I almost didn't bring my camera when we left this morning.
Our plan was a walk in the countryside. We didn't go far: Wimbledon Common. But today is Remembrance Sunday and we arrived just in time for something so profoundly moving, I can't put it in words.
In the centre stood the tall memorial: the cenotaph. Besides a large crowd of the public, there were groups of all kinds of soldiers, children in school uniforms.. For a while now, I've been aware of fashion as uniform: we define who we are by what we wear. As I stood today with the crowd I thought of the weight of these uniforms: the strength, and honour, and pride with which they are worn.
In front of me stood a young woman. Her hair was in a bun, and her nails were in a French manicure, but she was a soldier of some kind, dressed in her uniform of blue jacket, blue trousers, plain black shoes. (I've since been told - thank you 'jelly alien' - it's the uniform of the Air Training Corps, linked to the RAF: Royal Air Force. My dad wanted to be a pilot, and my husband and I have a kind of reverence for the RAF). I felt for her when she put her hand behind her back in the way she was taught, but at first, used the wrong hand. I never saw her face, but I am sure she was beautiful.
I wish I could show you the photos I took of the children, because they were the most moving to me, but my husband said I can't. It's a crazy world, I know, but I can't. But even the children, and the dogs, were silent: everyone sensed this was deeply.. important. Sacred.
And as I stood there, listening to the words, the hymns, watching the soldiers standing so still, I felt transported back in time. The colour seemed to fade, it was as if we were in a sepia photograph. As if I were watching a memory.
It started to rain when the band played God Save the Queen (and I sang out along, out loud and in floods of tears,'my country, tis of thee': the song is the same, only the words have changed). And then, the speaker said these words, (a quote, I later learned, from John Maxwell Edmonds, in 1916, as a suggested epitaph for WWI memorials):
"When You Go Home, Tell Them Of Us And Say: For Their Tomorrow, We Gave Our Today."