Tomorrow is the 8th of May. I apologise for stating the obvious but having grown up in the UK I am not used to having a public holiday in the middle of this month. Our day of leisure is a calendrical marking of the end of World War Two and normally I would be attending a ceremony by Croissy’s town hall but not this year. As the veterans of the Second World war grow ever older it falls to other generations to consider how it should be marked and the lessons that can be learned. Such is true of all history. The past changes, new perspectives emerge. Our view of World War II probably tells us as much about us as it does about the period we are looking at. The participants’ view was very different. The critic Frank Kermode talked about the difficulty of understanding when we are “middest”, comprehension and clarity are more likely to come the further away from an event we get. Attempting to understand in the midst of the maelstrom is a challenge indeed.
As we move to enjoying long summer afternoons my thoughts turn to cricket. A game I enjoyed playing with no great success. I particularly relished being sent to the outer fringes of the playing area as, more often than not, one was untroubled by a fast approaching ball. The benefit of being on the edge was that I had the privilege of seeing the action as both participant and spectator, hours of waiting and watching for seconds of action. The tea interval was also a high point. Next week we will start our long walk from the boundary to the cricket square as confinement (we are told) will be relaxed. But we are far from carrying on as normal, it will take time for us to get things right, we will be both in the midst and trying to make sense of all that we have experienced. As confusing a time for our young people as it is for us. We will do all we can to support them.
This week my Year 9 historians looked at the story of the now famous wartime poster “Keep Calm and Carry On”. A sentiment that seems to us to typify the stoic approach of the greatest generation. Curiously, the poster wasn’t actually used. The Ministry of Information decided that it was too old fashioned, to redolent of outdated ways of thinking so it was shelved. They decided to use a quotation from Herbert Morrison the War Minister, a more dynamic “Go To It” and even presented the words in a flashy font. Interestingly, the poster that lay unused is the one that we believe reflects the wartime spirit.
Next week, we will go to it. School will be different; the world is indeed different. That said we should not forget the message of the other poster – we will require reserves of patience as a new normal is created. Hope in times like this is important. During the second war the foundations of the UK National Health Service were laid and Butler’s reformist 1944 Education Act was passed. A new country was planned, and new world envisioned. In the “middest” they believed in looking to a better future. I can only hope that we can do the same.
Do have a relaxing long weekend.