Fancy a little latte at dusk?
Small, open-air outside cafe in Princes Street Gardens near the Scott Monument, just after sunset on a November evening:
“Do not despair
He sleeps as sound
As Johnny underground.
Fetch out no shroud
And keep your tears
For him in after years.
Better by far
To keep your head,
And see his children fed.”
For Johnny, written by John Pudney on the back of an envelope as the bombs fell on London in 1941.
The Remembrance Garden in Princes Street Gardens, right in the shadow of the Scott Monument; in the background were some anti-war protesters, although I should say they were quiet and not at all disrespectful; in fact I saw some talking to some old veterans. I don’t think they had anything against the soldiers or those paying respects to the fallen, just against the concept of war, and its hard to disagree with that.
Some of the markers in the Remembrance Garden are plain, many have names or regiments or ships or squadrons marked on them. This one touched me the most – it simply read “to dad”. I have no idea if the dad in question fell in one of the recent conflicts or half a century ago; I doubt it matters, the pain and loss and grief will still hurt as much.
This one was marked to ‘Uncle Alex’ on HMS Hood; the Hood was a famous, huge Royal Navy battlecruiser. During a duel with the German pocket battleship Bismarck she was completely destroyed; its thought a lucky hit penetrated the weaker upper deck armour and set off a magazine. She exploded and sank almost instantly taking hundreds and hundreds of men with her to the bottom of the ocean; only three sailors from this enormous ship survived. Some say one of her turrets fired a last salvo as she sank. The comedic actor and former Doctor Who Jon Pertwee also served on the Hood and had transferred off her just shortly before the battle to train as a chief petty officer, or he may never have lived to become a famous entertainer.
Not just historical battles remembered here but also the here and now as someone marks a cross for the men and women serving in Afghanistan right now.
Its Edinburgh, its autumn, its beautiful…
As I was walking through the New Town with dad for Doors Open Day we looked up Castle Street and saw two jet contrails describing a huge Saint Andrew’s Cross in the sky above Edinburgh Castle. Legend has it that a vision in the sky before a battle 1100 years ago is the reason that the Saltire came to be the national emblem of Scotland (and one of the oldest national symbols in the world, I believe), so there was something especially magical about seeing this accidental creation above one of the great symbols of Scotland. Few minutes later or from a different vantage point and we’d not have seen this special view.