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early one morning

Remembrance

Up at 05.30. Again. I don’t have a problem with this. In the summer it is great. I sit in the conservatory enjoying the light, and the birdsong. In winter I sit in complete darkness apart from the light of the laptop.

Today is November 11th. Armistice Day. I looked in the media but the headlines are all about Covid 19 and Cop26.The wars of our day?  I’ve seen poppies being worn but not noticed much else in respect of commemorating the event. Maybe I’ve had my head down a bit, doing stuff.

My grandmother was born in 1907 in a miner’s cottage opposite the Blaenhirwaun pit in Cefneithin, on the western edge of the South Wales coalfield. So she would have been seven years old at the start of the first world war, eleven at its conclusion. My grandfather, who I never knew as he was a miner and miners did not live to old age, was born in 1899 I think. Just missing the war but he would have been exempt from military duty.

I was looking for the right word there but exempt was all I could come up with. He wouldn’t have been allowed to join the army but mining was not a particularly pleasant alternative. Anyway that’s not really the line I’m trying to pursue here.

We no longer really have a collective memory of the first world war. We rely on what is provided to us by the media. I’d have occasional conversations with my dad about the second conflict of which he had clear memories.

I don’t think I ever discussed the war with my grandmother. Our family, on my grandfather’s side had a woolen factory in Maesdulais near Tumble and I believe that at the time we made products for the military.  I know no more than that really.

It isn’t difficult to picture those times when I close my eyes. My grandmother’s house had signs from that era. Around her fireplace you could see the outline of the old range that used to be there and on which all the cooking was done. She also had a scales that were used to weigh the pig when it was slaughtered each autumn. We kept a pig at the bottom of the garden.

Although opposite a coal mine, one of a few in the area which must have made up the majority of local employment, it was very much a rural area. A cousin had a farm, Y Garn or Garnedd Fach. He was called Owain Y Garn. I remember visiting once and got my wellie stuck in the muck heap in the farmyard.

Neither factory nor farm are any longer in the family and one of my sisters has the scales. When I finish full time employment one of my projects will be to better document the family history. I started about ten years ago but got to the point where it needed a lot time on the ground putting into it and the project was parked. It is, to me at least, quite fascinating encompassing very recognisable historical periods and events such as the religious revival, the industrial revolution and the move away from a farming led economy and then the disappearance of the mining industry.

I will be stood on the platform at Lincoln railway station at 11am and will spend a moment thinking about the first world war and the men who gave their lives for us. We wouldn’t have conflicts such as these were it not for leaders and politicians who in their wisdom decide to get us involved in them. They are the same type of person at COP26 discussing the world’s approach to climate change. God help us.

By admin

Liver of life, father of four, writer

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