… they would recall the young miner who grew food for his hard working family and neighbours in the years of the Great War. The war, they said that would end all wars. The miner, and his pals who kept producing the coal that kept the factories going, with women taking up the tools, that fed the effort that changed the world. The miner whose brother, giddy to fight the common enemy, so full of life he lied about his age when he joined up, left … left but did not return.
… would tell of the night that strange shapes filled the sky; A zeppelin soaring across dark heavens, heading for the industrial heartlands, efficiently spreading fear and terror ahead of it, leaving destruction and horror behind it.
… of the sound of bells that November day. Bells that meant the war that would end all wars had finished, that spoke in the spaces between the knells of people who would not return, or would return scarred; one way or another.
… of poppies altered from being untidy-ground weeds, elevated to proud status. Poppies standing tall in field headlands and hedgerows, poppies on wreaths, poppies on overcoat collars.
… of the time when, as always, politicians began to crow of the glories of war and the benefits .. of masses of people getting together to stop the irreverent jingoism: the birth of the silence that cut so deep, then and ever since.
Of the years of happy prosperity, growth, the sunshine years before new clouds jammed the air. And war began again.
Of the field across the road, useless marsh, being recovered, made arable, growing potatoes. Of the women and children, backs to the land
… of men, veterans of earlier conflict fire-watching by night, digging by day. The soil and coal to keep the home fires burning.
The bombers that came, crueller than before, the wreckage that fell nearby, the house down the road that collapsed like so many cardboard boxes, the far sky burning where no fire belonged, the pit-ponies in the field where the bomb exploded. The bomb meant, perhaps for the railway, the canal, for surely nobody would bomb animals.
The news that came, that was good, that that was bad, that that was worst of all.
And men, who – again did not return. Did not return to their allotments, to their sheds, to their families.
And again, the bells.
Parts of this allotment shed, noble timbers, now aged for it is the way of things, seem to stiffen when the eleventh day comes, stand a little prouder as the silence begins.
… are straining to say
“Let this be the day that all wars end!”
If this allotment shed, much altered over the years between then and now could speak …