It’s going to be a busy weekend. Today Bev and I are going to the unveiling of the Bomber Command Memorial in Green Park and then the following day over to Cambridgeshire for the summer reunion of the UK 75(NZ) Squadron Association.
The main concern of the morning is the weather. The day starts quite cool and overcast and the obvious fear is that we don’t want to be caught in the open in a downpour – a delicate sartorial balance needs to be struck…….The train ride over is easy and a quick journey on the tube gets us to the corner of the park. It’s already quite busy and I think its already quite moving regarding the different groups of people moving past us, some including an ‘old chap’, others respectful relatives come to remember a loved one. A walk through and down the park brings us to opposite Buckingham Palace, down the side of the park, along Constitution Hill and we are in to the ‘Salute Area’, an area much bigger than the available space near the memorial for the veterans. A few phone calls and Kevin and Mike Wells appear and we all find a row for the dedication.
About half an hour before the proceedings begin, the clouds slowly part and the sun bursts through – I am not sentimental, but this hopefully is a promising metaphor for the day. Half an hour later and I am hoping this is not a metaphor for the day, its suddenly sweltering – this could be a long day and I am already concerned for the veterans who are here – this is going to be a hot one.
I’ve bought Bob’s DFC and his whistle and I hold one in each hand through the ceremony – I think as much to have him with me as for something to squeeze if and when I feel myself welling up……..
If I am honest, I am not really a great one for this sort of thing – perhaps it ‘s the heat, but it does feel a bit as if its going on a bit, I think in a way I am imagining what Bob would be like if he was sat here – well, I suspect by now he wouldn’t have actually still been here – he’d have gone off to find a quiet, cool pub.
I feel a lump in my throat as the low drone of 4 merlins interupts the constant bumblebee hum of the ever present surveillance helicopters overhead and the ‘Phantom’ grinds past overhead – it seems as if there is a collective gasp as the poppies fall from her, though perhaps not what I expected – they seem to be drifting away from us and also the memorial…..
The heat of the day is taking it’s toll – there are a few of the older visitors sat on chairs under the shade of the trees, RAF cadets tending to them with due reverence, polite helpfulness and bottles of spring water. Eventually, Bev and I make it up to the corner of the park where the memorial stands.
It is utterly breathtaking……..
We walk around the statue of the airman amongst everyone else – its a wonderful thing to behold and be near, but somehow I feel this is not the day to savour it – that will be at some other quieter, more personal point on another day.
The day is drawing to an end and to be honest we could both do with a pint – across Piccadilly and into the Rose and Crown – full of attendees by the looks of thing. Standing outside, we see a few familiar faces pass down Piccadilly – Norman Allen, being pushed by I believe John McFarlane and bringing up the rear Margaret – I dash off after her and bring her back down the side street to see Bev. Sadly we won’t be seeing Margaret or Norman at the weekend, perhaps inevitably its too much of an ask of Norman to do both events, though, perhaps he picked the more important one.
Bev and I stroll back up Piccadilly on the park side and its to the credit of my wife’s eyesight that she notices a pile of poppy petals in the bushes – we enter the park and begin to rummage in the undergrowth. We leave with an extra special memento of the day