Dispatches From The North

Tania Kindersley lives in the North East of Scotland with two amiable lab collie crosses and one very grumpy Gloucester Old Spot pig. She co-wrote Backwards In High Heels: The Impossible Art of Being Female, with Sarah Vine.

A return to the Royal Meeting at Ascot

Posted by Tania Kindersley
Tania Kindersley
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on Wednesday, 20 June 2012

A plaintive and very polite note comes from the editor, wondering gently if there is to be a blog this week. I had, in fact, entirely forgotten which day of the week it was. I had practically forgotten my own name. This is because, after twenty years, I have returned to the Royal Meeting at Ascot. I abandoned it because of the crowd and the hats and all the fashion silliness. But this year it lured me with the two best horses in the world.

One of them, the Australian supermare, Black Caviar, had flown thirty-three hours to be here, dressed in a special lycra suit, so that she looked like one of the Olympic swimmers. (It keeps the horse's blood pressure steady, apparently.)

Black Caviar runs on Saturday, but yesterday the meeting opened with the highest rated horse in training, the majestic Frankel. High expectations are the enemy of happiness, and expectations were running red hot. He has never been beaten, he is clearly head and shoulders above the rest, he has developed into an even greater and stronger horse at four than he was at three. I said, for a joke, 'he'll win by ten lengths.' Horses don't win at Ascot by ten lengths, over a mile; especially when up against the most talented of their cohort. Last year, Frankel won by three-quarters of a length. The greatest horse is the greatest horse, but it is racing; anything can happen.

He won by eleven lengths, easing up.

It was, as I think one commentator said, a procession. The best horses in Europe were scattered down the track after him like forgotten toys. Hardened racegoers gasped and shouted and cried. (Well, mostly I cried. And the very polite Australian gentlemen who had flown all the way from Melbourne to see Black Caviar pretended not to notice.)

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How is it done?

Posted by Tania Kindersley
Tania Kindersley
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on Wednesday, 13 June 2012

There was no blog last week because I was running up to deadline for my book and all ability to do any other thing was temporarily lost. So now I emerge, blinking into the light, like a faintly deranged woodland creature. (Not one of the adorable fawn-like ones, but one of the lowly, scuttly, muddy ones.)

Sometimes people ask me about writing, as if I should know. I damn well should know. I’ve only been doing it for twenty years. And here is the strange thing: I know exactly how to do it, and I don’t know how to do it at all.

I sometimes say that, after all this time, I can just about carry a tune. What I mean by this is that I have a certain confidence in sentences. I can string them together. I enjoy stringing them together. Occasionally, one of them might contain a little bit of drollery. (It really annoys me that I can’t do that wild, properly funny writing that people like our own Esther Walker can; and I’m not just saying that to suck up to The Lady. In life, I can make people laugh a bit, but on paper there is some reticence, I have no idea what it is, which mitigates against laughing out loud. So I have to settle for the occasional mild drollness.) Sometimes, one of my sentences might even make a point.

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The soup won't work.

Posted by Tania Kindersley
Tania Kindersley
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on Tuesday, 29 May 2012

I am in fairly severe trouble. The courgette soup is not working.

In life, I labour under the entirely unproven belief that almost anything can be cured by the judicious application of soup. It’s not so much the eating of soup, although of course this must help, with all its goodness and nutritional marvellousness; it’s the making of it and the preparing of it. Even the quickest soup can’t be too rushed; there must be chopping and contemplation. It’s a back to first principles thing, which may soothe the unquiet mind.

It doesn’t have to be chicken soup either, although that is of course the gold standard. It can be any soup. Just at the moment, I am in a vogue for green soups, probably because my body is craving the iron.

...

In which the sun shines

Posted by Tania Kindersley
Tania Kindersley
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on Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Even the glory that is Scotland can look a bit demoralised after days of gloom and cold and dreich. With no spring to speak of, I felt my spirits lowering and my shoulders hunching against the daily chill. Today, there was sudden, blinding, serious sun. I went up to the horse with a rising heart.

In celebration of the warmth, I decided to try a new technique. Coming back to horses after thirty years, I am operating on old, childhood instincts, ancient things known from growing up in a stable. But I am also wide open to new things, to learning anything that will make my mare happy, and will make my life with her easier and sweeter. Just because I grew up with racehorses does not mean I know it all. So I have been reading a lot about natural horsemanship (or, in my case, horsewomanship). Some old hands scoff at this, and don’t like the idea of it at all; it’s seen as a namby-pamby, new age lot of nonsense.

Tania Kindersley's horse

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In which I turn into a weather bore

Posted by Tania Kindersley
Tania Kindersley
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on Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Everyone in the village looks a bit fed up. We roll our eyes ruefully at each other and try not to talk about the weather and then talk about the weather because it’s all one can talk about. It is five degrees centigrade as I write this. Five. In the middle of May. I actually stood with my mare for about half an hour this morning debating whether to take her rug off or not. The wind was whipping down off the mountain, and, although she does have a good stand of trees for shelter, it is a wide open space, and a lot of weather.

She dozed patiently as I counted the pros and cons. The thing is, horses don’t really like wearing rugs that much; they don’t go about in the wild wearing something developed from the kind of fabric people climb Everest in. (After thirty years of being away from horses, I am quite obsessed with the new rug technology, and bore everyone with it most days. ‘Oh,’ I say, ‘in my day we just had a New Zealand rug, sheet of green canvas with two straps, and that was it.’ I cannot believe that at the age of forty-five I have started using the phrase ‘In my day’.)

On the other hand, I could not bear the thought of her shivering in the absurd cold. She was clipped in March, so her coat is very short; all the protective woolliness of winter is gone. In the end, I decided to let her go unrugged, so she can stretch and roll and feel the air on her back. There are so many funny things I discover as I return to things equine: one of them is that people get really cross about rugs. Apparently, some of them will not put a horse in a rug even in a blizzard. I do not really understand why this causes so much foot-stomping, but apparently it is a thing. (My new favourite place is the forum section of the Horse and Hound website, where I find the rug debate rages with no quarter given, although in a very genteel Horse and Hound sort of way.)

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