War Photographer for a Day

With an afternoon to spare recently, we drove down to the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire. I had some specific areas I wanted to see (it’s much too big to see everything in one day) but our plans went awry within 20 minutes of arriving when Brian Wallis, an RAF veteran of the Falkland Islands campaign, spotted my camera. Within minutes he had charmed me into turning around and accompanying him to the Falklands Memorial where he intended to lay a tribute to a fellow veteran who had recently died.

Also with us were a contingency of students and tutors from the Royal Army Medical Corps at DMS Whittington, who formed a guard of honour for Brian as he honoured his comrade. He then talked to them for a little while about his experiences in the Falklands.

It was quite a surreal afternoon but one which I will remember for a long time.





Lunch with Albert


When I first began to forget the names of things (apparently the first thing to go is proper nouns) I swore I would never resort to ‘whatchamacallit’ and ‘thingymajig’; even if it meant a pause in the conversation, I would just wait until the word came. That worked for a while and then the next stage appeared – the word would come to mind but the tongue wouldn’t spit it out and the pauses got longer while mind and tongue had a little domestic to see who would win. Now, sometimes the name of a person doesn’t come at all and I have to admit defeat and move on, only for the elusive name to pop up when I’m talking about something entirely different.

I was talking about books recently, while having lunch with Albert, and he was describing a biography just published in Spanish about an Irish hero / activist (history hasn’t made its mind up which he is yet) from the time of the Easter uprising in 1921. Both of us knew exactly who he was talking about and could regurgitate clues – he was hanged, his first name was Roger etc. – but we couldn’t tell each other what his name was. So we were in the strange position of having a complete conversation about someone without once mentioning his name. We eventually moved on to talk about other things and, in the middle of discussing the pros and cons of the present Government, I suddenly banged the table in triumph and shouted “Casement!”. The cutlery jumped in the air, the wine glasses rocked (oh yes, there was wine) and everyone in the restaurant turned to stare, while a waiter rushed over to see if everything was all right with Sir and Madam.

It was a bit like the Meg Ryan moment in When Harry met Sally.

Only non-sexual.

And geriatric.

%d bloggers like this: