Friday, February 04, 2011

sky, ordinary, chips

Posted by PicasaPuddle under a slatted table.

Nowadays no one wants to be ordinary. "Look at me! " people say; "Look at me! Look what I've done!" So it  is refreshing to find someone who doesn't want to stand out from the crowd. These thoughts come to me when Bill, whom I talk to sometimes in  the pub, gives me a book the other day. "Take it to the charity shop, when you've finished with it " he says, "that's where I got it. Let someone else read it." I will,  but first, thank you Bill. The book is  by the late Harry  Patch, who when he died in 2009 at the age of 110, was the oldest surviving veteran of the trenches in World War 1. It is written with the assistance of the Great War specialist, Richard van Emden,  Harry didn't talk about the war until he was pressed to do so in his hundredth year. He clearly hated war and the slaughter he saw at first hand.  He didn't ask to be a celebrity and only became one by virtue of his great age. And then a modest celebrity, moved by memories of his fallen companions, and his childhood in Somerset, rather any desire for self-promotion, One quote from Harry Patch's niece sums up for me the ordinariness and the specialness of his background, something understated and gently humorous. He could only have been English.. "Harry's father was keen on rabbiting.After he died his sons found his gun. Nobody knew whether it had ever been licenced, so they threw it down Granny's well".

Walking down the street  towards me this afternoon is a young couple. Each holds a bag of chips waist high to the fore, the white paper surrounding the bag spreads out like the wings of a white dove. As they progress their hands move, in a steady motion,  into the bag and from bag to mouth, with almost military precision, as though they are engaging in a ritual, some sort of national dance.

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