Saturday, 4 February 2012

Of oatmeal, geekery, and service dogs

Posted by Tania Kindersley.

No racing today; it’s all been iced, snowed and generally weathered off. I am slightly grumpy, because I was looking forward to Sandown, although my brain feels oddly grateful that it does not have to frown over the William Hill website all afternoon, desperately trying to find a winner. It’s almost as if someone has given me the afternoon off.

I spend it in a most fruitful fashion, catching up with the Rachel Maddow Show from the past week, and whistling through my teeth as I watch Mitt Romney say one more not true thing. This is how extreme my political geekery has grown: my idea of a fun Saturday afternoon is watching American politics shows on my computer.

As for the racing geekery, that beast shall be sated later in the day, when I will be unable to resist watching re-runs of Kauto Star storming round Kempton into the high annals of sporting history. (You do see the wildness and wonder of my life.)

In order to attempt some kind of balance, I make soda bread, with the special oatmeal of Alford. I love the oatmeal of Alford (pronounced Aff-ud) because it is made up the road from here, about twelve miles north. It feels very local and very precious and almost personal to me.

I like it because it is produced by a tiny, tiny company, and yet it is so good that you may now see it on the shelves of serious shops. No longer do I have to hunt it down in tiny speciality stores; there it is in the Co-op.

It reassures me, because it seems to say that you do not have to be a monstrous, amoral giant to succeed in business. If you make something that is delightful and good, you may succeed, however minuscule your operation. Also, it’s not some horrid, meretricious article laced with additives and e-numbers; it’s good and plain and wholesome. Oatmeal should practically carry a government grant these days, since it is stuffed full of B vitamins, which have a particular effect on the nervous system. And God knows the collective national nerves need soothing, just now.

Scratching in the back of my mind is the news from the wider world. I can’t talk about Syria. I know that is a terrible cop-out. But it is so horrendous and intractable and almost unimaginable that I have no good words for it. Even thinking about it, I grind to a full stop.

Here’s one of the interesting things about blogging. I think it’s important not to disappear down the rabbit hole of one’s own trivial concerns, but when there are things out there which are very big, and very bad, it’s incredibly hard to address them. Partly, it’s a matter of tone: it’s easy to fall into preaching, or holier than thou. Also, I have the odd sense that there is a danger of grandstanding: oh, look at me, caring about things. There’s a really annoying song out at the moment which goes something like: I can’t do anything about poverty and war, but at least I can care. Which is an amazing way of making dire world events all about you.

Yet in some ways, one of the marvellous things about the world of the blogs is that it can act as small, potent antidote to general news despair. Sometimes, it is the discrete ray of light which can illuminate darkness.
I stumbled upon one such ray today. It is a blog which tells the enchanting story of training a service dog. I am slightly obsessed with service dogs. There is an extraordinary woman in our village who trains guide dogs for the blind. She has a lovely young yellow lab at the moment, and every time I see them out and about, I break into wreathing, spontaneous smiles. It really does feel like a good deed in a naughty world.

Training one dog is not going to redress manifold world problems. But it will make a human life immeasurably better. I think the people who do it are little miracles in themselves. It is the kind of small, potent act which gives me hope.

Well, I’m not sure how I ended up here. I was just going to talk about the racing being off. But tangents are my middle name, and I’m glad I gave the service dog people a shout, because I’m not sure they get enough credit. And I do so like credit where it is due.

You can find the lovely blog here. I guarantee it will  make you smile.

Oh, and talking of credit, I would not have found the wonderful blog had it not been for the brilliant Libertylondongirl, who tweeted about it.

The weather was too filthy today to take the camera out, so here are some pictures from the week:

4 Feb 1 03-02-2012 11-19-09

4 Feb 2 02-02-2012 11-05-10

4 Feb 3 01-02-2012 16-13-23

4 Feb 4 01-02-2012 16-17-36

4 Feb 5 03-02-2012 11-09-25

4 Feb 6 03-02-2012 11-14-39

4 Feb 8 01-02-2012 16-15-14

4 Feb 12 02-02-2012 12-48-13

4 Feb 13 01-02-2012 16-13-52

4 Feb 14 03-02-2012 11-18-12

4 Feb 15 03-02-2012 11-21-41

4 Feb 16 03-02-2012 11-18-12

That last one is the famous are you going to throw the stick again face.

Just as I was about to press publish, slightly annoyed that I was going to have to give you yesterday's hill, the black cloud which has pressed down all day suddenly broke. A most extraordinary, diffuse, amber light suddenly fell upon the land. I rushed out to see if there was enough of the fading brightness left to capture my dear old hill. And do you know, there really was. So instead of this, which was from the blue dazzle of yesterday:

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

There was this, which is from the astonishing red light of today:

4 Feb 21 04-02-2012 17-37-57

It is rather incredible that the same thing could look so different in the space of 24 hours.


  1. Well, there you’ve done it again. Voiced something on my mind much of late, and while you haven’t drawn conclusions—there are no conclusions—I feel better for having read someone else’s reflections. (Yes, blogs can be small, potent antidotes.) This time it was, specifically, how does one handle the thought of the really awful stuff going on in the world?

    Thank heavens for service dogs like Ruby and their trainers, and all the other glowing bright spots in this world. What a wonderful story! Thank you for passing it along. I don’t know how to handle the gigantic bad things, but maybe the key to sanity is to recognize every small good thing.

    PS If you are reduced to watching American politics for your Saturday afternoon fun, run, don’t walk, to your nearest therapist, LOL!

    1. Bird - you always leave such lovely comments. Thank you. And you are quite right about the need for politics therapy. I am in complete denial.

  2. Tania, I am so touched by your kind words. They mean more to me than I can ever say. I'm very grateful for the link and thank you so much helping in my mission to raise awareness for service dogs.

    1. Ruby - how wonderful that you found your way here. I can't tell you how happy I was to find your lovely blog and to see the great work you do. Hurrah for the glorious dogs. :)

  3. I have now spent a good part of my day reading Raising Ruby, thank you so much for the link! It came at a perfect time, since I had just finished watching the portion of the AKC/Eukanuba National Dog Show where they introduce several amazing service dogs. I am now teary-eyed and smiling like a fool. Dogs, they make my soul sing.

    1. Danielle - isn't Raising Ruby wonderful? And how lovely that you were thinking of service dogs anyway. I think I might have to make them a recurring theme on the blog.


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