Saturday 12 February 2011

On Beauty

There’s not been a lot of “life” in this flyfisherlady’s posts recently. A modicum of blustery fly fishing and not enough fly tying (16 more patterns to go!) has been this flavour of the last couple of months.
I have a horrible feeling that anyone reading this might think that all I do with myself is eat less (one dress size down, yay!) and hunch in the strongly illuminated semi darkness surrounded by dead animals and hooks.  Worryingly, this seems to be the case. I need a boyfriend before I start trying to build cane rods.  Actually, the season starts soon, so scratch that plan.
 I worry, that in my career so far I have dedicated myself to beauty; preserving and presenting art to others for its own sake.  This worship of the beautiful is potentially all a bit Oscar Wilde and I worry at times whether this makes me a pretentious git.
Last week I was involved in something brilliant.  All of Leeds Museums and Galleries has pulled together to put on a display there called “Blue Museum” at the Bexley Oncology Wing at St James’s hospital.  It’s a series of objects, photographs and art works, celebrating the colour blue in all its forms. Glam frocks and bright blue bees, dinky tins and Egyptian beads all form part of the display. It had all been organised by my rather brilliant colleagues, I just turned up at the last minute as an extra pair of hands. Nonetheless it’s probably the most important exhibition I have ever been involved in. The huge Atrium is the heart of the oncology wing. Doctors, nurses, cleaners stride through there. Patients and their families’ friends and carers all wait nearby.
A moment’s thought makes you realise that some of the worst moments of people’s lives are played out in that space. They wait for test results, wait to go in for treatment, wait for the outcomes of operations.  A potential static Hell lived out on leather couches.  The staff at the hospital too are part of it. There are victories here and there but let’s be frank about it, there is nothing very nice about cancer.
What the Blue Museum and other concerts and exhibitions in the Atrium achieve is a little bit of time and a little bit of space away from all this horror. You could argue that exhibitions here are not an essential NHS spend and a waste of money. However, like time spent on the riverbank these quiet moments of peace and idle distraction are pretty priceless. Think about how a fleeting glance of the lovely flanks of a plump trout can lift the soul.
I’ve never had such an enthusiastic and interested audience for an exhibition before and I’ve never seen so many smiles at a display.  The whole display will be covered in detail shortly  in the brilliant Secret Lives of Objects Blog.
Much in the same way that Charles Rangeley- Wilson claimed that catching a wild trout in London was “God at his best. The breath of a river.”  Twenty minutes laughing whilst laying out a display case with a very ill man reminded me that there was a point to this difficult world. It’s not found in big ideas, big societies or grandiose gestures. It’s found in things that are essentially simple; a well hooked fly, sunset glinting on a stream.  Peace in idle distraction. I think that this is what Keats was on about when he got soppy over an old vase. In short, the good in the world might be most easily found in beauty. So, if I have dedicated my life to that so far, it can’t have all been a waste. 

Meanwhile. I introduce my attempt at a Spent Willow, it's actually the first Edwards I've actually enjoyed tying.