Today across Northern Ireland, there are beautiful tributes being paid to those who lost their lives in World War One, and others who have died since in battle. I didn’t make it to Murlough Beach this morning, nor will I be up on the North Coast later, where portraits are being created in the sand and then washed away by the tide. Partially we didn’t go because we had commitments closer to home, but this weekend we had another sad anniversary and frankly were too emotionally incontinent to attend such poignant events.
When I taught in St Dominic’s Grammar on the Falls we took a class to The Somme Centre in Conlig. If you haven’t been, I urge you to visit, as it is a superb exhibition centre. However, should you have recently suffered a bereavement or be feeling low, give it a miss until you feel a bit more robust. Some parts of it were horrific. Towards the end of the exhibition, there were snippets of audio, one of which was a roll call. Of course, some of names went unanswered. That did me in completely, and I had to duck out, before I made a show of myself in front of the kids. While I taught I was renowned for making a spectacle of myself in class situations.
I was teaching Michael Morpurgo’s Private Peaceful at the time, and bringing a lot of the poetry from WW1, by Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen. Sassoon apparently told Owen when they both in Craiglockhart, that he would break both his legs to stop him returning to the front. He can’t have got near him with a sledge hammer because Owen returned and was one of the last casualties in France. The story goes that as the bells rang out on November 11, 1918, the postman brought the news in a telegram that he had been killed. You can read some of his poems here.
Since we are all feeling a bit fragile, we’re away to stroke some donkeys. Good for the soul, donkey stroking. I’ll let you know how it goes.