The centenary of armistice is upon us.
I write this 100 years to the day, of the end of the great war. The war to end all wars. From an early age I was brought up to respect the 11th day of the 11th month. It’s importance indelible in my memory as my parents gently introduced me to the futility of the human condition.
I’ve eased the cubs into some sort of recognition of events, sparing them the sheer volume of life lost not just in the great war, but in the following war and subsequent conflicts. There’s so much to unravel in there but there’s no rush.
Eldest, at 8 year’s old has a good understanding. The school has done a good job there. For her part, she took things into her own hands when she began to take on in-depth, self learning about Mary Seacole. She became inspired.
On friday, four of the local schools came together to pay their respects at the principal church in our town. It’s a majestic, ornate building, that I had only ever driven past. It dates back to the time of the civil war and the Reverend delighted the gathered children with a story of how a cannon had been placed atop the church to fire upon a nearby castle. Collective gasps echoed.
He then pointed out that the ceiling was adorned with symbols from the Islamic faith, delighting in his house of worship’s multi-cultural appeal.
The school children were given pride of place in the front pews duly shepherded by respective teachers. They were bursting with energy
Parents were welcomed and as I had the day off, I wouldn’t have dreamed of being anywhere else. Of course, I broke protocol, went over and made sure that she knew I was in attendance, before taking my seat at the back.
A headteacher took the reigns and began proceedings. Calling the schools up one by one, the children paid their respects in different ways.
Cub’s class got up and expressed themselves, to music. With the odd monologue thrown in for good measure. One soliloquy punctuated the passing of a giant poppy and they were done. I was up and applauding; Eldest cub delivered her lines beautifully and projected across the 400 strong audience, wearing and wielding her poppy with pride.
Eldest’s Brownie Pack has been asked to lead a procession from the local church to the war memorial.
The pack, church and memorial are all in the village where we used to live and next door to the cub’s school. We awoke early to make sure they were both properly fed and looking smart.
Daddy made the effort too, with very shiny shoes.
The Brownies had the first two rows; the Scouts on the opposite side. The church, more compact than friday’s affair but full nonetheless. I had my concerns about youngest cub. Whilst he’s lively, he’s also quite well-behaved; but I had concerns about the two minute’s silence.
As it transpired, I did my boy a disservice.
A smartly turned out gentleman behind us, with his equally attired family walked forwards to read the names of local servicemen who had passed in both conflicts. His wife kept hold of twin girls, aged about 5.
As dad began to read, the girls began to giggle. Then chuckle; then laugh aloud. Mum tried her best to quiet them but they were having none of it. Dad pressed on, his disdain etched on his face.
Youngest cub, standing on the pew to oversee proceedings turned to look at them, gave a long stare, before looking at me and shaking his head. Mum ushered the girls out of the church.
A second of judgement rushed into my head, before I remembered where I was and dismissed it.
The moment was upon us. The last post played and as the bugle fell silent, so did the congregation.
Youngest became a statue, to the point that he physically jumped when the bugle broke the silence. I gave him a big hug and kissed his forehead.
We walked the short distance to the local memorial. Youngest couldn’t believe his luck as we got to walk down the middle of the road, hand un-held. We are spoilt by the weather. It’s unseasonably warm and it’s bright. Earlier, the heavens had opened.
Having young children, we took pride of place near the front. We read another short sermon before the last post played again. This time, youngest smiled and nodded at me, showing that he knew what to do.
Giggles breakout. It’s the usual suspects. Their dad is glaring..
The bugle blows on.
Brown Owl had given youngest a crucifix with a poppy on it to place on the memorial. We watch everyone else before taking our turn. We begin well but the sense of occasion begins to get to him. He clings to my leg and buries his head in my thigh.
We press on, to compassionate sighs from the crowd and cameras snapping. He begins to fold, but I steady his had, and we place the crucifix together. A respectful departure from the memorial is nigh on impossible with the level of entanglement but we give it a go.
As the service ends and we depart, several couples say how proud I should be of my children.
I think my face said it all.
Ps, extra stars all round, chocolate and a brief spell in the park showed my appreciation.