I recently received the spring edition of the National Trust magazine. The front cover carried a faded black and white image of a building in the background contrasting with bright red poppies in the foreground. The building is Dunham Massey and one of the features in the magazine explains how the house is being transformed back into the Stamford Military Hospital it was in 1917-19.
This is one of a series of nationwide and international events that will be taking place during 2014-18 to commemorate the centenary of World War One. The series of events are being led by the Imperial War Museum, which has a dedicated website entitled 1914.org.
The events will serve to remind us of those who sacrificed their lives so that we can enjoy the freedoms we have today as well as reminding us to be grateful for their sacrifice.
The poppy fields as described by the ‘War Poets’ are a poignant reminder to me of the lives that were lost in both World War One and World War Two and also the lives lost in more recent wars.
Poppies to me are a simile of the lives that were lost. They are vibrant, standing strong and bold yet fragile and defeated by a heavy downfall or a spring breeze. They remind me of the fragility of peace and freedom and how easily our freedom can be lost.
The 1914 website points out that “one hundred years on we are all in some way connected to the First World War, either through our own family history, the heritage of our local communities or because of its long-term impact on society and the world we live in today.”
Reflection on World War One serves as a reminder of what might have been if the outcome of that war had been different…
On a recent day trip to London the weather was perfect. Rather than use our local station we drove a short way to catch a train because the journey times are better. When we sat down in our designated seats there were already two people in the seats next to us; they had boarded the train in Liverpool.
They turned out to be very interesting people. One of them had worked as a stunt double for a famous actor and had recently been asked to act in his own right in a couple of films. He was travelling to a filming session for his third film in which he had been asked to speak in a Slavic language rather than English. In addition to this he had he had previously taught martial arts and run his own gym.
The other person was responsible for the smelting and casting of the bronze statues around Liverpool. The conversations made the journey interesting and enjoyable.
On arrival in London we made our way along Victoria Embankment toward Westminster Abbey with a view to finding somewhere for lunch along the way. We managed to walk past all the best eating places without stopping and found ourselves outside Westminster Abbey without having eaten. I sat down on a wall whilst a quick recce of the area took place, after which I was taken to the Westminster Arms, a place I know well having frequented it on more than one occasion when I have been in London on Trade Union matters.
We descended into the basement where food was served and were pointed in the direction of one of the corners. I was initially a little bit confused because I couldn’t see a table. I then realised that it was behind a wooden screen and we ended up in what I jokingly called a cupboard. I had thoughts of Harry Potter and being shut underneath the stairs. I little bit later, when we were settling the bill, the owner told us we were sitting in the confessional box. The food was nice honest fair and set us up for a walk round Westminster Abbey.
When we arrived at the Abbey one of the guides insisted that we took one of the electronic self-guided tour gadgets. I much prefer to use a guidebook and pick out the things that interest me the most. The electronic guide was good but, for me, it detracted from the ambiance of the building. The cloister and collage gardens were wonderful and especially enjoyable because of the sunshine. After all that walking, it was time for a cold drink and afternoon cake in the Abbey’s tea room.
We then made our way across Westminster Bridge towards the London Eye which was our next port of call. The views from the Eye were spectacular and the bright sunshine enabled me to capture some good photographs from the heights. We next made our way towards the British Museum where I intended to have a quick look at the Egyptian antiquities on the ground floor. Unfortunately I had got the timings wrong and it had closed when we arrived, so we made a quick detour to browse Foyles book shop and have another refreshing drink before catching a cab back to the station in time for our return journey. Before boarding the train we picked up some sandwiches to eat on the journey. The late evening sun shining on the English countryside was spectacular, reminding me how lucky I am to live in this part of the world.