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We shall remember them

Despite being in Bruges yesterday, we saw surprisingly little in the way of formal events, although there was a glorious peal of bells from all directions from 11am onwards. A couple of lovely ceramic poppy displays graced the canal sides and I got a bit emotional when we heard a piper playing Highland Cathedral.

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But the main thing that touched me was the port of Zeebrugge itself. Looking at the harbour mouth, the canal and the moles, thinking of the suicidal Zeebrugge raids. Is this where the ships came in? Was that where Arthur Harrison led his men?

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As with the many installations around this country – ‘ghost soldiers’ in churchyards or on sporting pitches or by village signs – we are seeing this conflict in terms of the past co-existing or interlaying the present.

World war one commemoration – the final whistle

I have been making these posts on the 4th and 11th of the month since August 2014 -the 4th to mark the start date of the Great War, the 11th to mark the end date. I’m grateful to all those who’ve made guest posts, or inspired posts, or written interesting articles that I’ve linked to.

Even though this series of posts has ended, my thoughts will never be far from the Great War. I shall be in Belgium on Sunday (date of visit not intentionally chosen) and next autumn we’ll be making our first trip to the battlefields area, specifically Cambrai (for Wilfred Owen), Arras (Walter Tull), Poperinge (Talbot House) and Ieper (for Tyne Cot).

We shall remember them.

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We’re cruising this weekend. (Steady on! Not that sort of cruising.) And to illustrate how one half of my brain doesn’t connect with the other, we’ll be in Belgium on Sunday, 100 years to the day after the guns fell silent, which was totally unplanned and extremely poignant.

News

Once again, a flurry of Cambridge Fellows activity. Lessons in Loving thy Murderous Neighbour is on offer until Tuesday, and Lessons for Suspicious Minds has been re-released. All the re-releases will be initially in e-book form with the print version following a few weeks later. Also the next Cambridge Fellows novella, Lessons in Cracking the Deadly Code, is available for pre-order and that will be in print too, as well as on kindle.

St Bride’s College is buzzing with excitement at the prospect of reviving the traditional celebration of the saint’s day. When events get marred by murder it’s natural that Jonty Stewart and Orlando Coppersmith will get called in to help the police with their inside knowledge. But why has somebody been crawling about on the chapel roof and who’s obsessed with searching in the library out of hours?

Talking of libraries (that’s what is known as a Radio 2 link and I’d best apologise for it), I’ll be at the Southsea Library authors fair  on Thursday. I’ll have books with me, but more importantly, sweeties. The programme for Portsmouth Bookfest will soon be up – I’ll be Deadly Daming it (at an event that comes with cake) and also on a panel discussing favourite fictional sleuths. Trying to choose just one of those is like trying to choose just one sort of sweetie in the tuck shop. I’ve also got all sorts of things happening online in the run up to Christmas – like Alex Jane’s Advent Calendar of free short seasonal stories –  of which more details nearer the time.

We’ve had lots of Cambridge Fellows excerpts recently so, apropos of nothing other than that I’m playing about with these two characters again, here’s a bit from Don’t Kiss the Vicar.

“Jimmy?”
“Dan! Good timing. I’m off out in ten minutes.” Jimmy sounded chipper down the phone, as always. “How are you?”
“Not so bad. Got everything bar three down today.” If that was being economical with the truth, Dan didn’t care. Some part of him still felt the pressing need to impress his ex-boyfriend.
“Hey, good going. I was three short.”
Probably the same three as Dan, who’d forgotten to mention the other two empty slots on his crossword grid.
“How’s your love life?” Jimmy continued.
“Non existent. How’s yours?
“Not much better.”
“Oh, sorry. Want to talk about it?” Dan tried not to sound too delighted at the news. Things not going well with the fragrant Stuart?
“Yeah, maybe. But not at this precise moment. Some of us have work to go to.”
“Maybe we could meet up sometime?” If they could ever get diaries to align. It had always been difficult, Jimmy’s Sunday off being Dan’s busiest part of the week. “Tomorrow lunch any good for you?”
“It might be. Need to check. I’ll text you later.” With anybody else that could have been a fob off, but if Jimmy said he’d text, then he’d do it.
“Look forward to it. Take care of yourself, will you?” The depth of feeling Dan heard in his own voice shocked him. Did he sound as needy to Jimmy?
“Will do, Danny boy. Always looked out for number one.”
Dan stared at the phone for minutes after putting it down. Non-existent love life? Did that mean Stuart had legged it or Jimmy had got tired of him or what? And did it mean Jimmy was on the market again? If it did…if it did, he’d have to think about the situation long and hard. The first couple of months after Stuart had swaggered along and broken up their happy home, Dan had hoped he’d sling his hook and Jimmy would come rebounding back to him, but he’d done a lot of recovering since then. If Jimmy was in the market for a reunion—and that was a really big “if”—was that the right way forward for either of them?
Sounds from outside his study window distracted him. An elderly couple had pulled up in their car, probably to tend the grave of their son, who’d died pitifully young. Oblivious to their sorrow, birds were flirting with each other in the laurel hedge. All around him, life was going on as normal, the usual mixture of happiness and sadness, so why should he get a better deal of it than anyone else? It hadn’t worked out with Jimmy in Sussex, so why should it work out with him in Hampshire? Dan wasn’t even sure he loved Jimmy any more. Not in the heart breaking, mind numbing, trouser disturbing way he’d done when they’d first met.
He looked at his half-written sermon, decided he’d got no chance of finishing it just yet, and headed for the door. Fresh air. Long walk. Bit of a think. Bit of a pray. That’s what he needed.

And finally – an image suitable for the time

Charlie

World War 1 commemoration – Greyed roses

Several sporting events this weekend have featured a minute’s silence to remember the fallen. (Traditionally clubs will hold this event on their home game nearest 11th November.) Of course, my thoughts always go to the sportsmen who made the supreme sacrifice- among them Walter Tull, Edgar Mobbs, Dave Gallaher and those men commemorated in the ‘greyed roses’ picture at Twickenham.

27 England internationals lost their lives. Next Saturday we’ll be sailing into Zeebrugge so I’ll be remembering Arthur Harrison who took part in the raids there.