Ian McMillan started it. He was on Desert Island Discs on Sunday, and he chose Stockhausen’s four minutes thirty-three seconds of silence as one of his tracks, though for obvious reasons they couldn’t play the whole thing on Radio 4. But it got me thinking. And listening. So all week, on and off, I’ve been tuning out and tuning in.

Yesterday I was at Westminster Abbey for the opening of The Field of Remembrance.

We stood.  Civilians, servicemen  and women, serving and retired, all ages, between the poppies displayed on crosses, stars and crescent moons, arranged by service, country and organisation. Each one representing a life lost.

The buglers, dressed in their gold, high in St Margaret’s, signalled the start and finish of the two minute silence.

This is London. It is never really silent. But for those two minutes, the traffic was stopped from circling Parliament Square, and I looked up into the sky and listened to the wind in the trees, and imagined the dreadful silence of  those battlefields near and far in time, and was part of this group that stood together, silent and remembering, wondering when we shall ever learn the lessons of history, if ever there will be  a time when war is truly over; when we can remember the dead, and know there will not be more names to add for the poppies the next year.


9 thoughts on “Silence

  1. Beautiful words you’ve written here Isobel, quite beautiful. I wrote a couple of blogs on Boadicea’s Chariot with regard to these remembrance days. I asked ‘How was it for you’. As I wasn’t born until after the war, I know nothing of what it was like, even as a child. (I had been to visit an elderly neighbour in hospital, and somehow got myself involved with a ward of elderly gents, and got them gathered talking of their experiences etc, which is what prompted my blog).
    I was interested to know about wartime marriages etc, always lovely to hear. My mother must have done a good job, of keeping things like rationing from me, because I cannot recall the experience; I can recall having farthings in my hand for sweets, but that’s all. So, I would love to have been with you yesterday at Westminster Abbey, a wonderful experience.

    • Thanks Val.
      Yes it was a very moving experience.
      Like you, I was born quite a while after the Second World War, but it was a leitmotif in my parents’ conversations, as obviously it had been something that had shaped their young lives.

      BTW you were spammed!

    • Well you said your comment was missing, there were no photographs you could have attached it to and there were two comments marked spam, so I took a look, and one was yours.

      Just call me Miss Marple. 🙂

  2. Crikey Isobel, I can’t believe that. I just did as usual, wrote the comment and clicked submit, it seemed to go but didn’t appear, so I wrote tthat it gone awol and came out of it. Then when you commented, I noticed it there. Very odd indeed, but how clever you are.

  3. Thank you for this. So it really *is* silent in London.
    Proper thing too.

    My thought, as yours, are why are we still going to war? Why do more have to die?

  4. Hi Pseu, this was Thursday too. I notice my local M&S was observing the two minutes then as well, and again tomorrow morning.

    Jan there were some very young men and women there in uniform, many with medals. i’d hate to think what they have seen.
    Some of the messages on the crosses were very personal; but my favourite was from Wootton Bassett, and ended ‘Bikers Rock!’.

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