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.