A good place to live...

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Tea and Crumpets

A title taken from the life of the Earl of Suffolk, otherwise 'mad Jack Howard' whose life and exploits we were regaled with over *Tea and Crumpets* in the village hall this afternoon.

109 people turned up for this - a considerable triumph for the organisers. The hope was to raise some money for soldiers' charities - SSAFA, Ghurkhas, and Help for Heroes... and as tickets were £3 each and a collection was taken at the end, it should have raised something worthwhile.

It was a little surreal. We had a young man with us, Edmund, still at Headley Court in rehab after his armoured car was blown up by an IED in Afghanistan. He spoke a little afterwards, and allowed questions - brave of him. He said that his life was saved in the first hour after the explosion: a girl of 19 turned up immediately and effectively - having learnt but never practised the drill, she put it all into action and the helicopter came with the medics and saved his life. We knew already from his aunt [a friend] that he had been given some totally amazing amount of blood on the return flight - something like 50 pints - and had so very nearly died, before he even reached Britain.

But, having eaten our crumpets, and drunk our tea, and had it all cleared away by volunteers (dressed in black with white frilly aprons!) we sang Wartime songs from both World Wars: with gusto - even the Generals, and I couldn't help feeling that it really was the weirdest business when a young man still in metal splints and a wheel chair, with all the memories of his ghastly experience desperately fresh, sat surrounded by people singing patriotic songs about a war 50 years ago.

What his mother and grandmother thought, heaven knows, as they sat with Edmund - smiling through.

This business of growing older - brings some judgements which aren't comfortable. Whether (seeing Edmund) on the futility and waste of war - which contrasts so strongly with my then-emotions during the Falklands when I lay awake all night listening to the "I counted them all out and I counted them all in" reportage - or whether on the venality and utter, crass, self-seeking awfulness of Tony Blair taking us into Iraq. Taking an army into a war, on a peacetime budget - it beggars all belief: especially when it is allied with the evidence emerging at the Chilcott enquiry, tame as that is compared to the information which would have emerged had barristers been permitted, and evidence on oath.

Growing older is not about how young the policemen are, but about seeing more clearly a world of chimeras, and being thankful you are no longer 'young' and inheriting such a colossal mess.

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