Wednesday, 30 May 2012


Posted by Tania Kindersley.

I know I’ve got the perspective police and my admiration for the stoic and my good, phlegmatic British blood. I know that I am not supposed to wail, because you all have your own wails to be going on with. I know that this is a public space and therefore I should expect slings and arrows; I know that my skin is stupidly thin and I should butch up. I know that I’m a bit over-tired just now, hazy with fret, and prone to taking things too much to heart.

But I had a comment yesterday which I am finding stupidly hard to deal with. It wasn’t horrid, really, or mean. There was, in fact a very nice compliment in it. My God, when I look at what people on newspapers have to put up with, it was milk and honey. Yet bash bash bash it went, into my fragile heart.

Anonymous wrote: ‘There are times when I find your blog maddening, but today your words are jewels of sensitivity and good judgment.’

You see? That’s very nice, in the second part. Really, really kind. But why did there have to be the maddening bit? What purpose does it achieve? May I just wave a magic wand and not be maddening? Is that what is expected?

This blog is free. I do it because I love it. No one forces anyone to read it. If someone asked you to tea, would you say: ‘Oh, these cucumber sandwiches are disgusting, but I really love the ham and cheese?’ Of course you would not. You might think the cucumber is revolting, but manners will stop you saying so. If you visit someone’s house, would you remark on the idiot mistake of choosing carmine red for the downstairs study, whilst congratulating them on the lovely sage green of the kitchen? No, you would not. You would damn well bite your tongue about the carmine, because it’s done, and it’s their choice, and to say so would only cause unnecessary hurt.

You would not march up to someone in the street and tell them that their hat was horrible or their hair a mess. There are things we do not do.

I fully accept that, as one reader remarked not long ago, I can be boring, although I try very hard to avoid dullness; I am sure I can be maddening, as I have now been told. But these observations are, apart from being disobliging, without utility. I write as best as I can, often after a long day. There are sometimes editing errors or non-sequiturs, moments of monomania, occasions when there is not much life in my prose, however hard I try. The readers’ wonderful liberal choice is not to read. They may come back on a better day, because everyone has off days.

Besides the lack of utility, the lack of specificity is not helpful. Maddening how? Maddening why? (Actually, please don’t tell me; it will only make me sadder.)

I really love this blog, and I love the variety of the readers and that they come from all over the world. I don’t expect to be told that I am fascinating or brilliant. The compliments, when they arrive, are always like getting a present, and make me feel humble. But I am not robust enough at the moment for what my mother calls personal remarks. Read, don’t read; find a writer who does not madden.

I try not to give in to weakness. I can usually talk myself down off the ceiling, count the blessings, take my iron tonic, shrug it off. But I’m a bit battered and tired now, so I’m buggering off for a bit. I’ll be back when the book is finished, I have had some sleep, and my armour is back on.

Oh, and PS. Last time I admitted to hurt, the Dear Readers were very kind and rallied, but I had the uncomfortable sense that the volume of comment felt a tiny bit like ganging up, although I know that was not at all how it was meant. This is, above all, a polite space. Don’t abuse Anonymous; they have the right to write exactly what they will. I have the right to take it or not take it. Just now, my very personal choice is: not.

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

In which I regain perspective

Posted by Tania Kindersley.

So sorry about yesterday. I mislaid it. Occasionally I lose entire days; it’s as if they have fallen down the back of the sofa.

Time no longer has its usual temporal aspect but seems composed of a series of inexplicable jerks. I start a sentence at five past ten, and half an hour later is it time for tea. I squint out of the window, where the sky is an uninformative dirty white, looking for a tear in the space-time continuum.

I am also afflicted by alternating moments of forgetfulness and whimsy. I think longingly of my university days, when I had to write so many essays and read so many primary sources that my brain was as fit as a butcher’s dog. Now it creaks and groans under sustained effort, like an ancient schooner in a high sea.

The mare though, was an absolute angel this morning. Yesterday, she was not in the mood at all, rolling her eyes at me in schoolgirl defiance. Today, she was like one of those videos that people put on the internet to show natural horsemanship at its crest and peak. It was as if she took a course in the night, secretly. She did not crowd me, locked on to my shoulder like a dream, stopped when I said stop, stood for ten minutes when told to stand as I wandered off to test her. Sometimes, when she does things this well, it makes me laugh out loud.

Then I come back to the book and all is adrenaline and jangle.

Why are books sometimes so hard? Well, it’s mostly redundancy. I might spend a couple of weeks researching an aspect of the subject. I make notes, I think about it, eventually I write it. Then I get to the Dead Darlings stage, and it must be murdered. It might be buggery bollocks, or it might be perfectly fine, but events have overtaken it. I have another, better section on a similar theme, or something has happened out in the world which makes it seem dated, or there just isn’t room. I’ve already done about 20,000 words too many, and I’m still going.

I have to have a tiny wail at this stage of the process, mostly because I need to explain why the current state of blogging is so shockingly poor. And, because I am prone to occasional wailing generally.

But the perspective police are on the march. I listen to the news from Syria, the only thing dark and dramatic enough to burst my current news bubble. I think: there are children being slaughtered in the streets. By contrast, I am having am mild mental wrangle. The only thing I have at risk is my amour-propre: I may write a not good enough book and critics will call it by its name. That is the worst that may happen. It is not life and death. It is not being shot to death in the street by militia goons. So, I step back from complaint and remember my great good fortune and regain the perspective.

On a basic human level, there is one thing I really do not understand. Assad once seemed like a fairly ordinary man. He was an ophthalmologist from the Edgware Road, for God’s sake. Now he is acting like the most unrestrained and barbarous dictator. What he is doing to his people is monstrous. I hate the lazy, melodramatic use of the word evil,  but it fits here: what he is doing is evil. 

What I don’t get is how it can be worth it. How can you steep yourself so far in blood, kill women and children in the streets, murder or lock up any opposition, lose a any sense of morality or remorse, just for an empty title and a limousine? Sure, you are president, but of a small country with high unemployment, diminishing oil, and hopelessly corrupt public services. You are internationally reviled and ostracised. Is the lure of such tarnished power really worth all that killing? I genuinely do not understand the psychology. The cost is so disproportionate to the reward. I mean, he does not look like a homicidal maniac, so presumably he must be calculating some kind of cost and reward; he is not foaming at the mouth mad. That is what I do not get. It seems that Assad has sold his soul for a mess of pottage, and his poor country is paying the brutal, unimaginable price.


Pictures of the day. It seems a bit odd to have flowers after that last thought, but I suppose they know nothing of dictatorships; they just grow in the good earth:

29 May 1

29 May 2

29 May 5

29 May 7

29 May 8

29 May 9

29 May 10


29 May 11

The rain has come back, as you can see, and the Pigeon is adorably wet:

29 May 12

Red, in close-up:

29 May 12-001

Where the hill should be:

29 May 16

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Bashing on

Posted by Tania Kindersley.

The stressometer hovers at Mach Ten. I continue in a fairly filthy temper, not helped by some stupid and disastrous bets at the Curragh. An hour of racing was supposed to be my afternoon treat; instead I felt like an absolute idiot as I watched my hot things go backwards. I even decided the weather was a bore; all this blasting sun, and what about my poor hot horse?

The animals took it upon themselves to cheer me up. In the gold of the evening, the Pigeon put on such a display of virtuoso ball action that I had to clap and laugh. She looked so happy and eager and pleased with herself.

Up at Red’s field, the pony was friendly and funny, the chickens were beautiful and busy, the swallows were sweeping low over the paddock, and her ladyship herself put up her head and trotted to the gate, with her ears pricked.

She never does this. She is so damn posh that she stands, very elegantly and politely, until I deign to come to her, even if I have to walk all the way across to the north wood. Yesterday, she was grumpy as fuck. This evening, it was as if she had decided to make it all up to me. (I know I keep writing about how she is imparting wisdom and great life lessons, and she is, but when I am sad I lose all perspective, and then of course I do take it personally, and think she is bored to hell of me and just wants to go back to The Auld Fella in the south.)

But then she came all the way from the absolute farthest corner of the field, starting to move the moment she heard the car, and lifting her head and swinging her hips with every appearance of delight.

I felt elation fill me like helium. She stood like a statue whilst I gave her a huge brush, to get the flies and the heat off her, and she gave me her head to scratch, and I gave her carrots and love, and everything, for that half hour, was entirely perfect and lovely and all right.

So on we all bash, our funny little ménage, despite everything. On we bloody well bash.


This evening’s pictures:

27 May 1

27 May 2

27 may 3

27 May 4

27 May 4-001

27 May 5

27 May 6

The Duchess’s tree:

27 May 8-001

The pretty chickens:

27 May 8

Myfanwy the Pony:


Red, doing her dear old donkey amble:

27 May 10

From another angle, with the evening sun full on her, this is the colour she goes, living up to her name:

27 May 9

27 May 9-001

Red’s view:

27 May 11

And my little ball champion:

27 May 12

27 May 13

27 May 14


27 May 15

Saturday, 26 May 2012

No blog

Posted by Tania Kindersley.

It’s the most enchanted evening; sun pouring down like honey, pigeons cooing in the woods. But I am afflicted with sudden melancholy. Happens sometimes. Deadline stress has me in its crocodile jaws and I suddenly really, really miss my dad. The mare was grumpy today, annoyed by the flies, and inadvertently whacked me on the jaw with her head, so that I reeled back like an old boxer. I feel battered physically, and mentally.

I say to myself, as I always do: every day can’t be Doris Day.

Better tomorrow.

And when there is a face like this upon which to gaze, it can’t be all bad:

26th May 1

Friday, 25 May 2012

The Good Conversation

Posted by Tania Kindersley.

The Beloved Cousin rings. This is always a banner moment. Our schedules circle round each other and often by the time the evening comes we are speechless. We send each other plaintive emails saying must catch up, or long to know news. Then three weeks have gone by and we don’t know where the time went.

So when I pick up the telephone and it is she, rather than someone trying to sell me double glazing (it’s such a cliché but people really do do it) I shout with delight. Then she tells me stories so funny that I shout with laughter. I can’t do that nice genteel ladylike ha ha; I bellow with mirth like a mad colonel out of PG Wodehouse. (Actually, did he even have any colonels? I’m sure some honking majors at least.) Then she tells me things which shock me on her behalf, so I roar Oh, no. Then she tells me something so interesting that I shriek I don’t believe it, like Victor Meldrew on speed.

Then I speak to her for at least twenty minutes of the horse. She really is a very wonderful and patient person.

After a while, I hear a questing voice in the background. It is my four-year-old cousin. She comes on the line.

‘Hello, Tania,’ she says, very clearly, determination strong in her tone. She is a very determined small person indeed. ‘When are you coming to stay?’

I tell her the end of the summer. She is not sure it is soon enough, but she lets it go.

‘And are you bringing the Pigeon?’ she says.

‘Yes,’ I say. ‘I most certainly am.’

She gives a little sigh. It has a dying fall, like a White Russian countess remembering the days before she had to drive a taxi in Paris in 1919.

‘Oh,’ she says, swooningly. ‘I love your dog.’

She is FOUR. She has not seen me or the dog for almost five months. How does she even remember? When she says things like that it fills me with amazement and delight.

The grown-up cousin and I talk and laugh some more, and make plans. We love making plans. I put the telephone down, restored.

In the amber evening sun, I go up to do the horse. I walk round the field with her at my shoulder and then stand with her a bit, and do the love. Oh, oh, oh, the love; it grows deeper every day. I’m not even sure how such a thing is possible, but it is.

The family are about. I see The World Traveller, beautiful in her summer frock. She is taking marshmallows in for the children. I hear the shrieks of delight as the bounty is produced. The Landlord appears, back from Perthshire, which is where he has been. We lean on the gate and talk for twenty minutes. He, too, makes me shout with laughter.

He is one of those ones who does not speak a dull sentence. Sometimes I forget what a miracle this is; I get spoilt by the good conversation and think that everyone can do it. In fact, it is one of the greatest luxuries in the world, like having a Michelin restaurant on your front door where you can eat for free every night. I always think I do not take anything for granted, and then I realise that I do, all the time.

I have such deadline fever now that I do not know what my name is. But I have people around me who can make me bellow like a laughing major, and who may divert my mind, and make me interested, even in the midst of crazed preoccupation. That is a great piece of good fortune, and I’m never going to take it for granted again.

And they listen sweetly to my horse stories.


Quick evening pictures:

25 May 1

25 May 2

25 May 3

25 May 5

25 May 6

25 May 7


25 May 8

25 May 9

The Pigeon and I had a most excellent game of ball. Doesn’t she look like she is having a splendid time?:

25 May 10

FOURTEEN YEARS OLD. And still with all the vim and elan of a three-year-old:

25 May 11

The hill, bluest blue, still glimmering with dancing light at six in the evening:

25 May 13

Thursday, 24 May 2012

A little learning

Posted by Tania Kindersley.



The book is now up to 57, 330 words of new draft. I squint at the screen, move things around – this section must be here, no here, no there – murder dead darlings with a slashing axe, remove adjectives, replace adverbs, contemplate the wisdom of the short paragraph.

I like the short paragraph more and more as I get older. I used to disdain it. The short paragraph was not serious; it was a tabloid confection. It was for people who had never read a Victorian novel.

Now, I love it. It is snappy and dancing and invites the eye. I don’t think it means lack of depth. I hope it does not mean lack of depth, or I am stuffed.

The horse continues to teach me many, many life lessons. One of them is not to take everything personally. I take many, many things far too personally, even though my rational mind knows this is absurd, and quite childish. My paper skin may be torn by the most glancing remark, which usually has nothing to do with me and everything to do with the person who made it.

Horses, like humans, have moods. It can be weather, hormones, what they have or have not had to eat, or merely the equine version of getting out of bed on the wrong side. If the mare does not look enchanted to see me, but carries on eating grass, it just means she is getting on with her horsey stuff, not that she has decided I am a bore. If she gets herself in a little fuss, it does not mean I have committed some grave error, but that something is bothering her, or she is having a small show of temperament. It is up to me to learn her quirks and work her out.

She did it today, a sudden throwing of the head and getting herself in a bit of a state. I can’t quite work out if it was flies, resistance to work, testing me out, a muscular ache (I keep madly checking her back), or some other mystery. I might, before I enrolled in Red the Mare’s university of profound wisdom, have got myself into a state, thought that I was making some schoolgirl error, believed that I had committed a crass mistake that was making her unhappy.

I let her loose, so she could work it out for herself. After five minutes she settled, and I did a quick join up, and within a quarter hour all nonsense was forgotten, and she was walking at my side without the rope. We even did a tight figure of eight, with her following my every movement as if we were connected by some invisible string. She has never done that before. I was so happy I laughed out loud. I wished, as I wish with the Pigeon, that she could speak English so I could communicate fully how absolutely brilliantly clever she is.

The Horse Talker who comes to help me with Red each week has an equally sanguine attitude, which rubs off. (I say Talker rather than Whisperer because she does not whisper to horses, she speaks their language fluently and out loud.)She sees only the positives in Red; her willing, sweet nature, her desire to please, her kindness. One little glitch is just one little glitch, not the end of everything. This gives me enormous confidence. So much so that, at the Horse Talker’s suggestion, I got on bareback. I have not sat on a horse’s bare back since I was twelve; I’m not sure I would have ever considered it with a thoroughbred just out of polo.

It was lovely. With no saddle in the way, you feel a horse in a quite different manner. I was filled with trepidation, and by the end I was slouching about like a cowboy. (Admittedly, we did not move out of a stately walk.)

This evening, the mare and I stood in the glancing Scottish sun, in our new communion. The thing of her standing with me for half an hour at a time without a halter is only five days old. It still fills me with awe and wonder. To encourage her to lower her head, I squatted down on my haunches, and she came down with me, and rested her muzzle on my knee, and closed her eyes in bliss as I stroked the soft side of her face, the bit just above the mouth that feels like velvet.

I am pleased about the 57, 330 words of new draft. I am, at last, getting a lot done. I am working like a damn pit pony. But I am much, much more pleased about the fact that I can stand with a horse in a field, and that she consents to rest there with me, and that every day she teaches me something new.


Pictures of the garden in the sun:

24 May 1

24 May 2

24 May 3

24 May 4

24 May 5

24 May 6

24 May 6-001

24 May 7

The ponies enjoying the sun:

24 May 10

Red the Mare:

24 May 11

Red’s view:

24 May 12

I love this face. This is the do you know how very serious and noble I am face:

24 May 14

The hill, in all her shades of blue:

24 May 20


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