800 years since the death of Al-Malik ab-Adil/Saphadin/Saif al-Din, brother of Saladin*, in 1218
And my poetry book informs me it’s 330 years since the death of John Bunyan.
Henry Moore died exactly 32 years ago in 1986.
21 years since the death of Diana, Princess of Wales.
Why the obsession with death? And what does it matter?
Put simply, it’s where we’re all heading…but who will remember us when we’re gone and merely held, captured in photographs and fast-fading memory?
Some months of emotional family matters (not deaths thank goodness) and an acute awareness of the fragility of life…
Looking back over previous August blog posts the reader will note no blackberries this year!
I’ve been far too busy, although a couple of weeks ago I picked a dozen and pressed them on my tongue; that evocative taste sent me on a time traveller’s journey!
The garden apples await their partner so I’d better get on and allocate some weekend time to gather summer’s bounty. To say good bye to August and not experience blackberry and apple is surely sinful?
* Saladin’s brother: I don’t recall much about the bro but do have memory of learning the name Saladin in the “Ladybird Years”, that is when my primary school reading selection was drawn from that famous book series. I’m certain it was the one about the Richard the Lionheart and the Crusades; from memory, Richard was taken ill and Saladin nursed him and gave him “sherbet” to drink.
That “sherbet” was, in fact, the sugar which the returning Crusaders brought back with them as a precious “spice”. That first sugar was also considered a medicinal materia medica for many generations….sweetness hid the bitterness of poison and poisonous plants which sometimes possessed therapeutic claims, and often scientific medicine before it was formerly identified as such.
In the period of Saladin Arab medicine was far superior to anything Europe could offer. My Ladybird book was clear in that Richard was cured by Saladin’s doctors. That surely is sufficient proof that the book was worth reading?
As I type I’m reminded of another link to that same school; we listened to John Bunyan’s “Pilgrim’s Progress” via the BBC School’s Radio broadcast. Memory is telling me that we did our sewing at the same time. Knowing what I do about education and classroom management, that seems quite enlightened for a C of E primary in 1970. As religious input, it never affected me the way my enforced Roman Catholicism did which had been compulsory from age 8 in the army schools system. I recall that the voice delivering the story was gentle despite the horrors of “The Slough of Despond”!
My encounter with Henry Moore was much later when I discovered that the design studio where my father had worked at the age of 18 had also offered work to this famous artist, as well Jean Cocteau and Matisse, although I’m not sure if the two Frenchmen ever actually entered that Bond Street establishment!
As for Diana, Princess of Wales….they say everyone knows where they were when they heard the news of her death. Yes, I can picture our home above the laundrette and recall the shock of the news and its tragic waste; I recall my sadness for her two young sons. The public expression of grief at the time was a turning point for many, although some of us believe there should be the same sense of outrage for the suffering of the living.
Hopefully, experiencing the death of a loved one teaches us to value life and all it might offer, from the simplest pleasures to great moments of achievement and even meetings with great people. Value the moment when the rose blooms and sends its scent, when blackberries ripen and stain, when that piece of work is completed, or when standing in the crushing crowd enjoying an exhilarating gig…or listening to a brilliant speaker. The moment is precious; it is life itself.