Thursday, 26 January 2012

Everyday landscape

No matter how lovely the view or beautiful the streetscape when one goes about one’s normal business the places and landscapes do not feel so lovely as they do the first time one lies one’s eye on them. I have been lucky enough to live on top of Gianicolo, the high hill on the Vatican side of the Tiber in a 16th century villa with all Rome at my feet. Did I look across Rome on most of the days? No, I did not. I just holed in the library.

I lived for years in Cambridge and on most of the days I did not bat an eyelid on my way to buy a sandwich at the University or crossing the river Cam in order to reach the Classics library or the University library. I may have noticed the crocuses or the bluebells in the Backs on a sunny spring day or paused to look at the swan near the King’s. However, even today when I run to the bus stop from the University Library, I hardly marvel the buildings of Trinity or the Gate of St. John. They just happen to be on my route.

How often do I raise my eyes and look at the beautiful historic buildings in the city centre in Leicester? I must admit that many buildings, such as the St. Margaret bus station, I really could do without seeing. However, the marvellous Turkey Cafe or the former Midland bank on the opposite side of the road with their Moorish or Venetian influences brighten up anybody’s day.

One becomes blind to the beauty of one’s everyday environment and we seem to consider our everyday surroundings mundane. The routes are in the mind’s landscape and even the most beautiful building becomes the background of the everyday routines and rut. If it is overcast, grey, foggy and rainy, even the most beautiful cityscape loses its lustre. Probably Avebury would be a total dump if one had to work from 9 to 5 at a rescue excavation in the icy February rain. If you are covered in mud and your feet are wet, the last thing you want to do is to consider the aesthetic value of a stone circle.

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