'Agree With Everything - Deny Nothing - Embellish All

Monday, November 14, 2005

The Passion Of Remembrance

Sunday morning I went, with the Intrepid Mountaineer, his wife & a friend, to the summit of Great Gable. The occasion: The Fell & Rock Climbing Club's annual act of remembrance, now thrown open to all comers on the hill. The morning was a sudden exception to our wet autumn: frost on the ground, pellucid skies, and the mountains a dappled blanket of ochre and earth. We drove to Honister and walked along Moses Trod, below Brandreth and Grey Knotts, then up Green Gable to Windy Gap. The rocks were rimed with the lightest of frosts, making the ground treacherous. It was when we looked up to the hills that we first realised something extraordinary was happening. Many hundreds of people were walking across the fellside. The crests of Gable, from Windy Gap to Kirk Fell, were covered in tiny figures, silhouetted against the sky, all making their way to the summit.
This was the first time in 30 years I'd attended any sort of act of remembrance - I'd been put off the idea at school when, as trainee member of the officer class for the world war that never happened, I was lined up and forced to listen to brutal nationalism at the war memorial outside the school chapel. This was something quite different. The Fell & Rock gathering has taken place every year since 1924 when the club dedicated a memorial to their members who died in the Great War. They bought 1,184 acres of land, including the summits of Gable, Sca Fell and Sca Fell Pike, and gave them to the National Trust, a permanent remembrance of their dead friends. It's impossible not to think, high among the cold air and the open spaces of rock, bracken and grass, of the deaths in mud, destruction, darkness and insanity which this landscape remembers. It's a profoundly moving testament to the deep need we have for things to remain unchanged in the face of eternity. A few minutes before 11.00am a distant droning caught our attention: a helicopter appeared in the middle air above Lingmell and turned towards us. RAF Mountain Rescue flew past and saluted us: for a moment it was as if we were part of a Goretexed Woodstock, high above our nation. Then a member of the Fell And Rock read out a short announcement: not the overblown rhetoric of Winthrop Young 80 years earlier, but a reminder that our remembrance was non-sectarian, non-denominational, international and all-embracing - a remembrance both private and communal. We fell silent for two minutes, each wrapt in our private thoughts and recollections. Then, the silence broken, we looked up and began the long walk down from the hill. There was neither melancholy nor foreboding on the way to Honister, but a profound feeling of peace and the perception that we had taken part in something that was, however dimly understood, right.
The shock was all the greater when we returned to the valleys and the world of men, and saw, at the other end of the country, the hypocritical obscenity of the Prime Minister, who forced this country into an illegal, immoral and unnecessary war, memorialising the youths he sent to their deaths.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can only add the sound of silence. No comment Nick - you said it all.

14/11/05 9:56 pm  
Blogger Nick said...


15/11/05 12:52 pm  

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