Sunday, November 12, 2006

The nation, and I, remember.

At 11.00am this morning the busy shoppers in Welshpool's Morrisons Supermarket stood and remembered those who have died in conflict since 1914.

An eery silence fell, broken only by a child's whimper and the air conditioning's steady hum. We stood, frozen to the spot. (The shelf stacker holding his case of tins. The mother with her hand in the freezer's chill.) I thought, foolishly that our postures were not unlike those found in the ruins of Pompeii. Except we, unlike the dead and maimed, had the fortune to move on after a couple of minutes. That serene peace we shared was broken and a busy morning resumed. Did we spend those few moments remembering the dead or did we weigh up the Sauvignon, the cheese or cut-price veg? For we are on the whole, lucky - few of us have suffered the consequences of war and it is perhaps hard to appreciate the relevance of this Remembrance Day.

Alan said this morning it's about time it was all knocked on the head. I think I would have agreed once. But now, I don't know. I don't think so. As years go by I find it increasingly poignant. (Perhaps it's being the mother of sons and having the priviledge of seeing them achieve manhood and realising how easily their lives could be snatched away.) It's not about jingoism or the celebration of war. It's the pity, the anguish, the loss, the grief and above all, the waste of something so precious as life. So, all in all, I think it's fitting that we stand for a while and pay our respects to those whose lives were, and still are, so brutally cut short. And in the end how tragic is it, knowing all that has gone before that we still ask and expect young people to be prepared to make that ultimate sacrifice?

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,

Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields

John McCrae 1915

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