A tragic stupid war that should never be forgotten.
I placed a rose down at the Myland War Memorial in Colchester. The First World War should never be forgotten.
In 1909 my town of Colchester declared its own holiday as everyone indulged in a pageant celebrating the history and stories of the town. One of the young pageant performers was Jack Clarke aged 14 who I randomly selected as a subject of research into his historical era. Jack and the pageant was a small part of a society ended by war. Jack died in the First World War. An attempt to hold a pageant in 2009 failed for lack of community interest and money, a far cry from a hundred years before.
It was for people like Jack Clarke that I yesterday purchased dark red roses, something living yet temporary and fragile like the lives so easily extinguished by machine gun and explosive shell. Colchester has many memorials to the fallen, I visited seven of them, placing one rose at each of the memorials.
There was no ceremony or words as I placed each rose at each memorial, I let action speak for me. I placed a rose in the Colchester Town Hall war memorial, the building where the elected rulers of Colchester make their decisions.
I walked a few miles to Myland which has a war memorial opposite a church. A bunch of flowers was already placed at this monument, ribbons trailing down the edges of the memorial. I placed my one rose upon the memorial. I sat a while at a nearby bench. It was tranquil. The church clock struck twelve midday, I had no watch and I left my cellphone at home, I wanted to step out of time for a while. I notice the names on the memorial: four Wheelers; three Munsons; many names repeated; many families of this parish were hit hard by this war. An elderly woman came, placed her flowers on the monument. I said how stupid this war was, she nodded. A dozen laughing children walked past, always the hope for a happy bright future. Each rose I place has a little note attached, my hope that some might read, this war should be remembered.
The hundred year anniversary of the First World War.
Colchester War Memorial of the First World War.
One hundred years ago today Britain declared war on Germany. As the airwaves drowned in telegrams of nations declaring war on each other, the lamps of the world said a newspaper had gone out. Church bells rang throughout Europe, no weddings or celebrations, the harbinger of war, mud and death.
The rulers of the time said the war would be over in weeks, at worst by Christmas. In my town of Colchester they marched to war, the drums and marching feet echoed in every other town and village in Britain, and across every hamlet in Europe. Those happy optimistic faces fighting for their king and country, the memorials of their passing stand tall and silent in every corner of Colchester, many of those laughing faces never came back.
The rulers gambled like drunks in a casino, millions of lives like little poker chips on the table. At the head of the table was Death, his perpetual grin marking the only winner in this game. The casino always wins, the harvest of dying empires like butchered cattle hanging on meat hooks.
Verdant green grass cover the angry fields of agony; crimson-blood coloured poppies replace the dying men; the sweet singing sky lark drowns out the explosions and screams amidst a thin wall of time. All the players in the Greek tragedy of human stupidity are gone, death takes all.
The last ancient soldier who marched and came back home nearly alone. Today on the hundred year anniversary of war he would hear a British Prime Minister calling for increased military spending, NATO armies deployed to Russian borders. The soldier might question the sacrifice. In their casino the rulers gamble; in austerity the Colchester town lights go out again at night; the grinning man smiles.
Nature is stronger than humanity in any struggle.
Nature is opportunistic taking advantage of any situation to live, grow and procreate. This young starling in Colchester is a member of a species that successfully uses the roof structures of town houses to nest in.
Walking in a location called Hilly Fields in Colchester with my camera I met a fellow visitor who remembered the place as an empty set of fields for cattle during the 1970’s. Over forty years later Hilly Fields is woodland, and it is hard to imagine this place now with no trees but grassland for cows. Nature will quickly take over a place and return a wasteland to a living chaos of rampant plant and animal if the opportunity arises.
Even in my garden I see the procreative power of nature. I can mow the lawn and four days later it flowers and fast growing vegetation cover the lawn again. I remove the so-called weeds from the paving stones in the same garden, but days later the same plants emerge again. In battle with nature over my garden, nature is winning.
There is a wonderful set of photographs showing how nature has run wild in Detroit in the USA, which was hit hard by the economic chaos from 2007. People have abandoned whole neighborhoods in Detroit, and nature has taken advantage, a metaphor of the power of nature against human civilisation. It is highly unlikely humanity can kill off all plants and animals on planet earth, there will come a tipping point when it becomes unsustainable for humanity to survive as a species, and nature will from the remaining plants and animals create tens of millions of new versions to replace the losses. Detroit is a perfect metaphor of natures strength against humanity, a lesson to heed unless humanity wants to experience Detroit across the face of human civilisation.
Symbolism helps you remember important information.
I look for a story or symbol in many of my photographs. This is the Mercury statue on the Colchester Mercury Theatre reaching up to the sun.
Each day I sadly pass sections of Roman wall in Colchester that are missing, part of a quarter of the two thousand-year old wall lost to history, demolished in the English civil war between King and Parliament. The siege of Colchester, which supported the King, ended in defeat for the royalists, their leaders executed by firing squad behind Colchester Castle. Parliament later executed by beheading the English King Charles I.
Through symbolism the modern English Parliament reminds the present Queen who is in charge. Today was the re-opening of Parliament for the final year before national elections. The Queen’s representative the Black Rod visited Parliament today, then had the door slammed in his face. The Queen has to attend Parliament today to read a speech prepared for her by Parliament to inform the nation what they plan to do over the next year.
As a sign of good faith the Queen is given a hostage of a Member of Parliament who she imprisons at her palace in case anyone chooses to harm her whilst she visits Parliament. Soldiers search the cellars under Parliament in case anyone has stored gunpowder to blow up the British Government with the Queen, as Guy Fawkes attempted to do in 1605.
As a reminder to the Queen of who is in charge, she puts on her robes in a room with a large portrait of her beheaded ancestor Charles I looking down upon her. After the Queen delivers her speech, the Members of Parliament initially ignore what she said and debate on the subject of outlaws instead.
The event today was not without its own unpredictable symbolism when there was heard a loud thud when the Queen was announcing UK plans on Iran, when a page-boy fainted.
Nature is always full of surprises.
Amber the fox reflects the unpredictable face of nature showing up in my garden by surprise on random days.
I went camping and woke to frost on the ground. I wrote yesterday that summer had arrived in Britain. A pool of water from recent rains had frozen over.
One thing you quickly learn about nature is its unpredictability. Everything in nature has its own free will, and will determine its own unpredictable path regardless of what humanity thinks. Those that are able to let go of control enjoy a nature full of surprises.
I mark the death of a child over a hundred years ago.
The memory of John Harding remembered recently in a play called Depot at the Colchester Mercury Theatre, resulting in me addressing an injustice over a hundred years later.
Around the date 22nd April 1870 a 14-year-old called John Harding ran away from home in my town of Colchester fearing a beating for losing a brush. Being a good runner John evaded capture by his parents for several days, hungry, cold and with no safe home. Today marks the anniversary of the death of John Harding by murder on 26th April 1870.
John remains part of the folklore of Colchester remembered in books and stage plays. A few years ago I paid for a marker for John’s grave, whilst over a hundred years later in the same newspaper that recorded in detail the inquest into his murder, I marked justice by placing on record that his parents murdered him.
The story is here.
Treasure is not always gold.
Inattention and carelessness risks the loss of the essential.
I sit in the middle of Colchester, people watching. A father and son stop, the father abandons the son on the sidewalk to enter a shop to gamble money on a horse race. The son is about 3-years-old and calls for his father, he tries to push against the shop door, but it is too heavy.
In my imagination multiple dangers lurk, the boy could be abducted, the pushchair could roll into the road into the path of a car, or the child walks into the road with the same result. I dislike intervention, so I watch and wait. The father eventually leaves the shop, the father-and-son go on their way. The unwise father is oblivious to the precious treasure he risked the loss of by leaving his son on the sidewalk alone as he pursued the fools delusion of treasure won on horse races.