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“Everything has beauty but not everyone sees it.” Confucius.
I’m in Newport as my Aunty Thelma steps gingerly into the car and straps herself in. Eighty-six and short of sight but with a brain still sharp as nails and an acerbic Welsh tongue to boot, we set off. I drive down the lane, take a right up a steep hill and we’re there, all of sixty seconds. She’s off before I can help her out, wielding her walking stick and marching across the grass to the bench where she sits, leans back and sighs happily.
As I join her, I think of a recent conversation with some friends about their favourite views. Contenders included: top of the Empire State Building ; Niagara Falls;Maldives paradise beach ; the top shelf of a newsagents: all worthy and wonderful, bar one. I volunteer mine and it’s hard to imagine anything less attractive. It’s the one from the tiny veranda of my parent’s third floor flat in Cyprus, where I was born and raised. I see the view now: a neighbour’s roof topped with water tankers, a dusty open field with a new build in progress, and in the distance the hills of Northern Cyprus. It’s hardly a view but I also see this: my Mum, miles away from her native Wales, placing the plate of halloumi cheese and watermelon on the plastic white fold out table; my Greek Dad doing the crossword and occasionally staring sadly out to those hills, illegally occupied by Turkey for 38 years; my sister, ironically, complaining there is no view. It’s not classic but it’s the view I always return to: in that moment it’s a sense of place and belonging; it’s family and familiarity, nostalgia, comfort: it’s home.
My aunty tilts her head upwards, lets the autumn breeze play with her newly permed hair and looks out to what is known as Double View. In front of her, lush, green rolling hills leading to a canal where she used to play as a child. Directly behind her, on the other side of the hill, the giant cranes and steelworks of industrial Newport, where her father once led the unions and worked the docks.
To me, a view isn’t about what you see. It’s about how it makes you feel, and who you’re with. An anonymous author said: “The most beautiful view is the one I share with you.” The bench my aunt is sitting on has a plaque on it. The plaque dedicates the bench to Phillip Madden, her husband, who died 17 years ago. They used to sit there all the time.