The approach of Armistice Day and the Festival of Remembrance got me thinking. Is there another way to remember?

Olivia rested her head on his shoulder. “It all felt so safe here. But there is the big world and then there is our world.”

“Without worlds like ours, there can be no big world,” said Thomas. “Our little worlds matter much more.”

(A Game of Chess, 2018 Collingwood Publishing)

 

This is an idea that The Dream Factory books look at – I am more than a little obsessed with our personal spaces as opposed to the ‘big picture’ world that some politicians and religious leaders seem to be arrogantly obsessed by. Hence the question – “What kind of world are they living in….?” Mind you, they is used as a collective noun that those who use the word never really define. Whoever they are, it certainly cannot include us because we are clearly virtuous, sane and rational…..aren’t we?

Page, one of the children in A Game of Chess, comments to Thomas, “I feel that too,” she said. “I look at the sky, and I think about how small I am. Then how big I am.” Her final sentence is the most important statement to make. We must realise our potential to operate within bigger worlds than our own, that we can make a difference to the lives of others, and our values can be more noble that those of religious and political leaders who, armed to the teeth with weapons, the apparatus of self-preservation, can stop the mouths of those who would challenge them.

Hope this is making sense. On this sun-splashed morning In Challaborough, it is a line of thought that I struggle to be clear about. But then, of course, in this remarkably connected world, little worlds can band together and create something much bigger. Take the centenary of the armistice that ended WWI (the terms of it also started WWII, but let’s leave that thought for now…). I can just imagine all the polishing of boots, buckles, medals, limousines and coronets, the brushing of uniforms and horses, the practising of anthems and the last post, the appointments with hairdressers and milliners, the procession of suits travelling to dry-cleaners and all the Ruritanian paraphernalia of ceremony being prepared in the run up to the big day. Sitting here, looking at the sea, wearing a poppy, it all feels so remote and still and quiet. I won’t be going to the Cenotaph, I may give it all a passing glance on TV. So, I shared a thought on the ubiquitous Facebook:

 

In the run up to the WWI armistice centenary, I can’t help recalling the units we in the Hounsdown/MGS teams used to teach on poetry. We used a good deal of war poetry. It would be great if folks could nominate their favourite poems – I guess Dulce et Decorum Est by Wilfred Owen would be right up there. Nominate your favourites and, even better still, post a reading online using Soundcloud or some such. Let us mark this occasion and pray that the modern world has learned from all this…..

 

A message to the little worlds of all our friends from my little world. Result? I’ve been inundated to the extent that we have amassed an anthology of our own. Little worlds waking to the music of others. I will finish with one of the pieces sent by a former student Sandie Beaney – women’s WWI poetry offers a different but telling perspective.

 

Pluck

 

Crippled for life at seventeen,

His great eyes seem to question why:

With both legs smashed it might have been

Better in that grim trench to die

Than drag maimed years out helplessly.

 

A child – so wasted and so white,

He told a lie to get his way,

To march, a man with men, and fight

While other boys are still at play.

A gallant lie your heart will say.

 

So broke with pain, he shrinks in dread

To see the ‘dresser’ drawing near;

And winds the clothes about his head

That none may see his heart-sick fear.

His shaking, strangled sobs you hear.

 

But when the dreaded moment’s there

He’ll face us all, a soldier yet,

Watch his bared wounds with unmoved air,

(Though tell-tale lashes still are wet),

And smoke his woodbine cigarette.

 

Eva Dobell


"Brilliant descriptions of characters and places enrich a twisty plot that kept me guessing right to the end. John Simes is a master story teller."James Stevenson, Author