Sunday, November 14, 2010


Just arrived back from our Remembrance Day event on Angel Hill in Bury St Edmunds. Hemmed in on four sides, this oblong 'grand-place' makes for an atmosphere. It felt like thousands were there, even though I dare say the numbers were in the high three figures. Bury is one of those places in England that does tradition very well. People here respect our armed forces and turn out to remember them - and applaud them as they paraded past us.

I was supposed to be there as part of the civic group, but I somehow struggled to put myself out there, marching along with the young people who have been taking bullets in Helmand, or indeed the ageing WW2 veterans in their blazers, medals and berets. I somehow felt better in the crowd.

I took my boy who loved the spectacle. Having your male child with you when you reflect on the experience of people only 15 years older than him who are walking in front of your eyes I found quite affecting. Yes, I thought, I could be here watching my own son marching by. I actually know someone locally on my patch who has two sons who have just completed a tour in Helmand. How quite she manages, having both out there I don't really know. The East Anglians have suffered as much as any regiment in Afghanistan and she probably has a sense of dread whenever the phone or doorbell rings.

I'll make no secret of it, I love the Army and the military. I respect their values and their approach to things. I admire their solidarity, their professionalism and their quality. In terms of pay, conditions and privations they put up with more than the rest of the public sector put together. But do they moan? Or go on strike? No, they get on with the job, as a matter of pride.

Although I am made of far too gooey stuff ever to have made it in the Forces, I see their values as part of how I seek to live.
I suspect this makes me look slightly absurd in the eyes of my mostly Guardianista readership but I know, in a crisis, who I would rather be stuck in a tricky spot alongside.

It wouldn't be a group of politicians for sure.

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