Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness

Independence Day

I spent two and a half years of my childhood in America – in High School, no less, and I am sunk in nostalgic mood today: primarily for fireworks on a warm night on the Mall, but also for a simpler time when Independence Day meant bewigged citizens with some intellectual credibility between them, seeking independence from England. (Although, in fairness, I suppose that might still be the case in some parts of the UK, perhaps without the wigs.)

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness

Declaration of Independence, July 4th 1776.

I have always loved the inclusion of Happiness in the Declaration of Independence. It seems such a intangible, whimsical thing to come from the mouths of politicians, and be carved in stone on their monuments. Politicians have talked about far stupider things, and had far more monstrous things carved in stone, so we should definitely be grateful for whimsy. A constitutional right to happiness – it’s a nice idea.

And so, I make bold to borrow a little of the transatlantic holiday spirit today, and honour and be grateful for my right to Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. And if that is not a pretty accurate summing up of what Rocketfullofpie is all about, I don’t know what is: Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.



Many are the times I have pursued happiness in that particular department store. I learnt early from my mother, to worship all things haberdashery in its galleried halls.

about-3(Well, maybe not that early – more 70s than 20s, but I can never resist a good black and white, especially one that looks like Fred Astaire is just about to hop into the frame.) Liberty’s and the V&A were our twin sites of pilgrimage for our trips to London, and I’m not sure we always made it to the V&A. I could, and did, spend hours looking at the material. I remember one visit, falling in love with fine wool suiting – barely able to escape from the room, though it was as likely at the time for me to use the suiting wool, as it was for me to be able to afford it.

And then there’s Tana Lawn. Tana Lawn, named after Lake Tana in East Africa where the original cotton grew (the photos and the facts about Liberty are all from their wonderful website). The abridged version of the next bit, is that I was once given a bag full of Liberty Tana Lawn samples, by the most glamorous aunt of a (glamorous) friend, at the end of her long career in children’s fashion. It was a one of those geni’s lamp moments – and, short of being given the whole shop, a bag full of Tana Lawn is pretty near all one could ever wish.

And it is in that magical bag, that I find the backgrounds for all my pet portraits.

[The unabridged version, I should say, takes many, many hours, and involves more photos of individual prints, than anyone outside a very charmed circle, has stomach for.]

Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. Thank you Thomas Jefferson, that just about suits me.



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