Sunday, 13 November 2011

This day...

I've come to realise that I was a strange child in many ways. One was my absolute fascination with war memorials and gravestones - I would spend hours wandering through churchyards, looking at the inscriptions and wondering. And I could never pass a war memorial without stopping and reading the names. I still can't - in fact I make a point of seeking them out wherever we visit. There are thought to be only 41 Thankful Villages in England & Wales. This is the name given to those places that lost no men in the carnage of WW1. Thankful indeed. The truth is that 1 in 6 families in the UK lost a loved one in the Great War. For some, the toll was far higher. Julia Souls of Great Rissington in Gloucestershire lost five sons...and there are many other terrible stories of unimaginable tragedy like that.Beloved brothers, husbands, fiances, friends....gone forever.
 It was as a result of our nation's need to mourn the appalling losses suffered between 1914-1918 that public war memorials were erected in almost every city, town, village and hamlet in the land. A place to visit and see a beloved name inscribed to honour their sacrifice, and their brief time in this world. Most servicemen in that war were buried where they fell, and so there was an overwhelming need for something close to home to mark their passing.There is a huge campaign in the UK at the moment to try and raise awareness of the plight of many of these historic monuments. Due to the high prices paid for scrap metals, many of the bronze and brass plaques and sculptures (and I've read that it could be 100 a week) are being prised off, stolen and sold, to be melted down and lost forever. To those who desecrate these memorials...that came about as a result of so much loss and grief and distress...and those who buy the metal (undoubtably realising where it's come from) I say shame on you.


They are everywhere...in the halls of most older schools, at roadsides, in theatres and at long-established factories...
This is one of 8 enormous plaques at London's Waterloo station to mark the employees of the rail company who died in WW1. Hundreds and thousands of people rush past on their way to the trains every day...I hope that sometimes they stop for a minute to look....

This one, on the memorial that stands on the hill where I walk Alice most days, is quite unusual. It commemorates men lost in the Boer War in South Africa between 1899-1902. Public memorials were extremely rare before the Great War when, due to conscription, the country was united in grief.

These stand in a Garden of Remembrance - something else that became common after 1918. A quiet, flower-filled place of calm and solace for the bereaved - and those who came afterwards.

We have two in our country town...this one stands in the churchyard. It is in quite bad repair now, it's stone eroded by time and the weather (the fate of many memorials) The other is in our Market Square, within a little Garden of Remembrance...with brass plaques containing the names of all from our parish who died in both World Wars. This morning, after the Remembrance Parade and the two minutes silence, poppy wreaths and little wooden crosses were laid there - as they are every year...

The little crosses often have handwritten messages to family members lost in conflict - current or long, long past. A testament to the need, the longing that people feel to remember, to think about and honour the sacrifice made by so very many young men and women in their desire to serve their country.

Whenever I pass one, I try and take a moment to read the inscriptions....the James' and Alberts and Cyrils and Walters and Freds...the brothers, the sons, the husbands the lovers. They are just names to us now. But once they were people - young men who laughed and sang and shouted and loved life and felt fear and pain and made mistakes just like all of us today.

We owe it to them, to all of them, to remember. xoxo

Thursday, 10 November 2011

The many faces of Autumn...

video
Oh my goodness...this time of year is SO beautiful! And it changes a little everyday....this was yesterday's walk...our area is particularly known for it's beech trees and this is why we love them so...




the woods were a cathedral of gold and red...leaves spiralling down all around us...beauty, beauty, beauty. We didn't want to leave (Alice because of the squirrel-chasing opportunities, it must be said!)
A big change from earlier this week, on the same walk...


when I could hear people whistling to their dogs all around me, but could only see the blurred outlines of objects that are usually so familiar...
It's been unseasonally warm, which probably accounts for the fog - I quite like it, as long as it's only sometimes!
I spotted lots of funghi on our walks this week...but I'm not confident at all about identifying it, so I'm just content to admire from afar...

One thing that I can recognise and take home is the wild juniper berries...the strong smell of gin permeates the hill as I pick...but it's spiky work!

The clear, crisp, bright days are the best for me. Alice loves them too...very alert to all the woodland sounds...she stands in the classic fox terrier position with a front & a back leg off the ground, ready to pounce (sadly, that's as far as she goes - all style & no substance, our girl!)


and then it's home to coffee for me, breakfast for her...and up to my writing room in  the eaves where this is my current view...

the holly tree is full of bright berries, and if you look very carefully you may just see the hundreds of screaming starlings who flock to crowd onto the crenellations of the church tower every afternoon just now...they seem to spend a long time, quarrelling and jostling to get a prime spot...and then, suddenly, I look up - and they're gone in an instant. Swirling through the sky in a perfect formation of black specks, giving me a last show until tomorrow!
How I love this season!
I hope that your week is going beautifully too! xox