Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Here is the deal.




Here is the deal.
I get to write anything I damn well want.
And you get to write anything you damn well want.
That is the joy of freedom of expression.

You, Dear Readers, have no limits. You can be kind or you can be cruel; you can be charming or you can be rude; you can be generous or you can be mean. You can dangle your modifiers or split your infinitive or curse like a sailor on shore leave. That is the great good fortune of living in a liberal democracy at the beginning of the 21st century. People fought and died for free speech. The first thing the dictators do is burn the books. Liberty of thought and word is a gift, and it is your gift.

You can even, if you choose, tell me that I make you want to be sick in a bucket.

I must admit, that one hurt a bit. It took me five whole days before I could laugh about it. Suddenly, it struck me as not wounding but gloriously comic. I really don’t get up in the morning thinking: now, my plan is to make someone sick in a bucket. Yet, apparently that is what I do. I probably should not laugh. I probably should try much, much harder not to make people sick in buckets.

The direct personal attack is an interesting thing. I’m not very good at dealing with it. I have this theory that when someone says something disobliging, the most important thing is to give them permission, in the privacy of one’s own head. For whatever reason, they need to plunge in the knife. It can be classic Object A, Object B: one is furious and miserable and in despair over Object A, one takes it out on Object B. Whatever the origin, the attack exists and it has come at you. The only thing to do is to let it run its course, because everyone must think what they will, hold the opinions they hold, and say what they must say. Freedom of expression is not all bluebirds and butterflies. It has to allow the dark side.

I quite like this theory but it’s not always that easy to apply. If one is vulnerable, no amount of rational thought can stop the sting. One is only human, after all.

In the last few weeks, my stepfather has been dismantling the house my mother made. He is to go and live in the south. This is a good decision, but it is a very sad decision. For five years, I made him and my mother breakfast every day. It was our fond ritual. I made them Easter and Christmas lunches and birthday celebrations and special dinners too, but it was breakfast that was the thing. Since my mother died, I have gone in each morning to make the dear stepfather his eggs and to see if I could bring a smile to his face. If I could, my work that day was done.

Now, there is this slow dismantling. Every week, there is a moving van with smiling men taking away pieces of furniture. There are blank spaces on the walls where pictures used to be. The chair my mother sat in has gone. On the breakfast table when I arrive there is now a little pile of things found in some drawer or other: a folder of cuttings, old photographs, my grandfather’s wallet. These are the very last remnants of a life, and they break my heart.

I’m trying to be butch about it, because this is life. People die and people leave. This is what happens to everyone. I am not special. All the same, it is a long, low melancholy, the distant roar of a withdrawing tide. It is very much the end, and however much I paint my brave face on, I am sad underneath the smile.

So when the harsh words came, I had no defence. That freedom of expression went whoomp, whack, wallop into my solar plexus. Bloody hell, I thought, that really, actually, properly hurt. One must take the knocks, in life, learn to roll with the punches, but it is never a lovely thing to be told you are vainglorious. (Vain, excessively boastful, with swollen pride, from the 14th century root of worthless glory. Oh dear, I thought, am I really that? How very unBritish. How very much not what my mother brought me up to be.)

I took myself away from the internet for a bit, rather bruised and battered. (When wounded, I always have to withdraw for a bit, go to somewhere quiet, take time to talk myself down from the ceiling.) I thought about this blog. Is it really worth doing it, if it makes people sick in buckets, if they find it an egregious exercise in vainglory? I had some tiny hope of occasionally adding to the sum total of human happiness, if the light was coming from the right direction. Instead, it seems I am adding to world nausea. Perhaps I should just stop. I do this for sheer pleasure. I like writing; I like recording my own small days; I like being able to go back and see what I was doing a year ago, or the year before that. It’s good match practice too. Daily writing is a fine way of keeping your muscle memory sharp, like doing scales and arpeggios. I like that there are readers from Sri Lanka and New Zealand and California It makes me feel like a citizen of the world.

But it’s such a tiny thing, and if it were gone nobody would notice, and I could find another form of daily words. Perhaps it would be rather a relief. I would not have to encounter the angry voices, the unsolicited advice, the strict instructions, the bald litany of my appalling failures. (I'm certain all this is very good for character-building, but it's not my favourite thing in the world.) 

I ponder. I ride the mares and walk the dogs and drive my stepfather to the airport and do my work and read a very long book about the Second World War. I wonder and think.


And then I decide: sod it. This is my freedom of expression too. If I want to write a load of buggery bollocks, I shall write a load of buggery bollocks. I shall do it with my head held high. I shall do it whilst wearing my special hat. I shall do it with a spring in my step and a song in my heart. 

I shall get knocked down, and I shall pick myself up and dust myself off and start all over again. So keep your buckets handy. 

27 comments:

  1. Thank goodness. You're back. I was afraid the unpleasant comments had really knocked you out of the ring this time. You are so much braver than I could be when it comes to dealing with the nasties.

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  2. Dear Tania,

    Just catching up on the blog. It seems that Brexit has given some people the false courage to come out of the woodwork and voice their worst and darkest thoughts under the cloak of anonymity. What a shame that this has happened at a time when you are - quite understandably - feeling fragile anyway. I am so sorry.

    You write that "nobody would notice if I were gone". I think your loyal readership would whole-heartedly disagree. You may enjoy sharing your days and looking back on them, but finding the time and head space to share your thoughts and wisdom with strangers, week after week, year after year, is also undoubtedly an act of altruism. I get so much vicarious, escapist enjoyment out of reading about your quiet life in a magical corner of Scotland.

    Anyway, ignore the haters ;)

    Louise x

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  3. Glad you're back and quite rightly defending your claim to the piece of cyberspace you've made your own - as you say, there's room for everyone and none of it is compulsory.
    'No bucket required' will now be the compliment I reach for when none others are apparent...

    Karen

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  4. Several thoughts...the impending move of your stepfather and his daily discoveries of memorabilia he thinks you might want (that he cannot dispose of -- I SO understand that!) is so positive and painful at the same time.
    Who says you have to be butch? (Tell that voice to take a vacation!)
    It makes me think of C.S. Lewis: “To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal."

    I can't imagine life without love.

    As for the nasty comment(s)...well, what a paucity of imagination! Get sick in a bucket?!? A bucket? What about a cut crystal punch bowl? Or a golden trophy (there's a nice one at Wimbledon)? Or a distinctively blue and white Ming Dynasty jar?

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  5. Glad you worked through it and your take on it is generous. However, incivility is incivility. This is a personal blog; none of us have paid to read it, and while we are all welcome to comment on it, the idea that it must be one way or another because we expect it to be, is ludicrous. We either like it or we don't, and if we don't, the solution is to stop reading, not whine like that petulant (or, in a case or two, triumphant) child. That sort of thing says more about the comment writer than the blogger, and it was not a surprise that the most vehement hadn't even the grace to leave a name.

    Onward ...

    Mary

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  6. I am very very glad you are back. When I feel down and out I always like to read your blog posts as it makes me feel invigorated with a get up and go feeling. I am horrified that something like this could happen. You are outspoken and kind and always willing to give the benefit of the doubt to the other side. Not judgemental at all.
    On another note, I can feel your sadness about your parents home. My husband and I are moving into a flat after 35 years and need desperately to downsize. I've been lucky that despite my daughters living in Melbourne, they have been willing to take so much of stuff. Most of my friends who are in this position say that children do not want anything from the family home. I would have been heartbroken to discard some of the things I had. But.... still it is hard to see a home broken up. Hardening myself for the final stretch! much good wishes coming your way.

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  7. Very glad to see you back, Tania. Your writing is amusing, informative, and encouraging, and I have missed your blog. So pleased you have decided to bugger on!

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  8. My mother always used to say - 'if you can't say anything nice, then don't say anything at all'. It seems the trolls haven't been brought up with the same advice. If they (he/she) don't like what you write then why bother to read your posts. Myself, I look forward to your daily ramblings and wondered where you were and missed you. So please don't take this nasty comment to heart - there are plenty of followers who don't want to be sick in a bucket, me included.

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  9. So glad you're back.
    Ella

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  10. You absolutely have to keep on writing this blog. I love it. Never fails to either make me smile or move me masses. x

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  11. Please please don't stop. The world would not be the same. Lou X

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  12. I've been reading your blog six months or so, and been delighted with the glimpse into a life so different from my own. I look for writing that inspires the quiet courage to deal with my own challenges. Your work does that; I'm glad you're back.

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  13. Dearest Tania - I can't imagine someone taking advantage of an emotionally vulnerable time in your life to be so cruel. But here is why I'm writing this comment - remember that what someone says is more revealing of them than it is of you. So whoever that was has revealed issues he or she has yet to resolve. I love your blog and your animals and your Scotland!

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  14. Geez, I'd wondered why you hadn't been posting. I thought maybe the Brexit vote was REALLY getting you down. There are some really nasty people out there. A lot of them, apparently. I might not comment often as, most of the time,life is just way-over-the-top too busy for me to get in a space where I can respond. But I'm always here in the wings...

    A text I received from a friend when I was going through a rough spot recently: "Teflon shield up!"

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  15. So, so glad you're back! You add to the human happiness of so many of us - and this last post added even more. So hoping that you find some peace with your stepfather's move. Rachel

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  16. Tania I've just read the comments. I'm so glad you are back - I'm with Rachel that you definitely add to the happiness of many so I for one am very glad you are still writing. Very best wishes and lots of strength X

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  17. just wanted to add that I have been reading your blog for so long now. Your posts give me such a joy and a real pause for reflection. I have never commented before but really needed you to know that there is so much good will towards you xxxx

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  18. Please do stay. I value your words and your take on life (sometimes even quoting it to others as "as someone infinitely wiser than I recently wrote..."). So, please send more "buggery bollocks"!

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  20. It occurs to me that when I commented this morning, I meant to add something else: it is not that someone disagreed with you that offended me. It was the unpleasant tone. Other points of view are fun. Can't imagine that every time you write a post, you want a chorus of little "oh, how wonderfuls" in your inbox--especially as you very likely already know when you hit it out of the park vs. serve up something a bit bland. But rudeness? No.

    And one other thing. If you want to desert the blog sometime, I hope that the project which tears you away will be the book you once promised about getting through death. In the time I've read your blog, you've undergone the death of both parents and your two lovely dogs. Your comments each time have been incandescent--well worth an in-depth study.

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  21. It occurs to me that when I commented this morning, I meant to add something else: it is not that someone disagreed with you that offended me. It was the unpleasant tone. Other points of view are fun. Can't imagine that every time you write a post, you want a chorus of little "oh, how wonderfuls" in your inbox--especially as you very likely already know when you hit it out of the park vs. serve up something a bit bland. But rudeness? No.

    And one other thing. If you want to desert the blog sometime, I hope that the project which tears you away will be the book you once promised about getting through death. In the time I've read your blog, you've undergone the death of both parents and your two lovely dogs. Your comments each time have been incandescent--well worth an in-depth study.

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  22. Welcome back - you are much more charitable than I could ever be. But that is indeed a sign of the bigger person here.

    I found your blog about a year ago, just after my father had passed away. Your writing on your grief was, and continues to be, so helpful to me. Thank you for that. In the meantime, I learn new things and get to see your beautiful horses and dogs. Thank you for those, too.

    You never know who you are touching with your words. Please carry on as long as YOU are happy doing so.

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  23. It IS your blog and I'm so very grateful to have found it, and you. We've never met yet I consider you a friend, as I know others who gather here do too. Thank you for sharing your words and sending you love as you carefully see your lovely stepfather off to his new home. xx

    And fuck the sick in a bucket comments! :)

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  24. This is very good news.

    PS I think you should tell us what colour socks the Prime Minister will be wearing when he goes to see The Queen.

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  25. Thank you for coming back - so glad you came to that conclusion. KBO!!

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  26. I can't believe someone went out of their way to post a personal attack on your blog. If they don't like what they read here, they can move on to another blog.
    Losing your mother is one of the huge life events. It hurts way longer than you think it will hurt. I admire your honesty and find myself nodding my head when you describe how your days are going. Hang in there. I love your corner of the world, its inhabitants and your writing.

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  27. I'm glad you're back. I noticed you'd gone. As I don't often read the comments I did wonder why you'd disappeared, but then it's your blog and you write or don't write to please any of us.
    I read this blog because I enjoy your writing. I'm not interested in horses or racing, but I enjoy your obvious delight and love for them. I learn things, and in a small way experience a different life to my own. That's a wonderful gift to share. Thank you.

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