Tuesday, 11 November 2014

A Day to Remember

11th November 2012

10.41   I sit down on a bench. It’s hard and shapeless and hurts my back but I stay there.

10.43   A man sits down at the next bench. He has a small dog on a lead, but I can’t work out what breed it is. I think it's male.

10.44   The man gets out a sandwich and starts eating. He seems oblivious to everything else, including his dog who is running back and forth in front of him waiting for scraps.

10.45   The man finishes his sandwich and displays his empty hands to the dog. The dog looks crestfallen and turns away in search of other things on the ground.

10.46   The dog has wandered to the middle of the courtyard and is investigating the large, cross-shaped structure laid out for remembrance day. It is filled with earth and grass, in which people place small crosses. The dog sniffs hopefully at the grass but the man pulls him back.

10.48   I shift slightly to relieve the ache in my back and notice two foreign tourists taking photos of the church, themselves and everything in between.

10.49   The male tourist spots the dog and comes closer to give him a scratch. The tourist smiles at the man, points to his girlfriend with the camera, then at the dog, then at himself. The man understands, but seems bemused as to why two randomers want a picture of his dog.

                        ‘Sit,’ he commands, and the dog obliges.

               The tourist sits down too on my bench and leans closer to the dog, who turns to look at him. The girlfriend begins taking pictures and I lean back to get out of the shot.

10.51   The tourist points at the dog and says, ‘Boy?’

                        ‘Eh?’ Replies the man. ‘Oh, no. Girl.’ He smiles.

                        Well that just shows how much I know about dogs.

10.53   The tourist continues to sit on the bench while his partner wanders off to find something else to photograph.

10.54   The tourist seems to be staring at the man, who is a little disconcerted until the tourist points to his chest and says, ‘What, flower?’

                           The man glances down and replies in a relived kind of way, ‘Oh, erm, poppy. It’s a poppy.’ Then, when the tourist’s expression doesn’t change, adds, ‘Do you speak English?’

                        ‘Er, no, no English.’

                        ‘Oh,’ says the man. ‘Well, poppy,’ (he points to the flower) ‘for remembrance day; today. For the war. You know, World War One.’ He is including more and more hand gestures, which even I couldn’t interpret. He points at the cross structure. ‘We remember people who died.’

                        ‘Ah, yeah,’ replies the tourist at last.

                        ‘Do you know anyone involved in the war?’ asks the man without response. ‘Erm, where you from? Where you live?’

                        ‘Taiwan,’ says the tourist pleased to hear words he recognises.

                        ‘Ah,’ says the man. ‘Well, at eleven o’clock we remember the soldiers who died.’

                        He’s still flailing his arms about but the tourist from Taiwan finally seems to be catching on.

                        ‘Okay,’ he says. ‘You know people war?’

                        ‘Well, my Granddad fought in the war, but he survived. He was lucky. But we still remember everyone who did die. Everyone stands up at eleven. In fact it’s nearly eleven now, so do you want to stand?’

                        The man explains standing up by getting to his feet and the tourist follows.

                        I get to my feet too.

10.59   Many people have gathered in the courtyard; everyone stops. The man puts a finger on his lips and looks at the tourist, who nods his head.

11.00   The bell strikes, then silence.

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