Saturday, 3 November 2012

Life’s Little Pleasures (6)

This is my sixth post on LLPs (Life’s Little Pleasures).  Post (1), Post (2), Post (3), Post (4) and Post (5) can be seen by clicking on the links.

I Hear You

“Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.”
~ Berthold Auerbach

Most people take great pleasure from music, as do I, but there are extra little pleasures which come from hearing a tune that we recognise and haven’t heard for a very long time, or which reminds us of good times.  I learned to play the Spanish guitar at the age of 10, and hearing a piece for guitar on the radio is always a particular pleasure.  I think the sound combines particularly well with the human voice, and having been a teenager during the folk era, I feel the hair stand up on the back of my neck when I hear Joan Baez, Tom Paxton or Julie Collins.   

Joan Baez

Tom Paxton

Judy Collins

I was very taken by the British folk group Steeleye Span when I first came to England in the early seventies, and one of their songs called Sails of Silver has such joyousness in its tune that it invariably lifts my spirits.   The sound of my own voice however doesn’t hold the pleasures it once did; I’m not the chatterbox I used to be and my vocal cords show some signs of ageing and I can no longer sing on the guitar the way I used to.

The spoken word has for me a greater capacity to give you pleasure or pain.  Theatre is one of my favourite arts, and I experience moments of pure pleasure when I go to the theatre and come away feeling that I have seen a well crafted play, superbly acted and which leaves me with many thoughts to share with my companions.  My criterion for excellence is that if I can remember them now, many years later, then they really were good.  Chekov, Strindberg and Miller for the serious; Neil Simon and Alan Ayckbourn for lighter moments, are some playwrights that come to mind. 

I should include Shakespeare, my mother’s favourite, but I have only liked certain plays such as The Taming of the Shrew and Romeo and Juliet.  The BBC is particularly good on radio, and listening to a play (no advertisements) can make you forget your surroundings.  My iPod is tuned to radio, so I hardly notice the effort involved in the walks around the hospital site on errands or to and from my car with something to listen to.  As a child once said (I don’t remember who told me this) – I prefer radio because the pictures are better.

Then there are accents and recognising a foreign language even if I can’t speak it or understand what is being said.  Rumanian was a surprise – I had completely forgotten that it is one of the romance languages with Latin roots, and when I heard it for the first time I was astonished that using my Spanish I understood about 30% of what was being said, and it felt wonderful. 

Italian, the language of my maternal ancestors bring my mother and grandmother back to me, and it gets better after a glass of wine, when I’m brave enough to launch myself into small talk.  Portuguese remembered from my university days is another pleasure to listen to.  They all leave me feeling I’m Alice in Wonderland who has been given the key to enter another world.

Water in all its sounds give pleasure – streams, drumming rain, waterfalls… and the deafening noise at my local indoor swimming pool is evidence of the joy of splashing sounds to children (though not to me when I’m the swimmer, it has to be said).

The sound of a loved voice is also wonderful, and verbal reassurance that I am loved.  I could listen to that all day...

Up and Away

We see it as a right to have our annual holiday, but this is a pleasure of relatively recent times.  Most of us love going somewhere new, but aside from the enormous enjoyment that comes from the experience, there are also additional mini pleasures, little flashes of joy which make you glad to be alive. 

There’s my first sight of the turquoise pool, the cool water on my skin and on the top of my head, or the buoyancy of the sea; the unaccustomed dryness in the air which makes the heat bearable, the wind whipping at my hair or the evening breeze that cools and soothes me. 

How about sitting comfortably with feet up in the shade on a hot day with a drink beside you so cold that the glass is still completely frosted and you can hear the crackle of the ice cubes – either reading or watching the world go by?  Or the sight and sound of large waves crashing on the shore and expert surfers gliding in smoothly, just behind a perfect barrel (particularly if I have my camera ready)?  Here are a couple which sadly aren't mine - I think I'd retire if they were.

There are gentler pleasures such as listening and watching the tremulous leaves of Lombardy poplars as they rustle in the breeze,

Patagonia, 2008

...or contemplating a field of grass, or wheat when it’s young and green suddenly being swayed hither and thither by wind as if a giant was running his hand caressingly over it. 

Estancia Huanuluán, Patagonia

Not to mention the luscious and refreshing sound of a waterfall cascading down a cliff and hitting the rocks before disappearing into a deep pool – hopefully with a sandy bottom where you can rest your feet without wondering what’s down there...

Bowood Estate, UK 

In Patagonia a few years ago several of us went for a brief walk in the late evening, far enough to get away from the lights of a small village where we were staying and be able to take in the full majesty and awe of the Milky Way, the Southern Cross and other constellations in a crystal clear night sky.  It was also very quiet, and all I could hear was the blood pounding in my ears.  I realised that I had never seen such clarity in the Northern Hemisphere, either because the weather did not permit or you never quite got away from the orange glow of street lighting.  The sense of pleasure, peace and being at one with nature was intense and something I will never forget.

A Sense of Touch

The feel of velvet fabric, the fleshy petals of an exotic flower such as frangipani...

Maldives, 2007

...the silky hair on a child’s head, kissing a baby’s toes, the fur of my cats when I stroke them, cool water, the wind rushing through my fingers when I put my hand out of the window of the car, sand underfoot, splashing through the surf, sinking into warm or cold water, covering up my ears with warm hands on a frosty morning or climbing into bed with the electric blanket on, on a very cold night, the first swallow of a cup of coffee in the morning...  have I left any out?


Photo Finish
- from Lonicera's non-digital archive

Twilight on the Río Colorado, Patagonia

St Ives shop:  Picture within a picture
(The rusty sewing machine is also in the window,
bottom right)

Dawlish - this is obviously not the first time the cat
has perched there, since someone has thoughtfully
placed a tea towel on the sill for his comfort..

Sunset:  Severn estuary and Llanwern steelworks in
South Wales, photographed from Portishead, North Somerset

Clevedon Craft Centre:  Another picture within a picture

Norfolk Broads


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