Thursday, November 11, 2010

Lest we Forget

I remember each year pausing for a minutes silence at school on Remembrance Day at 11am (the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month).  Whatever class we were in the sound system would get our attention and we would stop what we were doing and (if we were well behaved children) be quiet to remember the Armistice at the end of WWI

Well, strictly speaking our timing was off because the Armistice was signed at 11am in UK time, which would make it um... a whole 'nother time in Aussieland.

Our teachers always stressed the silence was supposed to reflect the silence of the battlefields as the guns were silenced.

I remember imagining soldiers firing right up until the last minute, and all stopping as the clock struck the hour – and in that silence facing the horrible and full realisation of all that the war had cost.

Now I live in America, where November 11 is Veterans Day, rather than Remembrance Day.  In America this day is more of a celebration than a solemn remembrance. This was really confronting to me for the first few years, until I worked out that we also have our version of Veterans Day  - in April… we call it ANZAC day (my American readers will have to wait in anticipation for April next year to learn about that – or go to google).

But whichever mindset you bring to November 11  - whether this day is for sad reflection or proud recognition - to point is to not forget. 

Because a senseless waste of life is made all the more pointless if we don’t attempt to learn from our mistakes and do better.

Because for a soldier to sacrifice home, comfort, safety, family and/or life and then to be overlooked and ignored is obscene.



He sat in a wheeled chair, waiting for dark,
And shivered in his ghastly suit of grey,
Legless, sewn short at elbow.  Through the park
Voices of boys rang saddening like a hymn,
Voices of play and pleasure after day,
Till gathering sleep had mothered them from him.

About this time Town used to swing so gay
When glow-lamps budded in the light-blue trees
And girls glanced lovelier as the air grew dim,
-- In the old times, before he threw away his knees.
Now he will never feel again how slim
Girls' waists are, or how warm their subtle hands,
All of them touch him like some queer disease.

There was an artist silly for his face,
For it was younger than his youth, last year.
Now he is old; his back will never brace;
He's lost his colour very far from here,
Poured it down shell-holes till the veins ran dry,
And half his lifetime lapsed in the hot race,
And leap of purple spurted from his thigh.
One time he liked a bloodsmear down his leg,
After the matches carried shoulder-high.
It was after football, when he'd drunk a peg,
He thought he'd better join.  He wonders why . . .
Someone had said he'd look a god in kilts.

That's why; and maybe, too, to please his Meg,
Aye, that was it, to please the giddy jilts,
He asked to join.  He didn't have to beg;
Smiling they wrote his lie; aged nineteen years.
Germans he scarcely thought of; and no fears
Of Fear came yet.  He thought of jewelled hilts
For daggers in plaid socks; of smart salutes;
And care of arms; and leave; and pay arrears;
Esprit de corps; and hints for young recruits.
And soon, he was drafted out with drums and cheers.

Some cheered him home, but not as crowds cheer Goal.
Only a solemn man who brought him fruits
Thanked him; and then inquired about his soul.
Now, he will spend a few sick years in Institutes,
And do what things the rules consider wise,
And take whatever pity they may dole.
To-night he noticed how the women's eyes
Passed from him to the strong men that were whole.
How cold and late it is!  Why don't they come
And put him into bed?  Why don't they come?

Wilfred Owen 1917

Monday, October 25, 2010

Dear Chewing, I miss you.

There are three things that currently are making chewing unpleasant enough as to be avoided where possible.

1 – It hurts.

2 – My front teeth don’t actually meet each other, making it necessary to use the back teeth, but…

3 – My back teeth are perilously close to some healing wounds, and also are entangled with annoying lengths of stitches.

The cause of all this consternation is the surgical removal of three wisdom teeth on Thursday of last week. (Well, reason 2 isn’t really connected to the wisdom teeth removal – it’s just a complication.)

I AM aware that the traditional age for this procedure is something closer to the 18 years at which I had my first wisdom tooth removed.  Some of us are just a little slower at gathering wisdom than others (as evidenced by my marriage to a certain individual who recently compared me to a royal individual – of the green ogre-ish animated variety).

So currently baby food is all the go.  Although I have had limited – if tiring – success with cutting soft food very small and pushing it against my front teeth with my tongue until it dissolves enough to swallow… and that’s how you spend an hour eating one slice of cheese…

I have learned some important lessons from this, however, that I share now with my eager audience (of one, if the number of comments received are any indication).

*Wisdom teeth removal under local anesthetic is not for the faint of heart.  If you have not yet had your wisdom teeth removed I suggest you skip to the next section (this is the literary equivalent of sticking your fingers in your ears and humming).  My very competent oral surgeon ensured there was NO PAIN, however I was still able to hear and sense when specific things happened.  For example, nothing gladdens the heart less than the sound of a tooth cracking.  Or the feeling of tooth movement (even without pain).  Also there is one saw that cuts inconvenient bits of jaw out of the way that is NOT quiet – cutting, as it is, into your HEAD which is rather close to your EARS.  There was one particular moment of reverberation which caused some rather charming vertigo.  This is even less fun than it sounds.  I was intensely glad we have pain relief now which makes it no longer necessary to bring three strong friends along to a tooth extraction.

*Surgery day is not the worst day.  Many people warned me that two days after is the worst, but for me Friday the day after was awful.  In typical under-stated Aussie fashion I would say that on Friday I felt ‘a bit average’ (this translates to ‘close to dead’).  I did miss the local high school football game.  They lost (sorry guys). The one source of comfort I got was knowing that somewhere on a dusty road in Africa a group of starving orphans, six miles from home, fetching water from a polluted creek, had all paused to hold a minutes silence in honour of my suffering. (‘Suffering’ = a minor surgery with anesthetic in a First World country in a sterile medical facility by competent medical staff, followed by a convalescence in the comfort of my own bed with nothing but a television, DVR box, laptop computer, Kindle, Big Bottle of Pills and the love, prayers and comfort of family and friends to keep me company.)

*Pudding cups/custard (of any flavour) eventually get boring.  No, really.

(Please don’t mention the above observation to the afore-mentioned orphans.)

*’Chipmunk’ Face is painful, obvious and a little embarrassing while it occurs… yet in some ways is preferable to ‘Hey Has That Person Had Surgery Or Is Their Face Just FAT’ Face.

*Husbands are loving and supportive creatures and are in no way likely to video call you from another continent just to laugh at your appearance (and then slander you on international social networking websites).  Oh wait, I think I got that one backwards.

And of course my final observation from my recent exciting venture into elective surgery…

*No one likes a whinger.  So suck it up, Princess!

Monday, September 27, 2010


So, um…

Haven’t done that in a while.

I guess there have been the one or two minor events going on with us lately.  Let me see if I can think of any…

- My hair has got a bit longer.

- Been watching a fair bit of telly.

- Still get annoyed when computer geeks write programs that tell me off for using perfectly reasonable words like ‘telly’.

- Also… Nope really can’t think of any dramatic earth-shaking stuff.

(Oh yeah, I also moved to Illinois to take an Appointment, and became a British Citizen.  Those things too.)