Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Armistice Day

I went into church earlier than usual today, to be there for the two minute silence, but also to take a toner cartridge back to the shop over in Clifton Street, where I'd got it refilled a fortnight ago, to get an adjustment made to permit it to function properly, something forgotten when it was re-filled.

On the way back I called into the Catholic Truth Society shop for some communion wafers. The Metropolitan Cathedral's great tenor bell (electronic by the sound of it) was tolling a death-knell in the hour before eleven o'clock. It was such an evocative sound, of such powerful significance. Our team had rung the bells half muffled on Sunday last, as is customary on Remembrance Sunday. But why hadn't anyone suggested we at St John's join the Cathedral and toll for an hour today?

When I got back to church, Bob Hardy, our tower captain, was working in the Cards for Good Causes shop, and once asked he was up the tower stairs and ringing our (real) tenor bell for the past five minutes before the hour struck. I'm glad we made it, ever for a short while. About a dozen people came into church and sat down for the two minutes silence. At the end of it I recited aloud Binyon's famous phrase from memory. It must be one of the rare occasions when I have done so. The very public carnage of recent years, claiming the lives of British soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan has reclaimed proper public attention during remembrance tide.

I'm glad we filled the churchyard tree with giant poppies as part of remembrance pre-publicity, and that the poppy sellers on the gate collected more than they have done for years. The old soldiers may be fading away, but they are being replaced by another generation of young men (and now women), scarred by the brutalities of battle. My generation has been having its try at running the world, and has done no better than its predecessors in putting an end to the need to resolve differences by violence. Fear and hatred poison all our best intentions as they ever did. Such a shame.

After the St Martin's Day Eucharist, I went out along the Hayes to photograph new retail arrivals along the Hayes, now including Jamie's Italian, a fashionable branded eaterie opposite the new library. On the St David's Hall big screen Archbishop Rowan was holding forth from the pulpit of Westminster Abbey's national service of remembrance. It was a lot quieter just now in the 'Westminster Abbey of Cardiff' as St John's has been nicknamed in times past.

Inside the Grand Arcade I met Derek, manager of the Marriot. We expressed common pleasure in the transformation of the city centre we've witnessed in three years. He more than me, as his hotel was right on the construction front line, more so than St John's, and neither of us closed for business!

On the way out I ran into Sophia, very busy getting ready for tomorrow's arrival of Santa and the reindeers in Hills Street. She kindly took a moment to explain the layout proposed for the next day, and to intimate a special little celebrity surprise being planned for opening time.

I shan't say a thing!

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