Contemporary short fiction, poetry and more

Armistice Day, 11/11/2011

This is the first Armistice Day without any surviving veteran of World War One.  What happens to this commemoration from now on depends on history and our understanding of it.

As I set off to drive to work this morning, I could not decide what to listen to.  It was one of those mornings when ‘Today’ on Radio 4 sounded too argumentative and a podcast for some reason did not appeal to me.  I did something I very rarely do: I put my iPod on “shuffle” (as the writer David Quantick once described it: the new attention deficit disorder).

My iPod has well over 11,000 tracks on it.  To listen to all of them would take something like 40 days solid.  What the randomisation algorithm chose was Hymn To Freedom by Oscar Peterson.  Apart from being just about the most apt piece of music for Armistice Day that you could think of, this has additional significance for me, because it was the music played at the end of both my mother’s funeral, and my mother’s father’s funeral.  It is funereal and uplifting at the same time.  It appears on the classic album Night Train.  If you have never heard it, get it.

The next track the ‘shuffle’ chose after that was Alfie, by Lily Allen: a song addressed to an unemployed youth who spends his day lying in bed, watching TV, smoking cannabis and playing video games.  Is this what they fought for?  Apparently yes, and, while I don’t condone Alfie’s behaviour as described in the song, I strongly believe that things could certainly be worse.

If you want to do something to honour the fallen, then put your freedom to use.  Think of a law you want changed, and write to the Law Commission about it (www.lawcom.gov.uk).  Write to your MP.  Think of something you would like to know about a government official or department, and make a request under the Freedom of Information Act (that’s the thing that started the MP’s expenses scandal).  Write to your bank, or local NHS Trust, or anybody else who keeps personal data about you, and make a subject access request.  Join, or form, a political party.   Stop moaning and start engaging.



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