Tuesday, 31 January 2012

In which I have absolutely no idea what I am talking about

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:

Jan 31 1 31-01-2012 10-52-14

31 Jan 2 31-01-2012 10-53-29

31 Jan 3 31-01-2012 10-53-57

31 Jan 4 31-01-2012 10-54-01

31 Jan 5 31-01-2012 10-58-10

31 Jan 6 31-01-2012 10-58-24

31 Jan 6 31-01-2012 10-58-35

31 Jan 7 31-01-2012 11-00-36

31 Jan 8 31-01-2012 11-03-01

My poor little wintry garden:

31 Jan 10 31-01-2012 11-06-38

Off goes The Pigeon, determined, despite the frigid wind whipping out of the west:

31 Jan 13 31-01-2012 10-56-27

31 Jan 14 31-01-2012 10-55-12

And, ready for her close-up:

31 Jan 14 29-01-2012 17-04-15.ORF

Two slightly different views of the hill today:

31 Jan 15 31-01-2012 10-54-12

31 Jan 16 31-01-2012 11-00-56

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.


  1. Happy Birthday one day late. I did see it was your birthday on Facebook yesterday but I didn't want to be forward.

    Obviously silly of me.

    I cried at 45, don't remember why. maybe because my partner was 18 years younger?

    I'm much older now and current partner is half my age, whose crying now?

    She came with a Lab. Who could resist them.

    Again. Wishes for a wonderful year.

    xo Jane

  2. Lovely post. Lovely pics. Lovely Pidge. This post has an abundance of lovely. It's lovely in an abundanty way.


  3. I really would far sooner read about your conversations with your brother than any buggery bollocks about the bankers. The resulting mood is considerably lighter.

  4. abundanty is a fabulous word, right up there with the singular oodle, which amuses me for no good reason.

  5. Children and fathers...mine died when I was 17, my older sister was 22, younger one 15 and my brother just 12. If you speak to us now, many years on, you will hear four very different versions of the same man. Interesting I think.
    Abundance...now there is a great word (pardon the semi-pun)...we all have abundance in our lives, it's really just a question of being able to recognize it.

  6. Oh the Dear Readers. You are so kind and good. (Sorry about catch-all reply, but time races away from me.)

  7. Dear Tania,

    Happy birthday with abundant love for you and your great blog. Sorry this comes late, I was in Court yesterday and today and just finished (hurray) and catching up. What made me want to shout "me too" was the birthday news- two of my daughters (numbers one and three) were born on the same day six years apart - at nearly 12 and 6 they still think they were each others best birthday present and I hope it lasts!

    Amanda x

  8. Sometime I would like to hear your opinions about the bankers (can't understand them at all, myself--are they awful villains, or just the products of a misguided and self-centered society?). That sentence alone should be enough to let you know how wonderfully relaxing it is that you didn't write about them this time.

    What a reassuring, restorative blog today's was. Trees are such enduring, good things . . . as is love, as is a caring family. Plant trees, have dogs or cats or horses--hamsters or birds, if that's your thing, whatever--and love your family and friends. As long as none of that goes away, we can figure out how to deal with bankers, dictators, Rupert Murdoch and the Republican Right ;-).


  9. H'm . . . dreadful verb use there. Sorry!


  10. So glad you had a good birthday and a lovely lunch. Were you taken to the Silver Darlings by any chance? Or are there other restaurants down there since I was last in Aberdeen? Or am I perhaps thinking of entirely the wrong part of Aberdeen?

  11. Abundanty. Made me giggle out loud - let's add it to the dictionary, shall we?

    You've also got me thinking about my own father. He died when I was just 23. I had just begun to scratch the surface of him. Mostly I remember the simple things - mowing the lawn, chopping wood, stopping at yard sales, making his infamous spaghetti sauce and annual fruitcakes - but I also do remember the few times that I did ask him the hard questions. They gave me little glimpses into who he was, and I'll never forget his answers.

  12. Abundanty is a Good Word - thank you!

    I did laugh at your description of you using Skype with your brother. My brother (6 years younger) and I are the same, shouting towards the screen as if we're deaf. I also seem to place the camera so it looks up my nose. Very flattering.

  13. What a wonderful blog today- for me it was the sentence about the sea that has really made a difference to my day. It has beeen a grindstone kind of day at work and then there was upsetting news in the post when I got home.
    Then to read this glorious post and picture that blue sea and the white rollers. Gazing at the sea is a great restorative, & it took then me off at a tangent - wierdly remembering the Glydebourne production of Guilio Cesare: the set had large rollers wrapped in blue/grey glittery fabric, rotating to represent the sea and accompanied by magical music.

  14. I love the abundanty! now who to use it on.


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