Posted by Glyn Wade

Every Picture Tells a Thousand Words….

Or so they say. So I thought I’d try it. I’m not sure if this is exactly what they meant but hey, this is my article! If you like the idea I might try it again…..or you could have a go…. Anyway, here is the photograph….one of my own for this my first attempt.
And then, according to the word count on Microsoft Word, are my thousand words..

It was a cold, frosty morning as Jean stood looking up at the bird, its arms spread wide and glinting in the Winter sun. Was it an eagle she wondered…did it matter? She guessed not. The plinth the magnificent bird stood on was a carved metal globe and the bird was a magnificent silver colour whose metal wings had taken months to forge.

Every wing feather was shaped individually and then welded onto the frame; painstaking work but ultimately satisfying.

Then there was the body where the feathers were smaller, more intricate and needed a magnifying glass to finish with the little niches cut so expertly into each one. It really was a magnificent animal and Jean was proud of her work.

She came here to Alrewas National Memorial Arboretum often, despite the long drive. It was a haunting place, filled with the ghosts of soldiers who had died in battle, men who had fought for their country and laid down their lives for the country they adored.

It was a sort of love hate relationship that Jean had with this place. She loved the fact that there was somewhere for people to grieve and for people to remember; and she hated the reality that so many people had passed away. But most of all she hated the wall where names of the brave young soldiers who had been killed whilst in service were constantly added. And yet she looked every time she visited, longing for the times when thankfully no new names had joined the sorry list.

It wasn’t just her own solitary work that brought her; there were many more fantastic memorials to honour the fallen heroes. The workmanship had to be seen to be believed and the reverence it inspired even in those who knew none of the sadly departed were still moved to read the inscriptions, maybe take a photograph but mainly ponder a while and take time to think; and to remember the sacrifice of those who had laid down their lives.

She’d brought her son once. Simon was a typical teenager with an attitude forming that Jean didn’t like very much but didn’t want to come over too much like a domineering parent. ‘He’ll find his way’ she thought…..don’t they always….and with her support it would more than likely be the right one…..eventually!

Of course when she’d suggested he come with her one time the substitute expletives had hit her thick and fast with a volley of spittle included. Teenagers eh!

And when he had finally acquiesced to come, Simon was already in a mood of such proportions that would normally have meant slammed doors at least.

But then, five minutes since entering (after he’d grunted they should just eat in the cafe and go) a little spark of interest had showed. Then there were questions asked, the odd expletive that she let him get away with given the circumstances (and as long as no-one else could hear) and then, though he would deny it, a lump in his throat as he tried to speak when she explained what the names on ‘that’ wall were there for. ‘I’d swallowed my gum Mum!’ he would swear for years to come. But they both knew better.

And then when finally she’d shown him her sculpture he’d let out a ‘wow!’ before stopping himself and saying ‘yeah, it’s alright I suppose…’ Whatever, she was pleased.

He’d never come back, well not yet, but she knew he would one day. Everyone should come here she thought. Everyone.

Her reveries over, she brought herself back to the present, or was rather brought back, by the sound of doleful music. A small contingent of brass instruments were being played perfectly in tune by a keen group of children, possibly Scouts or the like, she couldn’t really tell from this distance. Behind them trooped a group of elderly retired servicemen, parading to honour their fallen comrades.

The sun reflected off the array of medals as it did from her eagle, her eyes drawn to an elderly gentlemen with the most citations. And a lump in her throat formed as she saw tears in one of the old man’s eyes. What memories were instilled she could only wonder but she somehow knew that the departed would be moved by his remembering them and by him being here.

She bowed her head as if pondering but it was almost a head hang of shame as she somehow knew that she wouldn’t, couldn’t, be as brave as those that had gone before. I suppose many people think about that when they come here she thought. Would I? Could I? She didn’t really know but had come down on the side of ‘no’ nonetheless. Probably most people did.

As she raised her eyes she was surprised to see the elderly gentleman who had had tears in his eyes coming towards her. He was old, very old but walked proudly as tall as he could towards her. The tears were gone and a smile raised itself on his frail lips as he raised his hand and saluted Jean.

Not really knowing what else to do she saluted back and, more importantly, she returned the smile. He looked delighted as she did and said kindly,

‘He was a great man you know’

Jean was taken aback but recovered to ask.

‘Who? Who was a great man?’

‘Corporal Hulme of course!’

‘But how….?’ stuttered Jean.

He lowered his hand so she did the same and he looked intently at her.

‘You have his eyes.’

Jean was speechless.

‘He would have been proud you know’ the old soldier went on ‘you made a wonderful memento there for him and his platoon.’ As he motioned towards Jean’s sculpture. ‘But most of all he’d have been proud of you Jean.’

And then he saluted once more and was gone leaving Jean alone once more but now with tears streaming down her face.

‘Thank you’ she muttered ‘thank you so very much.’