Sunday, 9 November 2014

Lest they forget...

I don’t know why I sit here deep in the wine glass, far too late at night, on the eve of Armistice and wondering where my eighteenth birthday present ended up. It wasn’t much, but then I knew we had no money, and a gift of something I’d for so long admired and wanted was more than good enough for me.

It was a First World War shell lid, the piece they screwed down at the bottom of the shell. Some Tommy had made it into a soldiers cap adding a copper peak to the brass, two cap buttons, and an old French copper coin inside the cap on what I assumed was the detonator. It’s not the one in the picture, but it was close.

I often wondered if that poor soldier made the thing while he sat in the trenches up to his knees in mud and rats, or if it was something he brought back to Blighty. Maybe he fashioned it a convalescent home for wounded soldiers, perhaps he never made it back at all and it was brought home by a friend.

‘Off to college,’ his mouthpiece said. ‘While you are away we’ll keep it safe for you.’ She said.

Safety? A new concept then.

Anyway like my fossils, the bird’s eggs, my paintings, the National Geographic, the pier, the grandfather clock, my hope, it went the way of all things that were mine but really his. In sat on their mantelpiece for years after I was given it. I can’t understand why I simply didn’t ask for it back or just pick it up and take it.

Perhaps I just knew that it was never really mine.

These days they call this things Trench Art, collectible, quite valuable. Perhaps that was it. Of course it’s a long time ago now, but there are some things that – lest we forget – aren’t forgotten. I wonder where it is now?

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