At the going down of the sun.
A glorious day. Bright autumn sunshine, a seasonal chill, the trees in the climax of their poetic cycle. Yellow, brown and of course blood red. The right colour for this particular day.
I am cycling along the tow path to my new favourite church, riverside,St Mary’s Battersea. Where Blake was married, Turner painted, Benedict Arnold the American traitor is remembered and Wilson one of Scott’s unfortunates worshipped. The structure a good 18th century Protestant church, but with a 1000 year history- it has a Elizabeth 1’s coat of arms-France and no Scotland. Built with a balcony for a congregation and not a priest and his magic. The reason for this rare visit to a morning service. Remembrance Sunday.
The church is packed not least with local reservists and teenage cadets. Flags are presented, wreaths are laid, old regiments buried, the bugle blown. The sermon tries to make the point that they all died for a better world just as Christ did. For pity’s sake. I think of our Ulster barman Liam telling of his uncle who at 17 died in 1916 after only two months in the Army. Did that teenage Enniskillen die for my sins and salvation, did anyone? I don’t think so.
But its moving and makes one think of those that went before. OF my father who told of the anarchy on the D day beaches, of Vivien’s father who told of being the first to arrive at one of the Death Camps. Of Vivien’s uncles one of whom became a conscientious objector. Of my grandfather who in the First War fought in East Africa and Palestine.Of his brother, my great uncle, the general and a hero of Imphal who went onto write a footnote in Vietnam. Of my half brother and sister who perished so pitifully in the camps. Of Japanese Harry who experienced the starvation and devastation of Japan in the 40s. Of George cradling his dying friend in Italy. And the still breathing(if not living)Hans who saw the rise of Hitler first hand and ended up fighting for the Empire in India. This was the day to remember them.
But that was yesterday. The service dwelt a lot on yesterdays, todays and tomorrows. I lasted a term in the Schools Cadet force and daughter Adelaide a similar period in the University Officer Training Corps. I was arrested protesting about the Vietnam War and am now a life time member of the War Memorial Trust.
One the way back to Putney the sun still shining I bought some bulbs. I know daffodils are not poppies but do the dead care? I must remember in the morning to plant them. Spring is not tomorrow but it’s in the future.