We paid a flying visit to East Barnet yesterday. Pleasingly, Jonathan was at home and not at work, and we all tucked in to one of Anabel’s afternoon teas of her homemade macaroons and Suzanne’s brownies.
Of the two cake-devouring grandsons, I asked ‘What are you both doing in history at school?’
‘The Black Death,’ said nine-year-old Indio, adding ‘pestilence’ for good measure.
His older brother by three years, TJ, intoned ‘Power.’
I remembered that history subjects these days seem not to be about this or that king or battle, but that our present-day preoccupations are grafted onto the centuries of our ancestors. I compare that with my own schooling which was about what people did, when and occasionally why. The notion of the history theme was not fully invented in the 50s and 60s for which, I think, I am thankful.
Great excitement in this part of Bedfordshire. The government indicates that a train line might be built between Bedford and Cambridge by about 2030, when I hope to be 86. Perhaps by then taxpayers will own the railways that we subside so heavily.
Remembrance Day, sometimes called Poppy Day, is today (distinguished from Remembrance Sunday). I had to be at the physiotherapist for 11 a.m., and mused how I was going to have the traditional two-minutes of silence at that time. Along with several waiting patients, as Big Ben struck 11 on the radio the receptionist bowed her head, and all of us the waiting room joined her. Lovely.
If records had been kept, I am sure they would show that Ampthill’s turnout for the service today is a record. As he has for the last 18 years, the Revd Michael Trodden led us in moving tribute to the fallen and all others who have suffered from war. The town’s French twin, Nissan-lez-Ensérunes sent some of their dignitaries, and together with scores of youngsters from local cadet organisations – army, naval and air force – marching to the twin band, it was colourful and musical under a pleasantly cold November sun. A man next to me was ever so proud that his son was in the official parade. Suzanne wore her dad’s medals, court-strung in miniature, as did I Dad’s. I reflected on a comment in yesterday’s Guardian that people of my vintage would have had ‘one or two teachers who had survived the Western Front’: someone who had enlisted at 18 in 1914 would have been only 53 in 1949, the first year of my schooling, in that most military of towns then – Aldershot.
Afterwards Suzanne and I wandered the antique emporium half-looking for a bookcase to cater for growing overspill from the house built-ins, and I underwent a glazed-eye-job in a new gift shop called Hare. Reaching orbital escape-speed from further twee temptations around the town square, we had one drink in the Albion of Leffe and a delicious half of Everard’s Tiger.
Dark, wet and windy outside. Do I really have to take up the dahlia and canna tubers? I read that you can leave them in the ground well mulched, so perhaps that’s what I’ll do.