Things to remember
Remember, remember the anniversaries of November, writes Rowan Mantell
Ahundred years after the appalling slaughter of the First World War, with millions of young lives sacrificed in scenes of almost unimaginable horror, we continue to promise to remember those who died.
There is almost no-one left alive who remembers the actual people, but there are still those who remember the humanshaped holes they left in families and communities.
And we can all take time to consider how privileged we are to be here, now.
Anniversaries are important, although the drama of a war finishing at the 11th hour, of the 11th day of the 11th month came at the cost of deaths continuing right up to that, literal, deadline.
“We will remember,” we have been saying for a century. And we have – this year in peals of bells as well as poppies and parades, in barely-there silhouettes as well as stone war memorials and silences.
Even before Remembrance, November was a month for remembering.
“Remember, remember the fifth of November, gunpowder, treason and plot,” we chanted as children. For 250 years there was actually an Act of Parliament enforcing celebrations on November 5. It was more to do with religious hatred than a government determined to ensure families gathered in gardens across the land to watch mum obsess over sparkler safety while dad reinvented measuring systems to prove that the display-grade fireworks would be an excellent fit for an urban courtyard.
Most of us are at least vaguely aware that we are waving sparklers and eating hot dogs in honour of Parliament surviving a bomb plot, but the passing centuries have stripped bonfire night of its solemnity, so that a celebration sparked, almost literally, by religious intolerance, is today, in most places, closer to ancient festivals to remember the dead and mark the beginning of winter.
Talking of ancient we had an anniversary in our family recently. A 10,000th anniversary. If 50 is gold, 60 diamond and 70 platinum I dreaded to think what 10,000 would be. It turned out it was cake and sparkling wine as we staged an impromptu celebration of my daughter’s 10,000th day on earth.
Apparently (and I assume my son has an app to work these out) there is another family anniversary this month - my husband’s 20,000th day.
The wonder of Wikipedia has just revealed to me that the landmass which would one day become Norfolk was in the grip of an ice age 20,000 years ago, so I’m wondering about calling it an ice anniversary.
By the time of my own (far distant) 20,000th I’m hoping anniversary inflation will have transformed this into a trip to Iceland (the country.) For this imminent 20,000th anniversary it will almost certainly be cake and sparkling wine again, this time with icing and ice.
Most of us are at least vaguely aware that we are waving sparklers and eating hot dogs in honour of Parliament surviving a bomb plot