Walks and Memories.

There’s a lovely walk on Cannock Chase that stretches from the German Cemetery (with a salutary memorial and the graves of German, Commonwealth and Allied soldiers who died over here) past the Katyn Memorial Stone (commemorating the massacre of Polish intelligentsia and influential by the NKVD, a Soviet secret police organisation) in April and May 1940.  to the Springslade Lodge which we did on Friday.

Image result for german cemetery cannock chase Image result for katyn memorial cannock

The eleventh day of the eleventh month on which in 1918 peace was signed in a railway carriage somewhere near Paris at eleven in the morning. Armistice Day … when all went quiet on the western front.

Bright skies, plenty of space. Walking alongside the well-manicured lawns and graveyard I feel sorry for the single Polish guy buried there – but at least he is remembered I guess.

Just after eleven we are approaching a pair of noisy crows that have a juvenile buzzard trapped in a silver birch. On is sitting on a flexing branch above the bewildered young buzzard; bouncing the branch, getting closer and closer to the bird’s head, aiming vicious pecks at the head, at the eye.

The second keeps mobbing from different points, keeping the victim guessing. A smaller bird of prey such as a sparrow hawk would have the agility and power to make a getaway, but from a lumbering take off this buzzard can only end up nearer to the ground. Nature is red in tooth and claw, buzzards are not the cleanest of birds but this one has my pity. Crows are always there when there is trouble, or seeking it out. And, as this pair scream their defiance and threats, no doubt others will be drawn in.

We sit inside the tea shop, wonderful wood burner warming the brightly decorated room and the tea is just the job.

This morning (Remembrance Sunday) we stroll up the Walsall Road to attend the ceremony at the War Memorial (opposite the chippy). Yesterday was rain, rain and more rain but this morning is again warm and dry. We manage to pass the scouts HQ before the parade sets out and, meeting my mother, get a place beneath the lime trees, behind the rope.

Image result for war memorial great wyrley

There are people there that I recognise, chat with or nod to. I am impressed that there are a lot more younger people turning up. This has, pleasingly been the trend over the past ten or so years, reversing what had been a fall-off in numbers – at the very same time that those who survived the wars were passing on. A wholly good thing; that and the increase in the number of charities championing ex-servicemen and their families and the inspiring developments at the National Memorial Arboretum at nearby Alrewas: planted and built on land once quarried for gravel. I have been lucky enough to see this place from a pipe-dream to the spreading acres containing so many tangible memorials with a – sadly – wonderful centre piece listing the names of all servicemen killed in action since the end of the Second World War.

Image result for national memorial arboretum

Memories, of course, come along. Jack Plant, my schoolmate’s father who had been a P.O.W. in the Death Railway camps. And our girls either in the High School Band (Great Wyrley) performing or on parade with 196 Bloxwich ATC. And, further back the parades I attended myself as either a short-trousered cub or scout.

Memories are also affecting another man, who stands nearby, tears quietly running down a cheek from behind spectacle lenses. He is alone and I am, embarrassingly, torn; on one hand I feel I should approach him, speak with him, see if he wants to share his thinking. On the other hand perhaps he just wishes to spend a few quiet moments remembering … well, whatever it is that has brought him to this point. I have no tissue to offer him, by way of subtle introduction and, being English, I am a million miles away from the respectful, but somewhat brash – to them absolutely acceptable – approach of people in the States who warmly approach veterans and shake them by the hand*, involve them in conversation. But it is a poignant moment, and by the time I have collected the nerve to move towards him he is already moving away – and I am intercepted by a friend.

There is a second memorial now, inside the original wrought iron gates (the posts of which have the names of locals lost in the two world wars on them). And wreaths and tributes are laid here – or by the tree that commemorates the Japanese Campaign veterans.

This is the weekend of the “super moon”. Literally the nearest the moon has been to earth, or will be for the next forty plus years. Unfortunately the weather forecast suggests we will only be able to see it, if at all, through November rain clouds.

Image result for super moon october 2016

Later, digging at the allotment I pause for a moment. Instantly there is a tiny robin landing close by my elbow. He (or she) cocks the head, looks into my eyes. Very smartly plumaged, though not bright breeding colours perhaps this is a young one. Any road up most welcome on the plot, to take out pests. A thrush is also busy in the hedgerow bottom, hopefully also tucking into slugs and snails.

Another task to add to the to-do list:

Buy nuts and “stuff” and start feeding the birds!

*This is not, in any way criticism of that, rather a cooler, traditional English habit that sits with me – sometimes good, sometimes not so.


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