Tag Archives: Beauty

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.”

Beautiful Places – Lincoln’s Inn, London


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

180px-Coventry_Cathedral_burnt_cross 140px-Cross_of_Nails

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


Beautiful Creatures – Flying Fish

flying fish

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


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


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.

Beautiful Trees – The Gingko


Buddhist monks in the mountains of south-east China have long cultivated gingko trees in the courtyards of their monasteries. Some trees planted at temples are believed to be over 1,500 years old. The gingko trees were valued for their medicinal uses, edible seeds, and perhaps their beauty.  In about 800 AD, the monks brought the gingko with them to Japan where many years later the tree was first seen by a European, the German botanist Engelbert Kaempfer.

Also known as maidenhair tree, the Gingko is the oldest species of tree on earth today; it’s been around since the days of the dinosaur. The Gingko is immune to the effects of most diseases and parasites

For thousands of years the Chinese have used ginkgo leaves to treat disorders associated with aging. Today numerous scientific studies appear to have shown that Ginkgo does indeed help to slow memory loss in those suffering from Alzheimer’s, multi-infarct dementia (MID), and age-associated memory impairment (AAMI). Some studies suggest that ginkgo may even help reverse the effects of these illnesses to some extent.

Beautiful Phenomena – the Black Pearl of Great Price


For thousands of years, most seawater pearls were retrieved by divers working in the Indian Ocean  in areas like the Persian Gulf, the Red Sea, and in the Gulf of Mannar. Starting in the Han Dynasty (206 BC – 220 AD), the Chinese hunted extensively for seawater pearls in the South China Sea. When Spanish conquistadors arrived in the Americas, they discovered that around the islands of Cubagua and Margarita, some 200 km north of the Venezuelan coast, was an extensive pearl bed.

One discovered and named pearl, La Peregrina, was offered to the Spanish queen.   According to Garcilasso de la Vega, who says that he saw La Peregrina at Seville in 1507,  it was found at Panama in 1560 by a black slve who was rewarded with his liberty, and his owner with the office of alcalde of Panama.

Black pearls, frequently referred to as Black Tahitian Pearls, are highly valued because of their rarity; the culturing process for them dictates a smaller volume output and can never be mass produced. This is due to bad health and/or non-survival of the process, rejection of the nucleus and their sensitivity to changing climatic and ocean conditions. Before the days of cultured pearls, black pearls were rare and highly valued for the simple reason that white pearl oysters rarely produced naturally black pearls, and black pearl oysters rarely produced any natural pearls at all.

In a Christian New Testament parable, Jesus compared the Kingdom of Heaven to a  “pearl of great price”  in Matthew 13: 45-46. “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls: who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it.”

The language of symbolism was in common use around the time of Jesus Christ; most people were familiar with the symbolic meanings. The circle is a symbol of God because it has no beginning and no end. The circle or pearl was considered to represent Love and Knowledge.  The combination of equal amounts of Love and Knowledge is a symbol of Wisdom; the 2 circles intertwined – owl eyes – is symbolic of Wisdom. Some other pearls are Truth, and Faith.  Pearls are also important in Hebrew, Islamic and Hindu scriptures – the  Ayurveda contains references to pearl powder as a stimulant of digestion and to treat mental ailments.

Beautiful Painting – The Umbrellas by Renoir


Renoir’s intriguing painting ‘Umbrellas’ , painted about about 1881-6, shows a bustling Paris street in the rain.
The composition of the painting does not focus on the centre of the picture which is a tangle of hands. It even cuts off figures at either edge like a photographic snapshot. This kind of unconventional arrangement was something that several of the Impressionists, including Renoir and Degas, enjoyed experimenting with. Although it looks naturalistically haphazard, the composition is actually carefully considered. Look at the pattern of angles and shapes made by the umbrellas.
The work is particularly intriguing in that it shows the artist at two separate points in his career, the second of which was a moment of crisis as he fundamentally reconsidered his painting style. Look at the difference between the way he has painted the woman on the left, and those on the right. During the early 1880s, he became increasingly disillusioned with the Impressionist technique. ‘I had come to the end of Impressionism, and I was reaching the conclusion that I didn’t know how either to paint or draw. In a word, I was at a dead end.’  He began to look back to more traditional art: the drawings of Ingres and the ‘purity and grandeur’ of classical art. Returning to the ‘Umbrellas’, he repainted the figure on the left in a crisper style, using a more muted palette.  Why did he leave the painting in this half and half state? Perhaps he simply lost interest in the work and moved on to new projects. Or perhaps he wanted to leave a before-and-after record of the struggle he had gone through.