Friday, 3 February 2012

In which I am entirely inconsequential. With added dog pictures.

Posted by Tania Kindersley.

Each week, I dutifully get The Speccie and The Staggers. For non-Blighty readers I should explain that these are the two grand old duchesses of political periodicals. The British periodical has a long and venerable history: The Spectator was founded in 1711. It was a daily sheet, its mission ‘to bring philosophy out of the closets and libraries’. Now it is online; now, it has blogs.

The New Statesman is a much younger girl, invented by the Fabians in 1913. The nickname comes from the fact that it has staggered from one financial crisis to another. (I always used to think it was because all its writers were drunk, which was very wrong and silly of me.)

One is right, and one is left, although there are blurs and overlaps and token interlopers from each side. I read them both because the insane liberal in me insists that I must see both sides of an argument. Also, as the regular readers will know, almost my entire raison d'être is to wage a daily battle against tribalism.

It turns out that I agree and disagree with both in about equal measure, although the current incarnation of The Speccie is more likely to make me laugh, even when I want to throw things. (The New Statesman has an occasional ‘how can you smile when the world is so oppressed’ tendency.)

Anyway, none of that is the point. The point is that both run those kind of articles where someone gets a whole page, and will address anything from two to six different subjects, in short, discrete sections.

Sometimes it’s a regular columnist – Peter Wilby in The New Statesman and Hugo Rifkind in The Spectator are my two shining stars – and sometimes it’s a diary, written each week by a different person. As I read Charles Moore this morning over my breakfast croque monsieur, I suddenly realised what a pleasing form it is. His final paragraph was a lovely bit of domestic reportage. His young nephew is autistic, and had suddenly asked him: ‘What colour is God?’ I am not religious, but even I can see it is a stunning question. It is philosophical, poetical, and beautifully, gently comical.

I think: this short, snappy paragraph thing is something I should try. I’m always getting my teeth into a subject and shaking it like a grumpy Jack Russell with a rat, droning on for a thousand words about one thing. Why not just skip about a bit, and give the Dear Readers a break? When I start thinking of the day’s blog, usually on the morning walk, there are at least eight different subjects rattling around in my brain. I start each in my head, then discard. That’s too dull; that’s too obvious; that’s too demoralising. Why not let them all out to play?

Having made this thrilling blog decision, I sit down in some excitement to type and find – all today’s subjects have fled. It’s like my mind is playing a little cosmic joke on me. There you are, with your many subjects and many paragraphs idea, and now there are no subjects. That’ll learn you.

I screw up my eyes and concentrate. The Pigeon, oblivious to my travails, snores gently by my side. The room is suddenly very still. I think: if I sit quietly for a while, will inspiration strike?

I have a look at Twitter, as if this might provide a spark. Everyone is going nuts over the resignation of Chris Huhne. Surely a small paragraph there? But I find the very thought of Chris Huhne so profoundly lowering that I cannot bring myself to waste the language of Milton and Shakespeare on him. (Oh, did the pretention klaxon just go off?)

The weather, I think, that’s always good for a word or two. I am British, after all, discussion of the elements is stitched into my DNA. It was minus seven on the morning walk and my ears started hurting. Not really much there; Scotland cold in winter shock. Although it always does make me laugh that the anti-climate change people get so tremendously excited when the mercury falls below zero, as if that fact alone refutes acres of science.

Ah, refutes. Now that may ignite a train of thought. (Can a train of thought ignite? I shall be pondering that for the rest of the day.) People are increasingly using refute to mean deny rather than disprove. Its correct dictionary definition is: to prove to be false or erroneous as an opinion or charge; to prove a person to be in error. The crucial word in that definition is prove. It’s not just he said, she said; it’s not the Mitt Romney school of ‘because I say so’. (cf Romney’s repeated charge that Obama took the recession and made it worse. Look at the graphs, Mitt; look at the GRAPHS.) But then I think: do you really need a dose of pedantry on a lovely, shining Friday? My suspicion is: not.

At this stage, I decide to give up. I have work to do after all, and so do you. It seems that my brilliant new plan shall not go into commission today, but shall remain at the blueprint stage. All this also gives me new respect for those writers who use this form, week after week, with such seeming effortlessness. Condensing a complete thought into one paragraph turns out to be really difficult. Even the idea of tackling it has led me into the mazy realms of inconsequence.

Still, I don’t mind a bit of inconsequentiality. Not everything has to have a definitive ergo. Lucky for me, I have The Pigeon, and I am going to make up for lack of provoking prose by giving you some tremendous dog pictures with which to end your week. It is the very least you deserve.


So, photographs of the shining day.

As we set out, I became suddenly obsessed by these stripes of sunlight slatting the path:

3 Feb 1 03-02-2012 11-08-09

3 Feb 2 03-02-2012 11-08-15

The burn:

3 Feb 3 03-02-2012 11-09-21

The dazzle:

3 Feb 4 03-02-2012 11-11-44

Fallen branch:

3 Feb 4 03-02-2012 11-14-49

A tiny glimpse of the distant, frozen hills over the trees:

3 Feb 5 03-02-2012 11-15-05

Now for the dog pictures. When I say tremendous, I do not mean they have any merit in sharpness or composition. But I was thinking that The Pigeon has been looking rather serious lately, since she has taken to putting on a grave face for the camera. (Mostly from resignation and boredom at the posing process, I suspect.)

I wanted to show her having fun. So, when I threw a stick for her this morning, I decided to try and capture it. It's very difficult, partly because she is so quick. I had to chuck the stick, swiftly aim the camera and snap, relying entirely on chance and autofocus. The pictures themselves are rotten, but the antic story they tell is, I think, rather enchanting. Bear in mind this dog is thirteen years old.

Here we go. Stick joy:

3 Feb 9 03-02-2012 11-16-25

3 Feb 10 03-02-2012 11-16-32

3 Feb 11 03-02-2012 11-16-52

3 Feb 11 03-02-2012 11-17-09

3 Feb 12 03-02-2012 11-17-11

3 Feb 13 03-02-2012 11-17-20

3 Feb 14 03-02-2012 11-17-26

3 Feb 14 03-02-2012 11-17-34

3 Feb 14 03-02-2012 11-17-43

3 Feb 14 03-02-2012 11-17-44

3 Feb 14 03-02-2012 11-17-51

3 Feb 14 03-02-2012 11-17-53.ORF

What I especially love about all that is not only the delighted pleasure she gets from it, but also the serious determination with which she retrieves. She's not messing about. We did not teach her to do it. It is encoded in her ancestral past. Or something like that.

And this is the face I get at the end of it all:

3 Feb 15 03-02-2012 11-18-09

Oh, please, just one more:

3 Feb 16 03-02-2012 11-18-23

Pure happiness. For me and her:

3 Feb 17 03-02-2012 11-18-56

(Do you see the tiny bit of lichen she still has in her mouth? Lichen, I discovered last year, is part of the staple diet of reindeer, and is even regarded as a delicacy for humans in some parts of Japan.)

Anyway, that is my dog story of the day. Not bad for an old girl.

And today's hill:

3 Feb 20 03-02-2012 11-26-33


  1. As a fellow dog-lover, I was playing with my fairly elderly Lhaso Apso, Dougal and discovered that he has learnt a new thing. I take great delight in skidding him backwards along our wooden floor in the hallway as he then charges back at me with major wheel-spin. However, when I tried to do it to him last night, he swiftly backed onto the rug so that he wouldn't skid. Crafty old dog!

    1. Anon - lovely word picture of Dougal. :)

  2. Even on your 'I haven't a good thought' days, you have good thoughts. This is a restful landing for Friday, but it still offers points to ponder---just not too strenuously. I want a play day like The Pigeon was having.


    1. Bird - what a lovely comment; thank you.

  3. love love love the 2nd photo in particular, you have as they say somewhere or other, a good eye.

    thought this would amuse you from letters of note: another E.B. White letter but very droll and about his dog minnie.

    and this epetition and reply made me laugh: it is wonderfully bonkers and i'd so use the slide!

    happy weekend!

    1. Anon - thank you so much and so glad you liked the photographs. That EB White letter is the BEST THING EVER. I am going to study it every day in the hope it will seep into my brain by osmosis and improve my writing style. I love it in about nine different ways. Thank you so much for the link.

  4. I have just spent 15 minutes coaxing my 12 year old greyhound upstairs (we live in a 60s townhouse!) so I am full of admiration of your beautiful dog, skipping around outside!

    1. Trifle Rushed - oh, oh, the thought of the dear greyhound. I am very, very lucky with my athletic old lady.

  5. Oh, the stripes of sunlight. Glorious and heart-lifting, especially on a day when Norfolk is unremittingly grey & dreich (I love that word). And seeing all those consecutive images of the Pigeon in stick-fetching action puts me in mind of one of those old flick-books; if you look down the sequence fast enough it's like a slightly stuttery old film, and as joyful.

    And Bird is right - even when you don't think you have much to say, you still have good thoughts for us.

  6. Cassie - you are so kind. So glad you liked the stripes. And as for that Pigeon...

  7. Amazing photos, all. There is no sight more beautiful than the pure joy of a dog racing towards you across a field...especially one with such a precious grey muzzle. :)

  8. Ruby - oh, oh, the precious grey muzzle! So glad you liked the pictures of the lovely old girl.


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