At the going down of the sun

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.’s_Church,_Battersea

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One Response to At the going down of the sun

  1. Once again a thoughtful read. Thank you. I am at present unable to get my thoughts straight on a Day of Remembrance when we call on fewer and fewer to do their duty and those that do (in all the Armed Services) are the continued subject of assault, not just by armed foes or belligerents. National Service, in all its forms, may have served to bind communities and peoples together and people to call upon in a dire emergency. That is a thing of the past, it seems, but I wonder who will be called upon to serve and if they will, when good men and women (volunteers) are dismissed. The money saved is spent so much better,elsewhere, many would have us believe. Really? When the bugle sounds…what then?

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