Monday, 23 July 2012

In which I dream a dream of the shiny and the new

Posted by Tania Kindersley.

I woke, abruptly, my mind filled with a glorious plan to transform the blog. It’s getting old and tired, and, like a shark, it must keep moving or it dies. Then I realised I had absolutely no idea how to do this, so I listened to the Today programme instead, and felt mildly excited about the Olympics, intensely sad about Syria, and very proud of Bradley Wiggins.

I have ideas all the time, for the blog, for my life, for my new projects. They are very often not even quarter cooked, but consist of a vague line which goes nowhere. This weekend, one of them was that I should record emotions, for a week, say, or one day, or one day a week. I was thinking of this because a very sweet small child described me as happy. ‘Are we going to see the happy lady?’ she asked her mother, who, laughing, told me. It was one of the best compliments I ever had, mostly because children do not hedge or flatter or prevaricate. But quite soon after receiving it, I started to feel a bit bogus.

I am capable of happiness, but I’m not sure that makes me happy. I am also, in any given span of time: fretful, self-critical, hysterically over-excited, filled with lassitude, fired by high ideals, flat with pragmatism, optimistic, pessimistic, calm, tired, joyful, fed up, and even, very occasionally, quite blank. What does that make me? Humans appear to love labels. That person is clever, this one is ruthless, that one is dull, this one is kind. You are only allowed one adjective. I think one adjective is not nearly enough. So: the idea of the recording of emotions.

Then I realised it would be a pointless exercise because even in twenty minutes of the Today programme I went from excitement to sorrow to pride. I should be scribbling all day long.

As I walked downstairs, I reverted my attempt to visualise what form the glorious blog revamp could take, and failed entirely. I would so love to give you something shiny and new. There must be shininess and newness, surely? Otherwise there is dullness and entropy.

Bugger it, I thought. I’ll go and do the horse instead.

Up at Red’s View, the extended family is back from its travels. There were shrieks and kisses and hugs from the great-nephew and nieces, and The World Traveller and I started talking at forty-seven to the dozen and did not stop for an hour. Goodness, I missed them. The second of the great-nieces, who really is a very small person indeed, decided that she would help with the pony, and groomed Myfanwy with delicate strokes of the body brush, occasionally bursting into peals of laughter, from sheer pleasure.

There’s something very lovely about watching a tiny person take their first equine steps. I’m not sure the others will become horse people, but I think this one might. She has all the instincts and the love, and no fear. I think this may be something that stays with her for the rest of her life. The little white pony, who has no abstract ponderings about the future, but only cares about food and love and being scratched on her withers, fluttered her eyelashes and ducked her head with delight.

My mare did the thing which she now seems to do every day, which is pick up a great big bucket of sweetness and goodness and love and delight in her hooves and give it to me, so that my heart expands like a balloon. It is really very kind of her.

I returned to my desk, did 916 words of New Project, contemplated the other Secret Project, and wondered again about the New Improved Blog. Still nothing.

I cooked some courgette and feta fritters for lunch. Perhaps more recipes, I thought, because everything must be useful as well as beautiful. Everyone likes a recipe. I attempted to take some pictures of the delightful fritters, but my camera battery died, so I decided against a recipe.

There should be more jokes, I thought, as I ruminatively ate my lunch. Or lists. Everyone adores a list; I never knew a person who did not fall for a list.

It should be more topical, less topical; more thematic, less thematic. There should be fewer pictures, more pictures. I should address many, many subjects in chewy little bites instead of banging on and on about one thing.

The practical side of my brain, bored with this vapid meditation, shouted: ‘You could at least take your library books back.’ (One is overdue, and I love the librarian so much I am always overcome with shame when I have late fees, afraid she shall think less of me, so then I put it off and make the fine worse. Which is really nutty and stupid, and I can’t quite believe I have just admitted to it.)

The great-aunt side of my brain said: ‘For goodness’ sake, just write something polite and make sure all your semi-colons are in the right place. It doesn’t have to be War and blooming Peace.’

The perfectionist side of my brain said: ‘It’s not nearly shiny and new enough. Make it shinier. Make it newer. Make it better. Or you will be punished.’

More controversies, I thought. I always shy away from controversy. I do occasionally have controversial thoughts, but I don’t want this gentle space to turn into a slanging match, so I tend to keep them to myself. But if you did something controversial, said the fire-starting side of my brain, then it would go viral and suddenly you would have millions of readers. (The fire-starter is really quite tiring.)

The small ordinary human part of me then kicked in. No one really knows what makes a good blog or why some people like one or hate another. There is some really good writing out there in the ether which gets ignored, and some rotten gimcrack which has its moment in the sun and gets put on Top 100 lists and is turned into newspaper columns. There is one example of this which is so bad that I would pay not to have to read it, but I suppose that just is an example of each to each, and so there’s no point my getting grumpy about it.

One day, I expect I shall work out how to produce something shiny and new, like a shimmering rabbit out of a sparkling hat. In the meantime, on I bugger, mostly content in the knowledge that my tiny enterprise may not garner a hundred comments a day or shiver the needle of the national radar a millimetre. It reflects my own true self utterly, for worse and for better: slightly shambolic, prone to obsessional freaks, shy of confrontation, galvanised by violent enthusiasms, occasionally sentimental, fatally addicted to tangents, a sucker for a kind word, and without any stern form or structure.

The must do better drumbeat reverberates in my ears. For the moment, until lightning bolts of inspiration strike, the great-aunt wins. As long as there are semi-colons, all is not quite lost.


Today’s pictures:

22 July 4

22 July 8-001

22 July 5-001

22 July 8-002

22 July 2-001

Myfanwy the Pony:

22 July 11-001

Red the Mare, demonstrating that not only the Pigeon can do BLINKY EYES:

22 July 11-002

23 July 10

Red’s View:

22 July 9-001

I have a stick and I’m not afraid to use it:

23 July 10-001


22 July 20-001


  1. Hmm. Your comment about 'millions of readers' took me back to a splendid post by another favourite blogger of mine, the excellent Dan. Read this, if you haven't already, and you'll know what I mean when I say (quoting Into The Woods) "Be careful what you wish for - you might get it..."

    Either way, you do what you do for you. If you did it for anyone else, it wouldn't be half as honest and lovely. So don't let it bother you.

    Make it better? Better, schmetter. I think you've just summed it up very beautifully yourself: "slightly shambolic, prone to obsessional freaks, shy of confrontation, galvanised by violent enthusiasms, occasionally sentimental, fatally addicted to tangents, a sucker for a kind word, and without any stern form or structure." That's my kind of writer. Thank you.

    1. Cassie - you are so WISE. Just went and read that lovely blog, and oh oh, what that poor man went through is everything I dread. You know only too well I can hardly deal with even mild impoliteness. I sometimes get caught in the ghastly worldly success trap and dream of numbers and wider acknowledgement. Thanks to you I realise I have everything I need right here: the perfect cadre of Dear Readers, not too hot, not too cold, just right. Thank you.

  2. There's a lot to be said for trying out a new typeface before you go the whole hog with renovations. You might find it is just as invigorating and a lot less time consuming. The Simple Blogger template doesn't offer much variety though . You could try Courier to see if it looks like you have just rattled it off in the back of a Jeep. Helvetica was the default font for all the picture books I edited, so I can't recommend that.

    1. Lucille - I love that you went straight for font. I do adore playing around with different typeface, but in fact my current worry is staleness and dullness of content rather than appearance. But still, a change of font might cheer me up no end. :)

    2. Even though I was being a bit silly with the talk of fonts, my underlying message is please do not worry about stale and dull. I like what I find here - minute changes of tempo, continuity, stability, slow unfolding, gradual acquaintance, rich detail, contemplation, the occasional rant, Green Soup, Iron Tonic, The Hill, The Horses and The Dog. Not looking for novelty, gimmicks or shocks of any kind. And, a little selfishly perhaps, do not want to be trampled underfoot by hordes of New Dear Readers.

  3. That is such a lovely compliment and from a child, they always say what they see, it must have made you smile...and as for your blog, it is delightful and always beautiful pictures ;-)
    Looking forward to seeing the new font!
    Have a lovely week.

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

  4. We definitely do require more than one adjective, but if I had to choose just one, happy would be it!

    I can relate to the feelings of wanting to somehow change the blog. Make it better, more interesting, more able to strike a chord with more readers, etc. But every time I have this train of thought, I always end up back at the beginning. Why do I have a blog? For me. So I can spill out the contents of my brain, and so I remember to appreciate all of life's little pleasures. If others enjoy it, awesome. If not, well. Clearly yours resonates with many, and you've attracted a loyal following of like-minded people, including me.

    1. Mary - that is such a nice thing to say. It's rather a mysterious business, really, and such a novel medium, so I am always poking it for bugs.

  5. A small child is not going to know that there are two things in life a person can do that look very, very similar. One is Be Happy. The other is Be Cheerful. It's quite easy - almost any of us can manage it - to Be Happy when life is going our way. But to Be Cheerful, even if it isn't, takes guts and determination and rather a lot of self-knowledge. I am happy to think that what you are, especially around the utter delight that children and animals offer the world almost as a matter of course, is cheerful and jolly and facially very expressive and animated. Kids love that. Dammit, we all love that.

    I don't think your blog needs sprucing up unless YOU are a bit moochy and dissatisfied with it and fancy a change. It certainly ain't broke to me, so no need to fix it on my account.

    1. Goldenoldenlady - that is such a very kind and wise thing to say; thank you.

  6. I'm in the 'leave the damn thing alone and just rattle on' camp. Cannot think of a single thing to improve. Write a list if you like, but don't turn the whole thing into lists. The thing is, you either introduce us to something we need to know or ought to think about or love knowing once we've read it, or else you express something we're all thinking but can't put into words. How do you improve on that?

    Best to Red, the Pigeon and Myfanwy. Absolutely love 'The little white pony, who has no abstract ponderings about the future, but only cares about food and love and being scratched on her withers, fluttered her eyelashes and ducked her head with delight.'


    1. Bird - incredibly generous comment; thank you. I suspect I shall just rattle on. I rather like the idea of that. :)

  7. Please don't go ripping out the mosses and meadow flowers and planting tropicals in their place. Like many of your Dear Readers I come here because you share with us your "small ordinary human" appreciation of your world.

  8. Yours is the first blog I look for every day. When I read your post, I started thinking about why this is. I love the way in which you share the minutiae of your daily life yet also somehow transform these thoughts and observations in a way which encourages meditations on the bigger picture. There is a feeling of familiarity with the structures of your life (Red, Pigeon etc) but aso the feeling that I will come away with something new to think about. Keep on keeping on, I say!

  9. Hello. Interesting that you want to change the blog - I love how your blog looks! I know what you mean though, I get those pangs. It's like putting on the same dress or pair of shoes day after day and whilst I love them, I do long for something different. I did once get a fab American designer do me a prefab blog design and she just worked her magic and tah-dahhh; new blog look. But rest assured - Backwards is a slice of loveliness, however it presents itself. Lou x


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