Today I drove down to the old village to lay a wreath on behalf of Stradbroke Cricket Club on Remembrance Sunday. One of our own, James Grigg, was killed in Afghanistan in 2010, which is why I do it. As I have said before, having, as a pacifist, conversations with a man who chose to serve his country was invariably interesting, and those conversations were full of mtual respect. The fact that we played cricket together probably also had a lot to do with it – I find that team sports breed maturity in most people, and a certain kind of love.
Talking of Remembrance Day and Remembrance Sunday – I don’t wear a poppy any more, not since Brexit, because since then wearing a poppy has become like shouting with the same voice as the racists and xenophobes who now dominate politics in the UK. I don’t show, and never have shown, my respect from a jingoistic, nationalistic perspective. Even though, each time I lay the Cricket Club’s wreath on Stradbroke War Memorial, I have tears in my eyes as I put my right hand over my heart, it’s not just for Griggsy that I’m crying. It’s for all those who died in wars started to glorify those in power in any country at war. Because that’s what wars are – the needless and vain attempt by those in power, those too cowardly to fight their expansionist, imperialistic, greedy battles for themselves. It’s never been a question of defending faith or country (because those are artificial constructs built to manacle the common people to a common xenophobic or religious cause) or good, because all war is evil, all war is illegal, and all wars bring misery to those who least need even more misery piling upon them. And the fact that the West has chosen to focus on the war in Ukraine and forget wars being fought where people of colour or people from minor ethnic groups are being persecuted just confirms the point in the first sentence of this paragraph.
Being back in the old village and seeing so many familiar faces was of course really nice, but it brought into great focus one of the things I’ve felt ever since we moved into Norwich.
Going back to the old place
Was never like this, not a
Prolonged homecoming, along
The wide road lined by enormous
Houses and prep schools, dominated
On one side by the collage and its
Huge modern beautiful Arts
Complex, across the junction and
Past the old hospital, all flats
Now for the wealthy and sundry
Landlords who will countenance
No pets, down to the roundabout,
Off to the right to stop at
The always red traffic lights,
And along a windy street
Through terraces and fast
Food places until I reach the
Football stadium, a field of
Dreams of a sort, round the bend
Until the cathedral spire appears,
Past the railway station and its
Roccoco tower, more lights, the
Long straight of Riverside, and
Then up onto the S-bends through
What’s left of the Heath, into
The madness of Mousehold Lane,
And down the back streets of
Where the house is that has
Going back to the old place
Never felt like coming home.
It was just somewhere we lived
For fifteen years. I miss the
People but not the place.
None of us are villagers.
R, 13/11/2022, 14:40
AGGIE’S ART OF HAPPINESS – CHAPTER 247