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.

And then autumn arrived

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Tania Kindersley
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on Tuesday, 09 October 2012
Autumn has suddenly come roaring over the hill. For the first time the mercury has tumbled below zero, and yesterday a glittering white frost fell on us. I stamp my feet and shake my hands to get the circulation going; I contemplate the purchase of a serious winter hat. Working with the horses gets a little tougher, as I fumble with buckles and drop brushes from frozen fingers.

The cold ushers in outrageous beauty. The giddy Scottish sun shines down out of sapphire skies, and the leaves are just starting to turn, and the mountains take on the deep blue aspect that they assume at this time of year. The geese are beginning to migrate, appearing suddenly over the hills in their mighty v-shapes, calling out in wild unison as they go.

Every year, I mean to look up exactly where it is they have come from and where they are going to. I am mildly ashamed that I do not know. For some reason, I have it in my head that they are going to Russia. They are certainly bound for the east, but for all I know it might be Stonehaven, not Vladivostok.

I love to think I am in touch with nature. As I get older and more absurd, all I want is to be rooted in the earth. I am still shatteringly impressed if I meet someone who once worked at Chatham House, as one brilliant woman in our village did, or who does something with military intelligence, as does the man who sat on my left last night at dinner. But oddly, what really thrills me the most is when I wave to the farmer, driving by in his muddy Landrover.

There, I think, grinning like a loon, is a fellow who really knows valuable things, about weather patterns and the psychology of livestock and the breeding of rams. There is a man whose head is full of honest, true things, whose hands are mapped with the ancient black of the Scottish soil.

You can see I have a fatal tendency to romanticise. I have no idea why the idea of the earth appeals to me so much just now. It might be because now I have horses I am working outside for long hours, getting filthy and muddy instead of staring at a computer screen. It might be because the world seems rather alarming and unknowable. No one has any idea what to do about the economy, about the crashing Euro, about the labyrinthine situation in Syria, about Iran’s nuclear programme. People come on the wireless with all the bad news and no good answers. Today, the Taliban shot a 14-year-old girl, apparently because she was ‘promoting Western culture’, whatever that means.

I don’t understand a word of it.

But I understand that the soil will still be there tomorrow and the mountains will not move and perhaps that is restful to a battered mind.

There was a terrible fuss the other day when the Prime Minister forgot what Magna Carta meant. I know it’s important to know a bit of Latin; I know that a grounding in Classics broadens the mind. I know also that knowledge is not relative; one form of it is not better than another. But just now, in the mood I’m in, I would be much more impressed if Mr Cameron could tell me where those crazy geese were going.
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