Letter from Littlemore No. 26 Sunday, 11th of November 2012 In Remembrance
In Tesco’s just now it went quiet, for the Two Minutes’ Silence. Not absolutely quiet; some people took their chance to zoom round otherwise busy aisles. But most of us kept the peace for the sake of those who lost their lives in war. I’d say “gave” but I don’t think in most cases it was a very willing gift. And whether they’d look at today’s world and think they gave it for something good, well, I can’t know. And all morning – and most of the night, as His Lordship wasn’t well, and I was playing Florence Nightingale – I’ve been thinking, “what is there to remember?”.
Like most people my age, I don’t know anyone who died in war. So I remember those who didn’t. I remember my father, who was born in the Blitz in London in 1943, and who dimly remembered air raids, and whose acid wit and rationality I miss every day. I remember my cousin Doris, who departed this life last December at 93, but whose father, my Grandad’s favourite brother, Uncle Harry (we always referred to him as “Uncle” even though no one alive had ever known him as that), set things up for his wife, and the daughter he never saw, to become Australians. Uncle Harry died in 1919, having served for the duration in the Royal Navy, and died as a result of the after-war ‘flu’. Sixty-odd years later his daughter took up that citizenship. I remember Sister Cynthia, who perhaps knew Edward VIII’s governorship of a nearby island to her home before she came to England, and became a cornerstone of Fairacres Convent, and who looked after me so kindly and so effortlessly, when I stayed there twenty years ago. I remember John, who served as churchwarden of my favourite church for many years. One of the most civilised men I ever knew. “What do we do now?” we asked after the 9-11 disaster. “We have to convert them …” he replied … “…by example.” And I remember my Great-Uncle John, who did serve in WWII, who taught me about snobbery. He didn’t mean to, he was working on some plumbing at my school long ago. We recognised each other, and chatted until he had to get back to work. “Why did you talk to him?” said my soon-to-be-ex-friends. “He’s my uncle!” I remember the young man who had served in the army all his brief life, then when he fell awkwardly out of a helicopter, he wrecked his back; and the threat of having to spend the rest of his life in a wheelchair made him take it. What is there to remember? Rather a lot as it turns out.
Happy Remembrance Day.