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Travelling through life you reach times, events, even moments, which impress themselves indelibly on one’s memory. Such a milestone I reached just recently, but I’ll tell you about this later. Meanwhile let’s examine what makes these personal junctures so important to us.
I guess many of these milestones would be quite similar and obvious for most of us; first day at school, graduating college or university, first job, first kiss, meeting your life partner, marriage, first born child, death of a parent, and so on. But sometimes we encounter life-changing events which have no obvious significance, except at that particular time and only to ourselves. Fleeting or sustained, they take us by surprise, their intensity so powerful and diverting they are burned inextricably into our soul. Such events can be eclectic in form; a touch, a view, a smile, a sound, some music or art, or a combination of several sensations with the power to stop us in our tracks.
One such occasion for me was, while travelling in Scotland, I looked up to see this view…
I was completely riveted by the absolute balance and perfection of this vista, standing transfixed for several long minutes absorbing the louring clouds on the distant mountain, the orange slash of bracken, the purple haze of heather on the hillsides and the soft reflections in the river. No one had contrived to make this image, it was simply a confluence of place and time and light and season and weather creating a unique moment of natural splendour. I think what made it so special was the apparent absence of ‘the-hand-of-man’ in any aspect of the picture, as if I were the only person privileged to witness such magnificence. I was alone but with my small terrier that, no doubt receiving signals from me that stillness was mandatory, simply shared the moment in very un-terrier-like composure.
A moment after I pressed the camera shutter capturing this vision for all time, a large trout leapt out of the water at the centre of the pool before me. With a spectacular splash it fell back into the river. For a second I cursed my luck at not having this additional drama in my picture, but I then realised that this would have ruined the view, which would then feature a fish, not the grandeur and atmosphere of the big picture. So I treasure this image, this moment and this place as one of my milestones. Was it a life-changing event? No; more a life-affirming moment in which I exulted in the beauty of this planet and having the frequent opportunity to experience it in its many guises.
I guess many of us have had similar experiences as we encounter the majesty of the natural world; perhaps on a beach, at sea out of sight of land, from the top of a mountain, deep in a forest or maybe in the desert. Sometimes it is perfect not to be alone and to be able to share the moment with a like-minded partner. But if the awesome nature of the experience is lost on the companion, it can be extremely annoying that they don’t share and appreciate exactly what you’re seeing. This has happened to me a time or two, and I have contrived in some way to escape, enjoying the moment alone. Friends and relations can be wonderful people with whom we love to spend time, but just now and then they can be absolute Philistines.
So what was my recent milestone? Well I was delighted to be told that my son and his partner are shortly to have a baby. With the advent of the ultrasound scan it is now possible to determine the sex of the baby, and it’s a boy! This was absolutely superb news and I’ll be so pleased to be a granddad again - I’ve already got two delightful granddaughters, and I would have been just as happy with a baby girl. But about 24 hours later I realised that my son and I now would have another male heir to carry on our family name, and there was something primeval and very satisfying in this knowledge.
In the western world we have largely distanced ourselves from the tradition of primogeniture; where the first born male inherited all the family assets to the exclusion of younger siblings, and indeed all female siblings. But after countless generations where these customs were immutable, we have today reached virtual sexual equality where, even in the royal family as William and Catherine recently announced; have accepted that if their first born is a girl, she will be the primary heir to the British crown. I heartily approve of these new rules, but nonetheless, I do seem to be covertly pleased with the news of my forthcoming heir and can’t wait to meet him. Although, I’m afraid his inheritance from me will be meagre, as the family estate is scant and the hereditary title long-since lapsed.
But getting back to life’s milestones, it is so important that we recognize them for what they are. Our lives are so interconnected today that communication in its various forms from social media to email, is virtually instant and we seldom have time to give our rapidly assembled words the depth of thought they sometimes deserve. This results in a couple of undesirable things; either they are dismissed as garbled and unclear, or are unintentionally offensive, and we might never find out which!
So just think; have you had an experience in the last three years you personally might call a milestone? If the answer to this simple yet fundamental question is No, I think it’s time you took yourself off to somewhere like this flat rock here…
Sit here for a while, empty your mind of everything but the breeze in your hair, the birdsong and the vista before you, and let nature take its course. If, after half an hour or so, you are not relaxed, refreshed, happy and full of new ideas and ambitions, you must be one of those damn Philistines I referred to above and you’re going to need therapy!!!
The therapy I recommend is to visit the Country Attire stand at the Yorkshire Game Fair this weekend, where our highly qualified staff will be able to assess the severity of your condition and prescribe for you some excellent tonic in the form of countrywear and boots, so at least you'll be properly attired to visit the wild and inspiring places the good earth has to offer. And if you don't fancy a trip off the beaten track, you can at least glance at your sartorial elegance in the mirror and marvel at how donning quality apparel raises the spirits and dispels the gloom!!
May Fri 26th – Sat 27th Stockeld Park, Wetherby, Yorkshire.