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Jonathan Wingate
remembers the late
bluesman, Dr John
Rachel Cunliffe calls
for a serious discussion
about elder care
Pen Hadow maps out
a frightening future
for an ice-free Arctic
Sophia Money–
Coutts on the thorny
issue of godparenting
Ben Oliver makes
the case for serious
pedal power
Roger Bootle says AI
means opportunity,
not apocalypse
AG E
CO N C E R N
THAT MELTING
FEELING
Architec ture
B UI L D IT, AN D
THE Y S H ALL C O M E
Following the outpouring of grief over
the Notre-Dame fire, our correspondent
wonders why some buildings become
part of the emotional fabric of our lives
H A R RY M OU N T
A u t h o r, j o u r n a l i s t a n d e d i t o r
of The Oldie magazine
THE GIVER
OF GIFTS
C
STE E L FR AM ES ,
H OT RU B B E R
ertain buildings really
tug at the heartstrings.
And Notre-Dame is one
of them.
I first heard the news of the fire
on a self-indulgent press trip in
Jamaica, and all four hardened
hacks on the jolly were stunned
into silence for an hour.
It was a feeling shared by the
world, and by those French
billionaires, castigated – wrongly
– by the gilets jaunes for instantly
pledging hundreds of millions of
euros to restore the cathedral.
Why do some buildings tear
our emotions apart when they are
damaged or destroyed? The deep
tragedy of September 11 was the
thousands of innocents killed;
20
BOISDALELIFE .COM
SUMMER 2019
ISSUE 16
DON’T FEAR
T H E RO B OT
the minimalist Twin Towers
themselves stirred few emotions,
except for those who visited the
World Trade Center and had a
nice time there – or for those New
Yorkers who had the towers as the
backdrop to their lives.
At Notre-Dame – even though,
thank heavens, no one died – the
feeling of bereavement was for a
building that combined religion,
beauty and history in
overwhelming measure.
There are only a handful of
buildings in the world that can
evoke that feeling – and summon
it internationally.
St Paul’s Cathedral and its
miraculous survival during the
Second World War were crucial
to the nation’s morale. The
destruction of St Paul’s then –
or now – would deliver the same
hammer blow to the pit of the
stomach as the Notre-Dame fire.
But would a St Paul’s disaster
have that stomach-churning effect
beyond British shores in the way
that Notre-Dame tolled a
mourning bell across the world?
I’m not so sure.
The fire at Windsor Castle had
that international effect in 1992 –
the Queen’s “annus horribilis”.
(And there’s a cheering note for
Notre-Dame – Windsor Castle has
been rebuilt as good as new.)
For a building’s loss to have
such a stirring effect on the mind,
its importance must be repeatedly
emphasised while it is standing
– ideally in your childhood and
youth. Images of Windsor Castle,
and royal palaces generally, are
constantly presented to us when
we’re young; and their shadow
stays in our minds for ever. The
T IM EWAT C H IM AG ES / A L A M Y
VO O D O O
CHILD





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