100 Years ago this Christmas
Published Tuesday 9 December, 2014
I am writing these bon mots on Remembrance Sunday; Poppy Day; the Cenotaph; Elgar's Nimrod; the veterans of many wars; the widows of the veterans of many wars..........and especially poignant given we commemorate this year one hundred years since the outbreak of World War One.
One Hundred Years ago this Christmas some British and German troops in the freezing trenches in France stopped trying to blow or shoot each other to bits for just a few hours, hoisted the flag of truce and, venturing out from their stinking trenches into No-man's Land, played each other at football! There is no record of whether for the third English goal, the ball crossed the line, nor as to whether it was the first of many times that the Germans won on penalties! Sadly, inevitably, just a few hours after the surreal sanity of a game of footie came to an end, just a few hours after the average ordinary bloke from Birmingham and his opposite number from Berlin discovered there was more that connected them than divided them, the guns started up again, the snipers took up their deadly positions once more....and Hell was back with a vengeance.
Christmas! The Season of Peace and Goodwill toward men.
So my thoughts spin from the reminder of Sacrifice to the normality of a soccer match and alight on a couple of things that we all can do this Christmas-time. Just a couple of little things that will make all the difference.
Firstly....... Peace is hard-won everywhere, but especially in democracies. People just (and perhaps rightly) get on with their lives and somehow park the awfulness of the results of war into a box marked "Poppy Day". We have the luxury of remembering when we feel like it; those who come home from conflict with no legs, those who have lost a son or daughter, or father or husband or partner, those who work with the results of war, for them the challenge, the pain, the anguish will never leave. So at some point this Christmas-time, just pop down to the nearest War Memorial (very few villages in our Country and no town or city doesn't have one) and now your head for a quiet moment and say thank you. Better still, drop by any one of the places looking after, caring for or just welcoming those having to face up to those challenges and see what you can do to help for just a few hours. Peace is indeed hard-won Dear Reader and we should show by our actions that we never forget.
Secondly...... No matter what the pressure, no matter how many plates you are trying to keep spinning in the air in the frantic pre-Christmas rush, no matter how you reckon you really don't have the time to, just take a minute to be nice to that person who is infuriating you, just find some loose change for the person stuck at the car park machine for a twenty pence piece, just hold the door open for the struggling shopper, just make that "how are you?" call to that person who may be quite lonely right now..........and when whomever asks how they can repay you, just ask them to do it for someone else. Now wouldn't that make for a nicer, more peaceful World? Oh.....and it would be bang on the true Spirit of Christmas!
I wish you all those near and dear to you, a very Merry Christmas. I shall see you again in early January 2015.......a New Year.....again!
Lord Digby Jones