Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Treasures of Many Kinds

To Salisbury to talk over some ideas for Magna Carta next year. Along with the BL and Lincoln, Salisbury have one of the only four remaining copies of this pragmatic and unexpectedly profound document. Talking to the various parties I sense an unspoken competition as to who has the best copy. Diplomatically I write off the one damaged by the Cotton fire now held at the BL and declare the others all wonderful but different.

The last time I was here, ten years ago, I'd walked from London on my way south-west. Arriving in the city somewhat sore, I went straight to a chemist and bought some startlingly powerful anti-inflammatories that sorted out a pain in my knee. I remember sitting on the green after looking round the cathedral. 

Inside the great building I'd found a remarkable relic: allegedly the oldest clock in the world.With it's bare skeletal construction it didn't seem possible that this device could tell the time at all, let alone have done it since 1386.

Outside was the tragic sculpture of the Walking Madonna by Elizabeth Frink that made a powerful impression on me that day.

In my diary I'd written:

"I found it looking as if Mary had just come from evensong, her path leading from the cathedral doors. She was an older Mary, thin, with ribs showing, a look of bemused grief on her pinched face. She could only be the mother walking alone back from Golgotha. Her son crucified, and her old certainties turned upside down."

To see these three things, the cathedral, the charter, the clock and the statue was a privilege and together they formed a strange hymn. Time, order, worship, wonder, grief and beauty.

All in the name of work.

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