Time was when all the world stood still; we put our pencils down; our long division stopped; shopkeepers ceased their trading; cars drew to a halt and switched off; the ploughman drew his reigns and held his horses; the housewife rested from her polishing.
At first I remembered nothing for I was a 1919 baby – but I learned and read and looked … Rupert Brook; Beverley Nicholls’ Cry Havoc!; John Mansefield’s Gallipoli, Journeys End, Cavalcade. As adolescents and students we talked into the early hours – by 1938 we were pacifists.
That Autumn, foiling the ever increasing pile of letters for the Refugee Committee in Cambridge, I came on one from the father of a girl I knew well at school – begging for places in domestic service for all his three daughters “before it is too late” (al, academically very able, but German Jewesses). From them I later learned something of the evil the world was up against – and still is.
So, on Remembrance Sunday, I remember first the brother with whom I grew up, threshed out my ideals, cycled and walked the countryside, watched birds, worked the farm, shared the long hard slog to and through university. For him it all culminated, not as he hoped, in research into the better uses of the world’s resources, but his death, as he probed into enemy lines in the thick mist of an August dawn in 1944. I remember too, the countless youngsters, for whom today that hard slog can end in a dole queue – I remember the grief of my mother and her courage – and the heartbreak of many parents today watching their youngsters lose hear.
I remember the shining enthusiasms of the first 11+ intake into a grammar school from the backstreets of inner Manchester in the 1945- and I am reminded of the delight of a 6 year old in the library who recently shared the delights of a picture book with me.
The eminent surgeon who performed an intricate eye operation on my 7 year old son; the careful watch that has been kept on my asthmatic daughter for 38 years.
I rememeber the day I was camping in the peace of the Cotswolds when the atomic bombs fell and the war ended – and the horror of modern war began, I remember too, the youngsters of several generations with whom I have shared these memories – who have been willing to share with me in that profound silence – not after marching through streets to a civic war memorial but in the context of the Eucharist offered together in thanksgiving, in penitence, in intercession and dedication to the things that belong to our peace –