Posted by Tania Kindersley.
I have now started this particular post three times. I was, as promised, going to do world affairs. I contemplated taking a pass at the bankers. Then I got side-tracked onto religion and morality, and the confusions between correlation, conflation and causality. (Or, the three Cs, as I now like to call them.)
Then I started a little meditation on rage, and, more specifically, the curious problem of women and anger, in which I wondered whether the old imperative of sugar and spice still died hard. Finally, I switched tack, and produced a winding, amazingly pretentious, and positively embarrassing paragraph on ontology and abstract thought.
At this point, I said to myself: I never read such a load of buggery bollocks in my life. The poor readers. Delete delete delete, I went, jabbing my finger on the keyboard in self-reproach. It’s going to have to be dog pictures. Because I am just writing arrant nonsense today, and I should not be allowed out in public.
Then, just at the moment juste, the bing-bong of Skype goes, and it is The Younger Brother, somewhere in the East. (Thailand or Singapore, never can quite keep up with him.)
Love and trees, we shout at each other. (We always shout on Skype, partly because we are excited to hear each other’s voices, and partly because it is quite new technology to us, so we are like those Edwardians who always hollered down the novel and terrifying telephone.) Keep planting the trees, we decide. We always decide this, and it never fails to give us comfort.
The Brother starts hooting with laughter because someone has wished him an abundance of love on his Facebook page, for his birthday. His birthday is the same as mine; we were both born yesterday, within about half an hour of each other, but seven years apart.
‘I do think it important that love should come in abundance,’ he says. ‘It should be an abundanty thing.’
I think that abundanty is an excellent new word for the day.
Then we compare ignorances. This trope goes very simply, and is one we rather enjoy: the world is peculiarly strange, and we do not understand an inch of it.
‘They’ve run out of private jet berths at Hong Kong airport,’ he says, with weary irony. ‘Which is very worrying.’
‘But I thought the world economy was on the brink of collapse,’ I say.
He says that in Thailand, there is construction a go-go. Great condominium buildings are going up everywhere. ‘All the shopping malls now have a Dior and a Rolex,’ he says. ‘And they are just full of people buying stuff.’
We contemplate this for a moment.
‘I’m going to plant more trees,’ I say, finally. ‘In the spring, obviously.’
This is now my answer to everything. I start to fear it may become repetitive.
‘Yes, trees,’ he shouts.
In the end, we conclude that the best we may do at the moment is concentrate on the small things: family, friends, the people we love, the things we have a chance of understanding. I wonder if this is sensible reality, or a complete cop-out. I have a great fantasy that what I really love are the vast ideas. I even shouted at a poor fellow I had never met before in my life, not very long ago: ‘What I’m really interested in is the big stuff’. He looked bemused, and slightly alarmed, as he well might. I really must stop going about spouting absurdity at people to whom I have only just been introduced.
‘Don’t understand a word of it,’ says The Brother, quite merrily. ‘I am especially confused by those Republicans in the primaries who seem intent on bombing Iran.’
He wonders if it is a Religious Right thing. ‘There’s an awful lot of smiting in the Bible,’ he says.
‘I’m always struck by the amount of smiting,’ I say.
We circle back to our father, which is what we do when we talk together. We remember him taking us out to feed the horses when we were tiny children; we recall the smell of dung and hay and earth and leather that makes up life in a stable.
‘The good thing about Dad,’ says The Brother, ‘is that he really did not do any smiting.’
‘No,’ I say. ‘He certainly did not.’
Slight pause. ‘He did do lots of other things,’ says The Brother, doubtfully.
We laugh, a little rueful. He did do lots of other things. But just at the moment, we choose to remember that simple, easy man from our very early childhood, who took us out into the fields, rattling over the green grass in the beaten-up old Landrover, to feed the horses.
'We didn't ask him any complicated questions then,' says The Brother. I sense he is harking back to more straightforward times, which is I suppose a function of getting a year older. 'We didn't say what's it all about or what book are you reading?'
We leave unsaid the fact that our father, famously, did not read books. He read The Sporting Life and was done with it.
'We just fed the horses,' The Brother says.
'Yes,' I say. 'That is what we did.'
Now for the pictures. It was a low, dark day. The sky went from pewter to dove-grey to ivory. I think it may be full of snow, and I possibly should stock up on canned goods. But there was a melancholy beauty, even on a dim day:
My poor little wintry garden:
Off goes The Pigeon, determined, despite the frigid wind whipping out of the west:
And, ready for her close-up:
Two slightly different views of the hill today:
Thank you all so much for happy birthday wishes yesterday. It really is most delightful, and very festive, to receive so many kindnesses through the ether. The lunch was tremendous. We looked out over the North Sea, which was glittering blue in the sun, and striped white with breaking rollers. I always forget how beautiful the view from the lighthouse point at Aberdeen is. It was a great treat and I felt entirely spoilt.