At our Writers' Group on Thursday, one of our members read out a short poem she had written. She had been a passenger in a car on the A1 in very heavy traffic when she had suddenly noticed a mother duck with a brood of babies, about to step out into the road. They were past in an instant but she feared for the babies' lives in that traffic - it was as though the mother was programmed to cross regardless.
She had then idly switched on the car radio in the very instant that the news said that yet that another soldier had been killed in Iraq. Her short poem brought the two incidents together and she said that she had been preoccupied by the thoughts of it throughout the rest of that day. It was a very sobering quarter of an hour as we discussed it.
This weekend the Wensleydale Railway is holding a "Forties weekend" in our local market town. The streets are festooned with red, white and blue bunting; there are a lot of would-be army officers strutting about in old-fashioned uniforms and carrying canes under their arms; there are jeeps and other old army vehicles in the main square and - best of all - women in wonderful forties hats, or women wearing fold-around aprons and turbans. There is a lovely atmosphere but a friend, who is a Quaker and very anti-war, was tempted to dress as a forties conscientious objector and stand in the Market Square with a "Down with War" placard!
All this prompted me to ask - will there ever come that time "when war shall be no more?" I think not. Maybe men are internally programmed to fight, to be territorial (it applies to males of all mammals to some extent doesn't it?) When one looks back through history there has been so much needless killing , so many sons, lovers, husbands and fathers have had their lives cut short. Yet reading about a young man in Afghanistan this week I read that he said the excitement of being in the front line was so great that it over-rode any feelings of fear - and you always thought you wouldn't be killed it would be somebody else.
Then in yesterday's Times (what would I blog about without it?) I see that archaeologists have just found a mass grave by the Ridgeway between Weymouth and Dorchester with the slaughtered, headless bodies of fifty-one young men in it. Carbon dating suggests they fell in about the tenth or eleventh century. All had been decapitated, mutilated and tossed into a pit, their heads lined up along one side. "Vikings or local heroes?" reads the headline as tests are being carried out to decide whether they were Anglo-Saxons defending their territory or Vikings on a raiding party. All that is certain is that they were all somebody's sons. In time we shall know whether they came from Scandinavia, Wessex, Denmark or Northern England.
Sorry it is a sombre post on this lovely sunny Sunday morning - but sometimes it is good to stop and think about such things - I hope you agree.