Standing on a terrace outside the Vicars’ Hall at Windsor, there is a great view.
Some of it is definitely not picturesque, there is the M4 motorway and the cooling towers of a power station. Overhead there is a constant stream of airliners, going to or coming from Heathrow Airport. Even at well after 11 pm, the noise is relentless.
There is the River Thames, which can look dark and prosaic or exciting and poetic, depending as the mood takes you.
But there are some special sights, Eton is just across the river. It’s an easy walk from here, and the beautiful college buildings dominate the skyline. As a counterweight to Eton College, the vast walls of Windsor Castle sweep away to the right.
On green space between the castle and the college today, a circus was setting up. I remarked to one of my colleagues that there must be some symbolism in a circus between the two great buildings.
“Yes”, he said, “it means there are now three circuses.”
He had a point. I had watched people in Eton who were watching boys from the college walking down the street in their tail coats and I had watched the tourists in the Upper Ward of the castle, pressed against the railings to look across at the royal apartments.
Perhaps the entertainment in the Big Top would not be half so interesting to the onlookers as what they saw in the ancient buildings.
Maybe in filling our newspapers and magazines with pictures from the private lives of the great and the good, including those who would go to the college or the castle, we have turned life into a circus.
Much as the old socialist and republican in me might recoil at those who would gather in such places, nevertheless as a Christian I would respect their dignity as human beings and would believe that they have as much right to a private life as any onlooker would want in their own life.
None of us are acts in a circus. Life is not a spectator sport.