On my way out of church after the annual Remembrance Day service, I stop to take a photo of the dozens of poppy crosses which have been planted with such loving care in the churchyard. Each poppy cross represents
a person who died in either the First World War or the Second World War and who is commemorated on one of the two war memorial boards inside the church. Each poppy cross bears a name on the back and I know immediately that I must send my photo to the granddaughter
of Arthur Pickering - known to me as “Arthur the Artist.” His was one of the case studies I researched and wrote as my contribution to the Great War project. As I explained in yesterday’s Daily Blog, I came to think of the men and women whose
stories I told almost as family - and none more so than Arthur the Artist.
If I had more time I would have studied the dozens of crosses to find the one
with Arthur’s name inscribed on the back - but I am on a tight timetable because granddaughter Katie, with her boyfriend Nathan, are on their way to ours for a special Sunday Lunch. Obviously any Sunday Lunch spent with a beloved grandchild is special
but I want to make this an Occasion, to celebrate the fact that Katie, at the grand old age of 22, is now a fully qualified Chartered Accountant. I have made her a banner (Katie does so love a banner...) and also a “Well Done, Katie” cake. The
letters on the cake caused me much stress last night as I didn’t have the right kind of icing - so my iced letters were misshapen and looked, frankly, unappetising. On my way home from church, therefore, I stopped off at the shops to buy a packet of
ready-made roll-out icing. It made all the difference...
I love the fact that my Tremendous Ten grandchildren range in age from the Twins at nearly 5 years old
to Katie at 22. Okay, so we don’t have any babies anymore but we do have littlu’uns, young adults and everything in between. It’s good for me to have to switch from sympathising with Tala (elder of the Twins by one important minute) because
her book from school was not a “proper book” as it didn’t have words in it (fortunately her teacher has remedied this tense situation by providing her with - yes, indeed - a “proper book”) to congratulating Katie and Nathan on
purchasing their first house together. How did they get so very grown-up?
There is something really special about that first home of your own, isn’t
there? I remember back in 1969 winning a newspaper letter writing competition which came with a prize of £350 - enough money, way back then, to put down a deposit on a small centre-terraced house in Hillingdon. We heard the news of our win one early
evening when I had just I finished bathing my two daughters in the baby bath in front of the fire (the bathroom in our ground floor flat was freezing cold in winter.) While Mr B and I hugged each other and wondered exactly what this would mean for us, the
Middle of the Darling Daughters took advantage of our distracted behaviour and clambered back into the bath. With her pyjamas on.
Such a splendid afternoon we
had today, talking about the Big Move, all the decisions taken so far and still to come, the impending trips to Ikea (other furniture stores are doubtless awaiting the custom of other new home-owners) and how to decide which possessions to take with them from
the bedrooms and lofts in their family homes and which to leave behind. We sat round the lunch table for simply ages, just chatting, after polishing off a roast chicken dinner and New York cheesecake with blueberries and cream for pudding. I mention the menu
because (i) I know you like the detail; (ii) I want you to know that I do feed my visitors; and (iii) you will surely be pleased for my Stomach, of which, as you know, I Am Always Thinking.
After cake and more chat, our most welcome visitors departed - and my thoughts turned back to Arthur the Artist. Arthur sent back beautiful letters and pictures to his little daughter, whom he affectionately nicknamed Jimmy, many enclosed
in handmade envelopes fashioned from the graph paper he used every day in his job as an engineer. He talked of paddling in the sea at Boulogne sur mer and, on her fifth birthday, wrote longingly of the plans for her to spend her special day on Worthing beach
- the same beach where I have enjoyed so many happy days with my Tremendous Ten grandchildren
Little Jimmy was exactly the same age as my Twins when her father
died in hospital on November 19th 1918, eight days after the Armistice was signed. He never got to see her read a “proper book” with words, or to grow up to make a home for herself and her loved ones. How much we owe to Arthur the Artist and all
those who have died in conflicts past, dreaming of a better world for those they loved.
Lest we forget.