Monday, June 16, 2008

Column, November 13, 2007

WELL, it was raining, and it was cold, and I’m sure there were more pressing things to do like visit B&Q.
Perhaps that might explain the paltry showing in our little village for a wreath-laying at the war memorial.
Just 20 people, huddled against the thin, sleetish rain being driven in by a bitter wind, bothered to turn up in a village of perhaps 200 or more homes, is not what you might call a fitting turn-out.
Not fitting when you consider that four of the twenty were the Bankses, and two others were a former Major-General in the Scots Guards and a former captain in the Welsh Guards, who probably have better knowledge that most of the sacrifices made by our armed services.
Of course, the grand parade at the Cenotaph in London is as much a spectacle as it ever was, but Remembrance Day is surely about more than that.
I understand the Royal British Legion’s need to remind the public of the need to donate so that ti can carry on the work it does with service personnel and their families.
But I wonder now whether some people sport a poppy out of a desire not to be seen ‘not’ wearing one and that the message behind the poppy has got a little lost.
Anyone can be shamed into wearing a poppy, but that surely isn’t what you want people to be doing, wearing their poppies for fear of being shamed for not wearing them.
War memorials like the one in my village are a constant reminder of the sacrifices made by small communities the country over in two world wars. You cannot help but remember the fallen when you pass a memorial to them.
But in how many villages did these war memorials go unattended on Sunday. How many are falling into neglect as the passing years make Remembrance Sunday increasingly irrelevant to a younger generation.
There was a time when there was no escaping Remembrance Sunday because there was no community which had not sent sons, daughters, fathers and mothers to the conflict.
But as time increasingly puts a distance between us and those who gave their lives for us the so war memorials will fall into disrepair, after all it’s easy to find ‘better’ things to do than drag your children out into the freezing rain on Remembrance Sunday, albeit for the brief 10 minutes that it takes to lay a wreath and bow your heads in thanksgiving for the lives listed on the memorial and recognition of the way they lost them.
Perhaps disaffection with the current conflict in Iraq keeps people away from remembrance services, which is a shame. You may disagree vehemently with the decision to go to war in Iraq, but your ability to express that disagreement was hard-won by men and women 70 or so years ago.
And if you are going to have armed services then you at least owe the men and women who take up arms, the knowledge that their death, will not go unmarked and unremembered.
This doesn’t mean buying a multitude of poppies, although any such generosity helps.
But simply turning up on Remebrance Day to show that you haven’t forgotten is enough.

IN all the furore over the use of the pictures of Mark Gibney’s headless body one fact seems to have been lost along the way.
That is, that in driving so fast that when he crashed he was travelling fast enough to knock his own head off, he also put others at risk.
Other people were involved in his death, a family was trapped inside their car with his headless torso embedded in it. That is something they will never forget, and yet they seem to have been conveniently forgotten in a story which has now become a cause celebre for bikers who regularly risk their own and others lives on the roads of North Wales.
What happened to Mark Gibney was a fact that deserved recording as a lesson to others just how dangerous the roads of North Wales have become thanks to a small group of people who believe that speeding laws do not apply to them.
Upsetting as it must be to have his pictures used in this way, I would respectfully suggest that it is nowhere near as upsetting as his death itself, and there is only one person to blame for that.

HAVING had my two sons succumb to chickenpox this year I can understand why a vaccine against it has been developed.
Far from being the harmless disease of childhood that it is often portrayed as, it was easy to see, with my sons covered head to toe in the angry red pox, how it could worsen to septicaemia or other life-threatening complications.
Six children have died as a result of such complications this year.
Sad then to hear that doctors may have to delay rolling out the vaccine because of the unfounded, superstitious fears propagated about vaccination by those opposed to MMR.
In North Wales we have a particularly vociferous anti-MMR group who will no doubt be peddling their mumbo-jumbo about overloading young immune systems in due course.
Vaccination is a cast-iron medical miracle that has saved millions of lives. Polio, that dreadful, disabling disease that was a blight on humanity, is now approaching total eradication thanks to polio vaccination.
The new chickenpox vaccine would best be incorporated with the MMR jab, but because of the worry that even more people would be put off having their children immunised, it may now be trialled in young adults.
Naturally this will not have the same preventative effect, and more children might die because of the stubbornness of a group of parents looking for something to blame for their child’s autism.
They are very good at quoting supposed proofs of their fears, but the cold hard facts of the death of children from measles and now chickenpox they seem able to blithely ignore.

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