Monday, 11 November 2019

Poppycock or false memory day

How can children remember something that happened before they or in many cases even their parents were born or someone they never met? Indeed why  should they even bother? Who benefits from all this? The dead? Long past caring.  The living, then? How? The land fit for heroes threw them on to the jobless scrap heap but every November out came  the bloody poppies and British Bloody Legion with their bloody flags, their bloody medals and their damn bloody marches.
It has become a routine that is only done because it has always been done. This year the PM put his wreath upside down! (titter ye not!) The other guy who wants to be PM turns up even though he has voted against every British military intervention there has been and has fraternized with just about every 'enemy' while he has been an MP, at least he didn't bow his head only because he's too damned ignorant. No-one dare say "Let us stop this nonsense now and get on with our lives". 
As a child I was told that on Remembrance Day we remember those who died in the War. The War then was the Great War, WW1. Now the War is WW2 though that too is fading, Korea (where was that now?), Falklands (oh yeah dimly recall), Afghanistan, Northern Ireland (maybe not so much NI as that wasn't officially a war and besides half the enemy were in the pay of the secret service), any patch of a scrubby useless middle eastern shithole that the British Army has been sent to and come home again having achieved precisely zip and at such a cost ... Ah yes I was told and you tell your children still they must remember these 'sacrifices' and show their respects. What for?
Now memory is as you know a pretty untrustworthy thing at the best of times but if you are going to tell your children stories what do you expect to happen? I was told by my mother that her father's brother joined up at the start of the war; both brothers enlisted together, leaving their jobs in the steel works, joined the Gordon Highlanders (the kilts were a thing back then). Poor old great uncle Thomas however died in the war, I was told, and grandpa married his brother's bereaved fiancée. That's a nice story with such a romantic ending... Or so I was told ... Hmm today I find, thanks to computers and internets that never forget, Great Uncle Tom actually lived to over 70 and died in 1959 and worked in a pawnbroker's shop and was in the Northumberland Fusiliers. Grandpa Joe, was living in a different town to his brother, was actually in the Gordon Highlanders in France from 1915 onwards (I guess something had to be true) and when I knew him as a chain smoking (Capstan full strength or Willy Woodbines) old man he cursed the British Bloody Legion whenever he could, he'd no time for poppies or poppycock. He never, ever mentioned (maybe he forgot) being wounded in 1916 but computers and internets they never forget ...
There I've done with my bit of remembering. Now what? Hmm?


  1. I learned about war from listening to my father and his friends discussing the Second World War but if I had to say what war memory carries the most weight, I'd say it was my memories of the filmed version of "Oh! What a Lovely War", a bitter mix of history and satire set to music. That musical captures the enormity of the stupidity which led to the First World War. Stupidity that resulted in "acceptable losses" being counted in the hundreds of thousands. I wear my Canadian poppy and fear that the chant "never again" is growing weaker with the passing of time.

  2. The think that has always rankled with me is the commandeering of the poor poppy, which is the universal symbol for sleep and oblivion - rightly so, considering its medical properties. Suddenly, because "On Flanders field the poppies grow", it's supposed to represent remembrance, pretty damn near the opposite. This kind of thing never goes anywhere good; look at what happened to that emblem of all things good, the swastika.

    At least John McCrae, who wrote the poem, knew the real symbolism of the poppy -
    Take up our quarrel with the foe:
    To you from failing hands we throw
    The torch; be yours to hold it high.
    If ye break faith with us who die
    We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
    In Flanders fields.
    That final verse is seldom quoted, for some reason.

  3. Replies
    1. Yes, & then the BBC showed the wrong clip on one news broadcast - an older clip, with a tidy Boris & the wreath right-side-up. And now a conspiracy theory is raging about a BBC cover-up.

    2. Why do you think the BBC showed the wrong, older, clip?