Sunday, November 14, 2010
Exactly seventy years ago today, in the Second World War, the city of Coventry was nearly obliterated in one of the worst air raids in England. During a night of intensive assault, wave after wave of enemy planes dropped tons of incendiary bombs, creating firestorms that killed thousands.
You have heard of Coventry, although you might not recognize it by name. The most famous - if perhaps mythical - event in its history occurred in the Middle Ages. Leofric, Earl of Chester, imposed a crushing tax on the townspeople. His wife pleaded with him to be lenient; he responded 'I will rescind the tax, when YOU go naked through Coventry marketplace!' And of course you know the rest of the story - to preserve her modesty, Lady Godiva asked the citizenry to stay indoors, with their shutters closed, so she could 'ride unclothed through the streets and the marketplace, to relieve them of the burdensome tax.' (Thomas, the town cobbler, decidedly lacked self-control. He was forever after immortalized as the nominative Peeping Tom, supposedly struck blind when he couldn't resist taking a peek at Godiva-in-the-buff.)
I have heard it said that, if it had been preserved, Coventry would be one of the biggest tourist attractions in the UK. Its large walled city, with its medieval buildings and half-timber houses, was 'pretty as a chocolate box,' as the Brits would say; it was a brilliant example of middle-age construction, complete with a large Gothic cathedral.
The following two pictures are of medieval buildings that were restored or rebuilt after the blitz:
And unlike so many of the cathedrals in England, St Michael's had not undergone the heavy-handed restoration of the Victorian age, thereby leaving most of its centuries-old stained glass, interior, and stonework intact.
My seventh-grade social studies book had a picture of the cathedral - or rather, what was left of it. I found a copy on the internet: it was taken two days after the Coventry blitz, smoke still clearly rising from the debris.
The parish decided to rebuild their church, but not in the style of the original 14th-century one. After the war a new cathedral was commissioned and built adjacent to the old one, the ruins of which were retained as a testament to the destruction and violence of war.
For me, the remnants of St Michael's strike more of an emotional chord than do many of the complete medieval cathedrals in all their glory. There's an evocative sculpture within the old nave.
On the day of its dedication, a second identical statue was dedicated in a different location. When I first heard there were two, I thought, 'Ah, the other must be in Dresden, Germany,' which was the site of equally-devastating fire bombs - dropped by the British, allegedly in retaliation for the destruction of Coventry.
I was surprised to find, though, that the other Reconciliation was presented to Hiroshima, as a memorial to the past and symbol of hope for the future.
* * *
Last night was the Festival of Remembrance, the commemoration in The Royal Albert Hall that I wrote of in the previous blog. Today there was a ceremony at The Cenotaph in London. The Queen laid a wreath, as did other members of the royal family; government ministers took their turn. The highest-ranking military officers represented each branch of the Armed Forces. Dignitaries of both Commonwealth nations and other countries also placed wreaths.
Then hundreds - thousands - of veterans and their families marched past, paying their respects.
Britain remembers and honors its Allies, too, especially the United States.
Probably the two best-known American World War II cemeteries are Normandy, for Europe, and the Punchbowl, in Hawaii, for the Pacific. But there is also a large 'national' cemetery in England, with nearly 4000 graves of American servicemen (and some women, as well).
Even more sobering are the 'Tablets of the Missing': over 5000 additional names are inscribed, people who are only recorded as 'Missing, presumed killed in action.'
The day I was there Himself and I were the only two visitors. The Sergeant who gave us a brief guided tour said that except for patriotic holidays like Memorial Day or Veterans' Day or the Fourth of July, it's usually fairly quiet. Sometimes a charter group of American tourists will stop, and occasionally there are veterans who visit, although that's becoming rarer as the last of their generation passes away.
From the outside, the chapel looked rather dismal, an uninviting block of a building - maybe it was intended to be, as representative of the grim, harsh realities of war.
Stepping inside you suddenly realize its greater purpose: in contrast to the bleak exterior, the interior is flooded with light, affirming the brightness and hope of life, after the darkness and death of war.
Within the large windows are enshrined each state's name, together with a stained-glass image of the state seal. Many of the panels are too high up to photograph properly, but I took a picture of Maryland's...
...and of Oklahoma's:
As can be seen in previous photos, a large mural covers the wall behind the altar, extending across the ceiling. Most of those who died were Air Force, and in tribute planes have been incorporated into the mosaic, symbolizing - as one of the descriptions says - 'the final flight to heaven.'
Madingley is the perfect place to contemplate what our American troops did, what they lost, what they sacrificed for us - and to believe, above everything else, that they have achieved the eternal peace that seems continually to elude the rest of the world.
Thursday, November 11, 2010
'In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row...'
Today is Armistice Day, commemorating the end of The Great War with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles at 11 AM on the 11th day of the 11th month.
Great Britain declared war on Germany in 1914, and young men in their thousands enlisted - schoolmates, brothers and cousins, work colleagues, neighbors, all encouraged one another to sign up as a group. Friends who'd known each other since childhood joined together, trained together, went together to the front - and died together, leaving many villages throughout the British Isles bereft of an entire generation of men.
The UK slogged through the trenches for four long years, and the numbers tell a grim story: nearly one million men died, over two percent of the entire population. Of the men who were mobilized during the war, more than 30% - roughly one-third - were seriously injured. But they lived. A full thirteen percent of the troops who fought for Great Britain didn't come home.
Other countries - Canada, America, Australia, New Zealand, among others - also fought and suffered and died with the Allies. They, too, have memorials and observances.
Britain remembers: every cemetery and churchyard has its own version of The Cenotaph, the monument in London built to commemorate the fallen.
Each year, on the weekend nearest 11th November, the UK marks Remembrance Day. People - military and non-military alike - gather at Albert Hall on Saturday night. It's an emotional evening, culminating in the recital of the 'Ode of Remembrance,' a passage from a poem by Laurence Binyon:
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.
Then, in a moving tribute, there follows two minutes of perfect silence, while over the assembly thousands of poppy petals - one for each person who has died in war - drift down.
A few days ago I watched a documentary entitled 'The First World War from Above,' featuring contemporary aerial films and photographs taken in Belgium and France. The images are stark, illustrating the ravages of shell holes and trenches and the destruction of entire towns. The presenter, journalist Fergal Keane, concluded,
'Those four years, between 1914 and 1918, would change forever the way war was fought - but couldn't alter a fundamental truth of the battlefield: war is fought between individuals. And to them belongs its courage, its terror - and its sacrifice.'
The people - men and women - who served in conflicts deserve respect. Those who died - who gave all, whether by choice or circumstance - deserve remembrance. Today, spend a moment in contemplation, in gratitude to those who died so others might live.
* * * * *
Canadian physician John McCrae wrote 'In Flanders Fields' in 1915, after attending the funeral of a fellow soldier killed at the battle of Ypres. Ironically, McCrae himself died in the last year of the war, in France, following pneumonia during the influenza epidemic.
Monday, September 13, 2010
Ask yourself: Can it be done? The answer, in nearly all cases, is yes.
Can I - me, myself, I - can EYE do it?
Only you can answer that question.
Thursday, August 12, 2010
A - Age: 57. So far.
B - Bed size: I think it's a queen-size, but in the UK, they call it 'king.'
C - Chore you hate: gee, it's so hard to pick just one...
D - Dog's name: no dogs. No cats. No pets.
E - Essential start-your-day item: COFFEE. Just need one cup, but GOTTA HAVE IT!!!
F - Favorite color: palest pink. Angel's wings.
G - Gold or silver: platinum. I don't deal well with with either / or, in case you didn't notice. :-D
H - Height: five-foot-two (eyes aren't blue)
I - Instruments you play: I keep 'em with the pets
J - Job title: Jill-of-all-trades, retired
K - Kid(s): Dev (29), Kate (27)
L - Living arrangements: just Himself and me
M - Mom's name: Franny
N - Nickname(s): none, really.
O - Overnight hospital stay other than birth: hmmm, yes, I've seen this one before - it confuses me. Hospital stay other than my own birth? Hospital stay other than when I was giving birth? Mmmm... a few surgeries, really bad miscarriage (not that there are any good ones), long bout of jaundice / hepatitis... dunno. That might be it. Certainly enough--!
P - Pet peeve: unkindness! It really annoys me when people are unkind. Not the thoughtless, unintentional type (tho that can be annoying too, as you just want them to wake up and become aware), but the deliberate how-mean-can-I-be type, the premeditated type.
Q - Quote from a movie: hmmm, there's quite a few... 'People liked me. I liked myself.' (Amadeus)
R - Right or left handed: right
S - Siblings: none living
T - Time you wake up: 8 AM; rarely later but occasionally earlier
U- First word that comes to your mind for "U": unicorn
V - Vegetable you dislike: kale. I'd eat a turnip before I'd eat kale, and that's saying some!
W - Ways you run late: nope, I don't, unless it's an act of God and totally outside my control
X - X-rays you've had: oh, you do NOT want a list! First one when I was four, most recent March, and so many points in between for so many reasons I couldn't begin to remember.
Y - Yummy food you make: fudge. I don't want to dwell on it as it will only cause me to drool all over the keyboard.
Z - Zoo favorite: orangutans. No question.
Friday, July 30, 2010
Okey-dokey, first: a huge THANK YOU to all of you who responded. Even if you hadn't had any of these experiences, you were all so supportive and encouraging that it really helped.
Second: as most of you said, the important thing was to see the doctor and bring up these questions and concerns and find out what could be done. So I had quite a struggle about the Metformin. Doogie (I know, but he IS such a 'baby' - I think my kids are older than he is) did exactly what I thought he would do: I no sooner started describing the slow-but steady increase in my blood sugar levels than he was reaching for the keyboard (since these days they don't use prescription pads) to print out an Rx for me to increase the Metformin. After much discussion (!) he finally allowed as how reducing it a bit probably wouldn't hurt. I'm not on 750mg/daily instead of 1000mg/daily - which suits me fine as I'd rather do a very gradual reduction and monitor how it goes. This AM's FBG was 6.2 / 111.6. This is only a couple days of the lower dosage, tho, so it may not be significant. Time will tell, and I will keep you updated.
Third: to those of you who pointed out 'Yogurt has carbs' - THANK YOU. I honestly didn't know. For some reason I had it in my head that as long as it was 'plain' yogurt with no added sugar (which would be sucrose / carbs) or added fruit (which would be fructose / carbs) then there would be no carbs as milk doesn't have any. Well, duh on me. Lactose. Milk sugar. Uh huh.
Fourth: cutting out all carbs is not good for overall health, least of all for diabetics. The trick is to work with them. Changing from grain-based or fruit-based carbohydrates to vegetable-based carbohydrates is okay on a short-term plan. (And for those of you stalled on weight-loss plateaus, if you substitute veggies for other carb-sources, it might jump-start your weight-loss again - doesn't hurt to try it for a few days.) Those of you who addressed the carb issue - whether from the low-carb, Atkins diet to the complex-vs-simple carbohydrates - gave me so much great information. I am still doing some research and checking links you sent and so on. Again, can't THANK YOU enough!
Fifth: plantar fascitis. Difficult term for a difficult condition. I have good days and bad days, and very slowly (!) I seem to be having more good days than bad, so for those of you who said '--and then it finally went away and I haven't had any trouble since,' you give me real hope that this may go that way. To those of you who said '--and then I had cortisone injections, and DON'T DO IT,' believe me, after hearing what you had to say, I won't. I am checking into orthotics and reading up on the condition for some of the exercises / PT that help. I had already started doing some stretching exercises, so maybe that is helping to improve it slowly. One of you (you know who you are, lol) ended up having surgery, and if my foot doesn't improve, I will talk to the GP about going that route. If it continues to improve, I may not need to do anything more about it, so... meanwhile, I will try to be patient.
The pharmacist advice is brilliant, and I will be going to a large drugstore next Tuesday so I can consult with one of their people. Depending what comes of that, I may then meet with another at a different place just to pick his/her brains and see how the advice compares.
Again, you have all been so incredibly helpful. What a wonderful community SP is! And how lucky I am to be able to post something like this and have so many of you respond! THANK YOU, from the bottom of my heart.
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