Tuesday, November 11, 2014

NaBloPoMo day 11: Acts of remembrance


I went to the Parliamentary remembrance service today at Westminster Abbey; everyone who works on the Parliamentary Estate was invited to apply for tickets, and it felt like something I should do.  On the way, I walked through the garden of remembrance in the Abbey gardens.


So many little crosses, all with different handwriting on them.  Not all for the Great War; I spotted one from the Falklands, one from Suez.

Reminders that people from all over the Empire/Commonwealth travelled huge distances to fight and die for a country they might never have visited,


and that those who stayed at home weren't safe either.



From the first words of the service - We gather today as those to whom much has been given, and from whom much is expected - it was a commemoration of duty and service.  After the two minutes' silence (which fell exactly after the anthem; I have no idea how many times someone must have rehearsed that; it has to be the one set of pips you'd never wish to crash) there was the Last Post and Reveille, a prayer, and then a very strange and beautiful thing - the "trench" cello played by Steven Isserlis.  It was a quiet, muted sound (my seat was only about 3 metres from the little platform they'd rigged up), but gorgeous; the idea of this object from the trenches still sounding out its song (in this case the Sarabande from Bach's Cello Suite no. V) was astonishing.

Walking past the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier on the way out, people were taking off their paper poppies and scattering them over the inscription, creating a carpet of flowers.  Emerging blinking into the sunlight, the first person I saw was Baroness Williams, talking animatedly; it seemed entirely right that the daughter of Vera Brittain should still be around, still intensely engaged, still making a point.

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