Thursday, November 11, 2010
Lest we forget*
Today, people in Great Britain, all members of the Commonwealth (apart from Mozambique apparently) and France, Belgium, South Africa etc** pause at exactly 11am to remember 'the sacrifices of members of the armed forces and civilians in times of war'.
The wearing of a poppy is something I always associate with this period of autumn, when I was at school it was always felt to be an honour (as well as a good and legitimate skive) to go from class to class getting other children to pay whatever they could to the British Legion for their poppy. Then as an adult living in a small village with a son in the cub scouts we would have to stand around in the freezing cold (if we were lucky) or the driving rain (if we weren't) as the cubs, scouts, brownies, guides and any local veterans paraded from the pub at one end of the village down to the church and the village war memorial. There is something exquisitely poignant and eery about the Last Post (which you can hear here) especially as it always seemed to be played by the most elderly and decrepit looking ex serviceman, but again it's part and parcel of Remembrance Day.
Here, in the area of Germany where we live 11am on the 11th of the 11th is also a day in many people's diaries, but for an entirely different reason, it's the official start of Karneval, so there are many, many drunks to be found wandering around - and Karneval doesn't actually climax until the beginning of March (next year anyway, it's one of those crazy church dates that revolves around the moon and the tides and how many goats the pope has or something...consequently it's a moveable feast).
As you can imagine those of us here from the Commonwealth think that celebrating and excessive partying on the official day of remembrance is a little bit wrong, likewise the locals can't understand our stance when we refuse to go party.
Integration is all well and good (although Angela doesn't think it's working) but as the saying goes 'you can take a horse to water but you can't make him drink'. So I'm wearing my poppy with pride and will happily tell any local exactly why!
* this is a phrase I connect with Remembrance day in England, looking it up on Google I was surprised to find that it's a line from a Kipling poem composed for good Queen Vic in 1897 for her diamond jubilee.
** the full list is here although I don't know how trustworthy it is.