Sunday, 9 December 2012

Life's Little Pleasures (8)

This is my eighth post on LLPs (Life’s Little Pleasures).  Post (1), Post (2), Post (3), Post (4), Post (5), Post (6) and Post (7) can be seen by clicking on the links.

Transient Beauty

“There was nothing to be done about such beauty,
except to try to keep it.”
~ Margaret Drabble, The Waterfall

A bunch of fresh flowers or a heartbreakingly perfect rose give instant pleasure, and you’ll smile without even knowing it.  And yet you’re very conscious that they are temporary and you must squeeze every bit of enjoyment from the experience because you will never see these specimens again looking so beautiful.   I gaze in awe at huge, full blown, deeply fragrant, waxy, white magnolias, because I know that even touching them will make them go brown.  It’s all wonderful yet sad, and looking at photographs of them is nothing like the same. 


A handsome human can affect you in much the same way; after all their beauty too is transient.  The pleasure I get from studying beautiful men and women is purely aesthetic and I have no wish to interact with them personally (well alright, maybe George Clooney).  It is as abstract as studying a beautiful painting or photographic image, but with the added pleasure that they walk and talk.  People who have affected me that way are these artists when they were at their best – Jacqueline Bisset, Joanna Lumley, Jennifer O’Neill, Elizabeth Taylor...

...Catherine Deneuve, Grace Kelly, Julie Christie, Jenny Seagrove and Hayley Mills as a teenager;

Rock Hudson, Tyrone Power, Alain Delon, George Clooney, Mel Gibson, Kevin Costner, Robert Redford, Paul Newman, Christopher Jones (Ryan’s Daughter, 1970) and Rob Lowe. 

Naturally I’m not immune to the physical beauty I’ve witnessed during the Olympics this year and the stunning sight of people diving into swimming pools from great heights or viewing gymnastics generally, but I confess I can’t pretend to be a sports enthusiast.

The Community

“The world is so empty if one thinks only of mountains, rivers and cities;
but to know someone who thinks and feels with us,
and who, though distant, is close to us in spirit,
this makes the earth for us an inhabited garden.”
~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

It is heart-warming when people come together for a common cause and are able to transcend the usual social and ethnic barriers.  The Olympics this year have done a lot of good in this regard and I’ve loved hearing the goodwill and witnessing the ‘niceness’ it’s generated.  If only it lasted.


The death of Diana, Princess of Wales in 1997 affected a lot of us in an extraordinary way.  I know this is not shared by everybody, but I was aware of a great common sadness concerning the abrupt end of a life which had been troubled.  She had seemed now to be coming of age as a woman of the world; watching the reaction of millions of people around the world made me realise that I was not alone in wishing that the Royal Family had supported her better and showed a little more warmth towards their subjects generally.  I had kept my critical thoughts to myself, and here was a situation where we all seemed to say the same thing at the same time.  It was a nice feeling.


The 11th September 2001 ("9/11") was a momentous and painful day for the the United States and for the western world.  Much has already been said about the day when the islamist militant group Al-Qaeda organised coordinated attacks on New York and Washington by means of hijacking and deliberately crashing four passenger jets, which brought down the World Trade Center in New York and crashed into the Pentagon. 

I knew nobody directly who was a victim, but the horror we all felt was intense, as was the outpouring of goodwill felt towards all US nationals.  The press have always liked to joke about 'the special relationship', but that was a time when it reminded us strongly that we were allies with a common beginning.  I read about Americans overcome when overhearing nothing but sympathy in conversations on public transport amongst people who didn't know they were there, and how they appreciated the sympathy which had emanated from Buckingham Palace.  It felt good to know we were all the same under the skin.


Wootton Bassett is a market town in Wiltshire not too far from where I live.  It has about 15,000 inhabitants with all the usual charming features typical of an English village.  It came to prominence in 2007, when the repatriation of British soldiers killed in action in Afghanistan was moved from an aerodrome in Oxfordshire to RAF Lyneham close by, and as there was no bypass round the town, the cortege passed through it.  The first such occasion coincided with a monthly meeting of the Royal British Legion, and they decided to stop the meeting to pay their respects as the procession wound its way up the High Street.  Local people and other British Legion branches joined them after that, and a tradition was born.   

In June 2008. when Corporal Sarah Bryant was among the dead, more than 5,000 crowded into the High Street to pay their respects.

This is part of an article by Cassandra Jardine and Richard Savill, from the online Telegraph of 7th July 2009:

The ceremony that has grown up in Wootton Bassett is as simple and moving as the coffins themselves, wrapped only in the Union flag. As the hearses approach, the tenor bell of St Bartholomew's Church begins to toll. Business stops while shoppers and shopkeepers join the crowds lining the pavement. When the cortege reaches the war memorial, the president of the British Legion says a single word – "Up" – to mark the moment when ex- and serving members of the forces should begin their salute. "Down," he says 60 seconds later, as the hearses move on.

"It is a most strange feeling," says Sally Hardy, manager of the Sue Ryder charity shop. "When the bell from the parish church starts to toll and the police stop the traffic, there is just silence. It is a very unusual thing to find in a town. Just about everybody and anybody comes out.”

British Legionnaires from far afield are joined by wounded and invalided Service people who wish to pay tribute to those yet more unlucky than themselves. On the pavement, they stand shoulder to shoulder with relatives of soldiers who have made the same sad final journey, and those whose loved ones are still serving. "They tell us that seeing our respect gives a tremendous boost to the troops serving in Afghanistan," says Maurice Baker, president of the local branch of the British Legion. "They know we are thinking of them."

Many who cannot be there send messages. "Please tell the people of Wootton Bassett," reads one sent this week by a man from Cheshire, "that each one who stands to honour the fallen has a thousand more of us standing unseen at their shoulder."’

There have been over 100 such occasions and the monarchy has thanked the town by awarding it the right to call itself henceforth Royal Wotton Bassett.  Most have been recorded by the media in the south west region where I live, and every time I see them I feel a shiver of pleasure and pride that I should be living in a country with communities such as this.


Photo Finish
- from Lonicera's non-digital archive

Lyme Regis on the south coast - a sequence 
which I enjoyed catching as two boys 'set sail' 



Joyful said...

Enjoyed your post today. Hope you are enjoying your weekend and will enjoy your week ahead. x

Lonicera said...

The nearer it gets to my holiday break, the happier I am! I bet you're all organised and ready... I've been up to my ears in Christmas cards, and finished them tonight at long last.

Vagabonde said...

I agree with you - sometimes you wish you could hold beauty for a while longer. I feel like this when I see a beautiful sunset – and it goes away so rapidly – the cloud formation is never the same again. I hope you will have beautiful moments in 2013 as well as much happiness and good health.

Lonicera said...

Thank you Vagabonde for your good wishes - I hope 2013 holds plenty of travelling for you!

Verónica Minieri said...

Bellísimo. Simona duerme aún, lo que me ha dado tiempo para vistar tu blog. Un placer ver las imágenes y leer tus posts!

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