Thursday, 17 February 2011

I heard a lovely tale this morning.

My husband had been to a 100 birthday luncheon at which many of the guests were approaching that age too. The birthday "boy" was a keen golfer and so were many of the guests and their tales revolved around that sport in general but the golf course where they were lunching in particular.

The tale that struck me as I listened to many of the anecdotes being retold was of someone who had been playing golf with a group of friends when they reached the point where the course flirts with a railway line. Apparently the signalman saw them from his vantage point and attracted their attention. He had some news.

Britain was at war with Germany!

They abandoned their game and returned to the clubhouse.

Several things in this tale appeal to me. The fact that we still have direct contact with people who lived through something like the Second World War, who we can listen to firsthand, is just remarkable. I always have this almost irresistible compulsion to grab some sort of recording device and capture those memories for future generations.

The second thing that got my attention was the way that time dulls the immediacy of the danger, it was apparently recounted in a very "matter of fact" manner as if wars broke out all the time. But it was clearly significant enough to make them stop their game of golf!

Finally, I marvelled at the style of communication. I have no idea how the signalman heard. Maybe he had a wireless in his signal box. Maybe it came through Morse code... or is my history way out with that... Whatever way he got that information I suspect most people would have heard via word of mouth, from a friend, neighbour, colleague or someone else in the street. Its not the sort of news you keep to yourself because the anxiety around personal safety alone would cause you to share it.

Today we'd hear about it on Twitter or Facebook. We may get a text message or possibly a phone call. We might be watching a 24 hr news channel and see it in the red banner "breaking news" area of the screen.

How things have changed in the space of one life time...

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