Posted by Tania Kindersley.
I do not know if it is a function of age, or whether it is because we are in a hot war and young soldiers are dying, but I find Remembrance Day increasingly moving. I am not a blind advocate of tradition, nor a huge fan of unquestioning patriotism, especially when it shades into jingoism, but I think that the two minute silence is the kind of old ceremony that the British do well. It is small, and understated, and quietly felt.
This morning, my cousin and I went down to the covered market building of the small town of Tetbury. A crowd had gathered, sombrely dressed, everyone with their poppies smartly worn. It was mostly old people, some of whom would remember the second war, perhaps even took part in it. A gentleman from the British Legion waited sternly for the bells to toll eleven, and a canon to strike, and then he held up his standard while everyone fell silent. For one moment even the traffic seemed to stop. Down the main street, the shopkeepers stood straight on the pavement outside their shops; I could see the butcher in his blue striped apron.
I thought of my mother's father, who flew in the First World War, when the aeroplanes were practically made of paper and string, and who volunteered for the Second World War the moment it started, but was told he was too old to fly. He was an actor by then, and the pilots loved his voice, so he was put in the control tower of RAF Benson, and he talked the crews home.
I thought of my father's father, who was captured in Italy and put in a prisoner of war camp, from which he promptly escaped. He walked over the mountains to freedom, helped on the way by Italian villagers with whom he kept in touch for the rest of his life.
I thought of the men and women in the dust of Helmand Province. I thought of the boys in the mud of the Somme.
It is impossible really to write anything about this kind of thing without sounding sententious or sentimental or slightly self-regarding. That is why I like the way we do it: just two minutes of quiet thought, and then everyone sniffs a bit and avoids each other's eyes in true British tradition, and clears their throats, and gets on with it.
When the second canon sounded, as the rain poured down, everyone shuffled their feet and calmly dispersed. A lady with bright white hair wiped her eyes with a linen handkerchief. My cousin and I went to buy the children sweets. That's what you do: you think of the dead, and then you go and buy the small people sherbet lemons, because life must go on.
At the going down of the sun, and in the morning, we will remember them.
It was a filthy day, so I have no pictures. Here are a couple of old Scottish ones, just so your eyes have something to rest upon, all in green, for extra calming effect: