Roger Scruton

Diary – 17 April 2019

I travel back from London with the St Matthew Passion filling my head, after the moving performance from the Elysian Singers and Royal Orchestral Society under Sam Laughton at St James’s Piccadilly. Why does that last chord send shivers down the spine? The dark instrumentation, the sense that it is not an ending but a beginning, that this shadow-filled saraband will repeat itself for ever? Or is it just the story — surely one of the greatest narratives in all literature, in which nothing is redundant and yet everything is said? I arrive home with the chord still in my head, C minor with a B natural thrust like a sword into its heart. It foretells the week ahead. I devote the rest of the day to my report for the Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission.

***

The commission has concluded that beauty in ordinary architecture is inseparable from the sense of place. I explain it to the family. It is almost the first time we have sat down to dinner since work started on the commission some three months ago. What a relief when it will be over at last, and we can be together in the place that is ours.

***

On Tuesday, at a meeting of the commissioners and advisory board, I explain our work so far: visits, conversations, focus groups and the public spirit and decency of all the people we have encountered. Even if the politicians are at a loss to understand the problem, the people seem clear about it. The problem is ugliness — the glass and concrete cubes in the towns, the houses dumped in the fields without streets, centres or public spaces, the abuse of historic settlements and cherished landscapes that once were somewhere and now are nowhere. Do we have a solution? I am determined to find one.

***

To Paris on the Eurostar — always a treat, not least because it leaves from St Pancras, the clearest proof that beauty, utility, popularity and adaptability all go together.

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