Cold November Sunday morning. People of all ages, in family groups, alone or with others, soberly dressed and sporting an artificial poppy, come in drifts across the town. We are heading for a cenotaph or place of worship.
We will hear the well-known words and hear a bugle call in silence. People come to honour the memory of family members who died, to give thanks for those who fought and didn’t die, for those who have not fought but have known the deprivation and fear of times of war.
Contrast with the goons who scatter the days around and beyond November 5th with violent sounds in the darkness, which shatter the peace, frighten the dogs and ape the glory and bitter excitement of guns and bombs.
Our children in uniformed organisations have enjoyed the marches – the music, the rhythm, the flags and the togetherness.
On the frosted market patch those many years ago, we schoolboy soldiers of the Combined Cadet Force shivered a bit and carried our World War One rifles on our shoulders – and then: ‘Present Arms!’ Movements all in time and with muttered – two-threes to keep us together. Boots polished, gaiters and belts dubbined, trousers and jacket ironed with seams starched with steam.
The 1950s were not so long after the war that ended 1944/45. Our dads had been involved. Some had talk about it. More were silent – but the photographs on the mantle shelf showed them in uniform. The kitbag with RAF stripes came in handy for peaceful outings and camps. The kaki shoulder bag that had held a gas mask could hold sandwiches and a flask for a picnic – a visit to the zoo on a chilly Easter holiday.
Yesterday we heard the story of a visit to an old man in hospital – apparently lost in confusion and hard to engage in conversation – But when the TV sang out for silence bracketed by the bugle calls, he sat up straight, dignified, in tears.
Memory runs deep