Posted by Tania Kindersley.
The weather is flat and dreich and vaguely cross. The economic news is as dirty and gloomy as the sky. I suppose I should say something about that, but I do not have the heart for it. I start to think it is rather like the famous line that William Goldman wrote about Hollywood: ‘Nobody knows anything’. (In my memory, he thought that line was so important that he wrote it twice, just in case the readers had not quite taken it in, although I may have made that part up.)
My old friend The Expat called and I was so delighted to hear her dear voice that I was inspired to write a little paean to friendship. I had started it, fingers tapping away, when I suddenly lost my nerve. I’m not sure whether it was because it seemed too inconsequential when everything is about to go smash, or for some other reason. I am slightly haunted by what someone said recently, not knowing that I wrote a blog. ‘Oh, blogging,’ she said, in magisterial disdain; ‘it’s so self-indulgent.’ She looked really cross, as if self-indulgence was the thing she could least bear, and there were all these damn people, indulging all over the shop.
I should have let it go. If I were restrained and polite, I would have said: ‘Oh, really, do tell me why.’ I’m not being passive-aggressive; it would have been interesting to know. And besides, it’s a perfectly valid opinion.
Instead, I barged in. ‘Oh,’ I said, ‘I write a blog, and I think if you are going to make that argument you would have to say that all writing is self-indulgent.’
I then launched into a full-bore defence. It’s the usual old thing; I’ve written it before. It’s not so much that blogging is not self-indulgent, but it’s no more self-indulgent than writing a column or an article or a book or a pamphlet. In some ways, all writing is self-indulgent because it’s saying: here I am, I believe I am so fascinating and charming and otherwise worthwhile that I am actually going to publish my thoughts, rather than keeping them quietly in my head.
I’m not sure it’s much of an argument, really. It’s just that when people write off a whole medium, it touches a nerve. I feel protective of my fellow bloggers, whose work I love. I feel defensive, perhaps, of this tiny enterprise, whose worth I cannot gauge. Ever since that remark, as I sit down to write I think: oh, oh, perhaps that woman was right. What am I doing with the rants and the rambles and the endless dog pictures?
Although perhaps I can defend the dog pictures, on account of the raging beauty of The Pigeon, which clearly adds to the gaiety of nations, increases the sum total of human happiness, and puts another gaudy stitch in the rich tapestry of life. She, who has never been self-indulgent in her life, brings smiles to the faces of readers from Sri Lanka to Singapore, from Texas to Tottenham, and that is not nothing.
As for the rest, I remain uncertain.
Actually, bugger it. I can do better than that. I am not going to let doubt and rain and rotten economic growth seep into my soul and sap my spirit.
CS Lewis may or may not have said ‘we read to know we are not alone’, but it is a statement of ultimate truth. Oddly enough, he also said a true thing about friendship, which could apply to blogs too: ‘Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: What? You too? I thought I was the only one.’
Despite the hopes for the global village, the modern world is atomised; extended families and tight communities grow increasingly rare. It is fashionable to use the word virtual as an insult just now, but a virtual community may still commune. That’s what happens when the Dear Readers come. It is absolutely something. It is an exchange of words and ideas and kindness where before there was nothing. As I think of it like that, it seems rather a miracle. (I must not now go the other way, and fall into whimsy and sentiment.)
I think blogs are exactly like people. There are absolute crashers; there are ranters and dullards and drama queens and statistics geeks. There are funny ones and clever ones and eccentric ones and inexplicable ones.
As every blogger understands, there are good and bad days, just like in life. There are days when, as the Dear Readers know to your cost, it is all buggery bollocks. The mind is flat, the imagination has gone out for lunch, the grasp of basic language has fled for the border. Those are the days when, as my friend The Playwright says, you can’t write fuck on a dusty blind.
Then there are times when the planets align and the literary angels dance on their pins, and a sentence will dazzle off the keyboard. Some days, one will actually have something interesting to say; on others, it’s back to the dog pictures.
I think I may, as the shrinks say, own my self-indulgence. I do write about the things which interest me. Not all of you will be as in love with trees and politics and the mystery of the human condition and the cooking of soup as I am. There will be days when you really cannot face yet another description of yet another bloody horse race. Oh, you will cry, enough with the Kauto Star already. And I should not blame you for that.
In some ways, it’s right to have doubts. I think a lot at the moment about certainty. It can be a lovely thing; rather restful to have, oddly soothing to be around. But in a flicker of its eye, certainty can harden into prejudice and narrow-mindedness and bombast, and then we are all for the dark. Every piece of writing I do contains doubt, and I believe that is how it should be. The spectre of self-indulgence should haunt the blogger, just a little, if only to keep the word count down to a reasonable level.
At the same time, I think there is something wonderful about the world of the blogs. I love that they give me a flashing glimpse into the mind and life and surroundings of humans I shall never meet. I like that they can bring people together. They can stretch the mind, delight the eye, challenge the received wisdom.
Sometimes, they are inconsequential, but there’s nothing wrong with that. They can also be really good at disseminating information and putting the record straight. As a novel medium, blogging is amazingly agile, as nimble on its feet as a ballroom dancer doing the foxtrot. (Oh dear, strained simile alert just went off. Never mind. Occupational hazard.)
And, and, where else would we all go for videos of small children and cats doing comical things, and pictures of baby penguins? Quite frankly, I sometimes think it is worth it for the penguins alone. And the dog pictures, of course.
Pictures of the day are very few, on account of the risible weather.
There is, amazingly, a tiny bit of early blossom:
And the viburnum is doing its hardy winter thing:
Look, look, the first tips of the snowdrops:
And the hopeful crocus shoots:
Even on the greyest day, the old beech leaves and the mossy wall still work their magic:
And speaking of magic:
This is her Please can we go in out of this absurd rain and eat some biscuits face:
So dreich that the hill is lost. You can just see, if you squint and look very, very closely, the faint outline of it in the cloud: