Remembrance 2009

16 11 2009

While typing this, there has been footage shown on the BBC of the repatriation of two more British soldiers killed in Afghanistan . Their bodies were flown into RAF Lyneham and processed through Wootton Bassett. This was the 99th time that this repatriation ceremony has taken place. A very real reminder that the act of remembrance is not confined to the wars of a century past, but also of those which are very much a part of our present.

There are few events that can cause an entire nation to pause and reflect. There are even less that can cause such reflection on a worldwide scale. There are even fewer still that can achieve this on a regular basis. The acts of remembrance for the fallen of the Great War, and all subsequent conflicts since then, that take place on Remembrance Sunday and Armistice Day are one of those rare events.

As I’ve mentioned briefly in a previous post, history is a powerful force: events of the past teach us much about who we are and what we can be. The yearly acts of remembrance play an important role in history’s lessons.

Like many others in the UK, I attended a service of remembrance on Remembrance Sunday (8th November). I watched the local parade as it made its way to the high street, the subsequent wreath laying ceremony at the cenotaph, and attended the remembrance service with my Nana (who served in the WAAF during World War II).

I was also fortunate this year to be able to watch the coverage of the Armistice Day service from Westminster Abbey. This abbey is home to grave of the Unknown Warrior: an unidentified British solider from the battlefields of Europe who was repatriated and buried there on Armistice Day 1920. Eighty-nine years later, Britain marked the first year of remembrance where no British survivors of the Great War were present (the last of these veterans passing away during the preceding twelve months). As such this year marked not only the remembrance of the fallen of the Great War, but also the passing of the generation that fought it and survived. As the years between our present and their past grow in number, so does the importance of remembrance. Remembering the reasons why they fought, the circumstances under which they died and the lessons which we can learn from this turbulent period of our history. The importance of this inheritance was summed up by the Rt Hon Dr Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, in the conclusion of his sermon during the Westminster service:

The generation that has passed walked forward with vision and bravery and held together the bonds of our society, our continent, our Commonwealth through a terrible century. May we learn the lessons they learned; and God save us from learning them in the way they had to.

This year the act of remembrance continued past Armistice Day. The following Sunday (15th November) I attended the ceremony for the laying up of the standard for the Boston and South Lincs Branch of the Burma Star Association at St Botolph’s Church in Boston (a.k.a the Boston Stump). A close family friend is a member of this branch, having served in the Burma Campaign during World War II; he also acts as standard-bearer for the branch. Local branches of The Normandy Veterans Association and The Royal British Legion Women’s Section were also laying up their standards at this ceremony.

The laying up of a standard isn’t a particularly long ceremony, but it is incredibly poignant. Once laid up, a standard is not carried again, it is not paraded again. It lies in its sacred resting place until it turns to dust. Before attending this ceremony, I attempted to find the plan for the service online, so I would know what to expect. Maybe I wasn’t doing it right, because I couldn’t find one. So I am going to close this post with the ceremony which occurred on Sunday, so that those who haven’t been to one can have an idea of what it entailed.

Laying Up of the Standard

Procession The standards were processed down the nave to the altar during the final hymn of the preceding service (Sung Eucharist) by the standard bearers and their escorts.
Act of Remembrance The bugler sounded the Last Post, during which the standards were dipped.
The Exhortation This was spoken by a member of the British Legion:

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old. Age shall not weary them nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun, and in the morning, We will remember them.

The congregation responded:

We will remember them.

The Kohima epitaph was read:

When you go home, tell them of us and say, for their tomorrow, we gave our today

Silence A minute silence was held. Followed by the bugler sounding the Reveille, during which the standards were raised to the “carry” position.
The Standards Are Laid Up The Burma Star Association’s standard was the third and final standard laid up in this ceremony. A member of each branch took their standard, stepped forward and handed it to the clergy saying:

I commit this sacred standard of the [Boston and South Lincs Branch of the Burma Star Association] to you as Vicar of the Parish for safe keeping in this Holy Church for evermore

The standard is accepted and Reverend Robin Whitehead responded:

I accept the charge

And continued with:

May the souls of the faithful departed rest in peace

The congregation responded:

And rise in glory

Organ Voluntary The Imperial March by Elgar was played.

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Mother was right: wear a coat

12 11 2009

On occasion I do (or say) things that contradict the fact that, normally, I’m a pretty clued up, capable, intelligent person.  Generally such moments occur because I haven’t thought whatever-it-is through to its logical conclusion.  I reckon it’s a side-effect of thinking too much on a regular basis (a trait of mine).  There’s really only so much thinking one’s brain can handle at any one time!

Anyway, one such a moment occurred this Tuesday.  Getting ready to get out the door for a meeting, I was faced with the question of whether or not I should put my coat on.  A quick step outside (to get a feel for the weather) and I decided that no, I wouldn’t, not today; it wasn’t as cold as Monday and my suit, scarf and gloves would suffice.

Hmmm, I was wrong.  While it wasn’t that cold when I stepped out the door, it was damn cold by the time I left my meeting, even though it had only just turned early afternoon.  I spent much time on my way back hopping in and out of shops so that I didn’t get too cold – but this theory proved ultimately fruitless.  I spent the rest of the day regretting my earlier decision.

The thing that really vexes me about this decision was that if I had thought about it for longer than an iota of a second, I would have changed my mind and put my coat on.  Seriously, what was I thinking?  Normally I’m much smarter than that!  It was the autumnal equivalent of not putting sunblock on during summer when you know that you’re going to be out for the day (which I have also done before now and regretted bitterly – a lesson was learnt).  To compound the situation I now have a cold due to getting chilled on Tuesday.  It is one of those small, annoying colds that are made all the more annoying by the fact that you know that it could’ve been prevented by, say, wearing a coat.

So first mistake of the season has been made and another lesson has been learnt.  From now on I shall not be parted from this garment. Mother was right: wear a coat!

Anyone else suffer from similar moments of stupidity?  What was the silliest thing you’ve done and regretted?





Birthday Resolution

4 11 2009

Wow, where did October go? A whole month and not one post! Must admit to being a tad remiss, although being stuck in a rut of writer’s block didn’t help. The month started with a weekend trip to Cardiff. Ostensibly this was for a Phonics concert at the Castle, however I also managed to squeeze in some Dr Who/Torchwood sight-seeing (yes, I am a geek). Being a Scorpi-orpi-orpio Girl the month ended with my birthday. As I’ve got older I tend to spend at least part of that day navel gazing: reflecting on what I’ve done, what I haven’t done and what I need or want to do in the upcoming year. It’s also one of those times when I add to, delete from and amend my “101 Things to Do” list. Anyway, one of this year’s resolutions, and high up on my list, was to lose the extra weight that I had gained while at Uni and haven’t managed to lose yet.

There are a few (and at least for me) inaccurate stereotypes about women and weight out there. If one were to believe the vast majority of media on the subject you would think womankind highly insecure and paranoid about their weight (as with their overall appearance). This maybe true for some, but not me – and I feel that it’s important that I state that straight up, before anyone gets the wrong impression. Despite the predominance of this media I do not feel compelled in any way to feel any guilt about my body.   My decision was based on the fact that, right now, I weigh more than I should and that I’m nowhere near as fit as I’d like to be (which in all honesty irks me more than the weight).

A quick blast on the calculator revealed that I’ve actually lost a fair bit of the weight already (nigh on half). However, I have been stuck on a plateau with my current weight for a while now. This I find frustrating. And I don’t like to be frustrated. Especially when it concerns an issue that I can exert some control over and so can, in theory, fix. Therefore on Monday I decided to fix this issue once and for all.

Having made this resolution I realised there were certain factors that both helped and hindered this decision.
Helpful factors: when it comes to what I eat, I’m not too bad with my diet (I wouldn’t say that it’s great, but that can be worked on). And since diet is half of the successful formula for weight loss and general health & fitness (exercise being the other) I count this as a positive.
Unhelpful factors: right now joining a gym is out of the question. This is a definite negative as I love the gym and it’s where I’ve had the best success in the past. However, I soon realised that this dark cloud of a problem has a silver lining. Another item on my “101 Things to Do” list is to start running, initially with the aim of getting fit, but ultimately with the aim of completing a marathon (actually, there are more reasons, but that’s another post). So now I am presented with a situation where I can cross one item off my list, while contributing to another. Excellent.

So far this week the only set back (and it’s a corker) has been getting up early enough to go for a run (I prefer to work out in the morning, evenings are a no-go for me and exercise). Waking up at the right time hasn’t been a problem: the problem has been staying awake long enough to actually get out of bed! My alarm goes off, some sleepy part of my consciousness hears it and the only physical thing I bring myself to do is switch it off. Not helpful. To compensate (and prevent the day from being a total right-off exercise wise) I’ve completed a Pilates routine instead. Today I added a 3.5 mile round-walk to the Pilates, although no running occurred. However, I am hopeful for some success tomorrow (even after a late-nighter so I can watch True Blood). I’m also hopeful that ultimately I’ll be able to write a ‘mission completed’ post on this subject in the future – watch this space.