Monday, 16 January 2012

In which I again fail to locate the vital document

Posted by Tania Kindersley.

There is something happening in the world, but I do not exactly know where or what. It is one of those days when the news swims out of one’s brain like a salmon. It is a bit of a gritted teeth day.

‘How are you getting on with your book?’ asks the kind Stepfather, as he comes to take The Pigeon for a walk. (There are some writers who consider this the cruellest question of all.)

‘Spinning my wheels a bit,’ I say, ruefully.

I am quite rueful generally. I would like to be filled with determination and optimism and certainty; at the moment, I am mostly about the rue. I keep wanting to butch myself up, to get more dogged and muscular. Instead, I seem mired in the ephemeral.

Outside, the temperature is minus four. The frost glitters and glimmers. It is that good, proper, thick frost, that does not melt, even after a day of sun on it. It makes the trees look like something out of a painting. A couple walks past. The man is on crutches, struggling a bit. ‘Good afternoon,’ I say. They look rather surprised.

I am always grinning at people in the street and saying things like ‘Lovely day’. I can’t help it. It is not really The British Way. It can actually frighten some Britons. I like it; I like tiny threads of connection.

Mostly, people stare at me as if I have some kind of condition. Sometimes I do think I have some kind of condition. Another bloody vital document must be sent somewhere, because I must prove who I am. I loathe having to prove who I am. I find it an existential affront. Why can I not speak to a human and explain who I am, and why can they not believe me? Do I sound like an evil criminal mastermind posing as a rather disorganised writer?

Of course, I cannot find the vital document, cannot face going down to the doctor to get it counter-signed even when I do locate it, because only if you understand the intricacies of ringworm do you count as a proper signing person (no members of my family will do, apparently), and have flown into a huge grump about the whole thing. Why, I wonder, can I not just be the kind of spit-spot human who has all vital documents to hand, in convenient box files, arranged in alphabetical order, with the doc on speed dial? (I know I ask you this question a lot.)

Ah well, on I bugger. My post-Christmas malaise continues, fading in and out like radio static. I catch glimpses of the prize of delight. I just need to make a breakthrough with this second draft. I am stumbling about the edges, looking for a way in. I can almost see it. Some mornings, when I clean my teeth and think about the day, I have intimations. It is that, or that, or this? It slips away like quicksilver.

I’ll get it in the end. I am cussed and do not give up. It’s just I do not like this stop-start; this slight feeling of bafflement. It comes with every book; I always forget that. There is a moment when you look at the thing and think: I have no idea what I am trying to say. That’s why it is work, I suppose. And that’s probably just as well. It if were easy, then everyone would do it.


Pictures of the day:

16 Jan 1 16-01-2012 16-43-26

16 Jan 2 16-01-2012 16-43-38

16 Jan 3 16-01-2012 16-43-51

16 Jan 4 16-01-2012 16-44-02

16 Jan 5 16-01-2012 16-44-13

Oh, the amber eyes:

16 Jan 10 16-01-2012 16-46-16

Sometimes, oddly, they are dark, opaque blue. But this afternoon, with the last of the light in them, they are bright amber:

16 Jan 11 16-01-2012 16-46-19

I do not wish to alarm you, but it appears the hill is on fire. It's only the burning of the heather, something that is done around here all the time. It's just I never saw it on my hill before, and it does look rather apocalyptic:

16 Jan 14 16-01-2012 16-48-15


  1. "I do not wish to alarm you, but it appears the hill is on fire." - I did giggle at that!

    Thank God there are people saying "Lovely day" to strangers in the street. I live in Spain, and whenever I'm back in the lovely UK I find myself turning into a bit of a parody of a Brit - grinning at everybody and trying to engage strangers in conversation. Possibly I stand out as someone who's mainly experienced British culture via the television for the last few years.

    Incidentally - one of the best bits I'm discovering about My New Dog (the mini-Pigeon, who I got excited telling you about a couple of weeks ago), is that she's seemingly a license to chat with everyone! I've had so many lovely conversations where before there would have been nothing. Or even just smiles and nods, all of which make my day in a little way. Just because of the dog! It's a wonderful thing.

  2. I read about some random acts of kindness at the weekend, in The Times I think, about how someone gave a student who was late for a-level exams a 10 pound note on the underground so she would get to her exam on time. No agenda, just money and a smile. I think your 'hello' in the street is in the same vein; a way to acknowledge that despite the fact we are all so very busy, there is still time to say hello, nice day. Or cold day as it happens. Those amber eyes really are something.

    'If it were easy, then everyone would do it' so true. My husband says this alot about all sort of things in life. Whenever things are hard I remind myself, it's meant to be hard. That's how we learn. Lou x

  3. One of my friends has just moved out to Essex - on the edge of a town, close to the countryside - and I was really surprised that people didn't say good morning when we went for a walk. I might be anti-social when I'm in London but I expect a hello when I'm in the country!

    Beautiful photos, and beautifully written as always.

  4. Just going for the pictures - thank you.

  5. Those eyes are just beautiful. I don't know how you could resist her anything!
    It looks so cold in your pictures and I'm sure your lovely 'hellos' are warming. :)

  6. Thank heavens people still say hello in the street!

    Today is Martin Luther King Day in the US, and this morning, a very respected black journalist, now retired, was being interviewed on local TV. He was part of a trio of guys who wrote a 'black history' of the city I live in, and he had known MLK in the 1960s. At the end of the interview, the host said, 'What can people do now (about furthering equality and race relations)?' The journalist, Merv Aubespin, offered a response that applied not only to race relations, but to all human relations: 'Get involved. Don't stand on the sidelines---even if it is only that when you read a book, you pass it on. Or if someone does a good job, you say so. Tell them.' Don't think so much about big projects, he said; do the little ones and keep doing them.


  7. Burning the heather! What a sin. I'm sure it's got some sound ecological reason, but still... heather!!!

  8. i usually walk to work and i grapple daily with the diemma of whether i try to break the london stoney stares or not with a "good morning" (strictly in the parks you understand, otherwise they'd have me locked up for outrageous strangeness), some days are better than others...

    merv aubespin sounds like a top bloke...

  9. If it's tricky proving who you are now, what will happen if/when Scotland gains independence and you become an immigrant? Yikes!


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