Anzac Day seems to bring me a cloak of melancholy that wraps itself around me, quite comfortably and sets my mind a wandering through cloudy patches for the entire day.
The Last Post has always brought me undone. The loneliness of the open notes played on the bugle, produced in a way that might be described as “organic” depending entirely on the pressure of the breath from the diaphragm out through the lips of the musician, forced through a mouthpiece that many people cannot get to make any sound remotely similar to music, chills me to the core. Many, many times I struggled to hide tears at the school observances of Anzac Day that I was part of over forty years and I saw it again today on the coverage of Dawn ceremonies in two minute bites on every news bulletin. Close ups of ordinary people, somber still, some wiping away a tear.
I think it’s an age thing perhaps! When I was a kid the veterans from WW II were aplenty! My uncles, my friend’s Dads, my friend Mums who had been nurses, the men at Church even some of the priests who had served as Chaplains. My Mum used to ” entertain the troops” on leave in Newcastle. She was a terrific pianist and could knock out just about any tune you might ever need for a sing-a-long. We knew them all to – The White Cliffs of Dover, We’ll meet again, It’s a long way to Tipperary, Kiss me goodnight Sergeant Major, Mademoiselle from Armentiers, Pack up your troubles in your old kit bag, A nightingale sang in Berkley Square – so many of them!
At school we learned the discipline of marching. I wonder why now, although getting back in touch with the correct technique for heel/toe walking after years of crap knee shuffling has been an unexpected bonus from my youth! Were we too being prepared for what was seemingly inevitable, yet more war, so soon after the end of the last one?
As a kid I could not imagine a time when these Heroes would be gone. I remember grappling with the fact that there are no more Gallopoli Veteran left alive and today so few from WWII – that generation is nearly gone or at least they are lined up ” on the Tarmac” as my Mother used to describe her state in the last couple of years of her 98 years of life! My generation is next!
I think about our reaction to natural disasters. Two years ago our region was hit by terrible storms around Anzac Day. My Facebook memories reminded me this morning! Natural disasters always elicit the same response from me, That is “when Mother Nature rages, it serves to remind us how small we are and how little we know.” We, humankind who have made such progress, who have filled civilisation with wonder, who can split the atom, who can produce new life via in vitro fertilisation, who can replace my crapped out, self abused knees and make “life” so much more ” quality filled” cannot control the weather or the tide or the earth when it quakes!
And I think about war! It isn’t Mother Nature that brings war! What ” Mother” would entertain the notion of the “mother of all bombs”? What “Mother” would use a chemical weapon to snatch the breath out of innocents? What “Mother” would devise a technology that makes it possible to kill people almost by remote control and watch their destruction on screens, miles away as if playing what our kids play on a myriad of electronic devices available to the 24/7?
Some blame God for war or use war as proof of the non-existence of God ” if there IS a God, how can he ( always he) allow this to happen? IF there is a God it is not God that creates war!
We, humankind, who make war, have the power to stop it. We CAN opt for peace. We CAN reject war. We can honour those who ” went with songs to the battle…..fell with their faces to the foe” and who ” shall not grow old as we who are left grow old, who “age shall not weary…nor the years condemn” (words taken from the Ode to Rememberance which I did not hear once on any coverage today and which has seemingly been watered down to “Lest we forget”) by committing ourselves to working for peace.
Lest we forget.