Thursday, 8 August 2013

Light and shade; or in which I witter on about the blindingly obvious.

Life is so curious. Up and down it goes, round the houses. There is a thing that people say – are you a happy person? Or an optimistic person, or a cynical person, or on and on with the single adjectives. I think that there are underlying character traits; of course there are. I tend to see the best in things, I believe in acts of will (teeth gritted, dander up); I am cussed, dogged, emotional and more sanguine than jaded.

But I think that the idea that one is a certain type of human is a little misleading. Even the happiest person will feel grief or regret in the face of sorrow; it would be absurd to do anything else. I begin to believe that life is a matter of moments. There is joy in one hour, and fret in the next, and melancholy in the one after that.

This is a new theory that has just wandered into my mazy brain, and I always like a new theory, so I write this on the hoof, my notions inchoate and incomplete. But it makes me think of the raging arguments about social networks – Twitter is evil, Facebook is crass. It’s the same mistake, almost a category error. Some people on the internet are ghastly, just as some people (despite my enduring faith in human nature) are catastrophic in life. They behave in a manner which is rude or boorish or bigoted or cruel. There is a possibility that they may comport themselves slightly better at cocktail parties than they do when protected by the curtain of anonymity which the theatre of the web provides, but they are still do what they do, to greater or lesser degrees. 

So although I like to think of myself as a fairly cheerful person, I don’t think one can necessarily categorise oneself into happy or optimistic or whichever box is beckoning. What I do think is that retaining the capacity for joy is the most enduring thing.

There is a thing which happens to horses, because of course I must bring everything back to equines, when they have been overwhelmed by life. They shut down. You see it mostly in riding school ponies, or horses who have been overworked in a discipline which does not suit their character. They’ll go through the motions, but their eyes have a dead blankness in them. That’s the aspect I think that humans too must be wary of. One can’t be joyful all the time, unless one is on strong medication; it would be idiotic. But being open to the sorrows and the joys is perhaps the key.

Sometimes I feel a bit peculiar when I can mourn one moment and celebrate the next; there is a skittering sense of guilt, as if I may be callous or unfeeling. There is an old lefty voice in my head, from the black and white days of my youth, which says: how can you laugh when the world is so oppressed? I think, now I am older and more bashed about, with those clean, sure edges worn off by time, that one must laugh when the world is so oppressed. Wandering about in a cloud of baleful despair because of all the misery that exists in the dark places does not shed light, but only deepens the umbrous veil.

So, yesterday, I was amidst the shadows, and today I walk out into the light. The sun came out, literally and metaphorically. I wrote 1798 words of book, I felt delight as I watched my mare take her ease in the morning grass, actual real-life humans made me smile, virtual online friends brought me gladness. There is some interesting racing on, and I shall watch it and bet on it and shout for my thoroughbred darlings, at Leopardstown and Yarmouth and Sandown. And tomorrow, I shall start all over again.

Up and down it goes. And round those dear old houses.


Today’s pictures:

Her Ladyship was very happy this morning, out at liberty in the wild spaces where the good grass lives:

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As was the dear little American Paint filly, who was allowed to graze off the rope for the first time:

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Stanley the Dog was delighted on account of HIS MOST EXCELLENT STICK:

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And Myfanwy the Pony was preening with pride as she was given a show pony groom:

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Congratulating Red after a lovely, bouncing canter through the high grass:

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One of the things that made me smile the most today was that the Older Niece put up a whole lot of pictures of the family weekend. You know that I said there were actual humans playing the actual maracas? Well, I am completely busted, because I was in fact one of them:

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The Brothers were lost in merriment:

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As were The Sister and The Younger Niece:

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Moment of still as The Older Niece plays her haunting guitar:

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And then, of course, there was Scottish dancing the next day on the lawn:

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I very rarely put up recognisable pictures of the family on this blog. I’ve got a weird privacy thing. It is this which makes me give everyone special blog names, even the animals. Red’s name is not really Red. Although, for some odd reason, Stanley is actually called Stanley. But these are all on Facebook, so they exist in the world, and they are so sweet in their simple happiness that I wanted to show them to you. We are not always like The Waltons. We bicker and groan and get scratchy with each other, as all families do. But this particular past weekend was of a shining loveliness, and everyone was in harmony, and I want to mark it. Remembrance again, I suppose.

Today’s hill appears to have a HORSE LOOKING AT IT. You see with Red the Younger Niece’s friend, who had to sell her own horse when she went to university, so now, in the holidays, she comes and rides mine. They are having a ball together:

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As I read this through I think: goodness, that was a little exercise in stating the bleeding obvious. But it was what I was contemplating at the time, so I’m not going to go back and change it. And I suppose that obvious is not the very worst thing one can be. And, and, part of the point of this blog is that you get me warts and all. It’s not Look Ma, no hands. It’s not shiny and impervious. It’s one ordinary life, with the Scottish hills, and the love and trees, with the mare and the dog and the family and the rotten time management and the good and bad word counts and the incapacity to tidy the office and the sudden terrible weather and the days when my brain does not work, and the moments of glad grace. I get a little baffled by those glossy magazine lives. I want people to nod their heads and say: oh yes, I know that. And nobody does that when there are no warts.

Or something.

Stopping now. Really am.

Finger hovers over the publish button. Should I write something better, cleverer, less rambling and ambling? No. Bugger it. The Dear Readers will understand.


  1. We love your moments of glad grace, Tania - as well as all the rest.

    That is a superb post, despite your 'rambling and ambling' self-accusations. It is so true. The observations about moments, whether sad or glad, resonate strongly with me.

    I am generally quite sunny of disposition in public, often melodramatically self-critical in private, full of wise saws and modern instances, variously viewed as inspiring and irritating, powerful and frightening, lovable and ghastly - by myself and by those who know me (or think they do). The thing is, I really believe all of those are true to some extent. But I don't think I'm definitively any of those things: inspiring, irritating, powerful, frightening, lovable or ghastly. They are all bits of the jigsaw, but none of them is the full story.

    In the end, you share your beautiful moments and thoughts in a way that is wonderful for the rest of us; I try to do the same with the sharing of thoughts and stories, and my silly 'daily photos'. While we can all keep buggering on, it's worthwhile.

    Thank you.

  2. Oh fab post Tania - I thought a lot about yesterday's perspective post - and the man, whose story you now know. It made me feel worried that there was too much frippery in the world. But then to read this today I see that it is OK as there can be dark and light - closely followed by each other. I was told once that life is like radio waves - imagine them dancing along - and that is how it's meant to be, sometimes up sometimes down, always moving. I like this image and I feel it explains why there are some days that are good and some that are positively less so and so we meander through that.

    I also ADORE the maracas picture - I saw it on facebook and smiled and nearly commented to say how wonderful you look and how family is a tonic for you. But then I got shy, so it's nice that I can comment here, where we are on more 'intimate' terms. Even as I type that I realise how ludicrous that sounds as the web is the web no matter where you comment - but there you go - such are the nuances.

    I am a Dear Reader and I understand.
    L x

  3. You look gorgeous, Tania! Of course you were on the maracas. :)

    Fabulous post and pics, thank you. xx

  4. If ever in any doubt
    Just get your maracas out...


  5. That picture of your sister and niece is fantastic. Mind you they're all rather fabulous. And what a lawn.

    (Your brother looks rather splendid too. If ever he'd like a coffee companion in London....)


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