Tony Grist (poliphilo) wrote,
Tony Grist


We're in for 4 years of hard remembering. Longer, because it's already started.

But, of course, it's not really remembering because no-one who was there is still alive. The Great War belongs as much to history as the wars against Napoleon. How about "re-imagining" or "re-visioning".

It'll be wearisome, but not nearly as wearisome as the thing itself.

All sorts of people and institutions will try to own it.  A government minister (forget his name, don't want to remember) said it was a crying shame that most people got their picture of the war from Blackadder because  the reality was different. I don't know how it was different. I wish he'd explain. If he wanted to imply it was less horrible than we think and the people in charge were less clueless he's no friend of mine. With excellent timing the Mail (not always evil) printed extracts from a recently rediscovered war diary- all about trenches thigh deep in rancid mud and people being buried alive or having their legs blown off by grenades- and how you were always dog-tired but could be shot for falling asleep on sentry-go: all very Blackadderish, I think.

A couple of days ago a British sergeant was found guilty of shooting an Afghan prisoner in cold blood. He got life. We have this idiotic sentimentality about soldiering in this country. You'd think two filthy world wars might have cured us of it, but it keeps coming back at us like the hydra. Put on a uniform and you're a hero- no matter what. And you're defending your country- even when it's clear that what you're actually doing is stirring up a hornets' nest. It's a line that everyone in authority feels duty bound to push- though I suspect the soldiers themselves detest it. Soldiering is a foul business and soldiers sometimes behave foully. Of course they do.

In a few minutes they'll be laying wreaths at the cenotaph. The Royals, the politicians in their suits, the massed uniforms.  Putting a gloss on the business. Making out there's some dignity in it, some glamour. The TV is on in the other room. I can hear the skirling of the pipes.

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