Saturday, 16 June 2012

The love

Posted by Tania Kindersley.

I know I talk rather a lot about the animal love, but it’s on my mind again. (Non-dog and horse people, and flinty unsentimentalists: move slowly to the exit.)

There is an awful, cruel, sneering cliché about spinsters with cats. Oh, the poor old lady who can’t get a gentleman, with her poor pussy. Ha ha. This never takes into account the Occam’s Razor of the matter, which is that some women don’t fancy fellows, but do really like cats. It’s not pitiable or pathetic. It just is.

I live alone. I regard it as an enormous privilege, although some people, even those who know me quite well, think it frankly odd. I used to get cross about this, as if my lack of desire for husband and children was something which had to be defended all the time. I went about with my fists up, ready to fight the slightest slight, to counter the merest raised eyebrow. Now I am older, I think: everyone must think what they will. Everyone must live the life they want to live.

Despite this new sanguinity, there is the occasional batsqueak of the old judgements, the worn platitudes. Am I like the old ladies with the cats? Are Red and Pigeon my sad feline equivalents?

I think that people get this whole women and creature thing the wrong way round. If you choose to live without someone, you do not need to get some missing love from an animal. It is very nice to have the adoring Pigeon gaze; when she jumps up and down with literal joy when she sees me, of course it makes my heart beat faster. When Red lifts her head and canters from the other side of the field when she sees me, when she gives her lovely low whinny of welcome, of course I feel fired with delight. But it’s not the getting of love that is important. I am practical enough to know that a lot of that comes from the fact that I am The Human with the Food. No, what they give me is somewhere to put the love.

The only disadvantage that I can see of living alone, apart from the fact that there is no one to say, oh don’t worry, I’ll call the plumber, is that sometimes my heart is all dressed up with nowhere to go. It gets filled up with affection, and that adoration needs to come out. I assume that if you have a wife or a girlfriend or a husband or a partner for life, you can fling your arms about them at your whim, and express that fullness of heart. That is the gift my two beautiful creatures give me: I can fling the arms. I can express the love.

The Pidge is a very cuddly, affectionate sort of girl. She loves nothing more than the flinging; she can take all the love I have. Red, at the beginning, was not particularly interested. She was much too posh, for starters. Also, she weighs half a ton and hears the call of the ancestral voices much more keenly. I have a theory that dogs have pretty much forgotten their wolfish past, but that horses are alert to the siren call of the wild things from which they descend.

Now, my grand thoroughbred has turned into a teddy bear. Because of the cold, her coat has even fluffed up, so instead of being sleek and hard, she is soft and velvety. She rests, sleepily, on my arm, angles her head up so I can scratch her favourite place below her right ear, stands stock still at my side as I rub her white blaze and chat quietly to her. She has started to appreciate the love. It is why my greatest pleasure now is just hanging out with her. We do work and have wild rides, but the highest joy for me is being with her; sentient human beside instinctive, mysterious animal.

They give me rewards and affection and attention. I get great pride out of them. Today, when the farrier finally arrived, I felt ridiculously proud that Red stood like a rock as he cut and pared and rasped her poor hooves; she was so relaxed that she even dozed off for a bit. She must be the best horse to shoe in Scotland. She was number one top of the class, and I puffed out my chest with admiration.

But really what they do, these animals, the most important thing, the greatest, most generous present, is they act as receptacles for the love. They don’t argue or equivocate; I do not have to read between the lines. They are fine and steady and true. Although they both have their animal mysteries, they are much simpler than humans. At the same time, they have that creature touch of the wild, which puts them on another plane. I think that is their other great gift: they are not of my world, but they consent to live happily in it with me. It is consent, and as a human, you have to earn it. So, along with all the other loveliness, there is the underlying hum of achievement.

As with all my theories, this one is still a bit half-baked. It needs a bit more work. Whatever the truth is, I feel incredibly lucky that I have these precious things in my life, who keep me straight and bring me joy.

And now I am going to see if I can work out who will win the 2.50 at Sandown. (Hoping for a brilliant Richard Hughes ride on the lovely Prince of Sorrento, who loves the mud.)


Another gloomy old day, so no I did not take the camera out. Here are a few shots of my lovely creatures:

16 June 1

16 June 2

16 June 3

16 June 4

16 June 5

16 June 6

And of course, there is little Myfanwy. I love her too, but she is a family pony, so it is not the same undilute passion that I have for my very own girls. All the same, I have been working with her lately, and we are making great strides together, and she steals, hoof by hoof, into my heart:

16 June 7

And, specially for the Dear Reader who loves the hens – The Hens:

16 June 8

Hill, under the stormy June sky:

16 June 10

Oh, and I meant to say: The Playwright had his first night last night. It is not the official first night, just the initial preview. But still, he will have seen the play  he wrote, up on the London stage, with one of our very finest actresses in it. I doff my hat in awe and wonder to him. He is so wise and works so hard and makes me laugh so much; no one deserves such a thing more than he.


  1. Tania, I don't think your theory and depiction of love is half-baked at all. I think you expressed that very eloquently. And that love IS earned. Otherwise an animal would only let you feed it and express no interest in you at any other time of day.

    My family have always been animal lovers. In fact when my brother was getting married he told his betrothed they had to get a cat as he couldn't imagine living in a home without one.

    It's weird how it is the women who earn the spinster with a cat tag when I know plenty of men who dote on them just as much! I think it's one of those grim put downs that get trotted out to subjugate women who have made a somewhat unorthodox choice that leaves those souls feel uncomfortable.

    It is good to love. Love is a circle, one that breaks down if love is witheld or denied or abused. I wrote a post on hugs on that ethos. xx

    1. Absolutely lovely comment; thank you and WELCOME to the blog. :)

  2. Tania, I love this post, I feel quite teary.

    1. That is the sweetest thing to say; thank you. :)

  3. This is a most beautiful post. Your description of your relationship with Pigeon and Red is exquisite....we have a dog and feel very much the same about having her in our lives.

  4. I have a person that I live with and I love them but it is more complicated. I have 2 cats and 2 dogs and I have a place to put some of the love still waiting to be shared. At first they weren't certain of my outpourings but now they are patient with me and have a little look that to me says 'this is really quite nice.' I totally get what you are saying and if I ever choose to live without a person then I will always have cats and dogs.

  5. I have The Husband, and The Daughter (the child of my first marriage, to quote Paul Simon, now grown up and married herself) and The Dog and the way I feel about all of them and each of them is very VERY similar, and they way they behave around me and the way they treat me, is very VERY similar.

    The Love. A biological and spiritual necessity. To bestow and to receive. It is life itself.

  6. Thank you for the hens! As I scrolled down through the photos I saw one with Red and the hen house behind her, and imagined that would be the closest I'd get to the inhabitants. But then, there they were.
    I have no real grasp of why I like those hens as much as I do. I don't usually feel that safe around birds; I don't touch feathers on live birds without hesitation, and I don't ever want to pick up one; in extremis I have but I prefer the mediation of a teatowel. But those hens! They are so outrageously beautiful and they don't even know it, and they are so intent on their own lives and busynesses they make me laugh with pleasure. Who knew.

  7. I used to have a husband but now live alone with my dogs and hens and my home is filled with unconditional love (on both sides). I love it. Your post has helped me understand my feelings - so thank you.

  8. As a single lady of similar age, thank you. Wonderful post. Somewhere to put the love is so so important. I live in apartment in inner city, so no dog, no horse, but friends and plants get the love.

    Congratulation to Playwright, how marvelous. If I lived in England would be buying tickets right now.

  9. How perfectly said. Thank you.



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