History is nothing without memory, memorials, and remembrances. And on such a day as this, the marking of the end of the First World War, there is a particular resonance to what it means today. As Hobsbawm termed it, this was the beginning of the short 20th century, which started with horrific loss of lives due to the power hungry international alliances, and ended in what at the time seemed a somewhat relative peaceful transition with the fall of the Berlin Wall. You could call it the slow death of empires. (more…)
Alison Brackenbury‘s poem ‘Pensioned’ takes us back more than a hundred years to tell the story of an unlikely friendship between her grandfather, Frank, a gamekeeper on a large estate in England, and a local traveller Hezekiah Brown. Alison gives us some background to the story below but I liked this poem because of the sweep of history it covers and how little details tell a great deal; ‘a gamekeeper/who would have shot him for a hare‘ and ‘safe beneath/his Council roof‘.
It then moves on half a century to a village scene where Hezekiah rides ‘his skewbald mare/hauling small scrap on a loose rein‘; here you get a sense of how after the Second World War, things were more free with little traffic and ‘wind-blown fuschias, raspberries‘ and there was a real optimism about the future even though this was a time of austerity. And then, fifty years more, we are shown that whilst things are so very different, with rising sea temperatures and crowded streets, we still send ‘others’ sons to distant wars‘ and we are again in a time of austerity so that ‘now we poor’. But I also think the title, makes us think about what politicians have pensioned off to give us a false sense of prosperity: council houses, national utilities, North Sea oil, our taxes to save the Bankers, etc.. (more…)