This morning I took myself off to the Remembrance assembly at the school, where 1100+ pupils squeezed into the Sports Hall (no room for the sixth form, so they had their own assembly at their own site), plus the teachers and most of the support staff, so that was another 100+, and guests and I sat facing them. And an incredibly moving, quite harrowing service it was. An old boy dropped in, a serving Corporal who has not long returned from his third tour of duty in Afghanistan. And whatever you think about whether we should ever have gone in (Mister Blair not having learned a thing from the Russian invasion of the same country), you’d not have a word to say in disparagement of our army if you heard him. He spoke most movingly, not only of the need for teamwork and the support and friendship of colleagues, but also of their focus on helping the Afghan people, mentioning in particular the children who have so very little and would, the girls anyway, be denied even a basic education. He spoke of what the Royal British Legion do – it was hard to listen and not show great emotion, impossible not to feel it.
Then the school chaplain – the local Rector and a school governor, who served 30 years as an army officer – spoke of his days in the army too. He served in Northern Ireland and he talked about mourning, loss and remembrance. Then the Head Boy and Head Girl each read a WW1 poem. More than once I had consciously to straighten my back and set my chin firm, very aware of all those people facing me.
Afterwards, my friend Mary and I spoke to the young Corporal. When he left school after taking A Levels, he decided not to apply to Sandhurst straight away, as he didn’t feel he could issue orders and lead troops without experience. So he signed up into the ranks. Now, six years on, he feels ready and is going to apply to Sandhurst in January. Mary asked about equipment nowadays – if you remember, there were awful reports about inadequate and unsafe equipment in the early days – he said, having been back three times in those years, he has seen for himself how things have improved and continue to do so. He buys his own boots mind you, but he said that’s because none of the three styles available really suit his feet. He has no complaints about the resources being researched and provided at present, which was interesting in this time of cutbacks and, even if you’re against the idea of this country’s involvement in present wars, it’s not our lives on the front line. It’s not the soldiers’ fault that the war is happening, they’re doing their duty.
At this point, around 4.30, I received a phone call and, 3 hours later, I’m back…
So I went home, to be met by the Sage wanting a lift. I grabbed a couple of rice cakes for lunch and off we went. Our friends are both aged 80, but his health is precarious and it’s not easy for his wife to care for him. However, they are generous in time and advice – in this case, on a piece of china. The Sage is a great expert in his field, but merely knowledgeable in similar china of the same period, whereas they have incredible expertise in all aspects of the field. They confirmed his opinion.
And we came back, having bought food for the weekend, and received a call from Dilly to say that Big Pinkie was out. Big Pinkie had had a frisky little foray in the morning too. This time, she was on the road. So we tempted her back into her field with some apples. Her companion cow (if anyone had any other thoughts, shame on you) was waiting anxiously and I gave her apples too. They were both still keen for some treats, so I went in the house and cut up a half cabbage, left over from Tim’s recipe, halved a few more apples and went back out. The other cow was quite disappointed. She likes apples a lot more than cabbage, so I divided the spoils accordingly.
I came indoors, made a pot of tea and started writing this. Then I had a phone call from Elle. She was on the bus with a girl who had left something vital at school. Not too late, teachers would still be there (they do not knock off when the bell rings, whatever you might read in the newspapers from reporters who don’t check their facts) and I popped in to fetch the bag. And then I followed the bus to take it back to her. Only took 20 minutes and we should all help each other, innit?*
And I had a money-off coupon from the Co-op (16%, plus 10% off wine) so I went in to buy mostly booze on the way home, and the Sage and I promptly drank the bottle of Cava that I had so wisely bought pre-chilled. Pork chops, onions, parsnips, tomatoes and leeks – oh, and baked potatoes – for dinner. Coffee now. Then relax.
Tomorrow, help Ro and Dora move stuff to the new house.
Oh, my upstairs tenant has handed in his notice. He’s been great, has kept the flat immaculate and been really helpful. I’m sorry he’s leaving, but he’s buying his own place which is really good news for him. So I can only wish him well.