This morning, as is our custom, we trundled along the beach once again, hearing the waves gently kissing the shore and greeting the few folk who were about with a gentle word. We are lucky. Ours is a peaceful, quiet life, cushioned by routines. A lovely run on which I found a perfectly formed tennis ball to add to my collection – always a treat – was followed by a lovely breakfast, with jellies and pate. Everything was as it always is: I am loved, cared for and safe in the home I love. Now we are full and resting, and I ponder further on what was running through our minds as we were trundling across the sands which have seen so much conflict in the distant past; we only have to gaze across at Lindisfarne to remember what havoc the Vikings perpetrated there and we do indeed just that, often. You do not have to look far to find a fight.
Today, the 4th of August 2014, is the feast day of St Oswald, the warrior-king of Northumberland. This seventh century leader, known for his prayerfulness and generosity, defended Christian values and the independence of the north when he led his polyglot army under a Christian banner against the ambitious British leader, Cadwallon, defeating him in battle at Heavenfield, near Hexham. He fought and it was ugly, no doubt. Thus was established the ancient kingdom of Northumbria, its capital being Bamburgh, under the ramparts of which great castle we enjoy Oswald’s peace each day. Peace, care for the poor, the ministry of St Aidan and the monks of Lindisfarne – all flourished because of Oswald and the fight he’d undertaken. No saint, they say, without a past.
Today is also the day on which we commemorate the United Kingdom’s declaration of war on Germany a hundred years ago, when Belgium was invaded. It is a day of enormous solemnity and thought. So many people were affected by that conflagration – a total of 36 million, either killed or wounded – and the lives of countless others touched by the loss of those they knew and loved. In Kemo Sabe’s own little family, great uncles on both sides brought down in their youth. Names on memorials we will never see; a grandmother’s losing her only younger brother she will have a hundred-year lifetime to mourn.
Today we all can hear the prayers said and hymns being sung. As light falls, to commemorate the lamps going out a hundred years ago, households in this country have been asked to light a single flame. There are no words a humble soul can utter which would adequately express the overwhelming emotion of this terrible day, when the dogs of war (so alien to my simple self) were unleashed. No sinner, they say, without a future.