Sunday, 24 April 2016

Forgotten Medals

Today’s Anzac Day commemoration did not start particularly well for The Husband and myself . It had been our intention to go to the Dawn Service but, as last year and the year before, we failed to get out of bed in time to do so. The eleven am Civic Service would have to suffice and even then we found ourselves hurrying along Parnell Road at a somewhat painful pace. We arrived well after the March of the Veterans onto the Court of Honour, when all the good vantage spots had already been taken, just in time to breathlessly join in the first verse of `Abide With Me’ which was not what we had intended. The overall timing of events seemed to have gone somewhat awry for the programme organisers as well. Several dramatic Fly Pasts originating mysteriously from a point on Auckland’s North Shore, roared overhead in some disorder to drown not only prayers offered by the Most Reverend Patrick Dunn, Roman Catholic Bishop of Auckland, but more importantly as far as I was concerned much of Katherine Mansfield’s poem for her brother Chummie who died in France in 1915. `By the remembered stream my brother stands, waiting for me with berries in his hands…’ a barely discernable final verse. It was both warm and windy for The Lord’s Prayer and disparate groups of small children played chasey around the legs of the crowd, rolled on the grass and asked of various accompanying adults whether it was finished yet. Better behaved six year old fairies in pink or lavender gauze skirts looked on disapprovingly and seemed as shocked as I was by the boy on a scooter who `beep beeped’ his way up and down the concourse throughout. The wreath laying took so long that I began to long for a scooter of my own but at last, with the enthusiastic aid of the Salvation Army Band we all sang `Oh God Our Help In Ages Past’, listened to more prayers and were silenced by the playing of The Last Post, the reading of The Ode and the sounding of The Reveille. An astonishingly well dressed piper played The Lament. Some of us sang the anthems of Australia and New Zealand, though most of us stared at the ground and shuffled our feet in a slightly embarrassed manner the way All Black teams do at really important matches. It was time to look for a place to have coffee on the way home but of course all the cafes along Parnell Road were now far too busy serving service goers who had escaped early, and in the end we found ourselves drinking short blacks in our own courtyard after a warm and windy walk back. It was only then that I remembered it had been my intention this year to wear my father’s medals, freshly polished for the occasion, lying in a pristine and eager row on the bedside table.

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