Tag Archives: Beautiful

Favourite Words – Sacred

 

Sacred

I’m not sure why I love this word!   It can have very negative connotations of something  restricted, forbidden or beyond censure.  But it gives me a warm sense of childhood awe and the amber light of candles and simple prayers.

If you look Sacred up in a dictionary, there are usually five definitions.

  • exclusively devoted to a deity or to some religious ceremony or use; holy; consecrated
  • worthy of, or regarded with, reverence, awe, or respect
  • protected by superstition or piety from irreligious actions
  • connected with, or intended for, religious use: sacred music
  • dedicated to; in honour of

The word came into use in the 14th century but it has its roots much earlier and is probably from the Old Latin ‘saceres’ which can be connected with binding in the sense of enclosing or protecting!

But for me the  feeling of the word is much closer to an  Encyclopaedia Britannica reference .  This is to the power, being, or realm understood by religious persons to be at the core of existence and to have a transformative effect on their lives and destinies.  Now that really does take me back to my simple childhood sense of the sacred and the picture above – Holman Hunt’s The Light of the World.  My father won a small copy of it as a Sunday School prize when he was a child.  It hung over my bed from as early as I can remember.  When I knelt to say my prayers, this was the God to whom I prayed, having no doubts at all about what was sacred!

Nureyev, Fontaine and Falling in Love

Dame Margot Fontaine ballet dancing with Rudolph Nureyev.

In 1961, Rudolf Nureyev defected/leaped to the West, and on 21 February 1962 he and Fonteyn first appeared on stage together in a performance of Giselle.   It was a great success; during the curtain calls Nureyev dropped to his knees and kissed Fonteyn’s hand, cementing an on-and-offstage partnership which lasted until her 1979 retirement. Fonteyn and Nureyev became known for inspiring repeated frenzied curtain calls and bouquet tosses. A performance of the Giselle was televised and that was the first time I saw them dance together.  I fell in love with these two beautiful people.  If you would like to know what all the fuss was about then follow this link

Despite their differences in background, temperament, and a nineteen-year difference in age, Nureyev and Fonteyn became close lifelong friends but you were never quite sure about the extent of the friendship and whether there was the love affair you hoped for.  He said of her:

“At the end of Lac des Cygnes when she left the stage in her great white tutu I would have followed her to the end of the world.”

They remained close even after she retired to Panama!  When she was treated for cancer, Nureyev paid many of her medical bills and visited her often, despite his busy schedule as a performer and choreographer and despite his own health problems.

Nureyev said that they danced with “one body, one soul” and that Margot was “all he had, only her.” An observer said that “If most people are at level A, they were at level Z.”

Dark heroes and old shades

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A gentleman was strolling down a side street in Paris, on his way back from the house of one Madame de Verchoureux. He walked mincingly, for the red heels of his shoes were very high. A long purple cloak, rose-lined, hung from his shoulders and was allowed to fall carelessly back from his dress, revealing a full-skirted coat of purple satin, heavily laced with gold; a waistcoat of flowered silk; faultless small clothes; and a lavish sprinkling of jewels on his cravat and breast.

Thus opens These Old Shades by Georgette Heyer and the gentleman in question is Justin Alastair, the Duke of Avon, known by friends and enemies alike as Satanas – the devil.  He is glamorous, jaded and fascinating and, on this particular evening, he meets his match! He encounters the intriguing and equally fascinating, red-headed, Léon – who is really Léonie!   Masquerading as a tavern boy, she is escaping a beating at her brutal “brother’s” hands.  So Avon, on a whim, takes her into his household and parades her, in pre-Revolutionary Parisian society, as his page.    These Old Shades follows a twisting course as young Léon is swept into  a dangerous  game by the Duke when he takes his revenge upon an old enemy.  As Leonie falls in love with Satanas of the curious and heavy lidded eyes – so do we!  Well I did anyway!  On lazy summer afternoons in my mid-teens, I discovered Georgette Heyer and the Duke.  An impression was made that has lasted a life time.  I’ve found many other characters since then who have some things with him in common – most notably Mr. Darcy, of course! But for me no other character in fiction weaves quite the same spell!

Beautiful Places – Lincoln’s Inn, London

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Lincoln’s Inn  is one of four Inns of Court in London to which barristers of England and Wales belong and where they are called to the Bar. The other three are Middle Temple, Inner Temple and Gray’s Inn. Lincoln’s Inn is able to trace its official records to 1422.   T he Honourable Society of Lincoln’s Inn is said to take its name from Henry de Lacy, 3rd Earl of Lincoln who died in 1311. His own great house was nearby and he is credited with being the Society’s patron. However, the origins of the name may as easily be derived from Robert de Chesney Bishop of Lincoln who acquired the ‘old Temple’ on the site in 1161. The present character of Lincoln’s Inn owes much to the fact that its precincts and buildings – the medieval Hall and Gateway abutting onto Chancery Lane, the late seventeenth century New Square in the centre, and the magnificent Victorian gothic Great Hall and Library beside Lincoln’s Inn Fields – survived nearly unscathed the devastations of the Blitz. Striking as they are, these buildings however are not merely architectural and historical tourist attractions but provide the professional home for the practicing bar and many of the educational facilities for the training of students. It is to meet those needs that the Inn exists and on which it expends the bulk of its resources.

Fifteen English Prime Ministers, from William Pitt to Tony Blair, have studied law here. The names of the novelists Charles Reade, Charles Kingsley, Wilkie Collins, Rider Haggard and John Galsworthy are all found in the membership records. The poet and preacher John Donne was Preacher to the Society and laid the foundation stone of the present Chapel, built in 1623. Thomas More, the author, humanist scholar and statesman, was admitted as a student in 1496 and went on to become a bencher of the Inn.

I just love its soft, old, stones and visit when I can just to wander quietly among its courts.  If you come to London – don’t miss its gentle peace and spirit of its gentle ghosts

Beautiful Places – the Blue Pool, Llangollen

Blue Pool

If you drive up the  Horseshoe Pass just outside Llangollen in North Wales and know where to turn off you will find the Blue Pool.  These days it is also known as the Blue Lagoon and it is a popular swimming spot, but for experienced swimmers only! It is 40 feet deep and can be icy even in warm weather.  When I knew it first, I was a child and there was none of that!  Cars were rare and  it was considered remote and dangerous!  Therefore for me it was mysterious.  We would travel from my home in the Black Country to the bliss of the open spaces of North Wales!  If I was lucky early on Sunday morning, before church, we would drive up to see the Blue Pool.  Sometimes it was misty, making it doubly dangerous and slightly sinister!  No one swam in it then but I loved it!  Nowhere in the world, and I’ve travelled a bit, have I seen water quite so blue as it is in memory!  You can talk to me about copper sulphate levels and tell me the history of the slate mining that made it!  But for me its seems primeval, beautiful and as old as time!

Beautiful Symbols – the Coventry Crosses

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The wooden cross and the cross of nails were created after the cathedral was bombed during the Coventry Blitz of World War II.  My father was there that night as a fireman and his stories of the experience lived on as sad legends in our family.  My mother could see the fire glowing on the horizon from 30 miles away!  The cathedral stonemason, Jock Forbes, saw two wooden beams lying in the shape of a cross in the ruins and tied them together. A replica of the wooden cross built in 1964, has replaced the original in the ruins of the old cathedral on an altar of rubble. The original is now kept in St. Michael’s Hall below the new cathedral.

Another cross was made of three nails from the roof truss of the old cathedral by Provost Richard Howard of Coventry Cathedral. It was later transferred to the new cathedral, where it rests on its altar. The cross of nails has become a symbol of peace and reconciliation across the world. There are over 160 Cross of Nails Centres all over the world, all of them bearing a cross made of three nails from the ruins, similar to the original one.

One of the crosses made of nails from the old cathedral was donated to the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church in Berlin, which was destroyed by Allied bomb attacks and is also kept as a ruin alongside a newer building. A copy of the Stalingrad Madonna by Kurt Reuber that was drawn in 1942 in Stalingrad (now Volgograd) is shown in the cathedrals of all three cities (Berlin, Coventry and Volgograd) as a sign of the reconciliation of the three countries that were once enemies.

A medieval cross of nails has also been carried on board all British warships to subsequently bear the name HMS Coventry. The cross of nails was on board HMS Coventry when she was sunk by enemy action in the Falklands War. The cross was salvaged by Royal Navy divers, and presented to Coventry Cathedral by the ship’s Captain and colleagues. (One Hundred Days, Admiral Sandy Woodward.)

The cathedral is dedicated to St Michael. as you might guess, and he stands guard on the wall of the cathedral!  You can find out more at the Coventry Cathedral Website

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Beautiful Places – Whittington and its Castle

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An extract from the National Gazetteer 1868

“WHITTINGTON, a parish in the upper division of Oswestry hundred, county Salop, 2½ miles N.E. of Oswestry, and 5 W. of Ellesmere. It has stations on the Cambrian and on the Shrewsbury and Chester branch of the Great Western railways. There is likewise a branch line from Gobowen, in this parish, to Oswestry. The river Perry and the Ellesmere canal traverse the parish from N. to S.

It has the ruins of an ancient moated border castle, supposed to have been built in the 9th century by a British chieftain, whose descendants held it till the Norman conquest, when it was given to Peverel, the founder of the family of the Peverels of the Peak, but afterwards passed into the hands of Fulk Fitz-Guarine, or Warine, whose family kept it till 1419. The castle, before its demolition, was strongly fortified with five round towers, each 40 feet in diameter and 100 feet in height, and the walls were 12 feet in thickness.

The towers of the gatehouse are still entire, with some portions of the walls and towers of the castle. The parish includes the townships of Berghill, Daywell, Ebnall, Fernhill, Frankton, Henlle, Hindford, Old Marton, and Whittington, with the hamlets of Babies’ Wood and Gobowen, and contains at present a population of about 1,500. The village was once a market town, and now contains about 500 inhabitants. In the parish are Belmont, Ebnall Lodge, Fernhill, and Park Hall, the last of the time of Henry VIII., with a private chapel, said to have been consecrated by Archbishop Parker.

The Hulston estate also lies in the centre of the parish, but is now a separate parish. A portion of the eastern side of the parish was in 1865 formed into a separate district, embracing also a part of Ellesmere parish. The district church is called St. Andrew’s, and the new district Welsh Frankton. Another portion of the township of Daywell, to the N.W. of the parish, has also been severed, having been assigned to the Hengoed district, the church of which was built in, and the chief part of the district taken from, the parish of Selattyn.

The subsoil is principally gravel with traces of coal. The living is a rectory* in the diocese of St. Asaph, value £965, with 50 acres of glebe. The church, dedicated to St. John the Baptist, was rebuilt in 1806. The Independents, Wesleyans, and Primitive Methodists have chapels. There are National schools built at a cost of £1,000, which are partly supported by an endowment of £42 per annum. Mrs. Lloyd, of Aston Hall, is lady of the manor.”

Well worth a vist – my mother grew up here and my parents were married in the village church.  The castle is the only one in England to be owned and run by the local community.

Beautiful Creatures – Flying Fish

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In order to glide out of the water, a flying fish (Latin name “exocoetus”) swishes its tail to up to 50-70 times per second,which “vibrates” to produce enough speed to burst through the surface. It then spreads its pectorial fins and tilts them slightly upwards to lift itself to glide through the air. This permits it to sail above the ocean’s surface where it can at travel at 70km per mile. The fish is able to increase its time in the air by travelling against or at an angle to the direction of updrafts created by a combination of aircurrents in which the “wings” flutter due to the wind with a maximum glide time recorded to be 30 seconds. At the end of a glide, a flying fish folds up its pectoral fins which have been acting as “wings” to re-enter the sea or drops the lower end its tail into the water where it “vibrates” the lower part of its tail to allow its body to reaccelerate and change direction, providing the thrust to lift itself for another glide.

In 1900 to 1930s flying fish were studied as possible models used to develop airplanes.  There are about 50 species grouped in seven to nine genera. Flying fish are found in all of the major oceans, particularly in the warm tropical and subtropical waters of the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian oceans.  Historically the country of Barbados was nicknamed as “The land of the Flying fish”. Today it remains the official national fish for the country and it was in the Caribbean that I first saw them.  I looked down from a deck  above the bridge of a cruise ship and for a moment wondered why the captain was playing with paper airplanes! Then I realized who they were and spent a wonderful afternoon watching them ride and play enjoying the updrafts caused by the ship as we sailed passed Dominica!

Beautiful Crystals – the Mermaid’s Aquamarine

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Aquamarine, the gem of the sea, is named with the Greek word for sea water.  Aqua sparkles like the sea and its color is pale to medium blue, sometimes with a slight hint of green. Aquamarine is a member of the Beryl family (which includes emeralds). Its blue / blue-green color comes from ferrous iron – a double refraction of light from different angles within the stone causes it to reflect the two different colors.

Aquamarine is the birthstone for March and legends say that it is the treasure of mermaids coming from their tears; with the power to keep sailors safe at sea. Aquamarine is said to be a particularly strong charm when immersed in water – which is a good thing, since that is when its power is most needed! Aquamarine was also said to have a soothing influence on land, also on married couples. Its power is supposed to help husbands and wives work out their differences and ensure a long and happy marriage, which makes it a good anniversary gift. Traditionally, it has been held as the gem for the nineteenth wedding anniversary. Aquamarine is said also to protect  against the wiles of the devil.

Aquamarine, March’s birthstone, is the universal symbol of hope, health and youth. A traditional protection for travelers, it was said to prevent seasickness, quicken the intellect and enhance courage.Wearing this stone is to enhance one’s personal power and help to project an aura of strength.

Long used by royalty, Egyptian amulets of the XII Dynasty (circa 2000 BC) included Aquamarines carved into the forms of animals. 

Aquamarine is found in Brazil, Zambia, Mozambique, Angola, Nigeria, and other countries. However the majority of Aquamarine comes from Brazil, even though the finest Aquamarine is mined in Africa.

Beautiful Paintings – The Divine Old Testament Trilogy

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The Old Testament Trinity subject is best known from this famous icon painted by St Andrey Rublev (created sometime between 1408 and 1425). The icon is actually more properly called the “Hospitality of Abraham” (see Genesis 18). The appearance of the three angels to Abraham at Mamre was a type of the Holy Trinity, not an appearance of the Holy Trinity itself as represented here.   Icons themselves have been and continue to be controversial but it is difficult to ignore the empathy that is in this picture and the sheer love of the painter/saint for his subjects.