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:
The Pigeon and I had a most excellent game of ball. Doesn’t she look like she is having a splendid time?:
FOURTEEN YEARS OLD. And still with all the vim and elan of a three-year-old:
The hill, bluest blue, still glimmering with dancing light at six in the evening: