullivan has unearthed that day.

It is called, with blinding brilliance and originality and no expense spared: Tania Kindersley. And you all have my full permission to ignore it, because it's not as if I don't make enough demands on your busy lives.

(But, you know, if you do like it: tell all your friends. So sorry, there is something about finishing a book which brings out all my competitive spirit in its most gaudy, shameless glory.)


No time to take the camera out today; too much to do. So here is a small selection of pictures from this week:

29 Sept 1

29 Sept 2

29 Sept 3.ORF

29 Sept 5

29 Sept 5.ORF

29 Sept 5-1

29 Sept 6

29 Sept 9-1

29 Sept 6.ORF

29 Sept 7.ORF

29 Sept 8.ORF

29 Sept 9

It's the time of year when I start taking a lot of pictures of fallen leaves. I'm afraid there will also quite soon be lichen:

29 Sept 13

My little roses are still blooming away, proving astonishing value for money:

29 Sept 10

Because of the indoor light, they have come out rather blurred here, but I quite like the effect, as if they are out of a painting from 1923:

29 Sept 11

Pigeon gets her now statutory three pictures or more, on account of the raging beauty:

29 Sept 18.ORF

29 Sept 19.ORF

29 Sept 20

She's been making that last face quite a lot lately, and it is my absolute favourite, so I'm afraid you may become quite familiar with it. I think it is her most dignified and grand face, the one to which she clearly imagines her age entitles her. And so it does.

The hill is actually today's hill, because it was looking so blue and pretty at breakfast that I took a quick snap of it before I had  my bacon sandwich:

29 Sept 21

So sorry this has been all rather rambly and unfocused lately. It's crazed brain overload. Thank you all so much for sticking with.

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

I can hear you, but you can’t hear me; or, the vagaries of Skype

Posted by Tania Kindersley.

Huge work day. I do 1061 words. There is another long and serious editing conference. The Co-Writer is stern and brusque. ‘I am being brusque,’ she says, at one point.

‘Yes, yes,’ I say. ‘Quite right. Better that way.’

‘Ow, ow,’ I shout, as five paragraphs are ruthlessly cut. ‘Bloody hell. That hurts.’

‘I’m a professional,’ I say. ‘I can take this.’

‘Oh,’ I say, with a dying fall. ‘I really liked the joke about the beachy waves.’

‘That can stay,’ says the Co-Writer.

‘Now,’ she says. ‘About these horse metaphors.’

‘You don’t like my pony of received opinion galloping off over the unbroken prairies?’ I say, forlornly.

‘It’s just,’ she says, tactful and delicate, ‘that I think we have had quite a lot of hoof beats.’

I wonder if all this equine idiom comes from having been brought up in a stable. I’m not a horse person any more. I ride rarely; I only very occasionally go to the races. But it was the familiar pond in which I swam for fifteen years of my young life. I suppose you can’t rub that out altogether. There is a strange ineradicable thing that comes from that start. Whenever I get on a horse now, even if it is one I have never met before, I feel as if I have come home.

But before all this, there is a call from The Younger Brother. He has disappeared off to the south, and now the bing-bong, plink-plonk of the Skype signal goes, and there he is.

‘Hello,’ he says.

‘Hello,’ I say.

‘Hello, hello,’ he says.

‘Yes, I’m here,’ I say.

‘HELLO???’ he yells.

I have only just set up Skype on this computer. I suddenly realise that my machine may not actually have a microphone. I search around fruitlessly for a possible button. All the while the Brother and I are yelling HELLO HELLO at each other, to no avail.

Finally, I make a sensible executive decision, and type CAN HEAR YOU BUT YOU CAN’T HEAR ME into the dialogue box.

‘Can’t find microphone,’ I type.

Then he starts typing back. I can hear him speaking, slowly, and then typing the words.

‘Stop typing,’ I write. ‘I can hear you.’

‘Oh, oh,’ he says. ‘You can hear me. I see.’

‘Keep speaking,’ I type. ‘And I’ll write.’

Then we have a very mad conversation where he tells me all about his antic adventures in London and I type back my replies and reactions. There is a slight lag, so he will be in the middle of the next story before my response to the first comes through. Then he pauses, reads it, and says, ‘Oh, ha, yes, that’s funny, see what you mean.’ Or similar.

At one point our wires get so crossed that we both become incapacitated with laughter, even though some of the story he is telling me is quite sad.

I write:

‘What were you doing in Shepherd’s Market?’




‘Bloody lucky I can type so fast.’

Then it descends into some kind of deconstructed haiku:

‘What form did the messiness take?’


‘Better out than in.’

‘Yeah, sod the old patterns.’

‘Three hundred pints is quite a lot.’


‘I need that story.’

‘Ah, ah, cliffhanger.’


‘Not the poor Indians and the betting.’

‘No, just a bit mad.’


‘Crying with laughter now.’

‘Pigeon looking a bit surprised.’

‘Difficult to see the screen through the laughing tears.’

‘Everything a bit blurry now.’

‘Oh, oh, Co-Writer calling about book. Got to go.’


What were we talking about? Why was it so funny? Absolutely no idea. There is a thing I like about families which is that you don’t have to make a quip or a gag; you don’t have to be quick and witty. There is so much ancient word association, banked history, shared memory, that all you need is a pause, a twitched eyebrow, a certain emphasis, and there is helpless hilarity. It’s a bit like the thing of being got.

The final echoing yell of The Brother, into the Skype void, was: ‘You must put this on the blog’.

So I did.


Today, in photographs, the sunshine. It is so hot we are all wandering about in shirtsleeves:

28 Sept 1

28 Sept 2

28 Sept 3

28 Sept 4

28 Sept 4.ORF

28 Sept 6.ORF

28 Sept 7

28 Sept 8

The newest tree, planted yesterday, which is a lovely prunus, glowing impossible red in the sun:

28 Sept 9

The light muddling over the tangle of geraniums, hydrangeas and cyclamen:

28 Sept 10

Then I went into the shade and snapped a sober lavender:

28 Sept 12

Then I made the Pigeon pose on a bed of leaves to get the full autumn effect. She put up with it with very good grace, until she got bored, rose from her elegant bower, walked over, and gave me a slightly reproachful lick on the nose, which is what she does when she wishes to signal that enough really is enough:

28 Sept 16

28 Sept 17.ORF

28 Sept 18

28 Sept 18-1

28 Sept 19

I know that last one has slightly the wrong focus (how sometimes I yearn to achieve Depth of Field) but I could not resist it, because of that face. It’s the quizzical what are you doing face, and it gets me every time.

You may have noticed that there is an exponential increase in Pigeon pictures lately. This is partly because I am too bonkers with the last minute dash to deadline to exert any self-control. All my discipline gets eaten up by my working day. It is partly because I am conscious of time. She is thirteen after all. And, in my crazed dog brain I think: there must be a record, of all that loveliness.

The hill, misty in the brightness:

28 Sept 22


Housekeeping note, and slight plea for opinion and advice. I have set up a Tumblr account. For a long time, I have wanted to have something on the web that I could use as a kind of scrapbook, to put interesting things I find on the internets or just a single picture or a quote. For some odd reason I don’t want to do it here. I like the form this blog has found, of my words and my pictures; I like the rhythm and look of the daily post. So, rather irrationally, I want another place for the other stuff.

I tried Posterous, but did not get on with it at all. Then I tried a separate Blogger account, but let it lapse. So now there is the Tumblr experiment. I’m not sure if it will last or not.

It’s quite annoying, in that it is not nearly as straightforward as it thinks it is, and it gives you very little information about how it works. It has a tendency to freeze, and it is maddeningly slow to download pictures. It does not allow comments, which I think is sad.

On the other hand, it has a lovely clean look, which I like a lot, and I think it may end up working quite well as the virtual commonplace book which I envisage.

If any of you have experience of it, I would love your thoughts. And if you want to go and have a look at its shaky beginnings, it is here.


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