Irene was a formidable lady. Her house was at the end of a long private lane, the dwelling house of a farm that had been absorbed into a larger neighbouring farm. Despite its sometimes lonely feel, it was home to Irene and was a warm and inviting place. There was always a fire in the hearth and always tea in a china cup with slabs of fruit cake. Her big black Labrador would greet visitors at the kitchen door and listen to conversation companionably, lying on the fireside rug.
Irene was blessed with great health. On her 90th birthday I called and offered her congratulations. “There aren’t many that can do this at my age”, she said and bent double, legs quite straight, and placed both hands flat on the floor.
Once I found that she had been taken to hospital with a broken leg. “What happened?” I asked as she lay in the ward.
“I was dusting the stairs and thought I had reached the bottom, but there was still another stair and I fell when I stepped back.”
“Did you have your panic button with you?”.
“Oh no. It was in the kitchen cabinet. I keep it there so that I know where it is”.
Irene comes to mind on 11th November each year. Her memory of her little village after World War I was of there being a remembrance ceremony at the school each Armistice Day. Two boys from the village would be there and they would be fine until the playing of “Oft in the stilly night”, when they would burst into tears remembering their daddy who had never come home.
“Mr Poulton, I always remember those two little boys at this time of year.”
As the parade in London tomorrow morning moves up Whitehall and the band plays its medley of music, when they come to the haunting sounds of “Oft in the stilly night”, remember the two little boys standing in tears, and all the wee boys whose daddies never came home from the war to end all wars.